Coffee Advent/Holiday Calendars 2022 Cancelled

Hello Coffee Lovers,

I love doing the holiday calendars, but this year, between my tendonitis, a return to conventions, a return to the office, and my tendonitis; we’ve had to make the hard decision to not offer holiday calendars this year.

The amount of effort over a short period is just not safe for me to attempt this year. Hopefully next year I’ll be up for it.

Thank you for understanding and hope to see you at Ottawa ComicCon.

Éric Desmarais,
JenEric Coffee’s Head Roaster and Taste Tester

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Stress

***TL:DR I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Posts will be shorter and I might be doing some repeats. Guest Posts appreciated.***

Hello,

I’ve been a fool. Since February, my work has been fairly busy and regular. It’s a lot of short keys, typing, and mouse work. I’ve been having pain in my hands for a while now.

I wrote about it for the Spoonie Author’s Network. At the time, the Doctor thought it was the same arthritis that was in my big toes. After a year of tests he eliminated that option. We thought it was maybe tendinitis and he sent me to physio.

My prescription for physio was written in February 2020. I didn’t make it. I didn’t want to risk getting my children sick and was experiencing long covid. A few weeks turned into a few months and then a few years.

The pain came and went, but was usually worse when my hands were cold. So I didn’t worry. I kept thinking, “I’ll see my doctor about it when the pandemic is over.”

Fast forward to last November and I noticed my arms getting numb when I slept. (I sleep on my sides and it was the ones that I didn’t sleep on that went numb.) The pain got worse around Christmas, but got better after 2 weeks off.

Then we went into report season at work and I started writing a new book. So my days looked like this: Work 8 hours, Ukulele practice 15-45 minutes, and then 1-2 hours writing, formatting, etc. I’m also the primary diaper changer in the family… so… yeah.

The pain got worse and worse and I just kept thinking, “I’ll see my doctor about it when the pandemic is over.” and, “It’ll get better when I have less clicky work.”

Then Monday, I was told by my bosses that I had to come into the physical building of work. The meeting was tense and I won’t lie, I felt attacked. We’re so close to an infant vaccine for Pegasus… I asked if I could wait until September and they refused. “Isolating is a choice we made. Coming in to work is my responsibility.” That’s a paraphrase, but arg. I’m still angry.

I’m not sure what I did during that meeting to myself, but after, my pain in my arms and hands went from a 5 (Interrupts some activities) to 8 (Hard to do anything) the pain has been fluctuating from 6-8 since.

I made an appointment with my doctor, but he couldn’t see me until a week later. I was in tears as I tried to figure out what to do. I eventually decided to go to the after-hours clinic and saw a wonderful doctor. He diagnosed me with confidence after asking some insightful questions. He gave me two weeks off work, tests for my family doctor, and a prescription for splints to sleep with. Now it’s a waiting game. I’m seeing my doctor next week and so far, after 3-4 days, I’m still in a lot of pain. This post is taking forever to write, but I’m taking lots of breaks.

I’m worried that my reticence to see the doctor will result in permanent damage. It shouldn’t have taken a level 8 pain or my bosses showing how little they care about me to make me listen to my body and get help. The moment the pain started to increase, I should have made appointments.

I didn’t want to let my family down, I didn’t want to let myself down, and I didn’t want to let my work down. It was foolish! Work doesn’t care about me, they never really have, family only want me to be healthy, and I’m more disappointed now than if I had been treated earlier.

Expect this blog to have shorter posts (this took most of a day with breaks). I’ll let you know what happens.

At least I’m getting a lot of snuggles.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Taking care

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

As a follow-up to my post about Long Covid, I want to add a few things.

There are multiple other things that are also affecting me and I realize I might have sounded a little dour. I’m okay and I’m taking steps to make things better for me.

I’m trying to do things that let me rest and don’t hurt me more. It’s hard, because sometimes giving my kids Sunday eggos with strawberries instead of pancakes feels like failure, sometimes writing a post and then reading a little feels like laziness, and sometimes taking a warm shower instead of practising music feels self-indulgent.

I’m going to try and give myself some slack. As I mentioned in my post about burnout, it’s really hard to fight the guilt of doing something for me. I’m going to try and hopefully it’ll get easier.

What am I doing you ask?

All joking aside, I’m working on that. I’ll figure it out. I have a wonderful wife and family to help.

Well, I should go read. I have a book to finish.

Be kind and stay safe,

Éric

So… Really?

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

So it’s the year 2022… Year three of the pandemic… It’s starting to feel like this is the year that our government and society give up on caring.

That might sound melodramatic, but as of Wednesday January 20th, Ontario has seen 10,801 deaths (According to Ontario Public Health). If you compare the deaths between the 31st of December and the 20th of January there’s a difference of 595. That means in the past 19 days Ontario is averaging 31 deaths a day. If the trend continues, we’re looking at probably doubling the deaths this year.

Yet despite rising hospital admissions and deaths, the government has sent unvaccinated 4 year olds back to school and is reopening indoor dining. It’s hard to believe this government cares about those of us who are considered high risk. (Babies, Kids, Immunocompromised, Fat, etc.)

I understand that I’m an extremist in my belief that human life is more important than money, economy, or other such things. I truly wish our government would do radical things like significantly increase spending on healthcare and education.

January is a hard month for me and for a lot of other people. So it’s hard to be hopeful right now.

My wife and I are extremely lucky and I thank the fates everyday for the privilege and advantages we have been given. I’m still sad for those that aren’t as lucky.

We will get through this and I hope that it’ll be with minimal loss of life and even less long term trauma.

Stay safe and be kind.

As they say in Everdome, “May your fractured nights be followed by glorious dawns.”

Éric

Lots of stuff

Hello my Imaginary friends,

I love Autumn! Halloween, cooler weather, PUMPKINS, and everything else that goes with this season. (Although this year I’m seriously missing the conventions and the parties.)

It’s a good thing I love this season because mentally and physically, it sucks. I’ve always thought it was stress that made this time of year hard, but I’m starting to realize it’s allergies and season changes.

Spring and Fall are the hardest on me. My hands ache, I feel anxious and weak. Then there’s my allergy symptoms which include fatigue, coughing, stuffy nose, nasal pressure, and trouble sleeping.

I’m seriously looking forward to snow. The snow covers the ground and freezes the allergens and reflects more light. Overall, when nights freeze and snow comes, I start feeling better. Until the melt anyway.

Book 2 of the Gates of Westmeath is cruising by. We’ve been writing since early October and have already finished the first third. I’m hoping we’ll be done the book by Christmas.

I’m impressed by how easy it has been to write this book. Hopefully that holds out for the next two thirds.

It’s hard sometimes, realizing the authors and creators who make things you love are human. Sometimes not very nice humans. I wrote about my disillusionment before.

So it was nice to get a reminder that there are good people in the world when I saw this facebook post:

Thank you Tamora Pierce for being an awesome person. If you haven’t read anything by her, I highly recommend all her books. We named our daughter after one of her characters.

Completely unrelated I have the most adorable cape:

Thank you for reading.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric

Writing is Hard, Publishing is Harder

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m not asking for help or for advice, I just need to vent.

I’ve been writing my whole life. First novel was started when I was ten. I started writing seriously (meaning I actually finished my novels and stories) a dozen years ago. My first book was published in 2016 after 6 years of rewrites and re-submits.

My sixth book has just come out and I’m feeling a little frustrated. I feel like every book I publish is getting less readers, less reviews, and less interest. I have a lot of little easter eggs and details that cross between books and I’d love to hear someone geek out about them. (Other than my wife, mother-in-law, and daughter.)

I know part of it is caused from not seeing anyone, other than family, since March 2020. I miss talking to other authors, readers, and fans at conventions and in person.

My last two books have been launched digitally and it doesn’t give me any time to chat with one person at a time.

So I guess I’m both sad that my books aren’t reaching more people and that I can’t talk with people.

There’s hope for both cases; my publisher has recently gotten a distribution and promotion deal for all their books. And Health Canada is currently reviewing Pfizer’s vaccine for 5-11 year olds and they say that 4 and under isn’t far away.

I have high hopes for Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers (the book Jen and I co-wrote) next year. It’s set to be released in Fall and hopefully we can have an in-person release party. I’ll also hopefully be able to attend Can-Con that year.

Part of the distribution of new releases for my publisher means that some of the the books get placed in bookstores. The most recent wave, several amazing authors have had their books in stores. (Mine isn’t because it’s part of a series and they don’t put book 3.5 when they don’t have 1-3.)

I look forward to seeing Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers in bookstores. I hope it gets all the attention it deserves. It’s a fantastic book.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe and be kind,

Éric


Vivo – JenEric Movie Review

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Hello Cinephiles,

Today we’re talking about the 2021 film Vivo.

Story

The beginning was a little predictable in its “Pixar” style twist. The rest was a usual road trip buddy story. It was a fun story.

Score: 0.5

Characters

We don’t see a lot of Cuban or Cuban-American culture in animation. It was nice to see the art, music, and accents take centre stage. The characters were all motivated by relatable emotions.

The character of Vivo is sassy, funny, and filled with heart.

Score: 1

Dialogue

The running commentary by Vivo is both adorable and refreshingly funny. I appreciated the music, situational, word, and absurd humour.

I liked that they treated parts of the dialogue like motifs in music. They repeated or altered certain phrases to create more of an emotional impact and to pull the various parts of the movie together.

Score: 1

Visuals and Music

The movie was absolutely beautiful. It might not have been up to Pixar or Disney quality but they captured the Cuban art and colour style fantastically. There are a few times that the face and perspective in that art style didn’t translate well to a 3D animation, but over all, it was great.

The music was Broadway with the Lin-Manuel Miranda twist and a large dollop of Cuban influence. It’s a little reminiscent of his other work, but that doesn’t detract from how good it was.

Score: 1

Fun

The movie was colourful, never wallowed too much, and had multiple levels of humour. It was poignant and had a pretty good message, plus both kids loved it.

Score: 1

Overall

It takes a lot of elements that we’re familiar with in animated and musical movies and mixes them together with a Cuban-American influence making it feel fresh and vibrant. The visuals, music, comedy, and heart warming story make for a wonderful film.

Final Score: 4.5 stars out of 5

Ups and Downs

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

I’m having a hard week. Winter feels interminable, we’re at the start of the third wave, vaccines are being distributed by a disorganized Flash (from Zootopia, not DC), and people are starting to discuss the possibility that maybe under 10 years of age kids don’t need a vaccine. Thankfully the medical community is pushing for it, but without public and government pushing, how long will it be?

I’m not comfortable exposing my children to Covid. Even though the chances are low that they get any serious side effects, I’m not willing to risk it.

Quarantine has its ups and downs; I’m currently experiencing a down. It’s been a hard week preceded by a hard weekend. Right now I want to curl into a ball and binge-watch Stargate SG1.

With time and patience it’ll get better, but right now I’m angry, frustrated, and just tired. I look forward to watching this thing (gestures around wildly at everything) from the future and being glad it’s over.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go make myself another coffee and hope it wakes me up and de-grumps me.

Enjoy this adorable picture of Pegasus stuck inside a chair.

Picture of the almost 20 month Pegasus stuck in a patio chair and giving me an annoyed look.
The chair is a metaphor…

Be safe and be kind,

Éric

Canning

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

When my Mom decided to do something, she threw herself into it with recklessness and hyper-fixation. She never neglected what she had to do, but everything else went away for a little while.

This meant giant cleaning sprees, massive meals, epic videogame marathons, and obscene amounts of canning. Every couple of years, she’d go into full canning mode and make jams, fruit butters, pickles, and picked beets. One year, she made a crab-apple and rose-hip butter that was one step away from the consistency and sweetness of solid honey. She and I have never been able to recreate whatever accident caused the deliciousness.

The smells were fantastic, the tastes were usually good, and the frantic energy was exhilarating. I threw out the last can of pickled beets last year after it had been in one cupboard or another for nearly twenty years.

I have a wonderful memory of peeling beets in the sink of my childhood home. ABBA was playing loudly on her old boombox, the smell of vinegar and pickling spices filled the air, and my hands were purple/red from the beets. One little squeeze and the beet would whoosh out into the sink; a satisfying and squishy sensation.

At some point last year, we were gifted or bought a jar of peach jam. I started making home made rolls for snacks instead of English muffins and we started devouring the jam. When we finished it, we had no farmers markets, church bazaars, or friends gifting jam; so I decided to give in and make some.

I bought all the supplies and decided I’d do just the jam. Then I thought of making salsa. So I made peach jam (which is delicious) and peach salsa (also delicious). It was a frantic 4 hours of trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. The peaches froze in our fridge so blanching caused some swearing, but overall it went well.

A lot of my Mom is in me. I feel the same hyper-fixation with many things. I try to use it when it’s helpful and tame it when it’s not, but it’s always a struggle. Probably why I hadn’t started canning until now. I’ve already thought of a dozen recipes I can make and I’m going to try and limit myself to one per week maximum.

Canning was fun, but made me sad. I wish my Mom was here to sit on a chair in the kitchen and order me around. Maybe that’s the real reason I waited so long; it didn’t feel right to do it without her.

Be kind and be safe,

Éric

Being an Author is hard but worth it

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Being a author is hard. You are constantly bombarded by articles that say things like:

Ok that last one was a trick and actually pretty positive.

Borrowed from Usborne Books.

The point is that even when you’re published you have to work your ass off to get your book in peoples hands and only 25% will actually read that book. (These statistics are my educated guess.) From those that read your book they’ll tell you they like it and then put it on their shelves and forget about it. Until you publish something else and if they actually liked it they might buy the next one.

That’s the life cycle of a regular book. One that doesn’t get turned into a TV show or movie, explode in sales, or cause a kerfuffle with its content.

I see what some fantastic authors do to encourage their book sales and I feel like I should be doing more. More writing, more advertising, more promotion, more writing, more events, more submitting to review, and did I say more writing?

An excellent guide to the care and feeding of a writer by Agarthan Guide.

The real problem with writing, novels specifically, is the speed of return. I so envy my friends who write fanfiction and can receive almost immediate feedback and love. A book takes me a year or two to write, another year to edit and pitch, and (if I’m lucky) another year to edit and publish. Sometimes it’s longer. This week marks the four year anniversary of me starting to write Everdome. It will hopefully be published in either 2019 or 2020.

So being an author is hard but there’s nothing like the feeling of holding your book after all that time or having someone tell you how much they loved your book.

Long story short or as the kids-these-days say TL;DR, it’s not easy but I love it and I’m not going to stop.

 

Later days,

Éric