Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adventures in Non-TV Land

Take my boring cable, take my old tv, you can’t take the sky from me, since I’ve found Serenity.

Lately I’ve been finding myself with an extra hour or two of spare time in the evenings. It’s not like I haven’t been doing anything after work, all my chores are getting done, the cat is happy with her purr time, my daily blog entry is posted, and my sci-fi short stories are in progress.

Where has all this free time sprung from?

Earlier this year I finally decided to cancel my Shaw cable service. I wasn’t intentionally trying to find time for anything, Shaw Cable had taken me to my breaking point with their worst customer service issues ever. I mostly follow the sci-fi/fantasy genres and there’s not a whole lot on TV that I did watch. Even Space Channel has its fair share of crappy programs.

After I cancelled my Shaw Cable service I figured it would give me a little extra time for writing projects but I hadn’t expected an excess!

Now that I no longer have cable service I won’t watch a program unless it has a fairly long run and ends properly. TV Networks are notorious for cancelling quality TV programs, leaving us at a cliffhanger, with no hopes of a happily ever after. Take Sanctuary for instance, that had a 4 season run and had a proper ending. I have bought all the CDs now. What the CDs cost me was worth one month of cable service. Take that Shaw Cable and... oh wait, I already told them that.

As I have adjusted to my new schedule I’m discovering just how much time I spent watching TV.

This TV-free life is proving to be quite rewarding! Let’s hope I don’t get bored with my crafty writing projects or I may have to take up drinking to occupy my hours!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Queen Victoria's Wisdom on Writing

Queen Victoria wrote a minimum 6000 words in her journal each day. She received her first journal in 1882, when she was a young girl of thirteen years old. It is unclear where her journals were stored as she finished each one, but a staff member of the royal household deemed them valuable enough to store away in the archive of her life.

This year HM Queen Elizabeth the II is presenting Queen Victoria's entire journal collection online at the Queen Victoria's Journals website. 

Women have extremely busy lives with work and famiy but Queen Victoria fitted a week into one day. She had the time to pen 6000 words each day, so I do believe that I can find the time to do the same, minus a zero or two!

As my vacation looms, I have promised myself to work on my steampunk writing projects at least 5 days in a row. It's been discussed whether I'll go into hiding, perhaps at a seedy hotel, or will I inhabit the local coffee shop and pretend to be JK Rowling? 

Ironically I was heading home one day when I nearly had to smack myself on top of the head! It's so true that we don't pay attention to our surroundings after the first few months. Stay tuned for my further writing adventures. I do know that the Queen did not stress about where to write, she just set pen to paper and wrote it.

If anyone here should finish reading Queen Vic's journals in their lifetime or write 6000 words a day, do come round for tea.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

From the Spyglass of an Adventurer: Victoria Steam Exposition Part Three

I’ve greatly delayed in posting about the third day of the Victoria Steam Exposition.

We did some wandering around Victoria on this day, so we missed a few things at the show.

We started with a Steampunk Roundtable panel with writers Ann & Jeff Vandermeer; The Airship Ambassador from the Airship Ambassador website; Captain Robert from the band Abney Park promoting his book; and Kaja Foglio writer from Girl Genius fame. At the end of the panel they each answered a few questions on their respective projects.
Captain Robert, Kristina and Mel Dawn

We then had a lovely walk around Victoria's downtown area. Many passersby were dismayed that they had forgotten to wear their steampunk gear this weekend. 

We found numerous comic books stores, as well as a bookshop in a heritage building. At "Munro's" I found a large selection of steampunk books. I was able to acquire KW Jeter’s “Infernal Devices” for a book club event.

When we returned to the hotel we took a few group photos in the Empress Hotel's courtyard.

Next up was the best event of the day, a steampunk-themed fashion show. Jordan, one of the event organisers told us that this was their third attempt at holding a fashion show and this year they succeeded! 

That being the final event of the Exposition, there was nothing left to do but head to the ferries.

Please check out my blog entries from Friday night and Saturday, if you missed them earlier.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Victorian Perfume Adventure: Guest Blogging Along

About a year ago I discovered the Perfume Shoppe tucked away in the lovely Sinclair Centre, in downtown Vancouver, BC. Here you can sample scrumptious French perfumes made from the finest natural ingredients.

If you're seeking designer perfumes, made with their allergenic synthetic formulas, you won't find any here. This Shoppe only stocks the finest perfumes that royalty and celebrities really wear. What, you thought they wore their own name brand perfumes? Highly unlikely, those are formulated from cheap ingredients with the goal of earning a celebrity an easy million dollars. Real French perfumes are designed out of sheer olfactory love and not mass-marketed schemes.

I tend to favour the gourmand type and have discovered that they don’t trigger my allergies like the department store brands do. When I choose to wear blends with coconut, hazelnut, licorice, violet, and rose, I am assured that the ingredients are actually made from flowers and food stuffs. As a guest writer, I’ve written a post entitled A Victorian Perfume Adventure for their blog. Please join us on a trip around the perfume world!

Monday, May 21, 2012

BC Government Asks: Citizen, are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse?

Today, for your amusement let’s chat about the Zombie Apocalypse. You won’t need a job after December 21st, right?!

Apparently the BC (British Columbia) government has decided that a Zombie Apocalypse is a real threat and has set up a website and blog with coping strategies. Click here to check it out.

While it’s not new to post online tips about the Apocalypse, the American CDC did the same last year, but it is unusual for a government hopping on the bandwagon. In a few week's time I won't be surprised to see a website telling us that the threat is imaginary and for no need to panic!

I don’t see a specific date mentioned, though it is claimed that the Mayan’s calendar ends on December 21st. But then they found a new calendar going into the 2040s, so now I won't have to worry about an Apocalypse until I’m old and grey. I need not worry about what I have to save up for retirement as I can just plunder what I want from Safeway in 2040ish and/or the neighbours. They leave their door open so the zombies will get them first.

With the recent NDP haranguing the Conservative government on every issue from cuts in education, health and federal employees, I’m pleasantly surprised to see this new website. It offers some great tips on survival strategies and what to store in your supplies kit.

Apparently the goverment felt their citizens weren't taking earthquake preparedness serious enough, so they set up this wonderful new website. Their hope is to reach a segment of the population, approximately 95%, that generally ignores what they have to say.

Check out the Government BC website for helpful on planning strategies for the Zombie Apocalypse. Because if you are prepared for zombies, you are prepared for a disaster!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Clever Job Searching Techniques

In today’s economic environment it can be difficult to find a job. One thing that has caught my eye has been the sheer laziness regarding the standard job search. An employed person wants to help out her friends, so I’ve asked many people how they've been looking for a job. Many say that they have emailed only their standard resume to a job posting, without even an accompanying cover letter.

The early bird truly gets the worm, so here’s a few job search tips to get you started. They come from a job search class I took while in college. I actually found my job by being exceptionally clever and you can too!

You’ll need to be sending out 2000 resumes a month, not one or two. Do research online and choose several companies that you may be interested in working for. A quick telephone call can even get you the hiring manager’s name. When I was calling around I never actually had anyone hang up on me. If you are friendly and keep the inquiry short, most people are happy to help out.

Be sure to include a tailored cover letter and resume for the pertinent job, even when you are emailing. I know it’ll take an hour of your time, but employers throw out those generalized resumes. Plus, once you have one resume tailored for one type of job you can keep it on file and apply for more of those jobs. It’ll save you time in the long run. 

Have a friend go over your letter and resume. A friend of mine couldn’t even get one interview, until I saw his letter and resume, full of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. No wonder he was skipped over! Once I fixed them he got three interview offers in one week and found employment. Good thing he didn’t need to know how to spell on the job!

Go onto Craigslist and go about three months back into the Help Wanted section. Send a query email asking if the job has been filled yet. If not, tell them feel you would be the perfect fit. I actually found my own job this way. Who would have thought I’d find a job through an old listing that was going to be pulled shortly! I’ll bet not many people have tried this technique, hence wonder woman wins again!

Ask your friends if their office is hiring. It’s actually hard to fill those mid-range jobs as people are too scared to apply. They feel they aren’t qualified. Well, unless the posting wants a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, you likely are qualified or can be trained to do almost any job so it can’t hurt to apply for all that interest you. Be sure to mention your friend’s name in the cover letter, or during the interview. They love to hear that you know someone within their company.

Make your job search a 9 to 5 job. The clever person who spends all day on a job search will have the new job sooner than someone who spent half an hour mailing out resumes.

Unfortunately, nowadays the lazy method is guaranteed to keep you unemployed for a long length of time, as there is one job opening with 2000 people applying. You really need to stand out and be willing to go that extra mile. I wish you good luck in your job search!

Monday, May 14, 2012

What I Learned About Finding Time for Blog Writing

Each writer has a different set of circumstances. We live different lives than our neighbours. What works for one writer may not work for another.

My 21-day blog writing challenge will be over in a week. While I didn’t find it too difficult to write each day, I did learn some interesting facts about myself.

1. I can’t for the life of me get up early in the morning to write! When I was in college I used to be able to get up at 5 am to study. No longer. This leaves me scrambling to find some other time during the day.

2. The optimum writing times for me are between 3 pm and 9 pm. Any earlier and I’m not wide awake, and any later and I am pooped. The afternoon difficulty is compounded by the fact that I work full-time, plus I spend weekend afternoons with my boyfriend.

3. I can’t write with someone else in the same room as me. Which brings me to wonder about my June writing challenge where I will attempt to write in public spaces. I guess I’ll find out then! This means that no writing will happen between Friday night and Sunday evening, the times I spend with my boyfriend.

4. If I can actually sit down and write in my book, on my iPhone or on my computer, the words come. The main challenge is finding the time to write.

5. If I spend time writing, other chores suffer. I’ve had little time for housework or even for crafting. When one activity is started, another must end.

6. I can fit in a little bit of writing while on the bus, at work, walking, etc., or better yet, ponder upon new ideas.

Generally this leaves me with a 6 pm to 9 pm week nights writing slot, which isn’t a bad deal, except I have to fit in dinner, dishes, housework, laundry, and time with the cat.

With this new knowledge I can now work out a daily writing schedule that I can keep for the remainder of the year.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Movie Review

What's a May weekend without viewing a steampunk movie? The second movie in the Jules Verne Journey saga The Mysterious Island fits the bill perfectly. This movie is a rollicking good time for young and old adventurers alike.

The first movie in the franchise was Journey to the Center of the Earth. I believe I enjoyed the second movie more, no offense to Brendan Fraser. 

Mysterious Island gives a nod to the steampunk society with its Victorian sci-fi theme moved forward to the modern day. The Nautilus submarine is fabulous and I wished the shots had lingered on it for longer. Since this was a movie for all ages, several scientific gaffes could be overlooked, including the underwater scenes.

The movie is well-cast with an interesting mix of characters. The storyline is quite simple: Sean must rescue his grandfather who is stranded on a sinking island. Once he convinces his step-dad, they pick up a charming helicopter captain and his beautiful daughter along the way. Most of the conflict is from the island and its exotic creatures.

Unfortunately Captain Nemo is only viewed as a mummy in passing and unless we've read the book not much detail is forthcoming.

The next movie will be From the Earth to the Moon. You can read my book review here. I'm quite excited about this one!

If you've already seen Avengers and Dark Shadows, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a good third choice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to Follow a Blog

When I first started out blogging and reading blogs, I had no idea how to follow, other than "Add a Bookmark" on my Bookmarks menu. Since then I must have acquired about 2000 Bookmarks, so now I can't find anything, even with the Search feature.

I've slowly learned to add gadgets to my Royal City Blog, to make it easier for people to follow me.

For some reason Google removed the Follow button at the top left for other Blog members, much to the angst of the entire Blogger community.

Here's a few tips about how to Follow in the new way.

1. On the top left of this page click the "Share" button. It will give you two options, one for Twitter and one for Facebook. This will take you to either Facebook, where you can share the link, or Twitter, where you can share a Tweet. This is an easy way to find your spot when you wish to return to the post later.

2. Move to the right of the page and find "Subscribe to". Select either Posts or Comments. There are five options on the list: Google +, Netvibes, Newsgator, My Yahoo and Atom. This will add a New Content box to your Newsreader/feeder.

3. If you don't wish to sign up at all these sites, an easy option is to subscribe by email. Enter your email address in the box under "Follow by Email". You will receive new posts in your mail box. This is an easy way to keep up, without having to visit your favourite blogs each day.

4. Scroll to the end of the post. Right underneath Posted by Mel Dawn are several buttons: Email This, Blog This, Twitter, Facebook and Google +.

5. Look around the page, there may be another Google + button or Atom feed button at the very bottom of the page.

Please add a comment to the end of this post if you know of other ways I can add gadgets or show people how to Follow.

I hope to see you "Following" my Blog!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Challenging Myself by Writing

Around the end of last month I decided that if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to write. A few of my friends had started blogs but nothing really caught my eye until I read Debra Kristi's blog.

One post in particular mentioned a writing challenge. I encourage you to read some of my other posts here as I have mentioned the writing challenge a few times. I misread the date, and then on the due date she sent me a message and asked if my story was ready, as she needed to link to it. I almost considered ignoring it, but thought about it for a couple of minutes. I decided that whatever else needed to be done around the home, the writing project had gained importance. So off I went and submitted my flash fiction link to her.

I have written short stories since I was a child and entered the Doctor Who fanzine field in the 1980's.

Something happened around the 1990's and 2000's and I was no longer interested in writing. Life obviously got in my way.

After I was laid off from my graphic design job in 2007 I found Associated Content. Non-fiction articles gained performance pennies, and occasionally a special project was offered. I decided to give it a try and did quite well for a couple of years. Many of my credit card articles can also be found here.

Yahoo bought up Associated Content around 2010 and turned it into Yahoo Voices. After Yahoo bought up the site, they stopped paying Canadian writers citing the tax laws. Don't you just love corporate values?

That didn't stop me from posting stories there, I continued to put up the odd one, and accepted a short story science fiction challenge they had which ended up being on a feature page.

Now we're back to the end of April and my flash fiction writing challenge. I decided I needed to incorporate the writing culture into my daily life.

I gave myself a 21-day blog writing challenge. Initially I was going to write about Steampunk and Queen Victoria every single day, but that never materialized. One day I wrote a graphic poem, another day I just posted photos.

I still have a couple more weeks to go, but since it only takes two weeks to develop a good habit such as writing every day, I intend on never stopping again!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Victoria Steampunk Exposition - A Journey in Photos

Here's my journey in photos from the 
Victoria Steam Exposition 2012, Victoria, BC.

A steam-powered bicycle

Abney Park with Mel Dawn

A seagull in front of the Union Club

A ray gun

Tie in his costume
Tie's pin made by Mel Dawn

Purse by Mel Dawn

Armor by Skinznhydez

Hand tatted trim on coat

The garden outside the Empress Hotel

In the garden at the Empress Hotel

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Walk in the Park

This morning after I opened up the curtains I saw that the the clouds had finally cleared from the sky. We didn't want to be stuck indoors watching The Avengers in a movie theatre so we decided to go for a lovely walk. 

We drove to Burnaby which was a bit counter-productive but Deer Lake Park has a new wooden walkway that we wanted to try. We strolled along and had a nice walk through the trees and marshes, and then we took a short walk around the lake.

This has been the second day in a row that the clouds cleared enough to enjoy a walk in the park.

We'll have to keep it up, rather than being stuck sitting in front of the TV all day on the weekends.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Will You Thank the Lord for the Apocalypse?

It's eerily quiet outside

An article on Yahoo entitled "Will the world end in 2012?" reports that 9 percent of Canadians believe in the December 21, 2012 Apocalypse. These people believe that according to the ancient Mayan calendar, the world will actually be ending!

There has been some dispute over whether the Mayans in fact have predicted this or they just hadn't invented an infinity symbol for their calendars yet.

What gives me a chuckle is the contingent that the Mayans got the date wrong, or that we have somehow miscalculated it due to the Gregorian calendar not existing during Mayan Times. Does this mean that these people believe that the Apocalypse is coming, but that we have the date wrong?!

For the 9%, I'd like to do a poll and find out how they believe the world will be ending. A World War III? Perhaps a drought or flood? An alien invasion? Or will it be an all-out zombie Apocalypse? Zombie fans are a-plenty on the online social groups.

I'm also finding it a bit troubling that 9% of Canadians even have this belief. Are they depressed over the Canadian economic predictions? They should be jubilant. Now there's no need to find a job, as one will not have to support oneself past December 21st.
Perhaps the believers are like me, a science fiction fan who has hopped on the bandwagon and decided that a big celebration is in order. I joined a Zombie Apocalypse survival group. She who is prepared has greater chances for survival. 

I've even bought a calendar containing the countdown, plus survival tips. The calendar does go past December 21st, but all those days are crossed off. I was a bit annoyed at first that there is no space to write anything on the calendar, but then realized that there really is no point in celebrating or doing anything this year, unless it is in direct correlation to the Apocalypse.

The title of this post is in reference to a song by Abney Park. They'll be entertaining us after the Apocalypse.

I'd like to tell everyone that I'll see you all there, but sadly I can't.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

From the Spyglass of an Adventurer: The Flight of the Absinthe Addict

I’ve given myself two writing challenges this month. The first one is to write a brief piece of fiction for Thrilling Thursdays. The second is to post a little steamy something to my blog for 21 days in a row, as a countdown to Queen Victoria’s 150th birthday this year.

A couple of weekends ago I attended the third annual Victoria Steam Exposition 
at the Empress Hotel, located in Victoria, BC.

Our first evening was spent across the street at the nostalgic Union Club where many Members of Parliament plotted their next move. This gentlemen's only club has since opened its doors to everyone.
Here is a brief review in photos of this delightful evening spent in the company of ladies and gentlemen, while sipping absinthe. Photo: A cabinet from one of the meeting rooms, me wearing my fascinator, the outside of the Union Club, a theremin, a bottle of absinthe, wood panelled ceilings and light fixture, and an absinthe spoon.

The room was resplendent in finely carved wood panelling, comfortable furniture, bone china and antique lamps. We had the chance to take a tour of the entire building.

After being regalled with the history of absinthe, we had the chance to sample three different bottles, with my favourite being "Taboo" from the Okanagan. This liquid has a highly toxic alcohol content but after being treated to the ice cold water fountain and a sugar cube it became delicious. After several flights our companions started feeling grand. Perhaps this was because of the wormwood content?

This enjoyable Friday evening was spent socializing with the creative and yet technological society of the steampunk community and sampling tasty concoctions.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Finding Isabel - Day Two of the Countdown to Queen Victoria's Birthday

Tabby cats were popular with the Victorians so today I'll tell my tabby stories. 

Today is Isabel's ninth birthday. I bought her a new kitty blanket, some treats, and made her a fascinator. 

She's only lived with me for two and a half years. It took a while before she came into my life. 

My entire life I had cats, except for an extremely long 14 years of renting apartments. In 2004 I adopted a tabby, but in the summer of 2009, the unthinkable happened. For her last year she rapidly declined, until I learned she had cancer. By the time we knew, she was already in her final days. I had become so attached to her in only five short years. I was devastated by her vet bills on my part-time income, and totally devastated in my heart. I knew I would adopt another cat one day, I just didn't know when. 

Several months passed. I graduated from college and found a better job. Not a day went past that I did not think of her. My boyfriend T drove me around to all the local shelters. I viewed hundreds of cats, but in my heart none of them were as special to me as Cristobel had been. 

"Leave the carrier in the car," I told T, at Katie's Place Cat Shelter in Maple Ridge, BC, November 2009. "I won't find a cat here either." He didn't listen to me and brought the pet taxi inside anyway. 

We spent two hours looking at cats. I wanted one around two years old, so I would have her for a long time. The staff helped me narrow down the cats that I had seen online. They didn't think a feisty young tabby was the right cat for me, so the hunt continued. They weren't going to let me leave without a cat in that pet taxi!

Discouraged, none of the cats really stood out for me. It was going on the third hour when I knew I wouldn't find one here either. The hunt for a cat would continue. I was taking this adoption seriously, and we had to be right for each other.

Finally, I decided to look at the older cats. There was nothing else to do on that day but go home anyway. I looked at 100 more, even the ones in the hospital area. 

I entered what must have been the last room of the shelter. All these cats were older, around 6 or more years. Not the right age, but I was just looking. 

And then I turned and I saw a gorgeous black, brown and peach tabby sitting on top of a tall scratching post. She had the sweetest expression on her face as I stroked her. She had the softest fur, her ears were rounded, and she seemed quite gentle. This was the cat I had been waiting for months to adopt!

She was named Cherub, like an angel, but she looked like an Isabel to me, so Cherub became her middle name. We brought her home and she cuddled up to me on that first night. There were no issues settling in, she immediately knew she was home.

That is how I found my kitty angel. Happy Birthday Isabel!