The next chapter weekly: Jan 22-28, 2023

Welcome back to the next chapter weekly, my personal update on what’s going on in this author’s life.

This week, I pulled the king of wands from the tarot and the eagle from the Celtic oracle deck.

The king of wands denotes inspiration, charisma, and natural leadership. This may be the week where I find my way back into writing, which is my intention, anyway. I don’t know about the charisma thing or the natural leadership thing. Maybe I’ll take control of my own creative ship? Learn to implement some of Suzy’s lessons on my own? We’ll have to wait and see.

Sorry for my lopsided photography.

The eagle is considered one of the oldest and wisest of animals in Celtic mythology, second only to the salmon of wisdom, which I picked last week. The Eagle of Gernabwy features in the Welsh Mabinogion. In the tale of Culhwch and Olwen, one of Culhwch’s tasks, in order to win the hand of his beloved, is to find the missing and magical child, Mabon. He asks a number of animals for guidance, and eventually gets a handy clue from this ancient and wise bird.

One thing I forgot to mention last week was that I did set a new moon intention to get back in touch with my creativity. I’ve had this feeling lately that we’ve been working at arm’s length. Gonna do some courtin’.

The week in writing

This week was about getting back on track in little ways. Touch Reality Bomb and Alice in Thunderland every day, but not force anything. This will be a week of gentle exploration and playfulness.

I also received and actioned the edit notes on “Psychopomps Are Us,” the story that Pulp Literature has accepted. One step closer to publication 🙂

Here’s what the week looked like:

With respect to RB, I cut a net 71 words this week, bringing the word count for the month to -677. That was four days of playing around.

On Alice, I free wrote my way to the end of chapter 25 (of 28).

On the blog, I wrote 1,286 words for the week, bringing the monthly total to 6,826. I remembered not to enter my curation before my weekly update this time, so the numbers on the spreadsheet reflect reality for once.

And … I’m trying my hand at another application for Your Personal Odyssey. Will the third time be the charm?

This week also saw the quarterly board meeting of the Canadian Authors Association.

Filling the well

I signed up for another Tiffany Yates Martin webinar through Jane Friedman, “The Biggest Mistakes Novelists Make.” Because the webinar was during the workday, I watched the replay.

I also signed up for a webinar on revisions presented by Emily Colin through Authors Publish. Again, I watched the replay.

On Saturday, I went out for supper with some friends, and my best friend and her spouse, visiting from out of town, came back to our house for a visit afterwards. It was lovely. A different kind of balm for the soul.

In the self-care department, I met with my Canada Life financial advisor and took stock of my investments. That ten of swords got me thinking 🙂 Fortunately, it looks like we’ll be in decent shape. I don’t have to go to extremes to ensure a decent retirement.

What I’m watching and reading

I did not finish any series or watch any movies this week. It was bound to happen sometime 🙂

In reading, I zipped through The Mistletoe Mysteries (Audible Originals). Fun, flirty, Canadian cozy mystery—they even mention Sudbury (!) And who wouldn’t want to listen to Cobie Smulders?

And then I moved on to Wildlife Confidential (Audible Originals) with Samantha Bee and Andrew Phung. Fun stories of animals, dramatized by intrepid reporter Cameron the Crow (Bee) and researcher Gordo the Groundhog (Phung). Entertaining and featuring a cast of Canadian voice talent as the interview subjects.

And that was the week in this author’s life.

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

The next chapter weekly: Jan 15-21, 2023

Greetings, all!

This week, I pulled the King of Swords from the tarot, and The Horse from the Celtic oracle deck.

The King of Swords represents a catalyst or wise council. This is good, because I’m meeting with Suzy this week, and a mentor at work. But really, I’m thinking that it’s time I seek the wise council within, know what I mean? I really have to develop (or redevelop) my self confidence.

The horse represents Epona, Gaullish horse goddess, the Great Mare. She was the protector of horses and possibly a fertility goddess. She was the only Celtic deity to be worshipped by the Romans as the goddess of cavalry. Unfortunately, her origins are lost because no one recorded the mostly oral Gaullish myths and legends. There is a Roman tale that survives about a guy that, fed up with women, decided that a horse would make a better mate and produced Epona. Typical Greek/Roman stuff.

I did find this on the OBOD web site, though:

“Epona is the Patroness of all journeys, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. She is the Goddess of the Land and its seasons, of fertility in all things. …. I feel Her presence beside me keeping me safe, giving me strength for each day. I see Her touch in every new green shoot of the Spring and in every fruit of the Autumn. I hear Her voice in the whispers of the breeze through the trees and in the song of the river.”

So, I think I’ll take it as a sign that I’ll be going on a metaphorical journey (I have no plans to travel physically). We’ll see where it leads 🙂

The week in writing

Continuing as I have so far this month, I aimed to finish my map for Alice in Thunderland by Jan 20th and then leave the project for the rest of the month before returning to it and finishing the last four chapters. I submitted my fourth assignment to Suzy on the 15th, so I had a few days off Reality Bomb.

But things changed mid-week. It was a busy week with appointments, sometimes several on the same day. It was a bit hectic and thank goodness for Phil, who managed to get me supper on the busy days. I didn’t get any work done on the Alice map after Monday. I decided to take it easy for the rest of the month and get back to it in February.

I met with Suzy on the 19th. Again, it was a fruitful meeting. But just as we were getting some momentum, I had to withdraw (because of that work/financial situation I mentioned a couple weeks back). We were at the end of our scheduled meetings, and I don’t have the disposable funds to continue, though I really want to because I’m learning a lot. The accountability is also great. When I have external deadlines to work toward (i.e., someone’s waiting/depending on me to do the work), I tend to get it done.

She’s going to check in with me mid-April to see if a resolution is on the horizon.

On that topic, I received notification on Friday that I was successful in the assessment process and am now part of a qualified pool of candidates. Though my employer won’t be able to take any action until at least April, the way has been cleared. So, I guess the resolution (partial though it may be) to my financial difficulties has come through within ten weeks. Thanks, inverted ten of swords 🙂

On the downside, my application for an OAC grant was not successful. I received that notification Friday morning. Another Sudbury writer was successful, though. All congratulations to her. She deserves it.

I’m really getting the vibe that I should take December and January off. From big projects, anyway. Mapping in preparation for revision, poetry, short fiction—I think these would all be doable, but heavy revisions or drafting may be out of the question, at least for my neurodivergent brain.

Here’s how the week broke down.

I wrote a net 16 words on RB on Sunday, and then left the project to rest.

I added the last two drafted chapters of Alice to the map and started freewriting ideas for the next chapter before the week got to be too much. That, too, is sitting for a bit.

I blogged 1,731 words for the week.

So, total revision 16 words and total writing 1,731 words for the week and a net -606 words in RB and 5,540 words in the blog for the month.

Filling the well

I attended the Spoonie Authors Network Launch on the 15th. It was a lovely reading, and I won a copy of Nothing Without Us, Too 🙂

I had a massage on the 17th and a meeting with my support group on the 19th. This month’s topic was trauma. Both informative and cathartic.

What I’m watching and reading

I didn’t finish any series this week, but I did watch Where the Crawdads Sing (Amazon). So good. Gave me a Grisham movie (at their best) vibe. Another book that’s moving up on my TBR list.

This week, I finished Stephen Fry’s Secrets of the Roaring Twenties (Audible original). It was an interesting historical podcast and, because it’s adjacent to the time period Alice is set in, very informative.

I also read Lori Devoti’s One Soul to Share. A vampire looking for a soul meets a mermaid looking to make a deal with the sea witch Melusine for the same. A straightforward paranormal romance.

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

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

The next chapter weekly: Jan 8-14, 2023

Welcome to the next chapter weekly for the second week of 2023.

I must say that coming into this experiment, I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough to fill up a weekly update, but I think I like this new format. What do y’all think? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

This week, I drew the Ace of Cups and The Salmon.

The ace of cups represents abundance, relationships, and contentment. I was hoping that the abundance might have something to do with my financial situation, but alas, that was not the case. Instead, I received the confirmation that all would be status quo at least until the new fiscal (April 1, 2023) and probably longer.

What I did have an abundance of this week was workdays with minimal meetings. I was able to make progress on a project and that did, indeed make me content. I also made progress on my creative endeavours. More on that, below.

And I was quite content in my relationships, noting several of them in my nightly gratitudes. I try to record three before I go to bed. Sometimes, I record them when I get up the next morning. I haven’t successfully incorporated this new piece into my bedtime ritual.

The salmon of knowledge or wisdom is associated with a young Fionn mac Cumhaill, who inadvertently absorbed the salmon’s knowledge when he burned his thumb while cooking it for the poet Finegas.

Am I becoming wiser? I don’t know. More knowledgeable, certainly. About instructional design, about autism, about my craft. If only I could access that knowledge “on demand” by biting my thumb, like Fionn does 🙂 

The week in writing

My goals were again simple. Seven more chapters of Alice in Thunderland in the map and more work on Reality Bomb’s first three chapters.

I accomplished both, but I’m still experiencing a lot of self-doubt when it comes to revisions for RB. My next assignment is due on the 15th, so the night this post goes live, and at this point, I have no idea if I’ve managed to do a good job. I’ll find out next week, one way or the other.

Here’s how the week broke down.

Again, there was a lot of up and down with respect to RB. I edited down the second chapter by a couple of pages. I think. But it’s still too long and I’m not sure how to shrink it further. Same goes for the third chapter, which is, again three chapters slapped together.

This week, I’ve cut a net 636 words. Not bad. And despite the adding and cutting, I’m now down a net 606 words on the first three chapters overall. We’ll see what Suzy says next week.

My two weekly curations and this update amount to 1,785 words, and my total bloggage for the month so far is 3,807 words.

I meant to mention my new colour coding on the Excel. This year, I’ve decided to give myself a visual of my days off, days of significance, like full and new moons, and appointment days on my spreadsheet. My hope is that it will help me be more realistic with respect to my creative output on any given day.

I got the idea from “colour blocking” my calendar at work. So far, I like it. Visually, if nothing else 🙂

Filling the well

On the 14th, I attended a FOLD webinar called “Unsettling Poems” presented by Liz Howard. It was an interesting session and I think I have some ideas swirling around in my head. I’ll let them percolate for a while, I think.

I also attended a webinar about “Autism and Mental Health” on the 10th presented by Dori Zener, the therapist who set up the autism support group I attend. It’s all part of my learning.

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, Phil and I finished watching the first season of Willow, the series (Disney +). It was a little uneven. The elements didn’t all come together for me. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but I was hoping for better.

I’ve seen some critique of the series as too grimdark for the original movie, but I don’t think that was the case. I think, rather, that it’s the result of things not being properly woven together, as I mention above. Their attempts to attain the comedy of the original were clearly there, but they didn’t land. I’m not sure if it was the script or the acting, but that’s my opinion.

As for the grimdark content, I read the book that was written as the sequel to Willow, yeeeears ago. It was called Drumheller, and I can’t find it online. Madmartigan and Sorcha were both dead, and Elora Danon was purposefully hidden, as in the series, because a powerful sorcerer wanted to control/enslave her and failing that to kill her. Unfortunately, when her guardians die, Elora is lost, and Willow has to become the Drumheller (a process that almost kills him) to find and protect her before the big bad does his worst. If memory serves, it made the series look like Looney Tunes by comparison. Now that was grimdark.

Then, I watched The Boys: Diabolical (Amazon). Fun shorts that are as bloody and chaotic as the series.

I also watched Swiss Army Man (Amazon). I decided to check it out, because it’s another movie by the Daniels, who were behind Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. I’m kind of glad I didn’t see SAM first. I would have gone into EEAaO with completely different expectations.

It’s as much of a mind fuck as Bunny was. Right up to the end, you’re wondering if the main character is delusional or if any of this is really happening.

Moving on to the week in reading, I read Another Richard Wagamese book: One Native Life. Another balm for the soul, but also, a compassionate look back at the author’s life and what it taught him as he struggled to regain his identity as an Indigenous man.

In audiobooks, I’ve decided to catch up on the podcasts I followed. Catherine Hernandez’s Imminent Disaster was fun. I’m not big into sketch comedy, but it was good.

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

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

The next chapter weekly: Jan 1-7, 2023

Greetings, all! Welcome to the revamped next chapter weekly 🙂

I’m going to try something a little different. At the start of each week, I’m going to draw a tarot card and a Celtic oracle card to see if they offer any guidance.

This week, I drew the ten of swords, inverted, and Blodeuwedd.

The ten of swords represents fear of betrayal in relationships or fear of financial ruin. Inverted, it can represent temporary success.

While I don’t think there’s any problem with any of my significant relationships, there has been a little financial insecurity in my life recently. The two-year acting assignment as an instructional designer I achieved in November 2020 came to an end at the end of November 2022. Though I had been successfully deployed to my current division, it was an “at level” deployment, at a step lower in salary. So, I’m doing an instructional designer’s job for a courseware developer’s pay.

I have been working through another assessment process that should get me into a qualified pool from which I could be assigned to a position at my acting (or actual) salary, but as a business analyst. There’s also another possibility that I could have my salary bumped up by other means, or by an assignment to another team in my division.

I’m interpreting the inverted ten of swords to mean that this unfavourable financial situation will be resolved, one way or another, in the near future. It might involve some change, which I’m rarely comfortable with, and perhaps several changes, before all is said and done, however.

Bloddeuwedd represents a claiming of one’s own power, steering your craft, or directing your fate. I’m seeing this divination in terms of my vocation as an author. I’ve been taking steps to improve my craft and those steps will lead to success. The card could also support the resolution of my financial difficulties.

We shall see where these oracles lead.

This week also saw the full wolf moon. I did a little ritual to help rid myself of a bad habit. As the moon wanes to new, I hope to do a little better around my sleep hygiene/routine. Again, we’ll see how things go. I’ll let you know how it’s going in a couple of weeks.

The week in writing

I’m starting off 2023 slow and steady. I took New Years Day off except for posting my next chapter update and year in review. My two goals for the week were to continue mapping out Alice in Thunderland and work on the first three chapters of Reality Bomb.

I’m pleased to report that I’ve added 7 chapters to the Alice map (not recorded in the spreadsheet). This brings me to chapter 16 of 28. This work is in anticipation of a) finishing the last four chapters of the draft and then, after a brief break, b) revising the novella. I’m trying to incorporate some of the lessons I’m learning while working on RB with Suzy.

With regard to RB, the work is going slow. I’m definitely lacking confidence, but I’m finding my way. Made a belated discovery: I can input negative words in the spreadsheet. D’oh! It does give a better idea of my progress, or lack thereof. This week was a lot of back and forth, up and down. I’m trying to cut a bunch of pages out of chapter two (which is three of the previous draft’s chapters smooshed together). It’s challenging but rewarding. I’m definitely feeling that the draft is improving.

Here’s how the week broke down.

Revisions on the first two chapters of RB have resulted in a net gain of 3 words (!) Also, note that I only entered the net gain or loss for the day. There was often a lot more words written, then deleted, or vice versa, on any given day. It’s been weird.

On the blog, I wrote 420 more words on the last monthly next chapter update before posting it, 236 words on tipsday, 218 words on thought Thursday, and 1,150 words on this next chapter weekly for a total of 2,024 words. The total shown on the spreadsheet includes my tipsday and thought Thursday posts for the coming wee, which I prepare and post on Sundays.

Filling the well

I signed up for “Write that Book Already” from The Narrative Project and Sidekick Press from January 2 to 6. Interesting sessions, but three a day, so it was a challenge to keep up.

I also took my mom to another hair appointment and did some minor shopping.

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I finished watching Dickenson (Apple+). Just a delight.

In another surprise, two more episodes of The Shining Girls appeared on Apple+, completing the series. Very different than the book. Beukes’ novel didn’t include any of the time shifting and changes that the series does. To explain, every time Harper murders one of the other shining girls, Kirby’s world changes. She may not live in the same place, have the same job, or the same relationships with other people in her life. Visually, her hair and clothing style changes as well.

There are other shining girls that are characters in the series that are merely victims in the book. In the series, some of these women take back their power when Kirby kills Harper in the story’s present. She then uses the house to travel back in time and prevent Harper from ever moving in. Ultimately, she saves Dan (who was killed in the series and whose fate was uncertain in the novel), and all the other women harper had killed. Interesting.

While I was in Apple+, I checked out what else there was to watch and got a lovely surprise. They’ve done an adaptation of Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, The Mole, The Fox, and the Horse. So much the sweet self-care I needed in these still dark days of winter.

I watched Strange World (Disney +), a charming eco-fable wrapped in generational drama about fathers, sons, and legacies. Some things were a bit “on the nose,” but I enjoyed it for what it was, and I really appreciated how Ethan’s having a boyfriend is no big thing, even to his ultra-macho explorer grandfather. Refreshing and light.

Moving on to the week in reading, I started off 2023 by reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Yes, another classic I’d never read. I loved it. Dickens really does comment on the ills of his world in multiple respects.

Then, I finished Rachel True’s True Heart Intuitive Tarot. I quite like her take on the tarot and may pick up the physical book and deck she designed.

And that was the first week of 2023 in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter:  December 2022 update and year-end wrap-up

Happy New Year, everyone!

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black, Indigenous, and people of colour lives matter.

Continue to observe public health guidelines (washing hands, maintaining physical distance, masking where you can’t, getting your vaccinations—not just covid, but flu, etc.—as recommended). Covid is endemic. It ain’t going nowhere. Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

Russia’s unprovoked war in the Ukraine continues and continues to be deplorable. I stand with the Ukraine!

Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight!

Starting in the New Year, the monthly PSAs will cease. They have become performative, despite my best intentions. Y’all know my views. No need to harp.

The month in writing

First, I decided to let Alice in Thunderland sit until the 5th. Though this year’s NaNoWriMo wasn’t as exhausting as it sometimes can be, I still needed a break. Plus, I had some other writing work to do.

Even when I returned to Alice, though, the words weren’t flowing. I’m trying to listen to my body and brain more and on the 11th, I decided to let Alice sit until the New Year. She’ll still be on my mind, though. I have to think about the best way to end the story, which might involve me rewriting the beginning. Thinking of a circular, or echoing ending.

I had to do some work with Reality Bomb for Suzy, in any case, but I decided to take things easy and not stress out.

I had a stretch of vacation and wanted to focus on planning for the New Year and resting up. The dark time of the year is here, and I wanted to see what it would feel like to actually give myself some hibernation time when my energy reserves are low.

It was nice. I watched a lot of movies (see below) 🙂

Here’s how the month broke down:

The only writing/revision I did on RB this month was for my assignments. It wasn’t tonnes. No goal, but I wrote 9,398 words.

Like I said, I decided to let Alice percolate after the 11th. Between the 5th and the 9th, I wrote 1,008 words. Initially, I had thought Alice might be a full novel and I had committed to continue drafting through December. My goal was therefore fairly steep, and I chose not to change it (this time). So, 1,008 of 17,250 words works out to 6%.

For the first time all year, I didn’t meet or exceed my goal for the blog. That’s because I counted the bulk of my work on last month’s next chapter update towards my NaNo goal. Even including what I’d written of this update up to December 31st did not crack my goal. I wrote 4,644 words of my 5,000-word goal, or 93%.

I received the welcome news of another short story acceptance on the 8th. More on that later in the year.

And I received a lovely gift, just in time for the holidays, two of my poems, “Avalon” and “Blood Flower Moon,” were published in Polar Starlight 7.

And now for the year in review …

The year in writing

At the beginning of the year, I made what I thought were reasonable plans. I wanted to finish next round revisions of Reality Bomb by June (six months should have been doable, but alas), spend the summer focusing on poetry and short fiction, and then prep Maurshka for NaNoWriMo.

Welp, I was still working on RB in October when I signed up with Suzy. I decided to give up bulling my way through the revisions and see what Suzy had to say.

I did work on some poetry and sort fiction in the summer, but the short story I started (just something for myself) petered out and I haven’t thought of a way to proceed with it yet. I also decided that I’d set Marushka aside and prep Alice in Thunderland for NaNoWriMo instead.

With RB on hold, I did move on to work on Alice for NaNoWriMo, but I wasn’t aiming to win. I decided to take things easy and thought that Alice might be a novella, anyway.

And you already know how December worked out.

In terms of publication, it was a good year for me.

It started out with the publication of “The Undine’s Voice” in Polar Borealis 21 (May 2022), followed by the publication of my poem “Pillar” in Polar Borealis 22 (July 2022).

In August, “Torvi, Viking Queen” was published in Pirating Pups, edited by Rhonda Parrish, from Tyche Books.

And, as I mentioned above, I had two poems published in Polar Starlight 7 in December. So, two stories and four poems.

This may not seem like a lot, but it was great for me. In 2021, I had one story and four poems published and in 2020, I had three poems and a reprinted poem published. Slow progress, yes, but progress, nonetheless.

Also, I signed a contract with Latitude 46 for my first solo poetry collection, to be published in April of 2024. That’s not nothing 🙂

Here are the annual stats:

Project

Goal

Actual

Percentage

Reality Bomb

Revise 50,000 words

Revised 79,517 words

159%

Alice in Thunderland

Write 90,000 words

Wrote 29,307 words

33%

Blog

Write 55,000 words

Wrote 67,405 words

123%

Short Fiction

Write 6,000 words

Wrote 2,915 words

49%

 

Revise 10,000 words

Revised 478 words

5%

Poetry

No goal

Wrote 20 new poems

As you can see, I undershot the most with respect to the short fiction. I only wrote one new story, revised a couple, and stalled out on the second short story I started.

I’m not counting Alice as an undershot because of the novella thing. I think it will probably come out between 40 and 50k by the time I’ve finished drafting it and revised it.

Here’s another look with a monthly breakdown:

This year, I’m giving myself ten months to revise RB down to my 100k goal length, and then I’ll work on a query and synopsis, and hit the trenches.

I’ll finish Alice by the end of March and revise her by the end of June.

Sometime in the spring, I’ll be working with an editor on my poetry collection. Not sure how long that will take, but I’m scheduling six months.

I’m hoping to write and revise 6,000 words (each) of short fiction this year. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m toying with a creative non-fiction project. Not going to talk about this too much until there’s something to talk about.

And I’ve chosen my NaNo project this year. More on that in the future.

Again, I think the goals I’ve set are reasonable ones, but that always changes as the year progresses.

Filling the well

I have to backpedal a bit to November. I signed up for Tiffany Yates Martin’s Prologues webinar through Jane Friedman and watched the replay. I always learn something from Tiffany’s webinars and she’s a great presenter.

On December 4th, I attended a Revisions workshop with Mary Robinette Kowal. Her approach really speaks to me. I’m learning a lot.

I signed up for another Jane Friedman webinar, this one from Allison K. Williams about writing your second draft.

And I signed up for an Authors Publish webinar about writing layered stories readers will love with Nev March.

I had my second call with Suzy on Dec 7th. Part of my assignment was to work on my protagonist’s “why,” but I wasn’t sure if the why I had established was compelling enough given the why of my antagonist. There’s some massaging to do, but we can make it work.

I received my next assignment, to reframe and reorganize the first 20 pages of my draft given her review of my first chapter. Our next meeting was on the 21st. Again, progress was made. I think I just have to learn to trust myself more. Our next meeting is January 19th.

I attended the in-person holiday get-together of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on the 17th at Twigg’s. I had a lovely crab salad sandwich and London fog. And some cookies.  

We lowkey celebrated Mom’s 79th birthday on the 20th. Chinese and cake.

Christmas was going to be at my mom’s on Boxing Day this year. Unfortunately, my brother- and sister-in-law got covid and we had to postpone. I’ll leave the decorations up until then, I think, though Phil says he wants to take down the railing garlands while the weather is mild.

Phil went full techie on my desktop, trying to keep things running well for as long as he can. I cannot afford a new computer right now.

I got a long-overdue haircut.

I also got my flu shot and had another meeting with my support group.

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, Phil and I watched Wednesday. And we really enjoyed it. Jenna Ortega does an awesome job of letting us see what a teen Wednesday would be like. Yes, there were some overly complicated story beats.

Then, I watched The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special while putting my Christmas tree together. Silly, fluffy, and kind of dumb, but totally enjoyable for all that 🙂

I watched Spirited (Apple+). A fun take on A Christmas Carol. Old Marley runs a whole spirit division dedicated to reforming curmudgeons every year. The current ghost of Christmas present (Will Farrell) sets his eyes on an “unredeemable.” I won’t spoil the twist 😉 And really, Ryan Reynolds makes anything fun.

I received a holiday surprise 🙂 Fraggle Rock (Apple+) released a holiday special, too! Comfort/nostalgia viewing.

Black Adam (Crave) was next. It was a movie. Dwayne Johnson was fine, but I prefer his comedic roles. And Pierce Brosnan was a good Dr. Fate, but I really didn’t care about the other superhero characters and wasn’t given any reason to.

Then, I watched Wolf Walkers (Apple+). A balm to my pagan half-Irish soul. And beautiful. Just watch it, y’all.

I also watched Glass Onion (Netflix). As brilliant as Knives Out, but totally different. Janelle Monae was spectacular.

I decided to watch Guillermo Del Torro’s Pinocchio (Netflix). A dark and decidedly anti-fascist take on the traditional tale. The ending was bittersweet.

Then, I watched Slumberland (Netflix). A touching tale about grief and the power of dreams.

Phil and I watched the last season of His Dark Materials. Really good. Loved, in fact.

Moving on to the month in reading, I listened to The World We Made by N.K. Jemisin. Living cities versus eldritch horrors, vol. 2. Awesome. Robin Miles is one of my favourite audiobook narrators, and Simon & Schuster does a good job of the production.

Then, I finished Fevered Star, the second in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, by Rebecca Roanhorse. It was good, and I’m eager to read the third book.

I finally read Embers by Richard Wagamese. Brilliant and soulful. Teachings to return to.

I followed that up with another Wagamese book: One Story, One Song. The same as the above.

Then, and I think it was the weirdest read of the year, I read Bunny by Mona Awad. At first, I thought it was magical realism, then the body horror entered into the story, and then I wondered if everything was all in the protagonist’s head. It was a real trip, whatever it was. With thoughtful homage to, and feminist commentary on Alice in Wonderland, Frankenstein, fairy tales (Red Ridinghood, in particular), with a touch of Heathers and The Craft, Bunny was a wild critique (ha!) of MFA programs and the white privilege rampant in the university system.

Though it took me a while, I finished Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Real and the Unreal. There are a lot of stories in this collection, which was originally published in two volumes. A little Orsinia, a little Hainish, some science, and some whimsey. Good, but epic.

Next, I finally grabbed A Dead Djinn in Cairo, by P. Djèlí Clark. The missing piece of the Fatma puzzle! It explains a few things in Master of Djinn that were alluded to, but not fully fleshed out. Very good.

I finished Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John and the Hand of Devils. I didn’t realize how much of a lush Lord John was (!). Entertaining, and again, filled in a few gaps.

My favourite non-fiction read of the month was Chloé Hayden’s Different, not Less. Awesome to read about and autistic girl who received diagnosis and supports before she became an adult.

I didn’t quite meet my 2022 reading challenge. 55 books of my 60-book goal. Close, but no cigar. 92%. Not bad. This year, I’m taking my reading goal down to 40 books. Because I intent to do some close study/rereading this year, I don’t think I’ll be able to read many more.

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

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

The next chapter: November 2022 update

December is here! Time to trundle out the seasonal decorations 🙂

I’ve been mulling over a few things, and I’ve made a couple of decisions. First, using my current system (template and fill it in as I go in dribs and drabs) I’ll be converting my monthly updates into weekly updates starting in January 2023. This will be in anticipation of converting my updates into a newsletter, down the road. (Perhaps way down the road? Honestly, I’m not sure.)

Second, I’m going to be trimming down thoughty Thursday, cutting out the newsy bits (y’all get enough of all that in the real world) and refocusing on articles and resources that will either a) generate ideas, AKA get your mental corn popping or b) help you in your research, worldbuilding, or other non-writing aspects of craft.

TT has always been the less visited, less liked, and less commented-on curation post.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments if you like the idea of shorter, more frequent updates and smaller TT curations. Or if you don’t. I’m happy to hear from you, either way.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until Black, Indigenous, and people of colour lives matter.

Continue to observe public health guidelines (washing hands, maintaining physical distance, masking where you can’t, getting your vaccinations as recommended). Covid is endemic. That means it’s here to stay, like the flu or colds. Take care of yourselves and the people you love.

Russia’s unprovoked war in the Ukraine continues and continues to be deplorable. I stand with the Ukraine!

Reproductive rights are everyone’s fight!

The month in writing

It was refreshing to focus on drafting a new novel idea after so long working on revision. For that reason alone, NaNoWriMo 2022 was a win.

Here’s how the month broke down.

Week 1 – 3,378 words on Assignment1/Reality Bomb; 3,469 words on Alice; 1,219 words on the blog; total 8,066 words.

Week 2 – 8,492 words on Alice; 320 words on the blog; total 8,812 words.

Week 3 – 6,548 words on Alice; 380 words on the blog; total 6,928 words.

Week 4 – 7,718 words on Alice; 364 words on the blog; total 8,082 words.

Last three days – 2,072 words on Alice; 1,880 words on the blog; total 3,952 words.

I wrote 28,299 words of the 50k-word goal of Alice in Thunderland, or 57%. It’s definitely going to be a novella, which is something new for me. I usually write long. Like way too long.

There were two curation posts (the last of October) plus a weekly NaNo mini update for each week of November. I also counted whatever words I’d written in this post as of November 30th. This resulted in 4,163 words of my modest 2,500-word goal, or 167%.

Finally, I also counted the assignment I wrote up for my book coach, Suzy. That was 3,378 words.

This adds up to a grand total of 35,840 words for the month, all of which I counted toward my NaNo goal of 50,000 words. That worked out to 71%. So, I didn’t “win” NaNaWriMo 2022, but I made good progress on a new story and got a few other things done.

Filling the well

In writing events, Wordstock Sudbury took place from November 3rd to 5th. I split my time between online events and in-person events. The venue’s just up the road from me, so it’s convenient, but when Torvi sees me (or Phil) walk away without her, she is inconsolable for at least an hour. I didn’t want to inflict her howling on Phil more than I had to.

The solution? I drove to the venue on the main day of the festival. Torvi was just fine.

The sessions were great, both online and in-person. I particularly enjoyed Kathy Friedman’s “Writing Our Lived Experience” workshop and Tanis MacDonald’s “Measure Twice, Cut Once,” all about the editing and revision process. I got to see Danielle Daniel’s workshop on writing across genres and Liselle Sambury in the “YA for Everyone” panel. David Robertson was also in that panel, and I caught him again in the “Tell a Good Story” panel, with Ernie Loutit and Waub Rice.

It was probably the best Wordstock yet. Already looking forward to next year.

Something else that happened at Wordstock: I now have an editor for my poetry collection (!) She won’t have room in her schedule for me until Spring, but I think we’re going to work well together 🙂

I did what I could with the first assignment and submitted it to Suzy. We met to discuss it on the 22nd. It was good, but I rambled on … Things are taking better shape. I now have a second assignment and another meeting on Dec 7th.

I attended the launch of my friend, Kim Fahner’s latest poetry collection, Emptying the Ocean on November 24th. It’s always a grand time. And I got to catch up with another friend from out of twon who’d also come to support Kim.

I attended AugurCon online (November 26 and 27). It was fabulous.

Finally, on November 30th, I attended another webinar by Mary Robinette on short stories. Though I have gotten better at writing these over the years, I can always improve.

Another filling the well thing:

I watch Shaelin Bishop’s YouTube channel, Shaelin Writes. Recently, her vlogs have been a great comfort. Though she writes literary fiction, I find I really relate to her. She was originally a pantser, switched to outlining, and discovered that she preferred pantsing. Which is something I’m learning myself.

She did a great vlog on why telling isn’t a bad thing 🙂 and several about how she thinks of structure in short stories and novels, which have been revelations to me.

More recently, she was lamenting that, after years of revision and editing, she was finding it difficult to get back to writing. In fact, she thought her most recent novel was crap. It wasn’t sparking joy for her like her other novels did. She decided to work on it for NaNoWriMo, not with the intention of “winning,” but with the intention to work on it every day. After the first week, she thought she was going to have to shelve it, but in the second week, the story broke for her, and she decided to stick with it.

It’s so nice when things work out—she was so happy! It gives me hope for similar breakthroughs in my own work.

In non-writing-related events, I celebrated a friend’s retirement on the 19th. Low key. And I celebrated my mom-in-law’s 81st birthday on the 25th. Also, low-key.

Finally, I engaged in some self care with an RMT appointment and a meeting with my support group.

In the health issues department, my semi-annual outbreak of blepharitis has decided to complicate my November. This means four to five sessions of hot compresses a day, and the necessary sacrifice of writing time 😦

What I’m watching and reading

In the viewing department, I have to rewind a bit. Because I wanted to get October’s next chapter update out before the end of the month, I missed out on a couple of October viewings.

The first was that I finished my rewatch of Veronica Mars (Crave). The fourth season ending wasn’t satisfying. The true bomber wasn’t caught. I’m a little disappointed. Though I really like Kristen Bell and the series. Up next, the movie, which takes place between seasons three and four.

Then, on Hallowe’en night, Phil and I watched Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Netflix). There’s a nice set piece that can make the animated movie standalone, but there are also call backs to the series that, if you watched it, will help everything make more sense. Take or leave that caveat as you will. Kovach is resleeved and assigned to protect a tattoo artist for the Yakuza. Lots of blood and violence. Decent story, though.

Phil and I also watched Weird Al, the parody biopic, when it came out on Roku. Hilarious, and we were pressed to identify the actors playing various cameos (and sometimes the cameo characters, like Gallagher).

Then, we watched Enola Holmes 2 (Netflix). I think it was better than the first one. Fun, fourth wall-breaking protagonist, witty banter, and a whole bunch of butt-kicking women.

The Handmaid’s Tale (network) finished its latest season on the 9th. With Commander Fred literally torn apart at the end of the last season, this season focused on June and Serena and issues of motherhood. Both characters vacillate between out-for-revenge bloody-mindedness and motherly solidarity, ending the season on the latter.

The series seems to be diverging from the books (which are, admittedly, bookends to the series), but I’m still interested in seeing how it all works out.

I watched Horns (Amazon). This is a 2013 movie based on a 2010 Joe Hill novel. Ig (Ignatius), the protagonist, has been accused of his girlfriend Merrin’s murder, and everyone believes it’s true except for his best friend and lawyer Lee, his brother Terry, and another of their childhood friends, Glenna.

After a drunken and grief-driven one night stand with Glenna, Ig sprouts horns. After that, everyone is seemingly compelled to share their deepest, darkest secrets with Ig, except Lee. Ig uses this paranormal ability to find out who really killed Merrin.

I watched the ill-fated first (and only) season of Tom Swift (network). It’s considered a spin-off of Nancy Drew, because of the character’s appearance in one episode last year. It wasn’t terrible, but it suffered from the same problem many CW series have, which is characters doing 180s continually (i.e., acting out of character for no discernable reason).

I also watched the first season of Vampire Academy (network). Fairly standard YA fare set against a political backdrop. I was curious to see what Julie Plec would do with it. If Paramount+ renews, I’ll probably watch it.

The first season of The Time Traveller’s Wife was great. I’ve seen the movie but haven’t yet read the book (guess what’s next on my TBR list?).

Moving on to the month in reading, I read Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club Guide to Slaying Vampires. The concept is straightforward. Hendrix imagined what would happen if his mother had to deal with a vampire. It’s set in the 90s, but it read like the 50s. A weird dissonance.

Then, I dove into Maggie Stiefvater’s Greywaren, the third in The Dreamer trilogy. I always feel sad when I finish a Stiefvater book, and then ravenous for the next one, but this was the end. The. End. Epilogue and everything. I read the first book of the Raven Cycle and listened to the rest in audiobook. Will Patton really gets these characters. I’ve decided that next year, I’m going to start rereading and studying my favourite books. I’m starting with The Raven Cycle.

Next, I read Mary Robinette Kowal’s The Spare Man. It’s The Thin Man, in spaaaaaace. If you think you’d enjoy Nick, Nora, and Asta … in space, then read this book. Loved, loved loved! Another book that I was sad to finish. That’s all Ima say.

I finished reading Lauren Beukes’ Shining Girls. I’m also watching the series on Apple +. The two are quite different. I’ll probably finish watching the series next month.

Through a strange series of events, a man in the Depression is drawn to a house, which sends him on a series of quests to murder the girls that shine. The house takes him through time to accomplish his grisly tasks, until one of the shining girls survives and hunts him down. It ended a little abruptly, but I was okay with that.

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

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

NaNoWriMo 2022, week 4 mini update

Week four is in the can! Three days left. Will I make it?! (SPOILER: I never intended to.)

The plan

To do what I can and feel good about the progress 🙂 I’m not a fast writer at the best of times.

The progress

Here’s what week four looked like:

I wrote 7,718 words on Alice in Thunderland and 364 words in this post, for a total of 8,082 words for the week.

Overall, I’ve written 31,868 words, or 64% of the 50k goal.

And … I made an adjustment to the first three days of the month. I forgot to count the assignment I’d written up for my book coach (!) So, that added 3,378 to my word count (reflected in the above). I’ll break down my weekly progress on Alice and on other projects in my next chapter update.

The pivot

I’m getting better at the quick shift from work to writing to work brain. Also getting better at sleep and the rearrangement of Torvi afternoon walk times, but appointments, meetings, and events continue to disrupt my plans/schedule/rituals. The appointments, meetings, and events are things I want to do, but they’re still disruptive. I plan around them to the best of my ability, but it’s still a challenge.

Am I coming off as too whiny? Too first world problems? Too middle-class CIS/Het white chick privilege?

Change can be an autistic’s nightmare, even when you expect it and plan for it. That’s the truth.

And in another three days, I’m going to be adapting to change again, as I resume curation and my usual daily schedule. I have to fit in the de-Hallowe’ening and Christmasing of the house as well. Yup, still have the Hallowe’en door decorations up. Everything else has been gathered and made ready for its trip into the storage tub downstairs. November generally means a pause on a lot of day-to-day activities.

In any case, I’m happy with how NaNoWriMo 2022 has gone so far.

I’ll fill you in on the last three days in my next chapter update next weekend.

The days of grey skies are here.

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

NaNoWriMo 2022, week 3 mini update

Week three’s a wrap! Welcome to week four.

The plan

To keep on as I’ve been keeping on.

The progress

There were a few good days, but work and appointments, and social events also meant several low-production days.

Here’s what week three looked like (notice the nifty colour-coding?):

So, 6,548 words on Alice in Thunderland and 380 words in this post, for a total of 6,928 words for the week.

In NaNoWriMo so far, I’ve written 20,428 words of the 50k-word goal, or 41%.

The pivot

It’s not a pivot, but I’m trying to use my afternoon breaks at work to write. It’s not been as successful as I’d like, because it’s hard to shift gears between work-brain and writer-brain and back to work-brain again. Also, it’s only 15 minutes (yes, I hear you say, that’s the length of a sprint) so I don’t get a lot written.

As the days have been getting darker, I’ve also had to change the time I walk Torvi, which is right after work, most days, meaning that I can’t get right to writing. It’s that time of year when I have to bundle up in boots and scarf and mitts and winter coat, which turns a 15- to 20-minute walk into a 30- to 40-minute walk. Change, even seasonal change, is never easy for me.

Daylight Saving Time ended on the 6th, and that always discombobulates me for about a week. I’ve tried to compensate by getting to bed at a more reasonable hour and using earplugs and a sleep mask to help me sleep better. It’s definitely helped me get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer.

So, workdays, I write on my afternoon break (15 minutes), between walking Torvi and supper (30 minutes to an hour, depending), and then after supper to about 9 pm (an hour and a half to two hours). After 9, my brain shuts down and good words stop happening. That adds up to 2 and a quarter to 3 and a quarter.

Weekends aren’t much better.

It’s been a limited success.

But that’s been week three of NaNoWriMo in this writer’s life.

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

NaNoWriMo 2022, week 2 mini update

Week two is done, for better or worse. Welcome to week three!

The plan

The plan was just to keep going, honestly.

The progress

I’m back to work this week (I forgot to mention that I was on leave last week) means all I have are evenings and weekends. And I still have other obligations to attend to. Again, I’ve been taking it easy on myself. There’s no point if I’m not having fun. And I am having fun, so whatever the ultimate outcome, I consider that a win.

Unfortunately, this week’s impediments to progress included a power outage, a forced Windows update, and a plant emergency (it fell, spilling soil all over the floor—I had to clean up and repot it). All of this resulted in about three hours that could have been devoted to Alice 😦

Week two looked like this:

I wrote 8,492 words on Alice, and blogged 320, for a total of 8,812.

At this point, I don’t think I’ll even make 30k, let alone 50k, but every word’s a victory! That is, every word is one I didn’t have before. It’s also more than would have written without the motivation of NaNoWriMo. It’s progress even if the ultimate goal isn’t reached.

The pivot

Again, not pivoting.

I did get my laptop updated (a little belatedly, as it’s been a few months since I last used it), and now I can work on the couch or dining room table if I want. I could even write in bed (!) though I haven’t, yet.

My portable desk.

I just have to be careful to close the document on my desktop. It will update on both with frequent saving, but honestly, it’s easier just to have the document opened on one computer at a time 🙂

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

NaNoWriMo 2022, week 1 mini update

Welcome to my NaNoWriMo project for 2022, my alternate history/steampunk novel, Alice in Thunderland.

Airship captain Madeline Hatter must rescue her girlfriend and military research and development scientist Nuala Rabbit when she is kidnapped by otherworldly agents. If she can’t, Canada and its allies will be ill-prepared for the next great war. And if she can’t stop Thunderland’s Queen Hart from using Nuala’s wormhole generator to launch an attack of his own, it might not be a world war they face, but a worlds’ war.

It’s a work in progress 🙂

The plan

I didn’t have much of a plan. I’d roughed out the first 20 chapters or so and was just going to pants the heck out of it. So far, so good.

While I signed up for the 50k, I don’t anticipate that I’ll be able to “win” this year. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself and aim for quality over quantity. I’m learning that gamification doesn’t work well for me anymore.

Even counting words from other projects might not get me to 50k. I’ll settle for whatever I get. This year, NaNo’s all about diving into a new project and giving myself the space and grace to do it well.

The progress

I started off slow but gained momentum as I worked. There was a little hiccup because of Wordstock Sudbury, but attending the literary festival was worth it. More about that in my next chapter update.

The firs six days of NaNo looked like this:

4,688 words of 50,000, or 9%.

The pivot

I don’t really have to pivot, but I want to get my laptop updated and try writing in the living room sometimes. Just for a change of place. I even have a lap desk ready to go …

Well, that’s it for this week.

Sun dogs. I take ’em where I can find ’em.

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