The next chapter:  April 2022 update

As I write, the sun is shining, the windows are open, and a lovely breeze is flowing through the house. Yes, spring has finally arrived in northeastern Ontario. I’m feeling good.

Before we get to the month in writing, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even if there are no longer restrictions in your area, please continue to mind public and national health advisories. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask indoors/on public transit, and, if you’re old enough, or immune compromised, please register to get your second booster. Not only is covid endemic now, but these health practices will help you to avoid other viruses, like the flu and even the common cold.

I stand with the Ukraine and deplore Putin’s unprovoked destruction of civilian targets and lives.

The month in writing

April was … not good.

It’s the new fiscal at work and, most days, my spoons ran out before I could devote any time to revision. There were other issues, but I’ll get into those in filling the well.

This month, I resisted the urge to amend my revision goals part-way through the month once I saw they were unattainable, as has been my habit in the past.

So, of my 20,000-word revision goal, I only revised 8,333 words, or 42%.

I wrote 4,866 words of my 5,000-word blogging goal, or 97%.

I revised one short story (which needs more work, but I’m letting it sit). I added 202 words to the draft. My goal was 250 words, which works out to 81%.

I was notified part-way through the month that a piece of short fiction that was accepted in 2021 would be appearing in the next issue of Polar Borealis. The issue has not been posted yet, so I won’t like to it, but it should be available by my next update.

Work on the anthology that accepted my story in January progresses. Cover and TOC reveals should be coming soon. Again, I’ll keep you posted.

I have my eyes on a couple open calls and hope to submit something to them in May.

At the end of January, I had applied to Your Personal Odyssey, the Odyssey Workshop’s new one-on-one mentorship program. I was notified in February that I had not been accepted from the early bird applicants, and in April, I learned that I had not been accepted at all. As with Odyssey, the new program had generated a lot of interest. Thousands of applicants for a handful of seats. While I am disappointed, I know the competition was intense and I was encouraged to try again next year. I will 🙂

Filling the well

On April 4th, I attended “Death to Show, Don’t Tell,” a webinar from Writing the Other. Excellent, as always. On the 13th, I attended the joint CAA/SFCanada webinar “How to Land that Writer’s Grant” presented by A.M. Todd. I’ve been entertaining applying for grants again.

I watched a couple of Jane Friedman webinars, “Maybe it’s not your Plot” presented by Susan DeFreitas, and “Building Better Critique Groups” by Lisa Cooper Ellison.

On the 19th, I started another series with Dan Blank with “Define your Creative Voice.” The second, “Create a Sharing System” was on the 26th. Then, I attended “First Pages” with Emily Colin through Authors Publish on the 20th.

Also, on the 26th was an OAC information session. It was focused more on visual artists, collaborations, and organizational funding, but I still gleaned some good information. Finally, I attended “Outlining for Pantsers” by Henry Lien through the Rambo Academy on April 30th.

There was a lot of writerly learning going on 🙂

The DTA situation is resolved. For now. I think. There may be further repercussions, but I’ll deal with those as they arise. I had to continue the trial accommodation through to the end of April, on labour relations’ insistence. My doctor declined to answer the additional questions LR wanted answered. If they’re not satisfied, they may send me for further evaluation with Health Canada. Whatever. I may have to contact my union representative again.

That uneasiness also put me off my game and the enforced days off only made me feel like I was behind at work. Another stress.

I had another therapy session and meeting with my support group.

When I saw my doctor to have the functional abilities form filled out again, I consulted him about some shoulder pain I’ve been experiencing. He suspects tendinitis. And I’m off to see a physiotherapist next week.

What I’m watching and reading

I watched a lot in April. A side effect of all those days off, I guess.

Phil and I watched the final season of The Last Kingdom. It was good, but it felt rushed. As with many series rushing to their endings, various characters acted out of character, changed their minds or opinions in quick succession, but it turned out all right. Uhtred got Bebbanburg back and secured King Edward’s rule.

I watched the final season of Killing Eve. I enjoyed it right up until the ending. I’ve read a few opinion pieces about it, because apparently, I’m not alone, but none of the reasons cited really sat well with me. Based on the series name, a foreshadowing the series continued to hammer home with a tarot card reading which predicted glory for Villanelle and Death for Eve in the final episode, I would have expected Eve to die. I might not have been happy with it, but it would have made sense. I might even have been okay with Villanelle dying. I was not at all satisfied with how the series did it, though. Carolyn did not deserve the win.

Yes. I get it. The world of spies and assassins is cutthroat. Carolyn was one of the OG Twelve. She’s got it in her. But she’s a traitor twice over. She decided to let Villanelle and Eve (the former more than the latter) take out the twelve for her and I could see that she was going to use Villanelle to get back in with MI6, but it felt unjust for her to succeed. I hoped that when Pam walked away from her offer, that Carolyn might have been scuttled, but really all it did was steel her determination to kill Villanelle. It makes sense. But it was deeply unsatisfying.

I finished off the first season of The Hardy Boys. It was cute. The retro, middle grade entry in the CW’s cadre of reboots.

Then, I finished watching the final season of Lost in Space. A good ending, all in all, but, like so many other series I’ve watched recently, the ending felt rushed.

Season two of The Witcher was ok. I’ll watch the next season. Still haven’t read any of the books, though.

I also watched Get Back. It was interesting to see the Beatles’ process in action even as they were slowly moving toward their breakup. The tension and dissatisfaction were palpable, even through the old footage.

Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart was fabulous, though. Big fan.

Finally, I watched two movies. The first was The Adam Project. It was made by the same team that did Free Guy but wasn’t quite as much fun. I did enjoy it, though.

The Batman wasn’t bad. Given how many reboots the series has had and how many actors have played the role, I was surprised they were able to pull together something original.

In terms of reading, I read another four books in April.

The first was A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders. It’s a great craft book, but I’ve never been that fond of the Russian authors.

Next, I read Victories Greater than Death by Charlie Jane Anders. A bit of a twist on the usual YA SF. A young girl grows up with the knowledge that she’s an alien and that her people are coming back for her when her beacon activates. When the beacon activates, she learns she’s actually the clone of a dead war hero who never wanted to be cloned. She returns in the middle of a galactic war and when the military tries to reinstate her original memories (essential for fighting said galactic war), the procedure fails. And things go downhill from there.

Then, I finished Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries. I know the novel won the Booker, but—can I say this? I liked the series better. The novel feels reminiscent (to me) of Moby Dick, but instead of whaling, the narrator (he’s not a protagonist) seeks to ease his troubles in the gold fields of New Zealand and gets wrapped up in the mystery involving Anna Wetherell, Emery Staines, and Crosbie Wells. I appreciated the conceit of astrology, but the central characters of the novel (again, my opinion) are largely absent until the last third of the novel.

Finally, I finished Allaigna’s Song: Overture, by J.M. Landels. I enjoyed it. It’s a quiet, secondary world fantasy, though. More court intrigue and legacy of secrets than action and adventure.

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!

The next chapter: March 2022 update

Egad! Where does the time go? I know it’s a thing—that time seems to past faster the older you get—but, come on.

Before we get into the writerly update, my monthly PSAs:

I stand with Ukraine and condemn Putin’s unprovoked war.

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Though restrictions have eased, case counts and hospitalisations are again on the rise. They’re talking about a sixth wave here in Canada. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask when you can’t. Get vaccinated if you haven’t. Get boosted if you haven’t. Sign up for the next booster when it’s available.

The month in writing

March was a good month, I think.

I only have two projects to report on (that I recorded on my Excel tracker).

I set what I though was a reasonable revision goal for Reality Bomb of 20,000 words. And I revised 18,277 words, or 91%. I only have eight chapters left to go. Then I’ll take a short break to work through some revision notes in my map, consolidate the cause and effect between scenes and ensure that every scene has a proper structure. I’m in a good place, though there’s still work to be done. There always will be.

I blogged 5,982 words of my 6,000-word goal. Essentially 100%.

In terms of projects I’m not tracking, I worked on my Ascension series master document and have gotten to the point where I have to reread the existing material before I proceed.

I also submitted a piece of short fiction to an open submission period.

I forgot to mention last month that the story I submitted to an anthology in January was rejected. It’s the life of a professional writer, submission and rejection. It’s an entirely negative-sounding process. Submission—to put yourself, or your work, at someone else’s mercy—and rejection—to be turned away. No wonder most people think writers are crazy 🙂

Filling the well

I attended two writerly events in March. The first was a workshop on planning and outlining your novel with Kate Heartfield, offered through the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers. The second was a demonstration on how to use tarot cards to develop a character arc from Margaret McNellis.

I also watched the replay of Finding and Working with the Right Literary Agent with Howard Yoon offered through Jane Friedman.

In the self-care department, I had an appointment with my RMT, my therapist, and my support group. I’m working on identifying thought distortions in the moment. Self-awareness is hard work.

I made a discovery. I don’t need a duty to accommodate. I’ve managed 21 years in the public service without. I just have to monitor my mental health a little more closely and take my sick leave as I need it. In my autistic way, I was so focused on the DTA process and “doing things right” that I completely missed the obvious. I do get hyper-focused from time to time. Fortunately, I caught myself, with the help of my therapist, before I committed to a 30-hour work week and the accompanying cut in pay.

Financial wellbeing supports mental health. As the sole support for my household, a one-fifth cut in my income would have been a blow. And the uncertainty about whether I could pay down our remaining debts before I retire would have weighed heavily. The cut to my pension would not have been welcome, either.

I’m going to see through my “trial period”—just three more weeks—supported by the use of my sick leave. I just have to get a doctor’s note to say that I am capable of working full time, without restrictions, and I won’t pursue a DTA further. It’s a relief, really.

What I’m watching and reading

In terms of viewing, I have a gap to fill from January (!) At the time, I had watched the last episode of the most recent season of Nancy Drew, but the network broadcasting it was advertising its return in March, so I was unaware that it was the last episode.

I’ll fill that gap now by saying that the season was its usual highly supernatural, highly sexually charged stories that I’ve come to expect from Nancy and the Drew Crew. Though she finally has the chance to hook up with Ace, Temperance curses her so that if she ever confesses her love for Ace, he’ll die. Dun, dun, dun!

Back in the March viewing department, Phil and I watched the new Vikings: Valhalla. In tone, it strikes somewhere between the original Vikings and The Last Kingdom. One of the new cast is Leif Erikson (son of Erik the Red). I’m willing to see where it leads, though they do make liberal reference to the original Vikings and the historical inaccuracies therein.

The rest of what I watched was personal viewing. Three series and two movies.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow finished its season in early March. I could just say that the usual wackiness ensued, but there was a little more meat to this season. Gideon becomes human but an uncorrupted version of the Gideon AI exists and creates robot versions of the legends to hunt them down and kill them.

Batwoman ended around the same time and the angst of the season was resolved, Ryan’s back in charge of Wayne Enterprises, her brother is “cured,” and Alice is committed to doing the work of healing.

Discovery was good, but sappy. A first contact situation with traditional Starfleet values all over the place.

I watched Turning Red. I think it was awesome.

And, finally, I watched the new Dune. I appreciated the choices Villeneuve made, but there are still some issues.

I read four books in March.

The first was this has nothing to do with you by Lauren Carter. It was a story about healing from trauma, and very good, but I found it a difficult read because the protagonist’s name was Mel and the fictional city of Norbury is a stand-in for Sudbury. Though the trauma—how to deal when your mother kills your father for having an affair—was nothing I personally relate to, it was nonetheless an uncomfortable read. But Grommet was wonderful.

Then I read Matthew Saleses Craft in the Real World, in which the author makes the case for an alternate version of workshopping/critique within the MFA frame of reference, so that it’s more inclusive of craft from other cultures. Thought provoking. Excellent.

I followed that up with Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin. OMG, so amazing. I have a feeling I’m going to return to it repeatedly.

Finally, I read Jael Richardson’s Gutter Child. Incredible. I’ll leave it there and encourage you all to read it.

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

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

The next chapter:  February 2022 update

Welcome to my next chapter update for February 2022! In this post, I talk about my month in writing, what I’ve accomplished and what I haven’t; what I’ve done to maintain my physical, mental, spiritual, and creative health; and what I’ve been watching and reading.

February was a good month, I think, but before we get to the progress part of the update, my monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Even though restrictions are being eased in many areas, covid is now endemic. You may get it, even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, and chances are that you will. But if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you’re more like to have a mild case. I’d still recommend washing your hands more frequently, maintaining physical distance where possible, and masking when it’s not.

On the news yesterday, I saw that there are still anti-masking/anti-vaccine mandate protests going on. Check yourselves people. There are more important things going on in the world, like the Russian invasion of the Ukraine (and now, apparently, Russian troops are amassing in other places, too). Get your heads out of your asses.

That is all.

The month in writing

February is the shortest month of the year and I set my revision goal accordingly. Given that I’d barely managed to revise 5,000 words in January, I thought I’d aim for 15,000. I’d reduce to 10,000 if I have to. BUT I didn’t have to!

I revised 15,822 words of Reality Bomb, or 105% of my goal. Yay!

I blogged 4,842 words, or 97% of my 5,000-word goal.

I even wrote and revised a story (!), which I didn’t anticipate. More on that in filling the well. I made room for a 2,500-word piece of short fiction, but the story only ended up being 1,748 words in the first draft. 70% of my goal is great for a story I didn’t intend to write 🙂 I made room for 250 words of revision, but only revised 148 words, or 58%.

In terms of projects I’m not tracking wordcount for, I worked on my Ascension Masterdoc for the first time in months. I was just settling the last dates into my timeline for book one and am now starting work on book two. At this stage, it’s just structural. Adding or deleting or moving chapters around (in my map).

I received an email regarding edits for the short story that was accepted in January, and—there were none (!) That’s the first time that’s happened. Ever. I’ve now also signed the contract and reviewed the page proofs. Look forward to the cover reveal in coming months.

Filling the well

In terms of writerly events, I signed up for Daisuke Shen’s Speculative Fiction Workshop, run through Authors Publish. The course officially ran January 31st to February 25th, but I’m still working through the last couple of weeks, ‘cause work. It was in this course that I received the prompt that inspired my new story. While there are comments and corrections to make, Daisuke was, overall, very supportive of the story and I hope to receive some suggestions about where to submit it when I send my revised story for her review.

I signed up for a couple of free webinars through WordPress.com. They were informative.

My duty to accommodate (DTA) progresses. My doctor filled out the functional abilities form, and I submitted it to my manager. I have an official, but temporary, DTA agreement in place, subject to review in three months (from the date I initiated the process on January 25th).

I am concerned because I’ve been told that once the agreement is made permanent, I will no longer be able to use my sick leave to support my days off. I’ll be officially cut to part time hours. Although the reduction in income is not significant, I am sole support for my household, and even a small reduction in my income may cause hardship. That’s an additional stress I don’t need.

We’ll see what happens in April.

I met with my therapist and support group the day before I met with my manager to discuss my DTA. In both sessions, I’d praised my employer for being so supportive.

It’s disappointing.

Something I didn’t mention last month is that I’m engaged in an assessment process for my position. I’m hoping that qualifying on another pool will help keep me in the position on a permanent basis. Currently, I’m acting (until November 30, 2022). At any time, I could return to my previous position. It’s not the worst thing that could happen, but I worked hard to get this position and I want to keep it for the remainder of my career.

I had my first round of testing mid-February. Will let you know how it all goes in future updates.

My comfort and solace 🙂

What I’m watching and reading

In February, I finished watching Homeland. This series has always been a little depressing because of Carrie’s ongoing struggles with bipolar disorder and the dire nature of the international crises she faces each season. This eighth and final (so far) season is no exception.

Carrie is still recovering from her months-long detention in Russia during which she was deprived of her medication. She has no idea whether she may have disclosed secret information during this time and neither are her superiors, who continue to interrogate her about her incarceration. Saul, however, needs her in the field, and pulls strings to get her there.

The season’s arc is tragic. Carrie must betray Saul to prevent a war, but she redeems herself in the denouement in a way that offers hope.

Phil and I watched the first season of The Legend of Vox Machina. Helmed by the creators of Critical Role, TLoVM will be a balm to any old school role-players out there. In the opening minute, every high-level group of adventurers is killed by an unseen foe. The kingdom is so desperate, they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, which is where they find and recruit Vox Machina. I won’t say anything more about the series. You’ll know by the above if you’re TLoVM’s target audience.

So. Much. FUN!!

We also watched the first season of Foundation. I loved it. The general atmosphere and effects were >chef’s kiss.< Neither of us have read the book, though, so I can’t tell you how it stacks up. Shuffling Asimov up in the TBR pile.

To keep things symmetrical, I finished reading three books in February.

The first was Brandon Sanderson’s Cytonic, book three in the Skyward Flight series. At the end of book two, Spensa fled into the Nowhere with M-Bot’s AI (in a cleaning drone) and her pet tanix, Doomslug. The Superiority is in negotiations with the Delvers to have the latter destroy all cytonics and the societies that produce them. Spensa has to find a way to stop that from happening by walking a cryptic path through the floating islands of the Nowhere to find the truth of the Delvers and her own nature.

The first problem she’s presented with is that few people ever leave the Nowhere. She soon discovers the reason: the longer a sentient being stays in the Nowhere, the more they forget of their life in the galaxy outside. The only way to hold onto memories is with something called an icon, which Spensa mysteriously has. When she loses the icon, though, it’s a race against time—and memory—to solve the mystery of the Delvers and save the galaxy.

Then, I finished Apocalypse Nyx a collection of short stories by Kameron Hurley. The stories centre on Nyx, the protagonist of Hurley’s God’s War series. They fill in some of the backstory of the characters in Nyx’s crew and share some of their misadventures.

Finally, I finished Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury. It’s a futuristic science fantasy that involves genetics and witches in a not-too-distant Toronto. Sambury is a Trinidadian-Canadian author (who I think is currently living in northern Ontario?) and I’m following her career with interest.

Voya Thomas comes of age, and in a witch family, that means passing her Calling, a task given by the ancestors. Voya’s task is to destroy her first love, or risk losing her family’s magic forever.

Aaaaaand … that was the month in this writer’s life.

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

The next chapter: January 2022 update

Blink and the month disappears. Boggle. I think 2022 is off to a reasonable start, though. More on that in a bit.

First, here are your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

As restriction are once again lifted, it’s even more important that ever to stick with basic preventative measures. Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, wear a mask when you can’t, get double vaccinated if you haven’t, and get your booster. Make sure your children are vaccinated and boosted as soon as they become eligible.

And to the “freedom convoys”—just fuck right the hell off.

The month in writing

Revisions to Reality Bomb continue. Slowly. January was still a bit of a struggle, mostly because of work (more on that in filling the well).

Originally, I thought I might be able to get as much as 10,000 words revised on RB (though I suspected that it was a bit optimistic). Part-way through the month, I adjusted that down to 5,000 words. I still fell a bit short of that, revising 4,945 words, or 99% or my adjusted goal.

I wrote 5,390 words of my 5,000-word blogging goal, or 108%.

I revised and submitted another short story. I had thought that there would be more rework involved, but it turns out I only added about 70 words. The rest was all cutting. It’s an experimental piece for me. I tried out 2nd person POV and included footnotes. We’ll see what the editors think. I’ll let you know in a future update.

So, 70 words revised of a 250-word goal, or 28%.

In other writerly news, another of my short stories was accepted to an anthology that should be published later this year. I’ll share more as announcements are made.

And, a year to the day after I submitted a small sample of my poetry to a small press, I received a request for the full manuscript. I spent a few hours sprucing it up and adding one of my new poems published last year … and sent it.

Again, I’ll have to let you know if anything comes of it in a future update.

I’ve been slowly updating my blog and social media to include what I’ve come to think of as my new branding. Writerly Goodness has become Always Looking Up. This comes, in part, from my sky photos, but I’ve come to understand that everything I write has an undertone of hope. I’m also including the #actuallyautistic hashtag to my site and social media. I have to take some updated pictures, include the covers of my more recent publications in my header image, and other stuff like that, but I’m not stressing it. It’ll happen when it happens.

The other big thing I did in January was submit an application to Your Personal Odyssey, Odyssey’s new one-on-one program. The deadline isn’t until April 1st, but I wanted to get my application in sooner than later. I’ll find out if I’m accepted after that date. Crossing fingers.

Filling the well

In terms of writing events, I attended “The Anxiety Talk” from Jane Friedman, “Hosting Accessible Events” with Amanda Leduc of the FOLD, and “How Self-Editing—and Editors—Help You Perfect your Stories” by Dani Alcorn.

I also signed up for “Introduction to Illustration” with Millie Nice through The Guardian Masterclasses. It was something I wanted to do for myself. I used to draw and sketch a lot but haven’t been able to get back to it despite wanting to. Millie’s class was a lovely kickstart. I haven’t had the time to sketch since, but I anticipate that I’ll take some time to do it in the future.

I had another appointment with my therapist, another support group meeting, and an online writers’ meet up, which was nice.

I was boosted on the 11th! Side effects the same as the prior two vaccinations despite receiving Moderna this time. So, I’m a Pfi-Pfi-Mo.

My accommodation request has progressed. I now have Wednesdays off pending the official agreement. I have an appointment with my doctor to get the accommodation form filled out and then it’s back to my employer for next steps.

Again, this seems to be moving a lot faster than I thought it might and my manager has been supportive.

Feeling gratitude.

Rosy dawn and a wee pillar.

What I’m watching and reading

In January, Phil and I watched a couple of series.

First, we finished watching the last season of The Expanse. The feels! It was a great send off for all of the characters.

Then we watched the most recent season of Titans. All I have to say about it is … come on. It was not good.

We also watched The Eternals. I enjoyed it. It’s not your typical Marvel movie, but I appreciated what Zhao tried to do with it. It was more about the relationships between the eternals than big fight scenes.

I watched a couple of movies on my own.

The first was Free Guy. So. Much. Fun!

And then, I watch Encanto. Lovely, low-key family story. Loved.

In the reading department, I finished ReDawn, the second Skyward Flight novella by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson. ReDawn picks up where Sunreach left off with the gang on Detritus. [SPOILERS] Minister Kuna has been rescued, but now, the governing council of Detritus is considering an overture from the Superiority.

Alanik, the POV of this novella, returns to her home only to discover that her people are facing the same problem.

In Evershore, the third Skyward Flight novella, the POV character switches to Jorgen. Though he and the rest of Skyward Flight have helped to save Alanik’s people, Detritus has suffered a devastating blow, losing their governing council, including Jorgen’s parents.

As Jorgen works through his grief and tries to secure Detritus against the Superiority, he also has to solve a cytonic mystery. Spensa’s grandmother and their admiral have gone missing. Alanik was able to confirm that they were not killed with the rest of the council, but she can’t find them.

Then, she picks up a Kitsun transmission that they have some of Spensa’s people to return.

Jorgen’s growing cytonic abilities, affected by his grief, prove problematic as he leads Skyward Flight on a rescue mission in the hope of forging another alliance.

I took a break from Skyward Flight, reading Sarah Penner’s The Lost Apothecary. It’s a lovely piece of women’s fiction with a dual timeline. In the present day, Caroline deals with the disintegration of her marriage and the dreams she abandoned for it. Triggered by the discovery of an old vial, she delves into the never-solved apothecary murders.

In the past, Nella, the apothecary who dispenses poisons to help women escape abusive relationships waits to see her next customer.

Then, I read Bad Witch Burning by Jessica Lewis. Katrell can talk to the dead and makes a little money on the side by writing letters that invite ghosts to talk to their living loved ones. She receives a warning that she chooses not to listen to, because she’s in desperate need of money to support her mother and a string of abusive, deadbeat boyfriends. When the current boyfriend kills her dog, Katrell tries to write a letter to him, only to bring him back from the grave.

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!

The next chapter: December 2021 update and year-end review

And, just like that (and, no; never watched SatC; won’t watch AJLT), the second year of the pandemic ends.

2021 was an … interesting year. I’ll get to that in a bit.

Before we get to my December update, my monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter. We need to keep striving to be good allies and keep the critical issues front and centre.

Wash your hands, maintain physical distance, mask in public, get vaccinated (if you haven’t), and get your booster. Delta and omicron won’t be the only variants to emerge. And let’s be clear. The variants are there. They always have been. It’s just that, as we get better at suppressing the ones we know about, the ones we don’t have a chance to surge. Some may be less virulent, or not virulent at all. Some may be less transmissible or not transmissible at all. Some may not even infect humans. But it’s the ones that are more virulent, more transmissible, and infect humans that we have to watch for. This ain’t over yet.

The month in writing

Following the marathon that is NaNoWriMo, I wanted to take a break from revision. I only intended to rest until December 5th, but work got hectic again, and I ended up revising as I could, which meant not much at all.

Originally, I thought I could, based on my performance in November, revise about 20,000 words of Reality Bomb. Unfortunately, I had to amend that goal mid-month and reduced it first to 10,000 words, then 5,000 words, and ultimately 1,000 words. Of that 1,000-word goal, I revised 853 words, or 85%.

Admittedly, I decided to read through the draft to the point where I left off in NaNo, which was about the midpoint of the novel. So that 853 words represents a bunch of cutting and adding that I chose not to get too granular on.

My only writing goal for the month was the blog and of my 3,500-word goal, I wrote 5,422 words, or 155%.

The writing year in review

I started out 2021 by trying something different. I’d finished the last rewrite of RB by the close of 2020 and decided to focus on short fiction and poetry for the first three months of the year.

This worked out well for me. I wrote, revised, and submitted several short stories and poems, earned several rejections, and then had three poems and a short story accepted for future publication in February.

In March, I entered the SciArt Poetry competition and won the community category. I read my poem on Science North’s YouTube channel at the end of March, and the poem would be published later in the year in Sulphur X, Laurentian University’s literary journal.

I also started to revise RB in March based on my returned critiques.

In April, I had another story accepted for future publication, and the last of my poems accepted in 2020 was published.

Revision was not going well, though.

I was somewhat stymied by the critiques I received back in January and February. I couldn’t figure out how to use the feedback to revise my novel. I had thought a couple of months would be long enough for me to figure out a game plan, but, because I had already started on my journey to autism diagnosis, I was thinking about other things.

I had intended to rewrite/revise between 500 and 1,000 words a day on weekdays and a chapter each day on weekends, and thus be finished my next draft sometime in the summer. At that point, I had hoped to move onto Marushka and prepare that draft, on which I’d also received feedback, for next round revisions in November.

I wrote a new opening chapter and revised from there, dividing chapters into smaller chunks. I was still writing in close third (or trying for it). I revised 28,202 words up to about the middle of July, when I hit the point where my protagonist enters another of the many worlds and is trapped inside her other self.

The challenges of having two people in the same physical body and trying to make then both distinct and identifiable in terms of formatting (italics for one, ? for the other?) made it clear that I had to rewrite the draft in first person. Past or present, though? I opted for present despite my failure to nail the POV on an earlier draft. There would still be some difficulties making the story dynamic enough for first person present (my protagonist is disembodied for three quarters of the novel and thus, largely “in her head”), but I decided that it would be the best fit and returned to the beginning.

From the middle of July through to the end of November, I revised 62,996 words, but some of that was reworking my novel map (chapter and scene breakdown), which I counted only in November. I got to the midpoint … and then decided, as I mentioned above, to take a break.

Since, I’ve been rereading the revised draft to date, making a few more additions and deletions, and thinking of a better way to weave in some of the minor characters throughout the novel so they don’t feel like wasted opportunities.

I’ve even been using tarot to help free my intuitive writer. It’s working out surprisingly well.

About the same time I made my fateful POV decision in July, I realized that if I wanted to work on any other big project this year, it would not be Marushka. But, as it turned out, I haven’t had the spoons to finish my work on RB, let alone start on a new novel …

In November, I made the decision to leave DIY MFA as a regular columnist. I’m trying to conserve my energy for what matters most.

I’m going to have to review my other commitments as well.

I haven’t been active in my critique group since summer. I need to reconnect, but I’m struggling.

Onto the statistics!

In terms of word count, I wrote:

  • 10 poems,
  • 4,146 words of short fiction,
  • 58,061 words on Writerly Goodness,
  • 5,623 words on my Speculations column, and
  • 360 words on a side project.

That’s 68,190 words and 10 poems.

I revised:

  • 92,048 words on RB (some several times), and
  • 12,023 words of short fiction.

That’s 104,071 words revised.

Some of these goals I didn’t assign numbers to at the beginning of the year. I didn’t know how much I would write or revise on some projects and so just left them blank in terms of goals. The poetry and short fiction (writing and revision) were in this category and so any work done on those projects was bonus.

If you want to zoom in on the relative percentages of the writing and revision goals I did set out for myself, you’re welcome to do so 🙂

There was also the work on my Ascension series masterdoc (like that term so much better than bible) that I didn’t track in terms of word count. Throughout the year, I wrote out and revised the worldbuiding for my world (cosmology, history, peoples, languages, etc.) and character sketches, and I restructured the first book of the series in outline. I’ve had to work out the calendar of events for the last bit of book one. I had a lot of questions marks on my timeline. I’m working it out.

Eventually, I’ll expand the outlines/maps for each book in the series with scenes and sequels as I rewrite.

Looking forward

I’m going to try to finish my rewrite of RB this year. I’m not setting any hard and fast goals, but I’m hoping to do that by the end of June.

I might decide to work with a book coach or editor at that time. So, I’ll probably spend some time in the spring making initial enquiries.

Then, I’ll probably do with the summer what I did with January to March of last year and focus on short fiction and poetry as a break from novelling. I’ll also use that time to revisit my next novel project (partly written as a very long short story) and prepare to begin drafting in the fall.

I have most of my drafted novels included in my 2022 writing and revision tracker, but I’m not committing to them in any way. They’re just there to remind me that I have a lot of things I can work on, if I so choose.

Filling the well

In December, I didn’t attend any literary events live online. I did sign up for a Tiffany Yates-Martin webinar through Jane Friedman, but I watched the replay, ‘cause work.

My small family (me and Phil, his sister and spouse, our moms) got together to celebrate my mom-in-law’s 80th birthday and then again on Boxing Day for Christmas (it was supposed to be Christmas Day, but freezing rain changed our plans).

And aside from therapy, a support group meeting, massage, and a couple of days of leave, that was it for filling the well in December.

For the first year in … forever, I put up the Christmas tree.

The personal year in review

I started 2021 at a low point, feeling like an imposter at both work and creative pursuits. I was also feeling stuck physically, having slowly yo-yo’ed between 170 and 200 pounds since my early 20s.

It being a pandemic and all, I decided that, instead of going it alone, as was my habit, I’d ask for help.

For mental health support, I reached out to my employer’s EAP. For physical health support, I turned to Noom. By May 10th, I’d been diagnosed as autistic, a timeline that I’ve since come to understand is amazingly quick. By the end of July, I cancelled my Noom account, having surpassed my goal of 170 pounds and achieved 150. I continued to lose weight through August, finally settling at 140 pounds, which I’ve since maintained (even during the holidays!).

It’s the lightest I’ve been in my adult life and I’m feeling physically healthy.

In November, I finally connected with a therapist through the Redpath Centre, which specializes in support for autistics. When I met with her for the first time, my therapist referred me to a support group.

I’m currently working toward getting a workplace accommodation, having experienced autistic burnout as the result of a very stressful acting position and project. I struggled again in December because of a similar situation and I’m trying to find a way to manage my stress levels on an ongoing basis, so I don’t need to take additional time off to recover my head.

It’s been a transformative year with regard to my physical and mental health, and I’m ready to shift my focus back to creative pursuits.

What I’m watching and reading

In December, I watched three movies and finished watching three series. That seems nice and symmetrical, to me 😉

First, I watched Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. I loved it. Yes, it wasn’t really Shang Chi’s story, and there were a few things that stretched credibility, but I really appreciated the homage to Jackie Chan’s movies (many of which I’ve watched over the years) and fighting style. They even had choreographers from Jackie Chan’s team working on the movie. Wong and Morris rock.

Then, I caught John Wick 3: Parabellum. It filled in the series for me. What can I say? Over the top violence is something I enjoy? In the right circumstances, I guess. Didn’t appreciate the uncharacteristic twist that was JW’s dark moment, but the movie made up for it in the end.

Phil and I watched The Suicide Squad on New Years Eve. So much better than the first movie. Harley Quinn is the best character in the DCEU.

I finished watching the final season of Dear White People. Not sure if I liked the framing device (telling the season from the perspective of the characters in the future) or the whole season being focused on the musical review in their last year as Winchester. It was okay. They tied up all the critical stories in the end.

Watched the latest Dr. Who series, said to be Jodie Whittaker’s last. It was a bit confusing at first, but after a couple of episodes, everything came together. I also was the New Year’s special, thinking that it might offer up a clue to the next regeneration. It didn’t. I can’t not love Jodie Who. I’ll be sad to see her leave.

Finally, Phil and I watched the first season of The Wheel of Time. Neither of us have read the books. I really liked it. More than Phil did, I think. He was put off by all the comparisons to Game of Thrones. WoT is its own thing. I appreciated it as such.

Reading-wise, I only finished reading three books in December.

I read Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I (yes, the book that was the basis for the first season of the Bridgerton series). I’ve read romance in the past, but my preference runs to Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, whose books would probably be classified as “bodice rippers.” The book does treat Daphne’s technical rape of Simon more tactfully, but the story itself was less compelling.

Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson have written several novellas in the Skyward Flight series to bridge the gap between books two and three of the series. I read the first of those, Sunreach, which focuses on the secondary character of FM, the rescue of Minister Kuna, and how the rest of the flight back at Detritus deals with the discovery that Spensa’s pet Doomslug, a Taynix, is a cytonic creature capable of powering a hyperdrive. I really liked it and am now on the second novella, Redawn.

I finished off the year with Sarah Hollowell’s A Dark and Starless Forest. It’s a dark book, and thus was a little challenging to get through. It focuses on a remote house in which abandoned child “alchemists” live under the dubious protection of Frank. It’s clear the young alchemists, including Derry, the protagonist, live in fear of Frank, and it soon becomes clear why. But as Derry’s sisters disappear, one by one, she has to find a way to solve the mystery without arousing Frank’s wrath. Despite its darkness, I really liked the book.

Because of general busy-ness and distraction, I only read 55 books of my 65-book goal in 2021.

I’ve reduced this year’s goal to 60 and hope to attain it, but that will depend, in part, on work.

And that was the month (and 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:  October/November 2021 update

Sweet Lord! It feels like forever since I wrote one of these. Forever and a week. And three days. Sorry about that. The last couple of weeks have been hectic at work. Ran out of weekend on the 4th/5th (what with all the Christmas-ing). And I ran out of weekend again on the 11th/12th because it was my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party. Both of those will feature in December’s next chapter update.

The month(s) in writing

 Will start off with October … if I can remember that far back 🙂

The writing was not going well.

I was still recovering from my autistic burnout, still being kind to myself, and still busy at work. There are more days when I did not work on Reality Bomb than days I worked on it. Of my conservative 5,000-word revision goal for the month, I only revised 3,060 words. That’s 61%.

I did work on a piece of short fiction, but it was focused editing to reduce the word count, so there was nothing to record. I submitted the story and the rejection came back two days later.

Aside from RB and the story, I kept up with my curation posts. I wrote 4,811 words of my 3,500-word goal, or 137%.

And that’s all I did in October.

The November update is just going to be summary 🙂 I embarked on NaNoWriMo 2021 with a conservative goal. All I really wanted to do was get back to a regular writing habit, if for no other reason than to prove that I could do it.

I was a NaNo Rebel and titled my project NaNo Rebel Combo. I counted everything I wrote or revised in the month. It helped that I had the first two weeks of November off work, but I sincerely thought my progress would crater after I returned.

Surprisingly, it didn’t.

Words revised on RB and edits to its story map: 44,854

Words written on short fiction: 1,424

Words blogged: 2,138

Words written on (my last) Speculations column: 1,653

Other words written: 360

Total words revised: 44,854

Total words written: 5,575

Grand total: 50,429 words

I submitted the short story I wrote to an anthology call. Will let you know if anything comes of that.

Filling the well

In October, I attended two virtual writerly events. A reading by Wab Kinew, and the combined Writing Excuses/Surrey International Writers’ Conference online. Both were lovely. And WXR/SiWC posted all their sessions for attendee viewing for 30 days after the event, so I was able to watch all the sessions I had to miss because work.

My mom hosted Thanksgiving for our family.

I also tracked down a therapist who specializes in autism and scheduled an appointment with her in early November.

I went in to work on October 29th and retrieved my chair. It was an accommodation request resulting from an ergonomic assessment before we got our adjustable desks at work. At the time, sitting was the issue and standing was the solution. After eight years of standing to work and write, I decided to change things up and try sitting again for a while.

I adjusted the seat pan and back to encourage me to lean back, so I wouldn’t get tense and torque out my neck, back, and shoulders the way I used to. And it’s working. I had some difficulties with the height of the arm rests, but now that I’ve resolved those, I’m golden. I credit my NaNo win, at least in part, to my new, comfortable sitting arrangement.

I made the tough decision to stop writing my column for DIY MFA. They’ve become a kind of family. I’ll miss writing for them, but I have to refocus on myself right now.

In November, aside from NaNo, I attended several virtual sessions from this year’s Wordstock Sudbury and a couple of Jane Friedman webinars.

Home for the Howlidays, with my short story, “The Wolf You Feed,” was launched on November 23rd. It’s available on Amazon if you want some wolfish holiday reads.

I had my first session with my therapist, got a note from my doctor for insurance, and submitted my first claim (which was subsequently paid). I investigated the accommodation process at work. In short, I made progress.

My two weeks of vacation in November, compared to the two weeks of sick leave I took back in September, were truly restorative. September was just about getting my head back. My success in NaNoWriMo cemented for me that I can still write and/or revise daily, that everything I produce is not crap, and that I can still accomplish lofty creative goals if I commit.

But now, there’s another urgent project that needs to be completed at work, and I’m taking another break (not voluntarily). I have to manage my energy levels and health.

And get lots of cuddles!

What I’m watching and reading

Watching first, as has been my pattern of late.

The Black Widow movie wasn’t as bad as I’d been led to believe. It didn’t blow my mind, but it was enjoyable.

I finished watching the last season of Riverdale, for real this time. Not fond of the time jump and the super-clichéd storylines. Betty’s basically Clarice Starling, Jughead’s every substance-abusing writer ever rumoured, Archie’s a veteran now, but all his flashbacks look like WWII (?), Veronica is the vixen of Wall Street … just ugh.

The New Mutants was okay. I always enjoy Maisie Williams and Anya Taylor Joy, but I wasn’t fond of how the latter, as Illyana Rasputin, was framed as a mean girl. It just didn’t fit with my experience of the comics.

The series finale of Supergirl was sappy, as expected. The conflict felt off all season, though. Kara (and everyone, really) made a lot of uncharacteristic decisions, because final season? A little disappointing.

Phil and I watched the second season of Locke & Key. Not bad. Better than season one, I think, but it took a while to kick into gear, and, honestly, it had been so long since the first season, I was unclear on a lot of the plot, even with the season one recap under my metaphorical belt. It came together in the end, though.

The latest season of Doom Patrol was … frustrating more than anything. Excuse my language, but they’re all still fucked up fuckups. You’d think they’d have spanked their inner moppets by now.

Finally, the shining view of the last two months, Reservation Dogs. Loved! That is all. Go watch it now!

In the reading department, I read nine books over the two months. Having said that, I’m currently nine books behind in my 2021 Goodreads challenge. I may not even make last year’s goal (which I surpassed, by the way) of 60 books.

I listened to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, part 1 on Audible. It was a fully produced audioplay, with top actors, and I loved it, despite its meandering story. It was originally a graphic novel, and episodic, so that was to be expected. I’m looking forward to the Netflix series.

Having read and enjoyed P. Djèlí Clark’s Master of Djinn, I thought I should fill in the gap with the novellas that lead up to it. The Haunting of Tram Car 015, was fun and focused on supporting characters from the novel, Hamed and Onsi.

I read Django Wexler’s The Thousand Names as part of a book club my critique group started. It was good, but the protagonist, Winter, doesn’t show up right away. Maybe it’s because the novel is more properly Marcus’s story, but, being a woman, I connected to Winter more. As a result, it was an uneven read. I enjoyed it, and the world building was great, but Marcus was a very traditional protagonist in epic fantasy. I wasn’t as interested in his story and thus didn’t enjoy the novel as much as I might have.

I finished This is How You Lose the Time War by Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar next, though I’d started it before taking up The Thousand Names. It was actually the first novel selected for our book club. I loved the lyrical nature of the book and the largely epistolary structure. Other readers were not as enamoured. El-Mohtar is a poet. So am I (sometimes). I really got into the words, savoured them, rolled them around on my tongue and in my brain. Loved.

Witchmark, by C.L. Polk, was an enchanting (pun intended) read. It was so good I can’t wait to get into the rest of the series 🙂

Alice Payne Rides is Kate Heartfield’s follow up to Alice Payne Arrives. It was interesting reading this so soon after This is How You Lose the Time War. There were enough similarities that I wonder if El-Mohtar might have been influenced by Heartfield’s Alice, at least in part.

Catherine Hernandez’ Crosshairs was a bit of a harrowing read. It’s a dystopia, which takes as its genesis that Canada followed our neighbours to the south in instituting a totalitarian, fundamentalist, and fascist regime. In fact, Hernandez imagines a Canada that goes even farther, instituting workhouses for all “others,” be they people of colour, Indigenous peoples, LGBTQ2S+, or followers of religions other than Christianity. An excellent novel that challenges everything you think Canada is.

I then listened to Tanya Talaga’s All Our Relations. Excellent. I now want to find out more about the Sami, Scandinavia’s Indigenous people.

Finally, I read Roshani Chokshi’s The Bronzed Beasts, the third book in the trilogy that began with The Gilded Wolves. Yum! Bittersweet ending that in some ways reminded me of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue.

And that was the last two months in this writer’s life.

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

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 4, mini update

This will be a super quick update today. I’ll have a more complete update on the 30th. Or maybe the 1st. Depending on how I feel. I usually need to take a bit of a break after the blitz.

The plan

 Keeping on as I was keeping on appears to be working out 🙂

The progress

Between revision on Reality Bomb and filling in its map, I put in 11,484 words.

I wrote 393 words on my short story. Probably only going to get the one done this month.

And this post is 162 words.

Total for the week: 12,039 words.

Running total for NaNoWriMo 2021: 49,861 words.

Think I’ll make the 50k? Yeah, me, too 🙂

The pivot

There are only two days left (!) No time to pivot, even if I wanted to.

As mentioned of the top, I’ll be posting a NaNoWriMo 2021 wrap up on Tuesday or Wednesday.

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

NaNoWriMo 2021, week 3 mini update

It’s the end of week 3 and I’m still doing well … ? Better than I thought I’d be faring at this point, that’s for sure. Best be grateful, eh?

The plan

I expected my production to dip with my return to work, and there was one day where I only managed 407 words of revision, and two others where I logged less than 1,667 words (1,187 and 1,099, to be specific). Otherwise, though, I recorded over the 1,667 and made up for the shortfall.

There were a couple of stressful days (the ones where I logged 407 and 1,099, coincidentally), but overall, I’ve been trying to manage a better work/life/creative balance. I think it’s working?

The progress

Revisions to Reality Bomb and filling in my scene map amounted to 10,451 words.

I wrote another 360 words of short fiction.

And this update is 214 words.

My total for week 3 is 11,025 words.

And my total for NaNoWriMo 2021 so far is 37,831 words.

The pivot

I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, I think. No pivot necessary. Of course, I’ll have to watch the work stress. It’s getting better, though.

I hope all my American friends have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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

The next chapter: September 2021 update

Another month gone. Le sigh.

Here in Canada, we had a federal election that changed nothing, our first Truth and Reconciliation Day, and a slew of continuing political scandals and health crises. We’re still in dumpster fire territory.

Your monthly PSAs:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Please continue to wash your hands, mask in public places, maintain physical distance, and if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please do so, soonest. And get your flu shot, too. It’s forecast to be a narsty flu year now that reopening is happening and kids are back in school.

The month in writing

The month in writing kinda wasn’t. I’ll get to the why of it in the next section. Suffice it to say, I didn’t write for more than half the month.

It’s probably not surprising, then, that of the 10,000 words I’d hoped to revise/rewrite on Reality Bomb, I only managed 5,056 words, or 51% of goal.

I revised a whole 82 words of my 500-word short fiction goal, or 16%.

The only thing that I kept up with was blogging. I blogged 5,301 words of my 3,750-word goal. 141%. I’ll take it.

My latest Speculations came out mid-month.

And that’s about it.

I’m slowly getting back into the groove. I’m not stressing when I have too much going on to pay proper attention to writing. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Filling the well

I attended three virtual writing-related events in September. First, I took part in Suzy Vadori’s virtual writers’ retreat Sept 10 – 14, which was flexible enough to fit in around work.

Then, CanWrite! 2021 and FiyahCon were both on the same weekend. Fortunately, I was able to watch the FiyahCon panels I missed in replay. So, it wasn’t terribly stressful. I caught Terry Fallis’s and Farzana Doctor’s sessions at CanWrite! and that was really what I wanted to catch.

I went out to my sister-in-law’s for an outdoor family BBQ. Phil made the burgers. Ger made fresh-cut fries. My mom made a three-bean salad, and Steph made the BEST cherry pie EVAR.

In health-related news … there was a lot.

After the end of my acting, I returned to my position as an instructional designer on a short week, which was made even shorter by a dental checkup and taking my overtime as compensatory time. I still wasn’t feeling quite right, though. I had a doctor’s appointment the following Monday, and I got a sick note for two weeks off work.

While I was off, I took care of some other stuff (shingles vaccine 1 of 2, blood work, orthotic check, that kind of thing).

I’ve also been trying to find myself a therapist. I think I’d really benefit from having someone to help my navigate this sea-change in my life. There’s really no one who specializes in women who are diagnosed as autistic later in life. At least not locally. I have some feelers out, thanks to a friend, but I haven’t heard back yet.

I’ve been using the quality of my sleep, the amount and nature of my rumination, and my relative level of brain fog as my barometers. My sleep has improved—I’m dreaming non-work-related dreams—I’m not ruminating about my work-related failures, but most mornings I’m still foggy.

I was back at work last week and it was really hard.

This weekend has been restorative, though.

A little morning halo for you.

What I’m watching and reading

I’m going to short-form my list this month because I watched a lot in my time off, and a number of mid-season series finished their runs. My reading’s back on track as well.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. The whole season could be summed up by saying … and wackiness ensues. John Constantine’s arc was a bit dark, but the rest was so outlandish that I couldn’t take anything seriously.

The Flash was its usual schmaltz.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe. Yes, there were obvious gaffes that resulted from rewriting and reshooting during a pandemic to avoid a viral subplot, but I enjoyed it.

I May Destroy You was brilliant, but traumatic to watch.

Fleabag was similar but not quite as traumatic.

Black Lightning finished its run in typical DC fashion. Tobias Whale is dead, and everyone is ready for their HEA except poor painkiller, who had to forget he ever knew the Pierces as the cost of removing his kill order on them.

I also watched three movies.

Soul was quite good, as Pixar movies tend to be.

Amazon’s take on Cinderella was an interesting twist [SPOILERS], with Ella’s desire to be a fashion designer causing the prince to abdicate and follow his heart.

Raya and the Last Dragon was another show that I felt was better than some reviews made it out to be. The ending made me teary. Yup. I’m a sap.

Finally, I watched The Death Cure. I’d seen the ending before, so I knew what was going to happen, but I watched it anyway. The thing that got me was that there was evidence in the second Maze Runner movie that showed Thomas’s blood had curative properties, but nobody figured it out. They could have saved Newt. His death was pointless. A lot of the character deaths were.

I finished or read six books in September.

First was Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Wonderful storytelling. It was an easygoing story with an uplifting ending.

[SPOILERS] Rebecca Roanhorse’s Black Sun was interesting, but it would appear that the two main characters are dead at the end. I wonder how the author’s going to walk that back.

[SPOILERS] M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts was typically post-apocalyptic. In the end, all the humans die but the teacher, and she gets to teach the hungry kids, who are apparently the evolutionary future of the human race.

I enjoyed Ashley Shuttleworth’s A Dark and Hollow Star despite the rampant infodumping. The world; the connections between the seelie and unseelie fae, fairies, ironborn, gods, and titans; the interplay of science and magic, kind of required it. And I liked that it was partly set in Toronto.

Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi was the perfect read for my recovery. Short and yet complex. Gentle and kind and even if the ending isn’t particularly happy, it’s hopeful. LOVED.

Finally, Bethany C. Morrow’s A Chorus Rising focuses on Naema Bradshaw, the secondary antagonist from A Song Below Water. A deep dive into what social media and being an influencer can do to a person … until she gets a reality check in the form of her true nature as an Eloko.

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

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

The next chapter: August 2021 update

There’s something about the quality of the light in September that I love. The position of the sun in the sky, its later rising as we near the autumnal equinox. They instil peace and evoke memories of happy times in my life. Lying in my bed with the light flooding into my room as a gentle nudge to waking. Sitting on a covered porch in a comfy chair, wrapped in a sweater, with a cup of tea and my journal, writing. Solitary moments when I felt wholly myself.

I hope you find some joy in the season, too.

Before we get to the update, here are my monthly PSA’s:

All lives cannot matter until BIPOC lives matter.

Keep washing your hands, wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance, and, if you haven’t been fully vaccinated yet, please get on that, won’t you? Delta’s still raging and new variants are on the horizon.

The month in writing

August started off well, writing-wise, but something happened (more on that in filling the well) that sent my train off the rails. Originally, I’d set myself an ambitious goal (as you do), but around the middle of the month, I realized I wasn’t even going to come close. I adjusted down and still didn’t reach it.

Of my 10,000-word goal, I wrote 6,703 words, or 67%.

I wrote my next Speculations. 1,080 words, or 108% of my 1,000-word goal.

I wrote 5,385 words on this blog. That’s 144% of my 3,750-word goal.

I worked on a couple of pieces of short fiction, trying to get them ready for open calls, but that fell by the wayside after mid-month as well.

Filling the well

The three writerly events I attended in August were closely clustered. I signed up for Fonda Lee’s Revision Boot Camp, on August 12th. It was offered in conjunction with When Words Collide, which was free and ran from August 13th to the 15th. On Saturday the 14th, I also attended Margaret Dunlap’s Demystifying Outlines offered through the Rambo Writing Academy.

It was a packed weekend, and I didn’t get to attend as many WWC sessions as I would have liked, but they will be coming out on their YouTube channel. Eventually.

Torvi on kiltti koira. Yes. I’m still enjoying learning Finnish.

So … the thing that happened.

For the month of August (August 3rd to September 3rd, actually—so five weeks) I was acting for my team lead in instructional design. I was the project manager for everything my team was working on, including a very important and time-sensitive project (henceforth known as the VITSP) that had to be completed. I knew it would be challenging and had booked the last two days of July off, leading into a long weekend, for a nice break to muster my resources.

Unfortunately, in the two working days I was off, the scope of the VITSP changed drastically. Originally, we were to have the learning products published on our learning management system (LMS) on the 9th of September. Now, it was to be published August 27th. That was two weeks cut from our timeline.

The instructions I was left with indicated that we would have to have the validated and translated documents for the self-instructional modules (SIMs) in the week of August 16th, so that we could edit, send for review and approval, convert to PDF documents, and submit them to our technical partners for posting to the LMS in time for the due date.

My first meeting of that first day of my acting made it clear that the SIMs would not be validated and translated until August 25th or 26th. I panicked. But I couldn’t be seen to be panicking. Add to this the fact that my manager was also absent for most of the week, and I was spiralling.

I tried to power through, but I found even thinking difficult. I couldn’t seem to make a decision (a deadly shortcoming in project management), and I certainly couldn’t articulate what was happening to me. My brain literally could not brain.

On the evening of August 12th, the situation had been diffused sufficiently that my brain began to brain again. What I was experiencing was related to my autism. Had I had some kind of meltdown? I did some research over the weekend and learned that what I’d experienced was called autistic burnout. I’ll let you click through if you want to find out more about it.

The best remedy for autistic burnout is rest. Unfortunately, I did not have that option, so I powered through. The brief rest of weekends was insufficient for recovery. I was plagued by insomnia, spent hours ruminating about the mistakes that resulted from my autistic burnout.

Proactive about my mental health as I am, I again reached out to my employer’s employee assistance program (EAP). After two weeks of playing phone tag, however, I gave up on the idea of getting counselling support. People were probably on holidays and demand exceeded supply. I only had one week remaining in my acting assignment, anyway, and the crisis would likely be over by the time we finally connected.

I explained to my manager and critical partners what was happening, and the situation improved. But it was still extremely stressful.

Somehow, I managed to get the VITSP done on time, but not without days of foregoing proper breaks and lunch, working overtime, and shaking like I was standing naked in a snowstorm.

I’m still not fully recovered, but I have a doctor’s appointment on the 13th. I’ll see if I can get some support then. I also have a couple days of leave coming up and will take my overtime as compensatory leave. I’ll make it through, but I’m still feeling foggy.

I tried to persist in writing, because my creative pursuits are one of the things that bring me joy but bullying through wasn’t serving me. The quality of my work was not satisfactory. So, I’ve stepped away from writing, too. I’m trying to be kind to myself.

What I’m watching and reading

Due to the above difficulties, my reading and watching habits have suffered as well. Concentration is hard, right now, so I have less than usual to report for August.

In the watching department, I only finished two series.

First, I watched the series finale of The Good Witch. It’s a positive and uplifting kind of series, and the last season was no exception. Though the writers tried to insert some romantic tension and uncertainty, nearly everyone paired off by the final episode. After a brief disconnect about Sam’s workaholic nature (aside from the season’s big arc of the red haloed moon), he retired and embarked on a world tour with Cassie.

Joy ends up with her girlfriend, Zoey, who was nearly frightened off when she discovered that Joy was a witch. Adam and Stephanie get back together, and even George gets a love interest. But Abigail and Donovan, who were engaged to be married, abruptly call it off. What about her happily ever after? And her flower shop is in danger from a big floral chain that’s moved into town. It seems that there’s more story to tell. Too bad the series was cancelled.

I also watched the end of the first season of Superman and Lois. It was a short season, because pandemic, I suspect, but it was typical DC network fare. Clark and Lois are devoted partners and the parents of two boys. Clark is fired from the Daily Planet and Lois quits because of the new owner of the paper, Morgan Edge. They move to Smallville after Martha dies.

Jonathan and Jordan, their sons, are day and night. Jonathan is the golden boy, popular, QB on the football team, and otherwise typical teen. He adjusts poorly to small town life, having left his girlfriend behind in Metropolis. Jordan is shy and awkward and plagued with social anxiety. It’s a surprise to no one and everyone when Jordan turns out to be the one who inherits Kal-El’s powers.

I really liked John Henry Irons.

I only finished reading three books in August.

The first was We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. The book starts with the origin story of the land of Medio. It establishes the social contract between men and women, as well as the class structure of the island nation. In Medio, every affluent man is married to two women. His Primera manages his household and is his intellectual and political partner. His Segunda is his social partner and bears his children.

Daniella is about to graduate from Medio School for Girls and enter into her marriage contract as a Primera when she is approached by a member of a resistance group who blackmails her into spying on her new husband for them. His price? Silence about her impoverished background and family.

It was definitely a heroine’s journey novel, a la Gail Carriger. Dani has little power throughout the novel, and it’s only her compassion and desire to do right that allows her to prevail. It’s also an enemies to allies to lovers story between Dani and her Segunda. I enjoyed it.

Then, I read Nancy Springer’s The Case of the Missing Marquess. Yes, the novel that inspired the Enola Holmes movie. I attended a literary event back in the spring that featured Springer, and everything she said about the adaptation was true. It was a short, but lovely story, and Enola is much more resourceful in the novel. She has to be. Basilwether is also much younger, so no romance in the book.

Finally, I read P. Djèlí Clark’s A Master of Djinn. Loved! I’ve heard some negative things around the interwebz, but I loved the story. I loved Fatma. I loved the world. Read this book. I will say no more.

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

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