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!
See the whole replay for the latest Starship launch, flip, and landing. Then, she ‘splodes. The exciting part is in the last two hours. NASA Spaceflight
Susanna Wolff goes beyond hygge (by which she really means “Google-translating words from English to Danish in an attempt to pass off the true and pathetic details of your depressing existence as amusing, relatable content.”). The New Yorker
Sweet Lord! Why can’t time stand still for a moment? Here we are in March, just days away from the anniversary of the pandemic declaration, weeks away from the onset of my working from home, and … the vernal equinox.
All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. Just want to keep that front and centre.
Epidemiologists have been warning for weeks now that the variants could open up a third wave. Today, after less than a week of daily case counts in Ontario below 1,000, we’re back up to 1,299. It’s a far cry from the 3,000 to 4,000 cases per day we were seeing back in January, but it’s still concerning.
Locally, there are 181 cases, which is significant because there have only been 784 cases in Sudbury (total) since March of last year. There are two group homes, one seniors’ residence, and seven schools with outbreaks.
Just because vaccines (four of them now, in Canada) are being distributed and administered, we can’t stop implementing public health measures. A vaccine isn’t a cure. It’s a mitigation. Covid can still be contracted by someone who’s been vaccinated. The chances of extreme outcomes (hospitalization, death) are lessened.
Please continue to wash your hands, wear masks, and maintain physical distance. This isn’t over yet.
The month in writing
I worked mostly on short fiction this month, revising 3,683 words of a single story. My goal had been 2,500 words, but the thing kept on growing. It still is. I’m having trouble with the ending. Beginnings and endings always give me trouble. Actually, everything’s giving me trouble these days. So, I revised 147% of my goal, but it’s not necessarily a good thing.
I blogged 5,359 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 153%.
For a low-goal month, it’s been a good one.
Of the projects I’m not tracking (because they’re mostly long hand ramblings on paper), I continued work on the Ascension series document, made revision notes for two more short stories, and submitted more poetry and a piece of short fiction.
Another of my poems was published in Polar Borealis Magazine.
I had a couple more rejections come in, but at least I’m getting my work out there. It’s a win.
Trying to move on
This month, I had intended to move on to next round revisions on Reality Bomb, and I’ve started, but it’s not going well. Mostly because I’m trying to rework the opening of the novel (see my comment above about beginnings and endings).
I’m continuing to revise the one short story and, as I’ve mentioned, am having trouble with the ending.
My confidence is suffering because of the personal crisis I mentioned last month. Things have improved, though. Physically, I’ve lost 13 lbs. There is more daylight and I think some of my SAD symptoms have been alleviated. I’m not suffering the continual heart palpitations I was. I have also received the results of my most recent physical exam and I’m in good health, overall. That’s reassuring.
I’m in a better place mentally, as well. At work, things are getting better. I’m learning more. I’m doing more. I’m getting some validation from my colleagues and manager. The imposter syndrome is lessening there. I am going to look into accessing our employee assistance program (EAP) to investigate mental health and management options.
Creatively, I’m still at sea. I have no idea if the revisions I’m working on are actually improving the story. I’m going to keep working as see where it takes me. It’s all I can do.
Filling the well
I’m cutting back on virtual events, but still managed to attend quite a few in February.
On February 1st, I attended the Grub Street launch of Nancy Johnson’s The Kindest Lie. The last Free Expressions webinar on the Show/Tell Solution was on the 4th. I attended a webinar on MS Word for Writers from the Canadian Authors Association on the 9th (very helpful, even though I’ve been using Word for YEARS).
I attended a watch party for the Perseverance landing on the 18th. There was a one-day world building conference offered by Diana Gunn on the 20th, and I signed up for Pro Writing Aid’s free fantasy conference from the 22nd through the 25th, attending four sessions.
Other than that, I’ve continued to walk Torvi twice a day and took as many pictures of dynamic skies as the weather allowed.
What I’m watching and reading
There are just three series that I saw the ends of in February.
I finished the last (and final) season of 13 Reasons. It was incredibly difficult to watch because of all the anxiety and PTSD. They did a good job of portraying the ongoing consequences of trauma, racism, homophobia, and policing in schools. It was a lot, though. So much that the ending felt rushed. You can’t resolve such serious problems in so little time. And I still wonder why it was necessary to continue the story of Jay Asher’s book for so long.
I also finished The Good Place. This story came to a much more satisfactory ending. In fact, I’d say it was a Mary Poppins ending—practically perfect in every way. Feel good hit, just when I needed it.
Finally, Phil and I watched the fifth season of The Expanse. It was amazing and continues to be one of our favourites. Season six will be the last.
In the reading department, I finished seven books (!) in February.
First was Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Goddesses in Everywoman. I appreciated how she, as a psychologist, interpreted the lives of women in terms of the archetypes of the ancient Greek goddesses, but I found that her overall message was contradictory. After indicating that a woman is not restricted to any one goddess, she later presents exclusionary life paths for each archetype. There was little wiggle room for interweaving. I enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure I’ll actually make use of it in a practical sense.
Next, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout. Loved it. Read it.
Then, I finished Will Do Magic for Small Change by Andrea Hairston. It was a story of stories lovingly interwoven.
Liz Harmer’s The Amateurs was next. It’s an apocalyptic tale about what happens when time travel becomes the next iPhone.
Then, I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. A bit of a tribute to Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but darker. The patriarch of the antagonistic family has made a deal with fungoid eldritch terrors, but they need “new blood” to refresh the family line. Enter the protagonist and her cousin, the “new blood” in question.
M.L. Spencer’s Darkmage wasn’t what I’d expected. I’d been warned that it was dark, but I wasn’t prepared for it.
Finally, I read Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby. So good. Not going to say much about it because this is another book you should read for yourselves.
And that was the month in this writer’s life.
Thanks for reading and until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.
I hope everyone had a good January (after the 6th) and that the slowly lengthening days are infusing you with new energy.
I’ve felt better in recent weeks myself and am taking steps to lose the “covid 19” I put on since March. I’ve recruited Phil, who does the shopping and cooking, my mom, and a friend as a support group. I’m already measuring progress.
While the numbers of covid infections have been dropping due to provincial lockdowns and curfews, I think talk of reopening is premature. We need to stay on track long enough for the vaccination supply, distribution, and scheduling gets back on track. Once the manufacturing issues have been resolved, we should be good.
If we can get daily infection numbers to less than 1000 in the worst-affected provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and BC) on a stable basis and have our most vulnerable populations (front-line health care workers, seniors, Indigenous peoples, and other POC) vaccinated, we can reconsider. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, the economy is suffering. But I think public health is more important than the economy at the moment. We’ll recover. We’ll survive. The economy will, too.
Locally, we’ve had outbreaks (defined as two or more cases) in several public and high schools, seniors’ residences and nursing homes, a group home, and the hospital. We’ve even identified cases of the “variants of concern.” Again, cases are going down, overall. All sites report that people are self-isolating, getting tested, and that all outbreaks are considered to be under control at this time.
The month in writing
There wasn’t a lot of writing this month. As I mentioned in my last update, I’ve decided not to dive into another novel right away. I want to give myself time to recover from 2020, solidify learning, and prepare to apply lessons learned to existing and new projects. More on this in a bit.
I wrote eight new poems. I’d planned to write seven, and so achieved 114% of my goal. I also submitted two batches of poems, both of which were not accepted, and I sent a proposal for my poetry collection to another small press.
I revised one short story, which was my goal. I’d allotted 1,500 words but ended up deleting more than I wrote. I wrote 187 new words, or only 12% of my goal. Just now, I realized that I forgot to update the word count on the story before I submitted it, but I did submit it. I’ll call it a win.
I also wrote my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA, which was published last week. The column came in at 768 words, or 77% of my 1,000-word goal.
And I blogged 4,532 words, or 129% of my 3,500-word goal.
Overall, I wrote 107% of my goal and revised 12%.
Other than those projects, I have a number of things I’m working on that I’m not tracking. I’m making revision notes for various pieces of short fiction, continuing work on the Ascension series guide, and making some revision notes for Marushka.
I’m also slowly updating this site and other social media images. Nothing major.
A vulnerable time
Three members of my critique group paused and submitted what they’d reviewed to date and asked me if they wanted me to continue. I completely misunderstood one of these messages, thinking that critique partner had chosen to stop altogether at that point.
I was thrown. I sorted out the misunderstanding and asked them all to continue but had to wonder if I’d given everyone the impression that I was especially fragile.
In reviewing the feedback, however, I felt reactive. I didn’t want to be, though. Maybe I am fragile. How can I learn to improve if I don’t know what the problems are? It’s a battle I’ll have to fight with myself.
Last year, I’d rewritten Reality Bomb, not referring to the earlier draft and then I gave it two passes to cut the word count down. I was trying a new approach to revising, because I have a habit on not making substantial revisions if I’m working in the same document. I may cut too much, though, or the wrong things. I may have focused on all the wrong things in the rewrite. Whatever the situation is, there are still significant problems with the draft.
Maybe I’m too much in my head. I approached the whole rewrite and revision too cerebrally. I can’t seem to get the emotion on the page. But I’m very closed down emotionally, in general. I don’t seem to respond to people like they expect. Maybe I’m neurodiverse. I just paused to take a self-assessment and scored high. Maybe I should get formally assessed.
Ultimately, I’ll need this month to develop my approach to reviewing the feedback and the next round of revisions on my novel. It was my hope to address the revisions in the month of March, but there may be so much to improve that I won’t be able to do that. I have to set that worry aside, though. Until I review all the feedback, I won’t have an idea of how much work there is to be done or how I’ll have to adjust my year’s writing plan and goals.
Add to that the fact that I’m in learning mode at work for the first time in 12 years. I’m feeling stupid and wrong and that this acting won’t be extended because I won’t be able to prove myself or be accepted as a member of my new team (cause I’m socially awkward). I’m doubting myself on all fronts.
I know that they way I’m feeling isn’t based in truth. I’ve won contests. I’ve been published in paying markets. I’ve been validated. I’ve had a successful 20-year career in the public service. When I was offered this acting position, my old team offered me an equivalent promotional position to stay. I do not, objectively, suck.
I’m just struggling at a point in my life when I think I shouldn’t be. It’s a massive case of imposter syndrome.
I’ll let you know how it goes, as always.
Filling the well
With the continuing lockdown, there hasn’t been any getting together with friends or family and, for the first time since I started to work from home in March, I’m feeling the lack of community. I have our household: me and Phil and Mom and Torvi. And I’m with them every day.
And that’s it.
I attended four virtual events in January, two workshops, and two readings. I also attended two board meetings for the Canadian Authors Association.
And that’s it. There are a lot of MS Teams meetings for work and I’m still at my peak zoom saturation level.
I’ve just been walking Torvi twice a day (which I must pause to do right now) and living in my own little world. I have to reach out to some friends …
What I’m watching and reading
The most recent season of His Dark Materials finished in January. I’m quite enjoying the series, particularly the chemistry between the actors who play Lyra and Will. There are some distinct differences between the series and the books, but I appreciate the choices made. For example, introducing Will’s plot in the first season.
Discovery also wrapped up its season in January. Though I like the series overall, this season seemed to find its stride better than some of the others. One reason may be because Michael and the Discovery are now in the distant future. They can, for the first time, write their own stories free of the legacies of other ST series.
I finished watching Warrior Nun on Netflix. It was okay. Confusing. And it took the protagonist seven episodes to get over herself and commit to her role as the halo-bearer. The last three episodes were the best of the season, but they shouldn’t have taken half as long to get there.
Also on Netflix was the first season of Snowpiercer just in time to start season two. I’d seen the movie but hadn’t read the graphic novels and liked that they chose not to do (another) reboot.
Finally, Phil and I caught up on the first half of Supernatural, season 15. We just needed to fill in a few gaps (How did Rowena become the queen of hell? How did Jack come back from the divine dead?) and now we have the full picture.
In January, I read/listened to seven books. The first was an Audible Original, Tanya Talaga’s Seven Truths. Loved it. Seven Indigenous teachings. Seven stories told with an emphasis on reconciliation and what it could be if we open ourselves to the possibility.
Then, I read Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild. Fabulous. What would you do if your soul mate went missing for a year and when you finally found him, he claimed not to know you? Based on Métis tales of the Rogarou.
Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God is a dark, post-apocalyptic novel with an unreliable narrator and a disturbing end. It’s a great book and Erdrich is a master of deep POV. It just leaves you thinking about how horrible people can be and how easily the world could turn into literal hell.
Then, I read Rivers Solomon’s The Deep. It’s the story of how the slaves thrown overboard on Atlantic crossings spawned a race of merpeople whose collective trauma is so deep that they decide to entrust it to one of their number. It’s the story of what happens when that one decides to share the burden.
The next book I listened to was Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The narrator has striven for most of his life to be a “good butler” but, in the process, has remained uncritical of his employer’s shortcomings, and of the feelings (his and hers) developing between himself and the housekeeper. The series of the butler’s reminiscences are framed by a road trip to see that housekeeper. In the end, he chooses wilful blindness. It’s the easier path.
Then, I read L.L. McKinney’s A Blade So Black. Loved. A retelling of Alice in Wonderland with several twists. I’ve already picked up the second in series.
I finished off the month with another Audible Original (it was a freebie), Mel Robbins’ Take Control of You Life. It’s about listening to your fear and learning how to move past it. You’d think I’d have learned something from this one, eh? It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve come down with this case of imposter syndrome. I’m facing my fear. Maybe I should listen to it again 😉
And that was the revelatory month in this writer’s life.
Until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!