Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Mar 24-30, 2019

Here’s your first batch of inspiration, research, and learning links for April.

Beth Gardiner reveals how the car industry hid the truth about diesel emissions. The Guardian

Michael Greshko: how a change in out diets may have altered the way we speak. National Geographic

SciShow News covers the cannonball pulsar and antibacterial metal.

 

Emily Underwood is listening to ketamine. Knowable

Eda Yu says, social media is ruining our memories. Vice

More SciShow News: neurogenesis may continue into your 80s and the mechanism of hallucinations.

 

Doug Bock Clark tells the harrowing tale of the underground railroad of North Korea. GQ

Douglas Preston reports on Robert DePalma’s discovery of evidence for the event that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The New Yorker

This is the kind of behaviour we have to put up with in Torvi:

 

I hope at least one of these offerings got your mental corn popping, by which I mean, got those creative ideas ping-ponging around in your head.

This weekend, I’ll be writing up my next chapter update for March.

Until then, my friends, be well 🙂

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Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Feb 3-9, 2019

Another fair number of videos in this week’s gathering of thoughty. I hope it gets your mental corn popping!

Troy Farah steps inside the push to legalize magic mushrooms to treat depression and PTSD. Wired

Sarita Robinson examines the profound effects isolation has on the human mind and body. Science Alert

Veritasium investigates the effects of negative ions. I still like my salt lamps. They’re pretty.

 

Hayden Field of Entrepreneur produced a three-part video series about mental health and entrepreneurship featuring Gabriela Pereira and Michael Phelps (among others). Here’s part 1, part 2, and part 3.

SciShow reveals the real reason it’s so hard to lose weight. This is why I don’t try to lose weight by dieting. I still experience difficulties, but I try not to change my eating behaviours as a way of overcoming a plateau.

 

Matt Richtel shows you how to be creative. The New York Times

Ephrat Livni shares Thich Nhat Hanh’s tips for mindful walking—without looking like a weirdo. Quartz

It’s Okay to be Smart – How can we tell if there’s life on other planets? We look at Earth.

 

SciShow Space looks at the evidence for a new theory about how the universe will end: the big rip.

 

Catherine Zuckerman reveals the hidden world of microscopic life through Jannicke Wiik-Nielsen’s extraordinary photography. ‘Cause microscopy is cool. National Geographic

Phil and I have decided that Torvi has a lot of husky in her … (i.e., T exhibits a lot of these behaviours.)

 

Thanks for stopping by for a little edutainment!

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

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The next chapter: January 2019 update

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

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

January in review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to February

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck 😉

What I’ve been Reading and Watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I haven’t watched any movies yet in 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a few pics of Torvi.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: December 2018 update and year-end review

Let’s just get right into it with what happened in December.

My goals had been to continue drafting Tamisashki at the rate of about 500 words a day, to complete and submit my next DIY MFA column, to resume blogging, and complete a couple of critiques for my group.

Then, life intervened.

I slipped on the ice and fell on my right knee while walking Torvi. It was my third fall on that knee since August and the repeated trauma finally caught up with me. The first night, though I didn’t feel much pain, the knee swelled up so much that I couldn’t bend the joint or bear weight on it. When I looked at it, jest because it was feeling weird, it looked like the alien from Alien was trying to break out of my kneecap.

So, the next day I spent at the clinic, getting x-rays, icing and elevating, and plying the injury with anti-inflammatories.

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Though Phil “officially” retired Nov 30th, he returned to work to install a new piece of software. They haven’t managed to hire his replacement yet and he knew it was coming, but it was only supposed to be for Dec 11th and 12th. It turned out that he was working right through to Dec 28th. And, when he came home from work on the 20th, he had an abscess in one of his teeth.

Two appointments with his dentist on the 21st and the 31st fixed him up, but when the dentist’s insurance specialist submitted his claim, they were informed that his coverage had ceased. Though Phil retired, he’s on a salary continuance with access to his benefits right through to March 31st of 2019. So, he had to sort that out, too.

Turns out that was just a computer glitch (ironically). The insurance company had, in fact, processed the claims, but the system was erroneously sending out notifications, both through its online interface and by email/snail mail, that the claims had been refused.

Phil now has written confirmation that the claims have been processed and paid.

Between all that, I didn’t get as much as I’d hoped done. While I submitted and edited my column on time and completed my critiques, I only 67% of my writing goal on Tamisashki. Still, 10,346 words is nothing to sneeze at.

Also, toward the end of the month, and year, I decided to devote some time to planning out my 2019 writing year. More on that in a bit.

It took me a while to get back on track with curation after my NaNoWriMo break. So, I ended up being a bit short on my writing goal for the blog at 1,994 of 2,600 words, or 77%.

My DIY MFA Column came in at 1,047 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 105%.

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One thing I discovered, during my convalescence from my fall, was that standing really does improve my productivity. When I sit, whether at work or at home, when I write, I tend to lose track of my posture when I sit. I get so focused, regardless of what I do, that I tend to hunch over or slouch. My back, neck, and shoulders hurt more. It affects my breathing and I tend to feel more fatigued.

I’m happy to say that, with my doctor’s approval, I’m back to standing. I’ll let you know whether I notice any improvement. This is an anecdotal, personal experiment, of sorts, but it is supporting my preference for standing while working.

The holidays were quiet and understated. We did not exchange gifts. My sister-in-law hosted Christmas dinner at her place. Phil and I took Torvi out early in the day so that we could hit a local dog park with Buster.

We had a fabulous meal and played a few games of Sequence before returning home, with containers full of leftovers, around ten in the evening.

I took a picture of lovely sun dogs on the last weekend of December.

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And that was that.

2018 was a hard year. I had to work through my burnout and get to the bottom of it, which took me a lot longer than I expected. I thought, with my experiences in 2017, I’d have been able to work through the worst of it by the end of that year. Because Phil’s health problems and then his work problems were a big part of the reasons why I was burned out in the first place, I wasn’t able to dig my way out until he was able to dig himself out.

Accordingly, my plans for 2018 were all shot to hell. I didn’t finish drafting Playing with Fire until September. That was my year.

On PwF, I wrote 55,867 words of my 55,000-word goal, or 102%.

For Tamisashki, I wrote 47,174 words, or 72% of my 65,500-word goal.

I wrote about nine columns for DIY MFA, or 12,744 words of my 9,000-word goal (142%). Yeah. I tend to write long. Gotta work on that.

On the blog, I wrote 43,823 words of my 42,000-word goal, or 104%.

And I compiled six newsletters for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild until I resigned from those duties, writing 31,008 words of my 24,000-word goal, or 129%.

Finally, I “revised” Marushka for the critique group, managing 77,021 words of my 80,000-word goal, or 96%.

Interestingly, I managed 98% on my writing goal and 96% on my revision goal for the year.

 

 

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Not bad at all.

In 2019, I’m going to be continuing to draft Tamisashki. I figure that will take me to the end of April. Then I’m going to take two months to read the whole series, remap all the novels, and organize my series bible. With this final novel, though I’m not yet half way through it, I’ve had a number of ideas that reshape the world. I’m glad I decided to finish the series before getting into heavy revisions. The whole will be more cohesive and the story much improved as a result.

While I read and sort things out with the series, I’m going to prepare a draft of Reality Bomb for the critique group to work on.

After the reading and remapping, I’m going to get into those heavy revisions on the Ascension series. I hope to make it through the first three novels by September before I have to begin work on my outline for my 2019 NaNo project in October.

I’ve decided to begin finishing off the rest of the series I’ve started. I’m going back to Mageblood, my YA urban fantasy. It’s definitely going to be a duology.

That will fill up my November and December for 2019.

In addition to blogging and continuing my columns for DIY MFA, I’m trying two experiments this year.

First, I’m going to write an original short story every month and submit them to paying markets. I have ideas for four of them brainstormed and I’m working on one as we speak. So far, so good.

What do I hope to gain through this experiment? The knowledge that I can write short fiction and improve sufficiently to get some more of my work out there in the world.

The second experiment is one that I’ve talked about for a number of years, but never committed to. I’m going to work on a poetry collection and two collections of short fiction (one speculative and one non-speculative), all of which I’m going to self-publish in ebook format only. For now. If they generate enough interest, I might make them publish-on-demand (PoD) in the future.

The idea behind this is that I want to have something representative of my body of work to date. Also, even if they’re only ebooks, having some short form collections available will be valuable from a marketing perspective. The more work one has out in the world, the more one’s name is circulated.

Between the new short fiction I produce, and the collections of past work, I see this as another step forward in my platform building. Finally, having my stories edited and published will also give me material with which to start a newsletter. That probably won’t get set up until 2020 but starting the groundwork now will make that project easier in the future.

Although this might all seem very ambitious, I am, at least at the moment, feeling capable of doing it. I may well have to adjust my goals as the year progresses, but I’ve never had a problem doing that in the past.

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A week into 2019, and things are going well.

I’ll keep you updated.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: November 2018 update and #NaNoWriMo 2018 wrap up

Ah, friends. So glad you stopped by 🙂

Yesterday was the last day of NaNoWriMo 2018 and I finished with 36,828 words. It’s basically what I predicted. In one way, it’s a comfort that I know myself so well. In another, it’s disappointing that I can no longer push myself beyond what I know to be my limits.

Well, I could, but here I am on December first, exhausted, as it is. Mind you November also gave me the gift of a time shift courtesy of Daylight Savings and that tends to upset my sleep for a week or two afterward. Losing an hour is worse than gaining one. So, there’s that.

Let’s break down the final week of NaNo, shall we?

Sunday last week, I wrote 1,194 words.

Monday, I managed 1,039.

Tuesday, 1,047.

Wednesday, despite having what ended up being a two-hour recording session (I’ll let you know when the result is available online and you can hear what a total nerd I am in comparison to the composed and brilliant people I get to work with), I wrote 1,069 words 🙂

Thursday was another rough day and I only managed 705 words.

And on Friday, I wrote 1,525 words.

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What that means is that I’m past the first plot point in Tamisashki and heading for the midpoint.

What’s ahead?

I’m going to continue drafting at the much more reasonable pace of 500 words a day. I may write more, particularly on a weekend or day off, but 500/day is my goal pace and if I end up taking a day off here and there, I can definitely afford it 🙂 I’ll probably be drafting into March or April, depending on how things go.

I also have a couple of critiques due, which I’m going to work on in the next week, a DIY MFA team meeting on the 5th, my next column for DIY MFA will be due on the 11th, and I think that will keep me busy for the month.

I’m also going to start my annual planning cycle, set my goals for 2019, and be on the lookout for Jamie Raintree’s 2019 writing and revision planner 😀

Finally, I’m going to shift back into a more normal routine. Curation will pick up again not this coming, but the next week.

In other news, yesterday was also Phil’s last day at his day job. He has to go back to fulfill a couple of key obligations, but he’s now officially retired. Technically, he’s on vacation into the New Year and has some severance that will carry him through until March 31st of 2019. It’s a nice little cushion and will give him the time he needs to decompress and decide what’s next for him.

Torvi is showing every sign of becoming a sweet dog. She still gets inordinately excited when meeting other dogs and people, but she’s calming down. She also still has the irritating habit of getting bity when she has a want and can’t think of another way to express it. And she hasn’t distinguished between good and bad attention yet, but I think she’s beginning to.

Health-wise, I’m quite content, not having had a legitimate period since May. I don’t know whether it’s the ablation, or menopause setting in proper, but it’s wonderful. I’ve settled in at a thirty-pound weight loss since this time last year. I’m almost back to my wedding weight, which is a good place for me to be. While I could stand to lose a little more, I can definitely live with my current size, shape, and general sense of wellbeing.

I’m going to see my doctor this week to check on my blood pressure (I’ve seen signs of elevation, recently—what’s stressful for Phil is also stressful for me; also the uncertainty of not knowing how we’re going to survive after March 31st on half our income—so, yeah), a few new aches and pains, and a particularly irritating keratinaceous growth (AKA, horn) that may need to be removed.

And that’s about it for this month’s update.

Next month will see my end of year wrap-up and I’ll share my 2019 goals.

Until Tipsday fires up again on Dec 11th, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

Torvi tales: an overdue post

Torvi

Phil was mucking around with a graphics program and made this 🙂

Torvi turned one on Sept 26, 2018. That was two weeks ago last Wednesday but, at the time, I didn’t have the brain (AKA the wherewithal) to even make a quick post on Facebook about it.

The day job is a continuing challenge to me. It’s been nothing but continual change—and not small or incremental, either—for the past seven years and I think I reached my limit about two years ago. I’ve been running on fumes ever since.

When the latest round of this-is-where-we’re-heading-whether-you-like-it-or-not hit, I was struggling to keep my head above water and my time at home was devoted to finishing up Playing with Fire and trying to do a decent job of critiquing the work of some new writerly friends.

So, I stopped posting my sunrise/sunset and other pics and kept my head down.

Then, Phil’s retirement became official (read real) with a defined last day of work and package. It imposed almost as many burdens/worries as it alleviated, but the decision is made and can’t be taken back.

We’re in for an uncertain time ahead.

Torvi is, as I mentioned in my next chapter post yesterday, still a handful. At Thanksgiving supper last night, I had to keep her on the leash the whole time. She’s just so excited when people come over, and the people she most wants to meet (read jump all over and attack with love) are the least capable of withstanding the Torvi onslaught. I even took her on an extra-long walk yesterday, hoping to burn off some of her energy, but she’d missed her walk the night before as we were out celebrating a friend’s 50th, so it probably just evened out.

She still has fits of bitey-ness, what Phil and I call the pre-poop and post-poop crazies (one because she’s gotta go and the other because she’s so relieved, all she can think to do it take a tear around the house), puts her front paws up on the kitchen counter, dining room table, desk, or other surface, and grabs whatever’s in reach of her toothy maw, and we have to put her in a controlled down (leashing her, getting her to lie down, and stepping on the leash to keep her there) for most evening meals and some breakfasts. Meal times are when she’s most likely to have a fit of the biteys.

Though I walk her twice a day, I still need to get her out to play fetch or recall until she’s burned out. It’s hard to do when I’m pretty burned out myself.

She’s a work-in-progress. Our other two dogs were a year and a half to two years old before they became calm companions.

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Torvi is not amused.

Without further delay, here are the promised Torvi tales:

The skinned knee

As I mentioned, I walk Torvi twice a day, morning and evening. One evening in early August (yes, that’s how long this tale has been waiting for its telling), we were coming home and the light at the intersections changed before I could get to press the walk signal button.

I figured I could do a gentle jog and we’d cross the road in time. It wasn’t something we hadn’t done many times before. We’d even jogged at both obedience classes. Yes, Torvi gets a little excited when I break into a jog, but she usually stays by my side. I thought nothing of it.

This time, Torvi started gambolling about and gambolled right in front of my feet.

I went down, in the middle of the intersection, skinned my knee pretty bad (like, ten-year-old attempts to learn to skateboard bad), bashed up my shoulder through my jean jacket, and lost my glasses. I was mortified. But I didn’t let go of the leash, thank goodness.

Even though all the lanes were filled with waiting vehicles, I didn’t hear one, “are you okay?” I collected myself, retrieved my glasses, and hobbled to the other side of the street. Only then did I think to be miffed at the lack of concern shown by the drivers.

The capri leggings I was wearing were trashed (though, upon consideration later, I thought I should have turned them into bike shorts) and it took the rest of the month for my knee to heal up.

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Gambolling pup.

The toad

Not long afterward, I was taking Torvi out for her pre-bed time pee, and noticed a dark shape moving over the non-lawn. Torvi noticed it before I did and was on it before I could hold her back.

First, she put her mouth on it, and came up with a strange look on her face, licking and drooling. In retaliation for the icky taste, she pounced on the poor thing, but it had already puffed itself up and looked like nothing so much as a stone.

This was the work of seconds and, by the time I hauled her away and further into the yard to do her business, and then into the house, I realized the dark shape had been an innocent toad. And I wasn’t half sure the dear thing had survived Torvi’s attentions.

I got her inside and gave her a big drink of fresh water to get the toad taste out of her mouth. We went to bed, me still worrying about the toad.

It was gone the next morning, though. I like to think it made it to the shelter of the deck (which is where I think it was heading), though it is possible another animal came around and took advantage of the situation. We have foxes, raccoons, and feral cats in the area, any of which could have done the job.

I still say “hi” to our deck toad, though, whether it’s actually there, or not.

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The pic I took on the 26th–happy belated?

My shoes

We’ve been slowly opening the house to Torvi. Initially, we kept all the doors closed and the gate up at the doorway to the side entrance and basement stairs. I’d open the door to whatever room we were in so that we could keep an eye on her and at night, we’d close her in the bedroom with us.

We started by opening the bedroom door at night, but keeping the others closed. Then, we gradually trusted her to have the run of the upstairs until she tore the already ragged bath mat a few new holes, and now we keep the bathroom door shut for the most part.

We’ve started taking the gate down unless Phil’s eating something in his office downstairs, in which case he generally chases Torvi upstairs and puts up the gate himself.

One evening, though, the gate was down and Torvi had gone downstairs for some daddy-time. She generally settles on the old pillows I put down there for her or brings down a toy to chew on. As the sounds of chewing are nothing unusual, Phil didn’t think anything was wrong. Until he got up for a bio-break, and then I heard the shouting from all the way upstairs in my office.

Torvi had taken one of my shoes downstairs and was happily destroying it.

Now, I have foot issues. I’ve had orthotics for years—and yes, they were in the shoes, but, for whatever reason, she hadn’t touched the one in the shoe she chose to chew on—I’ve had plantar fasciitis, and, most recently, compressed fatty pads on my heels. I’d just this year invested in a really good pair of running shoes that have made all the difference. And now it was $200 down the drain, er, the dog’s gullet.

Though there was some great distress, the shoe was chewed and there wasn’t anything I could do that would un-chew it. So, I took the orthotics out of the ruined shoes, tossed the shoes, popped the orthotics into a cheap old pair of walking shoes, and decided to go shopping at my next opportunity.

By the way, the cheap old walking shoes? They’re going to the charity bin. The shoes are still in good shape, but when I took Torvi for her evening walk in those things, it was like walking on slabs of concrete. Even with the orthotics.

Fast-forward to the next day and I’m looking for the same brand and style of running shoe as the pair Torvi had chewed—Saucony Everun. The store was out of stock. So was the other location, not that I’d have driven across town in the moment to get them. I decided to try another pair of Everuns in a different style and size, and decided they’d work. They were $20 cheaper than the style I’d purchased previous and I counted it a win.

Though I’d told the sales associate my dog-gone tale of woe, I repeated my sorry story to the cashier, who, it turns out, was a dog person who knew my pain. She gave me a further discount on the shoes. That’s customer service 🙂

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We now have matching reflective vests for evening walks.

Here ends this riveting edition of Torvi tales.

Doubtless, there will be more to come.

Be well, be kind, and stay strong until next time!

The next chapter: August 2018 update

Greetings, my writerly peeps!

I won’t say it again. I will not. If you’ve read the last few next chapter updates, you know what I’m resisting writing.

It’s still true, but I think that by this time, it goes without saying.

On to the writing progress report.

AugProgress

Once more, I fell short of my modest 5k writing goal on my current work in progress, Playing with Fire. I did write 3,828 words, or 77% of my goal, but I had some competing priorities that made it both necessary and the best I could do given the circumstances.

One of those priorities was a quick run-through of Marushka, as I broke the monolithic manuscript into chapters for posting online. I’ve just finished this task and will be writing up some further notes for me new critique group. In the process I bumped the word count for the draft up by about a thousand words. Draft 2.5 (‘cause this wasn’t really a true revision in any sense of the word) is now just shy of 78k words and I’m sure I’ll be able to take it into the 80-90k range once I have my critique notes.

So, technically, I revised 65,196 words of my 60k-word goal, or 100%

I also sacrificed some personal reading time to do an initial reading of the draft of another writer in the group. As one does in a critique group 🙂 Critiques were initially due by the end of August, but an extension has been granted. I have the time to so a second reading (at least) and put together some juicy notes.

August saw the recurrence of the due date for my DIY MFA column, which should be out on the 11th. It’s another big one, 1,632 words worth, and 163% of my goal.

Finally, I published 3,235 words on this blog in August, or 116% of my 2,800-word goal.

Overall, it’s been a good month with more hits than misses.

In September, I’ve set myself what I hope to be my final 5,000-word goal on PwF. I shouldn’t need that many words to finish off the draft (yes, I’m that close—so close I can taste it, as my mom would say) but I’ve given myself the “space” in case I need it.

Then, I’m going to organize my novel notes into a true series “bible” and begin outlining the final book in the Ascension series, Tamisashki, for NaNoWriMo 2018.

I’ll get to work on my critique and possibly take on another.

My next DIY MFA due date isn’t until October and so, because this won’t be a writing-heavy month, I’ve decided to take on a couple of learning opportunities, just for shits and giggles.

The first of these is the NaNoWriMo/Wesleyan prep course, offered through Coursera. The cost is nominal, and I get to see what Wesleyan offers.

The second is that I’m formally participating in Rachael Stephen’s Prep-tober this year (are we seeing the theme here?).

Writing is and always has been my happy place and that’s where I’m “spending” my creative energies.

Other aspects of my life are still in strange limbo-land, but there is hope/an ending in sight.

In other news, here are some Torvi pictures:

And my attempts at sunrise/sunset/moon pictures:

I’m no professional and all I’ve used here was the camera in my cell phone, but I thought I captured some lovely moments.

And that’s it for this month’s next chapter update.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: July 2018 update

Greetings, all you writerly people!

I think I’ve said this nearly every month this year but, once again, July was weird. This whole year has been weird.

I have to concede the effects that not only Phil’s health issues last year, but also the issues he’s been experiencing with his employer—not to mention the increasing stress of my day job—continue to have on me. I think these have been some of the chief contributing factors to my protracted burnout. When you have shit going on in other aspects of your life, it inevitably affects your creativity.

And while Phil’s health issues have been addressed and he continues, according to all recent test results, to be healthy, the work-related stresses are not at an end. I find myself struggling. Doubting. Resisting. Self-sabotaging.

As I mentioned previously, Phil’s work issues should be resolved by the end of the year. Unfortunately, my work stresses are just ramping up again. It’s usually the way things happen. One of us is in an upswing while the other is spiralling downward. I’m hoping that the fact that we’ve both been on the downward trend for the last while means that relief is in my future as well.

Once again, July has been hit and miss, but more hit than miss 😉 In other words, I wrote more days than I didn’t. Still, even adjusting my writing goal down for Playing with Fire, I was just shy of it, writing 4,858 words of my 5,000-word goal. That’s 97%.

As I like to say, every word’s a victory.

I wrote 3,454 words on this blog, or 123% of my 2,800-words goal. I had no other writing-related goals in July.

JulyProgress

I attended Ad Astra on July 14th and 15th, though. Because I’d spent so much on my grand adventure last year, I didn’t attend Ad Astra, even though Brandon Sanderson was one of the guests of honour. Normally, Ad Astra is in May. This year, they moved it into July and I think it was a good move.

It felt a bit more understated than in past years, and I decided that, this time, I was going to focus a bit more on networking and chatting up my fellow writers and less on rushing from panel to panel, making all the notes I could.

Last year, at WorldCon, I made the decision not to post my panel notes, but I still made notes, and I still rushed from panel to panel in a vain attempt to cram all the things into my wee skull. This year, I attended panels out of interest and enjoyed them. I didn’t take scads of notes, and I took the time to be social.

I introduced myself to J.M. Landels, one of the people behind Pulp Literature Magazine and Press, which I have been supporting through Kickstarter and other means since its inception. I met up with fellow SFCanada members Joe Mahoney and Douglas Smith. I enjoyed the company of fellow CAA members, Matt Bin and Ness Ricci-Thode, who introduced me to a number of her writing friends from the K-W area, several of whom were also CAA members. And I attended Jane Ann McLachlan’s book launch for The Sorrow Stone, her historical fiction release. There, I won a door prize of some lovely red wine, which has already been consumed 🙂

I also reconnected with Beverly Bambury, publicist to the stars. She actually remembered me before I had a chance to say, “hi.” I also saw a lot more people in passing that I’ve met in the past, like Robert Sawyer.

I started out by attending J.M. Landels’ reading from her novel Allaigna’s Song: Overture. Then, I headed to The Timey-Wimey Stuff with Jen Frankel, James Bambury, Cameron S. Currie, Cathy Hird, Kari Maaren, and Douglas Smith. It was interesting to hear how other authors used time travel in their fiction and how.

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I followed that up with The Business of Writing, with Jen Frankel, Beverly Bambury, Larry Hancock, Matthew Bin, and Jane Ann McLachlan. There was a lot of interesting information in this panel.

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After that, I broke for dinner, where I met up with Matt, Ness, and their friends, and then headed to what was the best panel of this year’s Ad Astra, Writing a Series.

Jen Frankel, Sarah WaterRaven, Justus R. Stone, Thomas Gofton, Kit Daven, and Lesley Livingston kept the room, which was packed to capacity, in stitches the whole time. Their chief collective advice: don’t do it. Apparently, when you get contracted to write a series, publishers generally set very steep deadlines. They don’t want readers to forget about novel one by the time the second is released.

After that was Writing Through Darkness, with Erik Buchanan, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant, and Cameron S. Currie, which was a very helpful panel on writing with mental illness. The panellists shared their strategies for improved mental health.

Then, I capped off the day with Jane Ann’s book launch.

On Sunday, I hung out at the dealer’s room and got myself this tasty pile of books.

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At the end of the month, Gail Anderson-Dargatz delivered a workshop on Writing Through Fear for members (and guests) of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. We discussed the personality traits (read neuroses) and fears that most writers share, how these reveal themselves through the creative work, and how to address any problems that may arise because of them.

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It was, overall, a great month, despite my ongoing difficulties.

Torvi graduated from intermediate obedience, and is getting closer, all the time, to being a good dog.

What’s ahead for me?

I’m now (finally) within striking distance of the end of PwF (yay!). Once I finish with that draft, I’m going to organize my now-considerable notes (think series bible) before I begin another revision of Initiate of Stone and then I’ll be deep in outlining mode for the fifth and final book in the series, Tamisashki, for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I’d hoped to be able to get through revisions on the whole series, but that’s not going to happen. Next year. After I finish up with Tamisashki.

The exciting news I have for you this month is that I’ve found another critique group. It’s early days yet, and I have to spend some time getting my submission together, posting up my information on the various forums, and diving into another member’s posted draft. But I have a good feeling about this one. I think it’s going to help me break through some of my resistance and get back on track.

There was an admission process. These authors take their work seriously. Other than that, I’m not going to say much about it.

That’s all the writerly news I have to share with you this month.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: June 2018 update

Hello all you writerly people!

I know I’ve said this often in recent months, but this past month has been a weird one.

It started off well, but in the first full week of June, I was asked to deliver training with just one week to prep in and amongst my other duties. We didn’t even have a proper participant list until the Thursday before the class was to start. At least no one had to travel.

So, a week of frantic prep and two weeks of training followed by five weeks of post-training monitoring (PTM). Yeah, I’m going to be busy through to August.

I’ve had another life lesson confirmed for me. I no longer have to deliver training away from home to feel exhausted by the activity. Introvert me has to be on all the time in front of a class. It really leaves me drained at the end of the day with little to nothing left for my creative pursuits. And what little energy I have is still focused on Torvi, who, while she is showing steady improvement as she grows older, is still a handful. More on the T sitch, later.

On Wednesday of the second week of training, our group was inducted into a new PTM pilot project. The first class and group of monitors was chosen to be the pilot in advance of that class. The participants, their team leaders, and the trainers and monitors were all provided with training and information prior to the class. In other words, they were well-prepared.

Following the training, we were scrambling to mark the final tests, create course summary reports, and my co-facilitator was the lead monitor for the transition week, essentially dedicated advice and guidance for the whole class of fifteen. Plus, we both had our own agents (three each) to take care of.

I won’t get into the details, or this will be a very long, ranty post. Needless to say, it was madness.

JuneProgress

Given the crazy, I think I did pretty good. I wrote more days than not, and I wrote less than I would have liked, but I wrote, and that was the biggest part of the battle. I only wrote 6,635 words of my 10K goal, or 66%.

This means that it will be one more month drafting Playing with Fire. I should, however, finish the draft by the end of July.

I wrote 3,363 words on this blog, or 129% of my 2,600-word goal, got my DIY MFA column in early at a honkin’ 2,141 words, or 241%, and assembled my last Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 4,072 words, or 102% of goal.

In all, I wrote 16,213 words in June, or 92% of my monthly writing goal. Not too shabby 🙂

I did nothing in terms of creative events this month, but I did have supper with a good friend the other night. We haven’t seen each other in forever and it was lovely to catch up.

This coming month, however, I’ll have a couple of events to share. I’ll be heading down to Ad Astra next weekend, and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild will be holding a workshop with Gail Anderson-Dargatz on the 28th.

I may have another critique group in the making. I’ll find out more tomorrow and be sure to fill you in when I compose next month’s update.

In other news …

Phil continues to trudge toward sanity at work. It’s still rough, but they’ve hired someone who’ll be able to ease some of Phil’s burden and who’ll be starting mid-month. There will be some training before the new hire is going to be able to take some of the workload off Phil’s shoulders, but it’s another small win.

Health-wise, I’m pretty much sorted. My doctor put me through a battery of blood screenings, and other tests, and all of the results came back showing that I’m in good health. The one issue I’d wanted to investigate turns out just to be age-related and manageable without medication. Oh, and I have fibroids, which I didn’t have a few months ago, but I haven’t experienced any problems as a result of them. Funny, I don’t feel old enough to have these problems …

And … five months after the ablation, I had my first non-period. It was essentially just prolonged spotting. I’m cautiously optimistic.

We have one class left in Torvi’s intermediate obedience. As I said above, she’s improving, but she’s still a handful. One bit of progress is that I was able to take her across town in the car—without meds (!) I think we’ll be able to stop using them soonish. She may never enjoy the car, and she’ll probably drool every time we take a ride, but she’s not really distressed, and she hasn’t thrown up.

I took her to get her nails trimmed and she was snappy with the groomer. They may have to muzzle her in the future 😦

Feisty pup is feisty.

Tomorrow, I’m going to introduce her to a beach and see if she’ll swim. If, as I suspect, she’s got a good bit of husky in her, she may not do more than wade in and get her belly wet. I’ll be instagramming the pics.

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: May 2018 update

Hello, all you writerly people!

It’s time for my next chapter update for May 2018.

Looks like I’m finding my stride. Things were going so well with the drafting of Playing with Fire, that I actually decided to take a purposeful break to read the draft to date. The problem I was encountering is that it’s taken me so long, relatively speaking, to draft the darned thing that I started to forget what I’d written way back in November (or December, January, February, March, or April!).

It’s been niggling at me for a while, and sometimes, I’d just go back to the chapter I suspected contained the bit I was looking to be refreshed on, but that got cumbersome, particularly since, once there, I’d start tweaking …

K.M. Weiland has been mentioning how she does a periodic re-read of her WIP, and I decided to give it a try. It was a nice rest, and a great way to tighten some of my plot threads, especially since I didn’t have to time to do much of an outline for this novel before I started drafting.

MayProgress

Even with the break, about nine days, I still managed to surpass my 7,500-word writing goal. I wrote 8,302 words, or 111%.

I’m enjoying the break from weekend blogging as well, and though I adjusted my blogging goal to 3,000 words, even with just the curation posts going up, I managed to write 3,940 words on the blog, or 131% of my goal.

I met my DIY MFA deadline with a long column of 1,739 words, or 174% of my goal, and aggregated my penultimate Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 6,777 words, or 169% of that goal.

So, it’s been a good month, writing-wise.

The burnout thing

I promised to tell you how the whole burnout thing was going.

Well, after a lot of soul-searching, pondering, and some all-out navel-gazing, I’ve finally figured out why I’ve suffered such a protracted burnout in the past year. And, let’s be clear, I’ve been struggling since at least the beginning of 2017. It might, in fact, be longer than that.

Part of it is historical. It’s my writing wound, the lie I believe about myself as a creative person and about my work. If you’re ever curious and you have the time, you can read the posts in the category, My History as a So-called Writer. That will give you the low-down.

The short version is that my creative life has been full of threshold guardians (in hero’s journey terms), who’ve blocked me, stunted my growth, and betrayed me in various fashions. When I finally found my way back to a consistent writing practice in 2007, I thought I’d conquered those demons. In that version of victory, all the naysayers were wrong, and I was just going to do what I wanted. Screw them.

That, it turns out, was only half the battle. It’s the bitter legacy those experiences left me with that make me innately distrustful of handing my work off to anyone else, whether a friend, beta reader, editor, or … anyone. I don’t believe that the advice I receive is in the story’s best interest. Or mine. I always see it in terms of a personal attack, though unconsciously. I’m aware of it now but, in the moment, I often slip back into old ways of thinking.

While I’ve had some writing success, that lie has never left me. It’s made finding a critique group difficult. It makes working with editors a bit fraught. It also leaves me thinking that I’m not, at heart, a good writer (passable good, not even great) and that people are just humouring me. It’s not merely imposter syndrome. It’s a deep distrust of anyone else’s opinion of my work.

There’s been a lot of self-sabotage involved, mostly unconscious.

This is what I’m working to overcome now. It’s a process. It’s going to take time.

The next piece of the puzzle is that, in January of 2016, after decades of what we thought was good health, Phil went to the clinic thinking he might have shingles, and came home (well, there was some bloodwork in there) with multiple diagnoses: type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and possibly shingles.

He had no rash, though. Several months passed and the doctor said, fibromyalgia. Several more months passed, and they finally settled on widespread diabetic neuropathy. Until the doctor found the right combination of meds, there were some horrible times, but it all worked out. Eventually.

Two of the meds Phil was on were Lyrica (an antidepressant found to be effective for nerve pain) and Cymbalta (an anticonvulsant also found to be effective for nerve pain). Aside from managing his pain and elevating his mood (it has often been said of my husband that the inside of his skull is painted black), both medications increased the amount of melatonin in his system.

Phil, who had always been a night owl and considered sleep to be the enemy, was now getting the best sleep of his life. Things went well for a while.

Then, because he got a promotion that required occasional travel, Phil decided to stop both the Lyrica and Cymbalta. He couldn’t risk falling asleep at the wheel. Combine this with a progressively complex and worsening situation at his employer (ongoing) and things quickly went from bad to worse.

The health problems shook me, probably more than I’d care to admit. It was after Phil’s health situation resolved that I started to feel the real effects of the burnout.

But it was the work situation that broke the peace of our household. I was used to living with Mr. Grumpy Pants, but his problems at work followed him home and made everything more difficult. It was about that time that we brought Torvi home. The extra stress of bringing up puppy did not help.

Also in the mix was my great adventure of last year. Though Phil encouraged me to go, I felt horribly guilty about the expense. I’ll just be paying off the last of that debt this month.

Add to all that my own health problems. Though less life-threatening than Phil’s, they were affecting my quality of life. Now that most of them have been addressed, I’m in a much better place.

But every time I tried to dig myself out of the hole, emotionally speaking, in the last couple of years something popped up and dragged me back down. I’ve suffered several episodes of depression, panic attacks, and poor quality of sleep (resulting from the other two).

Most of these issues are resolving. I’ve had my ablation and other health issues are being investigated. I’ve lost about 25 pounds. I’ve gotten back to my regular writing practice and it’s feeling good. Torvi, at eight months and in her second obedience class, is becoming a good dog but, that too is a process.

Really, it’s just Phil’s work situation that’s the continuing problem but, though there’s still no end in sight, slow progress is being made. There’s hope that things might be largely sorted by the end of this year. We just have to hang in there.

I’m sure other world events have played their parts, but I’m actively seeking to minimize their effects on me.

I’ll keep you updated, for those who want to know.

My writerly event of the month

On May first (May Day, Beltaine—yes, I’m a paganish sort) I went to see the staged reading of the latest iteration of Kim Fahner’s play, Sparrows Over Slag. It was part of Play Smelter, which ran the rest of the week. It was fascinating to see the evolution of Kim’s play, of which I was privileged to read an early draft.

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She gave a lovely Q&A afterward that gave further insight into her process. Writing a play is a different beast than any other kind of writing, even screenplays.

Later that week, I had lunch with Kim, who was only in Sudbury for a couple of weeks around Play Smelter. She’s been in south western Ontario, working hard on her craft and trying to figure out her next steps, creatively.

Just chatting over lunch was a balm. We are soul sisters and that won’t change wherever she goes and whatever she chooses to do.

And that’s it for this month’s next chapter update.

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

The Next Chapter