Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 29, 2019-Jan 4, 2020

It’s the first tipsday of 2020! Get yourself some informal writerly learnings here 🙂

Kris Maze offers some New Year’s reflections on wellness and this writer’s life. Eldred Bird says, let your characters tell the story. Writers in the Storm

Ten qualities an agent wants to see in a writer. Bookends Agency

Bess Cozby suggests five writing resolutions beyond “write every day.” Tammy Lough helps you ramp up your dialogue with help from Isaac Newton. Samantha Hanni shares five ways to aid your editor. DIY MFA

Donald Maass revisits the un-con a second time: emotional tipping points. Barbara Linn Probst shares a 2020 vision. Julianna Baggott wants you to set aside the planning and the pantsing and consider a land of your own invention. Writer Unboxed

Jenna Moreci lists ten things you should do before you write your novel. My favourite bit: Writing a book is hard. Books don’t just fall out of your mind vagina. 😀

Chuck Wendig says that in 2020 you should write with a knife to your back and the cliff’s edge at your feet. Terribleminds

Chris Winkle explains how The Rise of Skywalker finally made Kylo Ren worth redeeming. Mythcreants

Thank you for visiting and I hope you found something to fuel your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well!


Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 31, 2017 – Jan 6, 2018

Your informal writerly learnings of the week may be found below 🙂

K.M. Weiland: four life-changing New Year’s lessons for writers. Helping Writers Become Authors

Julie Glover wonders, what word will guide your writing life in 2018? Writers in the Storm

Jenny Hansen offers some essential writing advice as you begin the new year. Writers in the Storm

Tamar Sloan offers three powerful techniques to harness reader curiosity. Writers Helping Writers

Greer Macallister explains how to use the feedback you don’t get. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass gets legendary. Writer Unboxed

Anna Elliott offers some comfort about those stories that won’t let you go. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt: happy new goals! Writer Unboxed

Terri Frank lists the five g’s of getting libraries to buy your book. DIY MFA

K.T. Lynn: five ways to conquer deadline anxiety. DIY MFA

Kristen Lamb presents the success paradox: programmed to fail or fly?

Chris Winkle creates seven recipes for heroes winning desperate fights. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi lists five behaviours fiction needs to stop demonizing. Mythcreants

Haley Mlotek is searching for the self-loathing woman author. Hazlitt

Tim Lott: why should we subsidise writers who have lost the plot? The Guardian

Stephen Marche co-authored a science fiction story with an algorithm and the CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed him about it. Also featuring Sandra Kasturi of ChiZine publications and Daniel H. Wilson, author of Robopocalypse.

Mark Abadi shares 27 maps that show how English speakers differ across America. Business Insider

I sincerely hope you found something of use or entertainment in this curation.

Be well until Thursday!


The next chapter: 2013 in review

I think it’s important to recognize all the good things one accomplishes.  With regard to my writing, 2013 has been a banner year.  I haven’t seen its like in … well a very long time.

You may remember way back at the beginning of the year what I wrote about resolutions, how I’m not fond of them, and how I prefer to make reasonable goals so I can have a chance to reach them.

It worked a charm for me.

I wrote four (soon to be five) new short stories this year and revised six others for submission. This has resulted in three fiction publications (one paid), and another three poetry publications.

While the goal of Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge was to write thirteen stories in 2013, I think that eleven was pretty darn good, considering the other things that I’ve accomplished.

I sent Initiate of Stone for a content edit in January and revised the whole thing twice. I’ve now sent the manuscript to select beta-readers and have sent it off to one agent and will ship it to one editor shortly.

In the mean time, I started on a middle grade fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, and drafted Figments, a YA fantasy, during NaNoWriMo.

Since the end of November, I’ve given myself a bit of a break. I’ve written a crap-load this year (because in addition to the 11 short stories, poetry, revisions, and the 50k+ draft, I’ve also tried to keep things rolling with my blog) and felt the distinct need for a rest before diving back into things in 2014.

Though I was not able to meet my goal of revising my blog (reader response seemed to indicate it wasn’t a priority) or moving to self-hosted WordPress, those goals remain on the list.  This time last year, I managed to accrue 100 followers on my blog. Now I’m over 222. While I’m still considering a newsletter, I continue to hold off. Until I have a novel out, I’m not certain a newsletter will have much value.

This year I also attended the Canadian Authors Association’s (CAA’s) CanWrite! Conference (June) and the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (October). Both were amazing experiences, and I learned a huge amount from the sessions at both conferences.

Currently, though my services haven’t been much requested of recent months, I’m sitting on the CAA’s Program Committee, and so putting some of my efforts into not only the CanWrite! Conference, but also, the Literary Awards, the Roving Writers Program, and other events.

As a reward for all my hard work, I’m going to be investing in Scrivener, thanks to the NaNo

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

reward discount, and purchasing the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents.

As far as what I’m aiming for in the New Year, stay tuned. I’ll have a post on more reasonable goals coming up next week.

books for sale!

books for sale! (Photo credit: bookgrl)

In the meantime, please share your accomplishments. It really helps to put them down in writing. I think when you see everything you’ve managed over the last year in print, you’ll be amazed. I was.

Then celebrate! You were fantastic! And you know what? So was I 😉

Sorry, couldn’t help the Doctor Who reference. Geek girls rule!

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection)

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection) (Photo credit: ChocolateFrogs)

Solstice and other things that happen around this time of year

Today was, in case you didn’t notice (you could be forgiven for missing it), the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. It’s also the first day of winter, though you wouldn’t know it up here in the Sudz. It’s been snowing and cold since mid-November. It usually is, this time of year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.

Now we face the longest night, but you know what? Things get better from here on out.

You’ll notice that the days start getting longer again and we start that long stretch to spring.

Christmas is coming, and with it the latest Doctor Who special 🙂

New Year’s is coming, with all its promise for another fresh start.

We actually have a chance to appreciate the people we’ve taken for granted all year, or the activities we’ve cut back on so that we could work/get the promotion/pursue various important things.

We can put things in perspective.

We just went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It was yesterday, but we celebrated tonight because everyone’s off. I was a terrible kid and forgot to wish Mom happy birthday yesterday. I took her shopping this afternoon. I don’t think it really made up for the lapse.

The 20th of December was also the day, twenty years ago, that Phil asked me to marry him.

We were getting ready to take my mom out, and I’d just gotten off work. I was a life guard back then, and I was rushing to get changed. I noticed that every time I turned around, Phil was there, but I whirling-dervished around him until I turned and nearly tripped over him.

Phil was kneeling. I was stunned until I realized what was going on. Then, I was all *amazeface*! He asked my parents’ permission and everything.

I’m always rushing at this time of year, and I have to remember to slow down and appreciate the people in my life.

Slow. Down. Appreciate. People.

Don’t be a dervish douche. Don’t forget your mom’s birthday. Trust me. It sucks.

Other reasons I like the solstice

It’s scientific.

Winter solstice

Winter solstice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because of the tilt of the earth’s axis and the way we orbit the sun, we have seasons. The solstices and equinoxes delineate the divisions of the year.

It is a fact that the winter solstice is the occasion of the shortest day of the year and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere, anyway.

It’s pagan.

Well, neo-pagan, at least.

Seemingly on the opposite side of the spectrum, the solstices and equinoxes form some of the pagan holy days. In case you haven’t been following me for that long, my spiritual inclination is agnostic with pagan leanings.

Agnosticism, according to Richard Dawkins, is the worst form of self-delusion in that we aspire to atheism, but can’t quite commit because of the niggling doubt that maybe there is a God …

Well, Phil is atheist, and we’ve discussed religion at length. I think that the atheist position is very sensible. I also acknowledge that there is a lot that science hasn’t made clear for us yet, and while I think that the existence or non-existence of God is not one of the questions that science can answer for us, I think that there is enough mystery left in the universe that the answers science will provide us will be surprising.

I like to keep an open mind.

Besides which, I’m a fiction writer. A fantasy fiction writer at that. Gods, goddesses and magic are kind of what I’m all about.

I’ve studied shamanism in some depth (though not, I would say, comprehensively) and I’m fascinated by the ancient sites and their purported use in astronomy and astrology, time-keeping, the precession of the stars, and the observation of the sun.

I could geek out on ancient cosmology all day and all night.

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter sols...

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter solstice The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere falls between the 20th and 23rd December depending on the year. In 2007 the solstice occurred on the 22nd with the period between sunrise and sunset being 7 hours 49 minutes and 40 seconds. The sun set in London at 15.54 today, 22 minutes after this picture was taken. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s quiet.

Because a lot of people travel to visit relatives at this time of year, the city (small, yes, but a city nonetheless) grows quiet. In the morning when I’m walking the dog, I can feel the increased stillness, the anticipation of a world holding its breath for the next sunrise.

It’s about light.

This is why we have so many festivals of lights at this time of year. We’re fighting back the darkness, recalling the light, celebrating with our wee candles in the night, shielded against the wind.

I prefer strings of LED lights on the stair rails outside my house, though. I plug ‘em in the night before solstice and don’t unplug ‘em until New Year’s Day.

I’d just like to wish everyone, regardless of your religious or spiritual convictions or devotions, the happiest of holiday (holy day) seasons.

And ‘cause I was raised Christian and still celebrate with my nearest and dearest: Merry Christmas!

Resolve not to resolve

(A.K.A. Just make reasonable goals and reach them!)

New Years Resolutions (1/52)

New Years Resolutions (1/52) (Photo credit: lucidtech)

This is the time of year when everyone starts off fresh and hopeful and makes a bunch of promises to themselves without first considering whether they really want to keep them or not.

My advice is to take a step back and give this whole resolution thing some careful consideration.

First, try not to get caught up in the whole resolution furor and just make SMART (more on this in a bit) goals that you can actually achieve.

Review these goals periodically and change them if you need to.

That’s what irks me about resolutions.  For many, they hold the impression of being set in stone.  As human beings, we change, so will our goals.  Be flexible and make adjustments where necessary.  Shit happens.  Put another way, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

If you abandon your expensive gym membership after three months and fail to lose twenty pounds by June, then, like as not, either the goal you set for yourself was unrealistic, or something happened to make the goal unrealistic to pursue in the way you first imagined.

I set goals all the time, sometimes they change and sometimes they don’t work out the way I planned.  So I change course, adjust my expectations, and set more goals.  Goals are healthy and shouldn’t just be reserved for January 1.

This year, resolve not to resolve 🙂

Step one: think about it

The first step, as always, is to give your goals some consideration.  Do you really want to achieve them?  Are you setting a goal because of external factors?

Take the “lose twenty pounds by June 1st” goal, something a lot of people list in their resolutions, sometimes every year.  Are you truly invested in making this happen?  Are you only doing it because your stepsister called you fat at Christmas dinner?  Are you happy at what others might consider twenty pounds overweight?  Do you feel healthy?  Do you otherwise conduct yourself in a healthy manner?

Once you’ve determined whether you really want to do this, think about ways that you might be able to make this happen, and how you can make the goal easier to achieve.

An expensive gym membership may not be the best choice given your circumstances.

It might be better to enlist your friends and family in the project, get a support system gathered around you.  Often, when you put your goals “out there” in concrete form, that is, you tell people what you want to do and why, it’s less acceptable to renege on the deal.

In this case, you can tell your family that you want to begin to eat healthier and get their support (yes, Mom, we’ll eat fish three times a week with you and we’ll try soy if we can have a day off on the weekend to indulge our collective red meat/fat/sweet cravings).  Tell your friends to help you make wise choices at the restaurant without making you feel bad in the process.  Tell your mom that while you think her roast of beef with Yorkshire pudding is drool-worthy, that this year you might want to try some Cornish hens and green veggies for your birthday dinner instead.  It’s the little things that add up to goals achieved over time.

Is there something that you can buy that’s not expensive and will still facilitate your achievement of your goal?  For example, maybe you know that a full, sweaty workout is not for you, but that you could commit to walking every day.  So buy yourself some properly-fitted walking shoes, maybe some clothes that will make walking in inclement weather less unpleasant.  Perhaps you could buy yourself a simple journal to diarize your eating habits and emotional responses to food.

Recognize when you start seeing or feeling results and give yourself a reward.  Maybe by March, with your reasonable eating and exercise plan, you’ve lost eight to ten pounds.  Celebrate by getting some clothes in a smaller size.

Think that you feel pumped enough to up your game?  Maybe now’s the time to buy a well-fitted pair of running shoes and see when the members of the local Running Room are starting their next beginners class.  Save the marathon for next year.  There are always more goals you can set in your future.  Leave room for them, work up to them gradually.

Setting and achieving goals is a continual process, not a “Ding! I win!” moment.  If you’re not invested in the goal, if the wish to attain it does not come from within, and if you fail to plan for success, then, as the saying goes, you’ve only planned to fail.  Then again, planning the hell out of something can be overrated …

Back to that SMART thing

Smart goals

Smart goals (Photo credit: shaggy359)

So SMART is an acronym which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.  While the acronym is drawn from project and time management in a business context, it can be applied to personal projects as well.

I’ll let you explore making SMART goals on your own, if you’re so inclined.  Just Google it, and you’ll see how much is out there.

Some people benefit from a well-structured approach.  Some people don’t.  This is why the thinking part comes first.  You have to know yourself well enough to know what approach you’ll respond best to.

Advice from better minds than mine

Dean Wesley Smith wrote an excellent series on goal-setting in writing over November and December:

Here’s the ever-amusing but always on-target, Chuck Wendig’s ruminations on the topic:

Writer’s Digest has a few thoughts on the topic as well.

Finally, for those whose 2013 includes a new novel:

If you follow any blogs whatsoever, you will find lots of advice on goal-setting.  Research is a good idea, but always, think about it for a bit.  You don’t want to adopt someone else’s methods or techniques blindly.  That’s one of my biggest takeaways from 2012.

Whether it’s with respect to platform development, writing, blogging, weight loss, or any other aspect of your life, to thine own self be true.

Now … what you’ve all been waiting for … drum roll please …

Mel’s resolutions reasonable and malleable goals

My goals are largely determined by my life circumstances and as my life is quite chaotic right now, my goals need to be adjusted periodically because … well, shit happens.


First, I’ll tell you what I’m not going to do 🙂

Though it would be nice to lose some weight, I feel pretty good and I am happy with my overall health, so, though it may be a disappointment to some, I will not be quitting smoking, becoming a workout maniac, or going on some fad diet that will only make me miserable.

What I will do:

  • Walk more (not specific or measurable because any gain in this area will satisfy me).  I used to walk a lot, like 60-75 km per week.  I’d walk Nuala in the morning, walk home from work in the evening, go for longer walks on Saturdays, and hikes in the bush on Sundays.  I even jogged for a few years.  When my dad went in the hospital in 2010, I stopped walking home and started walking to the hospital to visit him after work in stead.  When he was admitted to the Nursing home, I stopped walking so that I could get home and drive out to visit him with my mom.  When he passed away, I really didn’t feel much like walking at all.  Last year, Nuala developed arthritis and now she has an ACL injury and that’s curtailed some of the morning walks.  I do want to start walking more though, and I have purchased a new set of waterproof boots to make the decision to walk home after work in the winter easier, but I’ve found, since I’ve hit 40, that my tolerance for inclement weather has definitely decreased.  I’ve also got a referral from my doctor to get my orthotics updated, so that will also help.
  • Continue to eat sensibly.
  • Start massage therapy.  My colleagues at work rave about this, and I can only hope that it will help me as well.
  • Continue to accept and love myself as I am.
  • Take care of myself, my husband, my mom, and my dog.
  • Be the best friend I can be.

Professionally (day-job):

I’ve recently been advised that my acting assignment will be extended to June, with a further potential extension to September.  So, given that … I aim to:

  • Continue to learn and master the duties of my position.
  • Achieve my training certification.
  • Learn to become as a leaf in the wind.  This is important.  With all the change occurring at work these days, I never know what’s going on and half the time, events are not stable until after they’re already in motion.  Even then, cancellations are possible.  I fully understand my limitations and commit to do the best I can within those restrictions.  That’s all I can promise and I’m good with that.  We’ll see if my manager is good with that too 🙂

Professionally (writing life):

  • Finish my current edit of Initiate of Stone (I’m nearly there, at long last).
  • Send my MS for a professional content edit.
  • Start on a new novel (haven’t decided yet which one).
  • Submit to anthologies and calls for submissions of interest to me throughout the year.
  • Revise IoS given the content edit.
  • Share out to select beta-readers.
  • Submit first three chapters to the agent who indicated her interest at the pitch conference I attended.
  • Submit the entire revised MS to the editor who indicated his interest.
  • Revise based on beta-reader response.
  • Recommit to my online critique group.
  • Continue to read widely on a variety of subjects and across genres.
  • Participate in Khara House’s I ❤ my blog challenge.  I’ve struggled in recent months with consistency on my blog and I think this is just what I need to get me back up and running.
  • Set up a newsletter via mailchimp when my followers reach 100 (I’m at 85 right now).  This will be quarterly to begin with.
  • Consider a redesign of the blog and (gasp) a hosting service.  Yup.  Thinking about it.  Bears more thought however.  Still shy after last February’s hacking bite.
  • Go on a few writing dates.  Trying to negotiate this with a writing friend, but already have the first “big” one set: Susan McMaster poetry workshop in February.  Yay!

And I think that about covers it.  Notice that I don’t have time frames on any of these goals.  Life/chaos/shit happens, remember?  This is a trick I learned from participant-centered training.  An agenda that does not have time limitations allows for flexibility and adjustment on the fly.

A lot of this will be blogged in coming months, so I’ll keep you up to date on my progress.

What goals have you set for the coming year?  If you call them resolutions, I won’t mind, but please, do share!

God bless us, every one!

Just a brief post today to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Two of my favourite ecards:

I kind of love the interactive one and I just can’t resist the dog-y charm of the other 🙂

Tomorrow, I’m going to post on the Next Big Thing project which Kim Fahner has been so kind as to tag me into.

And of course, I’ll continue to post through the end of the year including a top ten kind of post and one about those deadly New Year’s resolutions.

For now, I hope you’re all having a peaceful holiday, full of love.

doctor who christmas special

doctor who christmas special (Photo credit: lism.)

I’m going to enjoy the Doctor Who marathon on Space, culminating in this year’s Christmas special 🙂





Have been watching my share of seasonal movies though, A Christmas Carol, Miracle of 34th Street, and the annual The Sound of Music.  The title of this post is taken from the Dickens’ classic.

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I woke up today = epic win :)

We’re all still here.  No zombies.  No rapture.  The apocalypse, it turns out, it just a calendar reset, very much like the solstice, or New Year’s Eve.

Then I got the G+ notification this morning that in the Julian calendar, it’s actually December 8 and that the end of the Mayan calendar  and Christmas are both days away yet.  Needless to say, my response to that particular bit of sharing cannot be repeated on Writerly Goodness.

Up here in the north, we got our first real snow storm of the year, right on time.  Five to six inches fell yesterday and last night, necessitating a one and a half hour snow-blowing odyssey for myself, and that after a kind neighbour cleared my mom’s side of the driveway.  Heck of a way to spend a day off 😦

Back to the matter at hand.

Maya Calendar

Maya Calendar (Photo credit: Xiaozhuli)

The Mayan calendar restarts at this point.  They may not get to celebrate this particular new beginning every year, but that’s what today represents for them: a new beginning.

Similarly, the solstice is the renewal of the sun in the northern hemisphere.  The shortest day and longest night passes, and from that point in the year, the days become increasingly longer and the nights increasingly shorter until the summer solstice flips the switch.  Here’s astronomer Phil Plait’s informative article on the event.

For those of you with paganish leanings, or the Celtophiles among you, here is a link to this year’s solstice ceremony at Newgrange.

English: Newgrange, Ireland.

English: Newgrange, Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cultures throughout the world celebrate the solstice in one way or another.  Christmas celebrations (among others) can be traced back to, or related to the pagan solstice celebrations that predated them.

It is not only the beginning of a new season, but the beginning of a new year for some.  If you think about the 12 days of Christmas and start the count on the solstice, the final day of celebrations will be anywhere from January 1 to 3, depending on the year and the day the solstice actually falls on.

That’s why I think that we call it the Christmas season, or used to call it that before the political correctness police descended en masse and advised everyone that we had to say “Happy Holidays” and not “Merry Christmas.”

I get the inclusiveness of the message.  I’m not Christian myself, but I was raised in that tradition and I celebrate Christmas with my family and friends like most people of Anglo-European descent.  My paganish side honours the solstice and the season it starts for me, culminating in the New Year.

Like the Mayan calendar, and the solar/astronomical year, our calendar restarts at this point as well.  January 1st marks a new beginning for most of us, a time of putting up new calendars and taking down Christmas decorations.  The tree (a pagan tradition, by the way) is shipped to the curb for recycling, or repackaged back in its box until next year.

Resolutions are made and adhered to or abandoned as our nature demands.

So what do you think about renewals, the Christmas/holiday season, and what it represents for us?

Coming soon: I’ll be posting on Christmas Day, creating a “best of the year” post, and blogging about planning and resolutions with a writerly focus.

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice...

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, 21 June 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For now, I’ll simply wish everyone a happy solstice.

A solstice soundtrack:

Write on, my friends!