Monthly Archives: August 2013

Writing: A Few Free Reads

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

Get writing and send us your best.

I’m still compiling the third part of the demographics on Tesseracts 17 but it’s very time consuming and I’ve been far too busy. So, in the meantime, I have several pieces up on different websites this month and they’re free for you to read. I was paid for all of these so it’s a bonus both ways.

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has my poem “Don Quixote’s Quandary.” Yes, it is about tilting at windmills.

At Polu Texni, I’m the feature poet for August so you will find three poems; “Heart of Glass,” “Father’s Child” and “Illuminating Thoughts.” The last two are Greek revisioning poems and the other is about that age-old dichotomy between stepmothers and the fairy tale princess. There is also an interview where you find out a bit more about what drives me.

Newest is my story “The Driver” featured at ReadShortFiction. Go and read it, and leave a comment.

Don’t forget, you can still pick up a copy of Deep Cuts, Bibliothecha Fantastica or Demonologia Biblica on Amazon. If you do read any of these,

CZP, Chizine, dark fiction, women in horror, Canadian writer, female authors

Colleen hosts the ChiReading Series Vancouver, full of dark and disturbed things.

leave a review. Let us know what you think and what you like.

Reviews from Deep Cuts:

  • Another story that really spoke to the artist in me is “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” by Colleen Anderson. I love that this story is so raw feeling, and so very drenched (pardon the pun) in colors, particularly red (hence, the title).
  • Other stories I really enjoyed included “Hollow Moments” by R.S. Belcher- a chilling tale bent on striking fear in those of us who spend much of our lives thoughtlessly plodding through the routine and not really living, “Red Is the Colour of my True Love’s Blood” by Colleen Anderson – a vividly frightening story that blends colours and associated emotions and states of mind with unpleasant events,…
  • Colleen Anderson’s “Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood” stands out by showing us that women can be as cold, calculated, and methodical a killer as men without dipping into stereotypes, but overall it’s a collection of brutality against women, dominant/ violent males, motherhood cliché, and weak females. Very disappointing.
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A Eulogy on Character: Andrew Brechin

euology, memorial, writing, Andrew Brechin, Breklor

Andrew Brechin knew how to be a character and a three-dimensional one at that. Photo: Tanya Kozak

Originally I was going to write about gender stereotypes for the Ink Punks (a local writing group)
but after the unexpected death of a friend last week I have decided to switch. So, in honour of Andrew Brechin who died too young, I dedicate this post to character.

If you saw Andrew on the street you might think, there is a rather stout fellow, or; he is a portly guy. Two ways of saying the same thing but different connotations to them. These statments might give the tone of the time period in which the story is given, or the narrator’s voice and suggest a certain level of education or deportment. They can also indicate a person’s view of another character. We’ll see more about Andrew’s deportment as we go on. In fact, as I play the only partially omniscient narrator of this piece, I will hopefully reveal more about Andrew to make him live in your mind, for that is how we keep all who have moved beyond the veil alive.

If I said that Andrew was part of the Society for Creative Anachronism (or medieval society) you might get a picture in your head of someone who liked history and to dress in costumes. And if I told you his medieval name was Guillermo Portelli, and knowing he was a stout fellow, you might begin to think he made a joke at his expense. And you would be right in both accounts.

He did indeed like to dress up but he saw it more in terms of daily raiment than as a costume. He was known to have once dressed as baby Cthulhu, that tentacled Old One of  H.P. Lovecraft’s invention. A few pictures do exist. There are other pictures of him with black wings and a black peasant shirt, fake Viking helm with plastic horns, wearing striped pants as he stands proudly on a miniature Viking ship, swirls of paint and glitter as he participates as one of the topless wish fairies in the Lantern festival, or wearing a long red robe with hood as a tech wizard, and wearing a purple top hat as he walks down the street, with cloak and a drum over his shoulders. There are many pictures of Andrew in various types of face and body paint.

Yes, Andrew loved to dress up and was known to have a few hats. You see, he didn’t believe that as an adult you had to let go of the child within. He was a staunch agent of joy and the sacred jester. He brought mirth and fun wherever he went, whether he was drumming for bellydancers, playing as part of the festive Carnival Band or just out there enjoying a party.

If I stopped here, you would have a picture of him, of how he looked and some of his attitude, but he was much more than this. Every year for his birthday, he would announce Breklormas, a feastorama at a local Chinese restaurant. The greasier the better, and I’m sorry to say I never made it to one.

He had a cunning mind and frequently formed wild plans for world domination or something with bacon in it, or some other crazy idea that he’d share with friends. One of his last posts before he died was this:

So, on the one hand, I really don’t want the Winter Olympics back. On the other, the idea of taking it back from the Russians and making it the GAYEST FUCKING OLYMPICS EVAR (which is really saying something, since the Classical Greek athletes competed naked except for a coating of olive oil) amuses the heck out of me. We could make a Queer Olympic Flag with seven rainbow rings on it, and I think it would pass copyright law as a parody…

He was always thinking. I wasn’t his closest friend but I saw some of this wizardly wit with his quips on facebook. And yes, Andrew’s, or Breklor as we sometimes called him, wit and whimsy were evident. He had a penchant for shooting pictures of toilets and posting them just because it was rather, well…Andrew.

Stereotypes begin in reality and are only a snapshot of someone. We have a clichéd image of what a jock, a hippy, a power attorney, a rock star, a nerd, a hipster, etc. look like. There is a uniform to both clothing and personality type. But it’s like looking at twenty blueberry pies baked by twenty people. They may all be pies and have blueberries but they will have diverse textures, various flavors and when you really look at them, uniquely different aspects.

When you write, even if you have a stereotype, you need to flesh that character inside and out. Anyone who just saw Andrew walking down the street, in cape and top hat, walking into the Stormcrow, haven for geeky game enthusiasts, would classify him as one of the same ilk. They would be right but what distinguishes one geek or nerd or jock from another is how you portray them. Already, because I’ve described more carefully Andrew’s clothing, he wasn’t just a T-shirt wearing geek. He was always clean and carefully dressed, and while he wore T-shirts from time to time, he also wore other clothing that had far more character.

While he loved to bring in joy and mirth, he wasn’t goofy. He had an innate sense of when to bring in laughter and when to be serious and listen. He loved kids, and while I heard he experienced bullying as a child, he decided to turn it around and put joy in its place. He was a good and intelligent conversationalist with deep insights. The beliefs he held included loving and wholly embracing who he was. Never once would I say he was annoying. He just knew. And he was pervasive, so much so that when the ripples went out last week from the shock of finding out of his untimely passing, various friends were surprised to find that another of their friends had known him as well. He was everywhere and the words most people used to describe him were: wizardly, witty, wise, joyful.

Make you characters come alive so the reader is invested. If you only have a few words, or limited space, choose those words well. Stephen King has done this very well, even if it was particularly annoying to get into a character in just two pages and find that on the third page he died. Instead of giving dry descriptions, it’s best to show character through movement, expression, dialogue and appearance.

characterization, writing, Andrew Brechin, Breklor

Andrew Brechin was the sacred jester, bringing mirth to many. He would make a great story character. Photo: Tanya Kozak

Andrew knocked at the old church gate, black feathered wings tied to his back and a glint in his eye. He leaned forward expectantly, then looked back at the camera, trying to suppress a smile. Giving up, he turned and stuck his tongue out. With this external view, you get a sense of the character, the surroundings and the attitude. So in a page or less you can define a character and if you’re writing a story, you can drop small pieces of description in as the character moves or talks. A little goes a long way in the reader’s imagination.

As you write characters into your stories, remember this: Even your villains have to live and while they may want world domination, they may also suffer from a runny nose and lumbago, and love kittens and blueberry pies. No one, not even a stereotype is all bad or good. We are made up of shades of grey and of all colors of the rainbow. Andrew was. Not only did he bring light into lonely dark places, he brought rainbows as well.

I plan to use Andrew one day in a story, either as a villain or a good guy. He’d be tickled pink and purple to know that he lives on.

I should also mention that Andrew will move on to become one of the Great Old Ones. He is being cremated in his baby Cthulhu suit.

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Book Review: Over the Darkened Landscape

Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, Fairwood Press, fantasy, SF

Derryl Murphy’s collection is stellar.

When I go to writing/fan conventions I usually try to pick up a couple of books or magazines to purview. Last year, at When Worlds Collide in Calgary I picked up Derryl Murphy’s reprint collection Over the Darkened Lanscape. Derryl is a fellow Canadian writer and I know him somewhat (translation: like many writers, we’ve chatted writing over a drink or two). But I wasn’t sure I knew his writing. As well as Derryl, I wanted to help support Patrick Swenson’s Fairwood Press, out of Washington, who has always done a quality product.

The trade size book has an intriguing cover. I don’t know how it was made but I’ve never felt a cover that was so velvety, almost like skin. It holds up well to greasy paw prints as well. The cover art is not necessarily dark or even speculative in the SF/fantasy sense, and in a way it reflects Murphy’s stories perfectly. As well, this guy with a distorted face is sliced by a canvas that he peers over. When you read Derryl’s coven of stories you’ll find they are poignant perspectives of delving into a very human psyche, sometimes in extraordinary circumstances, sometimes in that visceral way where life tugs on you revealing its glories and sorrows.

I’ll try not to give away too much about the contents so you can enjoy the slow reveal of them. Murphy does a deft blending of science with the human machine and this is seen in the unique perspective of “Body Solar.” “Last Call” is not really speculative except for imagining what you would say to your wife while in space. Very poignant and one of the stories I had read before. “Frail Orbits” is a sad and tender handling about used up veterans. “Voyage to the Moon” is probably one of my favorites for a very fresh way of handling a fairy tale as science fiction. I won’t say more but even that might be too much. I really enjoyed the deft new twists.

“More Painful than the Dreams of Other Boys” deals with a world where kids don’t always grow up and one who does; growing pains always hurt. “The Day Michael Visited Happy Lake” is another tale about the reality we give our favorite childhood tales. One of the more disturbing tales, another that I had read before, “Clink Clank” examines a future where government farms out the feeding of prisoners and what children who don’t listen to their parents discover. It’s a cautionary tale of how one can place a command in someone’s thoughts. By saying “don’t touch that” we can no longer think of anything else but touching that object.

Louis Wain, H.G. Wells, paranormal, horror, speculative fiction

Wain’s paintings grew increasingly more demonic.

The collection covers vast reaches from the earliest times, to our future travels in space. But “Ancients of Earth” truly links the past and the present with a teacher in Dawson City at the time of the Gold Rush, who tries to save an ancient find, and is targeted by those ancient memories. A careful blend again of science and magic. “The Cats of Bethlem” begins with the true tale of H.G. Wells intervening in the commitment of Victorian artist Louis Wain to a sanitarium Wain was obsessed with drawing cats and it’s now believed that as he aged he grew more schizophrenic while his paintings of anthropomorphized cats grew more abstract and wild.  But what if….

Other tales take Canadian history and put it into a Gordian knot. “Canadaland” is a very tongue in cheek look at our (Canada’s) future. While the Canadians reading it will truly get the nuances, there are ample narrator-biased footnotes. Well worth a trip through our cultural foibles. “Northwest Passage” is a lonely tale of fighting the frozen winter environment that holds its ghosts close. “Cold Ground” travels into the vestiges of the Riel rebellion from the point of view of its surviving sorcerers. The title piece of the book, “Over the Darkened Landscape” was probably one of my other favorites with MacKenzie King (Canada’s 10th prime minister) and his talking dog who solve mysteries, including what happened to the missing painter Tom Thomson, who was one of the famous Group of Seven. Here, the painting is the medium, in all senses of the word.

These stories are both historic and speculative, fantastical and empathic. If I could choose only one word I would say that Derryl Murphy’s tales are visceral in pulling you along the emotional ride of  humans in odd or life threatening situations. Ingenuity, acceptance and compassion flavor Over the Darkened Landscape. I didn’t know what to expect originally but I found the stories resonated for a long time with me. It’s an excellent collection well worth reading. I’m not the only one of this opinion. Murphy’s collection has been nominated for this year’s prestigious Sunburst Award. Check it out.

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Writing: Demographics of Tesseracts 17 Part II

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Sorting out the demographics for Tesseracts 17 has been time consuming, and WordPress truly sucks when it comes to inserting a table in any format. It took me over four hours to generate the table below so if you’re curious about other breakdowns, you’ll have to pay me.

Each breakdown becomes more subjective. In this case, I had to guess at the gender of some people because names like Chris, or Terri, or initials don’t tell me if they’re male or female. I knew the names of many writers submitting so even if one had a male or female sounding name I knew where they actually belonged. The most accurate numbers are those of writers from different territories and provinces. We never received anything from Nunavut so it is the only part of Canada not represented. And while Newfoundland and Labrador prefer both names to be used to represent their province, the writers themselves indicated they were from Newfoundland, so we had no one from the Labrador part.

These numbers could be a bit different from the ones I displayed the other day because it’s difficult to accurately count a mile long spreadsheet, especially for Ontario with 193 submissions. It’s no surprise that the majority of submissions came from there, when a good part of Canada’s population also resides in the province. I was actually surprised that the Quebec numbers were so low, because that province has the other large chunk of Canadian population. I know of several Francophone speculative writers who write in English, but none of them submitted, for whatever reason. And while Claude Lalumière is Francophone he was counted under BC as that is where he is living part of the time and no longer in Montreal. I’d be interested to hear why we didn’t have more Francophone submissions.

Nova Scotia probably had more submissions due to Steve Vernon residing there and spreading the word. And while it turned out we didn’t take any of the expat stories, we have several authors whose place of birth was in another country. Not everyone listed where they were born so I didn’t really include any stats on that. As well, Steve and I pretty much read stories and poems first, and worried little about place or gender later. Only when we started to narrow down our selections did we have to pay attention to where the author was from. And last, we looked at gender, which as I mentioned before, just happened to work out with a nearly even split. If we had had 20 great pieces by women and 10 by men, we would have probably kept those pieces. As long as there was a representation of both genders, keeping it even is pretty hard.

As to the genres of the tales we received, I’m going to list those in a separate post as this one is long enough. It will be even more subjective because I didn’t list genres with the earlier ones and while some I remember or can figure out, I’m not going back to read them. I welcome any questions anyone has. It was interesting to see how Canada is represented in terms of speculative writers.

Provinces/

Countries

Total Submitted

No. of people

 Accepted

Female subs/ accepted

Male subs/ accepted

Alberta

67

51

4

30/3

21/1

Arizona (Ont. born)

1

1

0

0

1

Bali (Alberta)

1

1

0

0

1

BC

65

43

4

21/3

22/1

Boston (BC)

1

1

0

1/0

0

Germany (expat)

1

2

0

0

1/0

Manitoba

17

13

1

3/0

10/1

New Brunswick

2

1

1

0

1/1

Newfoundland

7

5

2

1/0

4/2

Nova Scotia

21

17

3

9/2

8/1

NWT

1

1

1

0

1/1

Nunavut

0

0

0

0

0

Ontario

193

122*

5

49/1

74*/4

PEI

16

1

1

0

1/1

Quebec

21

17

4

10/3

7/1

S. Korea (Ontario)

1

1

0

0

1/0

Saskatchewan

16

15

1

6/0

9/1

Spain (Ontario)

1

1

0

1/0

0

Switzerland (Ontario)

1

1

0

1/0

0

Taiwan (Quebec)

1

1

0

0

1/0

Texas (Ontario)

1

1

0

0

1/0

Thailand (expat)

1

1

0

1/0

0

UK (expat)

1

1

0

1/0

0

US (3 Ontario/1 Que.)

4

2

0

1/0

1/0

Yukon

9

9

2

3/2

6/0

Total

450

309

29

138/15

171/14

NOTE: expat means they’re Canadian but they did not specify from which province. Birthplaces outside of Canada (as opposed to place of residence) included New Zealand, Israel, France, Caribbean, UK, Scotland, Mexico US, Syria, Estonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Germany, Singapore, Romania, Poland. *One story was a collaboration so each author is listed. In the case of the three translations, only the author’s gender was listed; the translator was female.

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