Category Archives: Personal Life

Why I’m Reducing My Blogging Frequency

Content warning: this post includes references to seasonal depression, people who died from Covid-19, and people who are permanently disabled from Covid-19. 

I’ve been blogging for many years now. It’s been my experience that blogging can be a cyclical hobby or profession.

Sometimes bloggers have plenty of time to write and so many topics we can’t imagine how we’ll find room in our editorial calendars for everything we want to say. In other seasons of life, things change.

I Need to Rest

Brown and white bunny in a wicker basket on a bed
Not my bunny or basket, but I grok this feeling.

In some ways, it has felt like March of 2020 never ended. All of the events and trips I looked forward to when the long, dark days of winter feel never-ending were cancelled last year and they are beginning to be rapidly cancelled again this year.

To be perfectly clear, I completely understand why this is necessary for public health and safety and in no way sympathize with the anti-lockdown, anti-mask, and anti-science protestors.

Honestly, I have had a much easier experience during this pandemic than many people out there. I have safe housing, a loving marriage, plenty of food, and money to pay the bills.

Out of all of my relatives who have caught Covid-19 so far, only one distant relation has passed away from it and only one or maybe two closer relatives have what are probably permanent health effects from it.

I’m very grateful for my and our good fortune in these troubled times. So many people are dealing with much harder situations.

With that being said, I’m also bone-tired. For anyone taking notes out there, the winter blues do not mix well with pandemics at all. This combination should be avoided at all costs in both real life and fiction. I’d give it zero stars out of ten even if you have somehow personally have managed not to know anyone who caught Covid-19. It’s exhausting.

I Need to Write Fiction

Closeup photo of person typing on laptop keyboardMy other reason for trimming back on new blog posts here is a cheerful one.I need to preserve more energy and creative juice for writing my speculative fiction stories!

It’s been several years since my last tale was published. That must change. I have pages of notes and rough drafts for future stories. All I need is the time and creative juice to bring them to life.

It is my hope that this new blogging schedule will facilitate that once my mood perks up in the spring.

Longterm readers might remember that I’ve gone through similar periods of cutting back on blogging here before. It’s something I really don’t like doing, but sometimes it’s necessary even if it makes me want to go sit in the Naughty Blogger corner for daring to change my posting schedule. LOL!

I’ll revisit this decision later on this year to see how I’m feeling and how sustainable the new blogging schedule is.

The New Blogging Schedule

Snapshot of an iPad that is opened to a page that says "my weekly priorities" and has a numbered list on it.
My hope is to eventually return to my usual Monday – Thursday schedule, but I’m cutting out all Monday posts for now. They generally tend to take up as much writing time as two to three of my other weekly posts combined.

If you follow me on Twitter, I will continue to share several posts from my archives each Monday for #MondayBlogs. Thank goodness that past me wrote plenty of them to cycle through while current me rests.

(Some? Most?) Tuesdays – Top Ten Tuesday posts. I love the TTT community, so I’ll do my best to stay connected to it when my energy levels and other commitments allow for that.

Wednesdays – Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge posts

Thursdays -speculative fiction book reviews, but probably only for short stories.

This is the hardest part of the year for me even during non-pandemic times. April is always better for my mental health, especially once I’ve had multiple long walks in the warm sunshine and my brain realizes spring truly has arrived.

If only I had a crystal ball that could tell us all exactly when this pandemic will end and life will feel more predictable again.

How has Covid-19 impacted your blogging and writing habits? How are you all feeling now that we’re over one year into this pandemic? Do you also feel guilty about changing your blogging routines?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in January

A weak January sun shining through bare tree leaves in a park. There is snow on the ground and an empty bench in the foreground. Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the twelfth instalment of this series.

Due to reader demand, it will not be the final one! Keep an eye out for another update on our two damaged tree friends a few months from now once we know how they fared throughout the winter.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, August, September, October, November, and December to read the earlier posts.

It was 3 Celsius (37 Fahrenheit) but felt like 0 Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) on this month’s visit. Once again, this temperature was warmer than we’d usually expect for this time of the year thanks to climate change. Typical January temperatures here generally remain below freezing all month long even before windchill is factored in. The somewhat sunny sky on this visit was also a bit out of the ordinary.

If you do decide to visit Toronto in January, pack warm clothing that you can easily wear as multiple layers and bring a pair of slip-resistant boots along with the usual hat, gloves, scarf, and a warm winter coat. Frostbite is a real risk here on much chillier days than this one, and it can happen quickly on the coldest days.

The weather was decent at the park this time. We really got lucky this year.

Shot of a World War I statute in an urban park. The skies are partly cloudy and the ground is mostly dry.

There is beauty to be found at the park now when everything is dead or dormant if you have a poetic mind. For example, such blue skies are a rare, precious gift in January!

A muddy, half-frozen running trail in a park in January.

The running and walking trail is once again unusable. This was one of the driest sections, and even it was muddy and filled with patches of slowly-melting ice.

A dirt running trail covered in ice.

This is a more accurate representation of the state of the trail in general. It’s icy, slippery, and muddy in the few places where the ice has begun to melt. Even people who don’t have any mobility issues must take care when walking on it. Running on it is nearly impossible now. The few joggers I noticed had switched to running on the sidewalks instead.

A landscape photograph of an urban park in January. Snow covers part, but not all, of the grass.

Some days are much snowier and slipperier than this one was! It’s common to see layers of snow and ice on all surfaces now. We were lucky to have mostly dry sidewalks on this particular day.

The snow is gorgeous when it sparkles in the winter sunlight in those moments, but anyone could easily slip and fall on the ice that is often hidden beneath all of that enticing snow.

There are other dangers in January park visits as well. We saw dozens of other visitors this time due to the nice weather, but this area can be isolated on colder, wetter days. Speaking as a woman here, I wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting the park alone then. This is a very safe area of the city in general, but it’s far enough away from busier streets that finding help could be a little tricky if I slipped on the ice and got injured or if a stranger tried to harm me.

Do keep these things in mind and be cautious if you’re ever in southern Ontario in the dead of winter and decide to visit any of our lovely parks. The chances of anyone getting hurt are low, but it’s always best to be prepared.

A black squirrel running on a patch of dead grass in January.

In happier news, the squirrels were running around doing cheerful rodent things on this warm winter day.

A mostly melted snowman in a park.

And I wonder if this hunk of melting snow was once a snow person?

Snow lying on the grass in an urban park.

There certainly would have been enough snow for that before it started melting.

A skyward shot of bare tree branches against an overcast but somewhat blue sky

This scene is virtually identical to the one from last month.

A sapling that is still holding onto its brown, crunchy leaves in January

This one also seems to be the same as it was last month. It’s interesting to see leaves, brown and dead as they may be, in the middle of winter.

A petite woman bundled up for winter and standing next to a large tree
Yours truly all bundled up for winter. Tree for scale.

 

Another big change from our last visit had to do with how many layers I needed to be comfortable outside. I wore everything recommended at the beginning of this post other than the boots. I run a little cold in general, but boots would have been a bit much for the dry sidewalks I knew I’d be sticking to for the most part. People whose bodies run hot and who love winter might have been able to do without the scarf and gloves on this particular day if they don’t linger too long.

Face masks aren’t mandatory outdoors in Toronto, but they do help keep you a little warmer when that icy cold wind blows. I also find it easier to keep my mask on than to fiddle with it before going indoors again. The Covid-19 numbers have skyrocketed here this winter, so that’s yet another reason to be cautious and leave the mask on until I’m safe at home again.

A tree that lost half of its branches in a 2020 winter storm. It is now dormant for the winter of 2021.

Here is our tree friend who lost half of its branches in a storm from last winter.

A tree that lost a third of its branches in a winter storm last year.

Here is our tree friend who lost a third of its branches in a storm from last winter. This part of the park has many massive trees in it and therefore seems to hold onto snow a little better than other sections.

It’s still too soon to say how either of them are faring this winter. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

A stone walkway in a park. there is one evergreen and multiple deciduous trees lining it.

Finally, here is what the walkway looks like on a warm January day when most of the ice has had a chance to melt. The evergreen trees that provides such nice shade in the summer can keep this area slippery for quite a while after big winter storms, but it was pretty walkable when I visited this time.

Thank you all for taking these virtual walks with me over the last eleven months! You’ve now seen the park during every month of the year.

We will visit it one final time this spring when I check in on how those two damaged trees survived this winter after being so terribly damaged last winter.

Be well, friends.

6 Weird Things About Writing

person wearing a white sheet over their body and sitting on a couch. they are also wearing sunglasses and a hat.Have you ever taken a moment to think about how weird the writing process can be?

When it’s done well, the end result can be characters and settings that were so well-developed it’s hard to remember they don’t actually exist in our world.

That in an of itself is just a little strange (in a delightful sort of way) if I spend too much time pondering it, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg once one digs their way into the process of writing itself.

I know some of my readers are fellow writers, so you’re probably going to be familiar with at least some of what I’m about to say.

 

Googling Bizarre Things

Person's hand holding a sketch of planet earth. Below this image is a search bar.

That is to say, topics that aren’t actually connected to my daily life whatsoever.

I’m not pregnant or planning to adopt, but I still spend an inordinate amount of time on baby naming websites.

I have no interest in being one of the first humans to live on Mars or any other non-Earth destination, but I read every scrap of information I can find about space travel and what humans can realistically expect to happen when humans start sending people to Mars or the Moon to establish permanent or temporary homes there. This includes everything from how they’ll dispose of human waste to possible burial practices when someone dies during one of these missions to what the dust on other planets might smell like.

These are two of the tamer things I’ve searched for online. Here’s hoping no one looks through my other searches and assumes that all or any of them are based on what my actual plans are for the near future.

Eavesdropping

A stone sculpture of someone eavesdropping Some people might eavesdrop for juicy gossip or to learn things that they know others wouldn’t want them to hear.

I’m not one of them.

When I overhear other people’s conversations, my brain immediately jumps into dialogue mode.

How are their sentences structured? Which dialect(s) are they using? How often do the speakers interrupt each other, if ever? Do they stick to one topic or jump around?

Only then do I think about what they’re actually saying. Some people reveal a great deal about their lives from the conversations they have in public, while others remain closed books at least in the short amount of time I spend listening to their portions of the conversation.

Gaining Unusual Knowledge

man holding book that has sparks of light coming out from it.The upside of all of this research is that I’ve studied all sorts of topics that most people with similar backgrounds probably wouldn’t know.

For example, I can tell you what the odds are of surviving the various types of smallpox even though that disease was eradicated years before I was born.

I also know what cyanide tastes like, how to cauterize a wound, and a few different methods to cure the hides of large animals after a big hunt.

(Here’s hoping this blog post won’t get me put on any watchlists. Ha!)

Talking to Characters

nails and other small pieces of metal arranged to look like a human face and shoulders. The metal figure is staring straight ahead with a serious expression on their face. There’s something about talking to your characters that makes it easier to iron out plans for plot twists or future character development in my experience.

Yes, sometimes I even talk to my characters out loud and wait for a response. No, I don’t expect them to literally respond.

It’s simply a way to sort out my thoughts and figure out which ideas, if any, actually fit that particular character at that particular moment in their life.

A moment of silence helps me figure out where to go next. Does idea X or Y makes more sense? Or maybe I should try idea Z first even though it’s newer and needs more development?

Forgetting to Eat

An empty white plate on a blue background Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I’m writing that I forget what time it is.

This includes the typical times of day when I have my next meal.

There’s something about getting that next scene sketched out or blog post written that makes it easy to lose track of time like that.

Who wants to stop writing in that moment? Certainly not me!

Although my growling stomach eventually reminds me that writers aren’t machines and it’s time to stop and grab a plate of something.

Taking Breaks Feels Bizarre

A bulldog lying on the ground while looking up expectanctly at the viewerLast month I took a two week break from any sort of writing at all.

It was weird to spend those days doing things that were in no way to related to any step of the writing process, but ultimately I know how important it is to step away from a project and let one’s mind rest for a while.

This technique also works for much shorter breaks. Sometimes I’ll go take a walk when I’m struggling with how to phrase a particular blog post or passage in one of my stories. There’s something about stepping away from the issue that makes it much easier to resolve when walk or vacation time ends.

Don’t let this section make you assume that I write thousands of words every single day. My output does vary from one day to the next, but not having any of it at all is something I need to adjust to every time another break come up again.

Fellow writers, what would you add to this list?

What I Read in 2020

book opened on top of white table beside closed red book and run blue foliage ceramic cup on top of saucer In January of 2013, I began blogging once a year about everything I’d read that previous year.  This tradition began when my dad asked me how many books I’ve read in my entire lifetime.

I couldn’t begin to give him an answer to that question, but it did make me decide to start keeping track from that moment forward. The previous posts in this series are as follows: 2019, 2018,  2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Over half of the books I read in the average year are for a review site that I volunteer for under a pseudonym. I always omit those titles from this post for obvious privacy reasons.

2020 was a below average reading year for me, even more so than 2019. This was particularly noticeable when it came to the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I started so many books that I never ended up finishing due to *gestures tiredly at the countless emotionally draining moments of this year that all of us are already keenly aware of.* 

For some reason, nonfiction was an easier read for me this year in general. I’ve included links below to the few SFF novels I not only finished but blogged about.

Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs

Tombstone that reads "born" and "died"“Mrs. Beaton’s Question: My Nine Years at the Halifax School for the Blind” by Robert Mercer

“Republic of Shame: How Ireland Punished ‘Fallen Women’ and Their Children” by Caelainn Hogan

“Gay Like Me: A Father Writes to His Son” by Richie Jackson

“Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter” by Kate Clifford Larson

 

Fiction

“The Pull of the Stars” by Emma Donoghue

 

A fountain pen lying next to old black and white photographs and a bundle of documents wrapped in brown paper and tied up with black stringHistory

“A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future” by Perri Klass

“How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York” by Jacob Riis

“Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present” by Frank M. Snowden

“Nobody’s Child: A Tragedy, A Trial, and a History of the Insanity Defence” by Susan Vinocour

 

woman wearing a white nightie holding a lantern as she walks through a wormhole. There is a space ship flying through from the other side of the worm hole.Science Fiction and Fantasy

“Greenwood” by Michael Christie

“The Ghost Child” by Sonya Hartnett

Everfair” by Nisi Shawl

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

“The Emissary” by Yoko Tawada

“Silver in the Wood” by Emily Tesh

 

Science, Health, and Medicine 

“Zombies Run!: Keeping Fit and Living Well in the Current Zombie Emergency” by Naomi Alderman

Photo of human skeleton in a teaching lab“The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behaviour, Health, and Happiness” by Emily Anthes

“The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having – Or Being Denied – an Abortion” by Diana Green Foster, Ph.D.

“High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected” by Chavi Eve Karkowsky

“Natural: How Faith in Nature’s Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science” by Alan Levinovitz

“Big Chicken: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats” by Maryn McKenna

“Overkill: When Modern Medicine Goes too Far” by Paul A. Offit

“Monarchs of the Sea: The Extraordinary 500-Million-Year History of Cephalopods” by Danna Staaf

“Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death, and Art” by Rebecca Wragg Sykes

 

Sociology and Psychology 

“The Kids Are All Left: How Young Voters Will Unite America” by David Faris

Black and white sign that says "polling station"“The Narcissist in Your Life: Recognizing the Patterns and Learning to Break Free” by Julie L. Hall

“Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times” by Katherine May

“The Polyamory Breakup Book: Causes, Prevention, and Survival” by Kathy Labriola

“Librarian Tales: Funny, Strange, and Inspiring Dispatches from the Stacks” by William Ottens

“Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity” by Helen Pluckrose

“Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey into the Science of Attachment” by Bethany Saltman

“Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression“ by Dan Tomasulo

How were your reading habits affected in and by 2020? Have we read any of the same books this year?

A Photo Essay of Toronto in December

Each month I share photos from one of the parks in Toronto to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is the eleventh instalment of this series. Click on February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, and November to read the earlier posts. Other than the amount of snow on the… Read More

Creepy Christmas Poems

Someone, or possibly more than one person, keeps finding this blog by searching for creepy Christmas poems. If they ever read this post, I hope they know it was written in direct response to the multiple queries that have popped up in my analytics. I more or less stopped celebrating Christmas years ago when I… Read More