The Chi Reading Series

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster - July 2014The truth is I’ve been far too busy to blog of late and so my blog has been suffering badly. My day job became overwhelming and has eaten all of my energy. I’m hoping that will change soon. So, in trying to keep a toe over the threshold and into the world I’d like to mention that I’m still hosting the ChiSeries Vancouver, part of the Chiaroscuro Reading series started in Toronto some five or so years ago by Sandra Kasturi and friends. In Toronto, where the wild things are, and there is an abundance of culture and population, the series has run successfully every month.

Cov_TheDoorThatFacedWest_large

On sale at the reading, as well as A Parliament of Crows, and Of Thimble and Threat The Life of a Ripper Victim

Last year, along with Ottawa and Winnipeg, we launched in April, and ran quarterly, with readings in July, Oct. and then in February. The next one would have been May but EDGE Publishing was bringing dark fiction author and vampire aficionado Nancy Kilpatrick in May so we did a reading with Nancy, which included  Rhea Rose and me reading as well. With these readings we had several hurdles to get beyond. One was the venues brought some challenges, and with the new reading for this July 22nd we will be moving to the Cottage Bistro at 4468 (or possibly 4470) Main St. The Cottage Bistro is known for hosting live music as well as several other reading series and is happy to have the ChiSeries on stage.

This is an exciting and very central venue so I’m hoping that many people will come out and enjoy the tales. ChiSeries is free and the readers are TheIncomingTidepublished authors of speculative fiction and poetry. This includes science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, mythical, dark fiction, horror and all subgenres in between. This July, we have guests arriving from Oregon: Alan M. Clark, Kirsten Alene, and Cameron Pierce.

Some people might recognize Alan’s name. He has been a well-known and award-winning artist in the dark fiction genre for a number of years. He was this year’s emcee for the World Horror Convention, as well. His paintings range from thoughtful to disturbing and he has created illustrations for hundreds of books, including works of fiction of various genre,s nonfiction, textbooks, young adult fiction, and children’s books. Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chelsey Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including seven novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His latest novel, The Door That Faced West, was released by Lazy Fascist Press February, 2014.

bizarre fiction, fantasy, US authors, ChiSeries, readings in Vancouver

Kirsten Alene’s book will be available at the reading.

Writing couple Kirsten Alene  and Cameron Pierce live in Portland, Oregon. Kirsten’s books include Japan Conquers the Galaxy, Unicorn Battle Squad, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, and the forthcoming short story collection, Rules of Appropriate Conduct from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2015. Her work has appeared in such places as Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Innsmouth Magazine and The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction.

Cameron Pierce’s ten books include the Wonderland Book Award-winning collection Lost in Cat Brain Land, Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon, and the forthcoming novella The Incoming Tide. His work has been praised by The Guardian, Cracked.com and many others. Cameron is also the editor of three anthologies, most recently In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch, and is head editor of the popular indie publisher Lazy Fascist Press.

The reading runs from 7:30 until about 10;30 pm on July 22. Come join us or leave me a message here if you’d like to get onto a mailing list for future events. If you’re interested in the other ChiSeries events in the other cities, check out the Facebook pages and the website:  http://chiseries.com/

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Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, humor, people, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

My Excellent Birthday Adventure

steampunk, the Drive, Vancouver, East Van

Steampunk often involves gears, bolts and brass. From: http://www.bloodyloud.com/steampunk-jewellery-jm-gates/

Last week, it was my birthday. I’ve lived in Vancouver for years, and in the same neighborhood, yet there are many places on Commercial Drive, or The Drive, that I have never visited. I decided this year that I would choose to wander The Drive and try to hit five places I have yet to enter. I was going to start at noon and have friends join me as they could.

My first stop was the Time Travelers’ Bazaar at the Britannia School. Being no more than a five-minute walk from my place, I thought I knew where it was. However, Britannia is a huge complex that includes the school, daycare, library, skating rink, pool, courts and other buildings. Even if you know your way around it’s not easy to find the right spot. I went toward the cafeteria but all the doors were locked. I ended up picking up three other souls wandering as lost as me. Luckily one of my friends had come from another direction and found his way in.

The Bazaar was just for the day and everything from Steampunk jewellery to hats and bonnets, guns, masks, fascinators, fabric and sundries. I wandered in there fro about a half hour but with three friends trying to find me and coming from various directions, I headed to the Drive and told them which corner I’d be on. We went north for a couple of blocks and found the Windjammer Restaurant. I said they’d only been there a couple of years and someone said no since the 70s. I do know my hood well enough to notice when something goes in. It turns out the cafe has been around since the 70s but used to be on Main until about three years ago. Eight of us didn’t fill it up but definitely gave them a Sunday boost. Fish and chips are the specialty with choices in cod, halibut and salmon, plus poutine and a few other dishes. The special was two moderate pieces of cod, with fries and cole slaw for $6. The meal filled us and tasted fine. I don’t know if I’ve ever had stellar fish and chips. but the ones in England last year were better. These were fine and worth the price but nothing to write home about.

Commercial Drive, Vancouver cafes, food, burgers

Cannibal Cafe specializes in meat and is one of the newest restaurants on the Drive.

We crossed the street at Venables and then moved south along the Drive, wandering in and out of shops I’ve been in before. But part of the adventure was for my friends as well. Some people left, others joined and we continued along the way. The second place I wandered into that I’ve never really noticed much before was the Mr. Pets. It’s a large pet store across from Mark’s Pet Stop near 3rd and Commercial. I tend to support the little guy and usually stop in Mark’s but I was looking for special kitty kibble to help my cat who doesn’t jump too well. The shop has everything from cats to canaries (supplies) though I could hear a few birds. I actually didn’t explore the full store but bought the kitty treats.

Having eaten late and feeling still full we just stopped for a drink at the Cannibal Cafe with decorations above the prep area of plastic knives and cutting instruments covered in fake blood. They have beer and cider on tap and specialize in hand-ground meaty burgers plus smoked meat, salmon and turkey, and of course poutine. While we only drank, a friend says the burgers are good. Prices look reasonable and I’ll come back some night for a bite.

head shop, bongs, Smokers Corner, the Drive

This creature is for smoking. Found at the Smoker’s Corner

We were now into late afternoon. We stopped in front of a store’s window display that held strange blown-glass fish monsters. It turned out these were bongs for smoking your favorite substance. The head shop is called The Smoker’s Corner and only one friend and I were brave enough to wander in and look at all the artistic glass pipes. The weirdest gadgets were gas masks with long, clear green or pink tubes. I guess it meant you could get stoned and get your fetish on at the same time. None of us smoke but it was an adventure in weird pipes, to say the least.

I also popped into the long-running Dr. Vigari Gallery. It’s not new to me but the location is so it counts as half a bonus point. The last place on the Drive that was new to me was the Mediterranean Specialty Foods. The Drive is known for its Italian flavor, sporting many coffee shops, the Portuguese Club, old Italian restaurants now revamped, stores specializing in pasta, olives and salamis and El Sureno, another ethnic food store. I’ve been in all the others and somehow missed this one. It was a treasure chest, with bottles of different oils and vinegars, olives and peppers, pasta and spices lining the shelves like a caravan of goods. Definitely a cornucopia for the foodie. I’ll be going back here the next time I’m shopping. There are more oil than all the other shops put together. I also have some friends who like to play with their food so this place will be great for gift shopping.

food, olives, oils, the Drive, Commercial Drive, foodies

Mediterranean Specialty Foods. Owner Jack Elmasu. From Montecristo Magazine

That was the last official stop and since it was Sunday all of the shops were closing. What else to do on a birthday tour? Why, stop somewhere else to get a drink. We stopped at the Dime Roadhouse, a remade restaurant where one of the old pasta restaurants lived for years. I’ve only been there twice before and the sound was so loud you had to scream. For whatever reason; perhaps the better than expected good weather, being a Sunday, everyone was hungover…the noise was at a lower level and we could actually talk at normal level. A few more friends joined as others left. We ate dinner there. The Dime’s food runs no more that $4.95 for a dish. You don’t get massive portions but I had butternut squash risotto with goat cheese and it was enough and fairly tasty. You can’t go too wrong. Another friend had nachos for one; again, a good enough size. And if it’s not enough, order something else. Since I had been at the Dime before, it doesn’t count, but I’d not been to the bathroom there before. :)

For a Sunday Birthday adventure I got to show some of my friends more of my hood and after a very long time of living there I found new places. It was low key and great day out.

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Shitty Poetry Month

poetry, poems, shitty poems, CZP, Chizine Publications, contests

In a send-up of the WWW belt and poetry month, you can vote for the worst poet.

In a send-up of all those poetry months, (and of course you know April is National Poetry Month) the folks at Chizine Publications decided to honor “Shitty Poetry Month.” There are many abysmal poems that fill the ether and the void and in fact, probably a lot of them should be voiced instead of being put into books and sent around the world. The vanity presses are famous for taking every piece of drek to mar a monitor and putting them into a lovely hardcover book, that they then charge you, the writer of terrible poems, to buy and give to all your friends so you can say, “Look! I is a writer.”

Yes, it’s that terrible and terribly fun. With tongue firmly in cheek, we were all asked to write terrible poems. It’s the last week of the contest, where each week you could vote for the worst poem. The four finalists will be pitted against each other, where you, brave reader, can vote for the worst poem of the year. I’m afraid to say my poem was not terrible enough. (What a relief!)

You can also read just how awful we can be when we just spew out whatever comes into our minds. Yes, poetry actually takes work. I’ve been working on some poems for year and years, to get them just right. Which reminds me, I have sold poems to On Spec and Burning Maiden. It will take a while for them to come out, which I will of course announce here.

In the meantime, entertain yourself with some shitty poems. And if you’re not familiar with CZP, they put out very good books in the dark fiction world. They also won a British Fantasy Award last year. http://www.chizine.com

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Book Review: The Warded Man

fantasy, epic fantasy, Peter Brett

The Warded Man was released in the US in 2009, Harper Voyager imprint

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett came out in 2008 in the UK (as The Painted Man) and 2009 in North America. It’s the first of the Demon Cycle. Yes, there are spoilers.

This fantasy takes place in world that once had the age of science but something happened and demons from the core (of the world) materialized every night, bent on destroying humans. Small villages and hamlets use wards on posts and homes that keep the corelings at bay. Everyone knows how to ward, but some are better than ever. If a ward is drawn wrong, or gets marred, it leaves a way in for the corelings to destroy everything. Larger towns have warded boardwalks  so one can cautiously get place to place but pretty much the night is owned by the corelings.

The “free” cities are encircled by huge stone walls, with the streets lined with stone. Everything is warded with sigils by the guild of warders, and demons rarely get in. But still people only very carefully venture into the night. This leads to an isolated society, where travel more than a day is difficult and people must ask for succor in another place before the sun goes down. The centuries of isolation has lead to various places jealously guarding the wards they use, as opposed to sharing. News and merchandise must still get from town to town and this is left to Messengers and Jongleurs. The jongleurs bring the news and tales and a respite from the terror, with their songs and acrobatics. The Messengers are combinations of merchant, knight and postman and hardened souls used to the vagaries of the night world. They carry portable ward circles, warded shields, weaponry and a host of scars.

The elemental air, rock, wood, sand, water and fire demons. While the wind corelings seemed similar to pterodactyls they are terrifying creatures of nightmare. The story begins with eleven-year-old Arlen, a good warder who witnesses the coring of his mother. The subsequent search for healing lead him on a journey to one of the free cities where he apprentices as a warder and messenger. Over ten years pass in the span of Arlen’s life as he hones his skills, faces betrayals and alienates himself from humankind in his relentless search for the old battle wards and artifacts, and his vengeance against the demons.

Leesha is a young girl, unjustly marred by a braggart fiance and spiteful mother. She apprentices to the extremely old, cranky and mean herb gatherer Bruna. Leesha’s gains independence and eventually travels to help neighboring towns. But she runs into her own hardships and terror when she returns to help her village and the Warded Man rescues her and Rojer.

Rojer lost his family at a young age and was raised by a drunkard jongleur. With his damaged half hand he’s never very good at juggling but is a passable acrobat and plays a mean fiddle. On the road with his master they meet calamity and then Rojer meets Leesha. He has found that the sound of his fiddle can repel the demons and Leesha knows how to make a burning liquid that can injure the previously thought indestructible demons.

While these two have their own threads as they grow and learn their strengths and fears, Arlen is the main focus.He ends up in desert city Krasia, the only place where they actively fight to repel the demons. Arlen hopes to pass on his discoveries of the battle wards but is betrayed by a culture where he is considered an outsider.

Overall I found the story engaging and it kept me reading. The action is clear, but I would have preferred descriptions of the characters to come more as part of the story as opposed to exposition. But the exposition is light. Most of the logic for the warding works. Demons can’t go through stone but can go through wood. The wards have to be in a circle to work on buildings, but you can repel with a ward on an object such as a shield. The battle wards were lost because the demons had been expunged and people forgot. I just don’t quite see how three centuries can go by where people put wards on shields but never put them on swords or spears.

There are two aspects I disliked about this book; one is endemic in many medieval fantasies. Game of Thrones suffers from it as well, even if Aria and Brienneare are exceptions. But they are exceptions in a patriarchal world where women are still chattels and brood mares and expected to be good and silent wives. In many cases, these worlds are styled on our own history, if given different trappings such as species, magic or geography. But I’m getting heartily sick of the role of women always being virgin, mother, whore or sacred warrior (Joan of Arc anyone?). In this way it’s still a man’s world. While Leesha and Bruna are strong women, they don’t step outside the traditional roles. If exploring a patriarchy and the liberation of women was the goal, then this would have been more acceptable.

The other aspect I really hated was the Krasians. They’re a desert nation who put no god before the Creator and the Deliverer is his prophet, where their women are veiled head to foot and outsiders are considered dirt. They eat figs and dates and dress in baggy pants. Medieval Middle East, with not even a veil to disguise it. At this point I threw up my hands. Do terrorists always have to be Middle Eastern? Yes, there are plenty of white-skinned bad guys in this book, but the thin veneer of our world’s cultures made me sigh in exasperation. I knew what the second book was going to be about. The betraying Krasians steal the magic spear and decide to take over the world, delivering people from demons but changing them into believers of the new faith. And the Warded Man must stop the holy war.

I find it annoying to have our world with just a touch of different icing for fantasies. I liked the book well enough and the overall premise of battling these corelings, but I don’t think it went far enough. I’d be tempted to read the second book but I’m not dying to. I saw enough of this world to feel I had a complete story. I’d give The Painted Man three and a half wards.

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Rainforest Writers Retreat

rainforest, Lake Quinault, writers retreat,

The Lake Quinault Rainforest was mossy and very green.

I just returned from five days at the Rainforest Writers Retreat in Lake Quinault, Washington. Lake Quinault is on the Olympic Peninsula, tucked away amongst trees, and why yes, a lake. Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press organizes these and does two a year, a week apart. I’ve been trying for three years to get in but it always sells out quickly. Last year, I finally got in but was on a waiting list (for about a half a day) because I had registered 24 hours later. Yes, it sells out that quickly and there are many alumni that return every year.

As a “newbie” there were many things I didn’t know about the retreat structure but Patrick gives pointers on the website on what to bring, and near the time of the retreat we’re all on a yahoo list where we can ask many questions. I picked up another writer on my drive down from Canada and we did the leisurely, longer Pt. Townsend ferry route to the Lake Quinault Rain Forest Resort. Neither one of us having been before, nor secure in our direction sensing abilities, we did make one wrong turnoff, not to mention somehow taking that different route on Whidbey Island (I have driven there numerous times but it’s easy to take the wrong turn–still it’s an island so you eventually get to the same spot). We arrived Wednesday evening and got our rooms in the hotel.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Patrick Swenson, writing,

Writers writing in the lounge. The guy in red is writing by hand!

The resort has cabins, cabins with fireplaces and motel rooms. I had no clue as to what was good or not so ended up in the motel room. The cabins are more costly. The rooms are fairly basic, sort of rustic woodsy toned. Mine had an odd smell and faced the back but the bed was comfy and I wasn’t in it much. I guess these ones get shut up more in the off season. The restaurant and lounge is where the writers congregate, and besides the lodge being open for dinner in the evenings, we had the run of the place night and day. Being off season, Patrick made special arrangements. Most breakfasts were included but lunch and dinner were on our own. There is “Cabin 6″ where spare munchies, some sandwich makings and the word count board lived. The other good thing is there is a homemade soup and grilled cheese sandwich day in Cabin 6 and then we have a party on Saturday night.

writing, revising, writers retreats

The Albertan contingent entrenched near the fireplace. Dead things decorate the walls.

The word count board is where everyone writing lists how many words they’re creating. Some people go into the negatives if they’re revising. I was working on revising a novel so while I did add about 4,500 words I also got rid of some as well. The main thing is to write and everyone does it differently. You can go off to hide in your room or to Cabin 6 or you can stay in the lounge or dining room, in a group or by yourself, though others will filter in and out. I went to write and write I did. By the end of the weekend, the winner of the word count had written over 32,000 words, and between the 37-38 of us there we created over 300,000 words. That’s a trilogy right there.

books, writing, short fiction

The bookstore is set up in the lounge, for writers or locals.

Most of the people are at different pro levels though some are newer writers, but I’d say the majority were working on novels. There were several, optional one-hour discussions given by Nancy Kress, Louise Marley, Daryl Gregory, Randy Henderson, Jack Skillingstead and a panel discussion with Nancy, Jack, Daryl and Ted Kosmatka talking about outlining. Many of the discussions aren’t necessarily about things we writers don’t already know but it’s always good to chat about them, be reminded about them and hear how others do it. Outlining went from those who don’t even know how their book ends when they begin writing, to those who bullet point the details. There is no right way, just many ways.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Lake Quinault

It’s chilly enough to encourage people to write, but worth a walk to see some of the area.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Fairwood Press, writing

Rainforest Writers. Big sweaters, booze and laptops.

As well, on Saturday night the University (of Washington) Bookstore sets up with books of all the writers present. It’s very evil and tempting and I’d wished I had more money. Writing, perhaps of all the arts is probably one of the most solitary. We sit alone at our desks and write. At the Rainforest Retreat, there was the lovely (if chilly and cold–it IS February) rainforest to explore that also has the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. It didn’t look that big until you walked up to it and realized you could put six people up on its trunk. There’s a store that sells various items including Sasquatch poop. We also sat quietly typing away or taking a break and talking with others. But it was actually really nice to look up and just see others doing the same thing; a camaraderie of our group writing solitary together.

forest, rainforest, Lake Quinault, Olympic Peninsula

The land of super mossy trees. The setting was inspiring for writing.

I made it through 50,000 words of revision on my novel, fixing some things as I went, that I’d woken up to through the talks. I got to know some of the writers a little better, and everyone would take a moment at some point to geek out and talk about “their story.” It was thoroughly inspiring, productive and fun. I’m not sure if I’ll do the retreat next year but like the group that comes out from Alberta every year, it could very well become an annual pilgrimage.

I won’t mention that I drove home through an unexpected snow storm, with the heater not working in my car and how I had to stay in Bellingham the night. No, I won’t mention that because I had a great time even if I was a popsicle by the time I got home.

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Lost in Translation: The Mire of Cellphone Help

cell phone, cellphone companies, miscommunication, customer service

My conversation was on two different tracks, just like this sign for a public urinal in China. Creative Commons by ToGa Wanderings

Today, I tried to email Bell to find out about using my cell phone in the US. Next week, I’m going for five days to the Rainforest Writers Retreat. I’m picking up another writer in Bellingham and want to make sure I don’t get lost. I’m navigationally impaired so it’s a strong possibility. Now, my cell phone has texting and calls but only in Canada.

I was at work and made the mistake of using Bell’s online chat. I forgot that every time I’ve done so it has been an exercise in frustration where belly crawling over glass would take less time. It was only less bloody because I couldn’t reach the chat representative with my hands.

I find that cellphone companies have always been about obscuring the facts. I’ve left Fido, I’ve left Telus and with Bell, it’s hit new heights of stupidity, but I’m not convinced there is a company that won’t rip you off, try to add hidden costs or just not pull their heads out of their butts long enough to care about the customer. It’s now my civic duty to lift the veil under which bad customer service cowers, and to warn you all, don’t use online chat.

I give you the unexpurgated text (except for removing my private info) of the 40 minutes I will never get back. Enter at your own risk.

info: Thank you for your patience an online representative will be with you shortly.  Your wait time is approximately 0 minute(s).  
info: You are chatting with Rolando.
Your name: colleen
Your number: 604
Your question: I would like to know what it would cost if Im in the US and want to text or in the US and want to call (in both cases US numbers). Id only be down for a week.

You: Your name: colleen
You: Your number: 604
You: Your question: I would like to know what it would cost if Im in the US and want to text or in the US and want to call (in both cases US numbers). Id only be down for a week.
Rolando: Hi there!
Rolando: How are you doing today ?
You: Good thanks.
Rolando: I am reading your message here.
Rolando: Colleen, we cannot prorate the amount of the roaming package for texting.
You: So there is no way to call using my phone in the US without paying the high roaming charges?
Rolando: We have a good package here for $20 you can have 1000 message incoming and unlimited outgoing.
Rolando: For calling feature we also have the package.
Rolando: You know what ?
Rolando: I can help you lower down your cost.
You: Just a minute… at work
Rolando: Eventually the individual package will cost you $40. Since I just wanted to help you I can give you the combination of Calling and Texting for Roaming for $30 only.
You: Sorry about that…
Rolando: You will get 100 in-out roaming minutes and 1000 text messages outgoing and unlimited incoming.
You: But I only would be in the US for less than a month so paying an extra $30/month for something I don’t use would not really help me out.
You: It seems the best thing to do is not use the phone at all.
Rolando: Basically, roaming feature is expensive since we will be borrowing tower in other country.
You: If I used it as my plan stands now what are the roaming charges/costs if I made a phone call whie in the US?
Rolando: it will cost you $1.45
You: per minute?
You: or text?
Rolando: Yes per minute call.
You: And a text is costed at a minute, I believe?
Rolando: for texting it will charge you $0.75 in-out.
You: Okay, is that .75 each way?
You: And that includes the roaming cost?
Rolando: yes Colleen.
Rolando: That is the roaming cost.
You: So really, if I need it for a few days but mostly for emergency or just if I really must contact someone that would be cheaper than having to pay and extra $30/month on my plan already.
Rolando: Do you want to be satisfy with my performance or my effort ?
Rolando: Let me see what I can do here ?
Rolando: To better assist you and for the security of the account I would like to have your E-mail address and the 4 digit pin if you have that on the account ?
You: I don’t know my 4 digit pin.
You: naiad@telus.net
Rolando: This time I will be calling the attention of my supervisor in order to sort this out .
Rolando: Thanks for the information.
You: I’m confused now.
Rolando: I am going to help you. Do not be confuse.
Rolando: This time I will be calling the attention of my supervisor in order to sort this out . my ability to convince her will lead to the adjustment on your account. Once I come back there is a positive results.
Rolando: Hi  there!
Rolando: Are you still with me ?
You: yes
Rolando: Please pay attention Colleen.
You: ?
Rolando: My supervisor approved the adjustments on your account.

Bell Canada, cellphone service, custoomer service, lost in translation

Hell’s Bell. It would be easier talking to an alien race. Creative Commons: WikiHow.com

You: I thought you said that it would cost me an extra $30/month to use my phone in the US, but if I just need to use it for a few days it will cost me .75 per text or $1.45 per phone call. What else do you think I need to pay attention to?
Rolando: I am going to give you the credit of $30 so that to make it even I am going to add the $30 package for roaming text and calling.
You: Paying $70/month for something I’ll only use one month doesn’t make sense.
Rolando: I am going to give you the credit of $30 so that to make it even I am going to add the $30 package for roaming text and calling.
You: But that would only be a credit for one month and then I would be paying more every other month afterwards, would I not?
Rolando: yes
You: I don’t want to pay $70/month for something I will only use one month. That’s not very cost efficient.
Rolando: As I have mentioned this roaming package is really expensive.
Rolando: It is not supported by your Plan.
You: I started out asking what it would cost to use my phone in the US. Was it so difficult to tell me .75/text or $1.45? That’s what I wanted to know.
Rolando: Ma’am Iam giving you the favor to help you use your phone in US.
You: If I only wanted to fly to the moon once would your try to sell me monthly tickets to the moon for the whole year? As usual Bell’s service is

not helpful at all.
Rolando: I am helping you lowering your cost.
You: Can I or can I not make a text in the US to a US number and pay only an extra .75 cents for that one text?
Rolando: You can text or you can call but you will be charge of the said amount.
Rolando: It would be beneficial for you because in return I am giving you this for free.
You: Is it .75 cents for one text, and $1.45 for one call by the minute or are there other costs you haven’t revealed?
You: Free for one month but then I pay $70 every other month instead of $40 and I won’t be using it so tell me how this is beneficial.
Rolando: There are no other cost Ma’am.
Rolando: What do you want to happen ?
You: Did you read my original message? I don’t want to add an extra $30 on to every month of payments for something I will only use once. How much clearer can I make this?
Rolando: Ma’am didn’t I tell you that Roaming is really expensive ? You are going to use your phone there for so many days. This is why I am giving you the favor to give it to you for free.
You: For one month and then you tell me I will pay an extra $30 a month on my plan every month afters.
Rolando: I am not adding extra $30 on your account.
Rolando: i cannot provide you the package for the whole year for free. I will be terminated for that.
You: How many times have I clarified above that this would cose me and extra $30 per month. And I said I only will be in the US one week. What would my monthly bill be?
Rolando: I know that you are going in-out in US but it seems to me that you want to avail the feature on a longer period.
You: Did I not say numerous times that I would not be using this in other months?
Rolando: You will only pay the regular bill on your plan. There is no extra charges because I want you to avail the roaming package for free this month. As I have mentioned you cannot prorate the cost of the roaming package.
You: And what would my monthly bill be in March, April, May?
Rolando: $72.46 is your regular bill.
You: EXACTLY! $30 extra for something I would only use once. How often must I repeat myself? I think you’ve convinced me to seek out a different cell phone company.
Rolando: As I have mentioned I am offering to give you the roaming package for free this month.
You: AS I HAVE METIONED REPEATEDLY I DON’T WANT IT FOR EVERY OTHER MONTH.
Rolando: It will automatically expired on the 30th day.
Rolando: Ma’am this feature is not part of your Plan that we can charge you each month. Roaming feature is differnt from a regular feature. I believe you misunderstood this.
You: You know what…I can’t tell what I would get or be signed up for so forget I ever asked a simple question. This is ludicrous.
info: Your chat transcript will be sent to naiad@telus.net at the end of your chat.
You: If my monthly bill for each month becomes $72.46 then indeed it is exactly that, part of what you’re charging me.

At this point I couldn’t take it anymore and had work to do. I disconnected. On further wandering through the backwoods of the Bell site I found out this great deal of $30/month that he wanted to give me was just a regular package to the US. Notice how I changed from Colleen to Ma’am after he told me to pay attention. Nice polite customer service. I’m no farther ahead but you know what someone told me about Roam Mobility and since I really need the phone for one day I can get what I need for $3 or just pay the $1.45 per minute per call and be done with it.

I can tell you one thing…I’ll be switching again when I can, to get away from the incompetent customer service of Bell.

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Writing: The Storm of 2013

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To write or not to write; there is no question. Creative Commons: http://freshink.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

I’m rather late to a sum up of 2014 (hahaha, I’m an idiot. This is why everyone needs an editor. I meant uh, 2013, because it really was that busy.) and it’s because it was one of the busiest years I’ve ever had. I barely had time to think or write on this blog. Hence, while I hoped to get out all of the Tesseracts 17 interviews within two months of its October release, it took me till January. And that’s how last year started; editing the 450 submissions for the anthology. I also participated in Women in Horror month in February, by posting interviews with Canadian writers or horror.

I had made a vow to have a rough draft of my ever languishing novel done by April but that was thrown to the wind. Along with the editing I also did a bit of other freelance editing around a full time job that went to double full time in April. That meant I was pretty worn out when I came home. I’d also injured my shoulder and was in unendurable pain that hit high levels in August. Using a mouse and typing aggravated it as well. So I had to add in physio on top of all that.

demons, anthologies, horror, fantasy, Demonologia Biblica

Available through Amazon. This is my favorite cover.

I then threw in a trip to Europe (Germany, France and England) where I also attended the World Fantasy Convention at the end of my three weeks. Luckily my shoulder was better enough to survive the trip. But guess what, I volunteered to be on the preliminary jury for the Bram Stoker awards (the major horror award in speculative fiction) and I was suddenly reading in every spare minute I had. It was probably around 50 entries in all . I hope to do some book reviews here at some point of the books I read.

So let’s see, there was editing, and copy editing, and reading, but was there writing? Why yes, there was writing and works being published. In fact, I had a pretty good year in published pieces, though a couple of publishers are in bad graces at the moment for not paying on time nor sending me my copy of the book. (More on that soon if I don’t hear from them.) Here is a list of works that came out last year:

  • “P is for Phartouche: The Blade” in Demonologia Biblica by Western Legends Publishing
  • “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” in Deep Cuts by Evil Jester Press
  • “The Book With No End” in Bibliotheca Fantastica by Dagan Books
  • “The Highest Price” in Artifacts and Relics by Heathen Oracle
  • “Gingerbread People” in Chilling Tales 2 by EDGE SF & Fantasy
  • “Tower of Strength” in Irony of Survival by Zharmae Publishing
  • “The Diver” in Readshortfiction.com (free under literary)
  • Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast by EDGE SF & Fantasy, co-editor with Steve Vernon
  • “Heart of Glass” in Polu Texni  (includes an interview and is free to view)
  • “Illuminating Thoughts” in Polu Texni
  • “Father’s Child” in Polu Texni
  • “Don Quixote’s Quandary” free in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly
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The Book With No End, is in this anthology out from Dagan Books.

I should also mention that I launched for Chizine Publications and Sandra Kasturi the Vancouver branch of the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. We began quarterly with three readers in April and then again in July and October. The new one is coming up on Feb. 12th, at Tangent Cafe in Vancouver, with speculative authors Ray Hsu, Geoff Cole and Noah Chinn. It’s free, so if you’re in town come out and enjoy some tales.

Somewhere in all this I did have a social life and I did sleep… I think. I also completed, by the very last day of the year, the rough draft of my novel. After so many stops and starts, it was done. Of course I have a massive rewrite to do but at least the plot and character arcs are down. So, yes, it was a very busy year and very productive.

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Colleen hosts the Vancouver ChiSeries, funded in part by CZP.

I’ve also found out that I made it onto the Bram Stoker Awards preliminary ballot for my short story “The Book With No End.” The Stokers are the top dark fiction awards for the genre and rank with the World Fantasy Awards, the Hugos and the Nebula. I will eventually write about the process for getting on the ballot because it’s a bit confusing. The Stoker prelininary ballots are a mix of recommendations from the membership and the jury. Once the membership votes, there will be a short form final ballot and then I believe another vote. I’ll find out if I make it that far.

Works to come out at some point soon in this year are “The Collector” in Cemetery Dance. I’m promised it will be very soon and I’ve been waiting over five years so it will be nice to see that one show up. Bull Spec also promises to publish my poem “Visitation” soon. I’ve also just learned that I’ve sold three poems to Burning Maiden and I’ll be featured in the next edition. Those poems are “Tea Party,” “Medusa” and “As I Sleep.”

So what’s in store this year. Obviously more writing and rewriting, and we’ll see. Some irons are in the fire but until I have an answer everything is just a dream. ;) But we all should dream, shouldn’t we? May you all have a productive year.

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How to Piss Off an Editor

I’m cleaning out my email files and getting back on track, so in the near future you’ll see some posts here about other than writing. I’m no longer slush reading for Chizine Publications but this one email was memorable. We asked for sample chapters for the first read-through. I received a manuscript that was so full of slang and vernacular as to be incomprehensible. I didn’t think I could give a constructive comment so I opted for diplomacy. Remember, editors are extremely busy people and they rarely will give comments. I’ve always tried to say something because it also hones why I’m rejecting a story.

Whenever I’ve received comments back on a story rejection I’ve found them at least steering me toward what didn’t work. That’s most of the time, not always. Sometimes editors might just be off their rockers or so bent on their own agendas that they make little sense themselves. I’ve had a magazine tell me they didn’t do religious stories because I sent a tale of Garuda (the Hindu god who is part man, part bird) and a lover. Hardly religious but well…they saw it that way. I’ve had rejection letters that are framed as breakup letters, which are annoying and immature, but I’ve never written them back to say so.

So, with that being said, here’s a short lesson in how to get yourself blacklisted from a publisher. This guy didn’t follow the guidelines and probably didn’t read them, so he was lucky that we even bothered to read the piece. Oh, and CZP is a Canadian publisher, and I’m Canadian with a BFA.

Dear X,

Thank you for the opportunity to consider your manuscript for publication by ChiZine Publications.  We enjoyed reading your novel, but, after careful consideration, we regretfully advise that we are unable to accept it for publication.

Please make sure you follow the guidelines in the future. Also submitting manuscripts in a standard submission format is much easier on the editors’ eyes.

You had some very interesting descriptive phrases but I did not find that the story grabbed me. Best of luck elsewhere with this.

Your interest in our press is genuinely appreciated, and we wish you the best for your ongoing writing endeavours.

Sincerely,

Colleen Anderson

Didn’t “grab” you – what exactly does that mean? Push the limits of form & vernacular and this is response you get. Jesus.

Don’t take it personally, Colleen. I’m sure you’re a victim of your own particular MFA program. Obviously Americans are too stupid generally. I’ll send it to Germany. Or Congo.

Dear X,

Editors have many manuscripts to go through and we don’t always have time to go into detail. And sometimes we don’t like something well enough to say what’s wrong with it. Doesn’t grab me is a polite way of saying it didn’t seem to go anywhere. The vernacular was heavyhanded and overdone. That’s not edgy; that’s going to be a book that won’t sell. But don’t take it personally. I’m sure you’re just a victim of your generation that doesn’t read more than the first paragraph, so why would you think we want to read the rest of your book? You did not even follow the submission guidelines or standard submission format. They’re there for a reason. And while some Americans may be stupid, calling most or all stupid and assuming you even know what nationality I am smacks of bigotry and your own stupidity.

Please, go bother Germany, the Congo and any other publisher you wish. Your submissions are no longer welcome at CZP.

Colleen Anderson

And really, unless you’ve been an asshat, don’t take it personally when you’ve been rejected. It’s about the piece, not the person.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Patricia Robertson

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Today, I give you the last interview of the authors in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s not quite a complete set as I don’t have Vince Perkins from New Brunswick, nor Jason Barrett from Northwest Territories. However, should they eventually contact me I will include their interviews. You can find their bios listed for Tesseracts here. Last in the table of contents and our other Yukon author, is Patricia Robertson.

CA: “The Calligrapher’s Daughter” has the feel similar to tales like The Arabian Nights, or The Steel Seraglio. It mixes lesson and observation but in a subtle telling. Were you following a particular literary form when you wrote this?

I was aware that it was a fable, a form or mode I feel we need much more of as a means of responding to our increasingly nightmarish “reality.” Fables deal with archetypes rather than highly realized characters (which is why the calligrapher’s daughter is called that throughout the story rather than given a name). That said, I was conscious of the form without being inhibited by it (I hope!)

CA: Your world is vivid in description and feeling. What did you research in the process of this creation?

I love exploring worlds I don’t know and have been interested in Islam and Arabic history for a long time, ever since I lived in Spain (where the Arabs ruled for 700 years). I do lots of research in both books and on the Net to get the details right, or, where I’m inventing, so I know I’m deliberately altering or embellishing “reality.” Though I’ve discovered that there’s really nothing you can make up—so-called fantasy is only such in our current idea of what constitutes reality!

CA: We’ve had stories set in the modern world (the majority), a few other worlds and those in far space, with a smattering in the past and the future. Yours is the only setting that looks at Middle Eastern history. Why did you choose this setting and do you think your tale would have been as effective if told from another culture’s point of view?

As I explained above, Arabic history fascinates me (the setting here is actually North Africa). I’d recently written a suite of four novellas/short stories all linked by the theme of illegal migration and set in Spain and Morocco, so I suppose the setting was fresh in my mind. And I’ve always found the Arabic script incredibly beautiful, with its flowing curves. At some point I stumbled on the fact that there were female calligraphers early on in the development of calligraphy as an art form.

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Patricia Robertson creates a world of beauty and values in The Calligrapher’s Daughter.

All of that means I can’t imagine the story from another culture’s point of view! It’s too specific to this one, although I’m sure there were female calligraphers in other traditions.

CA: While following the norms of her society, the Calligrapher’s Daughter manages to find strength of purpose. Do you think that people who are under the strictures of their culture, which may give unfair advantages to some and not to others, can still find a strength of purpose and prevail?

I think people do that all the time. There are always people who, through a combination of talent and tenacity and opportunity, forge lives for themselves that may be unusual or somewhat outside the norm. They usually pay a price for such behavior, too. Researching the story reminded me that history provides much more nuance than we usually see—women in such cultures are not always, in all conditions, “oppressed.” Cracks and byways and interstices can be found, or created.

CA: This was such a rich world. Have you used it in other stories and what will we be seeing from you in the future?

As I said earlier, I love exploring different worlds, so no, I haven’t used this one in other stories and probably won’t use it again. At the moment I’m working on a young adult fantasy called How to Talk to a Glacier as well as completing a third book of short stories. And I have a short adult novel, a fantasy, in mind too.

Born in the UK, Patricia Robertson grew up in British Columbia and received her MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has published two collections of fiction: City of Orphans, which was shortlisted for the BC Book Prizes (Fiction), and The Goldfish Dancer: Stories and Novellas. Her work was selected for both Best Canadian Stories 2013 and Best Canadian Essays 2013, and has been shortlisted for the Journey Prize, the CBC Literary Awards, the Pushcart Prize, and the National Magazine Awards (three times). She is currently the first writer-in-residence at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library in Kingston, ON.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Dianne Homan

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Dianne Homan’s world is regimented and plastic, in M.E.L.

Today we hit the Yukon, nearly the end of the interviews for Tesseracts 17, Dianne Homan’s dystopian world in M.E.L.

CA: M.E.L. was a very bizarre world, yet reminiscent in feel (not setting) of other dystopian futures, such as Logan’s Run, or even the morlocks of Orwell’s The Time Machine. Did you draw on any such existing tales for this setting?

I actually don’t read science fiction so I can’t say I drew on any literary worlds. I have a huge aversion to plastic—packaging, toys, utensils, etc., so I imagined a world coated in the stuff as something my protagonist would have to get past, get through, get under.

CA: In some ways your story could be taken as metaphorical. Would you say there is a metaphor you’re using in this?

Never thought of it metaphorically. One of the main points in this story is that, if we are tuned in to earth, there is knowledge that comes to us without our being able to pinpoint the source of our knowing—like M.E.L.’s knowing about dirt and W.W.B.’s knowing about bugs.

CA: This world has a regimental control of people’s lives. While it is a different world, do you think parts of our world are as regimented as this, for good or for ill?

The thing about our world that concerns me most is the control of, dare I say everything, by

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

the corporate powers. They control what the media tells us, what schools teach, what is available on the market, etc. They can’t control what we learn from the earth although they can make fun of, and try to minimize the importance of, that knowledge.

CA: Do you think we will see a future where our environments will become more artificial to survive environmental changes?

No. I, unfortunately, sense that we have passed an environmental tipping point, and that there is not much hope for survival of most life forms on the earth. That said, I think there is still so much potential for beauty and love and heroism that I feel blessed to be living on this planet.

CA: What other projects are you working on?

I am currently teaching grade 1/2/3 in a small rural school, and my work load is so intense that I have no brains left for writing when I end my work day. Writing projects are on hold, but all are fictional and all have love of the earth as their guiding principle.

Dianne Homan was born in Englewood, NJ, across the river from the bustling-est city on earth. She now lives a world, and a continent, away in a log cabin off-grid in the wilderness outside Whitehorse, Yukon. She is an arts education advocate and enjoys nothing more than incorporating art, drama, music and dance in her work as a teacher and in her imaginings as a writer. Her stories and essays have appeared in anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited two volumes of Urban Coyote.

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