Muse-inks: A week in this writer’s life

The beginning of 2018 is proving to be a challenge.

At my day job, were heading into a busy quarter. Training and monitoring and an in-person team learning event.

The medical procedure I’ve been waiting for since last March has finally been scheduled for the week after next.

Torvi continues to improve, but she’s still a (32 pound!) puppy and Phil and I and my mom, who watches Torvi weekdays while we work, have had our hands full. We’re still getting used to the continual disruptions life with a puppy requires.

Since I’m twelve years older than I was the last time I did this, I find I’m exhausted. It’s worth it, but I wish I could catch up on my sleep. Maybe when Torvi’s older.

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For now, as she closes in on four months, the shepherd in her is coming out, personality-wise as well as physically. Her head, shoulders, legs and paws are still super-soft. I just want to cuddle her ALL the time. When she’s not biting me *sigh*

Four out of five people in my critique group are in the process of moving and so the start of that new adventure will be delayed.

And that’s about it for the week.

Bed’s calling.

Until Tuesday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories 🙂

Muse-inks

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Bidding farewell to 2017

Greetings, all!

K. Tempest Bradford shared something that Catherynne Valente wrote:

“If this were a trilogy, 2016 would be the explosively dramatic establishment of conflict. 2017 would be the lowest point, when all seems lost. And 2018 would be the redemption, the triumph snatched from defeat at the last moment, the victory over darkness. Here’s to 2018.”

As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, this struck me as true. Not real, but true.

Not only has the political situation been depressing (Trump and Brexit), but also continued terror attacks, refugees in the millions, mass shootings, sexual assault and harassment revelations, floods, fire, hurricanes, and cyclones … it really feels as if the world is falling apart on all levels.

Even I, as a Canadian, shielded from much of the douche-baggery rampant in the world, have felt the weight of depression more this year that in the several preceding. I’m still struggling with burnout, but I know that I’m in good company. Many of the authors, mostly American, that I follow online have expressed similar sentiments, though for different, and many more dire, reasons.

John Scalzi has had to slow the pace of his writing to deal. Kameron Hurley has had the medical rug pulled out from under her and is seeking to move to Canada, or at least to some place she doesn’t need to shell out thousands a month for the medication she needs to save her life.

Though Chuck Wendig initially expressed similar sentiments at the beginning of the year, he is also considering a move to another state, where state medical benefits can shore up the deficits in the national plan.

But even in 2017, some good things happened. Another thing I saw this morning was former president Obama’s tweets about some of those events.

Communities struck by tragedy have rallied to support their members. Whistle blowers have spoken out and inspired other victims to do the same. There is hope, even in the midst of the dark tea time of the soul. There can be no shadow without the light.

Trump hasn’t been half as successful as he says, and although he managed to dismantle the accessible healthcare act and protection for dreamers, his continual public displays of ignorance, misogyny, and other-phobia, combined with the scandals that continue to dog his heels give me hope for the future.

Then again, I (and so many other people) never thought he’d get into office in the first place.

Brexit proceeds, as it must, changing the political and trade landscape of Europe.

Global warming continues to mess with weather patterns creating monster storms, floods, and conditions ideal for wildfires.

Even here, in north eastern (more like central) Ontario we’ve felt the effects. In the last couple of years, we’ve had green Christmases. This year, it looked like the same thing was going to happen. We had a lovely, warm fall, but then the snow arrived on its usual schedule. And then we got hammered by cold temperatures we usually don’t see until January or February. New Year’s celebrations across Canada have been cancelled or moved indoors because it’s too cold to ask people to stand outside for very long.

Even Torvi, who I’m convinced has husky in her, who loves to stay outside much longer than her humans can bear to, is doing the cold paw dance and willingly comes inside once her business is done.

But the winter solstice is past and it’s getting lighter a little earlier each day. I have hope that this, too, shall pass.

I have hope that mid-term elections in the States will shift the balance of power in senate and congress.

I have hope that as more people speak out against injustice, the rest of the world will finally listen.

I have hope that we can turn the tide in our dependence of fossil fuels and invest more in renewable energy before it’s too late.

The point is, I have hope. I hope for a lot of things, but I have hope.

In the summer, when I embarked on the Writing Excuses Cruise, I wanted to make a breakthrough of some kind. I’ve been feeling for a couple of year that I’ve been on the cusp of something. I know. I’m a slow learner, I guess. I got my breakthrough, but not in the way I expected.

It took Emma Newman to ask me to look deeper for the source of my prolonged burnout. I immediately felt resistance to the suggestion, which told me it was exactly what I needed to do. I cracked the shell on the cruise, but it’s taken me some time to muck about in the goo within to come to terms.

When I first exposed my tender underbelly to a group of writers, I thought I finally had my past trauma under my thumb. I mistakenly thought that my inner editor, informed by a series of threshold guardian experiences, was the thing I had to conquer.

Yes and no.

I had to overcome the inner editor to believe that my work was good enough to submit. It wasn’t long after that, that I started to get second readings, short list placements, contest wins, and finally, a couple of paid publications. So it was work I had to do.

Then I stalled.

Those threshold guardian experiences instilled in me an instinctive, but wrong-headed, mistrust of editors, critique partners, and generally anyone else in whose hands I might put my words. Though I’ve worked with a few editors, took their advice, and worked to improve my stories, I think part of me has been trying to sabotage my own efforts. The resistance has always been there, the distrust.

So that’s my big goal for 2018. I have a critique group, and I’m going to work it. I’m going to open myself up and see if I can’t make one of my novels into something that agents and editors will like.

So … there it is, out in the world. My big, scary goal for 2018.

Be vulnerable. Get out of my own way.

And hope that everything will turn out for the best in the end.

Have a triumphant 2018, everyone!

Until the New Year, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

Things for which I am thankful in 2017

I know that gratitude is something that’s supposed to be reserved for Thanksgiving, but in this year of political upheaval and general dreck, I wanted to share my list of things for which I am thankful in 2017.

Things have been shifting for me in the past couple of years. I’m not expending as much energy at the day job and trying to focus on what makes me happy, namely, writing and my family.

Accordingly, the first item on my list is: Phil.

Though he may not understand me all the time, Phil has been unfailingly supportive and loving. We really are the best of friends.

I am also grateful for my mom, who, likely because I’ve chosen not to have kids, continues to care for me long after I’ve become an independent adult. Phil and I should be taking care of her, and we do, but moms are moms, ya?

I give thanks for my extended family, Phil’s mom and sister and her husband. We’re a small family up here, but that’s just the right size for us.

I’m thankful for my dearest friends, Margaret, Kim, Yana, Sandy, Sharon, and Stacy. These people have been in my life for a long time and even if we don’t chat often, we do keep in touch and keep each other grounded.

I’m grateful for my job, believe it or not. Having a day job gives me enough disposable income to travel and attend writerly events. It also gives me the opportunity to take self-funded leaves, like the one I just finished. While it’s still a dream of mine to be able to quit and devote my time to my craft, for now, it remains a dream. And I have some great co-workers, many of whom I count among my friends.

I’m thankful for my writing community, locally, and on line. There are so many of you, now, that I can’t list you all. But know that you’ve all contributed to my development as an artist. If I ever do get a novel published, it will be due, in part, to all of you.

I’m very thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the Writing Excuses Baltic Cruise. It really was a transformative event, as I continue to say.

And I’m thankful for Torvi, though she’s driving me a bit mad with her puppy shenanigans at the moment.

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Here she is, doing her best imitation of a good dog 😉 The perspective’s off a bit because of the angle I took the picture at. Her head is still big, proportionally, but not that big …

We weighed her yesterday. She’s 25 pounds and on Tuesday, she’ll be three months old (!)

Phil and I have been ready to welcome a new pup into our lives for about a year. This fall, everything came together like it was kismet. Torvi was meant to be our pup.

And now, all that’s left is to say Merry Christmas. And to those who celebrate other traditions, I hope you have had, or will have, the best of times with family and friends. That’s what this time of year is all about, after all.

Blessings to you all!

Be kind, be well, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

Muse-Inks: Back to work

This is going to be a short post because I find myself running behind … already.

I returned to work on Thursday. It was a short week. But, as often happens with short weeks, it felt really long.

My mom’s taking care of Torvi while Phil and I go to work. We’re so fortunate to have her support. I think the house would be demolished if we had to leave Torvi alone. Yes, she would be restricted to the kitchen, but still. There’s a lot of stuff she could get into that we just don’t have the cabinet space to put beyond her reach.

I was worried about how Mom would fare. Torvi’s still wilful and bitey. But it worked out.

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I wish she was always this sweet 🙂

We made it through week one.

But I’m still adjusting. I’m trying to get all the work done that I used to and still give Torvi the time she needs.

It’s been a challenge.

This weekend, I sacrificed some time to go shopping and booked a socialization session with Torvi’s cousin Buster (I’ve shared pics of buster before—Phil and I have pup-sat him for Phil’s sister Steph a couple of times).

And we’ve confirmed that Torvi gets car sick. She threw up on me on the way out and on the way back. Good thing Sunday is laundry day.

It’s good to know. We have to plan for this in the future. Particularly on Christmas Day, when we’re heading back out to Steph’s for the holiday feasting. This was the point of our socialization today. We didn’t want disaster on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, Torvi and Buster get along just fine.

This week will be a three day work week. I booked a couple additional days of leave just before Christmas (you’d think I’d planned it!).

Then another three day week after Boxing Day, a four day week after New Year’s Day, and then, full five day work weeks.

It’s a good transition for me and for Torvi.

I’ll keep you informed about how things progress.

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

Muse-inks

Wordstock Sudbury 2017

While I was offline in November, other than pup prep and pup rearing, and NaNoWriMo, I also attended Wordstock Sudbury 2017. It was November 2-4 and I took in several events.

On Thursday, November 2nd, I went to the Femme Poetic Force reading at One Sky.

Dinah Laprairie opened the event on behalf of Wordstock, then yielded the floor to former poet laureate Tom Leduc, who introduced the femme force readers, Tanya Neumeyer, Emily Ursuliak, Kateri Lanthier, and our current poet laureate, Kim Fahner.

Later that evening, I attended a dramatic reading of Kim’s play-in-progress, Sparrows Over Slag.

DramaticReading

For those who don’t know, a dramatic reading is unstaged. The actors stand to read their parts. It’s a stripped down version of the play that acts as part of the workshopping and development process. A play is meant to have an audience and a staged reading can tell the playwright a lot about how well the piece works. Staging is intended to enhance the play, but the words, the dialogue, has to be solid on its own before the rest of the play is built around it.

On Saturday, I attended Merilyn Simonds’ master class on The First Page.

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And later on, I attended Nathan Alder’s master class on speculative fiction (sorry, forgot to take a picture).

Overall, it was another successful year for Wordstock. The festival improves each year. There are still a few rough spots, but it bodes well for the future.

Plus a week in this writer’s life

Post-NaNo, I’ve continued to work on Playing with Fire, the fourth in my epic fantasy series. I’ll be working on the draft into the New Year.

Foolishly, I thought I’d be able to continue to write around 1000 words a day while I was still on leave. That resolution lasted for exactly one day before I realised that it would be untenable. Since then, I’ve been writing about 500 words a day, around pup duties.

With regard to the Torvi-beast, Phil and I have been trying to train her to our habits rather than letting our world revolve around her, as it kind of has been for the last few weeks. I have to keep reminding myself that Torvi was six weeks old when we adopted her. We’ve never adopted a pup so young.

Two weeks makes a lot of difference. I’m seeing it. She’s learned a lot in the last weeks. And she’s really good around my mom, who will be taking care of her when I return to work.

She’s sleeping through the night (mostly). She’s pooping outside, but there are still times when she pees inside, mostly when I’m not quick enough to get her out. I’m still her favourite chew toy, but we’re making progress. I’m told that’s the shepherd in her.

Torvi’s a pro at the sit, now, lays down with kib incentive, shakes a paw inadvertently, and walks a block or so most mornings. We’re too indulgent with the pup love for her to get off dependably. That’s brilliant for a ten week old pup. Really.

And she hasn’t actually destroyed anything … yet.

Though I’m back to work next Thursday, I’ve done the best I can at this point. I have to have faith that the work I’ve put in will bear fruit.

I’m going to start scheduling pup play dates in the near future. She’s okay to play with dogs we know have been vaccinated. She’s just prohibited from pet stores and dog parks until she had her full set of vaccinations in March.

I’m exhausted, though. Walking zombie. Our next pup will still be a rescue, but by then, I’ll be old enough that training a pup from scratch will be impossible. She’ll have to be three to six months and house trained.

Still love Torvi insanely and the cuddles are worth the rest of it, but I’m looking forward to catching up on my sleep. Someday.

Than and now 🙂

Speaking of which, it’s time for final outings and bed.

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

Muse-inks

 

Recently in the writerly life

Greetings, all!

Here we are, at my last pre-NaNoWriMo weekend post.

I’m going to recap some of the writerly events I’ve attended in recent weeks and mention a thing or two that will be happening in the nearish future.

First, we’ll be going back in time to September 28 and the Latitude 46 fall launch. One that evening, five authors were reading from their works.

LiisaKovala

Liisa Kovala is a friend from the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and she was launching Surviving Stutthoff, her memoir of her father’s experiences behind the death gate.

Also launching books that night were Sudbury’s Roger Nash, with his nineteenth poetry collection, Whazzat?, Rod Carley from North Bay, Hap Wilson from Rousseau, and Suzanne Charron with the second edition of Wolf Man Joe LaFlamme: Tamer Untamed.

The event was held at Ristorante Verdiccio, and it was a delightful evening.

Last weekend, October 21st, I attended the launch of Kim Fahner’s fourth poetry collection, Some Other Sky, which was held at St. Andrew’s Place in downtown Sudbury.

Kim not only reads, but she also sings, and she usually has The Wild Geese perform Celtic music before, during, and after.

Next weekend, November 2-4, I’ll be attending Wordstock Sudbury.

On Thursday, I’ll be at a poetry reading by Emily Ursuliak, Tanya Neumeyer, Kateri Lanthier, and Kim Fahner at One Sky, followed by the festival opening, and then a dramatic reading of Kim’s play Sparrows Over Slag.

On Saturday, I’ll be attending Merilyn Simonds’ masterclass on The First Page and then Nathan Adler’s masterclass on Writing Speculative Fiction.

Torvi

Phil and I will also be visiting our new puppy, Torvi 🙂 She’s still a few weeks from adoption age, so we’re bringing a blanket and toy out for the pups. When we do adopt, we’ll be able to aid the transition with the smell of momma Mocha and a familiar toy.

Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will be posted this week, but after that, I’m getting to puppy prep and working on Playing with Fire. I’ll see you after the writerly masochism that is NaNoWriMo!

As ever, be kind, be well, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories!

Lessons learned and takeaways from my European adventure

Over the weeks since my return and interspersed with monthly updates, I’ve been recounting my European adventure. Now, I’m finally ready to talk about the benefits I’ve gained and the things I’ve learned from the experience.

Muse-inks

Planning and preparation are important

I committed to the Writing Excuses Retreat and WorldCon in early February. It could have been January, but I was hesitant because of the expense. Ultimately, it was a confluence of events: WXR doing a Baltic cruise—they usually cruise the Caribbean, WorldCon being in Helsinki, my desire to visit the country of my ancestry, and the fact that I could do all that AND get in some quality first time tourism at the same time as I continued my professional development as a writer.

Once I committed, I was hip-deep in making the travel arrangements. WXR had their own travel agents and I was able to get a great price on a return European flight through them. All of the cruise arrangements were made through the travel agency.

They facilitated the registration for the cruise, the booking of all the tours at each of the stops, and the issuing of all electronic travel documents.

I made my own hotel booking and, with very little back and forth, I was able to secure the convention rate for my extended stay.

While I attempted to make my additional travel arrangements through the travel agents associated with the cruise, they were busy enough handling the details for the cruise. I’d noticed that the Canadian Auto Association, of which I am a member, was promoting their European travel services. I decided to make the remaining arrangements through them.

There was much more back and forth, but by staying on top of the email thread, I had my flight from Hamburg to Helsinki booked, my rental car, and my bus tour to cover the days in between the cruise and WorldCon.

I went to the airline sites and to CATSA to help me with my packing. My thought was to travel light and only have my carryon luggage and my (fairly large) purse. I reviewed my itineraries for the flights, cruise, and the schedule for the convention to plan out, in rough strokes, where I’d have to be, when.

I was as prepared as I could be by the time I left, but while planning and preparation are important, they aren’t everything.

I still suffered panic attacks in the week leading up to my trip. I still had to deal with ongoing anxiety during the flights—not because I’m afraid of flying, but because I was afraid that despite all my planning, that something catastrophic in terms of making my connections, delays, or other uncontrollable elements (weather) that attend travel would render my planning useless.

Fortunately, none of that happened.

Travelling alone is empowering

Because so much is out of your control when you travel alone, you quickly realize you just have to put on your big girl (or big boy) pant(ie)s and git ‘er done.

Anxiety serves no purpose in these situations and, frankly, can’t be indulged. Yes. I wrote that. Anxiety, in some situations, is an indulgence. It’s an indulgence of imbalanced or malfunctioning neurotransmitters, and not easily managed, but it’s still an indulgence.

I have a friend who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder and its attendant anxiety. I invited her up for a short visit that, because of its brevity, was highly structured (I guess planning’s a thing with me). In the ensuing whirlwind, she didn’t have the time to perform her particular rituals.

Months (it might have been years) later, she told me how that visit had changed her. It was concrete evidence that even if she couldn’t indulge her OCD, that the things she feared would happen, didn’t. It was a breakthrough for her.

I travel alone all the time. I drive down to Ottawa, to Toronto, or to other cities in southern Ontario to train for my day job. I attend writing conferences, conventions, and workshops alone. Some of these have been across the country, or in the States. But I’d never been outside of continental North America before. In a very real way, I had never been more alone.

After the pre-departure panic attacks, though, I progressed straight to a semi-fugue state during travel. I was completely in the moment. I had to continually check my itinerary to make sure I was making progress to the next queue, or boarding, or whatever, because it was too tempting to slip into a place in which I wouldn’t care if I got anywhere at all.

Though I spent my waiting and flight time reading or watching movies to keep myself distracted, I wasn’t really forming solid memories of these things. I felt like a deer in the headlights most of the time. It was a test of endurance more than anything else, but I didn’t have a panic attack for the duration of my trip.

A little bit of that disconnect from reality followed me throughout my journey and reasserted itself for my days of solo travel. I was more in control once most of the uncertainty was behind me, once I’d reached the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel, for instance, or embarked on the cruise ship, or checked into the Sokkos Presidentti.

During the retreat itself, I had to be intentionally vulnerable, painfully honest, and resist attempts to make my work, accomplishments, or failures—essentially me—sound better, less devastating, or more professional than they were. It takes effort to do this when your body and brain is used to preventing you from doing these very things. It’s very liberating.

And, as my friend Kim told me, it’s also empowering. I can be authentic and the world doesn’t end. People still like me. I can be honest, and my tribe (writers) will support me.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts about this trip, the experience is still changing me. I’m a creature of habit and change is slow to come.

It was bucket-listy

When I started to attend conferences, conventions, and workshops, I started to set goals. Attend  Ad Astra. Check. I’ve now attended three. Attend the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Check. Attend When Words Collide. Check. Attend Can-Con. Check. Attend WorldCon. Check.

When I started to listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, I became aware of their writing retreats. Initially, they were held at Mary’s parent’s house. Eventually, though, they became more ambitious and the retreat took place on a cruise ship.

So I put that on my list of writerly goals. The Baltic cruise was special, though. The Writing Excuses cast will likely not be doing something similar in the near future. I could have made it even more bucket-listy by attending the German castle tour that followed the cruise, but I had to draw my financial line somewhere.

Still, to attend a writing retreat on a cruise ship, in Europe, and to be able to see some of the world in addition to developing my skill as a writer? As they say on the credit card commercial, that was priceless. It was the perfect storm of opportunity.

Travel and experience are critical parts of becoming a better writer. You have to push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, to make a breakthrough.

Ask and you shall receive

I left on my trip with a couple of personal goals in mind aside from travelling Europe and participating in the cruise.

Again, as I’ve mentioned previously, I have been having increasing difficulty with creative burnout. I wanted to see if I could get some practical advice and solid strategies for identifying and addressing the underlying reasons for this.

K. Tempest Bradford and Emma Newman were particularly helpful in this respect. The path they’ve lit the way to is one I’m still walking. I’ll have to devote another blog to this in the future, once I’ve sorted more of it out.

For now, I’m easing up on the writerly goal setting. I’m making room for other entertainment, down time, and self-care. I’m not so obsessed with heeding the siren song of production (moar!). I’m working on understanding that what I can get done is enough, that I am enough, and that reminding myself of the reasons I chose to write in the first place (love!) take precedence over external validation.

The other thing I was looking for was something that I’ve been trying for a couple of years to get in place, a mentor, editor, or some other form of support to help me get to the next level, so to speak, in my writing. I’ve tried to get a situation in place, but often personalities, interests, or skill sets have not meshed.

I’ve also been a part of many informal writing groups in real life as well as on line over the years. Again, personal goals, interests, and skill sets have not meshed. Or the methodology has been, in my opinion, flawed. Focusing on the first X pages or chapters doesn’t result in appropriate feedback, and feeding chapters, or sections, to readers over months or years isn’t necessarily productive either. Neither approach allows the reader or critique partner to get a feeling for the whole story, which I think is critical to feedback that results in improvement.

By the end of the cruise, I’d expressed interest in a full-novel critique group. Over the course of WorldCon, connections were made and things were firmed up. Starting in January of 2018, there’s a group of us that are going to give it a shot. I have hope and expectations, but not so many, nor so high, that they will be easily disappointed 🙂

One thing that I wasn’t expecting to receive was the excellent advice of Thomas Olde Heuvelt on how to develop and maintain a creative life plan. I’ve been setting writerly goals for years, but they’ve been primarily one-dimensional and focused on production.

Thomas’s advice to let the over-the-top, blue-sky, dreamy goals inform your overall writing goals and to include holistic life goals, like health—physical and mental—and financial, in the plan helped me to realize how much wellbeing I’ve been leaving out of my goals in recent years. He also recommended having a five year plan in place, subject to change (life does have a habit of intervening).

My European adventure was truly a life-changing experience, in many ways.

I’ll have to let you know how everything works out, but as many of my takeaways were things I’m going to be implementing over time, the results may be a while in coming.

Next week, I’ll be devoting some time to Kim’s launch of Some Other Sky and my presentation for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on Fantasy (yes, the topic is wide open—it’s going to be fun). After that, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo and taking a month-long blogging break, except for the Thoughty Thursday coming out on November 2nd.

I’ll catch everyone up in December with another bonanza October/November next chapter update. There are also going to be some writerly events coming up in November, including WordStock Sudbury and a possible Gail Anderson-Dargatz workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.

There will be more writerly goodness coming up.

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

Playing tourist in Finland, part 2

My European adventure resumes on the morning of August 8, 2017.

After breakfast, I started my tour of Helsinki at Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art. Though I will attempt to describe the exhibit, the installations must be seen to be appreciated. I will say this, though: my mind was blown.

kiasma

The theme of the exhibit was how social media is changing what it means to be human. There was one installation which included poetry generated and read by a neural network. There were videos documenting the lives of fictitious social media celebrities, stories detailing the impact of social media on identity, physical installations of monitors and wiring which spoke to how our perception of the world is affected by social media and how computer waste pollutes the environment and endangers workers who sort and extract precious elements from hard drives and other computer parts.

I emerged from Kiasma in a kind of daze to be confronted by a peaceful and small demonstration by young refugees who didn’t want to be deported.

I had been told that the Hop-on, hop-off bus tour stopped at Kiasma. It was on the map the desk staff at the hotel had given me. I couldn’t find a sign anywhere near the museum that would indicate a stop, though. I waited, thinking that I could flag down the bus when it did stop, if it was anywhere near.

The driver of the first bus I caught up with informed me that there were two hop-on, hop-off bus tour companies and that my ticket was for the other one. He directed me to the proper stop, and I crossed Mannerheimintie to wait again.

I was understandably confused (and not a little frustrated) when, upon boarding the second bus, I was again told that my pass was for the other company. Once more, I crossed the street and waited.

Thankfully, the third driver accepted my pass and gave me the proper map and a set of headphones.

 

By this time, it was again after noon and having caught the bus near the end of its route, it wasn’t long before we passed Stockman’s (the Finnish equivalent of Macy’s or The Bay), the Esplanade (a lovely park and Market Square leading to the waterfront), and stopped at Senate Square. The next tour would depart in 20 minutes.

I took advantage of the stop to take a few pictures and try to find a public bathroom.

Another toilet story for you 🙂 Most public bathrooms in Helsinki are pay per use. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right change to access the one I found. I didn’t have the time to have a meal and use a restaurant bathroom, and so I scouted around until I found what looked to be a free public bathroom.

Let’s just say that in the future, I determined to have two and five Euro coins on me at all times. Enough said.

FerrisFlyTour

The two and a half hour hop-on, hop-off bus tour took us past the Uspenski Cathedral, ferris wheel, heli-port for flying tours, and the Market Square (again) and then down the peninsula. We passed the Olympia Terminal, Mannerheim Museum, Kaivopuisto Park, and through the Eira neighbourhood, featuring homes with Jugend, or Art Nouveau, architecture.

We then made a detour down to both cruise ship terminals to drop off passengers. Continuing the tour, we passed the flea market, the Tennis Palace, and the Natural History Museum on our way to the Rock Church, so named not only because it is made entirely of bedrock, but also because of the concerts that take place there due to the awesome acoustics the Rock Church affords.

We zipped on past the Sibelius Monument, the Tram Museum, Olympic Stadium, the Botanic Garden, and Linnanmäki Amusement Park and Sea Life Helsinki, before swinging by Töölö Bay, the National Opera House, Finlandia Hall, the National Museum, and the Parliament building (under construction) until we once more arrived at the Kiasma stop.

While I got to see all of these landmarks, I didn’t feel that I’d have time to hop off the bus and see anything, as the tours stopped running at 4 pm and I didn’t want to get stranded. I stayed on the bus until we once more reached the Esplanade, where I got off, had a stroll, and booked a discount ticket (thanks to the bus tour) for the boat tour of the archipelago for 4 pm.

I had time to grab a late lunch, see the inside of the Uspenski Cathedral, and shop for more souvenirs at the Market Square before the boat left the dock.

The boat tour was great. I sat on the upper level (and got a sun burn) so I could take pictures of all the things. We went most of the way around Suomenlinna, the sea fortress, which is actually five islands connected by bridges. It had everything, including its own church.

Suomenlinna guards the Gulf of Finland and Helsinki. The sea fortress was built because of all the naval warfare in the area. The main channel through the area was even protected by huge chains which would be used to prevent ships from passing (like Game of Thrones and Vikings).

paddleboarders

Paddle boarders–look, ma, no life jackets (!)

We cruised by islands used for recreation (camping and hiking), public beaches, summer homes, and many year-round residences. There were lots of sail boats, cruisers, and even a sea plane, which again reminded me of home. There’s at least one resident on Lake Nepahwin that has one 🙂 They fly right over our house when they take off.

zoo

The animals were camera shy.

Before we returned to the dock, we passed Korkeasaari, the Helsinki zoo. It’s on its own island and is the most northern zoo in Europe.

After the boat tour, I walked back to my hotel by way of the Esplanade, where I caught the end of what I think was a koto concert. There were two performers plucking large, solid-bodied harps. It was lovely, regardless.

When I got back to the Presidentti, I decided to try their “pop-up restaurant.” In the summer months, they offer an evening meal. It was quite good, though not as drool-worthy as Kaarna.

Overall, my two days touring around were just enough for me to get a taste of Finland, and to make me want to return in the future.

Wednesday would be the start of WorldCon, and that I’ll save until my next instalment, after next weekend’s next chapter update.

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

Playing tourist in Finland, part 1

Before I get into my continuing European adventure, I have a more recent misadventure to relate.

Last Monday, when I returned from work and turned on my computer, I was greeted with a message: hard drive failure imminent!

I consulted Phil, and we proceeded to start up. And the computer promptly shut itself down.  So, though he’d had a full day of techie work, my man went out to get me a new computer (he considered a hard drive, but the transferring the data might have taken longer than the existing drive had remaining).

I managed to complete an emergency backup of my recent documents and pictures without another random shutdown and I had my full backup from earlier in the month. Hint: back up your stuff people—it saved my Canadian bacon!

I was mostly functional by Tuesday evening, but with a new computer, there was all kind of update hell to get through. An hour and a bit of HP updates Wednesday, followed by another couple of hours of Windows updates on Thursday, and then uninstalling the crap I didn’t want, like McAfee.

I only sorted iTunes out as of Saturday and the fix isn’t perfect. I have to do a proper export and backup of my music library once I have it completely restored. Apparently saving the iTunes folder isn’t enough.

Needless to say, I’m a bit behind. Hence the late “weekend” post.


And now, Back to Kiel, Germany.

Sunday, August 6th was a casual day. All I had to do was take a shuttle bus to the airport in Hamburg and catch my flight to Helsinki, via Stockholm, at 2 pm.

My roommate for the night in Kiel had to leave at ridiculous o’clock to catch her train. She was among a number of cruisers who were taking the German castle tour with Mary Robinette Kowal for the two days between the cruise and WorldCon.

I had other plans.

I had made my travel arrangements for this leg of the trip through the Canadian Auto Association. The flight, rental car, and bus tour of Helsinki. Any Canadian travellers with a CAA membership? They’re awesome. And they’ll help you wherever you’re headed.

After a leisurely breakfast, I broke my last large Euro bill so that I’d have the proper amount to pay the shuttle bus to Hamburg airport. I caught the bus at 11 and arrived in more than enough time to get my boarding pass and … yes, queue up for the flight.

The flight itself was fine. Unfortunately, the continuing cruise crud made the journey excruciating. My ears were too clogged to pop properly and none of the tricks—chewing gum, yawning, nose blowing, holding your nose and blowing—worked.

HelloHelsinki

But I landed safely and the greatest part of the pain was relieved. Fun fact: they play bird song in the Helsinki airport bathrooms.

MyHotel

Outside, I grabbed one of the waiting taxis and asked to be taken to the Sokkos Presidentti. This is the hotel from the outside, and directly across the street was a Zoological Institute with these two (yes, those are giraffes) having tea on the upper balcony and this one moose standing guard below. I felt at home already.

I checked in and asked the desk staff about finding the rental car place the next day, and about finding the bus tour the day after. In the elevator, I saw that the floors were all named. I was on the eighth, Tranquility, but I could have been on Sisu, or The Fairytale Forest (!)

hotelfloors

My room was more rustic than tranquil, but I’d made it to Helsinki and wanted to rest up for my next two days of adventures.

In the morning, I grabbed my usual European breakfast, bacon, eggs, muesli, and fruit, with coffee and juice. It sounds like a lot, but I was feeding my cold and needed energy for the day ahead. That day was the day I was going to find Marttila, Finland!

An old railway becomes a pedestrian (and bicycle) underpass. Commissioned graffiti. And that green? Geraniums. Smells peppery and awesome in the morning, or after rain.

Despite the directions of the desk staff, it took me over an hour to find the car rental place. When I checked in, I confessed my doubts that I would be able to competently navigate out of and back into the city.

Without a pause, the lady at the counter rebooked me for the airport location and advised me which train to take to get there. The people at the train station were very helpful, too.

This first journey out to the airport, another traveller sat across from me and shared her adventures. She was an American and I have to confess that I don’t remember her name. I’m horrible at remembering names. She’d been laid off with severance the year before, and decided to see the world.

At the airport, I found the car rental counter and got the keys to my car, actually a crossover. I can’t remember the makes or models of cars, either. But it was white and clean, and comfortable. I spent a few minutes chatting with the two young men there. I’d Googled the directions, but wanted a back up.

They gave me a map and marked out my route, and I was off. Sort of. European vehicles, even automatic ones, are sufficiently different from North American ones that it took me a few minutes to figure out that I’d even turned the car on. They’re all hybrids.

And the stick shift is different, too. There’s no park. And the gears are in the opposite order to NA cars. But after a little trial and error, I had it down and pulled out of the airport and onto the highway (!)

Once on the highway, I relaxed. Driving soothes me. And once out of the city, the landscape reminded me so much of northeastern Ontario, I could have been driving on the 400 North. Except for the tunnels.

There were a lot of rock cuts where the granite had been blasted away, but, I guess there were criteria. If the rock was so high for so long, they’d tunnel through rather than blast. So there were seven or so tunnels and at least one of them was several kilometres long. Call me a troglodyte. It was amazing.

MadeItToMarttila

I turned off the main highway onto smaller and smaller roads and, eventually, I found Marttila. The land around the town was all farmland. It reminded me more of some of the towns on Manitoulin Island. I saw what might have been a school, or a library, a grocery store, where I stopped to pick up some snacks for the road and ask if there was a place to eat and maybe a restroom I could use … ?

More wandering around and I found the little lunch place where I had a Panini and coffee. I tried to explain what I was doing there to the girl behind the counter. I’m sure she thought I was crazy.

I’m sure there was more to see, but I did want to get back to Helsinki for supper, so I reversed my search on GoogleMaps and navigated back to the airport. The train ride back was uneventful and I talked to the desk staff again to get a recommendation for supper.

She sent me to Kaarna.

KaarnaLounge

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything more delicious than reindeer sirloin. I’m drooling just remembering it. And Kaarna paired all of their entrees with tasty bevies. The Tin Soldier cider they recommended enhanced the flavours perfectly.

ReindeerSirloin

And that’s where I’ll leave you for this instalment of the journey.

I really thought I’d pack more into this post, but there you have it.

Next weekend—and it should be on the weekend, this time—I’ll cover my tour of Helsinki. Then, it will be October, and time for my next chapter update. I’ll resume with my WorldCon experience the weekend after that.

So stay tuned, there’s more to come!

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

Muse-Inks: Weird mood stuff

So here’s the (first) thing: I’m freaking out inside (about my upcoming trip), but I’m trying not to freak out. I’m so excited I can barely stand it, but … if I let either of those two particular cats out of their respective bags, I won’t be able to function.

And I have to function. I have to be able to work. I have to be able to write. I have to be able to do normal, day to day stuff like laundry. And I have to be able to organize my shit and pack for the trip. Which, of course, loops me back around to freaking out.

Can I tell you that all this restraint is exhausting (and not have y’all think that I’m a whiny baby)?

Anxiety is real.

I may appear calm. I may speak quietly. I may smile.

Meanwhile, my heart’s beating a hundred miles an hour, I feel like I’m having hot flashes (and I’m of the age when some of them may be legitimate), I’m dizzy and feel like I might faint, and sometimes my extremities go numb. All of these reactions are the result of adrenalin release. Though I’m not actually experiencing anything that justifies fight or flight, my anxiety triggers the hormone cascade.

It also messes up healthy sleep, which means I’m perpetually tired.

Most of my effort centres on remaining clam. If I can prevent the cascade from happening in the first place, I’m good. So at the day job, I’m laser-focused until breaks and lunch and then I dive into one of the several novels I have on the go and I immerse myself in words.

I avoid talking about the trip, because that, in itself, can be a trigger. I can’t be rude, though, and once the topic comes up, I try to focus on the practical, the logical, the real. I’m not always successful. And once my anxiety kicks up, I can only ride it out, go for a walk to burn off some of the nervous energy, or focus on my breathing until my hands stop shaking.

An anxiety attack passes. That doesn’t mean it’s not hell while it lasts.

So, yeah. That’s the first weird mood thing going on.

The second is introspective weirdness.

I’ve written before that I used to dream vividly when I was young. I had nightmares and night terrors, somnambulism, and somniloquy (talking in your sleep). I’ve had out of body experiences, near death experiences, and other experiences of the universe that would be considered uncanny.

I’ve delved into meditation of various stripes, wicca, and European shamanism.

From my mid-twenties into my mid-thirties, I was what I would call a seeker.

After all the reading and the research and the exploration, I ended up settling on the uncertain ground of the agnostic. My experience of the universe defied definition. I didn’t want to force-fit it into a category. I let it be what it is, tell me what it wanted to, and I’d respond accordingly.

The problem is, as I get older, I’ve heard, or felt, those universal nudges less and less. And I don’t know what the cause is.

Have I, like Susan Pevensie, outgrown my sense of wonder? Recent events have led me to believe that this is not the case. Am I close enough to where I need to be that I don’t need those universal nudges anymore? Possibly, but why do I feel so … lost, then? Have I shut down my intuitive side? Again, it’s possible, but how can I tell?

I’ve been working on the assumption that all of the uncanny stuff has channelled itself into my creativity. This part of my life continues to blossom, but it’s a flower in a private conservatory. What’s the point if no one gets to see it?

I guess that’s what everything comes down to. I know what it is I need to do, and I do it. I write. I study craft and literature and story of all kinds. My life revolves around that central principle, sometimes to an unhealthy extent.

To date, however, I haven’t been able to produce a lot of objective evidence of the work that I’ve done.

I know that the writing is its own intrinsic reward. I will still be writing for the rest of my life, regardless of what does, or does not happen. I just keep missing, or messing up, opportunities to get my words out there, or my efforts proceed without significant results.

They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The universe seems to be out of lessons. I need to find another way forward.

Maybe my big Baltic adventure will provide some answers.

In the meantime, I’m going to make the effort to remain open, to recognize a universal nudge if I get one, and to act on it accordingly.

There you have it: I suffer from mental illness (depression and anxiety), and I have an unorthodox view of the universe. Maybe one leads to the other? Or coaxes it along? Who’s to know? Unless the universe is interested in sharing … ?

I shall leave you on that ambiguous note.

This is my last weekend post until after Helsinki WorldCon.

I don’t know how active I’ll be on social media, though I’m sure I’ll be posting a scad of photos 🙂

As ever, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

Muse-inks