Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Devastating Effects of the Vancouver 2015 Earthquake

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4.3 Earthquake 
on December 30, 2015

Vancouverites everywhere are recovering from the effects of the 4.3 earthquake from last night. They were enjoying one of the first peaceful nights since Christmas when a hard jolt shook them awake.

It's unknown how long it will take Vancouverites to recover, and clean up the mess, but one thing's certain, they're tough and as resilient as the hockey they enjoy.

Oh no, not the Timmy's drink!

It's hard to tell if it was like this before or after the earthquake.

There goes one fine glass of whine.


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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Horoscope for the Taurus Cat

Most compatible sign: Gemini owner.
Features of your Taurus Cat: Taurus cats are broad chested, with a fluffy mane of fur. Your Taurus cat is loyal and deeply bonds with you. She is loyal to one owner, but the other hoomins are her friends. You're her entertainment value. She'll spend a bit too much time lolling around, and not so much at playing. She loves to cuddle, and be brushed, and have her tummy rubbed. She's not easy to anger, but when she does she'll draw blood. She loves having company, and will hang out with your friends. She is suscetible to liver disease. Her demeanour is chatty, and she is set on routine. She'll learn a variety of tricks, and try to please her human. She can be stubborn, but she can also be patient when the human has to give her medicine. She's happy indoors, and will be pleased staring out the window, when she's not staring at you. Her staring may be a bit creepy at times, particularly when it's done from around the door in the middle of the night. A Taurus cat can be the perfect companion to a human who needs some attention.

2015 Horoscope: Your cat has had a rough year, but with the impending fall weather, your cat will perk up and start getting stronger. She'll become more vocal and active. You may have been worried about Christmas, but your cat is going to be ready for it, and may even knock a few balls off the tree this year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Navis Salubris – Chapter Three – Wei

Navis Salubris – Chapter Three – Wei
by Mel Dawn

Wei survived the zombie apocalypse by hiding in tiny crawl spaces that an adult could never reach. Or a zombie for that matter. 

Currently her tiny figure hid under some shrubbery, hiding from the swooshing, squishing noises that were coming her way. She pushed back against the bushes, trying to make herself as small as possible. She stopped when the fence blocked her from moving further. 

She jumped a bit when the fence creaked. But the zombies stomping by didn’t take notice, as they were making their own sounds. The zombies comprised a large  population in Shanghai, China. There had been a gazillion humans, so it stood to reason that there were now a gazillion zombies.

Wei hadn’t seen a human being for over three months now. She wasn’t concerned that there was such a huge crowd of zombies, as she was used to staying motionless for hours at a time. She had a few supplies in her backpack, in case she got hungry or thirsty. Many times she would just fall into a slumber and wait for the zombies to pass. 

One time two zombies did see her hidden, and headed her way. They tried to reach into her space, but she was too far back for them to get in. Eventually, they heard other sounds behind them, and soon turned to investigate.

She lived off mostly packaged food from the local markets and braved the overwhelming stench of animal carcasses that hung from the rafters. She would toss aside soy flour, not knowing what to do with it. Fortunately, there were plenty of nuts and dried fruit to be found. She missed the taste of rice but setting up a fire to cook it would draw the zombies to her. She hadn’t had a hot cooked meal for months now.

Wei decided to leave her crawl space after the zombies had passed. She headed down an alley as she saw the sign of another fruit and vegetable market, that may have something different that she could eat. She was tired of eating the same old things. She noticed as she stepped foot in the market that she heard groaning noises coming from behind her. 

She was going to duck further into the market, when she realized that the zombie sounds were actually coming from inside. The zombies soon caught up with her. She had nowhere to run. She looked around while looking for a weapon but all she saw were rotting bananas and bags of rice. 

Just as the zombies were circling her, she felt something touch her head. She brushed it away, thinking it was cobwebs from the ceiling. A red envelope slowly floated into her arms. She grabbed it and looked at it, taking a break from the zombies that were almost within her reach. 

“What the hell,” she said in Mandarin and tore open the envelope. Inside was a cruise ticket. 

Next... Chapter Four – Ritta.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Navis Salubris – Chapter Two – Abdul

Navis Salubris – Chapter Two – Abdul
by Mel Dawn

“Are you kidding me?” Abdul said to his advisor. “The camp is over run with zombies, yet you want me to hunt down infidels?” 

The other man standing before him wore the same long black robes, with his face covered. The only distinguishing feature was an additional symbol on the shoulder of his robe.

“You must obey! Allah commands it!” declared his superior officer. He stamped his foot on the ground. He was pleased when he saw Abdul back away from him. A sign of fear in subordinate officers was good. 

Abdul continued to back away and raised his weapon.

The advisor grew worried. “Now just wait a minute! Don’t do anything you’ll regret!” The advisor tried to move forward, but something was holding his body back.

He let out a prolonged scream, as he realized something was biting his neck.

Abdul raised his weapon and managed to shoot not only the zombie who had his teeth attached to the senior’s officer’s neck, but also the senior officer too. The bullet flew through both of their head’s, and both bodies dropped to the ground, silent.

“Peace be with you,” said Abdul in Arabic.

He managed to get in another three shots before he had to reload. Zombies were overrunning the camp. He ran into the munitions tent to grab some extra cases, and stuffed them into the hidden pockets of his robe.

“Abdul, get over here now!” called a voice from behind the tent.

He sighed. There was no time for consultation while the camp was being invaded by zombies.

“There you are!” said another officer.

“We’re supposed to transport the prisoners to Tikrit.”

“There’s no time for that!” yelled Abdul. “In case you hadn’t noticed, the camp is filling with zombies!”

“All the more reason to get the prisoners out of here,” said the officer. “They’re making so much racket they’re attracting them.”

Abdul watched as three zombies advanced on the officer. He had to witness yet another of his superior officers being eaten alive. He finally shot them all in the head. 

Abdul dropped to the ground, feeling utterly defeated. He watched as the zombies surrounded the troops. There were three zombies for every man. He could barely raise his gun as several zombies came for him.

He dropped his gun, and it fell down into the dirt. He pitched forward onto the ground and started crying. He wished he’d never left London to join this terrorist cell. What a mistake that had been. He’d been expecting active combat, but instead got sent to a prisoner interment camp. What kind of war was it when the enemy didn’t even have the honour of fighting?

He heard a scuffling noise in front of him. He calmed his sobs and looked up. Surely he would have been bit by now? The zombies were milling around him, but looking confused. On the ground in front of him he saw a black envelope. 

Abdul picked up the envelope, and tore it open. His face switched to a bewildered expression as he saw that it was a ticket. 

Abdul started laughing. 

“A ticket to nowhere,” he muttered to himself in between guffaws.  

Next... Chapter Three – Wei.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Navis Salubris – Chapter One – Nell

Navis Salubris – Chapter One – Nell
by Mel Dawn

Has Nell really missed the apocalypse?

Nell navigated through all the boxes and bags in her kitchen. She never had time to finish putting away the party supplies. No sooner had she wobbled out of bed then she had to rush to the bathroom for another vomiting session. 

The doctor had called it Norwalk virus, or gastroenteritis, from the norovirus genus. Whatever it was, it had put her nearly flat on her back, or, on the toilet, for a good two weeks. 

As Nell was healing she couldn’t help but notice how quiet it had become outside. Where once cars and trucks used to speed down her street, there were now none. She simply attributed it to road work, and quickly made it to the bathroom before she had a mess to clean off the floor.

It was either very lucky, or very unlucky that she had been planning her fortieth birthday celebration before disaster struck. She’d even gone so far as to buy several cases of champagne, tons of pop and water, snacks, fruits, vegetables, and just about every type of packaged food you can imagine. Fortunately she was all stocked up, as she was fairly certain that the gals from her office wouldn’t come near her, at least not without full Ebola virus gear on. Well, she might as well have that anyway, as Nell had lost a ton of weight. But still, she tried to stay hydrated, and at least got a bit of food in her stomach each day. 

Around day eight of her reclusion, the electricity went out. She’d spent a good twenty minutes trying to get through to hydro, before she realized that her phone also ran on electricity. For some reason her cell phone didn’t work either. 

She stored up her anger and would give the utility companies a piece of her mind, once she was well, anyway. Fortunately it was spring, and the only thing she really missed was the TV.

“Screw it,” she said, missing her daytime television. She picked up a book instead.

In the distance she heard some screaming and yelling. It sounded like her neighbours were fighting again. She went to her bedroom where she couldn’t hear them any longer.

Some time later Nell thought she heard something scratching at her hall door. She got out of bed and walked into the hallway to check it out. She watched as a gold envelope slid itself under the door and into her abode.

She quickly peeked out through the peephole but didn’t see anyone there. There was a terrible smell emanating from the hallway. 

She grabbed the envelope and tore it open. Inside was what appeared to be a printed ticket for one of those celebrity cruises. 

Nell nearly jumped a foot in the air as an object came hurtling through the window behind her and struck her in the shoulder. She sat on the ground dazed. She glanced out the window and then down at the object on the ground. Her mind couldn’t process what she was seeing. She grasped her envelope and looked more closely at the ticket. 

Next... Chapter Two – Abdul.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Navis Salubris – The Start of a Serialized Short Story – The Healing Ship

My blog has been sadly neglected for the past year. Paid writing work has taken priority over unpaid fiction. From dealing with a sick cat with hepatitis/liver disease, to a small cyst in my hand that hurts, I've decided to take a few weeks off. This has given me the chance to get my home in order, finish off a few projects, and get back into crafting and fictional writing.

Earlier this year I eagerly followed the serialized adventures of Jason P. Crawford. A blog is yet another avenue for reaching new readers. What a great idea! I decided to give it a try, and now I have time to do so. Hopefully 500 words each day won't slow down my daily chores, and as Isabel the Cat gets better, more time is freed up to do what I want.

Here's a brief summary of what I'm trying to accomplish. Of course it's a zombie short story, as zombies are what I do best. Just what does Navis Salubris mean? I enjoy dabbling in Latin and hope I have my translation correct. Navis means Navy, and I'm sure most people will recognize Salubris for the Good Health toast. Thus we have "The Healing Ship". Check out the futuristic ship photo I found online.

As the zombie threat lessens, remnants of human society have degenerated into in-fighting. Five people from around the world find themselves with an unexpected ticket to the Navis Salubris. Our five main characters wake up on the ship, disoriented, and wondering how they got so far from home. Nell has missed much of the zombie apocalypse, being confined to her Vancouver home. Wei has survived by hiding in tiny crawl spaces that an adult could never fit. Abdul is a terrorist in Iraq. Riitta is a zombie, former politician in Sweden–aren't they all? Sam is a suicidal doctor in Nigeria. Are they in heaven, hell, or something much worse? As our candidates traverse strange waters, they may just find they've ended up with more than they had ever bargained for during their battle for human survival.

Monday, January 5, 2015

6 Dark and Shady Sides to the Publishing Industry

When you’re an online content writer, or short story or book writer, after a few years of experience you’ll come to realize that there are some, how shall we say it, rather shady practices in the publishing industry.

I’m not talking about credit card or identity theft, but about certain practices that can leave a bad taste in the mouth. I won’t get into the vanity publishing industry here, which has been gaining more respect with the advent of e-book publishing. What I’m talking about are some really nefarious practices that you’ll experience when you’re trying to make a buck. Most of these are applicable to writing non-fiction articles or blogs, but some are also applicable to writing short stories and books as well.

I’ll bet Stephen King or Orson Scott Card never had to deal with any of the 6 dark and shady sides to the publishing industry. And, until you hit it big, most likely you’ll come across some of these practices too. We’ll get into the top six that I’ve encountered during my time as an online content writer and short story writer. 

1. Ghostwriting is becoming exceedingly popular. 
In fact, ghostwriters may now comprise the largest portion of online content. When I first started writing for Associated Content back in 2007, I always had my byline. Even when they farmed out my services to other websites, my own name was added as a byline. But with the advent of blogging, usually the person who posts the blog is the one who takes the credit. It even happened to me a few months back, when a client promised to use “by Mel Dawn” in the byline. For months I wondered why they never used my article. Then it “Dawned” on me. I went back and reread all their past blogs. Sure enough, there was my blog on their website, but claimed by a “well-known” writer. Can you believe it? So, chances are that even Stephen King and Orson Scott Card aren’t writing their own stuff either! In fact, I have ghostwritten many short stories for other writers. I even ghost wrote an entire novel! But nope, even if these pieces make it into the mainstream market, I won’t see any further royalties, or credit, though at least I did get a payment for them in the beginning.

2. Online content writers aren’t rich.
In fact, many online content writers are only paid a few dollars for the articles that they write. I’ve seen content websites that only offer $1 per article, and that’s before the site takes their cut, or Paypal takes their fee. I write for a variety of sites and while the ones that pay out $50 for a blog are great, these articles often take hours and hours to write. One famous blog writer told me it took her three days to write an article. You can start to understand how time-consuming the writing craft can be, when you factor in writing an outline, doing the research, writing the actual article, proofreading and editing your own work, adding in sources, footnotes, and references, and then having to format the article and email or upload it to the required address. 

3. Writers rarely get the full price of an article and are lucky if they get 5%.
Most online content writing sites pay writers a portion of the amount they actually receive from the client or customer. Oftentimes, if a writer has only been paid $5 for an article, the middle man is actually getting $50 or $100 for an article that the paying client has ordered. If you can find your own clients to pay you that $100, then great! That’s the goal you’re aiming for anyway.

4. Publishers, websites, and businesses buy Likes, Follows, and Shares.
Occasionally you may be impressed by the number of followers or likes you see on a Facebook page or Twitter account. But often these are purchased under the table. Why do they do it? Because the more followers and likes a page has, the more it’s validated in the eyes of real paying customers. Or, a publisher may take notice of a book that has hundreds of thousands of likes, before deciding to buy the book. It’s an underhanded but still legal way to market your website, book, or publishing company.

5. Corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on articles but never use them.
I’ve written over a thousand articles now, and have yet to even see a small portion of them posted online. Corporations buy up articles in bulk from an online content mill for thousands of dollars. And then, they never use them. We already know how wasteful corporations are, yet when it comes to employees, they cut them from the company, and farm out all the work. Except, it ends up costing them even more to hire a content mill for a $100,000 writing gig, when they could have hired a good writer for an entire year for $40,000. Yes, I’m bitter. 

6. A content writer may get paid several weeks down the road.
I’ve had articles sit in my queue for weeks. Until they’re edited and approved by the client, I don’t get paid. While I constantly ensure that I have jobs in my queue, thus ensuring a steady stream of income, getting paid three months later isn’t exactly an acceptable business practice.

After reading through this you may be wondering to yourself, should I embark on a writing career? Yes you should, because you’ll still get to work from home, and be in charge of more aspects of your working life. Let’s face it, working in an office, retail, food, or factory isn’t so great either. There’s a whole lot of crap that happens in the working world, that we try to brush over when we tell China how great it is to work in North America. But, the truth of the matter is that humans sometimes behave badly in all sorts of working situations. If you’re prepared before going in, you may decide to try a different style of writing, or avoid the crappy paying content mills. In the beginning a business seems fabulous to work for, until you learn all the ins and outs of the trade. 

I wish everyone best wishes in their future writing endeavours, and hopefully you can avoid some of the pitfalls of the publishing and writing industries.