Of

Of words. Of thoughts. Of the indistinguishable hum of your body and the city, moving together, crumbling in tandem. Of your smile through teeth, your laughter through emptiness. Of the definition of your life, laid out before you as a dissembled puzzle needing a steady hand to help you piece it back together.

Of the words to family and friends, kind whispers that what they see is true and real and nothing else could be held beneath your skin, buried within your bones, guiding your every breath.

Of the break of blue in the swell of grey, so rich you feel your soul spoon it from the sky and consume it. Nourishment where none exists. Of the spread of air through lungs and veins, igniting the flame within, reminding you that it is possible to feel beyond the tinder and the match. Of the blaze that can feed and grow, if only you knew how to tend it right.

Of the crystalline, the shattering, when the blue is no more and the fire is out and you curl upon yourself to protect the spark that surely must stay alive. Of the life you live, in spite of it all.

Of the crunch and the craze and the sense of existing as nothing in a world packed full of people and their everything. Of the beauty in the mirrored city and the anonymity it reflects back, reminding you that to be faceless is to be fresh and clean and without sin or struggle to your name.

Of the first breath in Spring, reminding you that even beneath all the dead and dying, a crocus may still emerge and create colour.

Chronic Pain Diaries – The Menial

No one celebrates the menial tasks when you have chronic pain. No one celebrates any accomplishment when you have chronic pain, because there is an overarching belief that you should just do it.

Bullshit. I want a tickertape parade for getting out of bed every day this week. I want a plaque engraved with Kathleen Sawisky Managed to Make Dinner Instead of Ordering Skip the Dishes. I want a round of applause for being able to walk to and from the bus stop every morning and evening (approximately 4 minutes worth of consistent walking, traffic notwithstanding. Might as well be on the other side of Canada.)

I’d like a certificate that acknowledges my ability to continue smiling through the pain while I interact with coworkers, or listen to the troubles and woes of others. I’d love to get some sort of trophy for not throttling the next person who tells me I have back pain too. Pulled a muscle working out. I’d love an all expenses paid vacation out of chronic pain for a week, a day, even an hour.

I’ve earned a commendation from the Mayor, noting my supreme ability in being able to sit for a 45 minute bus ride without crying from every bump and jolt. The Prime Minister should proclaim the 22nd of June a day in which we celebrate my skills in being able to bend over to put my shoes on while what surmounts to lightning shoots through my lower back. The Queen herself ought to sassily remind everyone that I am a goddamn champion for cleaning the bathroom or wiping down countertops or giving the hardwood a cursory sweep.

No one celebrates the menial tasks when you’re normal. But when you live with chronic pain every day, these things are taken for granted. To get out of bed, to make sure you eat, to put your clothes on, to have the same work ethic of those around you, to appear as normal as possible while your body rebels in abnormality. These menial tasks take everything out of you, and no one knows it, because you are very, very good at playing pretend. Still, a certificate acknowledging your skills in basic survival might be nice.

An Open Letter to Doritos- “But is it yogurt flavored?”

Dear Doritos,

I imagine right about now you are asking yourselves what happened. Why has your glorious decision of soft-ish chips, directed towards the females of the planet, been targeted by trollish harassment and mockery since its announcement. Somewhere, I imagine there is an R&D specialist who is gazing woefully at the trending hashtags of #LadyDoritos. They lurch every time the phone rings, expecting the call to be from their immediate supervisor, alerting them of their immediate termination over what can only be described as a social and cultural misstep that fails to recognize the needs of specific user groups and imposes values and desires on a specific group without proper consideration.

Somewhere, that R&D specialist is weeping into their bag of chips, making them soggy, gazing malignly at a bowl of orange mush vaguely resembling Donald Trump’s face in both skin and, I imagine, texture, wondering how did we get it so wrong?

                Was it the concept of soft Doritos? No. I know plenty of people who detest the sound of crunching chips. They equate it to a leaf mulcher eating human bones. To them, it is worse than finger nails down a chalkboard. There are others still, who hate the feeling of your equilateral products scraping the delicate corners of their mouths, cutting in like a foodie’s Glasgow smile. Some of us hate the feeling of chip bits falling down our shirts, getting caught in our bras or man girdles. We all have our neurotic likes and dislikes when it comes to our snack foods, but I’ll let you in on a secret for the general population…

Never once, when discussing my snack food choices with my coworkers, loved ones, or strangers on the train, have we ever considered semi-raw potatoes rolled in fake cheese and sodium as an appropriate alternative to our chip problems.

You know why, Doritos?

Because no one fucking cares.

Look around you. Look at the state of the world. Have you seen who the President of the United States is? Did you notice that there is still war and famine across the globe? Did you notice the opioid epidemic on your streets or take into account the rate of homelessness around you? You probably did, but like most corporations, you saw it as a by-product of the time and instead opted to focus your research and energy into a literal half-baked scheme that no one asked for.

                Least of all women.

And there’s your second issue right there. I’m not sure. Maybe your R&D group is a bunch of old white men raised on some cotton farm in southern Alabama where women still wear petticoats and do declare things with appropriately subdued enthusiasm, but the ladies I know are not marching for softer chips for our delicate lady palates.  Unless your Doritos are going to be extra absorbent when it comes to dealing with my period blood, or, I don’t know, fucking yogurt flavored (because apparently we are really into yogurt too), I could quite literally not give a single shit about the crunchy level of your product. I’m too goddamned busy worrying about, and coming to terms with, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the fact that my male coworkers are paid more than me, and the assholes that think me smiling at them is an invitation for them to call me things like “sweet cheeks” and “sexy” that, hey, if I don’t return in kind, suddenly turn into alarming forms of aggression and derogatory comments like the goddamned c-bomb or even fucking grabbing at me

                Who, just tell me who thought women wanted softer Doritos? Who thought, in an age marked by struggles for equality among gender and sexual orientation and race, it would be a great idea to market fucking slightly softer Doritos to an entire group of people. Are you shitting me? No, you’re not, though an over-indulgence in your product would certainly lead to plenty of distressing shits that I wouldn’t wish on my greatest enemy.

Here’s a better question for you.

Who asked you for this? And, follow up question, did they also ask you if you really think you should be vaccinating your kids? Because I’m guessing someone who shows the passion for one probably has enough time to waste on the other.

I understand as a snack product you need to stay on top of things. You have to keep up with trends and constantly be producing the next best thing. In a market saturated with delicious treats and snacks, it is vital that you are always in. Here’s an idea. Try a new flavor. Goddamned novelty flavors are all the rage. People love trying new, stupid flavors that they know will only be around for a short period of time. Hell, Japan has made a name for itself offering up weird-ass chip flavors that we can’t even dream of here in North America. You can be damn sure that if Doritos put out a Seafood Jazz Dorito or Cheesy Enchilada Dorito flavor people would eat that shit up. Again, literally. Lays has made a name for itself having contests about chip flavors! Doesn’t that seem like a good idea? That seems like a good idea to me.  Much better than trying to market an insulting snackfood to half the world who, just to remind you, never asked for it.

Times are changing, Doritos. You have to use a measure of social intelligence and recognize the values of the culture in which you are trying to market your product.

Spoiler alert: our current top ten values do not, and I would guess will never include slightly softer chips.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky Esq.

There is Snow

Natalia learned how to muffle her crying, how to put on a mask that said to the rest of the world I am a well-adjusted individual. Pay no attention to me.

Winter isn’t like I remember it. When I was a youngun’ in Kelowna I remember heaps of snow that dominated the world. They peaked like egg whites whipped to perfection, so thick you could burrow into them and tunnel like a prairie dog to the other side of the world.

I’m sure climate change is the reason for the grey, barren world outside of this bus depot now. I find it strange when there is no snow to hide the earth in the winter. Snow is like a magician’s cape pulled over a box containing a rabbit. In the spring it is pulled back to reveal flowers where there was once something else. Without snow, the magic of the seasons seem somehow more hollow, almost exhausting. I’m happy for the blue sky, and the sense of infinity that comes from living on the prairies during this time of year, but I wish there was snow to blanket the earth and create that sense of incredible wonder again.

In the winter I always find myself stalling when it comes to writing. Maybe it’s the fact that I am cold 90% of the time and my fingers would much rather be buried in a blanket than tapping away at a keyboard. I can’t do that now. There is a sense of ownership to this journey, that even the three or four people who have read Between Fire and Pines and The Skeletal Bird are owed an ending, and unfortunately I am still rather far away from that. There is a lot of work to be done this winter, and I have to drag myself out of this melancholia that had set in and remind myself that in my very tiny world, I too am a magician.

Plot, characters, setting, events, deaths, births. They are all woven together to make my cloak, and beneath them exists a final product, another book. It isn’t as simple as the cry of Abracadabra or Alakazam. The end product of this magical act must be tended to like the snow tends to the earth in the winter. It is done beneath the surface, where no one can see what is taking place.

I like being a magician with words, although I’d hardly call myself adept at the craft yet. But magic can be learned and the bulbs in the frozen ground can be tended to, and amazing things can grow where you least expect it.

Book 3 has been a challenge for me, and I’m not sure why. It is at least  partially a case of “I wrote the original plot so long ago that it no longer fits with the overall narrative, and also it was stupid.” At the same time, something hasn’t been fitting quite right. It’s like a shirt that’s been washed too many times. It no longer fits right. Without a finished draft I can hardly go back and begin to identify the problematic feature. Instead I have to barrel on through the whole thing until I have that beginning, middle, and end. That’s when my favorite part of the magic show takes place. The illusions, the  misdirection, all the bits and pieces that I get to put into place. The moments of quiet reflection and the other moments of explosive action.

I was speaking to a writer friend of mine not too long ago and he was just about halfway through The Skeletal Bird. I always get nervous when it comes to my friends reading my work, especially when they have the same desires that I do to succeed in the industry. We’re hard on each other, if only to help each other improve and succeed. This friend told me that he was enjoying it, but in particular he loved the moments between action and dialogue. The little reflective moments that don’t build on plot or characters, but create a striking visual and help cement an author’s voice. I was extraordinary happy with that, and quite embarrassed by the praise. It meant a lot to me, and helped carry me through some severe moments of doubt.

At the same time, I think maybe doubt it a product of a winter without snow. You look around the world and wonder if its possible this cold will ever cleave itself from the earth, if you’ll ever feel the warmth of a spring sun. Winter is a time of doubt, and it can be remarkably exhausting if you don’t have the means to survive it. I have words; a little bit of magic in my hands.

I wouldn’t mind a bit of snow either.


Between Fire and Pines  and The Skeletal Bird are both available on Amazon, Kindle, and Kobo! If you’e read them, please consider leaving a review on Goodreads! It helps readers make informed decisions. Like, “This book wasn’t as bad as I thought”, or “This book is like a Michael Bay wet-dream”.

Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977

Let’s Talk About Cults

Or more, let me introduce you to my new favorite obsession. Three years ago it was biker gangs, last year it was viruses. This year is the year of cults, and I am so giddy that my astral cocoon is fit to burst!

I’ve been busy working on Book 3 (reminder, you can buy books 1 and 2 on Amazon), but as always I’ve also been working through replotting book 4 (because writing a series, let alone one nine novels long requires a bit of foresight on my part.) And as with all the previous books, something about the plot of #4 just wasn’t sitting right.

And then I listened to Cults, a comedic investigative podcast that looks into various cults throughout history, their activities, recruitment methods, all that fun sort of jazz. As hosts Paige Wesley and Marie Bello explain on their inaugural podcast, they’re interested in cults because they live in California and cults are literally everywhere. Oddly enough, that was the same thing Gregg Hurwitz said in an interview about his second Tim Rackley book.

I love comedy. I love cults. If there were a cult based around the Marx Brothers, I would probably join. (The password is always Swordfish). As it is, I live in Canada and the only Cult I have access to has a history of cutting off people’s arms and I need mine for writing purposes (Hello, Ant Hill Kids.) Therefore, I live vicariously through the work of people like Paige and Marie who are deeply ensconced in the cult-scene and, on at least one occasion relayed to listeners about a weekend visit to a farmer’s market for a massage (which might just be the most hipster thing I’ve written in the last few months) about how they were nearly swindled by a cult.

The point is, knowledge is power. I have a notebook chalked full of notes thanks to these two lovely ladies about the cult that will be dominating book 4, and I am excited to see where it takes me.

However, as with all things in life, they couldn’t have expected to poke the hornets nest for so long before something came out to sting them. A couple days back a message was posted on the Cults Facebook page regarding the removal of Part 1 of a particular episode. It doesn’t take a backrub peddling pontificator to know that someone got a little uptight about being called a ‘cult’ and didn’t appreciate having their presumably very white, identical pants and shirts all laid out to bare for the public to see. It looks like they have avoided litigation, at least for now. But that sort of subtle threat against your creative work can be a serious downer, and word can spread and sometimes impact that potential audience you are trying to reach. That’s why I’m encouraging all of you to go to your favorite podcast provider and give Cults a listen.

Okay. Maybe not the first few episodes. Pre-Armando episodes, or Pre-Mando episodes as I will now call them. Armando, their hilarious sound guy, was sorely needed in those early days. But don’t bring it up to Paige or Marie. They know their sound was crap. If you can deal with ratcheting your sound up to eleven, they’re still worth checking out. I promise, there are no audible jump-scares to ruin your hearing.

Cults are fascinating. They’re all around us (some more than others, I guess. Stupid, lame Canada with its lack of interesting cults.) They prey on the weak and most vulnerable in society and manipulate them into acting outside of the social norm. They are awful, but sort of cool, but really actually awful, but also, like, sort of really cool in a sick sort of way.  I have a lot of different feelings, but given my history of writing explosive, violent scenes, I suppose an interest in cults isn’t that unusual.

The point is, go listen to it. The crimes of these cults and leaders aren’t exactly friendly jaunts through fields of daisies. Paige and Marie are dealing with dark, uncomfortable topics on a weekly basis, and interjecting an overtop level of humor that a person could argue reflects the overall nature and response of general society when we hear about people getting caught up in cult activities. Ha ha, look at those chumps! This could never happen to me! That’s about as academic as I’m willing to get on the topic at the moment given the high levels of morphine currently in my system.

Anyways, give it a listen. It’s well worth it. Also buy my books. Those are also well worth it.

Or don’t. See if I care.

(I do.)

Header Photo by Nancy Wong, 1977

Extra Life 2017 – Fundraising

This Saturday, November 4th, 2017, I will be buckling down for another 24 hours of gaming misadventures, all for the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

I could give you the same schpeel I do every year; this was my home away from home, where I had 4 of my 5 spinal surgeries, where a pseudo-father figure surgeon helped me grow up and hone my sarcasm to its current needle-like state. I could tell you about how the smell of hospitals still makes me nauseous, and that the only way I can go into them is by holding my breath as I walk over the threshold, imagining how I carry a piece of the outside world with me as I go.

I could talk about the hours and hours of x-rays and appointments and surgeries. About sitting awake at night, watching night turn to day and nurses change shifts and fellow patients grow, heal, and leave.

When you turn 18, you effectively ‘graduate’ from the children’s hospital, but you never leave it. Not really. A piece of you stays behind, clings to the shadows. All the kids who walked in and never walked out, all the ones who gave up their innocence to surgeries and experimental treatments and promises to do the best they can.

The Alberta Children’s Hospital was built on the memories and shadows of those kids. Shadows insulate the walls from the coldest of the winter winds, taking the brunt of it so those who are still alive, who are still innocent, get a marginally better chance.

This year’s Extra Life seems a little more melancholy to me, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the sensation of pain getting worse over the last year, or realizing that I am so far away from the comfort of those walls now. I’m as much an adult as I was ever a child, and I feel remarkably listless in between the two worlds.

Still, ACH remains my home away from home, even if I haven’t been a patient there in 10 years. The Good Doctor remains a remarkable influence on my life, even though I haven’t seen him since just after I was married.  And the little slice of shadow, that tiny bit of me, still lingers at the hospital, connecting me to it.

On Saturday, November 4th, I’ll be gaming for 24 hours and raising money for Alberta Children’s Hospital.

You can watch the stream here, or donate money directly to my campaign here. All donations over $20.00 get tax-deductible receipts, and any donation over $25.00 will get you entered to win prizes, including a limited edition BB-8 Funko Pop and a Dogmeat Funko Pop.

Every dollar donated goes directly to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Thank you

The Skeletal Bird – Now Available!

This post is an unfortunate month late, but that is what happens when you try to balance work with writing and a whole other sundry of fun activities!

Book 2 of The Code Series is now available for purchase at the finest Amazon retailer near you! That includes Kindle (Huzzah!) I’m very proud of the end result. Writing is about evolution of skills, and I’m proud to say that I, at the very least, can tell that I am slightly less awful at putting sentences together. I hope those of you that enjoyed Between Fire and Pines might be intrigued enough to consider picking up a copy of The Skeletal Bird! There is less gratuitous violence because I got that out of my system, but plenty of lovely explosions and biker gangs to keep you occupied if you have a short attention span like m-

And for the weekend, the price for both Between Fire and Pines and The Skeletal Bird will remain at $1.99 for Kindle users because I am too lazy to change the price, so grab it while you can! Links to purchase are below the break

Three months after the Siege on Alcatraz that almost took her life, Natalia Artison returns to New York to confront the evil that has relentlessly pursued her since her parents’ death. With her reluctant new guardian in tow, Natalia learns that her parents legacy, one steeped in blood, is endangering both her and everyone she holds dear.

As her enemies begin to converge, Natalia struggles to manage her survivor’s guilt and find her place in the world of the Special Operations Initiative. When her guardian’s family is taken hostage, Natalia must choose between what is safe, and what is right. She will have to push her fears and insecurities to one side, and prove to all those who doubt her that she will not be broken.

Natalia Artison is no victim.

Not then. Not now.

Not ever.

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Kobo

And once you’re done, please consider leaving a review on Goodeads! It helps other potential readers find The Code Series and, in turn, assists in my life goal of not having to wear pants to work because I work at home and at home I don’t have to wear pants.

Happy reading!

-Kathleen