The penultimate tipsday of May, marked by the serenade of spring peepers and red-wing blackbirds; the scents of crab apple blossoms and lilacs and poplar sap; and thunderstorms that spark and roll overhead. Refill your well with some informal writerly learnings.
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.
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!