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.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 16-22, 2021

You’ve just survived a Tuesday-that-feels-like-a-Monday after a long weekend. Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings.

Vaughn Roycroft shows you how story tropes can be our friends. Dave King writes to whom it may concern. Then, Barbara Linn Probst says, there’s writing—and then there’s writing about writing. Later in the week, Anne Brown wonders, why am I like this? Writer Unboxed

Can you swordfight in a wedding dress? (Things writers want to know.) Jill Bearup

K.M. Weiland introduces us to the six flat archetypes in part 15 of her archetypal character arcs series. Helping Writers Become Authors

What makes up a character’s identity? Breaking up aspects of self. Mary Robinette Kowal

Kris Maze outlines the value (and the struggle) of writer meditations. Then, Barbara Linn Probst wonders how your book ends—with destination or discovery? Writers in the Storm

Shaelin covers line editing. Reedsy

Janice Hardy explains how scene titles make it easier to writer your novel. Then, Rayne Hall tells you how to keep your short story short. Bonnie Randall shows you less cliché ways the body responds to emotional states. Fiction University

Basilisk of cockatrice? The mysterious king of serpents. Dr. Emily Zarka. Monstrum | PBS Storied

Christina Delay takes the anonymous road. Writers Helping Writers

Jessica Conoley: your final responsibility to your story is creative stewardship. Then, Jane herself delivers some tough love: how much do authors earn? Here’s the answer no one likes. Jane Friedman

Jeanette the Writers is writing for readers with dyslexia. Later in the week, Crystal Swain-Bates shares five tips to finish writing your book in 2021. DIY MFA

Jenna Moreci interviews Sacha Black about creating a podcast.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch continues her series on fear-based decision-making with part 2: fear vs. growth.

Chris Winkle does a narration makeover: giving action more immediacy. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes six stories with weak romantic attraction. Mythcreants

And that was tipsday. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 9-15, 2021

Welcome to another tipsday, your opportunity to fill up on informal writerly learnings 🙂

KL Burd helps you incorporate social issues into your manuscript. Therese Walsh: spring thaws and the buzz of the muse. Then, Juliet Marillier wants you to consider your author photo. Kathryn Craft wants you to embrace unapologetic characterization. Later in the week, David Corbett recounts his experience murdering 22,000 darlings. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin guides you through the process of content and developmental editing. Reedsy

K.M. Weiland covers the mage’s shadow archetypes in part 14 of her archetypal character arcs series. Helping Writers Become Authors

Star Wuerdemann explains how to find compelling comps for your book. Jane Friedman

Joanna Penn interviews Gail Carriger about The Heroine’s Journey. The Creative Penn

Princess Weekes looks at the literary power of manga. It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Laurence MacNaughton shares three shortcuts to character-driven stories. Then, Savannah Cordova helps you figure out which story structure is right for your novel. Fiction University

Stephanie BwaBwa explains how to use bookstagram to increase your novel’s visibility. Then, Olivia Fisher is all about short stories. Gabriela Pereira interviews Suyi Davies Okungbowa about layers of world building in epic fantasy. Later in the week, Melanie Gibson shares five tips for writing about your mental health journey. DIY MFA

How the self-aware teen movie almost killed the genre. The Take

Marissa Graff explains how to power up individual scenes with a scene tracker. Writers Helping Writers

Margie Lawson touts the power of quirky-smirky assonance and alluring alliteration. Then, Ellen Buikema explains the relationship between stress and creativity. Writers in the Storm

Kristine Kathryn Rusch starts a new series: fear-based decision-making (part one).

Chris Winkle lists five ways to incorporate dreams into your plot. Then, Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five fascinating monsters in speculative fiction. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb follows the writer’s journey from total newbie to the joy of mastery.

Vicky Qaio reports that Robert J. Sawyer and Silvia Moreno-Garcia are among the finalists for the 2021 Aurora Awards. CBC

Sagal Mohammed interviews Barry Jenkins about avoiding the exploitation of Black trauma in The Underground Railroad. Buzzfeed

Thank you for taking the time to stop by, and I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe, my writerly friends!

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.

The next chapter: March 2021 update

It’s April. For the last couple of months, it felt like a time warp. I blinked and the month just disappeared. March slowed down the pace a bit, but a lot happened, most of it good.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. This is front and centre in my mind as I watch the coverage of Chauvin’s trial.

Wash your hands, wear your masks, keep physical distance, and stay home as much as you can. The moms have both received their first vaccinations and are scheduled for their seconds. Phil’s registered for the Astra-Zeneca vaccine when we receive our supply. But this pandemic still ain’t over. Variants of concern are on the rise. Be careful out there.

The month in writing

I was supposed to start working on next round revisions of Reality Bomb. And I did start, but I didn’t get far.

At the outset of the year, I was thinking positively. I had worked hard on rewriting and improving RB in 2020. I hoped that the critiques would validate the work. They did. In part. But they also reflected that I had a lot more work ahead of me, and the prospect of that work, in February, when the first critiques came back, felt daunting.

As I mentioned last month, I suffered a crisis of confidence in February (and in January before that). I was feeling like a fraud. In March, I turned a corner, though. More on the specifics in the next section of this update.

I started working on a new first chapter, which I already had an idea I would have to do. Beginnings and endings are very difficult for me. I never know how to identify the right place to start or finish. Part-way through March, another critique came in and it did two things. First, it opened my eyes to several of my weaknesses in a gentle way that broke through my resistance. Second, it gave me a very concrete path forward.

Then, I put on my big girl pants and asked a question of the critique group. The discussion gave me a place to start. The place to start, in fact. So, I’ve started working on RB more diligently.

With respect to my optimistic goal, I had originally hoped to revise the whole MS in March—lol! I knew that wasn’t going to happen at the first of the month and set a much lower goal of 1,500 words. I wrote 1,330 words on the new beginning, not all of which will go to waste. So, 89% of my revised goal.

I wrote two new poems for the Laurentian University SciArt Poetry Competition and … won the community category with “Encoded”! I read the poem online at the SciArt Gala (you can watch it on the Science North YouTube channel, if you wish) and it will be published in the Fall issue of LU’s literary journal, Sulphur.

Just to keep the poetry news together, I was informed on March 31st that two more poems were accepted for future publication. I’ll offer further details when they’re published.

I wrote my next Speculations column for DIY MFA. It came in at 850 words, or 85% of my 1,000-word goal. I’ll put up my referral post when the post is live.

In short fiction, I finished revising the story I was working on last month and revised a second. I’d aimed to revise 2,500 words and revised 3,978. 159% of goal. Less impressive was my attempt to write a new short. I only managed 131 words of my 1,500-word goal, or 9%. The anthology call that I was hoping to submit to was due March 31st. When I checked the site, just to be sure, I saw (with joy) that the call had been extended to April 15th. I’m hoping to finish the story this month.

I blogged 5,302 words of my 3,750-word goal, or 141%.

It was a productive month, but a bit of a mixed bag for all that. I met my overall writing goal (101%) and exceeded my revision goal (133%).

I’m going to have to amend my annual goals. And I’ve decided not to work on Marushka after all and change focus to another standalone novel idea. I’ll have to think about what a reasonable writing goal should be while working full time. I also have a lot of committee work I have to do for the Canadian Authors Association (CAA). It’s becoming a burden, but I don’t want to leave the board at this critical juncture. Leaving would be the better choice for me and my wellbeing, but I made a commitment, for better or worse, and I need to see it through.

Filling the well

With respect to online events, I had four in March. A reading by Asian speculative fiction authors, including Melissa Yuan Innes/Melissa Yi, on March 4th, A Writer’s Guide to the Genre Universe with DIY MFA instigator Gabriela Pereira on the 12th, Lisa Cooper Ellison’s workshop on how to get better critiques, another Jane Friedman offering, on March 24th, which, because it was during the day, I caught on the replay, and the aforementioned SciArt poetry reading on March 30th.

I’m enjoying a more reasonable pace to my online learning and entertainment these days instead of signing up for everything that comes across my inbox in some frantic need to … do what, exactly? Yeah. I’m starting to learn some lessons.

My mom wanted to prearrange her cremation and interment, so I accompanied her to the appointment as her only child and executor. After her health scare back in November, she wanted to get this last piece of her end-of-life planning in place. I wouldn’t say this was necessarily a “fun” thing to have done, but it was reassuring for both of us.

I also had a DIY MFA columnist call, and then a finance committee meeting, an email “meeting” of the board, a fundraising and sponsorship meeting, and a special general meeting to attend for the CAA all in the space of a week. It was an exhausting week. I am not a financial whiz.

In other, more personal, news, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor, and I am in good health. All of my tests came back, either negative (breast screening and gynecological exam) or in the acceptable range (bloodwork, blood pressure). I broached the topic of counselling and he suggested I start with my employer’s EAP (which I expected) but gave me a referral for psychological assessment should I need it.

I had my first appointment with my counsellor and, though the worst of my anxiety had passed by the time I spoke with her, it was good to have a safe space to “get it all off of my chest.” She also suggested a few organizations that could help me if I wanted to proceed with an autism/Asperger’s assessment. She has several family members who are on the spectrum, both child and adult.

She listened patiently to the reasons I suspected I was on the spectrum and confirmed that my situation met many of the criteria. I’m going to continue in counselling and enquiring about an assessment and will update you in the future about any progress in this area.

I’ve also lost my “covid 19” breaking my goal of 170 lbs. at the end of March. I’m going to stick with my new psychologically informed and reinforced way of eating (thanks to Noom—pandemic struggles require additional support) and see where my body finally settles.

I’ve decided to put health/mental health progress in the filling the well section of my updates because self-care encompasses more than just my efforts to continue my education as a creative soul.

What I’m watching and reading

Phil and I watched what will be the last season of the troubled American Gods series. We enjoyed it. This season tried to bring the series back into line with the book and did a reasonable job in that respect. Apparently, the Gaiman wants to finish the story with a limited series or movie, or possibly find a new home and continue the series. We’ll see how that works out.

I finished watching four series, three on Netflix and one on Amazon Prime.

The first was The Queen’s Gambit. I really liked it, despite the limited series’ tendency toward “everyone loves Beth.”

The latest season of The Alienist was dark, focusing on child abduction perpetrated by a troubled woman. I enjoyed it despite the darkness, but I disliked the crazy woman villain trope. They really need to give it a rest.

I finally finished The Man in the High Castle. The final episodes had to wrap things up quickly and there were a number of contrivances, but most plotlines worked out satisfactorily. It was good.

The last season I finished was Bridgerton. I liked the way Shondaland envisioned the book but agree with some critics that their attempts to address race issues was on the weak sauce side. I enjoy a fake relationship to true love trope, but Daphne’s violation of Simon’s consent (rather than talking things out rationally, or even arguing ferociously) broke me out of the story. It seemed something too damaging to overcome in three episodes. Yes, Simon was being a bit of a stubborn twit about his vengeful vow to Daddy, but people in a relationship worth its salt respect each other.

I read four books (well, three books and a short story) in March.

The first was Emily Tesh’s Silver in the Wood. I really liked the twists on the Green Man legends and the incorporation of eldritch terrors.

Next was Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. The story was good, and the protagonist’s plight was compelling, but I got the same gut-twisting distaste from this novel that I did from reading Crime and Punishment. A lot of (in my opinion) needless chest thumping and dissipation. I figured out the twist before it was laid out on the page and I didn’t feel sorry for the protagonist. The betrayal felt like just desserts. And yet the guy trusts his traitorous “friend” who then drags him through seven kinds of hell in as many days including murder, only to do what the hapless protagonist told him to in the first place? Gah! So … I both liked it and didn’t?

I gave myself a palate-cleanser by reading Marcy Kennedy’s short story “Three Wishes,” the prologue to Cursed Wishes. Sad and desperate, but good all the same.

Finally, I read Return of the Trickster, the third book in Eden Robinson’s Trickster trilogy. It was fabulous. Love! Jared’s not your typical hero. He’s been repeatedly traumatized by his aunt (the trickster Weegit’s sister), who’s turned into an ogress because of her ambition and lust for power. He’s wounded and weak and not smart in the ways the people around him need him to be. But he’s unfailingly kind. He’s not going to be the same kind of trickster as his father was, that’s for sure. You have to read this one. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

And that brings me to the end of this very long post recounting a month in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter: February 2021 update

Sweet Lord! Why can’t time stand still for a moment? Here we are in March, just days away from the anniversary of the pandemic declaration, weeks away from the onset of my working from home, and … the vernal equinox.

All lives cannot matter until Black and Indigenous lives matter. Just want to keep that front and centre.

Pandemic life

Epidemiologists have been warning for weeks now that the variants could open up a third wave. Today, after less than a week of daily case counts in Ontario below 1,000, we’re back up to 1,299. It’s a far cry from the 3,000 to 4,000 cases per day we were seeing back in January, but it’s still concerning.

Locally, there are 181 cases, which is significant because there have only been 784 cases in Sudbury (total) since March of last year. There are two group homes, one seniors’ residence, and seven schools with outbreaks.

Just because vaccines (four of them now, in Canada) are being distributed and administered, we can’t stop implementing public health measures. A vaccine isn’t a cure. It’s a mitigation. Covid can still be contracted by someone who’s been vaccinated. The chances of extreme outcomes (hospitalization, death) are lessened.

Please continue to wash your hands, wear masks, and maintain physical distance. This isn’t over yet.

The month in writing

I worked mostly on short fiction this month, revising 3,683 words of a single story. My goal had been 2,500 words, but the thing kept on growing. It still is. I’m having trouble with the ending. Beginnings and endings always give me trouble. Actually, everything’s giving me trouble these days. So, I revised 147% of my goal, but it’s not necessarily a good thing.

I blogged 5,359 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 153%.

For a low-goal month, it’s been a good one.

Of the projects I’m not tracking (because they’re mostly long hand ramblings on paper), I continued work on the Ascension series document, made revision notes for two more short stories, and submitted more poetry and a piece of short fiction.

Another of my poems was published in Polar Borealis Magazine.

I had a couple more rejections come in, but at least I’m getting my work out there. It’s a win.

Trying to move on

This month, I had intended to move on to next round revisions on Reality Bomb, and I’ve started, but it’s not going well. Mostly because I’m trying to rework the opening of the novel (see my comment above about beginnings and endings).

I’m continuing to revise the one short story and, as I’ve mentioned, am having trouble with the ending.

My confidence is suffering because of the personal crisis I mentioned last month. Things have improved, though. Physically, I’ve lost 13 lbs. There is more daylight and I think some of my SAD symptoms have been alleviated. I’m not suffering the continual heart palpitations I was. I have also received the results of my most recent physical exam and I’m in good health, overall. That’s reassuring.

I’m in a better place mentally, as well. At work, things are getting better. I’m learning more. I’m doing more. I’m getting some validation from my colleagues and manager. The imposter syndrome is lessening there. I am going to look into accessing our employee assistance program (EAP) to investigate mental health and management options.

Creatively, I’m still at sea. I have no idea if the revisions I’m working on are actually improving the story. I’m going to keep working as see where it takes me. It’s all I can do.

Filling the well

I’m cutting back on virtual events, but still managed to attend quite a few in February.

On February 1st, I attended the Grub Street launch of Nancy Johnson’s The Kindest Lie. The last Free Expressions webinar on the Show/Tell Solution was on the 4th. I attended a webinar on MS Word for Writers from the Canadian Authors Association on the 9th (very helpful, even though I’ve been using Word for YEARS).

I attended a watch party for the Perseverance landing on the 18th. There was a one-day world building conference offered by Diana Gunn on the 20th, and I signed up for Pro Writing Aid’s free fantasy conference from the 22nd through the 25th, attending four sessions.

Other than that, I’ve continued to walk Torvi twice a day and took as many pictures of dynamic skies as the weather allowed.

What I’m watching and reading

There are just three series that I saw the ends of in February.

I finished the last (and final) season of 13 Reasons. It was incredibly difficult to watch because of all the anxiety and PTSD. They did a good job of portraying the ongoing consequences of trauma, racism, homophobia, and policing in schools. It was a lot, though. So much that the ending felt rushed. You can’t resolve such serious problems in so little time. And I still wonder why it was necessary to continue the story of Jay Asher’s book for so long.

I also finished The Good Place. This story came to a much more satisfactory ending. In fact, I’d say it was a Mary Poppins ending—practically perfect in every way. Feel good hit, just when I needed it.

Finally, Phil and I watched the fifth season of The Expanse. It was amazing and continues to be one of our favourites. Season six will be the last.

In the reading department, I finished seven books (!) in February.

First was Jean Shinoda Bolen’s Goddesses in Everywoman. I appreciated how she, as a psychologist, interpreted the lives of women in terms of the archetypes of the ancient Greek goddesses, but I found that her overall message was contradictory. After indicating that a woman is not restricted to any one goddess, she later presents exclusionary life paths for each archetype. There was little wiggle room for interweaving. I enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure I’ll actually make use of it in a practical sense.

Next, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s Ring Shout. Loved it. Read it.

Then, I finished Will Do Magic for Small Change by Andrea Hairston. It was a story of stories lovingly interwoven.

Liz Harmer’s The Amateurs was next. It’s an apocalyptic tale about what happens when time travel becomes the next iPhone.

Then, I read Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. A bit of a tribute to Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” but darker. The patriarch of the antagonistic family has made a deal with fungoid eldritch terrors, but they need “new blood” to refresh the family line. Enter the protagonist and her cousin, the “new blood” in question.

M.L. Spencer’s Darkmage wasn’t what I’d expected. I’d been warned that it was dark, but I wasn’t prepared for it.

Finally, I read Tochi Onyebuchi’s Riot Baby. So good. Not going to say much about it because this is another book you should read for yourselves.

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

Thanks for reading and until tipsday, be well and stay safe, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 21-27, 2021

Welcome to March! You’ve made it through Monday. Reward yourself with some informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland presents part three of her archetypal character arcs series: the hero arc. Helping Writers Become Authors

Writing Fat Characters – a conversation with Marianne Kirby | Writing the Other

Tiffany Yates Martin explains the difference between criticism and critique. Then, Tasha Seegmiller asks, are you a whole-hearted writer? Later in the week, Laurie Schnebly Campbell explains why character motivation matters. Writers in the Storm

Tim Hickson talks elemental magic systems. Hello, Future Me

Susan DeFreitas shares four key tactics for addressing backstory and exposition. Jane Friedman

Abigail K. Perry points out some must-knows about picking comparable titles. Then, Sara Farmer recounts crime authors caught up in real crimes, cozy to cold-blooded. Later in the week, Constance Sayers shares four historical fiction writing hacks. Then, Briana Cole offers five tips to get your story written fast. DIY MFA

Shaelin breaks down the Save the Cat plot structure. Reedsy

Janice Hardy offers some tips to understand and control your novel’s pacing. Then, Orly Konig shares some revision tips for pantsers: three steps to a full rewrite. Fiction University

Kasey LeBlanc is learning to say no thanks: standing up for your creative vision. Heather Webb declares that hope springs eternal: hang on, writers. We’re almost there. Then, Julianna Baggott shares the results of a survey on process: that thing you do. Later in the week, Julie Duffy wants you to focus on short fiction. Writer Unboxed

Literary Icons You NEED to Know from the Harlem Renaissance (feat. Princess Weekes). It’s Lit | PBS Storied

Kristen Lamb: tough choices are the professional writer’s daily grind.

Chris Winkle set out to praise “The Eye of Argon” and all she got were these lousy writing lessons (and a t-shirt?). Then, Oren Ashkenazi looks at ten justifications for oppressed mages and why they fail. Mythcreants

Bridgerton is a fan fiction about today. The Take

The Jewish American Princess – beyond the stereotype. The Take

Trey Mangum reports that Ta-Nehisi Coates will write the next Superman film for DC and Warner Bros. Shadow and Cut

Thanks for visiting. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!

The next chapter: January 2021 update

I hope everyone had a good January (after the 6th) and that the slowly lengthening days are infusing you with new energy.

I’ve felt better in recent weeks myself and am taking steps to lose the “covid 19” I put on since March. I’ve recruited Phil, who does the shopping and cooking, my mom, and a friend as a support group. I’m already measuring progress.

While the numbers of covid infections have been dropping due to provincial lockdowns and curfews, I think talk of reopening is premature. We need to stay on track long enough for the vaccination supply, distribution, and scheduling gets back on track. Once the manufacturing issues have been resolved, we should be good.

If we can get daily infection numbers to less than 1000 in the worst-affected provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and BC) on a stable basis and have our most vulnerable populations (front-line health care workers, seniors, Indigenous peoples, and other POC) vaccinated, we can reconsider. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, the economy is suffering. But I think public health is more important than the economy at the moment. We’ll recover. We’ll survive. The economy will, too.

Locally, we’ve had outbreaks (defined as two or more cases) in several public and high schools, seniors’ residences and nursing homes, a group home, and the hospital. We’ve even identified cases of the “variants of concern.” Again, cases are going down, overall. All sites report that people are self-isolating, getting tested, and that all outbreaks are considered to be under control at this time.

The month in writing

There wasn’t a lot of writing this month. As I mentioned in my last update, I’ve decided not to dive into another novel right away. I want to give myself time to recover from 2020, solidify learning, and prepare to apply lessons learned to existing and new projects. More on this in a bit.

I wrote eight new poems. I’d planned to write seven, and so achieved 114% of my goal. I also submitted two batches of poems, both of which were not accepted, and I sent a proposal for my poetry collection to another small press.

I revised one short story, which was my goal. I’d allotted 1,500 words but ended up deleting more than I wrote. I wrote 187 new words, or only 12% of my goal. Just now, I realized that I forgot to update the word count on the story before I submitted it, but I did submit it. I’ll call it a win.

I also wrote my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA, which was published last week. The column came in at 768 words, or 77% of my 1,000-word goal.

And I blogged 4,532 words, or 129% of my 3,500-word goal.

Overall, I wrote 107% of my goal and revised 12%.

Other than those projects, I have a number of things I’m working on that I’m not tracking. I’m making revision notes for various pieces of short fiction, continuing work on the Ascension series guide, and making some revision notes for Marushka.

I’m also slowly updating this site and other social media images. Nothing major.

A vulnerable time

Three members of my critique group paused and submitted what they’d reviewed to date and asked me if they wanted me to continue. I completely misunderstood one of these messages, thinking that critique partner had chosen to stop altogether at that point.

I was thrown. I sorted out the misunderstanding and asked them all to continue but had to wonder if I’d given everyone the impression that I was especially fragile.

In reviewing the feedback, however, I felt reactive. I didn’t want to be, though. Maybe I am fragile. How can I learn to improve if I don’t know what the problems are? It’s a battle I’ll have to fight with myself.

Last year, I’d rewritten Reality Bomb, not referring to the earlier draft and then I gave it two passes to cut the word count down. I was trying a new approach to revising, because I have a habit on not making substantial revisions if I’m working in the same document. I may cut too much, though, or the wrong things. I may have focused on all the wrong things in the rewrite. Whatever the situation is, there are still significant problems with the draft.

Maybe I’m too much in my head. I approached the whole rewrite and revision too cerebrally. I can’t seem to get the emotion on the page. But I’m very closed down emotionally, in general. I don’t seem to respond to people like they expect. Maybe I’m neurodiverse. I just paused to take a self-assessment and scored high. Maybe I should get formally assessed.

Ultimately, I’ll need this month to develop my approach to reviewing the feedback and the next round of revisions on my novel. It was my hope to address the revisions in the month of March, but there may be so much to improve that I won’t be able to do that. I have to set that worry aside, though. Until I review all the feedback, I won’t have an idea of how much work there is to be done or how I’ll have to adjust my year’s writing plan and goals.

Add to that the fact that I’m in learning mode at work for the first time in 12 years. I’m feeling stupid and wrong and that this acting won’t be extended because I won’t be able to prove myself or be accepted as a member of my new team (cause I’m socially awkward). I’m doubting myself on all fronts.

I know that they way I’m feeling isn’t based in truth. I’ve won contests. I’ve been published in paying markets. I’ve been validated. I’ve had a successful 20-year career in the public service. When I was offered this acting position, my old team offered me an equivalent promotional position to stay. I do not, objectively, suck.

I’m just struggling at a point in my life when I think I shouldn’t be. It’s a massive case of imposter syndrome.

I’ll let you know how it goes, as always.

Filling the well

With the continuing lockdown, there hasn’t been any getting together with friends or family and, for the first time since I started to work from home in March, I’m feeling the lack of community. I have our household: me and Phil and Mom and Torvi. And I’m with them every day.

And that’s it.

I attended four virtual events in January, two workshops, and two readings. I also attended two board meetings for the Canadian Authors Association.

And that’s it. There are a lot of MS Teams meetings for work and I’m still at my peak zoom saturation level.

I’ve just been walking Torvi twice a day (which I must pause to do right now) and living in my own little world. I have to reach out to some friends …

What I’m watching and reading

The most recent season of His Dark Materials finished in January. I’m quite enjoying the series, particularly the chemistry between the actors who play Lyra and Will. There are some distinct differences between the series and the books, but I appreciate the choices made. For example, introducing Will’s plot in the first season.

Discovery also wrapped up its season in January. Though I like the series overall, this season seemed to find its stride better than some of the others. One reason may be because Michael and the Discovery are now in the distant future. They can, for the first time, write their own stories free of the legacies of other ST series.

I finished watching Warrior Nun on Netflix. It was okay. Confusing. And it took the protagonist seven episodes to get over herself and commit to her role as the halo-bearer. The last three episodes were the best of the season, but they shouldn’t have taken half as long to get there.

Also on Netflix was the first season of Snowpiercer just in time to start season two. I’d seen the movie but hadn’t read the graphic novels and liked that they chose not to do (another) reboot.

Finally, Phil and I caught up on the first half of Supernatural, season 15. We just needed to fill in a few gaps (How did Rowena become the queen of hell? How did Jack come back from the divine dead?) and now we have the full picture.

In January, I read/listened to seven books. The first was an Audible Original, Tanya Talaga’s Seven Truths. Loved it. Seven Indigenous teachings. Seven stories told with an emphasis on reconciliation and what it could be if we open ourselves to the possibility.

Then, I read Cherie Dimaline’s Empire of Wild. Fabulous. What would you do if your soul mate went missing for a year and when you finally found him, he claimed not to know you? Based on Métis tales of the Rogarou.

Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God is a dark, post-apocalyptic novel with an unreliable narrator and a disturbing end. It’s a great book and Erdrich is a master of deep POV. It just leaves you thinking about how horrible people can be and how easily the world could turn into literal hell.

Then, I read Rivers Solomon’s The Deep. It’s the story of how the slaves thrown overboard on Atlantic crossings spawned a race of merpeople whose collective trauma is so deep that they decide to entrust it to one of their number. It’s the story of what happens when that one decides to share the burden.

The next book I listened to was Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. The narrator has striven for most of his life to be a “good butler” but, in the process, has remained uncritical of his employer’s shortcomings, and of the feelings (his and hers) developing between himself and the housekeeper. The series of the butler’s reminiscences are framed by a road trip to see that housekeeper. In the end, he chooses wilful blindness. It’s the easier path.

Then, I read L.L. McKinney’s A Blade So Black. Loved. A retelling of Alice in Wonderland with several twists. I’ve already picked up the second in series.

I finished off the month with another Audible Original (it was a freebie), Mel Robbins’ Take Control of You Life. It’s about listening to your fear and learning how to move past it. You’d think I’d have learned something from this one, eh? It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve come down with this case of imposter syndrome. I’m facing my fear. Maybe I should listen to it again 😉

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

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Jan 17-23, 2021

I’ve gathered lots of informal writerly learnings, this week. Stock up and enjoy!

Janice Hardy provides a lifeline for when writing is no longer fun. Then, Rochelle Melander wants you to dump old myths and discover a new solution to procrastination. Later in the week, Janice is back with five steps to your next novel idea. Fiction University

Jill Bearup investigates the feasibility of fighting in a corset.

Jan O’Hara shares some writing self-care for when the world is afire. Then, Dave King wants you to focus! Therese Walsh describes Jan 20, 2021 as a semi-colon moment. Liz Michalski helps you root down and rise up. Writer Unboxed

Shaelin helps you structure a novel with Freytag’s Pyramid. Reedsy

And then, she covers the Fichtean Curve. Reedsy

Angela Ackerman: authors aren’t your competition. Then, Barbara Linn Probst considers ways of seeing, ways of writing. Writers in the Storm

K.M. Weila presents the three character arcs of the Karpman Drama Triangle. Helping Writers Become Authors

On her own channel, Shaelin Bishop offers 15 tips for writing better short stories. Shaelin Writes

Allison K. Williams explains how to restart your unfinished book. Jane Friedman

Elizabeth Spann Craig is returning to writing after a break.

Savitri and Satyavan: The legend of the princess who outwitted Death – Iseult Gillespie TED-Ed

Lisa Hall-Wilson shares seven ways deep POV creates emotional connections with readers. Writers Helping Writers

Jenn Walton helps your boost your creativity. Anita Ramirez suggests five ways to keep writing through a crisis. DIY MFA

The southern woman trope, explained. The Take

And … gaslighting: what does it meme? The Take

Oren Ashkenazi analyzes five useless powers in popular stories. Mythcreants

David Silverberg: at Bakka-Phoenix, the beloved science fiction and fantasy bookstore, you can let your geek flag fly. The Toronto Star

Matt Galloway interviews Nalo Hopkinson on the ‘joyful’ responsibility of being a leading Black voice in sci-fi writing. CBC’s The Current

Jeffrey Brown and Anne Azzi Davenport: poet tapped for inauguration to spread message of unity. PBS News Hour

And … Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem.

Thanks for spending some time with me. I hope you took away something to support your current work in progress.

Until Thursday, be well and stay safe!