It’s Just Allergies

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I have recently been no-so-subtly accused of faking sick. It’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I’m used to the usual scenario where I mentioned to someone that I have severe allergies and they either nod condescendingly or roll their eyes.

I get it, seriously, if you’ve never had to deal with allergies it’s easy to dismiss. I mean the most common portrayal of people with allergies in movies and television are either ridiculous nerds or hypochondriacs, mostly both. (I’m looking at you Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis.)

Even people with mild allergies don’t fully understand what it can be like. They’ll have the sniffles in spring or get red itchy eyes when they pet a cat.

I’ve lost track of the amount of times people have told me, “Oh yes, I’m allergic to cats too but you get used to it living with them.”

So here’s a short partial list of things I’m allergic to:

  • Cat hair and dander
  • Dog hair and dander
  • Oak pollen
  • Spruce pollen
  • Poplar pollen
  • Ragweed pollen
  • Grass itself and the pollen
  • Dust and Dust Mites
  • Mould
  • Bees
  • Mosquitos
  • Coconut milk and coconut oil

That’s the most common and it’s about a quarter of the things I’m allergic to. Also among the worst.

Symptoms

I am extremely lucky not to have anaphylaxis. My throat has never fully closed and I’ve never had a seizure. Every person reacts differently to allergies, despite what the commercials try to tell you.

My milder symptoms are mostly itchy ears, itchy eyes, cough, runny nose, itchy throat, and hives.

The more severe symptoms are nasal pressure, diarrhea, nausea, breathing difficulties, and sleepiness.

The absolute worst symptom is the weakness. When I get hit with a bad allergy attack I’m weak as a kitten. Before I got the shots, I had days were getting out of bed was such a struggle that I burst veins in both my eyes from the effort of sitting up. I always make the joke of, “Who turned up the gravity?” because it feels like everything is extra heavy and draining.

The weakness means that around Christmas time I usually feel like total shit. If that sounds odd think about what happens when business and people bring out decorations that have been in basements and attics, bring in dying trees, or bring out old dusty trees. What happens is the amount of indoor mould and dust skyrocket.

Linked Conditions

As if those symptoms aren’t bad enough, allergies cause and aggravate secondary conditions.

Oral Allergy Syndrome

This is a fun thing where your body thinks you’re ingesting your allergy when you eat something else. Basically, certain raw fruits and veggies have proteins that are similar to pollen.

If I eat a raw apple my tongue tingles and mouth itches because my body thinks I’m eating Oak pollen. Thankfully this doesn’t happen with cooked fruits. Before the shots, my throat would start to close.

My wife still laughs about the time I told her, “Isn’t it cool that celery is a little spicy?” Apparently it’s not supposed to be spicy.

IBS

I think it’s because my body is weakened but during a bad allergy day, my IBS becomes ten times worse.

Migraines

The nasal pressure combined with stress will trigger migraines. My vision blurs, I get dizzy, I lose sense of time, I feel like I’m going to puke, and my head hurts more than any pain I’ve experienced.

Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia

This is a combination of antihistamines and fall out from the other symptoms.

It’s hard to concentrate or feel good about yourself when just going to the washroom is exhausting.

If I have a certain type of antihistamine, I get shaky, and feel like my entire body is vibrating. It lasts for 12 hours and makes sleeping hard.

Bad Day?

So I’ve talked about bad days. I’ll be completely honest that on my best day I still have most of the mild symptoms. That’s despite having done shots for 5 years and using antihistamines.

A bad day, however, happens if I am accidentally, or unavoidably, exposed to an allergen. Some it’s only once like coconut oil, coconut milk, or bug venom, some it has to be prolonged like dust, mould, or trees.

Either way, a bad is a day I can barely move, feel sick, and just generally want to die. I’ve done work during those days, but it’s not my best work since I’m totally out of it. Most of the time I have enough energy to watch tv, shower (the steam does wonders for my nose), and eat.

What Now?

So what do I want you to do about this? Nothing. I just wanted to vent and explain what it’s like being me. Hopefully it’ll make you more compassionate to people with allergies.

Mostly, if I tell you I’m not feeling well, know that I’m not lying.

 

Thank you for reading,

Éric

What I Learned Not Having a Phone for 8 Days

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

We recently went on a vacation to Paris. After looking into the roaming plans and their cost, we decided to leave our phones at home for the vacation.

I knew it would bug me, but I had no idea how or how I’d react.

A little background before we begin. I haven’t been without a cellphone since 2002. In high school, I was the dork with the digital organizer. I had an HTC-Dream in 2009 and remember Android 1.6 Cupcake. All that tells you I’m a little of a gadget nerd and haven’t been far from the convenience in almost a decade.

One of the first pictures I took and posted directly from my HTC-Dream to Facebook in October 2009. (604×402 pixels in size)

Like most people my age, I rarely make phone calls with my phone. Only when I have to or if I want to speak with my older relatives.

What I didn’t miss

I expected to miss the constant social connection of my phone, but it’s the part I missed the least. It was actually kind of nice to disconnect and ignore things that weren’t important.

I’m a little bit of a digital hoarder. Take for exemple that before this trip I had a mailing list subscription to TeeFury in 3 of my 5 emails.

The vacation and only being able to clean out my facebook and email once a day, sometimes less, gave me the push I needed to start cleaning out subscriptions, groups, and even a few friends.

What I have now is a quarter the amount of incoming emails and a lot less of an urge to check my phone every four seconds.

What I did miss but was glad I didn’t have

The camera on my phone is exceptional and I have a nasty habit of relying on it too much. I have a fantastic Mirrorless SLR and need to use it more often. No matter how good your phone’s camera is, at the moment, an SLR will be much better.

This forced me to reach into my bag and grab the camera instead of just pulling out my phone.

What I missed

Being able to search for random information, directions, locations, and even identify landmarks; was something I truly missed about my phone.

The ability to pull out my phone and be told what a landmark is and its history is extremely useful. Being able to ask where to find the closest café is extremely useful. Being able to find out the hours of operations for business over a holiday is useful.

I have terrible handwriting so being able to write a list for groceries on my phone is something that I love. The list is shared with my wife so if she forgets something while I’m out, she can add it to the list no problem.

Despite being French Canadian, there was a language barrier and some words I had no idea what they meant. It would have been nice to have a universal translator in my pocket for shopping.

We went to Paris with my in-laws and being able to separate without detailed plans of where and when to meet is something I greatly missed.

I also missed being able to listen to music, read, play games, and jot down ideas.

 

I still think that the roaming is excessively expensive, but I sure missed the convenience of having my phone.

Éric

The Sign of Faust – Cover Reveal

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

My wonderful cover designer Nathan sent me the cover file for my book that should be out this spring, hopefully in time for Renaissance Press’s 5th anniversary.

Without further ado, here is the cover for The Sign of Faust:

The Sign of Faust will be available at Amazon and Renaissance Press.

 

My hope is that by the end of the series, all the books together with make a rainbow.

Éric

Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 4

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3


Chapter 4: Flying Fruit and a Oracular Ambush

The master hit her in the head with another orange. “A true warrior can defend themselves blind.”

Artemis, still disguised as Arty, tried to stop thinking about Ezekiel, the Princess, or Didi. What was wrong with her? She’d never been this easily distracted by pretty people before. Blindfolded, she heard and deflected an apple from the master.

“You’re still slow. It’s not the blindfold that has you blind. It’s your distraction, ” the master said and then tutted. “It’s your distraction that blinds you to the universe. Now concentrate.” He launched a grape at Arty.

Feeling the grape flying towards her, she took a deep breath to centre herself, she moved and caught the grape in her mouth. It was sweet but the skin was sour, creating a pleasant contrast.

Maybe it was the forced celibacy of the monastery that made her constantly think about the beautiful people in town.

“Better,” mumbled the master. “Remember that a real man and warrior can suppress his emotions in order to concentrate on the battle. Emotions are what lead you towards distraction and darkness.”

She tuned out the speech, it was the most tedious part of monastery life. The insistence that emotions led to evil was not only ridiculous; it was dangerous. Without the ability to process and understand their emotions, the monks were nearly constantly stressed. It was the reason she tried to sneak out as much as she could.

“You will understand once you become a master. The cleansing ceremony will help you elevate yourself above your emotions.” The fruit kept flying and she wished she had a sword to cut them with; it would have been more satisfying. The cleansing ceremony sounded pseudo-mystical and she couldn’t decide if they had found a way to remove human emotions or if it was just another religious ceremony.

Eventually the fruit stopped flying and she was dismissed. The monks woke with the dawn and were supposed to retire to their quarters for meditation and sleep at sundown. Artemis waited a little and then snuck out.

The same training that had her learn to anticipate what was going to happen and move through it quietly helped her leave the monastery without being noticed. Once outside the gates, she traded her monk’s robes for a pair of comfortable denim pants and a casual button up white shirt.

As much as she wanted to dress as her real self, she was recognized now in town as Arty. If she tried to walk around as a woman, she’d still be recognized. She was thankful for the loose clothing and good breast-band that didn’t bind her but minimized her chest.  The telltale shaved head and sun baked skin of the Monks meant that unless she was willing to wear a wig and more makeup than she could afford, she’d be caught right away. So she’d play at being Arty, the monk in training who was blowing off steam. Running away to go to a concert in town was frowned upon, but secretly being a woman would get her killed.

“Hello young man.” The woman had barely made a sound as she started walking next to her.

“Madam. Can I help you?” The woman wasn’t old but wasn’t young. She had smile and frown wrinkles with blond hair that could be going white, or could have been just pale.

“My dear, I know who you are, Ezekiel.” The old woman stopped and waited. When Artemis tried to walk away, the woman put a hand on her shoulder. A crowd formed around them and Artemis started getting uncomfortable. This was too much attention.

“This boy is Ezekiel, the heir to the Apollo shipping company. He shall marry the Princess and their union shall be blessed by the gods!” That proclamation made Artemis realize that this was the Oracle of Espenson.

“I’m not Ezekiel. I’m Arty, a humble monk.”

“Sure you are dear.” She patted her face condescendingly. Her eyes focused on a face in the crowd and she pulled Didi out saying, “This innocent looking girl is in disguise.”

Didi’s face blanched and Artemis thought she was going to faint.

“This girl is actually the great warrior Artemis, Apprentice to the Hero Haus.” It was Artemis’s turn to go pale. The oracle continued, “She will stop the army of Demons from destroying the kingdom and will marry the long lost Prince of Cillian.”

The crowd was obviously entranced and skeptical as they yelled out variations on, “Where is the lost Prince?”

The Oracle held Artemis and Didi’s arms and didn’t let go. Her eyes were glassy and despite the growing animosity of the crowd, she didn’t move. Artemis was about to break free when the Oracle raised and pointed with both hands at a man who was obviously trying to get by the crowd.

The crowd moved the man closer. He was wearing a tight shirt with ripped denim pants and had a guitar case on his back. He wore large wire rimmed glasses and had a goatee. He looked vaguely like Ezekiel, but more glamorous, but that could have been the makeup.

“This boy doesn’t know it, but he is the long lost twin to our great Princess.”

The man looked like he wanted to run away. “I’m just trying to get to my concert. I assure you that I’m not a long lost anything.”

Unperturbed, the Oracle shouted, “He shall help the Princess rule, marry the Hero Artemis, and together with Ezekiel, the four shall stop the dreaded army of demons from destroying all of Cillian.”

A silence fell over the crowd, there was something in the way the Oracle spoke that made everyone listen and believe. Artemis looked at the other two who’d been sucked into this and shrugged. The three of them burst into giggles. The entire situation seemed ridiculous. The Oracle seemed to think that Didi was Artemis, that Artemis (disguised as Arty) was Ezekiel, and that this musician was the lost Prince. Artemis was glad the princess wasn’t there or the Oracle would have thought she was a sheep magicked into the princess or something equally as silly.

The Oracle gave them a dirty look and walked away; Artemis could have sworn the woman winked.

The crowd, sombre and itching to tell anyone willing to listen, dispersed.

Artemis hoped that the Oracle’s warning was as off-base as her identifications.


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Not Now Kid / Mysterious Force

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

There’s a trope in YA and children’s entertainment that drives me up the wall. Parents not believing or not trusting their kids.

You know the scenario. Something bad happens and all the characters are yelling about it and the kid/protagonist tries to get their attention but no one listens. Normally it ends up that the kid is right.

It’s a trope that was immensely popular in the 80’s and 90’s and has, thankfully, fallen out of favour. The idea behind it is that if the parents knew, they’d be able to fix it and if they couldn’t then why would the kids. Or if the parents knew then the kid would never be allowed to fix it because it’s too dangerous.

The only example of this trope that I enjoy is Candace from Phineas & Ferb.

The problem I have with the trope is that it promotes the idea that parents are obstacles and not resources. It also makes the parents look really stupid.

It’s a difficult balance between supportive parent and irresponsible or negligent parent. Especially when the kids/protagonists in question are battling monsters or other terrible things.

 

What do you think? What YA trope pisses you off?

Later Days,

Éric

Being an Adult

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’ve been thinking about being an adult. Not actually being an adult, but what it means to be an adult.

There are multiple kinds of attitudes about what it means. Doing your own laundry, groceries, taxes, or finances. Some say you’re not an adult until you have kids, a car, or a mortgage.

Once, a long time ago (when cell phones were still dumb and Facebook was still sorted by time-posted) a co-worker saw my geeky office stuff and said, “I used to be into all that, but I had to give it up. It’s not right for an adult.”

I smiled and nodded. They had decided that Pixar movies and Disney were not something adults should be interested in and there was nothing I could do to change their mind.

It’s an attitude I’ve heard a lot since I was young. People telling me that I was now too old to read Goosebumps or Babysitter’s club.

Most annoying are the people who complain about having to watch animated movies with their kids. They’ve made up their minds that they are boring and stupid. Meanwhile, I’ve seen, in theatres, most of the animated movies to come out in the past fifteen years.

Here’s the two-part secret of being a real adult:

First: Respect other’s tastes and opinions and let them enjoy what they will.

Second: Let yourself enjoy those things that make you happy.

Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for enjoying the things you did as a child or that are targeted towards children. Now excuse me as I go re-watch Gummi Bears with my wife and daughter.

 

Later Days,

Éric

Devices of Desire (Serial Story) Chapter 3

Chapter 1 | Chapter 2


Chapter 3: Special Deliveries and Warnings

Leaning on the counter, Ezekiel let his legs dangle off the stool. The act made him feel like a child again. People often asked if he ever forgot about having an artificial leg and he’d often open his eyes wide and ask, “What artificial leg?” It was a mean joke, people were well-meaning, but they always acted like he was broken when he was just different. His artificial leg sometimes itched and it sometimes hurt, but so did his flesh one.

The changes that Didi had made to his leg let him tap rhythmically. It was going to make things really different tonight if she could get it working. The girl was an absolute genius but she always seemed preoccupied.

Not that he was all that much better. He worked for his father and mother at the Apollo shipping company because that’s what was expected. He was a decent bookkeeper, supervisor, and had a knack of motivating employees, but most of the time he sat at the counter waiting for someone to have a problem. It was boring, but it gave him time to think about his music.

That night he was going to be headlining at the Greasy Cog, the coolest music club in Cillian. His parents hated that he played music but tolerated it as long as he didn’t play in public. He, of course, disguised himself and went by Zed. He’d been playing on street corners and pubs for years until the owner of the Greasy Cog heard him.

If things went well tonight he could be playing for the Princess at her coronation.

“Hey Ezekiel. What’s new?”

As if on cue, she walked through the door to work on her infernal glider cycle. It was an idea that people had been trying to perfect for years. If she could actually make it work it would mean two airships could exchange goods in mid-air without docking or using a complicated anchoring procedure. She’d been working on it, as a side project, for the past two years.

He told her about the leg and she promised to look into it. She was always chipper with her catchphrase of, “Perfection through persistence.”

As she left towards her workshop, she said, “Arty here was looking for you. Take care of him, he’ll be a master soon.”

Turning towards the newcomer, he tried to ask how he could help but it just came out as a strange croak. The man in front of him was dressed as a fighting monk and was quite possibly the best looking man he’d ever seen. His strong cheekbones were made more prominent by the tight bun fashion that the monks put their hair in. The man was attractive beyond the face; his arms, legs, and chest were well muscled in a way that looked sculpted instead of bulky.

“Hi. How can I help you?” he finally managed.

“I was told I have a letter.” There was something in the way the man stood and talked that was familiar.

Ezekiel nodded and headed to the back. It took a little searching but he finally found the letter.

“I’m going to need proof of identity.”

The good looking man blushed and fished in his robes for something. Pulling up a crumpled paper, he smiled crookedly and said, “Sorry. It got wet.”

The paper had an official seal from the Hero Johann Haus but all he could read was an A and some blurry ink stains. Sighing, Ezekiel said, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t accept this.”

“The letter is a replacement for this paper…” the man paused and his brow furrowed. “Please!” It looked like it took a lot of effort to ask. As a fighting monk, Ezekiel assumed Arty didn’t need help very often.

“How about this. I’ll open it and if it’s identification papers I’ll give them to you. If they’re not I’ll call the guard?” It was an empty threat. The man hadn’t done anything illegal.

“Okay!” the man nodded enthusiastically and smiled. The smile and enthusiasm made Ezekiel’s heart flutter.

The envelope held a paper similar to the one Arty had given him and a letter. He checked the paper and it was genuine so he handed the whole thing to Arty.

Instead of leaving or putting the papers away, Arty started to read the letter. Not wanting to intrude or stare any more than he had already, Ezekiel busied himself with some random paperwork; mostly shipping invoices.

“Oh no!” Arty’s voice quavered and he looked like he was trying to decide between panic and joy.

“What’s wrong?”

“She’s coming here.”

“Who?”

“The Oracle of Espenson.”

Ezekiel groaned. The Oracle was nicknamed the Prophet of Doom. When she left her home she always had prophesies that meant terrible things for someone. Worse than the predictions was how accurate she was. It was said the more you fought her prophesies, the more you’d suffer.

“This might give me my Act,” Arty beamed.

“Act?” Ezekiel was wondering if he should maybe take a long vacation.

“In order to become a Master, I have to pass all the tests and perform an Act of Heroism. This could be it.”

The man’s passion was impressive. Between the passion and the panic, Ezekiel didn’t think before he spoke aloud, “You’re hot when you’re passionate.”

Read Next


If you’re enjoying this year’s serial story why not check out those from past years?

Top 5 Word Processor Mistakes

Hello Writers and People who use word processors,

According to Wikipedia: “A word processor is an electronic device or computer software application that performs the task of composing, editing, formatting, and printing of documents.”

You’ve certainly used Microsoft Word, Corel WordPerfect, Google Docs, Open Office, or one of a million different variations on the theme. There are also WYSIWYG variations for blogs and website programs.

These programs are pretty universal in how they work and unfortunately so are the errors people make while using them.

5. Tabs

They can be useful in formatting spaces to a certain extent but they shouldn’t be used in the place of indents. If you want indents find out how to do it through text properties.

4. Spaces

Modern programs compensate for the lack of space in between sentences. Because of this you do not need to add two spaces.

Beyond that, do not use spaces to place, align, indent, or move an object or word in your document. Doing so is unreliable and there are much easier ways to do it using various features in the program.

3. Paragraph Marks

There are two kinds of breaks. Soft and Hard. Soft ones break a sentence and should be used sparingly.

Hard returns break a paragraph. A common mistake is to use breaks or Paragraph marks, as they’re also called, to create space between paragraphs. This leaves you with three paragraphs where one is empty. That space can be controlled much easier and more effectively in the settings of the paragraph.

2. Styles

They might be called something different but basically they’re pre-formatted templates for a piece of text. Styles let you apply all the same formatting to your headings, paragraphs, etc.

Using styles means you have a consistent look. In all the programs, you can customize them for font, size, indents, spacing, paragraph spacing, kerning, alignment, colour, etc.

Using Heading styles allows you to auto-generate table of contents and internal document links.

1. Table Layout

Tables should be used for tables. Nothing else. They are not a layout tool, they are not meant to be used to control the look and flow of a document. If you want columns use the columns feature.

Use tables as a last resort and only if you absolutely must include data.

A bulleted list or headings often convey the same information.

 

Knowing what the Word Processor can do and using the proper feature will save you huge amounts of time.

Keep on Processing,

Éric

Top 5 Book Layout Mistakes

Hello Book Lovers and Authors,

When you self-publish or work with an inexperienced layout artist there are certain mistakes that make your book look bad.

Book publishing is a centuries old industry that has gone through a lot of changes, but certain things have become so standard that you only notice when they’re out of place.

5. Headers and Footers

Headers and Footers are the area above and below the main text. They live in the margins and help tell the reader where they are.

The main mistake with these is if they are missing. However, having too much information or having them too close to the main text makes it hard to read.

The standard pieces of information that should be in the headers and footers are; title of the work, author, and page numbers. You can add or substitute chapter titles if you wish but only if they are more interesting than just “Chapter 1”.

Page numbers are the only things that must be, without any exceptions, included in your header or footer.

Page numbering starts on the first page of the book and not the first page of the content. This means your title page is considered page 1. This can change if your book isn’t a novel.

Headers and footers do not appear on any pages before or after the content or on any pages where the chapter starts.

4. Images

This is an easy one. Printing requires a certain quality of image (300dpi and CMYK colour). Anything below or other than that will look unprofessional.

Some people, me included, like to use silhouettes as dividers and decorations. Use these sparingly and if you can, use vector images that can handle being shrunk easily.

3. Fonts

When reading on a screen, studies have shown that it’s easier to read Sans-Serif fonts. When reading a book it’s the opposite. Always use Serif fonts.

Beyond that, it looks unprofessional to use standard fonts like Times New Roman or fancy fonts like Broadway or *shudder* Comic Sans.

The classic font is Garamond and no one will judge you for using it.

A great resource is: https://fonts.google.com/ The fonts are open source and free.

The above applies to the main text. You can use nearly any font for the chapter titles or your Headers and Footers. I do recommend you limit yourself to 2 or maximum 3 fonts overall and never more than 1 for the main text.

2. Kerning and Leading

Kerning is the space between the characters. If this isn’t consistent, is too tight or too loose; the book will not only look unprofessional, it’ll be borderline illegible. All layout programs have settings for this that are extremely easy to use.

Leading is the space between your lines. Chances are that your High School teachers insisted on you double spacing your essays. If the lines are too tight they start to blend together, if they’re too loose, it’s hard to follow and takes longer to read.

Similar is your Paragraph spacing. If you have a huge space between paragraphs it’ll look messy and cost you more in printing.

1. Typographic Alignment

The biggest, most common, and the first thing people notice is the alignment in your text.

Headers, titles, and images are extremely loose in where they should be aligned, but the main text of your book should always be Left Justified.

This blog is left aligned. The standards for web are different because of the glow caused by the screen.

The moment I see a jagged right margin on a book I know it was formatted by an amateur. It’s an industry standard because it works. When combined with proper kerning it is easier for the eye to go from one page to the next.


A good Layout Artist will make sure that all these things are taken care of and that your book looks great. See Why Your Book Needs a Layout Artist!

I offer layout services if you ever need help.

 

Good reading and good writing,

Éric

Changing the Voting Age

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

The Elections Chief said that Parliament could look into bringing the voting age down. That’s according to this CBC article.  Scotland and Austria already have a voting age of 16.

The argument being that allowing younger voters will help get people more engaged in our electoral system. Canada’s voting turnout has hovered between 60%-70% since the 1980’s.

I think that with a boost to our civics classes it could create a new generation of people who understand and care. The class would have to be politically neutral and concentrate on having people read the platforms and make responsible choices. Not just vote for whoever their parents voted for.

 

What do you think? Should we lower the voting age to 16?

Éric