Monthly Archives: September 2012

Writing: Remembering Lydia Langstaff

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Lydia Langstaff was just starting out but accomplished a great deal. Creative Commons: Dave Morrison, flickr

Today I heard that there is a celebration for a man who is one of the longest living with a heart transplant. Diagnosed at 21 with a fatal heart disease and given weeks to live, he received a heart transplant and 26 years later, he’s still going strong. This made me think of Lydia Langstaff, a young writer who I once knew. We were both part of the same writer’s group. Lydia and I began to do some individual critiquing of each other’s work on the side.

She was under thirty and was truly like a porcelain doll. Her skin was nearly translucent, a pale white, and her eyes were large. Lydia’s hair was blond and her rounded nails had a tinge of blue. In many ways she was as delicate as a fey being who spends a short time navigating the world of humans. You see, Lydia had a congenital heart defect. Her nails and skin were part of her condition. Her heart was such a tremulous thing that Lydia could never fly, nor even walk up a flight of stairs. The strain would have been too much.

She told me once her family called her their miracle because she had never been expected to live past birth. And yet she did. She

Lydia Langstaff, memento mori, remembering writers, speculative writing,

Writing may be less ephemeral than our lives. Creative Commons: pirano Bob R, flickr, by William Michael Harnett

made it through her world carefully, and uncomplaining. Lydia’s husband, Jeff Langstaff, supported her and they were both aware of her tenuous hold on the reins of life.

For the brief while I got to know Lydia she was a determined writer. She never ever complained about her condition. She persevered and lived with it. And she was becoming a good author. She sold a few stories and possibly some poems. She and I were working on novels. I had read some of hers. And then one day we heard that Lydia had died suddenly, one night in the arms of her husband. They had always known it could happen any time, but it was still a surprise that she died so young, at 28.

After Lydia’s death, her husband Jeff asked me to look through her manuscript. It turns out she had finished the first draft of a novel and he wondered what it would take to make it publishable. I read it and didn’t charge him, in honor of Lydia. It was a mythic tale, of traveling back in time to Scotland’s early history, of accepting one’s destiny. I told him that it would take some editing to make it publishable but it wasn’t bad. I couldn’t do it for free but I would halve my rate. He told me he’d think about it because even an edited manuscript doesn’t mean it will be published. It languished in a drawer and I never heard from Jeff again.

It’s been about 16 years since Lydia died and I still have her manuscript. I don’t know what her maiden name is and attempts to find Jeff have not succeeded. I’m loath to throw out the manuscript as it seems to disrespect Lydia’s memory. Yet should I edit it and then self-publish it under both our names? If I did that, I’d have to split the proceeds after my cost; Lydia’s half going to heart research. But is that ethical? I feel stuck and wonder what would be right. I’d love to honor her memory and let her story see the light but I’m not family and yet, I can’t find them. What do you think I should do? And if you know a Jeff Langstaff, have him read this and contact me if he’s the right one.

There is a Lydia Langstaff Memorial Prize that On Spec puts out (possibly sporadically) given to a writer under 30. I think it will be resurrected again. But I’d like to know what to do with Lydia’s manuscript and I’d dearly love to find her family. In the meantime, I have another part of Lydia’s legacy. She taught me to cherish each moment because time is ephemeral and I’ve had so much more time than she did. She showed me that one can accomplish a great deal, even with physical handicaps. I don’t always remember  these lessons but I try to because Lydia gave it her all for her short time in this earthly realm.

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Publisher Highlight: Innsmouth Free Press

Innsmouth Free Press is a Canadian small press that specializes in dark fiction of a particular gothic or Cthulhian vein. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is looking for public funding through the fundraising site Indiegogo, for an anthology called Sword & Mythos. They hope to pay professional rates to the authors. That’s only .5 cents per word. It’s not a lot and speculative authors don’t get rich even on that amount. There are 5 days left to hit their funding goal of $5,000 and they’re still $1,000 short.

Innsmouth has been going for a few years and the well-laid out site offers reviews of books, comics, TV shows, movies and anything gothic, dark or Lovecraftian. H.P. Lovecraft was a writer who created the Great Old Ones and Cthulhu.

I’ve only been in one anthology Candle in the Attic Window, with a reprint poem but I’m impressed with the quality of cover art. If you wonder about the tentacled Old One in the future, then there’s Future Lovecraft. I have friends who hate mushrooms but did you ever dream of what an intelligent or malicious fungus might do? Then there is Fungi. Innsmouth’s website is lush with imagery and interesting information.

Check it out, maybe by a book and if you have a few spare bucks, donate to the Sword and Mythos fund and you’ll get a few goodies

Innsmouth Free Press, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, gothic, fantasy, mythos

Sword and Mythos needs your help to pay pro rates.

in the long run.

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Writing Update: Co-Editing Tesseracts Anthology

 

 

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

Get writing and send us your best.

I can now announce that East coast author Steve Vernon, and I (West coast author) will be co-editing the Canadian Tesseracts anthology. Subtitled “Speculation Canadian Fiction from Coast to Coast to Coast” Steve and I will be looking for stories from all territories and provinces. You have to have been born in Canada or currently live in Canada to submit to this publication so when you send in your stories, please tell us where you were born and where you live now.

Tesseracts has always been a bout Canadian fiction and many of the past Tesseracts have been themed. This one has no theme so we’re looking for anything that’s speculative: steampunk, alternate history, horror, gothic, SF, fantasy, magic realism, anything. I’m hoping that we’ll have a diversity of stories. Perhaps they’ll have that sense of Canadian where the elements and geography can play a great role, or maybe they’ll deal with cultural influences from First Nations, or early setters, or futuristic Acadians or even tales of the Basque who had a whaling station in the middle ages. Maybe the tales will deal with Wendigo or Sasquatch or Ogopogo and maybe they’ll take place in space or an underground warren.

Really, we want to see it all and we want variety. While we hope to have stories or poetry from all of

Steve Vernon, Tesseracts 17, Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF

Nova Scotian Steve Vernon will be co-editing Tesseract 17, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction.

Canada’s provinces and territories, it will be originality and quality that will be the final tellers. Yet another ghost story or descent into madness story won’t necessarily make it, unless (and that’s a big work) it is uniquely and well told, with deft language and a good twist.

In some senses, competition will be fierce because there are many authors in Ontario, for example, but we might only be able to accept one story from that province. While authors of smaller provinces and territories have a better chance, there is still no guarantee if the story isn’t great. You have until Feb. 28, 2013 to submit. Read on for the guidelines.

ABOUT THE EDITORS:

Colleen Anderson has been nominated for the Aurora Award, Gaylactic Spectrum Award, finalist in the Rannu competition and received several honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, the Year’s Best SF, and Imaginarium. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Britain, Canada and the United States. She has attended both the Clarion West and the Centre for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) writing workshops and has a degree in creative writing. Colleen is a member of the Horror Writers of America and SF Canada.

Steve Vernon has read on CBC radio, Breakfast Television, Global Noon and at schools and libraries across Nova Scotia. His high voltage storytelling production, Word of Mouth, was written under the auspices of the now dissolved Nova Scotia Arts Council and presented two years running at the Halifax Fringe Festival.

Steve has written several ghost story collections for regional publisher Nimbus – including the bestselling Halifax Haunts: Exploring the City’s Spookiest Spaces – as well as a very popular novel for young readers Sinking Deeper and a children’s picture book Maritime Monsters. Steve’s latest ghost story collection is The Lunenburg Werewolf And Other Stories of the Supernatural. Blog: www3.ns.sympatico.ca/stevevernon

SUBMISSION DETAILS:
  • The Tesseracts Seventeen anthology will reflect as broad a spectrum of stories as possible; highlighting unique styles and manners.
  • Submissions must be speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, dark fantasy, magic realism, slipstream, supernatural horror, weird tales, alternate history, space opera, planetary adventure, surrealism, superheroes, mythic fantasy, etc.
  • Submissions may be either short fiction or poetry.
  • The maximum length for stories is 5,000 words, with shorter works preferred.
  • The Tesseracts anthology series is only open to submissions from Canadians, landed immigrants living in Canada, long time residents of Canada, and Canadian expatriates living abroad.
  • Canadian authors who write in languages other than English are welcome to submit an English translation of their work, provided it otherwise falls within the parameters of this anthology. Translation into English is the sole responsibility of the author. Please supply details of original publication for any submission that originally appeared in a language other than English.
  • Deadline: February 28, 2013 (midnight).
  • Do not query before submitting.
  • Email submissions to: tesseracts17@edgewebsite.com
  • Emails MUST contain the word “submission” in the subject line, or they will be deleted automatically by the server. Please also include the story title in the subject line.
  • Submissions MUST come in an attachment: only .RTF and/or .DOC formats are acceptable.
  • Emails MUST contain a cover letter in the body of the email; for security reasons, email attachments with no cover letter will be deleted unread and unanswered.
  • Cover letter: include your name, the title of your story, your full contact information (address, phone, email), and a brief bio. Do not describe or summarize the story.
  • If your address is not within Canada, please indicate in the cover letter your status vis-à-vis Canada.
  • Reprints (stories having previously appeared in English in any format, print or electronic, including but not limited to any form of web publication) can be considered but will be a hard sell; reprints must come from a source not easily available in Canada. If your submission is a reprint, please supply full publication history of the story. If your story appeared previously, including but not limited to anywhere on the web, and you do not disclose this information to the editor upon submission, you will be disqualified from consideration.
  • Submission format: no strange formatting, colour fonts, changing fonts, borders, backgrounds, etc. Leave italics in italics, NOT underlined. Put your full contact information on the first page (name, address, email address, phone). No headers, no footers, no page numbering. DO NOT leave a blank line between paragraphs. Indent paragraphs. ALWAYS put a # to indicate scene breaks (a blank line is NOT enough).
  • ALWAYS include your full contact information (name/address/email/phone number) on the first page of the attached submission.
  • Payment for short poetry is $20.00. Payment for short stories is prorated as follows: $50 for stories up to 1,500 words, rising to a maximum of $150 for stories up to 5,000 words (longer stories are paid a slightly higher fee, but in order to exceed the word length limit of 5,000 words, the editor must judge a story to be of surpassing excellence.)
  • Rights: for original fiction, first World English publication, with a two-month exclusive from publication date; for all, non-exclusive anthology rights; all other rights remain with the author.
  • Spelling: please use Canadian spelling, as per the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
  • Response time: initial responses (no / rewrite request / hold for further consideration) will be prompt, usually within fifteen days. Please query if you’ve not heard back within 30 days. Final responses no later than 15 April 2013.
  • We do not advise that you submit more than one story.
  • Simultaneous submissions are not encouraged but are acceptable. Should you receive a “rewrite request” or “hold for further consideration” response, please indicate immediately whether your story is under consideration anywhere else.
  • Publication: Fall 2013 (trade paperback & e-Book).
  • Email submissions to: tesseracts17@edgewebsite.com

    Canadian fiction, speculative ficiton, horror, fantasy, dark fiction, SF

    My reprint collection is available through Smashwords and soon through Amazon and in print.


 

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Artist Highlight: Matt Hughes

sf, writing, speculative fiction, fantasy author, Canadian writer, matthew hughes

Matt Hughes is one of the rare breed of writers who’s made his living off of many forms of writing.

Matthew Hughes is a Canadian author who writes impeccable science fiction and fantasy. His very nicely laid out website is called Archonate, a universe he’s created in which many of his tales take place. Matt’s first book came out in 1994 and he’s been going great guns ever since.

He has numerous novels and short stories, which are listed on his site. I reviewed The Damned Busters and found the tale masterful and entertaining. Matt’s characters Luff Imbry and Henghis Hapthorn I’ve met once each, in short stories. He does characterization deftly and sets his scenes well.

If you love a good tale, and intriguing mystery and a witty character, you’ll find these in many of Matt’s stories. With his long and varied career of writing everything from speeches to novels, he has many a good piece of advice to give. Matt wrote the following as a good way to set your character in a concrete world. Perhaps it was no accident that concrete plays a part. Read on if you’d like to learn more about writing.

WRITING FROM WITHIN THE POV CHARACTER’S SENSORIUM

I’ve mentioned before that you can get a stronger identification between the reader and the point-of-view character if you describe setting and events from within the character’s sensorium – i.e., how things feel to the character’s sense of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

A lot of beginners write from outside the character, standing back and describing everything as if they were seeing it on a screen, relying almost exclusively on how things look, with occasional sound cues.  It’s an easy way to get lots of words down.  It can also be a hard habit to break.

So here’s an exercise:  have your point-of-view character awaken in complete darkness, with no idea of where he/she is.  Then have him/her explore that environment with the other senses.  Don’t put down any descriptor that involves sight or that the character does not experience directly.

Something like this:

At first, I wasn’t sure I was awake.  Blackness was absolute.  I could see nothing but splashes and dots of color thrown up by my own optic nerves.

I was lying face down on something cold and hard.  I levered myself up, felt grit rub against my knees.  I groped around me with both hands, my fingertips finding a rough level surface.  Concrete, I thought.  I reached as far as I could in all directions without moving, found nothing but more floor.

I rested on my heels and listened.  Nothing but the high-pitched whine of silence.  But I felt a cold stir on the back of my neck, a

Archonate, Matt Hughes, SF, science fiction, books, novels, space stories

One of Matt’s newest titles.

whisper of air moving the fine hairs.  I shivered.  I wet a finger and held it above my head, felt a chill on one side.  The movement of air was from my left.  I listened for a fan, but heard nothing.

While my hand was elevated, I felt for a ceiling.  For all I knew, I might be in some low crawl space, with more concrete to bruise my head if I stood up.  Hands aloft, I slowly rose from my knees, but there was nothing above me but more cold air.

I faced the direction that the air current was coming from.  Could be a vent, could be an ill-fitting door, a cracked window.  Slowly, arms out in front of me, I took a step, then another, and a third.  I stopped and listened again, heard nothing.  But I could feel the current of air cooling my face.

I took three more steps, putting the ball of my foot down first, then the heel – less chance of slipping that way.  Then a fourth step and my foot came down on something small and hard.  I stooped and felt for it, my fingers encountering an irregular shape, though flat on one side.  I rolled it between my fingers, lifted it to my nose but smelled only dust.

I took another step, the moving air a little stronger now.  There was an odor I associated with dank, dark places.  I was deciding that the object I’d picked up was a piece of broken concrete.  Useful, I thought.  I could throw it ahead of me and listen for it to hit something, even if it was only the floor.

I cocked my arm and threw the chunk of concrete as hard as I could.  I heard it strike something a fair distance ahead, then more small sounds as it rolled and bumped.  Big floor, I thought.  I walked more quickly now, hands still out in front of me, moving from side to side.  Just because the pebble hadn’t hit a wall didn’t mean I couldn’t walk right into a post or a pillar.

A few more steps, and my foot landed on something else.  It turned out to be a bigger piece of concrete, the size of my palm.  I threw it forward, too, and heard it strike the floor and skitter like the pebble, before it struck something with a hard click.

Wall, I thought.  And the air flow was stronger now, along with the odor I associated with tombs and root cellars.  A wall with a gap in it, letting in the smell of damp earth.

I groped forward, eager now, walking heel and toe.  My feet encountered more debris.  I kicked it aside.  I wanted the wall.  I took two more steps then a third.  But on the last one, my heel came down on nothing.  As I pitched forward, it came to me in a sudden useless insight:  the moving air, the dank smell, the pieces of concrete scattered around;  they all added up to a hole in the floor.  And I was falling into it.

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Artist Highlight: Andy Tarrant

samian ware, pottery, art, ceramics, Trespasser Ceramics, artists, clay

Trespasser Ceramics Samian Ware (I love this piece)

I met Andrew Tarrant years ago and he was already making truly awesome pottery. A graduate of the Alberta College of Art and Design, it looks like he hit the ground running and has been a successful enough artist to make a living and support his family. He teaches from time to time and then works on his wares.

sprigs, clay, art, pottery, molds, clay, vessels

A jar made with sprigs of Andrew’s design.

Andrew Tarrant’s Trespasser Ceramics blends old and new. There is an obvious love of the medievaland ancient art that influences his pieces, whether, Celtic knotwork, green men, Venus of Willendorf, Roman figures or other historical elements. But he blends his pieces with other designs, which can be fantastical or just different. He has made teapots with a gear design, and other steampunk inspired pieces. While he does mostly vessels, he has created one of a kind pieces such as busts that incorporate sprigs.

Sprigs are a mold designed ornamentation that can then be made over and over and applied to the thrown pot. This is one of the signature elements of Trespasser Ceramics. He also uses the clay with a wash and specific applications of a shinier glaze, as evidenced in these pictures.

teapot, steampunk, ceramics, Trespasser Ceramics, art, clay, pottery

Andrew’s steamed teapot blends elements of steampunk in clay.

As in the middles ages, Andy would be considered a master of his guild. His work is clean, precise and yet whimsical and beautiful. I aim to own a piece when I can afford it. His art ranges from beads that you can buy off of his site to large urns that are several feet tall. The art evinces both a feel of the ancient and mystical and of future bizarreness.

Lovecraft, Cthulhu, Trespasser Ceramics, art, horror, clay, pottery, Andrew Tarrant

What dark mysteries lie ahead in Andrew Tarrant’s studio as Cthulhu takes shape?

He is working on some mysterious new piece and from the sprigs he’s designingCthulhu will be involved. Cthulhu, for those who do not know, was created by writer H.P. Lovecraft and is revered by fans of horror and industrial metal alike. I’m sure everyone will be interested in seeing what this master artist comes up with.

You can check out Trespasser Ceramics at his website or on Facebook to see what he’s up to. And if you happen to be in Calgary, you could take a class from him or find his work in the local galleries. Anyone who owns a piece made by Trespasser Ceramics cherishes it for the unique and wonderful art that it is.

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