Being Productive Isn’t that Important

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m not sure when it happened, but I became one of those people who has trouble not doing something. I’ve always fidgited and couldn’t fully sit still, but at some point my inability to sit still went from physical to mental.

I do a lot of things for various projects, jobs, etc. There’s always something to do. Because of that, I’ve had a hard time reading for pleasure.

I completely stopped during university and was fine until parental leave. There’s not much I can do on the bus other than read, video games, or emails. I tried writing, but it wasn’t easy. So for the past fifteen years I’ve read on the bus and it’s worked really well, allowing me to read an average of 20 or so novels a year.

A tired author wearing a shirt that says, “So many books, so little time.” On the shirt is an octopus with glasses holding a cup of tea and reading two books and holding another.
Shirt available at Tee Turtle.

Since my second parental leave, I’ve had a lot harder a time. There are three reasons:

The first is simple and is just the lack of bus and forced time set aside.

The second will sound petty, but it’s my kids. I love my little Dragon and Pegasus, but they don’t seem to like me reading. Pegasus will physically put himself between me and a book or my kobo. Then when I put it down, he’ll go away and do something else.

He’s older now, so hopefully he’s getting over it, but I still have this weird instinct of not reading around him.

The third is something I’ve been been struggling with for a while. When I read, I feel like I should be doing something else. That’s how my relaxing evening reading turned into writing (that worked out for writing). There’s a kind of guilt and panic when I read that I’m having a hard time getting over.

I need to keep telling myself it’s okay to do things that aren’t productive. It’s okay to take ten or twenty minutes to be a little selfish. The other things will wait.

It’s okay to do things for pleasure and not production!

Maybe if I say it enough times it’ll sink in? I detest that I can know something intellectually and somehow not actually believe it deep down.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Coffee Makes a Great Present

Hello Coffee lovers!

In case you hadn’t thought of it, small batch fresh roasted coffee is a great choice for presents. As is crochet.

Note: a lot of teachers drink coffee. We also have gift cards for those who are virtual.

Christmas Deadline

In Canada or USA, order yours before December 5th to guarantee shipping and before December 15th for local pickup.

Buy a book, get 15% off your order

Use BOOKMAS as a code on checkout for 15% off your entire order if you buy a book.

Coffee Flavours available

Thank you and happy holidays.

Eric

Red Notice – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Red Notice.

Story

Action packed from start to finish with lots of twists and turns. The story itself is pretty straight forward action/heist. Some of the writing was silly and a lot of the plot points that are supposed to make us think the characters are smart, are ludicrous. It had me saying, “That’s not how that works,” more times than it should have.

Score: 0.5

Characters

The characters aren’t deep; they’re basically thin backstories for the three main actors to play into their strengths. It works mostly, but there is more chemistry between the Rock and Reynolds than the Rock and Godot.

The secondary characters are cardboard cutouts with the exception of Chris Diamantopoulos as Sotto Voce who hams it up beautifully.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

There are a few self aware and hilarious lines. Nothing super exciting, but the dialogue is fun.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The visuals are competent and I’m glad they didn’t add a colour filter on the whole thing, but there was a lack of cohesion in the different settings on a colour level. The actors were pretty though.

The music was completely forgettable, but that just means it did it’s job.

Score: 0.5

Fun

Every action movie needs the rest points where we start to care about the characters. This didn’t have any because we were expected to care about the actors. Unfortunately, those scenes are also about letting the audience rest and relate.

Both my the two and five year old got a little bored and the rest of us, although enjoying it, spent a lot more time picking it apart than normal.

Score: 1

Overall

What you see is exactly what you get with this movie. It’s action packed with lots of personality and more than its fair share of quips. The actors play exactly what you expect. This is a fun movie, but it’s not deep.

Final Score: 3.5 stars out of 5

Diamond Stars and the Galactic Heist – Chapter 11


Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12


Chapter 11

“Where did they go?” yelled a voice. It was the Black-Sun encrypted frequency and either this was the greatest actor in the galaxy or our trick had worked.

“If we move, they’ll shoot us down,” said Diamond, looking perplexed.

I shrugged and said, “We’d better hope they give up or search somewhere else for us because this emitter can’t handle our disguise for more than another ten minutes.”

Sphene made a little squeaking sound and said, “I get that this was the plan and we didn’t expect it to work.” Her brother gave her a surprised look and she continued, “Oh, come on, Diamond had her ‘we’re going to die’ face on. And there was the whole proposal from Garnet.” She turned back to me and Diamond and finished, “We need a next part of the plan.”

Diamond shook her head and said, “Youth today. Always in a hurry. I’ll be glad to retire. Anyway. The moon behind us is hiding a jump gate. We just have to figure out how to use it without alerting the giant, super advanced fleet of psychics.”

“Sounds easy to me,” Flint hooted from the front.

Diamond nodded and asked me, “Can we switch from our disguise to the cloak without them noticing?”

“If anyone is looking at us or any scans pass by us, they’ll notice. You wouldn’t have another distraction up your sleeve?” It was a long shot, but I had to ask. She shook her head and we all paused for a second. 

I’ll never forget that second. It’s when my whole life changed. One moment, I was a deserter turned mechanic, turned thief; the next, I was flooded with images, sounds, smells, thoughts, and emotions. It was all extremely overwhelming and I needed to sit down.

“What just happened?” Onyx asked. He must have asked a few times because he looked worried.

I wasn’t sure how to answer him so I just said, “I feel like I just watched a hundred movies at once.”

Flint turned around and looked at me wide eyed. “Did you see anything about what’s going on right now?”

An image of us going through the gate and the moon exploding popped into my memory and I explained it to the group. When I was done I added, “I think there’s a self destruct in the gates. If we send an altered code just as we go through, it’ll blow up behind us.”

“What are we talking about here?” Diamond asked and then added, “Are we destroying the whole fleet?”

I shrugged. “It wasn’t that specific.”

“Well, dang. Little grease monkey here’s a baby Sun Speaker,” Flint sounded both reverent and highly amused.

We moved slowly towards the moon like a toddler trying to be sneaky, switched from disguise to cloak, and went through the gate at a speed that was completely reckless. I punched in the code myself and we watched as the entire fleet shot at us.

Once on the other side of the gate, it exploded moments before some of the missiles would have come through. We all whooped with joy and hugged. When I got to Onyx, I took his beautiful face into my hands and leaned forward to kiss him. He smelled of cooking, disinfectant, and sweat. I hesitated and he said, “Yes, please.” 

Our kiss started off soft and gentle and progressed to hungry. I lost all thought of the horrors of Black-Sun or the worries of being a Sun Speaker.

Diamond’s gleeful laughter pulled us out of the kiss and when we gave her a confused look, she said, “I bet Flint you’d kiss before we made it to home base.” Flint pulled out some credit chips and passed them over. We all laughed a little and Diamond asked, “If I get you to Viol, would you have the parts to build a ship-sized version of the anti-Sun Speaker tech?”

“Wait a second,” Sphene said. “If you had that thing on, how did he get that vision?”

“Each Sun has a separate frequency,” started Flint. “Ours is blocked by the tech and whatever Sun is talking to Garnet is not. You must be in contact with some sort of Rebel Sun.”

“Right. Why else would it want us to send this information out?” I added. Another image from the flash jumped to mind and I added, “There are other Suns and most of them are not on our side.” I then remembered Diamond’s question and replied, “Yes I can, but we’ll have to hurry. They might not be able to track us, but they certainly can figure out where you’ve been from flight and docking records.”

We hurried to Viol, where I had thought I’d spend the rest of my life, and everything felt smaller. Like when I’d visited the training academy after my first tour. 

I built the device and installed it on the ship. I also upgraded the holo-emitter and brought my favourite tools on board.

“So, you’ve decided to join us full time?” asked Onyx, obviously trying to look casual and failing.

“Yes. This may have started as a kidnapping, but you make really good spaghetti.” 

 “Even though I add too much garlic?”

“I never said that, I just said it was more than the military or galactic police put in theirs.”

We smiled at each other and he took my hand as I brought my stuff on board. We might be getting ready to destabilize the system by exposing the horrors of Black-Sun and we were about to become the number one most wanted by an army of psychics, but I was happy. That might sound selfish, but love is a wonderful motivator for hope.

“Alright. Let’s get to home base and finish this,” Diamond said. “Who’s ready to pick a fight with the biggest, baddest jerks in the galaxy?”

Read Chapter 12 (December 2021)


While you wait for the next chapter, check out the previous serial stories:


Want to learn more about what Sun Speakers are? Check out what the one in our solar system is up to.

Sun Speaker

In the distant future humanity has spread to the other planets in our solar system. These stories follow Hal (a prophet for a godlike entity that lives in the sun), and his friends, as they try to make the solar system a better place.

Hal The Sun Speaker

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Assassin

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to my Funeral

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Gladiators in SPACE!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Ghost Ship Robinson

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7

Excited!

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I was planning on writing a reminder on not being a jerk about holiday decorations, but I can’t concentrate.

Health Canada approves Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children

I’m really excited to get my kids protected from the worst effects of this virus.

If you have questions the Ottawa Public Health has a wonderful resource about the vaccine.

Now we wait for distribution and hopefully the eventual approval of 4 and under. Once that’s done and our family is protected, we start thinking about a return to normalcy. Hopefully the case numbers will be down by then too.

Hope you have a great day,

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings.

Story

The story felt very familiar yet different. It was a wonderful melding of hero’s quest, Chinese action movie, and Marvel origin story. They took a story that could have been grim and turned it into something hopeful and I appreciate that.

Score: 1

Characters

The main character was a little brooding and very quip-y, which I like. I enjoyed the friend who tags along getting their own story arc. The villain was nuanced and interesting.

I think overall the entire cast was fantastic and I wish we could have had more time with them.

Score: 1

Dialogue

Two very well placed, “Oh Shit” moments and lots of excellent banter. The narration and storytelling leaned into the epic LOTR / Crouching Tiger style while the in world dialogue was pure Marvel sass.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The fight scenes were beautifully done, filmed in a more traditional style with pans and freezes that I personally prefer over the jump cuts and shaky cam.

The special effects were perfect and the amount of personality in the dragon, Cthulhu stand-in, and temple guardians was absolutely spectacular.

The music was a little muddled at times, having trouble choosing between brassy Marvel, and strings with Asian influences. I appreciate the more modern music as a counterpoint though.

Score: 0.5

Fun

Exciting and interesting throughout. It hits all my favourite beats for epic fantasy and superhero movies. My 5 year old was riveted the whole way and my 2 year old loved the fights, but got bored at the story parts.

I look forward to re-watching.

Score: 1

Overall

This is the Marvel formula done properly with a hint of classic kung-fu movies. The cast and storytelling is amazing. It has some of the most spectacular creatures and fight scenes in Marvel and I can’t wait to see more of this cast.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

All about that bass

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Last week I decided to sell my old bass guitar. It wasn’t getting the love it deserved. I made the decision because I wanted to play it.

That might sound weird, but it was heavy and awkward (sort of like me :-0) I wanted to play but I wanted to play something I could pull out.

There are days that the only practice I get on my ukulele is between meetings when I can take it down from its hook and strum a few chords. I’d like to do the same for the bass.

So I sold my bass and now I have to decide if I want to get a bass ukulele or a short scale bass. It’s a decision I’ll make on Black Friday. I am excited to start playing.

Does anyone have any recommendations?

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Monsters Changed Everything

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Writing is a lot of fun when it’s going well. The second book in The Gates of Westmeath is going really well.

Credit goes to Jen and her boundless enthusiasm for the book, the characters, and the world. It’s extremely encouraging to have instant feedback as I write. I really mean instant. We write in google docs and she’ll sometimes read as I write. At first it really made me uncomfortable, but I’ve gotten to liking it. It’s encouraging, hearing your first draft jokes and dramatic moments affecting someone right away.

No outline survives the first draft and we had thought the gangs in this book would be more prominent, but the monsters have taken over. So we changed the title.

Let me introduce you to Monsters! Incidental Wedding Guests:

We don’t have a synopsis yet (we’re only 2/3 of the way through writing it), but there are monsters in it and a wedding.

I hope all of you are as excited as we are about this series.

Éric

Halloweentown – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 1998 film Halloweentown.

Story

This is a timeless Halloween fable about a kid who loves spooky things and turns out it was because they were spooky too. Every kid who loves Halloween and all the stuff around it wishes they were Marnie.

The villain reveal surprised me the first time I saw it as an innocent twenty something and overall the movie flows really well. There is a little awkwardness in the love interest, but overall it’s a solid offering.

Score: 1

Characters

I love all the kids. They each work so well in their roles as underappreciated kid, sceptic, and spooky girl.

The grandmother is fantastic and pulls the film together extremely well.

The villain is hammy and over the top in the best way.

The mother, however, is quite possibly the most frustrating character possible. I can’t stand her.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

“Someone’s coming.” is up there with “They’re here.” for creepy lines and I love it. Overall, the dialogue is solid, if a little young. Not quite as memorable as other Disney TV movies.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

The special effects are cheap but endearing; the camera work is excellent though.

The music is okay, but could be better.

Score: 0.5

Fun

This movie is a family favourite. My son and daughter love it.

I didn’t see it until almost a decade after it came out and I’m sad I didn’t have the chance to experience it as a young teen. It’s an easy movie to watch and inspires wonder.

Score: 1

Overall

This is a fabulous movie for all those spooky kids that wish they were magical. The acting is solid and the story surprising. Definitely worthy of it’s place as a yearly family tradition. Kids will love it and parents will too, if they have any love of magic.

Final Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Dear Dragon – The Princesse

Dear Dragon,

For about three years, as of this writing, I have been telling you stories at night. They’ve been improvised and a lot of fun to tell. They started out very simple, with little girls getting lost and having tea with pixies, or rabbits who couldn’t jump, they expanded to Heroes, Legends, Fairies, and other Absurdities, and about a year ago, maybe less, you started asking for the same characters.

I wanted to help you with your French and I thought that adding some words would help. So I made up the Princesse, she started out as a simple character who discovered the servant’s tunnels in her castle and made friends with a kitchen maid called Amie.

From there, the cast expanded to include the brave Chevalier and a whole lot of magical creatures. There was a dragon kept as a furnace, another castle through the lake in the basement, grumpy wizards, aliens, a knitting ogre, and many others. It was serialized and adventurous. You loved the stories, begging me for more every night.

I added a one-off superhero and you loved her so much you named her MIghty-Girl and she became part of the main cast.

After a few months you asked about bad guys and I introduced the Shadows, a group of shadow monsters that the main characters accidentally released when they opened a treasure chest with a warning.

We went back to serialized for a while and then we added the Silver Fox, the Princesse’s arch nemesis and equal in intelligence. He was an alien like Mighty-Girl, but has super magic instead. She captured him eventually, but I drew it out for over two weeks. You were really excited about it. Later there were other villains; the Swan Sorceress, The Nightmares from Beyond, and the Evil Serpent.

We added lore about the great Wizards, Dragons, and Mermaids who created magic in the golden days, there was the glass pyramid in the Arctic with a castle full of zombies, the castle on the moon, the dragon palace that flew in the clouds, the mermaid kingdom, the floating city of mermaids and people, the great caves of friendly monsters, and the ancient ruins that littered the world.

I tried to have the Princesse win through brains, friendship, and kindness. She built hospitals, learned magic, and helped people and even changed bodies with a girl from our world who you called Rachael.

A few weeks before Halloween, you asked me to read some of the Disney Halloween stories instead and I agreed. This week, I asked if you wanted to go back to me making up stories, and you said no. You’d rather I keep reading short stories from your bookcase.

I know you really like being read to, but I’m sad that this story has ended. Maybe we’ll go back to me making up stories for you at night, but I fear the Princesse, Chevalier, and Mighty-Girl’s stories are over.

I wonder if you’ll remember them, or if like so many other things, they’ll fade away. Maybe someday I’ll write some of them down, but it won’t be the same.

All things change and I’ve never been a big fan of change.

I love you little Dragon,

Papa