Simple Distractions

There’s a particular meeting we have every week at work. And because it happens every week, there’s a rotation schedule identifying the two co-chairs, which changes every three months. So imagine my surprise last week, having failed to look at the rotation chart in A VERY LONG TIME, that I was now one of the co-chairs. But I made a deal with my partner—he would organize the meetings, and I would take the minutes. Now, this sounded great in theory, but I had forgotten that I am literally SURROUNDED by things designed to distract me. And I’ve found that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more easily distracted, not that it’s a bad thing:

Ken: No, I don’t agree.
Me: Oh, for god’s sake, Ken! Why can’t—ooh, is that a bottle of Chardonnay?
Ken: Yes. Yes, it is. Would you like a glass?
Me: I’d love one. Now what were we talking about?
Ken: Who knows.
Me: Cheers!

So anyway, there I was at the virtual meeting, cleverly taking notes by typing everything into Word and then copying and pasting into the shared document that everyone could see. That way, I could proofread first and correct any errors before the rest of the group could notice them. Also, I took a certain amount of pleasure in the thought that my colleagues, seeing the blocks of text magically appear, would now believe I could type incredibly fast, like it was my superpower or something. But then, just like a superhero, my kryptonite happened. One of the group began adlibbing about something that WASN’T EVEN ON THE AGENDA, and because I was in the shared document, I was scrambling to follow along and type as he spoke. Simultaneously, I looked up and realized that there was a GIGANTIC F*CKING INSECT on the curtain directly in front of my laptop and I didn’t know if it was a cricket or potentially a cockroach because I’ve never actually seen a cockroach except on Hoarders and it looked like it MIGHT be one and how the HELL did it get into my house, and I completely stopped listening and began frantically texting Ken for ‘Hep!!”:

And Ken, being the excellent husband he is, came charging down the stairs, cupped his hands around the giant bug and carried it outside, at which point, the person in the meeting who had gone rogue with his agenda item said, “Uh, Suzanne—that’s not what I said” and I kind of stuttered, “Oh sorry, I was just…doing something” and I’ve never been so happy that my camera was off in my life. Which it has NOT been on several occasions, including later last week when a mosquito flew into my face and it took me several attempts to kill it, much to the amusement of the other people in the meeting I was attending who had stopped speaking to watch the spectacle. “Did you get it?” asked one of the directors. I had, in fact, so at least there was that.

And so, I leave you with the profound wisdom of this saying that I saw on the side of a truck the other day as I was driving down the highway: “Geniusness is not a flavour, we claim it by our own experience.”

I have no idea what this means and I’ve been trying to think that, if it’s a literal translation from another language, what might the original be? Just like when the Chinese translate American movie titles and they come out sounding both weird and hilarious, and some of them completely spoil the plot:

Seabed General Mobilization (Finding Nemo)
Interstellar Special Ability Team (Guardians of the Galaxy)
One Night, Big Belly (Knocked Up)
Satan Female Soldier (GI Jane)
Earth And Comet Collide (Deep Impact)
He’s A Ghost! (The Sixth Sense)

There are a ton more of these you can google and they’re all stellar.

In other news, I’ve mentioned my new novel, The Seventh Devil, a couple of times so here’s an update: my publisher, Bookland Press, loved it and they currently have it available for pre-order on all the Amazons (including Brazil and Japan) with a release date of June 15th 2021. And because I’m a control freak and have an aversion to stock images, I’ve been toying around with a couple of cover ideas. Luckily Kate is really a whiz at Photoshop, so she combined photos of my cousin, the daughter of a friend of mine, and a picture that Ken took of a swamp road. I really like the first one, but the publisher said they’d prefer something more “devilish, so here are the two options. Let me know what you think!

Also, here’s the updated synopsis if you’re interested:

When nineteen-year-old runaway Verity Darkwood, flat broke and devastated by guilt, takes refuge in a bar to escape the unwanted attention of a stranger, she doesn’t expect to meet Gareth Winter, let alone become business partners with him. They discover that they each possess the ability to interact with the world “beyond the veil” and, with the help of Horace Greeley III, editor of the fantastical online journal The Echo, Verity and Gareth spend the next two years on the road, helping the earthbound spirits who haunt their clients to cross over, or exorcising the demons that plague them. But when they stumble upon a series of unsolved child abductions spanning decades which are eerily similar to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Verity’s younger sister, they embark on a pursuit that will take them across Canada in their quest to find The Seventh Devil, the dangerous and mysterious figure who may be behind it all.

Search Me

I’ve been doing a lot of research lately, and my go-to is always Google. I mean, it’s not like I can walk into a public library and take out a stack of books, although if you know anything about me and my OCD hygiene issues, you’ll know I never touch library books anyway, especially after one of my friends told me about how bedbugs can live in library books and she puts them in the freezer for 48 hours before reading them. Google is the best for finding out stuff: Firefox is obsolete, Edge is boring AF, and Bing is Satan’s search engine, which, in retrospect, might have been appropriate. Also, there are no annoying ads on Google, although you DO get ads everywhere else related to every site you visit. It amazes me that there are people who believe that bizarre conspiracy theory about Bill Gates tracking you through microchips in vaccines when Google already knows everything about you simply based on your clicks. Once, I looked at an ad for wigs, and every site I go to now has ads for wigs. Last week I posted about kittens and now Kate Spade wants to sell me earrings shaped like kittens. And two days ago, I filled in an online request for a quote from a kitchen painting company and now my gmail keeps filling up with ads for Benjamin Moore and kitchen renos. If those conspiracy theorists were really smart, they’d stop using computers all together and share their dumbassery through Morse code instead of becoming anti-vaxxers.

Anyway, I recently completed writing my first non-Young Adult novel, called The Seventh Devil, and I had to do a lot of research at different points in the plot. And then I heard that the government monitors certain topics and I got really worried that maybe I’d raised some red flags. Here is a list of things I searched for recently—tell me if you think I should be concerned:

1) What happens when you mix salt and vinegar together?
2) How corrosive is hydrochloric acid?
3) Is it illegal to make hydrochloric acid?
4) What acid is stronger than hydrochloric acid?
5) Is it illegal to buy sulphuric acid?
6) Where in Canada can I buy sulphuric acid?
7) What type of container is best for transporting sulphuric acid?
8) What acids are more deadly than sulphuric acid?
9) What does carbon tetrachloride do?
10) How does phosphine gas kill you?
11) How do you exorcise a demon?
12) What Latin phrases are best for exorcisms?
13) How do I know if my house is possessed by a demon?
14) Why does my puppy lick the carpet?
15) Is my puppy possessed by a demon?
16) What is the largest swamp in Ontario?
17) How long does it take a body to decompose in a swamp?
18) Does the government track my Google searches?
19) What kind of vehicles do government agents drive?
20)If you see a wifi called Surveillance Van 3, is it real or a joke?
21) Does stress cause hiccups?

 

Demon Dog

Then last week, I e-transferred Kate some money for her tuition, and just for fun, I put “Thanks for the launch codes” in the message line. Yeah, I agree—I think I should be worried.

But research is important though–I learned this the hard way many years ago in university when I was doing an English Lit/Film degree. I was tasked with presenting the filmmaker Stan Brakhage to the class, so I read everything I could about him. Remember, this was in the days before Netflix, Youtube or even the internet, so I DID in fact have to go to a library. From everything I studied, the man was a genius, but there was no way I could actually see any of his films. Then, on the day of my presentation, my film professor, a wonderfully enthusiastic and eccentric man, came up to me and breathlessly announced that he’d secured a 16mm copy of Brakhage’s masterpiece, “Dog Star Man Part III” which he would play on the screen behind me while I spoke. I was thrilled too—the lights went down, the film began, and I started telling the class all about the film and how Brakhage was “obsessed with vision, and tried to capture the three dimensions of the senses…he wanted the viewer to see in a fresh way, to disregard social conventions of seeing—” and then I realized that some people in the class were laughing and some people seemed shocked, so I looked over my shoulder at the film playing behind me and there was a gigantic nipple in the middle of the screen, and then a close-up of what looked like someone peeing, and I’ve never been so mortified and so happy to be in a dark room in my life. I literally stopped my presentation and just said, “Well. That’s so interesting,” and then we all watched as it got even more porn-y and my professor launched into a treatise on Brakhage’s ‘instinctive qualities’ and his ‘incredible technique’, and he was so ecstatic about the whole thing that he didn’t even notice that I hadn’t said another word and I got an A anyway (note that his comment below was “a brief but pithy statement not only of Brakhage but also his context”). And if you want to see “Dog Star Man” for yourself, you can just google it.

 

 

 

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

A long time ago, I used to be a high school teacher which meant I got summers off. Of course, I never REALLY got the summer off—I was either taking courses, getting ready for the new year, or for the last few years before I switched jobs, I was a Summer School principal (you can search “Summer School Stories” if you want to know more). Now that I work for the secret agency, I get 21 days for the entire year, plus statutory holidays. These days are like gold, and I try to ration well because they have to see me through from January to Christmas. I took a few random days at the beginning of the year. And this past week, I took 5 days in a row. That is the extent of my summer holiday right now because I thought I needed to bank the rest for later. I had set another five aside for a cruise in December, but then everything went to sh*t and we had to cancel it—who wants to be on a floating can of plague? Maybe there’ll be a cure soon though, and then I might need them, so better to be safe than sorry. Anyway, I had five days right now and needed to be as productive as possible. Here’s what I accomplished:

1) I taught my puppy to stop biting me

He’s a fantastic little guy, except for one thing. He was biting ALL the time. My arms looked like a war zone—I couldn’t sit down on the couch for five seconds before he was jumping all over me and chewing the sh*t out of me. We tried several tacks, based on what I read on the internet:

Me (squeals very loudly): ‘OW!’
Atlas: You’re a terrible actress. We both know I didn’t bite you that hard. (Bites me again).

Me: Gentle. Be gentle. BE GENTLE.
Atlas: I have no frame of reference for that. (Bites me again).

Me: Here! Chew on Teddy instead!
Atlas: Teddy tastes like sawdust. On the other hand—on both your other hands–you’re delicious.

Finally, I’d had enough. I said to Ken, “None of this crap is working. From now on, if he bites, I say “No” and walk away. If he’s good, he gets a cookie.” See, I’d forgotten that he was a Lab and that the sole motivation for the breed is food. So on Monday, I sat down on the couch with a jar of little treats. Every time he got nippy, I said “No” and took my hand away. When he was calm, I gave him a little piece of his kibble and praised him.

Me: You’re a very nice boy.
Atlas: I AM a nice boy. And this food tastes even better when you handfeed me.

It took two afternoons of focused training, and he hasn’t bitten me since then. As long as I keep dog food in my pocket, I’m golden.

2) I wrote three and a half chapters of my new novel

I’ve been working on a new project for a little while, and at the beginning of July, I sent the first ten chapters to my current publisher to see if they had any interest in it. They do, and now I have a mid-August deadline to get the bulk of it complete. According to my plan, it will top out around nineteen chapters, which means about five and a half to go. Good job I still have some vacation days left. The new book is called The Seventh Devil. Here’s the synopsis:

“20-year-old Verity Darkwood and her mentor Gareth Winter travel across Canada in an old pickup truck and fifth-wheel trailer, exorcising ghosts and demons for people who’ve answered their ad in The Echo: A Journal for Lovers of the Macabre, edited by the eccentric Horace Greeley III. All the while Verity continues the search for her younger sister Harmony, who disappeared when Verity was 14. As she gets closer to discovering what happened to her sister, she and Gareth cross paths with the mysterious and dangerous John Berith. A confrontation becomes inevitable if Verity ever hopes to see Harmony again.”

I’m excited about it. If you have any good book cover ideas, let me know.

3) I watched Ken work on the gazebo

He finally finished the roof, and started working on the railings, benches, and stand-up bar this week. I now have the most ostentatious mansion for my blow-up hot tub possible. You’d expect something with this much architectural splendor to house the Statue of David or something, but no, it’s just a large vinyl container of hot water. Still, it’s glorious.

4) I went clothes shopping for the first time since March

My office in the city is right across the street from the best Winners store in Canada. I was over there at least once a week, because they always have fantastic clothes, a great clearance section, and it’s the only place I can buy the good vegetable spice. This spice is made by Gourmet Kitchen, and during the worst of the plague, I tried to order it from Amazon. I normally pay 6.99 for a jar at Winners; Amazon wanted thirty-five dollars US, which is around fifty Canadian. My potatoes would have to roast naked for that price. But there’s also a Winners about 20 minutes away from my house. It’s not at the same level as the downtown store, but still…And not only was I able to get the good spice, I bought three tops. Obviously, I don’t need to buy pants until I’m working in an office again instead of doing virtual meetings where people can only see me from the shoulders up.

5) I discovered that we get a channel called A&E. A long time ago, this channel used to show almost exclusively BBC series and documentaries. Now, it’s like the National Enquirer. On Mondays, you can watch marathons of Hoarders, which is the most insane show on the planet. On every episode, one of the psychologists says, “This is the worst hoard I’ve ever seen” but the next episode is ALWAYS WORSE, like the old man who slept in a tiny nest of garbage in his living room surrounded by mountains of more garbage, or the woman who had 117 cats—43 of them were alive and the rest were in her refrigerator. One episode had a guy who had stacks and stacks of magazines in one room, which hit close to home:

Me: See that? It reminds me of your office. You’d totally be a hoarder if it wasn’t for me refusing to let you keep crap like that.
Ken: Says the woman who has 27 clocks that don’t work and 12 seashell jewelry boxes with NOTHING IN THEM.

On Friday nights, you can also binge watch a weird show called Storage Wars. The premise is simple—we follow a group of *ssholes as they try to outbid each other on storage units so that they can make a profit on the junk inside. And they really are *ssholes, whose sole motivation is to screw each other over. Every episode, at least one of them says, “I don’t want this unit but I’m going to bid on it anyway to drive the price up so that Barry has to pay more than it’s worth.” None of the people on this show have anything likable about them, and I don’t understand why I watched 6 episodes on Friday night.  Oh well—I’m on my holidays.