Tag Archives: writing

How to Beat the Winter Blues

Post-holiday blues, amirite? Vacation is over, spring is months away, and it’s far enough into the new year to realize that maybe you’re not going to nail all your resolutions. A popular myth holds that a Monday in January (no consensus as to which one) is the most depressing day of the year. So…what to do about it?

Actually, for me the worst time is late February or early March — still very much winter here in Toronto. I usually write a post on the late-winter blues. This year I’m writing early, in the hopes that by listing some of the strategies that are working now, I — and you — will be better armed to face the rest of the winter.

(If you’re looking for an update on the writing situation, it’s at the bottom of the post.)

Park in winter

The Obvious

Just to get the obvious tips out of the way, here are the 3 most common recommendations for fighting SAD:

  • take vitamin D
  • use full-spectrum lighting
  • stay active doing something you love

The Key

Here’s what I’m focusing on this year: embrace winter. Sounds simple, but for a solar-powered, cold-blooded heat-seeker like me, it takes practice. And it’s applicable to all sorts of areas…


Instead of hunkering down in your home and cursing the cold, what about focusing on the enjoyable parts of staying indoors? There’s no garden calling your name, no patio, no summer festivals, no rambling through farmers’ markets or down streets of little shops. You’re free to make the most of indoor activities, whether at home or otherwise. So why not let yourself enjoy TV binges, cooking or baking, reading, crafting, drinking copious amounts of hot liquids, and so on? (Or, if you’re ambitious, go to the movies, an art gallery, the library…) Soon enough you’ll be busy outside again.


If you’re going to hibernate, though, you need a good place to do it. Now is the time to make your living room, bedroom, or home office a truly cozy place to hang out. For example, maybe you have a disaster area organizing project to tackle (um, that would be me!), to reclaim a space that hasn’t been serving a good purpose.

Or maybe you could let your inner decorator out to play. This winter, my partner and I had a lot of fun decorating the house for Christmas. It was our third Christmas since becoming homeowners, but last year we were away, and the year before we were still recovering from having gotten married! So this was the first year we had the time and energy to devote to dressing up the place.

Our efforts made the living room in particular feel SO cozy and welcoming, we just wanted to hang out there all the time. (New problem: now we don’t want to take down the Christmas decor! Sadly, most of it can’t pass for “winter seasonal”…though we will leave the bowl of pine cones, the pillar candles, and maybe the fake garland on the mantelpiece.)

Outdoor fun

“Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver” (“My country is not a country, it is winter”) — Gilles Vigneault, Québécois poet and singer-songwriter

Of course, you can’t stay indoors all the time. That’s where winter sports come in. I won’t linger on this one because you get the idea. Personally, I don’t downhill ski, snowboard, or skate, but I do love cross-country skiing and snowshoeing when I can. When that fails, there’s always going for a walk. As long as the weather is not truly crappy, it still feels good.

On that note, I’m practising gratitude. Sure, it’s winter, but the weather isn’t always terrible. When it snows, or when it’s cold but sunny, I try and take a moment to stop and enjoy it. If I have to shovel or spread salt, I make a point of being thankful that I’m taking care of (a) my house, and (b) the neighbourhood. Yes, it does take practice, but it really does help.

Winter fashion

Quick preamble: In the last few years, I’ve developed an interest in clothes that I never really had before. I was (and am) a geek who lives very much in my head. But I never knew how to dress in a way that would make me happy. Now I’m finally figuring it out (with fits and starts, of course), and, surprise, it’s actually fun! (Quick plug for Missus Smarty Pants here. And no, I’m not an affiliate or anything, just a happy customer.)

Anyway…I’m enjoying wearing things that only work in cold/cooler weather. Right now that includes the prettiest sweaters I can find, plus fleece-lined footless tights (best thing ever, I swear). When it’s a bit warmer I wear opaque nylons and riding boots. I’ve got skirts and dresses in heavier, winter fabrics and colours, and (mostly costume) jewellery to go with them. I can’t wear this stuff in summer, so I’m trying to remember to enjoy it now…and mix it up so I don’t get bored.

Caveat: I do not sacrifice warmth for style. If it’s more than a little below freezing, I’m ditching my cute pea jacket for my parka, my cute wool hat and gloves for a toque and puffy mittens, my riding boots for lined and grippy winter boots. I’ll be stylish when I get to my destination and shed layers, but until then, I’ll be snug and not miserably cold.


If all of the above fails, look ahead. Don’t think too hard about spring yet, that’s too far away. A better idea is to plan something special to look forward to — mid-February is a good time. No, I’m not talking about V-Day necessarily. Throw a party. Plan a girls’ night out, or a weekend away if you can swing it. Think up a special, out-of-the-ordinary outing, with someone else or on your own. It doesn’t have to be fancy or cost much (or anything at all, if you’re resourceful) — it just has to be something to draw you onward, through the cold and the dark towards the promise of spring.


As promised, here’s what’s going on with writing: nothing. Well, nothing on the surface, anyway. I’m reading more than usual, taking in “story” through movies and TV, tentatively poking through some books on writing. Went on a couple of Pinterest sprees, some of which were writing-related.

I still have no urge to actually write fiction…but then, it is winter. Gardens need time to rest; animals hibernate; trees look like they’re dead, until suddenly they’re not.

I’m trying to remember these things, and hope.

Your turn! What do you do to get through winter?

Looking Back on 2014

Hi, guys, did you miss me? I’m resurrecting the blog because I can never resist a yearly recap!

It’s that time of year again…time to reflect, regroup, and ponder.

Last year, I declared my intention to make more space for my writing (after a very busy 2012 and 2013, where lots of good things happened but writing fell by the wayside). 2014 was going to be the Year of Priorities, AKA Project: Making Space.

What I learned: Be careful how you word your resolutions!

What happened: “Making Space” came to pass in a much more literal way than I had intended. My partner and I started renovating our house (to be clear, we weren’t doing the work ourselves, but it did take up a LOT of brain cycles). We ended up with:

Refinished attic

  • a newly finished room (and revamped hallway and staircase) in the attic, which became an exercise room that’s getting used at least once a week, and also converts to a guest room
  • a functional second-floor kitchen (my partner’s parents live with us and do most of the cooking, but we wanted our own space for weekend food prep…there was already a second kitchen when we bought the house, but it needed appliances and more storage)
  • a landscaped backyard (to replace the former field of weeds), meaning we could enjoy our vegetable garden, add a couple of flower/shrub gardens, and spend time on our new back deck
  • a central air-conditioning system (which, among many other benefits, made the attic usable in summer!)
Deck, shed, Japanese maple to the left...all new! (Lilac to the right is not new.)

Deck, shed, Japanese maple to the left…all new. (Lilac to the right is not new.)

See? Making Space! :-P

This turned out to be good for the soul. We bought a nice set of patio furniture and it’s been wonderful to sit out on the deck — it needs some decor and privacy touches, but already it makes me feel a bit like I’ve got a country cottage in the city. Since I crave nature, the wilder the better, this is an excellent start.

Patio retreat in the making...

Patio retreat in the making…

I’ve also had fun adding flowers and shrubs to my repertoire after three years of vegetable gardening (details here and here). And between the deck and the second kitchen, we’ve been able to throw a couple of house parties — new territory for us, and an area we’re not very comfortable in yet, but hey, growth requires stretching, right?

Old-fashioned hydrangea, in memory of my grandmother.

Old-fashioned hydrangea, in memory of my grandmother.

What did not happen: Writing.

Okay, some writing did happen, but nowhere near as much as I’d hoped.

  • Wrote somewhere around 35K words, and almost all of it got edited and/or either published with Turtleduck Press or submitted elsewhere (with no results…yet)
  • Wrote and published the last two installments of Still Waters Run Deep (a fantasy serial) as TDP freebies, and started tweaking the serial to turn it into a coherent 10K story but did not finish
  • Wrote and published “The Raja and the Madman” (a longish fantasy short story) in the Under Her Protection anthology from TDP
  • Wrote 15K on draft 2 of a YA SF novel for NaNoWriMo (but had to quit because of wrist problems — see below) and tried to continue draft 2 of a YA fantasy novel but didn’t get very far
  • Wrote 2 more short stories (one historical fantasy, one Gothic) that haven’t appeared anywhere…yet…and 3 flash fiction pieces — the third of which is now up at TDP
  • Edited two TDP releases, Under Her Protection and Even the Score by KD Sarge

Under Her Protection edited by Siri Paulson

In part, the lack of writing was due to a health scare, with tendonitis in both wrists in September and cropping up again in November. I’ve been doing some preventative stuff, but I have a feeling that’s going to need more focus in January.

In travel/vacation news, I had:

  • a trip to India (again — but just for two weeks this time)
  • a trip to the Canadian Rockies (to go hiking with my siblings, which was fabulous)
  • a couple of lovely staycations
  • some weekends out of town to go contra dancing (as dancing expanded to take on a bigger role in my life…we’ll see where it goes from here!)

Looking ahead…

I’m wondering if the wrist issues are trying to tell me something about writing. More about that in a future post. More about that here (tl;dr I’m thinking very hard about what I want out of writing, because it’s been a struggle for a while). I’m not one for hard deadlines, so I’m still mulling over my intentions for 2015.

Also coming up on the blog: reading roundup for 2014…and maybe an SF&F movie recap, if there’s interest.

Your turn! How did your 2014 go? What’s ahead for you in 2015?

NaNoWriMo Approacheth

It’s the end of October, and that means…


Actually, for a lot of people, it means the imminent arrival of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

If you’re debating about whether to participate, read this: Should You Do NaNoWriMo?

If you already know that writing 50,000 words in November is not going to work for you, consider piggybacking on all that enthusiasm and think about 5 Ways to Make NaNoWriMo Work for You.

And really, here’s what NaNo is all about (for me at least, your mileage may vary, etc., etc.): NaNoWriMo Manifesto.

As for me, I’ve done NaNo multiple times, then took a break, and will be doing it again this year — with a YA novel set in space — for the first time since 2011. (I’m wonderer over there.) Due to my recent wrist scare, I’m not going to push too hard for 50,000 words. My initial goal is 30K, and that will be revised as necessary. If I can knock out 1000 words a day, I’ll be thrilled!

In other news: happy book launch week to Megan Crewe! Megan is launching a YA science fiction trilogy called Earth and Sky. It’s about a girl who uncovers a conspiracy of time-travelling aliens who are messing with our world…what’s not to like? Here’s the cover of the first book — isn’t it pretty?

Earth and Sky by Megan Crewe

Your turn! Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Do tell!

Lucky Seven — A Writing Snippet

I promised yesterday that I would start blogging about things other than ROW80 updates. Here, to kick things off, is a blog hop.

I’ve been tagged by the Aussie writer Ellen Gregory to post a short snippet from my work in progress — 7 lines from page 7.

My current work in progress is the short story I’ve mentioned. It’s for the upcoming Turtleduck Press anthology — a quartet of fantasy stories with romance, all variations on the theme of women rescuing men. (And I do mean rescuing. Some of the women even have swords. But of course there are many ways to be strong and these stories explore several of them.)

I’m still editing my contribution, but here are 7 sentences from page 7 of the present draft…

(A little context: the main character is a maidservant in a raja’s palace, and has volunteered to go and work for an insane inventor who lives in a mountaintop fort.)

I woke the next morning, in the little room I had chosen behind the kitchen, to the smell of cooking vegetable curry. At first I thought I was back in the palace. Then I remembered, and sat up with a start. Was there another servant here?

When I walked into the kitchen, the madman was cooking flatbread over the fire, just as though he were a servant himself, and not a…a palace exile or whatever he was. Except that he wore a pair of thick leather gloves. His hands must be too sensitive for such work.

If that piqued your interest, stay tuned for more about the anthology and where you can buy it in just over a month from now…

And now, back to the blog hop. The rules of the Lucky Seven game are:

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current WIP… Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 sentence or 7 lines—as they are!
  • Tag 7 people to do the same

I’m not going to tag people, because I’m lazy some writers don’t like sharing works in progress (WIPs). If you’d like to play, consider yourself tagged, and please leave a comment so I know to visit your blog and read your snippet!


ROW80: All the Things are Moving

Here’s this week’s ROW80 update!


This week I was racing to finish a short story, and it’s done! 6 hours this week, which is a rarity these days. The second draft is 6500 words, up 1500 from the first draft, and I’m finally happy with it.

It’s slated to be published in a new Turtleduck Press anthology. A few people will be reading it this month, but the rest of you will have to wait until the anthology is published on August 1. *evil grin*


I’m continuing to ease back into my exercise regime, such as it is. This week I did 1 hour of yoga, one session of stair climbing, and some gardening, and walked 4.6 km (not counting the bits of walking I do during my commute, 5 or 10 minutes at a time).

I’ve gotta step it up, though. My goal is to go hiking in the Rockies in August with my (fitter) siblings, and I’m a long way from being fit enough for that. Two months to go….

Home Improvement

This week I’ve been doing a lot of research on shrubs and trees (because, uh, that’s how I roll). We have several garden beds that are blank slates, which is a bit daunting because I’ve never tried flower gardening before. So I bought some books, visited a garden centre and took notes, bought a landscaping program to play with help with designing, and have been doing a ton of Internet research.

(Researching plants, it turns out, is like fractals — it opens out infinitely. I know Internet research is like that normally, but this is even more so. Why? Because you do all this research, finally pick a plant that you like and that seems to fit your needs, and then you discover that it has 10 million varieties of different sizes, colours, and growing habits, so you have to research all those too. Or is that just me?)


We still have no actual plants in the ground, but that should change shortly. Once we’ve got the shrubs in, then we can get on to the perennials…!

Here’s what we’ve put in the vegetable garden:

  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • acorn squash
  • basil
  • several other herbs (not sure exactly what, my MIL planted them)
  • zucchini (seeds)
  • carrots (seeds)
  • cucumber (seeds — just planted today)
  • arugula (seeds — accidentally planted the zucchini over top, but the arugula have a head start and are already coming up…)

…and we still have a bit more space, so we might add a few more things before calling it quits.

How was your week?


Tapped Out and Outta Here

Updates from last week, ROW80 and otherwise…

In good news, my loved one who was in hospital is fine now. Huge relief.

In other good news, I’ve sort of fallen into co-creating a book club on Twitter. This month we’re doing Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a Tam Lin retelling. Sound like your kind of thing? Use the hashtag #20reads to join in! (And by the way, I’m @Siri_Paulson over there.)

In bad news, I’ve blown an anthology deadline. Not just any anthology, either — I’m the chief editor as well as one of the submitters — and my story was due 12 days ago. I started the story in good time, but to say it’s not cooperating is an understatement. In retrospect, I should have listened to Ripley. You know,

Nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

Yeah. I’ve tried every possible angle. There might still be a good story in there, but if there is, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t fit the anthology theme, and I can’t shoehorn it in no matter what I try. I think I’m gonna have to write something entirely different…and fast. (And yes, I should have made that decision weeks ago.)

That’s bad. But the worse part?

This is the second short story this year that I’ve run into the ground. I can’t remember the last time that’s happened. And my novel edit-in-progress has just…stalled.

Maybe I’m too busy. I know I have trouble when there are too many projects on the go, and this year has been full of non-writing projects (notwithstanding my declaring it the Year of Making Space…) that have taken up a lot of extra brain cells and a certain amount of creativity.

On the bright side: my house now has some awesome upgrades and will shortly have an awesome backyard. It’s kinda nice to pay attention to the place I’m living in for a change. Reminds me that I own it, you know? (Well, the bank does, but I hold the deed, so there.)

On the not-so-bright side: I never meant my house to become awesome at the expense of my writing.

I badly need to make space for real.

But that will have to wait until I’m back from my hiatus. When June hits, watch out….


Quick updates:

Writing: I spent 4.5 hours last week trying to make that damn story work. It’s not stalled for lack of time.

Exercise: Started walking again now that the weather is finally nice, went folk dancing on Saturday night, and celebrated the season’s first weeding session on Sunday. Yay?

Renovations: The deck is proceeding apace. It’s going to have two small sheds with a roofed-over space in between. Currently trying to figure out the best way to add shade to the rest of the deck — I like deep shade, don’t like extendable awnings, want something that will sort of tie in with the roofed section, am not sure if I want lattice with climbing plants (because hey, we’ve never done this before)…yeah, problems. Oh, and the backyard will shortly have sod instead of weeds!


Two-week blog hiatus commences as of now. In the meantime, tell me…

Your turn! What do you do when the writing is just not coming?


ROW80 Round 2: Goals

Hello again! I’m signing up for another Round of Words in 80 Days. This round is set to run from April 7 to June 26, and I’ll be checking in every Sunday.

This year has turned into the Year of Making My Living Space Better. Not quite what I’d intended, but it’s a good reminder that I am not, in fact, a brain in a jar attached to a keyboard.

The current round falls during an especially busy time. I am (all while working full-time):

  • dealing with the tail end of renovations
  • setting up a kitchen (luckily not a super-urgent project)
  • trying to get my house generally organized and a teeny bit decorated because I’m tired of not paying attention to it and having it look like nobody cares
  • upgrading my front and back yards from “terrible mess” to “kind of pretty and really low-maintenance” — which involves some landscaping help and some gardening effort on my part

Therefore, my focus in this round will be on the above. I’m going to report on my progress every Sunday, mostly to remind myself that I am extremely busy and therefore I am not allowed to beat myself up for not getting other things done (like writing).

And, to go along with that “not a brain in a jar” thing, I am also going to report on my exercising progress. Currently I do an hour of yoga once a week and folk dance for an evening once every two weeks. I just set up an exercise room in my attic, so I’m adding calisthenics and more yoga. And the weather is finally turning to spring, so I’d like to add walking as well (fast walking when possible). No particular goals here — anything will be an improvement.

Finally, there’s writing. I don’t want to put my writing on pause completely, because in my experience, it’s a LOT harder to get started again once I get out of the habit. (I don’t write every day — right now it’s more like 3-5 days a week — but that’s a regular, hard-won habit that I don’t want to let slip.)

So my writing goal for this round is: to write/edit/outline for 1.5 hours a week, including at least one session of half an hour or longer.

Happy writing!