The next chapter: January 2019 update

Greetings, my wonderful, writerly friends! How has your January gone? This isn’t a throwaway question, I’m sincerely interested. If you want to share, that’s what the comments are for 😉

As I mentioned in my last next chapter update, I’ve set myself some fairly steep goals. Though I didn’t meet all of them, I’m happy to report that I met most of my goals for January.

January in review

I continued drafting Tamisashki, the last of my epic fantasy series. I’d set my goal at 16,802 words (based on 542 words a day, which would allow me to reach my ultimate goal by the end of April). I managed to write 17,554 words, or 104% of my goal. And I did it even giving myself a break on the weekends (boggles).

I don’t expect to be able to continue this pace beyond the end of March, but I’ll keep it up as long as I can.

I only managed 74% of my 5,000-word writing goal on this blog, or 3,696 words. I’m never too distressed about not meeting my blogging goals. In some ways, it depends on how many tasty posts and articles I can curate, and that’s variable.

I did write more than my 2,500-word short fiction goal for the month, but I didn’t finish the piece. Most of the extra words have been shunted into a secondary document, as I started to do the thing I usually do, which is to start building the world and backstory and detail to the point where short would no longer be tenable. What does the reader really need to know? That’s where I have to focus, moving forward. Still, 106% is satisfying.

I met my goal of revising and formatting 31 poems in my collection. I’ve decided to work on the poetry in terms of poems rather than words or pages. Some of my poems are haiku. Others are several pages long (though the lines are short). It’s the most convenient way for me to track my progress in this respect.

Finally, I wrote an 833-word piece for the WarpWorld blog in honor of the launch of the last book in the series.  The theme was “the end,” and I chose to explore writer’s grief. My goal had been to write 750 words for them and so I surpassed that goal, as well, at 111%.

January2019progress

I did start reading one of the pieces posted for critique in my group, but I’m already behind. I’ll find a way to catch up.

In January, I also attended Tracing our Wild Spaces, an exhibition of triptychs (poem, photograph, and painting) put together by Kim Fahner (poems and photos) and Monique Legault (beautiful, photo-realistic paintings). It was held at the Fromagerie on Elgin and will be displayed through February.

Sean Barrette provided musical accompaniment and Kim read her poetry, which will appear in her upcoming poetry collection, These Wings.

Looking forward to February

In February, I hope to draft another 15,176 words on Tamisashki, blog about 4,200 words, work on another 28 poems for the collection, write my next Speculations column for DIY MFA, finish my January short story (get it critiqued and edited, and submitted, somewhere), and write another short story. I might aim for flash, which will be even more of a challenge, given my propensities.

As February is a short month, my goals are, accordingly, smaller. I’m trying to keep things reasonable.

I’m going to keep on with the reading for the one critique and start on another.

I’ve also started the Writing the Other Building Inclusive Worlds course.

Wish me luck 😉

What I’ve been Reading and Watching

I’ve decided to add in a mention of what I’ve been reading and watching during the month. I used to post book reviews and do a periodic post on movies and series. As these posts have fallen by the wayside, I wanted to add something in so that you’d have an idea about what I spend some of my non-writing time doing.

I started my 2019 Goodreads reading challenge with several books in progress. I finished N.K. Jemisin’s The Shadowed Sun (loved), Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster (liked), Marcy Kennedy’s Cursed Wishes (liked), and Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Calculating Stars (loved), before starting in on fresh books in the New Year.

I started in on Patternmaster not realizing that it was the last in Butler’s series. It was the first written, though, so I’ve decided to read the series in the order written. Maybe it was whatever pulled Butler back to the premise again and again until she finally wrote Wild Seed, which is technically the first book in the series, that left me with the feeling that the book was somehow incomplete.

I’ve been wanting to read The Calculating Stars since last summer, when it came out. It’s full of everything that made Hidden Figures great, and more. There are complex characters, loving relationships, and explorations of misogyny and racism in an alternate historical United States in which a meteorite takes out most of the eastern coast, including Washington DC. Loved.

I have since read Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth (loved), Signe Pike’s The Lost Queen (loved), K.M. Weiland’s 5 Secrets of Story Structure (writing craft, really liked), and Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant (liked).

The Lost Queen was a book I discovered through the Kobo Writing Life podcast. They interviewed the author, Signe Pike, and I decided on the strength of that alone to purchase the book. It’s a different take on the legend of Merlin and based in historical research. It was a great historical fantasy and I’ll be looking for the next book in the series.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant was a novel that I picked up on the strength of a recommendation. I generally don’t enjoy reading stories with unreliable narrators. The thing is that Baru isn’t really unreliable. She’s straightforward in her goals all the way along. It’s just that the things that she says at every turning point in the story can be taken multiple ways.

I had to admire Dickinson’s craft in misdirection, but, as a reader, I also resented it. The book is written in a close point of view. The reader is privy to Baru’s thoughts. It is, most often, those thoughts that are misleading. Everything made sense in the climax, but I felt deeply dissatisfied.

I haven’t watched any movies yet in 2019.

In terms of series, I just finished watching the latest season of Outlander. I’m really appreciating the changes that are being made for the television series. In the novels, Brianna and Roger’s respective journeys in getting to the past were given short shrift, of a necessity, because of the focused point of view in the novel. They basically had to tell Claire and Jamie what happened after their arrival. They’ve kept the major events of the novel without getting overly complicated with the cast. Young Ian’s induction into the Mohawk was different in the novel, but the series weaves the threads together more cleanly.

Phil and I were surprised by Titans. Phil has never liked DC. I’ve watched most of the DC series that have come out, but they were never “can’t miss” viewing. Titans was grittier without being emo. I tell ya, Oliver Queen’s brooding is harder to watch than Angel’s ever was 😛

Vikings went off on a tangent when they killed Ragnar. I watched the final season, but, honestly, The Last Kingdom is SO much better.

I’m really enjoying The Rookie. It’s feel-good without being saccharine. Also, Nathan Fillion.

This next season of Star Trek: Discovery is also enjoyable. As is Deadly Class, though it’s so full of bullet plot holes … I’m more looking forward to The Umbrella Academy, in all honestly. Magicians has just started. I know it’s far removed from Grossman’s novels, now, but I’m enjoying it as its own thing. I finally got around to watching The Man in the High Castle. Not too far into it, yet, but I’m enjoying what I’ve seen so far.

I’m watching a bunch of other stuff, too, on TV and on Netflix or Amazon (Good Omens, why can’t you be here NOW?), but not much of it is noteworthy. Riverdale doing the D&D, excuse me, G&G is devil worship/brainwashing thing is so lame I can’t even. The other DC series, which I’m not even going to list, are uniformly meh. I watch Grey’s and Murder, but I could miss them—and not miss them, if you know wheat I mean. The Charmed reboot is ok.

One thing that I’ve noticed about the shows I watch is that I can often figure out what’s going to happen next. I read, and watch, like a writer, analyzing as I go. It’s when I stop analyzing and just get wrapped up in a show that I know it’s good.

And that’s where I’ll leave you for this month.

It’s been a monster post. Thanks for hanging in there.

Here’s a few pics of Torvi.

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

The Next Chapter

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Dec 16-22, 2018

Happy holidays (whatever you celebrate, or don’t)! It’s time to open your present of informal writerly learnings!

present

Tiffany Yates Martin says, NaNoWriMo was the easy part and shows you how to see your story across the finish line. Writers in the Storm

Vaughn Roycroft considers the gifts of the writing life. Writer Unboxed

Kathleen McCleary explains how to navigate families in fiction. Writer Unboxed

Porter Anderson offers a provocation: “The New Year’s Eve of time.” Writer Unboxed

Chris Winkle drops by Writers Helping Writers to discuss attachment, the first element of goal-oriented storytelling.

Over on Mythcreants, Rachel Meyer shares the five essentials of an opening scene. Later in the week, Oren Ashkenazi considers eight terrain features for fantasy kingdoms to fight over.

Janice Hardy takes a first look a first draft: how to revise your manuscript. Then, she shares a goal-checking trick for plotting your novel. Fiction University

Sara Letourneau explores why the theme of family is important. DIY MFA

Becca Puglisi stops by Writers in the Storm to share nine tension-building elements for character dialogue.

Kitty the Retro-Writer visits Jami Gold’s blog: if you have a complex story, use a crime wall.

And that was Tipsday.

Enjoy your seasonal celebrations with family and friends.

Until next time, be well, my friends.

tipsday2016

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 30-Oct 6, 2018

I’m back with your weekly infusion of informal writerly learnings.

K.M. Weiland answers six outstanding questions about structure. Helping Writers Become Authors

Jael McHenry is writing someone else’s story. Or, she has and is sharing the tale with us 🙂 Writer Unboxed

Nancy Johnson explores her experience with writing as resistance. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass: the weight. Writer Unboxed

Catherine McKenzie is writing through chaos. Writer Unboxed

Natalia Sylvester waxes on revision as a form of reimagining. Writer Unboxed

Lisa Hall-Wilson gives us a checklist for writing deep POV like a pro. Writers in the Storm

Margie Lawson touts the brilliance of backstory slip-ins. Writers in the Storm

Tamar Sloan says that capturing complex emotion is a writer’s superpower. Writers Helping Writers

Terry Brooks takes over Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds: more than the story. Later in the week S.L. Huang says, let’s also write our joy.

E.R. Ramzipoor stops by Fiction University: writing about slavery in historical fiction.

Ayman Jaber: making teleportation work in your story. Mythcreants

Jami Gold offers some NaNoWriMo prep tips for getting your story idea ready.

Cold Crash Pictures lists their five favourite feminist tropes (as a counterpoint to the last video I shared from them).

 

If you found something helpful in this mix, consider coming back on Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty.

Until then, be well, my friends 🙂

tipsday2016

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.

20171110_201805

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

The next chapter: Thanksgiving and September 2017 update

Before I get into the personal stuff, I want to shout out to all those affected by hurricanes Harvey/Irma/Maria, and now Nate. I support various relief funds and hope that money reaches those in need. I know that the Canadian government has pledged $160k for relief in the Caribbean. We stand ready to assist.

I also want to decry the Las Vegas mass shooting and, though I have no impact on American policy as a Canadian, I voice my opinion that improved gun control is your best action to prevent such tragedy in the future. While I am realistic enough to know that it’s unlikely to happen any time soon, I hope that reason will prevail.

And now—to the update.

September was a calm and reasoned month, writing and revision wise. I set myself the task of getting through the revision of Reality Bomb. I had to add a character and a chapter, change the setting, change the climax a bit, and parse for continuity. So it wasn’t so much about polishing prose as it was about structure and flow.

SeptemberProgress

Like this? Jamie Raintree has launched the 2018 writing and revision tracker. It’s worth every penny!

I’m happy to say I met that goal as of September 30, revising 53,594 words, or 107%, of my 50K word goal.

Writing wise, thanks in part to my WXR/European adventure blog posts, I wrote 8,134 words of my 6,600 word goal, or 123%.

I also wrote my next column for DIY MFA and proposed a #5onFri column for them.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to NaNoWriMo prep in September. I’ll have to cram that into October.

Aside from NaNo prep (which I have now started), I’ll be writing my DIY MFA columns, continuing the blogging, and doing another run through of RB. I’ve already added another chapter, but my word count on the draft continues to be shy of my 80K goal. I’m at about 75K, so not that far off, but, as I mentioned in my last next chapter update, I’ll be submitting RB for critique next year, and I want to make sure the draft’s at least passable.

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend. I’ve already feasted with the fam (hence the Sunday post), but I wanted to spend some time expressing my thanks for the various good things in my life.

I had at one time considered a daily gratitude post, but that’s just not me. I’ve also realized it’s not necessary. Every post I share is shared out of gratitude for what I’ve learned. Every picture I post, likewise, is a show of gratitude—for my garden, home, Phil and all the things he does around here to make our place even more “ours.”

I take pictures of family and friends, writing events, pets, and so forth, because I want to share with everyone just how awesome it is to have these people and things in my life.

So, if I share it, it’s because I’m thankful for it in some way and I’m duly thankful for everyone and everything I have in my life.

Some people and things that I’m extra thankful for:

  • Phil, always and forever.
  • Mom, ‘cause she still takes care of me after all these years.
  • Barb, Steph, and Ger, ‘cause it’s nice (as an only child) to have more family.
  • Kim, my wordly soul sista.
  • Margaret, my oldest (like, we’ve known each other since we were seven), dearest, BFF.
  • The awesome novel critique group I hooked up with at WXR. No pressure, but I hope we can all help bring each other to the next level.
  • My job, because, while I no longer enjoy many aspects of it, it enables me to do amazing things like my European adventure. Also, I have the benefit of periodic self-funded leaves, which, I’m pleased to say, I’m taking advantage of again this year. Six weeks, this time, just in time for NaNoWriMo.
  • Our soon-to-be puppy! Yes, once my leave was approved, I started the hunt … and this is the little dear we found thanks to Furever Furbaby Rescue. We’re going to visit her next weekend and should be officially adopting her sometime after November 14.

There are other things, but I’m still in the process of working those out.

Life is good.

Until next I blog, dear friends (for whom I’m also very grateful), be kind, be well, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 4

Part four of the Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR) begins on the morning of Thursday, August 4, 2017, day six of the cruise.

This was our day in St. Petersburg, Russia, and our third port day in a row. In every other port, the tours ranged from three to five hours and there was always the option to take a taxi and wander around on our own if we wished. In St. Petersburg, the tour was all day. In fact, it was two tours with a brief break in between.

The rules were fairly strict in Russia. Our passports would be checked on the way out and on the way in. We would be issued visitor’s visas for the day. We were not, under any circumstances, to leave the tours, as our visas only covered us for the cruise-related excursions. There would be no wandering around St. Petersburg.

It was also an early-rising day. We’d have to get up, get ready, and eat in time to report for our 8 am (ish) departure.

The morning would be spent at Catherine’s Palace. Sweet lord that place is huge, and we only got to see a relatively small part of it. The sprawling courtyard is bounded on all sides by buildings or iron gates. And all that yellow-painted detail? It will eventually be gilded, like the domes.

 

Catherine’s Palace is part of a city-wide restoration. Scaffolding was erected around several sections of the palace grounds as buildings were repaired and painted, only awaiting the gold leaf.

Inside, it was the same. Every entryway glittered. There were 14 different kinds of wood, imported from all over the world, inlaid in intricate patterns on the floors. And, of course, we had to don booties again to protect the site from plebeian tourist feet.

TheGildening

Just as in the royal reception hall in Copenhagen, each room was designed based on the style in one of the European capitals. There was the Versailles room in red, games rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, studies, art galleries, and lots of cabinets, painted in toile designs.

And there was the legendary Amber Room, which we were forbidden from photographing (though our tour guide did encourage us to take surreptitious photos at the doors, to and from the room—the babushkas were quick to discipline those who tried, though, so I refrained). Amber is one of Russia’s special resources and it’s considered an extravagance to cover an entire room in the petrified resin.

The Amber Room itself is considered a national treasure and that’s one of the reasons we weren’t to take pictures of it. They don’t want cheap replicas of the room appearing elsewhere.

TheGrounds

After the tour, we were taken out into the palace grounds and took the long way back to the tour bus past what looked like a Roman aqueduct, through the gardens and forested grounds, and one of Catherine’s personal outdoor retreats, or bowers.

On the way back to the pier, we stopped for shopping. The cruise crud I’d contracted had (literally) reached a fever pitch, and I availed myself of whatever over-the-counter remedies I could find. Of course, I bought souvenirs and gifts, as well, but coughing until my chest and gut were sore was getting tiring. Immediate comfort was my chief concern.

SpilledBlood

Forgive the intruding phone strap at the bottom. I’m a terrible photographer.

The afternoon tour took us into St. Petersburg and to the Spilled Blood Cathedral. The cathedral was built on the site of the murder of Emperor Alexander II as a monument to his greatness, by his son, Emperor Alexander III. It took 24 years to build, which, once you see the mosaics inside, is absolutely mind-boggling.

Every inch of the walls, arches, and domes is covered in mosaics. These few pictures will just give you a taste of its magnificence. Really, there are no words.

mosaics3

After the cathedral, we did a walking tour of St. Petersburg, during which we saw Senate Square and the Winter Palace.

Peter the Great wanted to build Russia a capital like Venice, a canal city on the Baltic. Really, Russia needed a naval port, and St. Petersburg served that purpose too, but its true purpose was to be the jewel of the Baltic.

canal

Though there are canals, St. Petersburg never achieved its architect’s dream of becoming a canal city. Every street is lined with grand houses, palaces, though, because all of the Russian nobility moved in and set up house, each family trying to outdo the others in terms of grandeur.

And there was a second shopping stop 🙂

I had time upon my return to devote some time to revision, and then take a cruise crud induced nap.

JasperFforde

That evening, Jasper Fforde delivered his talk on the last 5%, that ineffable quality that most writers lack: magic fairy dust. He promoted a lifestyle of creativity and joie de vivre so that, when we wrote, we couldn’t help but infuse that little something extra into our work. And he was hilarious.

At supper, I sat at Piper and Matthew Drake’s table. They are such an adorable couple, I couldn’t help but do an internal squee. They also had fascinating stories to tell.

Friday was our second day at sea as we sailed at top speed back to Kiel, Germany. The wind became progressively fierce throughout the day, eventually causing the water park and on-deck bar to close. All the deck chairs were stowed and the tables and chairs were crammed up against the rail and Plexiglas wall because the wind was blowing them around the deck. It was our only stormy day and even then, I barely felt the roll of the ship.

At the giant Q&A session, I sought out Thomas Olde Heuvelt, as I’d missed the early part of his presentation, and Emma Newman, because I wanted to get some help with my interminable burnout. Both were extremely helpful.

WXRecords

After lunch, we attended the on-board recording of the Writing Excuses podcasts. The first one featured one of my new friends, Mike Stop Continues.

Then, after another stint of revision, I had to crash. Cruise crud was getting the better of me.

At supper on this final night of the cruise, though I was not scheduled to sit with any of the instructors, there were enough absences, perhaps due to the cruise crud, that I got to sit at Emma and Peter Newman’s table. I think it was my second most enjoyable night (next to dining with the two Sarahs and the two Laurens).

The Newmans gave equal time to everyone at the table and it was the meal at which I learned the most about some of my fellow WXR participants.

Saturday was debarkation day, and so … yes, there was more queuing 😉

Fortunately, the process was handled as efficiently as embarkation and we were back at the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel by noon. Not all the rooms were ready for occupancy, however, and so a group of us gathered out front and His Majesty Dan Wells led us to a local laundromat.

Once everyone got their wash on, we strolled two doors down to a döner restaurant for lunch—yum! The owner had to call in extra staff to help with the crowd (!) Afterward, while we waited for our clothes to dry, Mary and Dan recorded Patreon special episode of the WR podcast. Then, we trouped back to the hotel.

Kiel

After checking in, I spent the afternoon wandering around Kiel’s mall and open market, meeting up with some of my fellow cruisers to head to supper. There was some disagreement over where to go, and we ended up splitting, some choosing a German restaurant, and my group opting for Mexican.

I must say, the German version of Mexican is … interesting.

And that is where my WXR adventure ends.

Next week, my journey to Helsinki, and how I spent my time until WorldCon began.

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

The next chapter: June 2017 update

Hey all!

It’s been a weird, but busy, month. No wonder I’ve been struggling with burnout (at a most inconvenient time).

There was Graphic-Con on June 10th, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild picnic on the 13th, a DIYMFA meeting on the 14th, the Poetry Walk on the 17th, CanWrite! On the 24th and 25th, and on the 29th, The FOLD presented Publishing in Canada at the Sudbury Public Library. And that’s not even counting the non-writerly stuff.

That included a union election, Public Service Week celebrations, and a pre-Canada Day 150 pot luck.

Needless to say, I’m bushed (!)

First: the fun stuff

I eschewed my post last weekend because I was down in Toronto volunteering for and participating in CanWrite! 2017. I drove down on Friday, after work.

On Saturday, I attended J.M. Frey’s Culture Building Workshop (insightful and thought-provoking), the Publishers Panel, Richard Scrimger’s structure workshop (don’t solve for angle A), and the CAA Literary Awards Gala, all at the lovely Humber College Lakeshore Campus.

JMFreyPubPanel

RichardScrimgerAlissaYork

My bonus: I won a door prize of shortlisted works, including Alissa York’s The Naturalist, which won the fiction prize and, since she was also the key note speaker, I got her to sign 🙂

DoorPrize

Alissa’s key note was inspirational.

On Sunday, it was the AGM where some important professional organization stuff was decided, and then I was on the road home.

Last Thursday, I attended Publishing in Canada, hosted by The FOLD and Jael Richardson, with a panel of publishing experts who included Christie Harkin of Clockwise Press, Heather Campbell of Sudbury’s own Latitude 46, and Jennifer Knoch of ECW Press.

PubInCanada

It was a very well-attended event (the library staff raided storage to find enough chairs and still people were standing about) and they even fed us pizza 🙂

The balance experiment

Despite all the events in June, I started the month off trying to revise not one, but two works in progress, finish one short story, revise (rewrite, really) another, keep up with blogging, and compose my next column for DIY MFA.

I don’t even try to do that much in a month without tonnes of writerly events to attend.

I have no earthly idea what I was thinking.

You’ll see the gap in my writing and revision. It was about a week. And still, I figured, at the end of it, I could just resume the juggling. Head, meet desk.

As you can see, my efforts were partly successful, but by the end of the month, I gave my head a shake.

The month in word count

While I didn’t hit most of my goals, I made a decent showing, all things considered.

I finished the most recent run-through of Apprentice of Wind in the first three days of the month and moved on to Wavedancer. Even with the break and sporadic revision thereafter, I exceeded my revision goal on the project for the month.

Although I had a much better beginning for Reality Bomb in mind, I couldn’t seem to execute. This only confirms for me that I can’t work on multiple projects in the same phase of the process at the same time. I can’t switch my focus quickly enough.

Even halving my revision goal for RB, I didn’t come close.

I did better with the short fiction, but didn’t complete the story. It’s a good thing that the deadline was extended to July 15 (!).

I didn’t revise a word on the other story I was hoping to work on.

Blogging was fine. I exceeded my writing goal even though I missed out on a weekend.

JuneProgress

Here’s how the numbers worked out:

  • Ascension series: 62,394 words of my 60,000 revision goal, or 104%.
  • RB: 1,889 words of my adjusted 45,000 revision goal, or 4% (yes, you may laugh—I am, honestly).
  • Short fiction: 770 words written of my 2,500 word goal, or 31%. I took out the revision goal from the month.
  • Blog: 6,187 words written of my 5,800 word goal, or 107%.
  • Total words revised: 64, 283
  • Total words written: 6,957

Yeah, I’m a dope.

Moving forward

I’m going to focus on the revision of Wavedancer and get that done before moving onto RB again.

I’m going to finish my new story before turning my attention to revising the other one.

My hope is that simplifying things will keep me from going crazy. Crazy Mel is no fun.

I have nothing planned, event wise, this month—doh! I do have one: a special meeting of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on the 6th, but that’s it—until I depart for the Writing Excuses Cruise on July 27th.

I’m all about finding my happy place again.

I even submitted another poem for the Rainy Day Poetry Project. My friend, Kim, the Poet Laureate for Sudbury, has obtained the necessary permissions to put poems in invisible, but water-proof paint, on Sudbury’s sidewalks. They’ll only be visible when it rains. My submission isn’t a poem so much as something someone walking along in the rain might appreciate seeing.

In non-writerly news

After losing all its flowers, my fuchsia phalaenopsis (say that five times fast—oh, it’s not that difficult—blushes) orchid has bloomed again, and the one that started growing a stem at work (another phalaenopsis, white, though, I think) is setting blooms!

LatestOrchidMoreToCome

Phil and I have been enjoying our strawberry harvest this past month and are looking forward to raspberries shortly. The tomatoes, lettuce, and beans have been planted and are growing well, but are puny compared to my mom’s.

Phil built her a series of three raised beds and her tomatoes and cucumbers are going wild!

I hope that tomorrow the weather is clear. It’s been rainy/stormy lately and I’m looking forward to finally getting the rest of the weeding and some transplanting done.

And that’s it for the next chapter until September (combined July and August update). Since I hope to be somewhere on the Baltic Sea the first of next month, I will be taking another blogging holiday. Though Thoughty Thursday should still post on the 27th, that will be the last blog post until I return from Helsinki on August 13th.

I wouldn’t depend on seeing anything until the weekend following, and that will probably be devoted to the cruise.

Until the 27th, however, I’ll continue my regular blogging.

So until Tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends (but don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to re-evaluate if you’re feeling stressed).

Love y’as all!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: May 2017 update

Hey, all you wonderful writerly types!

May was a great month. I completed the Writing the Other course with K. Tempest Bradford and Nisi Shawl and I attended Story Masters in Toronto with Christopher Vogler, James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass.

Writing and revision-wise, I zipped through revisions on Apprentice of Wind, and identified some structural issues that I need to tackle before the next revision. Specifically, there are a few places in which I’m covering the same event from three perspectives. There’s too much overlap, so I’ll have to see about rewriting these sections to that the forward momentum doesn’t stall, and yet the critical events are still covered. Sections may have to be moved around, too.

It’s a bit of a brain-twisty problem, which is why I probably wrote it the way I did to begin with. I couldn’t see any other way at the time. It’s only my second revision, though, so I still have time to work out the kinks.

Darlings may have to be sacrificed (!) I do, however, keep versions of all my revisions, so nothing’s ever really lost. It’s a security blanket kind of thing. It’s easier to let go if you know it still exists somewhere 🙂

I’m closing in on 110K with this novel, so it’s a much more manageable beast. Initiate of Stone remains around 130K 😦 In my defence, it used to be 150K. I’ve made great progress.

I’m working on a new piece of short fiction, which, while the progress on the writing and revision tracker doesn’t look like much, I’m really enjoying. Thus the leisurely. The deadline was extended 🙂

MayProgress

This is how the month looks, by the numbers:

99,248 words revised on AoW of my 60,000 goal, or 165% of my goal.

2,000 words written on short fiction of my 2,500 goal*, or 80% of goal.

7,457 words written on this blog of my 5,800 word goal, or 129% of my goal.

*I amended my monthly goal after I took the screenshot from 5,000 to 2,500 because I realized I didn’t have a word goal for short fiction for June.

So that’s 9,457 words written and 99,248 words revised.

I’m once more going to juggle goals for the next few months. There are some projects pushing to the fore, so I’m going to tackle them sooner rather than later.

I’m going to finish the new story and then revise another. Aaaand I hope to get them both submitted on deadline 🙂

I’m moving on to revisions on Wavedancer (yes, I just finished the draft in February) and because I’m ahead of the game, I’m going to tackle revisions on Reality Bomb as well. We’ll see how things go.

With RB, I’ve had some time to work through, mentally at least, what I need to do to conquer the issues with this novel. I also chatted some things through with my science advisor (Phil) and he gave me an awesome idea that is going to add a lot to the novel as well as solving some plot issues.

And, of course, I’ll be continuing to blog.

June is going to be a busy month, though.

Next weekend, I’m volunteering at the Sudbury Writers’ Guild book table at Graphic-Con. I’ll be bringing some of my poetry books with me, in the event someone wants to take a walk on the wild side.

On the weekend of the 17th, I’m participating in a poetry walk downtown. This is a follow up event to the Sudbury Street Poetry Project. We’ll be touring downtown and stopping at each business or organization that agreed to post our poems, read and chat as we go, and then end up at the Fromagerie so that all the poets whose work is posted outside the downtown core can read as well.

On the weekend of the 24th, I’m heading down to CanWrite! 2017 (in the Toronto area the last weekend in June? Come on out! Day rates available.). Because of my big plans later in the summer, I’ve had to conserve my leave and so I’m heading down Friday night, volunteering through the day on Saturday, attend the AGM Sunday morning, and then heading home. It’ll be a whirlwind.

On the home front, a cool spring has meant that outdoor stuff has been delayed. Finally, though, the (pin) cherry blossom festival has yielded to lilacs and the honeysuckle will be in bloom shortly. In the meantime, I’ve cut some lilacs to scent up the joint 🙂

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Phil built our new steps and he’s constructing raised garden beds for my mom.

steps

I’ve weeded the main garden bed and we received a delivery of aged manure from Phil’s brother-in-law. The gardens should be ready for planting in a week or so, depending on weather. The rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and herbs are going wild, though, so we’re happy enough with that.

gardenpreprhubeast2017

raspberriesbin

And we have a bin for the rest of the renovation waste that didn’t get hauled off last year. So we’ll be able to access more of the yard. Yay!

BBQ tonight, so I have to get going and clean off the table for burgers and salad 🙂

See ya on Tipsday, people!

Until then, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

Love ya!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: March 2017 update

It’s April already.

Though I’m grateful for spring and the returning light, there still seems to be too much to do and too little time to do it in.

Still, things are progressing.

It took me a while after finishing Wavedancer to get my head around returning to Initiate of Stone. As you can see from the screenshot, the first eleven days of March were spent working through my opening chapter, long hand. I tried a few things and finally settled on one of them.

MarchProgress

Is it any better? I think so, but I’m hardly objective. Unfortunately, it’s added four pages to the ms. I’ve been trying to cut back in other areas but, so far, I haven’t been able to shrink the overall word count. There’s still work to be done.

You will also see that I only made 74% of my revision goal for the month. This is what happens.

I nearly met my writing goal for the blog at 97%.

But I didn’t revise any of my short fiction. Again. My head’s just not there. I know I should forge ahead, regardless.

To be specific:

51,552 words revised of 70,000 on IoS

5,648 words of 5,800 written on this blog

One distraction has been getting my travel arrangements made for the Writing Excuses Cruise. Most of them are in place. There are just three days between the cruise and WorldCon that I have to settle. I’m going to spend them in Finland. My hotel is booked.

A friend has lent me her Lonely Planet guide to Scandinavia. I’ve decided I’m going to spend one day visiting Marttila. Yes. There’s a city in Finland that’s shares my last name. That’s why I want to go.

I’m also trying to assemble my taxes (which melts my brain).

I continue to assemble the monthly newsletter for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and I’m now on a couple of sub-committees for the Canadian Authors Association.

I like to keep myself busy?

Health-wise, I’ve had my first appointment with a specialist who will be able to help me, but I may have to wait for up to a year for the procedure to be performed. The hospital has cut operating time (grrr).

I’m walking more, despite a stubborn case of plantar fasciitis. I have new orthotics, but my feet are slow to adjust. I’m back to doing yoga in the mornings. I’m no longer on the iron supplement. For now. It doesn’t seem to have made a difference to my energy levels, one way or the other. Will keep y’all informed as to how things are going.

Work is chaotic. There was a site refit and so lots of disruption over the last month or so. Repeated packing and unpacking for painters, the installation of new workstations, and, finally, moving to a new workstation on another floor of the building. Everything should be in reasonable shape come Monday.

We voted on our latest contract offer, but we won’t know the results of all the votes until April 15th or so. I’m hopeful, but even if we ratify, it probably won’t be until September that we see anything in terms of our retroactive wage increases.

My back pay for my last acting position hasn’t been resolved yet, either. They say maybe June? They’ve missed every deadline so far, so I’m thinking August.

And people wonder why I’m not such an enthusiastic worker these days. Seriously?

The snow is melting, though, and we’re experiencing more days above zero (Celsius). The sun is out more. It’s brighter. I feel myself emerging from hibernation.

I’ll have another column out for DIY MFA next week, and a couple of lovely things to tell you about in next month’s update.

That’s it for me for now.

Until next I blog, be kind, be well, and stay strong. Remember: love is the greatest of magics.

The Next Chapter