Sunday, July 14, 2019

Flash back 2018 Writer's conventions' treasure trove of books

The writer's convention I attended in August left me with a bagful of marvellous books. As I'm slowly reading my way through them, I find that panellists are releasing gems worth collecting. As a book collector, I don't merely mean display them in your bookshelf. No, no, no! These books I've found are filled with information worth kingdoms and fiefs.

As far as I can remember—and locate in my unending mass of books—I bought six titles. I already mentioned Jim Jackson's excellent How to Tell a Really Good Story about Absolutely Anything in 4 Easy Steps in a previous post.
All of these books were from authors whose panel were on my extensive list of must-see events.
One of them was Krista D. Ball, whom I was lucky enough to meet in the vendor area, at the booth where her book was displayed. She signed a copy of her two reference books, one of them displaying the name of her panel "What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank[: A fantasy lover's food Guide]."  I did not make it to her panel, but I was lucky to find out she was selling a book on the subject.  If there's something I love, it's history taught in a practical way like this! She also released another fascinating reference book titled "Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes: A Regency and Steampunk Field Guide." I have read the former, and it is far from boring. It contains so much useful information, and I love how reading it sparks some fine golden threads of inspiration through my mind. I have found myself spacing out, as I indulged in what-ifs scenarios, and her writing style is so enjoyable, I've been reading way past my bedtime on many occasions. It's easy to keep reading and if you're like me—you can't get enough of research data—you're going to love her book! I can't wait to read the second book as I admit, both version of The Enquire Within make for a dry read-through.

You may be wondering by now what kind of wonders lay between those pages.
First of all, you need to understand that the author is fascinated (*whisper* obsessed) with food, its history and culture. She studied history and doesn't fool around with facts. She isn't kidding when she says that food is power; it was even used as a weapon throughout the ages.
In Edmonton, she ran the Mustard Seed, an evening meal program, and worked with the homeless, giving her a real understanding of the power of food.

Her book What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank: A fantasy lover's food Guide discusses how to keep your party from dying from hunger while on the road in a realistic way, what foods to expect in towns and big cities, warnings about fake foods (yes, it's was a thing back then too.), food in the military and the navy, what were considered luxury items, seasonal foods and their availabilities before refrigeration as well as how did they manage preservation. She talks about the lives of the rich and the poor, how feasts were planned, and plenty more. There is a section for beverages and medicinal uses for food, including birth control.
She offers plenty of references and recipes to try out as well. I have made her recipe for drawn butter many times! I was left with the feeling that I wanted more, and I hope she keeps publishing such gems.

Check out her What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank: A fantasy lover's food Guide

Follow Krista D. Ball on Facebook or Twitter
come check out her new blogging site.
She used to be found on this blog, while no longer active, the page is still up. It contains lots of great writing tips, information and reviews.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Better Late than earlier

Happy New Year everyone!

I'll be real here, I had a shitty celebration. I bought this bottle of sparkling apple juice because my husband and I love the SNL catchy tune. And I was the only one drinking from it.

My husband's patience ran thin on that day, even though he wasn't mad with me, I ended up alone, a glass of sparkling apple juice in one hand, in my bathtub, crying. I think 2 minutes before the neighbours lit up their fireworks, he came to me, feeling shitty. Well hey bub, long time no see. Way to go, you ruined a perfectly fine night that could have been special. He heartfully apologized, which I guess mellowed things down. He wasn't feeling it, this "New Year". "What's so different about today that won't be the same as tomorrow?" Sure, I get that. But we, humans, make it a special day to celebrate the woes and joys from this year, throw it away fashionably and then welcome the new possibilities of the next year. It's that simple, bub, nothing crazy. He asked me what I had wanted. Same as last year: us on the patio, a glass of something in our hands waiting for the fireworks. A kiss and a "Happy New Year." and that's it. A little talk about the expectations we have. We don't do promises we can't keep, so we usually go with wishes and my feeling for the newly come year.

Now that I got this embarrassingly sad moment out of my way, I thank the nameless internet for blowing that dark cloud away and welcome the new possibilities of this great year to come!

So... What's your feeling for next year?

Feeling? What what?

Let me explain a little...

Every year, a few weeks or days before the new year rings in, I get this feeling for the next year. Usually a single word.
I've started this at the end of 2015 with the word Springboard. Sure enough, it was the year we made a lot of leaps—some of faith. We bought our first house, my husband lost his job, I went back to work after many years to name a few. Life changes for sure.

Then by the end of 2016, the word Discovery came up. 2017 is the year we discovered I had had Lyme disease all those years, explaining many symptoms that didn't make sense together and why all the weird tests I've had done on my person came back negative or inconclusive. Finally, someone had a diagnostic!
Side note: This is why I'm not updating as frequently as I should. I'm drained most days.
And I started the long road of removing gluten, dairy & sugar (except erythritol, stevia, xylitol, monk fruit sugar, coconut sugar, and on occasion only, honey & maple syrup.) from my diet to lower inflammation so the treatment would work better. I dare you to try not to eat anything with sugar for a month. You'll find that almost everything we buy at the grocery store has sugar. Most gluten-free products are loaded with sugar too! Going out is a nightmare, sometimes, I bring my own sugar-free ketchup and mayo and grab lettuce wrapped A&W burger with nothing but veggies and the meat. But most times, the thought of eating at a fast food place makes me want to gag. I was not the healthiest, maybe, but I was never a fan of fast food either. My comfort food is toast with butter, sliced banana on top and drizzled with honey. Thank goodness, I found out that "00" flour is from Italy and people who react to gluten, sometimes don't react to this flour. So I've got the go from my doctor to use is and I'm never going back to gluten-free flour options. I'm making my own bread. It's not as fluffy because I think this flour is intended for pizza, or I don't know what I'm doing, but hey, I can have my comfort food again!

Then 2018 brought the word Progress. There was a lot of progress! I finally started the last phase of my Lyme disease treatment. I feel tired most of the time and need to nap most days, cutting my waking hours by a third, but I'm just happy I'm finally there. I also cheated on my diet like crazy in both November and December which was bad, so now I have to get back on track. You'd think that after more than a year of doing this I'd be used to it, but I still don't know what to make for lunch and dinner most days. It doesn't help that we don't buy a lot of meat. Meat dishes are easier to prepare. If I were on a game show and asked what to make for dinner without using gluten or meat, I would likely be made to fall in a big pool of slime. I've made dishes from AIP (anti-inflammatory, my diet) recipe websites and this is a truth bomb, at least for foodies like me, ye be warned, a lot of them don't taste great. If you're like me, you love food, but can't whip up dinner without a recipe (I'm terrible with spices), but you're hella good following a recipe to a T, then all I can do is blame all those recipes. There's up to so many times you can screw up yourself before it's time to admit these are just tasteless or foul-tasting. My kids don't trust me making dinner anymore, even when I make meat dishes, and those I can do. To redeem myself, I'm a pretty good baker, with or without a recipe.

But now I have a problem... 2018 ended not with a word but an image and I don't know what to make of it:

Wild Flower Field - flickr
It seems positive, but I'm not sure what it implies. Is that our future? I wouldn't say no to a big expanse of land with enough trees to say "I have a small wood of my own". I've always been a forest imp and I'm not afraid to say that I've hugged trees. I just love them so much, it's tough to live 3 hours away from any semblance of a forest. Am I to think this is some blissful, carefree year to come where most of my worries fly away on the flower-perfumed breeze? I don't know. Just like the previous words, I'll have to see for myself, but this is the first time it's not a word and I'm very confused.

In the end, I still got to spend the late night/early morning with my husband, but he felt nauseous, so no sparkling apple juice for him. Then the kids drank most of the bottle on the next day—this is a non-alcoholized beverage.

This New Year better be good, or else!

Nicole is my spirit animal

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Is Grammarly worth trying and what's up with the Premium upgrade?

Today, I let's discuss Grammarly. We’ve all heard about it, or at least most of us have. For those who don’t know, Grammarly is a tool you can find online at When you sign up for free, you can add it to your browser or download the app for your handheld devices. There are other add-ons as well for your PC. I would recommend setting up your profile first and select which English language varieties to use; very happy that Canadian English made it to the list, there’s Australian English as well and of course, the two most used: UK and USA English. You can add words to your personal dictionary, so add up all your made-up fantasy words or newly coined technical terms!
At first, I wondered Is it just an alternative to Microsoft Word’s spellcheck? I don’t remember much about the Grammarly ads I’ve seen, but they left me with the impression that it was a spellchecking tool.

Well, it is, but it turns out it does more than that. So I tried Grammarly, put a random bunch of text in my free account’s "demo document" section and let it run. It checked for the same typos and minor grammar errors Word would, but what makes it different, and I think that’s a big plus for a writer, is that you can set the tone. You have five goal markers you can customize: Intent, Audience, Style, Emotion and Domain.
Intent, which is still experimental as the AI needs some training, lets you pick as many markers as you need between Inform, Describe, Convince and Tell a Story.
The Audience lets you choose between General, Knowledgeable and Expert.
Style can be either Formal or Informal, Emotion—also experimental— can be either Mild or Strong.
And lastly, Domain has a selection for Creative, Academic, Business, Technical and Casual.
And that’s just the online version. I just installed the add-on on Word and wow, there are even more options! I have a Premium account now, so I can’t tell what is not available, but I assume the options to be greyed out as Grammarly would likely want you to know what you’re missing. Here’s a screenshot:
Click to enlarge
So those tone markers help the AI find the problems in your text and address them in the form of advice or corrections tailored to your specific writing style. It will also look for passive voice, which is something budding authors need to look for. The algorithm catches them and gives me pause so I can decide whether this passive verb is justified or not.
Grammarly will also check for filler words and tell you if you keep using the same words repeatedly.
There’s even a word count function that will calculate the average time needed to read your text out loud, excellent if you need to cover a set amount of time for an important speech.

Sorry to say Word, but you’ve been served!

Then comes the paid part. I will say it right away; I hate pay per month/quarter/year deals. Plus, I’m Canadian and I pretty much always forget to double-check and end up paying more than I anticipated. When is the Canadian dollar finally going up?? [cry me a river cue]
Indeed, Grammarly is in USD.

The paid part is not cheap, at least, not if your writing isn’t earning you money. Grammarly sent me a 40% off while I was still waiting for my free month trial (I’m part of the affiliate program and also one reason why I’m writing this. The other reason is that I think it’s a neat tool.). Since the deal was only good for two days, as if they were trying to pressure me and it worked, I took it. I’m sharing the account with a friend, and there are no restrictions whatsoever saying I can’t. There’s a limit of 5 devices, but I don’t want Grammarly to start correcting my text messages. I write well enough but use nonsense words with family. I would expect Grammarly to drive me nuts.

So what does the Premium account offer? Plagiarism checker for one. If you’re afraid your teacher will find out you copy-pasted texts you found online or if you want to see how close to another’s work yours sound, it’s worth using.
Also, it will find more mistakes, such as unclear antecedents, and tidbits here and there since the free version will only look for minor problems. Premium comes with free 24h our help and support. It will also come with genre-specific checks. Or more of them. Pretty sure the free version offered a few.

But Grammarly will not always be right. Sometimes, it will offer an adverb, changing the whole meaning of the phrase, e.g. Short (size) vs Shortly (time). At this point, it’s up to you to decide what makes sense, after all, it’s still just a program that won’t replace a real live proof-reader. That said, they do offer the service, but it’s not free either and not part of the Premium services.
And for all the neat features the Word Add-on offers, you need to close Grammarly if you want to use CTRL+Z. Yep, that’s right; it’s disabled while Grammarly is on. But only on Word, although possibly affecting Outlook since it’s part of the add-on. (Whisper: I don't use Outlook, so I don't know)

Most people writing such an article will tell you to get the upgrade, of course they would, they get money to refer you to Grammarly. Personally, I’m still ambivalent. There are perks, but I don’t yet write professionally (meaning I don’t get paid), so to me, it’s a big investment for what some still consider a hobby. But if you are serious about writing, if English isn’t your first language or you can definitely put that in your budget as a professional writer, there are good perks to the Premium version. Not a ton more, but enough that it does make a difference.

Here’s my affiliate link [Right HEEEERE], it’s up to you whether you want to create an account, but if you do, they pay me $0.20 per free account. The payout is $20 for Premium sign-ups. It’s a way for me to finance my career little by little, and pay for this service. If you don’t agree with that, feel free to just go directly on the website, I’m not going to starve. But I wouldn’t say no to going outside the house once in a while!

My novella project: NEXT DOOR

Today I'd like to share with you one of my main projects.
First, let's just get it out, I have many projects. And I will always come up with a new idea in the middle of projects, often following a really awesome epic dream or research birthing a new concept. I've learned to write them down and try to stay focused on one story at a time. How hard this can be!

At the moment, I am halfway through a series of three short stories that are meant to complete each other. My tentative title is NEXT DOOR, and it follows 3 neighbours struggling with self-esteem, fitting in, and loneliness.
I finished the first few drafts of the first story a while ago and plan to leave it to stew for a little while until I am done with writing the following short story. My first story focuses on a young woman named Michelle who does not want to interact with people anymore, rarely ever leaving her apartment as to spark rumours in the apartment complex. The second story is about Sam who just moved in after couch surfing at a friend's place following a difficult breakup. The last one will be about this older lady whose husband works away from home and is trying to belong to the block's clique of gossiping ladies. What they all have in common, aside from loneliness, is that they are all neighbours living respectively at apartments 200, 204 and 202. Which will be the titles for each short story.

What I've noticed when I started writing Sam's story is that his was in the present tense while Michelle was in the past.
This made me think. Michelle constantly uses the past to keep her from moving forward while Sam doesn't know what to do with the present. So I thought I'd challenge myself and write my third story in the future tense, something that has not been done often. It makes sense since my third character fears the future.

I wanted to tell you about this other project, a sci-fi fantasy novel, I'm also working on, but realized that until I really get to know my main character and get him to talk to me, I won't be able to get into many details. The plot line is good, but not yet finished, and it's still so new, I might as well wait a little. But it will include travelling to other planets and alchemy. Actually, the move I've been delving into research, the more everything is falling into place, so I am really excited about it!

I'll keep you posted with details and let you know when my short story collection will be sent for publishing—hopefully in a novella format.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Writers Convention fun & high energy - When Words Collide 2018, Calgary

Welcome back everyone!

So last post I mentioned this convention I attended—When Words Collide 2018— and I'm here to deliver.

I first heard about attending writers conventions from The Writer magazine. Someone had written something along the lines of — but not nearly as condescending — "any self-respecting author should attend at least one in their lifetime." I thought it made sense that I should. I definitely don't think of myself as knowing everything there is to know on the craft, even after reading quite a few books on the subject, plus I'm still picking up pieces of experience every time I write.
Real people would be an interesting experience and this convention, a great opportunity to escape home and its routine.

I've been waiting for so many years to have some days to myself away from home. I did what anyone with very few bits of sanity would do; I booked a hotel room for 2 nights. I read up on what I should bring to a convention, here's my list:
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Comfortable clothes
  • Light jacket
  • Big bag (tote bag?)
  • Voice recorder
  • Cellphone
  • Chargers
  • Laptop + mouse + wrist pad
  • Protein bars
  • Water bottle
  • Plans and Schedule in my folder clipboard
  • Something to write on (paper + pen)
  • Manuscript (first 2 pages)
  • Money
  • ID
  • Tea bags + empty tea bags if bringing loose leaves
  • Tampons and pads in case
  • Business cards
Upgraded room on the 8th floor after an awful night hearing happy/drunk people in the hallway and the loud bang of doors closing. It wasn't their fault, I tried to close mine silently, it was impossible, but the Tower section of the hotel is newer and walls aren't made of paper.

I decided to stay at the hotel where the convention was held since I don't live in Calgary. It made things simpler: less driving, not having to take care of the kids, not having to bargain with my husband each morning. It was a weekend for me.
But it wasn't without incidents...
I first parked in one of the two portions of the hotel, called The Atrium, where the staff were already getting busy with the increasing flux of hotel patrons and convention goers. There was a fair line up to the registration counter, operated by a single clerk plus a line helper, right in front of the convention's registration desks on the opposite wall, narrowing the passage for those already done with registering with one or both. As I took my place in the line, I was asked if I had a reservation. I did, all good, I thought, but when the clerk called me, she asked if I had a membership with them, and I told her I didn't, which I thought wouldn't be an issue, but apparently, it was.
   "You're in the wrong part of the hotel," she informed me.
Great. So I lugged my luggage and bags to my car, drove to the other part of the hotel—The Tower—and entered another line-up to the registration counter. All was good with my reservation, but my room was inside the Atrium part of the hotel. Really? They offered to bring my luggage over and I accepted, running to the registration desk—in The Atrium—to get my name tag which doubled as my official pass for the whole 3-day convention and ran some more towards The Tower part for my first panel. Wooh! I made it!
I wore very professional-looking clothes, as, prior to attending, I imagined this event to be filled with rows of editors waiting to shake hands with people. Apparently, my view of the real world has blurred lines.
I turned out to be way overdressed. WAY OVERDRESSED. I wish I had taken a picture of myself just to let you judge. On a positive note, I was one of the best-dressed people out there, which never hurts a good introduction. Bonus: these clothes were also comfortable.
Good shoes are also a must, even if the carpet was lush, I walked a lot from one hotel Tower to the Atrium, back and forth almost as fast as the the Olsen twin.
I had a 100 business cards made for the occasion as I heard it's good to have handy (instead of handing a crumbled piece of paper with your email on it). I gave away maybe 5 or 6 of them, but I can keep using the rest for subsequent conventions. I might need to add this blog to the back though.
Not too bad-looking for cards made in 30 minutes on an empty stomach and a tired mind. As usual, I forgot to make them at the last minute. Picked them up freshly made, the morning of the convention. One day it will have a design reflecting one of my published stories.
I brought 2 pages of manuscript I wrote a while ago. I had no expectations of selling my (still unfinished) story, I just wanted feedback on the style and structure. Unfortunately, there had been some confusion and we were not notified that editors—or this specific one I saw—wanted the manuscript sent to them ahead of time. He didn't feel he had enough time to go through both pages and give me proper feedback, so he had to rush through them, asking a lot of questions about how something didn't make sense, when it happened to be explained within the next few sentences. All in all, I was disappointed, but he did give me a few good pointers on how to grab an audience. although I internally disagreed with some of them as apparently, nobody cares anymore for a good introduction like in the Last Unicorn. It saddens me as I have trouble getting into a story if it starts right in the middle of action; I like to know where is what and who I'm rooting for. I don't get this mentality that we should care about someone simply because they are in a bad situation.
Later, someone re-framed what the editor told me as "in the middle of conflict". That made more sense, but I still like a solid introduction, nothing too long.

As part of my list, I want to point out that I couldn't have done it without my big tote bag since there's barely any time to get from one event to the next, often in totally different buildings (or maybe I was just unlucky?). I needed to carry along water and food at all times, and give up panels in exchange for some breathing room and a warm meal.
Another very useful item was my voice recorder. Attempting to jot down everything that was discussed during panels would have been a real struggle, and it also enabled me to participate more actively. I've got a rechargeable Sony digital voice recorder, with decent sound quality (I tried it during a big concert where the organizer recommended recording!). The only downside is the need to recharge it every now and then (I wouldn't say frequently) as the battery didn't last the whole day. At best quality settings, I still got at least 3-4 hours. I should take note to invest in a portable charger power bank for next time.

The weather was really nice during the day or night. Even when it rained it wasn't too cold. In the end, my jacket became superfluous. So was my laptop. I thought renting a room for the weekend would enable me to write in pure blissful silence at night, and even though I did write a little, I was too tired. I wrote once one night and not for long; I stayed up too late chatting up real people (for once!) which is really the heart of the evening at writer's conventions. You run into the same people, exchange pleasantries and when you see them later, people assume you've known them for years as winks and inside jokes are thrown here and there.

Personal preference, but I travel with my own tea.

You might have noticed I put my menstruation kit up there. It's always good to be prepared. So there. Tampons and pads, because I might need them. People, let's stop the bloody shame (I can't do a good British accent).

There were a lot of books on sale as well, but I tried not to go too crazy so I only bought books from authors I met. Those who were willing to tell me more about their books got a purchase from me as opposed to those who were too afraid to discuss them lest they spoil something. So I guess that was also a lesson here. More is better, just don't tell them the big twist and you'll likely get yourself a few interested followers, translating into sales. There were also panellists with non-fiction books related to writing, ergonomics in the workplace and, one I missed but really wanted to attend was a panel about life in the middle-ages. The author happened to be at one the book-selling booths and told me more about her research and the non-fiction books she wrote. She even signed them for me. All of these people got a purchase from me.
I was lucky to catch the author of one of my favourite non-fiction Thesaurus series, Angela Ackerman. I didn't have any of the books with me (because carrying books from home to a writer's event would just be weird, right? Right?), but she willingly signed a page of my notebook which I tore gently and tucked inside one of her Thesaurus when I got home.
The best book I bought is by far Jim Jackson's book. It contains 4 easy steps to write a good story, yet has a ridiculously long satirical title: How to Tell a Really Good Story about Absolutely Anything in 4 Easy Steps. Rarely do we find books on the craft that contain more than vague clues as to how to make it happen on the page. Jim delivers and what more, he appeals to people like me who need examples to fully understand how the information is applied.
No, Mr. Jackson did not ask me to promote his book, I do it willingly because there are too many books out there and few like this one. If you're wondering what books to get, put this one on your list, you won't ever regret it. If you ever meet Jim, he looks like a mix of Glen Hansard and Gavan O'Herlihy in the Willow movie.
You can check out his website and Facebook pages.

So what was the convention like? Two days and a half (Friday to Sunday) of panels every hour, some panning longer and at least two panels happening at the same time that I wanted to attend. Lots of hard decisions were made. In the end, I decided that I would skip all panels about publishing, finding an editor and all the in-betweens until I had a book ready. There were still lots of panels to see within the same time frame but in different locations. I had to cram eating during panels I felt could be sacrificed. My husband came to visit on that first Friday as the kids were taken care of. First date in a long time! Which happened during panels "Writing Believable Sexual Tension & Romantic Elements" and "Kink, BDSM, Consent,
& Feminism". I really wanted to attend those, but managed to get got some romantic content down. I also met Rick, a funny open guy whom I kept bumping into. I guess our friendship was meant to be. And this is the beauty of these conventions in this era where we can easily keep in touch via internet, and know that if we're both going again next year, we can see each other once more.

The mornings were the worst. I woke up earlier than I would have on a weekend and made for the breakfast area, feeling the slight nausea of someone who is not ready to eat yet. After a ridiculous amount of time and looking through their average buffet and delicious-looking A la carte menu, I knew where my allegiances lay; I was a A la carte gal. Their duck Benedict egg was amazing on a croissant, which is a shame as they do not naturally offer the option. I noticed they had croissants and being French-Canadian, I had to have one in my meal.
It's not the croissant that makes me French, it's the love of good food. And that internal monologue in my head screaming Vive la Révolution! every now and then. It does happen.
I met lots of fellow authors and book-lovers I had bumped into during the previous day, some new ones joined our tables, expanding my circle of acquaintances and friends.

The most important item on my list was my clipboard with the printed schedule covering all 3 days. I highlighted all panels I really wanted to see, made notes for back-up ones in case the chosen panel was not what I expected or turned out to be boring. It did happen once where it seemed to me the panellists had no clue how to go deeper into the subject and attendees became the source of information for the whole group. I left mid-way for my back-up panel.
I had a few markers throughout the day where I could consider eating through panels I felt I could skip, but I wanted to attend all of them, making this a very tough decision. Food or knowledge? But knowledge IS food, Sam! and without food, you won't be able to focus on absorbing that knowledge...
I'd say there were too many interesting panels crammed together. Some panels were interactive too, definitely a change from simply sitting on our butts trying not to interrupt the speaker's flow with questions—I'm bad at that, I always have questions.

I didn't get to use much of my notepad, but I did use it. I think any writer should have a small one handy at all time with a good pen or pencil. Ideas don't wait, they strike as they come.

Came Sunday evening, I was both exhausted and full of enthusiasm and energy. I knew I wouldn't be able to do that for a whole week unless they stretched the same amount of panels within that one week, then I'd have time to see all of the ones I circled, highlighted and doted. The only problem is that most people wouldn't be able to afford to take a week off for such an awesome concept. If I were to ask attendees if they would like to do it, I bet they'd all say "YES!" or "Yes, but..." We're all passionate people gathering, mingling, exchanging thoughts, ideas, and concepts for a tight three days. If you ever think you might be bored there, but you love books, writing, reading, meeting people who do, or all of these, you will never be bored. I can guarantee it.

Now go find the next closest writer's convention in your area and give it a try. I hope my list helps, don't make the same mistakes as me and wear casual, comfy clothes. No one will judge you.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Who's Salem Wolfe?

Welcome welcome welcome, as one of my favourite Late-Night Talk & News host would say.

I'm Salem Wolfe, your host for this any time blog.

When we saw this, we thought it was a good sign (hm-mmh), so we moved there.
I currently live in a small town called Langdon, said to be "The Good Luck Town”.
Sadly, no one sells cowboy gears. It's just your run-of-the-mill stores you'd find anywhere.
It's rural, it's quaint, and even the storefronts look like they are from a neo-far west movie.

I need to get my hands on these cool flavours!

What do I like? Give me new things to try, new perspectives, and if you got a flavour that's new and different, I will try it too. Screw vanilla and chocolate! We all got a comfort zone and I try to challenge mine whenever I can and I like to look for trouble when I'm bored.

Some have described me as bubbly, strange, and silly. I’d like to add that I enjoy being challenged, that I will argue until one side has made a perfect point (or both end up crying). I’m that strange breed of introverted-extrovert; I love spending time with people, I don’t mind a good party (as long as the food is great) and I'm okay with speaking or singing in front of a big crowd.
One time, when I was maybe 14, we were stuck in a big line up for a roller coaster in Montréal's theme-park, a lot of us were getting impatient, so I climbed up on top of a cement structure where people could see me, and started cracking jokes to brighten the mood. I’ve always been a bit of a clown and love making people laugh (hopefully along with me). Laughter is the best way to get the edge off!
But I also enjoy not leaving home, to have the house to myself. A good bath and a book. A fireplace and a book. A cat and a book. Husband trying to sleep and a book, while the cat tries to battle with my clip-on lights.
I in my spare time, aside from reading and collecting books, I play video games. I'm a Zelda and Pokemon fan, and a hardcore fan of Tales of Eternia. I've loved Namco's Tales of franchise ever since PlayStation came along.

Spontaneous could be my middle name; I just can’t stand routine. Just saying routine out loud makes me want to throw a tantrum, I don't know why. I get bored easily and if you remember what I said, I'll be looking for trouble then.
I travelled to Germany on a whim in 2009 right after leaving a job with a sexist boss and upper management. I got lucky and met my husband in a small town near Frankfurt. We did Kung Fu classes together. We lived 
there for a few years until he got an opportunity to come work in Canada. Certain things in Germany weren't to our liking, such as bureaucracy, making the move a welcome opportunity. But let's give the country some love...
Three things I really love about Germany; bath houses, maultaschen and Christmas markets

Taunus-Therme am Bad Homburg - aka heaven on earth

Bathhouses are the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet, but with pools, hot tubs and saunas. And you don’t eat them. Okay, not much like a buffet, but you get the idea! We’d pay 13 euros - back then - for a block of 4 hours and if memory serves me right, our favourite place had 2 cold pools outside, one big pool with a tunnel leading outside, two hot tubs, and that’s the public part. The private part (I’m winking at myself there) is a nudist part. That’s right, au naturel, and you get access to the best saunas you will ever experience. Promise. About 6 different dry spas with different temperatures – I can’t stand too hot – and different aromas every few hours, one wet sauna, one hot tub and a few more pools of different temperatures. On top of that (wait there’s more??), you get a special bracelet that looks like a dumb watch which you use to scan your access to the naked part and buy food at the bar. Oh, and you can drink beer there too if you want. The Bretzels are delicious! Then you get dressed, get out and scan your bracelet at the entrance booth, and pay what you owe. This concept needs to exist in Canada, schnell. 
I picked up some German but I wouldn’t be able to hold a good conversation. Since employed by a video game company, our working environment was mostly English, and my husband didn’t bother speaking German with me. He was too happy to finally get to speak English with someone! It’s alright, the only people who mind are my in-laws. No Big Deal …until we go visit them again.

This could be any village in Italy. I'd wager 75% of them
are all atop a hill.

We visited a few more neighbouring countries before leaving for Canada. We drove to Italy for our honeymoon, and if you wonder about pizza and pasta being a false cliché or not, it’s not. Not really... Italians do consume both on a daily basis, and that's pretty much all restaurants had to offer as entrees go. One place did have risotto and another had clams. But we had the best pizza in the world in a small town (you’ll notice they pretty much all look the same and they are all, seemingly, located atop a hill. 
They had caramelized shallots on top. 

We took the train to Paris and let me tell you, the French know how to make food. If you love cheese and pastries, it’s your dream vacation spot. It was probably January, and this baker was ordering her strawberries for 30 euros a kilogram in the middle of winter. That’s hella expensive and yet her strawberry tarts were, aside from being heavenly, only 3,50 euros. That’s considering quality higher than profit. This kind of mentality is at the heart of a food lover's pride.

We also flew to Scotland, more than once. It’s simply beautiful, and haggis with nips and taters is the equivalent of a homemade Québec tourtière without the pie dough. Scotland also made me discover that beer can be an enjoyable experience. I had a glass of sheepshaggers on tap and it tasted like lychee. But the bottled version was disappointing, the lychees were gone too. Pubs are fun to go to, if there’s a game going on, even better! Doesn’t matter if you like watching sports or not, there’s just a vibe in there that’s so contagious, you gotta cheer with the others!

I'll squeeze in that I went to Japan too prior to meeting my husband. Stayed in a charming and friendly guesthouse in Hibarigaoka, Tokyo. Japan is better than all the clichés about them. They're karaoke bars and booths are the stuff of dreams, the food is always delicious, there's too much to see and try in only one month and everybody is helpful.

It was March 2010 that I flew to Japan with 2 goals in mind:
1. Break up with my previous boyfriend.
2. Enjoy Japan like a tourist trying to live as a local
I successfully achieved both and it was for the best.

I speak and read a little bit of Japanese, but it's my French that's better. But that's not a fair comparison since it's my mother tongue. Turns out there's quite a few French words in the German language and a few German words in the Japanese language.
I wonder if my father had been the only one speaking French, would that make it my father tongue? 

I like that travelling so much has given some interesting experiences and perspective. I write fantasy, sci-fi and YA whenever I can find some time. 
Right now, I’m working on a fantasy/sci-fi novel about an alchemist and a magician fighting from inside and outside their mind, and 3 YA short stories about lonely people. I read of a little bit of everything, but I like these genres best. I love research, that's one of my favourite parts about writing. That and daydreaming scenarios. My top 3 my favourite books are The Last Unicorn from Peter S. Beagle, Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi because their characters are amazing and the prose is poetic, Anne of Green Gables and the following books by Lucy Maud Montgomery just because Anne is such a relatable character.
Rainbow Rowell is also one of my favourite authors because her characters are so raw, so real, you can feel what they feel, and sometimes it hurts so bad. She writes YA, but I like to call it drama. I don’t think I could pick a favourite book, but I’m quite partial to Fangirl and Carry On. I love the Lord of Rings and as much as I hated Lord of the Flies, it was a fantastic book that perfectly pictured the nature of children left to their own devices.
I still haven’t read 1984; it’s one of my life goals. Let’s hope this last statement didn’t make me lose too many points.

Expect one of my upcoming posts to be about the WWC 2018, a Calgarian writers convention which I attended this month!

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