Convention Update

I’m at When Words Collide, an ever expanding convention in Calgary. While it has a heavy focus on speculative fiction there are romance and mystery writers here as well. Yesterday I was on a panel about writing and making a living at it. The four of us on the panel agreed that you can’t make a living but talked about the money you can make, some innovative ways to market poetry and some of the reasons we write poetry, as well as what is a poem.

I was then on a panel with Nancy Kilpatrick, Pat Flewwelling and Brandy Ackerley on why we need dark fiction and horror. We discussed how it dark fiction/’fantasy has evolved, marketing and genre names (weird fiction, dark fiction, horror, etc.) and why we need it. Why are people repelled, why are they drawn to it and what are our monsters and fears.

I also sat on the panel for one of the live action slush groups, where people turn in one page, which is read out loud. The panel of four editors put up there hand when they would stop reading. We made it through several pieces and overall the writing was good. A full house on that one.

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Today, I’m only on the autograph signing and of course attending the Aurora Awards, where Playground of Lost Toys is up for an award (co-edited with Ursula Pflug). I’m also in the anthologies nEvermore! and Second Contacts (cowritten with Rhea Rose), which are up for the same award. I’ve also been visiting with and getting reacquainted with many of the writers I sometimes only see virtually.  On Sunday, if you’re attending the con, I’ll be on the panel for poetry markets and approaches and doing a reading afterwards with three other poets. At 4pm I’ll be doing a blue pencil session. There is one space left and if you bring 1-2 pages I will edit and comment on it. There really isn’t time for more than one so first come first served.

I have other sales to report but that will have to wait. Though you can check out Heroic Fantasy Quarterly for my poem “The Persuaders,” and Maple Tree Literary Supplement for four poems titled “Cuntipotent,” “Cremating Love,” “Oh You!” and “Come and Go.” These are hard hitting poems about sex and sexuality. Now, back to the con.🙂

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Writing Update

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

My busy year has been full of many things, writing or other. Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me, is up for an Aurora Award. The winners will be announced in August at When Words Collide in Calgary. I’ll be there, on several panels, a reading I think, and a blue pencil session where you can sign up and have a few pages edited by me. And kudos to authors in the anthology who have been nominated for other awards. Karen Abrahamson’s story “With One Shoe” was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award, and has been longlisted for a Sunburst Award in short fiction. Catherine A. MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” and Dominik Parisien’s “Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water” are also longlisted for the Sunburst.

And mentioning Dominik Parisien, editor of Clockwork Canada also published by Exile Editions, my story “Buffalo Gals” is in the anthology. Airship Ambassador has done a four-part interview with me about the story (and with other authors as well). The first part is here and you can click in the right column of the site to get the other parts as well.

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

Clockwork Canada is available on Amazon and through Exile Editions. Steampunk stories about Canada’s revisioned history.

Other fiction that has been published this year includes “Freedom’s Just Another Word” free to read at Agnes and True, “Mermaid’s Curse” and “Paul Bunyan’s Toils” at SpeckLit. These two are drabbles, which means they’re 100 words exactly. They were fun to write and good practice for having the purest essence of a story. And just hitting the shelves for pre-order now is Alessandro Manzetti’s anthology Beauty of Death, which includes my story “Season’s End.” It’s chock full of stories and I quite like the cover.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

Earlier this year saw my poem “The Hedge Witch” come out in OnSpec along with an interview (that’s two interviews in a year), and “Book of Shadows” in Devolution Z #8. More recent, “Beltane Fires” came out in Eternal Haunted Summer’s Spring issue, and “Patchwork Girl” has just been released at The Future Fire. And two more poems “Short Sighted” and “Pilot Flight” have been released in Polar Borealis #2. Most of these poems and stories are free to read on the net so go and read great fiction and poetry and discover some new authors.

I have many more irons in fires, with more poetry and stories coming out this year but I’ll leave that for another post. I can say I’ve received approval to edit another anthology but it will be another year until you see info on that. In the meantime, I’m working on a poetry collection, and a fiction novel, and was honored to be one of the judges for Exile’s Carter V. Cooper short fiction prize. The longlist can be seen here. Gloria Vanderbilt will now choose from that list.

I’m diving back in to more fiction as well, so away I go. And if you’re a writer, don’t stop, never give up. Every skill takes practice and practice. I’m still practicing my craft and getting better all the time.

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Writing: 2015’s Year in Review

I’m a bit late with this, so imagine where I’m going to be with my taxes this year. I’m recapping last year’s writing accomplishments. I managed to complete a novel that’s taken far too many years and it’s off making the rounds.

speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF, Years Best

From left to right: Burning Maiden, nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, Playground of Lost Toys, Second Contacts, New Canadian Noir, (front) On Spec Summer, Best of Horror Library, Imaginarium: Best of Canadian Speculative Fiction, and Blood in the Rain

Last year was very busy. How busy? What do all the books in the picture above have in common? Why, I’m in them all. The biggest project was Playground of Lost Toys and I’m pleased to say that Ursula Pflug and I (co-editors) are nominated for an Aurora Award in Best Related Works for the anthology, published by Exile Editions.The books to the left and right are nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, and Second Contacts are also nominated. My story “Asylum” is in the first and “Scar Tissue,” written with Rhea Rose in the second.

Burning Maiden Vol. 2 published three of my poems, “As I Sleep,” “Medusa” and “Tea Party,” and On Spec published my poem “The Hedge Witch” along with an interview of me, which actually came out in January though it says summer 2015. Those weren’t the only poems: “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” was in the HWA Poetry Showcase, “the moon: Fever Dream” was in Pantheon magazines Nyx issue, “Morrigan’s Song” was in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #24, “Persephone Dreams: Awakening” was in Eternal Haunted Summer’s summer issue, and “I Dreamed A World” was published at Polu Texni. This last poem is also nominated for a Rhysling Award (SF Poetry Association) in the long form category. (Clicking on any story or poem title will take you to the actual piece.)

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

 

Other stories included three reprints: “The Book With No End” (which made it to the Stoker award longlist in 2014) was reprinted in CZP’s Imaginarium 2014: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. And “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” (honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror) was republished in Best of Horror Library I-V. In Blood in the Rain, a collection of erotic vampire fiction, my story “Hold Back the Night” was reprinted. This story had also been shortlisted for several awards and received two honorable mentions in the Year’s Best anthologies.

A couple of online stories appeared in Black Treacle with “Shaping Destiny,” and “Symbiosis” in the Scottish Shoreline of Infinity #1. “Pears and Swine” an erotic noir story appeared in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.

So, yes, it was a very busy year. On top of that I wrote 33 new poems for a collection contest, only to find the publisher had been sucked into a vortex and disappeared. Now I’m shopping that around as well.

This year has started out busy and successful and I have several more projects brewing but I’ll save these for another post.

 

 

 

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Playground of Lost Toys: The Last–Story

Today wraps up the interviews with the authors of Playground of Lost Toys. Last but not least is Kate Story, but before I get to Kate’s story, I wanted to just mention that I’m hosting the West Coast launch tomorrow night in Vancouver. If you’re not doing anything, come out to the Railway Club to hear five of the authors read. Food and drinks from the bar and books will be available for sale.

speculative fiction, anthology, Exile Editions, Canadian launches, Vancouver readigns

Playground of Lost Toys launches Feb. 10 for the West Coast

Now, Kate wrote “Show and Tell,” which ties into those many days we spent in school, where there were good times, but also bad time. Revisiting the place of old memories can stir up the past and present different possibilities. This story also involves a doll, which turns out to be the vehicle for change.

1.What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

Ursula sent out an eleventh-hour call for submissions. I’d managed to miss the initial call, and when I got her message, it felt like an assignment. I love assignments. The premise was very evocative for me.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

Canadian writers, speculative stories, alternate realities, fantasy, dolls

Kate Story is a writer and performance artist.

I did actually have a Saucy Doll, although I don’t think I ever brought her to Show and Tell. I was bullied as a child, although not as badly as my protagonist. But I was haunted for many years as a young adult that my life had branched off at some point, and I’d missed my boat somehow—as if I was in some parallel reality that wasn’t really mine. I was in the wrong world. It was a rather nightmarish feeling, and constant.

3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I wonder sometimes if what and how we choose to remember has more power than we think it does. In no way do I want to be victim-blaming here. I dislike the whole “The Secret” kind of thing intensely—it’s really oppressive—so, you’re a child soldier, I guess you just didn’t envision your ideal future HARD enough. No, no. But on a more subtle level the material we have to work with—our past, our present— there’s alchemy there. At least, that was the idea I was interested in looking at.

4. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

There’s something very appealing to me about the ugliness of some toys. Even as a kid we kind of know they’re ugly, yet we love them. The broken, the horrid, the unwanted—I wish we worked harder to hold onto our ability to fall in love with that.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I just had a piece come out in Stone Skin Press’s Gods, Memes and Monsters a 21st Century Bestiary. The collection is excellent—yay, Heather Wood! And last year I had a story in Carbide Tipped Pens, a SF collection from Tor Books edited by the marvelous Ben Bova and Eric Choi. Upcoming, I have a story in Exile’s Canadian Steampunk anthology edited by the wonderful Dominik Parisien, Clockwork Canada. And next year my first young adult fantasy novel will come out with ChiZine Press. STOKED. My website is www.katestory.com

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Kuriata & Demeulemeester

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

After today’s authors Chris Kuriata and Linda Demeulemeester, there is one more interview left. These two authors present a darker view of games. Chris Kuriata’s story “Fun Things for Ages 8 to 10” touches on all those comics and magazines we read as kids, and the adds for X-Ray glasses and invisible ink. But it’s from a magazine that gives you instructions in the cheery “Hey, Kids!” way. It’s not all cheery though and kind of comically creepy.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
comics, magazines, games for kids, nostalgia, dark fantasy

Chris Kuriata captures the childhood wonder and acceptance of everything we read.

The money and the glory played a big role, but mostly, submitting to Exile Editions appealed to me because of the unique stories they’ve published, both in their anthologies and the excellent ELQ magazine. PLAYGROUND OF LOST TOYS looked like a good place to be.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

My story “Fun Things For Ages 8 to 10” is about audio cassettes. My sister and I spent many childhood afternoons playing with our mother’s tape recorder. This was before the proliferation of videocameras or VCRS, so the ability to record ourselves and listen back really blew our minds. We created all kinds of radio plays, which usually degenerated into arguments and insult slinging. None of these tapes survived, which is perhaps something I should be grateful for.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

No clue. The idea came to me in bed, was hastily roughed out in my notebook and worked over for the next couple of evenings.

  1. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you want to mention?

I love short story collections, but often burn out after reading a dozen or so stories by the same author. You keep noticing repeated images or the same line of description used in two separate tales. So I love the variety of writers offered by an anthology. It’s fun when the mood switches between stories, like eating chocolate and pretzels. Anthologies are most rewarding when the different voices compliment one another like in a good mix-tape.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

A story about the use of clowns on early 19th century whaling ships will appear in Unlikely Story’s upcoming Clowns anthology, and Pseudopod will be doing an audio version of my story about the breakdown of a family during the apocalypse called “Sack Race to the River.”

Linda Demeulemeester wins the prize for the longest title in the anthology. “And They All Lived Together in a Crooked Little House” changed from poignant to creepy when we asked Linda to clarify one line in the story. It kind of smacked us with the darker meaning of rhymes and the power of enchantment.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

The title of the anthology alone had me – who wouldn’t want to think up a story to do with playgrounds of lost toys. I still feel chills.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

    nursery rhymes, enchantment, word power, fantasy, speculative fiction

    Linda reads from her Grim Hill series. Her adult stories can be darker.

The embossed and engraved book of nursery rhymes is straight out of my childhood. I can vividly picture its old fashioned, color-plated lithographs. The beautiful illustrations took me to another world. I was only five or so… but still recognized this wasn’t a book from my time and place. Not to mention, I was only allowed to flip through the pages with supervision. I knew in my five-year-old heart that I would never ever tear a page or smudge it with grimy finger prints, so I automatically assumed there must be something oh so special that I couldn’t be left alone with it.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I don’t set out with themes, more with explorations. Then themes follow. Here I was exploring at what point is working toward you heart’s desire actually working you instead.

4. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

As for other projects, these are exciting times. My children’s middle grade Grim Hill series is being released by Heritage House under its Wandering Fox imprint – http://www.heritagehouse.ca/  The first book was on the B.C. indie booksellers top picks as well as a shout-out on 49th Shelf, the Canadian book association blog. Books 2,3 and 4 will be released in the spring.

As for appearances,  I’ll be on a panel on writing and illustrating for children at the Vancouver Public Library February 29th . I’ll also be at the Creative Ink Festival May 6-8. For my younger audiences, I will  be kicking off Richmond Library’s young writers club September 20th for their  literacy month.

 

 

www.grimhill.com

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Mehrota & Yuan-Innes

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Today, I have Rati Mehrota and Melissa Yuan-Innes. Not every tale in Playground of Lost Toys has an actual child in it, but both of these do and the children are very central. Both of these stories examine the magic we see or grasp as children, but in different ways. Rati’s “Chaya and Loony Boy” is one of the doll stories we actually accepted, and there were many.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

It’s such an enchanting topic! The power of once-beloved toys, memories of childhood, and a speculative twist all coming together in one unique anthology. I knew at once that I wanted to read this collection when it was published. And close on the heels of that thought—hey, I have just the right story that might fit under this lovely umbrella.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
Mehrota

Rati Mehrota, author of “Chaya and Loony Boy”

Absolutely. While the story itself is fiction, I grew up in just such a house as I have described – my grandmother’s house. I also had a doll with only one eye to whom I ascribed various magical properties. And I did lose her in the end. But my grandmother never locked me in the attic!

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

The theme of otherness, of loneliness, and how we give and take power from ordinary objects to increase our own sense of control.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

Just that it was a joy to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in this collection.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I am currently working on a fantasy novel based in an alternative, post-apocalyptic version of Asia. I have several short stories published and upcoming in various venues—the best place to find them (or news of me) is at my blog ratiwrites.com. In particular I am very excited about the upcoming Exile anthology Clockwork Canada which will include my story “Komagata Maru.”

Melissa Yuan-Innes is a prolific writer, with many mystery/thriller novels to her name. “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” was a gentle tale that hitches on every adult’s fear for their child, that they will get sick. And like dvs duncan’s story “Treasure,” there is the wish that the adult might regain the lost magic of childhood.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

Money. Fame. And the desire to join a collection of excellence.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

In this case, I was thinking more of my son Max’s childhood. I wanted to capture his world, making the transition from toddlerhood to preschooler years: the tenderness, the stubbornness (fighting over getting his Crocs on and off!), the imperfect words.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

What if magic really existed? How would a day care worker—or an ordinary mother—react? I figured it would range the gamut from calm acceptance to fear to exploitation.

One of the sayings that resonated with me was “As a mother, you’re wearing your heart outside your body for the rest of your life.” If my son or daughter had the opportunity to learn magic, I would be excited but wary, too. Is it real? What’s the cost? Because nothing’s free, baby.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I’m so glad that I captured Max then. He’s nine years old now! If you’re a writer or an artist as well as a parent/caregiver, I encourage you to use your talent to freeze-flash your children for a moment. I want to thank Max and Anastasia’s caregivers, and really all people who take care of our children. It’s such important work, under-recognized in our society, but it touches my heart when people truly look after my kids and get to know them as individuals instead of little widgets. I’d like to thank Liz, Gisele, Aly, Tanya, Mme. Marguerite, Catherine, Ben, and Sabrina.

This interview made me realize that I’d never read “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” to Max. So I did it last night. He enjoyed seeing himself. “Not bad. I’m kind of the star.”

 

Yuan

Melissa Yuan-Innes’ mystery thriller is a new release involving medicine.

One more thing. After the Can Con mini-launch of the Playground of Lost Toys, a reader named Rene told me he’s volunteered at his daughter’s day care for fifteen years, and I got the details right. We laughed about things like the fact that parent-friends will know the names of all your kids, but you’re just “Julie’s mom.” That’s your name. You don’t have any other identity now. He also liked that it seemed like a lighthearted story instead of a grim, bloody one. I assured him that it was. I have bloody stories, but I don’t write them about my fictionalized children.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

Speaking of bloody, I write a lot of mysteries. I’m very proud of my latest Hope Sze medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome (http://melissayuaninnes.com/), about a hostage-taking on an obstetrics ward in Montreal. If you click on that link, you can check out my TV, CBC Radio, and print interviews about it. Some readers have told me it’s my best book, which is satisfying. I like to think my skills are improving. I also have a new collection of critically acclaimed short mystery stories, Reckless Homicide: Five Tales of Death and Deception (http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/reckless-homicide-five-tales-of-death-and-deception/). I’m also proud of my werewolf thriller, Wolf Ice. http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/wolf-ice/​

Fantasy-wise, Fireside has slated my short story, “Fairy Tales are for White People,” for its February issue. It’s about the power of family, magic, and Chinese barbecue. Galen Dara has created gorgeous art for it. It may be my favourite art piece ever! http://www.firesidefiction.com/

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Whan & MacLeod

Meagan Whan and Catharine MacLeod are the authors featured today. Their tales both start out innocently enough, involving a found die and a game of hide and seek. However, these stories have a darker heart as you read them.

Meagan’s “The Die” looks at alternate realities. It’s another one that touches on time travel, but worked well without getting twisted in its own logic (one reason I hate many time travel stories). But it might also be the same time and just an alternate universe.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

 I was reading calls for submissions and the concept of a supernatural toy intrigued me. It seemed like a good challenge to come up with a unique toy. As a sometimes doll maker (I made the one in the photo), I thought of dolls first, but they seemed too common, so, I continued to think of options. Once I thought of the die, Elizabeth’s story snapped into place.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

toys, games, chance, dice, alternate realities

Meagan Whan makes dolls but “The Die” looks at the game of chance when it involves your future.

When I was a child, my father and I were in the vegetable garden digging and unearthed a porcelain figurine of a hound dog. A curious find as our property had been a field before we lived there and the figurine did not belong to us. The owner of that figurine, like the origin of the die in my story, remains a mystery. 

3.  What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I’ve always been interested in stories involving multiple universes, alternate takes on a single character. I wanted to play with the variations of a character, exploring how different decisions would alter her circumstances and those of the people in her life.

The human mind is constantly prophesying/ planning for innumerable futures; in those moments, we are all living “alternate” lives.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

There’s such a great variety of stories in the collection. I look forward to sharing the book with the people in my life, and I hope readers enjoy the collection.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I’m working on two projects, one an episodic story about brothers in the 1930’s & 1940’s, the other a low fantasy about loss. Sometime in the new year I’m hoping to set up a presence on social media.

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon, published by Exile Writers

Catharine story looks at what it means to become an expert at the game of hide and seek. But in fact, there are two different ways to hide, and the seeking travels the very dark edge of terror. Like the game of hide and seek, you eventually want to be found, but that’s only if you know you’re in the game.
 1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
I had a strange little story that didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I submitted it to PLT with my fingers crossed.
 2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
I used to be pretty good at Hide-and-Seek. But thank Heaven that’s all I have in

macleod

Catharine MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” explores what it means to be truly invisible.

common with my main character.

 3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
It fascinates me how some people can go completely unnoticed–and scares me how many people actually want to.
 4. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?
The only toy I can ever remember losing was my Slinky. I found it a week later in my mom’s garden. She’d wound it around the tomato plants to keep the rabbits off them.
 5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?
The only story I have out that’s really current is “Sorrow’s Spy” in CZP’s The Unauthorized James Bond. My story “Sideshow” will be in Imaginarium 4. Beyond that, I don’t know. The writer’s life, it’s all about the hustle…

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Abrahamson & Renwick

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Karen Abrahamson’s “With One Shoe,” and Alex C. Renwick’s story “Between the Branches of the Nine” are two of the last three stories in the Playground of Lost Toys, with Geoffery Cole’s “Wheatiesfields in Fall” in between. When editing a themed anthology, the editors always look at balance. Are there too many SF stories and not enough fantasy; are there authors of various genders; are there too many doll stories, etc.

As well as that balance, after we’ve selected the final stories, we need to decide on what order they should appear. Do you put all the SF together, do you put the train stories or the chess stories together? There were many ways to arrange everything. Because several of the stories are very dark and horrific and some are lighter and uplifting, would it make sense to put the darkest next to the lightest?

In some cases we eased readers toward the dark and then eased them back away. Cole’s story is humorous and SF. Abrahamson’s is a tale of hope and a mystery. Last was Renwick’s, which deals with games of the gods and it seemed a great way to end the anthology with the cyclical and immortal aspect of time. Karen comments first on her tale.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

 When I heard about the anthology theme it gave me a little shiver down my spine. I immediately had the idea for the story and so I just had to write it. I haven’t written a lot of short fiction over the years as I seem to prefer novel length. This was a chance to practice the short form.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

    fantasy, magic, mystery, swings, toys, hope, speculative fiction, Karen Abrahamson

    Karen Abrahamson is the author of several serial novels. She also writes as Karen L McKee.

Funnily enough, yes it does. I had very vivid dreams as a child and one of them was of a magical swing. In my dreams I could swoop down and rescue my family and friends from evil giants and escape afterward. Writing the story was just a natural extension of the scenario of what would happen if a child really did leave on such a swing.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

Hope and how society kills hope through our expectations and institutions. I’ve been doing some work with youth in my day job and I hear so much about the importance of youth finding their passion in order to successfully transition to adulthood. The trouble is, too often we tell young people that their passion is impossible, like you can’t make a living as an artist so you’re better off becoming a lawyer. This story is about the desperate need to be what you are.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I was surprised and a lot pleased that “With One Shoe” turned into a detective story. I’ve written a lot of fantasy and romance, but these days mystery really has me by the throat. I had fun with experimenting with that jaded Harry Bosch-type voice. I can see myself writing more like that.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

Hmm. Lots to tell. My first mystery novel, Through Dark Water just came out this fall under the name K.L. Abrahamson. I also have an urban fantasy series, The American Geological Series that involves map magic, with the first book, Afterburn, currently available for free. Finally, along with a number of romantic suspense novels set internationally, I have a paranormal series, The Unlocking Series set in the sunny Okanagan. Book 4 was out over Christmas, Book 5 in January and Book 6 in February. More mystery and fantasy will be coming out next year. You can check out my novels at www.karenlabrahamson.com

Alex C. Renwick’s “Between the Branches of the Nine” is a great adventurous romp with two warriors bent on besting the other.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

I’m a huge fan of the short story form, and always excited to be invited to participate in any worthy anthology endeavor. Shortfic FTW!

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
gods, Norse, fantasy, games, speculative fiction, Alex C Renwick

Alex C. Renwick’s tale deals with Norse gods and the game pieces they move through Midgaard.

My Norwegian grandmother had one of the most amazing private SF paperback collections I’d ever seen, all stirred together with her illustrated Scandinavian mythology books and cheesy 1970s Harlequin romances. She came to live with us when I was about ten years old, and nothing in her library was off limits. The character Sigunna’s name is a nod to my gran’ma Sigrid.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I’m fascinated by the uncaring nature of the universe. We’re conditioned (by dint of being human) to try to attribute reasonableness and pattern to the courses of our individual existences…but the universe doesn’t care, no matter who or what is—or isn’t—running the show. Fate, Cosmic Intelligence, Ancient Norse Gods, Random Molecular Trajectory: we’re just ephemeral playing pieces on a vast and unfathomable board.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I so rarely write full-tilt fantasy! Fun stuff. Had a blast.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I’d urge everyone to read another fantastic Canadian anthology from Exile Editions, cover to cover; (it) was one of the best contributor’s copies I’ve received in ages: The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. Other current short stories of mine are just out or out soon in Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe, Blurring the Line, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and PS Publishing’s Postscripts anthology, Breakout. If you’re up for more sword & sorcery mayhem check out my “Ravenblack” in Women in Practical Armor from Pacific Northwest micropress Evil Girlfriend. Anyone in this neck of the woods in 2016 can come find me at Seattle’s Norwescon, or around the known universe at alexcrenwick.com.

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Simmons & Dorsey

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Today’s authors are Shane Simmons and Candas Jane Dorsey. Playground of Lost Toys, by its nature and the guidelines Ursula Pflug and I set up, has many stories that deal with nostalgia and loss. Not all but many look at family as well.

Shane Simmons wrote “When the Trains Run on Time.” It’s a very clever play on time travel, and I have to say that I don’t overall much like time travel stories. Shane’s tale was so poignant and sad that it grabbed me and tugged on my heart. It is one of the darker stories in the anthology and definitely worth a read.

toys, trains, Shane Simmons, tragedy, SF, time travel

Shane Simmons draws and writes. Picture borrowed from Shane’s site Eyestrain Productions.

1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

The only good reason for submitting a story to an anthology: I had an idea that was on-topic and a story worth telling. Playground of Lost Toys was a compelling concept for a collection, and I knew I had to come up with something that would fit.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

It was very much inspired by a model train set I got for Christmas one year. Mine didn’t come with a tunnel that warped time, however.

3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

Every kid can’t wait to grow up. Childhood seems to take so long, but before you know it you’re an adult and the years fly by.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology that you’d like to mention?

A lot of my work has to do with twisted, distorted memories of my youth. I’ve made a living for years writing cartoons for kids, so when I’m writing material for my own amusement, it often explores the dark side of childhood.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I’ve had seven short stories published last year, with three more scheduled for 2016 so far, plus a novella. All the news about my career that’s fit to print can be found on my website, eyestrainproductions.com.

Candas Jane Dorsey’s tale “The Food of My People” has a very homey type of magic. It’s tied up as much in the person as it is in the rich visions of food. This story explores not so much the loss of a toy as the loss of something or someone special in a child’s life. (brackets are added by me)

fiction, fantasy, puzzles, Playground of Lost Toys

Candas Jane Dorsey brings us The Food of My People. Picture from Gigcity.ca

1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

I loved the idea of the anthology, and the editors are great, and I had a story in progress that I could finish in time! As people probably know, I am a slow writer, so I don’t usually write anthology stories to order for calls for submission. But I tried with this one–but it wasn’t this anthology–and of course, I missed the deadline. But the outcome was great. I was really impressed with the editors and with the publisher, so meticulous about catching the errors and typos and little bits of illogic that crept in unbeknownst. So first off, thanks to everyone involved!

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

About half of Cubbie is based on my godmother. But my godmother was also really different: she was plump, yes, but rather more elegant, wore corsets and those black lace-up oxfords with Cuban heels, and her son was a diplomat so she was always going off to live in Japan or somewhere, and sending me presents from there (her daughter-in-law was in a famous diplomatic incident in South Africa actually, where she marched in an anti-apartheid march, but that’s another story). The half that is Cubbie is the comfort and love half. I meant to put in her candy jars but the story was already too long.

What is really based on my life is the food. It’s Alberta prairie family reunion food (non-Ukrainian variety–so alas, no pyroghy!) My relatives in central Alberta all had gardens, went berry picking, cooked well, and food was central to the experience. Jellied salads at family reunions–a staple food. My mother made an awesome flapper pie–though it’s a pain to make and you have to be in the mood–and used to whip up a bread pudding every couple of weeks to use up the stale bread. Saskatoon pie. Kraft dinner spun out with some “real” macaroni and some real cheese, but still that electric yellow-orange colour. Makes me hungry–even now it says comfort-food to my backbrain.

There was a lot of food I didn’t have a chance to include. Beets and beet greens–yum. The Galloping Gourmet’s curry sauce, so mild and therefore beloved by all the prairie food conservatives even in the 1960s. I just found out that one of my best friend’s mom made the very same sauce, from the same source. My mother is in the story as “the lady in the next bed” who was 99 and still telling stories, because she was both those things. That was one of the last things I put in. My mother died this spring (2015) at the age of 99 years 5 months. Even though she worked at home for years during our childhood, she wasn’t temperamentally suited to it. She always said “cook” and “bake” were four-letter words, and was a reader and historian and toponymist–but whatever she took on she did well, and I still remember her flapper pie and bread pudding. And a candy called “seafoam” that was really little meringues, and too hard to make more than about once a year. That was the first recipe I asked for when I left home. (Bread pudding was the second one I wrote in my recipe book in my own house, but I knew it from watching–it was never written down.)

And we had a jigsaw puzzle that was a big red dot. We did it. Once. (Once.)

3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

My original idea was for an anthology Nalo Hopkinson edited called Mojo Conjure. I have always been annoyed at how fantasy writers who come from what’s now being called “settler” roots have taken over the voudoun and First Nations mythologies because they are “cool.” Don’t we have enough imagination to think about where our own cultures’ magic comes from? But at the same time, I am divorced from my own heritage by immigrant circumstances, so I have no idea what the Celtic or Anglo-Saxon stories from my family’s origins were either, even though my heritage is English and Scots. I am third and fourth generation on this land–but what is the magic of my people? So I decided to think up some “mojo conjure” of my own personal heritage, and this is what came out.

A lot later, long after I’d missed Nalo’s deadline, the image of the last red piece dissolving on Cubbie’s tongue came to me, and I realized then where the story had to go. When I saw the call for this anthology, I was delighted, and I pushed myself to finish the story on time. I sent it to Ursula (and Colleen) thinking that it was too long but it was too new to be objective about it so I told her she had to help me cut it! When she accepted it, then I was motivated, and I did manage to cut it back, a bit.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology that you’d like to mention?

Reading the anthology when my author copy arrived was really a wonderful experience. Such a variety of works! I’m always surprised at how a story looks in print, so formal, after having ideas for it in the bathtub, or while half alseep. The readers can’t see the state my hair was in when I was writing it! I was really impressed with the range of ideas. Also how spooky some people think childhood is. That comes of all those years being the weird kids in the class, I guess. Or at least, I was. (Baby writers probably mostly were That Kid at the Back–or the Picked-On Kid…)

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.

My novel Black Wine was recently re-released by Five Rivers Publishing, and is available as an eBook or paper book. Originally my novels were from Tor, and I also have two short fiction collections that are out of print at the moment. Five Rivers and I are talking about bringing some of those out again too, in the fullness of time.

In progress, I have finished two mystery novels about a nameless bisexual downsized social worker and her cat Fuc…er, Bunny-wit. She lives in the inner city and knows a lot of diverse people, and has gotten into two very different adventures, one with drag queens and religious fundamentalists, and one with software millionaires. I also have a YA novel about an intersex teen. All these are off in the slowly-grinding mills of the gods, being Pronounced Upon. I’m working on a Great Looming Serious Novel which may or may not be fantasy, and which I am completing with the help of a project grant from the Edmonton Arts Council which is finished soon, so I am off in a fog at the moment, thinking about scene order…

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Eikamp and Runté

Today, authors Rhonda Eikamp and Robert Runté. Their tales are both science fiction and involve games of strategy: chess. And while one deals with issues of ego and doing the right thing, the other examines more the consequences of doing the wrong thing, though you could say that in both cases ego blinds the characters.

Rhonda is an American living in Germany and her story was the only one we could accept from out of the country. That meant competition for the spot was very tough and we hung on to a few stories right until the end. Rhonda’s story “The Garden of Our Deceit” is one of the few we received that takes place off planet. It’s far future, as is Lisa Carreiro’s “Makour.”

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

I was inspired by the call for submissions and Jonathan Carroll’s wonderful quote. Stories of childhood and toys just strike me as the perfect juxtaposition of innocence and creepiness that you can do a lot with in genre (proven by the stories the editors have put together here!). I started out with something slightly steampunky-Victorian, with the idea of giant powered chess pieces, but the focus ended up on the alien corothai and issues of tyranny and freedom.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

    chess, strategy, aliens, SF, short fiction

    Rhonda Eikamp’s story deals with games, betrayal, control and rebellion in Playground of Lost Toys.

I wasn’t exposed to chess until my 8th-grade math teacher taught us all and set up tournaments. I’d only played sporadically since, and so I played some online games to get the feel again while writing, which made me realize the corothai would want to hang from the ceiling to get a better view of their tournaments.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I love exploring how alien intelligence and psyches might differ from our own, what the good and bad in being human is and why we will probably never overcome that (and shouldn’t). Would an alien race understand us, our love, relations, humor, the need to play? And I love a good rebellion. I’m interested in how we’re manipulated by those in power, the media, etc. Schools should be teaching kids how to assess what they’re told and how it’s being presented, and to get to the truth. The way news is channeled and selected now, at some point we’ll all be obliviots, knowing only what we want to know.

  1. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you’d like to mention?

The takes on the theme here are amazing. Each story puts its own twist on playing or on that long-forgotten item from your childhood. Chris Kuriata’s “Fun Things For Ages 8 To 10” even captivated my refuses-to-read 14-year-old.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I have a story coming up in Pantheon (for which I had to dip into my childhood as well and my memories of tornadoes trying to pick up our Texas house) and a story in Midnight Circus: Age of Legends, which should be out January.

There’s a list of my stories that can be read online, at my (very neglected) blog https://writinginthestrangeloop.wordpress.com/.

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Robert Runté’s tale “Hacker Chess” has a lighter tone but examines well the obsessive nature of games, without always taking in a the bigger picture. It’s an amusing look at our current to near future, when all of our devices are automated, linked and “smart.” Robert chose to answer the questions in a block. Robert’s story is like Geoffery Cole’s where the characters get a little too caught up in their games.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
  2.  Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
  3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
  4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you’d like to mention?
  5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.
chess, hackers, computers, smart technology, SF

Robert Runte’s “Hacker Chess” is a fun romp in Playground of Lost Toys.

When the call for submissions went out, I had no story, nor any idea for a story that would fit the theme. But I really respected both the editors, and the idea of writing to a specific target appealed to me, so I ended up submitting three stories: the first was too far off the theme; so I wrote the second directly on target, but the editors didn’t go for it; so I wrote the third at the 11th hour, and the editors took that one. That whole process was a lot of fun, actually. And I’ve already sold the first one elsewhere, and the second is off to a CanLit market, so we’ll see.

I would therefore recommend accepting the challenge implicit in writing to a specific theme, however unfamiliar, since that enables one to write several stories more quickly than starting from a blank page. But you have to trust the editors involved: it’s their job to tell you if you missed the target or if the story isn’t up to standard. I knew these two had high standards so that allowed me to play fast and loose, secure in the knowledge they wouldn’t let me embarrass myself.

The second story was right out of my childhood; the first was out of my friend’s childhood; and the third was based on an anecdote told me by another friend. The moral is, anything you tell a writer is likely to be taken down and saved against the day when they can turn it into a story.

“Hacker Chess” is about getting carried away when playing a game, rather than about a specific toy; though we often refer to computers as “toys” when guys get too fixated on having the latest and greatest tech. The main theme of “Hacker Chess,” to the extent that there is one, is recognizing childish behavior, and maybe, you know, to stop doing that. The characters and the world they inhabit are part of several other stories I have on the go, so hopefully I’ll be able to gather them together at some point to create.

The next story I have coming out is “Age of Miracles” in Strangers Among Us, but I am most excited about two books I’ve edited for Five Rivers: Den Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale and Dave Duncan’s Eocene Station. Den’s book is the best thing I’ve read in a decade and I consider my discovery of that manuscript the high point of my career so far: it’s going to win every award on the planet. Duncan’s book is SF, something we never see enough of, and the character of Tempest is just brilliant. So, pretty happy about how things are going!

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