John Connolly

Extra Life 2016

It’s that time of year folks. Extra Life 2016 is almost upon us; 14 days and counting. Somewhere, in my brilliance, I thought I could make a $2000 goal. That was silly. I am silly. As it stands I am currently at $410 plus some change donated by my lovely coworkers. Not bad given that I haven’t bombarded social media the same way I normally do. If you’d like to donate to my Extra Life campaign, you can do so here. If you need some convincing, read on.

The What:

Extra Life is a 25 hour video game marathon that takes place every fall. Gamers around the world gather to play video games, board games,  and card games for 25 hours while simultaneously raise money for local Miracle Network Hospitals. I play for Alberta Children’s Hospital. ACH is my jam.

The Why:

I’ve spoken about my medical misadventures more than a few times. I haven’t held back when discussing how nasty chronic pain is, or how vital I have found music and books when it came to surviving my hospital experiences. When it comes down to it, a person can’t be expended to spend hours upon hours of their formative years in the same place with the same people, repeating the same experiences, and not develop some sort of affinity for the setting. For me, that has been, and always will be, the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The old hospital, now the Richmond Road Treatment Centre (Where my chronic pain clinic is now located, fancy that) became my home away from home. I knew its walls, its art work, its doctors and nurses and orderlies. I knew it better than I knew myself, and consequently found the earliest pieces of who I am grew and were nurtured in those walls, by those people. The old ACH holds a very special place in my heart.

It also terrifies me. Like, literally, I usually pee myself a little bit when I have to go back there. Three spinal surgeries with awful, debilitating pain will often create that negative connotation. And yet, for whatever reason, I also love it. Despite having only one surgery in the New Children’s Hospital (which will be celebrating its Tenth Anniversary this year!) I find myself still associating it as a home-away-from-home. It is still inexplicably mine, though I have grown so much older since walking through its halls as a patient. It is a place I ‘graduated’ from, phased out of, and in so many ways, it was the first place to dub me an adult. Sure, I had already graduated high school and gotten a diploma and could vote and had to do my own taxes, but only when I was told I could no longer go to ACH did I truly feel like I had grown up.

It was mesmerizing how sad I was to leave the hospital, to leave behind the nurses who had helped raise me in so many ways, and the doctor who had been like a father to me for the last seven years.

Growing up sucks, but growing up and leaving behind that was more difficult than any tax equation or ‘adulting’ I have had to do since then.

I love the Children’s Hospital. I hate what it represents in many ways; all my fear, my pain, my awkward youth. But I appreciate how I can now look back on it with wider, if not world-weary eyes, and see what it meant to me and how it shaped me into the woman I am today. That is why I take part in Extra Life. It is giving back, if only in the smallest way, to a place that helped shape me into the sarcastic, annoying individual I am today.

I couldn’t be more grateful.

The When:

November 5th, starting at 10:00 a.m.

The Who:

As always, Cheryl will be joining me for her own live stream! Last year I was pretty damn sick and I flaked bad on her. This year I am making it up. Because Alex and I are moving this monday, we will be having a pseudo-house warming party with some close friends who are invited to come over and play card games as a break in the evening!

The Small Details:

I’ve decided this year to try doing a single game from the start. Namely: Fallout 4. I’ve only done a single run of Fallout 4 so far, so I think it’ll be fun to start all over and make the biggest, sarcastic, jerkiest character I can. I’m going to call her Moira BulletStomper. Yeah.

I’ll be streaming on my Twitch channel here!

Tweets will happen intermittently here.

How can I help?

If you have a dollar to spare and you’d like to donate, you can do so on my fundraising page here!  Alternately, I encourage you to join in the fun! Tell your friends, get groups together, and use November 5th as an excuse to reconnect with some old buddies and raise money for your local Children’s Hospital. It certainly doesn’t have to be ACH! You can pick any hospital in any region!

This really is a wonderful cause. I can’t do sports. I am not so good at the mathing. I don’t politic or science well. But dammit, I can game, and I can write, and on November 5th I’m going to be doing it #ForTheKids!

As a bonus, here is my spine from… one of the surgeries. I don’t know. I’ve lost count.

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An Open Letter to John Connolly

Dear John Connolly,

I’ll be the first to admit, I should be busy reading A Time of Torment, which was just (mercifully) released in North America. There is a bonus working in a book store, even if it is a mass retailer. The moment I realized Torment was released I was able to leave our lunch room and ravenously search our shelves until, upon realizing I couldn’t find our five copies (Five? Only five! Blasphemy!) demand assistance from my coworkers to whom I promised a shiny quarter to the first person who could hand me a copy. The shiny quarter ended up going to my boss, who located Torment in the mystery section. We generally shelve your books under general fiction because of its beautiful culmination of elements taken from different genres. On more than one occasion I have found it in horror and mentally decried the foolishness of my coworkers. Yes, it is horror; yes, it is mystery; yes, it is paranormal and at times, when Rachel makes her appearance, a tiny bit romantic. It is all that and so much more. Charlie Parker is so much more.

I began following the story of Charlie Parker around the time The Reapers was first released. It was the first of your novels that I read. I am a sucker for assassins and banter and blood splatter. It seemed right up my alley. I loved it enough to hunt down your other work, not realizing that Charlie Parker was the true antihero of the series. I was easily smitten by his sarcasm, his nobility, and oh, the fact that he is being flipping haunted by his dead wife and daughter holy shit this is amazing oh my god oh my god homaigawd. 

Sorry, I lost my head there a bit. I’m a little madly in love with your writing (and your wry Irish wit which, if my Irish relatives are any indication, is a national thing. We Canadians aren’t nearly as exceptional in the biting sarcasm and smarm.) And that is precisely why I write this open letter to you today.

For however many years your writing has accompanied me through my various phases in life. From hospitals to parental divorce to marriage and finally, into my own timid foray into writing. Charlie Parker has accompanied me every step of the way and, perhaps more importantly, challenged me.

No, that isn’t quite right. Parker doesn’t challenge me. At least, not in the way I mean. But you do. Your writing does. I’ve read and reread every book of yours multiple times. Reading them as a teenager, and into very young adulthood, they were just fascinating adventures into the human condition, a remarkable blend of paranormal, supernatural, and violence, which really just rings all my metaphorical bells. But as an adult, now educated and having taken numerous classes where the focus was primarily on analyzing literature, I see so much more in your work.

I see the tiny threads connecting each story. I see the way in which Parker’s fate is predetermined now and he, having died and returned to the natural world, is now an active participant in his own destiny. He has embraced it, or appears to in my mind. Granted, I am only on page 137 of A Time of Torment. Anything could happen.

And his meeting with the Collector at the beginning? Oh my god, I nearly peed myself from the level of badassery that was spilling from the pages.

Since I’ve begun to reread the series, yet again, I’ve taken my time with each novel. I’ve searched for hints of things to come. The exact moment I realized I needed to start paying attention was when Sam, I think in The Wolf in Winter, handed Charlie a cross made of sticks and told him it was to protect him. That was it. I knew it. Never has a series captured my attention and forced me to utilize so much of my memory to try and piece together the what if’s and what’s to come’s.

And you’ve given your readers an honest chance. That’s what I love about the Charlie Parker stories, more than anything. Deep reading aside, any dedicated fan (as I like to call myself) has an honest chance to guess what might happen on the next page, in the next chapter, in the next book.

And yet you continue to shock me, book after book. There is no denying your skill to engage the readers and create beautiful imagery melded with real, honest to god people with faults and hopes and downfalls.

It makes me profoundly jealous. I know your literary prowess didn’t appear overnight; even now I reread Every Dead Thing and some points make me cringe and think Now that might just be a bit too much. Reading your work in order, I can see the transition, and the trepidation as the supernatural and unreal becomes more prolific and the characters begin to test their limits.

It is, for a lack of a better word, glorious. You, sir, are a phenomenal author, and it makes me horribly jealous.

Thank you, for that. No. I mean it. Honestly and without an ounce of sarcasm (which anyone who knows me can tell you is quite remarkable in itself), thank you for making me want to be a better author. Thank you for making me look at my own writing and see the borders I have drawn around it. Thank you for unknowingly telling me to set fire to those borders and draw characters out of flame and ash and send them out into the world.

Thank you for Charlie Parker and all he has suffered. Thank you for Angel and Louis, who are my favorite assassins of all time. Thank you for Sam, for the subtle ways you have made her more than a child needing to be protected, for giving her a greater purpose. Thank you for all the stories, and the many more to come (I hope.)

Thank you so much for making me want to be a better author.

Most sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky