Wednesday, November 29, 2017

I Just Discovered I Love Audiobooks

For the longest time I was hesitant to listen to audiobooks. I found nothing inherently wrong with them, they just didn't seem to be for me. For some reason my mind wandered whenever I listened, and unlike when reading and you miss something, with audiobooks it's especially hard to go back and re-read/listen to parts you missed. It just didn't seem worth the effort.

Those opinions were formed before I got a job with a ridiculously long commute, as well as a lot of data entry where my ears are free to do to other things. For the last few years I've been listening to a ton of podcasts, but lately I've been finding myself bored with that too. Along with the guilt that I don't do nearly as much reading as I should, I decided to give audiobooks another whirl, and I'm so glad I did. In just two weeks I've discovered a LOVE for audiobooks I never imagined, and I suddenly feel so much more productive now, being able to chip away at my TBR pile while simultaneously getting other tasks done. It's amazing.

In those two weeks I've "read" three books I've meant to get to for awhile, and I've discovered that audiobooks improve books in (at least) three awesome ways.

1. It makes bad books bearable.

The first book I checked out was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Now, this book was hugely popular a few years ago and is about to become a major Steven Spielberg movie, but in all honesty I didn't think it was very good. The 80s video-game nostalgia seemed perfectly tailored for me, but the flat characters, dumb stakes and over-reliance on said nostalgia were just grating. Not to mention it was riddled with plot inconsistencies that I would have been crucified for had I written them.

If had I been actually reading it I doubt I would have made it through. But the story was saved by the charming and likable narration by Wil Wheaton. While the weakest of the three narrators I listened to, Wheaton still has an engaging voice and a spirited narration, so it was nice to listen to him drone on in my ears for a few days.

2. It lets you see an old book in a new light.

Book number two was Slaughterhouse Five. I had read it many years ago, but despite it's place as a classic it was among my least favourite of Vonnegut's books. I don't know if it was because I read it in a rush of other Vonnegut books so it didn't particularly stand out for some reason, or maybe I just didn't get it. But that changed after I listened to Ethan Hawke's rendition.

Now, I don't know if Hawke is actually the best choice for Slaughterhouse Five (there's another version read by James Franco that I think might work even better). He's a bit too smooth and suave, but boy does he bring it to life. He instills it with so much pathos and realness, it really hits you in the gut and plays up the darkness while still maintaining that mischievous satire that I love. I have really reconsidered my opinion on Slaughterhouse Five thanks to the audiobook, jumping it way up there in my Vonnegut canon.

3. It can make a good book absolutely exceptional.

The third book was The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore. I'm pretty open that Moore is a heavy influence of mine (which I think is probably most obvious in Hell Comes to Hogtown), so I generally enjoy his books anyway. But Euan Morton's reading of Serpent of Venice is astounding. It's the first time I've understood what it means when it says a narrator "performs" a book.

For those who don't know him, Morton is a stage actor and singer who played Boy George in Taboo in both London and on Broadway, currently performs as King George in Hamilton on Broadway, and has credits in countless other shows on both sides of the Atlantic (random side fact: his son plays the lead in the TV show Young Sheldon). Morton brings his considerable skills to Serpent of Venice, turning it into basically a 10-hour-long one-man show where he performs all the characters beautifully with different voices, and captures Moore's humour with perfect British wit. He's like a one-man Monty Python, it's amazing.

I also just discovered that Morton also did the narration for two other Christopher Moore books, Fool and Sacre Bleu, so I am pumped to check those out.

Long story short, I'm really digging audiobooks and I can't believe it took me this long to jump on board. Since I wrote this up last week I've also listened to a Dave Barry book and I'm half-way through a PG Wodehouse collection (For reference, the Dave Barry book wasn't very good but it still had a few laughs in it). I haven't been this prolific in my "reading" in years. I think I've listened to more books in the last month than I read in the entire year prior. I'm looking forward to making a nice dent in my TBR pile in 2018.

Let's do this.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

INTERVIEW with Author D de Carvalho

Looking for the hottest new steamy romance writer? Look no further, because I've got your hook-up!

In the latest installment of my writer interview series, I sit down with D de Carvalho, an up-coming erotica writer with a penchant for BDSM and all things pink. It's a fun little conversation and I think you should do yourself a favour and check out the interview, and the links, below.


A native of far-flung locations, and a grade-A student of life, Carvalho developed his passion for fine foods and erotic encounters at a young age. He is proud to be a practicing member of the BDSM community, as well as a self-confessed and widely acknowledged grumpy old man.

In the Hot Pink series, D. de Carvalho serves up a smorgasbord of hot ‘n spicy erotic tales with no holds barred. Whether you savor sweet romance or crave the delicious tang of dark desire, Carvalho caters with tales to tempt every taste. Each sexy story arrives with a side order of humor, sprinkled with a touch of suspense, paranormal or mystery.


What motivated you to become an indie author?
My friend and newly-published fellow author, Francisco Cordoba is solely responsible.
About a year ago, we were chatting about his Horsemen of Goleg√£ series, and I was helping him sex up some of his erotic scenes. I tried to put in a BDSM scene, which he felt was totally inappropriate for his characters. I pushed the issue. It’s possible I called him a pantywaist. Some general argument and insults followed. By the time the dust settled, he’d challenged me to “write your own damn porn and stop messing with quality.” Of course, I couldn’t ignore a challenge like that.

The funny part to that story is that he’s been writing for years and had already put in twelve months on The Horsemen of Goleg√£ when he challenged me. And I still published twelve months before he did.

In your face, Cordoba!

I interviewed Francisco a few months ago. It took him awhile, but he's tearing it up over at Amazon now!

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I start with whatever inspiration favours me with. But once I have an idea, I write it down and build from there. Us grumpy old men don’t do well without some sort of road map to follow. We end up wandering down the wrong road without our mug of Ovaltine and generally forget where we’re going or where we came from.

I think I'm on the cusp of joining you in the Grump Old Men club. Speaking of which, what are your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?
Aargh!!!! I’m too old for this shit. I use Facebook and Twitter mostly, or they abuse me. I stumble around tweeting and bleating and flinging stuff into the ether. Does it work? I don’t know yet.

Fair enough. I think Twitter is used as a torture in some small European countries. I suspect I know the answer to my next question: Would you or do you use a PR agency?
So far I haven’t. Would I? Ask me again in a year or so.

Last question: How do you relax?
I eat fine food and give pleasure to a beautiful woman.

Me too! Though usually I prefer to do them in the opposite order. At my age rich food does a number on the tummy, you know what I mean? 

Thanks for sitting down with me today!




Monday, November 13, 2017

REMAKES Blog Fest: The Music

Hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner.

Remakes – most of them suck. Now and then, one comes along that is as good as, if not better, than the original. And after all of the bad ones we’ve endured, we want to know about some good ones.
On November 13, 2017, blog about your favorite remake: movie (or television show into movie and vice versa), song, or book – or all three! Post a YouTube video and links where we can find these treasures. Tell us why THIS remake doesn’t suck!

Full list of pariticipating blogs at the bottom of this post.


I love covers. Absolutely adore them. So much that I will often listen to musical genres I don't even usually like if someone has a new and interesting take on an old tune. I am unabashedly a fan of "Grey's Anatomy" covers of old pop songs. The show has made an industry out of indy-acoustic remixes of 80s pop hits, and I have Spotify playlists full of them. I also have an unusual number of bluegrass songs on my iPod, but all of them are covers of heavy metal or mid-2000s emo punk bands.

The best for me is when the artist takes a drastically different spin on a classic riff, like turning a slow ballad into thrash metal or remaking a hardcore hip hop song into something romantic. As with any kind of remake, it only works when you have something new to say. Just redoing the same thing the same way it was done before is boring. It's why covers of holiday classics are usually terrible - it's just a soulless rendition of the same thing we've heard a thousand times before.

Baby It's Cold Outside
Cover by CeeLo Green & Christina Aguilera
"Baby It's Cold Outside" is already an awful song for obvious reasons, but the recent Christina Aguilera/CeeLo Green cover made me want to claw my eyes out. It's just two very talented singers, who are obviously not even recording in the same room, trying to out-sing each other. There's no fun, no new take, nothing interesting about it. I supposed you could argue that about a lot of Holiday music, but then most holiday songs are covers, so I wonder why that works out, huh?

Anyway, on to the good stuff...

Love Will Tear Us Apart
Originally by Joy Division, covered by Nouvelle Vague
Quick story: I first heard Nouvelle Vague at a restaurant when I was out to dinner with my wife and in-laws. I loved the music they were playing so much that I asked the waiter what they were playing and immediately went out and bought the CD. I never do that, either talk to people or buy CDs, so that tells you how much I love this band.

Nouvelle Vague is french for "new wave," and it the name of a French group that almost exclusively covers "new wave" music from the 70s and 80s (like Joy Division, Depeche Mode, & New Order) with bossa nova beat (which itself is Portuguese for "new wave"), Besides being an awesome play on words, the musical arrangements are outstanding, and provides a wonderful background soundtrack to lounging around at a classy cocktail party. I always feel so continental when I listen to this stuff.

I'm Afraid of Americans
Originally by David Bowie, covered by O.R.K.
This is one of my favourite David Bowie songs, probably because it was heavily influenced by Trent Reznor during Bowie's dalliance with industrial music in the 1990s. My two favourite artists, together at last? What could be better?

Well, after the tragic events of November 8, 2016, I figured a cover of this song HAD to happen, and sure enough it only took about 6 months to come to light. While I prefer the actual musical arrangement in Bowie's original and Nine Inch Nail's remix, O.R.K.'s version makes the single most important musical change of this decade by swapping all the references to generic American "Johnny" with "Donny" in the lyrics instead.

Donny wants a plane
Donny wants to suck on a Coke
Donny wants a woman
Donny wants to think of a joke
Donny's in America
Donny's in America
Donny looks up at the stars
Donny combs his hair
Donny wants pussy in cars
Donny's in America

I'm still waiting to see if A Perfect Circle come out with an ever better cover when their inevitable new album drops. Their eMOTIVe album of anti-war cover songs, released during the height of W's presidency, was outstanding.

While I'm on the topic, I might as well throw this one out there:

Originally by John Lennon, covered by A Perfect Circle
(Warning: Some graphic content and disturbing images)

Some folks might be a bit miffed on such a skewed take on a classic, hopeful song, but I think the material was open for it. Not to mention I'm a sucker for anything Maynard James Keenan does.

Imagine has always been a hopeful, positive song, asking us to picture the amazing things that people could do in a perfect world. A Perfect Circle twists this meaning, talking about the wonderful things people are capable of but reminding us that they're not doing it. The dissonant key and the minor chords in this just hit you right in the heart (even without the disturbing video above). It's a melancholy, bittersweet take on that hopeful message. It's ironic and almost mocking, as if to say, "Hey wouldn't it be great if we could get along? Too bad we never will."

Ice Ice Baby
Original by Vanilla Ice, cover by Richard Cheese
Okay, just so we don't go out on a total bummer, please enjoy the smooth stylings of Richard Cheese.

Now, to be fair, Richard Cheese is a lot like Nouvelle Vague. It's all jazzy lounge music, though instead of covering one particular style of music, he'll do anything and everything - hip hop, metal, 80s pop, TV theme songs, anything that's fun. Here's the thing: Richard Cheese is, technically speaking, a novelty act, but he's a great singer and always surrounds himself with talented musicians and awesome arrangements, so even though he's doing it tongue-in-cheek, the songs are amazing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love it when people don't take themselves or their art too seriously, so someone who names himself after smegma and make nu-metal songs palpable is okay in my book.

Check out some of the other great blogs participating today:

Friday, November 10, 2017

The History of "In Flanders Fields"

"In Flanders Fields" is a famous poem lamenting soldiers lost in World War I, but has since come to be associated with Remembrance Day (also known as Armistice Day or Veterans Day), and is commonly read at services across Canada on November 11. It was written by Major John McCrae, a Canadian military doctor and artillery commander during the Great War, and Canadians have latched onto it hard. I don't think it's wildly known in the US, but in Canada it's a huge, cultural touchstone that school children are forced to memorize somewhere between the National Anthem and the theme song to Hockey Night in Canada. For those who are not familiar, it goes a little something like this:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

According to legend, on May 2nd of 1915, young artillery officer named Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed in Ypres, Belgium. The chaplin had been called away to preside over what was surely an endless string of funerals, so Major McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Lt. Helmer. After the service, looking out over the lines of crosses and the poppies blowing between them, a grief-struck McCrae was moved to pen the original draft of the poem. Dissatisfied with his work, he crumpled it up and tossed it aside, but another soldier in his unit found it and, moved by the doctor's stunning words, urged him to have it published.

While it is true that Lt. Helmer died on May 2nd and Major McCrae conducted his funeral, the more likely version of the story is that it actually took the doctor months to write the poem, whenever he had free time between tending to horribly injured soldiers. Not quite as romantic, but far more visceral.

Want to hear something even less romantic? McCrae originally submitted the Poem to The Spectator, a conservative London-based magazine of politics, culture and current affairs. In 1915 it had already been around for nearly 100 years, and is actually still in publication today. Like most first-time writers, McCrae's work was rejected. I guess the editor had reached his poppy quota for the quarter.

After being turned away by one of the oldest and most prestigious publications in London, guess where McCrae turned next?

Car AND General insurance? Sign me up!

Punch Magazine was a weekly periodical of humour and satire, and they practically invented the political "cartoon" comic in the 1840s.

I don't understand any of this.

For a modern comparison, I wanted to say it was like getting rejected from the New Yorker and submitting to Mad Magazine instead, except the The Spectator is probably more like far-right rag The New York Observer, which holds the distinction of being one of the only newspapers that endorsed Trump during the 2016 US election. Coincidentally, the Observer is owned by Trump's son-in-law.

So yeah, it was like McCrae got rejected from The New York Observer then submitted his poem to Mad Magazine. Either way, it's still weird.

But at least the classic poem got a classy presentation worthy of its future status as a cultural milestone and a stirring reminder of the horrors of war, right?

Like so.

The famous image above was actually a print created by the Heliotype Company in Ottawa in 1918, to commemorate the death of the poet. Here is the original page where "In Flanders Fields" appeared, in the December 8, 1915 issue of Punch Magazine:

What, it doesn't jump out at you?

In case you can't see it - apparently people's eyesight was way better back in the early 1900s - the poem appears in the lower right hand column, sandwiched between a fake catalogue of Christmas toys (including "The Frozen Pipe Doll's House" with real leaking pipes and "The Influenza Doll" that coughs when you squeeze it), and this joke:
"Will this war bring us to Kidderminster?"
English Churchman
Well, there are worse places than Kidderminster.
I don't have a flipping clue where Kidderminster is (nor do I quite get the joke), but apparently Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin grew up there. That's the kind of biting satire that was common in Punch Magazine. So what the hell was an introspective poem by a morose soldier doing in there? McCrae wasn't even credited in the original printing.

Despite its humble beginnings, "In Flanders Fields" caught on and was quickly adopted by the English Commonwealth as a stirring tribute. The significance of poppies as a symbol of remembrance links directly to this poem. Even a hundred years later, the poem and the red poppies are a solemn reminder that Canadians in particular hold close to their hearts - literally, as many wear the small flower over their left breast as a symbol to the lives lost in war.

As for the poet, Major McCrae became world-renowned for his words, though continued to serve on the front. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander and continued his work as a field doctor. John McCrae worked at numerous hospitals through the war, always pushing himself to help as many people as possible, ignoring his own health and well-being. He pushed through his exhaustion and illness and eventually succumbed to pneumonia on January 28, 1918, heralded as both a war hero and a brilliant poet.

Friday, November 3, 2017

BOOK RELEASE: Mistakes of the Past by Patricia Josephine

Patricia Josesphine (also known as Patricia Lynne) is back! The always fabulous Patricia, the organizer of Trick or Treat books earlier this week, is here to discuss her new book Mistakes of the Past, which also dropped this week! She's a busy lady. Anyone who's read any of Patricia's many previous books knows she's a fabulously talented wordsmith, so do yourself a favour and check out Mistakes of the Past. She's the writer about whom my wife once famously remarked: "You should read this, you can learn something. She's a much better writer than you."

Luc seeks atonement for the actions that banished him from his home. Living as a priest in a small town, he strives to show how much he’s changed with the hope that one day he can return to his family.

Haunted by the guilt that destroyed her family, Rose has shut her heart off. She vows to never let anyone near again lest she hurt them. When she meets Luc, she can’t deny the draw she feels to him.

But the past is not easily forgotten. When Luc’s past finds him, Rose is caught in the middle. Forced to face who he used to be, Luc must decide if he’s willing to give up his chance at redemption to save Rose. But doing so means he won’t be able to hide who he is. Will Rose be able to reconcile the man she knows with the devil he used to be? Or are the mistakes of the past too damning?

Patricia's real life inspirations in Mistakes of the Past:

1)Rose’s cleft lip
My nephew was born with a cleft lip and palate. By the time he was five, he had five different surgeries. He still has more to go, but is getting a break. When I created Rose I wanted her to be a cleft lip baby. There really isn’t any reason and it has no impact on the plot. It’s just one of those things that affected my life, and I know it affects others, so it’s nice to see a character with something I can relate to.

2)Josh and his grandma
There is a scene where Luc is comforting a young man at the hospital about his grandma. The thing is, she is still alive in this scene. Still, Josh asks Luc why it hurts already when she’s not gone yet.

I have one grandma left. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and every illness saps her severely. She’s in her 80s. That’s where the scene came from. I’m aware that I have less time than more with my grandma. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye and I doubt I’ll ever be ready. This scene is coming to term with that fact.

3)Rose’s memory of her teacher at the funeral
My main memory of kindergarten is getting in trouble with the teacher. My bestie of 30+ odd years and I met in kindergarten. We sat next to each other, and instead of listening to the teacher, we were talking. That got us in trouble. For the longest time, I was not endeared to that teacher.

4)The Gerrish farm and Rose’s landlord
Both those I drew from my own landlord. His last name is Gerrish, and I needed a one-time name and that popped in my head. When Rose gripes about her landlord not fixing her toilet and having to reach in to flush. That actually happened with my toilet. Although, my landlord fixed it really fast.

And as a bonus, here is one inspiration that isn’t based on real life.

Rose’s hair loops in chapter five. Anyone watch Avatar: The Last Airbender? Katara has hair loopies and I recall her brother poking fun about them. That’s the picture I had in my head when imagining Rose.


Patricia Josephine never set out to become a writer. In fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was all about art. On a whim, she wrote down a story bouncing in her head. That was the start of it and she hasn't regretted a moment. She writes young adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow, and an obsession with Doctor Who.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

I Can't Believe I Pulled It Off (#IWSG November 2017)

I did it!

It took over two years, but I finally did it!

I made it to the top 100 of the Insecure Writers Support Group LinkyTools list!

Read it and weep, baby. 99. Just like The Great One.

I attribute this victory to ingenuity, creativity, pacts made with Satan brushing and against Charlie Sheen once. And never missing more than one monthly post in a row.

Seriously though, I do have a couple of actual small writing victories this month. Regular life is still sucking the big one, but I managed to surpass my writing goals in the last 30 days. I'm not entirely sure how I did it, but I somehow completed and submitted not one but TWO short stories to anthologies in October, which is a staggering feat for me. (I also submitted another old story for like the fifteenth time but it's already been rejected fourteen times so that's not so exciting.)

In September I didn't write a single word, so completing two separate 5000+ words stories in only 30 days is mind-boggling. For some, that's like a day's work, but for me it has been a slog. I had to skip a lot of my lunch-time exercise breaks, and had to get up at 5:30am on weekends, but I managed to pull it off. These stories better not suck, because I'm sure finishing them has taken a toll on my health.

Wish me luck.


Yesterday was Halloween, and I took part in Patricia Lynne's Trick or Treat blog hop to give away free books. If you're reading this on November 1, my contributions are still available for free (Samhain technically lasts until Sunday November 1), so check them out below:



A serious, grimly dark short story of hilarious misery.

SUGGESTED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES: Contains coarse language, violence, alleged dwarf ejaculate and candid descriptions of the genitalia of various fantasy races.

The Werebear vs Landopus series is for folks who love dark fantasy with a goofy, at times obscene sense of humour. It reads a lot like playing Dungeons & Dragons with your friends when you're all punch drunk/feeling silly, and you can't help but laugh when your half-elf wizard is bitten in half by a vampiric hippopotamus. 

Part Three should be coming out soon, so now is the time to catch up!

They say love hurts and time heals all wounds. 

Sometimes the reverse is true. 

Ten Thousand Days is a fairy tale set in the modern day, a fantastic journey of desperate love and horror with a twisted sense of humour. Inspired by Neil Gaiman with a touch of Terry Pratchett, and based on the ancient tales of Sleeping Beauty and Orpheus & Eurydice. It's a story of exactly how far a young man will go for love...

Ten Thousand Days is my first published novel and it's been around a couple of years, however earlier this year I made a MAJOR revision to it earlier this year, nearly doubling it in length and (in my opinion) making it substantially better. If you still haven't checked it out, now's the time! It's available for free on Smashwords until November 1.



NOVEMBER QUESTI... nevermind.

I've never participated in NaNo and there's no way in hell I'm starting this year, but good luck to all of you who are! I look forward to hearing about your harrowing tales. ☺☺☺


The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at

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