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BUY MORE BOOKS August 20, 2019

Posted by thejinx in books, plugs.
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blur-book-stack-books-590493Stay with me here a minute.

We can all agree that reading is good, right? It makes you smarter, increases your empathy, it’s the best method of stress relief, it helps you sleep, the list goes on. Yet it seems that in general, people are so reluctant to actually buy books, even heavy readers.

When I made my round of Authors Avenue at Gen Con and picked up new books, every author I bought a book from was surprised when I told them to ring me up. This after I had read the back, spoken with the author about it, and read a little of the book.

Every. Single. Author. Surprised after showing interest in the book not that I didn’t buy it, but that I did.

One author told me that she had the same customer come by her table three times over the weekend to look at the same book. I don’t know if they ended up buying it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pitched a book, heard, “wow, that is so cool!” and then they walk away and I never see them again. Self-proclaimed voracious readers will show interest in a book and still not buy it. No matter how interested a person sounds when they say, “I’ll come back for that” or they’ll buy it online, maybe 5% actually do. You do this long enough and you realize it’s out of sight, out of mind.

This gets particularly perplexing when I’m selling books in an artist’s alley. All around me, I see people easily dropping $25, even $40-$60 or more on prints, but hem and haw over $15 on a book that provides hours of entertainment. We’re talking 5-10 hours or more for less than $20! Where else can you get that kind of value?

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In a way, I get it. I’ve read my share of lousy books and I used to insist on reading a sample before taking the plunge. Even today, I’m reluctant to take a chance on an unfamiliar author from a big name bookstore. There’s so many books out there that it’s hard to even narrow down what one should get. $15 seems like a lot of money when I’ve picked up fantastic used and clearance finds for $2 and my shelf is full of twenty-year-old mass market paperbacks marked $6 or so at full price. And, of course, books pile up, and they can be heavy and ungainly to lug around a convention floor. Trust me, as a peddler of books, I know.

But the fact is, with that mindset, I simply wouldn’t buy books. Maybe my attitude has changed because I’m in a better situation financially, or from being a small press facing the same problem, or perhaps as a result of being more free with buying books for my daughter. Now, though, I’m much more free with jumping on a book that looks promising.

And I love books. And I love supporting indie authors and small presses, who need it a lot more than the household names and already deceased authors. And again, $20 for eight hours of entertainment! Sure, it may seem like a lot when there are used or clearance finds for a lot cheaper, but this way, you get the book you want. And when you buy a new book at list price, you are directly helping that author and publisher do more of what they love and bring more books into the world. And we can always use more books, right?

We buy impulse items at the price of a book all the time. Heck, you can barely get a fast food dinner for less than the cost of one book. It doesn’t even take much to spend that much money at the dollar store.

So maybe we should all be a little more free with buying books. If a book looks interesting to you, just buy it. Take a chance. You might find a new favourite. Even if it’s not, time spent reading is always time well spent.

Wouldn’t you agree?

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Gen Con 2019 games wrap-up part 3 August 17, 2019

Posted by thejinx in conventions, life.
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2019-gencon-3

And now, two weeks later, we come to the end. It was a memorable Gen Con as always, and I ended the weekend with some more new (to me) games. Read on for Saturday.

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Gen Con 2019 games wrap-up part 2 August 14, 2019

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Who continues to be a lousy blogger? *holds hand up*

I did not, in fact, only play games on the Wednesday evening before the convention began, but throughout the convention as well! Thursday and Friday games below, Saturday to follow (hopefully not a week from now, though).

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Gen Con 2019 games wrap-up part 1 August 7, 2019

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2019-08-07 19.35.59

Ah, Gen Con. Where friends are made, games are played, and lack of sleep is inevitable. And after five days, my cat is actually happy to see me.

After two successful years of scheduling my evenings full prior to the con, I’m starting to get the hang of it, and found more games I wanted to play than I had time for this year. What did I play? Click the tag and let’s go back to last Wednesday.

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Gen Con haul 2019 August 6, 2019

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Books:20190806_182553.jpg

Games:

Pins and buttons:

  • Genevieve the dragon and “Game on!” from Gen Con
  • Sheep from Catan
  • Crowned fox from the Crowned Rabbit
  • Dragon from Lindsey Burcar
  • Boss Monster
  • Here, Kitty, Kitty!
  • Gold dragon from Geek Chic
  • Longpack Games
  • 10th anniversary Foam Brain Games
  • Barbarian from Too Many Bones
  • Pathfinder button
  • The Fool from the Arcana series by H. T. Brady
  • Winner from Formal Ferret Games
  • Little Bestiary

Miscellaneous:

  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time water temple T-shirt
  • Catan “We built this city on rock and wheat” T-shirt
  • Doge sleep mask courtesy of Aspis Net game Trap
  • Two replica pirate coins

Not pictured: Tin of White Cherry tea from Tea & Absinthe

Mid-year pulse check June 12, 2019

Posted by thejinx in enduring chaos, life, writing.
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Obviously, my attempts to blog more early in the year didn’t last very long. As usual, the greatest hindrance to it is myself. I’m sure I will always have something to write about, after all. I’m still sitting on photos from the winter to share, not to mention those from a trip to Banff a few weeks ago.

So what have I been up to while not blogging? The big news is that I have two new books that pretty much only need cover art to release, including Sisters of Chaos book 2. There may still be some final tweaking to that one, so I can’t give a release date yet. I’m also currently working on a short story which is a bit different from my usual fare, though that one’s not going to see print until next year (if it goes well).green light audiobook cover-small

Also, because I clearly can’t stand the thought of having a manageable workload, I’ve begun narrating audiobooks for Brain Lag. I’ve recorded two so far; the first, J. R. Dwornik’s Green Light to Paradise, came out last fall, and the newest, Innocent Earth by Dale E. McClenning, has been submitted for distribution and is making its way into catalogues.

It’s a lot of work; Innocent Earth took 100 hours total. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot in the context of 40-hour work weeks, but with my rather reduced work days and other projects going on at the same time, it took me about six months to finish it. However, voice acting has turned out to be a lot of fun. (I particularly enjoyed voicing a flamboyant preacher from Kentucky in Innocent Earth.) I also get a chuckle while editing now and then, say, when my cat decided to chip in. While I’ve decided to take a little break from it for the moment, I look forward to recording my next audiobook.

As for my 2019 goals, according to Goodreads, I’m three books ahead of schedule for beating my best year of reading. So a few of them are graphic novels; I didn’t specify that for my goal! Regrettably, I haven’t been doing as well with playing guitar in the past couple months. I think I was doing better than the last time I ‘seriously’ tried to learn before my practice time dried up, so I would like to find time for it again. I enjoyed playing.

However, I am happy to report that I have continued an over 150-day streak on Duolingo learning Japanese. I’m far from holding a real conversation, of course, but I’ve learned a few hundred words so far, am beginning to understand the idiosyncrasies of the language, and continue practicing reading hiragana and katakana whenever I see it. It’s been fun and maintaining an unbroken streak for so long (okay, so I’ve had two cheat days) certainly motivates me to keep learning every day.

I also just finished refreshing the design of the Brain Lag website, which involved learning how to make a responsive web design, or one that will change depending on the size of the device viewing it. Aside from that, I’ve managed to uphold some other personal goals, so it has been a productive year for me so far.

Now let’s see if I’ll actually fit blogging in to the rest of that.

Judging by the cover March 28, 2019

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How much work do you put into defining, and describing, a character’s appearance?

When I was a teenager, I described my characters in detail. I had clear images in my mind of how they looked and I wanted readers to get that same image. I also loved (and still love) crazy anime hair colours. I’ll admit I was guilty of this:

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But the books I read increasingly gave me the impression that describing characters in such detail was juvenile. I also came to shy away from unnatural hair colours, at least in traditional fantasy, for the same reason. I also prefer these days to make my characters more average-looking. After all, the world is not made up of Doctor Dooms and Captain Americas; it is made up of Johns and Jenns, Abduls and Taniquas. And I prefer to write stories about those regular people.

Yet, as a reader, I enjoy reading full descriptions of characters, getting an image in my head as clear as the author’s, and as accurate. And increasingly, my rebuttal to those reasons not to describe them in detail—show, don’t tell; don’t info dump; it’s not that important—is why not? It’s all fiction, and in my case, it’s all fantasy and science fiction. What problem is it to go ahead and describe characters in detail? One can go on too long, of course, but that is true of anything.

Aside from that, a character’s physical appearance says a lot about them. It is an extension of their personalities. How a character dresses or looks or styles their hair tells you a bit about them.

For example, take Damian, the star of my Sisters of Chaos trilogy. Her most distinguishing feature is her vivid yellow eyes; of course, they show that she’s different, and she’s spent the vast majority of her life hiding them behind a veil, until she makes a conscious choice not to hide them anymore. She styles her hair nicely, because she is effeminate and because she’s trying to show that there’s more to her than her strange eyes and what they represent. Yet, she makes fashionable gowns for herself that accentuate her body (slender, not shapely), not try to emphasize features she doesn’t have. She doesn’t wear corsets or padding or anything; she’s trying to show her best self, yet she is honest to a fault and does not want to be accepted for something she’s not.

Then there’s Garrick. He’s Marvel Studios ripped and very attractive, with an infectious/roguish smile. He is constantly aware of how he is perceived by others, and adjusts his posture, speech, and expressions to maximum effect for whatever company he’s in. Partly he does so to get whatever he’s looking for out of the encounter, and partly it’s to get the respect he has desperately desired throughout his life, and it also serves to cover up his own insecurities.

Maybe you don’t get all of that with a strict description of how a character looks, but the fact is, there’s a reason behind every character’s appearance. A character might be wearing an expensive but ill-tailored suit because they’re new money and don’t know how to live the high life, but want to. Maybe a female character refuses to wear a bikini because she’s self-conscious. A male character might have a patchy, or overly thick, beard because he’s trying to compensate for a babyish face he gets teased about otherwise.

All these details are more than just giving a reader a clear picture of the character the author is depicting; they’re clues into the character. And as readers, we also form opinions of the characters based on how they look, because that tends to show pieces of the character. Whether those opinions are affirmed by the character or challenge our biases, it adds to our understanding of the character.

And really, what’s wrong with describing a character’s appearance in detail?

A little micro fiction February 26, 2019

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“Skin-tight leather? Are you kidding me? How am I supposed to move in this?”

“It’s protection!”

“Against what, mosquitoes? Do you have any idea how hot and sweaty and sticky that’s going to get in a fight?”

“What do you want to be, the Superhero in Sweats?”

“Now that’s not a bad idea.”

May the frosting be with you February 3, 2019

Posted by thejinx in art, life.
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This weekend was my husband’s birthday, and since he’s a big Star Wars fan (and I wanted to try out my new candy melting pot), I decided to make Star Wars cupcakes!

I used the new X-Wing and Millennium Falcon silicone mold I got for Christmas to make the cupcake toppers.

I melted bright white candy melts in my electric candy pot, together with a few leftover Halloween chocolates…

… and poured it into the molds, then put them in the fridge for half an hour to harden. (With thanks to my daughter for photography credit.)

Presto! Delicious candy starships. Now on to the cupcakes. (Chocolate, of course.)

For the frosting, I started with a basic butter cream frosting. Homemade, I don’t do store bought in this house.

I wanted to do a bit of a galaxy style for the frosting, so I split it in half, made half into chocolate and split the other half to colour blue and purple.

Filled up a piping bag, gave it a quick swirl, and it was ready to go.

Used a big star tip and started frosting.

I also added some edible silver glitter dust to complete the galaxy look. It’s not super obvious, but it does add a little pop.

Once that was done, it was time for the ships.

And voila! The colours didn’t turn out quite as I was hoping they would, but I’m pretty pleased with the results. They’re also very tasty.

On pride January 17, 2019

Posted by thejinx in life.
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Pride. One of the Seven Deadly Sins.

It is not so much taught as it is ingrained into our society that pride is the worst form of narcissism.

But is it really so evil? Is it so wrong to feel proud of our accomplishments? Who does it harm for someone to take joy in being smart, or pretty, or strong, or creative? Why is it such a grave insult for one to respond to a compliment by agreeing with it?

No, I think the true evil is egotism. Putting oneself before everyone else. This, in my opinion, is far more rampant and far more insidious than pride.

After all, when one takes it as an affront if someone agrees with a compliment, whose ego is so paramount that it becomes challenged? A compliment should be given selflessly; to turn it around and say that the compliment is somehow lessened because the receiver did not bestow the proper praise upon the giver changes the intention entirely.

It’s why people are so quick to argue about the things they enjoy, or don’t. It always baffles me, even frustrates me, that so many people can’t seem to let others like what they like. Their opinions become so important that it becomes a personal threat when others don’t feel the same way. The perceived challenge to their worldview overrides any understanding that another’s enjoyment (or non-enjoyment) of something has no bearing on one’s own opinions.

This egotism seems the source of so many problems in today’s society. Racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, other forms of bigotry—it all derives from this need to be better than others. Denial of white privilege—belief that a systemic issue is instead a personal condemnation. Judging others over everything from how they look to how they live—reinforcing the idea that one’s own being is better than others’.

All of these problems hide the fact that none of these perceived issues have any bearing or judgment upon the viewer’s life. Does that person who looks funny diminish one’s own self-worth? Does accepting that being born white means one has an easier time in life affect one’s value? Does the fact that gay people exist really have any impact over one’s life at all?

No. It’s all a result of inflating one’s ego above others.

I don’t mean to say that all of this is done maliciously. In fact, I think a lot of such problems are related to the fact that we are taught not to feel pride. Because we’re not allowed to take joy in our accomplishments or positive traits, we seek that validation of self-worth in destructive ways. And for those who are more attuned to those destructive habits, it results in rampant imposter syndrome, feelings of worthlessness, and depression.

I think it’s time to admit that pride isn’t the enemy. Of course, one can take it too far, but then it goes back to the problem of egotism. So be proud of your accomplishments. Take joy in whatever part of yourself makes you happy. And more importantly, allow others to feel pride when they’ve earned it. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if you find yourself feeling insulted by someone else’s views or appearance or being, maybe stop and ask yourself if it really has any impact on your own life before saying something.