Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Year-in-Review (5 Year Plan Revisited)

Whelp, we survived another one. There seemed to be a few close calls there, but somehow we keep on trucking. In my personal life, it would be pretty hard to be worse than 2017 (please don't try, 2020), so I'm thank for anything that shows even mild improvement.

And hey, the close of this decade is a pretty big one for me. In the last ten years I moved to a new city, bought a house, started a new career, had two kids, published my first books and stories - it's been a momentous time in my life.

A few years ago for Insecure Writers Support Group day, we were supposed to describe where we saw ourselves in five years. I instead wrote a pretty specific list of goals I wanted to accomplished in those years, and every 12 months since I've been revisiting that list to see how I'm doing on it. It's always good to finish any sort of calendar milestone by judging ourselves, right?

FIVE YEAR GOALS (3 years in)

Write 3-5 books.

Here's my big one for this year, which was a secret until now: In the past twelve months I've actually written two new books. (Okay, as of this writing the second one still needs another chapter or two, but I'm pretty damn close). That's huge for me, since I haven't completed a full-length manuscript since Hell Comes to Hogtown came out in 2016. It's not that I haven't tried; I've started probably a dozen novels in the last three years, some of them I've even got 20-30K words deep, but for various reason none of them ever made it to the end. That changed this year.

Now, one of the books was a fun, silly (and illustrated!) middle-grade book I wrote for my kids and nieces which will probably never see the light of day for anyone else, but I'm still counting that as a win. The other one, though, I'm really hoping to do something with in the near future...

Total: 2 revised/rewritten books, and 2 new books. I'm actually doing pretty good.

Submit at least 3 books to agents/publishers.

Because I'm behind on my new books, still have not submitted any NEW books to a publisher, so unless I have a flurry of productivity in the next two years there's no way I'm going to meet this goal. I did submit the book I revised last year to a few places, and while I received a little interest, nothing really materialized. Total: 1 books submitted so far.

Self-publish 2-3 (full length) books.

None this year, but it looks good to have at least one out in the coming year (fingers crossed!). That will still only be 1 in the last 3 years, but hey, that's better than the 35 years previous.

Self-publish at least 1 Werebear vs Landopus story per year.

Missed this one this year. Wrote a lot of words, but unfortunately none of them made it into a Werebear vs Landopus story. I've got ideas for another few stories in this series and more set in the same world, but it's just a matter of moving them up the list of dozens of other things I'm working on. Total: 2 for 3!

Write at least 2 short stories per year and submit them to anthologies/magazines.

This continues to be my most successful area. I had two stories published this year (that were submitted last year) in Masquerade: Oddly Suited and Strangely Funny VI, and I wrote and submitted 3 more. I also just received word a few days ago that one of those stories were accepted and will be appearing in the coming year! I'll have details on that in the coming weeks, and I'm sure you'll hear lots more about it then. Total: 3 for 3

Collect at least 100 rejections.

I had 19 rejections this year, which is a record for me. I also received one back 2 minutes from the time I sent the email! That brings my total to just over 50, which means I'm really going to have to submit some crap to as many places as possible in order to hit 100 in the next 24 months.

Monday, December 23, 2019

What the Heck is Tibb's Eve?

It's a tradition in Newfoundland to celebrate Tibb's Eve (some call it Tipp's Eve or Tipsy Eve) on the 23rd of December, to really officially kick off the Christmas Season. I've noticed that in other parts of Canada, at least in recent years, the Christmas Season seems to last the month (or two) leading up to December 25, and then Christmas is abruptly forgotten on the 26th. Back when I was growing up, the real holiday celebrations happened after Christmas Day, through New Years right up until "Old Christmas Day," or January 6th. For example, it wasn't uncommon when I was a kid to go to relatives' houses the weekend after New Year's for a "Christmas visit." If I showed up at someone's house in Ontario on January 5th asking for a drink and some cookies, I doubt they would even open the door.

"It's your sister and her idiot husband coming for a Christmas Visit!"
"What? It's nearly Spring! Turn off the lights and hide in the closet!"

But what exactly is Tibb's Eve? Newfoundland was a traditionally Christian area, and the Advent Season leading up to Christmas Day was a sober, religious time, when it was inappropriate to drink alcohol. (A month of abstinence before Christmas is probably also the reason for the two week-long party afterwards). At some point in the mid-twentieth century, folks decided they just couldn't wait until the 25th and decided they would start drinking on the 23rd instead, and used the Feast of St. Tibb as an excuse to celebrate.

They've got their own shirts and everything.

Who is St. Tibb? I'll let you in a little secret: she doesn't exist. St. Tibb was just a joke made up to go over children's heads. The word tib or tibb is an archaic slang word for a "promiscuous woman." The name "Tib" was popularly used in 17th century English plays for the prostitute character. So calling drinking day "Tibb's Eve" was just an excuse to make children think there was actually a holiday to excuse daddy's drunken foolishness.

Seriously though, more people would still go to church if we had more saints like this.

Fun fact: Until recently, there were still a lot of archaic English language floating around in rural parts of Newfoundland. It was a side effect of the population growing up in isolated pocket communities, where they had little outside contact for generations. I remember growing up my grandmother always called ants "emmets," but no one knew why. It wasn't until I went to university that I discovered "emmet" is actually an Old English word for ant, dating back to Shakespeare's time.

Tibb's Eve is also an old English/Irish word meaning never - in other words a day that will never come, as in, "He'll pay you back on Tibb's Eve." This gives the holiday yet another mischievous sort of feeling, a way to get around the Church rules and traditions, since it's not a "real" day.  The "Tipp's Eve" variant in some parts of the island probably comes from another old word, "to tipple," which means to drink heavily, or "a tipple," which is another word for alehouse.  "Tipsy Eve" is probably obvious from there.

Do you have any Labatt's Blue?

So if you're feeling in touch with your Newfoundland or Old English roots today, or if you're just feeling frisky or need a drink to calm your nerves after hours of shopping, then raise a glass to Saint Tibb! And maybe put on a mask a do a little mummering while you're at it, eh b'y?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

The Objective Ranking of Star Wars Films

To mark the release of The Rise of Skywalker this week, I'm going to add to the probably thousands of lists of best Star Wars movies you've read lately with my own. Of course, mine is different, because my method of ranking is highly objective, using vigorous scientific and journalistic tests to break down exactly how good each film in the series is.

(And by vigorous tests of course I mean I just re-watched the movies and read other people's lists)

Okay, I know it's not a good way to build your trust by putting a bunch of lies right in the title and first paragraph, but obviously nothing is completely objective. You just gotta trust my opinion, okay? It seems like these days if enough people just keep saying the same thing over and over it becomes true, whether or not it started that way.

Without furthers ado...

10. Attack of the Clones
This is just a bad film. Poor story, terrible acting, lousy directing. There's a couple of neat action scenes but overall it's so clunky. One of the big plot pieces is supposed to be the romance between Anakin and Padme, but they have absolutely no chemistry. I watched this movie with my 6yo and whenever Anakin and Padme were onscreen, he asked "When is Obi-Wan and Jango Fett coming back? These two are so awkward."

The greatest crime George Lucas ever committed was making Natalie Portman unpleasant to watch.

9. The Phantom Menace
I remember this was so disappointing when it first came out. Even the parts that I originally thought were kinda neat, like the lighstaber duels, now look overly-choregraphed and yet dull at the same time. I don't have a hard-on against Jar Jar Binks like some people do, at least he was fun (and I recognized it was for kids), but having an actual child as a lead, especially with a director who can't give direction to actors to save his life (sorry, George) was a TERRIBLE idea. I feel bad for Jake Lloyd, and most of the people involved in this.

Someone should have slapped George Lucas when he suggested this, and saved that poor kid a lot of therapy in later life.

8. Revenge of the Sith
Saying Revenge of the Sith is the best movie of the Prequel Trilogy is like saying dying is the best part of the Bubonic Plague. At least it's over. Now that I think about it, while I was originally disappointed in Episodes I and II, I remembered being actively mad about Episode III when I first saw it. It was like there was a checklist Lucas knew he had to hit to make all the plot points line up with the next movie, and he went about hitting them with all the subtlety of an octopus with eight sledgehammers. Why did Anakin and Obi-Wan's fight have to be so ridiculous? Why did Obi-Wan win by being three feet up a slight incline? Why did he just leave Anakin for dead, but randomly take his lightsaber on his way out? Did Natalie Portman seriously die of broken heart? (Would it really have been so bad to have Vader just kill her outright?) And the infamous "NOOOOOO!" at the end... seriously?

Now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I should bump this down a couple spots. At least Ian McDiarmid was fun.

Honestly Ian McDiarmid was one of the only redeeming factors in this movie, and the only actor in the entire trilogy (except maybe Christopher Lee and Ewan McGregor in moments) who understood what kind of movie this was supposed to be - goofy, unadulterated cheese .

7. Return of the Jedi
I know, rating one of the original trilogy this low is blasphemy, but the more I thought about it, the more problems there are with this film. It makes no sense that the Ewoks defeat the Empire. The lightsaber duel is ho-hum. Han Solo becomes a complete doofus, bumbling through everything like comic relief instead of the cool hero he's supposed to be (I guess getting frozen in Carbonite caused lasting brain damage). I still have to awkwardly explain why Darth Vader dies to anyone who watches the movie with me. It's so weirdly depicted in the scene, but after the way his wife died I guess he did okay. As a kid, I thought this movie was awesome, but when it was re-released in 1997 I actually fell asleep watching it in the theatre. It really does not hold up like Star Wars and Empire.

Harrison Ford obviously didn't give a shit, so why should we?

6. The Force Awakens
This film was a huge relief when I saw it in the theatres a few years ago. After the prequel trilogy it was wonderful to have Star Wars in a familiar direction again. Perhaps it was a bit too familiar - plenty has been written and discussed about how Force Awakens follows the original Star Wars almost beat for beat - which is the only reason I rate this so low. That doesn't mean it's bad, though. Being the sixth best Star Wars movie is still a pretty damn good movie. I love the new characters - Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo - they're much more interesting than anything we saw in the prequel movies by a long shot. My biggest gripe about this movie was that we didn't get to see Luke Skywalker until the last 30 friggin' seconds.

I waited 32 years, and sat through a two hour movie, for that?

5. Solo
The least-financially successful Star Wars movie to date, I thought this one was treated a bit unfairly because it was actually a lot of fun. Sure, it wasn't Harrison Ford. Sure, there were some dumb parts (he's named Han Solo WHY?). And god knows it wasn't necessary to flesh out Han's backstory, but it was entertaining and told a great heist story. The fate of the the galaxy didn't hang in the balance, which was also a nice change of pace. There's a lot of stories to tell in the Star Wars universe that don't involve blowing up planets or the cross-generational trauma of the Skywalker family. Even if we don't get any Solo follow-ups, I hope we see Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian again somewhere down the line.
If Disney seriously wants to make money, they need to make a Lando backstory movie, starring Donald Glover and narrated by Billy Dee Williams.

4. Rogue One
This one is weird, because while being a totally unnecessary prequel, it's also really good. It's purely a war movie, and it works very well. This could have been set in World War II with a few tweaks and it would have worked just as well, maybe even better. The nods to the prequel and original trilogies were great (if a bit over the top in places), and it also satisfyingly broke numerous tropes. No romance angles (not really, anyway)! And the shocking ending (well, as shocking as can be for a movie where we know the ending going in). Not to mention Darth Vader looking like a bad ass for the first time since Empire Strikes Back. This movie was just so much fun.

Remember, this is the guy who said "apology accepted" after brutally murdering his own admiral. Cheesy lines at inappropriate times is Vader's speciality.

3. The Last Jedi
I don't care what the haters say, this is quite possibly the best Star Wars movie ever made. The only reason I didn't rank number one is because of the nostalgia factor in the next two entries on my list. I was tempted to put it at number one just to piss people off.

It had it all. Action, suspense, drama, comedy, all things Star Wars is supposed to have. Sure there were dumb parts, but ALL Star Wars movies have dumb parts (The rocking X-wings in the original movie? Luke learning telekinesis... how, exactly, after never having seen anyone do it? Literally everything about Return of the Jedi?). They are overblown cheesy Sci-Fi movies, after all. I loved the relationship between Rey and Kylo. Kylo is my favourite dark side character in the series, because he actually seems conflicted, and his misplaced rage and anger against his family is believable. Most Star Wars villains are cartoon bad guys (which is fine) or whatever the fuck Hayden Christiansen was trying to do, but Kylo is an actual person. And I LOVED Luke Skywalker as a fallen, broken old man. This is a guy who had fought against evil his whole life, had personally killed more people than probably anyone else in the Civil War (he pulled the trigger on the shot that blew up the Death Star and killed MILLIONS of humans beings onboard), he had faced down Vader and the Emperor and won, and yet despite all of that, it didn't matter. Evil still rolled on and fascism and tyranny continued. And what did he do, when the thought he failed? He fled and hid, the same way his masters (Obi-Wan and Yoda) had taught him to do when they failed. It's crushing and brutal and shows the depth of the trauma running through his family.

Yeah, I could talk all day about The Last Jedi, but I'll move on.

I get giddy whenever I watch this scene.

2. The Empire Strikes Back
This is often cited as the "perfect" Star Wars movie, which is a pretty strong argument. It's is sometimes also called the last "good" Star Wars movie, which is total bullshit. But it is very, very good. It's got my favourite lightsaber duel of the original trilogy by far, and possibly the best of any of the films. It's got original, annoying/quirky/creepy Yoda (in puppet form!). It's got Lando in all his suave glory. It's got Han being all scoundrelly (and honestly, perhaps a little too forward and pushy, since Leia tells him to take his hands off her. Repeatedly).

And don't get me started on that ridiculous dinner scene. Personally I love that scene, but the more you think about it the more it becomes hands-down the weirdest scene in the Original Trilogy (and this is the same movie where Luke has that acid flashback of cutting his own head off that everyone always forgets about).

How long was Vader sitting there waiting for them? Did they actually sit down to dinner after this? Why wasn't THAT scene added in the Special Edition? I want to see the awkward conversation at this table, like Vader asking Leia to pass the mashed potatoes. 

1. Star Wars
While I can't argue that Empire is objectively a better-made movie, nothing beats the original. The Original Star Wars (I hate calling it "A New Hope") just has an earnest fun to it that has never been captured since. Episode VII and VIII came closest, but they are too big budget and flashy to really have the gritty, raw look and feel to it, while at the same time being a cheesy, goofy sci-fi flick. Star Wars takes itself so seriously now. George Lucas originally wanted to make a campy modern version of Buck Rogers, and that's exactly what he did. He did not have a big bible of encyclopedia backstory when he made this movie - he just literally made shit up as he went along, and it was all the more glorious because of it.

Case in point: Both Lucas and Harrison Ford have been quoted as saying, when asked questions about the plot/characters by Mark Hamill during filming: "You're thinking about this too much kid. It's not that kind of movie."

I wish we could all remember that more often these days. (Says the guy who just wrote a thousand words about the ranked quality of each film).

Always remember when having arguments about these movies: There's a half-naked man in pink hot pants just off-screen holding a boom mic.


Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker opens tomorrow. It may be awesome or it may suck, but I'm going to go see it and have a ball. It's what I'm looking forward to the most this Christmas! 

What about you? What's your favourite Star Wars movie? Are you looking forward to the latest one?

May the Force be With You this holiday season!

Hugs & Kisses,

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Living the Dream (#IWSG December 2019)

December 4, 2049

After knocking twice, Ben let himself in. His father was getting up there in years, after all. He was afraid one of these days he was going to show up and find him dead on the toilet.

"Dad, you dead?" he called out.

The answer came shouted from upstairs. "Go away, I'm writing."

"Dad, we're late for the kids' Christmas concert. They're waiting in the car."

"That's today?"

"Yes. I called to remind you yesterday. And the day before that. And twice last week."


Ben sighed. "I know you didn't check your messages."

"I thought you kids didn't make phone calls anymore?"

"Yes, but since you refuse to get the new neural communication implant, that's the only way I can contact you."

"I'm not letting Google put a goddamn microchip in my head."

"If you did you could write and publish your books like, a hundred times faster."

"Back in my day, we wrote dystopian science fiction about the government putting microchips in people's heads. Now you guys do it at the mall! I will write my way until you pry my Windows 2000 laptop out of my cold, dead hands."

"It crashed again, didn't it, Dad?"

Long pause. "It's been rebooting for an hour."

"I'll see you in the car."

"Let me just put on pants."

And that's the positive outcome...

Happy holidays, everyone!

Hugs & Kisses, 

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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