Between Fire and Pines Update and Other Such Stuff

Between Fire and Pines has been out for just under a month n0w, and what a month it has been. At the insistence of one of my managers our store is now stocking numerous copies. I also have my first author signing planned for June 25th. I’ve sold 15 copies in-store, another 15 hardcopies online, and roughly 10 ebooks. So either somewhere out there 40 people are about to start demanding their money back or I’ve just ruined my reputation in the eyes of these 40 individuals.

But through all that, one thing has remained consistent. The feedback has been the same.

I couldn’t put it down. It just kept moving.

I call that a win. From the manager who definitely doesn’t read gore-suspense-thriller to the friend who offered the single review on Amazon, they just had to keep reading.

Now somehow book club has learned of it, and I can never go back to book club. Too bad. It was fun while it lasted.

I’ve paid for a small amount of marketing, which didn’t result in any sales; lowered ebook prices to extreme measures, which did result in sales; stared in bewilderment at the hardcopy of my novel, realizing I can never rewrite it again.


And that was when I hit the brick wall. Both metaphorically and literally because I wasn’t watching where I was going. It was bound to happen. I’ve heard people say it time and time again. When you finish that first book you experience this sort of atmospheric burn-out, probably from sheer bewilderment that it could possibly be done and in print. This is a problem because I have 8 more books I need to write, and yes, for those of you wondering, I do have enough ideas for all 8 books. This may be my first rodeo, but I have been training with this horse for thirteen years. Yeah, how do you like them metaphors?

So I hit the wall, and then the wall resulted in a strange mental stress which, perhaps unexpectedly, resulted in an intense, holy-shit sort of physical stress that, for the last week, has made my body just… just awful. Cranky, bitchy, chronic painy awful. Screw you, chronic pain. You’re such a dick.

We got a dog this week as well. Alex’s compensation for canceling the trip to Japan. Her name is Whiskey. She is an 8 year-old shepherd mix and she is derpy as hell.

Stress after stress. There was an article in CBC about Prince’s Fentanyl overdose. They spoke to several doctors who stressed the challenges of dealing with chronic pain patients. They did not speak to any patients themselves though, because… reasons, I suppose. It irked me. Not because what they were saying was wrong. I imagine it must be difficult to deal with chronic pain patients. I agree, opiates are over-prescribed. But if you are going to talk about chronic pain, perhaps CBC readers would benefit from actually hearing from someone who suffers from it.

It upset me, to hear that the conversations were difficult for doctors with no concept of how much of a challenge it is for patients to come to doctors, with all their fears and flaws exposed, and say “I need help.” Then to top it all off be told that, “Hey, it’s as much psychological maintenance as it is the physical pain. There is no magic cure.” You can’t just throw that at someone who is looking at pain for the rest of their life. At least ease them into it, jeez.

Where was I? Oh yes, stress led to pain and pain did a number on my creative juices, and it’s only after a couple days of writing notes by hand that I really feel like I can accomplish something again. Book 2. Because book 1 is finished and out of my hands. Nope. Still surreal. I’m probably 2/3rds of the way through the draft. Plenty of explosions and emotional highs and lows. Less gore though. I needed to tone that back. The ending will be more succinct, and Natalia’s growth as a character will be clear. At least, it will be if you’ve read the first book, which you can buy from any of these fine establishments:



Directly from CreateSpace (So I get more moneys)

You can also check it out on Goodsreads, unless you are in book club. If you are in book club, please forget everything.



Writing and Chronic Pain: 2 For the Price of 1! Today Only!

I’ll admit shamefully to being AWOL from the internet for the last couple of weeks. Oh sure, there was a witty tweet here or there, but I just didn’t have it in me to sit down and converse with my friends on Critique Circle or post on Facebook or even update my GoFundMe supporters. I thought it was a lack of creative juices flowing. Then I thought to myself, No, if that were the case I would make something explode and everything would be back to normal. I pondered that perhaps it was partially due to participating too much at work (ha-ha! Alliterations!) but then during Christmas I worked plenty, and still managed a post here and there.

Why I wasn’t immediately able to identify it as a mental issue brought about by chronic pain is beyond me. You’d think by now I would instantly understand that chronic pain, and indeed any chronic condition has this inherent ability to burrow itself into your psyche and lay waste to what was once a fruitful and thriving land of social norms. Chronic pain is like an agricultural bacteria that eats away at the crops you spend weeks and months cultivating, leaving you with a wasteland. You don’t want to do the things you love, you don’t want to be healthy, to exercise. You don’t want to talk to friends or be social. You just want to curl up and sleep because at least in sleep you might be able to escape the pain for a few hours, and during that time your brain has a chance to sow new seeds and tend to them.

I let my crops rot in the ground over the last month or so, and I’m not certain why. It was certainly an unwilling choice on my part.

Then again, I always have theories. Some of them even make sense. For one thing, work has been busy and, for whatever reason, people have generally been unpleasant to deal with. I had a gentleman from Manitoba tell me what was wrong with Alberta’s politics just the other day. The irony was palpable; the self-awareness was not. Angry people drain me. They’re like a blistering sun, a thicker, summer heat that dries out the land. Angry people, unfortunately, tend to wear on my mental crops.

But I can deal with the angry people, usually with ridiculous cheeriness. So it couldn’t be them. Not really.

It could be, in all likelihood, pain. Because over the last month or so it has been bad. Despite the glory that is my Cymbalta, I’ve felt twinges of familiar nerve pain begin where my spine is pinching and grinding and generally being unpleasant. The arthritis is acting up, to the point where even wearing some pants put too much pressure on the bones, creates noticeable pain. Too much of it, in fact. I do strengthening exercises; I try to be aware of my posture. Shoulders back, stand up tall. It only hurts more. No excuse, you keep trying because if you stop then the pain wins, and you need to at least feel like you are fighting against it. Sometimes I’d like to let the pain win, but then I wouldn’t be me. That thought is almost as exhausting as the pain itself.

Maybe it isn’t pain. Maybe it is the stagnation of creativity that I’ve been battling since I sent my manuscript to the editor. There have been days when I’ve wanted to reread it, to go over sections, just to remind myself of the tiny details, but I resist. This should, theoretically, be the last week that she has it (unless it needs more work), which means soon enough I’ll have it back and can begin plugging away on the changes that I need to make for it to be presentable to the rest of the world. Easy enough, I suppose. In the meantime I’ve been thinking about book 2, doing research and the like. I fell into a crevasse with it, realizing that something I wanted to pursue, a plot point, just wasn’t realistic. That sent me into a tailspin, trying to come up with a better alternative while still maintaining the character development that needs to happen. I went out and bought myself a notebook that has space kittens on it. That is, kittens in space. It is my idea book where I’ll do my damned best to work through some of these ideas and try to find a more reasonable solution. Normally it is easy for me. Normally I get an earworm that whispers mystical secrets about the universe and also about my narrative, and that is that. A solution. Done.

Not this time. Do I keep this character or that? How does that person die? How will that person live? Explosions or viruses? How much trauma is too much? That last point, at the very least, I’ve managed to, not master per say, but understand efficiently enough that the whole narrative doesn’t seem campy. Still, it feels like stagnation. Creativity at a standstill.

It is an ironic sort of cycle. I use writing to help with the pain, but what if the pain is too distracting to allow me to write? What do I do then?



Book Update (Sort of Not Really I Guess)

The last seven days have been a bit hectic for me. Along with working, the new Gregg Hurwitz book was released on Tuesday, which took up a couple of my days. I had my six month review at work (mercifully I am still employed!), and then, on saturday, I decided to have an uncomfortably close encounter with a patch of ice outside of my condo door. As I told one of the customers who was asking about it, I will get revenge in a month or two. He didn’t get it.

So now I’m sporting a lovely tensor bandage on my left wrist. Fortunately I didn’t break anything. My grotesque back-hump broke my fall. I wish I was joking. I’m not. The fact that the kyphosis is so pronounced ensured that my back hit the ground first instead of my head. Score one for malformed body parts!

I’ve been doing what has been recommended and taking a break from writing while Maddison works on the art for the tees and postcards which, I hope, I’ll be able to make available for purchase once the rewards are sent out to the lovely backers! Michelle, the editor, has the book, and the money should be in her hands today or tomorrow (thanks for the delay, Paypal.)

It’s a surreal feeling, realizing that I have nothing writing-related immediately on my plate. I’ve been rereading bits and pieces of the book 2 draft, and there is plenty to work with there. I can also see where book 2 will give me a lot more creative freedom because I don’t have every second of it planned out. It’s like I’m doing a reverse JK Rowling. I’ll start big and by the time we get to book 9 it will be ten chapters long and the rest will be acknowledgements and pictures of pandas slowly morphing into fruit bowls.

I’m happy with the end result of Book 1. It’s a fun read. I’m also happy that I finally had the nerve to take a step back and recognize that I could edit it until the day I die and never be completely satisfied with it. I think that’s what I love most about writing. As you grow and change as an individual, your style of writing, your knowledge of the in’s and out’s, it all changes with you. Your writing matures as you do, and as any one of my friends of family, or even coworkers will tell you, I could probably stand to do some maturing.

For now I’m going to the Calgary Zoo. I’m going to look at the amateur tigers (I know, they’re Amur tigers or whatever, but calling them ‘amateurs’ makes me giggle.) And I’m going to watch the penguins go for a walk, and eat a beaver tail (a Canadian tradition that I refuse to explain further). I will go to T&T, the local Asian market, and get some tasty treats. I will go buy lightbulbs because as it turns out, we really need lightbulbs. When I am home I will sit down and play Super Mario 64 on the WiiU and swear loudly at the poor camera angles (I know, it came out in ’96. But still, how can I be expected to catch the damn rabbit if I can’t see it?)

I will do all of that and, for once in my life, keep my thoughts about writing pushed a little further back in my mind. It is a strange sensation, to not look at the world around me and automatically think “What would Natalia do or say in this scenario?”

If I’m honest, she’d say something snarky. She’d always say something snarky.

Chronic Pain Diaries V

I am bored. Bored, bored, bored. I could write, but I need a break from that. I have played my ukulele. I have tuned my guitar. I learned how to play every Soko tab I could get my hands on. I am so completely utterly bored.

I need a job.

The worst part about waiting to hear back from potential employers is the fact that a lot of that sitting around turns into stress, both physical and mental. Sure, I go for walks. I’m going for one as soon as this is finished. But a person with chronic pain can only walk so much. Or sit so much. Or stand stationary in a lineup while they wait to see what everyone else is waiting for (hint: it was a strip club).

This isn’t unusual really. Last semester when I had a couple days off in a row I had to be very proactive about ensuring that I was doing things that were at least slightly physical to keep my body going. I’m no stranger to going for walks even when I have bad pain days. I can deal with that.

But the mental stress? That’s another matter altogether. I recently read an article that talks about the mental stress that comes with chronic pain and how the average person doesn’t tend to consider it. Oh, your body is falling apart? That’s bad. But at least your brain is all hunky-dory, right? The article made a note of saying that studies show people with chronic pain can suffer from an intensity of emotions that can be a challenge to deal with. It’s not so much because they are stressed because of pain, and that stress causes them to go hot and cold at random. It’s actually a physical reaction to the way the neurons fire off at random. People with chronic pain are often overly emotional because their brains are forcing them to be.

I always reasoned that whenever my emotions were playing up I would do a set of things to calm them down. I would work on my giant blanket. I would write. I would draw. I would paint. I would play video games. Mostly I listen to music at a rate that is far too loud (so sorry Dr. Epstein!) There is something about absolutely blaring my Hawksley Workman pain mix that just takes me away. My brain stops firing neurotic pistons and pauses to take in the sound.

The stress of being bored and not having a job and waiting for beta readers to get back to me is certainly causing my emotions to run hot and cold. I know it. Poor Alex has to deal with it, and I know it isn’t always easy. Thank goodness he is patient with me.

Writing hasn’t worked. Neither has knitting or painting or drawing. Even video games are out of the question. With no other option left to me, I turned on Spotify this morning and started up my saved music. Anger as Beauty, embodying my frustration; Oh You Delicate Heart, reminding me that there is always some vulnerability, even when you have a spine reinforced with surgical steel; Ice AgeSmoke Baby, We Will Still Need a Song. They make me feel something other than frustration and pain. There’s a new song, a single from his new album. We’re Not Broken Yet. It seems the most appropriate yet. No matter the pain, the frustration, the deepening sense of hopeless sense, we’re not broken yet.

I am still hopeful that I’ll get a call back from one of the many jobs that I’ve applied to. Until then, I’ll keep walking, keep listening to music and playing games and nervously bite my fingernails while I wait for beta readers to get back to me. Mental stress can be as brutal as the physical, which is a monumental shame because if I don’t have my sanity, what do I have? (Hint: two cats, a loving husband, and this sock full of quarters for slinging at zombies when the inevitable rise of the living dead takes place and we need to flee to the mountains.)

An Open Letter to Gearbox Software: “The Pros of Hiring Me, Kathleen Sawisky”

Dear Gearbox Software,

Okay, so my plan to be the next host of CBC’s Q doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I can’t fault them for that, really. I have zero experience with the radio, except that one time that I was on CBC’s Eye Opener with David Gray where he interviewed me about Gamergate. Hey look, an interest in the industry! Bam, right there. CBC will probably end up hiring some ‘National Icon’ like Norm McDonald or the immigrant from that Tim Horton’s Christmas commercial that aired a few years back. You wouldn’t know him. It’s a Canadian thing. Just trust me when I saw it was heartwarming and I have no problem in losing the coveted role of Q Host to him.

Speaking of brilliant satirical writing and high standards, please hire me. Your CEO, Randy Pitchford, recently hinted to the next Borderlands game going into production once a team could be compiled. Let me tell you right now, Gearbox. I am that team. Well, I mean, I’m part of it. I should be part of it. Wait, can I start again?

Dear Gearbox Software,

Please hire me. I know, I know. I’m not what you’re looking for. I’m ‘inexperienced’, and ‘don’t have training in the area’, and ‘Canadian’. I use the Oxford Comma and I have breasts, which I’m pretty sure you’re okay with given how you portrayed Ellie in Borderlands 2. Maybe it’s because Anthony Burch was the writer, but you folks just nailed that game by taking all the clichés and tropes of games and tossing them under the bus. Obviously you folks give at least a partial crap for women gamers and their opinions.

Unless of course you don’t want to talk about the current political environment of video games, in which case let me tell you about me.

                I am in my final semester at the University of Calgary for a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. In my spare time I write essays and open letters to, and about, things and people that annoy or amuse me. I have utilized sarcasm and satire most of my life to deal with the awkward nature and emotional struggles I have faced due to severe scoliosis and chronic pain. I am a delight to be around and people generally like me. Or if they don’t like me, they put up with me. One time this guy I knew didn’t put up with me and the end result was not pleasant for anyone involved. I have a dry sense of humor. So dry, my sense of humor was used as a sponge to soak up after Hurricane Katrina. You see that? I’m not afraid to hit in the sensitive areas. Unless it was too soon, in which case I admire the strength and attitude of the American people under such difficult times.

In my spare time, what little of it I have, I like to play video games (off the top of my head, top five include Earthbound, Final Fantasy VII, Borderlands 2, Bioshock Infinite, and Super Mario RPG). However, I also knit (being Canadian, it is vital I have an unlimited supply of kitschy home-made goods that I may use to keep myself warm with over our long, ten and a half month winters.) I also sing songs about my cat, which are generally impressive only to myself and my husband. I think the cat might be impressed if I stopped rhyming ‘cat’ with ‘fat’, but whatever, it’s not like he cares. This one time I used ‘mat’ instead and he puked up all his food. That might have been a reaction to my rhyming scheme or the fact that he was displeased that he was going yet another day without wet food. In my defense, every time we give him wet food he gets the worst kitty gas. It’s not like we live in a large space, you know? I shouldn’t have to put a gasmask on every time I come home. This isn’t London during the Blitzkrieg. Unless of course that was insensitive. No, just forget I said anything. Can I start again?

Did I mention the chronic pain? Don’t worry, it doesn’t get in the way of me being totally awesome in every way. Plus side, I can legally be defined as someone with a ‘disability’ which probably would have some sort of tax benefit for your company. One of us might as well reap the benefits of it, am I right? Ha ha ha!

Listen, I’m going to level with you. I know I’m not the perfect candidate. You’re looking for someone with experience in the area. Someone with, dare I say, ‘training’. But what is training compared to real world experience? You might be saying to yourself, “Kathleen, it is something. It is, in fact, a great deal of something.” To which I would reply, “Pshaw! Your training is nothing compared to my raw, socially inept wit.” You would probably then proceed to dump my resume into the neatest recycling bin (I care about the environment), and go on with your day (because your time is very valuable and I wouldn’t dare waste it on something as mediocre as my wry sense of humor.)

But, Gearbox Software, your desire for satire, sarcasm, and humor is the very definition of me. If there was some sort of tiny dictionary with those three words next to each other, you would find a picture of me looming over them. Yes, I am young (chances of me dying halfway through a project due to a weak heart are non-existent), and yes, I am Canadian (I am so freakin’ friendly!) Yes, that might mean a bit of extra paperwork for both of us (good things come to those who wait!) and yes, it might mean spending a bit of extra time at your office filling out said paperwork instead of being home with your family (who are totally overrated anyway, am I right?) But Gearbox Software, if you give me this chance, if you take the risk of hiring me as a writer for the next Borderlands game, I promise you that you will see success like nothing you have experienced before. The whole gaming world will be talking about you and how you took the chance on a young woman from Canada who went to the big ol’ States to pursue her dream of being employed while writing dumb jokes for a video game series that is known for its humor.

I am basically the perfect candidate for the position. I come from the Texas of Canada. I already have my own cowboy hat. Okay, no, that’s a lie. I don’t. But I will buy one if required. I’ve been to Texas before, when I was four years old. Granted it was only Corpus Christi, and the only thing I remember about it was the Barbie that I brought with me, but culturally I’m basically already Texan, you know?

Okay, that’s a lie too. Not that I lie compulsively, ha ha ha! Ha… Ha ha.

Having taken up enough of your valuable time, I feel it would only be right to leave you with this handy guide to me. I’m sure by now you’re plenty enchanted with me, so this is really only a cursory list. I look forward to relocating to Dallas next week to begin my career with Gearbox.

Pros to Hiring Kathleen Sawisky:

  • Delightfully enchanting
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Thorough enjoyment of irony and lists
  • Canadian
  • Emotionally secure
  • Lots of silly tee shirts
  • Make delicious bacon-maple candy which everyone at the office will just love
  • Excellent leader
  • Famed for my creativity

Cons to Hiring Kathleen Sawisky:

  • Every November 23rd I turn into a vampire for 24 hours
  • Canadian
  • Really more of a tea drinker than a coffee drinker
  • Difficulties in suppressing rebellious nature
  • Sometimes I cry myself to sleep
  • Okay, I cry myself to sleep all the time
  • Not very good at using the Siren in either Borderlands game. More of a Gunzerker to be honest
  • Despite Communication Degree I sometimes get very excited and talk too fast and trip over my words
  • I take mild delight in annoying others

An Open Letter to the Producers of CBC’s Q – “Hire me.”

As a soon-to-be graduated Communications student, I am constantly on the lookout for potential employment opportunities. Given last weeks quick dismissal of Jian Ghomeshi from the CBC, I thought it prudent to get my hat into the ring for his job as soon as possible. As always, I do it in the form of an open letter.


Dear Producers of CBC’s Radio Talk Show Q,

It’s been a rough week for you folks over there in radio land. With Ghomeshi’s apparent evolution into a sexually promiscuous Mewtwo (who, I assume, is now being utilized by Team Rocket for nefarious purposes), the future of Q as Canada’s go-to radio show is in jeopardy. But never fear, Producers of Q, because I am here to make you the offer of a lifetime.

I can replace Ghomeshichu as the host of Q. I know, I know, a nobody Communications student from Calgary. What could she possibly offer the people of Canada as far as a moderate radio host personality goes? How could she possibly achieve Ghomeshisaur like stardom, thus ensuring the longevity of radio broadcasting and our beloved National Public Broadcaster? Well, let me tell you something, Producers of Q. I am your woman, and I aim to prove it to you.

First off, I have experience on the radio. I was recently on CBC Radio 1 to discuss Misogyny in gaming with David Gray. It was a brilliant experience, and I didn’t swear once. I nearly said tits, but managed to catch myself at the last moment. This self-censoring is clearly integral in a quality radio host. If you hire me to be the new host of Q I can guarantee that your listeners will never hear the phrases boner farts, quiche mongerer, or Senior-Poop-For-Brains come out of my mouth. I cannot, however, guarantee that I won’t refer to people I dislike as a dumb-dumb. It may seem pedantic and elementary, but I guarantee that when I say it, it has a certain endearing quality.

Secondly, I will provide my own lumbar pillow. We all know that radio work means a lot of sitting, and the best way to avoid workplace injuries and those nasty worker’s comp forms is to ensure comfort and health for everyone involved. You won’t have to worry about me going on medical leave for lower back stress, no sirree. With that in mind, you should probably take a moment to educate yourself with this particular post.

Speaking of things I’ve written before, my own particular brand of off humor, satire, and moderate beliefs makes me the perfect individual to provide unique insight into the daily lives of Canadians. Let’s face it, when we try to make a top five list of Things That Define Canada, sense of humor usually falls around #3 or #4. I am the embodiment of Canadian humor.

But an endearing personality and rip-roaring sense of Canadianness is not the only thing required to be successful on CBC radio. Let’s take a look at the last five songs on my randomized playlist:

Alright by Pilot Speed

Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars

Cicadas and Gulls by Feist

Okay, wait before I go on, this is a fluke. I actually have a huge array of music and I certainly didn’t intend for them to all be Canadian. Hold on, let me randomize it again.

Samba by Ludovico Einaudi

There we go, modern piano. See, eclectic! And behind door number 5….

The Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit

I’m also a fan of Tom Waits and Hawksley Workman. Basically, basically what I’m getting at is that I’ll listen to anything. I’m a music nerd.

For all these reasons and more I would be an excellent radio host. But what about how I interact with other people? What sort of co-worker would I be to those who have ensured the survival of Q for so long?

Will I eat an entire bowl of garlicy hummus before interviewing the Governor General? Never.

Would I eat Susan’s gluten-free lunch that she brought specially from home because cutting gluten from her diet makes her feel so good? Of course not!

Will I have to be cornered by the secretary before I unwillingly sign the birthday card for inter, whose name I never actually learned? Naw.

Will I bring shame to CBC on an international scale, providing endless amounts of scandal for the hawks at The Star to sink their teeth into while drawing attention to the outrageous treatment I have delivered to the opposite gender? It’s highly unlikely.

Will I take part in wacky shirt Friday? Always.

Will I sue the CBC? Heck no, my Canadian Media and Culture class taught me the value of our National Broadcaster. I appreciate you, CBC. You and I, we have a long history of getting along together.

I understand we’re all still reeling from the loss of our starter pokemon, Ghomeshitoise, but much like brilliant Eevee, Q must go through an evolution in order to maximize its potential in the next stages of the game. Trust me, CBC – I am just the Communication Stone you need for the job.

With much sincerity (and a bit of hilarity),

Kathleen Sawisky, Esq.