The next chapter: October and November 2019 mega update

It’s been a while. Two months, to be precise. Let’s just get right to it 🙂

October in writing

Once more, I was busy with non-productive writing-related tasks. I was prepping for NaNoWriMo and my rewrite of Reality Bomb. Though I think I worked through most of the problematic bits of the story and had a good idea of the reworked outline, with plot points, etc., the writing took me in slightly different directions, as it does. More on that, below.

I continued my reread of Ascension and got half-way through Playing with Fire, book four of the series.

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Writing-wise, I blogged 4,529 words of my 4,500-word goal, or 101%.

I also wrote 496 words of short fiction of my 2,000-word goal, or 25%.

And that was it for October.

November in writing

I won’t belabor things too much. If you’ve been watching my NaNo updates, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where I landed. I wrote 30,502 words of the revised RB, or 61% of my goal. At this rate, it will likely be the end of January before I’m finished with the rewrite.

The last week of November, during which I was training at work, was appropriately fatiguing, but I cracked 30k, which was a realistic goal I was happy to achieve.

I also wrote my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA. It should be coming out Tuesday. That came in at 1052 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 105%.

I had expected my weekly NaNo updates to be brief and predicted about 250 words each, or 1,000 words overall. I blogged 1,293 words, or 129% of goal.

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Filling the well

In October, I went to Can-Con in Ottawa, which I first attended three years ago. This year’s attraction was that the Aurora Awards (the Canadian Hugos) were presented there. Well, they were off-site at Christchurch Cathedral, which was a lovely venue. I met up with a few friends from professional organizations and had a genuinely lovely time.

In November, Sudbury’s own Wordstock Literary festival took place and I attended what sessions I could given that I was also beginning NaNoWriMo and my 50th birthday party (!) took place that weekend. Still, I connected with writer friends and bought books (when do I not?).

What I’m watching and reading

On the viewing front, Phil and I finished watching the final season of Preacher. It was mostly satisfying. I read the graphic novels so long ago that I wasn’t able to remember well enough to know if the series was a faithful-ish adaptation. I have the feeling that it wasn’t. There were some significant logic issues that can probably be attributed to the graphic (like how they got the car overseas). Handwavium aside, it was enjoyable.

I finished watching the final season of The Santa Clarita Diet. Meh. I liked the characters and the actors, but the story was lacking.

Phil and I started watching the (third?) season of Ash vs. the Evil Dead and haven’t finished it. As with other shows of its ilk, it was playing the same tropes over and over.

Instead, we took in a delightful animated kids’ show, Three Below, which was created by Guillermo del Toro. We enjoyed the tale of a family of aliens stranded on Earth. There were tie-ins to The Troll Hunters.

We also watched the first season of Happy! It was all kinds of twisted and we just enjoyed the scenery-chewing antics of the cast 🙂

I finished off the last season of The Mortal Instruments. It was okay. I was mostly seeing it through for the sake of completeness.

Finally, Phil and I watched Raising Dion. We enjoyed it, and burned through it, more or less, but there were some problematic storytelling issues we took exception to. The first was that, in an attempt at attaining some realism, the writers gave time to the characters’ daily lives and struggles, even though they had little to nothing to do with the main plot.

**WARNING: HERE BE SPOILERS.**

Yes, Nicole deserves a life and interests of her own, but did it need so much screen time? Nicole gave up her dancing career when she was pregnant with Dion. Pertinent, but it’s a fact that can be stated and we can move on with the story. That she gets a job at the same dance theatre is good (‘cause she needs a job to support Dion) but then the job becomes the source of meaningless conflict, in which the owner continually makes Nicole choose between her job and her son’s wellbeing to the point of unreasonableness. And then there’s the potential relationship with hot dancer guy when it’s made abundantly clear that Nicole isn’t over her husband’s death yet. I was waiting for this whole subplot to tie in somehow, but I was disappointed.

Nicole’s sister is a no-nonsense doctor and seems only to be present to remind Nicole of what a failure she is, how delusional she is, and what a poor mother she is. Later in the series, when Nicole’s sister has to take Dion to the hospital because he’s spiking a fever and Nicole’s boss won’t let her leave work, Nicole is finally able to prove to her sister that she’s not crazy and Dion does have powers. But then the sister has to risk her career and medical licence to erase all evidence of Dion from the hospital’s systems. She does help Nicole get Dion away from Pat (see below) but then she drops out of the plot, her usefulness exhausted.

Even Dion’s friends and the bullying he experiences as the new kid in school are, at best, peripherally tied to the plot. But peripheral is better than pointless.

**HERE IT IS. THE BIG SPOILER. READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW.**

And then, there’s Pat. Oh, Pat. I love Jason Ritter as an actor, but damn did the writers give him some shit to portray.

The series begins with Pat being the friend and coworker of Nicole’s dead husband, Mark, and godfather to Dion. They play games together, Dion tells Pat things he can’t tell his mom, and Pat is helpful, though it’s clear he’s crushing on Nicole.

Dion begins to exhibit powers and then he and Nicole witness strange ghosts that appear in a sudden storm, one of them, Dion’s dad. Then a man made of lightning, whom Dion names the crooked man, shows up and sucks all the ghosts back to him before disappearing.

Pat begins to help Nicole and Dion, being Dion’s “superhero mentor” and helping them to investigate Biona, where Pat still works, when Nicole discovers that Mark didn’t trust his employer.

During Dion’s health crisis, Pat even points out the way to save Dion, having learned what Mark discovered about his own changed physiology in the wake of the meteor shower that resulted in his developing powers.

Then, in a reveal so clumsy they had to include a retcon flashback, Pat goes from awkward family friend and geeky investigator to full-on incel and … the crooked man. There was so much WTF, I didn’t know what to do with it.

In the end, Pat/the crooked man is defeated by Nicole and Dion in a tag team effort, and there is a touching, if temporary family reunion, but the crooked man escapes and inhabits another young boy with powers much like Dion. This makes no sense as the crooked man “consumes” those with powers and Pat wanted Dion to heal him (of the crooked man, I assume), which would have killed Dion. There’s no precedent for this outcome in the series. Also, it presents the recurrent villain trope, in which Dion will again have to face the crooked man at the end of next season. Not promising.

I read a lot of books in the last couple of months. I’ll touch on them briefly, here.

I decided to check out Zen and the Art of Writing because it had long been on my TBR list and someone in my critique group mentioned that it was her go-to, feel-good, writing craft book. I liked it and Bradbury’s approach to writing but didn’t feel like I could adopt much of it for my own process.

Having just finished The Handmaid’s Tale in the wake of the series’ third season, I nabbed The Testaments. Atwood made a wise decision in placing the events of The Testaments fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, giving the series room to breathe and become its own thing in between. The narration alternates between Aunt Lydia, at the end of a storied career, Agnes, June’s oldest daughter, raised in Gilead by a Commander and his wife, and Daisy, raised in Toronto, who eventually learns that she is “Baby Nicole,” June’s younger daughter. I won’t give anything away, but I liked The Testaments better than The Handmaid’s Tale. The three narrators, though still unreliable in their own ways, are not as unreliable as Offred/June was in the first book. Their stories, though still traumatic, are revealing in ways that June’s could not be.

Then, I read one of my favourite books of the last two months, Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir. It’s admittedly weird, as only a space opera set in a system with nine planets (ahem), each controlled by a necromantic house in service to the Emperor God necromancer can be. It’s a little off-putting that the main action is basically sword and sorcery—I found myself asking, why set this in space at all?—I’m sure there will be a payoff in the upcoming sequel Harrow the Ninth. It’s a wicked and charming character study, exposed through mystery and puzzle-solving, and the writing is just—forgive me—to die for.

Next, I turned to Cassandra Khaw’s novella, Hammers on Bone, which puts a Cthulian twist on the hard-boiled detective narrative. Interesting and brutal and satisfying.

Eden Robinson’s follow up to Son of a Trickster, Trickster Drift, continues Jared’s story. He travels to Vancouver to attend college, away from his mother’s protection, moves in with his mother’s estranged sister and her haunted apartment, is stalked by his mother’s vicious ex, David, who abused Jared when he was a child, and stalwartly attempts to have a normal life. Things, of course, do not go as planned.

A Brightness Long Ago is Guy Gavriel Kay’s latest alt-historical fantasy and like all his work, is lyrical and touching and nuanced. This is one novel I want you all to read for yourselves, so I’ll just say that I loved it.

The City in the Middle of the Night is Charlie Jane Anders’ second novel. For the most part, I loved it as much as All the Birds in the Sky, but the ending seemed rushed and the novel was ultimately unsatisfying for that reason. On a tidally locked planet, where humans can only survive in the thin band of twilight between the inferno of the light side and the frozen tomb of the dark, the reader follows Sophie, kind, gentle, naïve Sophie, as she learns that no matter where we go or what we do, humans are the absolute worst. At every turn they fail her and each other. It’s no wonder she turns toward the native species of the planet toward the end of the novel.

Brooke Bolander’s The Only Harmless Great Thing is heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. Like Anders’ novel, Bolander’s novella shows us how humans are doomed to make all the wrong choices. Elephants and women are the victims in this case. Why is it that we need a holocaust, or a nuclear bomb to remind us that “never again” is more than just words?

Finally got around to reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. While I enjoyed the book, I found, as others have, that Alina, the protagonist, doesn’t have a lot of agency in the novel. From the moment she evidences her grisha powers, Alina is taken, trained, manipulated, enslaved, and though she ultimately manages to win her freedom and the day, it felt that luck had as much a hand in it as Alina.

Next was P Djélì Clark’s Black God’s Drums. This novella is set in an alternate history in which both steam punk elements and African culture. It was entertaining and I loved the protagonist 🙂

Then, I read the third novel in A.M. Dellamonica’s Hidden Sea Tales, The Nature of a Pirate. These novels are basically police procedurals in a post-post-post-apocalyptic future. Sophie Hansa is transported into a world which is more ocean than land. Aside from living on islands, there is an armada/floating nation of ships. There is magic, but it works largely by inscription, which needs specific and often rare materials, and must be worked on a person, whose full name is required for the spell. One person can only be inscribed so much before they reach their individual capacity and then they start to suffer and may even die horribly. The world building is impeccable, the characters are endearing, and the mysteries are engaging.

My other non-fiction read of the month was Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. It’s the tale of an indigenous woman finding her way back to her culture. It’s a beautiful, lyrical book, and because Kimmerer is a botanist, she weaves science in with her teachings. It’s an ecological tour de force.

I read Alyssa Wong’s short story, “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers.” Two sisters destroy the world again and again in an attempt to save one another.

I burned through Maggie Stiefvater’s Call Down the Hawk. I read several awesome books in the last couple of months (Muir’s, Kay’s, Kimmerer’s), but this has to be my absolute favourite. It delves into the lives of the Lynch brothers in the wake of The Raven Cycle. There are other dreamers in the world, and they’re being systematically hunted and killed by an organization that believes one of them will destroy the world. They’re closing in on Ronan, Declan is dating the living dream of another, and Matthew has just realized that he’s just like his mother, Aurora Lynch, and that his existence depends on Ronan. It’s twisted and juicy and everything I wanted. The ending was a little precipitous, but I know this is the beginning of a trilogy, so I’m willing to forgive Stiefvater for that. The cliffhanger, though—!

Finally, I read Chuck Wendig’s short story collection, Irregular Creatures. Some of the stories were endearing. Some of them were downright disturbing. A lot of douchecannoes got what they deserved.

And—whew!—that was the last two months in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

NaNoWriMo 2019 update 4

Rough week, being back to work and all.

I had a couple days where I wrote less than 500 words and have slowly increased from there to the point where I wrote 2085 again today and even have time to get this post written and out before I’m to bed at a reasonable-ish time. I need to get to work a little earlier than usual for the training I mentioned.

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I’m up at 27,339 words, so my prediction of between 30 and 40k seems reasonable.

I’ll likely fall behind again during the week. Training kicks my butt, energy-wise, and though I’ve technically recovered from the cold, I’m still clearly out the gunk. Blech.

This will be my last NaNo update for this year. Next weekend marks the end of November and the beginning of December, so I’ll be composing a slightly epic monthly update for October and November combined on Sunday.

It’ll be another week after that before curation resumes, but you should see the first post-NaNo tipsday on the tenth.

That’s it for now.

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

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NaNoWriMo 2019 update 3

In week three, I rallied. A bit. I used four days of vacation and turned a long weekend into a full week off. But, because I’d procrastinated about my DIY MFA column, I had that to do. And my week 2 update, which I put out on Monday.

So, it took me a few days to get into high(er) gear.

I can’t write as much as I used to. Two thousand-ish words seems to be my limit, even on a day when I technically don’t have anything else to do. Except I do have other stuff to do. We all do. It’s not an excuse. Just a fact.

The family health situation I mentioned last week was resolved. The additional tests came back negative. Oddly, being a puddle of relief can be just as distracting as being worried about a loved one. Go figure.

I also got sick. Well, Phil got sick first and, generous man that he is … But I was well enough to go back to work yesterday.

Unfortunately, the cold kind of kicked my butt. I wrote for as long as I could and had nothing left for my update. It was supposed to be posted on Sunday.

The last two days back at work have been crazy. I managed a thousand words yesterday, but tonight, I’m feeling all kinds of busted. So, I’m writing this post and I’ll write what words I can (I’m not giving up, but I need a break). I’ll get back on the horse, so to speak, to the degree that I can for the rest of the week, but one of the crazy things that happening right now is prep for a training course I have to deliver next week.

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As of yesterday, the 18th, I had 21,325 words written. That just under seven thousand words behind. I can’t produce the same volume of words while I’m working that I can when I’m off.

I anticipate that I’ll rack up somewhere between 30 and 40k words by the end of November.

We’ll see if I surprise myself.

Until next time, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

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NaNoWriMo 2019 update 2

Week two was a rough one. I struggled, while working, to ramp up my production, but a couple of things happened that pushed me off-course.

The first was that a family member had an operation and is waiting for further test results. We’re all trying not to worry until there’s something to worry about but waiting is the worst. It affected me more than I thought it would.

The second was that former employees and authors of ChiZine Publications spoke out about systemic financial, professional, and personal harassment and abuse. The stories that continue to emerge on social media are horrific and have made it as far as File 770, Publishers Weekly, and the SFWA’s Writer Beware. Though the publisher and managing editor have stepped down, they still own the company. While a statement was released, and a new publisher has taken charge, promising all accounts will be settled by the end of 2019, no apology was made nor was any acknowledgement of the harm done or of trying to make amends other than contractual.

Though I am still trying to process this, I will state categorically that I believe all the testimonies I’ve read. I believe all the victims who have come forward and all the victims who have chosen not to. I know many of them from the SFF community, and I support them unequivocally. I thank those who have come forward for their bravery and hope that justice will ultimately be served for all concerned.

It’s still an unfolding tragedy that is having ripples throughout the Canadian SFF community.

In the midst of this, I was also struggling with story logic issues. I had to work through events in a way that would read well and make sense. That slowed my pace considerably.

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As a result, only yesterday did I approach the daily writing goal for NaNoWriMo, and I’m pleased that I was able to accomplish that. Unfortunately, I will write short for the next couple of days because I have to finish my next DIY MFA column.

I am behind by a considerable margin. I’m not going to stop trying, though.

All this unrest is also why I’m posting this update a day late.

It’s the writer’s life.

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

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NaNoWriMo 2019 update

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For the month of November, curation stops (sorry, not sorry). The October next chapter update won’t come out until the first weekend in December. In the meantime, I’ll be writing these wee weekly updates. You won’t see much of me on Twitter. I stop looking at Pinterest or YouTube. I devote as much time as I can to the NaNoWriMo challenge.

Still, the first weekend of November is always tough. Wordstock Sudbury, our local literary festival, takes place this weekend and has for the past several years. I want to participate, support the local arts community, see writerly friends, and fill the well a bit. So, I do.

This year, it was also my 50th birthday, and the party was last night.

Accordingly, I didn’t get much done this weekend. It is what it is. I’ll catch up, or I won’t. Regardless, I’m still giving it my all. Within reason. I’ve often reached the first of December with barely a brain cell to spare. I’d rather not exhaust myself like that if I can help it.

Also, I’ll be working for most of the month and possibly training for the last week of it (and the first week of December). It’s going to be a rough go.

This year, for the first time, I’ll be participating in NaNo as a rebel, rewriting a prior NaNo project, Reality Bomb. I received some difficult-to-hear, but on-point critique of the draft I presented to my online critique group. I’ve spent the last two months reconceiving of the novel in anticipation of rewriting it. I’ve learned enough about my proclivities to know that if I work with the existing text, that I’m hella reluctant to change things significantly. And I have a lot of things to change about this novel.

So, to the word count report:

November 1 – 702 words

November 2 – 295 words

November 3 – 967 words

Total – 1964 words

I hope to make more headway this week.

I’ll check in next Sunday.

Until then, be well, be kind, and stay strong (whether you’re tackling NaNoWriMo or not). The world needs your stories!

The next chapter: June 2019 update

Happy July, everyone! The summer weather has finally arrived in my area of the world. I hope you’re enjoying the season, whatever it is where you live.

And now, it’s time for my next chapter update for June 2019.

The month in writing

My “big” project continues to be my reread, restructuring, and preparation for revision of my Ascension series. As with many of my plans or goals, what I hoped to accomplish at the beginning of the year is changing.

To be specific, I had hoped that by the end of June, I’d have read through all five novels and be ready to start revising book one. Here, in July, I’m still reading through book one … As a result, I’ve decided that I’m just going to focus on laying the groundwork for future revisions. I’m going to continue reading through the series through to the end of September. For now.

While I’ve reviewed the various documents that will make up my series bible, I haven’t yet done the work of pulling everything together. This is part of the work I have to do to get ready for revising. I’m not sure if I’ll have this done before I have to shift gears into NaNo prep.

One of the challenges that I’ve been facing is that, since April, as I’ve noted in past updates, the day job has kicked into high gear. I finish most days exhausted and unable to nab even a little time during breaks of lunch to devote to my WIP. In the early months of this year, there was some downtime that I was able to capitalize on.

Also, I’ve been critiquing, which takes up time in the evening that I might otherwise use to work on my series. Accordingly, I’ve adjusted my goal, but what I’ll accomplish by the end of September is a bit up in the air. Sometimes we have to do what we can and live within the uncertainty.

Still it’s important work and I’m doing it, regardless of the pace 🙂

I blogged 4,073 words of my 2,600-word goal, or 157%.

Toward the end of the month, I got back to my short fiction. While I didn’t reach my 1,000-word goal, I wrote 693 words, or 69%. While this is, strictly speaking, revision of my January short story, most or the work is new. I’ve added scenes and switched things up. In the end, I think the story will be closer to 5,000 words than the 2,500 I’d planned on. It’ll be a better story, but I have a feeling that this draft won’t be the end of my work on the piece.

Revision-wise, I got Reality Bomb ready for critique and it is now posted. I had hoped to get the draft up to 80,000 words, but I’m still 1,175 words short of that. Still, 99% is good. It’s not a huge gap and it gives me room to work with. I’m nervous because there’s a lot of material in the novel that I’m not sure works. We’ll see what my critique group thinks.

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And that’s all the writing and revision I accomplished this past month.

Filling the well

On June 20th, A couple of poet friends, Kim Fahner and Tom Leduc, held a reading at One Sky they called On the Cusp of the Solstice. After their sets, the evening became an open mic and we got to hear five other local poets share their work. It was a great evening and a lovely, artistic venue.

What I’m watching and reading

I watched the final season of A series of Unfortunate Events. It was okay. I know it adhered fairly closely to the books (which I haven’t read) and I understand the choice not to give the Beaudelaires a happy ending, but it felt unsatisfactory because most of that denouement happened off-screen and the story was given to Lemony and Beatrice the second. In a way, the story was always Lemony’s, but he never did anything to propel the narrative, so it felt like a cheat.

I also finished the most recent season of Homeland released to Netflix. I think they’re a season behind what’s on the network, but I prefer to watch some shows when I want to rather than when the network wants me to. It was dark, as every season of Homeland has been to date. The twist at the end was interesting and promises a climactic next season. We’ll see.

I finally reached the end of season one of Man in the High Castle. I know I’m behind in this one, but I watch multiple series at the same time on both Netflix and Amazon Prime (like, between six and ten at any given time) and I only watch them on the weekends or days off and that means slow progress. I enjoy where the series is going and the characters. It’s interesting to see what they’re doing with another of Dick’s shorter works.

Phil and I devoured Good Omens. We loved it. I know a good deal has been made of focusing the story on Azirophale and Crowley because they are secondary characters. Like Lemony Snicket, above, they don’t really do anything to progress the plot or save the world. They just mess up and luck into every win. Still, I loved seeing David Tennant on screen again and Crowley’s friendship with Azirophale is a beautiful thing.

We also enjoyed Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. I LOLed quite a bit. The movie didn’t take itself seriously and mocked its own tropes. I see why a lot of people consider it one of the best Marvel property movies (even though it was a Sony movie), better even than Endgame. I think comparing the two isn’t something that can be done. They’re both their own beasts.

Valerian remains in limbo, and Phil and I, on the strength of our liking of the original, checked out Reboot: The Guardian Code. One episode and I was, no. So no.

Reading-wise, I finished American Gods, which I liked much more than the Amazon Prime series. Events and gods have been juggled in the series so much that it’s almost unrecognizable. I recommend the book, though I did enjoy the series on its own merits.

For my literary selection, I read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I know it was probably the author’s intention, but I was alternately depressed and enraged throughout the novel. I still have unsettled feelings about it, and I think it will take some time to come to an understanding.

I read Sarah Negovetich’s Rite of Rejection, her YA dystopian. The story has similarities to books like The Handmaid’s Tale, in that society has doubled down on traditional gender roles and anyone considered divergent is identified through their activities (arrested) or by “the machine” which identifies those with undesirable traits. In both cases, undesirables are sent to camps so that they will never be able to spread dissent or reproduce. It’s another stark book, but I’ll probably read the rest of the series.

Finally, I listened to both volumes of The Outlandish Companion on Audible. It was a great refresh of the series, the Lord John books, and the interstitial shorts along with a lot of fascinating insights into Gabaldon’s process, research, and tasty tidbits about the series. It was a nice palate cleanser 🙂

And that was this month in the writerly life.

Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: May 2019 update

Ah … Here we are in June. And it still feels like we’re stuck in May, weather-wise. The pin cherry blossoms are just emerging this weekend. That’s a little over two weeks behind schedule. The pines are candling and the lilacs finally have leaves. Though the temperature is ranging from the mid-teens to low twenties Celsius, I’m still wearing socks most days. We haven’t removed the duvet from the bed, though we have turned off the furnace.

Thank you, global warming, for drawing down all that arctic air 😦

Mind you, we haven’t had it as bad as some with the flooding in the east and the forest fires in the west.

I’ll just be thankful.

Just some of the lovely skies I’ve been graced with in the last month.

The month in writing

I finally finished drafting Tamisashki. It didn’t take me as long as Playing with Fire did last year (I was drafting through September). So, I’m happy with this progress.

It’s not a perfect draft. There are a couple of points where I lost my way, despite knowing the destination. I had to stop at one point and reassess the chapter, then write out, very plainly what needed to happen. This actually affects two chapters and I’ll have to backtrack with the notes.

At one point, I forgot to add in a chapter/POV where I wanted until after I was a few chapters past. I went back and inserted it and then rearranged all the others. I’ll have to rewrite about half of them because events are now out of sequence. I have notes for all of these, too.

There are a lot of question marks and parenthetical notes where I forgot the names of characters (and didn’t think to write them down at the time), place names, and the like. I’ll catch most of these on the reread and add the notes then.

Finally, my final chapter is basically an epilogue as Fer travels around Noreuna, fulfilling promises deferred by the various crises that have occurred throughout the series. I started writing it out and rambled again, so I wrote terse little paragraphs about each location, whose POV it would be in and what would happen there. Again, I’ll fill it out in revision.

MayProgress

I started off with the goal of 5k words and had to keep increasing it as I went. I ended up with a goal of 7,500 words, and I wrote 8,451 words, or 113%. I was supposed to be finished drafting last month. Technically, there shouldn’t have been a goal for drafting at all.

I wrote 3,186 words on this blog, or 114% of my 2,800-word goal.

I wrote 1,592 words for my next Speculations column, or 159% of my 1,000-word goal.

And I added in another goal because I wrote another 174 words on a short story that’s in revision. I set the goal at 250 for a 70% result.

I also finalized the absolute last bits of my poetry collection (a wrote two new poems for a friend) and will be sending it out for review soonish. Then, it will be off to a few small publishers for consideration.

I continue to make slow progress with my critiquing.

I did not write a new story. I did not revise any of my past published short fiction. If you remember last month’s next chapter update, I gave up on those goals as being overly ambitious.

I have started to review the Ascension series, starting with my notes and character sketches and all that. One of the things I aim to do in the next months is to assemble my series “bible.” I’ve also started to review book one, which I’m thinking of renaming. I definitely have to rework Fer’s scenes in the first act and I’m also thinking of adding a couple more chapters from other POV characters to fill in some gaps.

I’ve scheduled myself to be reviewing/revising through to the end of September this year. I don’t know how far I’ll get. I’ll do what I can in the time that I have.

While I didn’t get much work on the short fiction done, I’m going to continue to devote some time to it. I’d really like to have the two pieces finished, revised, and ready to send out somewhere soonish.

I was supposed to start working on spiffing up Reality Bomb for posting to my critique group. Sadly, I didn’t do more than open up the doc in May, but I hope to get to it in June.

And that’s it for the month in writing.

Filling the well

In May, I didn’t attend a poetry reading or a play, I went to Christina’s Coffee House, an annual charity fundraising event held at the Caruso Club.

Cristina Faiella Roque spent countless hours on the road with her family throughout her four-year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although there are travel grants available, the costs incurred in lodging, gas and food can be a tremendous strain on families. It was with this in mind that Cristina’s family and friends decided to hold an annual fundraising event in celebration of her giving spirit.

There was music and dance, a 50/50 draw, mystery boxed, silent auction, and other coffee-themed games of chance. Coffee and desserts were free, and supper was a nominal extra fee. I went with a group of friends from work and fun was had by all.

All the proceeds went to the Cristina Care Fund at the Northern Cancer Foundation.

What I’ve been watching and reading

I forgot another one. Magicians finished up in April and I forgot to mention it not because, like Deadly Class, I thought it was mediocre. I think I might have been a wee bit in denial. I know the series has diverged from Grossman’s books (all adaptations have to, to some degree) but I’ve been enjoying the series immensely. Even Phil thinks it’s one of the best things on TV these days 🙂 The season finale gave me the feels. More than that, I won’t say, cause spoilers, and this is one series I think you should all see for yourselves.

In May, most of the network series came to a close. They were all … ok. Supergirl and Arrow worked themselves up to next season’s Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. The Flash is supposed to be headed there, as well, but I haven’t finished plodding through the season on Netflix. DC’s Legends is doing its own thing, as it has for the past couple of years.

Grey’s Anatomy finished on a down note, but I was unmoved.

I’m still enjoying Killing Eve and was happy with how the season concluded.

And, of course, there was Game of Thrones. I won’t get into my overall critique of the season except to say that I share a lot of concerns that others have expressed. I think the DBs did the best they could with the time and budget they had at their disposal. I’m looking forward to reading the books (whenever George R.R. Martin gets them finished) to see how the character arcs that are similar in the show evolve with more interiority and development over time.

Phil and I watched Blade Runner 2049 and thought is was okay. At least it wasn’t a rehash of the original, but it was hardly necessary. We have a bit of a problem these days with Hollywood’s lack of an original idea.

We started watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets but haven’t finished it … which should tell you something about what we thought of it.

Reading-wise, I read Emma Newman’s Between Two Thorns and quite enjoyed it. It’s a masquerade/portal fantasy with some interesting worldbuilding. The protagonist is competent but not special. In fact, pains are taken to show just how ordinary she is. Def not a chosen one 🙂 The ending was uncomfortable, but inevitable. There was no way for the protagonist to escape her arranged marriage, the 19th century intrigues of her family, or the fae-touched world she was born into.

I devoured Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse’s follow up to Trail of Lightning. If anything, it was even better than the first novel. Highly recommend it. Just read them both. You’re welcome.

Then, I read S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass. Everyone was apologizing to everyone else and faces/gazes were falling everywhere. Aside from those two irritating bits, it was a good story with unexpected twists. I find I’m liking a lot of the non-western tales I’m reading these days.

Finally, I read Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart. I liked the protagonist’s inability to craft a decent pun and the twist on the typical superhero story. Like his Mistborn series, the big bad wins and takes over the world. No one can fight against the epics, but the reckoners manage to take down the world’s most powerful tyrant with a lot of luck and a little something epic of their own.

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

Until Tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2018 update and year-end review

Let’s just get right into it with what happened in December.

My goals had been to continue drafting Tamisashki at the rate of about 500 words a day, to complete and submit my next DIY MFA column, to resume blogging, and complete a couple of critiques for my group.

Then, life intervened.

I slipped on the ice and fell on my right knee while walking Torvi. It was my third fall on that knee since August and the repeated trauma finally caught up with me. The first night, though I didn’t feel much pain, the knee swelled up so much that I couldn’t bend the joint or bear weight on it. When I looked at it, jest because it was feeling weird, it looked like the alien from Alien was trying to break out of my kneecap.

So, the next day I spent at the clinic, getting x-rays, icing and elevating, and plying the injury with anti-inflammatories.

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Though Phil “officially” retired Nov 30th, he returned to work to install a new piece of software. They haven’t managed to hire his replacement yet and he knew it was coming, but it was only supposed to be for Dec 11th and 12th. It turned out that he was working right through to Dec 28th. And, when he came home from work on the 20th, he had an abscess in one of his teeth.

Two appointments with his dentist on the 21st and the 31st fixed him up, but when the dentist’s insurance specialist submitted his claim, they were informed that his coverage had ceased. Though Phil retired, he’s on a salary continuance with access to his benefits right through to March 31st of 2019. So, he had to sort that out, too.

Turns out that was just a computer glitch (ironically). The insurance company had, in fact, processed the claims, but the system was erroneously sending out notifications, both through its online interface and by email/snail mail, that the claims had been refused.

Phil now has written confirmation that the claims have been processed and paid.

Between all that, I didn’t get as much as I’d hoped done. While I submitted and edited my column on time and completed my critiques, I only 67% of my writing goal on Tamisashki. Still, 10,346 words is nothing to sneeze at.

Also, toward the end of the month, and year, I decided to devote some time to planning out my 2019 writing year. More on that in a bit.

It took me a while to get back on track with curation after my NaNoWriMo break. So, I ended up being a bit short on my writing goal for the blog at 1,994 of 2,600 words, or 77%.

My DIY MFA Column came in at 1,047 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 105%.

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One thing I discovered, during my convalescence from my fall, was that standing really does improve my productivity. When I sit, whether at work or at home, when I write, I tend to lose track of my posture when I sit. I get so focused, regardless of what I do, that I tend to hunch over or slouch. My back, neck, and shoulders hurt more. It affects my breathing and I tend to feel more fatigued.

I’m happy to say that, with my doctor’s approval, I’m back to standing. I’ll let you know whether I notice any improvement. This is an anecdotal, personal experiment, of sorts, but it is supporting my preference for standing while working.

The holidays were quiet and understated. We did not exchange gifts. My sister-in-law hosted Christmas dinner at her place. Phil and I took Torvi out early in the day so that we could hit a local dog park with Buster.

We had a fabulous meal and played a few games of Sequence before returning home, with containers full of leftovers, around ten in the evening.

I took a picture of lovely sun dogs on the last weekend of December.

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And that was that.

2018 was a hard year. I had to work through my burnout and get to the bottom of it, which took me a lot longer than I expected. I thought, with my experiences in 2017, I’d have been able to work through the worst of it by the end of that year. Because Phil’s health problems and then his work problems were a big part of the reasons why I was burned out in the first place, I wasn’t able to dig my way out until he was able to dig himself out.

Accordingly, my plans for 2018 were all shot to hell. I didn’t finish drafting Playing with Fire until September. That was my year.

On PwF, I wrote 55,867 words of my 55,000-word goal, or 102%.

For Tamisashki, I wrote 47,174 words, or 72% of my 65,500-word goal.

I wrote about nine columns for DIY MFA, or 12,744 words of my 9,000-word goal (142%). Yeah. I tend to write long. Gotta work on that.

On the blog, I wrote 43,823 words of my 42,000-word goal, or 104%.

And I compiled six newsletters for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild until I resigned from those duties, writing 31,008 words of my 24,000-word goal, or 129%.

Finally, I “revised” Marushka for the critique group, managing 77,021 words of my 80,000-word goal, or 96%.

Interestingly, I managed 98% on my writing goal and 96% on my revision goal for the year.

 

 

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Not bad at all.

In 2019, I’m going to be continuing to draft Tamisashki. I figure that will take me to the end of April. Then I’m going to take two months to read the whole series, remap all the novels, and organize my series bible. With this final novel, though I’m not yet half way through it, I’ve had a number of ideas that reshape the world. I’m glad I decided to finish the series before getting into heavy revisions. The whole will be more cohesive and the story much improved as a result.

While I read and sort things out with the series, I’m going to prepare a draft of Reality Bomb for the critique group to work on.

After the reading and remapping, I’m going to get into those heavy revisions on the Ascension series. I hope to make it through the first three novels by September before I have to begin work on my outline for my 2019 NaNo project in October.

I’ve decided to begin finishing off the rest of the series I’ve started. I’m going back to Mageblood, my YA urban fantasy. It’s definitely going to be a duology.

That will fill up my November and December for 2019.

In addition to blogging and continuing my columns for DIY MFA, I’m trying two experiments this year.

First, I’m going to write an original short story every month and submit them to paying markets. I have ideas for four of them brainstormed and I’m working on one as we speak. So far, so good.

What do I hope to gain through this experiment? The knowledge that I can write short fiction and improve sufficiently to get some more of my work out there in the world.

The second experiment is one that I’ve talked about for a number of years, but never committed to. I’m going to work on a poetry collection and two collections of short fiction (one speculative and one non-speculative), all of which I’m going to self-publish in ebook format only. For now. If they generate enough interest, I might make them publish-on-demand (PoD) in the future.

The idea behind this is that I want to have something representative of my body of work to date. Also, even if they’re only ebooks, having some short form collections available will be valuable from a marketing perspective. The more work one has out in the world, the more one’s name is circulated.

Between the new short fiction I produce, and the collections of past work, I see this as another step forward in my platform building. Finally, having my stories edited and published will also give me material with which to start a newsletter. That probably won’t get set up until 2020 but starting the groundwork now will make that project easier in the future.

Although this might all seem very ambitious, I am, at least at the moment, feeling capable of doing it. I may well have to adjust my goals as the year progresses, but I’ve never had a problem doing that in the past.

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A week into 2019, and things are going well.

I’ll keep you updated.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2017 update and year in review

Well, hello there, writerly folk!

It’s time for December update and 2017 wrap up post.

December was a decent month. I was still on my self-funded leave until December 13thand initially, I thought I’d be able to write a bit more because Torvi had been with us a few weeks. I thought we’d start to see some improvement in her behaviour and I might be able to manage a thousand words a day.

As I mentioned last week, that lasted all of a day before I realized I wouldn’t be able to manage it. So, I amended my goal to 500 words a day and mostly kept to it. There were just some days when I was too tired, especially after I returned to work.

I wrote 41k words in November and hit the 50k goal just in time for Christmas 🙂 I’m currently closing in on 60k and figure I’ll be drafting Playing with Fire through March this year. In all, I wrote 14,567 words in December on PwF (94% of my 15k goal) and another 5,361 words on this blog, or 88% of my 6,600-word goal.

That’s a total of 19,928 words for the month. Not too shabby considering pup and work and the holidays (which were lovely and quiet—hope yours were too).

No revision happened in December.

DecemberProgress

Overall, 2017 was a strange year. I set my usual ambitious goals at the start of the year and adjusted them as circumstances demanded. Circumstances being my protracted burnout fuelled by depression and anxiety.

Writing-wise, I did fairly well, exceeding some of my goals and falling short of one other.

I finished drafting Wavedancer by the end of February, achieving 106% of my goal for the novel, and the rest of the work on the Ascension series was revision. I made it through all three novels before I left on my grand adventure at the end of July.

I wrote 127% of my short fiction goal, but that story, once again, turned out to be a novel-length idea that will have to be developed in the future. I just can’t seem to think small these days.

On the blog, I wrote 103% of my goal and when it came to PwF, my NaNoWriMo (and after) project for the year, I wrote only 85% of my goal.

I hit 97% of my overall writing goal for the year.

The above-mentioned revisions for the three books in the Ascension series came in at 95% of goal, the revisions for Reality Bomb came in at 85% of goal, and my revisions of short fiction (I did make a few submissions last year) reached 92% of my goal.

My overall revisions met 93% of my goal.

I’m pleased. I had wanted to go through my other novels as well, but, honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to manage.

AnnualProgress2017

This year, I aim to finish drafting PwF. As I’d mentioned in my NaNo recap, I didn’t have a full outline to work with this time around and so, even if we hadn’t adopted Torvi, I don’t think the writing would have gone very smoothly. I finished the main plotline around Fer and Dair and their mission to the dwergen deepholds, but I hadn’t more than a sketchy idea of what any of the other characters would be doing this time around. So, I’m pretty much pantsing those parts of the story.

I’d given some thought to stopping the drafting and finishing the outline, but I decided against it. While it can be a bit frustrating to dive into a piece without a clear idea of where you’re going, there’s something liberating about discovery writing that I don’t want to abandon. Even when I do have an outline, my brain tends to take the story in new (and often better) directions in any case.

After the draft of PwF is finished, I’ll be diving into the next rounds of revision on the whole series. With each novel I write, bits and pieces of the earlier ones have to be adjusted. I develop ideas, settings, and it all has to become one seamless story. The whole thing gets better every time.

As the result of some connections I made during the Writing Excuses cruise, I’m now part of a critique group made up on people from all over the world. Freaky, but in a good way. I’m going to be submitting Reality Bomb to them for review. It’s still rough, but before I get into the hard work of revision on that one, I want feedback on the essentials. Structure, characters, arc, and all that.

I’m not so invested in the story yet that I couldn’t tear it down and start over, if that’s what’s required.

By the time I’m finished with my revisions of the Ascension series as it stands, I should have my critiques and I’ll turn my attention to RB. If things go well, I may have something I can start to query with by the end of the year.

I should have time to devote to getting one more project prepared for the next round of critiques, likely Marushka, before I turn my attention to the final book in the Ascension series, Tamashki, for NaNoWriMo 2018. I’ll spend October working on the outline, which I sincerely hope I’ll get finished this time, and charge into drafting come November first.

And, as in past years, I’ll continue to draft until the story’s done.

While I have made some goals for short fiction, I really don’t know whether or not I’ll have the time or energy to devote to it.

2018WritingAndRevisionGoals

As a result of the big travel expenses of the last couple of years, I’m staying close to home in 2018. I’ll probably attend the Canadian Writers’ Summit in June, and Ad Astra in July.

I’m continuing with my column for DIY MFA as well and will continue to post here when each is released.

And I’m continuing to create the newsletter for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, though I’m thinking that after this year, I might try to hand the reins over to someone else. It’s not a great burden, but it is time I could be spending on my own writing. I’m continuing to draw in and refocus my energy.

Those are my writerly goals for the year, and I think they’re reasonable. I still may have to adjust them as time passes, though. I see goals as living things. They’re affected by events and other priorities in my life.  I’ll let you know how it all goes in my next chapter updates throughout the year.

Until next I blog, my friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: October and NaNoWriMo update plus pupdate

Hello all you lovely writerly people!

Coming out of the semi-conscious haze that is NaNoWriMo and I owe you all a two-month writerly update.

So let’s get right to it.

October

I went through Reality Bomb one more time. I ended up adding three chapters over the course of my revisions this year. This last pass was to check on continuity and to see if I couldn’t smooth over some of the more jarring transitions.

It still isn’t pretty. I haven’t added in touches to bring the setting to life yet in the event that I have to cut or change things. But … I think I’m ready to expose it to the critique group next year. Yay me.

Unfortunately, because of this last pass and a very busy month at work (I had to prep and deliver training), I wasn’t able to complete my outline for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t get to review the structure of Apprentice of Wind, either.

OctoberProgress

Of my 5,000 word revision goal, I completed 4,012 words, or 80%.

I exceeded my 5,800 word writing goal for this blog with 6,771 words, or 117%.

I did draft a #5onFri column for DIY MFA.

Also, for those of you who wonder about my lovely spreadsheet (and where you can get your hands on it), Jamie Raintree has now produced the 2018 Writing and Revision Tracker (squee!). I’ve already nabbed mine 🙂

November

I entered November with some trepidation this year. Not only was I ill-prepared (see above) but Phil and I also welcomed a little furry bundle into our lives (see below). I knew it was going to be a challenge to “win” this year and I decided just to do what I could.

NovemberProgress

Having said that, I did write 41,077 words over the course of NaNoWriMo, or 82% of the goal 50k. Not a win, but pretty damn close.

I only had one post scheduled for the month and wrote 201 words of my 200 word goal, or 101%.

I also drafted my regular DIY MFA column, which I shared with you yesterday.

Bonus pupdate

In anticipation of our new puppy, I had requested a leave with income averaging, but my employer changed the rules and I had to begin my leave at the start of a new pay period. Because of the aforementioned training, I could start my leave until November 2nd.

On the 3rd, the rescue operator called to let us know that Torvi would be ready to come home on November 10th. Cue the frantic pup prep. I had to clean and pup-proof the main level of the house. The basement is unfinished, and basically Phil’s dumping ground for all manner of (potentially deadly) things. We just have to keep Torvi out of the space until Phil gets motivated enough to clean up.

I had shopping to do for food, toys, dog bed, and all the other puppy accoutrements. So I didn’t have a lot of time to write in that first week.

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Isn’t she adorbs?

We brought Torvi home, freshly vaccinated and dewormed. The first night, Phil slept on the couch to keep watch on the pup. After exactly one night of that, we brought her into the bedroom with us. I got up whenever she did to get her out.

That was my main challenge for the remainder of the month: sleep deprivation. Even now that she’s sleeping through most of the night, our sleep is disturbed. I still wake up whenever she stirs and even if she’s just changing positions, it can take me a while to relax enough to get back to sleep.

We’re in the wilful pup, chew the planet stage. Though I’ve been diligent in substituting her toys for my hands/clothes/feet and praising her when she chews on them instead of me, she’s resistant to making the connection.

There’s a reason for this. We got Torvi at 6 weeks. Our other pups didn’t come home with use until they were 8 weeks old. She’s smart, and promises to be a big dog (she’s already 19 pounds at 9 weeks), but right now, it’s all puppy ID. She wants what she wants and she wants it NOW.

But I head back to work of December 14th, so we’re hoping that the next week and a half will prove fruitful for puppy training and that she won’t terrorize my mom, who will be watching her for us when we go to work.

She’s already made a lot of progress for such a young pup. She’s learning how to sit (aced), lie down (ok), and shake a paw (wha?). I’m taking her on short morning walks and trying to get her to “stay with mommy” and “keep left.”

She’s mostly good about doing her toileting outside, but sometimes it’s play-play-play-pee! There’s no way to catch her in time.

This is the way of new pup parenthood. I can’t wait until we can start socializing her with other dogs. She’s super sweet with people and has only peed in excitement a couple of times.

Speaking of which, it’s about time I take her out.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter