My Happy Place

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Last week we came back from ten days in our Happy Place AKA the Aloha State, AKA Maui. It certainly seems as though Hawaii has become where I turn to when I’m grieving or stressed out. And I can honestly say it helped. I LOVED my time there. It’s been four years since we’ve been to Maui. Last time we were there we were living in Kihei. Things have changed and, I admit, it took a little while getting into the swing of things. But oh boy, once we got the hang of it again….

We went to Olowalu four days straight, renting a kayak from a lovely gent named Jim, and paddling and snorkeling. Swam with turtles, humus, puffer fish and all sorts of other local fish life. But the very best encounter was saved for our last full day on the island.

We went to Maui for the whales. It’s just simply better and more reliable than Oahu in that respect. The whales are closer, they’re easier to spot. We had already been on a whale watching tour once, and were planning to go again on our last day. We even bought a pair of cheap binoculars, after we forgot ours at home, that’s how dedicated we are to it. A few years ago when we were paddling around Olowalu we had an incredibly close encounter with a humpback mother and calf. I never thought that could be repeated. Nor would I necessarily want to, it’s pretty scary having a humpback that close to you. I pretty much wrote it off as a once in a lifetime experience.

So when I saw all the kayaks padding halfway to Kahoolawe to look for whales, I shrugged and laughed. There’s no predicting where a humpback is going to turn up. It’s all luck. So imagine my surprise when, the one day we decided to paddle out into the deep water we had another close encounter with some humpbacks. We hadn’t seen any nearby. Didn’t expect to. And then a small group just popped up beside us. They weren’t nearly so close this time, but they were close enough. My heart was racing as I listened to them breathing. It was intense. It was a mother, a calf and an escort. They kept weaving around us while we stayed put, waiting for them to leave. We even had a baby breach about 30 yards away from our kayak. So very glad that it did not continue to do so. Much further away, we got to see an adult breach, which was very cool. I honestly think the baby was curious about the kayaks. Alas, we don’t have any pictures, since we no longer own a waterproof camera, but I will always treasure those minutes we had with the humpbacks, before they eventually decided to go further out into the deep water.

What else can I say about Maui? I wanna move back there. A huge part of me does, for sure. True, they’ve since closed down most of the few Italian restaurants they had in Kihei, but we discovered a cool new shave ice place called Ululani’s which is at least as good as Waiola on Oahu. I don’t miss the roaches. We did see one roach on our first night at the B&B we were staying at. But I miss the island life. It’s expensive and difficult to maintain, but it’s even harder to shake off, when you know you’ve done it once before. Some day, perhaps.

Since I’ve been home, I rolled right back into a recording project. Well, a re-re-recording project. I have a few other things that I’m working on, but man, I’m having a hard time getting back to work. My creative juices are NOT flowing right now. Hopefully this post helps.

I am mostly happier than my previous posts. Life is continuing as it is wont to do. I have a lot of feelings I’m working through, and it has honestly left me little time to be creative, but baby steps…

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Working Through the Haze of Grief

These past few weeks I have learned more about myself and my family life than in the previous 34 years. Isn’t that weird? I’m still trying to work through the process of grief. Trying to work through some very complicated emotions with my family. All while the one year anniversary of losing the furry Love of my life is looming in just a few days. Yesterday I met a dog who reminded me so much of Jory my heart ached. Like Jory, she was on chemo. She even had the same oncologist as Jo. I thought I had come to terms with losing Jory, but telling that dog’s owner that he passed away almost a year ago, forming those words, was incredibly difficult.

It’s been a hell of a year. Losing Jory. Now losing my father. It hurts a lot and I have spent much time hiding from the world. I still peek out every now and again, but some days I still want to hide in bed and not think about the world. If I have to explain to one more person that my father died…

The worst part is probably finding people to talk to about it. We have a seriously fucked up society when it comes to death. Most people don’t know what to say to a person who is grieving, myself included. The worst thing you can say is nothing at all. It’s a gut punch to be grieving and wonder who your friends are because they say they’ll call but then don’t. Or because they simply didn’t say anything to you at all, but never fail to “like” a comment on facebook, no matter how inane. Then of course, finding people who I can talk to openly about all the family drama. People who won’t judge. I am thankful for the lifelines I do have right now. The ones that come through. The ones that understand, or at the very least “listen.”

The good news is I have a story percolating in my head. Something that will help me deal with some of these feelings. It’s a story that’s been in my mind for a number of years, but up until now, I didn’t know how to write it. Now I do. Which is great, but doesn’t bode well for the other two stories that are in editing. Oops.

I’ve decided to go easy on myself. I thought after a certain time, I would start feeling better, but the truth is, it changes from day to day, and since, lucky me, I work for myself. I’m gonna use that to my advantage. It also means that certain things in my life have to go. Including IGP. Not forever. But after five years, this girl needs a vacation, so I am closing up shop until the end of the year. Does this mean I won’t be doing geeky things over the next few weeks. Of course not. I loved all the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who stuff this week. But I need time to myself without the crazy deadlines. I need time to grieve, figure out who I am and what I am doing.

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Saying Goodbye to My Dad

Yesterday I found out that my dad passed away. It was in some ways sudden and unexpected, and in other way, not sudden at all. He had been in and out of hospital all year for various reasons, so I knew he wasn’t doing well. But still…

I had planned to visit. For various reasons I won’t go into, that plan never happened. Had I bought the tickets that I got so close to buying, I would have found myself arriving too late, alone, without my husband, unimaginably lost.

For very real practical reasons, I can’t go back to England, and so I find myself here, in Seattle, trying to mourn the loss of my daddy, from very far away. I feel cut off. At sea. It’s not supposed to be this way.

I’ve taken more than my fair share of blame for not being there. I imagine quite a few in my family think I am selfish. Being far away, I don’t have to deal with his death. But I do. Just because I’m not there, doesn’t mean I don’t feel it. Instead, I have to figure out how to say goodbye to him in my own way. I don’t have the mass of family to share memories with. In a cowardly way, I am grateful. The memories I have of my father are with him still mostly strong, still getting around. Not helpless. Not sick. I don’t think he resented me not being there. I hope not, anyway, because it had nothing to do with him.

He was a complicated person and not an easy man to get along with. Having said that, I think I probably had a better relationship with him than most, although that was more to do with being the youngest and able to get away with a lot. He was like the dad in Big Fish, always telling tall tales like he invented minute rice or was in the Olympics. I never knew what was true because he was very intelligent and able to spin a good yarn. Because of this, I never felt like I knew him very well. I am grateful to learn that the last tale he told me, after Jory passed away, was actually a true tale from his childhood, having to leave his dog and grandmother behind when he and his mother fled India to Singapore. It means a lot to me to know it was true because it also means he recognized and respected my grief.

He always asked about Jo, and later Luna and Sobbolina. Not sure why he thought her name was Sobbolina. Maybe it’s the funny way I write my “G’s”.

As a child we were close. I was the youngest, and always called him daddy. I remember him taking me out for my 8th birthday and buying me a pink elephant. He also got me a heart shaped ring, which I lost just a few days later. He got me another one, which we had to have cut off, a few years later, which we replaced with the one I am currently wearing on my finger.

He snored loudly. Ridiculously so. One time he took us to see Young Sherlock Holmes, and fell asleep. It was embarrassing! I remember once watching Battlestar Galactica. The old series from the 70s. He sat and began watching it too, and when it ended he wanted to watch more, so we did. He was a reader. I really wanted to get him a Kindle this year so he could adjust the font instead of reading with a magnifying glass.

We had our fights over the years. He wasn’t an easy person to live with. I’m sure the stories I tell of him are not the same kind of stories my siblings or even his siblings tell of him. Yet he was also very progressive. Despite being a Muslim he wasn’t particularly strict. He let his teenage daughter run off to Georgia to be with her white, American military boyfriend. And later gave his blessing for us to get married. I’m sure he just realised how strong-willed I was and knew I would do it anyway, but still, I always appreciated that he didn’t make this big thing about it.

I’m still trying to figure out the best way to say goodbye to him. Things in England are so complicated, I don’t know if I ever will get back there. If I did, I think it would really hit me again, and the wound would surely reopen. I have a lot of him in me. Both good and bad. I spin a good tale. I also have a temper, and as a few companies can attest to, watch out if you try and screw over me and mine.

As I am still grieving for Jory, this new loss just feels more bittersweet than anything. I know he’s better off now, for the simple fact that he was so miserable these past months. Still, I hope he’s out there, watching over us and I hope he understands why I couldn’t say goodbye to him in person.

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Where did the summer go?

Seattle Great Wheel
Wow. I knew I was behind on blogging, but I didn’t realise just how far behind I was! Two months behind. Ouch.

Well, let’s see, what have I been up to? I finally got to check out my Celtic Life article on King Arthur after a long ordeal with the company. I won’t include a link because I don’t promote companies that don’t pay their writers unless they threaten them with collections. Not cool, Celtic Life, not cool. Thankfully my Travel Generation woes seem to be behind me, and I will hopefully be writing for them regularly.

On a happy note, my super secret project is finally out and I can tell you about it. I wrote an article for Den of Geek on 10 Surprising Geek TV Crossovers. I was super excited about this article since I am a huge fan of Den of Geek. Den of Geek and SFX are my scifi go-to sites.

I also have been booking voice over work, including one project that I am dying to tell you about, but mum’s the word, at least for now. I will say that it was for a video game and it was a lot of fun.

Actually, in truth, I am pulling away from the writing in a big way. Part of it is because of the nasty experience with Celtic Life. It left a sour taste in my mouth. Pitching is a lot of work. Then when your pitch gets accepted (if you’re lucky) and you write the article, you still won’t see payment for 60-90 days, sometimes this is long after publication. I find myself being pulled towards voice over more and more. It’s no less hard work, but I find it more enjoyable and fulfilling. Which isn’t to say that I have quit the writing game. I still have plenty of fiction projects I am working on.

Not that I have had much time lately. We had family visiting over the past few weeks which has kept me very busy. Got to go to Whidbey Island a bunch. We also spent a day being touristy. We took the water taxi from West Seattle into downtown, which was a lot of fun. No, I didn’t go up on the ferris wheel, but I thought this was a really interesting shot.

Last weekend was GeekGirlCon. I found myself dreading it because cons are a lot of work. But then I remembered just how laid back this particular convention is. Still, I came away on Saturday feeling not quite so excited as I was last year. This had nothing to do with GGC and more to do with where I am right now. Last year I chatted with Ashley Eckstein and that really helped push me towards recording my demo. I also talked a lot with other bloggers and went to an excellent panel on self-publishing.

While I had some really great interactions this year (I interviewed Jane Espenson!) it wasn’t the sort of experience that really propelled me forward like the previous year. Again, this is not to do with the convention but more to do with me and what I put into it. I’m also wondering what to do with IGP. I love it dearly, but there are times when all I want to do is focus on my fiction work and my voice over. I don’t intend to quit the site, but I need to figure out what I want out of the site to make this experience more enjoyable for me. Not that it isn’t enjoyable. This past year I interviewed three legends of science fiction, all of them heroes to me. I can’t exactly sniff at that. But I do find myself wanting to branch out. I’m a geek, but I’m also a lot of other things too. I suppose I’m looking to bond with people about stuff other than just loving Firefly or whatever.

Okay, that’s enough navel gazing for one day. I have recording to do. I promise to be better about updating!

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Chasing Payments

Alki Beach

I am overdue on a blog post again. Whoops! It has been a somewhat distracting few weeks. On the enjoyable side, we went to the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire. It was fun, but I have begun to feel as though my younger self enjoyed the Ren Faires much more than I do. They’re just a little same ol’ same ol’ I suppose. A few new acts, but the same inaccurate jousts etc.

Which is why I was so glad that my editor at Renaissance Magazine said yes to my pitch about doing an article on Camlann Medieval Village. I went there last week and had a ball. It’s a re-creation of life in 14th century England and they do an amazing job. They had a fighter practice where we got to see them use a variety of weapons and they talked about actual techniques used by knights. We got to see a guy making arrows. It was all very educational, but also fun. Plus, we got to have a true medieval lunch at the local inn. It made me want to play some Dragon Age. I felt like I could be walking into a tavern in Skyrim, it looked that good. I haven’t gotten to writing the article yet- that’s this weekend’s job, but when I do, I shall be sure to post some pictures. Seriously, if you’re in the Seattle area, this place is not to be missed.

Another place I got to check out for the first time is Alki Beach in West Seattle. I never really go further South than downtown, but since I had some business down in Federal Way, we decided to check out the two-mile stretch of beach and it was fun. It was a pretty stroll, with views of downtown, and it was fun people watching.

As far as the writing goes, I’ve been pretty frustrated lately. Not with the fiction work, I still love that. I am starting to get back into round three of rewrites of the novel. Still wondering what to do about Shatterer of Worlds. But the other writing has become unfulfilling and tiresome. I guess I have several problems with the writing right now. Everyone always ooh’s and ahh’s over my magazine work, but it’s that work that can be the most frustrating. Most of the magazines I write for don’t pay until publication, which means I could be left waiting 6-9 months for a payment. This is unacceptable for writers. How many other occupations have that issue?

What’s more, I currently have two clients who are being less than communicative. Celtic Life was a magazine that I knew was going to be trouble before I even booked the job. They don’t work with contracts. Thankfully, I got terms in writing. Terms which said they pay on publication. I did the work in May, publication was June 25th. July 24th I contacted them asking about payment. They said cheques have been issued, I should see it shortly. August 4th, I tried again. No reply. I tried to call August 5th, nobody answered and no voicemail. August 6th I sent an invoice with a late fee. They replied, said cheque was mailed on the 24th. After confirming the address was correct- at least they did that much- they said they resent the cheque August 9th. August 17th, I sent a note requesting payment via PayPal since neither cheque had shown up. No reply until August 21st which was a one line email asking if it arrived. I said it hadn’t and August 22nd sent a payment reminder via PayPal. Still no word. I telephoned Canada Post in Halifax, the town where Celtic Life operates, and am told it should only take 5-6 days to get from Halifax to Seattle. When I told them how long I had been waiting, the guy couldn’t think of any reason why neither cheque had shown up yet. He did suggest they make payment using Xpresspost USA with signature. I did attempt to call Celtic Life again, and same thing, the phone rang and rang with no answer. So eventually I left a very frustrated email with this editor after I failed to get them on the phone yet again.

It’s been frustrating. Add to that, Travel Generation, another company that has been unresponsive. I’ve sent multiple emails asking how payment works. Nothing. I’m told how much I will get paid. I’m told who to invoice. But when is a mystery. It’s like they don’t appreciate the time that I waste having to follow up with them. My first article was published 26th July. My second, was published this week. To be fair, I would never have sent them a second article if I knew that getting this information would be like pulling teeth. I have invoiced them yet again, letting them know that if payment is not rendered within 30 days of publication it is considered late and subject to a late fee. Still no response. I haven’t even told anyone I am writing for this website because I don’t promote articles that I haven’t been paid for.

Now, normally, I would never name names about companies I am having problems with. This isn’t my style. But I’m tired of being ignored. These companies expect a ridiculous amount of work from writers but then don’t bother paying? Or pay late? Between these two clients, I am owed over $500 and this is unacceptable. Not to mention unprofessional. Add to the fact that I really feel like I need to concentrate on my acting career. That’s my love. That and writing fiction. The other writing is supposed to pay the bills and right now, they’re not. And I’m frustrated.

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One Year

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Saw that TIME magazine has done an article on the childfree movement again. Most of you already know my feelings, so I won’t go into it gain, but it bothers me to see all the ugly, judgmental people rear their heads again.

There’s some question about whether or not it is selfish to not want kids. It is selfish in a way. I know I don’t much care for kids and wouldn’t be a great mother, so I choose not have them. But is that any more selfish than having kids because you want them, even though you can’t afford them? Or having children because you hope it will bring you and your spouse closer? At least my selfishness doesn’t affect anyone else. Oh well. I just shake my head at the comments these days and move on.

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Speaking of moving, it was just over a year ago that we moved into this house. I still can’t believe all the crap we went through to get in here. The whole process was incredibly, needlessly difficult. Even once we moved in, the place was a tip. The fridge had rotten food left in it (the owners had moved out three weeks earlier). Pikes of ash in the fireplace. Dirty dishwasher. Dirty shower. I’ve posted a few pictures we took when we moved in. Yeah. It was a state. Thanks Wellons!

It’s been a trying year since then. With all the costs we racked up for Jory’s cancer, we didn’t get to do a whole lot to the house, and yet documenting all the the things we did do, I can’t help be surprised that we really did make a mark on this house.

TARDIS recording studio

The bedroom now has a lovely turquoise wall. The master bathroom is also now painted turquoise which really pops. We painted the den a bright yellow, and built shelves in the den closet. It looks pretty good! We now have ceiling fans in the bedroom and den. The first time this 50-year-old house has ever had ceiling fans. We replaced the tacky dining room light fixture. We got rid of the ugly basketball hoop in our backyard that’s also probably been there for 50 years. Oh yeah, and we built a freaking TARDIS in our living room. So I guess we have made the house into our home. Slowly, but surely anyway.

Let’s see, what else has been going on? I still have a project I want to talk about but can’t. Rob’s still reviewing my novel. So, it’s pretty quiet. I’m doing a ton of writing for this travel site, and doing some tweaking to Becca but other than that, it’s been pretty quiet on the writing front. Just busy enjoying our house, our garden, and life here in the Pacific Northwest.

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Snoqualmie Falls

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What? Another blog post in less than a couple of weeks? Shocking, I know! Last Monday I dragged Rob to Snoqualmie Falls for the first time. Ever since I started re-watching Twin Peaks and saw the waterfalls in the credits, I’ve been wanting to go see it. It really is majestic. We went in July, one of our driest months, yet it was still gorgeous. Unfortunately the trail down to the bottom of the waterfalls is closed until Autumn, so we didn’t get to hike there. However, it does give us an excuse to go back.

Instead I dragged Rob hiking this one trail which is supposed to give a unique view of the falls and nearby Salish Lodge. It was a flat easy, 3.6 mile round trip trail, which alas, might have been impressive at one time, but the trees are now so tall it’s next to impossible to glimpse the waterfall from that location. Not a very good start to my Seattle hiking book recommendations, that’s for sure! It was still a nice day. We picked up a basket of cherries for a buck, and hung out by the Snoqualmie River. I’d definitely like to go back there and paddle the river on a nice, calm day. I can’t believe this is really the first time we’ve explored east of Bellevue. So much for being a travel writer!

Monday was the anniversary of us bringing Jory home twelve years ago. His birthday, so to speak. There was much remembering. We don’t have any pictures from the first day (a huge mistake on our part) but we did find his old paperwork from the Pikes Peak Humane Society. It’s still hard to believe that one dog could make such a huge impact on our lives. I had thought that losing Jory was surely the darkest timeline, but when I think of how close we came to not seeing him at the shelter, not having him in our lives would be the darkest timeline of all.

Not much new to report on the writing front. There are a few things in the works. Right now Rob is reviewing the novel for the first time. I’m a little nervous about him reading this particular story. I hope overall he likes it. I have some potentially cool news, but I can’t reveal it just yet. I can say that it is pretty exciting for me, especially being the scifi fan I am.

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Summer Adventures

Otter Seattle Aquarium
I’m behind on the blog again. Too busy enjoying the beautiful weather. Last week we had a mini heat wave, so Rob and I rushed off to Deception Pass and went camping. Luna came with us. This marks the first time we’ve ever been camping with just her, and she did pretty well I must say.

Deception Pass is stunning and I’ve really wanted to camp there for a while. I was tempted to go to the San Juan’s, but with the summer rush it might be a bit too busy right now. Whidbey is a lot more chill, and the campground is gorgeous. We were just a few minutes walk to the water, and we could hear the sound of the surf from our campsite. That is, when the damn Navy jets weren’t flying overhead in the middle of the night. Deception Pass is also close to NAS Whidbey, which I didn’t think would be too big a deal. Isn’t there a sequestration going on? But as it turns out, jets in a tent in the woods is awfully loud!

Last Friday was my birthday so we decided to head into downtown and visit the Seattle Aquarium. The last time we were there was just after their baby otter was born. This time around, they had a new seal enclosure. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too crazy about the enclosure. I preferred the old one. This one is covered in glass so you can’t actually get very good pictures. Oh well, I prefer watching seals in the wild anyway. Had hoped to see some at Deception Pass, but no luck. No whales either, although we did see some porpoise.

A few weeks ago I had a meeting with an agent so we decided to go to the new fantasy exhibit at the EMP Museum. I really liked that a lot. You can read my full review over at IGP, but suffice it to say it was a good time and certainly one of their better exhibits.

Work wise, my article for Celtic Life is finally out, although I’m not sure how easily available it is outside of Canada. I do know you can subscribe to their digital magazine. I’m still working through round two of edits on the novel. I think I’m getting tired though. I’m ready to hand it off to Rob to pick apart while I take a breather for a few days. I’m also back to editing The Long Night. Finally. While editing it, I realised how enjoyable it is. I really need to get that little story in print soon. Oh yes, and IGP will now be regularly interviewing geek creators for the Otherworlds newsletter. I’m very excited about this particular news. For a long time, I’ve wanted IGP to reflect geek culture in Seattle, and this is a step in the right direction.

Other than that, I’m just trying to stay motivated at my desk and in the Blue Box, but that weather is very distracting. Looking back on the past year, I can’t believe how far we’ve come. A year ago I had just found out that my landlady had basically been ripping us off, I wasn’t sure if we were ever going to get into this house and my dog had cancer. Now all of that is behind us. I’m in a house that is slowly becoming less a place to rest my head and more a home. We even got rid of the unsightly basketball hoop in our back yard! I’m focusing on my career. We’re making friends. There will always be a hole in my life made by a certain curly tailed dog, nothing will change that, but I’m grateful that for the most part, our lives have settled down. For now… Don’t want to jinx thing…

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Completion

TARDIS recording studio
Hello! Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but I have certainly been keeping busy. The first draft of my novel is complete, and I can finally announce the title: The Gatekeeper of the Elsewhere. I’m about halfway through the first round of edits, with many more to follow, but I’m excited about it. This is a different type of work for me. Very close and personal.

The title of today’s post also refers to my beautiful TARDIS finally being complete. There it is in the picture. I’m so proud of it. It is part TARDIS, part recording studio. We got the recording studio up and running very quickly. The TARDIS part took a little longer. We were on a budget which really got us thinking creatively. I love it. It just makes me smile. Plus, when I go to work on my recording, it’s in a TARDIS!You can read more about my adventures in TARDIS building over here.

Not that I’ve done much audiobook recording lately. Honestly, I was sick for a week, and then after that I really wanted to finish the TARDIS so that was my priority for a couple of weeks. Poor excuses, I know.

Speaking of recording, a videogame I played a small role in came out a couple of weeks ago. It’s called The Swapper, and it is getting some excellent reviews. It’s a puzzle game, but, apparently more on the lines of Portal than the typical puzzle games out there. I can’t say for sure, since I haven’t played it yet, although Rob has been playing it a little. Anyway, I’m so excited to have been a small part of it!

Not much else to talk about writing-wise. I still have to post my whale article from NW Travel. I should also have a new article coming out later this month, although I don’t want to say any more for fear of jinxing things.

Other than that, I’ve been enjoying the sunshine, which, as a matter-of-fact, is calling to me right this moment.

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Thar be Whales

Langley, Whidbey Island
The past couple of weeks have been busy for me. I’ve been working on that King Arthur article for most of that time. It’s finally finished, and I can’t wait for it to come out, but in the meantime the weather has taken a cooler turn.

Except for today. Today it’s sunny. That’s springtime in the Northwest, I guess. We did take a trip up to Whidbey Island a few weeks ago. That was a good time. We hoped to see some whales, and I honestly believe we might have seen some, but they were hiding out from us that day. We did get to drive around Langley and visit some of the beaches. Oh, and Penn Cove mussels at Prima Bistro which is becoming a bit of a habit for us. It’s a pricey French bistro, but they’ve got a great happy hour menu.

Going back to the subject of whales. My article for Northwest Travel on whale watching came out. Here’s a link to the partial article. I have a copy of the magazine, but I still need to scan the full article and put it up in the clips section. In the meantime, enjoy!

I was really excited to hear that the San Juan Islands Visitor Center liked what I wrote. I don’t often hear from the people that read my work so this was a nice bit of validation.

I’m still plugging away at the Mystery Project. I figure I only have two or three thousand more words to go. The Shatterer audiobook is on temporary hold while I figure out the recording situation. I just picked up some Roxul to make bass traps though which should mean I’m back to work on that very shortly.

That’s about it here. Now I have to make some bass traps. And lament that I’m not outdoors. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe Whidbey.

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