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Monday, 30 December 2013

Ye Travel Gods Strike Again : Moment of Oops, Aussie style

Bear with me folks - I'm attempting to type this on my phone. Hopefully I get to the end, hit publish, and it (a) actually publishes, and (b) does not end life on the planet as we know it.

I'm in Australia, gearing up for my brother's impending wedding in early January. Unfortunately in my usual affect on the travel gods, arrival dates got a bit muddled. To the point where I apparently had half of my UK family trying to figure out where I was, because the Aussie side pitched up at the airport and I never appeared. The itinerary said I landed 22 December, which was the date I gave. What I completely and utterly missed was the minuscule fine print that said (+1) at the bottom. To cut a long story short, the folks were anxiously waiting at the airport, wondering if I'd done something to upset customs, while I was lurching around Brunei airport, a little unsure how I'd ended up there. (The ticket said Dubai transfer. Brunei was never hinted at.)

So we finally landed in Melbourne, and I staggered onto the concourse expecting to see the beaming faces of the family... *crickets*

We'd landed early, and the Aussie customs are terrifyingly efficient compared to every other country I've flown through; passport and very pleasant interrogation done and dusted in under fifteen minutes. I made a beeline for the coffee shop and tried to ignore the migraine that had hit during the last hour of the flight (not fun. Having an attack on a jetliner may be one of the more unpleasant things I've managed) and texted my brother. At this point in time, I still thought it was the 22nd.

My brother called me and made growly noises about the date.

I caught a taxi to the house. Hopefully the trip back will be uneventful. It's a bit disconcerting to time-travel by accident. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Migraine Hell Week: This is what happens when the Botox wears off

So last week, the Botox I'd had for the migraines wore off. In one of the worst cases of incredibly bad timing my body has EVER come up with, it decided to respond to this by sending me into pain convulsions, swiftly followed by an episode of blindness, in the middle of the working day, at my desk.

Now, the guys I work with are aware that I get migraines. They've seen me with mild ones. I normally know when it's going to be bad, that I need to get home and into the dark, and I'll make sure I leave before that happens. I thought this one was going to stay mild. However, it ramped up so hard and so fast, that in the 90 or so seconds of me thinking I needed to go home and taking a couple of painkillers for the trip, I was suddenly in so much pain that I couldn't walk, talk or think. I sat in my chair and trembled.
My team thought I was having a seizure. I suppose technically I was, but it was pure pain. There's not much else to it.

The shaking thing isn't new. I get it when it's a bad one, but I'm usually curled up in the dark and by myself, in private. If I whimper and cry there's nobody else around to witness it, to see that moment of horrible vulnerability. Having it happen in a public setting, with people I work with daily, was a moment of personal humiliation I'd like to never repeat.

My boss sat down next to me in the middle of this and asked if I needed an ambulance. I'm very grateful they didn't get one; an emergency room is no place for someone in the middle of a severe migraine attack. It's bright, it's loud, and the smell is overpowering. I don't even want to think about the agony involved. I couldn't answer for a while; the pain had locked my vocal cords. All I could do was a raise a hand so he knew I was conscious, and let me tell you, I've rarely wanted to pass out so badly.

Most of what followed is still broken into jagged little moments of memory. I know that I was half-carried, half-staggered into a dark office. I know I was crying. I know that shortly afterwards I lost my vision completely, and came pretty close to panicking; it's one thing having that happen at home. It's completely different in public, where you are vulnerable to everyone and everything around you. Thankfully, like the last time, the blindness passed in a few minutes.

They sent me home in a taxi. I stayed at home the next day with a pounding, throbbing head. I felt better that evening, sat in the lounge with Stacey, and managed to do the pain jitterbug all over the lounge carpet. No blindness this time, and Stace managed to get me to lie still and breath. It was a short episode, but it hurt. The migraine went from pounding to ultra-sharp; it felt like someone was trying to ram a long needle into my brain.

I felt okay the following morning and went into work. I lasted three hours before the panda-eyes of doom appeared and I got the shakes again. And then I lost my words. It's an interesting side-effect, that one. You lose words that you use every day. Your mind tries to find them and they just aren't there any more. As a bonus, you start slurring. The slurring starts off as a slight burr; and ends up sounding like you've just made friends with several shots of good-grade whiskey. The look of horror on my boss's face was impressive.
I refused a taxi - the previous episode had proved I'd get home faster on the train - and Stace met me at the station in case I had another pain-jitter attack. It was close, but I managed to not have it until I was back home and in bed.

Rinse, repeat, until Saturday, when I went into the migraine clinic again for more Botox, and an assessment of the diary I've been keeping.

Sunday I had ten hours pain-free. Today I've got a minor episode - functional, but not happy. It takes about 5 days for the Botox to kick in, so hopefully it speeds its merry way through my system.

Doc reckons I'm a good candidate for the operation which removes the muscle the nerve runs through at the top of the eye-socket, and moves the nerve at the back of the skull. He said I could reduce the migraines by between 80 - 90%, so there's hope that I can get my life back. I'm thinking about it, very hard. Apart from the issue of general anaesthetic and the risks of the op itself, the main barrier is cost. The NHS doesn't cover this, the op would take place in Berlin, and the charge is £7000. Seven grand is a LOT of money for me, particularly as the cost of Botox and a hefty dose of painkillers on a monthly basis has eaten up just about all my savings. This disease is expensive in every respect.

But seven grand to get my life back would be cheap, if I had the money. To be able to make plans to go out with friends and not cancel at the last minute. To be able to eat without throwing up from pain; I've lost a few kilos in the last week, and it's not a healthy weight-loss. To not walk around looking and feeling like an escapee from the Walking Dead make-up trailer. To not wonder just how easy it will be to one day miscalculate the pain-pills and accidentally overdose. You don't track too well with constant migraine; and if the pills don't dent it the urge to take more is huge. To be able to write, and work, and be pain-free for at least some of the time. To never see that look of helpless shock and horror and pity on the faces of your friends and colleagues again. To stop thinking dying might be a relief.
Yeah, seven grand - probably closer to eight if you factor in the flights and the stay in Berlin - it would be cheap.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Farewell, Madiba. The giant is sleeping.

I went through the South African schooling system during the last years of Apartheid. It was a strange time. On the one hand, there was a subtle relaxation of the enforcement of some of the worst official behaviour. On the other hand, the casual brutality became more marked; I remember seeing a white security guard at a small shopping centre walk up behind a black man and rabbit-punch him in the back of the neck, then walk off, laughing.
I went over to help him up, and the look in his eyes was a combination of dazed, bitter helplessness and pure rage. He flinched away from me, and the friend I was with dragged me away.

In some respects I was the anomaly in school; the middle-class little white girl who wouldn't shut up about the unfairness of the Apartheid regime. I'm not entirely sure it was political awareness at this point; more that I hated bullies and the system made no sense. It was like deciding that if you had blonde hair and blue eyes, you could not use the same toilet, bus, school or movie theatre seat I was in, because I had brown hair and eyes and didn't want you in my vicinity. It felt like a temper tantrum enforced by a giant, spoilt and terrified child, and I never understood why people accepted it. Or maybe I was just perverse; I've never been one to follow the mainstream. Tell me I must believe something, and something tends to kick in and go, "Oh, really? Watch me."

It's surprisingly easy to brain-wash a population. You start with making laws, and you throw anyone who dares to disagree with them in prison. Or you kill them, either in an official hanging, or through an arranged accident. Or they fall out of windows on the top floor of the police station. You control the television, the newspapers and the radio. Then you move onto the schooling system. You ensure that only the official version of local history is taught, and you emphasise your bravery and nobility and love of country, and you point out the brutality and savagery of your opponents. You teach them that Mandela is a terrorist, and is on a small prison island for the good of the country.
In 1987, the history class I was in covered the Great Trek in some detail. The text book went to great lengths to explain the treachery and murderous reactions of the native tribes encountered, with an air of righteous indignation. Unfortunately, the wheels of the regime in that particular class encountered me, and  I stood up and pointed out that maybe the tribes involved were entitled to defend themselves against an unwanted invader. My family background is Scottish. I grew up on stories of unjust invasion and terror inflicted by military right; I tended to sympathise quite firmly with the tribes involved.
There were a number of gasps of horror from my classmates. My teacher stared at me - and then let us go early to break.
I got home to find my parents waiting for me. The school had phoned them. My dad sat me down and explained that I needed to be careful. He told me that if the school reported me to the authorities, he and my mother would be in a great deal of trouble, and could be arrested and charged, because nobody would believe that my opinions were my own. I was just a fourteen year old kid.
I don't think I stood up in that class again, and even after I changed schools at the end of the year, I never mentioned my beliefs to an authority figure again. My parents were a lot more important than running my mouth off - but that response from the school was all I needed to set those beliefs in stone.  The system was wrong.

I dug up everything I could find on Mandela. The official party line painted him as a very dangerous man, the equivalent of a rabid wolf. The armed wing of the ANC was planting bombs and blowing up shoppers; the news used to identify those killed and wounded by name if they were white, and by number and gender if they were not.
There were a number of people who believed Mandela should have been hanged after his trial; I think the main reason he wasn't is because the regime feared creating a martyr. Instead, they created a living focal point for change.
There was no internet, and the media was heavily censored. Eventually, though, I got hold of a couple of books and pamphlets that painted a very different story of the man working in the quarry while the rest of us went about our daily lives.

In 1989 I started working part-time at my local supermarket. That security guard was still there, and just as heavy-handed with non-white customers. He carried a pistol and a club, and although I never saw him use the gun, I have no doubt he wanted to. He hated and feared non-whites with a passion, and because of that he enjoyed humiliating and hurting them. In a normal society, he would have been locked up as dangerous. In this one, they armed him and let him have fun. For me, he was a symptom of everything that had poisoned the country. For him, I imagine he saw me as a dangerous reactive.
The two of us hated each other on sight.

The day they released Mandela, every paper in the country carried his photograph on the front page. I remember tapping the picture on the Sunday Times and smiling. The guard snarled at me.
"Things are changing," I said. "One day we'll have a black president, and then what good will your fists do?" It felt like a bell, chiming in my head.
"Never happen," he sneered. But his eyes looked terrified.

In the run-up to the 1994 elections, white South Africa shared that fear. There were runs on supermarkets and gun-shops as people stocked-up, expecting trouble. And to be perfectly honest, there was reason to fear. Mandela was a hero to every non-white who had victimised, abused, and marginalised - and that was pretty much all of them. He'd been stuck in prison for 27 years. He'd lost the prime of his life, working in a quarry. He'd got tuberculosis and his health was permanently damaged. If he had been a different kind of man; if he had got into power and demanded retribution in blood, the streets would have run red, and most people thought that was exactly what would happen. How many people would resist the chance for payback for a thousand slights, for the blood already spilled by the previous regime?

And then Mandela was elected, and the world held its breath, and the apocalypse never happened. Instead, we ended up with one of the most progressive legislations in the world, affording rights to people no matter what their colour or sexual orientation was. Instead of firing squads and butchered whites, we ended up with the much-abused death penalty removed, never to be used as a political weapon again, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

That bell that rang in my head the day he was released continued to chime softly over the intervening years. It said This is a good man. This is a giant. This is Madiba.
Madiba changed the world, and South Africa, and he did it in a good way. And while South Africa is still struggling with poverty and crime, there was no ethnic cleansing. There were incidents, yes. There are always incidents where there is hate and fear, and people like that security guard cling to both because they cannot see any other way of being.

When he stepped out of office, it was another myth squashed; the right-wingers had pretty much assumed it would become a dictatorship no matter what pretty words were spoken. His successors have struggled to fill the shoes he left behind ever since; it cannot be easy trying to step into the footprints of a giant.

Out of office, Madiba was still revered. Even those who'd viewed his presidency with scepticism started to soften. He never stopped his message of reconciliation, and he was never afraid to call out his own party when he disagreed with them; the ANC have managed some pretty brutal stuff themselves.

The bell began sounding weary a couple of years ago. I cannot imagine how exhausted he must have been. We never stopped needing him, and no matter how hard he tried to step back, to let others pick up the reigns, we never really let him. In the end, Madiba was imprisoned by love. It may be softer than the chains of a prison gang, but that kind of need is also grasping and suffocating. He was a man, with flaws as all humans have, but we never really let him step off the pedestal he never wanted to be on to start with.

When Madiba got sick earlier this year, we held our breath again. No-one wanted to let him go. Giants should be immortal, no matter how tired and sick they get. The media swarmed the hospital like locusts. There was a court case over graves, and another over his estate. The vultures gathered and settled in to wait.

On Thursday night, I was on Skype to my parents when the news hit my feed, and I told them. The shock on their faces was the strongest personal indicator of how Madiba changed my world.

So now the bell is silent, but the echoes remain. I have no idea what happens next in South Africa. Hopefully, the determination to hold his legacy will remain strong, and the ones who would use this as an excuse for violent change are ignored. I just don't know.
I know that a good man is dead, and the world mourns his passing. I know that there will never be another quite like him. I know that on Thursday night I sat in the bath and wept.

Hamba Kakuhle, Madiba. Even giants need to sleep after work. Safe journey to the Summerland.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Tristan J Tarwater Interview & Giveaway!

Allegories of the Tarot Badass Marketing Blog TourGet to know Tristan J. Tarwater, one of the 22 contributors to the recently-released Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology (which is already trailblazing its way up the fantasy anthology charts on Amazon!). Tristan wrote her tale, The Strange Case of Sal and the Solar Elixir,†based on the Sun card.

Get the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology in on†Amazon,†Smashwords, Kobo, and everywhere else e-books are sold.†Add the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology†to your Goodreads to-read shelf!

About Tristan

Tristan J TarwaterTristan J Tarwater is the author of The Valley of Ten Crescents fantasy series as well as the
weird urban noir short story, Botanica Blues and the upcoming comic, The Misadventures of
Streetsman Shamsee. She has contributed to the roleplaying site Troll in the Corner and Pelgrane†Press. A fan of speculative fiction herself, the first fantasy book she fell in love with was The†Crystal Cave. Originally hailing from New York City, she considers Portland, OR her home.

Just a few questions...

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? The Sun is intriguing to me because it's such a straight up, positive card. It's just a good card to have on your side! I've heard it called 'one of the best cards in the Tarot,' which is both interesting and a bit scary to me, truth be told. I don't really write too much about characters who 'have their day in the sun,' as they say, and most of the subject matters in my writing are more internal, kept out of the light. In addition, I'm not someone who likes to be in the spotlight so this card should be challenging and fun to explore. I'll probably cast a bit of a shadow on this card, ha!

Why did you decide to get roped into this project? Well, when Annetta asked I really couldn't say no. One of my professional goals for NEXT year was to be included in a collaboration and so when she asked I just kind of stared at the computer for a bit and then quickly responded YES. The subject matter of the Tarot is also so very interesting, which, wow that's a bit of an understatement. Plus the project itself, 22 authors, 22 cards? I was excited to just READ it was going to happen. Being given the opportunity to be a part of it is honestly a big honor. I was hardly roped, heh.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? Yeah, I've always been interested in other religions and the occult; I had a fairly religious upbringing/youth and religions and people's beliefs, spiritual or secular, are fascinating to me. I've read about the Tarot before and I get readings done from time to time online (I generally choose the Lovecraft deck, because life is insane). I have a deck that I look at from time to time but I don't read for anyone. I'm on an online forum where people offer readings from time to time and so I will ask if I have something on my mind, just for a bit of clarity, to oil the wheels of my brain a bit.

What other projects do you have planned? Merp, uh...quite a few. If all goes well this year, I'll have finished my third fantasy novel, as well as a comic and an RPG source book, all for Ten Crescents. I hope to do a collection of three, short sci-fi stories I have kicking around in my head. If I'm REALLY ambitious, I'll start in on a fortune telling deck for The Valley of Ten Crescents, trying to get it designed and made up. Fortune telling comes up in pretty much every Ten Crescent story.† All this while settling in back home and maintaining some sort of social life. I've been shirking that as of late, heh.†

How did you decide what to write about?†Honestly? Ha, I asked Annetta which one she thought I should do. I trust her that much. She gave me the card and I took it up.

How literal did you want to get with your card?†Well, the Sun is kind of an in your face kind of card? So when I was brainstorming and considering what the card means, I was looking at the imagery of the card, knowing having some of it in my story wouldn't be in opposition to what the card stands for.

Is your story a part of something you've written about previously?†The story takes place in a world I've written about but it's the first story to be released from that world. It's very exciting for me.

Would you like to have written about any other card? Which card? Why?†Honestly, no. I tend to write a lot of Moon-centered stories so writing about the Sun was actually very exciting and different for me. Though I did manage to have the story take place at night. Ha!

If you could have the power to divine the future, would you or would you not and why?†Not really. I have a child and the temptation to just know what would happen to her would probably destroy the happiness I have in the present I have with her and my Spouse. The future always brings death, regardless of whatever lies between and well, for someone like me, who tends to trap herself in her head and roll around there for hours on's just a bad combination. I don't know that knowing the future would dampen my worries regarding it. It would probably bring more anxiety to my present, trying to find the causality in all things and well, I'd rather know the end and have my enjoyable moments from time to time towards that. If that makes any sense.

About Allegories of the Tarot

Allegories of the TarotOnce upon a time, there was an editor with a fascination for the Tarot. She was struck one day by a crazy idea. ìHey,î she said. ìWhat if twenty-two writers each wrote a story about the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and were fashioned into an anthology?î

The idea would not leave her alone.

And thus, the Allegories of the Tarot was born.

Crowdfunded by a campaign on Indiegogo with the help and support of an amazing group of writers, twenty-two stories were crafted around the mysteries of the Tarot. The group includes a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Pulp Ark nominee, a former Bigfoot researcher, a journalist, an award-winning YA author, and a Rhysling Award winner. Professional writers, new talent, and a range of genres boggling the mind: Horror, Speculative Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Erotica, Mystery, Humor, Paranormal, Epic Fantasy, Literary, Romance, and Historical Fantasy.

What has emerged is an outstanding collection of fiction, unique and mysterious. Stories that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think. Stories that make you feel the touch of the Universe.

Dare to step through the portal to shadowy realms and emotional journeys.

Get the book!

Allegories of the Tarot†is available in e-book and paperback format†on Amazon, Kobo, and in multiple e-book formats†on Smashwords.

Donít forget to†add†Allegories of the Tarotto your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Connect with the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology on its†website,†Facebook, and†Twitter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Numptiness Continues: Dateable Boys Rules

Continuing the examination of the latest contender for Stupidest Dating Advice for Humans, let's have a look at Justin Lookadoo's Dating Rules for Boys. (Find the girls version here.) Now since in all fairness I haven't yet developed testicles and technically don't qualify, what I'll do is give you my comments as a female. Since I fall into, ya know, the gender half that you seem to want to encounter. (In Justin's world, there doesn't seem to be an acknowledgement of gay/bi/trans as a valid thing, because, you know, God.)

Being a guy is good. Dateable guys know they aren’t as sensitive as girls and that’s okay. They know they are stronger, more dangerous, and more adventurous and that’s okay. Dateable guys are real men who aren’t afraid to be guys.

My Response:

There are enough idiots who trip over their egos already, and think acknowledging their emotions are dangerous. Why would I want to date one of them? Been there, done that, kicked the Neanderthal to the curb. Also, you want emotional, Justin? Try dating a musician. I'll give you stronger, because pure biology means most men are physically stronger than me. Mentally? Not. A. Hope. More dangerous? You try and get between a little old lady and the last packet of biscuits on the shelf, Justin. I'll hold your coat. Just tell me where you want the flowers sent. More adventurous? BWHAHAHAHAHAHA. I'm pretty sure I've done stuff, and enjoyed it, that'd make your hair fall out. And the real men comment? As opposed to what, Pinocchio? 

Believe in yourself. Dateable guys know they are men even if someone has tried to bring them down or make them less than men. They know that the past doesn’t define the future.

My Response:

*sigh* Unless they've been castrated, Justin, or are identify as other than male, they are men. There is no "real", unless we're heading back to the world of Pinocchio again. See, the problem with ripping off lines from cheesy inspirational posters is that when you examine them, they don't make any sense. The past sure as hell impacts the future, buddy. It colours it, it affects it, and yes, every now and then it defines it, for anyone who isn't a sociopath. 

Control your mind. Dateable guys know that God demands self control. They learn ways to control their minds so they can control their bodies.

My Response:

This is how you control your unwanted erections, boys! Just imagine it going away. (Note: You may regret this when you hit your forties.) If that doesn't work, point it out to God and wait for a personalised lightning strike.

Don’t just want a win, want an adventure. Dateable guys know life is about danger. You might not win, but that’s not the point, doing it is. Dateable guys risk failure to live the adventure of life.

My Response:

There is a small but noticeable difference between cheesy inspirational posters and sounding like a travel ad. Congratulations, Justin, you've managed to combine both.

Face your Fears. Dateable guys will not be controlled by fear. Whatever controls you owns you. Fear is from the enemy and so the Dateable guy stands in the face of it and says, “ha!”
My Response:

Well, technically fear is a survival mechanism, because as a species there isn't much point in dying before you've had a chance to breed. Standing in front of, say, a mugger with a gun and saying "Ha!" isn't facing your fears, it's nominating yourself for a Darwin award.

Men of God are wild, not domesticated. Dateable guys aren’t tamed. They don’t live by the rules of the opposite sex. They fight battles, conquer lands, and stand up for the oppressed.

My Response:

WTF? So men of God don't wear clothes, live in houses or believe in toilet training? Precisely what rules are we talking about here, because I'd love to know them. And Justin - you can't stand up for the oppressed if you're conquering lands. That makes you the oppressor. Just a thought.

Bring God into it. Dateable guys bring God into it. “What would He say if he was talking to me through this situation?” they ask.

My Response:

Depends on which book of the bible you're reading, I guess. We have the "KILL EVERYTHING!" option, which happened a few times. Or we have the "Go forth and multiply option," which is pretty loud and clear in other places. I'm pretty sure neither one of those is quite what you're looking for here. To be totally honest though, if you need to check with your deity on a date, you really should be tied to a chair under a descending blade before this happens. How about "DON'T DATE PSYCHO'S?" Will that do?

Be honest with girls.
Dateable guys don’t use the truth to their advantage. They know that girls read into things so they don’t use that for their good. They are honest and not manipulative.

My Response:

Em. What? Justin, honey, I have no idea what you just said. I would, however, like access to whatever you were taking when you came up with that. You know, so my poor little brain can read into things properly.

Be a gentleman. Chivalry is not dead with the Dateable guy. Even if society thinks this is old fashioned he knows that it is God-fashioned. He keeps his gentleman side strong and considers all women important enough to care for.

My Response:

You know, I'd prefer it if the guy I'm dating is considerate to everyone, and not a condescending prat. Strange, that. 

Keep it covered up. Dateable guys know that porn is bad for the spirit and the mind. They keep women covered up.

My Response:

What, exactly, do you intend covering me up with, Justin? Because let me tell you something, sweet stuff - you have no right to tell me or any other woman how to dress. Doing so is a warning sign of an abusive control freak. I don't particularly care if you watch Smurf porn on your day off, and most guys realise porn is fantasy, the same way Die Hard or Star Trek is. The ones that don't are the ones with issues.

To summarise, the dateable boy rules (gag me with a spoon) aren't as stupendously misogynistic as your dateable girl rules. They are, however, a bad combination of the worst self-help posters I've seen floating around the net for years. They also have no resemblance to real-life, and make no allowance for the human mind or spirit. 

You don't need any of these craptastic rules to be dateable. You do need to be a decent human being, not someone who thinks that boys and girls need different rules and different standards. Because they don't. Treat all people like they have value, and don't invalidate someone's opinions because of their sexuality, gender, colour, religion or nationality. That applies to men and women, straight, gay, transgender, or just figuring it out.

I should feel bad, Justin, because you've made it obvious you hold none of these values. Instead you're spewing idiocy at kids, most of whom are intelligent enough to eye-roll you so hard your ass should spin.  But you're still a numpty.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Dateable Girl Rules aka Justin Lookadoo, You're a Numpty

So, this link popped up on my Facebook feed: and I clicked on it. Go ahead and check it out, I'll wait.

Then I clicked on this silly little man's website link, and found a list. This is a a list of the dateable girl rules. Followed swiftly by the dateable guy rules (next post), because numptiness applies to all. It gives me great pleasure to rip them apart here for you:

Girls first, right? Right.

  1. Accept your girly-ness.
     You’re a girl. Be proud of all that means. You are soft, you are gentle, you are a woman. Don’t try to be a guy. Guys like you because you are different from them. So let your girly-ness soar

                      1. My Response: 
                      1. First of all, I am not now nor have I ever been, fabric softener. If you want soft and gentle, get a fluffy pillow. Also, feel free to go through PMs, childbirth and get itchy nipples on a monthly basis. Then come back and tell me how frigging soft and gentle I am. By the way, Justin, if my girly-ness ever soars, I'll probably be visiting a doctor.

                        Tell it like it is. Dateable girls don’t lie to themselves. They don’t say stuff like, “His girlfriend just isn’t good to him, that’s why he’s seeing me on the side.” Or “She started it so I’m going to get even.” The Dateable girl let’s God run the world, and tells herself the truth–that all she can control is herself. She doesn’t imagine things to be more than they are.

My Response: 

Oh, Justin. If you think girls are the only ones who lie to themselves, you've never been to a football match  with die-hard fans. And, no offence, but any deity that sticks it's nose into my romantic life will get it smacked.  Also, Justin, control yourself is hard. That's why the gods created Spanx.   

The sexiest thing on a girl is happiness. Girls try so hard to add beauty and sexuality to themselves with clothes and make-up, but the truth is it’s your spirit that makes you hot. Your outlook on life, your happiness factor. Dateable girls aren’t downers, they love life.

My Response: 

The sexiest thing on almost ANYONE is a smile.  Also, confidence and being a decent person. My spirit sizzles, Justin. It sizzles.

Girls don’t fight girls, ever. Revenge belongs to God. Dateable girls know that when they fight other girls they look stupid and catty, and guys don’t like it any more than God does.

My Response: 

My old kickboxing class will gutted to hear this.  And if you believe your deity exists to take revenge for real or imagined slights, you have a problem.

Believe in your beauty. Dateable girl learn how to overcome the sins of the past that have been perpetrated on them. They don’t let the enemy steal their beauty. God made them, so they know they are beautiful, even if they don’t feel like it sometimes.

My Response:
Could someone translate this into english for me, please? Because I'm reading it like someone  can walk up and steal my stunning, supermodel looks.  I WILL HUNT YOU DOWN, BITCH.

Be mysterious. Dateable girls know how to shut up. They don’t monopolize the conversation. They don’t tell everyone everything about themselves. They save some for later. They listen more than they gab.

My Response:

Did you just tell me to shut up? Kiss my fuzzy tattooed butt, Justin. I'm starting to think you aren't really into this dating thing. You want a blow -up doll.

Act confident. Dateable girls know that confidence is hot. And the cool part is that no one knows if you are confident but you. Confidence isn’t how you feel, it’s how you act. Act confident and people will think you are.

My Response:

This I actually agree with. But I'm not confident because I want to  date, Justin. I'm confident because I like myself as a person. Let me tell you, that took years, and the odds of the average teen getting there ? Not so much.

Look ‘em in the eye. Part of being a Dateable girl means you really see people. They matter, and if you don’t look them in the eye then you will never see them and they will never know they matter to you. Look ‘em in the eye. They are valuable.

My Response:

Yeah, because staring at someone the entire evening isn't creepy at all. Nope.

Let him lead. God made guys as leaders. Dateable girls get that and let him do guy things, get a door, open a ketchup bottle. They relax and let guys be guys. Which means they don’t ask him out!!!

My Response:


Need him. Dateable girls know that guys need to be needed. A Dateable girl isn’t Miss Independent. She knows we are made for community. Needing each other is part of faith. She allows him to be needed at times, knowing he was called to serve just as much as she was.

My Response:

Dude, I've dated needy guys. It's a drain, it's annoying beyond all recognition, and said needy guys aren't looking for a date, they're looking for a second mommy. I would rather lick a cheese-grater than do this again.

So there you have it. If you want to be a dateable girl, you need to be a large, plush-skinned, make-up free blow-up doll. Batteries included. Don't have an opinion, don't speak your mind.

Dear Justin Lookadoo, you haven't a clue. None. What you appear to be looking for is a vagina with a heartbeat, and real women are more than that. You, sir, are a first class numpty. Google it.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Moments of Skedification, and the weekend roundup

Let's start with the good and exciting, shall we? (Never fear, we'll move swiftly onto my weekend moments of WTF, of which there were a couple.)

Allegories is garnering great reviews, and stormed up the chart in the first week of release on Amazon. Hitting the top 100 is nice. Hitting it in several categories transfers into dreamlike. I think I can safely say all 22 of us made hysterical cooing noises over on Facebook.  (I re-read it this past week.Those stories rock.) If you want your mind blown, check it out on the Amazon site - and there is a paper edition available as well. I got the Moon card, and I came up with something a lot gentler than I normally do. (I've also been told I made a few readers cry, and THAT is a very strange feeling.) Anyone who jumps from that to House of F.A.R.T. is probably going to go into literary shock, though.

I (finally!) have an author page at Facebook, all thanks to Anne Chaconas at Badass Marketing. With my usual wonderful techie talent, I can't get the link to work, but it's JHSked, Author. (I suspect Anne is equally horrified and fascinated by what I do to tech. I'm pretty sure I reduced her to helpless gibbering at least once in the past week or so. I'll update on writing stuff over there as well, but since the general consensus was that the wall should be "Skedified", some of the strangeness that is life as I know it will end up there as well.

I have an interview with Eden Baylee, where she crawled into my mind and encouraged me to swear here:
Eden is one of my fellow authors from the Allegories, and she's brilliant - head on over and say hi.

Moving swiftly onto the Skedification parts:

1) Zombie ribs. Not quite as horrifying as Zombie Duck was - I still haven't gathered the courage to attempt cooking a whole duck again, but it was bad. It was back to Chinese take-away since everything was still frozen.

2) Moment of Aargh, porn style: I should know better than to attempt opening yoghurt one-handed, I really should. On the bright side, I missed the ceiling, and actually got some in my mouth. It was actually good. The rest of it made friends with my ear, the fridge, the floor, and my trousers. Not a good look.

3) The lamp incident, which involved going for a two hour nap, and waking up with my floor lamp in bed with me. Said floor lamp tops out at 6 foot. I have no clue. None.

4) Forgetting to remove the seeds before roasting chilli peppers. Roast chilli is lovely, but forgetting to deseed meant trampling over Stacey on my way to stick my face under the cold tap because I thought my lips had caught fire. It is, however, an EXCELLENT way to clear your sinuses.

5) Walking into the lounge and nearly face-planting because I tried to miss what I thought was a large dog lying on the carpet. We don't have a dog, and there was nothing there, just my cousin, who closed her eyes and shook her head.

6) Near miss house fire. The plug is a twisted hunk of metal and plastic, and the socket is as scorched as if our local Conservative politician had farted at it. Both of us in the room; neither of us heard or smelled a damn thing. Get your fire alarms checked, guys. That one was too close.

So far, no pigeon sightings to be reported. Also a lack of SOS (Spawn of Spider, for any new readers), which I'm very happy about. There's something very unsettling about realising your carpet is moving towards you. (It's ALWAYS towards you.)

Friday, 8 November 2013

Allegories of the Tarot Interview and Give Away: Meet Red Tash

Allegories of the Tarot Badass Marketing Blog TourGet to know Red Tash, one of the 22 contributors to the recently-released†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology (which is already trailblazing its way up the fantasy anthology charts on Amazon!). Red wrote her tale, The Hermit, based on the card of the same name. You can read an excerpt of†her story below.†

Get the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology on†Amazon,†Smashwords, Kobo, and everywhere else e-books are sold.†Add the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology†to your Goodreads to-read shelf!

About Red

Red TashRed Tash is a journalist-turned-novelist of dark fantasy for readers of all ages. Monsters,†wizards, trolls, fairies, and roller derby await you in her pantry of readerly delights. Tash is the†author of the Amazon best-selling dark fantasies Troll Or Derby and This Brilliant Darkness; and†a columnist for both and, where she does†double-duty as a comic book reviewer.

Tashís own work in comics is included in Scary-Artís†The Pit and the Compendium, Filthy Cake, and is featured in Arcana Comicsí Steampunk†Originals. Prior to beginning her career in fiction, Tash wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper†column on parenting and family life, among other publishing credits. A rabid social media†junkie, Tash can be found on every conceivable corner of the internet, so just google heróshe†dares ya. Beyond writing, Tash has absolutely zero interest in anything, unless it is rehashing her†glory days as rollergirl Tyra Durden of the Derby City Rollergirls & RollerConís TeamMILF.

You can find Red Tash at

Just a few questions...

What intrigues you about this particular Tarot card? To me and to many others, the Hermit is the Tarot's representation of the Wise Old Man from the Hero's Journey of literary myth, and from Jungian archetypes. In fantasy and science fiction, he manifests as the Wizard (Dumbledore, Gandalf, Obi-Wan Kenobi, etc.), and he's always revered for his wisdom. I was doing a Tarot reading many years ago for a friend, for fun, when I realized that the Hermit and the Fool were one and the same, just at opposite ends of the same journey. That idea has always intrigued me, and was in no small part inspiration for my series of Wizard Tales!

Why did you decide to get roped into this project?†I've been acquainted with Annetta and some of the other contributors for a little more than a year, so when I saw their names on the roster I was definitely interested. I actually swore off doing any anthologies in 2013 due to my ridiculously busy schedule, but I told myself that if the Hermit card wasn't taken, I'd do it! It was one of a handful of cards not claimed, so to my mind, it must be destiny.

Have you ever had dealings with the Tarot before? I've owned a few decks. My original guidebook fell apart from overuse until I made a new cover for it. I used to do readings for all my friends at parties, or just chilling out at my apartment back in the college days. Eventually while on my own ìHero's Journey,î I realized that I didn't truly believe in the predictive power of Tarot, I Ching, horoscopes, or anything of the like, so I packed my deck away. I remain fascinated with the Tarot, though, not just for the perfect storytelling framework opportunity that it presents, but as a conversational tool. It's a great way to walk yourself through a sort of 360 degree analysis of whatever is troubling you.

What other projects do you have planned?†In 2013 I'll write and hopefully release Troll Or Park, the sequel to my biggest hit, Troll Or Derby. I hope to release my fourth Wizard Tale, as well.

How literal did you want to get with your card?†I have a sincere appreciation for lore, so I tried to stick to the spirit of the card. The Hermit is an important leg of The Fool's Journey. I wanted to show the progression from Strength to Hermit, from Hermit to whatever the Wheel of Fortune brings next.

Is your story a part of something you've written about previously?†Actually, yes! I write a serial titled The Wizard Tales, and this will be the sixth story set in that world. Since it's exclusive to the anthology for a year, I'm not sure what official "number" it will be when it's re-released as part of the series.

Would you like to have written about any other card? Which card? Why? I†actually did, in this story. I wrote about the incarnation of Strength, as lived by the gypsy fortune teller Madame Zelda from Troll Or Derby. It really gave me the chance to delve into that previously minor character's finer points, and as a result, she's taking on a bigger role in the upcoming Troll Or Park! Honestly, though, the Hermit was story enough for me. I just couldn't resist involving another "card" in this tale.

If you could have the power to divine the future, would you or would you not and why?†I love the Tarot for a lot of reasons, and I respect the lore that goes with it, but if being great at reading Tarot cards gave you the ability to read the future, I'd have already won the lottery multiple times! Sometimes I think doing a spread just gives you an excuse to be honest with the person asking the question. Does that tell the future?

Honestly, I don't believe in that hocus pocus. We know what we know, we do what we do, we feel what we feel--sometimes it comes true, sometimes it doesn't. You don't have to be a fortune teller to give someone false hope. Ask any weatherman on a rainy Saturday in June.

I think we all do the best we can with the information we've got, whether it's a gut feeling or a conviction of ESP. We know enough about our world to know we don't know jack, right? Best we can do is do our best and live for today. I know enough about my future to know that.

An excerpt from†The Hermit

As I strolled through the flea market, the memory came unbidden: a gypsy tent awash with blood--deep reds and purples fading to brown before my eyes; the amber eye of the dragon, disembodied, palmed in the bloody hand of a child. The child looked up at me, a tiny girl with a hooked nose and silent tears streaming down her face. "My brother," she said, before choking on her own sobs. "My brother."

I was too late to Autumnfell.

Read the rest of†The Hermit†in the Allegories of the Tarot Anthology!

About Allegories of the Tarot

Allegories of the TarotOnce upon a time, there was an editor with a fascination for the Tarot. She was struck one day by a crazy idea. ìHey,î she said. ìWhat if twenty-two writers each wrote a story about the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and were fashioned into an anthology?î

The idea would not leave her alone.

And thus, the Allegories of the Tarot was born.

Crowdfunded by a campaign on Indiegogo with the help and support of an amazing group of writers, twenty-two stories were crafted around the mysteries of the Tarot. The group includes a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Pulp Ark nominee, a former Bigfoot researcher, a journalist, an award-winning YA author, and a Rhysling Award winner. Professional writers, new talent, and a range of genres boggling the mind: Horror, Speculative Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Erotica, Mystery, Humor, Paranormal, Epic Fantasy, Literary, Romance, and Historical Fantasy.

What has emerged is an outstanding collection of fiction, unique and mysterious. Stories that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think. Stories that make you feel the touch of the Universe.

Dare to step through the portal to shadowy realms and emotional journeys.

Get the book!

Allegories of the Tarot†is available in e-book and paperback format†on Amazon, Kobo, and in multiple e-book formats†on Smashwords.

Donít forget to†add†Allegories of the Tarotto your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Connect with the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology on its†website,†Facebook, and†Twitter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Allegories of the Tarot - We are launched!

Allegories of the Tarot Badass Marketing Blog Tour

Get the Allegories of the Tarot Anthology in on Amazon and Smashwords.
Add the Allegories of the Tarot Anthology to your Goodreads to-read shelf!

Swing by the Allegories of the Tarot Facebook page and enter the release-day giveaway of a custom Tarot box--complete with Tarot deck!

Allegories of the Tarot

Who hasn't been fascinated by the mysterious Tarot, writer and reader alike? For centuries, fortune-telling by the Tarot has caught many an imagination, but nothing like what will be presented here.

22 cards... each an individual splinter of the human psyche.

22 writers... honing each splinter into a story of triumph and decay, arrogance and humility.

Stories of the brightest lights and the darkest corners of the weirdest minds.

22 cross-genre worlds.

22 portals into the Universal.

Only one way to get there.

Come with us. Cross the portals. The Universal awaits.

About the book

Once upon a time, there was an editor with a fascination for the Tarot.†She was struck one day by a crazy idea. "Hey," she said. "What if twenty-two writers each wrote a story about the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and were fashioned into an anthology?"

The idea would not leave her alone.

And thus, the Allegories of the Tarot was born.

Crowdfunded by a campaign on Indiegogo with the help and support of an amazing group of writers, twenty-two stories were crafted around the mysteries of the Tarot. The group includes a Pushcart Prize nominee, a Pulp Ark nominee, a former Bigfoot researcher, a journalist, an award-winning YA author, and a Rhysling Award winner. Professional writers, new talent, and a range of genres boggling the mind:†Horror, Speculative Fiction, Bizarro Fiction, Erotica, Mystery, Humor, Paranormal, Epic Fantasy, Literary, Romance, and Historical Fantasy.

What has emerged is an outstanding collection of fiction, unique and mysterious. Stories that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think. Stories that make you feel the touch of the Universe.

Dare to step through the portal to shadowy realms and emotional journeys.

Early readers have fallen in love with the†Allegories of the Tarot

"Allegories of the Tarot Anthology is a magical book. Magic that will keep you turning the pages. There are muses, demons, †psychics,†evil,and more! I shivered, I laughed and I even cried. Magic, I tell you. Magic." -Julie Affleck

"Reviewing an anthology is slightly more difficult than discussing a book or comic because the tone varies from author to author. However, Allegories somehow flowed together as a well-matched whole. The project ended up feeling like several beads strung together to form a beautiful necklace that were more amazing for being paired together." -Jodi Scaife

"All twenty-two stories in this volume are, in a word,†superb. I found myself scouring the Internet as I read it; every story made me want to go find more work by its author.†The ultimate compliment I can give†Allegories†is to say that when I finished it, I thought how I envy those who havenít read it yet." -Lisa Millraney

Get the book!

Allegories of the Tarot is available in e-book and paperback format on Amazon, and in multiple e-book formats on Smashwords.

Don't forget to add†Allegories of the Tarotto your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

Connect with the†Allegories of the Tarot†Anthology on its†website,†Facebook, and†Twitter.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Toilet Story - final title and cover reveal

I finally have a title (thanks to Jason Mckinney, whose family I've hijacked and put into this story), and I got the cover done and dusted yesterday.

It's in the home stretch of formatting, and should go live on Amazon in time for Halloween. It's a fun little short, and I had a blast writing it.

So, with minor trumpets and a blast of Pumpkin Spice air freshener, I present : The House of F.A.R.T.
(Hey, it's a comedy about monsters running out of toilet paper. We weren't aiming for dignity here.)

For the guys interested in the art side, it's a mix of an iphone photo (I think I took multiple pictures of every door in the flat) and straight drawing and painting in Corel Painter. The tentacle and toilet roll were done using the airbrush tools, with a charcoal base. And yes, I giggled hysterically the whole through it.

It's not often you get to visualise Cthulhu yodelling for help, is it?

UPDATE : The House of F.A.R.T is live as of now. Click on the thumbnail of the cover in the top right hand side to head straight over and download it.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

WTF Wednesdays : they're back! (Moment of Aargh Part 789200)

My strange day of the week has defaulted to Wednesday again.

I started off with a stabby duvet, when my knee brushed against the cover as I climbed out of bed. After screaming and clutching my knee, I pulled the feather out of it (zombie duck's revenge, I reckon), and lurched downstairs for coffee.

An hour later, as I swung back into my bedroom to get my boots on and leave for work, I discovered what happens when the shopping bag hanging off of the bedroom door lays a snare trap.

One of the handles had drifted down from the door knob, and was resting at ankle height. I stepped in it.
About five seconds later, I was dangling from my bedroom door with a mouthful of fluff that was partially the top of an Ugg boot, and partially carpet. It took me a few minutes to extricate myself, mainly because my legs had decided pretzel twists were fun, and I wasn't entirely sure which one the bag handle had wrapped around. I was also seeing stars since I head-butted the carpet, the other Ugg boot, and a random sock that had escaped from the hidden lost sock dimensional black hole. My bag had fallen off the bed when I landed and bounced off my neck. 
(It should be noted that I may have dropped a bra size. Repeated bouncing is not good for the girls, and they have felt decidedly unperky since this episode. If I thought it worked on tummy fat, I'd still be imitating a baby seal instead of writing this.)

I got myself off the door eventually, without bringing it down on my head. I stood up, brushed myself off, said a number of the rudest words I know, and kicked the sandals I'd been yanked out of across the room, and left.

When I got home I couldn't find find my sandals anywhere. I eventually found one under the boots (no clue). The other one was under my pillow. (Really, truly have no clue, and am nervous about speculating).

Considering last week contained the highlight of the toilet seat moving out from under me like it was greased at four in the morning, it could have been worse. And I will keep telling myself that until the next moment of aargh happens. But still, WTF, Wednesday?

Monday, 21 October 2013

Let's talk about religious tolerance, for a bit.

There's a current trend of dissing anyone with religious beliefs. The old trope of hating anyone who believes their god is better than your god, or has a different coloured beard, or hangs their hat in a different way is still alive and well and throwing stones; one of the pagan boards I visit had a charmer drop by threatening to rap us to dearth earlier on today. (The urge to send him a dictionary was strong. Note to fanatics : threats only work if you spell them properly, otherwise we tend to point and laugh. And debate not turning you into a frig.)

This one is slightly different, in that it shows complete and utter contempt for anyone with any sort of religious belief whatsoever. I'm not sure whether it started as a fashion statement or a rebellion. I do know that a lot of the time it descends into HYSTERICAL CAPITALS and screaming over the internet.

Nobody argues that certain powers in mainstream religion abused their positions, and still do. And of course there are fanatics in every religion on the planet. They're called bigots, and their true religion is hate. The latest group to join their ranks are the militant atheists, storming newspaper columns and comment board to proclaim everyone else's ignorance. 

The average person with a spiritual belief doesn't deserve the scorn and contempt I'm seeing. The average person tries to live their life, and carve a little place for themselves in the world, and religious beliefs - or lack thereof - are part of that. Demanding that I  - or anyone else - change a core, deeply personal belief is like walking up to a stranger in the street and demanding to examine their underwear. It's insulting, obnoxious and annoying, and at the end of the time it puts them right in the middle of the group they rant against. 

Because there is no reasoning with them. There is no room for debate in the world according to their outlook. There is no tolerance here, just the sound of heavy boots trampling reason into a mess of incoherent ramblings and the screaming of a crowd that has lost it's mind.

I have no issues with someone who wants to be an atheist. But like any other outlook, it needs to respect the fact that other people don't feel that way, will never feel that way, and have no urge to do so.

Anything else means you fit in perfectly with your own little Crusade, your personal version of Jihad; take no prisoners and to hell with the damage. But it's all in a good cause, right?

Until the morning you wake up and realise you are living your own version of Animal Farm; that there is no Us and Them because you do exactly the same things, poison the same wells, and cause a great deal of hurt and harm.

Irony. She bites.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Toilet Snippet & Open invite for bloggers - join our book launch in November

More toilet snippety stuff. There may be one more to follow; I'm hoping to have the full story up and published for Halloween.

This particular bit was inspired by Athena. Athena is a  cat and goddess/possible demon-in-training that shares living space with Annetta Ribken, Editor of Awesomeness. Annetta is the power behind Allegories of the Tarot that gets published on October 31st. I've had a peek at the e-version, and it rocks. There are still blogging spots available, so if you'd like to join the book launch and let us rock your world, head on over to BadAss Marketing and sign up here:


Nadia finished the last of her coffee and set the cup aside. "No clue how they do it, but someone always opens the door. Like they did here, during the test run."
Tabs and Jason looked at each other. That was disturbing on so many levels.
"What happens if you aren't holding the toilet roll tube when you push the button?" Jason asked.
The two installers looked troubled. "You don't want to do that," Nadia said. "It's the way your host knows you aren't dangerous."
Jason considered the button, large and shiny and very, very pretty. "I've got kids," he said.
"Yeah, hear you." Tomaz bent over and rummaged in the tool-box. He popped up holding a curved silver box with a clear cover and a metal slot at the top. "Lockable box. Only you and your wife will have the key. Nadia, pass the drill."
"The girls have gotten past every child-lock we've ever used," Tabs said.
Nadia patted her on the shoulder. "Never had a kid get past one of these. The odd cat gets it right - remember the Ribken case?" She turned to Jason. "We named the Athena protocol model after her. It's certified atomic blast and cat-proof, but it takes a fork-lift to carry it."
Tomaz paled. "Don't. That cat should've been up for murder."
"What did it do?" Jason watched Tomaz fit the box over the button with swift, sure movements.
"Figured out that slapping the button in a certain way would get it to spider-world." He shuddered. "You ever seen what a cat does to spiders?"
"The spider we had here was a bit bigger than most cats." Jason said.
"Yeah, well this one took it as a sign that the buffet was open. They sent us in to retrieve the button." He placed a protective hand over his groin. "I still have scars."