Category Archives: fun

Trump Book Almost Finished!

Apologies for not updating this blog as of late.

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…

On that cheerful note, have a great weekend!

 

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What Manga Heaven Looks Like!

Yesterday I was with a friend who told me about a new manga cafe called Akiba Kissa in Markham, near John & Woodbine (7634 Woodbine Ave). I was actually super tired and full from eating too much beef brisket noodle, but we stopped by this cafe anyways.

I was blown away by the wall to wall shelves of English manga! For a few seconds…ok, minutes…I thought about how I would want to visit every night if I didn’t have a son and husband. Alas, the joys of being a single otaku! Anyhow, the cafe had all my old school favorites – Fushigi Yuugi, Kenshin, Inu Yasha, Uzumaki as well as newer stuff such as Blue Exorcist or  Rin-ne.

The front of the cafe had a huge space for cosplayers and tables for special events along with murals of Akira among other titles.

When you enter, you will see large sofas in front of a large screen broadcasting anime (they had The Devil is a Part-Timer when we entered) and tables for people to snack, lounge and read. There is a large dressing room for cosplayers to get ready and the cafe also sells lots of limited edition figurines imported from Japan.

Here you can see walls of manga and the back room had rows of arcade machines and video game setups.

Snacks available for purchase includes ramen, pocky, fancy Japanese pop, hot/cold tea and cute cakes in the shape of Totoros, rabbits or bears. Full hot and cold menu of drinks listed here. Along the walls there are displays by local vendors who display their wares such as 3D printed anime masks or original origami Sailormoon art cards.

If you have an afternoon/evening free and want to relax by reading manga, this is the right place to be!

My YouTube Diary – Earning money is hard!

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this You Tube Diary because I have been busy trying to finish a cookbook for toddlers. Anyhow, I’ve been keeping my eye on my You Tube channels and sad to report that things are a bit disappointing.

You Tube has millions of videos and it is hard to compete for spots when you are making original material for niche audiences. People that are bootlegging music videos or television shows make a lot more money than a newbie who is trying to create original content.

The most successful channel I have so far is “Po Po Gets Results” with educational videos in Chinese with English subtitles. I suspect this is because one of the languages we have videos for – Cantonese, is a niche area on You Tube for education videos since most are in Mandarin. Cantonese is a dialect of Mandarin and not the official language, so only a subset of the Chinese population is interested in this.

I had ideas for comedy skits to create with a friend, however, she is busy and we haven’t been able to figure out a shooting schedule. She prefers days since it’s best to shoot in light, but I work and I don’t have free time until evenings. Weekends are possibilities, but we haven’t been able to weasel out of our family commitments to get going!

Meanwhile I also bought many LEGO sets because I thought I could make skits with LEGO people. However, I haven’t had time to write down a script yet. I just have random ideas floating around for now…eventually I’ll shoot something since I bought a great mike (Blue YETI) and need to use this stuff before my husband throws them out!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! Mentioned in 2 articles!

(Oops, posted day after Valentine’s – forgot to hit publish button)

Today the landlord and men at my office gave out free breakfast, snacks and roses which was really nice of them. I could not resist the heart donuts at Tim Hortons either. Gosh, it’s been a calorie packed day!

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A few weeks ago I had answered some queries about relationship questions and didn’t hear back from the people. Well, today two of the people contacted me and used my advice in their articles!

One was 14 Things We Wish We Knew Before Getting Married which featured wedding pics and advice from married people. It’s mind boggling to see my picture from ten years ago. I looked so young!

The second article was written for businesses in regards to how people should treat their partners – Experts Weigh In: How do you show love to your partners? 

My husband and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day (something about him finding it annoying) so it was nice that I got fed, received a rose and got to contribute to some articles!

My YouTube Diary – Opening A YouTube Channel

Similar to television channels, on YouTube you can open your own channel to upload videos to. You can even make a trailer to promote it, add your social media links and pay for ads to advertise this channel. It’s like opening a free mini tv station which you can brand and upload whatever content (within YouTube guidelines) you want the world to see.

There are step by step instructions and technical tips on Buffer Social’s site write up on how to open a YouTube channel. Basically you need a Google account which will also give you an email account, brand account, YouTube account and Ad Sense account (for collecting revenue from ads or to pay for ads). It’s handy that everything is linked and the interface is quite user-friendly for newbies.

One of my friends told me that somehow they got banned from opening a YouTube channel because someone close to her somehow had access to her email and did some odd stuff on YouTube pretending to be her. Hence she was banned for a few years. Remember that the internet is like an elephant, it never forgets! So be careful of what you write and read the warning emails if they appear because you can get banned!

After opening a brand account and YouTube channel, you may want to think of a logo. This is an extra touch which helps promote brand recognition and it’s kind of fun to have the chance to make a logo for your own channel! To make a logo, you can either 1) DIY with original art, 2) DIY with free royalty-free stock art from Pixabay, 3) DIY with design programs such as the fabulous free Canva (you can upload your own images if Canva doesn’t have exactly what you want) or 4) hire an artist. If you hire someone and buy the copyright, the content is  yours. When you use stock art or Canva, read the fine print for license details for what you can and can not do.

Here are a few of my YouTube channel logos which were created either on my own or commissioned an artist for the art:

logos

Once you have things set up, you can actually open up more than one channel. Why do this? Well, for me, I wanted to have a few different channels due to different interests that don’t really intersect. I actually created the JF Garrard channel years ago to upload a book trailer for my multicultural vampire novel, The Undead Sorceress (looks so cheesy when I re-watch it!). Now that I have a new project, to organize things better, I created a playlist specific to my project on depression, Pessimist to Semi-Optimist (PTO) project so people interested in this project can watch all the videos on this project in one go. It’s like using setting up your PVR to record all the Big Bang Theory shows in a row to watch them non-stop.

Po Po Gets Results!” is a channel I opened to make Chinese language videos with my mom to drill some Chinese into my son because it’s hard to find Chinese/English videos with toys that he likes to play with. “Po Po” means grandmother in Cantonese. Viking husband thought that “Po Po Gets Results” was a funny phrase and describes my mom’s relentless nature in shoving food into our offspring. Anyhow, getting him to learn numbers from a Thomas the Train that sounds like his grandmother seems to be working for now!

Over Christmas, my husband went crazy while watching super boring videos of Disney toy openings with children that we were babysitting. I looked up the person that made these videos and it turns out they make over $1M a year! We have a lot of toys at home, so why not try to make some videos about toys which children would want to watch? However, my interest in attempting to making videos about toys (openings and reviews) does not really fit into my channel on author and depression stuff. As a parent, I would be confused if a channel has videos on toys and advice on how not to commit suicide or vampire book trailers. It might fit into the Po Po channel, but I want to keep that exclusive for Chinese educational videos, so I opened a channel called “Kid Creatures” for toy reviews and toy opening videos.

Finally, some friends wanted to get together to make comedy skits. Good comedy is extremely difficult to do and very subjective, which makes me a bit nervous about doing this. As a big fan of BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous I always wish there was more female comedy that was not only about hot flashes, women being mean or sex. “One Hand Wave” is the comedy channel I opened to upload funny things to. My friends and I haven’t gotten together yet because everyone seems to be busy. Maybe that can be a skit in itself! Funny how the one person with a toddler is the one that set up everything and bought equipment but the single people are still “thinking” about things before they want to do anything…sigh…ok, I’m being a bit mean now…

I admit it’s a hassle to switch in between channels or personas when doing updates, but I think it will be worth it in the long run. Within each channel you can create playlists, so when people are on your channel, you can create lists to link all your videos. This will help people find your videos as YouTube is a vast place with millions of videos.

One software I highly recommend to spread messages about your message on social media is Hootsuite, which allows you to schedule posts. For example, you want to send ten Twitter messages about a new video. Instead of logging into Twitter and typing it ten times every day (and trying to remember!) – you can schedule all ten posts over ten days in a few minutes in Hootsuite. There is a free version you can link to 3 accounts, but if you have multiple things to upkeep, a paid version costs about $200/year for up to 10 accounts.

Opening a channel is the easy part! Now it’s off to the races by making videos to upload!

 

Run to Mystical Landscapes at AGO and leave the toddlers at home!

Fantastic! This is one word which sums up the Mystical Landscape show at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. Running from October 22, 2016 – January 29, 2017, the show features art between 1880-1930 of artists who were disillusioned with traditional religious institutions and searched for meaning through mystical experiences.

The 37 artists from 14 countries includes: Lawren Harris, Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler. It was interesting to see pieces from Edvard Munch and Georgia O’Keeffe that were not a screaming figure or flowers, which they are best known for! A complete list of artists in the show is available here on activity worksheets for school children (which also explains the themes of the show quite well) and listed below.

I was impressed with the fact that audio resources for the show were available for free as a guide during the show (those plastic things you carry around) or you can download the audio onto your iphone or listen online!

During the show, the showstopping piece everyone looked at was Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888. I’m sure phosphorescent (glow in the dark) paint was not used, yet somehow this piece has stars which glow and touches the soul with curiosity. Wikipedia has a write up with details about Van Gogh writing to his brother about this painting.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles, 1888

My favorite pieces in the show were landscapes  by Swedish artist Eugene Jansson. The one below is Dawn over Riddarfjärden, 1899. This is a large painting and when you look at it you feel like you are part of the landscape, engulfed in the light which is spilling out from the sky.

Eugène Jansson mystical landscapes ago

I’ve been to the show twice, once with my mother-in-law and once with my toddler. It was much more enjoyable with an adult because you had time to walk around slowly and take in the beauty of the paintings. I thought that my toddler might like the beautiful colors of the art, but he only wanted to climb up and down the leather couches within the exhibit. I guess those were his favorite pieces in the show!

Towards the exit there were a few pieces with crystals and planets in space which I thought were great as well. Lots to see and take in at this show, I highly recommend that you stop by if you are visiting Toronto!

Artists List in Mystical Landscapes Show

(Source: AGO Teacher Resources)

France
Émile Bernard (1868-1941)
Richard Burgsthal (1884-1944)
Maurice Chabas (1862-1947)
Henri-Edmond Cross (1865-1910)
Maurice Denis (1870-1943)
Charles-Marie Dulac (1866-98)
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Louis Welden Hawkins (1849-1910)
Georges Lacombe (1868-1916)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Paul Serusier (1864-1927)
Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939)

Austria
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Belgium
Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)
William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935)
Netherlands
Vincent van Gogh (1853-90)
Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Jan Verkade (1868-1946)

Denmark
Mogens Ballin (1871-1941)
Ejnar Nielsen (1872-1956)
Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863-1958)

Norway
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)

Sweden
Gustaf Fjaestad (1868-1948)
Eugène Jansson (1862-1915)
Hilma af Klint (1862-1944)
August Strindberg (1849-1912)

Russia
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Switzerland
Augusto Giacometti (1877-1947)
Giovanni Giacometti (1868-1933)
Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)
Felix Vallotton (1865-1925)
United States of America
Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946)
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943)
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
James McNeil Whistler (1834-1903)

Canada
Emily Carr (1871-1945)
Lawren Harris (1885-1970)
Alexander Young Jackson (1882-1974)
Jock MacDonald (1897-1960)
Tom Thomson (1877-1917)
Frederick Horseman Varley (1881-1969)

Great Britain
James Dickson Innes (1887-1914)
Paul Nash (1889-1946)
George Frederick Watts (1817-1904)

Ireland
Grace Henry (1868-1953)

Czech Republic
Wenzel Hablik (1881-1934)

My YouTube Diary – How Do People Make Money?

YouTube appears to be the new gold mine of our century. Are you going to pan for gold? I am! Seriously, as much as I would love to make millions every year, I know that the people making lots of money also work very hard. We can’t see the amount of hours, money spent on equipment and sheer sweat they put in before they became a success. A little bit of gold dust would be nice, nevertheless!

Business Insider has a great article which calculates and breaks down the amount of money people earn on You Tube. PewDiePie (YouTube’s biggest star who critiques video games and makes jokes about them) supposedly pulled in revenue of $10.5M in 2014. After taxes and YouTube’s share, he may have made $4M. That is fantastic, but keep in mind he started doing this many years ago and the big payoff is only now. Another YouTube star is Michelle Phan (beauty and makeup) was calculated to have made about $150K in comparison. These stories are great, but how does one actually make money?

YouTube has ads that you see before and during video viewing. This is called “YouTube monetization.” The person who made or uploaded the video signs a digital agreement with YouTube so that ads can be placed into their videos and there is a split of roughly 50:50. The amount of money made depends on how many people watched the video and if they clicked on the ad or not. Also, longer videos have more ad placements. More details are available on this “Ad Rates Report” page about how YouTube and ads work.

Setting up a video to be monetized is not difficult at all, maybe 30 minutes, tops. However, to make any money, you need lots of eyeballs and different people to watch your video (and yes, YouTube can tell if the clicks come from the same household). Other than professional media (music videos, clips of tv shows) or cute home videos (babies, dogs, cats) which are sometimes bought by the news media; highly viewed videos are either technical (video game, makeup, space rockets, educational, amateur tv shows) or really low brow (pooping, barfing, falling).

Everything comes down to marketing. In our day and age, social media has opened the doors to people to do their own marketing instead of relying on professional companies. However, people are bombarded with marketing from all over the place, so it’s become harder to get someone’s attention. Having good content is always the most solid base for success, but if no one knows about it, then the content will become lost in cyberspace.

One area getting some attention are toy reviews and toy unboxing (opening a toy). Since I have a child, I thought that a good start would be making videos with toys. That $10 piece of plastic I bought should be good for something after it’s been played with for 5 min, right?! Actually, I spent more than $20 on secret Lego Disney figurines because there was a frenzy at Toys R Us with moms feeling up these packages for the figure they wanted while the men shook their heads in the corner. Still, it was quite exciting to open the secret Lego Disney package on camera because I didn’t know what was in it either (felt like doing toy porn and I’m sure that’s out there too)! This is sounding pretty sad…but I’ve had too much excitement lately over a health crisis in my family, so being excited about something boring is good!

In addition, I want my son to learn Chinese, so I have asked my mom to make videos of us playing with toys in Chinese. I have had a maximum of ….wait for this…30 hits!…so far on our video of Thomas the Train counting in Cantonese. The threshold of any money being released by You Tube is $100 and given I’m at $0.02 today (videos have been up for a week), it’s going to take a while!

Since having a child is like opening a black hole near your bank account, I think doing YouTube videos for fun in hopes of earning some money is a good idea anyways. I’ll be blogging about this occasionally when I’m less depressed because I think it’s a funny thing to do. Until then, I’m calling my mom to ask her to think of more video ideas, since our video of Thomas and Mickey buying fruit was viewed as “too Asian” by a friend!

 

 

 

 

Dollar Tree Canada Review

Whenever I rave about Dollar Tree in Canada, people look at me with puzzled looks about how excited I am to go there. Dollar Tree offers fantastic value for brand name products and has become one of my favorite stores to frequent. I think it’s because I grew up in a frugal immigrant family and we were taught to be bargain hunters. There wasn’t much left over with three kids and my parents sponsoring their parents along with relatives to Canada. We were always at sketchy malls and flea markets versus the fancy shiny malls that I visit today.

Dollar Tree is an American store which sells items for $1 USD in the US or $1.25 Cdn in Canada. Its headquarters is located in Chesapeake, Virginia and they operate 13,600 stores throughout North America. According to their website, its stock is trading at $85 USD today. They also recently purchased the Family Dollar chain for $8.5B USD to expand their empire.

My family first discovered Dollar Tree while cross border shopping in Buffalo, NY. For some reason my mother was really obsessed with buying toothpaste at the time. Anyhow, what attracted me were brand name quality items such as Disney toys/coloring books/puzzles for the kids and fantastic event planning stuff. If you are having a party with a Mickey Mouse theme for example, you can grab everything here – party cups, banners, cupcake sleeves, candles, loot bags, loot bag toys, puzzles, stickers, pens, etc. They even have helium balloons which they fill in store too! All for $1.25 each!

The Dollar Tree Canada stores carry less items than Dollar Tree US stores and do not carry frozen groceries. Compared to its main competitor – Dollarama, Dollar Tree is pretty amazing since the $1.25 Cdn items they carry may cost $2-4 Cdn at Dollarama (examples – Betty Crocker brand containers, reading glasses, scarves). However, Dollarama (Canadian company) has over 1000 stores all over Canada versus the mere 100 Dollar Tree stores spread across five provinces.

Typically my Dollar Tree haul will include lots of children books (Sesame Street, Mickey Mouse, Avengers) and toys, however, today my shopping was interrupted by my Viking husband who came early to pick me up and drag me out of the store. He is the total opposite of me and strongly dislikes shopping.

dollar-tree-haul

My purchases today included: books, Disney kid socks, Trophy peanuts, Arizona ice tea, scrapbook tape, Clearasil acne cream, Betty Crocker muffin mix, Nissin cup noodles, Loacker chocolate, index cards and mini picture frames (large picture frames same price, but I needed small ones for wallet size pics).

Dollar Tree also has a lot of scrapbook stuff and seasonal items (Christmas, Valentines, Thanksgiving).   After a holiday is over, they put their seasonal items on sale, so if you are near one of these stores you could get a box of Christmas cards for $0.50. If you are a parent, I highly recommend this store for random kid things because they sell licensed products which won’t break the bank! Now go to the Dollar Tree website and find a store near you for some happy bargain hunting!

 

Thomas The Train Party on a Budget

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!

thomas-party-v3a

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!

thomas-party-toys

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!

Doodle Bug Designs Thomas “Happy Birthday” banner (free)

halegrafx.com has Thomas Cupcake toppers, water bottle wrappers, invites, thank you cards (free)

Official PBS website has free coloring pages and activity sheets (free)

Passion for Savings has “Happy Birthday” banner, cupcake toppers, food labels, water bottle labels, loot bag labels (free)

Thomas cake purchased from Metro grocery store ($)

Partycity stores had Thomas decorations, loot bags and assorted party supplies ($)