Admittedly I have a little bit of imposter syndrome because I don’t write in just one genre. I’m greedy and as a speculative fiction writer, my stories may involve horror, fantasy and science fiction all mashed together sometimes. For my horror author pic I used the PITU app which I adore to make myself look eerie. My husband says I laugh like a maniac whenever I use this app, but I can’t help it, it’s hilarious to play with!
For this panel I will be reading a pure horror story – My Girl, which I made a YouTube reading of (link here) earlier this month. It was inspired by a time when I had a miscarriage. In this story, a woman has a chance to giver her dead baby life by stealing the life of another baby’s. If this was possible, would women do this? I have no doubt that some would and some wouldn’t. It depends on a person’s values in the end even if they are in a horror story.
I’m also trying something new at this panel, the King Sumo raffle service. We’ll be giving away some Dark Helix books in a digital raffle and one audience member will walk away with a few books.
For any parent with a young child, you may have encountered Numberblocks on Netflix. It’s a British made show which features all the numbers as characters who can merge (add), detach (subtract), multiply and divide. It’s a bit confusing at first because each number has a distinct voice and as they sing and dance, they become different characters (numbers) with different voices. It’s like watching a Broadway musical with people merging to become different people and then detaching again to become themselves. Confused yet?
The episodes are about 5 minutes long and there are five seasons. The stories in each episode are amazingly creative, the numbers are detectives in one, superheroes in another. After watching them, children attached to this show become obsessed with math and demand math quizzes every few minutes from their parents. It’s a wonderful and terrible thing at the same time because while I love the fact that my kid picked up multiplication from the show, my brain has no energy after working and writing (NaNoWriMo) to brainstorm math quizzes for fun at the end of the day.
For those who have the energy to do some celebrating, I’m sharing Numberblocks tags that I made with the Avery 8163 template. You can print it onto Avery stickers or cut them out if you are using regular paper (the guidelines won’t show up). If you have fancier ideas, you can add Christmas/Easter/Valentines clipart too to customize further.
Click link below to download, it has no spam or email signup requests, I am an exhausted parent and I hate that type of nonsense. If you like my books, you will buy them, I am a horrible salesperson anyways…Enjoy these tags and hope you have fun with the little ones during these strange COVID times!
Last week I had a business meeting with The Artist Blueprint Company‘s President (let’s call him K) and we really like to eat while talking. We went out for Taiwanese hot pot buffet and we cooked a lot of raw food (beef, lamb, chicken, pork, quail eggs, vegetables, noodles, etc) in a boiling cauldron of soup. The Artist Blueprint is another publishing company based in Toronto that specializes in diverse stories. We have done very different things as Dark Helix is broadening its horizons on subject matters (we got a lot of criticism from the Asian community about our Trump book) and exploring magazine publishing while Artist Blueprint is looking to create more merchandise creation beyond their current e-books. We are always looking for opportunities for collaborate and it’s good to brainstorm together.
Alas that night was my husband’s “night out” so I needed to bring my 3 year old son to my meeting. He’s ok once Paw Patrol is on the iPad (I admit I feel guilty for having judged other parents for doing this before I had my son) since he falls into zombie mode and I can talk without interruption. I’ve been asking for permission to bring my son along to informal meetings because it makes my life easier. K is a really cool guy and he has no problems. In another meeting my husband had a work emergency and I had to bring my son because I couldn’t find a last minute babysitter. The person I met with was male and he was questioning me on my motives (meeting was for planning a literary conference). He said I should focus on being a mother and to drop my volunteer work for conference planning. I told him that all my work is to make a better future/world for my son…On the flip side, in a meeting with ladies on creating a seminar series for writers, they said they wanted me to bring my son so they could play with him!
On Twitter today, a business reporter, Sheera Frenkel (@sheeraf) shared her story about how hard it was to get to a tv station to do reporting on behalf of the New York Times because of child constraints. She talked about how hard it would have been to book a nanny for 7am on the day of before rushing to the tv station and that she gave up many opportunities because of her child. The trolls came out, both males and females. Males told her that she made journalists seem lazy because they couldn’t do their job properly. Females said that sacrifice was inevitable and to stop complaining. Both sexes went on about how their jobs were worse and how they can handle life better.
At a recent conference, someone told me that they were surprised that I had a child. I don’t try to hide this, but I don’t bring it up either unless asked. I am very aware there is stigma from some against people with children because it is deemed to be a weakness. That children are the ultimate excuse when deadlines are missed, the reason why parents can’t do more social events, etc. For those who are balancing trying to keep a social life, work and be a good parent, it would be nice to see more encouragement rather than beat downs on Twitter. For every one nice comment there are thirty comments about how weak the parent is and how stupid they are. Why can’t people just be nice to each other?! We all have our own struggles and in helping each other we can all do a little bit to make the world a better place.
Feeding the Kraken! is a toddler/children cookbook I made in 2016. It was a successful Kickstarter project and it features over 50 recipes as well as parenting advice. I had hoped that my father (a chef) would be around to test recipes with me, but well, he died.
This book is a big lesson about me being too creative without thinking ahead. I used up a lot of time to make it look pretty and had lots of beautiful nautical graphics in it…which doesn’t translate well in e-book format. In fact it looks really crappy because the coding is very difficult and to make the book commercially viable I have to strip out most of the graphics.
I procrastinated about this for over a year. Good thing I’m not depending on books/writing to pay bills because I would be starving and dead by now!
In the end I decided to put up the original book as a pdf with all artwork intact on the Dark Helix Press website as a download. Since the reader has to do extra work, instead of the usual $4.99 price point, I have dropped it to $3.99. I also didn’t realize that paypal took a cut per transaction, so I learned about being dinged for fees too.
In the future I will make an e-book but it won’t be as nice. As for print book, I have InDesign, but haven’t taken the time to learn it yet. There is a high learning curve, but it is the gold standard for printing software. The print book can have most of the artwork intact but will be expensive to print due to color ink.
Anyhow, if you have any krakens (children) to feed, I think this is a great cookbook to look at. My child actually asks for the healthy red lentil muffins listed in the book! A cookbook is only successful if you use recipes more than once!
Trying to finished the Trump book has been a priority (oh and that toddler creature needs to be take care of too) and we just finished signing our 30th author (Timothy Carter, who sent in a fantastic story that made me laugh loudly) that will be featured in the book. The stories selected are pretty fantastic and unpredictable. As a writer I don’t like reading things in which I know how things will end. The publishing date we set is November 31, 2017 for the e-book and January 2018 for the print edition.
By the way, I am a horrible person to go to the movies with!
Jen Frankel has come on board as the second editor of the book and she has been fantastic to work with. There was another editor that came and went – lessons learned was to always keep communication open and to be organized, since things get hectic with 30 stories! Also parting amicably is a good thing because one never knows what the future may bring!
Labor day weekend(Aug 31-Sept 3) Dark Helix Press was at Fan Expo , a scifi/fantasy/horror/sports convention which brought over 100,000 people to one place. As a not very famous author, it was a loss financially, but I made some new contacts on the creative front. My husband couldn’t understand why I was exhausted every night. “You just sit at a table!” he said. Well, sitting at a table from 7am-8pm and talking all day is really tiring. Especially when you are not a natural salesperson. But if people don’t know about your book, they won’t read it, so you have to put a piece of your heart out there and let it get stomped on usually! There were a few people that heard me speak at other conventions so it was really nice to meet these people that have similar passions!
Recently I couldn’t find too much information about a device which I splurged hundreds of dollars on called Ovusense, so I will do a future post about this device and how it helps women with PCOS who are considered infertile. Time is passing for me, so I am hopeful, but trying not to be in case I get disappointed (Baby Shadows, an essay I wrote a long time ago explains more). I wish that my husband could have the baby because I seriously hate labor and recovery.
For those bugging me about the second International House of Vampires book, I am working on it, really. I know people are waiting and I have to get it done. I hope to have a draft by December, then find an editor in Spring 2018. This one is about mankind spewing too much garbage into nature and the consequences of that. Have you watched Plastic Ocean on Netflix? Birds and whales among other animals all starve to death because of plastic junk they swallow! The ocean has become a trashcan. Just one example of how horrible we are. Although if any other species took over the planet I’m sure they would do similarly destructive things…
There has been enough doom and gloom lately to make me depressed for a lifetime, so my husband decided that we should do something fun and plan a kid’s birthday party instead of thinking about death all the time.
Since my offsping is into Thomas the Train, I thought a Thomas themed party would be great. I looked up some parties and thought that this kid Max’s party was the gold standard! You can click on the picture to check out the other fabulous treats served at this party.
I’m going to admit this feels like the time I was just watching exercise videos on the couch with a friend and us commenting on how much work it seems to exercise as we ate chips!
Here are collages of my hack party (certain Max’s party had a higher budget!) which ended up to being lots of fun due to the crazy kids running around the room! The younger kids were more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the presents. Meanwhile, the older kids asked to open presents and acted like wild animals attacking something as they ripped apart wrapping paper with fury…then yelling “eww” when the presents were clothes instead of toys!
The Thomas cake was ordered from Metro supermarket and had a chantilly cream filling with blueberries. The blue/red dyes were really strong and stained a lot of hands!
The adults were civilized, of course, drinking and eating munchies while having polite conversations. Grandma was a bit bored since she doesn’t speak English, but there were a few people who could speak to her and entertain her while I played hostess. We were really grateful for all the wonderful toys given to us as presents! Much more fancy than the toys I had while I was growing up (bootleg Cabbage Patch Kid dolls?)!
The kids I babysat that night (yes, I had to babysit even after the party) wrote on the notepad which I was using to keep track of presents for thank you notes. The word “poo” seemed to render them into hysterics for some reason. I wish I could let loose like that sometimes and not worry so much!
A lot of free resources are available which makes it handy for those who have color printers. To make life easier, I used a 2″ puncher to cut out cupcake toppers which I used to decorate packaged oatmeal cookies.
Here are the links to Thomas party resources for someone else wants to plan a similar event!
A few weeks ago, I commented to my Viking husband that men are supposed to be able to breastfeed. After all, they have nipples like women and granted, they would need a boost of prolactin hormone, but it is a possibility. A Scientific America article talks about the real possibility of breastfeeding men and how throughout history there have been references of men breastfeeding babies in the absence of a mother.
This youtube video here shows a man pumping his breast and doing feeding his infant son. The reactions are fairly negative from his friends who thinks he is being weird and even his wife gives him an odd look towards the end. If a baby can get nutrients and a range of protective antibodies from the mother, I think it would be beneficial to get a fair share of protection from their father too!
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in my husband’s reaction to a potential experiment. He thought I was being silly, but I was serious about attempting to make him produce milk! Really feeling the shaft here as I have to carry this baby thing for nine months, not sleep due to lots of bladder pressure, rejig my organs, have a painful childbirth, take 1 year off and breast feed (my sister compared breast feeding initially to a shark attack). Also, my productivity in everything is slowed down as well since I am exhausted all the time which makes me feel useless on a daily basis. Of course he says he’ll pay the price in different ways…so we’ll see!
“How are you even alive?” The Chinese doctor looked at me and sighed. “You barely have a pulse, do you eat anything at all?” I told him that I have been trying to eat more vegetables, exercise, etc. “Is there a problem with meat?” “No, I just thought I was eating too much.” “Well, you need protein for your cells to repair and function.” At this point I was flabbergasted. He knew cell biology? He was a Chinese practitioner with 35 years of experience and worked in HK, Taiwan, and Canada. But I guess I had a stereotype that people usually chose one culture’s scientific knowledge over another.
It’s been 30 years since I have seen any Chinese doctor after the last one my parents dragged me to did some “bone reconfiguration” after I sprained my ankle. So now I have two “ankles” on one foot due to a misalignment somewhere. “It’s not like you are crippled!” my mom yelled back when I told her why I was afraid of Chinese medicine.
With reluctance after trying to have a damn munchkin for so long, I caved into to seeing a Chinese doctor after my Western doctor became too “busy” to see me. It was a difficult situation with a parent there, as she explained to him how she thinks it’s a stupid idea for me to have a child as children are bad karma creatures out to collect debts from the parents. The doctor smiled politely and said, “You’ve shared your experience with your daughter, now it’s up to her to make the final decision.” A former university colleague of my mother’s, he knew her personality well.
He spoke for about an hour about how to eat properly as it turns out I was malnourished. With not enough nutrition to function, how did I expect to grow a parasite? He taught a minimal cooking technique for green vegetables to preserve as much nutrients in the food as possible: Add 2 slices of ginger to a wok, heat up; add vegetables which have been rinsed in water only; cook for 3-4 min; add a little olive oil and water if needed; use lid to cover wok; cook for 3-4 min and add a little bit of salt for flavor.
In regards to cutting vegetables, he recommended not using a knife if possible as just hand breaking them preserves the cells better. Also, what I can eat depends on my body type, so he had to take my pulse.
Looking at my left wrist, he shook his head as my non-existence pulse. After feeling my right wrist he frowned and asked, “You should be experiencing abdominal cramps after meals as you have a bad digestive system.” How did he know this? It was true, I get cramps once in a while, especially when I’m super full.
Then he looked under my tongue; there were black colored veins and when I relaxed it, the tongue did not have smooth sides. “Your veins are black due to bad blood circulation and there are lumpy sides from your teeth. When the tongue becomes swollen, it presses against the teeth which is why it is lumpy when you relax it.” My mom, the energizer bunny, had a super healthy tongue of course.
After another hour of teaching me how to better take care of myself, he started to set my prescription for the next five days. I had a weak body (low energy, bad blood circulation, heat based), but if I had too much rich food, that would make things worse. He said there is lots more to know, but didn’t want to overwhelm me at the first meeting. I have to return in a few days and have another assessment, then my instructions might change depending on how my body is doing.
-powder Chinese medicine mixed 2x per day in lukewarm water (on empty stomach, can eat 1 hour after).
I was expecting to have to buy herbs to cook, but he said that his GMP certified powders were tested for toxins and guaranteed to be the correct herb, unlike random vendors. This technique of manufacturing Asian meds had been perfected by the Japanese. Also, people don’t know how to cook the herbs properly which may mess up the meds too. There were about a dozen powdered herbs in one “dose”.
-can only eat until 7/8 full for each meal
-can not drink water or liquids during the meal, as apparently I’ve been diluting my stomach acids. I can have half a bowl of soup/water before and after meal that is warm in temperature.
-3 meals: breakfast (something small, carb or protein), lunch (palm size meat with 2x vegetables and some carbs), dinner amount is same as lunch, fruit 2x
-meat = chicken, fish, pork; my body can not handle lamb or beef
-vegetables and fruit must be different if eaten in the same day
-no caffeine = tea, coffee
-no pop, too much sugar
-speaking of sugar, avoid as much as possible as body can not digest this well
-ARH! NO CHOCOLATE! I might as well be dead!
-Vitamin C, 500 milligrams; taking prenatal multi-vitamin ok as much of it will be peed out anyways
-breathing exercises, no more than 5x each or I might damage something (no aerobics as I didn’t have enough energy for that)
-no spicy or fried things
-less soya, tofu due to hormones in them
-No eating of frogs, toads, quail spit, placentas (really?!)
-snacks can either be fruit or yoghurt (Apparently the Japanese have the best yoghurt which is not available in North America)
I had questions about my use of Western medicine and he said that I should not stop as it would be a shock to the system. I told him it was too late as the doctor pulled me from all meds after my last failed baby attempt. He said it will take a while for my body to recover, but my body wasn’t too terrible compared to other women he had seen with the same problems.
He told a few stories in which he knew what to prescribe, but held back as he was worried about lawsuits as there is not much confidence in Chinese medicine in the Western world since Western medicine dominated. There was some communication issues, as my background in science had been taught in English and his in Chinese. So there were some moments which was like a game as we tried to describe the cell part we were each talking about.
In previous meetings, my Western doctor had said that I was about to take the last step in how they can help me and if it didn’t work, there was no other alternative. So, I guess, I’ll have to give this Chinese medicine a try as I’m not sure what to do anymore. I am feeling hopeful, which is always a dangerous thing. Wish me luck!
What do you remember from your childhood in regards to movies, television or other forms of entertainment? Seeing an old Chinese gangster movie last night made me remember some horrible stuff I saw while I was trapped in the playpen.
This weekend, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) goddess invited me and my husband to screenings of old Chinese movies which were part of “A Century of Chinese Cinema” featuring films from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The first one we saw was Chungking Express (1994), introduced by cinematographer Christopher Doyle. He said that the apartment in the film was actually his old apartment in Hong Kong and that the movie couldn’t have been set anywhere else but Hong Kong as it paid homage to the city at the time. He was rambling a bit and perhaps slightly drunk as he laid on the carefully covered grand piano, then started dancing at the Faye Wong song during the credits. TIFF goddess sighed at the lack of professionalism; but I smiled knowingly, thinking about all the Anime North guests I had taken care of in the past who were just as difficult and had to be chased down all the time to keep their activity schedule. The ending in which two characters waited for each other for over a year made me wonder if people now would wait such time for true love even it if was uncertain? Then I remember that my Viking (this is my nickname for my husband due to his red hair & beard) and I had been separated for three years as we were in different schools for a while. It seems like a small blip of time in our relationship now that we are on year 14.
It was the music in the second movie, A Better Tomorrow (1986) which made me and much of the audience (Chinese girls/boys) feel nostalgic as we grew up listening to this music which infiltrated Hong Kong culture at the time. The movie was not really about cool gangsters (trend of the 90s) as they were on the “wrong road”, but about comradery and the Chinese title “True Colors of a Hero” explains the extent of sacrifice one would do for their friends. The long trench coats, brick cellphones, cd players, eighties hairdos and horrible subtitle translations added to the charm of the film.
The songs in the movie were mainly sung by Leslie Cheung, a super talented pop star who came out in the later years and then committed suicide due to depression. Nansun Shi was the executive producer of the movie and she had some great stories about how everyone thought that the film would fail as nonsense comedies were the trend at the time. She sounded like a super smart lady who would make a great role model; will have to learn more about her sometime. “Surely your mother would not have let you watch gangster films as a child!” the TIFF goddess lamented after I told her how the music reminded me of my childhood.
I started to recall what the days were like when trapped in the play pen/child jail. Back in the day, there were barely any Chinese video stores around, so my mother’s friends would record many movies onto VHS tapes and lend them around. It was important that the children watch Hong Kong entertainment or we would never learn the language! I remember watching happy children cartoons…which faded into static…then movies with war, monsters, ghosts, vampires and other things that were adult rated would come on as the tape kept rolling. My most vivid and frightening memory of a movie during my play pen days was one about the Vietnam war and a scene in which a prisoner was tortured in various ways before finally being hung upside down and having his throat slit. I remember crying out for my mother, but no one came. I’m sure they were busy with something at the time. Anyhow, speaking with my brother, he remembers a movie with a clown running around raping police women. The clown was caught after the police hired a prostitute to dress up as a police women as a decoy. He was scared of clowns for years and still is, perhaps.
As for me, after the horrible torture scenes, I was not bothered by aliens, monsters or any “horror” genre things after this. It might also explain how afterwards I started reading lots of Stephen King and Clive Barker to find the initial “thrill” of being shocked again. My parents assumed I was reading Jane Austin, but they didn’t really care as long as I was reading something to improve my English…My siblings and I turned out ok in the end, but I’m not sure if I would do the same to my child as I think I’m become indifferent to many things compared to my Viking. Horror movies gives him nightmares and he is not my partner when it comes to watching that type of stuff.
Japanese psychological horror movies are more interesting to me now than the American slash stuff as I have read/watched too much of it as a teenager. The most disturbing scene in the famous horror franchise Ju-On (American remake – The Grudge) for me is not the killing, but it is when the main character tries to hide under her bed sheets, but can’t, as the little boy ghost is there watching her. Similarly, in the Japanese manga Uzumaki in which people turn into snails and are trapped in a small town; the most horrible scene is when starving business men start eating the snails and saying that it tasted like sashimi. After randomly picking up that book and reading that panel, I thought with glee – wow, that is so horrible, that it’s going to be stuck in my brain forever!
But for now, I think I’ll pause and listen to this beautiful music from “A Better Tomorrow” while feeling some nostalgia. Some people tell me that childhood was their happiest time in their lives due to lack of responsibility and worries. For me, I remember being depressed and a bit suicidal starting at the age of four, perhaps due to watching so much death on film. My brain was warped early on I suppose, which explains why I’m so dark and cynical sometimes!