Monthly Archives: July 2013

Writing: A Trilogy of Books About Books

horror anthologies, writing, horror, speculative fiction, fantasy,

“It’s Only Words” opens this anthology.

While I’m working on the second half of the demographics about Tesseracts 17 I thought I would do a little catch up on my own writing. It’s been a awhile and there is a lot happening. Read to the end for the Easter egg.

Over the past year and a bit I’ve been in three anthologies that have to do about books. The first was Des Lewis’ The Horror Anthology of Horror Anthologies, and out of England. The theme was that an anthology had to be mentioned in some way and part of the story. Out of this idea came my story “It’s Only Words.” Right now, Des is offering a three in one deal that includes this title, as well as Horror Without Victims and The First Book of Classical Horror Stories.

demons, anthologies, horror, fantasy, Demonologia Biblica

Available through Amazon. This is my favorite cover of all three.

The second story to come out was earlier this year. Dean Drinkel, also from England, but teaming up with Western Legends Press in the US, edited the Demonologia Biblica. Like an encyclopedia it contains 26 stories that go through the alphabet of demons, real or imagined. My tale “P is for Phartouche: The Blade” graces those virtual pages. This story had its genesis in a writing exercise of giving an inanimate object a personality and in my fascination in the past with the Elric of Melnibone stories where a noble prince was forever linked to a sword that had to drink blood once it was pulled. I look at it from a slightly different perspective.

Third, and just out, is my story “The Book With No End,” which has just come out in Dagan Books’ Bibliotheca Fantastica. Edited by Claude Lalumière & Don Pizarro, I’m not really sure how this tale formed but again a book hand to be integral to this tale. All these books are available to order online though the first is only in paper and the second is only an ebook. Check them out.

writing, fantasy, horror, speculative fiction, anthologies

The Book With No End, is in this anthology just out from Dagan Books.

Now, I have a poem titled “Don Quixote’s Quandary” which should be out in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly by the beginning of August. I will be featured on Polu Texni, also sometime in August with three poems titled “Father’s Child,” “Illuminating Thoughts” and “Heart of Glass.” All the poems are fantastical, with the first two at Polu Texni being Greek revisionings about Athena and Psyche respectively. (Both magazines are free to read online.)  A third poem in that series, “Visitation,” about Leda and the swan, will be coming out in Bull Spec but I still do not know when.

story collection, fantasy, horror, SF

Look for the Easter egg below for a free copy.

Now, I’ve been very bad about promoting my collection Embers Amongst the Fallen. It is mostly a collection of stories published elsewhere, and two stories not seen before. So here’s my Easter egg. If you leave me a comment by Sunday, July 28th, I will give you a code so that you can download the ebook for .99 (your choice of Amazon or Smashwords) or order the hard copy for $4.99  from Amazon. These are regularly listed at $8 and $16.95. Please specify which you would like. The first person who can tell me what my first published story was will get an ecopy for free. Yes you can find it somewhere on this blog. Okay, maybe this wasn’t an Easter egg so much as just a treat. Stay tuned for a few book reviews to come and more breakdowns on Tesseracts 17.

Aug. 2: I got busy and forgot to list that DangerDean is the winner of the free ecopy. He noted that my first published sale was Phoenix Sunset. This tale is in the collection and has been published three times before, my most successful story to date.

For the rest of you, I will be emailing you the code for the promo priced ecopy and the hard copy by the end of the weekend. I ask that anyone who gets a copy, please do a review and post it in GoodReads, Smashwords, or Amazon (or all three). Thanks for playing. Check the blog for further promos.

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Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, Publishing, Writing

Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 from Edge Publications, will be out this fall with tales from Canadian writers that spans all times and places.

Okay, I said I would give a breakdown of the types of stories and the areas that people submitted from for Tesseracts 17. Since this was a open theme, stories could be any subgenre of speculative fiction or poetry. From what I could tell we received more stories than most Tesseracts anthologies of the past. The submission window was six months long, which was  a bit too long in my view.

Steve Vernon and I live on opposites coasts and have never met, though we’ve co-judged before and I asked him to do an introduction to my reprint collection Embers Against the Fallen, so we communicated through Facebook as well as using Dropbox to record entries and leave our comments. And let me tell you, some of them will be kept in lockdown in a tight metal box until the very Earth explodes. You see, when we’re leaving comments and have read the fiftieth submission of the day and are tired and have seen yet another timid wife and brutish husband tale or yet another zombie munching its way through humanity, we tend to leave snide and very cutting remarks that we would never forward to the author. (I did once do so by accident while editing for Chizine and I was mortified. The author took it with good grace and luckily I wasn’t that horrible–I apologized though.) But some are very funny, and that Steve, he’s downright hilarious and sardonic.

Anyways, (cough) I would like to think that Steve is still speaking to me though I believe I drove him crazy with my highly organized, extremely color-coded (colors!), tab-enhanced Excel spreadsheet. I’m very visual and I like being able to find the Alberta entries at a glance or the Quebec ones. Steve was probably left spinning in a psychedelic haze more than once. But in the end, we worked fairly well together and were probably about 80% unanimous on our decisions. The closer we got to the final choices the more we varied in some ways. If I was editing alone, not all of these tales and poems would have been my final selection, nor Steve’s, but we compromised.

On top of that, we had to balance between provinces and territories (for those not from Canada, we have ten provinces and three territories). Other aspects to watch for were making sure there weren’t all male or all female authors, that we had some new authors as well as experienced. In that regard, it was relatively easy to get a balance of genders as the final pieces we chose were already pretty evenly divided. And while we would have needed to re-balance if all the stories were fantasy and only one or two SF, it turned out we could live with what we had though it wasn’t half and half, but then, more fantasy is published in general these days than SF. Last, but not least, we also had to consider how the stories and poems fit together. We had some very good ghost stories but then it’s a popular trope and this wasn’t a ghost anthology. We also had some very good (and not so good) werewolf stories, as well as vampires, zombies and other reanimated creatures, but again, it wasn’t an undead anthology.

There were stories that were brilliant but we just couldn’t take too many fairy, or alien, or wendigo, etc. tales. Some of the pieces we rejected made me weep at having to let them go and I would have loved to do a subsidiary anthology of all the ones that got away (that would be a great title). Brian allowed us 100,000 words for the anthology. We scrimped and squeezed and hardcore edited some submissions down to their extra tasty, crunchy essence. I held two poems past the bitter end but Brian said, no room at the inn. In fact, we probably went over the word limit since we never included the author bios in our final count. That final number, including my introduction and Steve’s afterword, came to 99,441 words, more or less.

All of these factors made it trickier to edit than, say a theme-anchored anthology on dumptrucks or space dumptrucks. But in a way, it was interesting to see what Canadian (meaning born here, living here now, or born here and living abroad) writers would send if they could send anything at all. Tesseracts 17 paid close to (even a little more than) what other anthologies pay so it was on par there. The nice long submission window meant that some people sent us their trunk stories right off the bat. The early birds got a chance to send in rewrites, if we were holding the stories, or could try again if we rejected.  Those that came later in the final flood month didn’t get that luxury unless we were holding into the third round of reading.

I’ll start with the easy demographics. These may not be completely accurate. I became too busy to do this earlier and a couple of months have passed. But here we have the totals. I will try to give a breakdown of types of stories on another day. We received:

  • 449 individual submissions
  • 104 individual poems (The poetry number might be slightly off because I can’t quite tell if some were poems or not.)
  • 340 stories of varying lengths

Further breakdowns:

  • 4 poems were accepted
  • 25 stories were accepted
  • 14 accepted pieces were by women
  • 15 accepted pieces were by men
  • 305 individuals submitted
  • 139 women submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally one translation was writer and translator were female)
  • 166 men submitted (approx. as some names began with initials or could be male or female, additionally two translations were male writer, female translator, which I included here but could be part of the women [141])
  • 5 was the highest number of stories submitted by one person
  • 15 was the highest number of poems submitted by one person
  • 16 was the highest number of individual submissions by one person
  • 3 translations were sent (female translator; 2 male, 1 female writer)
  • 4 collaborations were sent (including the 3 translations)
  • 1 story was rejected unread because it came in near to 10,000 words, far past the specifications on the guidelines
  • 2 stories came in that were not speculative: 1 was a history of Wounded Knee. The other was excellent and we would have taken it if we could have found one speculative element. It was very Canadian too. (You know who you are.)
  • 1 submission was neither read nor rejected because the person did not read the guidelines, sent us a story chapter,  wanted our address to send us buckets of other chapters and when we said to reread the guidelines, he said “reread my submission.” Sorry, buckaroo, in this case you pissed off the editors.
  • 2 people submitted far more than the allotted number of stories/poems allowed at one time. While the guidelines stipulated no more than 5 poems or 1 story, and although we were pretty grumpy about this, we actually read them all. The authors who did this should have known better because they were pros but hey, I’ve made mistakes as well.
  • 1 author got to submit just past the window closing because she had sent an email querying and saying she thought something had gone wrong.
  • 1 author did not get to submit past the submission window because it was over two weeks past the deadline and we just couldn’t .
  • 1 author sent a submission without the story attached. Since it was past the closing deadline, we rejected the non-submission (included in the above numbers)
  • 3 authors sent in stories with track changes and their editing included. This certainly did not put them onto the winning track. Writers, yes, edit and proofread your stories but get rid of track changes when you’re submitting.

We also had a few first time authors. In some cases these stories take more editing to polish them but we had a mandate to have some new or first time writers. We had chosen one story and sent an acceptance, conditional upon working with us and rewriting. We never heard from that young author. If this was me, even at the stage of having published stories and poems,I would have seriously worked with and responded to the editor.

We asked for several rewrites early on, when we were still holding stories and poems but the deadline hadn’t been reached. Of the rewrites, we did take a few pieces. Other writers, once we had accepted the pieces, had to do rewrites or edits. We did at least three edits on some pieces as Steve and I would each go over them, thus catching things that were missed or didn’t quite flow. One poet chose not to go with a second rewrite, which was unfortunate. Authors should remember that they do not have to take every edit an editor suggests but they then have to argue why they don’t think the edit makes the piece stronger. There is leeway for discussion and when that far along the track, an editor isn’t asking for two rewrites if they plan on rejecting the piece.

Still, we all have our own ways of dealing with writing and editing. I will try to come back with a second post that will delve into the breakdown of writers by province and territory, and the types of stories we received. Again, it’s been a while since I read these so this will be the least accurate and most subjective breakdown of all.

Tesseracts 17 is due for release on October 1.

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Screaming Chicken’s Burlesque: How Much is Fowl?

stripping, striptease, Gypsy Rose Lee, burlesque

Gypsy Rose Lee, a 1930s beauty, was the queen of burlesque, using elegance and modesty for her striptease.

The title should help in narrowing this down. Yes, it is burlesque. And screaming chickens? Not so much, but it does aid the audience n knowing what they’re getting into. Burlesque, according to Wikipedia is “a literary, dramatic or musical works intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects.” It developed into meaning a parody, farce or exaggeration and was used by everyone from Shakespeare to Strauss. Comedy, bad puns, juxtaposing modern styles against classical ones, mixing operettas and literary works and theatrical elements are all historically part of burlesque.

American burlesque involved more acts; variety shows, wrestlers, exotic dancers, magicians, singers and chorus numbers, to name a few. The exotic or cooch dancers began to become a focus. Singers showed off their shapes while wearing elaborate costumes and eventually they were supplanted by striptease. Hence, when many of us hear the term “burlesque” we think of Gypsy Rose Lee, giant feather fans and stripping. Remember that it’s striptease and not just stripping. I have seen both and there is quite a difference since some strippers are already wearing nothing and at the most brutish of the “dances” had women slide along poles and writhe on the floors in mimicry of sexual acts more than as a dance.

I included a bit of the background so that my short and somewhat tardy review of the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society’s 10th Anniversary Burlesque show makes some sense. Not that sense is the biggest thing in burlesque. Fun and silliness is. The show was held at the end of June at the WISE Hall and opened with a long nautical number done in a great vaudevillian and 50s style. Two women first came on stage in shimmery teal shorts and tops holding fans with silk attached (favored by bellydancers, exotic dancers and others). Then two more women came out in little shimmery skirts holding long silk veils. The four danced and then created waves with the silks. Next four women with mermaid tails danced out, “swam about” and then removed their shell bras to reveal starfish pasties covering their nipples. http://

Beluga / 2013-06-29 Screaming Chicken’s 10th Anniversary Spectacular from Screaming Chicken on Vimeo.

After those four disappeared a turtle, seahorse, seaweed, jellyfish, octopus and others danced into a much more silly piece, followed by the beluga whale and two fisherman. It didn’t end with this keystone kops farce, but advanced into the stranded beluga being rescued by three save-the-whale hippie, earth flower children. This long and involved piece was beautiful, goofy,  sensual and most of all fun. Not everyone stripped and most of that involved the removing of bras.

Other numbers through the night involved songs and dance, perhaps a few more pieces of clothing coming off as in one number at the end with two men in jailhouse orange and the woman guard. They were stripped down to their striped shorts. I believe they were new members who had taken a burlesque course. A proper Victorian husband and wife stood for a portrait but she had the (fake) pubic curls beneath her dress showing. The light went out and the next was the woman standing proper and the husband displaying his waistcoat and pants that went from floor to knee and nothing in between.

One of my favorites, besides the opening number, was the dogs playing poker. We’ve all seen the poster. Well, five women came out complete with ears, tails and tufts of fur peeking from their bras. They each had a spotlighted piece and then they danced, removed their bras and had them in their mouths, shaking them like stuffed toys. If I remember their pasties were bones.

Screaming Chicken burlesque, chorus line, dancers,

E. Vans crows are depicted in many forms including burlesque. Copyright Bill Ayers

There were men in power suits who stripped down and an old lady with a walker dancing it up. Another routine indicative of E. Van with its ubiquitous avian population was titled Crows, and was a great dance reminiscent of the corvids and jazz chorus numbers. In all the routines, the point wasn’t to strip and be naked, nor was there much of the striptease though some acts were sensual. In most cases bras were removed or pants and that was it. This is what brings burlesque back to its fuller roots. Music, parody, exaggeration and comedy. Near the end there was one point where screaming chicken should have shrieked in outrage and where the essence of burlesque, and good taste, was lost.

One of the more memorable acts began with bringing someone shrouded in black out to sit on a chair. This routine was introduced as being inspired by a US serial killer I believe. Then out came a slim woman in black jogging pants and pulled-up hoodie. She danced around and moved to a lingerie-clad woman who was tied up and kneeling. Then the person in the black hoodie slits her throat and removes the cover on the seated woman, tied, gagged and looking afraid. The “killer” proceeds to taunt and kills the other woman, tearing out her eye. She then removes her hoodie and long pants and tada!

I’m pretty sure the audience was quieter for this piece. I know I was. It was vulgar and horrid in all the wrong ways. Burlesque is also about celebrating our bodies in all shapes and sizes and not being critical that we aren’t all perfect models. It’s not just bad that the true essence of burlesque was not attained (where is the comedy in this) but when women are already victims of domestic, religious and other violence how does having a sexy serial killer equate to entertainment?

Besides the always-sucky sound system at the WISE Hall (making it difficult to hear what performers said or sang) this routine was the only other foul note and Screaming Chicken members would be better off to bury it forever. Still, I very much enjoyed most of it and would definitely go to be entertained again.

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The Dark Side of Writing for the Dark Crystal

Dark Crystal, writing contests, skeksis, film, books

“I’ve got a great idea,” says the Skeksis. “Let’s rip off unsuspecting writers.” Copyright, The Jim Henson Company.

Here’s another one in the giant ripoff department. I blogged recently about Prada’s writing contest, which turned out not to be such a deal. Now, what’s even worse is that publisher Penguin Group is in cahoots with The Jim Henson Company to have a contest, which is actually a thin veneer for highway robbery. The contest is to write a story in the Dark Crystal world. The original concepts were by Brian Froud and Jim Henson brought it to life.

Entrants will be judged on different components from originality, characterization, storytelling, and overall writing ability. Five entrants will be chosen for the second round, which involves rewriting with input and editing from the judges. The winner will have a contract for a YA (young adult) novel in the Dark Crystal world. http://darkcrystal.com/authorquest/

Sounds good so far, right? It is, until you read the fine print. One, the contract is for $10,000. Twenty years ago, a first-time author could expect to get between $7,000 and $10,000 for a book. Not much increase in rate for twenty years, is it? None at all. A sad state of publishing and the way authors are treated. Charles Dickens could live on what he made as a writer. Most writers these days are making the same amount.

While that is a sad statement on the world of writing and making a living, it’s not the major issue with this “contest.” Guess what? By entering this contest, just entering your story, you lose the right to it, whether you win or not. That means you can’t ever try to sell it elsewhere. Now the fact is that Dark Crystal characters are copyrighted so you wouldn’t be able to take those characters but if you had a good story you could change the characters and world and still go with it. But you lose the story to the sponsors and they have the right to take your ideas and make a film or a book or anything else they want. Here’s the offensive passage:

gelfling, writing contests, Dark Crystal, Jim Henson

Mourn the gelflings, for they’re losing this war. Copyright, The Jim Henson Company

Each entry will be the sole property of the Sponsors. By competing in the Contest and/or accepting a prize, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to edit, adapt, publish, copy, display, reproduce and otherwise use their entry in connection with this Contest and in any other way, in any and all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the world, in perpetuity, including publication on http://www.darkcrystal.com. Further, each entrant (including the prize winner) grants to Sponsors the right to use each entry and the winner’s name, likeness, and biographical information in advertising, trade and promotional materials, without notice, review or approval, or further compensation or permission, except as set forth herein, and except where prohibited by law. Sponsors are not obligated to use, publish, display or reproduce any entry.

Buyer beware and always always read the fine print before you sell your soul. Somehow I’d expect this of the Hollywood or Henson end (though I feel that Jim Henson might be turning in his grave over this thievery), but for a publisher to be part of this is even worse. It’s bad enough that writers usually get the short end of the monetary stick, but downright greed and blindsiding is reprehensible. Shame on you, Penguin Group and The Jim Henson Company.

For those who remember the Dark Crystal the bad guys were the Skeksis, always out to get the cute Gelflings. Well, guess what, the Skesis are winning. If I could I’d post on the contest a big DO NOT ENTER sign. You’ve been warned.

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