Monthly Archives: January 2009

There is No God

Or is there? An age-old debate that can’t be proved or disproved. But now the atheists have decided to campaign with a poster that first started on the sides of buses in England, with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” I don’t know whether they actually capitalized god or not since this was put out by the British Humanist Association. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7681914.stm

Canada’s Freethought Association is running a similar campaign and supposedly the BHA raised more money than anticipated, making their run of ads longer and more far reaching. http://freethoughtassociation.ca/n2ew/ Okay, so atheists don’t believe there is a god, or gods, or divine forces, or mythic animals, or talking snakes or whatever. They have felt a need to champion their side against various ads that have promised salvation or damnation.

This has upset some people, offending some religious groups with “probably” no god. Stephen Green (of pressure group Christian Voice, though I’m not sure what that means) , in the BBC Newsarticle said, “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.” Errr, really? Like Christianity, and Muslim and all those other beliefs in which people have died for not believing or during a holy crusade or pogrom?  I wonder what the danger is, questioning things? That has got people into trouble since the beginning of time: human curiosity.

Of course, one of the star supporters is a writer named Richard Dawkins who said, “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.” http://richarddawkins.net/article,366,The-God-Delusion-Review,Barney-ZwartzCBC-News Hmm, this guy starts to fall into the same realm as the religious right (any religious right) where they assume one thing and believe not only should everyone follow their version but if they don’t, they’re blasphemers or worse, should be killed for being unbelievers. Sweeping statements tend to fall into the realm of bigotry and blind faith, whether for believing in a god or believing there is none.

Dawkins is a bit into sweeping statements like the bendy bus guy. Thinking is anathema to religion. Noo, not really. But thinking is anathema to some religious sects or branches, those that tend to like the fundamentalist “our way or the freeway to hell” version of belief. Many religions enjoy and encourage open dialogue and discourse, and if one is firm in their faith, questioning it shouldn’t be a problem. Many theologians exist just to study religions, to ask and discuss questions. Maybe Dawkins is an atheist theologian.

I don’t care if one believes in a beard guy in a white nightgown, a sentient mist, the flying spaghetti monster, a three-headed talking god, sparkling fairies, or in the great abyss of nothingness. Every person should be allowed to believe in what makes them comfortable, as long as they don’t injure another in the pursuit of their beliefs. If any god needs people to campaign for it, then that god  is in trouble. I can see why atheists might campaign and there were some good points of view presented on CBC yesterday by a speaker for the Freethought Association.

I’m not an atheist, nor do I believe in the Christian god, but that shouldn’t matter. I can coexist with a whole bunch of belief systems and think that thinking about religion or there being no god is not a bad thing. And yeah, atheists should get their piece to say as well. Maybe it should be Atheists, capitalized. They’ll help keep a balance and I firmly believe church and state should be separate because power can be abused. There are some exceptions maybe, like the Dalai Lama, but I’d need to do more research into that before I could speak knowledgeably about it.

But I’ve always liked the signature line my brother (who loves to play devil’s advocate) put on his emails: “God hates me because I’m an atheist.”

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Writing: Demise & Panic

In the writing world, whether mainstream or speculative writing, survival depends on sales. For some literary magazines put out through universities, grants and other funding are often delegated to be able to pay the writers. But still a magazine of any style hopes to have a high viewer rate and sell subscriptions, guaranteed revenue for the future. In the case of a university funded magazine, the funding might be cut if the subscription numbers go down.

With individual or private magazines, they are sometimes owned by companies or individuals. In all cases they need to make money to survive unless a rich person is altruistically funnelling money into a labor of love and though they hope to sell out, don’t have to, to keep going.

With the recent panic in the economic rivers, we see various businesses tossing themselves on the banks, gasping for survival, their eyes goggling about and seeing little. In some cases the rivers are still flowing but a ripple has moved through, frightening everyone to make for land before the drought hits. Hmm, it makes me wonder. Is there a need to hunker down, to cut staff, to close offices or is it all anticipation of the worst, and that anticipation is what brings about the apocalypse?

Well, whatever the case, it’s hitting the speculative writing world as well. Realms of Fantasy has just announced that their April 2009 issue will be the last. http://sfscope.com/2009/01/realms-of-fantasy-closing.html I’ve always wondered how all the little paper magazines survived, and have suspected (but have no basis in fact) that sales were never great. The era of the great pulp magazine is truly gone, those sales were dependent on a relatively untried format and genre, the mass marketing of such and more successful when TV was infantile and the internet not even a spark in Daddy Gates’ eye.

Of course, if you’re running a magazine in the US and you sell to 10% of the people, that’s still a respectable number, compared to 10% of Canada’s population (one reason why a writer always wants to sell in the US first). So in some ways the speculative/SF/fantasy markets are hurting as well. Fantasy and Science Fiction has also announced that they’re going quarterly from monthly.

For us little writers it does mean that pickings will be slimmer, especially for the still generic brand writer. Alas. What to do? Well, as I have seen over the years, magazines come and go, publishers consolidate, shrink and grow. Everything is in a constant flux and publishing is an incestuous business with houses often changing hands, being swapped for a better fit. So it goes. I’ll just continue to write and submit.

I’ve also finally fired myself up and started writing on my novel again. Not hugely productive but productive nonetheless. The only way I can keep myself from being distracted is going off to cafes and restaurants and spending some money to sit there and write on my laptop. Luckily I work well with ambient noise. If I’m at home I fritter away the time on all sorts of things, never quite getting to that novel.

I started again two weeks ago and have about 8,000 words. To make it feel like I’m actually accomplishing something I’m writing through one viewpoint character’s chapters  before going back to do the other two. It means I’ll have to smooth over the chapter transitions but then this is first draft. I’m not worrying too much about perfection at this point, but just writing and getting the story down. It feels good to be moving ahead. I’m into the second chapter of one of my antagonists.

By the time I finish the book and am looking at marketing it to publishers, maybe things will be more stable. Maybe they’ll want a book that takes place on another planet that deals with economic, political and religious downfall. It might echo this world, but if it does, it’s not intentional. In the meantime I will watch the markets and continue to submit. Really, every few years there is a culling and if one can just find another stream, we’ll survive (So I used all sorts of metaphors here. What the heck, I’m not being paid for this.)

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St Peter & Paul’s Cathedral, and Old Mellifont Abbey

First posted Oct. 31, 2007. I’d like to get back to Ireland this year.

I find beauty in stone and architecture, in details and the juxtaposition against sky and flora. St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral was in the town of Trim and not far from the castle. Trim was a very important center at one time. We happened upon the cathedral and just stopped. I loved the sense of age, the details still visible, and that the cemetery was still in use.

The days are blurring together but we arrived in the Newgrange/County Meath area on the Friday evening, then spent Saturday and part of Sunday bopping about before we went north. I can’t remember if we did Trim on Sunday or if it was one of the last things on Saturday. The time of day and that the castle was nearly closed when we hit it makes me think that the cathedral was the last place on Saturday.

We then wandered back to Slaine (that we never did get pictures of nor see the castle because it was booked for weddings). We ate at “the Old Post Office” but had drinks at the pub across the street first until they had space for us. There was a guy playing music but it was 80s tunes. Alas, N.A. rock made its mark everywhere, when we wanted Irish traditional.

So on Sunday, after saying so long to Irene of the Roughgrange B&B right near Newgrange (she was lovely and very friendly) we moved on to Old Mellifont Abbey, a cistercian monastery first founded in 1142 AD by St. Malachy. Of course, it was constructed and expanded over centuries and there were even ruins of one of the old houses on the hill. The rain spittered and spattered but never did more than that.

The detail in the columns were amazing and the sense of age was powerful. I got in trouble at the visitor center for saying we have such little history in Canada. I amended it to say architectural and civic history, because we do have history. But the artifacts of the first Nations were mostly of wood and leather and just as all the places no longer have their roofs in Ireland, we have very little (especially in western Canada) that goes back more than two centuries at most.

The sense of people living, adapting, changing through all those years is stunning. Nature is amazing and what humans have done, both good and bad, awe inspiring too.

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Writing: A Fable–The Demon

Once upon a time there was a person much like you and me who came upon puberty and began to write feelings and thoughts upon paper. This person loved words and reading and loved to imagine and create things.

Eventually the person decided that maybe it would be good to share these words and ideas with others, to show them the ways of this person’s expression. After all art is part for viewing and part for showing. The first creations were poems but the person found that the words lacked and although thoughts and feelings had been expressed, they didn’t connect with other people.

The person decided to get advice and seek courses so that a common language could be found, while still keeping a unique mixture of words, thoughts and images. There was a need to show others the visions. It was a scary time, for the person did not know what others would think of these fledgling designs. Would the person be pulled down or ridiculed for such pretensions? This new writer had seen one person changed into a demon when other writers and readers had read about the terrible character in his story. Those writers and readers took the skin of that story character and pulled it over the writer of the story. It was very hard for him to shed it and say, I am not that person.

The writer had not yet built up the thickened skin that comes from critiquing and dissection. But the writer went on to write a couple more stories, perhaps four in all. They were all raw constructs, crawling out upon the land with their newborn descriptions. Sometimes they had more limbs than were needed or lacked eyes, such was the new writer’s unformed talent. Two stories were tried in one class and then the writer felt emboldened to move into an acolyte’s workshop, sending off two stories, for no one entered the hallowed halls of the workshop without first being judged on merit.

Some merit must have been discovered, for the writer joined others in the apprenticeship of their craft. After completing the rigorous conditioning the writer learned how much there was still to learn and that it would take a  lifetime to be perfect or become a god of writing. The writer was invited into a small enclave, where mages of imagination met and discussed the secret ways of writing, delving into the mysteries of words and how to make their words more powerful.

Here, the writer in innocence brought a story from that time before the workshop, when only a few stories had been painstakingly born. A  few stories were still wriggling infants, not yet shaped into gods or monsters. The other word magicians looked upon the work and saw where the incantations would not evoke the right responses.

However, there was one who looked upon the work and said, You have taken my words. The writer was confused because their stories were very different, and professed to having written the piece before even knowing the other wordsmith existed. Yet the other wordsmith proclaimed that the writer should be careful where one took their ideas from for people weaving had become sacred in the wordsmith’s story and the writer had used creatures weaving. The writer had written the story before meeting the enclave or reading the other’s story but suspicions were laid, of black arts used to gleaned the weaving idea.

The venerated wordsmith left the secret enclave since the other word magicians would not oust the new writer.  However the wordsmith was part of another group that gave displays of their skills in hopes that rich people would notice their wordfame and remember their names. From that group, the wordsmith pulled out the demon skin and waved it about, then threw it toward the new writer.

Although the new writer ducked, seeing some dark cloud descending, the demon skin stuck to the writer’s flesh. Not everyone believed the wordsmith’s words but the stigma remained on the new writer. Like a scarlet letter, others would wonder what it meant and really, could that new writer be trusted? Surely there must be some truth to the wordsmith’s allegations. And the writer, whether innocent or not, would always now stand out as “that one.”

The writer, who was just a person, did not understand. The brand did indeed burn though the demon skin was invisible and the new writer felt like everyone else. The other group never allowed the new writer in, stating that the wordsmith’s words and opinion were powerful. All other writers in the region could join but not the one new writer. The group was not rich nor powerful except in exclusion but that exclusion had done the job.

The writer, now a partial demon, had been wounded by these actions. Having always been a champion of copyright and protecting the artist’s right, and having enough ego as any artist, the writer believed in creating unique worlds, not copying someone else’s. But it was as if the one scouring agent, rare and expensive, that could clean the partial demon from the writer’s flesh and soul, was kept hidden away.

Though some wordsmiths supported the writer-demon in private, no one stood up to the wordsmith who had thrown the demon skin. The person who was a writer, who wasn’t a demon but had some of the skin of a demon would never be free of that taint. Ostracized for a crime not committed, that  person’s soul was marked with the knowledge that people saw the person as false.

The demon-writer could always feel the skin, no matter how small the patch and spent the rest of the long years of writing, trying to do what was right, trying to champion the arts or at least not go against any enclave. In one short burst the demon-writer tried to retaliate in long festering hurt, and barred the writer from one reading. But it was not the demon-writer’s true way. No matter what happened this writer who was really just a person felt different and felt that the other wordsmiths always saw it that way, and that the rift in the writers’ enclaves would never be healed. Just like those early days of trying to share words and thoughts, the demon-writer found that people didn’t see things the same way.

But it would not be the end of the demon-writer’s travails for others held skins and waited.

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Police Recruitment: Beat a Brownie

Here’s a new recruitment poster for police forces in BC. Something that more fits the bill.

XYPD (fill in your favorite force here)  is looking for a few good white men. You must be in great physical condition and have good coercion skills. A narrow-minded attitude is an asset. You should have failed your degree in criminology or have no education beyond high school. Blind obedience, anger and a need for power are why you want to join the force.

 Considered an asset:

  • bigotry
  • beating innocent people
  • racism
  • drunk and disorderly behavior while off duty
  • stupidity
  • bullying
  • prolonged and unprovoked use of a Taser
  • able to swear more colorfully than a sailor
  • will dump drunk people in cold and inhospitable places
  • creative excuses
  • a criminal record (physical violence, bribes, blackmail, drugrunning)
  • will shoot instead of subduing
  • will shoot and ask questions later

If you think you have the wrong stuff and know you can prove you’re a tough rookie, join XYPD today. Going places with power. Judge Dredd is our hero.

Who is Judge Dredd? A British comic book character in the future Britain who is strict, harsh and follows the letter of the law. In this future world police are also judge, jury and executioner. Though in fact I believe Dredd does have some scruples. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Dredd

Police in BC are fighting a marred image that has come after such cases as the drunk Native man dumped in an alley and found frozen to death, the highly publicized death of Robert Dziekański (5 Tasers to the chest) Cases of corruption and now the latest public relations nightmare hasn’t helped the sinking ship of a police force that is supposed to uphold the law, not abuse it and use it for their own means.

Last Tuesday, January 20, three off-duty policemen took it upon themselves to beat up a man who delivered papers to the hotels. Phil Khan had been delivering papers for seven years, was well known on his regular route and was only doing his job, when  a guy started asking for directions, verbally abusing him. Khan is a Muslim and of brown skin.

The guy proceeded to beat him and when a cab driver dropped of two other guys, they joined in on kicking and beating the man who was crying out for help. When the cab driver and others told them to stop, they said they were the police and told the guy they were beating that they had a Taser and would use it on him. One of them said that they didn’t like “brown people.”

Obviously they’d been drinking but three off-duty cops, one from Delta, one from New Westminster and one from West Vancouver who were stupid enough to beat a person and then tell everyone that they were cops really shouldn’t be on the force. Let’s not mention a racist hate crime here. And this is the police force. Whether on or off-duty they’re supposed to uphold the law, not abuse it.

It used to be that you couldn’t get a job on the police force if you had a record. These days it’s becoming par for the course. Two of these cops are now on desk jobs awaiting word of the investigation while a third still patrols the beat, (and perhaps threatens other people). The investigation by the Vancouver police department has yet to net charges but there were witnesses: two city workers, a MacDonald’s worker, a cab driver who tried to stop it until the guys said they were cops.

But someone did call 911 and when the police came they handcuffed Phil Khan. Of course, if in doubt as to who to incarcerate, go for the colored guy. Now probably these three stooges who decided to boot the guy about also told the cops that they were cops, which went well until the witnesses said, no you’ve cuffed the victim. Then the three were arrested. All I can say is with the rep the cops have it almost makes more sense to trust the criminals these days. But then they’ll soon be hired to be the new police force.

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Quacks, Doctors and Outmoded Thinking

I had a short discussion today with a naturopathic doctor who pointed out that doctors are scientists and as scientists they should always be exploring, knowing that our knowledge base can change. We were talking about books from the 70s and how the information on nutrition had changed a great deal. However there are doctors who make their practice religion as this person said.

And he’s correct. Those that learned one thing and have never changed it, challenged it or sought to find new information on it have indeed moved the medical sciences into the realm of their unchanging belief and tradition.

I had a doctor like this. He was our family doctor and as a child I suffered from constant tonsillitis. I’d get about four infections a year, and had colds all the time. When I was about eight I was scheduled to have my tonsils out but my parents, whose relationship was always bad, had a huge fight and the surgery was never rescheduled.

I continued through teenagerhood, suffering the same problem. By the time I was nineteen and in art college I had such a bad bout of tonsillitis that I couldn’t talk, my tongue was swollen and I had cankers all over the inside of my mouth, which negated eating too. I went to the college doctor and said I had tonsillitis. They didn’t believe me (because I wasn’t a medical professional) but scheduled me in. Of course the doctor took one look and said why didn’t you come sooner? Well, I was a student of course, working on projects with no time and not getting the right amount of sleep.

Through those early childhood years of tonsils being tortured, they actually grew holes, complicating things and making those colds linger. It got so bad that I could feel them when I swallowed because food would get stuck in the holes. I know, gross. Bad breath and infections. When I opened my mouth and looked in the mirror I could see a few of these holes and the white bits in them.

So I went to my doctor, my childhood doctor who knew my history, and told him the problem. He didn’t even look in my throat but said it was nerves. I’ve never been a particularly high-strung or nervous person and I said outright, It’s not nerves. Then he told me that all sorts of people got that. I was younger and politer but I left and went to another doctor, who took a look and couldn’t see anything but sent me to a throat specialist. He took a two-second look and said, when do you want to be scheduled for surgery?

That first doctor had not only lost his perspective but presumed he knew everything without looking at his patients. He did the same thing when I said I had a bladder infection and didn’t take a urine sample but told me I didn’t wash myself properly. WTF? That was the complete last straw. He should have been dropped by the profession and my mother surmised that he had grown to tired to practice properly. In some ways it’s too bad it’s so difficult to sue doctors in Canada.

But most of all this guy was working on the tenets of his medical religion, going on the faith of what he knew and no longer even investigating the physical condition of his patients. Or as my current doctor put it, someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class and those people practice medicine too. Go figure.

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Writing: Bitter Writer?

Back in September I wrote the blog Writing: Things to Watch Out For https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=445 On my other blog I received a letter titled “Bitter Writer Syndrome” a while back but didn’t get time to comment until now. Well, I pissed off Mr. Hobbes, and he was correct in that I presumed he was the head of Hobbes End Publishing, but at the time when I did research through the internet I didn’t find that information. Hobbes End website now mentions that Jairus Reddy is the publisher. http://hobbesendpublishing.com/index.html

So let’s look at Mr. Hobbes’ comments. (I have posted his full letter at the end so I can’t be accused of unfavorable editing.) “Being paid for one’s writing (rare in the industry) is not prostitution, but professionalism.” It is a matter of perspective and really we can all say we prostitute ourselves whenever we sell something for money, whether our services or our art. Of course what I meant was, selling oneself too cheaply. And yes, new writers do need to start somewhere and $100 is decent for 1,500 words but not for 30,000. Being paid for one’s writing is not rare in the industry. Book publishers, respectable book publishers, do it all the time. Just ask Random House, Bantam, Tor, Baen or any of the big name speculative publishers (or mainstream too).

Then he says: “The reason publishers ask for all rights is something that might be above your understanding.” It’s very well within my understanding and what Mr. Hobbes does not know is that in fact respectable publishers, as the ones named above do not take all rights. In fact, you can look at many smaller publishers such as Edge Publishing, Bundoran Press, Nightshade Books, etc. and none of them take all rights. I think it is he who is under the veil of misunderstanding.

Next he comments that the anthology he is editing “will also be highly publicized and promoted, which I can say most publishers don’t do. Many thousands of dollars will be spent doing so. Also, since you have not read our contract, you wouldn’t know what offers we are making towards secondary rights.” Any publisher who wants to stay in business promotes. But let’s look at Mr. Hobbes’ (along with authors Benoit and Palmer) first book Exiles in Time: The Contrived Senator. I did a google search of his name and the two titles for the book. I found the publisher’s website and of course the book listed on various online bookselling sites, such as Amazon. Granted that advertising also means ads in magazines, other print formats and local areas, I can’t know how much the publisher has put into this book. But of the four reviews on Amazon for the book, two were by the Reddys, owners of Hobbes End. I could find no review anywhere else and certainly not on any of the normal SF review sites. So uh, highly publicized? I also have to wonder what could possibly be their “secondary rights” after they’ve taken all of the rights. That’s a mystery that Mr. Hobbes didn’t elucidate.

“You mention, over and over again, magazines. However, this is not a magazine. This is for a novel.” That’s even sadder, taking all rights on a 30,000 word story as opposed to a 200 word article, not that one is better than the other. And I did, in my post, talk about publishers of magazines and books, who really don’t take all rights except for a few exceptions. He also says: “The financial risk is to the publisher—the opportunity is to the writer. Unlike a magazine, which is taken off the shelves monthly, this one will stay in publication indefinitely.” Except the writer also has a financial risk in trying to sell their work and get paid what they’re worth. And Mr. Hobbes is wrong. Books in chain stores also get taken off the shelves monthly or even after two weeks. Places like Chapters will keep a small smattering of some titles. Privately owned bookstores will keep books longer on the shelves and likewise for magazines that may not be monthly; some of them will keep these till they sell them all. It varies. The only guarantee is to have your book on Amazon, listed with thousands of others, whether self-published, small press published or major book published.

Mr. Hobbes added: “However, I have seven more [books] coming out next year, three of which are through major publishers.” I did a search and have found nothing listed but I no longer get the sneak previews into the upcoming  lists as I did when I was a book buyer. However, nothing is listed except the co-authored books on the Hobbes End site. I’ve found no other info. I have no idea what the quality of the writing is in these books or where else he’ll be published. Eventually, I’m sure we’ll see the lists and it’s up to each person what they think of a story. That is very prolific and Mr. Hobbes should be congratulated on completing three books plus the co-authoring of the others (which he didn’t mention they were co-authored).

He ends with a good thrust: “It sounds as if you suffer from ‘Bitter Writer Syndrome’. It happens to the best of writers who don’t seem to understand the risks publishers take to make it in the industry. Blaming publishers for not paying them ‘what they are worth’ is curable. If you want to ‘make it’ in this industry, I suggest you research before you post such nonsense.”

 Bitter writer? Nah. I’ve published enough and work on my novel. I’m about where my energies have taken me. And I’m afraid I understand the industry much better than Mr. Hobbes does and I know that buying all rights is not the norm nor fair. Buying all rights in perpetuity for a hundred bucks is not something I would ever do, even if I was selling my first piece. And over the years of selling pieces I have been careful not to sell to such rights. It’s one reason I pulled my poem from Sotto Voce, because I could not agree to their selection of rights.

As I said before, each person must make their own decision on what to give away and what to sell, and for how much. I do apologize to Mr. Hobbes for saying he owned the company but I would also suggest that perhaps he was just a bit bitter himself about my comments. And in reality, it all boils down to taking all rights which I caution writers to think more than twice about before they do it. But I don’t think I’ll be submitting to Hobbes End, not that they’d buy anything from me now anyways. 🙂

Bitter Writer Syndrome?

In response to your blog, “Things to Watch out for”—

You begin by stating that $100.00 is not a fair price. Everyone who has submitted thus far has had no issue with making money for their writing. Few writers do, and the intent with this project is to help out first time authors. Being paid for one’s writing (rare in the industry) is not prostitution, but professionalism.

The ad is clear and any writer who has a problem with ‘all rights’ is welcome to not submit. The reason publishers ask for all rights is something that might be above your understanding. The financial burden taken on by publishers is insane. Editors, printing, distribution and promotions add up. A writer is always welcome to self-publish if he or she worries about such things.

Each of our writers for this anthology will receive credit for their work. They will also be highly publicized and promoted, which I can say most publishers don’t do. Many thousands of dollars will be spent doing so. Also, since you have not read our contract, you wouldn’t know what offers we are making towards secondary rights.

Hobbes End Publishing is not a new publishing company. And your comment about ‘pros not submitting’ is uncalled for, since the point of this project is not for the pros, but for new writers.

You mention, over and over again, magazines. However, this is not a magazine. This is for a novel. It will receive major distribution and advertising. This will not only give authors opportunity to break into the industry, but give them the chance that other publishers, and magazines, don’t allow. The financial risk is to the publisher—the opportunity is to the writer. Unlike a magazine, which is taken off the shelves monthly, this one will stay in publication indefinitely.

What you should be complaining about are the publishers who make writer’s pay for their work to be published.

I have had one novel published by Hobbes End Publishing, you are correct. However, I have seven more coming out next year, three of which are through major publishers.

Also, make sure to check your facts. I have no ties to Hobbes End Publishing, with the exception of writing for them. I am not an owner and in no way control their agreements amongst writers. Please check your facts before stating what you do not know about. The company was simply named after a story I wrote.

It sounds as if you suffer from ‘Bitter Writer Syndrome’. It happens to the best of writers who don’t seem to understand the risks publishers take to make it in the industry. Blaming publishers for not paying them ‘what they are worth’ is curable.

If you want to ‘make it’ in this industry, I suggest you research before you post such nonsense.

Sincerely,
Vincent Hobbes

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Fashion Nightmares: Baggy Bottom Pants

I’m hugely grumpy today so instead of whinging about my problems and the mean people out there I’m gonna bitch about fashion. Along with people that spit everywhere, one of my other pet peeves are the baggy bottom britches.

I’m not just talking about a person whose butt shape doesn’t match that of their jeans. Some people are just buttless and can’t fill out the space. Others, like me, have more than enough but always have extra waist on the pants. I’m talking about those homey boy pants, those misfits of fashion that started out as what, taking grandpa’s pants? Of course, all anti-fashion, such as the original punk movement, becomes fashion and affectation. Hip hop or gangsta pants were just that, starting as hand-me-downs and emulating poor, thug or prison culture.

Woo, that’s what I want to look like, a poor slob. Granted some of this came out of true poverty and humble beginnings, it took on a new life. There are those that argued to ban these fashion nightmares (which they tried in some State) would be racial profiling but I live in a predominantly white and Asian metropolis and it’s the white homies wearing  the pants. They usually have ‘tude all over their face, which I guess you need if you’re going to wear something so ludicrously fugly and impractical.

I mean, face it: thug culture. Not likely that these thugs would be attacking you if their pants kept falling down and inhibiting their fast retreat. Baggy pants did change from the giganto waistband that let them slip off of narrow boy hips. The legs stayed baggy but the waistbands tightened up. I guess guys got tired of hitching up their pants every time they took a step. There is nothing less attractive than showing your boxers in whatever disrepair. They’re not attractive, not sexy and I don’t give a rat’s ass how much you might have paid for them. Oh, there is one thing more hideous, the butt crack. Sorry, not attractive on women either, not lurking above ill-fitting jeans and bulging out of underwear.

The worst offender of the supposedly baggy, sagging pants fashion was a wannabe homey, wearing his tight T-shirt and his long shorts worn low on the hips. They weren’t that baggy so perhaps he was emulating the more recent hip-hop trends. But lo and behold, his briefs weren’t, and were there to be seen, worn right up to the waist, in bright bright red and a good six inches showing. It was actually hilarious. Threatening? No. Tuff? No. Just absolutely ridiculous.

Besides the one benefit of guys in baggy bottoms not being able to run from a robbery, there are few benefits. That particular hip-hop/gangsta image overall is now outdated, but outmoded fashions never really go away. No matter how goofy I can see how baggy, loose jeans work for skateboarding , if you find it uncool to wear track pants or yoga pants. (Are you crazy, lady? Who in their right mind would be caught dead wearing yoga pants on a board?) Yeah, crazy. Until someone decides it’s the coolest fly anti-fashion and starts the next trend.

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Happy Barackobamaday

It’s got a certain ring to it, doesn’t it?

It’s Obama Tuesday and the end of an old regime is being punted far and wide. We must not forget to thank George Bush. After all, he’s given us such lovely catch phrases as “axis of evil,” “war on terror,” and not new to him alone but well beaten into the ground: “weapons of mass destruction,” except these ones were make believe.

But then, George should have known what they looked like because which country is the only one to have ever used a weapon of mass destruction? Why the US of course, on Hiroshima. And therefore you’d think he would have a few fellas who would know what they looked like, but even they couldn’t find any in Iraq.

We can thank George for invading other countries, for incarcerating prisoners of war in Guantanamo without voice, counsel or aid because he called them terrorists. Sure, some may have been but without any legal aid, how do we know? George’s voice and his catch phrases made me cringe so much I couldn’t stand listening to him.

We can thank George for bringing the US dollar to its lowest point in recent history. And though it could be argued he’s not directly to blame for these things, I’m sure there is lots of correlation between the highest price of oil, the financial crashes, oh and the highest number of troops dead since Viet Nam. Thanks, George. You’ve made sure you won’t be forgotten and you’ve replaced tricky Dicky as the most reviled president ever. Yep, that makes you number one. In fact, Al Capone kinda looks nice in comparison.

Let’s not forget that Georgie has also brought us very close to World War III, with threats to Iran and Korea. But that’s all right, he knew he was right and God was on his side (weren’t the Crusaders saying this as they skewered men, women and children too?), and he has remained unrepentant. There’s seems to be one light burning in the dim fog of George’s eight-year folly; he did supposedly bring more aid to a beleaguered and often overlooked Africa. No one is pure evil (I hope.)

In Vancouver, pubs and cafes are planning on holding Barack parties tonight. Remember, this is Canada where we don’t make a fuss if a movie star walks by us and we don’t party crazily for our own (lackluster) politicians, let alone a US president. But let’s face it, next to George Bush, even Nixon could have done better. That Barack Obama is charismatic, good looking and a great orator certainly doesn’t hurt. That he seems to have integrity and is of mixed race is even better. He will hopefully not be (possibly never could be) as bigoted as Bush’s regime. (Does anyone remember hurricane Katrina and the reticent aid there?)

But Barack has a huge pile of doo-doo to clean up and George even wrecked the shovels. That’s a lot to carry and he’ll be walking a tightrope between not fulfilling the wild dreams and wishes of Americans and in doing what he can with a now much more limited budget. I doubt he’ll be perfect. We are, after all, human. But I really hope Barack will keep his religion far from his politics. It’s fine to be religious, just not to push that into your governance.

Barack, I wish you well. The hope of not just a nation falls on your shoulders, but the hope of the world. We know you’ll pull us back from the brink of suicidal, egomaniacal war. But you have corrupt systems left, right and center to deal with (let’s see, car companies, oil companies, CIA, FBI, weapons manufacturers, fundamentalists, NRA, etc.) and they make up some of the foundation of good ole America.

I’ll raise a toast to Barack tonight as a light that can only get brighter. And I’ll say so long, Georgie. Don’t let the White House gate whack your ass on the way out. Hope your resume is up to date. But who knows, maybe we’ll see you in the news again when they charge you with war crimes.

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Outhouse Terrors

I talked about squat toilets and scary, dark toilets last week. They’re their own form of horror but none of them were that rustic, wooden box called the outhouse.

Many years ago when I was but a wee tyke, we visited some relatives out in Lac la Biche, Alberta. (I think it means deer lake in English.) They had a farm replete with chickens, cows, cats, hat and raspberry canes. And of course, like many farmsteads, there was running water in the house but it was built in an era before plumbing, and the toilets were outside.

I suppose as biffies go, these were probably higher class. There was a wooden boardwalk from the house to the outhouse. And it was a two-seater with toilet seats. My relatives were obviously comfortable sitting side by side and doing their business.

And so were my sister and me. During the visit we had to go out to the outhouse, at night. We took the flashlight and while sitting in the outhouse we were shining the lights about and making shadow puppets. I’m not sure how old we were. I’m thinking I was six and my sister twelve.

Anyways, after we were done peeing and playing, we went to leave…and couldn’t. The door was latched tight. On the outside was a simple wood toggle to keep the door shut when no one was in it. It had fallen down while we were inside and we started pounding and yelling. My sister, ever one to freak out easily, was screaming and crying, and of course I followed along. Here we were stuck in the dark, in a dreaded outhouse (luckily the fumes weren’t so bad) and with visions of perishing there.

Obviously that wouldn’t have happened. Someone would have missed us sooner or later and we weren’t going to die in there. But we were in the moment and hysterical. Of course the adults were inside yukking it up, talking and laughing and heard nothing until there was a lull in the conversation. They eventually came out (I’d say it was twenty minutes but it was more likely ten) and let us fly free, tear-streaked an terrified.

They laughed long and hard, and it’s laughable in retrospect but I wouldn’t go in an outhouse until I was about twenty-two. Scarred from that early memory, I refused any time we went to Banff or any outing, to use an outhouse and insisted on restaurants and gas stations. I was resolute. But as an adult, I met friends who had a cabin in Clinton, BC and of course, it was rustic. It took some effort but I finally got over my fear of outhouses, although they don’t rate highly on bathroom experiences as they are almost always smelly to downright gagarific, and often dangerous to tender skin.

In a pinch I can use whatever is available, including the great outdoors. I should also note that although I had been in Wazuubee of late I hadn’t gone to the bathroom there. I was there again the other night and they have in fact put brighter track lighting into their bathroom (although the whole place really needs an overhaul–it’s pretty shabby) so yay, less horrors there.

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