J.B. Reynolds


Tag: humorous

Snails, Moustaches and Carrotweed

Here in Northland, it’s been an excellent season for growing things. A wetter-than-usual winter has been followed by a wetter-than-usual spring, and by the time Movember came and went, the plants in the garden had well and truly sprung.

My lawn, or perhaps more accurately, the weeds in my lawn, have grown exceptionally well, aided by the fact that my ride-on lawn mower had broken down (I took it into the shop for a service and it hasn’t worked properly since). In particular, it’s been a great season for carrotweed. Carrotweed, as the name suggests, is a weed that resembles wild carrot. It grows abundantly during the hot and humid Northland summers. I went for an early-morning walk a few days ago and noted my neighbours have grown entire fields of it, as you can see from the pictures below. I’m not quite sure why, as it’s a noxious, invasive species and once it reaches the flowering stage almost nothing eats it, except for maybe goats, and I’m pretty sure my neighbours don’t have any goats (we live in dairy country, surrounded by cows, with goats being few and far between).

Field of Carrotweed

Field of Carrotweed

Fields of carrotweed

The other thing that has grown well of late is my moustache. Yes, I know you thought that my spelling of Movember in the first paragraph was a typo, but it wasn’t. I grew a moustache in support of men’s health, along with many of my work colleagues. I always enjoy Movember – it’s a chance to get creative with the facial hair. In the past, I’ve grown goatees and ‘muttonchops’ but this year I went for a simple ‘slug’. As usual, my wife hated it, but I was pleased with the result, despite the constant upper-lip itching.

J.B Reynolds and his unmowed lawn

Lost in the jungle

Now, it’s mid-December and Christmas is approaching fast. I’ve managed to fix the ride-on lawnmower (with the help of my brother, who is good with that sort of thing). The garden is still growing well but I’ve cut the carrotweed and mowed the mo. Yesterday was my last day of work for the year and I’m looking forward to a well-deserved break and a chance to spend time with my kids, go swimming, camping, and catch up on all the chores around the house that have been neglected over the year (such as weeding the garden).

Aside from carrotweed, the other thing I noticed on my early-morning walk of last week was an abundance of snails.  I’m not sure if the dawn parade of snails is a typical occurrence on our road at this time of year or whether it was just the particular moist and misty conditions that had them gathering in abundance, but they were all over the sides of the road where I was walking.

An escargatoire of snails

An escargatoire of snails

There were so many, in fact, that I accidentally stepped on a few of them. I was particularly taken with this little guy (or gal – I’m no expert on determining the sex of snails) below, and when I lay down at the side of the road to take the photo, I felt like his journey could be a  metaphor for my writing progress.

a snail crossing the finish-line.

Crossing the finish-line

I’ve just hit forty-three-thousand words on my novel. I’ve been tracking my progress and it’s taken me fifty-three hours of writing at an average of eight-hundred-and-twenty-four words-per-hour to reach that goal. I’ve been reading a book on increasing my writing speed and will work on that over time, but it’s not so much my writing speed that slows me down so much as my thinking speed. When you know exactly what you want to write, writing fast is easy. When you have to think about what you want to write before you write it, the process is slowed considerably. This is where the use of a comprehensive outline is helpful.

I have an outline for my novel. It contains a basic description of what happens in each scene, and which characters feature in these scenes. All of these descriptions have, at the very least, a beginning and an end, and many are more detailed than that—broken down into five stages, as follows: inciting incident, complication, crisis, climax, and resolution. This is extremely useful, but there is still an awful lot of empty space in between these points. I know my start points and I know my destinations, and for some scenes, I know the big landmarks I want to hit on the way, but the journey I will take to reach them is unknown prior to my departure.

This is an exciting, fascinating, and as far as I can see, necessary element of the writing process, but it does slow things down. However, I take heart from the little guy above. I figure if a snail can make it all the way across a road to pass the finish-line, then so can I. It’s all a matter of persistence.

Author Interview: Amir Lane

Amir Lane

This month’s author interview is with supernatural and urban fantasy writer, Amir Lane (pronounced Ah-meer). Amir is from Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of the Morrighan House Witches series. The series opens with Shadow Maker and follows physics major Dieter Lindemann as he’s dragged down against his will into necromancy and blood magic.

An engineer by trade, Amir spends most of their writing time in a small home office, at a back table at their favourite Middle Eastern restaurant, or in front of the TV watching every cop procedural or cooking competition on Netflix. They live in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.

When not trying to figure out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a Necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, absorbing the contents of comic books, and freaking out over how fluffy the neighbour’s dog is.

Welcome, Amir. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.

It’s my pleasure.

To begin with, can you tell us a little about what you’re currently working on? Is it Book 2 of your Morrighan House Witches Series?

You bet it is. The cool thing about it is that it actually follows Dieter’s sister, Lindy, who is this world class Seer who doubles as a police dispatcher. When this serial killer starts taking out some of the local witches, she gets dragged into the investigation. I get to do a lot of really cool stuff with visions and different types of divination in it. There’s also a jaguar in it, and a door gets kicked in. I’m planning on having it done for a late August/ early September release. I’m also working on a prequel for a multi-author box set coming out in October that’ll answer a lot of the behind-the-scenes questions that didn’t really have a place in Shadow Maker.

Wow! Sounds like you have a lot going on. I’m intrigued by the idea of mixing crime and fantasy. Now, my next question isn’t directly related to your writing, so the segue is going to be a little clunky, but nevermind.  You can tell a lot about a person by their favourites, and I’m curious about the comic books and other pop culture influences you mention in your bio, so tell me, what is your favourite movie?

Easy. Under the Red Hood. It’s this animated movie about Jason Todd, Batman’s second Robin. He’s murdered by the Joker but comes back to life courtesy of Ra’s Al Ghul. (In the comics, I’m pretty sure Superboy Prime punches a hole in reality, but anyway…) Jason becomes the Red Hood, this anti-hero who is trying to run Gotham’s underground and control it from the inside. Batman is trying to stop him but he has no idea that the Red Hood is Jason. Everyone thinks Jason is still dead. And it’s just this beautiful, heartbreaking movie where Batman is forced to confront what happens when villains like Joker are allowed to go free.

Jason Todd is voiced by Jensen Ackles from Supernatural. He does this amazing angry, almost-crying voice that really just ties the whole thing together. It’s an amazing movie. I absolutely recommend it, especially if you like a more human Batman that some versions we could mention don’t really show that much.

Sounds interesting — I’ll have to check it out. Now, staying on the topic of favourites; what is your favourite quote?

This is awful but the first one that comes to mind is, “You put me in the microwave?” This is from an episode of Duck Dodgers, a cartoon about Daffy Duck as a space captain in the 24th and a half Century, where Mars is stealing Earth’s music so they need to cryogenically unfreeze Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Metallica but they’re in a hurry so they put him in the microwave. I love it because Dave Mustaine voiced himself so it’s actually Dave Mustaine saying, “You put me in the microwave?”

“You put me in the microwave?” – Dave Mustaine, Megadeth

Trust me, it’s hilarious.


Megadeth and Daffy Duck — what a combo! Based on your answers to my last two questions, it seems as though your younger self continues to be an important influence on the world of your present self. What advice would you give to your younger self?

There are two things I would tell myself. The first is a little personal but, “This has nothing to do with you. You did nothing wrong. Don’t let it eat you.”

The second would be, “Stop eating so much junk food! I can’t wear my favourite jeans anymore. Eat a vegetable.”

And continuing with the theme of advice, do you have any for aspiring writers?

You’re always going to be aspiring until you actually sit down and do it. Even if all you have is five minutes a day, use those five minutes. Not everyone can be a writer but if it’s something you really want, then you have to find a way to make it work. And if you’re already writing, drop the ‘aspiring’. ‘Aspiring’ goes the impression it’s just something you want to do. If you write, you’re a writer. An amateur writer, maybe, if you haven’t been paid for it. But still a writer.

That’s good advice. I agree. Now, to my last question for today. Do you think being a writer is a gift or a curse?

It’s neither. Being a writer is a choice that I made. I wasn’t attacked by a writer on a full moon or anything. I sat down one day and I said, ‘This is a thing that I want to do.’ Granted, there is a curse that comes with it, and that curse is everyone you know going, ‘Can I be a character?’ But it evens out with the gift of killing off people you hate. Sure, you can be a character, but you’re going to be Murder Victim 3. How do you feel about being stabbed in the face?

Ha, ha! That’s the perfect response. Thanks again for your time today, Amir. All the best with your writing.

To find out more about Amir, check out amirlane.com or connect with them at their Facebook group or on their Facebook page.

If you enjoyed this interview or have any questions, please let me know in the comments.

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