EVEC

Edmonton Emergency Veterinarian's ClinicI’d meant to spend some time this afternoon working on a blog post that was looking back at the year, at what I’d accomplished, what goals I had achieved and which I hadn’t, that sort of thing. But then, life got in the way. Again.

We had to take our cat, Indiana to the kitty emergency room. Again. I think today’s trip was the fifth we’ve made to the EVEC with him. Five. Five exhausting, stressful, traumatic and expensive trips to the animal hospital in about as many weeks. It is unfun and complicated by the fact we don’t own a car so all these trips are made via cab or bus. It’s been frustrating and, did I mention stressful? And I have begun to feel pretty sorry for, not just Indy, but us, too. When I think about it, though, we are pretty lucky, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

It was four hours tonight between the time we left our home with Indiana and the time we arrived back home again. Four hours. Three of which were spent in the waiting room at the Edmonton Veterinarian’s Emergency Clinic. During those three hours I watched three families leave with tear-streaked cheeks and empty animal carriers. Three families who were going to be missing a furry member. And that is not counting the people who were leaving living animals behind for treatment or observation.

Sadly we have been spending a fair amount of time at the Veterinarian’s Emergency Clinic so I know that this was an especially busy and sad period for them, but still, we’re lucky. We still have Indy with us. What’s more, we’re lucky that the Edmonton Veterinarian’s Emergency Clinic exists, and that there are people who are willing to work there. I would not be. I couldn’t do it. They are not like an ordinary veterinarian who sees our pets for check-ups and shots from 9-5. The people who work at this clinic only see animals when they are in crisis. When there is an emergency. And they are open 24/7 365 days a year. That is awesome. They are awesome.

So, I’m not writing a blog today looking back on a year of writing and life, but about a clinic staffed by awesome people. They have saved Indy’s life a couple times already and while I would very much like to never have to see them again, I feel a whole lot better knowing that they are there just in case we need them. Again. I couldn’t do what they do, but I’m so very glad that they can.

<3

 

Reminder

I was just editing the page for Shades of Green to link to a review that was just done of it (ChrisChat Reviews) and in a roundabout way it reminded me that I ought to remind you — If you want to read Lost and Found for free you should do that sooner rather than later. In the near future I will be taking it off my website and re-releasing it (along with some other stories) in other formats.

Sickness and Empathy

Like most everyone I know, I spent a good part of yesterday watching the news, crying and feeling useless. The massacre at Sandy Hook is crushing. It, and the reactions to it that I saw on my social media feeds is what has inspired me to write this blog, but I’m not going to talk about it specifically. I want to speak in generalities because the topic I’m going to address is not specific to Sandy Hook and I don’t want to make it about that one specific incident.

“She’s so sick! I hope she burns in hell!”

“What kind of sick bastard could do that? Death is too good for him!”

These are some of the reactions I notice from people each time something tragic happens that can be blamed on a person. Those events always involve hurting other people often in large numbers or in especially brutal ways. I get it. When someone does something horrible, especially something that hurts other people, we hurt for the victims. It angers us and we want to vent that anger. What’s more we don’t understand it and that scares us. Or, it does me anyway. But here’s the thing… if someone is sick, can they truly be blamed for the results of that sickness?

If you believe in evil and you can dismiss a person and thus their actions as being evil, that is one thing, you might very well want them to burn in hell or think death is too easy a fate for them. However, if you believe someone is sick then how fair is it to blame them for things their illness causes them to do? No really, this is not a rhetorical question, I really want to know what you think because I’m still struggling with the answer myself.

No one would blame a person with a physical ailment for things that ailment causes, so how different should it be for people with mental diseases? People don’t chose to be sick. The same way no one chooses to become diabetic  no one wakes up one morning and goes “You know what I’d like? I think I’d really like to suffer from paranoid delusions.”

To be fair, multiple sclerosis (just picking a random physical ailment here) has never, as far as I know, caused anyone to shoot another person. Or stab them. Or kidnap them. Or rape them. Hurting other people seems to mostly belong to the domain of mental illness, but still, if we are willing to accept that mental illness is an illness don’t we then have to accept that ill people can’t be held to the same standard as well people? Shouldn’t that increase our empathy for them, not decrease it?

It’s freaking tough though because who wants to feel empathy for someone who has done horrible things, whether or not we believe they are fully responsible for their actions? Um, not me. But, when I think about it for long enough, part of me does.

Part of me, a big part, is still filled with anger, confusion, fear and hate, but part of me, a small part, really does feel bad for the perpetrator of these sorts of things. What we see is the explosion that happens once a long fuse has burned down, we don’t usually see the struggling, the pain and the unhappiness the perpetrators have dealt with because of their illness often for years and years.

I was hoping that in writing this blog I would come to some clearer answers about how I feel about these questions about empathy, culpability, responsibility and tragedy, but I haven’t. I’m hitting ‘Post’ on it even more conflicted than I was when I started. I do know one thing though, the world has more than enough anger and hatred in it, so in the future, when horrible things like what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary school happen again I am going to try to respond, not negatively toward the perpetrator, but positively toward the victims. How about you?

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

~ Fred Rogers

 

Dear Santa

Last year I wrote a letter to Santa on my blog and I thought it was a lot of fun, so have decided to make it an annual tradition. I am not writing this to request anyone buy these items for me, this isn’t that sort of wishlist. It’s just meant to be fun.

Dear Santa,

This year has sucked. Not everything about it, of course, but overall it’s been pretty tough so surely I can be forgiven for the times I wasn’t ‘good’? I mean, even when I was bad it was usually only to myself. That ought to count for something, right? With that in mind, this year for Giftmas I would like the following:Diana Baby camera from Lomography

  • Pretty much any of the cameras from the Lomography website. Really. I’d be happy with any of them. That being said though, I do especially have my eye on the Diana Baby 110 camera with the 24mm lens. So far I haven’t been able to get my IR filter to play nicely with my DSLR so if you were to couple that with some IR film I would think you were the most awesomest bearded dude evar.
  • It’s really quite scandalous that as the publisher of an e-zine I don’t have an e-reader yet. That, coupled with my insomnia has inspired me to add a Kobo Glo to my wishlist. This, despite the missing w on the word glow. I picked the Kobo because it is only an e-reader. It’s not a camera, browser, game console, etc. etc. I don’t want to be more plugged in to online or play more games, I just want to be able to read a book in bed without waking up Jo.
  • I kinda want to spit in a test tube. No, really.
  • As you know, Santa, I am in the process of refinishing our dining room table which is a family heirloom. I would very much like to find chairs that fit it. Since we’re using an unusual color of stain I will give bonus points if the chairs are unstained, so I don’t have to sand them before I stain them to match the table. Not that I’m lazy or anything you understand…
  • Lastly, Santa, do you remember last year when I asked you for “some baseboards and riser thingers for my bathroom and kitchen. If we don’t finish them up soon they are just going to blend into the background and we’ll never get them done.” Well I could still use those baseboards and riser thingers.

Thank you Santa.

Love,

Rhonda

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite performers performing one of my favourite Christmas songs ever (even if it does make me cry these days):

<3

Sale: Beneath

Every Day Poets LogoI’m super excited to announce that my short horror poem, Beneath, has been accepted to appear on Every Day Poets some time in the near future. I love Every Day Poets. I love it as a reader and as a writer. I honestly believe they are helping me write better poems. The combination of reading other people’s work each day and the feedback the editors provide on many of my submissions is making me a stronger poet. Acceptance, when it comes, is just a wonderful bonus 🙂

Published: Memories

My vignette, Memories, is included in The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012 which was published today.

From the website:

The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces from across the year.

From the haunting prose of Theresa Milstein and Carrie Mumford, to the controversial and quirky work of H. Edgar Hix and Greg Belliveau, the pathological effects of cigarettes and apple seeds, ice sculptures and mental illness are explored. We meet a lovable old man named Joseph and find out out how the good old washing machine can change one’s life. Oh, and how could we forget a mention of the mother with the scissors?

Each vignette merges to create a vivid snapshot in time and place. Prepare for big stories in small spaces, between and beyond the words.

Read one at a time.

Taste them. Savour them. Live them.

Click here to get your copy. I know I’m looking forward to reading mine 🙂

Pre-Order The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012

The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2012 is now available for pre-orders and I think if you pre-order you get your copy at a discount.

From the Emergent Publishing page:

In late 2011, Jessica Bell and Dawn Ius founded Vine Leaves Literary Journal to offer the vignette, a forgotten literary form, the exposure and credit it deserves.

The vignette is a snapshot in words, and differs from flash fiction or a short story in that its aim doesn’t lie within the traditional realms of structure or plot, instead it focuses on one element, mood, character, setting or object.

The journal, published quarterly online, is a lush synergy of atmospheric prose, poetry, photography and illustrations, put together with an eye for aesthetics as well as literary merit. The annual print anthology showcases the very best pieces from across the year.

My piece, “Memories” is included in this collection and I am very much looking forward to reading my copy (which I pre-ordered :-p) as soon as it arrives 🙂

The actual release date in the 10th of December so it’s coming up quickly.

Clicky Clicky for Pre-ordery goodness 🙂

Don’t Piss On Someone’s Art

See this little guy? It might be difficult to tell because of all the snow, but this is a statue of a beaver. He’s sitting on a bench and holding a hockey stick (he used to have a mug in his other hand but it vanished about a year ago). This little dude lives just down the street from me and I have very warm feelings toward him. I pat him on the nose every time I walk by and I smile at the sound that resonates through his hollow body.

What you can’t see in this image is that people have obviously been letting their dogs pee on his bench. The snow beside him is yellow and gross and makes me sad.

Don’t pee on other people’s art.

You shouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t let your dog do it.

I mean that literally as well as figuratively.

Even if it’s something you don’t personally feel connected to, something that doesn’t move you at all, you still shouldn’t piss on it. Someone put thought, energy and emotion into it. It may not matter to you, but it matters to them.

I had a rule, back when Niteblade used to do book reviews and that rule was ‘If you can’t find anything to like in a story, don’t review it’. Bad reviews are okay but tearing someone’s work to pieces just because you can is not. That’s pretty simple, pretty black and white. Sadly, there are so many different shades of grey involved as well.

For example, how many times have we all seen someone post something on social media (or elsewhere) that they think is amazing, that they have spent time and energy creating and the first comment is ‘Lawlz, you have too much time on your hands’. How dismissive. How rude. How painful.

How easy to do.

It’s ironic, perhaps, that I’d been planning to make this blog entry for a couple weeks now but hadn’t gotten around to it and then today I pissed on someone’s art.

I didn’t really mean to. It was an unthinking thing.

A friend on social media put out a call for people to ‘Like’ one of their friend’s photographs so they could win a contest of some sort. I ‘liked’ the photo and then commented on my friend’s wall about the three things I really liked about the picture and… the one I didn’t. The person in the photograph saw my comment and was hurt by it. She is not (as far as I know) a professional artist, not a pro photographer or model used to having her work critiqued. She is just a lady who modeled for a photograph (she may also have taken it, I’m not sure) and who missed the positives I said about the picture and focused on the negative.

It’s understandable. There is no reason she should have built up a thick skin to these sorts of things. She probably only expected friends and family to see the picture and find all the good in it and it was a photograph to which she had a strong emotional connection to.

*sigh*

I feel bad. I should know better. I really should. I considered before I made my comment whether I ought to share my opinion and decided to because I thought ‘It’s an entry in a contest in a public arena. Surely that means it’s okay for me to share my thoughts, especially since they are mostly positive’ but you know what? Not so much. I assumed a lot by deciding to post what I did, and that’s not fair. I pissed all over that lady’s art.

NAME REDACTED, if you happen to see this, I am sorry. It really is a beautiful photograph and beyond that I ought to have kept my opinion about it to myself.

It’s a tricky thing, I think, to find the balance between discussing art and pissing on it. I’m obviously still working on getting it right.

What about you? Do you have any sort of rules or tools you use to gauge when it’s better to hold your tongue?

(Photograph courtesy of  Amanda Cornell)

ETA: I took the name of the person off my blog in response to her request in my comments.

 

The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers - art by Marge SimonIssue number twenty two of Niteblade Magazine was released at midnight last night.

It is fantastic.

This issue includes four stories and five poems, each of them unique and beautiful.

Table of Contents:

The Curse of the Reaper’s Wife
Hieronymus
The Language of Flowers
The Garden
The Maiden-Harp
Tonight, Tonight
The Orphean Habit
The House That Did Not Breathe
Glacial Raft

I’m going to resist the urge to talk a bit about each piece here because, really, if I’m going to editorialize (and I’m not) I should do that in Niteblade not my personal blog. Still, it is a fantastic issue. I think everyone reading for it, from the slush readers to Alexa and myself, were super selective and aiming for beautiful language and something unique in the story. I look at our line up and there are no poems, no stories that make me go “Well…”. When Jo was doing the layout and asked me, as he usually does, “Which is your favourite story?” followed by “Which is your favourite poem?” it was not an easy question to answer. That, I think, is a pretty damn good indicator of quality, which is totally what we are striving for at Niteblade.

While I think all the work in this issue are fantastic and very much worth reading I am especially proud of our production team for this issue. There were so many things going on in the background, any single one of which could have legitimately kept us from being able to put this issue out on time, but they didn’t. There were family deaths, horrible sicknesses, ill pets and fewer slush readers than usual and we still managed to make it work. Go us!

~*~

On a completely unrelated note — NaNoWriMo.

I won.

When I first did NaNoWriMo it really was a challenge for me and I struggled and sacrificed to make it to the finish line. Then, with practice and some changes in my life (ie: giving up my other jobs), NaNo became really quite easy. Just this thing I did. The most difficult part was running NaNoLJers during it, and then, when Arnold took over that for me, cheering on my teammates on Team Calliope and, this year, Team Thalia. This year though, this year it was a challenge again.

I am depressed these days and pretty low on energy to begin with so juggling dealing with my Mom’s death, Indiana’s sickness, Niteblade and NaNoWriMo in addition to everything else in my day-to-day life was pretty tricky. But I did it. And I am so proud of myself for that 🙂

One way I managed to reach my word count each day was by using the Write or Die desktop edition with the backspace key disabled. That helped push me toward my word goal but it also resulted in a very, very messy manuscript. I would start to write something and mess it up somehow and, because I couldn’t use my backspace I would just put my cursor behind the screwed up word and hit enter a few times to get it out of my face. For example, I’ve copied and pasted the following directly out of my mss:

er :I think

coo a in

eh se

p .

it

e Cal Sanda sa

‘I  t e jo

faz v she lovere lowever

I also wrote in Kamikaze mode, which meant if I stopped writing, it would start deleting my words. Most of the words at the end of the manuscript looked a lot like the gibberish you see above this, but still, they were words and I didn’t want to lose them. So when I got stuck for a word or a phase I wanted to use, I wouldn’t really stop to think about what I wanted to say, I would just write a note for myself and keep going. The same thing if I realised I’d written something contradictory or perhaps forgotten something important (ie: suddenly the MC is holding a torch when there hadn’t been any torches anywhere around three paragraphs before). Some of that resulted in some amusing notes for myself. Like these:

“You’ll be fine,” he replied, and VERBED the cover into place.

Left alone in his room, *** I DON”T WANT TO WRITE THIS SCENE RIGHT NOW ***

he hoped that wasn’t going to be seen as WORD but

***THIS CHANGES, RIGHT?***

*** THIS IS DUMB, DUDE HEARD HIM TAKE THAT OFF TEH WALL AND HE”S NOT A MORON. CUT G ***

***DAMN IT, WRONG POV. RWArR. YES. RWArR!*** (my backspace key was disabled for these notes to myself too, so… typos!)

*** CHECK AND SEE WHAT SHE”S ACTUALLY WA WEARING LOL ***

“Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?” ***GOOD QUESTION***

and my personal favourite:

her voice, cold as *** SOMETHING THAT ISN”T ICE ***

Ahhh… good times 🙂

This novel isn’t finished and it’s my plan to complete it before I move on to anything else, but one of the wonderful parts about writing everyday is that it becomes a habit and then it’s easier. What’s more, it opens my mind and I feel my creative juices flowing easier and more freely than usual. While working on this novel I had three separate epiphany-type moments about how to fix the problems in some of my other novels (Hollow Children, Twixt and Shadows). I intend to keep Shadows in my drawer despite my idea for its improvement (at least for now) but I’m super excited about the possibilities for the other two stories.

Yay!

As for November Poem a Day? I fell behind early and never managed to catch up however, those prompts aren’t going anywhere so I’m just going to keep working through them outside of November. Because I can.