Summer 2022 Updates

It’s summer! Which means it’s time for a rousing game of ‘what’s been happening in J’s world?’

Writing

First off, I sold a story to a really exciting anthology. Fit For The Gods is a collection of diverse and inclusive retellings of Greek myths, edited by Jenn Northington and S. Zainab Williams, to be published by Vintage/Knopf. I know there were a LOT of submissions for the open call, so I was utterly thrilled that my modern-day Brazilian version of Circe and Odysseus was selected! Go here to read more about this project and to see the full list of authors.

The new fantasy anthology by the authors of DISTAFF is still in the works. It’s been rough getting moving, as COVID brought one disaster after another to our team. But I have hopes that this will be our year, and I can’t wait to share my story of fae seduction and addiction to wild magic with everyone!

Moving away from short stories, I’ve been working on something new for a while. It gave me some trouble as I searched for the right voice and angle, but it’s finally clicked, and I think this is THE version that will move forward. It doesn’t have a title yet, but I’m really excited about my sci-fantasy tale of ghost hunters, set in Brazil several decades into the future.

Community

In other news, my team and I wrapped up the 2022 virtual New England SCBWI conference, and feedback has been mostly positive. There were some truly great workshops and presentations, and you can click here to read my post-conference post. This marks the end of my tenure as conference director — what was supposed to last two years lasted three, due to COVID, and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it, though I’m also happy to pass on the role to next year’s directors. I’m not stepping fully away from our fabulous regional team, however, as I’ve taken on the job of gathering and organizing Member News for our quarterly NESCBWI newsletter.

As for other organization updates, I decided to join the British Fantasy Society, after taking part and thoroughly enjoying one of their online events earlier this year. I also took the plunge and applied to the SFWA, recently renamed the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Association, and am now a full member.

I’m still avoiding large gatherings and am not planning to go to any in-person conferences or conventions in 2022. For next year, I plan to attend at least BOSKONE in February and NESCBWI in late April/early May, both of which will hopefully be in-person. I would really like to attend a horror convention, too, to connect with some of my horror community friends in person, so let’s see if I can make that happen…

Personal

On a personal level, we travelled to Austin, Texas in June to visit family, and had a wonderful few days. What a great city! We spent a day in neighboring Wimberley, too, and came home in love with the local landscape.

July brought our Big Family Trip: after four years (due to the pandemic), we finally returned home to visit our families and friends in Brazil. We managed to fit in a visit to the Iguaçu Falls, and to the beach, too! Leaving was, as always, bitter-sweet — we love our life in the USA but part of our hearts will always remain in São Paulo.

Now we’re home, with September all too close. This year we see our youngest off to college, so that makes both of them gone. Fingers crossed that it will all go smoothly!

Also, I turned fifty in April, and have been slowly working on completing my ‘50 for 50’ project — a list of fifty things I want to accomplish before my next birthday. Some are small and free, like the letter I wrote to my younger self or the walk I plan to take on that trail that I haven’t explored yet. Others require time and/or money, like the brand-new tattoo I got yesterday! And some of the things on my list are shared experiences, like the back painting my youngest did for me or the family visit to a local Renaissance Faire… It’s been a fun project, and I may just repeat this next year too, though perhaps on a smaller scale!

Anyway, that’s it for updates, and I hope you have lots of lovely creative and personal plans of your own to carry you through to the end of the year, no matter how big or small!

Blank Slate

Here we are, one more year at an end. Social media is full of rewinds and retrospectives, and what sort of blogger would I be if I didn’t add my own? In all honesty, though, I rather enjoy taking a moment to appreciate all the highlights of the past 12 months before diving into the blank slate of a new calendar year.

So, what happened in 2021?

Writer things

  • It’s been a weird year. I’ve been… unsettled, is probably the best description. I’ve been querying my urban fantasy novel to agents, and unsure of what to work on next. Rewrite an older project? Start something new? In the end, I decided to focus on short stories for a while, and now have several I’m very pleased with that are ready for submission in 2022.
  • The NOT ALL MONSTERS anthology (Strangehouse/Rooster Republic Press, 2020), which contains my short story The Sugar Cane Sea, was nominated for the Stoker Awards, which was super exciting! We didn’t win, but it was still awesome to make it that far. 
  • My short story Moon Under Mangroves was published in November in SHADOW ATLAS: DARK LANDSCAPES OF THE AMERICAS. This fully illustrated anthology is beautifully designed and has an amazing list of participating authors. It’s already collected some great praise; the Midwest Book review, for instance, wrote “Think The DaVinci Code or Indiana Jones, but with more literary force.”
  • You can read my interview with SHADOW ATLAS editor Hillary Dodge here.
  • My upbeat take on the apocalypse was published in Krazon Magazine in April; to read my short story The End of All Things for free, click here.
  • I co-directed my first conference! The New England SCBWI Regional Spring Conference took place virtually on the first weekend in May, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Check out my conference recap here.

Fun stuffs

  • Books: I read a total of 64 titles this year, of which 25 were adult fiction, 15 were YA or middle grade, and 24 were graphic novels. Of the total, 44 were from speculative fiction genres/sub-genres.
  • My favorite SF/F books this year: Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars and T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea were probably my top reads. Both are gorgeous, with a warmth and sweetness to them that I hadn’t realized that I badly needed. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab was another favorite, although this one has a bittersweet feel that permeates its beauty with sadness. Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth was a blast, and brash, foul-mouthed Gideon may be one of my new top characters ever. Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger deserved all the awards and praise it reaped (also, it’s so nice to see asexual representation in fiction, especially in a main character). And I fell in love with The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards, which I thought was a fabulous bit of urban fantasy. 
  • Movies! Spider-Man: No Way Home was a lot of fun with all its multiverse shenanigans, but my favorite movies this year were The Old Guard (for immortality done right), Black Widow (because Yelena!!! And vests with lots of pockets…), and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (for sheer utter delightfulness and the best on-screen guy/girl friendship I’ve seen in a while).
  • TV shows: This was the year of Marvel, with lots of solid contenders (WandaVision, I’m looking at you), but I have to say that Hawkeye stole my heart. I was already a huge fan of the comic run by Matt Fraction and David Aja, and the fact that the show borrowed so heavily from this source was endlessly delightful. Hailee Steinfeld was an excellent Kate Bishop (I love comics Kate), plus we got more Yelena!!! (Florence Pugh is Just. So. Good.) 
  • As for the rest: The Expanse is still the best live action sci fi around, hands down; The Bad Batch was so good, and I adored their weird family dynamic; Superman and Lois had a solid first season, and I really enjoyed the family focus; Invisible City (Cidade Invisivel) did a nice job of bringing the mythology of my home country Brazil to a wider audience; and Castlevania continues to deliver action-packed storylines and fabulous one-liners. 
  • My top non SF/F show was It’s a Sin, which managed to be at the same time heartwarming and devastating. And for the first time ever I dipped my toes in the yeast-and-sugar-laden waters of The Great British Bake Off (and I confess to being instantly smitten).

Personal bits and pieces

  • This year brought big changes with my oldest leaving for college. Honestly? We’re all still adapting. We’re still working on those university applications, though, this time for our youngest child.
  • My indoor jungle is growing! It may swallow me whole one of these days, so if I don’t check in every now and then, maybe pay me a visit with some pruning shears? Outdoors, this was my first year growing cherry tomatoes, which were a huge success and yielded endlessly.
  • In June and July, when Covid infection rates were lower and the world seemed a safer place, we took two mini breaks, to Newport and Cape Cod, and later to Salem. Lovely family time! We also squeezed in a couple of nights away in Lake George after Christmas, for some much-needed breathing space, despite the cold.
  • We had hoped to travel to Brazil to visit family for Christmas, but Covid… We’re crossing fingers that next year things will be easier for everyone!

Coming in 2022

  • The NESCBWI Spring Conference is at the end of April/start of May. We’re hoping to meet up in person but planning for virtual in case, well, Covid. I’m really excited! Hopefully it’ll all go smoothly.
  • The FEMMES FAE-TALES anthology was delayed by LIFE (Covid *sigh*), but hopefully we’ll be able to publish in 2022. FAE-TALES contains my short story Taste of Honey as well as lots of other fantastic fictional offerings.
  • Writing goals for 2022! I have so many short stories I wrote this year that need revision and to be submitted… And a couple of other long-form projects that I’m going to be mysterious about for now! But I do have ALL THE PLANS for this new year.

WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL 2022! Here’s to good health, good times, and good words (for all you writers out there).

Beneath the Surface

I’ve been slow and sporadic with writing lately. There’s a lot going on in my head, and not much going down on paper. It’s not a new thing, this need for a period of quiet. I think most of us have productivity cycles that wax and wane, and I know from past experience that I’ll emerge from this cocoon of introspection with renewed energy and fresh perspectives for my work.

I’ve seen writers refer to times of low productivity as periods of drought, but I dislike the implication that this is a barren moment. On the contrary, there may not be much to show on the outside, in terms of words written or projects completed, but inside I am bubbling with thoughts and ideas. 

I prefer to think of this as a low tide. The sea recedes, leaving behind all manner of treasures to enthrall. Small shells and water-worn pebbles. Seaweed and driftwood and teeny tiny scuttling crabs. And then the tide returns, covering everything with the ocean’s swell. But the secret has already been revealed, and now we know that beneath the waves there are all those wonderful treasures: the crabs, and shells, and seaweed, and bare toes that sink into the wet sand.

The best thing to do, I find, is embrace the low tides for the gift they truly are. Make time to read or watch TV, to meditate, listen to music, to dance and go for long walks. Or just to curl up in a chair where you can close your eyes and be a tiny, sun-drenched, moss-covered stone. And throughout all of this, let your mind wander where it will, untangling knotted thoughts and uncovering those hidden treasures.

Life is busy, and it can be hard to find moments for our inner selves. If you’re a writer or other creative person, that hard-won quiet can feel like a guilty pleasure. I should be working on my novel, or my sketches, or my pottery, or music, we tell ourselves. And yes, I think there’s a time to push, but there’s also a time to back away and allow ourselves the gift of guiltless meandering. Then, when the high tide returns, it does so all the richer and more precious for the secrets we now know lie hidden beneath the surface.

Summer 2021 Updates

We’re halfway through summer here in Connecticut, which means it’s time for another round of ‘what’s been happening in my world’…

Short Stories

Kraxon Magazine published another short of mine in April, The End of all Things; it’s free to read, so if you’re in the mood for a light-hearted take on the end of the world, click here to check it out! I have a few other stories published in Kraxon that you can read for free, including Ripped Away which was voted story of the year in 2015.

I have two more short stories coming out in anthologies this year. The first, Moon Under Mangroves, is in Shadow Atlas: Dark Landscapes of the Americas (Hex Publishers) and should be out in October. This tale of aging, swamp crabs, and a cursed compass is set in the mangrove swamps outside the city of Santos, in Brazil, an hour from where I grew up. Click here to see the blurb and list of authors!

The other story, Taste of Honey, will be out later this year in a collaborative anthology put together by the women of DISTAFF, a sci fi anthology that was released in 2019. This time we’re turning to fantasy, with a collection of loosely fairy-related fiction called Femme Fae-Tales. I can’t wait to share my own tale of one woman’s addiction to wild magic, set right here in Connecticut. More information on the anthology will be available soon on the DISTAFF main site, here.

Last year, my short story The Sugar Cane Sea was published in Not All Monsters (Strangehouse Books). This year, the anthology made it all the way to the final ballot of the Bram Stoker horror fiction awards—we didn’t win, but it was still amazing to be a finalist! We’ve had some lovely reviews, and here are a few specific mentions for my story, from Goodreads:

“The Sugar Cane Sea” by Juliana Spink Mills will stick with me for a long time. Exquisite. 

The characters were written so well that I was left a little sad that I’d never get to meet them again.

I loved this one so much! I loved the characters, their love for one another, the bravery, and so much more. 

Novels

I’ve spent the past few months sending out queries for my most recent novel. A Perfect Void is about witches in modern day Boston, but with an alternate history past that includes two Witch Wars that shook the USA and the legacy that my main character, an aura reader and university professor, has to live with. I love this story so much!!! But I’m well aware that this is a tough time to query, with both agents and publishers dealing with the backlog of work that 2020 left behind. Still, I plan to keep going, and hopefully someone will love my witchy professor’s tale as much as I do.

Currently Working On…

I’m revising a short story that marks my first real dip into magical realism. It’s set in a small coastal tourist town in northeastern Brazil and includes pottery fish and soul stealing magic. I’m excited to start submitting this one, as it feels very close to my heart.

I’m also in the planning stages for a novella set in my hometown of São Paulo, inspired by the now-defunct tram lines that once crisscrossed the city.

Blog

After trying and failing to keep to a two-week blogging schedule, and then a few months of very sporadic posting, I’ve been focusing on a roughly three-week schedule which I’ve actually been managing to maintain. Two weeks was just too much, and a month between posts felt like a lot, so let’s see if three turns out to be the sweet spot! Three’s supposed to be the magic number, after all, right?

New Author Photos

I cut my hair really short, and you know what that means? New author pics! I’m very pleased with this latest batch of photos, and hope to use them for a good while before I need updates.

Personal

We recently took our vaccinated selves on a couple of mini family breaks. First up was Rhode Island/Cape Cod in June, and then in July, Salem and Boston. It felt so nice to get away for a little bit!

Perspective

A birthday poem. For me. By me.

Perspective
Juliana Spink Mills, March 2021

The older I get
the less I know
about myself.
My certainties
are shaken loose,
washed clean and clear
by the pitter-patter rain
of days, and months, and
years gone by.

I find new things about
myself, every day.
Blooming from within;
spring bulbs
rising above the debris
of last autumn's leaves,
shedding layers
as the river birch sheds
paper-thin slivers of bark.

Time brings wisdom,
they say.
Time is knowledge.
But time is, above all, freedom
to set aside that
which others have
accidentally imposed upon me
in the way they perceive
how I exist.

As the years wash against me
like waves on a beach,
I find I do not need
other people to define me
as I once did.
Time has bought me
space and perspective,
and now I begin to see myself
for who I am.
Multiples of me…

Paring Back

Reminder to self…

It’s been a strange and busy few weeks since my last blog post. First, my laptop was out of commission for a solid fortnight, after an OS update went very wrong. Then, there was all the fuss in setting things back up the way I like them, which included running a search-and-rescue for lost files, photos, and emails. (Yes, I had backups of most things. But there’s still time spent finding and replacing everything.)

Personal life has also been busy. Anxiety about COVID vaccine appointments, trying to make college decisions with my son, and ramping up driving practice, as my daughter takes her test this week. Lots of distractions and minor worries, alongside the normal, usual, everyday cares and concerns.

Surprisingly, to me at least, I’ve managed to keep up my writing routine through all of this. When my laptop froze, I was luckily in a place where I needed a break from revising my sci fi novel to think a few plotlines over. I spent time letting my mind wander and writing poetry — a nice breather after many months of solid prose. And then, as soon as things were up and running again, I was back into my manuscript.

Of course, some things have to give. There are only so many of those darn pesky balls a person can juggle at once. I haven’t touched my blog in forever, and I took a semi-hiatus (for a while) from social media. I didn’t read much, either. But I did spend a lot of time simply breathing and existing; sometimes, that’s all we have mental space for, and that’s okay.

Paring back when life ramps up is fine. It’s necessary. And there’s no formula to it: sometimes the writing gets paused, sometimes it’s other activities. AND THAT’S OKAY. And that’s all I want to say, really. It’s okay.

Starting Fresh

New year, new dreams, same old Coronavirus. COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere just yet, and despite the start of vaccinations here in the USA, there’s a long road to travel before we can begin to meet up in person again. But I can’t help but feel hopeful that there is light ahead, and make plans for an amazing 2021!

Before 2020 is completely over, however, here’s a quick look at what went on in my life…

Writer things

  • Feeling the need to step away from YA for a bit led to writing my first ever adult fantasy novel. I had a blast with it! It’s now at the final revision stage, and feedback has been extremely positive.
  • I had one short story — The Sugar Cane Sea — published in the Not All Monsters anthology (Strangehouse/Rooster Republic Press), a collection of stories by women of horror. The anthology came out in limited run illustrated hardback and paperback versions in April, and in October in regular paperback and e-book versions. It’s already made the Stoker reading list!
  • Another short story has been submitted, accepted, and edited for an upcoming collaborative anthology of women fantasy authors: Femmes Fae-Tales. My story, Taste of Honey, is set here in Connecticut and is about a woman who becomes addicted to nature’s magic.
  • I took part in a roundtable interview organized by Not All Monsters editor Sara Tantlinger —see link on my press page.
  • I managed one Con as panelist and with a reading (Boskone in Boston) before the world shut down.
  • I recorded a video for the Shrewsbury Library in the UK with a short reading from Taste of Honey (see link at bottom of page).
  • I attended a number of online book and writing events and writer meet ups.
  • With all in-person events cancelled, this included our New England SCBWI conference, which we will be doing an online version of in 2021. With everything being moved forward, I’m now co-director of the 2021 and 2022 regional conferences.

Fun stuffs

  • Favorite books this year include Leigh Bardugo’s dark and moody Ninth House and the first two books in Brandon Sanderson’s riveting YA sci fi trilogy, Skyward and Starsight. I thoroughly enjoyed Kin by Snorri Kristjansson, a murder mystery set in Viking times. I’ve also been working through the Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovitch, and am now up to date with the most recent installment in this excellent urban fantasy series.
  • A couple of movies I loved were Knives Out and Birds of Prey, both of which I missed in movie theaters but caught up with at home. It was a good year for classic musicals, too — we managed to see Jesus Christ Superstar live in Hartford a few weeks before lockdown started, and then Phantom of the Opera (hello, endless earworm loop!) during the Shows Must Go On COVID fundraiser, among others.
  • TV shows! This, of course, was the year of The Mandalorian. But there were plenty of other shows to keep us busy. Season 2 of The Umbrella Academy was overall very good, and I’m slowly making my way through three DC shows: Doom Patrol, Young Justice, and Titans, now that they’re all available on HBO. Speaking of DC, Stargirl was a fun CW release, with a great family dynamic. What We Do in the Shadows was a big hit in our house, and all four of us loved it. Britannia is absolutely bonkers, but my husband and I enjoyed both seasons and are looking forward to the next one. Queer Eye and Nadiya’s Time to Eat were probably my top reality TV feel-good options.

Personal bits and pieces

  • Lockdown meant all four of us (five with the dog!) sharing space all day for most of the year — the kids did return to school for a couple of months, but have been back in full remote learning since then. It took a bit of adjusting, but on the whole things went pretty smoothly, and we are all now pros at Getting Things Done without bothering each other too much.
  • As we were all adapting our workspaces, I took advantage of the flurry of reorganization to move my writing hutch to a brighter (and quieter) spot by my indoor jungle, and have really enjoyed working there. Very inspiring!
  • My father visited in March, and had the misfortune to be here when all borders closed down. It took a lot of last-minute juggling to get him on an early flight back to Brazil, but he made it! Even though his trip got cut short, we still managed a great week together.
  • It’s been a quiet year, for obvious reasons, but we went away for a week in July, up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, for a COVID-appropriate holiday that included lots of fresh air and hikes.
  • My youngest how has her learner’s permit, and my oldest is waiting to hear back from university applications. Having big kids is terrifying!

Coming in 2021

  • I have no Con participation scheduled for 2021, though as co-director, I’ll be putting in an online appearance at the NESCBWI regional spring conference. I miss in-person events! Hopefully, we’ll get back to seeing each other offline at some point…
  • The Femmes Fae-Tales anthology should be out by May, containing my short story Taste of Honey as well as work by a fabulous group of fantastic writers.
  • Writing goals for 2020! I’m hoping to be ready to submit my fantasy novel by the end of January. After that, while I wait for (fingers crossed!) replies, I’m going to do a rewrite of my SF YA novel. I do have several other projects lined up, like a couple of short stories that exist in first draft form and need reworking — one of these is a horror story set in the mangrove swamps of southeastern Brazil that I think will work better as magical realism… But ‘Void’ and ‘Beastie’ are my initial priorities. (Yes, I nickname all my writing projects!)

WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL 2021!

Click here for Shrewsbury Library video on the library Facebook page!

Summer 2020 Updates

I’m back after a long summer hiatus. I also took a much-needed Twitter break, only dipping in every few days for a peek. Sometimes, taking a step away from some of the things that make our life busy (however much we may enjoy them) is a breath of fresh air!

So, what have I been up to since my last update post?

First of all, as you may have noticed, I have a new website banner. The gorgeous artwork is by the talented Olívia Guidotti ­— she takes all sorts of commissions (portraits, original artwork, etc.) and can be contacted via her Instagram page. I figured my site was overdue for a new look, and nothing better than Olívia’s fun art style to show a little of who I am and what I write.

Art by Olívia

In writing news, I have a short story out called The Sugar Cane Sea. The fabulous full color special edition of the NOT ALL MONSTERS anthology (Strangehouse Books, edited by Sara Tantlinger) came out in April, and the general release edition on Amazon comes out in October. This collection of stories by ‘Women of Horror’ is so good! And it includes gorgeous artwork by Don Noble.

There’s more anthology news! The wonderful women from the SFFChronicles.com forum who banded together to bring you DISTAFF in 2019 are back. Our latest project is the fantasy anthology FEMMES FAE-TALES, with a tentative release date of February 2021. I can’t wait to share my own story, Taste of Honey, about a woman who seeks peace and refuge in the hills of northwestern Connecticut from the mess that is her personal life, but finds something dark and addictive instead. Keep an eye out for upcoming artwork, TOC, and author bios at DISTAFFanthology.wordpress.com.

As for longer work, I’ve stepped away from YA for a bit. I spent nearly a year working and reworking a YA novel that kept going in all the wrong directions. I decided to take a break and fell into an adult urban fantasy novel that I’m having all kinds of fun with. This is my first time writing a full-length novel NOT aimed at teens, and honestly, it’s been refreshing. I’m about halfway through the first draft, and really excited about it.

Outlining and plot wrangling, with puppy photobomb

The COVID-19 lockdown with all its social distancing rules has been an interesting time. No more in-person meet-ups… On the other hand, the sheer number of offerings of online events has been almost overwhelming. For writers, there have been craft webinars, author interviews, panels, readings, book launches, and everything else under the sun. A couple of highlights among the events I’ve attended have been a great conversation between Victoria Schwab and Neil Gaiman, brought by Tor, and the all-day reCONvene convention, offered by the lovely folks of NESFA who run Boskone every year.

On a personal note, we’ve now been in the USA for seven years! It’s gone by so fast… Of course we miss our friends and family back in Brazil, and São Paulo is and will always be home for us. But we love our life in green and leafy Connecticut, and this is the country that saw all of my writing milestones take place: first story publications, first novels, first event panels, and so on. They say that the number seven marks the end of first infancy, and the start of the next period of personal growth, and I hope to see that reflected in my work, and in our lives here in general!

I know these past months haven’t been easy, and that a lot of us have been finding that our creativity took a hit, especially in the first weeks after the pandemic went global. So here’s to a positive second semester for 2020: wishing you all the brightest of creative sparks, and the energy and time to follow your star.

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Writers in Lockdown

2020-03-26 13.47.46

Next week marks two months of staying at home for my family. While governments everywhere are beginning the slow process of reopening in a safe and viable manner, it’s pretty clear that the coronavirus pandemic is far from being resolved, and social distancing is here for the foreseeable future.

In some ways, time has flown by. In others, it has dragged on interminably. All of us have been forced to dig within and find balance, charting the things that make our new realities bearable. For writers and other creatives, there’s that added pressure of social media reminding us to take advantage of lockdown to, you know, create. But, as many of us are finding, it’s Not Quite That Simple.

Here’s a Top 10 of my personal do’s and don’ts as a writer in lockdown. (Emphasis on personal!)

1. DON’T read any of those posts. You know the ones. SHAKESPEARE WROTE KING LEAR DURING THE PLAGUE. Yeah, those ones. Between the general uncertainty, the incessant news updates, and the overall (very real) sense of fear, many of us are finding it hard to spark our creativity right now. Be kind to yourself. It’s perfectly fine to store ideas in your head (or a handy notebook) for now and wait until the world settles a little around you.

2. DO get a change of perspective every now and then. I’m lucky enough to live in a quiet suburban neighborhood where I can safely walk the dog AND social distance. Those moments spent outside the house help me reorder my brain. If you can’t go out, try using an unusual space instead. Sit on the stairs. Lie on the bathroom floor. Stand inside a closet in the dark for five minutes.

2020-05-03 17.53.22

3. DON’T feel pressured to ‘use your time at home in an educational manner’. Sure, there are a ton of amazing webinars and author talks aimed at writers right now, many of them graciously offered free of charge. If your mind is in that place, go for it! My mind… is not. Every now and then I feel a stab of guilt when I see some cool online event advertised. But I ruthlessly squash it down. The only new skill anyone has picked up around here lately is the dog, who learnt how to roll over. And I’m fine with that!

4. DO take some time to have fun with your imaginary worlds. Just because you’re not necessarily writing doesn’t mean you can’t let your mind soar! Create a color palette. Build an aesthetic board on Pinterest. Curate a playlist for your favorite characters or bake them a cake. Be playful.

5. DON’T judge yourself by anyone else’s standards. Don’t judge yourself by anyone else’s standards. Don’t judge yourself by anyone else’s standards. If you need to fall apart sometimes and scream into a pillow, go do it. If you need to lock your family out and hide in the bedroom for a while, go do it. Find your own coping mechanisms. If those include writing — a work-in-progress or a diary or a prompt or two — that’s fine and great, but if not, don’t feel like you should be writing just because other people are channeling their fear and frustration that way. Seriously. Don’t judge yourself by anyone else’s standards.

2020-04-16 10.47.11-1
Me as a Tarot cat screaming into the void

6. DO find analogies for creativity that anchor you in this difficult moment. For me, it’s plants. I’ve been expanding and repotting my small indoor jungle — I’m not much of a gardener, but container plants, I can handle. Watching my beauties grow reminds me that words, like plants, have periods of plenty and periods of rest. Yes, sometimes we do have to force ourselves to push through a block or a slow patch, but at other times it’s all right to let our work grow, well, organically.

7. DON’T feel obligated to connect. Yes, a lot of writers are moving online to get together as a community. We’ve all had to learn to use Zoom or Google Meets, among other tools. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it. Join an online meet if you want, but if it’s not for you, don’t feel pressured by social media posts or the latest Microsoft ad to jump on the meet-up bandwagon. A simple email or Facebook message to friends to let them know that you’re okay works, too. Or go old-school and send a card or a surprise treat.

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A lovely surprise from a friend!

8. DO seize the moment to break your own writing rules. The work-in-progress not doing it for you right now? Try something completely different. Pen some haikus. Dabble in fan fiction. Re-imagine your latest draft as scenes from a Regency romance. Pick the most absurd writing prompt you can find on the internet and go for it, purely for your own enjoyment!

9. DON’T forget to feed your writing brain. Put aside all your carefully crafted to-read or to-watch lists. Choose what you need right now, in this moment. Maybe it’s the comfort of reconnecting with a favorite book. Or the challenge of tackling a genre you usually ignore. Perhaps it’s the pleasure of watching the opening scenes of a dozen Netflix shows until you find one that lights you up inside. And again, don’t let anyone guilt you from enjoying what you want to be reading or watching.

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10. DO take a break from life every now and then to create moments of mindfulness. We all need some inner peace right now! Light a candle and meditate. Collect stones on your walks and write yourself reminders. Pray a rosary. Do divination with crystals. Stand barefoot on the grass and breathe. Make dandelion wishes. Anything goes!

A Whole New Year

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2019 is almost over, but hey! I get a whole new year tomorrow, brand new and sparkling with promise. (At least, I think that shiny stuff is promise. It could just be glitter. Not gonna lie, there’s a lot of leftover Christmas glitter lying around. And pine needles. Especially pine needles!)

Before moving forward, here’s a quick look at 2019…

Writer things

  • The first draft of a fantasy novel written, which I then decided to rewrite completely; I’m now a third of the way through the rewrite.
  • Two short stories published in anthologies; another sold but only coming out in 2020.
  • Three interviews given (see my press page).
  • Two Cons as panelist and one doing a reading (Boskone in Boston, Worldcon in Dublin, and Eurocon in Belfast).
  • An international book launch! We released our collaborative women’s sci fi anthology DISTAFF during Eurocon in Belfast. There were cupcakes and robot chocolates…
  • Attended the New England SCBWI conference and the NESCBWI ENCORE event.
  • I passed on organization of our local SCBWI meet and greets but took on a new role as co-director of the 2020 and 2021 regional conferences! 

 

Fun stuffs

  • Favorite books this year include Holly Black’s fabulous Folk of the Air series, S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass and Kingdom of Copper, Maggie Stiefvater’s Scorpio Races, Peter McLean’s excellent Priest of Bones, and Matt Fraction’s run of Hawkeye graphic novels.
  • Some of the movies I loved were Captain Marvel and Charlie’s Angels. Shazam was a delightful surprise — lots of fun and one of the best found families I’ve seen in a while. The Rise of Skywalker was a good and satisfying conclusion to Star Wars. As for Endgame, no comment. I’m still in mourning!
  • TV shows! I finally caught up on the Netflix Marvel shows, and the last season of Daredevil was truly excellent. Derry Girls is fabulous and really good fun; thanks to my daughter for introducing it! We binged The Umbrella Academy as a family and thoroughly enjoyed it (great soundtrack). Other faves were Good Omens and Carnival Row, which I’m almost done with. And the CW end of year Arrowverse crossover has been a blast, with tons of fun cameos. Oh, if you like cooking shows, please go and watch Jon Favreau’s The Chef Show on Netflix! (I don’t even watch cooking shows and I love this one. I think my fave episodes so far have been Skywalker Ranch and the oyster farm…)

 

Personal bits and pieces

  • Our rescue pup Misty is now a year and a half, and tons of trouble but also absolutely adorable.
  • We went on a family trip to Washington DC in spring — my first time there. We arrived at peak cherry blossom time, beautiful!
  • Summer took me to Ireland for two weeks on my own to meet writing friends, attend a couple of conferences, and do a bit of sightseeing on the side.
  • We also had summer visits from my mum and my mother-in-law, always a good excuse to get out and do some local touristing.
  • I now have a child with a driver’s license… Scary stuff!!
  • We had a French exchange student come to stay for two weeks, a great experience for all of us.
  • I’ve joined a gym, am trying to eat more healthily, and am learning to do divination with crystals (a good meditation tool!) — investing in a bit of TLC for both body and soul.

 

Coming in 2020

  • In February, I’ll be at the NYC SCBWI Winter Conference and at Boskone, checking in with both my kid lit friends and the SF/F community. In May it’ll be time for the NESCBWI regional conference, which I’m helping to organize this year!
  • The Not All Monsters anthology from Strangehouse Books arrives sometime in autumn, containing my short story The Sugar Cane Sea.
  • Writing, writing, writing. Goals for 2020! I have a short story I’m rather pleased with that I’m polishing up to submit soon. I plan to finish the rewrite of my fantasy novel and get it submission-ready. I also plan to finish revising the SF YA I wrote in 2018, and get back to my stalled draft of Star Blade. Busy, busy!

 

WISHING YOU ALL A WONDERFUL 2020!

 

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