Welcome, Winter!

Book reviews, articles, short fiction, and more in this first newsletter of November.

Welcome, Winter!
By John Atkinson Grimshaw - Sotheby’s, London, 15 December 2016, lot 20, Public Domain | Grimshaw painted at least one other November Morning in 1883 (Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead) which has a similar composition with a lone housemaid making her way to work with her basket of provisions. Both revel in the glory of a chill autumnal morning where the first glow of the waking sun has burnished the sky with its radiance. A symphony of russets, gold and pale moss greens the painting is a celebration of the colours of the dying year. Mist lingers in the damp air where the road sweeps round to the left.

My projects

This week has been a busy one, largely due to my massive uptick in writing work! With Howchoo gone to corporate hell, and with the reverberations of the Surrey International Writing Conference still buzzing in my brain, I’ve been focused on my personal work and habits. It’s also National Novel Writing Month, and I’m participating in that.

My goal for NaNoWriMo had been to turn my completed novella into a novel. Then I got sidetracked, looking back at my incomplete fantasy novel, the one I’d worked on as my MFA thesis. I have a soft spot for that work, and parts of it are highly polished… so much so that, when I started reading, I got hooked on my own words! I had to return to it. So, that’s become my 50,000 word goal this month. It’s been going swimmingly so-far, with the plot progressing well. I’ll need to go back and polish later, but raw writing is what November is for!

Part of my work on that is digging into etymological roots to create language excerpts for my fictional cultures! Here’s and example:

Minaz burgijana fram blotha
Furi minaz pathaz sa walthu thurw,
Wealda ab sa walthu!
Wealda, sa pathaz ab Timo upanaz!
Timo upanaz, sa pathas domaz!

That can be a huge time-suck, but I love doing it.

Health and wellbeing

One of my big projects for the end of this year is to increase my exercise routine and promote better health. Weight loss is a major goal for me, as the extra pounds complicate my immune system troubles. But losing weight is an incredibly difficult thing to accomplish. I’ve had great success doing so in the past, but the last couple of years have been hard.

Actually, the first year of the pandemic was the best for me! Turns out that living in a suddenly more socialized system (with weekly checks being sent to me simply because I was alive) allowed me to get a ton of really wonderful things done. The hardest part of the pandemic, for me, has been the “opening up” and relaxation of strictures. While I’m overjoyed to be spending more time with friends and family, I’m not remotely unaware of how just not over the pandemic is. We live in a world of gradations, of spectrums, and this issue is no different. What I really wish, is that we had some form of Universal Basic Income…

You Got Me There Meme - Lavis

I got off-topic there!

The next big thing I’ve been doing is focusing in on my mental health with meditation focused on mindfulness, coupled with daily walking. I’m also writing with a nice scented candle to brighten the air.

I’ve also been listening to this remarkable podcast called The Way Out is In, and I highly recommend it for anyone out there who needs a boost.


We’re working on a really exciting project over at EveryLibrary, and I can’t wait to share more about that with all of you. What EL is doing to fight for the first amendment, and to provide support for libraries across the country, is incredible. Presently, book banning efforts by an extremist minority are worse than ever, and we need to fight back. EveryLibrary is leading that charge, with a ROI of $1600 for every $1 donated.


The second-to-last episode of Round Table Radio released last week! Creating this series has been a treat, and while I’m not sure when I’ll have time for season three, the work in these last two seasons has been an unforgettable experience.

Master’s in Library and Information Science

How’s this coming? Well, it doesn’t start until next year, but I’ve already got to do a lot of prep work. The next two months will see me trying to isolate some funding. The degree isn’t as expensive as most MLIS programs are, but I’m already massively in debt from my other two degrees. This debt should be illegal, of course, but our society is broken. Still, the best path forwards for me is a solid career that can support my family while doing fulfilling work, and the MLIS degree seems like the best path forward for that.

I’ll be applying to several grants and scholarships, with the hope of covering as much of the $20,000 expected cost of the degree as possible. Wish me luck!

Now, let’s move along to what I’ve been writing this week!

Microfiction from this week:

I set myself the goal of writing a new piece of microfiction every weekday as a personal goal. Very little editing, little thinking, just an exercise in random ideas and minimalism.

  1. Crossing the Hunger Stones
  2. The Burning Grain
  3. Refugee
  4. The Last Banana
  5. Death Becomes Her

I love writing these daily pieces. It’s great practice for me, and hopefully, it’s enjoyable for all of you! This is something anyone can do to boost their creativity. Try writing a paragraph every morning. Even if it’s just your thoughts about being cold and hungry, it can make a huge difference in how you think about your life.


I’ve got five articles for y’all this week, and, as expected for me, they run a wide range of interests. From a selection of my favorite films from the 1930s-70s, to a piece on healthcare, I went through a lot of material. Take a look below. These links are special friend links, so you can read them on Medium without an account!

  1. Hunger Stones and Long Time: How can a deeper view of time save us from disaster?
  2. The Best Film The Year You Were Born! (1931–1971): From the Silents to the Boomers, experience our history in film.
  3. Anarchism, Metalhead Politics, and the Power of Government: Musings on a history of power.
  4. Dental Medicine’s Dark Secret: Insurers should have to bend over backwards to court you.
  5. The Perfect Ten-Step Ramen Egg!: There’s more to this egg than meets the eye.

I’m going to be trying to figure out the best sustainable approach going forward. It’s just going to take time and practice to get the Tao of it all down. Going forward, I’ll be writing three new articles a week instead of five. However, I’ve been writing a lot over the years, so I’ll occasionally include links to earlier articles from my Medium archives to round out the week.


The first book review for my new weekly column in The Strand mystery magazine, is up! Confessions of an Accidental Lawyer by Michael Stockham.

News that matters

The merger of Penguin Randomhouse and Simon & Schuster, two of the largest remaining publishing houses in the world, was blocked. This is an issue near and dear to my heart, as the combination of these publishers is really awful for new and mid-list authors. Of course, the reason these companies are merging is the same reason why it’s so hard to be an author anymore: the publishers themselves handed power to Amazon and the other tech giants, and helped create a system of restrictive violence on creative freedom’s the world over.

If you want more details on this, read Chokepoint Capitalism by Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin. An incredible and highly researched book that will motivate you to get into the fight against the big corporations.

Scribe Publications on Twitter: "CHOKEPOINT CAPITALISM by @rgibli and ...

In other news, Elon Musk purchased Twitter… which has created some massive waves. For one thing, various people on Twitter are now being hounded by fascist trolls again, which makes sense since Musk’s first act as owner of Twitter was to fire the person responsible for public safety. There have been a lot of hot takes on the topic, with some people crowing the Musk is an idiot for how the deal took place.

However, Dave Troy had an interesting take on the whole situation. I think this is a valuable read because he puts Musk and Jack Dorsey’s relationship (Jack is the founder of Twitter) in perspective. If you want to dig much deeper, Cory Doctorow himself has a post which captures things in his delightfully direct and acerbic style. His focus is on social media as a whole, and his work in that area is superb.

If you used to follow me on Twitter, know that I’ll be devoting more of my time to this newsletter, Medium, and my new Mastodon social media profile.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 remains a serious concern, despite the claims of political organizations. I recommend balancing your options. Continue to live life and socialize as available, but put peer pressure on friends and family to continue masking. Moreover, make sure to get the bivalent booster if you haven’t already. That’s crucial. This booster is about as effective as prior boosters, but it remains a vital part of avoiding severe illness. Otherwise: keep masking in public (with an actual n95 or kn95 mask, not a cloth mask), wash your hands regularly, and avoid large events with many strangers if they’re indoors. Masking up may seem silly, but it’s proof against multiple illnesses, not just Covid-19, especially paired with good handwashing.


In the future, I may release a monthly Newsletter special edition that contains only information about the Internet, technology, apps, and how to navigate the complexities of our interconnected world! You’d still get a weekly app recommendation in my main newsletter, but it would allow me to talk about things like this topic at greater length.

App recommendation: Signal!

Signal is a secure communications app, sort of like Whatsapp… but actually free and not owned by a terrible megacorporation! I use it as my default text messaging app on my phone, it’s got all the bells and whistles you need (including encrypted video calling). These days, internet privacy and security are more important than ever, and a secure app like Signal is really the best way to go.

Social media corner

The best part about social media is the sharing of stories and ideas, but it’s easy to lose yourself within a small bubble, or become overwhelmed by the vast waves of information. That why I’m sharing some highlights from this week with you. Pieces I think are valuable, or funny, or might somehow add to the collective good.

In the future, this section of my newsletter will become its own bi-weekly special issue!

  1. Bankruptcy

This is a piece on Tumblr about bankruptcy, excerpted from Elizabeth Warren’s book, A Fighting Chance.

I guess I had so completely absorbed the prevailing wisdom that I expected people in bankruptcy to look scruffy or shifty or generally disreputable. But what struck me was that they looked so normal.

It’s harrowing in itself, but the replies added to it are equally important and profound.

  1. After the ones we love are gone…

This is beautiful, heartbreaking, and poignant. But, it requires a moment of backstory. See, Tumblr doesn’t have the same method of advertising as other social media networks. What they do have is “Blaze,” a feature that allows anyone—anyone—to spend money to promote any of their posts. Promote your new book, or promote this cool picture of your cat. Basically, force strangers to see things. Only, because Tumblr’s community is weird and ridiculous… it almost always gets used just to promote the weird and ridiculous. Or, in this case… something heartwrenching. A woman promotes a picture of her husband and dog, both of whom passed away, and the response of a hundred thousand strangers is overwhelming.

Art of genius

There are so many amazing artists in the world, and I love promoting them.

  1. What’s happening on Twitter?

The great Muskiness of 2022, that’s what. A lot of users have a “checkmark” on their profile if they’ve been “verified” to ensure they’re really who they claim to be. Musk is suggesting changes to that feature, and this thread is a great take on why that shouldn’t happen, as well as why social media itself needs to be considered a public good.

  1. Bridging histories! (Seen on Facebook)

Original Series actors William Shatner, Walter Koenig and George Takei take part in an incredible moment that brought together more than twenty Star Trek actors and celebrities in a single photo.

May be an image of 13 people, people standing and indoor

Wrapping up

First, some photos from my week!

Seen on one of my daily walks. “Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams—dreams, do you understand—come to life, come real. Not daydreams, dreams.” C.S. Lewis
A blurry shot of me (dressed as a Jedi) during the Halloween Mystery Dinner party that Katie and I threw!

Well, that’s all for this week, folks! I’m SO GRATEFUL to you for reading this far, for connecting with me, and for SHARING this newsletter with as many of your friends and family as possible.

I’ll be working to create better workflows for my newsletter, and will be considering changes to how I release newsletters as well, so please leave comments if you have two-cents to weigh in with.

Thanks again, and wishing you love and happiness in the week to come.

Subscribe for my regular newsletter. No spam, just the big updates.