Friday, December 28, 2007

Creative Exhaustion

I like to do funny calendars for people as Christmas presents. I like to take an ordinary calendar and add to the pictures, putting in word balloons and pictures of my own to give the image a new, comical meaning. For example, if there's a water setting in one of the calendar's pictures, I'll draw in some shark fins and maybe a swimmer or two getting eaten. It's fun, it's creative, and it's a challenge.

This year I did five calendars. I did one for my parents, my brother and his wife, my sister, my sister-in-law, and Violet. Five calendars, each with twelve pictures (some had December '07, and therefore 13 pictures). All that added up to a lot of creative work needing to be done by Christmas. I'm happy to say I finished the last one off on Christmas Eve, and the next day they were all very well received.

However, for all the time I was working on those calendars, I couldn't write a thing. It actually isn't all that easy to come up with funny stuff for every calendar picture. With some images I have ideas straight away, but there are always a couple of pages that stump me right up until the deadline I simply couldn't do that and work on a novel at the same time, and when I was done I needed three days before I could pick up my pen once more. I'd strained my resources to the breaking point, and needed a rest.

Was it worth it? Hell, yes! Seeing my family laugh at the work I'd done was so rewarding. Yes, I do wish I'd been able to push further ahead with The 25 Demons You Meet In Hell, but I'm back into it now. I don't think I'm going to finish it off by New Year's as I'd hoped, however. My new target date for that one is the end of January. I'd better mark that on a calendar...

That In-Between Time

We are now in that time between Christmas and New Year's, a time to recover from the holidays while gearing up to start fresh in 2008. It's a strange time that feels sort of anticlimactic; Christmas is over, the presents have been exchanged, family members have been hugged, but now it's time to go back to the real world.

I went to visit my family in Ottawa, and it was a packed house. In addition to my parents, Violet and myself, there was my sister Claire, my brother Richard, his wife Claire, and their daughter Imogen. It wasn't the greatest of times for everyone; my sister was sick, then whatever she had spread to Richard and Imogen. Violet and I escaped that, but we had bad news of our own. On Christmas morning we learned from Violet's sister Georgina that their mom had gone into the hospital, and that it was fairly serious. She's been in and out of the hospital a lot lately, due to blood problems in her legs, but this time it was her kidneys and liver. Violet and I had to decide whether to return to Toronto immediately to check on her, or wait for more news from Georgina.

In the end we decided to stay with my family. There was nothing we could do for her even if we did make the five-hour trek, so we waited and hoped for the best. After dinner, Violet got through to Georgina and learned that their mother was doing much better. The relief was enormous. We visited her in hospital as soon as we got back into the city on Boxing Day, and she was in good spirits. She will have to stay there a while longer, though.

I'm glad Violet and I didn't rush off. I'd been really looking forward to that holiday after the stress of a month and a half of fruitless job hunting. It's selfish, but I really didn't want my time with my family to be cut short. We had a lot of fun together, and I'm very grateful for that. I'm also very grateful that my wife's mother is in good hands.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Book Signing A Success!

Yesterday I had my book signing at Indigo Spirit, and it went really well. The staff were glad to have me back (I've signed there twice before for Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters), and so was I. Here's how well I did:

Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters - 5

Epoch - 19!

Twenty-four books in total. Not a bad haul for four hours work. A few of my friends turned up, including my actor friend Vijay (thanks, man!) and my former co-workers Regina and Anna. Even Lorraine, one of my contacts from my temp agency, turned up! Awesome! Their support was great, but selling to complete strangers is a real confidence-builder for me. I have a good pitch ("It's a comedy about the end of the world!"), the cover is awesome, and the book is successful.

It's days like this that I live for.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

My Birthday Party

I'm happy to say that my birthday party this weekend was a great success. Friends came in from all over the city, in spite of hideous weather conditions. Booze was uncorked, laughs were had, and little Karma was the life of the party. There was a nice mix of people from the spoken word community, as well as three friends Violet reconnected with on Facebook.

I told my friends not to bring presents, so naturally they all brought presents. I got booze (whiskey, wine and Baileys) and I got books. One book was titled: Marriage and Homosexuality - A Christian Response. My friend Paisley knows of my weird obsession with freaky religious stuff, so she went and got it for me from the Focus On The Family people. We all took turns reading it, and got very angry at the backward thinking and general offensiveness it represented. I'll definitely have to review it in Biblical Proportions soon.

The other book I got was Stephen Colbert's I Am America And So Can You. Cheers, Jeff!

Today was basically a relaxing, stress-free day for Violet and I. We worked on various projects - she on her final school assignment, and me on my Christmas calendars. Every year I like to take various calendars and adding stuff to them (dialogue, extra pictures, captions, etc) to make them funny. It's something unique I can give to people, and they are fun to do.

Next week I will continue to job-hunt, although I fear my chances of finding work before the new year are slim. I've also got my book signing coming up on Tuesday. That will be a lot of fun!

Friday, December 14, 2007

...And I'm Fired.

Yep. Just like that. I worked half a day for them on Wednesday, then yesterday after only half an hour, they told me it wasn't working out. No explanation, nothing.

True, I'd made a couple of mistakes that morning. The supervisor asked me to use a machine that measures and cuts strands of velcro, and I put in the wrong code. In the wrong spot. And I didn't feed the velcro in properly. I'd worked with it the previous day, so the supervisor no doubt felt I was up to speed on it. I figured it was no big deal. Everybody makes mistakes, especially in their first couple of days, right?

Well, apparently she felt differently. When the manager arrived she rushed off to talk to her, then the manager came over to give me the bad news. She didn't say it was because of the mistakes I'd made that morning, or because of something I'd done the previous day. Like I said, no explanation.

They just fired me. On my Birthday. Can you beat that?

The worst part was telling Violet. She was very upset - angry on my behalf, and distressed at the same time. We'd both been so happy that I'd landed another job, it hadn't occurred to either of us it could be snatched away so quickly.

The day didn't end badly, however. Violet took me out to dinner at our favourite restaurant, The Willow. We had one of their best dishes, then shared a deep-fried ice cream. Excellent stuff. We chatted, we laughed, we looked longingly into each others' eyes, etc... We left feeling happy.

And that's the best way to end a Birthday, isn't it?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My 35th Birthday!

Today I turned 35. Yay! Birthdays are always happy days for me. Unlike some, I don't care how 'old' I get, as long as I remain a big kid inside.

I was going to say something really deep and profound, but then Karma knocked over a glass of water on the dining room table. Now that the table's dry once more, I forgot what I was going to say. Oh well. It probably would've been rubbish anyway.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Back To Work!

It seems my decision to start taking my antidepressants again was the right one, as my life has instantly turned around! I start a new job today, working as a shipper/receiver/general office person at a company called Muttluks. Apparently they make boots and other assorted items for dogs. Sounds like a fun atmosphere. And the pay rate is excellent, too!

I'd like to thank Craigslist, where I found the posting that led me to Hunt Personnel, who got me the job. I'd also like to thank my friend Paisley Rae, who suggested I try looking on Craigslist. Thank you all!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back On The Meds

A couple of weeks ago I proudly announced I was going off my antidepressant medication. Now I'm back on them again, as of this morning. I don't want to go into great detail, just that Violet and I both concluded it was the best thing for me at the moment. I gave it a good try, but it is clear to me I still need medication until I get a better handle on my thoughts and the moods they set off.

At least I have some good news. I had a job interview today for TD Bank, and it went so-so. Then I spoke to someone at Hunt Personnel, who had posted a job offer on Craig's List last week. They have a well-paying job on the offering, and thought I would be perfect for it. I go in for my interview (and temp agency testing) tomorrow morning. If all goes well, I could be employed again by the end of this week!

Also, I had a toothache off and on this weekend, and this morning it seemed particularly bad. However, my local dentist gave me an X-ray and found nothing wrong, all for the cost of $50. That's only a quarter of what I expected to pay! Then again, I didn't get a full cleaning, which apparently costs the other three quarters. So I don't have a cavity, as I'd feared! And I didn't have to break the bank to get it checked out! Sometimes, a little peace of mind can do wonders.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tim Burton Owes Me 40 Bucks!

Twice this week the movies interfered with my desire to earn an income and not starve. On Wednesday I went out the the Queensway cinema (as far West out of the city as I am East) for a free advance screening of Sweeney Todd, courtesy of my good friend Monica. I thought the movie was one of the most pretentious pieces of garbage I've ever seen, but everyone around me seemed to like it. Then I got home and found a message from my temp agency, telling me to call them back for a four-hour job the next morning! I left my apartment at 4 to get to the cinema early, so I missed the call at home. Then I was in the cinema, and missed the calls to my cellphone. Needless to say, I didn't get that job - by the time I found out about it, it was far too late to call anybody back to get details. It would only have been for four hours at $10 an hour, so no great loss.

And it did mean I got a good title for this post out of the deal. No, Tim Burton, you do not owe me 40 bucks. Nor do I want my money back for that movie. It was a free screening, and worth every penny I paid.

Fast-forward to yesterday, when I went to George Brown College to drop something off for Violet, who was at work. I decided that, since I was downtown and close to a cheap Rainbow cinema, I would take myself to The Mist, which I've been wanting to see for a long time. This time I was clever and had my cellphone at the ready, and called to see if the agency had anything for me. They did not. But no sooner had I ended the call when I found I had a voicemail - from someone at the agency who'd been calling me at the same time I'd been calling them! After waiting ten minutes on hold I finally got through to him, and he told me I had an interview lined up for Monday! Excellent! I went off to see the movie in good spirits.

Those good spirits were dashed by The Mist, not because it was bad but because it was so very good. One of the best horror films I've ever seen, and one of the few to actually frighten me. When I got home, however, I found two messages not from my agency but from job postings I'd contacted on Craig's List, asking me to call back to them straight away!

The lesson here seems to be, if you're unemployed, never go to the movies. It's not disastrous, though - I'll call everybody back on Monday, and it seems I will soon have my pick of jobs. Good things come to those who wait... at home.

Friday, December 7, 2007

But Seriously...

When I was at Con*Cept two months ago, I was on a panel discussing urban fantasy, and I said something that I now realize wasn't really true. I told that audience that, when it comes to my writing, my first instinct is to go for something funny. I'd like to think that about myself - I like the image of me as a funny guy - but that doesn't accurately describe everything I write. As soon as I'd said it, hundreds of examples of my 'serious' side went through my mind.

For example, I have two as-yet-unpublished novels called The Last Nephilim and The Last Nephilim's Decision that aren't funny at all. They tell the story of a girl who discovers she is an angel/human hybrid (a nephilim), and that angels have been hunting her kind into extinction since the beginning of creation. In fact, she's the very last one. The books have elements of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Star Wars in them, and I could have easily chosen to write them funny. I did not, however. I wanted them serious, and I wanted them dark. And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but The Last Nephilim came 3rd place in a literary contest.

Another example is Cupidity, one of the books I'm working on now. It's about a teen who dies and becomes a Cupid, responsible for making people fall in love with each other. I planned for it to be funny, but I think the mix will be more half-and-half when it is done. It won't be as funny as Epoch or Soul Hunters, but I'm happy with the way it is turning out. The thing is, that might make it a bit harder to market, since my previous books have established me as a funny guy with wacky stories. I love telling people that Epoch is a comedy about the end of the world, because that always gets people's attention. And people love to laugh. But will readers follow me if my next book is dark and creepy?

Is there a place for my more serious side? I'd like to hope so. Some writers manage that balance quite nicely; Tanya Huff and Peter David come to mind. Basically, I'm still developing my voice, and I write the way the story tells me it wants to be written. Hopefully I will find that balance that Tanya and Peter do so (seemingly) effortlessly. Until then, I'm thinking of shoe-horning some more jokes into Cupidity.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Review in School Library Journal!

Brian, my publicist at Llewellyn, sent me the following review from the School Library Journal:

CARTER, Timothy. Epoch. 264p. Flux. 2007. pap. $8.95. ISBN 978-0-7387-0166-2. LC number unavailable.
Gr 7 Up–At his school’s end-of-the-world-themed science fair, 14-year-old Vincent Drear’s presentation consists simply of literature from his parents’ church. The teen’s family is Triumvirate, followers of a branch of Christianity that believes that dire times are ahead and that only they know the path to salvation. Vincent, not an observant follower, wonders if there is more to life. Then he learns from pixies Clara and Nod that Earth’s rejuvenation will begin in two days. In order to rid the world of the current dominant species, whose epoch is at an end, Portal Sites will appear to allow all life-forms to leave this world for another. When they close, demons will destroy any who remain from the formerly dominant species, and many others as well. Vincent, with the help of his brother and friends Chanteuse and Big Tom, as well as elves, pixies, and ogres, sets out to discover why the portals have been hidden and who seeks to destroy humanity. In this fast-paced novel, readers will identify with Vincent’s ability to see goodness in the world, and will root for him and his companions as they triumph over evil. At times things seem too superficial and a bit silly, but the story will hold readers’ attention. The countdown clock at the beginning of each chapter adds to the suspense. The issue of the apocalypse and its religious overtones might not be everyone’s cup of tea but, overall, Epoch is entertaining.–Donna Rosenblum, Floral Park Memorial High School, NY

Wow, the worst thing they said about me is that, at times, I can be silly. Actually, there are very rare moments in my life when I'm not silly! Okay, it's about half-and-half. Either way, this is a good review and I'm very happy. Thank you, Donna Rosenblum!

Jobs, Jobs, Where Art Thous?

A bit of luck on the employment front. I had a job last weekend, working at a craft class for kids at the Oneofakind show. I helped a truly lovely person named Penny to teach kids how to make magic wands out of art supplies, and had a jolly good time doing it. It was only four days, and hard and (at times) stressful work, but well worth it and I'm very glad I did it.

Then, on Monday, the unemployment continued. I got really miserable about it, then decided to just let it go. I'm applying online for jobs now, and I've reactivated my accounts at two other temp agencies. I'm doing all I can do. Until then, I shall refuse to be stressed. The universe will unfold as it should.