Colour Swatch… By the Roadside

Palette_AugustRoadside.jpg

I don’t keep diaries. It might seem odd for a writer, but I’ve just never been able to get into them. Occasionally, I will do stream of consciousness writing, but the main way I express my thoughts is through my books and stories. When I want to express my experiences day to day, I lean more toward the visual, through life sketches, pen drawings and colour. I feel like colour can tell someone more about a mood, a time and a place, a day in my life, than three pages of description. Perhaps it is because I feel so rooted to my own place in the world and I am very affected by my environment. The natural environment especially inspires me. It really is an inescapable character in every Canadian’s life.

When I was driving the other day, I noticed how beautiful the colours on the roadside were at this time of year. It inspired me to start keeping a colour diary to remember times and places that make an impression on me. The colours above represent the plants that I see on the roadside that are so beautiful all layered together. The green is the grass, its shady base and the yellowish burnt edges at the tip. The brown is sprigs of wild millet that provide dark counterpoints to the wildflower colours beside it. The three wildflowers are Queen Anne’s Lace, Devil’s Paintbrush and Chicory flowers. The whole thing turned out rather retro in terms of the colour juxtapositions, like a seventies living room set.

I hope that these colour diaries lead to paintings. I think it will be good to have them for later, as reference for bigger things.

Advertisements

Spring is Here!

Me, after conquering the Wentworth Stairs for the first time. I legitimately can't feel my anything in this photograph. But... I did it! And I'll do it again.

Me, after conquering the Wentworth Stairs for the first time. I legitimately can’t feel my anything in this photograph. But… I did it! And I’ll do it again.

Since my last post (ages ago, I apologize) was bemoaning the long stay of winter, I thought it might be appropriate to start in again with a post celebrating the arrival of spring.

The weather has gotten nice here in Southern Ontario, and the nasty flu and infections that have been plaguing everyone since Christmas seem to have finally cleared off. It was a terrible season for illnesses this year… absolutely everyone got sick at some point, and for an extended period of time. As I understand it, this was because of extreme weather conditions combined with a poor choice of flu vaccines.

But… that’s all behind us now, and I, for one, am finding ways to get out and enjoy the good weather while it’s here (and before it gets so hot and humid that it feels like you’re in a steam room). My friend at The Day Job and I, consequently, are attempting to walk to work every rainless day via the Wentworth Stairs.

For those of you who don’t live in Hamilton, the Wentworth stairs are a set of steel grate stairs built into the side of a kilometer-high sheer cliff called the Niagara Escarpment. The escarpment runs from nearly at the border with the US up into the hinterlands, and is a result of glacial activity. In ancient times, it was actually the shore of a vast, deep inland sea, and has lots of fossils embedded in the rock. It’s higher in some places, lower in others, but in Hamilton, it’s pretty high, and sheer, dividing the city almost in half between ‘The Mountain’ (on top of the escarpment) and ‘Downtown’ (the sea-level portion of the city leading down to the bay and the steel works).

My co-worker and I live on The Mountain, and work downtown. Thus, the only really practical way to walk to work is to take the stairs, over four hundred of them in total. We tried the walk last week, and I think it’s going to be really good for us, in the most painful sense of the word. The stairs require a lot of endurance, and more than a bit of courage. At one point, you descend down a sheer cement wall on mesh that you can see right through. It’s not the least vertigo-inducing thing I’ve ever done, and that’s for sure.

But, there is a beautiful smell of spring in the woods around the stairs, and I’m inspired by the people I see climbing daily, multiple times, who are honestly so fit that they should have trophies made in the likeness of their rippling abs. They’re not all young, either. Walking is also saving gas money, and the environment. It’s about time I started walking the walk when it comes to my belief in protecting the environment. And Hamilton really is a walkable city. Proper maintenance of sidewalks and access routes like the Wentworth stairs make what could be a very divided city quite accessible by foot.

Still, by the time I got up those steps, all I could keep repeating was, “I can’t feel my anything…”

It’s going to be a great adventure.

Summer’s End, New Beginnings

August was not a good month for me, thus the lack of blog postings. My family and extended circle had three major health crises, and a series of minor scares. After an extended arm wrestle with my last job, I ended up being forced to look for work elsewhere. As I strive for professionalism in all that I do, I will not post details of that situation here, except to say that the whole thing was bogus from start to finish, and it was a wake-up call that I needed to get off my butt and get moving again. We also thought my cat ran away for a few days, which was not fun. As it turned out, she was just hiding, so that one resolved itself in a positive way.

Throughout last month, I just seemed to be clinging to the mast of the ship of my life, trying to ride out storm after storm, praying that we wouldn’t go down. The business, and my writing life, was no exception. I tried a new printer for my books, hoping to save on shipping and buy Canadian, which is important to me. I will not name who it was, but the proofs were misleading and the quality on the printing was absolutely terrible. The covers were literally flaking apart. I got my money back, but that didn’t change the fact that I was short on stock for my next appearance. Also, someone who works with Pop Seagull as an editor had a personal crisis, and backed out of editing the latest book at the last minute, leaving me to find a replacement on short notice and at a disadvantage. I have mixed feelings on this, because I sympathize with their troubles but I wish they could have been honest with me when I gave them the chance to back out shortly after I heard about their life issues.

On top of all this, the historical project I’m working on stalled out completely during the chaos, as I scrambled to get enough assets ready in time for Distant Early Warning to be delivered on October 17th. The animated book trailer I’m working on also got the short end of the stick, and now we’re looking at a release for it sometime in January rather than at the book launch party, as I had hoped. I had known that one was a stretch goal, but things were on track, more or less, until all the upheaval. Now, I’m looking at presenting the work in progress as part of the book launch party as sort of a ‘behind the scenes’ treat. Hopefully I can get it up to the leica stage, which will still be understandable and entertaining for people to see.

Now that all of that is out of the way, here are the good things that happened over the last little while.

I went to the Milton Pirate Fest, and was charmed and entertained by this fun little festival. The actors that roamed around were really good, and the food and programming was fun for all ages! I really appreciated how enthusiastic everyone was about authors and reading in general, and thought that our readings had a really positive vibe to them. Other highlights were the sunshine, meeting new people, and the snow cones and turkey legs. I really hope the author group that I attended with will be going back next year. I also want to thank my author friends for being so supportive and lovely, and convincing me to go despite the botched book shipment and job drama. Catherine, Stephen, Joy, you guys really made a difference at a very low time for me.

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy, loved it with all my heart, and now am curious about the comics. I have a new scifi novel bouncing around in my head right now, and I think if it were made into a movie, it would look a lot like that one, with a bit of Contact and some of the art direction of Alien thrown in there for good measure. So yeah, that was a very inspiring experience for me and I’m so glad that the movie got made, because it’s certainly not as formulaic as a lot of what comes out now.

And, lastly (but not leastly?), despite all of the setbacks, Distant Early Warning is coming out, on schedule, with a great launch slot, and we’re going to have plenty of time to prepare. It’s actually shaping up to be our nicest looking book yet, and I think that’s saying something. I did a post over at the Pop Seagull blog with a little self-interview on the book, my writing process, and some key facts about the release. It will be the first in a series of posts talking about the book, the launch, our vending platforms and pre-orders. We’re even going to have some interviews with the real VIPs… the characters.

I also want to invite all of my readers to come to the launch party on:

October 17th, 2014, from 7-9 pm at the Holiday Inn Guelph hotel and conference centre

It will be part of the festivities at Genrecon, and I think we’re going to be able to kick off the weekend with a bang! (Not the kind of bang from Denny’s shotgun, though. Homer Simpson already definitively proved that shotguns are not effective marketing tools.)

And, in conclusion, here’s a little art that I’m contributing to the book. It’s also probably going to get put on t-shirts at some point.

Splash Page/Logo Art for Distant Early Warning (Coming October 17th, 2014)

Splash Page/Logo Art for Distant Early Warning (Coming October 17th, 2014)

I’ve Been Everywhere!

That’s right, I’ve been all over the place these last couple of weeks! Two Fridays ago, with a little help from my friend, Stephen B. Pearl, I experienced my first Hamilton Art Crawl. Have you been yet? Yeah you. I’m talking to you. You’re missing out if you haven’t been.

There are some really amazing things on offer down on James Street on the first Friday of every month. Everything from balloon art to impromptu porch jams to gallery openings! And there’s food, and fashion, and impromptu drama and, and, and… I’m getting out of breath just typing it! Come and see for yourself, and bring the family.

Stephen and I parked ourselves out in front of the armory, and it was a great spot.

IMG_0285 IMG_0287 IMG_0289 IMG_0288

I also attended Superfan Comicon this weekend at Exhibition Place, and the crowds were a little thin, but the authors brought the party with us. Well, the authors, and the awesome Elvises (Elvii?). Thanks to Ira Nayman for complicating this pluralization permanently for me. 😛 Shoutouts to Midnight Elvis! Also, check out my awesome new signage in the background. We’ve got a new banner as well, featuring Pops Seagull, but he was a little late to the party and will have to wait for the next appearance.

IMG_0293 IMG_0297 IMG_0295 IMG_0294

Fantastic New Article By Suzanne Church on SF Signal… How to Justify Your Horror Obsession!

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/04/guest-post-suzanne-church-on-10-ways-to-keep-your-sff-loving-boyfriend-happy-while-enjoying-your-horror-fix/

I can totally relate to this article. Sometimes it’s hard to justify your love of horror to fan friends that enjoy lighter fare, and I love Suzanne Church’s humorous take on it.

It reminds me just how lucky I am to have a zombie nut at home. ❤ His office even comes complete with a wall o’ skulls.

Feel the spoopy...

Feel the spoopy…

 

Yup, we’re just a couple of work-a-day professional eccentrics.

In fact, I think that he is definitely the more hard-core horror fan of the two of us, which is tough, because there’s always a little bit of a dark twist to everything I do. But he’s a wily one… and I think he may have used some of these tactics to get me into more horror, especially the one about offering up stuff with more fantasy elements to it. Before being with Robin, I hadn’t experienced how wonderful fantasy/horror hybrids could be… I thought it was all vampires and werewolves, which although I know a lot of people enjoy that kind of dark/urban fantasy, just isn’t my favorite. I think you either love it or you don’t. It’s funny how the people you meet influence your work sometimes…

How about you, out there in blog land? Has anyone come into your life and shown you things that changed the way you think about your art?

My Life in St. Catharines, Now With Pictures!

The main drag of my hometown

The main drag of my hometown, circa 2010

So, in case you’ve missed the previous post, I’m beginning a series today on class, and the living conditions in the places I’ve inhabited throughout my life. The prompt is this:

 Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?

 I suppose this prompt jumped out at me because the place I grew up has some very stark class issues that I noticed more and more as I grew.

 My hometown is called St. Catharines, and for the majority of you who aren’t from Southern Ontario, it’s a small city about thirty minutes from the US border. Currently, I think it’s got a population of about 150 000, and that’s about middle range for a town in our area. St. Catharines borders on Lake Ontario, which is the size of some small seas. I think being on the lake my whole life has made me feel most at home by the water. There’s also a canal system that runs through the town, which lets large freighters get to the St. Lawrence river, and from there, to the Atlantic. When I was a kid I used to sit on the cliffs by the lake in Port Dalhousie, the district that I’m from, and watch the freighters sit in the lake, waiting to pass through the locks. We have some of the most amazing fruit growing land in the whole world, and you really can’t beat the local food.

 The town has its newsworthy points, both good and bad. For the good, we are the hometown of Rush drumming legend Neil Peart. Rush even wrote a song about Port Dalhousie, that I adore. For the bad, in the nineties, serial killer Paul Bernardo murdered two girls here, in a series of shocking crimes that reached news outlets all over North America. My after-school sitter lived around the corner from his house, during the time the crimes were going on. I’ve never seen public panic like that before or since. It left a mark on me well into my adult life, as I’m sure it did for many others in our community. Let it be duly noted, however, that he migrated in from Scarborough.

 So, what was it like to grow up in St. Catharines? Well, I lived in the North end, by the lake, in a beautiful old farm house that had lost its farm. My folks had gotten lucky and gotten a deal on it just before the prices went up and the millionaires started moving in. It is a beautiful, peaceful place, just on the edge of the grey area between St. Catharines and the nearby farming communities. When I went to sleep at night, if the wind was blowing the right way, I could hear the howl of engines from the highway. It’s a very eerie sound when it has filtered across a couple of kilometres of field, but to this day I still find it rather comforting.

 My childhood was relatively carefree, although I was pretty nerdy and got teased a lot. I always seemed to gravitate to other misfits like myself… what I didn’t realize then was that a lot of the time, the other kids I hung out with got teased not because they were all that weird (I definitely was) but because they were kinda poor and didn’t have the stuff other kids had, like the snappy clothes and newest games. I had all that stuff… I was just clueless and didn’t see what it mattered. I wasn’t really brought up like that. I was taught to see what I had in common with people, rather than to try and find things I had over them. I found the other snooty suburban kids really confusing as I got older, and often didn’t really get why I didn’t fit in. In fact, I ran into one of my former teachers later in life, and he agreed… it was a really snobby school, and really cruel to anybody that wasn’t ‘with it’. I feel proud that I was one of the ones he liked.

 When I reached eleven or twelve, I was identified (diagnosed?) as exceptional, and went part-time to a school for gifted kids. I learned a lot of cool things, like how to use a mixing board, do woodworking projects, and get banned from field trips for being an hour late for check-in. It was there that I was first encouraged to pursue animation. I found the transition to high school really jarring, because for the first time, I was forced to get out of my bubble of perfect people from the suburbs and deal with people from the other parts of town. It was then that I realized that most of St. Catharines is not like the North end. In those few years, I learned that my hometown had teeth. My high school, a last resort for teen moms and kids with drugs found in their lockers, was a half-empty, crumbling abomination from the 1960’s with sediment in the water lines and whole wings blocked off in disrepair. I hung out with the only ten or twelve people in the school not involved in drugs, and a good portion of them had personality disorders of some sort. Until I moved away, I thought all high schools were like this.

 Beleaguered and more than a little scared, I threw myself into my studies, dreaming of a day when I would be able to use my mind and talents to get a great job and pull myself out of the company of juvenile idiots. I worked hard to get through high school, and got into my university program of choice. University was much the same. Scared of being like the people I saw pissing their lives away in high school, I kept my head down, and kept to my books. I’d already seen the poverty that the majority of people there lived in, and I didn’t want that to be me. I found a lot of acceptance at Brock, though, and I started to get into my groove with my town, and learn more about the things that made it great.

My favorite bookstore in the world, since torn down to make way for the new arts centre. RIP Novel Idea.

My favorite bookstore in the world, since torn down to make way for the new arts centre. RIP Novel Idea.

The best book I ever purchased ironically. I just couldn't get over that it was so old that they referenced "The Home Video Games" like "The Twitter" or "The Disco Music".

The best book I ever purchased ironically. I just couldn’t get over that it was so old that they referenced “The Home Video Games” like “The Twitter” or “The Disco Music”.

Throughout those years, I could often be found on weekends lurking in the stacks at one of our many great used bookstores, ferreting out classic fantasy and science fiction, old cookbooks, and stuff to help me learn more Japanese. I went down to the beach at Port Dalhousie and just watched the ducks and gulls. I even saw the occasional turtle, but his whereabouts must remain a closely-guarded secret. Robin and I fell in love on the pier. We regularly poked through the racks at Out of the Past downtown looking for goth finds, and put on the funny hats in the mirror, just ’cause. In the spring, my favourite activity is still to go out to the regatta park in Port Dalhousie and follow the baby geese around.

 Unfortunately, like all golden eras, my time in university came to an end. The magic I had discovered in my town disappeared, as I realized that I had no way of finding any kind of job that would sustain me, let alone allow me to use my talents in any satisfying way. I applied everywhere in the area that I could, but I couldn’t even get a call-back as a typist. The few people I talked to that could help me treated me like I wasn’t worth their notice because I wasn’t from Toronto. The few good jobs in St. Catharines, I realized, didn’t go to locals. Locals were assumed to be inexperienced and incompetent. My town imported its managers, and exploited its natives. I spent a very hard year working two part-time retail jobs before I realized that I would have to escape to the city to find any kind of meaningful work.

 When I realized that I needed something more than St. Catharines could provide, I began planning. I took a scholarship, and saved every penny that I could. When that wasn’t enough, I sold a third of my stuff, including my guitar, which I’ve touched on in other posts. I fled for the city, and (almost) never looked back. Since then, they’ve torn down my favourite bookstore, and most of old Port Dalhousie by the pier, to make way for gentrified ‘improvement’ projects, some of which I see the need for, others of which I never will. But the fact remains that I think they looked in the wrong places to root out the problems St. Catharines has. It’s the holes in the wall that gave it character.

 Next week: Oakville and Toronto, and the struggle to fit in.

The Obligatory Cat Pic… and My New Post Series

One of the things I wanted to bring people with this blog is a little taste of Canada, because my country, and its people, are two of the most formative aspects of my work, and my life. So, when I stumbled on this blog prompt, I was inspired to write a series this week about it. Here it is. Thanks, WordPress!

 Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?

 Over the next few posts, I will be talking about the range of experiences I’ve had with class, with personal stories from the three places I’ve lived in my life, all drastically different in terms of class experience and yet part of the same region. Then, if he’ll indulge me, I may get my husband in here to talk about his experiences living in Alberta, because different parts of the country produce wildly different life experiences.

In the meantime, here is a picture of my cat. She is fluffy and cute. Her name is Ilse.

ilse

 I am going to go catch up on my sleep, so that I may entertain you anew on the morrow.