The next chapter: December 2021 update and year-end review

And, just like that (and, no; never watched SatC; won’t watch AJLT), the second year of the pandemic ends.

2021 was an … interesting year. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Before we get to my December update, my monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter. We need to keep striving to be good allies and keep the critical issues front and centre.

Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask in public, get vaccinated (if you haven’t), and get your booster. Delta and omicron won’t be the only variants to emerge. And let’s be clear. The variants are there. They always have been. It’s just that, as we get better at suppressing the ones we know about, the ones we don’t have a chance to surge. Some may be less virulent, or not virulent at all. Some may be less transmissible or not transmissible at all. Some may not even infect humans. But it’s the ones that are more virulent, more transmissible, and infect humans that we have to watch for. This ain’t over yet.

The month in writing

Following the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, I wanted to take a break from revision. I only intended to rest until December 5th, but work got hectic again, and I ended up revising as I could, which meant not much at all.

Originally, I thought I could, based on my performance in November, revise about 20,000 words of Reality Bomb. Unfortunately, I had to amend that goal mid-month and reduced it first to 10,000 words, then 5,000 words, and ultimately 1,000 words. Of that 1,000-word goal, I revised 853 words, or 85%.

Admittedly, I decided to read through the draft to the point where I left off in NaNo, which was about the midpoint of the novel. So that 853 words represents a bunch of cutting and adding that I chose not to get too granular on.

My only writing goal for the month was the blog and of my 3,500-word goal, I wrote 5,422 words, or 155%.

The writing year in review

I started out 2021 by trying something different. I’d finished the last rewrite of RB by the close of 2020 and decided to focus on short fiction and poetry for the first three months of the year.

This worked out well for me. I wrote, revised, and submitted several short stories and poems, earned several rejections, and then had three poems and a short story accepted for future publication in February.

In March, I entered the SciArt Poetry competition and won the community category. I read my poem on Science North’s YouTube channel at the end of March, and the poem would be published later in the year in Sulphur X, Laurentian University’s literary journal.

I also started to revise RB in March based on my returned critiques.

In April, I had another story accepted for future publication, and the last of my poems accepted in 2020 was published.

Revision was not going well, though.

I was somewhat stymied by the critiques I received back in January and February. I couldn’t figure out how to use the feedback to revise my novel. I had thought a couple of months would be long enough for me to figure out a game plan, but, because I had already started on my journey to autism diagnosis, I was thinking about other things.

I had intended to rewrite/revise between 500 and 1,000 words a day on weekdays and a chapter each day on weekends, and thus be finished my next draft sometime in the summer. At that point, I had hoped to move onto Marushka and prepare that draft, on which I’d also received feedback, for next round revisions in November.

I wrote a new opening chapter and revised from there, dividing chapters into smaller chunks. I was still writing in close third (or trying for it). I revised 28,202 words up to about the middle of July, when I hit the point where my protagonist enters another of the many worlds and is trapped inside her other self.

The challenges of having two people in the same physical body and trying to make then both distinct and identifiable in terms of formatting (italics for one, ? for the other?) made it clear that I had to rewrite the draft in first person. Past or present, though? I opted for present despite my failure to nail the POV on an earlier draft. There would still be some difficulties making the story dynamic enough for first person present (my protagonist is disembodied for three quarters of the novel and thus, largely “in her head”), but I decided that it would be the best fit and returned to the beginning.

From the middle of July through to the end of November, I revised 62,996 words, but some of that was reworking my novel map (chapter and scene breakdown), which I counted only in November. I got to the midpoint … and then decided, as I mentioned above, to take a break.

Since, I’ve been rereading the revised draft to date, making a few more additions and deletions, and thinking of a better way to weave in some of the minor characters throughout the novel so they don’t feel like wasted opportunities.

I’ve even been using tarot to help free my intuitive writer. It’s working out surprisingly well.

About the same time I made my fateful POV decision in July, I realized that if I wanted to work on any other big project this year, it would not be Marushka. But, as it turned out, I haven’t had the spoons to finish my work on RB, let alone start on a new novel …

In November, I made the decision to leave DIY MFA as a regular columnist. I’m trying to conserve my energy for what matters most.

I’m going to have to review my other commitments as well.

I haven’t been active in my critique group since summer. I need to reconnect, but I’m struggling.

Onto the statistics!

In terms of word count, I wrote:

  • 10 poems,
  • 4,146 words of short fiction,
  • 58,061 words on Writerly Goodness,
  • 5,623 words on my Speculations column, and
  • 360 words on a side project.

That’s 68,190 words and 10 poems.

I revised:

  • 92,048 words on RB (some several times), and
  • 12,023 words of short fiction.

That’s 104,071 words revised.

Some of these goals I didn’t assign numbers to at the beginning of the year. I didn’t know how much I would write or revise on some projects and so just left them blank in terms of goals. The poetry and short fiction (writing and revision) were in this category and so any work done on those projects was bonus.

If you want to zoom in on the relative percentages of the writing and revision goals I did set out for myself, you’re welcome to do so 🙂

There was also the work on my Ascension series masterdoc (like that term so much better than bible) that I didn’t track in terms of word count. Throughout the year, I wrote out and revised the worldbuiding for my world (cosmology, history, peoples, languages, etc.) and character sketches, and I restructured the first book of the series in outline. I’ve had to work out the calendar of events for the last bit of book one. I had a lot of questions marks on my timeline. I’m working it out.

Eventually, I’ll expand the outlines/maps for each book in the series with scenes and sequels as I rewrite.

Looking forward

I’m going to try to finish my rewrite of RB this year. I’m not setting any hard and fast goals, but I’m hoping to do that by the end of June.

I might decide to work with a book coach or editor at that time. So, I’ll probably spend some time in the spring making initial enquiries.

Then, I’ll probably do with the summer what I did with January to March of last year and focus on short fiction and poetry as a break from novelling. I’ll also use that time to revisit my next novel project (partly written as a very long short story) and prepare to begin drafting in the fall.

I have most of my drafted novels included in my 2022 writing and revision tracker, but I’m not committing to them in any way. They’re just there to remind me that I have a lot of things I can work on, if I so choose.

Filling the well

In December, I didn’t attend any literary events live online. I did sign up for a Tiffany Yates-Martin webinar through Jane Friedman, but I watched the replay, ‘cause work.

My small family (me and Phil, his sister and spouse, our moms) got together to celebrate my mom-in-law’s 80th birthday and then again on Boxing Day for Christmas (it was supposed to be Christmas Day, but freezing rain changed our plans).

And aside from therapy, a support group meeting, massage, and a couple of days of leave, that was it for filling the well in December.

For the first year in … forever, I put up the Christmas tree.

The personal year in review

I started 2021 at a low point, feeling like an imposter at both work and creative pursuits. I was also feeling stuck physically, having slowly yo-yo’ed between 170 and 200 pounds since my early 20s.

It being a pandemic and all, I decided that, instead of going it alone, as was my habit, I’d ask for help.

For mental health support, I reached out to my employer’s EAP. For physical health support, I turned to Noom. By May 10th, I’d been diagnosed as autistic, a timeline that I’ve since come to understand is amazingly quick. By the end of July, I cancelled my Noom account, having surpassed my goal of 170 pounds and achieved 150. I continued to lose weight through August, finally settling at 140 pounds, which I’ve since maintained (even during the holidays!).

It’s the lightest I’ve been in my adult life and I’m feeling physically healthy.

In November, I finally connected with a therapist through the Redpath Centre, which specializes in support for autistics. When I met with her for the first time, my therapist referred me to a support group.

I’m currently working toward getting a workplace accommodation, having experienced autistic burnout as the result of a very stressful acting position and project. I struggled again in December because of a similar situation and I’m trying to find a way to manage my stress levels on an ongoing basis, so I don’t need to take additional time off to recover my head.

It’s been a transformative year with regard to my physical and mental health, and I’m ready to shift my focus back to creative pursuits.

What I’m watching and reading

In December, I watched three movies and finished watching three series. That seems nice and symmetrical, to me 😉

First, I watched Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I loved it. Yes, it wasn’t really Shang Chi’s story, and there were a few things that stretched credibility, but I really appreciated the homage to Jackie Chan’s movies (many of which I’ve watched over the years) and fighting style. They even had choreographers from Jackie Chan’s team working on the movie. Wong and Morris rock.

Then, I caught John Wick 3: Parabellum. It filled in the series for me. What can I say? Over the top violence is something I enjoy? In the right circumstances, I guess. Didn’t appreciate the uncharacteristic twist that was JW’s dark moment, but the movie made up for it in the end.

Phil and I watched The Suicide Squad on New Years Eve. So much better than the first movie. Harley Quinn is the best character in the DCEU.

I finished watching the final season of Dear White People. Not sure if I liked the framing device (telling the season from the perspective of the characters in the future) or the whole season being focused on the musical review in their last year as Winchester. It was okay. They tied up all the critical stories in the end.

Watched the latest Dr. Who series, said to be Jodie Whittaker’s last. It was a bit confusing at first, but after a couple of episodes, everything came together. I also was the New Year’s special, thinking that it might offer up a clue to the next regeneration. It didn’t. I can’t not love Jodie Who. I’ll be sad to see her leave.

Finally, Phil and I watched the first season of The Wheel of Time. Neither of us have read the books. I really liked it. More than Phil did, I think. He was put off by all the comparisons to Game of Thrones. WoT is its own thing. I appreciated it as such.

Reading-wise, I only finished reading three books in December.

I read Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I (yes, the book that was the basis for the first season of the Bridgerton series). I’ve read romance in the past, but my preference runs to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, whose books would probably be classified as “bodice rippers.” The book does treat Daphne’s technical rape of Simon more tactfully, but the story itself was less compelling.

Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson have written several novellas in the Skyward Flight series to bridge the gap between books two and three of the series. I read the first of those, Sunreach, which focuses on the secondary character of FM, the rescue of Minister Kuna, and how the rest of the flight back at Detritus deals with the discovery that Spensa’s pet Doomslug, a Taynix, is a cytonic creature capable of powering a hyperdrive. I really liked it and am now on the second novella, Redawn.

I finished off the year with Sarah Hollowell’s A Dark and Starless Forest. It’s a dark book, and thus was a little challenging to get through. It focuses on a remote house in which abandoned child “alchemists” live under the dubious protection of Frank. It’s clear the young alchemists, including Derry, the protagonist, live in fear of Frank, and it soon becomes clear why. But as Derry’s sisters disappear, one by one, she has to find a way to solve the mystery without arousing Frank’s wrath. Despite its darkness, I really liked the book.

Because of general busy-ness and distraction, I only read 55 books of my 65-book goal in 2021.

I’ve reduced this year’s goal to 60 and hope to attain it, but that will depend, in part, on work.

And that was the month (and year!) in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter:  October/November 2021 update

Sweet Lord! It feels like forever since I wrote one of these. Forever and a week. And three days. Sorry about that. The last couple of weeks have been hectic at work. Ran out of weekend on the 4th/5th (what with all the Christmas-ing). And I ran out of weekend again on the 11th/12th because it was my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party. Both of those will feature in December’s next chapter update.

The month(s) in writing

 Will start off with October … if I can remember that far back 🙂

The writing was not going well.

I was still recovering from my autistic burnout, still being kind to myself, and still busy at work. There are more days when I did not work on Reality Bomb than days I worked on it. Of my conservative 5,000-word revision goal for the month, I only revised 3,060 words. That’s 61%.

I did work on a piece of short fiction, but it was focused editing to reduce the word count, so there was nothing to record. I submitted the story and the rejection came back two days later.

Aside from RB and the story, I kept up with my curation posts. I wrote 4,811 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 137%.

And that’s all I did in October.

The November update is just going to be summary 🙂 I embarked on NaNoWriMo 2021 with a conservative goal. All I really wanted to do was get back to a regular writing habit, if for no other reason than to prove that I could do it.

I was a NaNo Rebel and titled my project NaNo Rebel Combo. I counted everything I wrote or revised in the month. It helped that I had the first two weeks of November off work, but I sincerely thought my progress would crater after I returned.

Surprisingly, it didn’t.

Words revised on RB and edits to its story map: 44,854

Words written on short fiction: 1,424

Words blogged: 2,138

Words written on (my last) Speculations column: 1,653

Other words written: 360

Total words revised: 44,854

Total words written: 5,575

Grand total: 50,429 words

I submitted the short story I wrote to an anthology call. Will let you know if anything comes of that.

Filling the well

In October, I attended two virtual writerly events. A reading by Wab Kinew, and the combined Writing Excuses/Surrey International Writers’ Conference online. Both were lovely. And WXR/SiWC posted all their sessions for attendee viewing for 30 days after the event, so I was able to watch all the sessions I had to miss because work.

My mom hosted Thanksgiving for our family.

I also tracked down a therapist who specializes in autism and scheduled an appointment with her in early November.

I went in to work on October 29th and retrieved my chair. It was an accommodation request resulting from an ergonomic assessment before we got our adjustable desks at work. At the time, sitting was the issue and standing was the solution. After eight years of standing to work and write, I decided to change things up and try sitting again for a while.

I adjusted the seat pan and back to encourage me to lean back, so I wouldn’t get tense and torque out my neck, back, and shoulders the way I used to. And it’s working. I had some difficulties with the height of the arm rests, but now that I’ve resolved those, I’m golden. I credit my NaNo win, at least in part, to my new, comfortable sitting arrangement.

I made the tough decision to stop writing my column for DIY MFA. They’ve become a kind of family. I’ll miss writing for them, but I have to refocus on myself right now.

In November, aside from NaNo, I attended several virtual sessions from this year’s Wordstock Sudbury and a couple of Jane Friedman webinars.

Home for the Howlidays, with my short story, “The Wolf You Feed,” was launched on November 23rd. It’s available on Amazon if you want some wolfish holiday reads.

I had my first session with my therapist, got a note from my doctor for insurance, and submitted my first claim (which was subsequently paid). I investigated the accommodation process at work. In short, I made progress.

My two weeks of vacation in November, compared to the two weeks of sick leave I took back in September, were truly restorative. September was just about getting my head back. My success in NaNoWriMo cemented for me that I can still write and/or revise daily, that everything I produce is not crap, and that I can still accomplish lofty creative goals if I commit.

But now, there’s another urgent project that needs to be completed at work, and I’m taking another break (not voluntarily). I have to manage my energy levels and health.

And get lots of cuddles!

What I’m watching and reading

Watching first, as has been my pattern of late.

The Black Widow movie wasn’t as bad as I’d been led to believe. It didn’t blow my mind, but it was enjoyable.

I finished watching the last season of Riverdale, for real this time. Not fond of the time jump and the super-clichéd storylines. Betty’s basically Clarice Starling, Jughead’s every substance-abusing writer ever rumoured, Archie’s a veteran now, but all his flashbacks look like WWII (?), Veronica is the vixen of Wall Street … just ugh.

The New Mutants was okay. I always enjoy Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor Joy, but I wasn’t fond of how the latter, as Illyana Rasputin, was framed as a mean girl. It just didn’t fit with my experience of the comics.

The series finale of Supergirl was sappy, as expected. The conflict felt off all season, though. Kara (and everyone, really) made a lot of uncharacteristic decisions, because final season? A little disappointing.

Phil and I watched the second season of Locke & Key. Not bad. Better than season one, I think, but it took a while to kick into gear, and, honestly, it had been so long since the first season, I was unclear on a lot of the plot, even with the season one recap under my metaphorical belt. It came together in the end, though.

The latest season of Doom Patrol was … frustrating more than anything. Excuse my language, but they’re all still fucked up fuckups. You’d think they’d have spanked their inner moppets by now.

Finally, the shining view of the last two months, Reservation Dogs. Loved! That is all. Go watch it now!

In the reading department, I read nine books over the two months. Having said that, I’m currently nine books behind in my 2021 Goodreads challenge. I may not even make last year’s goal (which I surpassed, by the way) of 60 books.

I listened to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, part 1 on Audible. It was a fully produced audioplay, with top actors, and I loved it, despite its meandering story. It was originally a graphic novel, and episodic, so that was to be expected. I’m looking forward to the Netflix series.

Having read and enjoyed P. Djèlí Clark’s Master of Djinn, I thought I should fill in the gap with the novellas that lead up to it. The Haunting of Tram Car 015, was fun and focused on supporting characters from the novel, Hamed and Onsi.

I read Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names as part of a book club my critique group started. It was good, but the protagonist, Winter, doesn’t show up right away. Maybe it’s because the novel is more properly Marcus’s story, but, being a woman, I connected to Winter more. As a result, it was an uneven read. I enjoyed it, and the world building was great, but Marcus was a very traditional protagonist in epic fantasy. I wasn’t as interested in his story and thus didn’t enjoy the novel as much as I might have.

I finished This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar next, though I’d started it before taking up The Thousand Names. It was actually the first novel selected for our book club. I loved the lyrical nature of the book and the largely epistolary structure. Other readers were not as enamoured. El-Mohtar is a poet. So am I (sometimes). I really got into the words, savoured them, rolled them around on my tongue and in my brain. Loved.

Witchmark, by C.L. Polk, was an enchanting (pun intended) read. It was so good I can’t wait to get into the rest of the series 🙂

Alice Payne Rides is Kate Heartfield’s follow up to Alice Payne Arrives. It was interesting reading this so soon after This is How You Lose the Time War. There were enough similarities that I wonder if El-Mohtar might have been influenced by Heartfield’s Alice, at least in part.

Catherine Hernandez’ Crosshairs was a bit of a harrowing read. It’s a dystopia, which takes as its genesis that Canada followed our neighbours to the south in instituting a totalitarian, fundamentalist, and fascist regime. In fact, Hernandez imagines a Canada that goes even farther, instituting workhouses for all “others,” be they people of colour, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S+, or followers of religions other than Christianity. An excellent novel that challenges everything you think Canada is.

I then listened to Tanya Talaga’s All Our Relations. Excellent. I now want to find out more about the Sami, Scandinavia’s Indigenous people.

Finally, I read Roshani Chokshi’s The Bronzed Beasts, the third book in the trilogy that began with The Gilded Wolves. Yum! Bittersweet ending that in some ways reminded me of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue.

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

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

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 4, mini update

This will be a super quick update today. I’ll have a more complete update on the 30th. Or maybe the 1st. Depending on how I feel. I usually need to take a bit of a break after the blitz.

The plan

 Keeping on as I was keeping on appears to be working out 🙂

The progress

Between revision on Reality Bomb and filling in its map, I put in 11,484 words.

I wrote 393 words on my short story. Probably only going to get the one done this month.

And this post is 162 words.

Total for the week: 12,039 words.

Running total for NaNoWriMo 2021: 49,861 words.

Think I’ll make the 50k? Yeah, me, too 🙂

The pivot

There are only two days left (!) No time to pivot, even if I wanted to.

As mentioned of the top, I’ll be posting a NaNoWriMo 2021 wrap up on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 3 mini update

It’s the end of week 3 and I’m still doing well … ? Better than I thought I’d be faring at this point, that’s for sure. Best be grateful, eh?

The plan

I expected my production to dip with my return to work, and there was one day where I only managed 407 words of revision, and two others where I logged less than 1,667 words (1,187 and 1,099, to be specific). Otherwise, though, I recorded over the 1,667 and made up for the shortfall.

There were a couple of stressful days (the ones where I logged 407 and 1,099, coincidentally), but overall, I’ve been trying to manage a better work/life/creative balance. I think it’s working?

The progress

Revisions to Reality Bomb and filling in my scene map amounted to 10,451 words.

I wrote another 360 words of short fiction.

And this update is 214 words.

My total for week 3 is 11,025 words.

And my total for NaNoWriMo 2021 so far is 37,831 words.

The pivot

I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, I think. No pivot necessary. Of course, I’ll have to watch the work stress. It’s getting better, though.

I hope all my American friends have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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

The next chapter: September 2021 update

Another month gone. Le sigh.

Here in Canada, we had a federal election that changed nothing, our first Truth and Reconciliation Day, and a slew of continuing political scandals and health crises. We’re still in dumpster fire territory.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Please continue to wash your hands, mask in public places, maintain physical distance, and if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please do so, soonest. And get your flu shot, too. It’s forecast to be a narsty flu year now that reopening is happening and kids are back in school.

The month in writing

The month in writing kinda wasn’t. I’ll get to the why of it in the next section. Suffice it to say, I didn’t write for more than half the month.

It’s probably not surprising, then, that of the 10,000 words I’d hoped to revise/rewrite on Reality Bomb, I only managed 5,056 words, or 51% of goal.

I revised a whole 82 words of my 500-word short fiction goal, or 16%.

The only thing that I kept up with was blogging. I blogged 5,301 words of my 3,750-word goal. 141%. I’ll take it.

My latest Speculations came out mid-month.

And that’s about it.

I’m slowly getting back into the groove. I’m not stressing when I have too much going on to pay proper attention to writing. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Filling the well

I attended three virtual writing-related events in September. First, I took part in Suzy Vadori’s virtual writers’ retreat Sept 10 – 14, which was flexible enough to fit in around work.

Then, CanWrite! 2021 and FiyahCon were both on the same weekend. Fortunately, I was able to watch the FiyahCon panels I missed in replay. So, it wasn’t terribly stressful. I caught Terry Fallis’s and Farzana Doctor’s sessions at CanWrite! and that was really what I wanted to catch.

I went out to my sister-in-law’s for an outdoor family BBQ. Phil made the burgers. Ger made fresh-cut fries. My mom made a three-bean salad, and Steph made the BEST cherry pie EVAR.

In health-related news … there was a lot.

After the end of my acting, I returned to my position as an instructional designer on a short week, which was made even shorter by a dental checkup and taking my overtime as compensatory time. I still wasn’t feeling quite right, though. I had a doctor’s appointment the following Monday, and I got a sick note for two weeks off work.

While I was off, I took care of some other stuff (shingles vaccine 1 of 2, blood work, orthotic check, that kind of thing).

I’ve also been trying to find myself a therapist. I think I’d really benefit from having someone to help my navigate this sea-change in my life. There’s really no one who specializes in women who are diagnosed as autistic later in life. At least not locally. I have some feelers out, thanks to a friend, but I haven’t heard back yet.

I’ve been using the quality of my sleep, the amount and nature of my rumination, and my relative level of brain fog as my barometers. My sleep has improved—I’m dreaming non-work-related dreams—I’m not ruminating about my work-related failures, but most mornings I’m still foggy.

I was back at work last week and it was really hard.

This weekend has been restorative, though.

A little morning halo for you.

What I’m watching and reading

I’m going to short-form my list this month because I watched a lot in my time off, and a number of mid-season series finished their runs. My reading’s back on track as well.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The whole season could be summed up by saying … and wackiness ensues. John Constantine’s arc was a bit dark, but the rest was so outlandish that I couldn’t take anything seriously.

The Flash was its usual schmaltz.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe. Yes, there were obvious gaffes that resulted from rewriting and reshooting during a pandemic to avoid a viral subplot, but I enjoyed it.

I May Destroy You was brilliant, but traumatic to watch.

Fleabag was similar but not quite as traumatic.

Black Lightning finished its run in typical DC fashion. Tobias Whale is dead, and everyone is ready for their HEA except poor painkiller, who had to forget he ever knew the Pierces as the cost of removing his kill order on them.

I also watched three movies.

Soul was quite good, as Pixar movies tend to be.

Amazon’s take on Cinderella was an interesting twist [SPOILERS], with Ella’s desire to be a fashion designer causing the prince to abdicate and follow his heart.

Raya and the Last Dragon was another show that I felt was better than some reviews made it out to be. The ending made me teary. Yup. I’m a sap.

Finally, I watched The Death Cure. I’d seen the ending before, so I knew what was going to happen, but I watched it anyway. The thing that got me was that there was evidence in the second Maze Runner movie that showed Thomas’s blood had curative properties, but nobody figured it out. They could have saved Newt. His death was pointless. A lot of the character deaths were.

I finished or read six books in September.

First was Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Wonderful storytelling. It was an easygoing story with an uplifting ending.

[SPOILERS] Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun was interesting, but it would appear that the two main characters are dead at the end. I wonder how the author’s going to walk that back.

[SPOILERS] M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts was typically post-apocalyptic. In the end, all the humans die but the teacher, and she gets to teach the hungry kids, who are apparently the evolutionary future of the human race.

I enjoyed Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star despite the rampant infodumping. The world; the connections between the seelie and unseelie fae, fairies, ironborn, gods, and titans; the interplay of science and magic, kind of required it. And I liked that it was partly set in Toronto.

Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi was the perfect read for my recovery. Short and yet complex. Gentle and kind and even if the ending isn’t particularly happy, it’s hopeful. LOVED.

Finally, Bethany C. Morrow’s A Chorus Rising focuses on Naema Bradshaw, the secondary antagonist from A Song Below Water. A deep dive into what social media and being an influencer can do to a person … until she gets a reality check in the form of her true nature as an Eloko.

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

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

The next chapter: August 2021 update

There’s something about the quality of the light in September that I love. The position of the sun in the sky, its later rising as we near the autumnal equinox. They instil peace and evoke memories of happy times in my life. Lying in my bed with the light flooding into my room as a gentle nudge to waking. Sitting on a covered porch in a comfy chair, wrapped in a sweater, with a cup of tea and my journal, writing. Solitary moments when I felt wholly myself.

I hope you find some joy in the season, too.

Before we get to the update, here are my monthly PSA’s:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Keep washing your hands, wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance, and, if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please get on that, won’t you? Delta’s still raging and new variants are on the horizon.

The month in writing

August started off well, writing-wise, but something happened (more on that in filling the well) that sent my train off the rails. Originally, I’d set myself an ambitious goal (as you do), but around the middle of the month, I realized I wasn’t even going to come close. I adjusted down and still didn’t reach it.

Of my 10,000-word goal, I wrote 6,703 words, or 67%.

I wrote my next Speculations. 1,080 words, or 108% of my 1,000-word goal.

I wrote 5,385 words on this blog. That’s 144% of my 3,750-word goal.

I worked on a couple of pieces of short fiction, trying to get them ready for open calls, but that fell by the wayside after mid-month as well.

Filling the well

The three writerly events I attended in August were closely clustered. I signed up for Fonda Lee’s Revision Boot Camp, on August 12th. It was offered in conjunction with When Words Collide, which was free and ran from August 13th to the 15th. On Saturday the 14th, I also attended Margaret Dunlap’s Demystifying Outlines offered through the Rambo Writing Academy.

It was a packed weekend, and I didn’t get to attend as many WWC sessions as I would have liked, but they will be coming out on their YouTube channel. Eventually.

Torvi on kiltti koira. Yes. I’m still enjoying learning Finnish.

So … the thing that happened.

For the month of August (August 3rd to September 3rd, actually—so five weeks) I was acting for my team lead in instructional design. I was the project manager for everything my team was working on, including a very important and time-sensitive project (henceforth known as the VITSP) that had to be completed. I knew it would be challenging and had booked the last two days of July off, leading into a long weekend, for a nice break to muster my resources.

Unfortunately, in the two working days I was off, the scope of the VITSP changed drastically. Originally, we were to have the learning products published on our learning management system (LMS) on the 9th of September. Now, it was to be published August 27th. That was two weeks cut from our timeline.

The instructions I was left with indicated that we would have to have the validated and translated documents for the self-instructional modules (SIMs) in the week of August 16th, so that we could edit, send for review and approval, convert to PDF documents, and submit them to our technical partners for posting to the LMS in time for the due date.

My first meeting of that first day of my acting made it clear that the SIMs would not be validated and translated until August 25th or 26th. I panicked. But I couldn’t be seen to be panicking. Add to this the fact that my manager was also absent for most of the week, and I was spiralling.

I tried to power through, but I found even thinking difficult. I couldn’t seem to make a decision (a deadly shortcoming in project management), and I certainly couldn’t articulate what was happening to me. My brain literally could not brain.

On the evening of August 12th, the situation had been diffused sufficiently that my brain began to brain again. What I was experiencing was related to my autism. Had I had some kind of meltdown? I did some research over the weekend and learned that what I’d experienced was called autistic burnout. I’ll let you click through if you want to find out more about it.

The best remedy for autistic burnout is rest. Unfortunately, I did not have that option, so I powered through. The brief rest of weekends was insufficient for recovery. I was plagued by insomnia, spent hours ruminating about the mistakes that resulted from my autistic burnout.

Proactive about my mental health as I am, I again reached out to my employer’s employee assistance program (EAP). After two weeks of playing phone tag, however, I gave up on the idea of getting counselling support. People were probably on holidays and demand exceeded supply. I only had one week remaining in my acting assignment, anyway, and the crisis would likely be over by the time we finally connected.

I explained to my manager and critical partners what was happening, and the situation improved. But it was still extremely stressful.

Somehow, I managed to get the VITSP done on time, but not without days of foregoing proper breaks and lunch, working overtime, and shaking like I was standing naked in a snowstorm.

I’m still not fully recovered, but I have a doctor’s appointment on the 13th. I’ll see if I can get some support then. I also have a couple days of leave coming up and will take my overtime as compensatory leave. I’ll make it through, but I’m still feeling foggy.

I tried to persist in writing, because my creative pursuits are one of the things that bring me joy but bullying through wasn’t serving me. The quality of my work was not satisfactory. So, I’ve stepped away from writing, too. I’m trying to be kind to myself.

What I’m watching and reading

Due to the above difficulties, my reading and watching habits have suffered as well. Concentration is hard, right now, so I have less than usual to report for August.

In the watching department, I only finished two series.

First, I watched the series finale of The Good Witch. It’s a positive and uplifting kind of series, and the last season was no exception. Though the writers tried to insert some romantic tension and uncertainty, nearly everyone paired off by the final episode. After a brief disconnect about Sam’s workaholic nature (aside from the season’s big arc of the red haloed moon), he retired and embarked on a world tour with Cassie.

Joy ends up with her girlfriend, Zoey, who was nearly frightened off when she discovered that Joy was a witch. Adam and Stephanie get back together, and even George gets a love interest. But Abigail and Donovan, who were engaged to be married, abruptly call it off. What about her happily ever after? And her flower shop is in danger from a big floral chain that’s moved into town. It seems that there’s more story to tell. Too bad the series was cancelled.

I also watched the end of the first season of Superman and Lois. It was a short season, because pandemic, I suspect, but it was typical DC network fare. Clark and Lois are devoted partners and the parents of two boys. Clark is fired from the Daily Planet and Lois quits because of the new owner of the paper, Morgan Edge. They move to Smallville after Martha dies.

Jonathan and Jordan, their sons, are day and night. Jonathan is the golden boy, popular, QB on the football team, and otherwise typical teen. He adjusts poorly to small town life, having left his girlfriend behind in Metropolis. Jordan is shy and awkward and plagued with social anxiety. It’s a surprise to no one and everyone when Jordan turns out to be the one who inherits Kal-El’s powers.

I really liked John Henry Irons.

I only finished reading three books in August.

The first was We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. The book starts with the origin story of the land of Medio. It establishes the social contract between men and women, as well as the class structure of the island nation. In Medio, every affluent man is married to two women. His Primera manages his household and is his intellectual and political partner. His Segunda is his social partner and bears his children.

Daniella is about to graduate from Medio School for Girls and enter into her marriage contract as a Primera when she is approached by a member of a resistance group who blackmails her into spying on her new husband for them. His price? Silence about her impoverished background and family.

It was definitely a heroine’s journey novel, a la Gail Carriger. Dani has little power throughout the novel, and it’s only her compassion and desire to do right that allows her to prevail. It’s also an enemies to allies to lovers story between Dani and her Segunda. I enjoyed it.

Then, I read Nancy Springer’s The Case of the Missing Marquess. Yes, the novel that inspired the Enola Holmes movie. I attended a literary event back in the spring that featured Springer, and everything she said about the adaptation was true. It was a short, but lovely story, and Enola is much more resourceful in the novel. She has to be. Basilwether is also much younger, so no romance in the book.

Finally, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn. Loved! I’ve heard some negative things around the interwebz, but I loved the story. I loved Fatma. I loved the world. Read this book. I will say no more.

And that was a month in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter: July 2021 update

Well, I blinked again, and July disappeared … what’s going on with time? Seriously? But it’s August now, and I owe everyone an update.

Before we get to it, your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, please continue to wash your hands, wear a mask in public, and maintain social distance. Delta is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. If you’re not fully vaccinated, get on that, won’t you?

The month in writing

The latest round of revisions on Reality Bomb were going well … until I got past the first plot point. Then, I realize that I needed to start over with a different POV. I had been writing it in third person, but after my protagonist becomes a passenger in her alternate self’s body, trying to format their internal conversations was too much for third to handle.

I’d suspected that I might have to make the shift to first person and even asked my critique group about it. I was advised to try it but chickened out. Now I’m paying the price.

The realization hit about the 15th of the month. I took a few days to mourn the work I’d already done and got back at ‘er. Needless to say, RB is going to take a lot longer to revise that I’d hoped.

I revised my revision goal down to 10,000 words, but still only managed 6,564, or 66%.

Work on short fiction has more or less ground to a halt. I put a few words in, here and there, but that’s all the effort I can afford to put into it these days. I wrote/revised another 508 words in my May (MAY!) short story revision. That’s 51% of my adjusted 1,000-word goal.

I blogged 4,813 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 128%.

I changed the colour of the font when I started over. *weeps

Filling the well

I only attended one writerly event in August, but it was a-MA-zing! It was a Writing the Other workshop on character arcs with Stant Litore on July 17th and 18th. I will only say that I immediately bought his two writing craft books. Working with Olivia Wylie (O.E. Tearmann) and the group on our character arcs was a lot of fun and I got some really good feedback.

I went out to my sister-in-law’s this past Friday. We ordered out this time. Ali Baba’s family style. Everyone had a feast and there was enough left over for everyone to take a share home.

In the work world, I received some good news. My original acting was to end July 31st. At the eleventh hour, I was extended to November 30, 2022 (!) Job security—it’s a thing! I’m also filling in for my team lead while she’s on holidays for the next month. I’m a little intimidated, but I’m sure all will go well.

But … things are a bit hectic at work right now. It’s only a problem because it results in fewer spoons remaining at the end of the day. I’m not reading as much (haven’t been for the last couple of months), writing as much, or feeling like I have much time at all for myself. I’m sure things will level out.

I’ve now broken 150 lbs in my weight loss journey. I’m into a size 10 jean. I have done some shopping. More to come, I suspect. Accordingly, I’ve cancelled my Noom account. I think I can take it from here 🙂

I also received a free three-month trial of Duolinguo. So, I’m learning Finnish. Terve! Minä olen Melanie (Hello! I am Melanie). It’s only about 10 minutes a day and will take over the 10 minutes I’ve been spending on the Noom articles.

A rainbow for you.

What I’m watching and reading

In the solo watching department, I finished the last season of Riverdale. Alien abductions and serial killers and prison breaks. Oh, my! I hear that the next season will be the last.

Invincible was extremely bloody (in the way only an animated series can be), but it was also quite good. [HERE BE SPOILERS] The premise: what if a superhero like Superman was sent to Earth to conquer it and was only pretending to protect humanity by way of garnering good will for their new alien overlords? And what if his half-human son, who finally develops his father’s abilities, sides with the humans?

Charmed was okay. While I appreciate the increased diversity of the cast, they haven’t really gone very far off-script. One of the sisters makes the ultimate sacrifice in the season finale, but the newly bereft sisters are told, in Star Wars fashion, there is another …

I really liked Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. The ending was a little ambiguous, though. I’ll now have to cue up the book in my TBR pile.

With Phil, I watched NOS4A2, based on the Joe Hill novel of the same name. The show was filled with homage to Joe’s dad, Stephen King, and it had a similar feel to King’s adapted work. There were some questions left dangling at the end of season 2, though.

Then, I signed up for Disney+ and we watched WandaVision. I enjoyed it more than Phil. There’s been so much buzz out on the interwebz about it that I don’t think I have to go into details. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to future Marvel properties.

And, of course, we watched, and both loved Loki.

I have four books that I finished reading in July (up from three in June—yay?).

The first was Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson. I’d read his second book A Taste of Honey first. By turns literary and grounded. I liked it, but I’m still sitting with what I think about it.

Next was Alechia Dow’s The Sound of Stars. I really liked this one. An alien dissenter and a human rebel team up to overthrow an invasion, the purpose of which is to turn Earth into an alien “all inclusive” resort. The chief attraction? The ability to inhabit humans and live like a native. Of course, the humans can’t have will or intelligence for that to happen.

Then, I read The Hands We’re Given by O.E. Tearmann (and yes, I got the book because I was in Olivia’s workshop group in the WtO class). The book is hard to classify. An LGBTQIA2S+ romantic military science fiction? A post-apocalyptic LGBTQIA2S+ romance? It’s somewhere in there. I quite liked it.

Finally, I read Robert Olen Butler’s From Where You Dream. It’s more of a transcript from one of his classes, than a more traditional writing craft book. I’ve had it on my radar for years because K.M. Weiland refers to it when she talks about dreamzoning. It was a challenge to get my head around Butler’s methodology, for all that he demonstrates it rather than just telling readers what it is. Because it’s not really something that can be told. It has to be experienced.

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

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

The next chapter: June 2021 update

Here we are in July, after a strangely introspective and quiet national holiday—on this side of the border, anyway. I won’t speak for my American friends. With the discovery of nearly a thousand unmarked graves near residential schools, I, and many Canadians of colonist descent, have been examining our collective lack of action with respect to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations.

If you read the calls to action—and I encourage you to—they’re mostly common sense. Ensure that all Indigenous communities have clean water, solid infrastructure, support for health and mental health needs, and so on. Reuniting Indigenous families, doing whatever we can to identify the occupants of unmarked graves, and demanding accountability from the Catholic church (other protestant denominations and the federal government have already apologized, but no further action has been taken) are the least we can do.

And how do we do it? Personal actions are a start, but we can act most powerfully by lobbying our local members of parliament and through voting. If swift action is not taken by the government in power, then we elect a government who will act.

With that, I’ll segue into my usual PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until all BIPOC lives matter.

Wear your masks, wash your hands, and get fully vaccinated. The delta variant wants to undo all our good work. Don’t let it!

The month in writing

The month started out well. I was making headway with Reality Bomb, and once I got the May next chapter update and my Speculations column dealt with, I even manages some more work on the short story I started … in April.

Then work (several days sacrificed to the meeting gods) and meetings (about 10 hours worth) for the Canadian Authors ramped up and my productivity went down.

I set myself a goal of revising 25,000 words on RB but adjusted it down to 20,000 words around the middle of the month. I’m into another section where I’m rewriting, not just revising, now, and most days, I’m lucky if I can get 250 words written. There’s a lot of resistance around this section of rewrite, which is how I know that it has to be done. It’s just taking more time than I’d like.

But I rewrote/revised 16,330 words in June, or 82% or my amended goal, so I’m happy enough.

In short fiction, I revised 567 words, or 38% of my 1,500-word goal. Again, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s writing and not revising (the story was only part-written before). This is where I return to the old NaNoWriMo saying: every word’s a victory.

I wrote 1,272 words for my Speculations column, or 127% f my 1,000-word goal. And I submitted it on time. Win!

Finally, I blogged 5,458 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 146%.

Of my total writing goal for the month, I achieved 141%, of my total revision goal, I achieved 79%, and overall, I achieved 90% of my combined goals for the month. Not bad 🙂

Of the projects I’m not tracking, I made progress on my Ascension master document (like that much better than bible …), I did brainstorm a new short story, but I didn’t finish the story from two months ago, or start revisions on another story.

You can only do what you can do.

Filling the well

On June 2nd, I attended another Tiffany Yates Martin webinar through Jane Friedman. Always a good investment, those. I also signed up for TORCon June 10-13 and attended a few sessions, but that was it with respect to writing related events.

I had an appointment with my registered massage therapist on the 10th and I don’t know if it was the weight loss or my ASD diagnosis, but I’ve never had a more relaxing, less painful massage.

On June 20th, I went out to my sister-in-law’s for a lovely afternoon of lawn games and BBQ. I didn’t even take pictures. Just relaxed. So much relax.

Had an appointment with my financial advisor to make a couple of small tweaks to our banking and investments.

And … on the 28th, I called first thing to book my second vaccination. In another week, I will be as fully protected as Pfizer allows 🙂 I did have more pain in my shoulder than I did last time, but I got my shot. I done a #goodjab.

I’m down to 154 lbs, but now most of my clothes are too big. Can I say I hate shopping? First world, privileged white woman problems.

What I’m watching and reading

The latest season of Grey’s Anatomy came to an end in June. Same old, same old. What can I say? It’s a guilty pleasure.

Nancy Drew also finished its season. It was okay. Still not sure I like the ghostbusters version of ND. She resolved the major problem of the season only to have more crop up. Par for the course.

Phil and I watched the second volume of Love, Death, and Robots. Some of the shorts were amusing, others grim. Not bad.

The History of Swearing was amusing, though. I hope they do more, though I think they’ll run out before too long.

I also watched two movies.

The first was Monkey Beach, based on an Eden Robinson novel of the same name. I’d been meaning to watch it since I found out about it (about the same time as the Trickster series came out). It was good. Sad, but hopeful.

Wonder Woman 1984 was bad, but not as bad as I was prepared for it to be. Compared to the first movie, though? Meh.

Only three books on the reading radar this month, but they were all great.

I read TJ Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea first. Pure joy. If you haven’t picked it up yet, do it.

Then, I finished Diana Harkness’s The Shadow of Night, to catch up with the series. It’s very interesting to see the differences between the two, and I could really understand the creative decisions behind the adaptation. Doing the book, as written, would not have worked visually. Like them both for different reasons and in their own respects.

Finally, I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Ohmygodsogood! Just going to leave it there.

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

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

The next chapter: May 2021 update

May was an eventful month in this writer’s life (!) I’ll apologize in advance if this post is loooong.

Before I dive into the month in writing, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even though vaccination is happening, and countries are slowly reopening, there are still “hot spots” and new variants to contend with. Covid 19 isn’t over yet. Please continue to maintain physical distance, mask where required, get both your vaccines (if two are required), and keep washing your hands. These measures will protect you from more than covid. Stay safe, people!

The month in writing

It wasn’t a bad month in the writing and revising department. Despite the fact that my day job has been demanding in the last couple of months, I’m managing to carve out time to do creative work. It’s less than I’d like and less than I used to be able to do, but words are being written (or revised).

I was still stuck on revisions for Reality Bomb. I ended up completely rewriting the first chapter and writing two more. Now I’m into a larger section where the revisions aren’t as significant. Even though I’d hoped to ramp up sooner, before the first week was over, I reduced my revision goal to 5,000 words. Of that, I revised 4,890 words, or 98%.

I finished revising the story I started reworking last month and started revising another … but I didn’t finish it. So, of the 2,500-word revision goal I set for that, I ended up revising 1,930, or 77%.

I blogged 4,111 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 117%.

Of the projects that aren’t on the tracker, I didn’t do any work on the Ascension master document, but I did write some revision notes for one short story and brainstorming notes on another. I’m not fond of the idea of outlining short stories. Even when I outline my novels, the story always finds its own way in the drafting.

The cover reveal and table of contents announcement went out this week for Home for the Howlidays, the anthology including one of my stories. Tyche Books is the publisher and Margaret (M.L.D.) Curelas is the editor. It will be published closer to the holiday season, but promo starts now 🙂

Work also begins. I should be hearing this month about required edits.

Filling the well

In May, I participated in two longer events. The first was the Festival of Literary Diversity, or FOLD, from May 1st to 15th. I couldn’t attend all the sessions, because work, but the organizers, Jael Richardson and Amanda Leduc, recorded all the sessions and made them available until May 31st. The second was an online course by Laurie Schnebly Campbell (with whom you might be familiar from my tipsday curation posts) on Showing Emotion from May 10th to the 21st.

I also watched the replay of Rewriting Tomorrow (more on why in a bit), a Carl Brandon Society Virtual Panel with Tobias Buckell, S.B. Divya, Malka Older, and Tochi Onyebuchi. That was on the 15th, and I watched it later the same day.

Susan Forest offered a great webinar on Backstory Secrets for the Canadian Authors Association on the 19th, and I signed up for a Pro-Writing Aid presentation on 5 principles of a thorough self-editing process on the 20th. So, it was a pretty full month for writing-related events.

In other self-care news, I received my final report for my assessment on the 10th and … I am on the spectrum (!) If the diagnosis was still distinct, I would have Asperger’s. As of the DSM 5, however, I am considered to be on the autism spectrum. High functioning, mild symptoms.

I must say the diagnosis was a relief. I was tempted to run around shouting I AM NEURODIVERGENT at the top of my lungs. It explained a lot of things, among them, why I’m always exhausted. I’d thought at one time that it was due to an iron deficiency (I was anemic for a few years), but it’s really the persistent stress of having to function in a neurotypical world.

I also had my last EAP appointment because, after debriefing my diagnosis, there wasn’t much more my counsellor could do for me. She’s technically keeping my file open in case I need some reinforcement, and I can always begin a new “bank” of EAP appointments if a new issue crops up, but I think I’m in a good place at the moment.

And … I got my first covid vaccination (Pfizer) on the 15th! My second appointment is already scheduled for September 4th, but now that the Ontario government is trying to expedite second doses, I might be fully vaccinated sooner. Here’s crossing fingers.

Weight-wise, I seem to be settling in at 160 lbs. I’ve been wavering between 159 and 161 for most of the last month. I haven’t been this slim in … I can’t remember, honestly. I feel better in my body. I can put socks on without my belly getting in the way.

An issue that I haven’t mentioned in months (maybe years?) was also resolved in May. Back in 2017, when we brought Torvi home, I took a leave with income averaging. The deductions were never made from my pay (I was Phoenixed) and I ended up with a sizable debt to my employer. When it came due, I immediately called the pay centre, told them that I was sole support for my household, and asked if they could place a hold on the debt until I was in a position to pay.

Last fall, our new contract was negotiated, and the retro pay, Phoenix damages monies, and signing bonus subsequently paid were enough to cover the debt with a little left over. Reader, I paid it off. Huge relief for our finances, moving forward.

It was an awesome month for my mental and physical health.

What I’m watching and reading

It was a big month in the viewing department. I finished watching five seasons, finished two with Phil, and watched two movies.

In my personal watching, I finished what appears to be the final season of Black Lightning. There wasn’t as much drama as in past seasons, and a number of plotlines were wrapped up nicely.

I finished Snowpiercer season 2, and I enjoyed it despite its darkness. The conflict with Wilfred was more dynamic and Melanie’s quest to confirm that the eternal winter was beginning to break was tragic, yet hopeful.

I also watched the adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. Loved! The actors were fabulous, and the story was fantastic. Astral twins. Lovely concept, just a step up from soul mates. Watch it, if you have the chance.

Next, I saw The Nevers. I enjoyed everything up to the last episode. I didn’t mind that the story began in the future (yes, weirdness, but also—Claudia Black!). I didn’t even mind that Amalia True wasn’t Amalia True. What didn’t sit well was that True reaches the Galanthi, and … nothing happens. She’s basically told to forget about it, and she goes home. It was a betrayal.

The last series I watched was The Rookie. It was an interesting season, dealing with institutionalized racism and other serious topics. Nolan’s ambitions were scuttled by the fallout from last season’s cliffhanger. Chen gets to go on her first undercover assignment. It was an enjoyable watch. And Nolan wasn’t the focus of the cliffhanger this time 🙂

Phil and I watched Shadow and Bone. I liked how they combined the titular novel with Six of Crows. Kaz and his crew were still the more compelling characters. Alina still lacked agency, but I liked how they tried to up her game. We both enjoyed it.

Then, we watched Jupiter’s Legacy. Phil was watching just to see how the original supers got their powers, and I think that was intentional. I don’t think what was supposed to be the main plotline would have held our attention without that past timeline mystery.

The two movies I watched were both DCEU offerings.

First, I watched the Snyder cut of Justice League. I had to watch it in four parts … ‘cause long, but I appreciated the storytelling that went into it in comparison to the original. I think DC realized that fans weren’t happy with the movie as it was released.

Then, I watched Man of Steel. Meh. Like Cavill and all, but I’ve seen Superman’s origin story so many times it was hard to be invested.

I read four books in May.

The first was A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown. It was dark and angsty. Malik’s hatred/love/hatred for Karina felt a little contrived, but I liked it despite that.

Next, I read Pierce Brown’s Red Rising. The premise was interesting, but I didn’t buy the worldbuilding. Why would Martian civilization revert to a Roman governance model based on colours and metals (red, black, silver, brass, gold, etc.)? It was okay.

I read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, my literary pick of the month. It was an examination of race and “passing.” The story begins with twins, Desirée and Stella. After their father is murdered in front of them, Desirée wants nothing more than to run away. She’s tired of their small-minded town that values light-coloured skin above all else.

But it’s Stella who truly runs away, passing as white, marrying a white man, and effectively disappearing from her family’s lives. Desirée marries a dark-skinned man who abuses her. She runs back home to hide and falls in love with man her husband sends to find her.

A generation later, Desirée’s daughter Jade, an aspiring doctor in love with a transgender man, meets Stella’s daughter Kennedy, a struggling actress. He two become “frenemies” until Jade sees Stella at a party and realizes that Kennedy is her cousin.

I really liked it.

Finally, I read Mister Impossible, the second book in the Dreamer trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater. It came out on the 18th and I nabbed it right away. The book continues the story of the Lynch brothers, Declan, Ronan, and Matthew. At the end of the last book, Ronan and Hennessey had finally found Bride, only to be surrounded by the Moderators, whose job it is to kill dreamers.

They escape off-screen (which I wasn’t all that pleased about) and begin Bride’s “great work” of restoring the ley lines. Declan and Jordan, Hennessy’s last remaining dreamt twin, discover something called a “sweet metal,” an object, most often a painting, that can keep dreamed people awake without their dreamers.

Meanwhile, Carmen, one of the Moderators, and her visionary Lilianna, go rogue and try to save the world in their own way. There are some great twists at the end. Loved.

And that was a month in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter: April 2021 update

Welcome to May 2021, the pandemic age. It’s been a month and I’m back to share all my writerly shenanigans.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, wear your masks, don’t go out unless you have to. The new variants mean this pandemic isn’t over yet.

The month in writing

I can’t seem to get my head into this next round of RB revisions. I set a modest goal of 5,000 words and wrote just under half that (48%). 2,408 words, to be more precise. At least I got some writing done on the project? Yay?

Moving on to short fiction, I finished the new short story I barely started last month and started on revisions of another story. So, 2,591 words written of my 2,500-word goal, or 104%, and 1,088 words of my 1,500-word revision goal, or 73%.

I submitted to two anthology calls.

In related news, I received the sweet, sweet news that one of the stories I submitted in February was accepted for future publication, and the editor of one of the anthology calls was in touch to let me know that the story I submitted was accepted for publication as well. It’s been a happy-dancing kind of month.

I’ll let you know more when I’m able.

Finally, I blogged 5,429 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 145%.

I aimed to write 6,250 words and wrote 8,020 words, or 128% of goal. My goal was to revise 6,500 words and I only managed 3,496, or 54%. 91% overall. Not bad.

Filling the well

In April, I signed up for a Roz Morris self-editing workshop offered by Jane Friedman. Excellent investment. It ran for three weeks, April 15, 22, and 29.

I stopped by the Writing Excuses online reunion on April 17th and watched a great interview between Rosanna Deerchild and Eden Robinson on the 24th. Finally, I signed up for a Canadian Authors/SF Canada webinar with Douglas Smith based on his writing craft book of the same name, Playing the Short Game.

But … it was a busy month. 3 EAP appointments, 5 hours of assessment (more on this next month when I get the results), and 8 hours of strategic planning, board meeting, and volunteer recognition event for Canadian Authors. All that plus a full-time job? Woof.

I also signed up for my vaccination with a local pharmacy. Phil hasn’t heard about his, yet, though others of our acquaintance have had their first shots. It’s a wait and see kind of game when you’re in relatively good health.

I ended the month at a tidy 164 lbs. Something I didn’t mention last month was that the 170 lbs that was my goal weight was also what I weighed when I got married. The weight loss has slowed and I’m good with that. My next goal is to try and tighten up all the lose flesh I suddenly have.

I’m trying to take care of myself. So far, it’s working out.  

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I finished the most recent season of The Crown. It was interesting to get a fictionalized version of the early Diana and Thatcher years. The whole Crown Corporate Complex isn’t painted in a very sympathetic light, though.

Then, it was the second season of Discovery of Witches. YUM! They did some drastic rewriting of the book but most of the critical events are there. Loved.

The Irregulars was something that Phil and I started to watch together, but he tapped out before the second episode ended. It wasn’t bad, but the series’ versions of Holmes and Watson didn’t sit well with me. It’s true that the series wasn’t about them, but the rag-tag band of orphans that helps them. I’ll probably watch the next season. If there is one.

Finally, I got to see the series finale of Wynona Earp. Wacky hijinx ensued, as usual, but everything worked out and all the characters got their respective happy endings.

I read four books and a collection of short stories in April.

First up was The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis. Having watched the series, I wanted to read the book. Interestingly, the one thing that bugged me about the series, that everyone loved Beth, was not true in the book. The book also portrayed Beth in a less sympathetic light, which I liked. In my experience, the book is almost always better than the movie, regardless of which media is consumed first.

Then, I read Sarah Gailey’s The Echo Wife. Loved! Fabulous interweaving of various takes on cloning. A complex, unlikeable protagonist. This was recommended by one of my critique group members for my rewrite of RB. I’ve taken notes but can honestly only hope to be half as good as Gailey. Probably not even.

Next, I read A Dream So Dark, the sequel to A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney. Another yummy read. Unlike most YA fantasy authors, McKinney made the bold decision to keep young protagonist Alice’s mother in the picture. There’s a reason most parents are absent or dead. They either become antagonist figures, taking attention from the main conflict, or they rob the protagonist of agency. A little of both happened in the novel, but I think McKinney handled it well.

Of course, I had to follow it up with a reread of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It’s a classic.

Finally, I read Naomi Kritzer’s short fiction collection Cat Pictures, Please and Other Stories. The titular story won the Hugo. The whole collection is amazing.

And that was April in this writer’s life.

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