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Happy new… well, not yet stale year January 20, 2020

Posted by thejinx in books, enduring chaos, life, writing.
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sparkler-839831_1920So, here we are again (a little delayed, on my part). My year started off a little less spectacularly than a hotel-room view of the fireworks over Quebec City, but I drank peach sparkling wine with friends in my pajamas, so I have no complaints.

A year ago, I made a post talking about resolutions and goals, though while the spirit of the new year inspired productivity from me, I didn’t really set many concrete goals. The one exception was my reading goal. After a rather pitiful year of reading in 2018, I wanted to do better. So I set a Goodreads reading goal of 27 books, one more than my previous best year of books since I’ve been recording my progress on Goodreads.

I ended up reaching 38 by the end of the year. Granted, 21 of them were graphic novels, but I wasn’t that specific when I set my goal.

a-jewel-on-sapphire-coverAs for writing last year, alas, I didn’t get book two of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy published. But, er, I did release a new book last year! A Jewel on Sapphire is a chapter book about a girl who lives on a space station and finds an alien she wants to keep as a pet, so if you or the 6-9-year-old in your life is into that sort of thing, go check it out.

In other goals, I must admit that playing guitar fell by the wayside. However, I managed to keep up an unbroken streak learning Japanese on Duolingo, and hit a pretty good milestone recently.

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Granted, I had a few cheat days, but overall, it was less than a week, so it’s pretty safe to say I have indeed put in a full year’s worth of work by now.

So what do I have in store for 2020? Let’s start with a reading goal.

20191120_090414This year, I just want to get through my TBRs. In fact, I took them out of their carefully filed places on our primary bookshelf and stacked them – in chronological order of date acquired – in the living room, so that they stare me down and entice/guilt me into reading them, rather than remaining easily forgotten behind the elliptical in the bedroom, and behind another row of books in some cases.

I actually felt fairly good about that stack when I saw it. It’s fewer books than I read last year, and only about 20% of those books are older than last June. At least I am making my way through my TBR books. So, at present, my reading goal for the year is rather shorter than last, but I’m focused more on specific books, and I’m counting on reading others after (and probably a few during; I haven’t fully caught up on W.I.T.C.H. yet).

And while I may not have released the next Sisters of Chaos book last year, I can now say that it is coming in June! So please stick around, I promise I’ll try to be better about hyping it up prior to its release.

I do feel bad about spending seven years to get the second book of the trilogy out. However, that’s only half as long as it took to get the first book out, so it’s an improvement. And it offers up another convenient goal: try to halve that time again for book three. Hence, my writing goal for this year: get a first draft of the final installment of the Sisters of Chaos trilogy written. Sounds a little daunting for someone who just took seven years to write a sequel to a novel with the rest of the trilogy already roughly sketched out, but when I break it down, that’s only about 10,000 words to write per month. The fact that I’ve yet to write a word for it is moot; I have time enough left in January without resorting to NaNoWriMo pace. Besides, I still had some planning to do. It’s a motivating goal, at least, like my reading goal that I smashed last year. I can do this. I will do this.

As far as other goals, I just want to continue the good habits I’ve formed over the last year or two. Exercising regularly, listening to my body, eating healthier, avoiding time-wasting mobile games or spending evenings rewatching the same movies and TV shows over again. I also apparently need to do a better job of mitigating my general stress level. That lengthy Duolingo streak is also inspiring me to continue it, though I’ll admit that after a year, I’m spending more days doing my minimum goal than I used to.

I’m ready for this year. Er, never mind that we’re already a few weeks into it. Let’s do this.

P.S.: I also finally finished making my way through this beastly backlist (which was actually closer to 45 hours by the time I committed to it):

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Now I can finally move on to the dozen other albums and several dozen other free songs I’ve been waiting to check out until I finished vetting these. … oh.

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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On resolutions January 11, 2019

Posted by thejinx in art, life.
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newyears2019When I was younger, I wasn’t crazy about New Year’s. (Admittedly, I didn’t get invited to many parties.) These days, however, I like the spirit of renewal. A blank slate. Casting off the wearied remnants of the old year and looking toward the bright potential of the future.

Yes, it’s an arbitrary date and people shouldn’t need an excuse to improve themselves. But it’s a landmark. A reminder, when we’re so often swept up in the chaos of our daily lives, that we should constantly be trying to better ourselves.

And now, in the Information Age, it’s easier than ever to do. Free apps can teach you a new language, how to play an instrument, how to draw and meditate and all sorts of things. YouTube videos can show you how to make or do almost anything. There’s a mountain of free ebooks and online courses out there that can help you master a new skill or subject. Most of these options are even broken down into chunks that only require a few minutes a day. There’s no excuse not to attempt any pursuit one might desire.

I don’t tend to make resolutions. I made an exception with my Goodreads reading challenge for 2019, and I’ll admit I like the push it gives me. Otherwise, however, I don’t want to pressure myself. I prefer goals. Google Fit keeps trying to get me to lower my fitness goals, make them more consistently attainable for me. But I’m not out to check boxes off every day. I want to strive for those goals. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t make them, but I’ll allow myself to feel good if I do.

I don’t have a lot of goals for 2019. I already started trying to exercise regularly a few months ago, and last year I made some changes to my health that significantly improved my overall quality of life. I want to read more, of course. I do want to try to get the second Sisters of Chaos book out this year. Editing continues to be a slog, but I’m using the spirit of improvement the new year provides to try to push myself to at least continue working on it.

Of course, with all these options for personal improvement out there, it’s hard not to get swept up in the different things one can learn or do. I look at the guitar(s) in my bedroom and think about the apps I’ve looked at to try to start playing again. I watch my daughter using new art supplies and think about breaking out some of my own that I haven’t touched for years. I even downloaded one of those language learning apps on a whim last night.

Is it too much? Maybe. Do I have too little time to explore all these interests? Maybe not, at least based on the apps I’ve seen. Will I lose interest before the month’s out? Possibly. But these options are better than just sitting around playing a silly mobile game or watching cat videos on YouTube, which I tend to do more often in my free time because it’s easier than doing anything that can be judged. Maybe my true resolution should be to stop being intimidated by starting anything.

The key to a good new year is not merely hoping or wishing that it will be better. Now’s the time to start making things happen.

Here’s to a great 2019.

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The year of trying more? Oil pastels, 2.5″ x 3.5″

Books / time: the story January 6, 2019

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I love reading (as is probably obvious). Even my 7-year-old daughter now says, “you can’t have too many books”, gets excited when we go to the bookstore, and says “booooks” hungrily when confronted with a stack of them.

But I’ll admit I’m not the most prolific reader. The main excuses for that are that I spend free time engaged with other pastimes (writing) and a silly fear of commitment over starting new books. I also don’t consider myself a very fast reader, so I don’t get through books as quickly as perhaps I could.

2017 was my best year yet for reading since I started tracking my books read on Goodreads, at 26. However, I followed that up in 2018 with a paltry 10. Well, 11 when you count one book that wasn’t on Goodreads.

Granted, that’s only the measure of the books I read for enjoyment. That doesn’t count the thirty or forty books I read as part of my freelance work, or the handful of books I read (or reread) for Brain Lag. But it does seem a little sad after such a good 2017. And considering the number of new books I picked up last year, it does make me want to read more.

I’ve started the year on the right foot, at least. Whereas last year, I had a gap through to the end of March without any books read for pleasure, I finished my first book of 2019 tonight. It was even one I’ve been meaning to read for a few years. Progress!

I managed to whittle down my TBR shelf (we’ll pretend that row of books hidden behind them aren’t there) to six or seven before I started buying more new books last year. Maybe if I keep at it, I can finally get through those books I bought and haven’t read yet. (Again, we’re not mentioning all the books behind them on the shelf, or the dozens of ebooks I have on Kindle and Google Play.) Maybe if I do that, I can get back to some series I’ve partially read, or start reading other books I’ve been wanting to check out for years, read some authors and titles I’ve heard such good things about.

Or maybe I’ll continue getting lost in whatever ebook I happen to open in a moment of boredom or picking up whatever shiny title catches my eye at the library.

Some people may lament the idea of there being so many books that one cannot possibly hope to read all the ones they desire in a lifetime, but to me, I find reassurance in the knowledge that I’ll always have something to read.

I’d like 2019 to be a better year for books for me. I’ll make it a better year. I’ve never set myself reading goals on Goodreads, but maybe I’ll do that this year. I spend too much time goofing around on mobile games because of this weird anxiety over starting new books, when I’ve plenty of minutes throughout the day that I can find to get some reading in. It’s not hard to start a new book, and I know that.

It’s a new year. Time for new stories.

Ad Astra schedule April 27, 2016

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I’ll be at Ad Astra this weekend, Toronto’s original scifi/fantasy/horror literary convention. I’ll be spending most of my time at the Brain Lag table in the dealers room, and I’ll also be involved with the following events:

Saturday

11:00
Creating Art on Commission
So someone has asked you to create a piece of art for them. And they’ve even said they’ll pay. How much do you charge them? How do you sell yourself as a commission artist, and what are the pros and cons of offering to create work on commission?
Thornhill room

1:00
Selling Your Art at Conventions and Festivals
So you’ve finally finished a beautiful set of paintings. Or maybe you’ve been selling your fan art on commission and want to think bigger with prints. Maybe you want to do commissions for money, or you fancraft and have an Etsy store and want to sell in person. You’ve got wares, and you’re ready to sell them and think that a convention or festival is your best bet. How do you do this? What’s the etiquette? How do you market yourself? Should you participate in an art show or just book a table? And is what you’re selling even allowed? In this panel, learn the dos and don’ts of being an artist on the convention or festival circuit.
Thornhill room

5:00
Tabletop Games You May Never Have Heard Of
Are you bored of playing Monopoly and Risk over and over? A fan of RPGs but unsure what the best party games are? Curious about which games are best for specific numbers or types of people? This panel is a great opportunity to learn about and share recommendations for tabletop games from those in the know!
Oakridge room

6:00
Brain Lag launch party
Brain Lag invites all Ad Astra attendees to join us at our spring book launch party celebrating the release of Why I Hunt Flying Saucers And Other Fantasticals by Hugh A. D. Spencer and Tinker’s Plague by Stephen B. Pearl! The authors will be on hand to give readings and sign autographs, there will be free snacks and drinks, and we’ll be featuring an exclusive sneak peek at the cover art for the upcoming sequel to Tinker’s Plague, Tinker’s Sea!
Room 1080 (penthouse suite)

Sunday

12:00
Setting Up Shop as an Indie Publisher
So you want to be an indie publisher. How do you bring other authors on board? How do you build your reputation within the literary community? In this panel, learn from those who have done it how to be a publishing entrepreneur, and get tips on start-up costs, marketing, and what it takes to get started.
Newmarket room

3:00
Sunday Afternoon Fantasy Reading
Join authors Catherine Fitzsimmons, Rob Howell, Cameron Currie and Brandon Draga as they read a fantastical selection from their work.
Oakridge room

I hope to see you there!

A new beginning, a few weeks late February 19, 2016

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I’ve just made a small change to the design of this blog that may mean bigger things for it: the tagline, which now mentions my art, writing, and interests.

I started this blog with the intention of focusing only or at least primarily on the things I produce. But, inspired a bit by a number of book review blogs I checked out recently, I’ve decided that I will start talking here about the things I enjoy, even if they aren’t directly related to my art. Maybe nobody will care about it, but trying to write posts just for other people has resulted in skeletal updates here for the past… years.

Besides, if you’re here visiting my personal blog, you must be looking for more information about me, right?

In the spirit of book blogs, I’m going to start by sharing my reading progress so far this year. I kind of devoured books in January, surprising even myself with how many I finished – I read more published books in the first six weeks of this year than in all of 2014.

I’ve also started reviewing books again. When I started this blog, I posted reviews of the books I’d read, though when I discovered Goodreads, I moved all my reviews there. In the past couple years, my reviews were feeling too formalized and time-consuming and I pretty much stopped making written reviews and simply left star ratings. But even if just for my own reference, it’s nice to go into greater detail about what I liked and what I didn’t, and I’m taking the reviews a little less seriously this time.

So, here is my reading progress in 2016, with links to my reviews of each: (more…)

Indiegogo campaign a success! July 30, 2013

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Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the fundraising campaign to create a live action trailer for Enduring Chaos. Thanks to your generous contributions, we surpassed our fundraising goal! I’m really looking forward to creating the trailer for my next book and seeing how it all comes out. I’ll be sharing progress updates here as it commences.

Also, one final reminder that I will be at the Pirate Festival in Milton, Ontario this weekend, Saturday through Monday. Look for Brain Lag in the Local Authors booth, or come out for a reading on the stage from 2:30-3:00 p.m. each day of the festival. I will be reading from Aurius on Saturday, Halcyon on Sunday, and I’ll be giving a new advance reading from Enduring Chaos on Monday. In addition, I’m very excited to say that I’ll have a sneak peek of the cover art for Enduring Chaos to share during the reading. So come out and have a look. Hope to see you there!

Final countdown July 26, 2013

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Huge thanks to everyone who has contributed to the Indiegogo campaign to create a live action trailer for my next book Enduring Chaos. We’re in the home stretch now – just two days left to fund the project. Please visit the campaign page today and help me make this dream a reality!

We’re also one week away from the Pirate Festival, where I will have a booth with other local authors. I will also be giving readings on the stage from 2:30-3:00 every day of the festival, including an advance reading from Enduring Chaos.

Other development with Enduring Chaos has forestalled updates here, and I regret to say it may be that way as we get into the final crunch time before its late November release. I will, however, be updating the Sisters of Chaos website regularly up until the release of the first book, so be sure to follow that for new material.

Also, I am pleased to report that I have made progress on the cover art for Enduring Chaos. Stay tuned! I hope to be able to reveal it soon.

Thanks for watching. This is an exciting time for me and I hope you’re as interested in the progress of Enduring Chaos as I am.

Introducing Sisters of Chaos! July 7, 2013

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The official website for my upcoming fantasy trilogy is now live! Check it out today for more information on the books and the world where they take place. I will be updating it biweekly on Fridays with new information on the world and even brand new short stories up until the release of Enduring Chaos.

Among the new material added to the site are two videos taken by fellow author Stephen B. Pearl. The first is an interview Stephen did with me at Ad Astra in April:

And the other is a recording of an advance reading I gave from Enduring Chaos at Faery Fest in Guelph two weeks ago:

Finally, please don’t forget about our Indiegogo campaign to produce a live action trailer for Enduring Chaos. We’ve made some great progress toward reaching our goal so far, but we still need your help. Contribute today for pre-release copies of the book and help spread the word!

Ad Astra schedule March 25, 2013

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I’ve received my schedule for Ad Astra, Toronto’s original scifi/fantasy literary convention, happening April 5-7. I will be sitting on a few panels for the first time, and I am proud to announce that I’ll be hosting two panels alongside New York Times bestselling author and convention guest of honor Jim Butcher! For those who will be attending the convention, I hope to see you at any of my events that weekend:

Friday, April 5

10:00 p.m., Franklin – I Love to Hate You

Ed Greenwood (m),  Jim Butcher,  Fiona Patton, Gregory A. Wilson, Catherine Fitzsimmons

In this panel, examine what is involved in creating a truly great villain.  By discussing some examples of favourite well-written villains and what makes them memorable, you will gain a better understanding of how to make your antagonist someone that everyone loves to hate.

Saturday, April 6

11:00 a.m., Berczy A – Is the Stand-Alone Novel an Endangered Format?

Julie Czerneda (m), Robert J. Sawyer, Catherine Fitzsimmons, Jim Butcher

More and more books are coming out in series format. While this may be publisher driven, it is just as likely consumer driven.  In the face of this trend, it may become impossible to successfully pitch a stand-alone work, and the temptation to force a series may become irresistible.  Is there still a place in publishing for a stand-alone book?  This panel seeks an answer.

4:30 p.m., Berczy B – Autograph session

6:30 p.m., the penthouse (room 1401) – Brain Lag launch party

Come join us for the official launch of Brain Lag, the newest fantasy/scifi publisher in the GTA. Learn what we’re all about, meet the team, get a first sneak peek at an upcoming title, and celebrate our opening for submissions with OPEN PITCHES! Bring us your novel and you could be one of the first authors under Brain Lag. Prizes, refreshments, discounts, goodies, and more!

Sunday, April 7

10:00 a.m., Ellesmere East – Writing High Fantasy

Marie Bilodeau (m), Catherine Fitzsimmons, K.W. Ramsey, Gregory A. Wilson

Discover what makes a fantasy story epic, as well as the basic elements of high fantasy in this panel. Also, with fantasy TV going mainstream, now is the right time to focus on writing a fantasy novel, but the genre is littered with potential pitfalls and deadly clichés. Learn some should haves (and must avoids) when writing high fantasy.

2:00 p.m., floor 2 suite 2 – Author reading: Catherine Fitzsimmons

Come join me for an exclusive first look at my upcoming fantasy novel Enduring Chaos, the first book in the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, scheduled for release this fall.

Ad Astra looks to be an exciting convention for me this year. Hope to see you there!