Monthly Archives: October 2012

Writing Update: Toronto

writing, colleen anderson, Dagan Books, The Book with No End, horror, dark fantasy

I’m having a writerly vacation in Toronto, with readings, colloquium and convention. Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, flickr

This will be a short post. I’m in Toronto, where the winds were deadly yesterday.

I attended the Specfic Colloquium on Sunday, held at the Gladstone Hotel and put on by the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. Guest speakers included Robert Runte, Rob Shearman, Karen Lowachee, Peter Watts, Scott Bakker and Helen Marshall. These speakers are all published writers as well as giving insights into different aspects of being human or “Beyond Human” which was the theme for the day. This is the third colloquium and it makes me think we could do the same out west. The lectures made me think, which they’re designed to do, as well as made me curious about the authors’ works. If you live in and around Toronto, check out next year’s colloquium.

Tonight I’ll be reading at the Art Bar Poetry Series at the Pauper’s Pub on Bloor St. Yes, it’s poetry and I’m going to read

World Fantasy Award, writing, fantasy, conventions

The World Fantasy Award is an image of H.P. Lovecraft. There is some controversy about the image as Lovecraft was a known racist.

mostly speculative poetry since it’s the night before Hallowe’en. There are two other featured readers so this should be a lot of fun. Poems and pints, what more could  one need?

Wednesday night is the Halloween party at Bakka Phoenix for attendees of the World Fantasy Convention. I have never been to this famous science fiction bookstore so it will be a treat and some pre-mingling with people. I have to remember not to go crazy and buy too many books as I have a luggage allowance for the flight.

Thursday will kick off the convention. I will be doing a reading on Saturday at 5:30 and will read “The Book with No End” being launched in Bibliotheca Fantastica by Dagan Books. Their launch party is before my reading from 2-4 pm. Chizine Publications will also be having a party on Saturday evening around 9 pm. There are other parties as well, as well as readings and panels. You have to be a member of the convention to attend any of these but it’s always a great event. Northern Gothic and Urban Fantasy is this year’s theme. On Sunday is the World Fantasy Awards banquet. Chizine is up for a special award professional. Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi have created a great imprint with high quality books. The authors have been up for awards and receive many great reviews, which stands for the expertise of the titles selected.

I doubt I’ll get to post much else this week as I’m trying to finish a story by tomorrow and then will be busy with the con. This is a week of writing related events and I wish I could do this all of the time. Some day, maybe.


Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, Writing

Book Review: Danse Macabre

danse macabre, death, dark fiction, horror

Images of people accosted or dancing with Death were very common after the Black Death decimated Europe’s population in the Middle Ages.

Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper is an anthology edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and put out by Edge Publishing. These tales are about Death and its personification. Like a Harlequin romance, you pretty much know how it’s going to end. In Harlequins the woman gets her man. In Danse Macabre, every tale deals with dying. Originally I sent in a concept to Nancy for this anthology, but she rejected it. In some ways, I didn’t quite understand that she truly wanted tales where Death is personified. (However that  idea will soon be out in Bibliotheca Fantastica as “The Book with No End.”)

Death is a man, a woman, a specter with scythe and hood, a wisp of grey, a bird, or a skeletal neuter. The one form of Death I did not come across, which I thought I might, was the black dog, but perhaps that image is used more for the devil. But I was curious to see what the anthology embraced, and Nancy is a good editor so I was intrigued. There are twenty-five tales and one verse titled “Danse Macabre,” which opens the anthology, so it’s meaty.

The term “Danse Macabre” refers to the dance with death. Medieval images in paintings and engravings depicted skeletons and other forms of Death interacting with the living.  For this anthology Death is the one character who you know will be there in the end. However, Death does not always prevail and is in fact set upon in different ways. There are stories here, with Death as an unwelcome companion, or where someone pleads or tries to make a deal. In some cases they try to stay Death’s hand, seduce, understand or hunt the Reaper down. Many of these stories are from the viewpoint of the person coming to terms with or fighting Death. Yet just when I wondered if any individual story would be from the point of view of the Grim Reaper, indeed the viewpoint changed. Sometimes Death hunts, sometimes he courts his prey or feels loneliness or love.

I don’t know if I had any preconceived notion of this book but as I began to read I was delighted. You

dark fiction, horror, death, personifications of death, Nancy Kilpatrick

Danse Macabre, edited by Nancy Kilpatrick and published by Edge Publishing

might not think so but for a collection that is truly macabre and is the essence of the word, I didn’t find most of the tales depressing. This is both an indication of the skill of the authors and how they wove their tales, and of Nancy’s careful honing of just such an anthology. I’m actually hard pressed to say which tale I liked best or least, but I’ll try to point out a few that stick in my memory. The verse “Danse Macabre” by Ian Emberson was good. It didn’t grab me completely but it had a coquettish air and a wry humor. The last line delivers the punch like it should.

Another aspect of this anthology that I particularly liked was that the tales take place in different times and different cultures. They’re not all 20-21st century stories set in North America. The first story is Lisa Morton’s “The Secret Engravings” about Death visiting Hans Holbein with a commission for danse macabre engravings. This one is well crafted and has an superb twist when Holbein realizes the horror of what he’s done. Many collections and anthologies begin and end with the strongest stories, to pull the reader in and leave them with a good impression. This story stayed with me past finishing the collection.

“Death in the Family” by Morgan Dempsey looks at an unwilling apprenticeship. Yet Dominik defies and turns the tables, which are turned again. Perhaps an ironic tale of leaving a legacy. The theme is echoed, but shown differently in Dan Devine’s “The Physician’s Assistant,”  but both show how death is a constant companion to those in the healing arts.

Timothy Reynolds’ “Blue-Black Knight,” “Totentanz” by Nancy Holder and Erin Underwood, Angela Roberts “A Song for Death” as well as “An Appointment in the Village Bazaar” b S.S. Hampton Sr. address the dance with Death through art, whether painting, dancing, singing or playing music. These stories were all strong and evocative with Reynolds looking at a moment of communion with the Reaper, while a balancing of accounts takes place in “Totentanz.” Roberts’ tale of a woman working in the deathly wards of those taken by the influenza and “An Appointment” have at their essence deals and trades made with Death. Sometimes the characters win out or the trade is taken and sometimes they just do not go gentle into that good night.

Not all the stories stayed with me and I don’t have time to review each one. A few I didn’t care for but I found that even those drew me in and were well written, so really the overall level of this collection is high. The two biggest names in the collection are Tanith Lee and Brian Lumley. Lee’s “The Death of Death” is about a woman who hones herself till she can see and follow death throughout the world. She is on the ultimate hunt and this tale is rich with personality and style. Probably my least favorite story was by the best known author. Lumley’s “Old Man With a Blade” is very short but to me it relies on you knowing his Necroscope characters and premise and it left me flat, traveling the least distance of all the stories.

While I liked many of the stories a great deal Opal Edgar’s “Elegy for a Crow” stood out in intensity and horrific effects. It made me really think about what would happened if death did not come but life still tumbled through its miseries and accidents. The final story “Population Management” by Tom Dullemond is probably the only story in the collection that is more SF than fantasy. Yet as an ending it’s fitting and somewhat more sinister, even if wry, when Death is taken out of a more human hand. I would say Danse Macabre really isn’t horror despite being about death. There are a few stories that are indeed horrific or disturbing, but overall this collection, far reaching in style, eras, cultures and viewpoints, is about life and living. I give it 9 scythes out of 10.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, fantasy, horror, life, science fiction, Writing

Looking at Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz

Peter Pan, Wendy, fairytales, myth, Neverland, children's fiction, fantasy

Pete Pan as J.M. Barrie envisaged him, and had this statue mounted in Kensington Gardens. Wikicommons: Sebjarod

Somehow, in a childhood rife with reading, and a family of readers, I missed Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz. I saw the movies, but never read the originals. A few years ago, when I was on my way to Kansas for a writing workshop, I decided to read the Wizard of Oz, partly because a story idea had popped into my head and I needed to know what the original tale was really about.

The first two things I learned was that the original title was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and that Dorothy’s shoes had not been ruby red. They turned that color when MGM made the film because they needed something that drew the eye better and of course, it was those magical shoes that transported Dorothy home. It was a cyclone that took her away but she returned on her own two feet (more or less). From that discovery, my story “Shoes” was born and explored what happened to Dorothy after she had returned from Oz to the mundane farmlands of Kansas.

So, reading Oz as an adult perhaps gave me more depth than it would have otherwise. There were definitely political statements within Baum’s story, as well as aspects of self and what happens when you go from doubt to believing in yourself. In fact, it is Dorothy’s belief that she can return home which helps transport her there. Dorothy’s adventures take place in a world that is strangely different from a Kansas farm community. Indeed, this is a common tool in children’s stories, and some adult ones as well. While J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books use this, she has it that the world exists in the same place alongside the regular world but it is hidden from muggle eyes. Oz was elsewhere.

Now I’m reading Peter Pan because I’m trying to come up with a green man story. And Peter Pan‘s original title is Peter and Wendy, or Peter Pan: the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. J.M. Barrie wrote it first as a play in 1904 and the Wizard of Oz came out in 1900. Peter Pan has a lot to do with the green man. He lives in a wild land, dresses in green or in skeleton leaves and plays pan pipes. And yes, Peter Pan’s land is Neverland. It is the stuff of dreams and the sugar thread fantasies of children. But whereas Oz seems a fantasy from which Dorothy awakes, Wendy, Michael and John, and the other Lost Boys who return, did in fact leave to another land and their parents missed them.

These two stories are part of our modern fairytales. Along with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and

Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, ruby slippers, silver slipers,

Dorothy’s ruby slippers were originally silver and she took them off the dead witch’s feet. MGM

The Secret Garden, they do not have the generational mythos of fairytales handed down over centuries. Yet they are enduring and endearing and each deals with a child going to a place that is other. What is even more interesting with Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz is that while these stories were written a little over a century ago, they both have major female protagonists. Since I’m not doing a full essay here I’m curious if there were many tales of quests or journeys that took place before Alice in Wonderland. Of course, such journeys go back to the early myths of Gilgamesh and Herakles and Odysseus, so travels to mythical lands is not a new concept. But when did the children take over?

Dorothy is swept along on her travails, and while she observes and experiences growth through her trials, she makes very few decisions on her own until later in the book. Yet her main adversary is the Wicked Witch, a strong if megalomaniacal female figure, and of course there is Glinda as well. Wendy is the first one wooed by Peter’s pan pipes and while she goes with her brothers, she wishes for nothing but romance and to be a mother, and in fact plays mother to all the lost boys of Neverland. The boys kill and get in skirmishes because “children are gay and innocent and heartless,”  and Wendy keeps them in order. She is also the damsel taken captive. Tinker Bell and the redskin Tiger Lily vie for Peter’s attention but he is oblivious to all. Like many age-old myths of gods Peter is the eternal youth and Wendy is the mother/love figure that is part of the tale of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris.  For stories that are a century old I think it’s interesting that the male writers gave the females fairly major roles, even if they were still carried along on the action of the males.

Persephone, underworld, neverland, faery, fantasy, myth

When Persephone eats the food of the underworld, like those who eat the food of Faery, she is bound and can never fully return to the lands of humans. Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Peter Pan actually hearkens back to a far older myth. It is the tale of the grain goddess Demeter, loved by all of humanity, and her daughter the Kore. The Kore is seduced by a narcissus planted in the field. When she plucks it Hades, lord of the underworld, abducts her to his realm. Demeter blights the earth until Kore, now Persephone, is returned, but Persephone’s eaten the fruit of the underworld (the pomegranate). She is only allowed to return for part of the year because she only ate a partial meal in the underworld, and hence we have the seasons. When Peter guides Wendy and the lost boys home, he asks if she’ll come every year for spring cleaning, and her mother (who is loved by all) grants this, though Peter in his eternal youth, forgets some years to come by. It’s a simplified Greek myth but the seeds are still there, as they are in the fairytale Beauty and the Beast.

Both the Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan involve many adventures with different characters, just as Hercules/Herakles had twelve labors or Odysseus encountered sirens and cyclops. The language of Peter Pan is beautiful and evocative, yet compared with the sterilized Disnefication of tales today or even the movie versions of these stories, the children are savage and thoughtless. There is an inherent violence, which like nature, is part of a pattern and lacking morals. It just is.

I could go on but if you have not read these more modern fairy tales, consider that they are of a natural evolution that began with gods long ago, metamorphosed into magical beings and objects, took a trip to the land of Faery and never quite left.


Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, myth, Writing

Writing Update

writing, publishing, collections, story sales, Colleen Anderson, Deep Cuts

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, flickr

It’s been another busy month with the written word in my world. I’ve done very little writing though I’m percolating a green man story and working on some poems. I am reading through stories coming in for Tesseracts 17, and Carolyn Clink and I are going through a few poems for Chizine.

On top of that, I’ve received word that my story “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” will be in the Deep Cuts anthology to be published by Evil Jester Press in Feb. 2013. As well, “The Highest Price” was accepted for publication in the anthology Artifacts and Relics: Extreme Sorcery to be published by Heathen Oracle. My poem “Mermaid” was put up at Polu Texni on the 8th. It is done in the poetic form called a villanelle (which is also a dance). The villanelle has a particular rhythm and rhyme scheme where two lines are repeated in each verse until they come together in the final verse to possibly give a different meaning. It’s hard to write good rhyming poems these days as most writers are not trained in rhyme, nor even rhythm and the villanelle itself takes work. I’d like to try some other forms in the future.

writing, reprint collection, publishing, self-publishing, Embers Amongst the Fallen, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror

Embers Amongst the Fallen, art by Eric Warren

On the writing front, one way or another my book will be available during World Fantasy Con in Toronto. CreateSpace has been more difficult to wend my way through than Smashwords was. They make it a convoluted aspect for searching out royalties and shipping, and while shipping says nine days or five days, it’s hard to find out how long it takes to produce the book first. As it is, I’ll be hard pressed to get the books in time to take to Toronto.

While in Toronto, should you happen to be there, I’ll be doing a reading at the Art Bar Poetry series. It takes place Oct. 30, starting around 8:00 at the Pauper’s Pub (suitable for writers), 539 Bloor St. West. I’ll have copies of my poetry chapbook as well as (I hope) Embers Amongst the Fallen. Watch my blog as there will be a day before the end of the month where I will put the ecopy up on sale at Smashwords. As well, at World Fantasy Con I will be doing a half-hour reading on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 5:30 pm. Now I have to figure out what poems and fiction I’ll be reading. And if you do happen to buy my collection, please leave a review at Smashwords, Amazon or on Goodreads. If someone is willing to do a review now, contact me and I will send you a review ecopy.

So that’s my October so far. Very busy and a lot to do. I’m still trying to get another story up on Smashwords but I haven’t had time. Still looking for that time machine.

Leave a comment

Filed under art, Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Movie Review: Sinister

movies, horror, Sinister, thrillers, mysteries, supernatural films, Scott Derrickson

Sinister, directed by Scott Derrickson

Last night I got a chance to see a preview (for Canada at least) of Sinister. I hadn’t a clue what it was about but my friend said it was a horror and my first thought was, “Oh god, I hope it’s not gory.” I don’t like gratuitous gore and found Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs too graphic for me, while Silence of the Lambs, which should have been worse, didn’t linger on the truly horrific aspects.

So, what about Sinister? Is it like Saw, which I’ve never seen (but have been told is gory) or is it like a well-conducted symphony? I should mention that we had to sit right at the front of the theater so there was a weird distortion with the characters looking huge on our side and tiny on the other, and everything as if in a funhouse mirror due to the curvature of the screen (why do they put seats that close). Oh and there will be spoilers but I’ll announce when.

Starring Ethan Hawke and Juliet Rylance, this grainy and dark film is directed by Scott Derrickson who seems fairly new to directing. He directed The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and definitely likes the horror/thriller genre. I’ve not seen any of his previous works so I have no preconceptions.

True crime writer Elison Oswalt hasn’t had a hit in a long time and needs one so his family can keep a roof over their heads. The movie starts with them moving into a neighborhood where a grisly murder took place, so that Elison can research close at hand. Of course, what he doesn’t reveal is that they’ve moved into the house where the family was murdered, except for the one little girl who disappeared. And would you believe, gosh, no one even bothered to remove the tree limb in the back yard that was cut and used as a counterweight to hang four people. Right away, even as they’re moving boxes into the house, creepy heavy music and sounds begin. Scrapes, thunks, crackles, pops and indiscernible whispers/voices pervade the soundtrack of this film so much that it is contrived and heavy-handed. Really? You need scary music just because someone walks into a room?

Ethan Hawke, Sinister, thrillers, horror films, movies, supernatural

Ethan Hawke ponders if his furrowed brow can keep the suspense going in Sinister.

After smashing a scorpion in the attic, Elison discovers an old projector and super 8 film reels that depict several mass murders of families since the 60s. Later on a snake appears under a lid in the attic, which Elison narrowly avoids yet he never bothers to kill it or have it removed. As he watches the horrific reels more terrible noises accompany them, but they don’t differ enough from all the atmospheric background of Sinister so I’m not sure if they’re part of the super 8 films. This annoyed me a great deal and while I don’t watch many of these movies perhaps it inured me for the cheap trick scares that were to come.

Not so everyone in the audience since there were some pretty good shrieks from some younger girls, but early on before the really creepy stuff begins. And here’s your warning; from hereon in I’m giving spoilers, though I have to say the poster for the film does that. Elison, with the aid of the terrible films, pieces together a serial murder that happens once per decade, where a family is killed but one child is always missing. It didn’t take me long at this point, especially when he starts to notice a creepy face in each film, that it is the children who are the perpetrators. The face introduces the supernatural element, taking this away from a regular crime. Thankfully, as the murders are revealed, the more bloody ones are usually cut or there is a pull away at the crucial instant. I give kudos to Derrickson for not wallowing in the gore and letting the suspense dwell more on the tale than the horrid imagery.

However, though the movie is filmed to be shadowy, every time there is a thunk or rustle or some other movement–in the house–at night, does Elison ever turn on a light? Noooo. That would be like, what, smart?Much better to crap your pants with creepy  shadows in every corner. The first time he goes hunting about after the power is cut he uses his cellphone because no one has ever heard of flashlights. Too many of these cheap tricks and obvious manipulations irked me so that the sudden reveals were never a surprise.

Eventually the audience is pulled in to see more than what Elison sees. Why the switch, but only halfway through the film? Because we need more thrills as we see these creepy dead or transformed children that killed their families. And we find out about some old Babylonian god who was the eater of children (either flesh or souls), yet when you see ole Bughuul he does not look that Babylonian, nor will you or I have ever heard of him. Though he’s obscure he’s managed to keep the ritual alive to eat souls every decade.

Elison finally freaks out, dumps the project and takes his family back to the old home, after burning the films and the projector. Oh, you think, if you’re naive, a film that lets the protagonist escape the dire ending. But this is horror and horror is about the fight of the little guy and the inevitable descent or succumbing to the forces of evil. The deputy (who was the comic relief for the relentless darkness of the film) keeps calling him but Elison ignores the calls, because, you know, it’s the call you ignore that could save your life. When Elison goes up into the attic of his home, guess what he discovers, the films and the projector, and a new little envelope says “extended cut edits.” You know he can’t resist watching them, late at night, in the dark, where all is revealed. Why yes, indeed, the little monsters killed their families. But it’s too late because his sweet little daughter has drugged the family (where she got these drugs, who knows) and then happily chops them up with a big axe. Not that a little girl would ever have problems wielding such a big axe, nor chopping through the human body, which thankfully, is only depicted in the pictures she adds to the macabre images on the projector box lid.

I don’t go to movies to have the crap scared out of me, but good suspense and tension can be handled deftly like a conductor with his wand rather than a woodcutter with an axe. Unfortunately, the axe was swung too far and wide, with Derrickson succumbing to the tried and tired tropes of the genre. The acting was competent, the story could have been creepier and the suspense was contrived. I give this 4.5 axe whacks out of 10.


1 Comment

Filed under Culture, entertainment, horror, movies

Writing: Speculative Fiction Tropes

writing, anthologies, speculative fiction, Edge Publishing, short stories

From Tesseracts 15, Edge Publications.

Steve Vernon and I have started reading some of the submissions for Tesseracts 17. This is a yearly anthology of speculative fiction, usually by Canadians, those living in Canada and expats. The theme this year is “Speculations: From Coast to Coast to Coast.” We’re trying to highlight fiction and poetry from all provinces and territories, but quality will be the prime criteria.

Another thing to mention: Know, and I mean really know (don’t just presume you know) what proper manuscript format is. It’s not single spaced, it’s not a block of text with no indents, it’s not tabbing across the page instead of hitting “Enter” to move to a new paragraph, it’s not using the space bar instead of the Tab key, it’s not justifying both sides, it’s not using bizarre fonts. We haven’t received all these errors yet, but we have received most of them. If you’re not sure what proper manuscript format is, go to William Shunn’s Proper Manuscript Format for short stories. You can’t go wrong if you do this.

As in many genres of writing, speculative fiction has some popular tropes. If you write something in a familiar trope (a common or overused device), then you have to make sure it has a unique twist or that the language sings. We’re at the beginning of the submission window so stories are only trickling in right now, but here are a few tropes I’ve seen here and at other times when editing.This isn’t saying they’re bad, but if you’re writing a story that hits any of the ones I’m about to mention, make sure they’re really good and have something new to tell.

  • vampires–yes they have been done to death (haha!), and I’ve done a few myself so what is new about this version?
    tropes, fiction, writing, publishing, hero's journey, good vs evil

    Luke, I am your trope. Star Wars is a classic good vs evil but it’s more than that.

  • the underdog wins the day–it doesn’t matter if it’s Jack and the Beanstalk, the geeky computer nerd, the scrawny barbarian or an actual dog; it better be good and/or truly funny (and humor isn’t easy to write).
  • transformations–I was a human and turned into something else, I was something else and became human. Sometimes the metamorphosis is fascinating but it’s not the full story. I’ve written a few of these myself. The outer conflict is what the body goes through; the inner conflict is the psyche and these tales need both. How does a transformation change the protagonist and the world?
  • ghost story–the dead haunt us in different ways or commune among themselves. What’s new with your spook?
  • visiting your past/future–whether it’s time travel, a shamanic journey or body transferral, you better be doing more than just avoiding yourself so you don’t cancel you.
  • Eureka! I’ve discovered/invented it–Is the discovery the main story or should it be a tale of what happened after it was used?
  • the secret garden/the world beyond–whether you (you, meaning the character) create it, find it or can’t get back to it, how does it impact on you and your world beyond Alice in Wonderland?
  • the magic being–whether a genie, an angel, the devil you know or the robot you don’t, it’s not about their difference so much as it is about you react to them and integrate or destroy them.
  • descent into madness–is it Dante’s inferno, or just your sick twisted mind? Maybe we’ll never know but it better be entertaining.
  • the quest or journey–hi ho, hi ho it’s adventuring we go.
  • the altered world–something in the character’s world has changed. Do they survive, adapt or be consumed?
short fiction, collection, Embers Amongst the Fallen, speculative fiction, reprints

Embers Amongst the Fallen will be out in print by the end of October.

I’m sure other tropes will come to mind but that’s all I can think of now. However the thing to note is that it’s not bad to use a trope. It’s better to use it consciously so that you can make sure you manipulate it away from a tales that’s been done too often. Here’s another: good triumphs over evil. This is almost a primal human hope and we like stories that uplift, but the world isn’t so cut and dried and stories with nuances can be more enlightening, thought-provoking and entertaining.

I’d like to see some stories come in that take place in the past or far future, on a different world, have a different culture, in a time other than now or medieval, steampunk, cyberpunk, etc. We’ve received a few but I’m hoping for true diversity

Just to compare, my reprint collection Embers Amongst the Fallen, which has 14 reprinted stories and two new ones breaks down into the following statistics (of course some of the tales could fit in more than one category):

  • four vampire tales (the future, an alternate world, the past, and in India)
  • five tales of transformation (which was part of the original title)
  • four magic beings
  • one journey
  • two altered worlds

I’d be interested to see how others would categorize my tales. Sometimes a tale can be a journey and a transformation in an altered world, but which trope influences the story the most?

Here’s a bonus, also on tropes. One Thousand and One Parsecs


Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

How Do I Hate Thee, Word 2007

I’ve been formatting my book for printing at Createspace, due out this month. Since Embers Amongst the Fallen was already formatted for an ebook, the copy was clean, the headings matched, the front and back copy were done  and everything looked hunky dory.  But I needed to add a few elements that are different from an ebook.

writing, formatting for print, Word 2007 aggravation, Microsoft frustrations, bad programs

Word 2007 is a relationship that would end in a messy divorce. Creative Commons Stuartpilbrow

First, the ebook files had been  set with 1.5 spacing. For print, you want single spaced. That’s simple enough to do. I also wanted to drop cap the first letter of each story. That’s easy too, but don’t drop-cap quotation marks. Just remove them because you’ll never get them to look right.  Next is changing the table of contents to reflect no hyperlinks but page numbers. So page numbers are needed but here’s where it gets to be fun I’m an expert at Word but have found Word 2007 defies logic an intuition (Don’t let that pretty “ribbon” with all its graphics fool you–it’s an energy suck and they change everything around.)

Any copy that comes before the main body of text tends to be numbered with i, ii, vi, ix, etc. Roman numerals of the uncapitalized variety. This shouldn’t be a problem and didn’t used to be in the older versions of Word, or at least not as big of a problem. You start with i, ii, iii and then when you get to the front matter you switch to pages 1, 2, 3 by entering a break.  Consider these preliminary steps the part of a relationship where everything is new and fresh and you get to learn of the person’s interests and personality. Putting in the numbering is when you get to a firm commitment.

However, Microsoft figured out that they could give people more meaningful moments if they expanded the time-to-search ratio and placed things such as  breaks in two different areas, segregating “page breaks” from continuous, odd, even, section and other breaks. Except that you can find page breaks in this section as well but of course it takes more hunting. Already, one thinks, gosh I’m so glad I got to spend such long quality time within Microsoft Word. Just to help in developing a complex and deep relationship, they set these pages to link automatically to the previous section and should you have found the philosopher’s stone that tells you actually which type of break lets you move on to new numbering, as opposed to it wanting to continue the one you don’t want, then you might be in luck of getting it to work right. Because of course they work different and are linked to headers and footers as well.

Now, remember, I’m formatting a print book. This means there are recto (right hand) and verso (left hand) pages. You

Windows 2007, Word 2007, bad microsoft, formatting in Word, fomratting issues

Windows 2007 and I doubt Vista is better. It’s a broken relationship. Creative Commons: Deviantart LarsEliasNielsen

want your book (in Western countries at least) to start on the recto side, which are the odd-numbered pages as we all start reading at page 1. This means such things as dedication, acknowledgements, introduction, afterword, credits, contents and stories all should start on the recto page. You may have to add a blank page from time to time but keep the numbering going correctly. That’s no problem,  just as a page break shouldn’t be, but don’t make it a section break or some other unfathomed system because your numbering might just decide to start over. I believe it involves esoteric rituals and words of endearment to actually work correctly.

And let’s say you want to try something nice, like flowers to make your relationship better, or perhaps a header that says Colleen Anderson on the recto page but says Embers Amongst the Fallen on the verso page. Easy, right? All you do is click on the tab that says Different Odd & Even Pages. Voila, so simple, you don’t have to even work at this relationship. Oh, but wait. When you go back to look at your title and copyright pages the headers are showing. Insert a section break, but wait, the numbering now starts at page three. Delete the numbers, unlink from the previous section and go again. Okay, the numbers are going right, but now both headers say Colleen Anderson. Okay, fiddle back and forth and that should be good. Looking good.

Upload the file to Createspace and review it. What? All the numbers are lower case Roman. Go back, tinker with section and page breaks. Restart or continue numbering and run through it again. But now the text body shows the two different headers but the front matter shows only one header for both pages. But I entered them differently and everything is checked as different odd and even pages. Fix and go again. What? Now some of the headers missing. We’ve got to the point in the relationship where one says, “Where were you last night?” And you say, “I was working late.” This isn’t believed and you go around in circles rehashing the old info and even offering to call the office to verify. Back and forth and forth and back, and finally out of exhaustion the argument dies and the page numbers and headers look right. Please don’t find a typo at the stage or it could all flare up again, as it has before.

After counseling, many apologies, attempts to make things work a different way and finally a clean copy that comes through with everything on the correct side of the page, the numbering in the right order and the headers where they should be. The final is  up at Createspace and my designer is finishing the back cover and we’ll have copies in about 10-12 days, in time for arriving in Toronto.

Four hours. Yes, folks. As an experienced Word user it took me four hours on Word 2007, partly because I don’t use different headers and numbering all the time, but also  because this relationship is sadistic and malicious, and I would toss it out a high window if I could. As it is, I want a divorce and a big cash settlement.


Filed under Culture, Publishing, Writing