Muse-Inks: Still striving for balance

Greetings all you writerly people!

July is off to a good start. My plan seems to be working. By focusing on one revision and one short fiction project, I’ve been able to get back on the horse, so to speak.

On Thursday evening, there was a special meeting of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild to attend, so I took that night off revision and writing, but made up for it on Friday.

I’m also busily drafting my next piece for DIY MFA. Like the last one, it’s going to be a bit long, but I have a strategy that will hopefully keep it manageable and leave me with material for a second post on the topic. Stay tuned 🙂

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good week for quality sleep. I guess I have to take the bad with the good.

Looming (less than 3 weeks away!) is my great adventure to the Baltic. Yes, early, early, on the morning of July 27th, I’ll be flying down to Toronto in enough time to find the Air Iceland kiosk, get through customs, and board my flight to Hamburg, via Reykjavik.

The Writing Excuses Cruise will be visiting Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallin, and St. Petersburg, with tonnes of writing workshops in between, from July 29 to August 5. Then I hop a short flight from Hamburg to Helsinki on the 6th, rent a car to run up to Marttila (yes!—isn’t that awesome?) on the 7th, tour around Helsinki all day on the 8th, and then take in the amazing that is WorldCon from August 9 to 12 (it runs to the 13th, but my return flight takes off early that day … ).

It’ll be my first time outside of continental North America. I’m excited and nervous, and, let’s just be honest here, scared out of my wee gourd. I know I’ll have a fabulous time. This is a bucket-listy kind of writerly adventure, after all, but iz still escared.

I’m not afraid to fly, or of the plane crashing, or anything like that. I’m afraid that I’ll miss one of my connections, and therefore the cruise, altogether. I’m afraid my boarding passes, which, to this point, are all virtual, will not materialize, or that my embarkation form for the cruise won’t arrive. I’ve received confirmation that some of the forms were late. I should be hearing about my embarkation form soon.

Oh, and did I mention? I’m going by myself. Sweet baby Jesus.

I’m getting jittery just writing about it.

Went out for dinner with a dear friend, Kim, on Friday night and she says the trip will empower me. I don’t doubt it. But I’ve travelled on my own before. Just not such a big trip so far away with so many moving parts.

In other news … we’ve been enjoying the fruits (and vegetables, and herbs) of our labours. The strawberry harvest is just about done, and the raspberries are about to start. Friends have been dutifully decimating the rhubarb, and we’ve been harvesting greens for salads and sandwiches. And lots of herbs. Chives, parsley, lemon thyme … We’re almost overrun by the sage. And our beans are starting to climb the trellis.

GardenJuly

I’d show you the patio garden, but I haven’t finished weeding it yet and so it mostly looks like purple clover. *blushes*

Inside, I’ve been enjoying my orchids. I have no idea how, but I’ve managed to get two plants to flower. I’ll take it 🙂

OrchidsBloom

That’s it for this week in the writerly life.

Next week, I think I’m going to do a series discoveries post, just to shake things up a bit.

In the meantime, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories 🙂

Muse-inks

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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

Muse-Inks: A week in this writer’s life and more lessons in vulnerability

Greetings, writerly folk!

Fun stuff first.

On Tuesday of this past week, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild held its annual picnic on the lovely patio of one of our members 🙂 This is the first year in … several, that we’ve actually had a picnic outside. In recent years, because we’ve paid for the rental space, we’ve held the “picnic” in our regular meeting room.

Though the point is to get together and socialize before our summer break, it was nice to enjoy the lovely weather we’ve had recently.

Also on Tuesday, my latest column for DIY MFA went live. It was on time travel. I kind of gravitated to the topic because one of my works in progress deals with time travel, in a way, and so I’ve been researching the various theories. I’m kind of proud of this one. I’m proud of all of them, really 🙂

On Wednesday, I took part in the quarterly DIY MFA call. Gabriela has a number of new columnists and interns. It was great to get in touch with everyone and meet all of the new additions to the team.

Thursday was the final meeting of the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! sub-committee prior to the conference. That’s next weekend, and will necessitate a brief blogging vacay. Just for the weekend. Curation will go on as usual 🙂

Then, just today, I participated in my first urban hike, a cooperative event put on by the Rainbow Routes Association and The Greater Sudbury Poet Laureate, Kim Fahner. The poets from the Sudbury Street Poetry Project were invited to accompany hikers on a downtown route which visited the various businesses and organizations where our poems were posted.

PoetryHike

We paused to read our poems at each location, and chatted between. Just after my stop at NISA, it started to drizzle, and then to rain. We ended up at the Farmer’s Market and the drumming circle performing there, where Louise Visneckie crashed the performance and read her work with drum accompaniment 🙂

As I mentioned last week, I was courting burnout and so, I decided to take a break from writing and revision for a while.

In the meantime, writers have continued to post their thoughts about writing every day, especially if the writer has a day job. Even for writers who work on their craft full time schedule days off. It’s important to give yourself space.

What I discovered this week is that even if I’m not writing and revising, I’m still writing and revising. I carry a small moleskine with me all the time and I made a number of notes on my various works in progress. Even when I’m not writing, it’s where my heart and soul live.

This weekend, Phil and I are also pupsitting for Phil’s sister.

Buster

Isn’t Buster a lovely boy?

So, I’d thought that, perhaps, I’d get back into the habit this weekend, but I have to put the final SWG newsletter together, and I think I might defer until Monday.

I’ve been considering giving myself a regular day off. Perhaps Friday.

I am feeling better, though. More centred.

Another reason for this is that I’ve continued to listen to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability sessions.

Stuff I’ve learned:

I’m addicted to shame. I said this last week, but now, I want to unpack that statement. When things go to shit, it’s always my fault. I don’t think, “It’s unfortunate this happened.” I think, “I’m a bad person because I let it happen/couldn’t stop it.”

That’s the core difference between guilt and shame. In guilt, you’re accountable, you take responsibility but, because it’s the action that was thoughtless or hurtful, you can take ownership and change your behaviour. With shame, it’s not the action, but the actor, who is thoughtless or hurtful. It’s much more difficult to change behaviour when the story you tell yourself is that you’re hardwired that way.

I live in a continual state of low expectation because it’s easier than getting excited about things and being disappointed.

You can’t love anyone else more than you love yourself. This gets people’s backs up, but it’s true. If you don’t have compassion for yourself, how can you ever show it to others?

I overshare as a defence strategy. Brené Brown calls it spotlighting. I don’t know if I do it consciously, with intent, but I’m very open with some parts of my life, sometimes with people who might be classed more as acquaintances, than as friends. It makes people back off and confirms my bias that I’m a bad person. I’m not worth knowing.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this new insight. Yet. I now know that I have these issues and I’m learning some strategies to address them. I’m just not sure how I’ll get from point A to point B.

Mindfulness and baby steps. Like anything else, it’s a matter of patience and practice.

I also think I’m going to start gratitweeting. Blame Brené Brown and Kim Fahner, who is half way through her second year of the daily gratitude practice. I’m not sure when, but I think it’s a way to bring the good stuff to mind. It’s too easy to take those things for granted, and then you can too easily slip into hopelessness and depression.

I don’t expect the transformation to be immediate, but I do expect that it will help me manage my mood.

As always, I’ll keep you informed.

As I mentioned, next weekend there will be no post, and the weekend after will be July 1st (Canada Day!) and it’ll be time for my next chapter update.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

Muse-inks

Muse-Inks: My day at Graphic-Con and the struggle for balance

Greetings, writerly peoples!

Before I get to the meat of this post, I’ll give you a little update on the writerly happenings of the week.

This past week, there was just one. The Sudbury Writers’ Guild booked a table at Graphic-Con, which was held at the Sudbury Arena, Saturday, June 10th. While it’s not a huge event as comic cons go, it was big for Sudbury.

Fandom was well-represented. There were cosplayers, LARPers, gamers, table top gamers, RPGers, comic fans, art fans, and television and movie fans (Degrassi actors were in attendance). And there were readers.

SWG co-chair, Andy Taylor, committed to be present for the full day as this was our first year booking a table and he wasn’t sure whether it would be worth it or not. Liisa Kovala helped out from opening to noon. I helped out from noon to 6 pm, Clay Campbell walked over after his CKLU radio show and stayed through to 7 pm, Liisa returned to finish off the day and help Andy pack up the table, Kristan Cannon had her own table (right beside the SWG table), and members John Jantunen and Sabine Gorecki stopped by and hung out for a while. It was a team effort 🙂

GraphicCon

Andy took this picture just after Clay (Rincewind) and I arrived and before Liisa left (noonish).

We had on display various books by Guild members, including a few copies of my wee poetry chapbook, NeoVerse. We sold just about one of everything (well, except NeoVerse—I didn’t expect poetry to be a big seller, though there was some interest), sold out of Creepy Capreol, which our other co-chair, Mat del Papa edited, and sold five of the SWG anthology, Sudbury Ink.

Sales weren’t the purpose of our booking the table, however. Reaching out to the writing community in Sudbury was. In that respect, the table was a total success. We had 19 people sign up to find out more about the Guild. We’re going to try to get together in late June for a special meeting for these individuals. If the timing doesn’t work out, we’ll at least send them a copy of our June newsletter to give them an idea of who we are and what we do.

Which leads us to balance

When I got home from Graphic-Con, I was pretty much bushed. Phil had the moms over for BBQ, but afterward, I decided to forgo my usual Saturday post.

Work/home/creative balance is a recurrent issue for me.

As a writer with a day job, I’ve chosen to devote nearly all of my non-work, non-sleep time to writing. Thus, a lot of other things go by the wayside. Physical fitness, family and social events, friends, support of artistic and professional organizations and events. Still. I can’t shut all of that out of my life. So, I try to squeeze it all in. Therein lies the rub.

When I can drag myself out of bed early enough, I do yoga or other exercises in the mornings. When the weather and other commitments permit, I walk home from work. I spend time with Phil and with my mom. I volunteer for the SWG and for the Canadian Authors Association. I try to get out and do something creative and soul-feeding in the community.

I try to get out and garden, or use my summer office. I try to keep the house clean(ish). My standards have fallen significantly in recent years …

I also try to write or revise my novels and short stories daily, keep up with my blog posts, keep up with my commitments to DIY MFA, read, study my craft, improve, attend writing workshops in person or online … and it all takes its toll.

Add to that my persistent issues with depression and anxiety which I must manage carefully, and a myriad of aches and pains that only seem to multiply the older I get, and there are times when I have to step back.

Phil’s supportive. He does the cooking, the groceries, the heavier household chores, and the renovation on his own. He knows my writing time is mine and, except for the odd hug or kiss—we need a fairly steady supply—he leaves me to do my thing. He doesn’t insist on coming along (he hates travelling and would just be miserable) or that I stay home when I have a conference or convention to attend. He listens when I have to blow off some frustration about work or professional obligations. He’s learned, for the most part, not to try to offer solutions. I’m very fortunate.

The heady rush of positive feeling and energy that returns with the sunlight in spring gives way to my first bout of burnout around this time every year. The second battle with burnout usually hits in the fall. This is why I have usually tried to take a self-funded leave from work every 18 months or so, May into June and then October into November.

It’s how I’ve managed my physical and mental health.

It’s been two years now since my last self-funded leave and the continual issues with our pay system at work have meant that I’ve had to defer my plans to take a leave yet again. I won’t be able to manage much longer if I can’t get a leave this fall. I’ve pushed through before, but never longer than two years. I used to work part time when I was in the call centre. That’s probably a better long-term strategy, but this next leave will involve a new pup as well, I don’t have enough leave aside from the self-funded to house train a pup.

I’m hoping that the larger part of our pay issues will be resolved by then and that it will be a possibility. Even if it’s not, I can’t afford not to make the request.

For now, all I can do is take things easy for a few days, give myself a break, and then get back to it.

I’ve been listening to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability sessions on Audible. Vulnerability is at the core of a satisfying life, of contentment (which is always my goal, not happiness—I’m pretty sure that’s a mythical beast), and of achieving healthy goals. And self-love is at the heart (lol) of vulnerability.

Unfortunately, I’m kind of addicted to shame and I tend to wall myself off from other people so I don’t have to be vulnerable with them, one on one. Everyone else thinks I’m doing great. I’m that high-functioning person living with mental illness. I can simulate vulnerability on this blog because it doesn’t cost me as much as opening up in person can. All the self-hate takes place in private. I operate from a scarcity mindset. There’s never enough time, energy, you name it, and I am certainly never enough.

I know that none of this is true, intellectually. I know time can be managed, found. A healthy lifestyle can provide me with more energy. I can tell my friends and family that they are enough often, but I can rarely turn that compassionate lens on myself.

So I’m going to goof off for a few days, except for the absolutely necessary stuff, like blogging and housework, professional obligations, and, well, the day job. I’m going to try to be present enough to listen and be kind to myself and to others. I’m going to try to enjoy myself.

We’ll see how it goes and I’ll check in with you next weekend after the poetry walk. The post may go up on Sunday again, but that’s just my way of shifting things to give me enough intellectual and emotional space to recover.

In the meantime, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

And I’ll “see” you on Tipsday!

Muse-inks

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 🙂

20170603_194134

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: April 2017 update

Greetings, writerly friends 🙂

Yes, it’s that time of the month again—no, not that time—it’s time for my next chapter update. Yay (flailing Kermit arms)!

Ok, maybe that’s a little too enthusiastic.

That’s what spring does to me, though.

Even though we haven’t had a particularly warm spring up here, the fact that there are more hours of sunlight each day really helps me find my energy.

And what do I do with that energy? I overcommit. That’s what I do.

What does that look like in 2017? Let’s see …

  • work full time;
  • write as much as I can, evenings and weekends;
  • produce the monthly Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter;
  • serve on the Canadian Authors Association Program Committee (and various sub-committees); and
  • sign up for Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford (yay—it’s awesome, but I can’t keep up with the assignments and so feel crap about it).

Truly, though Writing the Other is one of the bit of writerly awesome to happen this past month. It continues through to the middle of May, so I’ll save the deets for a future weekend wrap-up post. Suffice it to say for now, though, that I would recommend the course to anyone.

A second is my continued semi-regular SF&F column with DIY MFA, Speculations. As I mentioned last week, I’ll be posting to share those columns on the blog. The next one should be coming up Tuesday, and it’s a dreamy one, so stay tuned 🙂

A third bit of awesome was that I participated in was the Sudbury Poetry Project. April was National Poetry Month, after all. When Kim Fahner, Sudbury’s Poet Laureate put out the call, I wrote a new poem and submitted it.

thiswintersky

“this winter sky” was inspired by what has been a particularly gloomy winter here in Northern Ontario. I believe that almost everyone who lives in the northern hemisphere experiences some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and those of us predisposed to depression tend to feel the effects of SAD more than others.

More than, that, though, the poem is about the hope that blossoms when one recovers, or learns to live with, mental illness. This is why I was honoured to have the poem posted outside the Northern Initiative for Social Action (NISA) which is a safe place where survivors of mental illness and consumers of mental health services can gather, learn, and heal.

And now, onto the writing progress report 🙂

April was a decent month. I finished my latest revision of Initiate of Stone. Unfortunately, it only reduced the overall word count of the novel by a few thousand words 😦 I was, however, after a short respite, move on to Apprentice of Wind.

I also revised two short stories for submission to a contest and an open anthology call. We’ll let you know how that goes in the future.

All the new writing in April was once again on this blog.

AprilProgress

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • 79,078 words revised on the Ascension series, or 113% of my 70k goal.
  • 4,105 words of short fiction revised, or 164% of my 2,500 goal (makes up for not revising any short fiction in the last two months).
  • 6,098 words written on the blog, or 92% of my 6,600 goal.

That’s a total of 83,183 words revised and 6,098 words written. That’s not counting my column for DIY MFA, which I really don’t have a place for on the tracking sheet.

What’s up next: I’m going to continue work on revising AoW, which I don’t anticipate will be finished until next month. Revision will yield (I hope) to writing with respect to short fiction. We’ll see how everyone likes the new plan for the blog.

Next week, I’m heading down to Story Masters in Toronto, with Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler, but that, of course, means that there will be no post next weekend. I’ll have another wrap-up post to share on this lovely event later in the month.

And then we’ll see. This writer’s life is never boring, that’s for sure.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay stong, because this winter sky will always yield to the light.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2016 update and year in review

My goodness, here we are in 2017 (!) and now it’s time for me to take stock of my year. Did I accomplish what I hoped to at the beginning of the year?

We’ll get back to that in a few.

First, I have to sum up (‘cause there is too much—I live by PB references) December 2016.

I knew when I decided to tackle Wavedancer, the third book in my epic fantasy series, for NaNoWriMo 2016 that I wouldn’t even come close to finishing the draft (it is EPIC fantasy, after all) in November. I was, however, foolish enough to think, initially, at least, that I’d write another 50k words in December and finish the draft by the end of the year.

I should have known better.

This is the fourth year I’ve done NaNo, and my third win. Each year, I enter December in a fog, still half-living in the world of my novel. I work a day job. There’s no way I could keep up the NaNo pace for another whole month.

Accordingly, I adjusted my expectations to 500 words a day and, though there were two days I didn’t write at all and a few assorted low-count days in the mix, there were also five days in which I wrote over a thousand words, so it all came out in the wash.

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To be more specific, of the 15,500 word goal for the month, I wrote 18,859 words, exceeding my goal by 3,359 words 🙂

Blogging 5,610 words brought my writing total for the month to 21,600 words.

Not 50k, but not bad at all 🙂

Back to my year-end review.

2016 was the first year that Jamie Raintree incorporated separate columns and totals for revision in her Writing Tracker, now called the Writing & Revision Tracker.

Though I’ve looked back at 2015’s and 2014’s trackers, the totals were skewed because in 2014, I didn’t track my revisions, and in 2015, I was tracking my revisions at one counted word for every two words revised. So there’s no real point in trying to compare.

What I set out to do at the beginning of 2016 was to go through all of my written novels to date and start to revise.

I’m happy to say that I accomplished this goal, but things didn’t go quite as I’d hoped. They never do. Quite.

For most of the novels, it was more of a getting reacquainted with the stories and the characters. I didn’t do a lot of revising, but now that I have the lay of the land, so to speak, the next passes will all be more in-depth.

I already mentioned that, having revised my goals post-NaNo, I did write two thirds of Wavedancer. To be specific, I wrote 71,157 words between November and December, and I will continue in that vein until the draft is done in my estimation.

I continued to query Initiate of Stone, but finally got it through my thick skull that it’s not the best project to use when trying to get a deal. So I’m changing gears and going to prepare another project for querying this year. We’ll see how it goes.

How did all this shape up as far as numbers went?

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Of my 138,100 word writing goal, between all projects, I wrote 169,288 words, or 123%. Considering all the revision I was doing, that’s a lovely total.

With respect to revision, I managed 359,114 words of my 375,000 goal, or about 96%.

Some things happened in the year that I didn’t plan on, however.

Though it didn’t happen until July, I wrote a new piece of short fiction. I hadn’t expected that with my focus on the novels. It was a good surprise 🙂

January through March, I participated in the first offering of the Story Genius course created by Jennie Nash and the story genius herself, Lisa Cron. It was something unexpected, but I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. I had to try to make space for the course in my overall plan for the year and ended up making some poor decisions that didn’t serve me well.

While my experience in the course wasn’t, overall, a positive one, I still love the Story Genius method (and book—go get it!) and I would recommend it highly to anyone who can devote 100% of their time to the work. You will reap the benefits.

I just learned, in the most ego-wrenching way possible, that I cannot learn on someone else’s schedule. Especially while I’m working full time. I also made the decision to use Apprentice of Wind, the second in my epic fantasy series, as the project for my work in the course. Story Genius, in the form I took it, was not intended for novels that are already drafted, or for books other than the first in a series. I understand that strategies and approaches for projects of this type have been developed since.

These issues were entirely of my own creation and should not cast any doubt on the excellence of the course, of Lisa or Jennie, or of their dedicated team of editors.

I signed up for K.M. Weiland’s Character Arcs course through the Digital Freedom Academy. It’s entirely self-paced and Kate has loaded her usual extras into the course materials. Her Creating Character Arcs book also came out in the fall, and I definitely recommend both. I am a fangirl, though.

In August, I signed up for another Nelson Literary Agency course on the first five pages. NLA courses are excellence sources of feedback from professional agents who know what makes a successful submission.

At the end of September, I enrolled in a Mary Robinette Kowal Short Fiction Intensive. Blew my mind.

Finally, as far as courses go, I signed up for a course by Kristen Lamb on writing query letters and synopses.

I also tried my hand at #PitchWars for the first time with Reality Bomb, and while I didn’t make the extremely competitive cut, I did have a positive experience thanks to the team who considered my proposal, Michael Mammay and Dan Koboldt. It’s quite an eye-opener, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to test the waters with one of their novels.

It was a lot of fun and another pleasant surprise.

As far as conferences and conventions, I attended Ad Astra, The Canadian Writers’ Summit, and my very first WorldCon last year.

I was also pleased to participate as a panellist at Wordstock Sudbury 2016.

And I had two stories published in the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, Sudbury Ink, which launched in November.

Complicating all that, Phil had some significant health issues to deal with at the beginning of the year (now resolved), and, from August through to November, he renovated our living room after work and on the weekends.

We’re still waiting for the last pieces of furniture to be delivered, and he’ll be working on building wall-to-wall bookshelves, as the weather allows (he’s working in the unheated garage) throughout the winter. Pictures will be forthcoming in a future post.

Looking at all of that written out, I accomplished a helluva lot last year.

I think I’m going to have to ease back a bit in 2017, work smarter instead of harder.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

What are my plans for 2017?

Well, you know I’m not one for resolutions. I have goals that I work steadily toward and amend as required.

First, I’ve nabbed my copy of Jamie Raintree’s 2017 Writing & Revision tracker. I’m setting up the projects in series this year, and will identify different novels in my Ascension series with different colours so I’ll be able to distinguish them and extract the numbers I need to feed my production geek.

I’ll continue to finish drafting Wavedancer, as I mentioned (way) above. At my current rate, I should be finished by the end of February.

Once drafting is done, I’m going to return to revising. I should be able to get through all of the novels in the course of the year. Again, as I mentioned above, I intend these revisions to be more in depth and to address some of the structural issues, as I see them, in the stories.

I’m going to be working with a coach to get Reality Bomb reworked. It’s something else I’m trying in my quest to improve my craft. My hope is that I’ll be able to query RB later this year.

With the short fiction surprise last year, I’ve actually had another idea I want to work on, and some other ideas for revising a couple of my other stories to improve them. Accordingly, I’ve made some room for these projects in my plan.

For NaNoWriMo, I’m going to tackle the fourth novel in the epic fantasy series, tentatively titled Playing with Fire.

I may also have a new, semi-regular writing gig to tell you about. I don’t want to let the cat out of the proverbial bag yet, but if it materializes, you can be sure I’ll let you know all the tasty deets I can 🙂

I’ve already signed up for the Story Masters Workshop in May. Donald Maass, James Scott Bell, and Christopher Vogler are coming to Toronto. This is a squee-worthy score, in my books. It was another opportunity I couldn’t let pass.

When I heard that the No Excuses cruise was going to be in Europe this year and timed to immediately precede WorldCon in Helsinki, I was seriously considering signing up. Unfortunately some non-writerly priorities make both the cruise and WorldCon impractical. Mellie haz a sad.

In fact, I may not attend any conferences or conventions at all this year. We’ll see how things shape up.

The reason for this dialling back is that Phil, who’s in his 50’s now, wants to proceed with renovations to the kitchen and bathroom this year. Though he will continue to do as much of the work himself as he can, these two projects will require a significant financial investment. And we haven’t paid off the living room renovation yet.

We also want to get another puppy. This will depend on whether my employer sorts out their payroll issues and I can apply for another self-funded leave. I will need the time to train our new dependent, furry quadruped. Again, deets will be forthcoming as I can share them.

On that front, if the payroll issues at work are sorted, I’ll finally see my acting pay from mid-February to the end of September last year, less about a thousand dollars outstanding from my last self-funded leave.

We’ve heard that union negotiations have resulted in an offer, the terms of which look reasonable. If we vote to ratify the new contract, it will mean about two and a half years of retro pay and a signing bonus, again, dependent on when the payroll issues can be sorted.

Our car loan should be paid off in late spring, as well, and so, between it all, we’ll have a little extra money to use to pay down our debts.

Phil got a promotion and raise last year from his employer, so we figure this will be the year to finish the renovations.

As you can see, this is going to be a different kind of year, but I’m hopeful that everything will work out.

Besides, come the end of February, it will be the Chinese Year of the Rooster (I’m a rooster!) and I think the powers that be might finally be aligning in my favour 😉

Here’s to a fabulous and productive 2017 for everyone.

Love and light and loads of good words to you all!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: October and NaNoWriMo 2016 update

I’m baaaa-aack!

Didja miss me?

Let’s just get right to the good stuff.

October

As was the case with September and August before it, October was a month in which I was focused on non-word-count-y stuff.

I finished off my read through and note-taking on Apprentice of Wind and the rest of the time I was making notes in preparation for tackling Wavedancer (book three of the epic fantasy series) as this year’s NaNoWriMo project.

I knew that I’d likely be writing the novel into the New Year. 50k is only half the length of any epic worthy of the name 😉

I had some trepidation, however, as I knew I’d be out of town, training for the day job for the first week of November, and I had Wordstock Sudbury upon my return, the launch of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, Sudbury Ink, the weekend following, and my own, belated birthday celebration the weekend after that.

And I was only able to use two days of vacation leave in November. Otherwise, I was working.

I fully expected a repeat of 2014, during which I was also working. That year, I didn’t even crack 30k, but I went on to finish the draft over the next months.

So, zero words revised in October, but, amazingly, that still puts me at 96% of my revision goal for the year. Yup. I’m just that awesome 😉

And I have my work cut out for me with regard to some additional amendments to Initiate of Stone (one more run through, methinks), as well as a whole slew of revision notes for AoW. As the series arc progresses, I get further insights into what I’ve already written. It’s all good.

I think, more than anything, it was good to immerse myself in the world and characters of the story. It put me in a good place, mentally, to tackle Wavedancer.

As for the writing done in October, all 7,939 words of it were written on this blog.

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NaNoWriMo 2016

I’m a traditionalist. I work on a new novel each NaNo challenge and, this time, I was tackling a work I knew I wouldn’t complete in November, even if I could achieve the word count necessary for a NaNo win.

As I mentioned, above, I had my doubts I’d even manage that.

As a result, I made some decisions, one of which was, with the exception of the curation posts I had prepared for the first week of November (960 words between the two of them), I wasn’t going to blog.

Working around professional and personal commitments, I fought for my writing time.

Here’s how things shaped up:

While I was out of town, I didn’t even manage a thousand words a day, and I didn’t write one word on the day of Wordstock Sudbury. I was out, manning the book table, participating in a panel on commercial genre fiction (specifically SF&F), attending a book launch, and reading my poetry. It was a full day.

I started to gain ground on the weekend, though, and though there were still a number of days on which I didn’t achieve the average 1,667 words, there were more days on which I wrote 2,000 or more.nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_winner

And . . . drum roll please . . . I reached November 30 with 52,298 words written.

Flailing Kermit arms! Yaaaaaaaa!

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I also don’t hate what I’ve written, not even during those hard slogging early days. That is, in itself, a triumph 😀

I continue to draft at a more reasonable pace. I’m aiming for 500 words a day, and so far (a whole three days in) I’m exceeding that goal.

Other stuff

I received a very kind rejection for one of the short stories I’d submitted to an anthology call earlier in the year.

Phil finished the renovations on the living room. We’re now, very slowly, cleaning up the house and purchasing our new furniture.

My love isn’t getting any younger, and had decided that next year (after a winter of building bookshelves and stocking them) he’s going to renovate the kitchen, bathroom, and side entry.

I’m happy to report that Phil and I are in good health.

The regular blogging schedule will resume, starting with this post. Tipsday and thoughty Thursday will also be returning. Next week, I’ll be moving on with the next session I took notes on at WorldCon.

I tried a new system for my curation posts in October, leading up to NaNo, that I’m going to return to.

In the past, I spent several hours every Sunday, reviewing my social media shares for the week and linking them with a brief framing sentence in my curation drafts in Word. Then, on the day, I’d copy the text into WordPress, format the links, add the picture, post, and then share to my social media accounts.

I’ll still have to do that this week, but now, I’ll be working smarter, not harder.

Every day, I’m going to spend a little time reviewing my posts of the day and copying them into the curation draft in Word. Then, on Sunday, I copy the text into WP, format, add the pictures, and schedule the posts, so that all I have to do on the day of is share it to my various social media accounts.

Much easier.

If I weren’t so paranoid about hackage and losing work, I might choose to draft right in WordPress, but once bitten, and all that 😉

I just thought I’d share in the event that this might make sense for you.

Next month: It will be another double update. I’ll be reviewing December’s progress and 2016 as a whole (goals and other gorgeous stuff). W00t!

Have yourselves a wonderful week.

Until Tipsday!

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: September 2016 update

Another month has passed and I don’t know where it went. Yes, September was a short month, but I spent most of it focusing on Initiate of Stone and Apprentice of Wind, working long hand, in my journal and on scrap paper, so none of it was spreadsheet-worthy.

So all I have to show for it is my month of blogging, 9,151 words, 158% of my goal.

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Surprisingly, even with two months of no revision, I’m still at 96% of my revision goal for the year. Yeah, I was kind of a beast January through July 🙂

This is to say that I’m making great progress, fine tuning my epic fantasy series. This month, if I finish a second round of revisions on AoW (which means I will be able to show some actual revision progress on my Writing and Revision Tracker*), I have some solid planning in place for the third novel in the series, which has a new working title—Wavedancer.

I should be well-placed to rock NaNoWriMo 2016. I must temper expectations by letting you know that I’ll once more be out of town, training, for the first few days of November (1st through 4th), and, I’ll be participating in Wordstock Sudbury 2016 ** the weekend following, November 5th.

I can’t guarantee a “win” this year, but, as I’ve said in the past, any words I write in the month of November are words that didn’t exist before. It’ll be a win, for me, regardless. I already expected to be drafting into December, in any case, because, epic 🙂

Querying has been temporarily suspended while I rework the first chapter, query letter, and synopsis for IoS.

Something that’s been very helpful is K.M. Weiland’s Character Arcs Course on the Digital Freedom Academy. I’m working through at my own pace. LURVE!

I’m also reading Kate’s Structuring Your Novel, and an ARC of her forthcoming Structuring Your Character Arcs. All of it is serving to, with my memories of the original blog/vlog/pocast posts that became the basis of these books and her course, ingrain Kate’s techniques in my long-term memory.

So helpful.

I can’t even.

Finally, I’m trying to find an editor/mentor with whom I can work, long-term, to develop my drafts into finished products. I will, of course, let you know how that goes.

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In September, I also attended a couple of writerly events. The first was 100,000 Poets for Change in North Bay, Sept 22. I went on a poetic road trip with my friend and Sudbury Poet Laureate, Kim Fahner 🙂

Then, last night, I took a friend to the launch of Danielle Daniel’s memoir, The Dependent. Latitude 46, the publisher, put on a lovely event in the catering space at Verdiccio’s. There was music, food, and a reading by Danielle. And, of course, I bought her book 🙂thedependentlaunch2

It’s so nice to be able to support local arts and artists.

Today, despite it being Culture Days weekend here in Sudbury, and chock full of events, I had to retreat.

September also marked the first meeting of the 2016-17 Sudbury Writers’ Guild season, and it was anthology-palooza. We’re hoping to have Sudbury Ink, which features two of my speculative stories, printed in time for Wordstock.

The anthology is a promotional tool for the Guild and just shows the variety of the talent within the SWG. Having said that, it does have an ISBN and will be a formal, self-published, writing credit.

We hope to have a launch event, aside from Wordstock, later in the year. I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Although I attempted to gather my C.V. together for a Canada Council Works in Progress Grant, I realized the significant gaps in it. I haven’t kept track of the workshops I’ve attended, organized, or delivered. I haven’t kept track of the readings I’ve done. I have some forensic investigation of my writerly exploits to complete before December, when the Ontario Arts Council Northern Writers grant application is due.

I just couldn’t get my shit together for the CC app. It’s due today. Next year, the CC will be moving to a new funding model, so I might have a better chance then, in any case.

I’m also looking forward to how my writing life will take shape in coming years.

In past years, I was focused on writing in preference to everything else. I have six novels to show for it, but only one was even close to complete. This year, I focused on revision, but was only able to do a basic run-through of each novel, get the lay of the land, so to speak, and make notes for more in-depth revisions in the future.

I want to plan out a reasonable pattern which will balance writing and revising and hopefully allow me to get something to market.

The basic idea, for now, is to focus on in-depth revision on one project from January through to March, draft a new novel, April and May, revise another novel June through August, focus on NaNo prep and other projects (short fiction?) in September and October, participate in NaNo in November, and finally finish whatever might be outstanding from the NaNo project in December and prep for my next in-depth revision.

It may be ambitious, but my plans are always subject to change, given life 😉

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

Next week, I’ll get on with session reportage from WorldCon.

*Jamie Raintree, the creator of the Writing and Revision Tracker I use (and have used for years), is busy preparing the 2017 version. Watch this space for news on when the 2017 tracker is ready for order! Seriously, it’s worth it.

**Wordstock Sudbury 2016 will take place from November 3-5, 2017. Though I’ll be out of town training for the Thursday and Friday events, I will be manning the Indie Bookstore for a while on Saturday, and then participating in the commercial genre fiction panel in the afternoon! There will also be an opportunity to read at the open mic Saturday night. I’ll let you know more as the schedule is firmed up.

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: April 2016 update

April was a steady month of revision. I made it to the two thirds mark in Marushka by the time I left for Ad Astra.

Drafting with Scrivener, as I mentioned before, has resulted in more, but shorter, chapters. It’s meant a more casual pace.

Though I missed a few days of revision for the convention, I made up for it by doubling up for a few days upon my return. I should be on track to finish up with this first run through of Marushka by the Victoria Day long weekend (May 21-23).

Then, I’m moving on to the first run though on Reality Bomb 🙂

I’ll probably need a couple more passes for each work in progress before I’m ready to send them out for editing . . . And I have my eye on a couple of people for that. We’ll see how that progresses, but probably not until next year.

AprilProgress1

Total words revised for April: 37,478, just a hair under 100% of my goal

Total words written (for this blog): 10,498, 187% of my goal (!)

I sent out more queries, and received more thank you but no thank you rejections.

Work on the Sudbury Writers’ Guild anthology, which the guild wants to release in time for the next Wordstock Sudbury in the fall, progresses. We want to have the content and cover ready for June. I have two speculative short stories in the anthology (yay, me!).

There are some more opportunities coming up for short fiction, so I’ll try to get something together for those deadlines.

In June, I’ll be heading to the Canadian Writers’ Summit (June 17-19) and . . . my leave for WorldCon has been approved. W00t! So I’ll be heading down to Kansas City in August (17-21). That’s one of the things I have to do now: book my flight. And check with my buddy. She’s moved recently, so I want to make sure she’s still available for visitations. It will be my first WorldCon, so I’m very excited.

I got an early start on next year’s writing events by registering for Story Masters, May 11-14, 2017. Christopher Vogler (The Writer’s Journey), James Scott Bell (author of LOTS of writing craft books, member of The Kill Zone), and Donald Maass (agent to the literary stars, Writer Unboxed member, and author of numerous publishing and writing craft books). Four days of workshops. Yum!

And that’s all that’s new in this writer’s life.

See you Tipsday!

The Next Chapter