Category Archives: Thoughts

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)

 

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.

Possible Blog Post Topics

Writing is a Team SportAs part of my ‘Writing is a Team Sport’ uh… initiative (is that the word I’m looking for? It sounds awfully grown-up…) I’ve offered to host more guest blogs here than I had previously. And more than a few people have been in touch to take me up on that offer but frequently our conversation gets to the ‘But what am I going to write about?’ stage and then my potential guest gets stuck. Sometimes they get stuck to the point that the blog post doesn’t happen. >_<

In an attempt to help answer the ‘What do I write about?’ question, I’ve come up with this list of suggestions 🙂

Ten Possible Topics for Guest Posts On My Blog

  1. Write a scene from your story from a different point of view.
    • If the scene is a conversation between Bob and Betty and in your story it’s told from Bob’s point of view, tell it instead from Betty’s. Or show us how the cat sitting unobtrusively in the corner see things. Or–?
  2. Make a YouTube playlist that is meant to be used as the soundtrack to your story. Share a little bit about the overall feeling of the music or how it relates to your tale–no spoilers!
  3. Interview one of your secondary characters about their role in the story, or how they feel about the main characters. Or let the secondary character interview a main character. Or vice versa.
  4. Gather and share a collection of images which somehow relate to your story, or that exemplify your story’s aesthetic and talk about why you chose what you did. Again, no spoilers.
  5. Make a list. “Top Ten Things I Learned While Writing This Story/Book”. “Five Interesting Things About My Main Character”. “Top Three Reasons To Read My Story/Book”. Whatever. Be creative. Be interesting. Write something that you would want to read.
  6. Write about the ‘Why’ of something. “Why I Wrote Story/Book” “Why stories like mine matter”
  7. Write about one of your hobbies or interests outside of writing. Bonus points if you can relate it to your most recent story/book.
  8. Write about why you love books/reading.
  9. Share a drabble or bit of flash fiction (short, short, short) that is somehow related to your story/book.
  10. If you’re promoting a story (rather than a book) pretend you get to give it a cover just like a book. What would it look like? If it’s a book share some of the cover ideas/options that were considered but dismissed.

This list is not exclusive, it’s mostly meant to help get ideas flowing. I think the most important thing is to enjoy what you’re writing about (people can tell when you’re forcing it).

Oh. And bonus points if you include an image or two that I can run with your post. 🙂

 

If you’d like me to host a guest post by you drop me a line at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com and we’ll chat!

Just say no to tab indents

If I could get all the time I’ve spent removing tab indents from the stories I format for publishing I would be a happy, happy woman. I’ve spoken to a few colleagues about this and while a couple of them have methods for formatting that mean they don’t care if you use tabs to indent your paragraphs, for a fair number of them (like me) those tab indents mean extra work (and extra work is bad, mmk?).

But it occurs to me that maybe people don’t know how to indent without using the tab key, so here is a super quick and dirty guide to doing it in Microsoft Word.

Basically, what you want is to get to the ‘Paragraph’ menu. One way to do this is to click the little arrow-y thing right here:

Paragraph1

(you can click on any of the images in this blog post to go to a larger version of it)

Or you can also just right click anywhere on the document. In this case the text is highlighted, which means whatever I select within the paragraph menu will only apply to the highlighted bits, but you can do this without highlighting anything as well in which case it should apply to the entire document.

Paragraph 2

The paragraph menu, once opened, looks like this:

ParagraphMenu

From there it’s really quite intuitive. The indentation settings that you see in this example will mimic what you’d see from a standard tab indent.

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with how to set up auto indentation using other word processing programs, but Google probably is. And if you know of any good guides let me know and I’ll link them here 🙂

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.

Looking Back at My 2015 Goals

All rights reserved by Rhonda ParrishEvery year I set goals for myself, and then at the end of that year I look back at them to see how I’ve done. It helps with my productivity and gives me at least the illusion of some sort of focus 🙂 Now is the time for me to look at my 2015 goals and see how I did to help me determine what my 2016 goals will be.

My 2015 Goals:

Goals in italics are ones I’m saying I accomplished 🙂

Health

  • Weigh less at the end of the year than I do at the start
  • Run 5k
  • No working on weekends and minimal working on evenings.

Huh. Yeah. So… totally failed at those first two, but I think with some small exceptions I did pretty well at not working on weekends and evenings. It’s a thing I need to continue to focus on because I really want to have a bit of balance in my life, but I definitely did better in 2015 than 2014 so I’ll take it 🙂

Editing / Publishing

  • Publish the final three issues of Niteblade and then close down that aspect of the magazine
  • Complete Corvidae and market it to the best of my ability
  • Complete Scarecrow and market it to the best of my ability
  • Publish B is for Broken and market it to the best of my ability

I published B is for Broken (and it’s awesome) but I may have dropped the ball a bit in the marketing department. It has significantly fewer reviews than A is for Apocalypse and its sales numbers are also much lower. Part of the issue, I think, is that ‘Broken’ is a much more nebulous concept than ‘Apocalypse’ but some of it was definitely me. It’s been a learning experience though, especially in regard to choosing anthology subjects that are easier to market.

  • When Shadows is published market it to the best of my ability

N/A

  • Have the manuscript for C is for… polished and ready for publication

C is for Chimera is pretty spectacular. I’m going to reveal the cover and officially announce the release date here on my blog this Thursday. Meanwhile, I’ve already managed to garner a 1 star review for it on Goodreads despite the fact no one has read it but me. So that’s awesome. *sigh*

  • Have the manuscript for D is for… polished and ready for publication

I have the authors lined up for D is for [TOP SEKKRIT] but haven’t progressed further on this title yet.

  • Come up with a way to set actual concrete goals for promotion.

Yeah… I really should do this 😉

  • Make progress on sekkrit collab with CJD

Making slow progress… but progress 🙂

  • Open to submissions for Sirens

I’m currently trying to turn my shortlist into a table of contents. There were about 200 submissions sent my way and even many of the ones I didn’t shortlist were really, really good. There are some very difficult choices in my near future.

Writing

  • Write and submit at least one new short story a month*
    • The ‘submit’ part of this is important. I can’t just write a first draft and leave it to moulder indefinitely. The story needs to be ready for submission and, in fact, submitted, within the month to count.

LOL Well, it looked good on paper.

  • Begin querying agents about Hollow
  • Self-publish at least one collection of reprints
  • Complete work on collaborative project with Marge
  • Successfully participate in April Poem-A-Day
    • This means actually writing a poem a day or at least having thirty poems written by the end of the month
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo*
  • Either complete the first draft of a new novel, or revise one of the novel first drafts I’ve already written (this can be completed in conjunction with NaNoWriMo or separate from it)

Reading

  • Read at least 50 books
    • Slush doesn’t count, nor do books by friends I read to critique.
    • Have at least 20% be non-fiction

I read 46 books according to Goodreads, plus 13 which aren’t on Goodreads. And those 13 don’t count slush or books by friends I read to critique. So I really was successful even if Goodreads doesn’t know it 😉

Misc

  • Create a website at poiseandpen.com
  • Attend When Words Collide and Pure Spec
  • Blog at least once a week
  • When someone visits this blog and leaves a comment — reciprocate.

I’m still not awesome at this. I go to the blogs of people who visit and I read but very often I can’t think of anything intelligent to leave as a comment and ‘I was here, but now I’m gone…’ just doesn’t work for me, ya know?

Kobo

As of New Year’s Eve of 2014 I’d sold a total of one book via Kobo**. One. For a whopping $0.45 in royalties. One of my goals in 2015 is to improve that. I don’t have a super firm goal in mind but it shouldn’t be too difficult to top one sale and less than fifty cents in royalties, right?

Success! Partly on account of a BookBub deal, but I’d beaten my one sale for $0.45 in royalties even before that. There is still plenty of room for improvement here, but there’s always going to be, isn’t there?

*under this name or as a pen name project. Either counts.
**this doesn’t count books I didn’t self-publish like Fae, Metastasis etc.

 

Overall I feel like I had a successful year. I did plenty of things that aren’t reflected on this list of goals and even managed to accomplish more than I failed at. On paper it wasn’t a spectacular year but my reality was pretty amazeballs 🙂

Moving The #s

A while back I put Aphanasian Stories on sale and asked my readers to help me move the numbers–meaning, help shift the book up the ranks of Amazon and Kobo. We were incredibly successful (helped in part by a Book Bub promotion going on at the same time) and I wanted to take a moment and share the results with everyone here. I’d meant to do it before now but with the Giftmas Tour, holidays and the like, it kind of got lost in the rush 🙂

This post is image intensive. The tl;dr version is YAY!

This is the graphic I whipped up on Canva to show where we were starting out rank-wise for the book:

BEFORE

If you click on the picture it should take you to a larger size so you can actually read it, but there’s no real need because I’m going to provide you with the numbers here too. Here are the Before and Afters 🙂 Starting with Amazon.ca.

Before:

Beforeca

After:

CA-After

For one brief moment in time, in one category on Amazon.ca I was even ranked higher than a Neil Gaiman title 😉

BeatingGaimanCA

And at another point I had books in both 1st and 5th place spots even though I wasn’t actively promoting Fae that weekend:

1and5Amazonca

 

I was feeling the love on Kobo too, which was extra sweet because prior to this sale I’d sold less than a dozen books on Kobo total.

Before:

BeforeKobo

After:

Kobo-1

 

Amazon.com didn’t love me quite as much as the other Amazons… but that makes sense, my Book Bub promotion didn’t include the USA (though the sale price did).

Before:

Beforecom

After:

COM-After

Amazon.Co.Uk took a bit of time to warm up to me, something I’m mostly blaming on time zones (because I can LOL).

Before:

Beforecouk

After:

CoUkAFTER

 

This is the ‘After’ image I created on Canva to sum up the success of our ‘Moving the #s’ attempt:

AFTER

 

In case you’re wondering what this looks like in sales, this line graph shows my KDP sales for Aphanasian Stories in the days leading up to the sale, the sale itself, and the days afterward:

Bleep

You may not be able to see it without going to the larger version of the picture but basically it’s a straight line with a blip or two now and then right up until the sale… which is that ginormous spike that slowly declines back to the straight line with an occasional blip.

What does this mean in the long term? Probably nothing LOL Mostly my career is built on those blips, the hope being that with enough books out there blipping along the trickles will eventually combine to be something more substantial but it was fun to watch my little blips turn into an explosion for a couple days. Thank you to everyone who picked up a copy of Aphanasian Stories and helped me move the #s. It was a lot of fun and I truly appreciate your support.

…and if you liked what you read, you’re in luck! I have an Aphanasian story (starring Bayne & Teyat) in the Women in Practical Armor anthology coming out this spring, and my novella, Shadows, which is also set in Aphanasia should also be out this year too 🙂

Octobers

Anne of Green Gables

“Oh, Marilla,” she exclaimed one Saturday morning, coming dancing in with her arms full of gorgeous boughs, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? Look at these maple branches. Don’t they give you a thrill–several thrills?”

~ Excerpted from Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

 

I share Anne’s excitement for October, which is why I pre-scheduled this post waaaay back in January. As I write this my yard, my world, is covered in fresh-fallen snow, my breath would fog the air outside, and I wouldn’t venture out without full winter clothing… as we read it, however, October is just beginning which around here means crisp air, colourful leaves, golden light and that special feeling that comes with knowing that winter is coming and we need to appreciate every day, every moment, between now and then.

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers 🙂

 

Leafs - Photograph by Rhonda Parrish
Leafs – Photograph by Moi

A Quick Word About Live Action Slush

I meant to write a nice, long, detailed post about this year’s When Words Collide when I got home from it with a nice, long, detailed section about Live Action Slush. But then I got home and there were deadlines growling and snapping at me, and summer days to enjoy, and people to follow up with and, well, basically life totally got in the way and now I’ve had to accept the fact that nice, long, detailed post which totally existed in my imagination is just not going to happen.

Which is kinda sad because my imaginary blog post was pretty epic. Almost as epic as When Words Collide, in fact.

*le sigh*

Anyway, even though that amazing blog post isn’t going to happen I do want talk really briefly about Live Action Slush. No really, this is going to be pretty short, I promise.

Live Action Slush, for those who aren’t familiar, is a panel where people anonymously submit the first pages of their manuscripts to be read out loud to a room full of strangers. Oh, and also? Four of those strangers are editor-types sitting at a table with microphones. When an editor hears something that would make them stop reading if the story were submitted to them they raise their hand. Once three of the four editors have put their hands up the reader stops and the editor-types discuss what they heard and offer feedback.

Live Action Slush panels are awesome, I love them and I hope my feedback on them is helpful, but they are not like reading slush. When I’m actually reading slush I’m reading it rather than listening to it, I don’t have three other editors reading it with me, or an audience, or the awareness that the writer is in the room watching me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to be helpful at LAS, and if not helpful at least not hurtful.

That being said there are two points I want to make about Live Action Slush.

One — It takes a lot of guts to subject yourself to that. For realz. I have been writing and submitting my work for a long time now and I feel like I have a pretty thick skin and a healthy sense of separation between my work and myself, and I would still have a tough freaking time sitting in a room while four people discussed my story. A very tough time. If I wore a hat I would tip it to every single person who ever submits their work to a live action slush. You rock.

Hopefully the feedback you hear about your story is helpful but the value of LAS goes beyond that because other people can learn things from listening to the discussion about your work too. So even more than (hopefully) getting some feedback to help yourself, you are also helping other people as well.

Did I mention that you rock? You do.

Two — With very few exceptions when I put up my hand during a LAS panel is not where I’d stop reading, it’s when I would start making notes or start skim reading. I did three Live Action Slush panels at WWC this year and heard a total of three stories that I actually would have stopped reading completely before the first page was done. And for one of those three manuscripts the reason I would have stopped was because it was a sub-genre I don’t deal with. I mention this each time I do a panel but I’m not sure that I emphasize it enough.

Putting up my hand when I’d start taking notes or skimming rather than when I would actually stop reading means it coincides with when I have the first constructive feedback to offer the author and also marks the shift when I turn from ‘Reader’ into ‘Editor’ (you want to keep me fully engaged with your story as a reader for as long as you possibly can).

Given how much bravery goes into submitting your work to be read, I’m not sure I’m doing the right thing. It must really really suck to sit in the audience listening to your work get read and watch an editor’s hand go up.

Moving forward I’m going to make two changes. First, if I have the pleasure of sitting on any more Live Action Slush panels, I’m going to be slower to put my hand up. I don’t think I can promise to put it up only when I would actually stop reading but I can definitely allow for a larger margin for error than I had been. Second, I’m going to start submitting my work to be read at Live Action Slush panels. It only seems fair, really, that I sit on both sides of the microphone.

One other quick note? I mentioned this on social media but in case you didn’t see it–if your work was read at a Live Action Slush panel I was on and I put up my hand, I am willing to take a look at your revised first page and offer feedback on it. I can only look at first pages but if you’d like send it my way rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com

I also welcome your comments about Live Action Slush. Have you attended them? Been on the panels? Have they mostly been a positive experience for you or not so much?

 

2014 Year in Blogging

Jetpack, one of the add-ons I use on my blog, compiled a ‘Year in Blogging’ thingy for me. I could have shared the whole thing here but meh, there was a lot of stuff on there no one but me would care about. There was, however, some bits I thought might be interesting to you as well.

Like this:

Posting Patterns

Actually, that may be a bad example LOL Could be I’m actually the person most likely to think this is cool… but c’mon, this is cool! It shows the days I posted blogs last year (the darker green dots are where I had more than one post that day). In 2014 I made 179 new posts. A pretty high percentage of them were guest blogs (more this year than in any year before) but still… that’s a lot of blogging for someone who is always complain/bragging about how busy she is LOL

This is where my visitors have come from:

From Where

102 countries! Holy freaking hell. That is so awesome 🙂 It looks like for most of those countries I only had one visitor*, but you know what? I’ll take it LOL

This is the thing I thought was pretty interesting. For two reasons. The first is because it’s fun to see which posts people want to read (looks like calls for submissions mostly… which I guess means most of my visitors are writers. No surprise there ;)). The other reason it’s interesting is because of what it says about comments.

Take a look:

MostViewed

#1 on that list, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a sorta review of Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name. When I tweeted a link to it, he retweeted it (*squee* Neil-freaking-Gaiman retweeted me!) so it’s not exactly a surprise that would be the most visited link on my blog last year. What did surprise me, was the fact no one commented. That got me thinking. I don’t get many comments on my posts just in general. At least, not *on* the blog itself LOL I get responses on Twitter and Facebook so I know people are reading and reacting to what I share but comments on the blogs are really rare with the exception of my B is for Brainstorming post, which has 50 comments on it (half of them are mine, I think LoL but still…).

I think the thing is I don’t tend to end my posts with anything that deliberately and specifically calls for replies from my readers. I plan to work on that for 2015.

I’m also going to try to be better about reciprocating visits to my blog. I’m not super awesome at that. No excuses. I’m just not. That is also on my ‘Work on that!’ list for 2015.

I’ll be making a ‘Goals for 2015’ post in the near future (next week, I think), so I’m pondering these sorts of things a lot this year. Have you already made your goals for next year? What are they? I have some ideas of what I want to set as goals for next year, but perhaps yours will help spark something in my brain.

Also, do you have a ‘Year in Blogging’ or even a ‘Year in Review’ blog post? Link me, I’d love to see it 🙂 For real. These are the kinds of numbers I like LOL

*And I happen to know the visitor from one of those countries got blocked on account of they were trying to hack my blog LOL But ya know… everything counts, right? LOL