Things I Like

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:

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

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.

 

 

Between Fire and Pines Release Date Announcement (and other such tripe)

You know what I like about May? It is a fun month. It is about as springy as we can expect here in Calgary, given that June is generally nonstop rain. That means May is the month of warm breezes and sprouting pants. We eagerly anticipate the sight of crocuses peering out of the dirt. We wake up to the sound of robins, returning after the seemingly unending winter.

Now, this May, we may also look forward to goddamned explosions, some badass gunfire, and one racial slur which I was very uncertain about including.

Because, ladies an gentleman, Book One of The Code series, Between Fire and Pines, will be released officially on May 30th, 2016.

It has an ISBN number. It has been formatted. A cover is being made as we speak. Two lovely friends of mine are working on postcards and a t-shirt design respectively (which will be available for purchase from somewhere at some point once I learn stuff and things.) Physical copies may even be available from the bookstore where I work, depending on how my bosses feel about it.

It’s been a strange, elaborate journey. There have been so many ups and downs and misadventures along the way. As I’ve grown so have the characters, which is perhaps why only now does it feel right to be publishing it. And despite all that, it still hasn’t hit me. Maybe it’s because I’m dead inside. I’m not sure. All I know is that come hell or high water, I will be publishing a book on May 30th, and that’s kind of cool.

Pigeons of Paris

Paris has many pigeons. Grey, speckled, white, a microcosm of pigeon culture, all with the same beady red eyes, watching, waiting. And, oh yes, they are all tremendously fat. I’m not talking about your average run of the mill fat pigeon. I’m talking about full on boisterous, carnivorous birds that spend their days bathing in the water being expunged by the storm drains every morning, waiting for the stereotypical Frenchman to get hit by an errant car as he jaywalks, exclaiming ‘Oh la la!’ as his baguette falls to the ground and becomes the pigeon’s next meal. You may think I am stereotyping the French people by saying this, but in reality I heard the term ”oh la la” said three times while in Paris, the drivers were terrible, the pedestrians took needless risks, and I saw a Frenchman in a black and white striped shirt carrying a baguette down the street on the very first day we were there.

The pigeons of Paris essentially live on bread crumbs and, I assume, the fear of the tourists. There is no doubt they are watching you, and they can sense your fear. For instance. This little bugger called Luxembourg Castle his home. He watched Alex and I as we ate our baguette (shut up, you don’t own me) and our pomme tartlette, which was essentially a slutty version of your standard apple tart. This pigeon clearly wanted to take part in the meal but my flapping arms and “Whoop-whoop-whoop” noises dissuaded him and so he went to the fountain across from us. It was there he decided to pick a fight with a flock of seagulls. As you call tell from this picture, the winner was very clear.

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This particular pigeon spent most of his time hanging around the back end of Musee de l’Armee, patiently waiting for unsuspecting tourists who were keen on seeing Napoleon’s tomb. I theorize that every night this pigeon flutters through the doors just before closing and takes a giant dump on Napoleon’s tomb because, let’s face it, if you were a pigeon with the capacity to fly into a building with a towering ceiling where no one could capture you and poop on a national hero… wouldn’t you?

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Next on the list of Pigeons of Paris we have this little fatty who, despite having his gargantuan girth working against him, managed to struggle underneath this fencing to escape my paparazzi wrath. Just beyond the Eiffel Tower is this lovely green space that is full of three things: Tourists, Roma trying to scam the tourists, and fatty fat fat pigeons. I kid you not, in the fifteen seconds it took me to snap this photo Alex was approach by a Roma who wanted him to sign a petition for the deaf, blind, and mildly incontinent, and when he refused they started to curse him out. I can only assume that means the Roma and pigeons are somehow in cahoots. Fill a city with pigeons, throw in some scamsters, toss in a clipboard with a fake petition or two and blam! Success.

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Seriously. Just look at all these sneaky jerks. And the pigeons are hell too.

To round out our exploration of the Pigeons of Paris we have what might just be the ultimate pigeon. I met him at the Small Town America portion of Disneyland Paris. He was hopping around, eyeing up people. When I tossed him a piece of croissant he landed on the ground and hobbled forward and… wait, hobbled? Holy shit, does he had a broken foot? Oh my god that poor pigeon has a broken foot! I instantly named him Pepito, fed him the rest of my pain de chocolat and paid for the post secondary education for all his children. It was only then that it occurred to me that I had been had. Pepito was the Roma equivalent of pigeons. There was no way his foot was broken. No way at all. It was all a ploy for my sympathy, the bastard! What a jerk! And those other people are feeding him a muffin now? What the actual hell? Being the sort of spirited vigilante that I am, I gave Pepito a taste of his own medicine and chased him down throughout Small Town America, much to the horror of the tottering children and their angry parents. Long story short I’m not allowed back in Disneyland Paris. *

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But seriously, he used his broken foot to sort of propel himself forward. It was actually really impressive, especially given how fat he is.

 

 

*Some facts may be exaggerated for my own amusement

On Video Game Harassment and Dum-Dums

These things I know to be true:

  1. Online harassment in video game communities exist.
  2. Critics of the culture of harassment have received some really, really disturbing threats that have made them fear for their lives, quit the gaming industry, as well as a variety of other actions.
  3. I don’t know Zoe Quinn and I don’t care about her social life. My only thought about her is “Oh sweet, she made a video game! I wish I had programming skills so I could make a video game!” I also think that about Ken Levine, the guy that made Earthbound, and Naughty Dog, for making The Last of Us.
  4. I don’t know what #GameGate is, and that is essentially because the information I have read has told me it has to do with everything from corruption in gaming journalism to the harassment of women, to how many pancakes bunny rabbits can balance on their heads until they fall off with adorable ‘plooping’ noises.
  5. Harassment is not defined by gender; both victims and perpetrators have and continue to be male and female.
  6. Harassment, and indeed any type of bullying is wrong. Can we all agree that it is wrong? It is wrong.
  7. The issue of harassment is commonly broken down into an us versus them mentality, which is true for those of us that aren’t douchehats, but problematic because said douche hats probably aren’t reading the criticism essays about their attitudes. They’re too busy being douchehats, you see.

And while it is great that we are having a discussion about how awful the harassment is, whether the conversations are politely structured or are reduced to petty name calling, the fact of the matter is that it really isn’t getting us anywhere. Women are still getting death and rape threats, men are still pointing out that they are misrepresented, and those putrid little bastards that take harassment to an extreme level are still… well, harassing.

None of us, none of us needs that around. Life is tough enough out there in the real world without that sort of scum-sucky attitude infecting our time online. So maybe someone can answer me this…

Why are we letting them get away with it?

We’re spending all this time arguing with each other about this and that when really, like I said before, we all think harassment and bullying are wrong. That, at its most basic level, is a problem we should all be concerned with. Because bullies that think it’s okay to make death and rape threats to women, and men, while online are probably just as comfortable telling that teenage girl to kill herself, or that young man that he’s worthless because of his sexuality. Those people are the same ones that think they’re untouchable, that have no concept of consequences and that, when their victims react and, sadly, often act as these threats suggest, don’t get that they actively contributed to the pain, suffering or even death of another human being.

That shit is messed up, man. So why are we letting them get away with it? Why are we making excuses of ‘that’s just the way it is’ or ‘oh he/she is young and doesn’t know any better’?  Nu-uh, I call bullshit. If they are old enough to be online, in an environment like that, then they sure as hell are old enough to be educated about what normal people do and do not do.

Our inaction against these bullies and their harassment, and our focus on each other is exactly what is allowing this sort of attitude to prevail. Wouldn’t our attention and energy be better off dealing with those morons? And no, I’m not suggesting battering them down with vitriol and sarcasm. As much as I enjoy calling them ‘douchehats’, I have to acknowledge that to make a firm difference we need to be adults. As gamers, no matter the gender, we report harassment when we witness it. As moderators we treat every instance of bullying and harassment as if it is the final straw. We show that there are consequences for being a total nob.

Because nothing is going to get through to these people who bully, harass, and troll earnest individuals except real world consequences.

So don’t make excuses for it. Don’t say ‘That’s just the way it is’ or ‘he’s just a kid’ or ‘he doesn’t know what he’s saying’. Make the person know what they are saying. Educate them about their stupidity, and if the trend continues even for a single instance after that, punish them through real world consequences.

I just… it’s so simple. We’re on the same team here, gang. We all want bullying to stop, and when it does, then we can finally have real conversations about gender portrayal and balance and tropes and cliches and who is better, Tifa or Aerith, and why sandbox games are becoming so popular, and hey how about that Bioshock Infinite?

Because I don’t know about you, but I’d love to talk about video games and everything about them, but I’d rather not have some asshat tell me he is going to find and kill me for expressing an opinion.

Also the answer is Tifa, obviously.

That Time of Year: Extra Life 2014

Apart from my desperate pleas to the Alberta Government for financial aid in order to afford medication, I only ever ask for money during one time of the year: Extra Life. For those of you not in the know., Extra Life is a 24 hour video game marathon that takes place every year in support of Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. October 25th, 2014 will be my 3rd year taking part for the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and I couldn’t feel less guilty about trying to pry loose change from your pockets.

When I was 13 I had my first spinal surgery (feel free to skip down some paragraphs if this is old news to you). My spine fused from T1 to L4 under the careful direction of Dr. Harder at the old Alberta Children’s Hospital. For the last two years I have been living 15 minutes from the old brick building; it’s been a bit surreal. I ultimately had three surgeries at that old hospital, plus one more at the New ACH before I ‘graduated’ and was told that not all the poop jokes in the world would convince them I was still a child.

Nonetheless, the impact of the services I received at ACH have had a tremendous impact on my life. Every day I am grateful that I received, not only amazing care, but was given the opportunity to be treated by various doctors and nurses whose primary goal was to create effective family-orientated care. They succeed. They succeeded 100%. The fact that I want to dedicate all my free-time towards supporting this marvelous institution is proof of it.

So, once again, I will be gaming for 24 hours and raising money for ACH. My goal is to surpass $1000 this year (and earn myself that shiny, shiny gold medal!). Every penny counts. I mean, it would, if we still have pennies. How surreal is that? If I ever have kids, they will never know the glory of the coppery penny scent that attaches itself to your fingers. The times, they are a changin’.

You can view my donation page here!

But donating to me isn’t the only way to help! Are you a gamer? Do you nerd out at the sound of Jennifer Hale’s voice? (I do.) Join Extra Life, play for a local hospital, or even ACH! You can spread the 24 hours out, if you feel like you can’t do it. You can play boardgames or card games or tag or Sudoku. You can raise a gajillion dollars, or ten. Every bit helps these hospitals treat kids, from appendix removals or cancer treatment. We are incredibly fortunate to have access to these resources, and by supporting Extra Life we can ensure that these hospitals are able to continue helping our kids.

Give. Give, give, give. During the next few weeks I will be creating some more donor rewards, as well as offering a few opportunities where I will match donations! And I’m a student! I’m poor. But I’ll find a way, and you should too!

Guilt, guilt, guilt.

Here’s my spine.

5wREPSY

In Which Cats, Cats Cats, Cats? Ha ha! Cats!

Get your tinfoil hats on, folks, because the internet is in our brains and our constant contributions to social media is ruining our lives. Also, cats.

For the last four days I’ve been taking part in Block Week. The hellish University of experience of completing an entire course, that is four  months worth of material, in five days. It has been an interesting experience. In the more exhaustive moments I have searched the darker portions of the internet for anything and everything that might keep my brain active. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.

Despite how tiring the 9-5 schedule has been, the information garnered from Social Media Connectivity and Jibber Jabber has been hugely eye-opening. Facebook’s algorithms, the inescapable nature of the ‘like’ button, the sad puppy-dog-eyes of Flickr, and the sneakiness of Twitter. Oh yes, they’re on to us. They know everything.

Also cats.

I half-heartedly wondered how many times I would have to mention ‘cats’ and ‘kittens before all my Facebook advertising started to tune in and relate to those lovely felines. Cats. Imagine my surprise when I opened up my WordPress reader this morning and discovered the #1 blog that was recommended for my enjoyment was Cats & Chocolate. Recommended because other people I follow have liked it? Nice try, WordPress algorithms. The people I follow are a distinctly dog-centric group.

But that still got me thinking about cats, and also about how if my simply mentioned ‘cats’ repeatedly on Facebook might possibly somehow influence my WordPress recommendations, what would an entire blog post about cats and conspiracy theories and cats and also, did I mention cats? do to my Facebook ads. Cats.

Maybe I will add a ‘tag’ of cats. Maybe the category will be cats. Maybe I will post a picture of my cat.

Cats

Cats

And then maybe after that I will cats with some cats doing cat-like stuff with cats.

Wearing an orange peel on your head like a cat

Wearing an orange peel on your head like a cat

Because sometimes cats and cats.

I’m not saying it is a conspiracy theory (it is not a theory.) The whole algorithmic jumble is clearly very efficient. But just how efficient is it? I would assume that WordPress and Facebook must be linked in some way, like button or not. Toss in Google (which I will be utilizing to look up interesting facts about cats in a moment) and you have a trifecta of internet connectivity. Or cats. Either one really. Probably more cats.

Hey, how many cats does it take to screw in a ligtbulb? None. They do not have opposable thumbs and are also too short to reach the light.  Silly cats.

Now what if my first Google result on Interesting Cat Facts is a Wikipedia Article on felinus domesticus (have not confirmed that is the Latin for domestic housecat. Like most North Americans, I assume I can ‘Latinize’ any words by adding ‘us’ to the end of it.) Suddenly Wikipedia is in on it. Suddenly Wikipedia knows that I want to know about cats. Is it telling Google that I’m a can aficionado? Has the SPCA been alerted that I am a potential cat hoarder? How soon will it take for the Internet to know that I cat cats so cat-ing much?

Oh my god, you can't just ask someone why they are a cat.

Oh my god, you can’t just ask someone why they are a cat.

Then add the fact that I have Youtube videos of Beemo being a freaking cat. Who am I kidding? I don’t have to look up cats. They already know about cats. Oh my cat. Oh man, they know everything.

Holy cats, we are so screwed.

Cats.