NaNoWriMo 2022, week 4 mini update

Week four is in the can! Three days left. Will I make it?! (SPOILER: I never intended to.)

The plan

To do what I can and feel good about the progress 🙂 I’m not a fast writer at the best of times.

The progress

Here’s what week four looked like:

I wrote 7,718 words on Alice in Thunderland and 364 words in this post, for a total of 8,082 words for the week.

Overall, I’ve written 31,868 words, or 64% of the 50k goal.

And … I made an adjustment to the first three days of the month. I forgot to count the assignment I’d written up for my book coach (!) So, that added 3,378 to my word count (reflected in the above). I’ll break down my weekly progress on Alice and on other projects in my next chapter update.

The pivot

I’m getting better at the quick shift from work to writing to work brain. Also getting better at sleep and the rearrangement of Torvi afternoon walk times, but appointments, meetings, and events continue to disrupt my plans/schedule/rituals. The appointments, meetings, and events are things I want to do, but they’re still disruptive. I plan around them to the best of my ability, but it’s still a challenge.

Am I coming off as too whiny? Too first world problems? Too middle-class CIS/Het white chick privilege?

Change can be an autistic’s nightmare, even when you expect it and plan for it. That’s the truth.

And in another three days, I’m going to be adapting to change again, as I resume curation and my usual daily schedule. I have to fit in the de-Hallowe’ening and Christmasing of the house as well. Yup, still have the Hallowe’en door decorations up. Everything else has been gathered and made ready for its trip into the storage tub downstairs. November generally means a pause on a lot of day-to-day activities.

In any case, I’m happy with how NaNoWriMo 2022 has gone so far.

I’ll fill you in on the last three days in my next chapter update next weekend.

The days of grey skies are here.

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

NaNoWriMo 2022, week 3 mini update

Week three’s a wrap! Welcome to week four.

The plan

To keep on as I’ve been keeping on.

The progress

There were a few good days, but work and appointments, and social events also meant several low-production days.

Here’s what week three looked like (notice the nifty colour-coding?):

So, 6,548 words on Alice in Thunderland and 380 words in this post, for a total of 6,928 words for the week.

In NaNoWriMo so far, I’ve written 20,428 words of the 50k-word goal, or 41%.

The pivot

It’s not a pivot, but I’m trying to use my afternoon breaks at work to write. It’s not been as successful as I’d like, because it’s hard to shift gears between work-brain and writer-brain and back to work-brain again. Also, it’s only 15 minutes (yes, I hear you say, that’s the length of a sprint) so I don’t get a lot written.

As the days have been getting darker, I’ve also had to change the time I walk Torvi, which is right after work, most days, meaning that I can’t get right to writing. It’s that time of year when I have to bundle up in boots and scarf and mitts and winter coat, which turns a 15- to 20-minute walk into a 30- to 40-minute walk. Change, even seasonal change, is never easy for me.

Daylight Saving Time ended on the 6th, and that always discombobulates me for about a week. I’ve tried to compensate by getting to bed at a more reasonable hour and using earplugs and a sleep mask to help me sleep better. It’s definitely helped me get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.

So, workdays, I write on my afternoon break (15 minutes), between walking Torvi and supper (30 minutes to an hour, depending), and then after supper to about 9 pm (an hour and a half to two hours). After 9, my brain shuts down and good words stop happening. That adds up to 2 and a quarter to 3 and a quarter.

Weekends aren’t much better.

It’s been a limited success.

But that’s been week three of NaNoWriMo in this writer’s life.

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

NaNoWriMo 2022, week 2 mini update

Week two is done, for better or worse. Welcome to week three!

The plan

The plan was just to keep going, honestly.

The progress

I’m back to work this week (I forgot to mention that I was on leave last week) means all I have are evenings and weekends. And I still have other obligations to attend to. Again, I’ve been taking it easy on myself. There’s no point if I’m not having fun. And I am having fun, so whatever the ultimate outcome, I consider that a win.

Unfortunately, this week’s impediments to progress included a power outage, a forced Windows update, and a plant emergency (it fell, spilling soil all over the floor—I had to clean up and repot it). All of this resulted in about three hours that could have been devoted to Alice 😦

Week two looked like this:

I wrote 8,492 words on Alice, and blogged 320, for a total of 8,812.

At this point, I don’t think I’ll even make 30k, let alone 50k, but every word’s a victory! That is, every word is one I didn’t have before. It’s also more than would have written without the motivation of NaNoWriMo. It’s progress even if the ultimate goal isn’t reached.

The pivot

Again, not pivoting.

I did get my laptop updated (a little belatedly, as it’s been a few months since I last used it), and now I can work on the couch or dining room table if I want. I could even write in bed (!) though I haven’t, yet.

My portable desk.

I just have to be careful to close the document on my desktop. It will update on both with frequent saving, but honestly, it’s easier just to have the document opened on one computer at a time 🙂

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

NaNoWriMo 2022, week 1 mini update

Welcome to my NaNoWriMo project for 2022, my alternate history/steampunk novel, Alice in Thunderland.

Airship captain Madeline Hatter must rescue her girlfriend and military research and development scientist Nuala Rabbit when she is kidnapped by otherworldly agents. If she can’t, Canada and its allies will be ill-prepared for the next great war. And if she can’t stop Thunderland’s Queen Hart from using Nuala’s wormhole generator to launch an attack of his own, it might not be a world war they face, but a worlds’ war.

It’s a work in progress 🙂

The plan

I didn’t have much of a plan. I’d roughed out the first 20 chapters or so and was just going to pants the heck out of it. So far, so good.

While I signed up for the 50k, I don’t anticipate that I’ll be able to “win” this year. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself and aim for quality over quantity. I’m learning that gamification doesn’t work well for me anymore.

Even counting words from other projects might not get me to 50k. I’ll settle for whatever I get. This year, NaNo’s all about diving into a new project and giving myself the space and grace to do it well.

The progress

I started off slow but gained momentum as I worked. There was a little hiccup because of Wordstock Sudbury, but attending the literary festival was worth it. More about that in my next chapter update.

The firs six days of NaNo looked like this:

4,688 words of 50,000, or 9%.

The pivot

I don’t really have to pivot, but I want to get my laptop updated and try writing in the living room sometimes. Just for a change of place. I even have a lap desk ready to go …

Well, that’s it for this week.

Sun dogs. I take ’em where I can find ’em.

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

The next chapter: October 2022 update

Ah, November. Time for NaNaWriMo and a break from weekly curation 🙂 Getting this update out early before the word rush begins.

I’ll be providing mini updates every week, as I have in past years but, with my new system, a regular update on November’s doings should be feasible. Look for that in early December, just before curation resumes.

Your monthly PSAs:

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

Continue to observe public health guidelines (washing hands, maintaining physical distance, masking where you can’t, getting your vaccinations as recommended). Covid is endemic and new variants continue to crop up. Get your bivalent booster when you can (got mine!). Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

Russia’s unprovoked war in the Ukraine continues and continues to be deplorable. I stand with the Ukraine!

Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight!

The month in writing

I continued working through Reality Bomb but had to give up around the 15th. By then, I’d only managed to cut 4,000 words. I realized that my map was failing me almost as much as the draft. I need to step back, take an objective view, and prepare myself for more rewriting, I think.

So, the only writing tracked this month was on the blog.

Including this post, I wrote 6,774 words or by 5,000-word goal, or 135%.

But … I made my choice and am now working with editor and book coach extraordinaire, Suzy Vadori 🙂 She’ll help me whip my WIP into shape.

I also had a Canadian Authors Association Board meeting on the 24th.

Filling the well

The Writer Unboxed OnConference continued through to the 16th. Lots of great sessions with Donald Maass, David Corbett, Desmond Hall, Kathryn Craft, Keith Cronin, Julie Duffy, Gwen Hernandez, Tiffany Yates Martin … there were just so many excellent sessions!

I attended the virtual launch of Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man on the 10th.

Then, I kind of did the crazy about mid-month. I signed up for Sandra Wickham’s five day “Outline Your Novel” workshop from the 12th to the 16th, and I had already signed up for Can-Con (virtual stream) from the 14th to the 16th. Both events overlapped with the OnCon. Thank goodness for replays.

I then continued the crazy by signing up for Daniel David Wallace’s Escape the Plot Forest event from the 22nd to the 25th. Again, replays saved my butt.

Finally, I attended Mary Robinette Kowall’s No Prep NaNoWriMo on the 29th. It’s the second time I’ve attended and I’m hoping that her techniques will help me draft my next project.

I read some of my poetry for the first time since the panini hit (and, truthfully, a long time before that) at the French Kiss open mic on October 4th. It was a lovely evening, and I got to reconnect with Pandora Topp and Chloé LaDuchesse. I also received some news from Latitude 46: the publisher has a line on a poetry editor for my forthcoming collection.

Had Thanksgiving supper at my mother-in-law’s. For simplicity and convenience, we opted for Chinese (few of us really enjoy Turkey). It was delicious, and we had apple cake for dessert.

We had to leave Torvi at home alone (for the first time) for the 2 hours we were there, as my mother-in-law’s building doesn’t allow pets on the premises, even to visit. The good news, Torvi—though she went ballistic when we got home—was a VERY good girl who deserved all the treatos 🙂

A non-writing event I attended was the Beyond Limits Autism Conference on the 23rd.

I got my second covid booster (Moderna bivalent) on the 12th. I will say that my arm was the sorest with this vaccine, but I’m as protected as I can be. For now.

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I finished watching the first season of Severance (Apple +). Weird and creepy and totally absorbing. Twists abound, but no answers … yet.

Phil and I watched She-Hulk (Disney +) and we both loved it. I read She-Hulk (both savage and sensational) when I was young, and the series reflects the comics. A focus on the difficulty of trying to be a lawyer and a superpowered person? Check. Breaking the fourth wall? Check. Fun sex positivity? Check (check, check)! And the finale was so meta.

I watched the third live action Full Metal Alchemist: The Last Alchemy. Again, it adheres to the FMA: Brotherhood storyline, but I liked the divergences. Subplots are all tied up at the end.

I watched the first season of House of the Dragon. I liked it, despite repeated misogyny and body horror. I know it’s being done for a reason, but honestly, I could have done without it.

Finally, I watched Red Notice. Fun triple-heist, opposites attract/buddy comedy, long con, double cross, and double-double cross, with a little Indiana Jones thrown in. You’d think with so many tropes, the movie wouldn’t be coherent, but the writers dove into each trope with such gusto, it all worked. And Ryan Reynolds is always entertaining.

Moving on to the month in reading, I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. It’s very Velveteen Rabbit and gave me the same feels. Klara is an artificial friend (AF) who is purchased for a young girl, Josie, by her mother. Josie is sick and needs Klara is ways most other children don’t need their AFs. Klara is solar powered but has a special relationship with the sun. She plans to cure Josie with the sun’s “special energy.”

But the mother has other reasons for purchasing Klara and as the mystery unravels and Josie gets sicker, Klara takes drastic measures to save her girl. The ending is bittersweet.

Then, I listened to The Sandman, Act III by Neil Gaiman. S&S Audio pulled out all the stops. Orchestral score, sound effects, actors like James MacAvoy. I can’t imagine how long it takes to produce these things, but bravo. And I loved it.

Next up was Gail Carriger’s Changeless, the second in her Parasol Protectorate series. Alexia stops a humanizing “weapon” from being used to manipulate the supernatural world, but her friend Ivy elopes with an actor and, when it’s revealed she’s pregnant, her werewolf husband suspects her of infidelity, because supernaturals can’t procreate.

I also finished reading Tanya Huff’s The Future Falls. It’s the third in the Gale Women series, but I suspect that each book is fairly standalone. Essentially, Gale Seer Aunt Catharine (all the powerful women in the family are Aunts—the capital counts) Sees that an asteroid is going to strike Earth in an extinction-level event. The Gales can protect themselves, but Charlie wants to save the world. She’s kind of grown to like it, mostly because of the music.

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

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

The next chapter: September 2022 update

October, already! I know pumpkin spice latte season officially started in September, but October feels more PSL to me. So here: have some guinea pigs talking PSL 🙂

An oldie, but a goodie 🙂

Your monthly PSAs:

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

Continue to observe public health guidelines (washing hands, maintaining physical distance, masking where you can’t, getting your vaccinations as recommended). Covid is endemic and new variants continue to crop up. Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

Russia’s unprovoked war in the Ukraine continues and continues to be deplorable. I stand with the Ukraine.

Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight!

My new plan for my updates, to have my template open and write throughout the month as things happen is working a treat. Going to keep doing it.

The month in writing

I took it easy. Kind of. There was a flurry of writing admin at the start of the month. Finished the beta read/crit I promised (haven’t heard back, though, so thinking I might have overstepped?). Submitted the Ontario Arts Council grant application, for better or worse. Continued vetting book coaches.

Then … I took it easy 🙂

Continued my slow way through Reality Bomb (again) in anticipation of working with a book coach. The good news is that It’s resulted in a net loss of words. There are still several chapters that are longer than I’d like, but progress is being made. I probably won’t be finished until part-way through October.

Other that that, and blogging, I didn’t do much else. The short story’s stalled. The poetry is still pedestrian. I haven’t read any more of the Ascension series or worked any further on Alice in Thunderland.

Not sure what all this means. Think I just need a break.

As I did last month, I didn’t set a revision goal for RB. If I added words to the draft, I noted it in my tracker. If revision resulted in a negative word count, I didn’t. The interesting thing is that, though I added about 1,500 words between August and September, the overall word count on the draft has shrunk by more than 2,000. I’m now entering the second half of the second act, where most of the cutting has to occur, so I anticipate a lot of shrinkage between now and the time I complete this pass. I don’t know if the net loss will get the draft down to 100k, but we’ll see how far I get.    

I blogged 118% of my 5,500-word goal, or 6,477 words.

And that was that.

I also had a meeting of the Branch Support and Development Committee for the Canadian Authors Association (CAA) to attend on September 29th.

Filling the well

I watched the replay of Dan Blank’s “Identify Your Ideal Readers” webinar, facilitated by Jane Friedman, and two Authors Publish webinars, Marin Sardy’s “How to Create Vivid Metaphors that can Transform Your Writing” and Michael Kleber Diggs’ “The Art of Poetic Efficiency.” I also watched the replay of Krista Ball’s “Going Solo: A Beginner’s Guide to Finding Readers with Indie Publishing,” a joint presentation from SF Canada and the CAA. Replays are such a blessing.

Finally, the Writer Unboxed OnConference started on September 29th. I appreciate that they’re extending the OnCon over several weeks and holding major sessions and workshops in the evenings or on weekends. It’s a great model for writers with day jobs 🙂

I attended a family get-together on the 10th out at my sister-in-law’s. Her kitchen is mostly done, and it looks beautiful! A great barbeque (hamburgers and hotdogs) with potato salad, bean salad, and baked beans. With no-sugar-added blueberry pie and strawberry-rhubarb crisp with no-sugar-added ice cream. Gotta love the Chapmans 🙂 It was a rare chance to indulge.

The lovely reno—all the cabinets were salvaged/recovered. Phil did the counter tops.

My support group is back in session for the fall and the September session was about burnout, which was beneficial. My semi-annual dentist appointment has resulted in some changes to my oral care routine. The fractures in my teeth haven’t progressed, but my lower labial frenula is pulling my gums down. If things progress, I might need a frenectomy (not looking forward to that).

I also had my orthotics checked and got a new pair along with new shoes, both needed and expensive. The shoes are Gore-Tex, though and will be waterproof and longer lasting. My toes poke through the mesh of regular runners. And I had an appointment with my registered massage therapist.

Last month, Torvi turned five! She’s clearly not impressed.

What I’m watching and reading

In the watching department, Phil and I caught The Sandman (Netflix). Having listened to the audiobook production, I really appreciated the choices made to bring what was a serialized comic, with a number of episodic digressions, to a more or less cohesive whole. Phil enjoyed it, too, but we’re both worried that Netflix will do the stupid and not fund the second season. Because subscriptions.

Then, we watched the final season of Locke & Key (Netflix). There were a plethora of irritating plot holes. For instance, Dodge hitches a ride with Bodie when he uses the time key to try to defeat her in the past and then, when he attempts to escape using the ghost key, she jumps into his body, leaving him a ghost tethered to the family graveyard. But there’s a fail safe on the time key that returns any out-of-time elements to their proper time when the timer runs out. Dodge, still in Bodie’s body when this happens, disappears along with Bodie’s body. There is a contrived solution using the animal key that apparently pulls Bodie’s body back from the past so he can inhabit it again. And what happened to Dodge’s body hidden under Bodie’s bed? We never find out.

Stuff like that took much of the enjoyment out of the series.

Next, I watched Thor: Love & Thunder (Disney +). I loved it. Phil started watching it with me, expecting the typical Marvel movie, and had to leave part way through to run his virtual RPG, but he’s going to watch the rest of it himself at some point (actually I watched the second half again along with him 🙂 ). You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (maybe), you’ll love it. I’ll say no more.

Season three of Snowpiercer (Netflix) ended in a weird place, but I’ll have to back up for context. At the start of the season, the train has separated (again) and neither is thriving. Using Melanie’s data, they’ve been searching for a habitable place in the world, to no avail. Layton does pick up a survivor, however, and decides to rejoin and take over Big Alice before heading to the final data point on Melanie’s list of possible habitable zones, the Horn of Africa.

The train reunites, with the requisite battle and loss of life, Wilford is taken into custody, and Layton puts their destination to a vote, but asks the survivor to lie to support going, even though there is no guarantee they will find what they’re looking for.

There’s a lot of side drama, including a knife battle between Layton and Pike, because Pike thinks Layton will get them all killed. They find Melanie, miraculously alive, but she outs Layton’s lie and the risks associated with going to the Horn, igniting another civil war, which Wilford capitalizes on.

Melanie seems to ally with Wilford, but it turns out to be a secret plan between her and Layton to expel Wilford from the train and then split the train (again). Layton and the passengers who wish to, will head for the Horn, and Melanie will continue on with the rest of the passengers, even though the train is falling apart.

Months later, Layton reaches the Horn and habitable conditions are confirmed. Meanwhile, Melanie sees an explosion in the distance. Apparently, season 4 will be the last.

Bridgerton season two was much better than season one. Not half so self-conscious of the messages they were trying to convey. It was more enjoyable as a result.

In terms of books, I read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin. I liked it a lot. I only had time to read part of the novel in university because the summer course was only six weeks, and I didn’t have time to read everything. I enjoyed the novel a lot but see some of the problematic aspects that some readers complain of.

I read Rocannon’s World a long time ago, and The Dispossessed in that same science fiction class I couldn’t finish TLHoD for. I might fill in the gaps in the Hainish Cycle.

Then, I read Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. A fabulous futuristic reimagining of history. Zhao has talked about this on her YouTube channel. 18-year-old Zetien signs up to be a Chrysalis (giant, transforming robot) co-pilot, with the aim of revenging her sister’s death in the misogynist pilot system. She achieves her goal fairly quickly, but then she’s taken into custody and forced to co-pilot with Li Shimin, who’s chi is so strong, his co-pilots never survive. There’s political intrigue, polyamory, and alien mecha-beasts that turn out not to be so beastly, or alien, in the end.

Next, I read … Nona the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir. What can I say? I lurve the Locked Tomb series. I know there are readers who can’t get around her style and structure of storytelling, but I have to consume these books as soon as they’re released. So looking forward to Alecto the Ninth.

In Gideon, the titular character, sacrifices herself so that Harrow can become a lichtor. In Harrow, things aren’t going well with the transition to lichtorhood, and … almost everyone seems to die, though with necromancers, you just know that never sticks. Now, in Nona, the titular character has no memory of who or what she is, and her remembered life is all of six months. I won’t say anything more for fear of spoiling the experience for you.

Finally, I read Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. This classic craft book has been on my shelf for years and I finally read it. It’s a kind, gentle, and short book about allowing yourself to write, enabling yourself to write. She’s firmly in the pantser/gardener/discovery writer camp.

And that was September 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: August 2022 update

Ah, the weather’s already getting cooler. This summer was a good one up in northeastern Ontario. I’m sad to see the shortening days, this year.

Having said that, it’s pumpkin spice latte season!

Your monthly PSAs:

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

Continue to observe public health guidelines (washing hands, maintaining physical distance, masking where you can’t, getting your vaccinations as recommended). Covid is endemic and new variants continue to crop up. Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

Russia’s unprovoked war in the Ukraine continues and continues to be deplorable. It’s been six months and there’s still no end in sight. I stand with the Ukraine.

Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight.

The month in writing

I was all over place in August. Some revision on Reality Bomb, a little short fiction, a little poetry, blogging, a little work on the Ascension series, some review of Alice in Thunderland (my alt-history/steampunk project), and I worked on a beta review as part of an exchange.

In terms of projects I’m tracking, here’s how the month worked out:

For RB, I didn’t put a revision goal up, but my main thrust is to cut 25k words from the last draft while also strengthening the plot and character arc. I didn’t count the days when I cut but noted when I added words. I’m still in the first half of the novel, which doesn’t need a lot of cutting.

I added 626 words but reduced the overall wordcount by just over 200 words. Not bad.

In terms of blogging, my massive July update contributed to achieving 142% of my 5,500-word goal (7818 words).

Short fiction stalled partway through the month after only writing 232 words. That’s 15% of my 1,500-word goal.

I set my poetry goal at 10 poems again and only wrote 8 (80%). I’m trying to turn my hand to capturing my autistic journey in poetry on the recommendation of a friend, but the result isn’t satisfactory. They’re all rather pedestrian. Lists of events, symptoms, reactions. I’ll have to revisit the lot of them at some future time. They’re not coming to life for me. Maybe poetry isn’t the medium for this? I don’t know.

With regard to projects I’m not tracking, I worked a little on the Ascension series master document based on the reading I’d completed to date. Then, I set it aside once other priorities started to take precedence.

I worked on my critique for the author I’d agreed to do a critique exchange with. It’s almost done. I’m hoping to be finished in the next day or so.

And I worked on my OAC grant application (see next section for more on that).

On Friday, August 12, I read an excerpt of “Torvi, Viking Queen” at the launch of Pirating Pups at When Words Collide (WWC). It was a lovely, intimate reading, done virtually. More on WWC in “filling the well.”

I also started my search for an editor/book coach to get RB ready to query. I’m now thinking that I’ll be ready to work with someone in October. There have been emails, intake forms, zoom meetings, and all kinds of administrivia going on around that effort.

I attended the CAA Board orientation on August 22nd. It’s the first time I’ve actually been able to attend one of these. Informative, but intimidating.

And I attended a special general meeting for SFCanada focused on the implementation of a new anti-harassment policy and amendment of the bylaws on August 27th.

Filling the well

I attended an information session from the Ontario Arts Council about applying for grants on Tuesday, August 9th. And … I started working on my application (!) for a literary creation project grant.

On the weekend of August 12 to 14, it was WWC 2022. I actually signed up for a couple of workshops on Thursday and Friday, and watched a few sessions live over the course of the weekend. I’m hoping that this year, more sessions will be made available on their YouTube channel, because there are always 10 sessions going on at the same time, and I can’t attend everything.

I signed up for a CAA/SFCanada webinar on August 17th with the intent of attending but didn’t have the spoons and ended up watching the replay. The session was presented by Den Valdron on publishing contracts, and he sent an impressive array of samples and resources.

Then, I attended a webinar about writing interiority delivered by agent Cece Lyra of PS Literary on the 18th. It was a-MA-zing. I found out about it after starting to listen to “The Shit No One Tells You About Writing” podcast. I think I’m going to watch the recording a few more times before I lose access.

I also signed up for a Mary Robinette Kowal webinar called “Earth’s future climate: a proactive SF approach” with Dr. Tom Wagner on August 23rd.

The next Tiffany Yates Martin webinar hosted by Jane Friedman focused on suspense and tension. It was during the day on August 24th, so I watched the replay.

Finally, Jane Friedman hosted a free roundtable discussion about the Department of Justice-Penguin Random House antitrust trial on the 26th. Again, it was during the day, and I watched the replay.

I also had an appointment with my optometrist and got myself some new (very expensive) glasses. Progressive lenses, anti-glare, and transitions. I’ll probably take a new headshot when I get them so y’all can see.

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I watched Lightyear (Disney +). It was fun and, as with most Pixar offerings, sentimental. Poor Buzz is so focused on completing his mission, he doesn’t realize he’s failed to live. The reveal of who Zurg is—I’ll leave that to you to find out. A recommended watch.

Then, I rented Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Oh. My. God. So good. Everyone’s already said all the things about the movie that I could and then some, so I won’t waste your time. Best movie I’ve seen all year. This is one I want to own. Love and google-eyes, y’all.

The Groot shorts on Disney + were cute. I felt sorry for the … squirrel-bird? And the bonsai. And the mimic. And the little whatever-they-were. Admittedly, in the last instance, Groot felt bad about squishing them, too. And he tried to make it up to the bonsai. Emphasis on tried. Just a root-ball ‘o’ chaos, Groot.

I watched the last episode of season 4 of WestWorld on August 14th. The writers’ collective fondness for not letting their audience know when they’re watching continues to be irritating. Everything comes together, eventually, but until it does, the viewer is left feeling confused and stupid.

Dolores is now Christina, who works at a gaming company, writing stories for in-game characters. Her alternate, Charlotte Hale, has now *SPOILERS* created a world in which most people have been infected by what I assume is a technological virus, which makes them subservient to the AIs. There’s a resistance cell of people who’ve managed to avoid or are resistant to the virus (delivered by fly—I get it, but ew!) and they’re trying to defeat the AIs and free the humans.

Caleb, who died last season, appears to be back, but his consciousness has been repeatedly uploaded into a host body, which we know from past seasons never works out well. His daughter, Frankie/Cookie/C, leads the outliers as the resistance is called, and one of her main missions is to find her father.

Bernard returns from the Sublime, having run infinite simulations about how things in the world outside will turn out. Stubbs has been his faithful guardian in the meantime and the two set off to find the outliers, resurrect Maeve, who was killed early in the season (and then again later—but what is later, really?), infiltrate Hale’s city to rescue what’s left of Caleb, and set the next iteration of WW into motion.

Almost everyone dies in the end, but Christina is returned to the Sublime by Hale (after which Hale commits suicide) and begins her final, most dangerous experiment, which looks suspiciously like the original WW she was built for. Frankie gets back to her people, which are the only humans left alive after AI-William sets every other AI and human into a homicidal/suicidal frenzy. *END SPOILERS*

I guess we’ll see what Dolores has in store for us some time in 2023 or 4, now that Ed Harris spilled the beans that filming on season five will begin next spring.

I watched Luck (Apple +) next. I like anything Simon Pegg’s in, even if he’s a cat 🙂 It’s a cute story. Sam is the unluckiest person in the world. She’s just aged out of an adoption centre but wants better for a young friend (a forever home). She has her own apartment and new job. We follow her through a typical day, just to set up the fact that if any can go wrong for Sam, it will. Until she shares a panini with a black cat and finds a lucky penny for her friend when it leaves.

The next day, penny in pocket, Sam can do no wrong. Despite enjoying the hell out of her new luck, she’s going to give the lucky penny to her friend. Until she accidentally flushes it down a toilet. Re-enter the black cat, to whom she tells her tale of woe. And when he demands, in a Scottish accent, “What did you do that for?” Sam’s whole world changes. Fun and sweet and feel-good.

Phil and I watch Fullmetal Alchemist: The Revenge of Scar (Netflix). This is the second of the live-action FMA movies and does follow the FMA: Brotherhood series of events. Phil and I have seen all the iterations of the anime, animated movies, and now the live-action movies. If you’re a fan, you’ll want to watch it.

After a month of being locked out of Goodreads, they’ve finally fixed the issue. And I’m still five books behind in my reading challenge, even after entering the books I read during the outage 😦

I read Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. While it appears to be the first book published, it’s the third in the series (as its title implies). On his site, Gladstone says each book is standalone and I found this to be true. There was only a little bit of disorientation, but I find that I like books that expect me to figure things out on my own. I enjoyed the legal/spiritual/craft interweave in the novel and the world building, based on the magic system, is superb.

Then, I finished Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. It’s been a while since I watched the series on Amazon, but, in this instance, I like the book better. It’s cleaner than the series and more direct. Cora’s journey is Cora’s alone and the cruelties of the slave owners and catchers aren’t explained. There’s no need for explanation.

Next, I read The North-West is Our Mother by Jean Teillet. It’s a non-fiction book about the history of the Métis Nation. It was an interesting and informative read.

I read Micaiah Johnson’s The Space Between Worlds in gulps (it was just so tasty!). Traversers are recruited for a peculiar reason: they die a lot—in alternate realities. Because you can’t traverse to a world in which your alternate exists. The multiverse kills you for the offense.

Earth Zero identifies worlds that are similar enough to have the same resources and similar technologies because the main thrust of the traversers is information. Once the prospect world’s resources and technologies are identified, automated missions extract them to enrich Earth Zero.

I don’t want to get into the plot because it would be major spoilage and I don’t want to deny you the treat of reading this book for yourself.

Then, I finished Elan Mastai’s All Our Wrong Todays. I’ll be brief about this one too. It’s another fabulous read.

Tom Barren is a chrononaut, but he’s also a fuck-up and after he manages to derail the inaugural time travel mission, he breaks his timeline. How he tries to fix it is the story. And it’s hilarious and heartbreaking in equal measure.

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: July 2022 update

And … here we are in August. Is the summer really half over? *Gives head a shake. Onward!

Trying something new this month. I opened my template early (around the 6th) and filled things in as the month progressed. We’ll see if this experiment bears fruit 🙂

UPDATE (July 13th): Boy howdy, it’s a bumper crop! With more time to write leisurely, this post is over 2000 words and it’s not even mid-month. I may have to edit (!)

UPDATE (July 30th): I’ve decided not to edit. We’ll see how the new mega-update flies.

Imma stick with it. It makes drafting the update much easier writing as it happens/in bits and pieces. The only reason this one is huge-mongous is that I’ve included my comparative review of Station Eleven now that I’ve finished the book and series (see what I’m watching and reading, below). That was over a thousand words on its own … Sorry/Not sorry.

Your monthly PSAs:

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

Continue to observe public health guidelines (washing hands, maintaining physical distance, masking where you can’t, getting your vaccinations as recommended). They’re saying we’re entering a seventh (!) wave in Ontario. For some of you, the waves probably merge/never end. Covid is endemic and new variants continue to crop up. Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

These protective measures are even more important now as the friggin’ monkeypox threatens to become endemic as well.

Russia’s unprovoked war in the Ukraine continues and continues to be deplorable. I stand with the Ukraine!

I’m filled with hope at the response of US legislators at various levels of government to the reckless revocation of Roe. Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight!

The month in writing

I finished version 6 of Reality Bomb on July 5! I only did my curation and filled in bits of this template the next day. For the rest of the week, I shifted to poetry and short fiction on a casual/as I felt like it basis.

After that first week, I started reviewing RB using my map, which is a breakdown of chapters and scenes in the novel. I incorporated notes I’d taken in my journal, and I think I have a path forward for my final (for now) pass. I also started reading through the second novel in my Ascension series, here and there. It’s not bad 🙂

I thought I might get to freewriting some ideas for my next novel (alt-history/steampunk), but here I am at the end of the month, and I haven’t touched it yet.

My intent is to get back to RB in August, while continuing to plug away at poetry and short fiction and whatever else I dip my fingers into, and then seek out a book coach/editor in the fall. Things have been pushed back. They’ll still get done. And I’m feeling fairly optimistic that I should be back in the query trenches by the end of the year. Not sure that’s something I should be optimistic about, given the current state of the publishing industry, but I can win if I don’t play …

And that’s all the excitement.

Except for this: signed two contracts in one day 🙂 One was for my most recent poem to be published in Polar Borealis 22. The other was for my poetry manuscript. It’s becoming a REAL THING!

Actual publication is a long way away on the poetry collection, but I wanted to share, and I wanted to celebrate all the things. Because all the things are good! And I find that I haven’t been recognizing and celebrating the good things as much as I deserve (I originally wrote “should,” but that’s something I deserve less of—shoulding all over myself!).

I also attended a couple of board meetings for the Canadian Authors Association.

In terms of my writing and revision tracker, here’s how the month broke down:

As I mentioned, I finished this draft of RB on the 5th. That was 2,458 words and I set an arbitrary goal of 2,500 words, so that’s 98%.

I exceeded my blogging goal, writing 5,458 words of my 5,000-word goal, or 109%.

I worked casually on my short fiction. It’s a story that was inspired by an anthology call, but just for me. I wrote 935 words, set my goal for 1,500 words, and managed 62% of goal.

I hoped to write 10 poems this month, actually wrote 9, resulting in 90%.

And that’s it for the month in writing.

Filling the well

I attended Author Accelerator’s “Ready, Set Revise” webinar on the 8th. I signed up for “How to revise like an Editor,” another Jane Friedman webinar presented by Tiffany Yates Martin and watched the replay (theme developing here, but it’s where my head is at). On the 19th, I attended “The Story You Tell Yourself,” presented by Sue Campbell.

I registered for Daniel David Wallace’s “Find Your Reader Summit” over the weekend of July 22nd to 25th.

Finally, I registered for an Authors Publish webinar on revision with Jenn Givhan with the intent of watching the replay.

A couple of months ago, I added several podcasts to my listening … and fell way behind because every time you add a podcast, the app adds the last several episodes. And I can’t not listen to them (!) Darned autistic/completionist urges! Mind you, I have resisted listening to every episode, historically, so that’s a win.

I’m now almost caught up and will get to listen to my music again, which I’ve been dying to do, because Florence + The Machine’s “Dance Fever” is my new jam.

Happy to say that I don’t seem to have caught covid after last month’s exposure. No symptoms presented themselves in the five days I was required to self-isolate, anyway. I could always be asymptomatic, so I continue to mask when I go out in public.

My one physiotherapy appointment in July was my last. I’ve “graduated.” Yay me and all my ritualistic behaviours 🙂

I also saw my massage therapist again. I’m doing well and feeling healthy.

Finally, on the last day of the month, I went to my sister-in-law’s for a barbecue and family get-together. Phil’s helping her renovate her kitchen and though it’s only about half done, the results so far are stunning.

A lovely evening for a barbeque.
One of the cabinets in progress.

What I’m watching and reading

In terms of viewing, Phil and I watched season four of Stranger Things (Netflix) and enjoyed it verra much. While Phil did whinge a bit that they were holding over Venca/Henry for another season, I mentioned that it was a similar situation to Babylon 5, one of his favourite series. It was always intended to be a (four- or) five-season arc. All the “big bads” of prior seasons are linked. Mind you, Phil thinks that the mind flayer is the big boss. Henry may have given it form, but it was clearly in his head from the time he was a child (like Will). I think there’s something to that theory 🙂

Then, I finished watching the first season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (network TV). I liked it. Maybe even more than Discovery.

When I was a kid, I was more of a Star Wars than Trek fan, though I have watched my share: TNG, DS9, Voyager (but I stopped watching after the first couple of seasons), the movies. I wasn’t turned on by Enterprise and haven’t watched a single episode of Picard, Lower Decks, or Prodigy. But I’m really enjoying Discovery now that they’ve settled in the future, and SNW was good from the start.

Anson Mount is fabulous as Pike (I didn’t recognize he was the same actor who played Black Bolt on the ill-fated Inhumans) and Ethan Peck is capturing young Spock. What I enjoy most? The theme music. It’s the same as ToS, but the composer’s done something, built the chords a bit differently, different instrumentation (def no theremin), something. There’s more tension in the theme, a yearning toward the major, and hope. It choked me up a bit when I first heard it, but music can do that to me.

Next, Phil and I watched The Boys, season 3 (Amazon). Typically bloody, squirm-worthy (for many reasons), and overall, what we’ve come to expect from the series.

Butcher’s used temp V enough that he’s permanently damaged his brain and has 18 months to live (maybe). Hughey’s managed to resist the temptation (ha!) of temp V and is reconciling with Starlight. MM has told his daughter the family history/trauma with Soldier Boy. She tells him that he’s her hero (d’aw). Frenchie’s grown a spine and ain’t takin’ any more shite from Butcher, a newly-repowered Kumiko by his side. Starlight’s gone rogue and exposed Homelander for what he is (uber douche). At the end of the season finale, she officially joins the boys. Maeve sacrificed her powers to put Soldier Boy back in cold storage, but now has a second chance for a more normal life, albeit in the run, with the woman she loves. Homelander killed Black Noir for not telling him Soldier Boy was his dad and has taken poor Ryan under his wing.

I hope they don’t make Ryan Homelander’s mini-me. It was bad enough when Ryan accidentally killed his mom, but to have a kid with powers running around murdering people … I hope the writers don’t go there. I’d rather see the small smile on Ryan’s face as a sign that he’s thought of a way to take Homelander down.

The Deep’s divorced and having sex with sea life (mostly octopi), and A-Train has a second chance to run after receiving the heart of the low-powered superhero he killed (for terrorizing A-Train’s home community and crippling his brother). Victoria Neuman (the head-popper) may be on her way to the White House.

Then, Phil and I watched Ms. Marvel (Disney+). Loved. LOVED! Some mature viewers might steer clear because, ew, teenagers, but we really enjoyed the family dynamic and Kamala’s spirit and the cultural grounding of the show. There were a couple of contrived conflicts resolved by Kamala’s “power of kindness,” but aside from those, it was a solid show. Toronto’s Iman Vellani plays the titular role with a geek’s fervour. And she really is a fan of Marvel comics. The aesthetic was chef’s kiss.* I don’t want to spoil the show. I’ll just encourage you to watch it.

Season 2 of Russian Doll (Netflix) was characteristically confusing. It picks up on the mystery of the missing krugerrands for Nadia, complicated by Ruth’s declining health, and Alan gets his own motherly mystery to solve. Motherhood seems to be the theme for the season. This time around, Nadia and Alan jump around in the past, courtesy of the New York subway, but also into their respective mothers. Nadia breaks time by taking her infant self (whom she, in the body of her mother just gave birth to) into the present. There is a satisfactory resolution to the two main plotlines that doesn’t involve the disintegration of time.

Then, Phil and I watched season 3 of The Umbrella Academy (Netflix). I liked all three seasons for different reasons. Season 3 wasn’t as wacky as the first two, and though the series’ fate hasn’t yet been decided, it felt very much like it could have been the last.

I watched Spiderman: No Way Home (Amazon). Gaaaaah! Aaaaa! More wordless wonder! I loved it so much, I can’t even.

Then, I watched Spiderhead (Netflix). I’d read the short story the movie was based on, George Saunder’s “Escape from Spiderhead,” earlier in the year and was curious to see how it was adapted for the screen.

Very differently, it turns out. The story starts the same way. The protagonist is a convicted murderer who’s volunteered for a drug trial reminiscent of Brave New World. That is, they change your mood, but not just by making you happy/euphoric/languid. The drugs are loaded into an implanted device and administered to the “volunteers” in a series of trials.

In the story, the protagonist’s crime (vehicular manslaughter) isn’t revealed until the end, and he escapes Spiderhead by killing himself, after which he, in ghostly form, visits the survivors of his victims and achieves a post-mortem catharsis.

In the movie, the protagonist’s crime is revealed in bits and pieces throughout. He’s given a love interest in the research facility, with whom he escapes in the end. The antagonist, the head researcher, is actually the inventor of the drugs and owner of the facility. He also takes the drugs himself to alleviate his personal malaise.

In the end, the protagonist conspires with the research assistant to rig the antagonist’s drug supply. He overwhelms the antagonist with conflicting emotions and makes his escape, but in the process, the antagonist’s implant is mashed, and he gets all the drugs all at once. Though he takes off in his float plane, the drugs alter his perceptions to the degree he crashes his plane into Spiderhead island.

I enjoyed the story more than the film, but it was interesting to see Chris Hemsworth play the villain.

Then, I watched Night Raiders (Crave). Sorry, had a few days off and a gap in series to watch with Phil at supper. I substituted movies.

This movie, Indigenous written, Indigenous directed and produced, and with a primarily Indigenous cast, was a refreshing pause to the doom-and-gloom of most post-apocalyptic movies. It begins with a prophecy and by the end of the movie, the prophecy is fulfilled in an unexpected way. There were a couple of uncharacteristic shifts in the protagonist, clearly done for effect, but aside from that, I enjoyed it. The movie ended on a hopeful note, and I appreciated it for that alone.

Moving on to the month’s reading …

I finished reading Station Eleven on July 2nd. While I enjoyed the book, I like the series better. What follows is my comparative review of both, as promised last month.

HERE BE SPOILERS. You have been warned.

Hate to say it, but the book suffered from the disconnection that a lot of “literary” works fall victim to. The novel, however lauded it may be, is a series of “things that happen.” It’s a survival story more than anything else as well as a deeper dive into the characters united (physically or by circumstance) at the time the Georgia Flu decimates the world.

It could be summed up thusly: Arthur Leander died the night the Georgia flu killed most of the people on the planet. Most of the people connected to him survived—except for poor Miranda, who wrote a graphic novel that shaped the world of the survivors—for 20 years. The end.

Maybe not so flip.

Arthur has a fatal heart attack while playing Lear. Jeevan is a former paparazzi (who used to wait outside Arthur’s house for pictures), now paramedic-in-training, who tries to save his life. Kirsten is a young actress who witnesses the event. In the novel, Jeevan sees Kirsten to her “minder,” and then leaves.

The novel then follows Jeevan (for a while) and Kirsten into year 20 of the pandemic while jumping around in Arthur’s past (and therefore Miranda’s) leading up to his death. The other major characters are tied to Arthur in some way. Miranda, who creates the graphic novel that gives the book its name, and Elizabeth, mother of Tyler, the boy who eventually becomes the prophet, are two of Arthur’s former wives. Clark, who creates the Museum of Modern Civilization at the Severn City Airport, is his best friend.

Arthur receives two copies of the graphic novel from Miranda, one of which he gives to Tyler, and a snow globe paperweight from Clark. On the night of his final performance, he gives the other copy of the graphic and snow globe to the minder who then gives them to Kirsten. The graphic becomes a touchstone for Tyler and Kirsten, but in very different ways. The snow globe and graphic become exhibits in the Museum of Modern Civilization.

And that’s it. These thin strands connect the lives of the characters very tentatively. Kirsten eventually kills the prophet on the way to the Museum, where the travelling symphony regroups after being separated, and they perform Shakespeare and concerts for five days before departing to investigate what seems to be a settlement with electric light. Kirsten leaves one of the copies of the graphic in the Museum before she goes as a promise to return.

Like I say, I enjoyed the novel. I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t.

But the series was much better. I appreciated most of the creative decisions they made.

After failing to save Arthur, Jeevan tries to take Kirsten home in the midst of a snowstorm and the first wave of the pandemic (much worse than covid—most people die within a day of contracting it). They end up going to Jeevan’s brother Frank’s apartment, where they stay until a home invasion results in Frank’s death.

This plot point is another difference I appreciated. In the novel, Frank is in a wheelchair and chooses to commit suicide, thus setting Jeevan free to leave. I understand the situation. Without power, utilities, food, mobility, or the proper medications, he doesn’t want to burden Jeevan with his care. It’s a realistic problem that would have to be faced. But it’s a variation on the kill your gays/the Black character dies first/fridging tropes. Disabled Frank dies to motivate/traumatize Jeevan.

To continue with the series, Jeevan and Kirsten travel together until Jeevan is attacked by a wolf and taken in by a group of pregnant women and their doctor who needs help delivering all their babies. Kirsten travels alone until she joins up with the travelling symphony.

Meanwhile, Miranda dies in Malaysia. She can’t find a way out and catches the Georgia flu. Clark, and Elizabeth with Tyler, are both on flights diverted to the Severn City Airport, and after it becomes apparent that there’s no rescue coming, they set up a community there. Tyler “fakes” his death by making his mother and Clark believe he’s in a plane full of Georgia flu victims when he sets it on fire. He runs away in the ensuing panic.

Years later, the prophet visits the symphony and Kirsten tries to kill him to prevent him from taking her young friend Alex, but she doesn’t succeed, and they meet up again as the prophet continues to harass the symphony.

This is one of the decisions made in the series that I wasn’t so fond of. In the novel Tyler/the prophet sets up a bigamist cult in which they abduct young girls for him to marry. In the series he adopts/gathers children and indoctrinates them into becoming suicide bombers for him. I don’t like either scenario, but the child bombers make it really challenging for the reconciliation between Tyler and his mother that happens in the series to feel authentic. Who would forgive a guy who does that?

So, Kirsten takes Tyler captive and brings him to the Museum of Modern Civilization where he reconciles with his mother. And the symphony entertains the community as in the novel.

But their conductor is sick, and they’ve called the local doctor—Jeevan. There’s a little bit of Jeevan and Kirsten narrowly missing each other as they move around the airport, but they finally reunite.

Tyler and Elizabeth depart with the prophet’s remaining children and Alex. Kirsten continues on with the Symphony, with the Airport now on their route, and Jeevan returns to his home, a cottage or resort somewhere in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula or cottage country in Ontario, where all the children he helped bring into the world and their mothers live. I think this is the settlement with electric light that Kirsten departs to investigate in the novel.

I haven’t spilled every last drop of tea, but that’s the gist of it. The series left me feeling more hopeful than not. The novel left me hopeful, but unsatisfied. There seemed less rhyme or reason, and I suppose that’s fair, if you’re going for a realistic post-apocalypse. Even with so few people left in the world, coincidences like those in the series wouldn’t happen.

END SPOILERS.

But there you go.

Then, I finished Down Among the Sticks and Bones, the second of the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. This novel focuses on the backstories of Jack and Jill and what brought them to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. It’s lovely and heart wrenching and depressing and hopeful all at once.

Next, I read Stories of the Raksura, volume 1: The Falling World and Indigo and Cloud by Martha Wells. I haven’t read The Cloud Roads yet, though it’s in my TBR pile. Starting with these stories (there are two more shorts in the collection as well as the two novellas) was a good beginning, as most of these tales pre-date The Cloud Roads and offer context.

Then, I read Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Cruel and Fated Light. I read A Dark and Hollow Star last year and enjoyed it enough that when the next book in the series was released, I snatched it up. This is a YA urban fantasy series and Shuttleworth’s worldbuilding is quite complex. So complex that the times she has to convey essential information to the reader, whether through narrative or internal monologue, can come off as info-dumps. But the information is essential to understanding either what’s going on in the moment, or the context of what’s happened in the past (backstory). I definitely enjoyed it, though, and will probably pick up the next in series.

A little bit of whimsey—a rainbow in my palm.

And that was a very long rambling report of 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: 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!