Writing Update

Okay, someone is sucking time away. I haven’t posted for a while for several reasons. I went to Spain in April and there will be pictures about that eventually but I’m also co-editing The Playground of Lost Toys with Ursula Pflug. Submissions closed on April 30 and we had 150 in all. We’re down to our last 30 subs and there will be between 16-25 stories in the final selection. Right now, we probably will have to cut four more stories from our yes list, but we’re rereading, editing the stories, weighing SF to fantasy, as well as types of toys/games. That’s taking up all of my time beyond my day job. Oh how I wish I could just edit and write all the time.

Top Pet Peeves on Submissions:

  1. Not following submission format. Some stories came without author names, addresses, word count (super annoying) and not double spaced. Editors ask for this for a reason. The next anthology I edit will have a very strict rule on this. You don’t follow–I don’t read, and reject.
  2. Sending a story that had no speculative element in it. If you don’t know what this means, google it. We even said fantasy, SF, horror, magic realism, etc. Really, people, (and some of you know better) did you think we’d just ignore this because your story was awesome?
  3. Sending a story that didn’t have a toy or a game. As above we had specific guidelines that said this must be integral to the story. A wide interpretation was allowed but some people took it down to a thin thread.
  4. Not proofreading stories. I’ll allow some grammatical issues, especially in newer writers who are still learning their craft, but everyone can run a spellcheck. Rereading your piece helps, and it can save aggravating your editors. :)
  5. Both too many stories of stuffies and dolls, when there are worlds of possibility. We were worried at first that people were just not using their imagination to think beyond the box. There were some very good stuffy and doll stories; and there may be one or two in the anthology, but remember this whenever you’re submitting to any themed anthology: there are popular tropes and you have a better chance if you go for something unique.

Besides the editing for the anthology, I had a rewrite to do, and planned to get my novel manuscript off to an agent before I left for Spain. I did that! But! Turns out the agent wants old school, which means printing the massive tome (folks, make sure you use proper manuscript format if you ever submit to an editor or an agent). But the agent also wanted an outline for books 2 & 3. When I emailed everything I was told, that they should be synopses, not outlines. So…I still have to do that. When I’m done editing. I’m also working on 50 new poems by September. I have the roughs but next will be researching and refining, after the editing, after the synopses.

poetry, myth, fantasy, fairy tales

Walter Crane

Now, I do have a few things that have come out recently or are due up in the next couple of weeks. You can read my poems “I Dreamed a World” up at Polu Texni, and “Morrigan’s Song” up at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Both are free to read. The story “Shaping Destiny” is available at Black Treacle and there is a free Smashwords version. The site should also have it in the next couple of weeks. And out of Scotland is the new ezine, Shoreline of InfinityMy flash fiction piece “Symbiosis” will also be up by June. You’ll have to pay for this one but you will get other stories as well.

Recent stories that have been published are my erotic noir story “Pearls and Swine” in New Canadian Noir, available through Exile Editions, and “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” republished in The Best of Horror Library, Vol. 1-5. This story originally received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror, and I was recently contacted by an agent. But I have no horror novels, so guess what is on my list as well?

There are other poems and stories coming out later this year but for now, this is my holdover until I can blog about more.

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The TransLink Plebiscite for Vancouver

Greater Vancouver, transit plebiscite, rapid transit

We all want better SkyTrain service where it doesn’t break down, people aren’t mugged and it runs as late as the clubs, but at what price. From the http://mayorscouncil.ca/vancouver/ site.

Greater Vancouver is undergoing a plebiscite or referendum (it’s being called both) about whether to increase our provincial sales tax by .5% to cover upgrades to transit infrastructure. It’s becoming quite a fight because TransLink, the arms length governing body (so you can point fingers directly at the provincial government), has had an extremely bad history of providing good and competent governance and spending.

TransLink talked about the Evergreen line (rapid transit trains), scheduled to go east toCoquitlam and environs for twenty-some years. It’s been nicknamed the Nevergreen line. There were plans and then there weren’t plans. They had no money, they did have money. The reasoning changed back and forth. There have been other indications of incompetence which arrived with the firing of the CEO this year and appointing a new one. But now instead of paying for one, they’re keeping the old one on shuffling papers because I’m sure he received an overpriced severance package. How much is the new one working for: $35,000 per month.

The fight for the increase has the “yes” side saying it’s not about TransLink, it’s about making our tansportation better. And while this is correct, TransLInk is still at the help. Let me put it to you like this: If you gave me $100,000 to build you a house and I did but it was a year late, had shoddy workmanship, the windows kept falling out and the sidewalk I promised was still in the works, would you agree to increase the money to me because I promised that the next house would be better?

traffic, transit, TransLink, tansportation

Yes or no for the increases provincial sales tax. From @Doug88888 flickr

You can guess by this that I’m voting an adamant no for the referendum. Here are just some of the points to consider:

  • What does Prince George, or Penticton or Victoria get for an increased tax besides paying more for Greater Vancouver? Do they even get to vote? I doubt it. Or are we talking about a higher provincial sales tax for only some of the people? That sets a precedent for all sorts of regional taxes.
  • Once a tax, always a tax. No indication of how long this would last. We already have a 7% tax.
  • The Compass debacle-a year past the implementation date and the system is still not functional. There seems to be no end date in sight for it coming online.
  • Everyone who parks in a parkade or at a parking meter in BC pays a nearly 22% tax on parking. They call it the PST but it doesn’t stand for provincial sales tax. They sneaked in the change as parking sales tax without announcing it–where is this money going?
  • “Better roads, more buses, and more transit options will reduce commute times, lower pollution, and boost our economy – all for less than 35 cents a day.” Since it’s going on a sales tax, how is this figure even derived?
  • Past history shows that TransLink promised merchants on the Cambie corridor that they wouldn’t be inconvenienced
    TransLink, transit referendum, sales tax, increased PST, skytrain

    This fat cat makes more than the prime minister of Canada. From the notranslinktax.ca site.

    for long, definitely not more than a year. Merchants lost business over three years and some ceased to exist or moved.

  • Overpriced CEOs. New one gets $420K a year. (More than our prime minister)
  • Vancouver pays the highest prices for gasoline in the country with 48% tax. Where is this money going?

Here is a short history of BC provincial tax rates (from http://www.daveobee.com/victoria/20080224.htm)

July 1 1948 — 3%
April 1 1954 — 5%
March 27 1976 — 7%
April 11 1978 — 5%
April 3 1979 — 4%
March 10 1981 — 6%
July 8 1983 — 7%
March 20 1987 — 6%
March 31 1993 — 7%
February 20 2002 — 7.5%
October 21 2004 — 7%

I’m finding it hard to agree to a tax increase when TransLink is already reaping certain benefits. Another clincher for me is that I looked up fare rates for other large cities and compared them to Vancouver’s. In fact, I believe, geographically Calgary and Toronto are bigger. So if TransLink charges more for transit fares, and we have the highest gas tax, and there’s an exorbitant parking tax, where is all this money going? Click on fares to seem my comparison chart.

And for you to make your own informed decision you can check out the NO side and the YES side. I’m not against improved transit: I am against wasting my money and asking me for more.

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Filed under cars, driving, transit, travel

Publishing News

horror, dark fiction, short stories, fantasy

Issue #71, only the third all-fiction issue in 25 years.

Okay, this is really sad, and I’m not talking about all the annoying changes WordPress is making. I’m talking about tooting my own horn. Sigh.  The following paragraphs in italics are what I started writing 8 months ago. Good God!

I’ve been so remiss on my updates here that I’ve neglected to mention the pieces that have come out this year and that I’ve sold. In May, “The Collector” came out in Cemetery Dance magazine. From submission to publication, this story took 6 years. That’s a record but it was worth the wait.

Last fall, “Gingerbread People” was published by EDGE Publishing in Chilling Tales 2: In Words Alas Drown I. Unfortunately many magazines and anthologies never get reviewed but there is a short one up at Bitten by Books and Tangent. However, be forewarned that Tangent reviews tend to give summations of the stories as well.

So, continuing on from there, just a note that “The Collector” is eligible for a Nebula, Hugo or World Fantasy nomination. Not that that will happen much as I’m still a fairly unknown pea in a pod. I actually had very little published last year. It sometimes happens like that, with sales happening one year and the publication in the next. I did also sell the poem “Family Tree” to They have to Take You in, a book published in Ontario and edited by Ursula Pflug.

fantasy, horror, speculative fiction, writing

Imaginarium: Best of Canadian Spec Writing

Now, for this year, there is a ton of news! “The Book With No End,” first published in Bibliotheca Fantastica, was reprinted in the current Imaginarium 3: The Best of Canadian Speculative Writing, from CZP. It came out in February, and this month “Pearls and Swine” came out in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, editied by David Nickle and Claude Lalumière. Polu Texni has also published another one of my poems, “I Dreamed a World,”  which is up and can be read for free.

Later this month (I hope) Burning Maiden will be published and I’ll be the feature poet with three poems. It’s from Evil Eye Press. “Sins of the Father” was sold to Our World of Horror, (Eldritch Press) and “Symbiosis” to Shoreline of Infinity, a new online mag out of Scotland. And “Our Lady of Redemption” should be out in Nameless Magazine sometime soon. There are also a couple of articles on monsters.

Rhea Rose and I sold “Scar Tissue” to Bundoran Press’s Second Contact anthology, about aliens after the initial introduction. “The Hedge Witch” will be published in OnSpec this summer and there are rumors of an interview. And “Persephone Dreams” will be published this summer in the online magazine Eternal Haunted Summer. Also, Horror Library is being resurrected and “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best, will be reprinted in The Best of Horror Library, sometime later this year. There is one other story sold to a dark fiction anthology but more on that later when I’m allowed to mention it. :)

noir, erotica, fantasy, anthologies, SF

Cover for the Exile Noir book. Available now and a collection of all noir genres.

So yes, I’ve been rather busy. And I’m co-editing The Playground of Lost Toys as mentioned a couple of posts ago. On top of that, I’m trying to write 50 new and dark poems by Sept. That’s a lot so I am working on them now. I’m about to send a manuscript and outlines off to an agent to see what will happen there. And in the meantime I’m also working on a few stories. I’ll be taking a good old fashioned blank book with me to Spain to do some old fashioned writing, as well as a tablet. It will be a vacation but writing will be involved.

I’m off to my best year for published works so I’ll see what the rest of the year brings.

 

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Sailing a Viking Longship

longship, Vikings, Scandinavian, Norse

The Munin is a half-size replica of the boat Leif Erickson sailed to North America. copyright 2015

Last summer a friend and I were walking along the beach, off to see an art barge behind the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The barge had wooden staircases and rooms built on it and a little shuttle ferry took you out to it. It was interesting if not fascinating and we noticed that the dock we left from was called the Heritage Harbour. There were about a dozen wooden boats, all with signs indicating their history and construction. Some were sailboats, some fishing trawlers, all relatively small (but what do I know about boats).

It was a beautiful summer day so we read the information on each boat, figuring this was where owners of vintage boats could show off and attract additional attention for the Maritime Museum,which houses the Saint Roch, the first boat to sail the NW Passage, complete the sailing in one season and circumnavigate North America. We noticed two women stowing gear for a dark brown Viking longboat. The sails were down but it’s distinctive carved animal heads gave it away. I mentioned that I’d seen it out in the bay a few times.

Scandinavian Center, sailing, Viking longboat

The boat is out for repairs, and the heads are stowed for now but you can see some of the details.

It turns out that the ship is named the Munin (after one of Odin’s ravens) and for a donation you can reserve space on the boat for an approximate two-hour sail. That sounded fun, so we signed up. There is an upper and lower limit for sailing the boat as you need enough people to row the boat out of the harbor and not to many that there are no seats. Imagine a giant wooden rowboat and then imagine Leif Erickson sailing one to North America. The Gokstadt was the name of that historical boat and the Munin is a half-size replica at 40 feet long and 20 feet wide.

After I went out the first time, I had another group of friends who wanted to go so we went a second time. By the end of that trip, I was hooked and signed up to volunteer. I know nothing about sailing, or rowing for that matter, but I liked that sailing is outdoors, social and true exercise. Munin will sail in winter if weather permits and except for the bilge pump it’s all the way it was centuries ago. There are 10-foot wooden oars (approximately) and you must row in and out of harbor, then you can put up the sail.

hull, keel, longship, longboat

Some of the maintenance is check the boards for cracks and scraping the hull.

I’m learning the ropes, literally, and very green. I managed to go sailing twice more in the fall, with the last day being quite a challenge. The winds picked up and where the Munin usually goes no faster than 20 knots, I was told we hit 35. We had to row with the sail up just to try to get back to the harbor. As many hands as possible had to row that day. I’m still very new to rowing so my grasp of the oar isn’t very strong. Even my pinkies hurt the next day. The current and wind can grab the oar and slam you out of your seat. I wasn’t the only that got knocked over and we almost lost an oar once or twice. But it was exhilarating.

Now, we’ve had to pull the boat for the winter because the moorage is changing but more importantly the boat needs some repairs as it was taking on water. Part of volunteering is committing to the nitty gritty of boat maintenance. We are housing the longship at the Scandinavian Centre, (in Burnaby) where Norway House (one of the five Scandinavian houses) was the original sponsor for the construction of Munin 14 years ago.

Munin, Leif Erickson, Scandinavian, Norway

Even the captains scrape and clean.

Everyone who works on the boat or who is crew is a volunteer, giving time for free. Moorage is covered somewhat by people reserving for a ride and donations. But there are many costs. I worked at scraping the old paint off of the boat. The next stage is replacing the cracked or damaged boards, repairing other pieces, making sure the bilge pump is working, repainting the hull and then re-launching the ship. I learned a valuable lesson; when you’re scraping the hull of a boat, even if it’s been out of water for two months, the wood is still wet and there is wood, paint, dirt and who knows what else flying off. I didn’t have goggles (didn’t even know I should use them) and got debris in my eye. Now I’m dealing with a blocked duct.

I’ll be having more adventures once the boat is back in the water. I never knew that I would connect with my Danish & Norwegian heritage this way. In fact, I only knew the family name and the area in Norway where my ancestors came from.

Scandinavian Centre dinner, Munin ship. Viking longboat

Come out and support the Munin and meet the community on March 20.

To help support the continuance of this bit of history, the Scandinavian Centre will be hosting the Munin Ship Annual Pork Dinner. It takes place on March 20 and cost $30 for adults (cheaper for kids–clinic on the line above). You can support the Viking Longship, take a look at it, view the center, have a nice meal, and hear some seagoing songs by the band Corryvreken. I’ll be the MC and in traditional Norse dress to boot. Tickets should be bought by March 13, and it always sells out, so book early. Details:

Cash Bar 6 pm       Dinner 7 pm
Traditional Pork dinner with all the trimmings  
(gluten-free; dairy free choices)
Tickets from: Anne Haug     annehaug@eastlink.ca     604 943 0340

On another note, I saw this ad. You could go to Norway and get a summer job as captain of a Viking sailing ship. Too bad none of our crew is able. Imagine sailing the fjords as the Vikings once did. Here’s to more sailing and who knows what might be next, raiding and pillaging? Fair winds!

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Writing: Expanding on the Playground of Lost Toys

trunk stories, submission guidelines, lost toys

Trunk stories are valid, if they actually fit the theme.

I realize that when one puts up guidelines for a themed anthology that you will always get trunk stories, those tales already written that have not yet found a home and that might just fit the theme even if not tailored toward it exactly. Trunk stories can be perfectly well-written stories that just don’t mesh with what’s out there, or they may be your B grade stories, never selling because something just didn’t gel in the telling.

I’ve sent trunk stories to anthologies before and I’ve sold some and not sold others. It’s fine to do this. And sometimes you write a story for a particular theme but it’s not accepted, so you try to sell it elsewhere. With Tesseracts 17 we saw a number of superhero stories because there had just been an anthology on superheroes. We saw a few green man stories because there had just been an anthology on the Green Man. There was a story from each of these that we nearly accepted.

playgrounds, lost toys, speculative fiction, fantasy, SF, guidelines

Now here is a great playground, and it’s made by humans. Or perhaps it’s a toy. Creative Commons: Sizuken, Flickr

The Playground of Lost Toys is experiencing this so far, to some degree. I suspect that many of the tales we’ve received were already in existence.There are tropes within all fiction and while many great tales come from them, the fact that they’re tropes mean that they’re popular themes. There are hundreds if not thousands of ghost stories. Likewise, we’re getting a lot of doll stories. It’s a toy that is universally recognized. I’m beginning to suspect that some people are also getting stuck on the “toys” aspect without really thinking about what toy means.

We will accept a few stories (possibly) about dolls or trucks but the anthology is not a doll anthology. If it was, then we would only want dolls. It’s speculative fiction so this opens quite a realm. Google some images and see if they give you an idea. Combine words that are unlikely, such as alien and playground.  Or toy and magnolia. Here are some further suggestions, to get the creative juices flowing:

  • What would be a Sasquatch’s toy?
  • Boy toys–are they cars or men who are playthings, such as in the realms of Faery (this isn’t an erotica anthology either so be careful if you use this)
  • Game consoles–maybe they change the world or the person.
  • Computers–how many games do people play on their electronic devices
  • Games–board games will be considered as toys for this
  • What would you, an animal, or an alien toy with?
  • What would an Ent find to be a toy?
  • Do snakes have toys?
  • Playgrounds have slides, swings, ladders, etc. These can all be considered toys.
  • What would be a toy’s toy?
  • Is it a toy or is it a being?
  • Sentient  or self-aware toys.
  • Are there beings where toys are sacrilegious?
  • Are there aliens with no concept of toy and on finding one they..
  • Synonyms for toy: plaything, game, model
  • Places where toys are: playgrounds, chests, rooms, stores, manufacturers, middens heaps, museums
Dr. Who, toys, SF, fantasy, anthology submissions, guidelines

Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver. It whirs, it has lights, it’s functional, but is it a toy too? Copyright BBC

Let your imagination encompass the act of playing and see what comes up. The full guidelines are here, and you can submit your story as well: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit. Note that 90% of the anthology has to be Canadian. We’re looking forward to weird and wonderful tales.

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Movie Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

apes, chimps, planet of the apes, war, racism, simian virus

Copyright: 20th Century Fox

There will be massive spoilers and I realize this movie came out last year but others, like me might still be deciding if they want to watch it.

Many of us are familiar with the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. We have a secret love for the overall monkeyness of Roddy McDowall’s Cornelius in the original Planet of the Apes, and his subsequent role as Cornelius’s son, Caeser, as savior of ape and humankind. And for anyone who wonders, Caeser seems to be a chimpanzee (or possibly bonobo) in the ape family. There have been several versions of Planet of the Apes since those early years, in cinema and on TV. I haven’t seen them all.

With the great range of special effects and digital motion capture available now, any film is possible. Creating more realistic apes as well as developing great new plots should make for a lot of great cinema. And if you look at Rotten Tomatoes or other review sites Dawn of the Planet of the Apes rated high, to which I must say I’m truly stunned. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was good; it wasn’t great. And having Andy Serkis add his skills into realistic  primate movements of the ape definitely enhanced the visual richness of the film.

But…I just am not sure about the rest. Plot. We open with an idyllic scene of apes in the woods, then they move into the great hunt (even though apes are herbivores!). From this we understand their complex society and that they use mostly sign language. Pan to the lovely ape village and Caeser becoming a proud papa to a second son while the first, injured from a stupid move, looks on with doe eyes. The mother is thrown in as a later heart-string to pull, and isn’t even named; pretty much a token female if I ever saw one. But that’s not important. Caeser sits with a buddy overlooking his land and they speculate: Do you think they’re all gone? Haven’t seen one in ten years. We know what’s coming next. Enter the humans. This is called foreshadowing and is an acceptable plot device but gee, was it really needed?

Here’s where the blatant plot devices jumped up and shot me in the face. Dumb guy walking through the woods encounters two apes, Caeser’s son, Blue Eyes and friend Ash. Outnumbered, even though they’re standing there stunned, the guy shoots one which brings all apedom down on his ass, so that he and his compatriots are evicted by Caeser from the garden of Eden. The apes follow them back to their home (San Francisco).

Gary Oldman looks like he’s not the bad guy (for once), but the nominal leader of the little band of humans that have survived the simian virus that wiped out most of earth. But while everyone assures the humans that they are immune to the virus or they would already be dead, Gary, as Dreyfus, lives up to morally ambiguous bad buy status by believing the apes will come to kill humans because they are “animals.” Those of us with primate brains realize we’re all animals. Thankfully we’re not hit over the head with this comparison.

Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is the feeling guy who believes the apes are okay but they need to get to the dam and see if they can start the generators because San Fran is almost out of power. Really? It takes people 10 years to get off their butts to check this out? They’ve been getting by on what, frozen vegetables in all this time and nobody thought to look to the future until they have less than a month of power remaining? And neither the apes (in swinging distance) or the humans (in proximal driving distance) were aware of each other in all this time? Good lord. The humans deserve to die off if they’re this stupid. And somehow the apes didn’t know there is a dam nearby.

apes, chimpanzees, Dawn of Planet of the Apes

The noble ape rides up to the palisade of the humans. Copyright 20th Century Fox

So let’s back up a minute to the apes, who like to wear white warpaint across their ribs and faces. The female apes like to wear some sort of flower fringe over their mouths (why?) or on their brows as Caeser’s spouse does, because you know, apes have to follow human characteristics of gender differentiation. They also ride horses, though earlier they swung with ease and swiftness into the San Fran precincts. Did no one else notice the blatant comparison to the American Indians in the days of white settlers and the army? They ride their horses the same. They have spears whereas the humans have greater fire power, and eventually lay siege to the palisades of San Francisco. They fit the trope of the noble savage. But one caveat here: no matter how science fictional or fantastical our tales are, if there is war or aggressors they will always, always look like one cultural group or another; because we are human and only have our cultures for perspective.

Apes are noble…except for the bad guys. Dumb guy who shot the apes may as well be called Doubting Thomas and naysays everything, as a suspicious dude and isn’t moved by Caeser’s baby crawling all over them in cuteness. (By the way, what ape mother would allow her baby away from her side at such a young age, as in just born?) Of course Doubting Thomas is the only guy who can turn on the generators (really?) so he must come along and they know he’s skittish so no one searches him even though he’s a liability for violence. You know it’s going to go bad, right? Well it does but he’s not the initiator after the first shot.

baby ape, apes, Caeser, Planet of the Apes

Who doesn’t like an icebreaker moment with a little baby…that discovers a hidden gun? Copyright 20th Century Fox

Enter Koba, the ugly ape, scarred by human testing, hateful and distrustful and Caeser’s right-hand chimp. Koba wants to kill all the humans while back in the human camp Dreyfus wants to kill all the apes because, by god, they’re animals! We already know that ugly people/creatures are never the good guys. Blue Eyes loses faith with his human loving dad and joins Koba who goes to the human stockade and searches, to turn up their arsenal and folks doing target practice. Koba is so hateful, he mimics a happy chimp to cause homicide, and then arrives back in the ape lands to shoot Caeser, which of course no one sees. None of this was a surprise to me. I knew how almost all of it would play out from the first shot fired in the first 10 minutes. Koba or Doubting Thomas were going to start the inevitable war.

Caeser and Malcolm represent the calmer, peace lovers when everyone else is an over-the-top, two-dimensional hate monger. Things go bad, because you know they must, as Koba goes on a killing rampage, after locking up the good apes. But oh no, the leader is dead and only he can stop this madness. But guess what, he’s not dead. When the killing rampage began I tuned partly out and started playing solitaire. (Queue predictable killing sequence.)

Koba, apes, Dawn of Planet of the Apes, simian virus

Koba plays coy before becoming murderous. Copyright 20th Century Fox

Koba ends us killing Ash, Blue Eyes’ friend while Blue Eyes stands and watches with those big sad doe eyes. And Ash doesn’t really fight back at all. It’s the same thing that Frodo did in LOTR and it drove me nuts. Too much standing around and emoting with big, liquidy eyes. Do something!

Dreyfus has his last rally and is willing to kill all the humans (like Koba killing the apes) because of some weirdness that’s never clear. The apes can’t have the tower. So what? So he blows it sky high, along with himself. But while the good guys rally, the end is near and war will ensue, and away we go. Next, more Planet of the Apes remakes. Please please please, try to get a plot that’s half way original and not so predictable.

Overall, besides the awesome special effects, the plot was snoresville. I give this only two slippery banana peels.

 

 

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Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

books, publishing, collection, reprints, ebooks, Smashwords, writing, book production

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

“Usually at least once in a person’s childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that lost article for the rest of their lives. Whether it was a lucky pocketknife, a transparent plastic bracelet given to you by your father, a toy you had longed for and never expected to receive, but there it was under the tree on Christmas… it makes no difference what it was. If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, perhaps even crucial memory. Because something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently.”

Jonathan Carroll

Ursula Pflug and I will be co-editing a speculative anthology titled The Playground of Lost Toys. This will be published by Exile Editions, in time for the holiday season. See below for guidelines.

Our childhood toys embodied our emotions. We just knew our favourite doll loved us, and that our toy soldier was as brave as we would be if given the chance. A child easily attributes magical powers, personality or secrets to a coloured stone or a twisted stick, but don’t we continue to do so as adults, just in different ways? Certain objects accrue power from the home or the landscape, absorbing our dreams and wishes, and the elemental energies that lie buried in a sandbox, hidden in the closet, or in the bole of a tree.

writing, Canadian anthology, Steve Vernon, Colleen Anderson, Tesseracts 17, Edge Publications

Get writing and send us your best.

Stories should touch on wonder, mystery, dread, awe: the delight when a strange toy appears, or loss when a cherished plaything is broken. A tale might, for example, explore the classroom ritual of show and tell, or the lost and found box in the corner of the gym in the moon colony.

Toys are often gendered so that beloved hockey stick might belong to a girl and the flying figure skates to a boy. Dolls reflect not just societal notions about gender but also about diversity; Mattel, for example didn’t issue a black Barbie till the late 60’s and then amidst controversy. These tensions can all be rich sources of speculative inspiration!

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

What if there was a Matryoshka doll where each smaller container held mysteries to the seven wonders of the world, or a toy spaceship that entered other dimensions? Imagine a paper fan that controls the wind, a whistle that calls back the dead, a Chinese tiger hand puppet that protects. While these suggestions are fantastical, we also want stories about “normal” toys in science fictional or fantastic settings. Additionally, the toy itself needs to appear or disappear, to be “lost” or “found.” This need not be the core of the story arc, but it should be an element. Toys don’t have to be physical but could be metaphorical or allegorical as well.

Speculative subgenres from steampunk to magic realism will be considered. Excessive gore will be a hard sell. Sex is okay, if it’s integral to the story. Tales that are multi-faceted and go beyond a simple nostalgic trip down memory’s lane will have a better chance. We welcome QUILTBAG and/or People of Colour authors. At least 90% of the authors must be Canadian (or pay taxes in Canada); we can consider only a small percentage from other locales.

SUBMISSION LENGTH: Original, unpublished prose up to 5,000. Slightly longer works are okay but query for longer lengths. No reprints, no multiple submissions. Canadian spelling. Please follow standard manuscript format. If you don’t know what that is google William Shunn’s manuscript format. If we reject your story before the deadline, you’re welcome to send another.

PAYMENT: .05/word

SUBMISSION PERIOD: Feb. 1, 2015-Apr. 30, 2015 (midnight PST)

RIGHTS: English World rights, one-year exclusive print and digital, non-exclusive reprint rights, Exile Editions

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2015 (tentative)

SUBMISSIONS: Through submittable. (this link might not work until Feb. 1)

NOTE: If your address is outside of Canada, please indicate whether you are Canadian expat (and paying taxes to Canada) or what your citizenship is. We have very limited space for stories from outside of Canada.

We are getting a LOT of doll stories. Please note the guidelines. While a doll story or maybe two could be accepted, we won’t be taking all that many. This is to be a diverse anthologies that covers toys that were, toys that are and toys that are yet to be.  Think about the word “toy.” What do people toy with? There are adult toys; computers are toys, people are toys, animals have toys, aliens have toys. Go wild! Make something up and think outside the sandbox!

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Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

WordPress Takes Another Unfortunate Page From Facebook

frustration, computer annoyance. changing sites, website frustration

Thanks, WordPress, for doing it again, with no instructions. Creative Commons attribute.

It’s amazing how various companies feel the need to constantly refresh and rearrange their look, their feel, their software. Every new version of Microsoft seems worse than the one before but uses way more memory so you have to constantly upgrade your hardware. It’s a make-work project. How do you employ thousands of people if you create something so awesomely efficient that someone never needs to buy another piece? Planned obsolescence and inefficiencies are part of the market model, which in the long run, is unsustainable, uses up resources and burdens landfills.

While I’m not surprised by this, I am constantly annoyed. I hate Facebook for its unending changes, and  sneaky tweakings of policies so that while you have never intended to sell your soul to the devil, a legal spindoctor has suddenly changed it so that if you didn’t say, I don’t want to sell my soul to the devil, then you’re automatically in hell. Oh wait, Facebook is hell. Google has done similar tricky business.

 

Wordpress, blogging, Fresh Pressed,

Fresh Pressed was dynamic, colorful and right there for easy access.

And WordPress, alas! Why oh why? Let’s see, what was once good, and what changes have appeared, without any instruction or direction to the new design? Remember Fresh Pressed? You’d sign in and get a page of highlighted “pressed” blogs for the week. The page was colorful and interesting, dynamic because it always changed. (Hey WordPress, one of the first rules of websites is to make them dynamic. What have you done?) I found blogs that I follow because of Fresh Pressed. Now, it’s tucked away in some spider-infested corner and I never see a new blog anymore unless I go hunting.

Then there was that change a year or two ago. Ooh, sleek, ooh, simple. So simple in fact that I couldn’t find my way into my blog, to making posts and to checking stats. Why? Because WordPress decided to make a teeny tiny W icon that you have to click on, like the secret hidden pathway behind a bookcase, but way not as much fun. And let me tell you, when I tried using WordPress help it was like talking to a robot that said the same things but never read my question. It was another blogger who finally pointed out the miniscule icon.

One good thing was more developed stats. I could scroll over the graph and see what day I had posted, how many people visited one page and how many people looked at multiple pages. Now. Well, I have good old-fashioned retro bars that just show how many people in a day have visited. Yeah simple. Boring. The maps are still there and that’s a good thing but Wordpess, bring back the old way.

Wordpress annoyance, blog page

Soon you will need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to find WordPress.

And of course with the new year, presto! Yet another new freaking look and no way to find my blog. Sure, I can find blogs I follow, and I can find my profile. I can’t find comments from readers. I can’t find the useful sidebar and all the tools to write a post. I can find a blog window to write in and only by going back to the CLASSIC design have I been able to do what I’ve always done. Post pictures, highlight text, add tags, approve comments. Really, WordPress, that’s why it’s classic. It works.

I was going to post about the unfortunate array of what classifies as dating, or about my work on the Viking longboat. And yes, I will be posting about both of those, and a long list of writing achievements. But right now, I’m expressing my annoyance at WordPress thinking they’ll be one of the cool kids if they just continue to mix things up. Don’t follow Facebook’s example. Don’t be like Microsoft, which has increased the sales of Apple products. WordPress won’t listen to me. I guess this is just a cautionary tale. :/

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Filed under internet, Writing

My Mother the Squirrel

Happy New Year, World! I hope we can see more peace and calm and less fanaticism this year, but it’s not looking likely. However, I’ll do my bit for compassion and understanding and remember, it’s the microcosm, your neighbors, your friends and your family that can make for a more loving place.

winter, pack rat, cold, hoarder, food

Creative Commons: Zeeksie @ Deviant Art

On that note, I traveled to the frozen wastelands (as I see it) of Alberta to visit friends and family over the holidays. While I’ve been back in recent years I’ve tried to avoid winter  because it is evil and bone-chilling. I decided to brave it for the winter festivity and because my mother is 91. Two weeks I spent, and overall the weather was only -28 for about three days. The rest was in the -5 range, balmy for Alberta.

It gave me a chance to visit friends, find some long lost cousins, and do the family thing. Staying at my mother’s, and with my organizer personality, it meant cleaning out drawers, cupboards or closets. Even my sister, who might be considered closer to the hoarder personality (she moved in the this summer, purportedly with boxes to the ceiling) felt my organizer bee abilities. We were driving all over the city to do some pre-Christmas shopping and as I sat in the passenger seat of the moderately messy car, she asked me to look for her Superstore card.

purses, overstuffed purse, hoarding, pack rat

Not my sister’s actual purse but a close representation. Creative Commons: http://jewelrypurse.blogspot.ca/

Grabbing that rather pregnant purse, I pulled out the overstuffed wallet. No card. Turns out there were two other holders with plastic cards. Still no card but I started to go through her bulging wallet, putting Tim Hortons (the Canadian doughnut gods) and Shoppers Drug Mart gift cards together. There was more than one and I have never seen so many store cards before. My sister could be the goodwill ambassador for commercialism and store marketing.

In the process of cleaning her wallet I found coupons that had expired and others that soon would. There was a forest of business cards, many for businesses she no longer frequented. In fact, this mothership of store cards had very little actual cash and took up most of the room in a moderate sized purse. When I was done, there was a small plastic shopping bag full of paper. Her wallet lost several inches in girth and actually closed by the clasp.

At my mother’s it was much as it had been two year’s previously. I exclaimed, “Mom, you’re a squirrel! There’s candies and nuts everywhere.” This time, as I started to clean up for Christmas dinner, I decided to inventory my mother’s squirrel hoard. To put some of this into perspective, my mother grew up during the Depression, in a small coal mining town. A treat at Hallowe’en was an actual fresh apple, something we would sneer at today. She traveled to a large city with her friend to find work. They slept in ditches with their one small suitcase and hitchhiked to get there, when it was much safer to do so.

squirrels, hoarding, food, pack ratss

This is not my actual mother but she stores food like the queen of squirrels. Creative Commons: http://theairspace.net/commentary/squirrels/

Going through the Depression and then WWII where rationing was practiced everywhere, my mother learned to appreciate being prepared. Long before the days of Costco she hunted out food wholesalers and would buy toilet paper and other items in bulk. After her divorce, she continued her frugality, and would buy day-old bread from a bakery, up to 24 loaves, which were then frozen. She also sold Tupperware, when we were very young and I remember my brother and I playing in the large container suitcase. So yes, my mother still has nearly three shelves of Tupperware, which, by the time I organized it, was only two.

She had five knife sharpeners (and nothing but dull knives), six cheese/food graters and more pots than a restaurant kitchen. In fact, she’s never thrown out a pot or handle-less cup since I was a child. A Taurus mug that I used when about 12 was there, the handle gone. I convinced her to throw out a few pots where the Teflon was worn but then she balked at getting rid of the two aluminum, electric frying pans that she no longer uses.

In cleaning out a spare closet I found crafts going back to the 70’s; unfinished potholders and head-sized balls of wool. One partially finished needlepoint of a forest, with the bag of woo, she told me she had bought it in England during the war, before any of us were born! She’d never worked on it since. There was a pillow cover, to be embroidered that had Canada’s flag, the Union Jack. That’s how old it was. There was a three-foot plastic bin of gifts for unexpected g, which she had forgotten about. Then there were the cosmetic bags, for traveling. Two were stuffed full, then a triple decker bag, extra deep, chock full of lotions, shampoo, conditioners and other small toiletries. Some were very ancient and dead. Others half used, and many unopened. She must have gone on a burglary spree of hotels.

I cannot name all of the things I cleaned and boggled at, such as health supplements in at least four places, or the spices in pretty much every cupboard. If you’re thinking my mother is going senile, you’re wrong. She’s pretty sharp still and has always liked to keep things, lots and lots of things. Like every scrap of wrapping paper ever used (I threw out a three–foot pile some years back), or enough bulbs to light half of the city, or coats.

Purdys, candy, chocolate, food, hoarding, sweet tooth

My mother’s not so secret love affair is with Purdy‘s made in Vancouver, Canada.

All of this pales  in comparison to the food items and not just any food, but chocolates and candies. My mother shrunk this last year to 4’9″ and she lost weight. She was never overly large but stores like a squirrel. In doing the inventory, I counted every bag or container that was open on the kitchen table (her place has two kitchens,up and down but she used the bottom one for eating) or on the table by the chair where she watches TV, or on the counter upstairs. There were the nutrolls in the fridge upstairs, and then in the deep freeze there were 17 boxes of After Eight mints. She claims she can only find them at certain times of the year and when her stomach is upset the mint helps (with chocolate of course). There were also another five boxes of Purdy’s chocolates.

Purdy’s should have a plaque to my mother: I’m sure she keeps them in business. The upstairs cupboard had the main squirrel hoard. There were hard candies, contained in bags or bought bulk. I pooled many into one container. There were Scotch mints and licorice all sorts, mint chocolate bars from Purdy’s, Jordan almonds, nougat (hard as a rock), and some Italian coconut confection, a few Smarties or M&Ms. I didn’t count raisins because they’re a natural food. When I thought I was done, I discovered a container of icy squares and of Ferrero Rocher in the closet. Then, as  we pulled dishes out of the china cabinet for Christmas dinner, lo and behold there were two large bulk bags of chocolate squares and a mega box of liqueur chocolates where the liqueur had dried up.

I thought I was done but I was looking in a cupboard for a pot and lo, there was a box of chocolate covered cookies. And then I looked in another cupboard and found another five boxes, plus some other cookies. My mother was given another two boxes of chocolates for Christmas and chocolate covered cookies, plus some Italian candies. And then three days after she bought a tin on sale. She said to me that she had all this stuff because if she got sick there was enough to carry her through. I told her, “Well, Mom, if the apocalypse comes, you’ll survive it on chocolate alone.”

Readers may recall that I did the apocalypse diet a year ago, and with the food in my place (no hoards of candy) I survivef for three months without buying anything. My mother would run out of real food in probably less time than I did but then I didn’t count her dry goods staples. However, the final count of cookies, candies and chocolates in my mother’s place was…ready for this? ONE HUNDRED AND SIX! Yes, indeed. The Guinness Book of Records needs to talk to my mom.

All in all this was a lesson to me. I determined there are three levels of “collector.” I’m the curator because I have many ornaments and tchatkas (like my mother…sigh) but I dust and you can walk through my place. My mother is the pack rat, because she stores things for unforeseeable disasters, and my sister is the hoarder, who keeps more than my mother but can’t find things. It’s a fine line between them and it’s a lesson to me not to hang onto things I no longer use or need. I barely escaped without a suitcase of chocolates.

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Filed under family, food, home, life, people

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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