Category Archives: Personal

My Most Favouritest Swag Evar

If you follow me on social media you know I have been ridiculously excited about the swag I ordered to go along with Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinn. I am so ridiculously excited about it, and now it’s here! I should probably keep it under wraps until pre-orders for Fire: Demons, Dragons and Djinn become available (because in the absence of that there’s no real ‘call to action’ in this post)… but I just can’t. I have to show them off.

I got the best swag ever to promote this book!! Check it out:

All. The. Dice!!

What are you looking at?

I got custom dice!!

So here is the short-term thing: the book is Demons, DRAGONS and Djinn so I was thinking about Dungeons and Dragons (which I play) and how could I tie that into promotion for the book and then I was like — dice!I love dice.

So, to make a long story short, I commissioned and ordered custom-made six-sided dice. They are red and black with gold pips and where the 6 would normally be is a dragon face and a teeny tiny little ‘RP’.

Sorry about the blurry cellphone photos... I tried really hard to focus but my phone just wasn't havin' it.

All the anthology’s contributors get one, and I’ll also be giving them away with pre-orders and stuff. It’s gonna be awesome! (Just as soon as I figure out the best way to mail them LOL)

Here is the long-term thing: I’ve long looked for some sort of swag that I could do for each of my books that people might actually want to collect (some people do trading cards, which is awesome, but not appropriate for me). Dice are going to be that thing. Moving forward I’ll be producing a die for each of my titles and slowly acquiring them for my backlist, too. Each will be a different colour/pip combination and have a different, appropriate, icon in the place of the highest number but each will also have the tiny little ‘RP’ in the corner. Just so you can tell they are part of the set and not just a really cool die.

And that is one of the reasons I’m so ridiculously stoked about this.

And boy am I stoked 🙂

If you want a die keep an eye on my blog, social media and/or mailing list as we move toward Fire‘s summer launch. I’ll definitely keep you looped in 🙂

Why I Love The Oilers

I posted something about the Oilers on social media a week or two ago and my sister said, “Wait. Why are you watching hockey?” and I said, “Because playoffs and bandwagons?”

But that’s not true. Not entirely.

It is true that I don’t watch regular season games*, but I’ve loved the Oilers for quite some time now so I don’t think I can really claim to be jumping on a bandwagon. Not really.

I’ve always sort of resisted the idea that one should choose a sports team to cheer for based on proximity. It’s kinda ridiculous when you think about it, especially since if you’re talking about major league sports (and for the sake of this blog post I’ll be talking about the NHL) most of the players on that team probably came from away.

I grew up in Southern Alberta. Hockey was integral to life where I lived–you either played it or watched it or both. I spent a fair amount of time in arenas and I loved it. The game. The food.There’s something about the smell of an arena, of the ice… but I digress.

The closest NHL team to me geographically was the Calgary Flames. So I cheered for the Flames. I never really felt an affinity for them but everyone I knew cheered for the Flames (probably because those were the games we saw most on television), so I did too.

As I got a bit older we moved to a different town, still in Southern Alberta, still in the Flames catchment area. Hockey was slightly less of a Big Deal there, but still plenty big enough. I started collecting hockey cards (I still have them. Well, most of them. My brother used some of my ProSet cards as target practice. Because that’s what brothers are for, amirite?).

HockeyCards

I developed a thing for goalies. My favourites were Manon Rhéaume:

ManonRhéaume

and Patrick Roy:

PatrickRoy

So while I still vocally cheered for the Flames I also quietly cheered for Montreal.

But I never really felt like either of those teams were my teams.

Some years later I had a baby, and I was going to school, and working and, well, hockey pretty much dropped entirely off my radar. Then I met Jo, fell in love and moved to Edmonton to live with him.

I grew up on farms and in small towns and then suddenly here I was in Edmonton, the “big” city. And when I first moved in with Jo the neighbourhood we lived in was one of the more poverty and crime-stricken ones in the whole city. There were used condoms and hypodermic needles in the grass up against the playground’s fence, lots of prostitutes and homeless people and more than once our street was blocked off by the police. One house across the street from us was a drug house that had an armed dude standing at its gate once a month or so (during delivery days, I assume), while another had working girls coming and going all the time. To say I found the transition from town to city difficult would be a huge understatement.

We moved to a different part of the city not long after but despite the fact my mother now referred to Jo, Dani and I as ‘city folk’ I still didn’t feel comfortable. We were pretty far away from downtown or Whyte Avenue and buses made me anxious (What if I took the wrong one? What if I missed my stop?) and I didn’t know anyone except Jo’s family, Dani’s teacher and a couple neighbours who I had nothing in common with (and who played their music far too loud). Jo was worried I was turning into a “weird hermit” (his words LOL) but I didn’t know what to do about it. I was completely out of my element and floundering more than a little.

We bought a house (in part to get away from the loud neighbours) and moved again. This neighbourhood suited me better. It was central, but not too central. I could walk anywhere I needed to go, but it was also right on a major bus line. I started to settle into this new location, this new life, but still… a bit out of my element.

And then the Oilers made the playoffs and I started paying attention to hockey again.

It was in the air.

By the time the Oilers made it to the finals hockey was everywhere. People were talking about it on the radio, in stores, on the streets. You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing Oilers colours–painted on the windows of businesses, worn on people’s backs or on flags hanging off cars.

It was awesome.

Once the Oilers got to the Stanley Cup finals I was in love, and not just with the team but with the city.

The games were broadcast everywhere. I’d go to the grocery store, Canadian Tire, a restaurant–it didn’t matter–the game would be playing overhead. I’d run into the gas station for a pop and ask the stranger behind the counter “What’s the score?” and not only find out but start a whole conversation. When games were won our quiet little residential neighbourhood erupted in honking horns and airhorns and shouts and celebrations. I felt like it brought everyone together–the whole city.

For that little window in time the Oilers made Edmonton feel like a small town and I fell in love with it. And that is why I love the Edmonton Oilers. Why they are my team. It’s not because of proximity, it’s because of that feeling they inspired in me. The role they played in my finding my home.

I don’t watch regular season games* (and for far too long that’s all we’ve had here in Edmonton) but my team has made the playoffs again and it feels good. Man it feels good.

LET’S GO OILERS!

Oilers

 

*Actually, I do watch regular season games now (ETA in 2017)

 

This is Jo

Jo

This is my husband Jo and he is amazing.

Every year for Valentine’s Day I plan to do something awesome, to make a big public declaration of love — to write a poem, or a story, or a something — to show just how much he means to me. And every year I don’t quite pull it off. Sometimes I get paralyzed by the enormity of my feelings for him and my limited ability to put those feelings to words and sometimes, like this year, it’s because Valentine’s Day just kind of sneaks up on me.

I met Jo on some forums… my avatar was me lookin’ purdy, his was a sock puppet. And really, that’s probably all you need to know about us right there LoL. We started talking, and I convinced him to get ICQ (please tell me at least some of you remember ICQ?) so that we could chat in real time. Our relationship very nearly ended right there because Jo’s personality didn’t really come across awesomely on instant messenger, but thankfully we paved over those initial bumps and met up in three dimensions in the autumn of 2001. After our first meet-up (during which I had a gall bladder attack, because that’s exactly how romantic I am, apparently) we weren’t very awesome at being apart and I moved in with him a few months later. A few months after that I proposed and he said yes.

Jo is my partner, my rock, my advocate and, when I need it, he’ll kick my ass for me. He makes it possible for me to do what I do and be who I am.

I love you Jo, more and more each day–your kind of crazy is a perfect match for my kind of crazy.

I don’t know who I’d be without you, and I hope to never find out.

Happy Valentines Day!

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Looking back at 2016

Each year I set goals for the year to come and share them on my blog here. At the end of each year I assess how well I did in accomplishing my goals and set new ones. It’s an important thing for me, this setting and sharing of goals. Setting them and having them written down in concrete language really helps me regain my focus when I lose it (which is often), evaluate progress, get things done and also, look back over time and see a bigger picture of things I’ve accomplished. Sharing them on my blog here with you is equally important because it provides a sense of accountability which can be a huge motivation at times when I need it most.

Today I’m looking back at what I wanted to do in 2016 and evaluating how that all turned out. Goals I’m counting as achieved are in bold 😉

My Goals for 2016

  • Speed up my blog/website

So, largely I dealt with this by changing webhosts so it kinda feels like a cheat — but it DID speed up the website significantly. For a while last year it was painful just to try and load a page but now, with the new hosting plan, things go smoothly. Definitely a quality of life upgrade LOL

The book has been written, turned in, edited and copyedited. It’s all done and waiting for release which will be coming August of 2017. I’m super excited to see it go out in the world and I’d work with mark again in a heartbeat 🙂

  • Announce D is for… anthology and prepare it for an early 2017 release

D is for Dinosaur has been officially announced, edited, formatted and all that fun stuff and it’s scheduled for a February 2017 release. In fact, you can actually enter to win a copy if you were so inclined 🙂 This anthology is kind of a monster (well over 100,000 words) and might be the strongest volume in the Alphabet Anthology series to date 🙂

  • Release C is for Chimera on April 19th
    • Promote it sufficiently to break the sales numbers for A is for Apocalypse (based on the first three months after release)

C is for Chimera was released, as planned, on April 19th. Though A is for Apocalypse continues to be the bestselling volume in the series, C is for Chimera‘s reviews are pretty damned good, so I’m not going to complain. I think maybe apocalypses are just more popular than chimeras are LOL

  • Release Sirens (July?)
    • Promote it sufficiently to break the earn out its advance within the first year. Bonus points if it’s in the first six months.

Sirens went out into the world to rave reviews. It didn’t earn out its advance in the first six months but it’s on track to have done so before the year is up.

  • Attend the ‘Despite Excuses’ writing retreat in California this July

Done. I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done but I got to hang out with some awesome people in a beautiful setting so I’m still going to call it a win.

  • Take August off. With the exception of attending When Words Collide… which is work but also isn’t :-p

I mean… I may have worked a wee bit in August, but not a whole lot. Really.

  • Write the first draft of Deadmonton (My Winterknight Towers book), beginning in November and using NaNoWriMo as a springboard to get started

This didn’t happen. I did participate in NaNoWriMo but I didn’t have enough space in my brain to work on Deadmonton. I’m going to have to write this in 2017 though otherwise I’ll be running up against deadlines and I really don’t want this to be a last moment kind of thing.

  • Hire an editor for Shadows and prep it for release

Shadows is in the hands of an editor. I have no timeline for its release, but I’m progressing in the right direction, anyway LOL

  • Host a December blog tour to celebrate the holidays and benefit the food bank.

The Giftmas Blog Tour this year raised $521 for the Edmonton food bank, which is enough money to provide more than 1500 meals for hungry families. This was hugely important to me on a personal level and I am ridiculously proud of what we accomplished.

2016 was an emotionally difficult year for me (we lost my mother-in-law, our dog, some important celebrity voices and politics have been rough) but professionally it was good. I got a lot of things done, read a lot of books and lined up plenty of projects for 2017.

So there were plenty of bright spots in the darkness. I only had to look to see them.

Oh look, here’s one now!

 

Dear Santa,

Santa For the past several years I’ve written a letter to Santa Claus on my blog that includes a wishlist of gifts. This is not an actual wishlist that I want my friends or readers to buy me things from it’s just meant to be fun :)

Dear Santa,

This year has been rough. Really, really rough. But I’ve tried my best to be good — actively worked really hard at it, actually. If I’m not on your ‘Nice’ list this year, you really need to get a new list-maker. I mean, have you seen some of the ‘Naughty’ people out there in the world? Okay, I know, I know, comparing myself to others is not good and could easily lead to my name being put right alongside those people I’m judging. It’s hard, Santa, but I get it. Still, I hope I’m on your ‘Nice’ list because I have a few things I’d really like from you this year.

  • The Fairy Tale — this is a course offered through The Carterhaugh School and though there is no reasonable way for me to make time in my life to take this course, I want to. And given the subject matter, maybe it being nearly impossible for me to pull it off makes it even more appropriate that I do it? Think about it… 🙂
  • A Mysterious Package — Any of them! They all look so amazing! I really wanted to get the Filigree in Shadow one during their kickstarter (I suspect the object will be a camera-type thing) but that was pretty expensive. The ones on the website seem to be somewhat more reasonably priced, though still far from cheap. But still… it’s an experience!
  • A Big Wall Calendar — something like the one I linked would be great, but I’m not too picky. I just need something to help supplement the white board that keeps me sane.
  • I didn’t get to donate as much to Fauna this year as I like to do. If you could give them a donation on my behalf that would be awesome. I really appreciate the work they do and they could definitely use all the support they can get.
  • Finally, five years ago I said, “I could also really use 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.” and yup, you guessed it. That’s still on the list for this year.

Thank you, Santa! Happy Ho Ho!

Rhonda

2016 Giftmas Blog Tour

Money was tight when I was a kid–for several years my mom was raising three of us on a waitress’s salary and you’ve gotta know that wasn’t easy (I talked about it a bit here). Things are better for me these days, but not everyone is so lucky:

“In the wake of the plunging global price of oil, Edmonton’s unemployment rate grew from 4.9% in March 2014 to 6.9% in March 2016. This translated to a massive 31% increase in food bank use in the city. Edmonton is not alone… What sets Edmonton apart is the thousands of people who flocked to the city in May to escape the wildfires further north. This short-term crisis and dislocation, combined with a severe lack of affordable housing and an inadequate safety net for jobless Albertans, have pushed the city’s charitable sector to the limits.”

[Source: http://bit.ly/2gdzODj ]

I want to help. So this year my annual Giftmas Blog Tour is going to be food-centric and raise money to help the Edmonton food bank. Myself and a handful of awesome women have come together to share recipes and raise money to help feed hungry families this season.

Please click here or on the image below and donate to help feed a family this month — whether it’s a dollar, ten or more every little bit helps! And, as a bonus, all these donations are in Canadian dollars so if you are American, for example, your $10 donation might only cost you $8 (I don’t know the exact exchange rate). Also, if you use PayPal to donate they will add 1% to your donation. Once you’ve donated come back to enjoy the recipe I have to share and enter my rafflecopter to win a cozy prize!

giftmas-1

Thank you so much for helping!

And if you can’t help monetarily, there is still something you can do — help us spread the word about this fundraiser. As with donations, every little bit — every tweet or Facebook share — helps. We can’t reach our fundraising goal without you!

To thank you for all your help I’m also hosting a giveaway. The winner will get a cozy crocheted throw (homemade by me!) in whatever colour(s) they choose. I will ship it anywhere in the world, and though the odds favour those people who donate to the fundraiser (even $1!), you can also earn entries by tweeting about the giveaway or just by showing up because everyone gets one free entry as my gift to you 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And now, the recipe 🙂

2016-giftmas-blog-tour

 

Butter tarts are a thing my family takes very seriously. My grandmother’s in particular are kinda famous — no really. My grandmother used to run a the Northside Restaurant in Nanton, which is a small town about an hour out of Calgary.

Once, when my mother was in the hospital in Calgary my grandmother came up to visit her and brought her butter tarts. After my grandmother had left the nurse came in to check on my mother, saw the butter tarts and said, “Oh, those look just like the butter tarts from the Northside Restaurant in Nanton — have you ever had them?”

After Mom stopped laughing she and the nurse chatted about them — it seemed the nurse and her husband would always stop at the Northside anytime they went anywhere near Nanton just for the butter tarts.

…or so the family legend says 😉

This recipe isn’t my grandmother’s, it’s my mother’s. I thought about sharing Grammy’s but figured that might be more than my life is worth… and besides, Christmas really makes me think a lot about my mom (who died a few years ago now). She was never actually a big fan of Christmas, but she faked it pretty well for the sake of us kids LOL And she liked the family aspect that saw us all come back “home” and spend time together. More or less 😉

…back to the recipe!

For the pastry, both my mother and grandmother tweaked their recipes a few times over the years, but for the most part they always seemed to come back to the same one — the standard pastry recipe from the side of the Tenderflake container so if you’re not sure where to start, that’s a great jumping off point 🙂

I hope you enjoy this recipe and check out the rest of the blog tour to see what everyone else is offering — it’s gonna be something special, I can tell 🙂

giftmastourschedule

Tour Schedule:

December 5th — Introducing the tour 🙂
December 9th — Kara hosts Tiffany 
December 11th — Jennifer hosts Diamante 
December 12th — Final day for donations!

 

Remembrance Day

Eric Hill from Boston, MA, USA - Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva I wanted to post something for today, Remembrance Day, but I was at a loss for what. I didn’t have it in me to write something personal and profound, but I really felt–especially given the events of this week–that something needed to be said. To be shared.

Then I learned of the passing of Leonard Cohen.

I can think of nothing more appropriate to share on this day than this video of Leonard Cohen reciting “In Flanders Fields” by John McRae.

 

I remember.

Encounter Cards

DungeonDealerI’ve been spending a lot of time editing these days, and the writing I’m getting done is largely of the non-fiction variety, so when Justin Sirois approached me and asked if I would consider writing some encounters for his Dungeon Dealer Kickstarter I was intrigued. Then, once I’d checked out the project, I was excited to say yes 🙂

In grade one, one of my favourite parts of the school library was the spinning shelf in the back corner which held all the Choose Your Own Adventure books. They were meant for older kids, but I devoured them just the same. Around about grade three (I think) the school brought in some Choose Your Own Adventure books aimed at a younger audience and I consumed those too.

In grade seven the boy I had a crush on played Dungeons and Dragons and, though I had no idea what Dungeons and Dragons was, I wanted to play it too (both to impress him and also because it sounded cool). The problem was I had no one to play with, no idea how to play it or even where to find the books to learn (this was before Google and I lived in a small town with no bookstore). Eventually, in the book section of a thrift store a couple towns over I found a handful of Choose Your Own Adventure-type books in which the protagonist (me!) had to roll dice and keep track of hit points. I played those and enjoyed them… some more than others LOL

Two years later the boy I was dating, who was not the same one I’d had a crush on back in grade seven, DMed my very first D&D game–well, D&D-ish game. We had a borrowed monster manual, some character sheets and a whack of d6s. It was pretty improvisational–and I was hooked. Well and truly addicted.

Dungeon Dealer as a solo activity feels a little bit like those D&D Choose Your Own Adventure-type books, but it has the potential for so much more within a group. I think it will be an awesome addition to our games, or a super fun way to throw together a quick dungeon to run through just for kicks when the party wants to do some hack and slash and forget about detailed plots.

I’m stoked about it, and I’m even more stoked to be writing a handful of the encounter cards. It’s gonna be a good time and, for better or for worse, give people a peek at what my D&D groups have to (get to?) deal with on a regular basis 😉

Deck

Atreyu

Tre

Atreyu “Tre” Parrish

March 2004 – May 2016

Last week we said goodbye to Tre. I chose not to share the news until now because my family and I needed some time to process and grieve in private before letting other people know.

Tre’s favourite things were walks, naps, carrots and ham. He also loved rolling in snow (or leaves), barking at the Bouvier des Flandres down the street and stealing my blankets and he hated it when Jo held a blanket up between the two of them, or if Eowyn (one of our cats) walked too close to his face. He was a bit of an asshole sometimes but he always tried to comfort me when he knew I was upset–up to and including the day he died.

He was a beloved part of our family and we miss him very much.

Atreyu

The Struggle IS Real

BEST (1)

Sometimes this thing we do, it’s freaking hard.

And it’s lonely. And depressing. And sometimes it kicks your ass so hard you begin to wonder why you do it. And the next time it hits you you wonder if you should stay down.

Or at least, that’s how it is for me.

Maybe for you too? If so, I want you to know that you’re not alone.

For me, it’s a near constant struggle. Against the cursor blinking at me from an empty Word document. Against an industry that is broken. Against my own demons (depression, self-doubt). Against that bottom line that just. doesn’t. move.

And it’s lonely. Because no matter how many friends you have and how much support they try and give you, in the end it’s just you and the book/story/poem.

When I first moved in with Jo 15(?) years ago, we lived in a pretty rough neighbourhood. There was a crack house across the street and the house beside it was home to a constantly changing number of working girls. We’d go for walks and I’d pick up needles from the grass beside the elementary school. Our street was blocked off by police cars more than once. It was… unsavoury. The house next door was exceptionally run down, and the man who lived there had obviously had a difficult life. He was poor, I’m pretty sure he was an alcoholic, and he worked fucking hard.

That dude, from sunup to sundown he was working. He’d be shoveling bottles into the back of his truck to take to the depot for a refund. Or sorting through various metals to sell for reclamation. Or–you get the idea. He worked his ass off… but he never seemed to get anywhere.

There are days when I feel very much like that man.

…and then there are days like today.

Today I hit my word goal for the day. Yay writer me!

And today this happened:

Yay editor me!

And this happened:

Yay editor & publisher me!

And it made it easier to remember why I do this thing I do. It’s not for the bottom line that never moves, it’s to make good art. And maybe make some people happy along the way.

…but sometimes? It’s still freaking hard.

21852415405_e98784ffc3_z

 

Photographs by me. Model in the top one is my niece Jayde.

Dear Santa

A GiftEvery year I like to take a moment and write a letter to Santa with a wishlist of gifts. This is not an actual wishlist that I want my friends or readers to buy me things from (with the exception of those I live with LOL), it’s just meant to be fun.

Dear Santa,

I have been REALLY good this year. Truly. And I’ve worked REALLY hard. I’m very confident that I’ve earned a spot on your ‘Nice’ list and so I don’t feel particularly bashful at all about presenting my wishlist to you 🙂 This year for Giftmas I would like:

  • I really need a new big, comfy sweatshirt. My Margaret Atwood one is about 12 years old now, and it looks it. I’ve kinda got my eye on this one from Fauna (white, XL, thx!) because it’ll also support one of my favourite charities. Win/win!
  • I broke my FitBit beyond repair when I was in Washington last year. I thought I’d just live without it, but now apparently FitBit has like, challenges and stuff, and I think that could be really motivating so I could really use a new one.
  • I love watching the birds around here, and especially watching them play in puddles (and in the wheelbarrow when it fills up with water), so I’d really enjoy getting a birdbath. I’m not super picky about the design but I’d definitely prefer it not be one of those cheap plastic types that everyone seemed to have when I was a kid. That thing wouldn’t stand a chance of surviving beyond a year in our yard. Also? New bird feeders would be the bomb. The neighbours down the street have WAY more birds than I do, and I’m a little envious.
  • I’m running low on cool notebooks. These days my favourites fall into two categories: the super cheap sparkly kind from the Dollar Store and the fake leather journal kind from Winnable.
  • Jo will probably get this for me, because he’s awesome about making sure I’m always well-stocked with tea, but just in case Santa I’m almost out of my favourite Chai.
  • I feel like the need for charitable donations are at an all-time high this year, Santa. Usually I pick a charity or two I’d really like you to support on my behalf, but this year I just don’t even know where to start. I’m thinking The Red Cross, Fauna, the Edmonton Food Bank and Plan Canada are all fantastic valid options. And truly, I would be content if this were the only item on my Wishlist I received this year.

…and while that’s true, there is one last item I’m going to ask for:

  • Four years ago I said, “I could also really use 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… that’s still a thing. >_<

Thank you Santa 🙂

Sincerely,

Rhonda

 

And now I’d like to share one of my very favourite songs of the season. Tim Minchin, everyone:

…I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying!

Also, though I’m not a Christian I sure do love a lot of Christmas carols. Here is another one of my favourite holiday songs 🙂