The next chapter:  December 2022 update and year-end wrap-up

Happy New Year, everyone!

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—not just covid, but flu, etc.—as recommended). Covid is endemic. It ain’t going nowhere. 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!

Starting in the New Year, the monthly PSAs will cease. They have become performative, despite my best intentions. Y’all know my views. No need to harp.

The month in writing

First, I decided to let Alice in Thunderland sit until the 5th. Though this year’s NaNoWriMo wasn’t as exhausting as it sometimes can be, I still needed a break. Plus, I had some other writing work to do.

Even when I returned to Alice, though, the words weren’t flowing. I’m trying to listen to my body and brain more and on the 11th, I decided to let Alice sit until the New Year. She’ll still be on my mind, though. I have to think about the best way to end the story, which might involve me rewriting the beginning. Thinking of a circular, or echoing ending.

I had to do some work with Reality Bomb for Suzy, in any case, but I decided to take things easy and not stress out.

I had a stretch of vacation and wanted to focus on planning for the New Year and resting up. The dark time of the year is here, and I wanted to see what it would feel like to actually give myself some hibernation time when my energy reserves are low.

It was nice. I watched a lot of movies (see below) 🙂

Here’s how the month broke down:

The only writing/revision I did on RB this month was for my assignments. It wasn’t tonnes. No goal, but I wrote 9,398 words.

Like I said, I decided to let Alice percolate after the 11th. Between the 5th and the 9th, I wrote 1,008 words. Initially, I had thought Alice might be a full novel and I had committed to continue drafting through December. My goal was therefore fairly steep, and I chose not to change it (this time). So, 1,008 of 17,250 words works out to 6%.

For the first time all year, I didn’t meet or exceed my goal for the blog. That’s because I counted the bulk of my work on last month’s next chapter update towards my NaNo goal. Even including what I’d written of this update up to December 31st did not crack my goal. I wrote 4,644 words of my 5,000-word goal, or 93%.

I received the welcome news of another short story acceptance on the 8th. More on that later in the year.

And I received a lovely gift, just in time for the holidays, two of my poems, “Avalon” and “Blood Flower Moon,” were published in Polar Starlight 7.

And now for the year in review …

The year in writing

At the beginning of the year, I made what I thought were reasonable plans. I wanted to finish next round revisions of Reality Bomb by June (six months should have been doable, but alas), spend the summer focusing on poetry and short fiction, and then prep Maurshka for NaNoWriMo.

Welp, I was still working on RB in October when I signed up with Suzy. I decided to give up bulling my way through the revisions and see what Suzy had to say.

I did work on some poetry and sort fiction in the summer, but the short story I started (just something for myself) petered out and I haven’t thought of a way to proceed with it yet. I also decided that I’d set Marushka aside and prep Alice in Thunderland for NaNoWriMo instead.

With RB on hold, I did move on to work on Alice for NaNoWriMo, but I wasn’t aiming to win. I decided to take things easy and thought that Alice might be a novella, anyway.

And you already know how December worked out.

In terms of publication, it was a good year for me.

It started out with the publication of “The Undine’s Voice” in Polar Borealis 21 (May 2022), followed by the publication of my poem “Pillar” in Polar Borealis 22 (July 2022).

In August, “Torvi, Viking Queen” was published in Pirating Pups, edited by Rhonda Parrish, from Tyche Books.

And, as I mentioned above, I had two poems published in Polar Starlight 7 in December. So, two stories and four poems.

This may not seem like a lot, but it was great for me. In 2021, I had one story and four poems published and in 2020, I had three poems and a reprinted poem published. Slow progress, yes, but progress, nonetheless.

Also, I signed a contract with Latitude 46 for my first solo poetry collection, to be published in April of 2024. That’s not nothing 🙂

Here are the annual stats:

Project

Goal

Actual

Percentage

Reality Bomb

Revise 50,000 words

Revised 79,517 words

159%

Alice in Thunderland

Write 90,000 words

Wrote 29,307 words

33%

Blog

Write 55,000 words

Wrote 67,405 words

123%

Short Fiction

Write 6,000 words

Wrote 2,915 words

49%

 

Revise 10,000 words

Revised 478 words

5%

Poetry

No goal

Wrote 20 new poems

As you can see, I undershot the most with respect to the short fiction. I only wrote one new story, revised a couple, and stalled out on the second short story I started.

I’m not counting Alice as an undershot because of the novella thing. I think it will probably come out between 40 and 50k by the time I’ve finished drafting it and revised it.

Here’s another look with a monthly breakdown:

This year, I’m giving myself ten months to revise RB down to my 100k goal length, and then I’ll work on a query and synopsis, and hit the trenches.

I’ll finish Alice by the end of March and revise her by the end of June.

Sometime in the spring, I’ll be working with an editor on my poetry collection. Not sure how long that will take, but I’m scheduling six months.

I’m hoping to write and revise 6,000 words (each) of short fiction this year. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m toying with a creative non-fiction project. Not going to talk about this too much until there’s something to talk about.

And I’ve chosen my NaNo project this year. More on that in the future.

Again, I think the goals I’ve set are reasonable ones, but that always changes as the year progresses.

Filling the well

I have to backpedal a bit to November. I signed up for Tiffany Yates Martin’s Prologues webinar through Jane Friedman and watched the replay. I always learn something from Tiffany’s webinars and she’s a great presenter.

On December 4th, I attended a Revisions workshop with Mary Robinette Kowal. Her approach really speaks to me. I’m learning a lot.

I signed up for another Jane Friedman webinar, this one from Allison K. Williams about writing your second draft.

And I signed up for an Authors Publish webinar about writing layered stories readers will love with Nev March.

I had my second call with Suzy on Dec 7th. Part of my assignment was to work on my protagonist’s “why,” but I wasn’t sure if the why I had established was compelling enough given the why of my antagonist. There’s some massaging to do, but we can make it work.

I received my next assignment, to reframe and reorganize the first 20 pages of my draft given her review of my first chapter. Our next meeting was on the 21st. Again, progress was made. I think I just have to learn to trust myself more. Our next meeting is January 19th.

I attended the in-person holiday get-together of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on the 17th at Twigg’s. I had a lovely crab salad sandwich and London fog. And some cookies.  

We lowkey celebrated Mom’s 79th birthday on the 20th. Chinese and cake.

Christmas was going to be at my mom’s on Boxing Day this year. Unfortunately, my brother- and sister-in-law got covid and we had to postpone. I’ll leave the decorations up until then, I think, though Phil says he wants to take down the railing garlands while the weather is mild.

Phil went full techie on my desktop, trying to keep things running well for as long as he can. I cannot afford a new computer right now.

I got a long-overdue haircut.

I also got my flu shot and had another meeting with my support group.

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, Phil and I watched Wednesday. And we really enjoyed it. Jenna Ortega does an awesome job of letting us see what a teen Wednesday would be like. Yes, there were some overly complicated story beats.

Then, I watched The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special while putting my Christmas tree together. Silly, fluffy, and kind of dumb, but totally enjoyable for all that 🙂

I watched Spirited (Apple+). A fun take on A Christmas Carol. Old Marley runs a whole spirit division dedicated to reforming curmudgeons every year. The current ghost of Christmas present (Will Farrell) sets his eyes on an “unredeemable.” I won’t spoil the twist 😉 And really, Ryan Reynolds makes anything fun.

I received a holiday surprise 🙂 Fraggle Rock (Apple+) released a holiday special, too! Comfort/nostalgia viewing.

Black Adam (Crave) was next. It was a movie. Dwayne Johnson was fine, but I prefer his comedic roles. And Pierce Brosnan was a good Dr. Fate, but I really didn’t care about the other superhero characters and wasn’t given any reason to.

Then, I watched Wolf Walkers (Apple+). A balm to my pagan half-Irish soul. And beautiful. Just watch it, y’all.

I also watched Glass Onion (Netflix). As brilliant as Knives Out, but totally different. Janelle Monae was spectacular.

I decided to watch Guillermo Del Torro’s Pinocchio (Netflix). A dark and decidedly anti-fascist take on the traditional tale. The ending was bittersweet.

Then, I watched Slumberland (Netflix). A touching tale about grief and the power of dreams.

Phil and I watched the last season of His Dark Materials. Really good. Loved, in fact.

Moving on to the month in reading, I listened to The World We Made by N.K. Jemisin. Living cities versus eldritch horrors, vol. 2. Awesome. Robin Miles is one of my favourite audiobook narrators, and Simon & Schuster does a good job of the production.

Then, I finished Fevered Star, the second in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, by Rebecca Roanhorse. It was good, and I’m eager to read the third book.

I finally read Embers by Richard Wagamese. Brilliant and soulful. Teachings to return to.

I followed that up with another Wagamese book: One Story, One Song. The same as the above.

Then, and I think it was the weirdest read of the year, I read Bunny by Mona Awad. At first, I thought it was magical realism, then the body horror entered into the story, and then I wondered if everything was all in the protagonist’s head. It was a real trip, whatever it was. With thoughtful homage to, and feminist commentary on Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, fairy tales (Red Ridinghood, in particular), with a touch of Heathers and The Craft, Bunny was a wild critique (ha!) of MFA programs and the white privilege rampant in the university system.

Though it took me a while, I finished Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Real and the Unreal. There are a lot of stories in this collection, which was originally published in two volumes. A little Orsinia, a little Hainish, some science, and some whimsey. Good, but epic.

Next, I finally grabbed A Dead Djinn in Cairo, by P. Djèlí Clark. The missing piece of the Fatma puzzle! It explains a few things in Master of Djinn that were alluded to, but not fully fleshed out. Very good.

I finished Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John and the Hand of Devils. I didn’t realize how much of a lush Lord John was (!). Entertaining, and again, filled in a few gaps.

My favourite non-fiction read of the month was Chloé Hayden’s Different, not Less. Awesome to read about and autistic girl who received diagnosis and supports before she became an adult.

I didn’t quite meet my 2022 reading challenge. 55 books of my 60-book goal. Close, but no cigar. 92%. Not bad. This year, I’m taking my reading goal down to 40 books. Because I intent to do some close study/rereading this year, I don’t think I’ll be able to read many more.

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

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

Cover and Table of Contents Announcement

I’m so excited to share the Table of Contents for the upcoming Tyche Books anthology Pirating Pups: Salty Sea-Dogs and Barking Buccaneers!

The anthology is edited by Rhonda Parrish, cover art is by Sarah Dahlinger, and the book will be out in August.

And now for the complete Table of Contents:

The Empress of Marshmallow — Chadwick Ginther

Davy Bones and the Domestication of the Dutchman —Jennifer Lee Rossman

Johnson the Terror — Meghan Beaudry

Ghost Pirate Dognapper — Kristen Brand

Blackbark’s Collar — Richard Lau

Let the Water Drink First — V.F. LeSann

New Tricks — Alice Dryden

Torvi, Viking Queen — Melanie Marttila

Under the Curse of Jupiter — Mathew Austin

The Boomer Bust — JB Riley

What Gold Smells Like — Frances Pauli

Artistic Appropriation — George Jacobs

What Frisky Wrought When the Wheels Fell Off the World — E.C. Bell

You can find out more at the publisher’s page: Tyche Books — Pirating Pups. And even though the anthology won’t be out until August, the pre-order link is up!

I’m so excited!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 21-27, 2020

Black lives matter. Indigenous lives matter. All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. I’ll keep saying it until it’s true.

Pandemic life continues. A number of states have decided to roll back reopening. The Spanish flu pandemic lasted three years. Mind you, they didn’t have the world-wide medical resources to throw at the virus that we do. Still, I fear covid-19 will turn out to be a virus akin to the common cold and that a true vaccine will not be possible. What I hope is that immunologists will be able to account for mutations in covid-19 like they do with the annual flu vaccination and that we will have an ongoing method of control.

One way or another, this virus will change the way we live. I only hope that we take advantage of this opportunity to make the post-covid world a better one.

Cree Myles issues a challenge: if you want to unlearn racism, read Black science fiction authors. The Mary Sue

Tasha Seegmiller wants to have a candid conversation about publication. Then, Kris Maze wonders, is it YA, or not YA? Later in the week, Ellen Buikema explains how to develop a memorable character. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weiland is using all four cognitive functions as a writer. Helping Writers Become Authors

Manuela Williams shares the four elements of a compelling book blurb. DIY MFA

Bonnie Randall explains why you can’t concentrate right now. Fiction University

Nathan Bransford: a year of living uncomfortably.

Mathina Calliope: you win this round, comma. Jane Friedman

Shaelin questions whether these writing rules are really unbreakable. Reedsy

Jami Gold helps you fix choppy writing. Then, she wants you to make your chapters count.

Martha Alderson considers the emotional roller coaster all writers experience. Writers Helping Writers

John J. Kelley explains how to write characters with trauma. Then, Yuvi Zalkow is accepting the multi-creative lifestyle. Writer Unboxed

Chris Winkle helps you send a message with your story (without getting preachy). Then, Oren Ashkenazi discusses five characters with weak motivations and how to fix them. Mythcreants

Princess Weekes considers the influence of the Byronic hero. PBS Storied

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you’ve come away with something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe.

Tipsday2019

The uncertainty post

I mentioned a couple of (a few?) weeks ago that I’d be posting about the uncertainty in my life these days. Then I went away to When Words Collide and all bets were off. The literary festival was great, but the pace was intense.

So I figured I’d give you this piece before I got on with transcribing session notes from WWC. That will start next weekend.

The uncertainty at work

This is a multi-layered situation.

  1. Massive hiring requiring massive training.
    Last December, a first group of internal hires came through my office to be trained. I trained them, was briefly given an acting assignment (all of three weeks in length), and when I returned to the training team, I was given a special project, and thus largely excused from the burdens of training and/or monitoring the 50 additional internal and new hires that started in January.
    In March, I piloted the training that was the result of the special project and then cofacilitated two sessions of Business Writing to help a colleague achieve her certification (good news there – she got it!).
    As the new fiscal started in April, the second round of training and monitoring began. Once more, I trained the local group and it soon became apparent that while my manager wanted me to continue to work on special projects (three this time), that this would not be possible.
    I dove into monitoring, and then into advice and guidance, which, having been ignored to give priority to the monitoring, was backlogged by several weeks. Our mandate is to respond to these requests within 48 hours. Yeah.
    Starting in September, there will be another wave of new hires to be trained and monitored followed by a third in November, which I may or may not have to assist with because the position they are being hired for is outside my expertise.
    I’m steeling myself for several weeks out of town in September, and further training in late November.
  2. We may be losing our manager.
    This is a mixed blessing, because my manager is younger than I am, she has a lot of potential for mobility, and, more importantly, she has the skill set to take her fairly high in the corporate hierarchy. Our manager is a driving force for our team, though. She fights for us, and ensures that we have what we need to succeed in our jobs and careers, and what we need to achieve work/life balance.
    About the time I was assigned the second set of special projects, she received and accepted the offer of an acting senior manager. For a few weeks, she attempted to manage both teams. This soon became untenable, and the training team received an acting manager.
    This was supposed to be a temporary situation, until the assessment process for the senior manager’s position was concluded and a permanent senior manager moved into the position. The thing is, my manager’s in that process. If she’s offered the position, she will likely accept. Or she should, because it’s an excellent opportunity for her.
    In the meantime, we have a very capable acting manager, but one who is unfamiliar with our business line, and the responsibilities of the team. We’ve been there before. When I started with the training team back in 2009, we were without an actual manager for years, and the team had been for years previous to that. It does not make for a good situation. Most acting positions last a day short of four months, and with that many changes in leadership, the team was foundering.
    Plus, there have been several retirements among the executives in the last year or so, and as gaps appear, they must be filled, generally from levels below.
    I anticipate we’ll be in a very reactionary mode for some time while the corporate structure stabilizes.
  3. I’m on the verge of giving up ever moving beyond my current circumstances.
    The last pool I was in, for consultant, expired Dec 31st, 2013. Since then, I’ve applied for no less that five other positions. I’ve been screened out of all but one. That one is also for consultant, and I was almost screened out of it, but managed to squeak by. At the interview, most, if not all of the candidates must have failed the written portion, because they had a second written test. We were supposed to know the results of the assessment by the end of June. I think the board members must be on holiday.
    I’m coming up against a geographical brick wall. Our regional headquarters is in Toronto and our national headquarters is in Ottawa. I live in neither city, nor am I willing to move. This is the reason I’ve been screened out of several of the assessment processes. Even though our work environment is virtual (I currently work on a virtual team) someone in the hierarchy wants to consolidate skilled workers in our respective HQs. I get that, but still feel the patent inequity of the situation. I have skills. Mad ones even. While I’m content in my current position, the coming overload of training and monitoring and the potential lack of, or frequent change in, management makes me much less content in the day job.
    I’m getting to the point, though, where I want to give up the fight. Even if I make it into the next consultant pool, I’m not likely to get anything more than an acting position, precisely because I’m anchored in Sudbury. There’s no indication that the situation will change any time soon.
    Always hovering on the edge of my mind is the possibility of leaving the day job early in order to pursue my writing. Do I want to persist in a losing battle for the remaining years of my career?
    Also, Phil may be looking at reducing his hours, transitioning to a subsistence job, or retiring in a few years (which option depends on the uncertainty at home – see below). Since he works for a charity, and I work for a larger employer, I’ve always made more money that he has. Even when I make an agreement for a self-funded leave, that basically takes us to a rough parity. But I still make more. I won’t take the risk of sinking us below the poverty line so I can write full time. Though if I can write full time, there’s a much better chance that I will be able to make a reasonable income within a few years. What will we do for those critical years, however?
    Quandries, quandries . . .
  4. My satisfaction with my writing life is quickly outstripping my satisfaction with my day job.
    Yeah. So. That’s pretty self-explanatory, but my last point, above, is a concern. A big one. I have no answers.

The uncertainty at home

This year, the city has been working on Regent Street, right outside my house. This process has involved the tearing up on my front yard and driveway. A retaining wall is going to be constructed once our gas line is rerouted and the rock in our front yard (which is the same rock in our basement) is hacked away. Our driveway has to be sloped properly and will be resurfaced afterward. There’s no estimated time on when this will happen, but they can’t leave things the way they are for the winter.

Regent Street construction

There has been talk of developing our little street and of extending it through to the other side of the block for years. And I mean YEARS.

The driveway . . . for now

I’ll be clear: this is not happening now.

We’ve been told that it is happening, though. At some vague point in the future. Officially, no one can confirm anything.

In order for this to happen, Marttila Drive has to conform to the dimensions of the cross street. They’ve already made the opposite side of our street conform with Bouchard, which has narrowed the street considerably. On our side, there is a huge rock to deal with, and our house.

Our former front yard

Apparently, there will likely be a new turning lane when the street is expanded. This will cut into both the side and the front of our yard. The proposed retaining wall is already at our front step. Our easement is effectively gone.

This means expropriation.

Really, it’s not a bad thing.

If we had to sell our house, we’d have to invest tens of thousands of dollars to do so, and we probably wouldn’t get the investment back. The value in our property is in the fact that our zoning is commercial/residential, and the property is deep. Yes, it’s mostly Pre-Cambrian Shield, but that’s not unusual in a city like Sudbury. Most developers anticipate blasting.

Plus, it’s not the best place to live with the constant traffic, which includes transports, and the continual noise, which includes inebriated patrons walking home from the bar down Regent.

We’ve been led to believe that the city will make a reasonable offer for the property based on the assessed value. We’re good with that.

My mother lives next door to us (yes, two Marttila’s living on Marttila Drive – it was my grandfather’s property and I’m so over the notion of always having a Marttila live on Marttila Drive, thank you very much) and she will likely opt to sell, if her property is not also expropriated, and we’ll work on some mutually satisfactory solution. My mom’s pretty cool, and Phil and I have already discussed the option of a granny suite, or a duplex, or some other, at this time unnamed, solution.

But we don’t know when any of this will happen.

Last year, one of our neighbours went to an information session and he was told that the development would occur in three to four years. But plans change, and this is why no one Phil has spoken to has been able to tell us anything. It’s so aggravating.

Though our mortgage is paid off, we still have a sizable debt on our line of credit, and a car loan.

This is why I’ve been so reluctant to take any kind of chance on my writing.

I’m still working steadily toward the publication of at least one of my novels, and this year, I’ll have two short stories published in paying markets and I just won a prize for another piece of short fiction (yay!). This still amounts to less than $500 income from my writing. I’m not comfortable with leaving a $60K a year job for that, as wonderful as the publication credits are.

So that’s the deal.

The only stable things in my life right now are my relationship with Phil/my family/my friends, and my writing. It’s enough, and I can still claim contentment, but the rest just makes my head ache.

Thanks for letting me vent.

I’ve tried my best not to descend to the whiny, self-pitying voice in this post. I’ve tried to stick to stating facts, but I know my irritation has likely leaked through. Honestly, these are all first world problems. No one will die, or even go hungry, as a result of any of the above.

Unless I break completely and decide to quit. We might go hungry, then.

I keep this in mind as I wake up each day and I hug my contentment tightly to myself, take a deep breath, and move forward.

I have absolutely no control of all the uncertainty in my life. I can only control my own reaction to it and how much I let it affect my life. Frankly (Frankl-ly?) I don’t feel like giving it that much power.

I’ve bound it in words now. Writing is potent magic 😉

Wishing lots of that for you, my friends!

Break a pencil!

Muse-inks