Calling All Saskatchewan Authors! Red Alert! Save Our Libraries!

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On March 22, 2017, the Sask Party government led by Premier Brad Wall presented a brutal provincial budget to the legislature and to the people of the province. There are far too many problems with this budget than my blog post can list, however, local pundit Tammy Robert ( who had a Sask Party sign on her lawn during last year’s election) has eviscerated the entire thing in this exceptional blog post.

The purpose of this blog post is to reach out to Saskatchewan authors who are as disgusted as I am with the budget and notably with cuts to libraries province-wide.

I know there is very little that authors can do beyond a symbolic show of solidarity with our libraries (and maybe a Go Fund Me … still tinkering with that idea) but I believe we absolutely must make a strong statement against the cuts. Libraries = literacy. Libraries are community resources. They are access points to the Internet. They are places where we authors have the privilege of sharing our work with readers. What’s more, libraries are multi-generational – people of all ages use them. My perspective is there are things we taxpayers bankroll that should be untouchable: libraries are near the top of that list.

So I’m hoping I can enlist enough author support to, at the very least, deliver an open letter to the government, signed by all of us who hate these cuts and who fear for the future of libraries in the province.

If you’re an author and you want to get involved, I’d be grateful if you could fill in this short form. I would then add you to a mailing list and then perhaps get a properly worded letter that is agreeable to all written and supported by everyone who is interested. I am mindful that we cannot reverse the cuts, but I can’t help but feel we need to make some kind of statement. Authors cannot stand by silently while the government cuts funds to libraries and we see these important community resources close. If you would like to sign up to be contacted about an open letter, please fill in the form below. If you would like to comment on this blog post, please scroll down past the form and you will see the comments section.

Thank you for reading.

Sean Cummings

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Bizarro Days

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I run the risk of getting angry emails with this blog post, but then again, when isn’t the Internet outraged about something? Fair warning: this blog post might upset you if you are:

A Trump Supporter
A Trump Hater
A Conservative
A Liberal
A Lefty

It seems to me that events are playing out so quickly, we are all gasping for breath by the sheer scale of what has been happening since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the USA. Each day my social media feeds (Facebook and Twitter, primarily) are filled with Trump’s latest gaffe (sometimes two or three in a day) the accompanying mockery of said gaffe by means of Internet memes, my favorite being the one that keeps appearing twice or three times a day in my feed where Trump is signing an Executive Order and showing it to journalists. Sometimes there is a picture of a cat drawn by a three-year-old, other times there is a pop culture reference. You know the one. You’re seeing it two or three times a day as well. Other things that fill my feed are screen grabs of Trump’s latest Twitter diatribe.

This blog post, however, isn’t about Donald Trump. He gets enough press as it is and he doesn’t read the observations from an obscure Canadian author. This blog post is about how we’re all doing in this new and scary Bizarro World.

And it is a Bizarro World because the President of the United States isn’t behaving like a president should. Nobody knows how to deal with that, quite frankly, so I think his bizarro behavior just fuels internet outrage, memes, etc. I think, as well, what’s troubling for me is the level of tribalism which has really ramped up online in the wake of Trump’s inauguration. It’s as if his very existence forces people to choose sides and, unfortunately, we seem to have lost the ability or desire to try and find the good middle ground. (If such a thing exists anymore).

I’m Canadian. We have our own problems in Canada. What I find amusing is how the universe seems to be looking to Canada and our handsome and highly huggable Prime Minister as some shining beacon of tolerance and understanding. (Which Canada is not. Not even close. Just Google the words “indigenous Canadians” and “clean drinking water” or “incarceration levels” or “suicide” and you will be greeted with a multitude of news stories showing you that Canada isn’t exactly that super-polite country that apologizes for everything and where our health care system is 100% free and everybody gets an MRI within 24 hours.

We aren’t a perfect country. No country is. Power is concentrated in the Prime Minister’s office and his ministers are largely yes-men/women for the Prime Minister’s Office. Our political climate has certainly lightened up since Justin Trudeau defeated Stephen Harper in the 2015 election, but the same old game still exists in our nation’s capital – it’s only the players who’ve changed.

But back to the issue at hand, namely, we are living in a bizarro world now where “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness!”. Social media has become the Grand Central Station of our new bizarro world and we are behaving toward one another precisely the way one might expect when living in a bizarro world. (I was recently called a f—ing c-nt by someone I’d been friends with on Facebook since the old Strange Chemistry Books days. Why? Because I defended free speech and basically didn’t take a liking to the fact that the individual who called me the offensive name advocated for the killing of people with opposing political views.

Think about that for a second. Let that sink in for a few moments.

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Good.

I mention this because that ain’t normal thinking. That’s bizarro thinking. I get that with the inauguration of Donald Trump, the world no longer has a frame of reference for how to handle bizarro people. And Trump is 100% bizarro. But he won and this is what people need to understand: the guy won an election in the freest country on the face of the earth. Millions of people voted for him because he represented change. (Yes, go ahead and yell at me and tell me that everybody who voted for Trump is a racist, bigoted homophobic troglodyte who fell headfirst out of the back of a turnip truck.)

Here in Canada we have a race for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada where at least one of the candidates is borrowing Trump-style populism to make her case. (Her name is Kellie Leitch. She supports immigrants being screened for Canadian values, whatever the hell those are. We like donuts, hockey and beer, mostly.) We have another guy who is a reality TV star and another still (from my own city) who wants to turn the clock back on same sex marriage and abortion, among other things.

I guess what I am saying is we have to somehow learn how to live in this new bizarro world for at least four years because that’s when Donald Trump has to manage to get re-elected. And I think he will be re-elected if those who oppose him can’t come up with anything better than posting angry internet memes or a clip of Jon Oliver flailing his arms around like Kermit the frog every Monday morning.

Here is what we know:

Trump is exactly what he appears to be. He ain’t going to change. Ever. So come up with another way to express your displeasure at living in bizarro world besides posting memes and general outrage on your social media feed. Want to fight Trump and those like him?

Organize. Protest. Join an opposing political party. Write letters to the editor (assuming we still have newspapers in four years).  Organize meetups. Run for office. That’s a big one … run for office. Become a change agent, even if it’s at your local level. Regulate your online behavior. Take a few moments to consider the reasons why someone is opposed to your point of view.

Fight oppression by becoming actively involved in fighting oppression. Fight sexism and homophobia and racism by becoming actively involved with those organizations who fight it. Volunteer. Send money. Do a fund raiser. Do something.

Listen to one another. Support free speech, even when the speaker is someone who makes your skin crawl. Why? Because without free speech we have nothing. Without the rule of law, we have nothing. Without each other, we have nothing.

Those people who voted for Trump (and who support those like him) are our neighbors.  We have to learn to get along. We gotta figure this out.

Because, baby, the guy has been in for only one month.

One.

Month.

And he’s making the entire online world lose its @#$% mind.

We have to learn how to manage all of this bizarro world anger and figure out how we’re going to survive four years with this guy. I’ll close off by stating that posting Internet memes is not activism. It’s chum. Social media is now a chum bucket for memes opposing Trump, religion, insert oppression category here. Posting memes makes us feel good for about two minutes. It makes us feel like we’re doing something about something without actually having to do any heavy lifting. It gives the appearance of work where no work exists.

I’m bewildered by what’s happening to us. I’m deeply troubled that we are now living in a bizarro world. I’m going to fight it by writing about it. I’m also going to start filtering out the garbage from all sides on my social media feed. It’s getting too … well … bizarro.

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Bummed out about President Trump? Here’s some free books to help you feel better!

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Social media is melting down this weekend because Donald Trump was sworn in as America’s 45th President yesterday. Look at how happy Donald Trump is!

I know. It sucks. Lots of people are going to march today. Others still, will continue to flood social media with memes and news stories telling us what we already know about the pussy-grabbing, orange-skinned Sith Lord but we still need to remind ourselves until our collective eyes bleed. It’s sort of a global exercise in self-flagellation when you think about it because no amount of Internet memes or expressions of despair will make him disappear from the face of the earth. We are all of us, in this together.

I figured you know what? This whole thing sucks. I know a lot of you want to drink yourself into oblivion (or smoke legalized marijuana in some states). I get that. But for those who aren’t into wrecking their liver or binge-eating Doritos due to the munchies this weekend, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands. That’s right; I’m giving away books as a distraction to the beginning of what most of you believe to be the end of days.

This weekend only, the following books are FREE for your Kobo, Nook or any other e-reader that reads EPUB format. Because I care, dammit. I care too much. (Seriously, look how sad that screamer is in the video.)

Turn that frown upside down with sweet, beautiful FREE escapism that can only be found between the pages of a good book. Here they are, just click on the links and download. (Feel free to offer a review if you like. That’s how we pay it forward, yo.)

 

 

 

 

So there you go. Some nice distraction for you that, I hope at least, will help fortify your soul against the sheer surreal nature of what has transpired in America and which, unfortunately, impacts everyone on the planet because a reality TV star who is threatened by Meryl Streep has the keys to the nuclear weapons cabinet.

Read! Enjoy! Distract yourself because the next four years are sure to be spectacular.

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Happy 2017! Thanks for your support in 2016!

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Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Best wishes for 2017!

 

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Dear Internet: Here’s What I’d Like to See in 2017

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Dear Internet:

We are less than seven days away from the end of what most of us will remember as the lousiest year in recent memory. It all went downhill the moment David Bowie died. Trump happened. Fake news happened. Hillary didn’t get elected when Bernie should have been the Democratic Party nominee. (I know, there’s a lot of die-hards out there who think she got ripped off when in truth, she was a not entirely likeable candidate and she was up against a lunatic.) Prince died. Carrie Fisher died. Debbie Reynolds died a day later. Alan Thicke died. George Michael died on Christmas freaking Day, and 2016 took all these other famous people we liked and admired.

For me, I’ve had health issues all year starting with persistent chronic back pain (a daily reminder from my years as an infantry soldier) and a diabetes diagnosis which I am working damned hard to fix. Add to this, I experienced major league writer’s block for most of 2016 which, I think I’ve moved past now, thank heaven.

Everybody I know just wants this shit bird of a year to end and we are all of us hoping that 2017 will be better … much better than 2016. (It’s going to be hard. A reality TV star who thinks grabbing women by the genitalia is okie dokie will be sworn in as President of the United States and he’s already musing about nukes, nukes and more nukes.)

All through 2016, we have seen social media explode with tribal division. I have lost track of how many people show up in my Facebook feed holding a sheet of paper in front of their chests with their important message to raise our awareness of (insert cause or social/political outrage here). You can’t have an adult talk about climate change, carbon taxes and a host of other things because you might poke the Internet outrage machine. (You know it’s true.)

There are days when I truly wish for a solar flare to melt the grid and send us back to the 1860s because I do believe that with the explosion in social media options available to us, we are now in a constant state of self-promotion (buy my book, buy my product, subscribe to my YouTube channel, like my stuff, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc, etc, etc and so on.) When we aren’t self promoting what we ate last night or mommy/daddy-jacking each other’s social media feeds to talk about our kids (because our kids are the only ones that matter, right?) we were flaming the living shit out of each other for our political views or our social views or our climate change views or our views on sexuality, gender, you name it. Seriously, the list goes on and on and on. It’s nuts.

If there are any advanced life forms out there in high earth orbit or perhaps living among us, they must truly believe we are all crazy. We are, in my opinion, more divided now than at any time in my 49 years of existence. We are yelling at each other online. Flaming each other. Jumping on each other. And when we’re not claiming the moral high ground because our political view is right and everyone else is wrong, we’re posting self-improvement messages – as if the Internet is some planet sized fridge and all our feel good self-improvement messages are individual fridge magnets.

How the hell do we move on? How can we find the middle ground? The good middle ground. That place where people who disagree can meet and debate ideas or solve problems without the whole of the world turning into Planet Butt Hurt?

Mea culpa: I have been guilty of losing my shit online. So I’m going to start my list of things I’d like to see in 2017 by working on me. I gotta stop getting mad when I see posts of things I disagree with. I need to step back and just count to ten because in the grand scheme of things it is a waste of my energy and creativity to disagree with someone who posts their point of view online. I’m going to stay out of the comments section of CBC News or The National Post (if it still exists and doesn’t fold) or The Globe and Mail. I’m going to just put both hands on my desk and push when I see other people slamming the left for being smug, self-important and self-righteous, the right for being myopic, sexist, homophobic, the center, for, well, not taking a stand on everything.

Oh … and racism. We are all racists when we’re the dominant culture in a nation. There are lefty racists, righty racists, and centrist racists. Yes, I know you might disagree, but when you feel a visceral reaction while watching a nightly news story about Syrian immigrants coming to your country (because their nation is basically destroyed) and you get pissed off at the government for spending your tax dollars on programs and services for refugees when there is unemployment in your region, that’s racism. (I know, some of you are butt hurt that I wrote that. I understand.)  When you don’t actually understand why Black Lives Matter exists it means you’re white and the cops aren’t killing you because of the colour of your skin. Oh, and cops killing black folks? That there is racism. Getting mad about black folks getting mad about cops who kill them? That there is racism too.

I’m disengaging. For my own sanity. Because, seriously, posting Internet memes about those whose tribe you don’t hang with solves precisely nothing. We are a planet of inter-connected human beings of different races, religions, sexual orientation and political views and we are all posting shit on Facebook about how much everybody else’s tribe is wrong and our tribe is right.

I’m out.

Oh, and USA? Think it sucks now that you’ve got Trump? Here in Canada, this bald headed rich white guy wants to be Prime Minister!

So what do I want to see in 2017? Here’s my bucket list:

  • Stop losing our shit online
  • Stop posting our visceral dislike of another tribe online. Where has that gotten us so far? I mean, seriously? Has it changed the world? Is December 2016 fundamentally better than December 2015?
  • Stop posting in the comments section.
  • Stop holding signs in front of our chests with our cause of the day.
  • Stop posting pictures of what we ate last night at The Keg. Keep it up and I will start posting pictures of people enjoying Kraft Dinner. Every day.

  • Start posting stuff about how you helped.
  • Keep posting about the books we read and the movies we saw. And Jesus, Internet, people are @#$% allowed to dislike the Star Wars movies, okay? I hated Star Wars The Force Awakens. It sucked ass. It was a rip-off of the film I saw on my 10th birthday in 1977. I also hated Captain America Civil War – it was 100% garbage. I did, however, love the hell out of Deadpool.
  • I’d like to see more authors helping cross promote other authors. I started a little forum for authors to share space in their newest books for a sample chapter from another author’s forthcoming book. One author signed up. I added a chapter of another author’s book in my novel IMMORTAL REMAINS. I don’t know if it helped his sales but I thought, what the hell, it can’t hurt.
  • I’d like to see literacy explode. I would love to see authors promoting the crap out of literacy because it isn’t just about reading words. It’s about understanding ideas. It’s about sparking creativity. It’s about improving everybody’s lot in life.
  • I’d like to see authors tweet one other author’s book every day for 365 days. What if all authors did that for every other author?
  • I’d like to see everyone who gets trolled or bullied on social media to just post this one thing in response to every trolling or bullying thing that is said about them. Don’t engage in discussion. Don’t write words to trolls. Just post this one animated GIF. Repeatedly. Over and over again.

  • Finally, I’d like for all of us to be here on December 26, 2017 and feeling better about our lives, the world, the future. It’s going to be hard. Donald Trump is going to be sworn in. (Those who voted for Trump, I support your right to vote for the guy. I support your different reasons why. I don’t like your guy one little bit. Most reasonable people are terrified that he’s got access to nuclear codes. You voted for him because you felt left out. I get that. You are not hicks. You are not rednecks who fell out of a turnip truck. You breathe air like I do, like everyone else does. We eat three squares a day and we have to figure out how to get along. Somehow. Those who didn’t support Trump, shut the hell up. Okay? He won. Posting Internet memes about him ain’t gonna solve the next four years. Getting involved in the political process will. Volunteering. Get your local person elected. Do whatever you have to do within the system that you’ve got to make sure he doesn’t win in four years.)

I guess, Internet, what I am saying is that we have to figure out how to get along. We have to stop engaging in behaviors that simply act to inflame those who we oppose. How the hell can we meet in the middle when we can’t see the middle because we’ve got a big-ass sheet of paper in front of our chest with our slogan of the day? How can we help each other and heal each other when we’re too damned busy telling each other that we’re all wrong?

I’m sure there is an identity group I have pissed off by writing this blog post. Sorry you’re pissed off. Everybody is pissed off right now. Everybody is @$*# tired of everything. 2016 has been an awful year. 2017 won’t be any better unless we can start to make our little corner of it better.

I’m going to write a pair of novels now. One is a detective novel that my agent would like very much to see. Another is the sequel to IMMORTAL REMAINS which a lot of Tim Reaper fans would like to see.

Let’s move on from here. We have to move on. We just have to.

Happy Holidays and the best for 2017.

SC

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