Second Draft Ready to Go

March 21st, 2023Posted by Nancy

I’ve now ignored the shitty first draft for about 2 months so it’s time to start the less shitty (let’s hope) second draft. I’m starting with some suggestions from Matt Bell’s book REFUSE TO BE DONE for my revision process – but I’m quite sure I’m going to draw the line at writing the book AGAIN. Because life is definitely too short at this stage to do that.

299 pages, baby!

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It was February. I did some things.

March 3rd, 2023Posted by Nancy

While the Witch Novel is marinating (i.e. I printed off all 299 pages but have not looked at them AT ALL), I’ve turned my attention to my other project, The Glass World Thing. This is the project that started as a fluffy modern romance, switched gears to become a historical fiction supernatural thing (possibly not exactly set in this world), meandered along for 35,000 words or so of vamping, and then stalled when I really had to figure out the plot.

So this month’s assignment was to figure out a much stronger skeleton for the plot, which I mostly did. I’ve also been doing some character work based on advice I read in MASTERING THE PROCESS by mystery writer Elizabeth George. I’ve followed George every since her first novel A GREAT DELIVERANCE came out. I haven’t loved every book, but she’s consistently interesting and takes risks, so I was curious about what she had to say.

In the book, she takes one of her novels (CARELESS IN RED) and walks through all the steps of her process, which she has refined over the years. Not all of it is applicable to the kind of things I write, but I found her character analysis examples very interesting. She writes stream-of-consciousness, free form character profiles covering their history, appearance, likes and dislikes, with a special focus on their core need (the thing they need the most from the world and other people) and the pathological tactics they fall back on when they’re threatened or angry.

Somewhat to my own surprise, when I applied this technique to my two leads in the Glass World, I wrote pages of ideas before I even realized it. I’m feeling much more grounded in who these people are now. The challenge will be integrating this new knowledge into the process of actually rewriting parts of the novel over top of the work I’ve already done.

If you’re looking for a new book of writing advice (and let’s face it, what else do we do when we can’t actually write? Besides whine about it, of course), check out Elizabeth George’s book.

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Do your bit for Science!

February 17th, 2023Posted by Nancy

A year or two ago I read the book BEING YOU: The New Science of Consciousness by Anil Seth, who has the daunting title of professor of Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience at the University of Sussex.

It’s a fascinating book that I’d highly recommend, though I certainly can’t claim I understood all of it. Dr. Seth is also involved in a public science project called the Perception Census, which is designed to capture the differing ways we experience the world. You simply log in and complete a number of tasks designed to capture how you perceive time, music, images and more through games, illusions, and auditory tests. You don’t have to do it all at one time. There are ten units in total and each one takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

I found it fascinating, difficult, and fun by turn. There were some areas I admit that I resorted to guessing because my brain just didn’t work fast enough – but I suppose that has value, as well.

If you’re looking for something interesting to do that can also contribute to science, check it out.

And, because the word science inevitably reminds me of Thomas Dolby, here he is. Science!

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Flip that Skirt, the action version

February 3rd, 2023Posted by Nancy

And here’s the link to the next video. I do indeed get to flip my skirt around a lot during my portion of the dance. We’re already planning our next one, which will likely be a few verses of the sevillanas folk dance – unless we get distracted by some shiny new piece. That happens.

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Flip that skirt!

January 27th, 2023Posted by Nancy

After the latest flamenco video session, we did our usual selfies and photos routine. Jonathan said “flip your skirt” – so I did.

Flamenco skirt flip fun.

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January 22nd, 2023Posted by Nancy

My collage project based on the Witch Novel

Last Monday, sitting in Balzac’s Coffee Shop on Market Street across from Gemma Files, I finished the shitty first draft of the the Witch Novel. Cue the celebratory noisemakers and confetti. (Sadly, there was no champagne for me as I’m doing dry January.)

I know shitty first drafts are the thing but I struggle with them. My first drafts of my first three novels were all good. I had to rewrite a few sections and add some elements my publisher felt were missing but that was it. No matter how many times I tell myself that this shitty first draft is just fine, it’s a thing, it’s normal, I still find it very demoralizing.

Of course, what I thought was shitty one year seems quite competent when I read it the next year (which happens when one takes seven years to write a draft) so either I’m too hard on myself in the past or my standards have slipped in the present.

My plan is to leave the Witch Novel alone until March and then print all 296 pages of it to start the review and revisions. In the meantime, I’ll go back to the Glass World Thing and see if I can figure out how to make it work.

In the meantime, Yay me! And in February, there will be champagne.

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Me. Dancing. In a Video. Again

January 8th, 2023Posted by Nancy

Just before Christmas, I worked on a second video with two other students from the Arte Flamenco school. They both look fabulous and me, well, I did ok. It’s nerve-wracking in a different way than live performance is, especially if you’re going after two other performers. We’re aiming to get a third one done by the end of January.

Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t seem to want to let me embed it, but you can check it out at the link below. I’m in Episodes Seven and Four.

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What I Read, 2022 Edition

January 3rd, 2023Posted by Nancy

This year’s total, give or take, was 126 (not counting some rereads and some physical books for which I can’t use the library’s lending history as a substitute for my lousy memory). Of these, 60% were fiction and 40% non-fiction.

My favourites for the year as listed below.


Strong-minded Old (and oldish) Women, mostly nuns and witches

Learwife, J. R. Thorpe

You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce

Matrix , by Lauren Groff

Lolly Willowes, by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Italian Classics

Lampedusa, by Steven Price – which is about the writing of

The Leopard, by Guiseppe di Lampedusa

Comfort Reads

A Psalm for the Wild-Built, A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, and To be Taught, if Fortunate, all by Becky Chambers

Sarah Hall (her own category)

Burntcoat and Sudden Traveler

Fascinating Structure

Trust, by Hernan Diaz

Extravagant Language and Imagination

Popisho, by Leone Ross

Bad Fairies

Siren Queen, by Nghi Vo


War (I had clearly read a Twitter thread of recommended war books)

With the Old Breed, by E.B. Sledge

Street Without Joy, by Bernard B. Fall

Recent Russian History

Second-Hand Time, by Sveltana Alexievich

The Future Is History, by Masha Gessen

Sheer Outrageous Fun (Sex, Music, Novels, Alcohol, Broadway, Bad Marriages and more)

Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers, by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green

The World Is an Amazing Place

An Immense World: How Animal Senses reveal the hidden realms around us, by Ed Yong

Artists are Assholes

Finding Dora Maar: An Artist, An Address Book, A Life, by Brigitte Benkemoun

Grief and Love

Lost & Found, by Kathryn Schulz

The Past Is More Complicated than You Think

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings, by Neil Price

Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs, by Camilla Townsend

You are More Complicated Than You Think

Being You: A New Science of Consciousness, by Anil Seth

Book I hated the Most

What we Owe the Future, by William MacAskill

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Dancing Fool, Part 2

December 18th, 2022Posted by Nancy

Filmed our second flamenco video last night. I feel as if I made a different mistake on each take but that’s dancing, I guess. I’ll post the video once the best take (i.e. the one each of us made the minimum of mistakes in) is chosen and edited. In the meantime, here is the obligatory selfie and action pose.

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NaNoWriMo update and What I’ve Read

November 30th, 2022Posted by Nancy

First up, Nanowrimo. I set the usual goal of 10,000 words and managed 10,095 despite being away for a few days. The usual caveats apply: I don’t know what I’m doing, half of the words will/should be cut, blah, blah, blah. My goal for December is to nail down the mechanics of the ending and, with luck, actually write it. Then I should have an acceptably shitty first draft done.

On to less fraught topics – what I’ve been reading since the cottage trip. Here are some of my favourites.


Lampedusa, Steven Price. I loved this book, which is a fictionalized account of Guiseppe di Lampedusa’s life while he’s writing his classic novel The Leopard. Beautiful prose, fascinating characters, the angst of writing, the angst of life. It’s wonderful.

The Leopard, Guiseppe di Lampedusa. Well, of course, I had to then read the book itself. I quite liked it, despite some initial trepidation. It’s beautifully written and slyly funny. I found myself reading particularly droll passages aloud to my husband, which is always a good sign.

Siren Queen, Nghi Vo. Silver Screen Hollywood as run by the fey. Maybe. I was particularly impressed by how subtly she revealed the existence of magic and the nature of the bargains made by the studios for power.

Learwife, J.R. Thorpe. The string of “my God, this is soooo good” continued with this one. I was so blown away by the prose that I actually had write some of the most incredible passages down for inspiration. The narrator is bitter, clever, raw, cruel, loving, and altogether unforgettable. I admit that I also have a weakness for cantankerous old women in convents, so this was definitely my thing.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes, Cat Sebastian. On a lighter note, this historical romance romp was pure pleasure.

You Let Me In, Camilla Bruce. Yet another cantankerous narrator and great prose. A successful but reclusive writer disappears and two years later her heirs must read the memoir she leaves them and decide if they want their inheritance. Were all violent, tragic deaths in her past the result of her lifelong relationship with the fey or is she just mentally ill? Another one that impressed me.


SHY: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers, Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green. Composer of ‘Once Upon a Mattress’. Writer of ‘Freaky Friday’. Daughter of famed Broadway composer Richard Rodgers. Funny and honest, Mary spills the dirt on bad parents, lovers (good and bad), husbands (good and bad), music (a bit of both), sex, life in the New York theatre world. With appearances by Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Carol Burnett, Leonard Bernstein, and anyone who was anyone at that time. Collaborator Green weighs in with footnotes to provide more information and sometimes corrections.

An Immense World, Ed Yong. I told everyone I met to read this. It explores the senses that animals use to understand the world and how they compare to our own. Completely fascinating and a timely reminder that the world is a complex and marvelous place that we need to protect.

What We Owe The Future, William MacAskill. After reading an article about Effective Altruism and Longtermism, I figured I should try this book to get a better understanding of it. I remain unconvinced that the happiness of billions of people who could in theory exist in the future (in computers! in space! Hey, it’s the Singularity!) is more important than the lives of people who exist right now. Also, the argument that wild animals live short lives of danger and hardship (gee, Will, did you ask them? Or ask Ed Yong?) and therefore we shouldn’t worry about them because they’re not adding to the net happiness of the universe is ridiculous.

Street Without Joy: The French Debacle in Indochina, Bernard B. Fall. Sometimes books show up from my library reserves and I’ve completely forgotten why I put them on the list in the first place. This was one of those books, but it turned out to be a fascinating book from the 1970s about the disaster of the French war in Vietnam and how the Americans promptly made all of the same mistakes. I’m pretty sure I got the recommendation from Twitter, which is another reason I’ll miss it if it implodes.

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