Monthly Archives: January 2015

Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

books, publishing, collection, reprints, ebooks, Smashwords, writing, book production

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

“Usually at least once in a person’s childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that lost article for the rest of their lives. Whether it was a lucky pocketknife, a transparent plastic bracelet given to you by your father, a toy you had longed for and never expected to receive, but there it was under the tree on Christmas… it makes no difference what it was. If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, perhaps even crucial memory. Because something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently.”

Jonathan Carroll

Ursula Pflug and I will be co-editing a speculative anthology titled The Playground of Lost Toys. This will be published by Exile Editions, in time for the holiday season. See below for guidelines.

Our childhood toys embodied our emotions. We just knew our favourite doll loved us, and that our toy soldier was as brave as we would be if given the chance. A child easily attributes magical powers, personality or secrets to a coloured stone or a twisted stick, but don’t we continue to do so as adults, just in different ways? Certain objects accrue power from the home or the landscape, absorbing our dreams and wishes, and the elemental energies that lie buried in a sandbox, hidden in the closet, or in the bole of a tree.

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

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Stories should touch on wonder, mystery, dread, awe: the delight when a strange toy appears, or loss when a cherished plaything is broken. A tale might, for example, explore the classroom ritual of show and tell, or the lost and found box in the corner of the gym in the moon colony.

Toys are often gendered so that beloved hockey stick might belong to a girl and the flying figure skates to a boy. Dolls reflect not just societal notions about gender but also about diversity; Mattel, for example didn’t issue a black Barbie till the late 60’s and then amidst controversy. These tensions can all be rich sources of speculative inspiration!

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

What if there was a Matryoshka doll where each smaller container held mysteries to the seven wonders of the world, or a toy spaceship that entered other dimensions? Imagine a paper fan that controls the wind, a whistle that calls back the dead, a Chinese tiger hand puppet that protects. While these suggestions are fantastical, we also want stories about “normal” toys in science fictional or fantastic settings. Additionally, the toy itself needs to appear or disappear, to be “lost” or “found.” This need not be the core of the story arc, but it should be an element. Toys don’t have to be physical but could be metaphorical or allegorical as well.

Speculative subgenres from steampunk to magic realism will be considered. Excessive gore will be a hard sell. Sex is okay, if it’s integral to the story. Tales that are multi-faceted and go beyond a simple nostalgic trip down memory’s lane will have a better chance. We welcome QUILTBAG and/or People of Colour authors. At least 90% of the authors must be Canadian (or pay taxes in Canada); we can consider only a small percentage from other locales.

SUBMISSION LENGTH: Original, unpublished prose up to 5,000. Slightly longer works are okay but query for longer lengths. No reprints, no multiple submissions. Canadian spelling. Please follow standard manuscript format. If you don’t know what that is google William Shunn’s manuscript format. If we reject your story before the deadline, you’re welcome to send another.

PAYMENT: .05/word

SUBMISSION PERIOD: Feb. 1, 2015-Apr. 30, 2015 (midnight PST)

RIGHTS: English World rights, one-year exclusive print and digital, non-exclusive reprint rights, Exile Editions

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2015 (tentative)

SUBMISSIONS: Through submittable. (this link might not work until Feb. 1)

NOTE: If your address is outside of Canada, please indicate whether you are Canadian expat (and paying taxes to Canada) or what your citizenship is. We have very limited space for stories from outside of Canada.

We are getting a LOT of doll stories. Please note the guidelines. While a doll story or maybe two could be accepted, we won’t be taking all that many. This is to be a diverse anthologies that covers toys that were, toys that are and toys that are yet to be.  Think about the word “toy.” What do people toy with? There are adult toys; computers are toys, people are toys, animals have toys, aliens have toys. Go wild! Make something up and think outside the sandbox!

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Filed under entertainment, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, Publishing, science fiction, Writing

WordPress Takes Another Unfortunate Page From Facebook

frustration, computer annoyance. changing sites, website frustration

Thanks, WordPress, for doing it again, with no instructions. Creative Commons attribute.

It’s amazing how various companies feel the need to constantly refresh and rearrange their look, their feel, their software. Every new version of Microsoft seems worse than the one before but uses way more memory so you have to constantly upgrade your hardware. It’s a make-work project. How do you employ thousands of people if you create something so awesomely efficient that someone never needs to buy another piece? Planned obsolescence and inefficiencies are part of the market model, which in the long run, is unsustainable, uses up resources and burdens landfills.

While I’m not surprised by this, I am constantly annoyed. I hate Facebook for its unending changes, and  sneaky tweakings of policies so that while you have never intended to sell your soul to the devil, a legal spindoctor has suddenly changed it so that if you didn’t say, I don’t want to sell my soul to the devil, then you’re automatically in hell. Oh wait, Facebook is hell. Google has done similar tricky business.

 

Wordpress, blogging, Fresh Pressed,

Fresh Pressed was dynamic, colorful and right there for easy access.

And WordPress, alas! Why oh why? Let’s see, what was once good, and what changes have appeared, without any instruction or direction to the new design? Remember Fresh Pressed? You’d sign in and get a page of highlighted “pressed” blogs for the week. The page was colorful and interesting, dynamic because it always changed. (Hey WordPress, one of the first rules of websites is to make them dynamic. What have you done?) I found blogs that I follow because of Fresh Pressed. Now, it’s tucked away in some spider-infested corner and I never see a new blog anymore unless I go hunting.

Then there was that change a year or two ago. Ooh, sleek, ooh, simple. So simple in fact that I couldn’t find my way into my blog, to making posts and to checking stats. Why? Because WordPress decided to make a teeny tiny W icon that you have to click on, like the secret hidden pathway behind a bookcase, but way not as much fun. And let me tell you, when I tried using WordPress help it was like talking to a robot that said the same things but never read my question. It was another blogger who finally pointed out the miniscule icon.

One good thing was more developed stats. I could scroll over the graph and see what day I had posted, how many people visited one page and how many people looked at multiple pages. Now. Well, I have good old-fashioned retro bars that just show how many people in a day have visited. Yeah simple. Boring. The maps are still there and that’s a good thing but Wordpess, bring back the old way.

Wordpress annoyance, blog page

Soon you will need to follow a trail of breadcrumbs to find WordPress.

And of course with the new year, presto! Yet another new freaking look and no way to find my blog. Sure, I can find blogs I follow, and I can find my profile. I can’t find comments from readers. I can’t find the useful sidebar and all the tools to write a post. I can find a blog window to write in and only by going back to the CLASSIC design have I been able to do what I’ve always done. Post pictures, highlight text, add tags, approve comments. Really, WordPress, that’s why it’s classic. It works.

I was going to post about the unfortunate array of what classifies as dating, or about my work on the Viking longboat. And yes, I will be posting about both of those, and a long list of writing achievements. But right now, I’m expressing my annoyance at WordPress thinking they’ll be one of the cool kids if they just continue to mix things up. Don’t follow Facebook’s example. Don’t be like Microsoft, which has increased the sales of Apple products. WordPress won’t listen to me. I guess this is just a cautionary tale. :/

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Filed under internet, Writing

My Mother the Squirrel

Happy New Year, World! I hope we can see more peace and calm and less fanaticism this year, but it’s not looking likely. However, I’ll do my bit for compassion and understanding and remember, it’s the microcosm, your neighbors, your friends and your family that can make for a more loving place.

winter, pack rat, cold, hoarder, food

Creative Commons: Zeeksie @ Deviant Art

On that note, I traveled to the frozen wastelands (as I see it) of Alberta to visit friends and family over the holidays. While I’ve been back in recent years I’ve tried to avoid winter  because it is evil and bone-chilling. I decided to brave it for the winter festivity and because my mother is 91. Two weeks I spent, and overall the weather was only -28 for about three days. The rest was in the -5 range, balmy for Alberta.

It gave me a chance to visit friends, find some long lost cousins, and do the family thing. Staying at my mother’s, and with my organizer personality, it meant cleaning out drawers, cupboards or closets. Even my sister, who might be considered closer to the hoarder personality (she moved in the this summer, purportedly with boxes to the ceiling) felt my organizer bee abilities. We were driving all over the city to do some pre-Christmas shopping and as I sat in the passenger seat of the moderately messy car, she asked me to look for her Superstore card.

purses, overstuffed purse, hoarding, pack rat

Not my sister’s actual purse but a close representation. Creative Commons: http://jewelrypurse.blogspot.ca/

Grabbing that rather pregnant purse, I pulled out the overstuffed wallet. No card. Turns out there were two other holders with plastic cards. Still no card but I started to go through her bulging wallet, putting Tim Hortons (the Canadian doughnut gods) and Shoppers Drug Mart gift cards together. There was more than one and I have never seen so many store cards before. My sister could be the goodwill ambassador for commercialism and store marketing.

In the process of cleaning her wallet I found coupons that had expired and others that soon would. There was a forest of business cards, many for businesses she no longer frequented. In fact, this mothership of store cards had very little actual cash and took up most of the room in a moderate sized purse. When I was done, there was a small plastic shopping bag full of paper. Her wallet lost several inches in girth and actually closed by the clasp.

At my mother’s it was much as it had been two year’s previously. I exclaimed, “Mom, you’re a squirrel! There’s candies and nuts everywhere.” This time, as I started to clean up for Christmas dinner, I decided to inventory my mother’s squirrel hoard. To put some of this into perspective, my mother grew up during the Depression, in a small coal mining town. A treat at Hallowe’en was an actual fresh apple, something we would sneer at today. She traveled to a large city with her friend to find work. They slept in ditches with their one small suitcase and hitchhiked to get there, when it was much safer to do so.

squirrels, hoarding, food, pack ratss

This is not my actual mother but she stores food like the queen of squirrels. Creative Commons: http://theairspace.net/commentary/squirrels/

Going through the Depression and then WWII where rationing was practiced everywhere, my mother learned to appreciate being prepared. Long before the days of Costco she hunted out food wholesalers and would buy toilet paper and other items in bulk. After her divorce, she continued her frugality, and would buy day-old bread from a bakery, up to 24 loaves, which were then frozen. She also sold Tupperware, when we were very young and I remember my brother and I playing in the large container suitcase. So yes, my mother still has nearly three shelves of Tupperware, which, by the time I organized it, was only two.

She had five knife sharpeners (and nothing but dull knives), six cheese/food graters and more pots than a restaurant kitchen. In fact, she’s never thrown out a pot or handle-less cup since I was a child. A Taurus mug that I used when about 12 was there, the handle gone. I convinced her to throw out a few pots where the Teflon was worn but then she balked at getting rid of the two aluminum, electric frying pans that she no longer uses.

In cleaning out a spare closet I found crafts going back to the 70’s; unfinished potholders and head-sized balls of wool. One partially finished needlepoint of a forest, with the bag of woo, she told me she had bought it in England during the war, before any of us were born! She’d never worked on it since. There was a pillow cover, to be embroidered that had Canada’s flag, the Union Jack. That’s how old it was. There was a three-foot plastic bin of gifts for unexpected g, which she had forgotten about. Then there were the cosmetic bags, for traveling. Two were stuffed full, then a triple decker bag, extra deep, chock full of lotions, shampoo, conditioners and other small toiletries. Some were very ancient and dead. Others half used, and many unopened. She must have gone on a burglary spree of hotels.

I cannot name all of the things I cleaned and boggled at, such as health supplements in at least four places, or the spices in pretty much every cupboard. If you’re thinking my mother is going senile, you’re wrong. She’s pretty sharp still and has always liked to keep things, lots and lots of things. Like every scrap of wrapping paper ever used (I threw out a three–foot pile some years back), or enough bulbs to light half of the city, or coats.

Purdys, candy, chocolate, food, hoarding, sweet tooth

My mother’s not so secret love affair is with Purdy‘s made in Vancouver, Canada.

All of this pales  in comparison to the food items and not just any food, but chocolates and candies. My mother shrunk this last year to 4’9″ and she lost weight. She was never overly large but stores like a squirrel. In doing the inventory, I counted every bag or container that was open on the kitchen table (her place has two kitchens,up and down but she used the bottom one for eating) or on the table by the chair where she watches TV, or on the counter upstairs. There were the nutrolls in the fridge upstairs, and then in the deep freeze there were 17 boxes of After Eight mints. She claims she can only find them at certain times of the year and when her stomach is upset the mint helps (with chocolate of course). There were also another five boxes of Purdy’s chocolates.

Purdy’s should have a plaque to my mother: I’m sure she keeps them in business. The upstairs cupboard had the main squirrel hoard. There were hard candies, contained in bags or bought bulk. I pooled many into one container. There were Scotch mints and licorice all sorts, mint chocolate bars from Purdy’s, Jordan almonds, nougat (hard as a rock), and some Italian coconut confection, a few Smarties or M&Ms. I didn’t count raisins because they’re a natural food. When I thought I was done, I discovered a container of icy squares and of Ferrero Rocher in the closet. Then, as  we pulled dishes out of the china cabinet for Christmas dinner, lo and behold there were two large bulk bags of chocolate squares and a mega box of liqueur chocolates where the liqueur had dried up.

I thought I was done but I was looking in a cupboard for a pot and lo, there was a box of chocolate covered cookies. And then I looked in another cupboard and found another five boxes, plus some other cookies. My mother was given another two boxes of chocolates for Christmas and chocolate covered cookies, plus some Italian candies. And then three days after she bought a tin on sale. She said to me that she had all this stuff because if she got sick there was enough to carry her through. I told her, “Well, Mom, if the apocalypse comes, you’ll survive it on chocolate alone.”

Readers may recall that I did the apocalypse diet a year ago, and with the food in my place (no hoards of candy) I survivef for three months without buying anything. My mother would run out of real food in probably less time than I did but then I didn’t count her dry goods staples. However, the final count of cookies, candies and chocolates in my mother’s place was…ready for this? ONE HUNDRED AND SIX! Yes, indeed. The Guinness Book of Records needs to talk to my mom.

All in all this was a lesson to me. I determined there are three levels of “collector.” I’m the curator because I have many ornaments and tchatkas (like my mother…sigh) but I dust and you can walk through my place. My mother is the pack rat, because she stores things for unforeseeable disasters, and my sister is the hoarder, who keeps more than my mother but can’t find things. It’s a fine line between them and it’s a lesson to me not to hang onto things I no longer use or need. I barely escaped without a suitcase of chocolates.

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Filed under family, food, home, life, people

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 38,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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