Thursday, March 16, 2023

Burnout is a Bitch

 If you had read my last post at all, you probably had a good guess at what was coming. Heck, I knew what was coming and I ran head first into it anyway.

Everything came to a full stop and I was simply doing my best to make it through each day as it came. I was exhausted and, even when I tried to create, little to nothing came out. It was terrible, it was frustrating and... was is past tense. If I am being honest with myself, I am still sitting the tip of the tail from that flaming crash. 

I'm trying hard to find my way back to everything. To my podcast, my writing, my editing. It's hard. And, in the fashion of being me, I added new things to my life still. Including playing D&D and trying my hand at digital art.

Last night, actually, was my first attempt at really using my new drawing tablet. I have a very sketchy style of drawing because I tend to have a habit of drawing with ballpoint pens on scrap paper most of the time. 

I'm sure, with practice, I will improve and find a way that works for me, but for your amusement here is my first less than an hour of trying.


This was the very first thing that I attempted to draw by myself.

It's supposed to be Fred and, those that have seen a lot of pictures of her actually realized it was her. So, all-in-all, not a complete failure, but it could have been better. 

I also tried a side profile of her head, but I didn't really like that at all which is why I am not sharing it here. 

One thing I noticed was that this style of drawing on the tablet would make a pretty feather, so that was what I did next.

I liked how the feather turned out well enough to then see what colouring a drawing would be like with the new tablet and art program. I liked how that turned out, but I wanted it better blended. With a little bit of a look around, I figured out how to blend well enough. 

And below the progress of my feather:


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Where Have I Been? Well...

Treble turned 8 years old
during the chaotic events



I am only posting this because I took the time to break down the events of the last three weeks. Well, not even quite three weeks because that would be 21 days worth of events and all of this happened in only 18 days.
Sadly, this has been a good example of life for the last few months more or less. Though the last almost three weeks took things to an extreme. However, there has ALWAYS been something going on, some sort of demand on my time almost constantly.

 

Day 1 -  Drive 6 hrs to Saskatoon because I can't get the time off to leave for the dog show early because my supervisor has time booked off. My friend needs to groom our other friend's dog for the show. I can groom my own dog for show, but our other friend does not.

Day 2 - Help groom or get ready to be groomed 4 show dogs. Drive 6 hrs back home, arrive a little late and slightly wired so I need to calm down.

Day 3 - 5 - Back to work! Extra long hours because my boss has booked days off! Day 5 is Wednesday and despite everyone knowing I had to drive 6 hrs after work that day and that I needed to be in Saskatoon before midnight or I would need to sleep in my car on the side of the road, one of my coworkers threw a fit and walked out before the work was done.
Somehow, I still make it Saskatoon before midnight.

Day 6 - 11 - I get up the next morning nice and early to drive to the dog show at a city over an hour

Fred and I at the dog show

north. That day and the next four days are all dog show days. While not extremely busy, and somewhat enjoyable, I am sleeping on a couch, they are long days and a bit hard on the body. Day 11 should now be Tuesday, where I drive home, but not straight home.
You see, I am getting good enough at grooming my own dogs that I am finally getting a new pair of scissors. My first new pair that I've ever bought for myself. It's very exciting, but it also means a stop well off my normal route and, therefore, a much later time to get home. I do get home at a half decent time, but still rather late. I also come home to find that something is not right with my fridge.

Day 12 - 14 - My boss has called in sick (and she was, in fact, quite sick). Though there is an option to work from home, she didn't exercise this option. It was very busy at work. I get home Wednesday night and attempt to fix my fridge. No luck. I'm going to need to buy a new one. Thursday after work, I go to the store and find a new fridge. In the end, I don't get home until 10 pm that night. I get myself packed and ready to leave for Saskatoon all over again. I have something far more than a dog show to attend to this time
Friday they deliver my fridge, thankfully my friend and part-time roomie was there to get it all set up for me since I wasn't going to be going home. Instead, she met me at my office, we drop my dogs off at a friends place and away to Saskatoon we went. This time, I booked a hotel so when we got at midnight, I didn't have the concerns that I would wake someone up by arriving too late.

Day 15 - 16 - I wake up at 530 am thanks to wonderful internal alarm clock. I hate this about me some days. I cannot get back to sleep. Thankfully, this day isn't packed or overly hard. I take my nephew to his football game. It's the first time I've ever been able to attend. Seriously, guys, I almost cried I was so happy to just BE there.
Then comes the reason we are really there. To move my bestie out of her wife's house. It was very sad. There was no anger or stress that way, but when she was off of work, away we went to take one load before heading out to dinner with some friends. We spend the night in the new room my friend is renting until she finds a place.
I can't get comfortable. I don't fall asleep. I'm exhausted.
It's Sunday, Day 16, that we do the rest of the moving. I was unaware that "bring tools" was meant to include a drill. So, I ended up strong arm screwing a TV support into the wooden wall stud. Guys, this is NOT an easy task, but I got those screws most of the way in. It's late and time for another 6 hr drive home.
Let me be clear, I do NOT begrudge my friend needing my help in this way. This was important. I wanted to help her, but I was so exhausted that my roomie who came with me took one look at me and said "You are not driving half of this, you look like death." So, we grabbed some food and she drove the 6 hrs back home. She wanted me to rest, but I want to make one thing very clear. I struggle to fall asleep in moving vehicles. This was no exception. We get home at 12:30am and I shuffle my ass straight to bed.

Day 17 - Hello, 530 am. It's time for work. I am exhausted. I grab food from my fridge and head off to work. I am beyond exhausted. My core body temperature is dropping and as the day progresses I get colder and colder. I wrap myself up in four blankets, I take a break a lunch and try to have a nap. It's a late night. By the time I get home, my stomach is a bit crampy and I attribute it to possibly eating something wrong on the weekend. Some gluten contamination.
It's a late night at work, but my boss left at 530 because she had to pick her daughter up from the after-school program. I am beyond tired. It's 730 pm by the time I get home with my dogs. I picked them up after work, because I wasn't waking my friend up at midnight to get them. Home I go and feed my puppers and I go straight to bed with no supper. 

Day 18 - I realize on waking that it wasn't gluten hurting my insides. It was a mild case of food poisoning. It was not a kind morning, but I still go to work. I work another late one. Once again, the boss left at 530 to pick her daughter up. I don't want to begrudge her that, but I seriously still need some rest. My insides, by the end of the day, are feeling better. Finally, I get to actually LOOK at my new fridge. My roomie hadn't returned to check on her dad yet and had made me some dinner. It was great. I was still tried and went to bed early, but not too early. It was my first chance to just really sit and snuggle my dogs.

I am not officially including Day 19 - because this is Wednesday. Yesterday, as of writing this. Things have finally slowed a bit. Well, maybe by my standards, but perhaps not by anyone else's. My boss had to take her daughter to swimming and left at 5pm. I worked until 630 pm before rushing home for the poodle club meeting. My roommate had left for her other residence (where she helps to keep an eye on her father) and the house was mine. After the meeting, I prepped my meals for the next day. Made some grilled cheese and called myself done for the night.

So, where have I been? Well..

you just got a snapshot of some the craziest days of the last while.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Review: Never Say You Can't Survive by Charlie Jane Anders

Have you ever felt a little insecure about your writing? Life beating you down a bit and it's impacting your writing life? Having trouble focusing on the story that you think you need to write?

Then this book is for you. Seriously. 

This next post was supposed be about my recent struggles with mental health and imposter syndrome, but when I finally got my copy of this book from the library, I knew that this would be a far better post than my own ramblings. 

I don't know about you, but when life is hard my writing tends to suffer. That was the reason this book got recommended to me in the first place. In fact, I am still struggling, but this post isn't about me. This is about Never Say You Can't Survive by Charlie Jane Anders and why I honestly think every writer who has ever struggled at any point should read or listen to this book. 

This book gave me the lift that I so seriously needed at this moment. Charlie Jane Anders interjects her own personal anecdotes and writing journey that really made me feel as though I am not alone in my journey or struggle. It's these anecdotes that really will draw you into this book in a way that many other writing advice books often lack. 

That are many incredible nuggets of extreme wisdom that any writer at any stage of their writing career can cling to before we even get to the nuts and bolts portion of this book.

So, about the nuts and bolts section? Well, the author has some wonderful insights on how to make things work and she gives new ways to look at things in the most common sense language. She gives wonderful and entertaining examples as well that work for both pantsers or plotters. (And if I am being honest, a lot of writing advice isn't always targeted for pantsers).

Her personal anecdotes continue along the way as well from throughout her life and experience. She's not only talking about how she did it in her books. Every story she tells really helps to give a lot of relatable content to lend context to the writing advice.

To be honest, I could go on about why this book is great, but mostly if you write—whether your goal is to publish or not—this is a book I think you need to read or listen to (bonus: audio is narrated by the author herself). This is a book where, no matter whatever you on your writing journey or where you want to go with it, you will find things here that help and resonate with you and make you feel a bit better about your writing journey.

As an addendum, this book is super 2SLGBTQIA positive. I would be remiss in my duties as a reviewer if I didn't mention this wonderful bonus and there is writing advice in relation to this topic as well as in regards to being a part of any marginalized community. Trust me when I said it made my little heart soar to have these things included.

Overall, when it comes to writing advice in these troubled times, I say this is the book to read.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Christmas Cancer Cut Fundraiser


 Guys, I am shaving my head for cancer.

That's the most important thing you need to know besides the link to donate. Which is right here: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/christmas-cancer-cut/

So, why am I shaving my head? Well, it takes a lot of hair and $2000 to make one wig for a child with cancer. I have a lot of hair, not enough to make a whole wig, but enough to make a good dent in the process. So, I am shaving it as a part of donating it to Angel Hair for Kids. An organization here in Canada that makes these wigs. 

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok, you'll get to see the before and after photos from all those luxurious locks in that image to shaved to bald. 

If you can donate for this cause, please do. If you can't, please share so that I can make or exceed my goal. 

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Review: Lucid Book 1: REM World Trilogy by L.R. Evans

When I read the author's logline for this book on Twitter, 'An angsty gay funeral director must stop a bubbly male escort from joining an immortal tyrant', I expected something completely different than what I got. I am thoroughly NOT disappointed, and what I read matches well with the tagline on the cover of the book, 'Dreams are real and they can kill you'. With the logline, I had expected a more humorous tale than the story that delivered more in line with the tagline. I tried my best to not go into this book with too many expectations when the author approached me for a review. My only hesitation at the time is one that might cause hesitation for others: it's a big book.

And, of course, if you follow me on Twitter, you already know that I am a very busy person.

Lucid gives you an intriguing and often action-packed first half. It flows smoothly and strongly, slowly revealing the mysteries and intrigue of this new world we find ourselves in called REM World. It's a fascinating place and Evans does an incredible job of laying the groundwork of the world-building without overwhelming the reader with unnecessary details. It flows beautifully.

The character development is wonderful, bolstered by glimpses into our contemporary world which often adds to the intrigue of the story that is being delivered to us in REM World. It's a beautiful jigsaw puzzle that, in certain instances, gives us wonderful insight in retrospect.

One thing about this story that gave me a small issue is that about the midpoint of the story, I found myself expecting that we were wrapping up already for the next book. It felt like a setup for what should have been book two. However, what came in the second half of the book would have been lacking if separated from the first half. So, I understand why this was one larger book instead of two slightly smaller books. To be honest, I wouldn't have minded the chance to spend MORE time in this world. It really is a good story.
 
In my opinion, the mid-point lull in action which serves the purpose of building up to the second half of Lucid dragged on a bit too long. It was a necessary setup, but a part of me wishes it could have been a bit shorter. I also wonder if Evans had treated the book a bit like two books combined as I have sometimes seen. Lucid Part 1 and Lucid Part 2 (subtitles optional) to make the transition in the story easier for readers to adjust to. Other than one or two clich├ęd phrases, this is probably one of my two biggest critiques.

In the second half of Lucid, the mysteries have become less about the world and more focused on the relationships between the characters. While the first part of the book was significantly more plot-driven—this is what I mean about a shift between the first and second halves of the book. It provided plenty of tense moments and the revelations provided really gave a new perspective to the first half. In this second half of the book, we are also given the chance to see more of the contemporary—well historical to us—waking world of our main character.

This second part really dragged me into love the our MC, Julian. It was also so incredibly heartbreaking and hard. Evans didn't shy away from dealing with some major LGBTQ+ issues and, not to give anything away, also presents an honest trans and poly positive narrative in this second bit. It made my heart sing. There is nothing I love more than to see representation.

As the story culminates toward the final battle, we still have a few surprises left to discover. I won't spoil the ending for you. I hate spoilers in reviews. I try to never do them, however, the end of the book did leave me with a few mixed feelings. Do not get me wrong, I really liked Lucid and I am excited to find out what happens in the next book, but I am also a bit worried. How it ended left me wondering about a few major plot issues--including a certain critical plot point that isn't generally something that bothers me, but that one is too big of a plot point to even mention here.

As per usual, I read the back-cover blurb after the fact and I will say that Evans summed a huge part of the second half in one sentence "A harrowing journey of self-destruction, addiction, grief, trauma, and healing." This is what made it a hard, but worthy read because everything was handled so well.

If you love honest LGBTQ stories that give you a new way of looking at things and if you aren't tied rigidly to the expected story structures and genre conventions, you will like this story. You might even love it because there is so much to love. This was such a close call to being a five-star review for me and I really wish I could so with integrity, however, the two major issues I had did bring it down to a four-star which means this is still a good novel and worthy of your time and attention.

I cannot wait to see what Evans does in the next book.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Review: Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.


 Do you ever hear a book get recommended to people so often that you just had to pick it up? Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is that book. I've been hearing about for a long time and I finally got around to buying only to not have time to actually read it. Thank god for libraries loaning audiobooks because, although, I own a paperback copy of this book (which I recommend), I listened to the audiobook due to my time restraints.

The reason I recommend getting the paperback is not simply because of the worksheets, those are provided as a PDF with the audiobook (when purchased), but because this is something you will want to refer back to. There is a lot of information to unpack in these pages and one readthrough will not be enough for most of us to take it all in.

So, what makes this a five-star rating from me for a writing book?

Well, this book didn't just go into to detail about the structure ideas that they are setting before you, but gives you well broken-down and explained examples of what they are talking about. They are also upfront and clear about any book spoilers that are going to happen in every chapter. And, for the record, they give examples from a lot of books, some of which you may be familiar with and some you may not be. There was at least one book a chapter that I already knew the vague plot of and this was great for me to be able to understand even better what they were trying to teach me.

Another thing to hold up high is the very fact that they say these are not hard and fast rules. There is wiggle room. This, at the beginning of the book, when they were going over the 15 beats in a standard structure, made me happy because one thing I've learned well in my years as a writer and editor is that there is NO one true way. Nothing in this industry is a one-size-fits-all solution and that *is* acknowledged in this book.

Okay, getting down to the specifics: does the 15 beat structure and the 3 must-haves per (their) genre type make sense and are they usable for most writers?

I believe the answer to this question is, yes. I think there is enough inherent flexibility within this layout to make the suggestions and advice offered within this book useful for the vast majority of writers out there. Whether you plot in detail or make it up as you go (or somewhere in-between), there is a lot in here that will really help you structure your novel better. Even if you have been writing for a long time and don't really struggle with structure, you might find this book a bit eye-opening.

And as a bonus? It even helps with the difficult one-sentence pitch lines that so many still struggle with.

So who should read this book? Anyone with a vested interest in the writing industry and not just the writer themselves. I think editors and reviewers will also benefit from giving this book their time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Cover Wars and MORE


 So, for the first time ever I have entered one of my covers into cover wars. Falling Light. I know I might be biased, but I think it's the best of the choices available.Of course, we also know that most people vote for their friend's book which means it's not always a fair contest in that way. 

I would love it if you could vote in cover wars and, if you agree that mine is the best cover there, please vote for me. 

 Here is the link: https://authorshout.com/cover-wars/

Other than that, just a quick update. Summer has seen me stretching myself thin with social demands and the garden. I have a lot on my plate and a lot to do which is why I've been mostly silent in blog posts because that would be one more thing to have to do.

I've been loving working on my new press and have discovered a new love of formatting books. I think it's by far my favourite behind-the-scenes work when it comes to publishing. To the point that I am now offering freelance formatting for those who need it. Just drop me a line to get a quote.

Okay, back to the one million things I am working on, but one last reminder: I also now have a newsletter so if you are curious as to what I am up to, about my life, my garden and new things... then sign up by going to my website, crystallkirkham.com