Moving!

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Things are changing. I’m changing. This blog… is changing.

After weeks of internal debate. I’ve decided to set up a new blog on WordPress, under my name and not a title that is a mouthful and confusing. Even for me.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I had ideas, a few plans, but it was a learning experience. Now, with a few years under my belt I feel it’s time to spread out and start on an Author page where I’m out in the open.

So, if you are looking for new posts, you can find me over at N.J.Mckay.

As for all my content here? Don’t worry, I’ll be keeping this blog active for a year at least. Links will be kept active and if I have time I may move over some of my more popular posts to my new site.

I would like to thank those who’ve supported and read my work. There is more to come and I’d love it if you keep following all the new things I have to offer.

Thank you again!

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Looking at the Future

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These past few weeks had me thinking of the future. In particular my full-time ‘day’ job. For those who don’t know I am by trade a Graphic Designer working at an independent weekly newspaper. Our circulation is over 40k, so we are large. Despite the fall backs other newspapers have experienced we are still going strong and expanding in other print projects. It’s a steady employment. I’ve been there for around 9 years now and it’s hard to think of doing anything else.

Lately, my boyfriend and I have been discussing our living arrangements. He is on the hunt for a house and the talk has circled around us moving in together. It is something I’m excited to do, but that means moving 40-60 min away from my job.

Currently – I walk to work.

So the choice is now before me. Do I make the commute or look for something else? Both have their pros and cons. Like I said the paper is steady and strong and I’m comfortable there. But driving that distance, especially during Canada’s winter is not something I really want to do. The obvious solution would be to find a new Graphic Design job in the city I’m moving to.

Well – that’s easier said than done. I’ve been checking jobs online and the Graphic Design area has been hit hard. I’m surprised at how little there is out there now. I remember when I first graduated (2005) and the jobs were everywhere! Now, it seems companies and the big papers are outsourcing our jobs. It sucks.

Now I’m wondering if I should take this as a sign. Not just to find a different job not related to Graphic Design or media, but something part-time or even, dare I say it – focus on my writing. Take time off, a year at the most and just focus on my stories and novels. Hire editors and search for agents and publishers willing to work with me.

It’s a scary idea, but it could be fruitful…. but on the other hand I don’t want to put the financial pressure on my boyfriend the moment we move in. I want to be an equal partner in this relationship, including the financial resources. I know he already makes more than I, but the point is that I’m contributing to the house and our relationship.

So what will the future hold for me? Will I find a new job or stick with the old? Take the plunge and do something risky or play it safe?

Editing Updates

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So this past Friday evening I received my review/suggestions/advice from the editor I’d hired to look over my short story. I had chosen a manuscript evaluation to help me strengthen any plot holes and character development. It was very nerve wrecking for me, having never paid anyone to critique my work before.

However – the review was great and the advice along the lines of what I expected. Overall my editor enjoyed my story, and there were little changes required. A few questions about people/positions and where my crowbar came from. Other than that, her suggestions were to lengthen my story (currently at 11k) into more novella length and focus more on the emotional states of my characters, changing their reactions up and dive deeper into how the crew of the Nightfall would react after being attacked by space pirates.

I am quite pleased at the evaluation and have taken her up on lengthening my story. Of course that means setting aside more time to flesh out characters and circumstances but in the end it should prove to add to my ending.

Now that one stage of editing is done. It’s time for me to get work again and perhaps work with my editor on a fourth review. Of course, this does put a wrench into my writing goals for this year. Not having expected this short story to take up so much of my time, I may not be able to release it until the fall or later in the year.

I still want to aim for a 2016 release, but I want to make sure that this is the best bit of writing I can put out before I do so.

Writing Prompts

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I’ve never tried a writing prompt before. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve read a number of books about writing that talk about them, seen the advice on other writer’s blog about them too. They seem to sound important, but i never got into them. I’ve been too focused on my own ideas to keep me busy to even think about using a prompt for help or for new ideas.

Recently my Pintrest board began to pull up writing prompts. Some of them I was as usual ‘meh’ about, yet surprisingly I found a small handful of prompts that sparked my imagination and creativity. My problem now is… what do I do with them?

I was never given a clear answer as to the purpose of a writing prompt, besides a way to get inspired. I mean, do you start with the prompt’s message and move into a story, do you just use it as a base idea and wrap a story around it, are you meant to use it as is, or can you alter it? For dialogue prompts is it a copywrite to use it exactly as it’s written?

So many questions! I guess my only way to get around it and over it is to try one out. I’ve set up a scrivener file and placed the ones i like the most in there. We’ll see if I ever get around to trying one out. Who knows maybe it’ll become a novel?

Question: Has anyone tried prompts before? Have they been helpful?

DnD Session #1

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It’s a bit late, but this past Saturday I attended my first Dungeon & Dragons session!

It was great! My boyfriend is the DM and put on a great first show for us. Given that the majority of us had either never played, or have only a little experience it went well. Stiff, as we were all learning the rules and dice but in the end we all had fun.

Our group consists of a Tiefling Fighter (that’s me! but a cat-demon look), a Human Cleric, an Elf Ranger, an Elf Wizard and a Half-Elf Warlock. Yeah, we are pretty magic heavy. Our first mission consisted of meeting the Barron of Polevale to join up in a group and find a silver-leafed flower for their Festival. We were given five days, but found the flower in the first. We fought some wild animals, an Orc (where I found a Great Axe), a bunch of skeletons and goblins.

You should have seen us fighting the goblins – we couldn’t hit them worth sh*t. I almost died as well… that’s what I get by choosing the leather armour and bow for my class. I might have to change that and get some plate armour eventually.

We came across a cave, where the goblins who stole our flower went and a trap at the entrance. Of all the characters, my brother’s (the half elf warlock) wanted to set off the trap, which we did on our way out. He pulled the rope and the trap door didn’t open, so our Wizard used a spell to open it – and an anvil size rock fell out. Thankfully not hitting anyone in the process. It was silly, but that is part of the game.

The game only lasted a couple of hours, my brother had to leave a bit early so we ended it just outside the cave all set for the night. There is talk about going back into the cave to take the other fork in the road – which was good that we stopped as my boyfriend confessed he didn’t plan anything down the second path!

Hopefully we will be getting back together for a second session at the end of April or beginning of May. Overall I had a great time and am excited for our next session. My hope is that once we get settled and used to the mechanics we will have time to explore our characters and get a deeper game out of it all. As a writer I will be keeping notes and maybe something will come out of it.

But for now it’s a game and we are having a blast!

Red Rising – Review

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Red Rising
by Pierce Brown

Back Cover:
Darrow is a Red, member of the lowest caste in the colour-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willing, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children. But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow – and Reds like him – are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold Cast, where the next generation of humanity’s overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society’s ruling class. there, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies … even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

I remember when this book first came out and the hype around it. Even on the cover it is compared to Ender’s Game and The Hunger Games. I had an interest in reading it but worried that the hype was too much and it wasn’t as good as everyone else claims it to be. So I put it aside and almost forgot about it until I found it at a used book sale for only a couple of bucks.

First off – this book is every bit as good as the critics claimed it to be. Yes, I could see the influences of dystopian life from the Hunger Games and the Ender’s series but it is truly unique in it’s own right. I was constantly surprised by the new reveals as I read, twists and turns, developments and discoveries. Half the time I swear I had my jaw open.

So – let’s start at the beginning. Darrow – a Red, lives underground on Mars with his fellow reds, ruled by the Golds. They live and work under the impression they are paving the way for the future, that they are in a way mining the much-needed gas required to make Mars habitable on the surface. A fantastic lie to maintain the lower masses. Darrow is content to live his life this way, he is young, only 16 or so, already married to the love of his life and childhood friend. However he learns how the system they live by is rigged. There is life on the surface – as shown to him by his wife by finding a secret tunnel. Their little escapade costs them their lives in the end. But That’s only the beginning of the story.

Darrow lives on. Dumped in an unknown mining shaft, his is rescued by a group of rebel Reds who have a particular job for him. To infiltrate and gain ranks among the Gold Caste. It is an impossible task, but Darrow shows an intelligence and understanding beyond his low-cast status. With help from a Carver, Darrow’s body is literally altered and replaced into Gold standards. His documents are forged and through the rebels plans manage to place him into the Institute – an academy like school designed to prepare the next generation of Golds into positions of power.

From there, we begin to learn more about the colour-caste system, what each are responsible for and the power the Golds have over others. We also learn that Mars is not the only planet transformed by the lower Reds, but much of the galaxy planets. I will admit, it’s a bit complicated, but exciting as we see Darrow pass the tests and get deeper and deeper into the power system within the Golds. Entering the Institute, he is placed into a ‘House’, based upon the ancient Roman Gods. Many of the Gold’s names seemed to be taken in respect to the ancient Roman Empire and past historical strengths.

This is the interesting part of the book – and takes up the rest of the book. Instead of an academic school with classes, the Institute splits the qualified applicants into their Houses, and they undergo a ‘Passage’ – pairing each student up with another and them having to literally kill the other to gain entrance into their school house. Every Gold from this point on has killed. None are innocent any longer. Out of a hundred students per house only fifty move forward. Of those fifty, they are given the task to conquer the other Houses and make them their slaves.

It is an interesting development, how they teach the next generation why the Golds are worthy of ruling the galaxy by having them experience what their ancestors did first hand. Death is a constant, even though there are the Proctor guiding their students and sending Medbots out to save as many Gold’s lives as possible. They start with not even the basics, having to learn and improvise weapons and fire in order to survive.

Darrow is placed into House Mars – the wolves in the highlands. There is internal power struggles that tear their own house apart – even before they could manage to capture slaves of the nearby Houses. You see the struggle in Darrow’s mind as he works out problem by problem, going beyond what the Proctor’s think of as possible.

I don’t want to tell you too much more, from here on out there are many twists in the story that may ruin the ending. But it is evident the lessons Darrow learn in here that will be useful to his long-goal mission with rebelling the lower colours against the gold. I will say that as much as I enjoyed reading about the Institute and the importance of it all, I was disappointed that it ended before we see Darrow go into his next phase and even the rebellion stage that by now we are all looking forward to. Thankfully – after a quick search to the official website there are two other books in the series!

For those who enjoy a good sci-fi, I highly recommend this book if you have not already read it. I was pleasantly surprised and entertained throughout the book and will make sure to keep my eye out for the two others in the series. There is still much for Darrow to accomplish and learn and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

Your Lie in April – Review

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Your Lie in April
Written & Illustrated by Naoshi Arakawa.

This anime was first discovered by me about a year ago while I was going through Pintrest and following some Anime Boards. What caught me were the images/art/anime of this blond-haired girl playing the violin. It was beautiful and I wanted to know where the images were from. Finally I found the title of the manga/anime series and lo and behold – found it on Netflix a few weeks later. I at once began to watch it and fell deeply in love this one season show.

The story surrounds a Piano prodigy Kosei Arima, who as a child dominated the competition stage in Japan under the tutelage of his mother. After his mother’s death, Kosei develops a mental block and could no longer hear the music notes and gave up Piano. Two years later Kosei has a very monochrome outlook at life, avoid of colour, living his life with his friends and not touching the piano.

That is until he meets a blond hair girl – under the cherry blossom tree. A mysterious girl who changes everything in his life. Kaori Miyazono is a free-spirited violinist who plays the violin like a maniac and makes it her mission to help Kosei return to the world of music, showing him how free and moving music can be than his structured and rigid style Kosei grew up with.

That in itself is he focus of the first five or six episodes. It’s about Kaori pushing Kosei out of his depressed zone and back onto the stage, giving him hope, comfort and helping him through the fear and mental block he felt. She opens his eyes to a world of colour – and it’s not long before you see their friendship turn into something special.

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However – be warned. By this time you also begin to notice things about Kaori that will make you cry your eyes out. Yes, the majority of the last half of episodes I was crying like a baby. It is heartfelt and heartbreaking at the same time and I recommend if you are anything like me to have a box of Kleenex next to you as you watch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad but absolutely lovely that you can’t turn off the show and feel compelled to keep watching.

The anime is also full of classical music which adds to the drama and the mood of the film. It’s used to convey many feelings and variations on classical pieces that are moving in their own right. The anime seems to focus on colour for music and uses many description words around colours to reflect how the person is playing. It’s different and well animated to really get the mood and feelings of the crowd as they listen to the characters play.

I don’t want to give away too much about this anime, I’m afraid of ruining it for those who haven’t seen it and preventing them from seeing it if they do not like the sad parts of the story. Despite crying like a baby through most of this anime, I absolutely love it and it’s characters. I only wish I could develop characters like these on my own. They are so relatable in so many ways. They go through the steps of friendships and how these young teenagers begin to realize more about their selves and what love is or means to them. Yes, it can be seen as a teenage romance in ways but it goes much deeper than that.

I recommend this anime series to anyone who loves a good story about hope and facing fears. I really hope you enjoy it and feel moved by it as I was.

#Lost Hope Kickstarter

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So, for the first time I’ve decided to back a kickstarter project. It’s not like i’ve been putting it off or anything, really I’ve never paid much attention to kickstarter projects or even visited the site before. I’ve heard about it, I know of a few projects who’ve made it through Kickstarter which I found awesome. But i’m also a little nervous and worried about what my money would be put towards.

That is until i’ve seen the start up project for Lost Hope.

It’s kind of a funny story of how I even heard about the project. It was all through twitter. I posted a tweet about #CriticalRole last Thursday – debating about actually watching the twitch episode live – even though i’m still working my way through past episodes. In the end the ice storm made my choice by cutting out my power – but in light of that I received a ping back and a request to join in on Lost Hope’s project.

To really get the full load of the project go visit their kickstarter site. Where there are promo videos describing the show, what they’ve have created so far and all the special give away prizes and swag.

So, created by Jeff Saamanen and Natalie Harvey, Lost Hope is an animated TV series about a group of humans who survived the destruction of the Earth on a special ship designed by the government. The look is very Archer-esque with the same style of comedy. So of course it’s up my alley. They have some amazing voice actors lending their impressive talents to the show, and it’s sci-fi!

This looks like an amazing show and the story in itself sounds great and I really can’t wait until they create and release the videos. So I’ve made the decision to back them and put money towards helping them move forward with their goal and passion.

I really hope they reach their goal and I want to invite all of you to check out their site and promo video to learn more and think about backing them.

Sample Synopsis: The Nightfall

OMG Synopsis are hard! How much to you tell, and how much to you keep secret to let the reader be surprised? For a novel it doesn’t seem so difficult, I’ve done it a few times for my NaNoWriMo page. Yet short stories is different… I end up telling almost all of the story in only two short paragraphs – which is not what I want to do.

This Nightfall story is important to me. I really want you all to enjoy it and be the best bit of fiction I release to date. It is why I’m spending money on an editor and making sure when I do upload it to Kindle it will have as few mistakes as possible. As I wait for my edits, I thought I’d work on a synopsis.  I’ve created three samples so far. None of them sound right yet. I’m not having much luck and would appreciate some feedback.


 

Synopsis 1:

Humanity has emptied the Earth from all possible resources, leaving it a hollow shell of its further self. Their only hope is to scatter across the galaxy, finding new planets fit for human survival. The Nightfall, the latest colony ship is on its twenty-year journey to the planet Mercies when it is ruthlessly attacked by pirates. Leaving behind a skeleton crew of survivors – none fully capable of restoring the Nightfall’s basic operating system.

Callie Barett faces the daunting task of filling her mother’s shoes in restoring power and engines back to The Nightfall. Yet life is not easy under their new Acting Captain who’s violent outbursts brings along a new form of tyranny to the once peaceful ship. Reaching their breaking point, Callie and her friends face treason Brandyn William’s back to send a distress signal into the surrounding space.

But who will answer, the pirates or something worse?


 

Synopsis 2:

The Nightfall was one of the latest colonel ships to leave the ruined planet Earth. Their destination a twenty-year journey to the planet Mercies in a new galaxy. It was the only life Callie Barett knew, living on the spaceship for ten out of the fifteen years of her life. It was her home. Working under her mother in Engineering, Callie’s life is turned upside down when the Nightfall was attacked by pirates. Alien pirates.

With only a skeleton crew of survivors, Callie faces the daunting task of repairing the ship. Tensions run high as their new Acting Captain Brandyn Williams takes violence and tyranny to a new level – making life onboard the worse it has ever been. Along with a group of friends, they take matters into their own hands and send a distress signal to anyone in their vicinity. An act of treason, nobody knew who will answer.

Would the pirates who stranded their space ship return or was there someone else out there that would save them?


 

Synopsis 3:

For ten years Callie Barett lived on the Nightfall, a colony ship sent to the planet Mercies – a twenty-year journey from earth. Working in the Engineering Department under her mother and spent most of her time in tight crawl spaces fixing error codes and electrical currents.  After one such exploration of the crawl space between decks, Callie exits to find herself alone in an empty corridor.

Attacked and incapacitated, The Nightfall is faced with multiple challenges. Two-thirds of the registered population is either missing, dead or injured, their food and medical supplies taken and their acting captain is a bully. Between repairing the ship and keeping civility amongst the survivors,  Callie and her friends risk treason to send a distress signal.

But who will answer? The Pirates, or someone else?


 

Again, any feedback, suggestions and comments are welcome!

Sample Cover

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Hi everyone!

Some good news to report. I’m almost finish editing my new short story that I hope to release before summer. I have emailed an editor that I’ve met a few times during NaNoWriMo and I hope she will give me a good quote and help me ‘perfect’ my story. In the meantime I thought I’d show you the cover design i’ve created.

Suggestions and feedback on the cover are welcomed!

I may also be posting sample ‘blurbs’ for feedback in the near future.

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I’ll keep you all updated on any developments of my short story and it’s release.