The next chapter: June 2019 update

Happy July, everyone! The summer weather has finally arrived in my area of the world. I hope you’re enjoying the season, whatever it is where you live.

And now, it’s time for my next chapter update for June 2019.

The month in writing

My “big” project continues to be my reread, restructuring, and preparation for revision of my Ascension series. As with many of my plans or goals, what I hoped to accomplish at the beginning of the year is changing.

To be specific, I had hoped that by the end of June, I’d have read through all five novels and be ready to start revising book one. Here, in July, I’m still reading through book one … As a result, I’ve decided that I’m just going to focus on laying the groundwork for future revisions. I’m going to continue reading through the series through to the end of September. For now.

While I’ve reviewed the various documents that will make up my series bible, I haven’t yet done the work of pulling everything together. This is part of the work I have to do to get ready for revising. I’m not sure if I’ll have this done before I have to shift gears into NaNo prep.

One of the challenges that I’ve been facing is that, since April, as I’ve noted in past updates, the day job has kicked into high gear. I finish most days exhausted and unable to nab even a little time during breaks of lunch to devote to my WIP. In the early months of this year, there was some downtime that I was able to capitalize on.

Also, I’ve been critiquing, which takes up time in the evening that I might otherwise use to work on my series. Accordingly, I’ve adjusted my goal, but what I’ll accomplish by the end of September is a bit up in the air. Sometimes we have to do what we can and live within the uncertainty.

Still it’s important work and I’m doing it, regardless of the pace 🙂

I blogged 4,073 words of my 2,600-word goal, or 157%.

Toward the end of the month, I got back to my short fiction. While I didn’t reach my 1,000-word goal, I wrote 693 words, or 69%. While this is, strictly speaking, revision of my January short story, most or the work is new. I’ve added scenes and switched things up. In the end, I think the story will be closer to 5,000 words than the 2,500 I’d planned on. It’ll be a better story, but I have a feeling that this draft won’t be the end of my work on the piece.

Revision-wise, I got Reality Bomb ready for critique and it is now posted. I had hoped to get the draft up to 80,000 words, but I’m still 1,175 words short of that. Still, 99% is good. It’s not a huge gap and it gives me room to work with. I’m nervous because there’s a lot of material in the novel that I’m not sure works. We’ll see what my critique group thinks.

JuneProgress

And that’s all the writing and revision I accomplished this past month.

Filling the well

On June 20th, A couple of poet friends, Kim Fahner and Tom Leduc, held a reading at One Sky they called On the Cusp of the Solstice. After their sets, the evening became an open mic and we got to hear five other local poets share their work. It was a great evening and a lovely, artistic venue.

What I’m watching and reading

I watched the final season of A series of Unfortunate Events. It was okay. I know it adhered fairly closely to the books (which I haven’t read) and I understand the choice not to give the Beaudelaires a happy ending, but it felt unsatisfactory because most of that denouement happened off-screen and the story was given to Lemony and Beatrice the second. In a way, the story was always Lemony’s, but he never did anything to propel the narrative, so it felt like a cheat.

I also finished the most recent season of Homeland released to Netflix. I think they’re a season behind what’s on the network, but I prefer to watch some shows when I want to rather than when the network wants me to. It was dark, as every season of Homeland has been to date. The twist at the end was interesting and promises a climactic next season. We’ll see.

I finally reached the end of season one of Man in the High Castle. I know I’m behind in this one, but I watch multiple series at the same time on both Netflix and Amazon Prime (like, between six and ten at any given time) and I only watch them on the weekends or days off and that means slow progress. I enjoy where the series is going and the characters. It’s interesting to see what they’re doing with another of Dick’s shorter works.

Phil and I devoured Good Omens. We loved it. I know a good deal has been made of focusing the story on Azirophale and Crowley because they are secondary characters. Like Lemony Snicket, above, they don’t really do anything to progress the plot or save the world. They just mess up and luck into every win. Still, I loved seeing David Tennant on screen again and Crowley’s friendship with Azirophale is a beautiful thing.

We also enjoyed Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse. I LOLed quite a bit. The movie didn’t take itself seriously and mocked its own tropes. I see why a lot of people consider it one of the best Marvel property movies (even though it was a Sony movie), better even than Endgame. I think comparing the two isn’t something that can be done. They’re both their own beasts.

Valerian remains in limbo, and Phil and I, on the strength of our liking of the original, checked out Reboot: The Guardian Code. One episode and I was, no. So no.

Reading-wise, I finished American Gods, which I liked much more than the Amazon Prime series. Events and gods have been juggled in the series so much that it’s almost unrecognizable. I recommend the book, though I did enjoy the series on its own merits.

For my literary selection, I read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I know it was probably the author’s intention, but I was alternately depressed and enraged throughout the novel. I still have unsettled feelings about it, and I think it will take some time to come to an understanding.

I read Sarah Negovetich’s Rite of Rejection, her YA dystopian. The story has similarities to books like The Handmaid’s Tale, in that society has doubled down on traditional gender roles and anyone considered divergent is identified through their activities (arrested) or by “the machine” which identifies those with undesirable traits. In both cases, undesirables are sent to camps so that they will never be able to spread dissent or reproduce. It’s another stark book, but I’ll probably read the rest of the series.

Finally, I listened to both volumes of The Outlandish Companion on Audible. It was a great refresh of the series, the Lord John books, and the interstitial shorts along with a lot of fascinating insights into Gabaldon’s process, research, and tasty tidbits about the series. It was a nice palate cleanser 🙂

And that was this month in the writerly life.

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

The Next Chapter

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The next chapter: May 2019 update

Ah … Here we are in June. And it still feels like we’re stuck in May, weather-wise. The pin cherry blossoms are just emerging this weekend. That’s a little over two weeks behind schedule. The pines are candling and the lilacs finally have leaves. Though the temperature is ranging from the mid-teens to low twenties Celsius, I’m still wearing socks most days. We haven’t removed the duvet from the bed, though we have turned off the furnace.

Thank you, global warming, for drawing down all that arctic air 😦

Mind you, we haven’t had it as bad as some with the flooding in the east and the forest fires in the west.

I’ll just be thankful.

Just some of the lovely skies I’ve been graced with in the last month.

The month in writing

I finally finished drafting Tamisashki. It didn’t take me as long as Playing with Fire did last year (I was drafting through September). So, I’m happy with this progress.

It’s not a perfect draft. There are a couple of points where I lost my way, despite knowing the destination. I had to stop at one point and reassess the chapter, then write out, very plainly what needed to happen. This actually affects two chapters and I’ll have to backtrack with the notes.

At one point, I forgot to add in a chapter/POV where I wanted until after I was a few chapters past. I went back and inserted it and then rearranged all the others. I’ll have to rewrite about half of them because events are now out of sequence. I have notes for all of these, too.

There are a lot of question marks and parenthetical notes where I forgot the names of characters (and didn’t think to write them down at the time), place names, and the like. I’ll catch most of these on the reread and add the notes then.

Finally, my final chapter is basically an epilogue as Fer travels around Noreuna, fulfilling promises deferred by the various crises that have occurred throughout the series. I started writing it out and rambled again, so I wrote terse little paragraphs about each location, whose POV it would be in and what would happen there. Again, I’ll fill it out in revision.

MayProgress

I started off with the goal of 5k words and had to keep increasing it as I went. I ended up with a goal of 7,500 words, and I wrote 8,451 words, or 113%. I was supposed to be finished drafting last month. Technically, there shouldn’t have been a goal for drafting at all.

I wrote 3,186 words on this blog, or 114% of my 2,800-word goal.

I wrote 1,592 words for my next Speculations column, or 159% of my 1,000-word goal.

And I added in another goal because I wrote another 174 words on a short story that’s in revision. I set the goal at 250 for a 70% result.

I also finalized the absolute last bits of my poetry collection (a wrote two new poems for a friend) and will be sending it out for review soonish. Then, it will be off to a few small publishers for consideration.

I continue to make slow progress with my critiquing.

I did not write a new story. I did not revise any of my past published short fiction. If you remember last month’s next chapter update, I gave up on those goals as being overly ambitious.

I have started to review the Ascension series, starting with my notes and character sketches and all that. One of the things I aim to do in the next months is to assemble my series “bible.” I’ve also started to review book one, which I’m thinking of renaming. I definitely have to rework Fer’s scenes in the first act and I’m also thinking of adding a couple more chapters from other POV characters to fill in some gaps.

I’ve scheduled myself to be reviewing/revising through to the end of September this year. I don’t know how far I’ll get. I’ll do what I can in the time that I have.

While I didn’t get much work on the short fiction done, I’m going to continue to devote some time to it. I’d really like to have the two pieces finished, revised, and ready to send out somewhere soonish.

I was supposed to start working on spiffing up Reality Bomb for posting to my critique group. Sadly, I didn’t do more than open up the doc in May, but I hope to get to it in June.

And that’s it for the month in writing.

Filling the well

In May, I didn’t attend a poetry reading or a play, I went to Christina’s Coffee House, an annual charity fundraising event held at the Caruso Club.

Cristina Faiella Roque spent countless hours on the road with her family throughout her four-year battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Although there are travel grants available, the costs incurred in lodging, gas and food can be a tremendous strain on families. It was with this in mind that Cristina’s family and friends decided to hold an annual fundraising event in celebration of her giving spirit.

There was music and dance, a 50/50 draw, mystery boxed, silent auction, and other coffee-themed games of chance. Coffee and desserts were free, and supper was a nominal extra fee. I went with a group of friends from work and fun was had by all.

All the proceeds went to the Cristina Care Fund at the Northern Cancer Foundation.

What I’ve been watching and reading

I forgot another one. Magicians finished up in April and I forgot to mention it not because, like Deadly Class, I thought it was mediocre. I think I might have been a wee bit in denial. I know the series has diverged from Grossman’s books (all adaptations have to, to some degree) but I’ve been enjoying the series immensely. Even Phil thinks it’s one of the best things on TV these days 🙂 The season finale gave me the feels. More than that, I won’t say, cause spoilers, and this is one series I think you should all see for yourselves.

In May, most of the network series came to a close. They were all … ok. Supergirl and Arrow worked themselves up to next season’s Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline. The Flash is supposed to be headed there, as well, but I haven’t finished plodding through the season on Netflix. DC’s Legends is doing its own thing, as it has for the past couple of years.

Grey’s Anatomy finished on a down note, but I was unmoved.

I’m still enjoying Killing Eve and was happy with how the season concluded.

And, of course, there was Game of Thrones. I won’t get into my overall critique of the season except to say that I share a lot of concerns that others have expressed. I think the DBs did the best they could with the time and budget they had at their disposal. I’m looking forward to reading the books (whenever George R.R. Martin gets them finished) to see how the character arcs that are similar in the show evolve with more interiority and development over time.

Phil and I watched Blade Runner 2049 and thought is was okay. At least it wasn’t a rehash of the original, but it was hardly necessary. We have a bit of a problem these days with Hollywood’s lack of an original idea.

We started watching Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets but haven’t finished it … which should tell you something about what we thought of it.

Reading-wise, I read Emma Newman’s Between Two Thorns and quite enjoyed it. It’s a masquerade/portal fantasy with some interesting worldbuilding. The protagonist is competent but not special. In fact, pains are taken to show just how ordinary she is. Def not a chosen one 🙂 The ending was uncomfortable, but inevitable. There was no way for the protagonist to escape her arranged marriage, the 19th century intrigues of her family, or the fae-touched world she was born into.

I devoured Storm of Locusts, Rebecca Roanhorse’s follow up to Trail of Lightning. If anything, it was even better than the first novel. Highly recommend it. Just read them both. You’re welcome.

Then, I read S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass. Everyone was apologizing to everyone else and faces/gazes were falling everywhere. Aside from those two irritating bits, it was a good story with unexpected twists. I find I’m liking a lot of the non-western tales I’m reading these days.

Finally, I read Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart. I liked the protagonist’s inability to craft a decent pun and the twist on the typical superhero story. Like his Mistborn series, the big bad wins and takes over the world. No one can fight against the epics, but the reckoners manage to take down the world’s most powerful tyrant with a lot of luck and a little something epic of their own.

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: April 2019 update

Happy Cinco de Mayo! And happy belated Beltane/May Day/Lady Day, if you celebrate such things 🙂

The first four months of this year have disappeared and I’m still wondering where the time went.

The month in review

As anticipated, April was a tough month. The day job kicked into high gear and I found myself struggling to get the words out. When you go from devoting roughly 50 to 75% of your total daily energy to you day job to 100%, it really leaves you running on empty at the end of the day.

I persevered to the degree possible, but I couldn’t finish Tamisashki. I did well, though, considering. Of my 16,260-word goal, I wrote 14,892 words, or 92% of my goal.

I blogged 3,264 words of my 2,800-word goal, or 117%.

And I wrote 975 words for my latest Speculations column for DIY MFA. I aim for around 1,000 words and usually go over, so I’m actually kind of proud of the underwriting in this case.

AprilProgress

You will notice that I have dropped the short fiction goal and short fiction anthology goal. I’ve had to admit defeat in this respect. I still have revised/finished/submitted my January story yet and my February story isn’t even half written yet. While I have my poetry collection more or less complete, I’m still formatting and then I’m going to ask some friends to help me organize them more coherently, so that’s kind of ongoing as well.

Needless to say, with the increased pressures at the day job, I don’t anticipate having the time or energy to devote to additional projects for the foreseeable.

This month, I was supposed to move on to the re-read of my entire Ascension series with an eye to revision. I will get to this, but I’m going to finish Tamisashki first, and finish work on the poetry collection (so I can send it to the aforementioned friends), and the two short stories.

I will continue with the usual curation on the blog, I have another Speculations column due at the end of the month, and I also wanted to start spiffing up another draft for my critique group.

Plus, there is ongoing critiquing to conduct for same.

So that’s where I’m at and where I’m headed.

Filling the well

This month, I attended the launch of Kim Fahner’s latest collection of poetry, These Wings. Kim’s launches are events. She’s a born storyteller, a lovely singer, and a wonderful teacher. There’s a story behind every poem she writes and every song she sings. I think that’s the Irish in her 😉

The collection is Kim’s fifth and was published by Pedlar Press in Newfoundland, where she’s heading next week for her East Coast launch. She’s already been to Toronto and Windsor for readings and I want to encourage anyone out there who’s fond of poetry (and even those who aren’t) to head out to your nearest bookstore (or computer) and get this lovely book. It’s awesome.

What I’ve been watching and reading

I’ll start off with an omission from last month’s watching list. I watched the full season of Deadly Class. That I forgot to mention is so soon after it ended should say something about how much (or little) it impressed me. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great, either.

This past month has only seen the end of Star Trek: Discovery. I enjoyed it, as I enjoyed the first season, but the end of it seemed a little too pat. Oh, so this is why we’ve never heard of Discovery or the spore drive before. This is why we don’t know Spock’s adopted sister, Michael. This is why we don’t know anything about Section 31. I guess the rest of Discovery’s story is in the far future?

In movies, Phil and I finally watched Dead Pool 2. It was funny, but I didn’t like it nearly as much as the original.

I also dragged Phil to the cinema to see Avengers: Endgame. I think it’s too soon to get spoilery about it, so I won’t. There was a lot of good in the movie, loose ends tied up appropriately, hope for the future, satisfying conclusion overall. I had the feels. I tend to agree with those who criticize how the women’s stories were handled, however, and Phil (as Mr. Science) was not impressed at the handwavium at work with regard to the time travel MacGuffin.

Reading-wise, I read J.A. Mclachlan’s The Sorrow Stone, a historical novel with fantasy elements. A grieving young mother sells her sorrow in the form of a nail from her child’s coffin and throws in her wedding ring to ensure the deal is struck. In the wake of the transaction, however, the young mother loses not only her sorrow, but also her compassion and many of the memories associated with those emotions. The pedlar with whom she makes the trade inherits her emotions (bad news for his business) and ill luck dogs him until he reaches home to find his youngest child dying of a mysterious illness.

There’s a good portion of mystery in the novel and it added needed tension to what might otherwise have been a tale of two people trying to escape the karma of their bad decisions.

I also read Jane Austen’s Emma. This was one of the classics I held over from my university years. Though I’d read Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice, and enjoyed them both, I just never got around to poor Emma Woodhouse. It’s only confirmed my admiration of Austen.

J.A. Andrews is a member of my critique group and I decided to pick up her series, The Keeper Chronicles. I read the first book in the series, A Threat of Shadows this past month and I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it. It has all the markings of a fairly typical secondary world fantasy with elves, dwarves, and magic, but there are some nice twists and a solid magic system with understandable rules—all of it essential to the plot.

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

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: March 2019 update

Here we are in April. My mind still boggles at how quickly the time passes. On the other hand, I never have enough time to get everything done that I want to. I seriously need to be more mindful. It might help me in my goal-setting to be more realistic in what I can do.

The month in writing and revision

In March, I continued drafting Tamisashki. My goal was to write 16,802 words and I wrote 16,796 words. Technically, that’s 100%, though I was 6 words short of my goal. (Pthbt!) The big difference is that I ended up writing through the last couple of weekends. I would have fallen far short, otherwise. I missed having my weekend breaks, but I wasn’t producing enough weekdays to give myself that luxury.

As I had mentioned in my 2018 review/2019 planning post, the day job is kicking into high gear now that we’re in April. As I expected, I won’t be able to keep up my drafting pace much longer. More work-related stress equals less energy for my creative pursuits. It is what it is.

I made an interesting discover with regard to my blogging goals. Somehow, at the beginning of my year, I DOUBLED all of my monthly blogging goals. Why the heck did I do that to myself? This means that I’ve actually met and exceeded all of my monthly blogging goals so far this year. This month, my goal was (once I realized my math error—I am numerically illiterate, I guess) 2,600 words. I blogged 3,699 words, or 142% of my goal.

It was my intention to get roughly half of my next Speculations column completed in March. This didn’t happen.

With respect to my short fiction goals, I had wanted to finish January’s story and two more shorter pieces to catch up on my short fiction challenge. I did, finally, finish January’s story and I got another 600 words on a new story, but I also submitted my completed short for critique and got distracted revising January’s story. I wrote 1,801 words and revise 1,547 words … My goal was 2,500 words. So … yay?

Initially, I’d thought I’d be revising around 21 poems for my collection. I only had 4 left that I deem to be publishable. I’m now in the process of transferring the poems into a clean document for submission. I have reconsidered my decision to self-publish, at least immediately. I’m going to try a few small presses before I bite the self-publishing bullet.

MarchProgress

Filling the well

On March 2nd, I went to see the Sudbury production of The Vagina Monologues. A few friends, including Kim Fahner and Liisa Kovala were in the production and another friend, Sarah Gartshore, produced.

It was a charity performance and tailored to the local performance, including some uniquely Canadian euphemisms for vagina, and a very compelling piece on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The proceeds went to SWANS, the Sex Worker Assistance Network of Sudbury. It was a great night.

What I read and watched this month

I followed Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning up with Waubgeshig Rice’s Moon of the Crusted Snow. Like Roanhorse’s novel, Rice’s was set in a post-apocalyptic world, but in MotCS, the apocalypse is recent, and the story is told through the lives and experiences of the Anishnaabe residents of a fictional northern reserve.

It’s a slow burn at the beginning. Having recently secured reliable internet, cable, and cell phone service, the power outage that isolates the reserve is initially unremarkable. They’ve gotten so used to disruptions resulting from poor infrastructure that the chief and council has set aside diesel to run their generators, and most homes have wood stoves or furnaces for heat.

But winter is coming and, as the outage proves permanent, two young men, away at college, return home on snow machines, having escaped the chaos of the modern, white world denied the services we’ve come to rely on. When a white survivalist follows the snow machine tracks, the situation gets interesting, and increasingly dangerous. I loved it.

I finished Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds, about cephalopod intelligence and how it diverged from our own evolution and development.

I read Putting the Science in Fiction, edited (and contributed to) by Dan Koboldt. If you write science fiction and you aren’t a scientist yourself, you really need to pick this book up. It’s the least you should know about science from a number of disciplines.

Finally, I read Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. It’s a young adult fantasy set in a created world based on West African mythology and the Yoruban culture and language. I liked it a lot, though the author couldn’t quite commit to her grimdark premise.

I went to my first theatre movie of the year: Captain Marvel. Like I’d miss that one 🙂 I loved it, even though it didn’t tread a lot of new ground. I’m looking forward to Endgame, now, and will probably drag Phil out to that one, too.

I finally finished season 2 of Wynonna Earp. I missed a lot of the later episodes because of a scheduling conflict and no PVR. It was a little weird, because I managed to catch all of season 3 when it aired. I was literally filling in the missing pieces. It was enjoyable because of the quirky characters and chick power, though the same qualities are also the source of some of my biggest complaints about the storytelling.

The rest of what I/we are watching right now is in progress. I’ve decided that I’ll refrain from commenting on the seasons/series that I haven’t finished watching yet. I tend to be a little slow in this respect, because I only watch Netflix/Amazon Prime on the weekends, and since I typically watch seasons/series as they come out, I often have 6 or 7 of them that I’m cycling through.

And that was March in this writer’s life.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: February 2019 update

Here we are in March and the goals I set at the beginning of the year are falling apart.

FebruaryProgress

Once again, I managed to meet and marginally exceed my monthly drafting goal for Tamisashki. I aimed for 15,176 words and wrote 15,561, so 103%. Once again, I tried to aim for more production during the week so I could rest on the weekends 🙂

I undershot on the blog again, writing 3,824 of 4,200 words, or 91%.

My latest DIY MFA column was due, and I wrote 1,091 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 109%. Yay there.

My short fiction is where I’ve dropped the ball pen. My intention was to finish my January story and then write a flash piece for February. I didn’t manage to do either. I did write another 1,186 words on my January story and I’m in sight of the end, but then there’s revision, critique, and a final edit to get through before I send it out into the wild.

I ended up writing 47% of my short fiction goal and not even finishing a story. Ah well. I suck at short. It’s something I hope to change, but it’s tough going. I’ve had to cut back the story several times and I keep thinking that sacrificing content makes the story weaker. This isn’t the case, necessarily. It is my perception, though, and probably one of the reasons short is so difficult for me.

I also fell short on the poetry editing. I made it through all the poems that I had previously compiled in the collection, most (but not all) of them previously published and am now in a position of adding in the poems that I have written since I last worked on the project and deciding where they go. I also have to rearrange some of the poems. There is one section that I created that only has three poems in it. I figure I can find places for them elsewhere and make things flow a bit better. Finally, there’s one sprawling poem that I want to restructure. I had done this previously, but I seem to have lost all trace of the document 😦

Because of this change in emphasis, I decided to give it a bit of a break while I rally that part of my writerly brain geared up for the next push. I edited 23 of 28 poems, or 82% of my goal.

Overall, I write 21,662 words of my 22,876-word goal, or 95% for the month. The poetry was the only revision project on my radar right now and so I managed 82% of my revision goal.

Filling the well

I attended the Dbaajmawak Indigenous Writers’ Series on Feb 28, 2019. It was hosted by Greg Scofield in the Brenda Wallace Reading Room at Laurentian University. This session featured authors were Waubgeshig Rice and Rosanna Deerchild.

I’m currently reading Waub’s novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow. I’d picked it up at Wordstock last fall but didn’t have a chance to get him to sign it. Mission accomplished 🙂

Rosanna’s reading of her powerful poetry gave me the shivers several times, prompting me to get her latest collection, calling down the sky, and get her to sign it as well.

I participated in the Writing the Other Building Inclusive Worlds course, and while I didn’t get to several of the writing assignments, the lectures and discussions were great. I’m a newbie in this arena and very hesitant to speak, or write, my thoughts. It was a challenge, but in a good way. I’m finding my way to awareness of my own biases, dismantling my assumptions, and learning to be a good ally, if nothing else.

I also took part in Dan Blank’s Social Media for Writers Facebook group. I enjoy his videos and insights. More than anything else, it confirms that I’m on the right track, though I really do need to put together an author newsletter. It’s work for the future, once I have my poetry collection and short fiction collections out. I’ll probably look at migrating this blog from WordPress.com to a self-hosted version at that time, as well, but again, in the future. And I’ll have to see how other aspects of my life align with these plans.

The month in reading and watching

In terms of books, I finished Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Wild Shore and enjoyed it. I read Bo Bolander’s short story “Our Talons can Crush Galaxies.” I enjoyed it, but it was more for the unconventional form of the story rather than the story itself. I also finished Elizabeth Bear’s Range of Ghosts, which I loved.

I burned through Naomi Novik’s Uprooted and Spinning Silver and loved them both, the latter, if anything, more than the former. It was more about the relationships between the young women of the novel and about what one sacrifices for family. Uprooted is based on the fairy tale of Baba Yaga, and Spinning Silver takes on Rumplestiltskin, but Novik takes both is very different directions from the source material.

Sarah Selecky’s Radiant, Shimmering Light was my more literary read of the month. It was interesting. The protagonist, Lilian, is a social media (mostly Instagram) obsessed creative entrepreneur. She paints animal portraits with auras, a talent (to see those animal auras) she’s had since she was a child. Selecky spent part of her childhood in Sudbury, and so I enjoyed the periodic references to my home town in the novel and Lilian’s latest-spoken wish in the book to get a cottage somewhere in the northeast and devote herself to her work.

Lilian is another unreliable narrator and that’s probably why I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have. Though there’s also a lot of female friendship in the novel, it all has a thin, unrealistic veneer, much like our social media obsessed age. The book left me with some major questions that I would have preferred more grounding on, but like Lilian, they’re left floating. It reminded me, in part, of Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle, which also left me dissatisfied.

Then, I read Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning. Perfection. It’s the only read this year so far that I’ve given five stars to.

I caught The Incredibles 2, and thought the movie a worthy successor. Jak-Jak is hilarious (I did LOL). The characters all aged and had newer problems to deal with and the writers did a good job or resolving those more personal issues in the midst of the continued super-ban and latest global crisis.

Phil and I enjoyed The Umbrella Academy. I was somewhat disappointed when Vanya lost her mind and went all murder-y and apocalyptic. We discussed it, and there were indications that Vanya’s power used her rather than the other way around, but I was still left wondering why the writers made those particular, misogynist choices. I also understand that Vanya’s arc in the series was different than her arc in the graphic novel (which I would have found more dissatisfying—I Googled) but if they wanted to take her character in a different direction, they could have made braver, more original decisions.

I also finished watching the latest season of Frontier, Jason Mamoa’s passion project, on Netflix. It’s a kind of love/hate show for me. The continual tug of war between the same group of people is getting tiresome. It’s dark, but fairly historically accurate, so far as I can tell. I’ll probably continue to watch it.

And that it for this month’s update.

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

The Next Chapter

The next chapter: January 2019 update

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

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

January in review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking forward to February

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck 😉

What I’ve been Reading and Watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I haven’t watched any movies yet in 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a few pics of Torvi.

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

The Next Chapter

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

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

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

Then, life intervened.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And that was that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Not bad at all.

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

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

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

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

That will fill up my November and December for 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A week into 2019, and things are going well.

I’ll keep you updated.

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

The Next Chapter

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

Ah, friends. So glad you stopped by 🙂

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

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

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

Sunday last week, I wrote 1,194 words.

Monday, I managed 1,039.

Tuesday, 1,047.

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

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

And on Friday, I wrote 1,525 words.

NovemberProgress

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

What’s ahead?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Next Chapter

#NaNoWriMo 2018 week 3

Greetings!

I only managed 1,193 words last Sunday, for reasons I shared with you last week.

Monday was a total slog. Every word was a battle. Even so, 421 words was rather pathetic. That’s the lowest 1-day word count of the whole month. So far.

I got back on track Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with 1,016, 1,018, and 1,075 words, respectively.

Friday, I wrote 1,852 words and, on Saturday, I racked up 2,035 words.

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I have now broken 30k on the draft and I’m just about at the first plot point. Yeah. This is epic fantasy, with due emphasis on the epic. Plus, I expect to edit down in revision.

I probably won’t make 40k this year; so, a hair less than last year, but better than the 28k I managed in 2014, also a year of NaNo-while-working.

I joined NaNo for the first time in 2013 and, if this year pans out as I expect, this will result in three years of achieving the 50k goal (or exceeding it) and three years of not meeting it. In all years but one, the drafts were actually finished after the fact.

Aside from that, I have three other novels that I drafted outside NaNo.

I’ll speak a little more next week about what I see coming up, writing-wise, in 2019.

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

Muse-inks

#NaNoWriMo 2018: week 3 update

Super short update this week.

Last Sunday, I only managed 1,143 words. Sunday is laundry day and supper-with-Mom day, so there are generally other things to occupy me besides NaNo. Yes, I could ask for help, but Phil already does the cooking, grocery shopping, and he has been cleaning up the kitchen and bathroom. He’s not yet retired, and I don’t feel it’s fair to ask more of him right now.

Also, spending time with my mom is non-negotiable. I’m an only child and my dad died—yes, it was going on eight years ago, but still—so, this is a personal line I choose not to cross. I also spend mornings with Mom on my days off/weekends. There it is. I’ve never not done this during NaNo, so it is possible to achieve 50k in a month, even working and spending time with Mom. I’ve done it.

As I get older, I do have to accept some limitations, though. I’m not able to do as much as I used to. I’m trying to be mindful so that I don’t hurl myself right back into burnout mode.

Monday, which was a day off for me, resulted in 2,118 words. Though Tuesday was a little rough at 705 words, I managed to rack up 1,006 and 1,169 words respectively on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday were 2,019- and 2,213-word days. I’m up to 21,648 words as of yesterday.

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So, I’ve broken 20k words, but I’m about 6.5k words behind. I don’t know that I’ll realistically be able to catch up at this point. I’m good with that.

Whatever I accomplish during NaNo, they’re words I wouldn’t have written otherwise, and that’s the real win. I’m pleased with what I’ve written so far, though there are some points of continuity I have to fix (yes, already). I’ve made notes 🙂

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

Muse-inks