Process of writing

Kennedy and Jason, in their first iterations, appeared in our D&D game in 2010. Kennedy Fairfield was Kennedy Lake, and she was a kindergarten teacher who had an affinity for guns. Jason Johnson was Giles Momoa, and he was a Mafia leader that the player characters had to interrogate. Kennedy rolled a natural 20 and did something fancy, getting his attention, and they flirted and eventually became romantically involved. The other players liked him too, and he kept coming back into the game. When that game ended, we played a superhero game, and Jen played Giles’s niece, a 6 year old water creator named Chelsea who couldn’t control her creation. She appears in our book as Brooke, Jason’s niece. After that game ended, that was it; we put them all aside.

Fast forward ten years, and we didn’t really remember the storylines from the game, but the characters really stuck in our heads (although we had forgotten most of their names, other than Kennedy’s first name). And then we started discussing potentially writing a book about them, together.

We started off by talking about it A LOT in Fall 2020. Then on Jan 1, 2021, we sat down and wrote jot notes for the first Act. We split the book between us by main character and alternated chapters (minus a couple places in Act 2). When we finished the first Act, we made jot notes for the second. And again for the third.

We have a separate document for the cast of characters and important locations, with descriptions about each so we could stay consistent.

We wrote in Google docs. After each chapter, the other person edited, and then Jen read it aloud to Keladry (4.5yo). She picked up on a lot of repetitive words and typos that way…

It worked really well for us, but we understand why it wouldn’t work for everyone.

We finished the first draft on March 14, 2021.

More than half of the words Jen wrote were written on her phone while nursing Adrien (18-20mo) to sleep!

Lots of writing late at night happened. Éric would bring his laptop to bed and write while Jen was nursing Adrien (when it was his turn to write). Occasionally, we’d get a nice chunk of time in the middle of the day when the kids were playing well together, and we could write.

One memorable occasion, Jen wrote 4k words during our daughter’s virtual school day while she (Dragon) was paying attention to the teachers. :O

Change in Schedule – Dear Pegasus and Dragon

Dear Pegasus and Dragon,

Your mum and I had a plan. It was a good plan. Until Dragon went to school we’d have your schedule be 11pm sleeptime and 11am wake up. This meant we had more time with you and the grandparents after dinner.

It worked really well and we were getting mentally prepared to change it when the pandemic and first lockdown hit. We decided that since mum was mostly homeschooling Dragon that we’d keep going.

Now that Dragon is going to be going to full time digital school next week (Yikes) we’ll be switching your schedule to 8pm bedtime and 8am wakeup time.

I’m kinda terrified about how it’s going to work. Worried that we’ve messed up your internal clock or something. Hopefully everything will be okay, but I definitely expect it to be a hard first few weeks.

As much as this past year or so has been terribly scary and more than a little frustrating, I’ve enjoyed the extra time we’ve had together. I’m not sure you’ll remember much from this year but between the homeschooling activities and the extra time at night to snuggle, I’m not going to forget.

This feels like a big change for us, but if we do it right you won’t remember it.

Love you both,

Papa (Éric)

Girl Vs. Monster – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2012 film Girl Vs. Monster.

Story

This is a fairly simple story about facing your fears. It’s surprisingly well thought out with lots of fun throughout. It has aged much better than I expected.

Score: 1

Charaters

When I first watched it I really liked the assistant and the main character. Watching it now, the best friend is seriously the most awesome character. The parents are annoying but understandable and most of the characters are good but a little shallow. The movie could have done with less secondary charters.

Score: 0.5

Dialogue

The dialogue is often a little bit too much on point and is interestingly already dated. It has some nice layers but its mostly just okay.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie uses its sets, cinematography, and special effects very well. The special effects are cheesy, but the sets are well done and I was impressed with the camera work.

The music was good. It was obvious that they had 2 songs and a small score, but it worked and helped move the plot forward instead of just taking time.

Score: 0.5

Fun

I liked this movie the first time I saw it and still liked it this time. I had both kids snuggling into me during the scary parts and both really liked it. They both got really excited at the big music scene. It also kept both of them interested the whole time without snacks. The day after, the 2 year old asked, “Watch Scary Movie?” which is super cute.

Score: 1

Overall

A good intro to horror adventure movies for kids, few scares but no trauma. With it’s strong message and wonderful soundtrack it’s a great cheesy Disney scary movie.

Final Score: 4 Stars out of 5

11 Years?

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Yesterday was the 11 year anniversary of me finishing my first ever novel. Viridian Skies was poorly plotted, filled with contradictions, and the only thing more cringy than the sex scene are the fight scenes. Its very much written like a D&D game and not like a proper novel.

I’d like to revisit the core concept of the story someday, but for now it’s locked in my writing folder.

I have to give the novel credit though, it taught me a lot about how to write and helped me start to develop my style. It also taught me to avoid three-chapter fight scenes.

Most importantly it taught me that I was able to to finish a novel and that gave me the push I needed to do NaNoWriMo and write a novel called The Mitten Wizard (Available now from your favourite bookstore as A Study in Aether.)

Since 2010, I’ve finished another 6 novels on my own and co-wrote two.

One Wednesday, I reached a milestone of 2/3rd done in my current writing project. I started it in 2018 and I’m so close I can taste it. I’m hoping to have it done by mid-September to submit to my publisher for a spot in their 2023 catalogue.

So if all goes well, I should have another 2 novels completed by the end of the year. (Jen and I are writing the sequel to Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers in October and the last one took us 2 & 1/2 months.)

The world might be shit right now and I’m feeling like crap (I hate ragweed season), but I’m proud of the writing I’ve done this year.

I hope your creative endeavours go as well or better than mine have.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Location and Time

Why Westmeath?

It’s set in the city of Westmeath, Ontario, which is a real place, but in real life is a small farming area. In our book, something significant was discovered there and a very large city popped up very quickly (think 3/4 the size of Montreal, about 1.1 million people) in the 1970s. The sister city is Demers, Quebec, which is about the same size. There are about 60 high schools in Westmeath.

We wanted a fictional city so that we could add areas, streets, and stores without worrying about real locations. There are certain areas that are based off of real-life locations (Kennedy’s apartment is based on the apartments at Lees in Ottawa, for example).

The characters were originally from a table top role playing game we played in 2010 and at the time, Éric wanted to have a city that could be a pastiche of Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, and Gotham.

Why 2002?

The book is set in 2002 to avoid conflicting or crossing over with too many elements of the rest of the Aetherverse, specifically events that will happen in summer of 2016 in book 7 of Elizabeth Investigates Her Last Bow.

Beyond wanting to avoid giving away the series ending (not to mention not wanting to deal with the pandemic) we also were in late high school and early university at the time and have some fond memories.

Fun is a good enough reason

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

As a parent, I have often been told that a toy or activity promotes something. (Eg: Playing with blocks promotes small motor skills and spacial awareness.)

It feels that our current society is very focused on the end goal. There are extremes where parents will structure and plan every activity towards a specific goal. But even the laid back parents fall into the trap of assuming that their kids will want to do a job because they enjoy an activity.

I’m guilty of this for myself and my kids. It’s a dangerous attitude because it turns everything that you can do as a stress reliever into some form of marketable product.

Even things that were once just hobbies have started to be marketable. There’s an entire new economy for Professional Game Facilitators for table table games. (AKA Dungeon Masters or Games Masters) Video game testers, reviewers, and streamers are huge.

It’s an attitude that made me choose to give up hobbies because I’d never be “good enough” to make money from it and I didn’t want to waste the time it would take to get to that point. Poetry, bass guitar, drawing, soccer, fencing, photography, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

When I was in high school, I took music. I had to take it in the English school since mine didn’t have the option. I must have been okay because I made the cut for the band and we won several competitions. I played the tenor saxophone and my first exam the teacher told me I sounded like a tortured cow. Despite that “tough love,” I continued to play and enjoyed it. That was the thing, I enjoyed it. I’d play waiting for the late bus or on Sundays. When I graduated, I had to give back the instrument and a tenor sax is not cheap.

It’s now been 19 years since I touched a sax and I doubt I’d remember how to do a scale. I’ve seen used ones and considered getting one, but it never seemed worth it.

In university, my brother wanted to start a band, so he bought me a bass. I practised, but wasn’t great. After a while, I just decided I wasn’t good enough. Also in university, I was in the residence life choir.

I made some great friends and had lots of fun. I did karaoke with my brother (who was super supportive) and my roommates (who were hyper-critical).

Like the sax, I liked singing and since I was being told I wasn’t that great (I wasn’t), I decided it wasn’t worth doing it anywhere but the shower.

This summer, to avoid copyright infringement, my wife decided to write an original song for a novel she was writing. It turned into her deciding to learn guitar so that she could include the chords in the book. At the same time, we were binge watching High School Musical: The Musical The Series.

I watched the show and my wife learning guitar and something inside me became sad. I wanted to make pretty noises. I wanted to recapture the joy I had at playing the sax or singing.

I struggled with the idea that I would have to dedicate a lot of time, which I didn’t have, to become good enough to perform or join a band. How could I make money or show that the work was worth it if I did decide to learn or continue with music.

That’s when I realized that enjoyment can be enough. I don’t have to be good, I don’t have to make money, I don’t have to do anything with it. So I decided:

Fuck money, fuck side hustles, and fuck society’s need to monetize everything! I’m going to learn the Ukulele.

We bought a used tenor ukulele which will come in the next few weeks and a really cheap soprano uke that I’ve been learning on. It’s fun and frustrating, but when I get into the groove, it’s just as wonderful as I remember.

I’m terrible and I have a lot to learn, but I’m having fun. I’m still struggling with the idea that doing something for just me isn’t selfish or silly. It’s stress relieving and fun.

And you know what? To paraphrase Dragon’s current catchphrase, “I’m allowed to have fun.”

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Chicken Little – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2005 film Chicken Little.

Story

This is three shorts in one poorly transitioned and linked by nothing but characters. Instead of transition scenes to bring us between family drama, baseball, and aliens; we get fat, fart, ugly, and useless jokes.

Score: 0

Characters

Someone threw darts at a board filled with clichés then picked the ones with the best mock-able attributes. I have never seen so many jokes at the expense of the main characters in any Disney movie before.

The parent who doesn’t believe their child trope needs to go away forever.

Score: 0

Dialogue

There was a lot of clever meta-jokes about the genre. From jokes about the movie Aliens, to Indiana Jones, some were clever, others not so much.

Score: 0.5

Visuals and Music

I’m not sure what style Disney was going for, but the visuals are average to mediocre for the time and abysmal for now. The character design was poorly thought out and the scaling was odd.

The music was a lovely nostalgic hit of the mid-aughts.

Score: 0.5

Fun

The urge to scream at the screen was hard to push down. So much about this annoyed me. The kids liked it enough, although the two year old wasn’t all that interested after an hour.

Score: 0

Overall

This is one of the movies people forget is Disney. I think we should just forget it completely. Abysmal jokes with no connections between the sections. Its writing is more concerned with insults both to its characters and its audience’s intelligence.

Final Score: 1 Star out of 5

Heat, Allergies, and Mental Health

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Everyone is different; our bodies react to weather, stress, and fatigue in different ways. So my experience isn’t the same as everyone else’s.

August sucks for me. Especially weeks like this week, where we had high temperatures and high pollen count. Despite living indoors with air conditioning, the heat and pollen still affect me. It means I can’t sleep very well (up every 20-30 minutes), can’t breath very well, and generally feel crappy.

I think the worse part of poor sleep, allergies, and feeling crappy; is that it makes everything seem worse and hopeless. This isn’t new, but I always forget. In the future, I should probably plan trips around this time to keep me moving and not thinking.

I crashed yesterday and snapped at my wife for something that wasn’t her fault (Sorry).

It’s a vicious cycle of feeling like I should be doing more and not having any energy to do it. So when I take time to rest or relax, I then feel guilty and that makes me feel depressed and anxious.

At least the kids are liking the weather. Here’s a cute picture of them playing on the splash mat in our backyard.

Once the heat breaks, I’ll start feeling a little better. Until then, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to take time to recover and not to feel guilty about it.

Be kind to yourself!

Éric

Music playlist 2002

One of the first things we did when writing this book was build a 2002 playlist.

I had already started writing my first chapter, and Kennedy had entered a bakery. I thought, shouldn’t there be music playing? What music would have been popular in September 2002?

Cue a post on Facebook asking about our friends’ favourite artists from twenty years ago. (Twenty? What?)

We bought a bunch of CDs to supplement what we already owned, and built an epic playlist to listen to while we wrote to add atmosphere. An entire scene in chapter 5 wouldn’t have been there without this playlist.

Songs used in the book (in order of appearance):

Ordinary Day by Vanessa Carlton

Lapdance by N.E.R.D. (not safe for children)

Lovers in a Dangerous Time by Barenaked Ladies

I Want You by Savage Garden

Let me Entertain You by Robbie Williams

The Nearness of You by Norah Jones

Bumble Bees by Aqua

Beautiful by Christina Aguilera

Ballroom Blitz by Sweet

Cartoon Heroes by Aqua

Deep Enough by Live

A New Day Has Come by Celine Dion

If The World Crashes Down by Enrique Iglesias

Bands and artists we listened to, in alphabetical order:

Alanis Morissette, Alicia Keys, Aqua, Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Bloodhound Gang, Britney Spears, Bryan Adams, Cake, Celine Dion, Cher, Christina Aguilera, Chumbawumba, Coldplay, Creed, Daniel Bélanger, Dave Matthews Band, David Usher, Destiny’s Child, Enrique Iglesias, Enya, Éric Lapointe, Evanescence, Faith Hill, Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack, Flogging Molly, Foo Fighters, Garou, Goo Goo Dolls, Great Big Sea, Green Day, Jagged Edge, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Page, Jewel, Kevin Parent, Len, Live, Macy Gray, Meatloaf, Midday Blackout, Natasha St-Pierre, Nelly, Nelly Furtado, Nickelback, Nightwish, Nine Inch Nails, Norah Jones, Pearl Jam, Phil Collins, P!nk, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Reel Big Fish, REM, Remy Shand, Ricky Martin, Robbie Williams, Rush, S Club 7, Sarah McLachlan, Savage Garden, Seal, Shakira, Sheryl Crow, Sky, Smashmouth, Spice Girls, Sum 41, Tea Party, Third Eye Blind, U2, Vanessa Carlton

It’s time to start thinking about the winter holidays

Hello Coffee Lovers and Imaginary Friends,

Small businesses and musicians have something in common, they start planning for the holiday season in August and September.

That means that we are slowly planning this years JenEric Coffee Advent Calendars.

So this is the time that we ask you to let us know what you’d like to see in this years Coffee Advent Calendar. Let us know what your favourite flavours were from last year? Did you want more options?

Let us know in the comments or on Facebook.

Thank you,

Éric