Category Archives: Writing

What I Include In My Content Warnings and Why

Anyone who has followed this blog for a little while has probably noticed the content warnings that appear in some of the book and film reviews I share. I recently realized that I’ve never blogged about what I do and don’t include in my content warnings here, so let’s discuss it.

Please note that I will be briefly discussing things like rape, murder, and violence later in this post to give examples of things I use content warnings for. I will not go into detail on any these subjects, but I always warn my readers in advance when sensitive topics come up. Keep reading at your own discretion.

The Purpose of Content Warnings

A rabbit sitting at the mouth of its den
The friendliest photo I could find online.

Content warnings are used to alert readers about potentially sensitive material so that they can decide for themselves if they would like to read or watch that content.

Trigger warnings are a specific type of content warnings that are used for subjects that may cause intense psychological symptoms in some cases.

The purpose of these warnings is to give people who have PTSD, anxiety, or other mental illnesses a heads up before suddenly diving into topics that may trigger flashbacks, panic attacks, or other mental health concerns for them.

Since just about anything can be a content or trigger warning for someone out there, it simply isn’t possible to forewarn everyone about anything that might be difficult for them to stumble across in a story or film.

What I Include in My Content Warnings

My goal when writing content warnings for the stuff I review here is to include topics that are widely known to be sensitive or triggering.

I generally warn my readers about the following topics:

  • Any form of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, etc.) against adults, kids, or animals
  • Blood and gore
  • Descriptive medical procedures (needles, surgery, amputations, etc).
  • Violence
  • Kidnapping or abductions
  • Death or dying (including pets/animals)
  • Pregnancy or childbirth (especially if it has a tragic outcome)
  • Self-harm or suicide
  • Eating disorders
  • Sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia, ableism, classism, etc.
  • Mental illness

There have been a few times when readers contacted me privately to ask for clarification for a content warning or to see if something not on this list was included in the book or film I’d reviewed. I’m always happy to answer those questions.

While I do have a spoiler-free review policy in general, I think it’s helpful to let folks know in advance about topics they might need to emotionally prepare for before reading or watching what I recommend here.

How Do You Handle Content Warnings?

Three sketches of humans with round heads and torsos. Each one has a speech bubble above them that is blue, purple, or a combination of the two colours.Do you use them? Why or why not?

If you use them, what topics do you include in them?

Are you open to answering readers’ questions about the content of the stuff you review if they would like to know in advance if something not on your list was mentioned in the book, film, or other piece of media you reviewed?

I can’t wait to hear how all of you handle this topic on your sites and in your reviews.

 

Subreddits That I Love

The Reddit Logo. It is orange and has a smiling alien face in it.

Thank you to Iniverse for giving me the idea for this response post. Go read about the subreddits this blogger enjoys before continuing on here.

Reddit is a site filled with a massive series of message boards on every topic you can imagine and then some. Each topic is separated into its own page there in something called a subreddit.

Today I will follow in Iniverse’s footsteps and share some of my favourite subreddits from that site that fit into the scope of this blog. All of the links in this post are safe to browse at work or if you have a small child looking over your shoulder, but do be warned that this isn’t true for every subreddit out there!

Fitness and Health Subreddits

woman using ab rollerr/1500isplenty

A well-balanced diet can make it easier to reach many different fitness and health goals. This sub is filled with (generally) healthy recipes and support for anyone who is trying to live a healthier lifestyle. There is also r/1200isplentyr/1800isplenty, and r/cico for people with different calorie goals for each day.

r/bodyweightfitness

Who says you have to go to the gym or own fitness equipment to grow stronger? This subreddit contains countless exercise routines that use nothing but your own body weight for strength training.

r/Dance

Am I a great dancer? Not yet, but who says you have to be the best at something in order to enjoy it?! Dancing is for everyone and anyone who enjoys it.

r/EatCheapAndHealthy

The title says it all. I’m always striving to eat well while keeping my grocery budget trimmed down.

r/xxfitness

This is a fitness sub specifically for and by women. Unfortunately, some of the biggest fitness subs are not always welcoming to us. While I read many of them, I’m cautious about which ones I comment on and recommend in general.

r/Yoga

I do a lot of lurking here.

Mindfulness and Meditation Subreddits

 woman closing her eyes while sitting on a couchr/Meditation

r/Mindfulness

These two are self-explanatory, I think.

r/RelaxingGifs

This can be a wonderful resource when I need something visual to focus on. All of these gifs are quiet and soothing enough to calm my mind down enough for a more traditional meditation session.

r/Stoicism

The themes of acceptance and adaptability in Stoicism remind me a lot of mindfulness and meditation.

 

Speculative Fiction Subreddits

A wizard walking down stone steps in an abandoned stone castle covered in vines that's next to a massive mountaing range.r/AskFantasy

r/AskScienceFiction

These subreddits are fantastic for everything from geeking out over your favourite speculative fiction  stories to asking any manner of questions about anything related to these genres.

r/HorrorLit

This is the best horror subreddit I’ve found so far. The commenters there are well-versed in this genre and pretty friendly to newcomers from what I’ve observed.

r/ImaginaryFairytales

Anyone who reads or writes fairy tales should see the beautiful imagery on this subreddit.

r/ScifiConcepts

Here is a slightly more cerebral and writing-focused version of AskScienceFiction. Both readers and writers are welcome, but be prepared to do a lot of critical thinking.

Writing Subreddits

high angle photo of woman writing in a notebookr/AbandonedPorn

I promise this link is safe for your boss, child, or pet to see if they walk past your screen. It’s fascinating to observe how buildings change after humans stop using them and nature begins to take over.

This is excellent source material for anyone writing about ancient ruins, abandoned cities, and the like.

r/AskARace

There are many other AskA subreddits out there for various countries, continents, and minority groups if you need more advice while writing characters who are different from you in some way.  I picked this one specifically because it has such a diverse and knowledgable set of users.

r/CemeteryPorn

You can learn so much about previous generations by paying attention to how they buried and commemorated their dead. I adore looking at tombstones and photos of tombstones.

r/OldSchoolCool

Most of these photos were taken between the 1940s and 1980s, give or take a few decades. They can be a good reference for anyone writing about the 1900s who wants to get their fashion and hairstyles right.

r/WritingPrompts

Endless free ideas are here for the taking if you need some inspiration.

r/WritingLGBT

This is a good place to discuss writing LGBT+ characters and finding books featuring these characters. There are also plenty of LGBT+ authors poking around there, too, if you’re one of us and want to make some new friends.

 

What are your favourite subreddits?

4 Reasons Why Writers Should Meditate

 

What does meditation have to do with writing?

This is a topic I should cover in full in a future post sometime soon, but for now I’ll say that how you respond to stray thoughts during the rest of your day strongly influences how you respond to them when you’re writing.

Meditation is sort of like strength training for your mind. The process of sitting down to write and struggling to clear your thoughts could be made a lot easier if you practice that skill regularly just like carrying a few bags of heavy things home from the store is easier if you’re already accustomed to lifting weights.

From How to Clear Your Thoughts Before Writing.

woman meditating while her dog looks onWriting this post took longer than I expected, but I’m ready now.

Let’s talk about the connection between meditation and writing.

What does meditation have to do with finishing, or maybe even starting, that blog post, poem, short story, or full-length novel?

Think about all of the mental prep work that goes into creating something. I don’t know about your writing processes, but the things I write rarely slip out of my mind fully formed. A flash of a character appears here and a line of dialogue there. On a different day, the perfect blog post title might show up or I may jot down a funny anecdote that I hope to work into something when I eventually figure out where it fits and whether it should remain nonfiction or be fictionalized instead.

Among its many other uses, meditation is a method for responding to stray thoughts and determining which ones, if any, are worth jotting down.

Find Focus

Person holding a camera lense that is focused on a dirt road through a field. A small patch of woods is in the distance just around the bend of the road. As one of my relatives said recently, “don’t believe everything you think.”

Not every thought that pops up can or should be entertained. This is as true whether someone is mediating, writing, or was just cut off in traffic and is feeling a sudden flash of anger at the person who made them slam on their brakes.

If you can train your mind to see a thought bubble up without feeling the need to chase after it when you’re sitting or walking quietly, it becomes easier to do over time when one is in any number of other situations.

Silence Your Inner Critic

person holding one finger up to silence a french bulldog.I’ve been through multiple periods of writer’s block over the years. In retrospect, some of them were caused by my inner critic speaking so harshly about what I was working on that I was no longer sure where to go next.

By learning to turn away from unwanted thoughts through regular meditation, it slowly becomes easier to write without listening to your critical thoughts about what you’re working on.

I’ve never read a perfect first draft of anything. The further away I move from the expectation that I somehow magically do it right the first time.

That’s just as nonsensical as it is impossible. First drafts always need to be corrected and improved upon. The important thing is to create them in the first place.

A Quiet Mind Is a Creative Mind

Woman wearing purple face paint and closing her eyes as purple smoke envelops her It’s been my experience that quieting the mind does wonders for creativity.

Brainstorming is easier when one can stop and focus on the task at hand. Everything else can wait while you make lists, free write, or use any number of other techniques to get the ideas flowing.

Sorting through ideas is easier when you have plenty of experience gently releasing the unwanted ones as they pop up.

Writing in general is easier when your inner critic’s voice is quiet enough to ignore.

I’ve even found that revising is easier with a quiet mind as well because I’m better able to remember what it was I was intending to say before I compare it to what I’ve actually typed up.

Live in the Moment

a drop of water falling into a blue body of water There are so many things that are out of our control as writers, creative people, and human beings in general.

All we can do is release our work out in the world and see what happens.

One of the most beautiful things about meditation in my opinion is the way it encourages its practitioners to experience what is happening at this very moment instead of worrying about what might occur in the future or ruminating on the past.

Simply breathe.

Pay attention to what your five senses are currently detecting.

Focus on what you can control, and don’t fret about the rest.

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?

My 20 Most Popular Posts of 2020

A green olympic typewriter that has typed out the number 2020. Every December I make a list of my most popular posts of the year. This is something I first began doing in 2017 with a roundup of my 10 most popular posts.

In 2018, I decided to double that number in response to my blogging buddies Terry Tyler and Tom Williams doing the same thing. I continued that tradition in 2019 and am back again today with this year’s entry.

The first two times I wrote this post, WordPress gobbled them up when I tapped the Schedule button. Talk about frustrating! Let’s cross our fingers and hope the third time is the charm.

Each year there are surprises in these roundups. It’s not always easy to predict which posts will do well immediately, take off months later, or occasionally never garner as much interest as I thought they would.

This year I was a little surprised by how many bookish posts made it to the list. In the past, those topics generally didn’t garner as much interest as they did in 2020.

It was awesome to see so many of my entries for Vintage Science Fiction month be so popular as well. I will be participating in that blogging event again in January, so stay tuned.

I also liked seeing some film and indie book reviews included in the top 20 list. These are topics I could talk about all day.

Fitness was something I blogged about less often than usual this past year. I am hoping to blog more about it in 2021, especially once all of us who can be vaccinated against Covid-19 have been vaccinated and it becomes safer to go places again.

Thank you all for reading what I’ve written this year! Without further ado, here are the top 20 posts of 2020 beginning with #20 on the list.

Winter Blogfest graphic on a blue background with white snowflakes dotting the top and sides. The graphic reads, "Long and Short Reviews Winter Blogfest. A Prize on every post! December 21-January 1."

20. A Free Author Promo Opportunity at Long and Short Reviews 

A girl with a bored expression on her face reading a book.

19. 4 Creative Ways to Overcome a Reading Slump 

Black and white photo of a pug tilting its head in confusion

18. Why Writers Should Eavesdrop Regularly 

Nichelle Nichols as Uhura. She is holding her brand new tribble.

17. Vintage Science Fiction Month: The Trouble with Tribbles

Person standing in a 6+ foot tall tunnel built into thick walls of snow and ice.

16. An Exclusive Interview with Winter 

Film poster for Jumanji. image on poster shows four main characters standing at the mouth of a cave looking out onto a jungle with mountains in the distance.

15. A Review of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle 

A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories by B.A. Loudon book cover. Image on cover is of a pile of pumpkins.

14. A Review of A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Stories 

A city park landscape. The grass is green and covered in blue flowers. The bushes are just beginning to turn green, and the trees still look bare.

13. A Photo Essay of Toronto in April

gibraltar point lighthouse on Toronto Island in Toronto, Ontario

12. 6 Toronto Urban Legends for Halloween

Child running up a flight of steps

11. 3 Reasons Why You Should Try Mall Walking

Nine speech bubbles in a variety of shapes and pastel colours.

10. Why I Blog About Multiple Topics 

Photo of person's legs and orange shoes as they climb a flight of blue stairs.

9. 3 Reasons Why I Take the Stairs Instead of the Elevator 

A dead tree. The top half has been shorn off and is lying on the ground. Was it damaged in a storm?

8. A Photo Essay of Toronto in March 

Second Variety by Philip K. Dick book cover. Image on cover is of a stylized, human-shaped flame holding the Earth.

7. Vintage Science Fiction Month: Second Variety by Phillip K. Dick

Bananas that are submerged in a bright yellow landscape.

6. On Finding Scope for Imagination During Uncertain Times 

six clouds digitally altered to spell out the word dreams.

5. Let’s Talk About Vivid Quarantine Dreams 

 

A toy apple sitting on three textbooks in front of a blackboard. The toy apple has a window and door painted on it so it looks like a little house.

4. 5 Homeschooling Tips from a Homeschooler 

Book cover for 1NG4. Image on cover is of a metal structure that has been photographed just after dusk.

3. Military Science: A Review of 1NG4

a room filled with levers on its wall

2. Hopeful Science Fiction: Move the World 

Women doing yoga

1. 3 Things I Like About Yoga

A Free Author Promo Opportunity at Long and Short Reviews

  Long and Short Reviews is a large, well-respected book review site that has been around since 2007. They are currently seeking out guest bloggers for their Winter Blogfest which is scheduled to run December 21 through January 1. This is an amazing free opportunity for authors from any genre to meet likeminded writers and… Read More

On Finding Scope for Imagination During Uncertain Times

“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?” – Anne of Green… Read More

An Exclusive Interview with Summer

Over the past year I’ve interviewed  spring, autumn, and winter. Today I’m back with an exclusive interview with summer! Lydia: … Summer: … Lydia: So about the pineapple head. Didn’t we agree that you’d show up in human form today? Summer: Technically, yes. Since pineapple heads are more interesting, I decided to improvise. Lydia: Okay, will… Read More

Why Writers Should Eavesdrop Regularly

Incidentally, I’ve also pick up some fabulous ideas for poems and stories as well by watching people! You’d be surprised by how much you can learn about writing dialogue as well as human nature in by quietly observing how they interact with each other in public. Perhaps this should be the topic of a future post? What… Read More