Monday, February 29, 2016

Celebrating the art of breathing and the miracle of ice...

I have just gotten over yet another cold. I really hope my immune system recognizes that I have now had my entire year's worth (more than, actually) of colds in the past two months, and will consequently bar all future virus' entry. (That's totally how immunity works, right?) Sigh...

Anyway, to celebrate having once more regained the ability to breathe through my nose (not to mention feeling like I had enough energy to leave the house) I grabbed the dog and took her for a lengthy stroll on the Red River. And of course, since this is Winnipeg, and it's February, I really mean ON the river. We didn't skate, because I didn't know if I'd have the energy, but in retrospect, I think Artemis and I both would have preferred it if I'd been on skates. (She would have been warmer from running, and I would have enjoyed covering more distance.)

Regardless, we managed to cover just over five miles all told (out and back). I snapped a few cell phone shots to commemorate the occasion. So here you are, on the very last day a February, a look at the walking trail that runs next to the skating trail that runs a total of about 6km on the Red. (We only did a portion of it today, but I plan to head back out there with skates tomorrow and see if we can do the whole distance.)

Artemis turns to look at me and say, "would you hurry the hell up, woman? My paws are freezing!"


Wind up! Tail down. Must keep the priority bits covered.


Artemis and I were both mesmerized by the patches of clear ice underneath one of the bridges. Join me in the next photo to appreciate a more detailed look.

Ok. So the phone camera doesn't really do it justice but... the ice is clear enough that you can see fissures that run about three feet down. Which is terrifying until you realize... there's at least THREE FEET of ICE beneath your feet. That is plenty to hold up the weight of a human and a dog... and all the large trucks and bobcats that they use to keep the ice groomed along the river. 

There are probably only a few more days left to enjoy the frozen river. The forecast looks like it will stay good and cold for until Friday, but then it will start going above freezing consistently enough that we're unlikely to be able to keep our river trail for much longer. Consequently I have every intention of heading out to skate for the next few days and trying to make the most of it while I can. Sure as hell beats a gym membership. 

Happy winter everyone! See you in March.



Monday, February 22, 2016

Festival du Voyageur!

Hey folks, sorry for the long silence but the past ten days have seen me quite distracted with our local winter festival: Festival du Voyaguer!

The Barthouse Band of which my talented husband is a member, played most days at the festival, and that meant that we spent a lot of time there over the past two weeks. In addition we had some family visiting from out of town. All in all, a wonderful time was had by all, but it kept me busy enough that I didn't manage to get any blogging done.

To make up for it, here is a series of pictures and videos from the festival and other assorted adventures since the last time I posted.

We all got dressed up in period costume to play music in the fort at one of the cabin jams! (Not the most flattering look for me, but it was quite warm.) 

We took Corey's cousin skating on the river! Always a lovely way to spend the day.

We also watched a fashion show on the river, drank some "caribou" and maple whiskey, and warmed up by the fire. (Notice the shot glass in Amber's hand? It's made entirely of ice.)



The Barthouse Band rocks the Sugar Shack!



And they slowed it down with some sweet hurdy gurdy tunes as well



Monday, February 8, 2016

For those of us who like data

Hey folks,

So, I'm recovering from a nasty illness that had me down and out for all of last week. Consequently, I'm way behind on my Indie Authoring videos and such, for which I apologize. However, for those who are interested in independent authoring I can't recommend authorearnings.com enough. Run by highly successful indie author Hugh Howey (who was once kind enough to let me interview him) and a number crunching tech guy who simply goes by the call sign Data Guy, authorearnings.com is a fantastic resource for authors who are trying to decide between independent and traditional publishing routes. It's also useful if you've already decided one way or the other but would simply like to keep abreast of publishing industry trends in sales and author earnings. Their latest report (which just came out today) can be found here.

If you want to make educated decisions about your publishing path, there is no better source.

As for everything else... I'm working to catch up on, well, everything. There's lots to do. I will post more as I succeed in ticking off accomplishments.

Hope everyone is enjoying their winter. Artemis is enjoying hers.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Pardon my french...

... but my newest character curses a lot. She's a 17 year old. She's feisty. She likes to drop F bombs and more creative language as well. And... well, I think she's hilarious, but I am, of course, quite biased.

Here's the thing, I'd like to post a preview of this story here, because I'm excited about it and curious if anyone else will find it even remotely funny, and because it's the main thing I'm focusing on besides the Blade's Edge sequel and THAT is not ready for public consumption.

I'm not sure that this is yet, either, but I'm way less worried about it.

This is my silly parody YA Fantasy/Urban Fantasy adventure series currently titled: Victoria Marmot *Average Teenage Girl *and by average we mean not really average at all 

That's just a working title and may not stick, but it makes me giggle, so for now it stays.

Here's the working cover:


Which, again, is totally subject to change and really just for fun, but which I like enough to share anyway.

And now here's the preview which is... well it's completely unedited. I'm not even sure that I'll keep this scene because it's a little wonky, but I enjoyed writing it, and it's weird and quirky and made me laugh so hopefully you will enjoy it. If you didn't catch the implied warning earlier, there are curse words in here, so, if those bother you, I recommend you skip it. Please remember that this is a parody of a number of YA titles that I have loved and/or hated over the years. Let's see if you can guess which ones (although this first chapter doesn't give as many hints as following chapters do). 

Hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think down in the comments!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Victoria Marmot 
Chapter 1
The Forest of Life

Aside from the fact that she was lost, there seemed to be nothing remarkable about Victoria Marmot. 

“Hello?” 

Victoria paused between the dark shadows of the trees, the light ominously fading from the sky overhead as she looked around in search of some clue as to where she was.

“Who’s there?”

She peered into the dimming twilight that played between the trunks and branches of the trees around her and listened to the ominous silence of the forest.

“Actually I’m listening to some asshole narrating my every move while remaining hidden. Who is that?”

Her jet black hair glimmered in the fading light, the startling green of her eyes reflecting the confusion that perplexed her cheeks.

“How the hell does confusion perplex someones cheeks? That doesn’t even make sense. And who the fuck is talking out there! Show yourself!”

“What do you mean it doesn’t make sense?”

“Cheeks can’t be perplexed with confusion, that makes no sense.”

“Of course they can. Loo—”

“Who the fuck am I talking to? Why can’t I see you? And why on earth are you just narrating what I’m doing?”

Slowly a shadowy form began to take shape in front of Victoria, causing her eyes to widen, perhaps in horror, perhaps in wonder.

“Definitely horror. You appeared out of fucking nowhere. Who are you?”

“Is that any way to address your narrator?”

“My narrator?”

“Yes. Your narrator.”

“I wasn’t aware that I had a narrator.”

“You didn’t, your story didn’t start until just recently.”

“But I’ve had a whole life up to now. It’s not like I just popped into existence. Unlike some people I could mention.”

“Yes, well, you may have existed, but you weren’t up to anything interesting. At least nothing story worthy. This is the place where things are about to get good.”

“Is it? Because I was just thinking that things were about to get really bad. Lost in the woods, sun setting, creepy fucking voice knowing my name and describing my movements in the darkness and then a shadowy woman in skin tight leather appearing out of nowhere… Not exactly on my list of indicators that things are going well.”

“Well, that shows what you know. This is the start of your first real adventure.”

“Even so, why do I need you, exactly?”

“You don’t, but they do.”

“They who?”

“The audience.”

“What audience?”

“The folks reading this account.”

“What account? You’re just doing voice overs in an empty bit of forest.”

“That’s what you think. I’m also transcribing this for posterity.”

Victoria stared at the shadowy figure with a face of perplexion. 

“Is English not your first language?”

“What do you mean?”

“Perplexion is not a word.”

“Is so.”

“No, you’re making that up and you’ve used a bunch of cliches already. You’re really not doing this very well.”

“Well, tough cookies, little girl, I’m all you’ve got.”

“Look, not that I’m convinced that you’re not just some crazy woman in the woods, but why don’t I narrate my own story?”

“Who’s crazy then? Planning on going around referring to yourself in the third person throughout the rest of your life?”

“Why does it have to be third person? Why can’t I just narrate in the first person?”

“Don’t you have to be some sort of angsty teenager to pull that off?”

“Who says I’m not?”

The gorgeous redhead half hiding in shadows leveled her gaze at the young woman standing before her. Her glare attempted to convey her disdain for this minuscule deception. She was only too aware of the young woman’s level headedness. After all, who didn’t run away screaming when a woman popped out of the shadows at you narrating your every move? Only a young woman made of stern enough materials for the Quest at hand.

“See, you’re just narrating yourself in the third person! You sound like a self absorbed lunatic. Why can’t I just do it in first person? And does it have to be aloud?”

The shadowy figure shook her head.

“You know I’m right here, you could just shake your head, you don’t have to narrate it.”

“It’s not for you, it’s for them.”

“Right… ‘them’… Look, what were you going to do when it got to the bits I was thinking anyway?”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Like what about when it gets to the part where the main character thinks ‘I must be going mad to be talking to a crazy woman pretending she’s my narrator in an ever darkening forest instead of running for my life?’”

“I was going to narrate that stuff in italics when it was important.”

“Aha! So that means I could just think the whole thing and it would be fine.”

“But then what will I do?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Leave me the hell alone? Were you really just here to narrate anyway? Seems like you could do that from afar.”

The shadowy figure pondered that question, unsure if she should reveal her true purpose to Victoria before it was time. 

“You can stop that, really. And it’s fine if your purpose is secret. Just… let me narrate the damned story. You’re creeping me out even more than this eerily quiet forest.”

“Fine YOU can narrate, but I’m not leaving, and if I think you’re skipping parts I’m taking over again.”

“Fine,” I said, unsure what would constitute leaving things out. How could you skip parts of your own life?

“So, any suggestions about where I should head from here?” I asked the shadowy woman. But even as I said the words she faded from sight and made no response.

“Great,” I said to the empty forest. “Well, that was terrifying and weird. What the hell is supposed to happen next if that was just my narrator?”

As if on cue, a faint glow began shimmering in the distance, and, the rest of the forest having gone completely black while I talked to the crazy woman who thought she was my narrator, I decided to aim for the light. After all, clearly things were about to get interesting. 

As I trudged through the sparse underbrush under a canopy of branches and starlight I cursed the asshole who had abandoned me once more. That was the last time I would pick up a guy at a cafĂ©. What kind of asshat kicks you out of his car because he discovers that you hate Justin Bieber? I couldn’t decide if he was more of a douchetart for liking Justin Bieber or for kicking me out of his car for not liking him. They were both pretty grave offenses. And he didn’t even drop me at the next gas station, or the next phone booth, or anything reasonable, just right on the side of the small winding road that we had been taking to the volcano tubes. Of course, I probably shouldn’t have left the road, but after 20 minutes of standing there without a single passing car, I had thought I  heard voices in the forest and had decided to walk towards them and see if I could find anyone with cell coverage. My cheap ass pay as you go plan clearly didn’t cover this area.

Twenty minutes of searching hadn’t gotten me anywhere near the voices I had thought I’d heard, but it had finally dropped me in front of the crazy woman who was narrating my life as it happened. Of course, perhaps she had been the voice I had heard… but I didn’t think so. Anyway, now there was this soft light in the distance and I was going to head towards it because… well what the hell else was I supposed to do? I didn’t even know where the road was anymore. 

Suddenly the light in the distance flared brighter, bright enough to blind me temporarily, and when I blinked my pupils back into functioning, there was a smallish tree before me that hadn’t been there a moment ago.

YOU WERE TAKING TOO LONG.

“What the hell? Is that another narrator?” I asked looking wildly around the forest that surrounded me.

I AM NOT A NARRATOR. I’VE BEEN TOLD THE ALL CAPS WOULD BECOME TEDIOUS AFTER A WHILE.

My eyes finally settled back on the tree in front of me, and, not seeing anything else around that had changed and deciding that weird was just the order of the day, I addressed my next question to it.

“Who are you?”

I AM THE TREE OF LIFE.

“Really? Like the one from Norse mythology? I thought you would be bigger.”

NOT THAT ONE.

“There’s another one?”

YES. THERE IS ME.

I took a good look at the smallish tree before me. The trunk was only about twice the size of an average human, and now that I looked at it closely I could see two small beads of light looking out at me from two dark, recessed holes. I took a step backwards, and saw that the overall shape of the tree was sort of like that of a figure wrapped in a hooded cloak… holding a scythe…

“You know you look a lot like—”

I AM THE TREE OF LIFE.

“Sure, but, you look just like a wooden version of—”

THE TREE OF LIFE

“Who happens to look just like a character named D—”

I AM THE TREE OF LIFE. ANY SIMILARITIES BETWEEN ME AND ANYONE ELSE IS COMPLETE COINCIDENCE.

“But you’re even speaking in all caps.”

TREE OF LIFE

“But you’re holding a scythe and everything.”

I WILL NOT SAY IT AGAIN.

“Are you sure? You seemed to be enjoying it.”

THAT’S ENOUGH OUT OF YOU. WE HAVE OTHER THINGS TO DISCUSS.

“Such as?”

SUCH AS YOUR QUEST.

“I have a quest?”

ISN’T THAT WHY YOU’VE COME HERE?

“Is it? I thought I was just lost in the woods.”

NO ONE IS EVER JUST LOST IN THE WOODS.

“Oh?”

NOT IN STORIES.

“And this is a story is it?”

YOU HAVE A NARRATOR DON’T YOU?

“Ah… yes… well, sort of. I… might have fired her.”

FIRED HER?

“Well…”

“Don’t worry, Death, darling I’m right here.”

I AM THE TREE OF LIFE!

“Of course you are, sugar.”

The crazy woman who appeared from nowhere had done so yet again and now she stood between the talking tree and I with her hands on her hips and her red hair catching moonlight from a moon that wasn’t there. 

GWEN YOU CANNOT LET THE GIRL FIRE YOU. YOU ARE NEEDED.

“I didn’t. I just decided to let her narrate things for a while. That’s not my main job and you know it.”

“Gwen? You know the talking tree?” I asked, not sure which of those things was more unsettling. 

Was I being set up by a ridiculous cast of hallucinations? Surely I was going mad? Or dreaming. Maybe I was dreaming.

“You’re not dreaming,” said Gwen, clearly reading my mind… or my narration. Whichever. It was still creepy.

MAY WE RESUME DISCUSSING THE QUEST?

“Sure, Death,” I said, deciding to roll with Gwen’s use of the tree’s denied identity. 

I AM THE TREE OF LIFE. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT.

“Ok… but Tree of Life is entirely too long for a name. So what can I call you for short?”

HOW ABOUT ‘LIFE?’

I smiled at the thought of addressing this character as Life, but decided to roll with it. Hey, I was just a girl lost in a forest. Who was I to judge?

“Ok, Life. Tell me about this quest.”

WELL, WHICH QUEST ARE YOU ON?

“I thought we covered this, I’m not on a quest.”

BUT—

“She hasn’t gotten to the QuestMaker yet,” Gwen threw in helpfully.

THEN WHY IS SHE HERE?

“She was on her way there, I was about to redirect her a bit, but then you started glowing.”

I DID NOT. I DON’T GLOW.

“And your name isn’t Death.”

IT ISN’T.

“M’k.” Gwen sounded as though she was merely placating the ma— er… Tree. Life. Whatever you wanted to call him.

“Any chance you guys want to fill me in on what’s going on here?”

“You haven’t been issued your Quest yet?”

“Haven’t been issued my Quest? Is that supposed to make sense to me?”

ALL WILL BE MADE CLEAR IN TIME, said Life, before fading from sight.

“He’s normally not that dramatic,” said Gwen. “You just have to visit the QuestMaker before you start, is all. He showed up early and now he’s trying to add a little flair to make up for it.”

Gwen could say what she wanted, but having so many improbable things happen, especially the fading in and out of existence bit, in so little time was really starting to make me question my sanity. Twenty minutes ago I would have told you there was zero chance that I had been roofied, or worse, given an unwilling dose of acid, but now I was pretty far from convinced.

Trees did not appear and disappear from thin air. And they didn’t talk to you in all caps either. 
Gwen barely gave me time to shake my disbelieving head when she grabbed my elbow and linked arms with me. It seemed a highly improbable gesture for her.

“Are we confidants in an Austen book now?” I asked.

Gwen smiled and was suddenly wearing a giant Victorian dress that tangled up my legs as I attempted to walk to next to her. Luckily her grip on my arm kept me from falling.

“Sorry about that,” she claimed, real concern touching her voice. “Useless things, dresses.”

I managed to regain my balance as the enormous skirts disappeared again leaving her wearing just the tight leather get up she’d been wearing earlier. 

“So that’s a ‘no’ on the Austen bit?” I asked, once my legs were back under me. 

“Not if I can help it,” she replied. “But the woods are dark, and you could trip on anything, skirts or no skirts, and we still have to find the damned QuestMaker and then get you home before your parents worry.”

I stopped where I was and narrowed my eyes at her.

“I don’t have parents to worry. Shouldn’t you know that if you’re my narrator?”

“You’re the one narrating now, which means I don’t have the backstory anymore.”

“But you did have it?” 

She nodded.

“But it reverted back to you when you took over.”

“So that means?”

“It’s yours to reveal when you see fit.”

“And you don’t remember it at all?”

“Nope.”

“Hmmm…”

“What?”

“That’s suspicious.”

“More suspicious than anything else that’s happened to you since you entered these woods?”

She had a point.

I decided either I was having one hell of a trip, in which case I was seriously going to kick the ass of whoever had drugged me, or else I was going completely insane. Either way, as I didn’t seem to be hurting anyone, or myself… yet, I decided to follow the crazy red head in the leather tights.

“They’re not tights. They’re leather pants.”

“Why are they so tight?”

“So I can sneak up on things?”

“Can’t you just dissolve and reappear in behind them?”

Gwen just looked at me.

“Ok, so maybe I like the look,” she conceded eventually.

“Fine, but they’re leggings,” I insisted.

We kept walking in silence for a while. I was just about to ask her what exactly we were doing wandering these woods in the middle of the night when there was a faint shimmering between the trees a few yards ahead of us. 

“What the hell is that?” I asked, even though I knew better than to expect a real answer.

That,” said Gwen, “is the QuestMaker.”