Monthly Archives: December 2012

Writing Year in Review

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

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr.

Well, it’s time to reflect on my year before I run off for the New Year’s celebrations. I did start the year with the three-month Apocalypse Diet, which I blogged about. It was an interesting experiment and I didn’t have to eat brains or truly battle zombies.

This year I was determined to write more and send out more. I can say I had a record year for submissions and rejections, and maybe even for acceptances. In some ways I call this my bridesmaid year, as in always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I think I had a record number of stories held for final selection or shortlisted, but in the end did not make the cut. In some ways this is more painful, yet encouraging. So that this is not hyperbole I’ll give a list of those places where my stories and poems were held past the first reading:

  • Writers of the Future honorable mention for Monstrous Aberrations
  • Friends of Merril fiction contest (one of ten shortlisted) for The Ties That Bind
  • Aurora Award nominee (poetry) A Good Catch
  • Punchnell’s (literary fiction)
  • Pedestal Magazine (poetry)
  • New Quarterly (poetry & literary fiction)
  • Gulf Coast (poetry)
  • Tesseracts 16 (fiction)
  • Whitefish Review (poetry)
  • Stupefying Stories (fiction)
  • Dark Faith 2 (fiction)
  • Penumbra–Dreams issue (fiction)
  • Scape (fiction)
  • Plasma Frequency (fiction)
  • Abyss & Apex (fiction)
  • Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (fiction)
  • Horror World anthology (fiction)

But…it was also a year for acceptances and works published, though in the end I’ll see most of these out next year. The first four were published and the rest are out next year I hope.

writing, publishing, cover design, art concepts, cover art, book covers

Embers Amongst the Fallen available through Smashwords

  • Mermaid (poem) in Polu Texni
  • Legend (poem) in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly
  • Queen of Heaven an Earth (poem) in Eternal Haunted Summer
  • The Brown Woman (fiction) in Over the Brink from Third Flatiron Publishing
  • Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood (fiction) in Deep Cuts
  • The Highest Price (fiction) in Heathen Oracle: Artifacts and Relics
  • P is for Phartouche: The Blade (fiction) in Demonologica Biblica (Britain)
  • The Book With No End (fiction) in Bibliotheca Fantastica
  • Gingerbread People (fiction) in Chilling Tales 2
  • Lady of the Bleeding Heart (fiction) in Fantastic Frontiers 2
  • Tower of Strength (fiction) in Irony of Survival, Zharmae Publishing
  • Visitation (poem) in Bull Spec (I hope next year…it’s been 2 years now)

My goal was to get at least 12 items accepted and while Visitation was accepted previously, as was Gingerbread People I believe, I think I ha a pretty good year of near acceptances. While it’s disappointing on one side it means my writing is getting closer. I’ve also identified one of my issues. I put in too much backstory up front and now that I know this, I can try to chop frugally.

Carolyn Clink and I edited and chose some fine poems for Chizine. I also drove out to Calgary and attended theconvention When Words Collide, where I read a bit of fiction an poetry, and was asked by Brian Hades to co-edit Tesseracts 17 with Steve Vernon. We’re working our way through many stories right now.

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.

I also flew to Toronto and did a poetry reading at the Art Bar Poetry Reading Series and thank them for inviting me. I attended the Specfic Colloquium and World Fantasy Con. I met some new writers and had a blast visiting old friends Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory of Chizine Publications an getting to know some new people. Another project started to germinate there but I can’t mention it yet until we have more details to make sure it’s happening.

I almost forgot but I also self-published a collection of my reprint stories, Embers Amongst the Fallen. It is available through smashwords and Amazon.com. I also put up two erotic stories under T.C. Calligari. I plan to put up the rest of them in the new year and get a bit more speculative fiction up. Should you have read a copy, please leave a review on those sites as well as Goodreads.

As well, I hosted a specfic cocktail party for writers an it was a success. I’m trying to build community here in

erotic, spanking, fetish, erotic fiction, T.C. Calligari, writing, short stories

Not hard to guess what this one is about.

Vancouver and I’ll be hosting another one at the end of January or early February. I’m also looking for the right venue to see if we can spring the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, which happens monthly in Toronto. We’re hoping to launch it in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver in April so I’m looking for the right type of bar for a Wednesday evening.

I and continued to write and read. For my holidays (ending tomorrow, alas) I decided to catch up on Tesseracts reading, but also get working on that novel I’ve been working on for ten years. Yes, ten years! I watched all of Game of Thrones seasons one and two to inspire me and then hunkered down. By tomorrow I will have completed the story arc for one of three viewpoint characters, and I’ll have half of my chapters written. This is good considering how slow it’s been up until now. I have a deadline of April to finish the first draft and hopefully the rewrite. Then it’s off to the agent and editor who expressed interest nearly two years ago. Yes, I’m stupid.

writing, anthologies, speculative fiction, books, fantasy, poetry, SF, Aurora Awards

When it comes to writing and reading, just do it! Creative Commons: Eric Guiomar

Doing this review helps when I begin to think of all those rejections I’ve received, and that the stories that were shortlisted or received honorable mentions won’t sell anywhere, or that what I consider are my best three-four stories also won’t sell. But then, some of my stories, that I thought were good have taken ten years to sell. There is hope and maybe I’ll look at those four again and see if there is too much up front for all of them.

The main thing is to persevere and not get depressed. I’ve wanted to edit an anthology for a long time and now I’m doing it. I’m hitting some of my goals and therefore are setting new ones. To all of you who write, edit or read, continue doing so. Support writers and buy books and magazines. Give your input, give your reviews. We all need each other. So have a great new year. May it be productive and fulfilling and may all your endeavors bring you success.

Happy New Year! Creative commons: Flickr Champagne Toast

Happy New Year! Creative commons: Flickr Champagne Toast

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Filed under art, Culture, entertainment, erotica, fantasy, horror, people, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

Writing: An Interview, Editing and Writing

writing, colleen anderson,books, publishing, horror, dark fantasy

Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr.

It’s nearing the end of another year. I’m on holidays, which can mean many things. For me, I’m doing some catch up on editing for the Tesseracts anthology. Reality Skimming did an interview with me about the anthology so if you’d like to read more on what we might be looking for or why I’m doing the anthology, then you can read the interview here.

I’m also taking this time to work on the long languishing novel. I started it at least ten years ago. I wrote the first ten chapters, then it sat and I lost steam. I workshopped it at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction’s Kansas workshop a few years ago and rewrote some of the chapters and dropped others. Every year,  I seem to start on it again in January and then forget or get tied up with writing short stories.

And then, every time I go back to the novel I have to remember where I’m at and reread several chapters. Thankfully I did a revised outline and worked out the story arc for my three viewpoint characters. Also, watching Game of Thrones inspired me in several ways. My novel is a medieval fantasy as well, and takes place on a different world as does Game of Thrones. I have a battle, an invasion, an insurrection and the possible destruction of the religious system. So why can’t my novel be as good as Game of Thrones? (Mind you, I haven’t read the books; just seen the two seasons so far.) There’s no reason it can’t but it won’t write itself. And until I can be a full time writer, I’m not sure I can fit in all the conflicts that George R.R. Martin has. Wow, are there lots of conflicts.

So I’m not being distracted by other projects or three short stories that I’d like to finish. I’m only working on the novel and have done so every day so far, except yesterday. My great hope was to finish a chapter a day. But the creative process sometimes takes longer than that. I have to look over the outline from time to time, study the map of my world, since I have a lot movement for quite a few chapters, and figure out what exactly is happening to the characters. That’s slowed me down and I’m finishing a chapter about every two days.

world building, editing, writing, speculative fiction, medieval fantasy

World building is essential almost any fiction story, whether, taking place on Earth or an imagined world/time. Creative Commons: Jonathan Harris http://www.number27.org/worldbuilding.html

My goal is to get all the chapters done for one of the viewpoint characters. Baeduwan is the anti-hero who is causing a lot of the problems in the empire. I’m following his journey and working through his conflicts right to the end. I’m on Chapter 16 and have two  more chapters for him left. I should be able to do that in the next week. That, with the initial chapters that are already written will take me halfway through the novel. Then I will tackle Zeeku, the leader of the invading forces, who does not have as many chapters, but who will play a larger role in the following book. That will then leave Tanzanell, my beleaguered ruler who must tackle all of the problems arising in her crumbling kingdom. She is the major viewpoint character so she has more chapters than the other two.

Of course there is a great deal of world building, but much of it is done already. As I approach a new town or village the details get filled out as I write, and I add them to the other files I have. I have a glossary, character sheets, geography, climate, attributes of the races, and anything else I must keep track of through the writing. It’s very easy to forget what color your character’s eyes are, or whether you added  in salt marshes or a lake, if you don’t keep track.

I’m determined to finish the novel next year. I’ve stopped worrying that everything is there, that the grammar is  correct and that I have enough details. I’m trying to get it all down. Then once the first draft is done I can go back and clean it up. Since I’m writing through one character’s story arc at a time I’ll have to make sure everything meshes together once it’s all done. I’m sure I’ll have some tinkering to do.

So that’s what I’m up to in very rainy Vancouver. I’m not that tempted to go out. Editing and writing and here’s to seeing the full draft of Lyranda (working title only) sometime in the first half of 2013. May all your writing endeavors go well.

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Filed under Culture, fantasy, life, Publishing, Writing

WordPress Creates a Bomb

wordpress, hidden dashbar, frustrating changes, blogging, writing, designing blog

Is WordPress owned by Microsoft because this latest change smacked of the annoyance that every Microsoft upgrade has.

If you recently logged into your WordPress blog, you might notice that things changed, and change drastically they did with no warning. It seems WordPress decided to study Facebook and take a page from the book of annoying.  Normally, they’ve done a few changes and they seemed okay and intuitive. The dropdown menu was great. So this morning when I logged in I couldn’t find where to get to my posts, nor how to find my dashboard, which is where the other aspects of designing the blog are, such as managing comments, placing widgets, changing themes, edit and adding posts, reviewing old ones, etc. The dropdown menu had been simplified but nothing seemed to indicate where the dashboard was. So I thought I’d find feedback, which they used to have and which I didn’t even have to use very much. I found the support section and posted a comment (my comments are in regular font, blue italics for the volunteer who was driven as crazy as me, other colors for other commenters. There are a few more comments in the actual thread but they were only spinning off or commenting on what they disliked as well. Full thread is here:

What the hell? You guys have changed everything, even on how to contact anyone or leave feedback. Now I have to hunt to find a way to make a new post and view my previous posts. Not to mention, where did my dashboard go? This is not one of your better tinkerings. Please put back the dropdown menu and make it easy again.

The blog I need help with is colleenanderson.wordpress.com.

No changes are going to be reverted. If your have specific issues please list them and we will deal with them.

where did my dashboard go?

https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin is where you l;of-in and logging in results in being on your own blog’s dashboard.

Now I have to hunt to find a way to make a new post and view my previous posts.

new post link > https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php
all posts link > https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/edit.php
sticky post at the head of the forum > Changes to Media Handling > http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/changes-to-media-handling?replies=1

It’s fine to have a bunch of links listed but that doesn’t help me when I sign in. When I log in, I cannot find the dashboard that lists themes, posts, etc. I can hit new post, sure. But I often have some in the works and want to go back to my list.

Other changes in the past have made sense, made accessibility easier. This one falls into the realm of annoying Facebook changes. If it takes me longer to hunt, it certainly isn’t intuitive.

Oh, and why is it even harder to contact WordPress. I had to really really hunt for a place to post. What happened to “Feedback?”

@collenanderson
re: the links I provided
You’re welcome. Please fee free to bookmark them as I have done so you can access them quickly and easily.

Unfortunately bookmarking is a stop-gap and doesn’t make ease of accessibility from the wordpress page better. I use different computers and bookmarking is not the best option. I hope wordpress will think about these changes. I agree with the above person too on inserting media. There are now more steps to do the same thing.

We’re devolving here. I understand you’re a volunteer and thank you for your prompt answers but they don’t let us navigate wordpress any better.

@collenanderson
This is a peer support forum where Volunteers answer most questions and tag threads with issues we technical issues that we cannot assist with resolving. We don’t provide emotional support for adaptation to unwelcome changes (please note that we are probably just as unhappy as you are and we don’t get any prior warning of any changes either), but we are happy to assist with technical issues and tag threads when Staff assistance is required.

If I needed emotional support I would go cry on a friend’s shoulder or have a drink. I’m talking about feedback here. As in, where do I click on the wordpress page to get to my list of past posts and my drafts? Why is it so hidden now? Do I now need a map of links to get there? Isn’t that rather old fashioned?

If wordpress is so uninterested in how their changes affect their users that would explain why there is no longer a section for leaving feedback. And likewise, the dropdown menu was useful and quick. It is no longer there and no longer quick.

Like the person above, where can we leave feedback?

As in, where do I click on the wordpress page to get to my list of past posts and my drafts

Your dashboard is here > https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin

Dashboard > Posts > All Posts
https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/edit.php

Dashboard > Posts > All Posts (Drafts)
https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/edit.php?post_status=draft&post_type=post

Like the person above, where can we leave feedback?

There is no specific forum for feedback.

I know what to do when I have the dashboard. What I’m talking about, again, is that when I log in I see no place to bring up the dashboard. If I have to have a host of links, then wordpress has just gone backwards in time.
Step 1. Log in
Step 2. Go to dashboard (what do I click on?)

This has yet to be answered. Don’t give me a link, tell me what I’m looking for to find the dashboard.

Dashboard > Posts > All Posts
Dashboard > Posts > All Posts > (Drafts)

Sigh. There is nothing that indicates the dashboard. Where did you find the dashboard? It is the dashboard that I’m still looking for. I’m sure once I find the dashboard I’ll find the posts and drafts and widgets and themes and all the other things that are there once you have the dashboard.

There is no dashboard. I AM TRYING TO FIND THE DASHBOARD, PLEASE.

This is the link to your own blog’s dashboard https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin

Read more here > http://en.support.wordpress.com/dashboard/

For clarity the link to every wordpress.com dashboard is the URL of the blog followed by /wp-admin/

You’ve said that there is no forum, but that isn’t really what we asked. We are asking for any way that we can leave feedback. Is there an email address or a form (not a forum) we can fill out anywhere?

I understand you want to provide feedback re: the changes and that’s why I tagged this thread for Staff attention long ago.

There is not phone support. The email address is only for technical issues and using it places you in a queue with those who have technical issues being addressed to Support Staff, not to developers who make these changes. When we create a support ticket by contacting Staff or by flagging a thread here in the forums for their assistance it’s important to understand Support Staff have a backlog. They deal with the support tickets and threads with the earliest dates first. So if we contact them more than once on the same issue or bump threads the date moves forward and it takes longer to get help. This thread is flagged for Staff attention. What’s required is your patience please.

I didn’t think this was a hard question You could even send me a screen shot showing what you click on, but giving me a link again and again does not answer my question. After I log in, what do I click on, that is not a link, that will let me get to the dashboard?

It seems I cannot include a screenshot but once I log in there is nowhere that the word dashboard shows. No where. Not in the minimized dropdown menu, not when I click the blue tabs. No where, no dashboard. Sure, once I get the dashboard, I have all my usual choices, I presume, but where, without sending me another link, is the dashboard? Describe the steps to get to it by clicking. Or is it gone and that’s why we’re playing out this fiasco?

Please wait patiently for Staff to assist you.

Colleen, you can open the Stats tab, and then click on the little blue W logo above the graph on the right-hand side.

Pictures of how to log in:
search for wordpress.com login on Google, then click on “log in”
http://1tess.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/log-in-1.jpg
screen to put in username and password
http://1tess.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/log-in-2.jpg
click on your gravatar
http://1tess.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/log-in-3.jpg
manage blogs—>choose blog—>(fly-out menu) choose—>dashboard
http://1tess.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/log-in-4.jpg  (I guess they didn’t get that thing about not giving links but tell me where to click, but this time the links were relevant, even if red circled in case I couldn’t read “Manage My Blogs.” Yeegods, that used to be where you went if you had more than one blog or wanted to add other writers. I never thought the dashboard would be hidden there.)

@gio162,
OMG, now why was it so hard to get to this point? Thanks. I didn’t even see that tiny hidden logo and didn’t think it linked anywhere.

And @1tess, thank you also. It was nice of wordpress to hide things and make this a hunt. Maybe next time wordpress does a wholesale switcheroo a little sidebar for a month that explains where everything has moved to would help. But that’s right, there is no feedback area, like there used to be. Instead we got to play back and forth all day. Sigh.

For future queries:
1. Log in.
2.Scroll over gravatar image
3. Click on “Manage Blogs”
4. Click on “Dashboard.”
5. Tadaa!

At this point the thread continued for a day or two but I haven’t included everything. WordPress answer my question…eventually. I really hope they didn’t take a page from Facebook (but even as I write this the formattting for the block posts has now been screwy for days.) Oh, and let’s not dwell on the demise of the Freshly Pressed… no longer easy to find.

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Restaurant Review: The Absinthe Bistro

I live in East Vancouver (BC) and we have a large number of restaurants on the Drive. In the past year or two some of the standbys of many years (or even decades) have disappeared. Latin Quarter, with its lousy food, but good Latino music finally was driven into the ground. Stormcrow, the pub with cheap food for gaming geeks seems to be doing quite well in its place. One of the Italian places disappeared and the Dime Roadhouse, with its $5 food and college crowd atmosphere opened up. An Italian pizzeria moved in where a video store once was so we’re keeping our healthy balance of Italian restaurants in a once predominantly Italian neighborhood. There are Indian, Japanese, continental and Cafe Carthage as well as other types along the Drive.

food, French restaurant, absinthe, scallops, creme brulee

The Absinthe Bistro at 1260 Commercial Dr. lives up to French quaintness.

The other day I was on the Drive and noticed that Turk’s coffee house had disappeared (we have a glut of coffee places) and instead there was Absinthe Bistro. It looked tiny, yet quaint. Two of my friends and I go for “wings” throughout the year but since this is the holiday season we often look for something a little fancier. I suggested trying the bistro.

Run by a Cory and Juliana Pearson, the Absinthe Bistro has room for about 24-30 patrons. Cory trained with famous Parisian chefs for six years and then returned to Vancouver. Along with Juliana, they started the restaurant in August.  It has an open design and you can see right into the kitchen. We went on a Wednesday and the place was never full but had people coming and going. We stayed for about three hours and didn’t feel rushed. Cory and Juliana each had a person helping them in their respective domains.

abinthe, green fairy, alcohol, restaurants, The Abnsinthe Bistro

Ice & water are put in the top and the glass of absinthe, with sugar cube is placed beneath so the water runs over the sugar.

The floor is a raised white matte tile, with smaller black diamond shaped tiles between every four. This was repeated in the bathroom where one friend reported that the design worked well. The bistro had dark, straight-lined chairs and tables. Each table had a small flower bowl with a daisy floating in it. The walls are white with a few gilt framed mirros and posters. A simple elegant interior. There is a dark countered bar with a lovely water decanter used for absinthe. And of course, I had to have one (and I love absinthe). I asked if it was an original or a reproduction. Juliana said they had tried to find antiques but even broken ones were $2,000. The place also sports four impressive chandeliers.

The service was the right amount of attentive, and Juliana was very cordial. The menu features three appetizers, three main course and three desserts. You can mix and match with a fixed menu price of $35 for three courses or $28 for two, or order al a carte. With a small venue and giving attention to each dish, this is a wise choice and means everything is prepared fresh. The menu changes frequently.

For the appetizer, two of us had the tuna tartare with salad. The online menu says seaweed but ousr was a medley of greens. They will change the side dishes and their kitchen warrants. This tartare was amazing and a good sized portion about 3 inches square. My other friend had the soup of the day, which was carrot and cumin and he said it was very good. For dinner, two of us chose the pan-seared scallops with beurre blanc, sauteed spinach and potato puree. You might think that a potato puree is like mashed potatoes and I would have thought so too but I can say that these were the smoothest and tastiest potatoes I’ve ever had. The proportion was generous and I even gave the last two forkfuls to my friend because they were too good to be wasted. One might consider three scallops to be meager but these were good sized and perfectly seared. Considering what they cost (I made cioppino a few weeks ago and scallops are expensive) this turned out to be just the right amount, set with the spinach. The flavors were so well blended that you could taste each aspect individually and married together.

One friend ordered the duck leg confit with the same sides. He declared after he finished the he usually doesn’t like duck. I said, well why did you order it? He thought he’d try it again and he declared it excellent as well. For drinks, one of us doesn’t drink and he stuck with water, my other friend chose beer and I had a couple of glasses of wine after the absinthe. The menu specializes in French wines of course. This is probably the country whose wines I’m least familiar with. I asked Juliana what the La Vielle Ferme Ventoux was like and she described it so well that when I tasted it, it matched her description. This told me she knew her wines.

chocolate, lava cake, French cuisine, Absinthe Bistro

The lava cake is a chocoholic’s fantasy.

For dessert, two of us ordered the molten chocolate lava cake with house made vanilla bean ice cream, and I had the classic French vanilla creme brulee. My brulee looked huge but this dish was shallow so there was a large surface of crackle, which made each spoonful a smooth taste of creamy and crunchy. I tasted the lava cake and it had that bittersweet flavor of dark chocolate paired with the sweetness of the ice cream. They warned us at the beginning that they needed extra time to bake the cakes so they were fresh and hot, with oozing centers.

We stayed after eating and had another drink. Not one of us felt like we needed any more to eat. In fact I couldn’t finish the brulee. There wasn’t any portion of the evening that we didn’t enjoy. All three of us declared each dish as excellent. Juliana said their weekends have been very busy but the weekdays have not yet been full. I can say that this is the best food I’ve had on the Drive, or in any other parts of the city, in a long time and the Absinthe Bistro rates up there with the other five-star restaurants. I suggest not waiting to taste the wonders in this bistro because once everyone knows about it reservations will fill up fast. Congratulations to the Pearson on having a perfect blend.

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Filed under Culture, entertainment, food

Royalty and Rethinking the Importance of Blood

crowns, royalty, monarchy, mudblood, British royal family, Queen Elizabeth, Kate

Royalty isn’t in the blood; it’s in the deeds. Creative Commons: AllVectors

I was at a party on the weekend and of course the conversation came around to the Australian radio announcers who badly imitated the Queen and Prince Charles, to ask about Kate’s health, and the news of the death of the nurse who had answered the phone. Talk ranged from it being pretty weird to kill oneself for answering the phone, was she reprimanded, the announcers weren’t even convincing, etc. And then someone said something like, “well, mudblood Kate is diluting the family line.” I bit my tongue and said nothing even though the comment angered me. With a couple of Brits in the room and a lot of people I didn’t know, I didn’t think it would have been right to start a discussion (argument) over this sentiment.

And what sentiment is that? Well, it’s obvious here. I don’t even know if Kate is a “mudblood” or a “commoner” but both the terms used on an actual human being rankle me a lot. The British royal family, or any royalty for that fact are nothing more than human beings. Dissect one, sample their blood and hair, and you will not be able to tell a “common person” from a “royal person.” Royalty are not descended from gods though in some past cultures this was considered a fact. They are not imbued with blood that is blue, laced with gold, or any wise purer than yours or mine. Another reason why the continuing and devolving Star Wars saga rankled when it turned out Jedi knights didn’t attain their status through hard work and meditation but through some special gene. Still, that’s something royalty doesn’t have; a special gene.

Are they royal or are they common? Only money can tell. Jonas Ekstromer / SCANPIX/ FILE

Are they royal or are they common? Only money can tell. Jonas Ekstromer / SCANPIX/ FILE

Any one, any where who can claim they’re related to or are royalty can do so because in the past someone’s army, or conniving skills, or political savvy, or massive riches, or poison penknife was better than someone else’s. Kings and queens have come and gone and royal lines have died out because the opposing force got one over on them. There was no special blood, no divine ray of light, no mighty god-given powers that made one royal, just good old human skill and knowledge and charisma.

So why do we have this fascination with royalty? If you or I were born with a gold spoon in some part of our anatomy, we would suddenly be more special. Is Paris Hilton and Stephen Harper (kak!) two of our modern royals? Well, one has money and one has power but their reputations and compassion are questionable. In fact, in many cases what denotes someone as royal is a wealth of worldly riches, sometimes built up over generations and centuries and often on the backs and tithes of the common people. Once, way back in feudal times, the point was that the leader/land owner was supposed to protect the community from outside forces (invaders, pillagers, etc.) but it became a way of prestige and power over. I doubt Britain’s queen (or any other country’s) does much to protect the people from the ravening hordes.

magic, mudblood, royal family, roryal prank, Duchess of Cambridge, British royal family

Hermione was a mudblood because her parents had no magic talent. In that case, there was something in the blood (genes) but offspring could still become wizards.

Monarchies are outdated in today’s world and as an egalitarian I cannot support any royalty based on blood and riches. Every person has the right to be treated well, and respect is earned. Give me the wealth of the royal family and I will look as elegant and do as much good (or ill). Why put someone on a pedestal for being “royal” because they were born into a state of privilege? In that case, worship Donald Trump, or Warren Buffet or Idi Amin or Richard Branson or J.K. Rowling, because they at least seized their power in different ways.

So, let’s wind this back around to mudbloods and a woman alleged to have killed herself over passing on a phone call. The fallout is the woman is dead and that is tragic. The fallout is that the radio announcers’ program has been suspended. The fallout is that other radio stations (one in Vancouver for example) have announced they will no longer do pranks, as if pranks are evil in their own right. Overreacting and doing the overly politically correct thing is what we do these days. But it is so much overreaction that it’s created more questions than why do people fawn over royalty? Why would someone kill themselves for such a thing? Was she killed? If so, that speaks of an even more corrupt and broken society than even suicide does.

I suggest everyone get out of the fairy tale world, don’t imagine themselves with a prince or princess, don’t wait for a knight in shining armor, but go and live a life of worth. Do wonderful things, be a compassionate person, make your deeds and words count. And in that way, it matters not what blood courses through your veins, nor how much money is in your bank account, but what you do with the life you have. Then you too will be noble and that’s all that really counts.

 

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Book Review: The Steel Seraglio

seraglio, Arabian Nights, Mike Carey, Louise Carey, Linda Carey, historical fantasy

Available through ChiZine Publications and Amazon.

The Steel Seraglio is published by ChiZine Publications and written by  Louise Carey, Linda Carey and Mike Carey. The Careys ( mother, father and daughter) wrote the book together. Some people may be wondering what a seraglio is as it’s not a common word anymore. It is a harem or the palace of a sultan and well defines both the context and the characters of this book.

I cannot say how wonderful this book is. It is a world of wonderful. It is the djinni uncapped. It truly is the stuff of which dreams are made. If you combined the Arabian Nights and the Canterbury Tales, shook them with a pinch of magic in a djinni bottle, you would come close to the depth and breadth and breathlessness of this novel.  The Steel Seraglio tells the tale of a sultan’s harem, jeopardized when the sultan is overthrown and they are sent into exile, but amongst them is a surviving son of the sultan and the fanatical new sultan’s wrath descends upon them.

Like the Arabian Nights, there are tales within tales here, where a character in the book tells a story of their past or a fantastical mirage to save their necks. These concubines (a year’s worth), though in an ancient and mystical time of Middle Eastern romanticism and attitude, are not just victims and chattels to be owned by men, though many try. They survive by wiles and wits, compassion and passion, and by ruthlessness when needed. Like a seraglio that holds the concubines for one man, this book is a harem of stories woven together to create a society and a history.

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The Steel Seraglio has some interior art by Nimit Malavia.

It is lush and loving, horrific and petty, political and fanatical, mysterious and methodical. Each character, from the wise Gursoon and opinionated Imtisar, from the assassin Zuleika and the scribe-librarian with prescient vision Rem, from the flawed Jamal and rogue Anwar Das, all of these and more become real people, their personalities distinct and human. There are a pastiche of characters and even Stephen King would marvel at the mastery, and Dickens would weep. Some of the people have short roles within the tale but the journey of the City of Women moves through time and place, showing what a community (and a seraglio of once chattels) can become.

These women are strong, brilliant fighters. The moral undercurrent  is  not just a fairy tale of old. For at the very core of The Steel Seraglio is the rights of women to be treated as equals and not be used only as baby machines and whores. Lest someone think this is preaching against certain right-wing movements only in the Mid-East, it rings as true for people anywhere, where men try to lessen women and blame the world’s evils upon them. And if you think that’s farfetched, don’t forget we had a presidential candidate just saythat if a woman is “legitimately raped” her body has a way of shutting out such things and that children are never born of rape. Ignorance and fear still rule and are shown here in different ways by a fanatic psychopath who gains a following, and a disenfranchised dilettante.

The Careys are masterful in their telling, coming up with some brilliant solutions to the problems of survival that the seraglio faces. That each of them (writers in their own right) write different parts that still fit seamlessly together, speaks of a true piece of art. The tales in the book blend recipes with comments, council notes, mythic tales, journal entries, narratives and introspections. In some ways it reminded me of Ursula LeGuin’s Always Coming Home, which is  a blend of songs and tales and myths, a gathering of a culture’s ways so that you could read the book in any order. You could read certain chapters in this book and have a complete short story, but there is the tapestry that is formed from the sum of these tales.

I loved this book so much that I took my time reading it so that I could savor it, not wanting it to end, yet it has a perfect ending. The tone changes in the second part, the Book the Second. In the first, it is the struggle and the solidification of Bessan society, where they reach their pinnacle of art and politics, respect and peace. The second book deals with the unmaking of the city and the forces that cause it to change, for like any great civilization, it too has a lifespan. The great Roman Empire crumbled as did ancient Sumer, and the Celtic nations. So too must Bessa move along this path, bringing a poignancy and yet a well-earned place in the great history of the world.

These tales were accessible, enjoyable and made me both think and wonder at what they encompassed. The Careys should be well-please with this magnificent pastiche. Add this one to someone’s stocking for the holidays. I would have to uncork ten bottles and say this is worthy of ten djinnis out of ten.

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