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Writing Update

So, right now, I’m waiting for my beta readers and the cover artist to get back to me on Life in the North, the first book of my System Apocalypse series.  Frustrating since other than that, I’m all good to go to publish the works.

A Healer’s Gift is selling okay I guess.  It’s interesting since I threw the book up on a whole series of different sites and thus far, Amazon is the only site where I’ve seen any decent sales.  I literally have sold 1 copy in all other sites other than Amazon.

The current plan is to throw up Life in the North on Amazon exclusively and make it Kindle Unlimited available too. Hopefully I don’t shoot myself in the foot by doing that though and I’ll see some decent sales, but we’ll have to see.

On another note, I’m working on Book 2 for Adventures on Brad.  It’s hard writing in third person and I have been dealing with depression and a cold along with real life so writing is slow.  I’m hoping I can focus on it more and chunk out the current storyline in the next couple of weeks.  If so, the moment I am mostly done I’ll get the next cover worked on so I don’t have to wait as long.  I expect that my current ‘idea’ for Book 2 is going to be split into two, making the entire Karlak section a mini-trilogy, especially if my writing continues to follow in the format that I’ve been working in.

LitRPG

Decided I should at least have a little author page of something so I resurrected this blog.  It’s been a while since I wrote anything here, but in short, I’ve been delving into the rabbit hole of LitRPGs.

I don’t know why, perhaps it’s just the easy progression or the way the story folds out, but I’m really enjoying reading and writing.

Yup, writing since I just published my first book in the genre.  Really a novella at 46k words.

Working on a 2nd book right now which is going to be a full novel at (right now!) over 110k words.  I expect it’ll sit around that range even with the extra few sections I expect to write.  I’m just in the editing process right now, but for this book I’m going to hire actual proofreaders.  Fun.

Buying a House

So, as you might know, we live in Canada in the Great White North.  That means purchasing a house is actually quite a reasonable and financially prudent option.  You see, the cost of renting here is very, very high – we are talking between $1,100 – $1,500 for a 1 to 3 bedroom suite (or duplex on the upper end).

On the other hand, houses are currently selling at between $200,000 (for a townhouse with 3 bedrooms and about 1,600 sq ft) to $400,000 for a 5 bedroom bungalow.

If you do the maths, a $350 – 400k house works out to be only $1,400 – $1,800 in mortgage payments. With property taxes and other insurance and other home-ownership costs, you are for the most part saving money when you do purchase a house.

Why? Well, the Bank of Canada’s extremely generous 2.95% or so Prime rate is the main cause of this.  It’s incredibly cheap to buy.

Of course, there are a few major dangers:

– Catching a falling knife

Housing prices dropped last year.  It dropped the year before too up here.  So there’s no reason why housing prices shouldn’t drop again this year, especially in light of the drop in the resource sector and gold prices.  Whatever you buy is likely to be cheaper to purchase in a year or two if you can wait that long (an equivalent place that is).

 

– Higher interest rates

The other major danger is that interest rates could rise, significantly.  The historic interest rate was significantly higher than what it was now.  Even if interest rates go up marginally, to say 5%, this could easily cause major problems in terms of the mortgage payment.

So why do we do it? Because for us, right now, it makes sense.

 

Sparring from a TMA background

So, most of my sparring experience (outside of swords) has been in a TMA background.  Not much ring experience via kickboxing / boxing / etc.

It’s itneresting and as Randy pointed out, causes a problem with the way I spar in that I generally don’t follow-up.  I set up a single, clean shot and take it but never do a follow-up – instead bouncing back to safety.  It’s great for point sparring – not so much for actual fights.

Went and sparred against a boxer on Monday.  He’s got a few years of boxing experience and some kickboxing experience, has done a lot of sparring recently for sure.  Me… well, first time I’ve put on gloves in months.

It wasn’t as one sided as you’d think. My understanding of measure kept me just out of range for a lot of his shots, my ability to fade before attacks meant that he only managed to land a few good shots.  I still don’t check as many kicks as I should, but I got a handle of that eventually.

He had trouble with my ability to pop-shots in to his centre and I got a few good kicks in.  No real combinations, though I managed to do a few nice spin kicks.  Towards the end I started to read his movements and checked quite a few kicks perfectly – both using Thai checks as well as savate shin kicks and straight kicks to his rising thighs.  That screwed with him for sure – he’s not used to that idea.

I got to work on making myself do combos more and work some of my TMA stuff into combos. Still, it’s fun and certainly not a rout.

Meatballs

Love meatballs.  Been having fun making Gordon Ramsey’s Meatballs for a while.  Up here, we’ve been making the meatballs from a mixture of beef and pork – boar when we have enough of it.

I much prefer the mixture of pork and beef because the pork adds more fat to the entire dish, making the meatballs a bit tastier rather than plain beef.  I also generally use paprika instead of black pepper – smoked paprika as far as I’m concerned is a much better product.

In addition, I’ve taken to using finely minced onions as well as garlic.  Other than that, I ignore parsley too because the yuck.  I don’t mind adding basil or summer savory depending on what I have on hand, but plain works quite well.

The major trick though is the milk and breadcrumbs – it keeps the meatballs pasted together nice and tight if you get the consistency right and gives a nice ‘springy’ texture to the meatballs.

 

 

 

Trying to figure out the damn site

Unfortunately, due to some massive issues iwth the way things ar eshowing up; I’m having trouble posting.  Hopefully this is fixed soon

 

Mentality and Sparring

Had a semi-serious challenge happen this week.  I lost – badly.

Watching the fight, and as Randy pointed out, I was holding back.  Significantly.

Personally, I’ve realised I have major issues in the mental department for sparring / duels.  Especially when it comes to sparring with swords.  Basically, they break down to:

1) Inability to take sword-fighting seriously.  It’s a general thing, but it really shows when sparring in tournaments.  I don’t necessarily take the entire tournament thing seriously, so I don’t fight to win or go in thinking ‘I will win’.

2) Inability to warm-up fast.  I really, really need to work on that – I warm up to fights real slow -it generally takes at least 4 to 5 passes before I’m ready to fight, often 4 to 5 minutes of pre-sparring at full speed with a good opponent before I feel ‘ready’ to fight.  I cool down from that mental mode fast too.

3) Not caring – or caring too much.  I don’t have a lot of in-between gears, so I’m deathly afraid of making this a ‘serious’ sport – because then I’ll want to take it seriously.  It’s better (or so I tell myself) to not care…

Something for me to think about and figure out.  It’s definitely something I have to work on if I ever want to get really good at this sport.

Stances

Oooh, stances.  Not going to write much here today, but I thought I’d discuss stances.

I’m a right-hander, so I should be fighting orthodox.  It puts my strongest side back, lets me hit hard with my right fist / kick and allows me to block with my left.

However, due to years of fencing and some Tai Chi work, I actually automatically assume southpaw.  I move more fluidly in southpaw, I block faster, I hit faster and chain combinations more smoothly in that stance.  However, my left side is weaker, so my stronger side is forward.

It’s weird too because I know my left side can grow stronger.  I just haven’t gotten the iterations up.  It’s mostly due to practise – I practised a lot of strikes & kicks in orthodox while learning (Karate, etc) in the beginning and just continued practising in that stance.

However, because I fight southpaw normally, I just don’t have the muscle memory to turn on the power on my left side as much.  With practise though, I’m hitting harder and more smoothly and soon should be able to ramp it up – though I think I’ll always be weaker.

Still, all these changes do mean that I shift quite fluidly between the stances, striking from either without hesitation when I am sparring.  I often don’t even think about stances, just hitting and moving when I am in the groove. Not as good for training specific responses, but great for sparring…

Canada Pension Plan – increasing contributions

Let’s talk about the Canada Pension Plan or the CPP.

What is it?

It’s a government backed retirement plan that provides funds after 65 (or 60 at a lower rate) if you have worked in Canada.  The amount you get is dependent on the amount you contributed through your lifetime, and is a 4.95% deduction off your paycheck along with an equal contribution by your employer.

What You Should Know

CPP maxes out at $1,038.33 currently (2014) and is indexed to the Consumer Price Index, so theoretically it will give you that amount (or it’s inflation adjusted equivalent) when you retire.

However, the CPP is not seperately financed.  All funds currently generated for the CPP goes into general financing for the government and is then used to pay out to current pension earners.  That is, the money you pay in now isn’t set aside for you specifically, it goes into a general pool.

In addition, the CPP is not fully funded though it supposedly is sufficiently funded till 2085.

How Much Do I Get?

25% of your average earnings.   Service Canada (who run the CPP) looks at your average earnings from 18 to 65, dropping out up to 7.5 years of your lowest earning years to calculate your CPP payout.

The maximum ‘allowable’ / calculated earnings was $51,100 in 2013 – if you earned more than that, it wasn’t counted towards the CPP (nor was funds taken for the CPP above that amount) but it did count towards the amount you’d get.

So, most people will definitely get significantly less than the maximum of $1,038.33.

Is Raising the CPP Good Then?

Depends on your point of view.  They’ll take more money from your paycheck now (raising it to 12% total or from 4.95% to 6% off your paycheck), in return for up to a 35% increase in the final payout.

Theoretically then, you could get more when you retire; but the question then is this retroactive? That is, do people who only paid in 9% through their life get 35% payouts? My guess is (and this is political); yes – so that Baby Boomers/etc who never saved get ‘saved’ by the government.  That I don’t agree with…

If not, maybe it’s good.  I still prefer to save money myself, but for a lot of people that might not be what they want.

Is It Going Away?

The important part to note is that while the CPP is theoretically funded sufficiently, there isn’t a separate pool where all CPP contributions are locked away.  It’s just a giant pool of cash which the government pulls from.  So, it’s possible if the government overspends that there just won’t be any money there when it’s needed.

Again, this is a possibility – not a certainty and really depends on numerous factors. However, it’s worth knowing and adding to your own considerations.

Emergency Funds

It’s strange, the question of an emergency fund rises up a lot.  If you don’t know what an Emergency Fund is, it’s a pool of cash you set aside for emergencies.  Most financial advisors recommend between $1,000 to $5,000.

The reasons for an emergency fund basically boil down to – don’t get into debt! Sometimes, expenses outside of your budget happen – a blown tire, an accident, sick days that aren’t compensated.

Having a fund that you can call on to help ease fluctuations in expenses and income keeps you from dipping into debt to cover it, removing you from the spiral of indebtness and poverty.  It’s also comforting to have some money around that you could just use…

Of course, there’s another train of thought that says – don’t bother with an emergency fund; especially when rates are so low.  You can get a much better return investing it and so long as you have a good credit rating and multiple forms of credit (Line-of-Credit or credit cards); you can use those as emergency funds.  With a LOC especially, you only pay for what you use and the rates are often very decent.

This way, the money you’ve invested will ‘work’ for you and you can dump it if and when an emergency happens.   It’s not necessarily a bad idea especially with the TFSA accounts these days.  The bad part of course is that you just don’t have that mental cushion anymore.

Myself, I lean towards the investing side – but I’m pretty comfortable and confident with investing.  For others, pure cash might be the better option.  It’s all about your risk tolerance…