Books & Comics Read in 2016

I’ll get to my list in a moment, but I want to talk about my ridiculous backstock of books. This post is largely self-indulgent and probably of little interest to anyone else.

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The City of Smoke & Mirrors Audiobook!

armadillofcWell this is a pleasant surprise. I know I haven’t updated this danged blog in a long time. Without going into too much detail, depression has hit me hard in recent months.

BUT, some good news: my first novel – THE CITY OF SMOKE & MIRRORS – is now available as an audiobook! You can check it out

It was done by the fine folks at Radio Archives, narrated by Elijah Alarcon. I haven’t had the chance to listen to it, myself, but I’m looking forward to it.

You can check it out here at Amazon. It’s also available on Audible if you’re like me and also have a membership there.

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The Never-Ending Battle: A Reading

I’ve considered reading The Never-Ending Battle aloud, but when Open Minds Quarterly republished the story in their Classroom Edition, I couldn’t think of a better celebration.

This reading unexpectedly became one of the most publicly emotional things I’ve ever done. First, it took me 12 minutes to get to the point. I felt like I had to explain some things before reading the story, to give it proper context. Maybe that was unnecessary, but it felt needed at the time and I don’t want to try editing or re-attempting this. Second, the story and the memories have an emotional impact on me. At first, I choke up and it’s hard to keep reading. But as I do, I slowly break down to the point that I’m openly weeping while reading it. I feel a little embarrassed for being so open and raw. But so far, responses from my closest friends have felt oddly empowering. They cried along with me as I read the story.

So, here we go. If you want to skip my introduction, skip to the 12:30 mark when I start reading the story.

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The Never-Ending Battle: Rewritten & Republished

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Cover by Kaarina Ranta

In 2009, Open Minds Quarterly published my short story, The Never-Ending Battle, in their Fall edition, Volume XI, Issue III. Along with stories in The Country Connection and A Thousand Faces, it was one of four of my published work that year. It was my first time I’d ever been published. I’ve published The Never-Ending Battle on here before. Some say it’s my best work to date. I don’t know if I can confidently agree. Looking back, I had many problems with the over 10-year old story (I’d written it years before it was published). I thought the writing was sloppy. For years, I’ve wanted to fix it.

Fortunately, OMQ gave me that opportunity. Editor/Publisher Dinah Laprairie contacted me earlier this year. OMQ planned on publishing a special Classroom Edition of their magazine, taking the best stories and poems about mental health they’d published over the years. Their intention is for teachers to use the Classroom Edition at a high school and college level. Dinah believed The Never-Ending Battle should be included.

I was honoured, happily agreeing. However, since this was a new publication, I thought I’d take the opportunity to edit and rework the story. Dinah agreed.

So, I’m happy to introduce the NEW and IMPROVED Never-Ending Battle (geez, I sound like a car salesman), published recently in the Open Minds Quarterly Classroom Edition. Naturally, I hope everyone also gets a copy of the wonderful magazine. I especially invite teachers to pick up a copy. After the story, I’ve also included some pictures of the magazine, including my bio, which is the first time my picture was included with one.

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The Wall that Broke Me

Five years ago, I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature at York University. At the time, it was my biggest accomplishment. I thought to myself, “Finally! After 13 sporadic years in university, I have this blasted 4-year degree! Take that, depression!” In celebration, I bought a hammer and some nails to hang my greatest accomplishment. Heh, a guy in line at Home Hardware asked, “Working on a big project, huh?” He had no idea how big it was to me.

Next step: a teaching degree, which meant moving to Presque Isle, Maine. I knew there was still much hard work ahead of me, but I thought the worst was over. I thought I finally had a handle on my depression. I thought I had some good coping strategies. I thought I learned good academic habits that helped me earn high marks.

I thought, “Finally, I’m closer than ever to finding my way in life, to finding that place where I belong, to feeling like I have some stability in my life.”

I was wrong on all accounts. In fact, I was closer to hitting the proverbial wall that broke me.

(Note: A word of warning. This one got very long and very personal. It’s nearly 2,500 words. So if you plan on reading it, get comfortable.)

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Redfish: A Review

20160617_103901_HDRThe other day, I saw a poster for a small, local stage production called Redfish: A Comedy About Depression. When I looked it up online, I discovered the titular “Redfish” is a superhero. A play combining depression and superheroes? It’s like this was made for me. Luckily, I saw the play’s final showing this morning. I enjoyed it so much that I felt I needed to write a review about it and shout praises to all involved. And add a few minor criticisms which – like I would – I’m sure they’ll take way too much to heart than I intend.

Like my love for superheroes, I’m open about my struggles with depression. Only a few days ago, I broke out of a near month-long bout of depression where I stayed at home, shuffling between playing video games (The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine, and Stardew Valley) or sleeping.

There are things about my life these days that I plan on making separate posts about. One has a working title of “The Wall.” I also plan on posting about my short story The Never Ending Battle getting republished recently, but I’ll wait until I have a copy of the magazine. Stay tuned for that, though, because I’ve actually reworked the decade-old story, so it’ll be reworked AND re-posted!

Meanwhile: Redfish.

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Theo Moudakis’ Fort McMurry Cartoon: A Criticism

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Credit: @andyhurleys on Twitter

As of this writing, it seems the massive fire in Fort McMurray is dying down. 80,000 people in the area were evacuated while the town was decimated. It’s fortunate – and a little amazing – that no lives were lost in the fire.I can’t imagine the work to come, but I hope for nothing but the best for everyone involved.

In the meantime, the Toronto Star published this political cartoon by Theo Moudakis:

Toronto Star Theo Moudakis

On the surface, it’s a nice sentiment, but it’s problematic. Let me explain.

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