the Author

State of the Author: September 2021 edition

Posted in Essalieyan, Queen of the Dead, writing, Severn, Cast, DAW, Elantra.

It’s been an eventful behind the scenes September, and it’s not quite finished yet.

First: I am going to be doing a library Zoom call. Back in the non-pandemic age, the Friends of the East Gwillim­bury library invited me to speak to library readers. In theory this was going to happen on the 20th of April. This did not happen for obvious reasons.

I will be doing a Zoom library call, instead. From their email:

This ZOOM  on-line event is limited to 100 people and will feature Friends board member and Sagara fan, Michelle Cowan, as moder­ator in conver­sa­tion with the author.
How do I  get a ticket?

  1.  If you bought a ticket in 2020, we will honour it and send the link after veri­fi­ca­tion.  Please contact us at eglibraryfriends@​gmail.​com.
  2. To receive the link only, send $10 via our secure Square Up site: https://​checkout​.square​.site/​m​e​r​c​h​a​n​t​/​R​J​9​H​W​H​N​C​P​R​K​J​E​/​c​h​e​c​k​o​u​t​/​E​F​N​T​D​T​R​Y​D​D​E​W​Z​P​F​O​3​Q​T​X​2​CVW
  1.  To receive the link and one of her signed books, send $30 to this Square Up link: https://​checkout​.square​.site/​m​e​r​c​h​a​n​t​/​R​J​9​H​W​H​N​C​P​R​K​J​E​/​c​h​e​c​k​o​u​t​/​N​2​N​C​M​5​W​L​S​U​U​L​24​A​R​C​P​S​I​6​BQL

You will need to select your copy in person from four avail­able titles (while supplies last) at the Holland Landing Library.

That’s this coming Thursday.


I spent the end of August and the first third of September revising Sword and Shadow, the second Severn novel, and sent that back to the editor. I’m not sure when it will return to me, but it will, because it has to be copy-edited. So I’ll be reading it again, with bonus marks for things Michelle Got Wrong all the other times I read it.

I am currently in the process of every­one’s favorite activity: proof-reading pages for the forth­coming Queen of the Dead omnibus. As the title suggests, it’s a collec­tion of the three novels that comprise that series. The book page doesn’t have the usual audio­book links because the audio­books exist for the three sepa­rate books.

I have started the new, and as yet unti­tled, Cast novel (Cast 17, as it’s currently called in this house­hold). That’s going well. It’s not exactly going where I thought it was going to go, but that’s pretty much normal. It’s far more surprising when a book does exactly what I thought it would do >.<

I have also started – again! – the first of the new West series. That’s going well as well. Oddly enough, the events that start the prior attempt(s) are the same; it’s the view­point that’s radi­cally shifted.


Our fully vacci­nated house­hold continues in good health. I’d promised the kids — my two and godpar­ent’s two — that we could resume normal house­hold dinners when each and everyone one of us is fully vacci­nated, so all four kids were jump-out-of-bed to go stand in line for a few hours eager to get that done.

As a result, the house­hold is a lot noisier than it had been for 2020 and most of 2021. But oldest son missed that partic­ular noise — because it was “good” noise or “happy” noise. When he was in elemen­tary school, he could be riotously noisy. On the rare occa­sions he had friends come over, it was more than doubled.

But I tend to be able to back­ground happy noise. It’s a noise that doesn’t actu­ally require my inter­ven­tion. It’s the other kind of noise – fighting, arguing, things that end in tears – that imme­di­ately break anything I’m doing, because I do have to inter­vene there.

He found 2020 too quiet.

As for the godpar­ents’ two chil­dren (and the parents them­selves), they’ve come to our house for dinner every week (twice) pretty much since birth, so for them it was like half of their house­hold had suddenly been shut­tered and locked up.

Our book­store has had its first “in-person” event, very cautiously attended. In Ontario, mask mandates are still in force, and we’re not fully open in Ontario; we’re “mostly” open, in that capacity require­ments still require the ability for everyone in an indoor setting to be able o stand 2 meters apart. This is a lot more hand-waving than it might sound because most retail people are not going to stand over the shoul­ders of customers telling them they’re standing too close to someone else >.<. But… Toron­to’s vaccine uptake has been good.

Things aren’t normal yet, and we don’t know when – or if – normal will arrive. But they’re better now then they were a year ago.

But my heart breaks for the medical profes­sionals in Alberta. An author I know from an email list is an ICU nurse in her non-writing life. And because I follow her, I’ve seen a lot of nurse Twitter (US), and it’s cata­strophic. I wasn’t expecting Alberta to join nurse/medical twitter, but Alberta is in terrible shape – the worst shape it’s been in since the pandemic started.

This was due, in large part, to the governor of the province, who decided that Alberta would be like the UK: it could open up and drop all restric­tions, all masking, all testing and contact tracing. Best Summer Ever. This… did not go well. Delta is not like the first Covid variant; it’s far more conta­gious, for one, and it seems to hit all age groups harder. Alberta is or was the province with the lowest vaccine uptake in Canada.

Ontario numbers are other­wise holding steady: hospi­tal­iza­tions have risen, but not asymp­tot­i­cally, the way they have in Alberta (tracked cases have gone up). We are not yet swamped, and we are not there­fore asserting the triage proto­cols that no nurse or doctor should ever have to enact outside of an actual battle­field in an actual war.

So our part in this is: observe social distancing, wear masks when people are near, and mostly stay home. My sister, who visited for the first time since 2019, was a bit surprised at just how much we stay home. For our own reasons, we’d like to stay out of hospi­tals. But we’d also like to not swamp very burned out doctors and nurses, who’ve been dealing with pandemic patients since the early stages of 2019.

Edit: So. Many. Typos today.

16 Responses to State of the Author: September 2021 edition

  1. Greet­ings to you and your family. Looking forward to the day we can all greet in person again!

  2. hsmyers says:

    Love the good news! In these days, any and all such needs careful atten­dance and appre­ci­a­tion. I wonder, though, if there is not a hidden plague of viral idiocy out and about. From your descrip­tion, it seems to be international!

  3. michelle says:

    @hsmyers: The thing that has really surprised me is the number of people who are extremely needle phobic. I expect that from kids (my youngest was not), and I admit I do not like needles myself. But like them or not, I still go to the dentist (those needles are THE WORST) and I still get blood drawn for medical tests when necessary.

    But I know of two people now who have failed to get vacci­nated because … they’re viscer­ally terri­fied of needles (they are adults, not chil­dren). And I know of two who did get vacci­nated but confessed to an almost hyper­ven­ti­lating terror of the needle; it’s just that they could nego­tiate with them­selves, weighing that fear over the other fears (of covid and its possible conse­quences). And also, their part­ners weren’t terri­fied, so that helped. 

    But I think if vaccines were somehow pills that could be taken, there’d be a lot less hesitancy.

    And also: the one thing that has enraged me beyond safe for work words: parents of young chil­dren who have refused to get vacci­nated. Every time I read about parents dying and orphaning their chil­dren it’s a gut punch. Possibly this is due to being me: one of my strongest and starkest fears as a parent of young chil­dren was dying and aban­doning them. I knew what my death would mean to my kids. I knew what the absence would cost, espe­cially if they were young enough to see death as aban­don­ment because they couldn’t other­wise under­stand anything but “Mommy is not coming home”.

    I under­stand why newly preg­nant women were terri­fied of vacci­na­tion. They do not want things to go badly. And they don’t know, given the plethora of conflicting infor­ma­tion — about food, drink, medica­tions — what will cause damage. There’s just so much inse­cu­rity and fear.

    But when you have young chil­dren who depend on you? You can look at the numbers. People who died. People who didn’t. And even if I were freaking hesi­tant, those numbers would define what my respon­si­bility to my chil­dren was. Period. Full freaking stop.

    Ummmm, clearly this pushes buttons and returns to me — instantly — that barely banked, early fear. Both of my kids aren’t kids anymore.

  4. Joey says:

    Yay for happy noise? Yay for your family’s continued good health, at least. Alberta — ugh.

    I look forward to visiting your book­store again!

  5. michelle says:

    I was looking at — as I often do — hospi­tal­iza­tion rates & vacci­na­tion rates in Ontario. The first hospi­tal­iza­tion curve was trending asymp­tot­i­cally, and I nearly died. But then I noticed it said Canada, not Ontario.

    All of that steeply rising curve is pretty much Alberta; Ontar­io’s has flat­tened (at higher than before the lowering of pandemic mandates — ours was multiple steps). As have most of the provinces/territories. The steep curve, if you look only at Alberta is … really, really bad for unvac­ci­nated Albertans.

  6. Pam says:

    I am totally with you.
    I am so sad for the people of this country who do not yet under­stand the costs of this pandemic.

    Not just mone­tary costs but in terms of loss of work experience/skills, increase of trauma both phys­ical and emotional, decrease of social skills and increase of unkind­ness and inability to act as a commu­nity and for the community.
    Fear and neglect, injus­tice and words and actions used to hurt. 

    The work and effort that we as a people have put into improving our skill sets and ability to iden­tify prob­lems and work towards fixing them is being nullified.
    The histor­ical prob­lems, the need for Recon­cil­i­a­tion, the increase in Racial Equality, the improve­ment in social respon­si­bility for all chil­dren, afford­able housing, and on and on, are in danger of being lost in the economics of survival.

    Health care is first on the endan­gered list. Be aware that what happens in the next few years sets up the country for the next many decades.

  7. Great news all around, between the book work and the dinners and the health of the family :) 

    Less great news, as a vacci­nated Albertan, it really is not pleasant. But I’m glad that all of imme­diate family are vacci­nated as well. Just hoping that people get going on getting vaccinated!

  8. br60103 says:

    I don’t like to see needles going in. I can get my shot if I look in the other direction.
    I wish the TV news wouldn’t show people getting jabbed all the time. My wife tells me there’s one fellow in Kitch­ener who seems to have 80 shots already.

  9. It is good to be able to have more contact with friends and family who are fully vacci­nated. Looking forward to the next Severn book since the first was so great, If you write it, I will read it.

  10. michelle says:

    @br60103: I’m almost the exact oppo­site. I don’t like people doing things to me I can’t see. It’s the reason I wouldn’t get an epidural during either delivery — I was going to have to let a doctor stick a needle in my spine while in pain and I could not see what they were doing. So: no. (I also had an argu­ment with the doctor when they were removing bolts from my ankle, which I’d broken; it was outpa­tient, I was awake, and I wanted to see what they were doing. They were kind of horrified.

    But for me, seeing the small things — needles, inci­sions, even dental work being done — made the pain more bear­able. I mean: dental drills are tiny and they’re barely scratching the surface – there’s no possible way it can hurt as much as I think it does, right? 

    But I wouldn’t have said I was needle averse until one day, when I was getting blood taken, and the nurse happened to be Japanese Cana­dian. I had a persis­tent problem with collapsing veins during these, which meant I’d be stuck with a needle in different arm loca­tions, which: UGH. But this one nurse said: You don’t like needles.

    No one likes needles.”

    You really, viscer­ally do not like needles. But because you don’t look panicked or upset or fright­ened, no one is going to notice this. The reason your vessels are collapsing is that phys­ical reaction.”

    I kind of stared at her. Like: I’m here, I haven’t run away, I always get the neces­sary blood­work done. I don’t feel afraid of needles. But appar­ently, I dislike them enough that the tension was causing the diffi­cul­ties. She told me to focus on my breathing. I asked, what, like Yoga breathing? Yes, she said. Exactly like Yoga breathing. So… I did that.

    And no vessels collapsed. It was a bit of reve­la­tion to me. The fear was decou­pled from the phys­ical response. I was not consciously afraid. Which was inter­esting, and moving forward, I’ve never suffered from vessels collapsing again, and only wish I’d known this much earlier.

  11. michelle says:

    @Louisa: I bet it’s not pleasant =/. 

    My parents are vacci­nated, but also both are 80+; so are my husband’s parents. Two of the four are pretty much guar­an­teed not to survive covid, and because I’m a bit of a worrier, I want booster shots for them. I under­stand that break­through infec­tions happen — but I don’t feel confi­dent that at their age things will go well, even if vacci­nated. Better than if not, but — it’s been known since the begin­ning that the older we get, the less robust our immune system is, and that means our immune system response to things like vacci­na­tions will natu­rally be lower.

    And for things like stroke or heartat­tacks? You’ve got a tiny time window to start treat­ment (like, twelve hours with a stroke) that could make a huge differ­ence. And all of those windows get blown during this crisis T_T

  12. Elizabeth Strick says:

    Thank you for the wonderful books you write as they continue to be an escape for me from the burdens of my job.

    As an ICU nurse, the last two years have been partic­u­larly stressful, so escape from reality and stress is needed. 

    Thank you also for doing your part to try and help stop the spread of this disease and for your efforts at encour­aging people to get vaccinated.

    Stay safe and I dearly look forward to all your forth­coming books

  13. michelle says:

    @Elizabeth: I’m glad I can do anything that’s helpful in times like this. Seriously.

  14. MARGOT HARRIS says:

    Thank you for explaining the collapsing vein syndrome. It explains much about prob­lems we had with drawing blood from my husband. When I ran inter­fer­ance for him and they warmed his arm first and gave him extra pats on the arm, it all went well. By the way , for the needle-adverse I recom­mend taking along a soft fuzzy of some sort. Blankie, stuffed animal, scarf to bury your face in. Works for dental visits too (except for the scarf).

  15. michelle says:

    @Margot: I kind of love this reply. I never know what will be helpful or useful, and it’s a reminder of that fact, because I certainly wasn’t expecting this to be useful :).

  16. Jazzlet says:

    Glad to read things are going well with you. Happy noise is comforting.

    I am like you in wanting to see what is being done to me, I was most disap­pointed that they insisted on me having a general anaes­thetic for a small lump that needed to be removed from my left ring finger earlier this summer. I know I was lucky to get it done at all — I’m in the UK which you will no doubt have seen is not doing well- but I wanted to see what the inside of the lump looked like.

    I find simple atten­tion to breathing, mindful breathing I suppose, to be helpful when I am having dental work, the act of focusing seems to stop me tensing up. It does help that all the denists I have seen in the last thirty years have been exquis­itly sensitve to any move­ment that might suggest distress, such a relief after the dentist of my 60s child­hood who would hold you down with his elbows digging in while he drilled away.

    It is also good to hear the writing is going well, as ever thank you for the plea­sure it brings me.

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