Category Archives: entertainment

Alice Unbound Readings

Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland has hit shelves and with successful readings and launch in Ottawa and Toronto, it will now be the West Coast’s turn. I’m hosting a reading on June 3, in Vancouver at the Heatley. The Heatley is a cool E. Van, wheelchair friendly venue on the corner of Heatley and Hastings where local bands play. It’s bright and just the right size (though it can get quite warm on a summer day.)

A few reviews have started to come out and Derek Newman-Stile has reviewed two stories on his blog, Speculating Canada. Cait Gordon’s “A Night at the Rabbit Hole” and Patrick Bollivar’s “Operation: Looking Glass” are highlighted and, if you scroll farther down, you’ll find a write-up of my story “Sins of the Father” in OnSpec last year.

Lewis Carroll, fantasy, horror, SF, fiction

Alice Unbound launches in Vancouver on June 3.

Patrick is also one of the West Coast writers, along with  Linda DeMeulemeester, Mark Charke, Nicole Iversen and Lisa Smedman. Smedman and DeMeulemeester were also in Playground of Lost Toys and have many writing credits. Nicole Iversen’s story “Mathilda” is a fun romp through our world, battling the forces from Wonderland, and this is her first professional sale. Mark Charke presents a strange tale of madness when a person of magical ability meets the bizarre reality in the rabbit hole.

Lisa Smedman’s “We Are All Mad Here” is a sad story that looks at the crazy world of war, and Linda DeMeulemeester’s “The Rise of the Crimson Queen” combines a certain personality with magic and opportunity to present a mix of our world and Wonderland’s. In fact, Patrick Bollivar’s tale also has a blend of worlds but where Wonderland must be infiltrated. In fact, the most common theme when I read the stories submitted for Alice Unbound, was that of wars and of the readers for June 3 only Linda’s doesn’t have a direct battle. But conflict there is aplenty.

The reading is free and the book, with the beautiful cover, will have a special Vancouver launch price of $20 including tax. Considering that it’s pretty much $25 plus tax regularly, it will be quite a steal.

Anyone is welcome to come out to the reading and be entertained on a sunny (I hope) afternoon. Come support Canadian culture and writing on June 3. List to a few tales and buy a great looking book with fantastic tales as a super price. I hope to see you there.

 

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Writing Update & Call for Submissions

It’s been a busy month or two. In March I drove down to the Olympic Peninsula for the Rainforest Writers Retreat, where I accomplished a lot, writing several stories, and ended the event with catching the flu, alas. I then rode the wave of the flu (haven’t had one in over 8 years) in time to go to Ottawa and work on more writing as part of my Canada Council grant. Thank you, Canada Council.

Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland is out on the shelves, as we speak (figuratively) and if you’re in Ottawa, check out the launch and readings at The 3 Brewers/Les 3 Brasseurs.Alice Ottawa

There is a great lineup of writers and it’s also available through Exile Editions and Amazon. I hope to have a reading in Vancouver in June. More details as they come.

I’m also editing Eye to the Telescope #29. The theme is the Dark. I want to see how one fights the dark or succumbs to it. How the dark enhances light, or obscures truth. What blooms in the darkest shadows and what is better left there. Click to go to the guidelines. I look at all forms of poems. Reprints will be a harder sell but if you think it’s stellar I might consider it. Eye to the Telescope is part of the Speculative Fiction Poetry Association (though they don’t seem to have changed the name yet on the site), which also publishes Starline. You do not have to be a member to submit, and anyone anywhere can submit as long as it’s in English, so if you think you have a poem that embraces the dark, send it in before June 15.

Arhtur, Camelot, knights, the Round Table, chivalry, battle, valorIn publishing news, my story “Sir Tor and the River Maiden” will be out in By the Light of Camelot, published by Edge Publishing, edited by J.R. Campbell and Shannon Allen. It’s available as an ebook in July. There are 13 tales in this anthology.

And a fun little sea shanty “Washday Blues” has been published in Polar Borealis #6, a collection of Canadian poetry and fiction that’s free to read.

There are other things in the works, including a trip to the UK this fall for the launch of my dark fiction collection from Black Shuck books, A Body of Work.

Now, I have to get back to writing and editing, and getting some more poet interviews up.

 

 

 

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Release of Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

I can finally announce the table of contents for Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland. The anthology will be published by Exile Editions and is due out May 1 though the publisher is trying to move up the date so that we can launch in Toronto, and in Ottawa when I’m there in March.

The table of contents:
• The Slithy Toves by Bruce Meyer
• We Are All Mad Here by Lisa Smedman
• Operation: Looking Glass by Patrick Bollivar
• Mathilda by Nicole Iversen
• A Night at the Rabbit Hole by Cait Gordon
• Reflections of Alice by Christine Daigle
• Twin by Danica Lorer
• True Nature by Sara C. Walker
• Full House by Geoff Gander and Fiona Plunkett
• The Smoke by Costi Gurgu
• The River Street Witch by Dominik Parisien
• The Rise of the Crimson Queen by Linda Demeulemeester
• Her Royal Counsel by Andrew Robertson
• Dressed in White Paper by Kate Heartfield
• The King in Red by J.T. Kennedy
• No Reality But What We Make by Elizabeth Hosang
• Firewabby by Mark Charke
• Soup of the Evening by Robert Dawson
• Cyphoid Mary by Pat Flewwelling
• Yellow Boy by James Wood
• Jaune by Catherine MacLeod
• Wonderband by Alexandra Renwick

The authors came from five provinces (AB, BC, SK, ON and NS) with nine authors being male and fourteen female (one story is co-written). I went for the best story first. While the writers may or may not list this I know that there are several LGQBLT and those with disabilities.

There are jabberwocks, toves, March hares, white rabbits, mock turtles, red queens, cards, chess pieces, potions, walrus and carpenter, lobsters and snails, wasps, cats of various types, Alice, eaglets and gryphons, caterpillars, mad hatters, and looking glasses and far far more. The thread of madness works its way through all of these tales. Some of the tales are lighter and humorous, while others open a vein of darkness.

I had around 145 submissions last year, and in the end had to reject many good stories. It was tough and if I had my druthers, I would have done a second anthology. The world in this anthology, from steampunk adventures to spacefaring renegades, is diverse and quite mad. Look for it in the next couple of months. It will be available through Amazon and certain stores.

I’m also looking for review sites and should you know of one, please contact me. Now doff your hat, pour some tea and get ready to dive down the rabbit hole.

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Poet Interview: John Reinhart

SFPA, poetry, SF, fantasy, humor, writers

Poet John Reinhart lives in Denver, Colorado and has several collections out.

In an attempt to write more frequently in my blog, I’ve decided to do some interviews with poets who write speculative verse. That’s fantasy, SF, horror and the subgenres. My first interviewee is with John Reinhart, who recently edited an issue of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s (SFPA) Eye to the Telescope #25, the “garbage” issue. Following, italics are me, with John’s responses.

Let’s start with you telling me when you first found a love for poetry and what were you reading?

My first pen was dipped in the pain of puberty, followed closely by a 50-pound IBM Selectric that wrote in smoke. Writing in flailing and fits, I continued to drivel through high school, even submitting for publication. Then, mercifully, I put my words to other use. My next foray into verse came 15 years later, coinciding with the birth of my daughter. I quickly realized that the development of the internet and online submissions had changed the face of publishing since my typewriter days. My earliest favorite poet was Robert Service, which says little about my subsequent writing except my love of quirky humor. 

poetry, humor, writing

John Reinhart’s collection screaming, available at Amazon.

So you’re saying you dipped your pen into the pain of puberty? That does sound painful. Did Robert Service inspire you to write or were you already writing and he inspired you to greater heights? On that point, which authors in your formative years caused you stretch your poetic wings? And what was your first published poem?

Actually, I was inspired to do my earliest writing (short stories) after reading Jay Williams’s “Danny Dunn” books. My sci-fi interest continued to develop with Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin, Arthur C. Clarke. Mostly I wrote rhymed garbage those early years, including a poem about pipe smokers that was published in the Pipe Smokers Ephemeris. Twenty years later, I learned of the SFPA (then, the Science Fiction Poetry Association).

reinhart 2As I re-entered the poetry writing and submitting scene, I read Campbell McGrath, Paul Goodman, D.H. Lawrence, Kenneth Rexroth, Russell Edson, and eventually anything else I could get my hands on at the library in an attempt to expand my poetic experience and teach myself about modern poetry. After I was awarded the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship from the Horror Writers Association, I actually took a poetry course, but the last poetry course I had previous to that was in high school. To date, I have published a collection about people around me, an experimental collection, a prose poetry collection, and two speculative collections. I like to think that I absorb everything I read and earthworm it into new substance to fuel new views of our technicolor world.

We grew up on the same authors. Congratulations on receiving the scholarship. You’ve reinhart 3named a lot of published collections. Have you published individual poems in magazines or anthologies where people can search them out? Oh, and where do you hail from?

I have spent most of my life in Denver, Colorado. I did achieve escape velocity once, but drifted back into orbit and found the Rocky Mountain gravitational pull too strong. I’m rebooting the engines as we speak.

My work has been featured in recent issues of Crannog, Pedestal Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Holy Shit, Grievous Angel, Quatrain.Fish, and many issues of Star*Line and Scifaikuest. I was particularly touched to land a couple poems in A Poet’s Siddur, alongside a poem by Leonard Cohen.

What would you say is the most important thing about poetry as compared to fiction?

The most important thing about poetry, as compared to fiction, is that I can compose a poem in less time and space than I can compose a short story. Black holes condense matter into meaninglessness, sucking in enough light to exhale in humorous high tones like people do at birthday parties with helium balloons. What we wheeze out of the ordinary vegetable universe ought to be blood out of turnips: poetry.

Would you say you have a particular style of poetry that you write, or topics that you explore?

I hope for my poetry to open new perceptions into our technicolor vegetable universe. Frequently, I utilize sci-fi/fantasy/horror as a means to highlight social issues, of which I think that observing and knowing our world is primary.

In terms of style, I often lean on humor in my observations and reflections on the daily mundane elevated to poetry. Though I have a fine selection of scifaiku in print, I tend to write free verse, with a special love for villanelles.

reinhart 4

Reinhart has written SF, fantasy and horror poetry.

What would be the one piece of wisdom you would pass on to any aspiring poet? And last, is there anything else about poetry that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked, or upcoming works you’d like to chirp about?

For aspiring poets – write, read, write more, read more. Submitting—and submitting frequently—is a good way to engage in the contemporary poetry scene, which should encourage you to read what appears in journals and online as well as the books you find at the local library. Find authors you love and read everything they have. Find authors you dislike or don’t understand, and read everything they have. Honestly, I love to write poetry. I like what it does to me, how it shapes my perceptions and changes my interactions with the world. That part is awesome. But it’s balanced with my thorough appreciation of walking this weird path with so many other talented and gracious artists. I leap at chances to meet up with other poets, regularly exchange emails with poets across the world, and revel in the beautiful work that shows up everywhere, if you dig below the surface.

reinhart 5
John likes to use humor as a lens through which he writes some of his poems.

I have two collections coming out shortly: dig it (Lion Tamer Press), and arson (NightBallet Press). dig it fulfills a goal at Patreon, where my patrons helped me reach a funding goal at which point I promised to self-publish a full-length collection. To date, this is my longest collection. As with my previous collection, screaming, this one veers away from much of my earlier form, though eccentricities and humor still make regular appearances. arson is a chapbook-length take on my multifaceted understanding of arson. It starts with a poem/syllabus on Arson 101.

Thanks, John. Check out John’s works through the links above and through Amazon. If you are a published speculative poet, feel free to contact me for an interview.

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Alice Unbound Guidelines Update

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

For those writers thinking it’s too late to get something in for May 31, know that the deadline has been extended to July 15. I’m just not getting enough stories of the caliber needed for an anthology.

If you are submitting, read all of this post–to the end. People are ignoring the proper submission format and I won’t read a story until it is sent double spaced, with word count, and full contact info on it. That should be easy enough to do, you would think. And page numbers, please.

Now, I’m seeing a lot of the main Alice characters so remember, if I have five Mad Hatter stories I might have to select the best. Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat are all becoming very popular. And tea parties and rabbit holes. I’ll post the expanded guidelines at the end of this but here are a few important things to keep in mind, Stories:

  • should not be rehashings of the same old tales.
  • need to take place in the modern world or the future
  • can take place on another planet
  • can be steampunk but if you stick it in Victorial England you need to bring it forward
  • can be time travel but know I don’t like these tales much as they can get too convoluted (but I do like most Dr. Who)
  • can be combined with characters from other times/place
  • should be as original and unique as possible–the farther you veer away from rabbit holes and tea parties, the more original it will be

Remember these rules of writing:

  • do not tell me someone was upset or mad; show me
  • watch for passive action–seek out words like was, could, would and try to replace them
  • plot–you must have one, even in a poem, and conflict–either resolve it or show the fail
  • use all five senses–this helps give setting and atmosphere
  • do not put a veneer of SF or fantasy on a story that isn’t–ask yourself if the story would work without the SF/fantasy element–if yes, then it’s not spec
Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Sir John Tenniel illustration.

What is Alice Unbound about?

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche? They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but new stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. Your tale may take place in Wonderland but only if it has connections with this world. That’s not someone thinking about having a drink at the café they miss but actually integrating modern elements. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice. Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. NOTE: I am getting many Alice, falling through rabbit hole and Cheshire Cat related stories. Which means competition will be harder in these areas. You might want to look beyond these elements.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  •  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  •  Through the Looking Glass
  •  The Hunting of the Snark
  •  Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in an endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.
  • From space comes a delegation that looks a lot like the card soldiers. They have a concern with Earth for harbouring fugitives from their world.
  • A company has perfected an AI that emulates the Mad Hatter, something to help run parties and liven them up. What could possibly go wrong?

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word CDN (that’s 5 cents a word, not a half cent)

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words (and 2 may be submitted at the same time: submit each in a separate document and submission).

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc.) This also means full contact information on the first page, unless you want me to attribute your piece to someone else. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected without being read. Canadian spelling would be awesome but I won’t turn down a story that comes in UK or US spelling. Submit .docx, .doc, or .rtf only.

Deadline: Extended to July 15, 2017

Publication Date: April 2018 (tentative)

Rights: First English-language rights & non-exclusive Anthology rights for one year from publication (print and eBook).
Submit here: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/77982/alice-unbound

 

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Convention Update

I’m at When Words Collide, an ever expanding convention in Calgary. While it has a heavy focus on speculative fiction there are romance and mystery writers here as well. Yesterday I was on a panel about writing and making a living at it. The four of us on the panel agreed that you can’t make a living but talked about the money you can make, some innovative ways to market poetry and some of the reasons we write poetry, as well as what is a poem.

I was then on a panel with Nancy Kilpatrick, Pat Flewwelling and Brandy Ackerley on why we need dark fiction and horror. We discussed how it dark fiction/’fantasy has evolved, marketing and genre names (weird fiction, dark fiction, horror, etc.) and why we need it. Why are people repelled, why are they drawn to it and what are our monsters and fears.

I also sat on the panel for one of the live action slush groups, where people turn in one page, which is read out loud. The panel of four editors put up there hand when they would stop reading. We made it through several pieces and overall the writing was good. A full house on that one.

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

Today, I’m only on the autograph signing and of course attending the Aurora Awards, where Playground of Lost Toys is up for an award (co-edited with Ursula Pflug). I’m also in the anthologies nEvermore! and Second Contacts (cowritten with Rhea Rose), which are up for the same award. I’ve also been visiting with and getting reacquainted with many of the writers I sometimes only see virtually.  On Sunday, if you’re attending the con, I’ll be on the panel for poetry markets and approaches and doing a reading afterwards with three other poets. At 4pm I’ll be doing a blue pencil session. There is one space left and if you bring 1-2 pages I will edit and comment on it. There really isn’t time for more than one so first come first served.

I have other sales to report but that will have to wait. Though you can check out Heroic Fantasy Quarterly for my poem “The Persuaders,” and Maple Tree Literary Supplement for four poems titled “Cuntipotent,” “Cremating Love,” “Oh You!” and “Come and Go.” These are hard hitting poems about sex and sexuality. Now, back to the con. 🙂

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Kuriata & Demeulemeester

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short stories

Playground of Lost Toys is available through Amazon published by Exile Writers

After today’s authors Chris Kuriata and Linda Demeulemeester, there is one more interview left. These two authors present a darker view of games. Chris Kuriata’s story “Fun Things for Ages 8 to 10” touches on all those comics and magazines we read as kids, and the adds for X-Ray glasses and invisible ink. But it’s from a magazine that gives you instructions in the cheery “Hey, Kids!” way. It’s not all cheery though and kind of comically creepy.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
comics, magazines, games for kids, nostalgia, dark fantasy

Chris Kuriata captures the childhood wonder and acceptance of everything we read.

The money and the glory played a big role, but mostly, submitting to Exile Editions appealed to me because of the unique stories they’ve published, both in their anthologies and the excellent ELQ magazine. PLAYGROUND OF LOST TOYS looked like a good place to be.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

My story “Fun Things For Ages 8 to 10” is about audio cassettes. My sister and I spent many childhood afternoons playing with our mother’s tape recorder. This was before the proliferation of videocameras or VCRS, so the ability to record ourselves and listen back really blew our minds. We created all kinds of radio plays, which usually degenerated into arguments and insult slinging. None of these tapes survived, which is perhaps something I should be grateful for.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

No clue. The idea came to me in bed, was hastily roughed out in my notebook and worked over for the next couple of evenings.

  1. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you want to mention?

I love short story collections, but often burn out after reading a dozen or so stories by the same author. You keep noticing repeated images or the same line of description used in two separate tales. So I love the variety of writers offered by an anthology. It’s fun when the mood switches between stories, like eating chocolate and pretzels. Anthologies are most rewarding when the different voices compliment one another like in a good mix-tape.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

A story about the use of clowns on early 19th century whaling ships will appear in Unlikely Story’s upcoming Clowns anthology, and Pseudopod will be doing an audio version of my story about the breakdown of a family during the apocalypse called “Sack Race to the River.”

Linda Demeulemeester wins the prize for the longest title in the anthology. “And They All Lived Together in a Crooked Little House” changed from poignant to creepy when we asked Linda to clarify one line in the story. It kind of smacked us with the darker meaning of rhymes and the power of enchantment.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

The title of the anthology alone had me – who wouldn’t want to think up a story to do with playgrounds of lost toys. I still feel chills.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

    nursery rhymes, enchantment, word power, fantasy, speculative fiction

    Linda reads from her Grim Hill series. Her adult stories can be darker.

The embossed and engraved book of nursery rhymes is straight out of my childhood. I can vividly picture its old fashioned, color-plated lithographs. The beautiful illustrations took me to another world. I was only five or so… but still recognized this wasn’t a book from my time and place. Not to mention, I was only allowed to flip through the pages with supervision. I knew in my five-year-old heart that I would never ever tear a page or smudge it with grimy finger prints, so I automatically assumed there must be something oh so special that I couldn’t be left alone with it.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I don’t set out with themes, more with explorations. Then themes follow. Here I was exploring at what point is working toward you heart’s desire actually working you instead.

4. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

As for other projects, these are exciting times. My children’s middle grade Grim Hill series is being released by Heritage House under its Wandering Fox imprint – http://www.heritagehouse.ca/  The first book was on the B.C. indie booksellers top picks as well as a shout-out on 49th Shelf, the Canadian book association blog. Books 2,3 and 4 will be released in the spring.

As for appearances,  I’ll be on a panel on writing and illustrating for children at the Vancouver Public Library February 29th . I’ll also be at the Creative Ink Festival May 6-8. For my younger audiences, I will  be kicking off Richmond Library’s young writers club September 20th for their  literacy month.

 

 

www.grimhill.com

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Daigle & Carreiro

Lost ToysToday, I have Christine Daigle, whose story “Of Dandelions and Magic” speaks very well to that magic and loss we can experience as children. This is the stuffy story we chose though we had many for the anthology.

I also have Lisa Carreiro, author of “Makour.” This tale is darker and speaks of redemption as well as perseverance by tying into memories from childhood.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

Exile Editions’ history of publishing diverse voices in Canadian fiction was definitely part of the motivation, but the call for submissions to this particular anthology spoke to me because it seemed to be in the vein of what I write; weird sci-fi/fantasy, often with hints of fairytales and dreams.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

    writing, Canadian authors, rabbit stuffie, stuffed toys

    Christine Daigle is author of “Of Dandelions and Magic”

“Of Dandelions and Magic” relates more to my son’s childhood. He has a “towel duck” that’s nearly eight years old and quite ratty. On his last birthday, he wished it would turn into a real duck. Around the same time, our seven-year-old rabbit died and my son started asking me to tell him stories with the rabbit as the star. The initial idea for this story came to life as I pushed him on a swing.

I did, however, have a threadbare doggy as a child that I carried around in the crook of my elbow until stuffing started escaping through the hole I’d worn into the neck, just above the windup key for the music box.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

I was exploring the idea that we lose the beliefs we held as children and, as adults, it’s hard to see the world as a magical place, even if our desire to do so is strong. As we journey back in time to try to recover pieces of ourselves, it’s difficult because we’re fragmented. When we are kids, the world is a frightening place, and as adults, nothing really changes except our ability to filter what we say and to decide what thoughts we choose to listen to. We never really have all the answers, and we don’t really need to have all the answers to keep living with the wonder of a child.

  1. Is there anything else you would like to say about your story or the theme of the anthology.

Penelope Fitzgerald wrote, “The ambition of all children is to have their games taken seriously.” When I first read At Freddie’s, it struck me that Fitzgerald’s aphorism was a good one to file away for future exploration. I’m so glad to see this theme getting the anthology treatment!

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

My first co-authored novel, The Emerald Key, was published in July 2015 by Ticonderoga Publications. My most recent short fiction is forthcoming in Sci Phi Journal and the Street Magick anthology (Elder Signs Press). I’m putting the polish on another co-authored dark fiction novel steeped in Irish mythology. I’m planning to start looking for a home for that soon.

And here is Lisa Carreiro’s interview about “Makour.” Her story takes place in space, features dragons and trains. It’s one of two stories that has a train in it.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?

“Makour” was inspired by the theme “Lost Toys,” which immediately set my imagination in motion. I’d had the two characters, Pascal and Keirdran, rattling around in my head, but set nothing on the page because none of the escape scenarios worked for me. The word “toys” was the prompt I needed.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?

As a kid, we had a toy farm set with plastic animals. The foal became my special toy: I endowed that wee bit of plastic with superpowers. He flew everywhere, he rescued the other farm animal toys from all kinds of dangers, and he had adventures throughout the house. I invented dozens of scenarios, always leaving a mess of scattered toys in my room; usually with the foal on top of the dresser watching over the others. I don’t know what happened to it; I simply outgrew it.

3.  What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

SF, space, dragons, trains

Lisa Carreiro wrote “Makour” a story that spans the far reaches of space and the determination that keeps people going.

The lost toys theme also set me thinking about all those things we lose as we age, not just the toys we loved. Although my childhood in no way resembles Pascal’s, many adults think back on a time, a place, a person, or an object with nostalgia or affection, or perhaps grief for what’s lost. Add a measure of adventure–in this instance journeying among the stars–and possibilities for exploring the theme multiply.

4. Is there anything else you would like to say about your story or the theme of the anthology.

Like many writers, I work around a “day job” that pays the bills. I’ve written fewer shorts in recent years while concentrating on finishing a novel, which I’m about to send out. With that done, I’m focusing again on the short stories. At the present I’m finishing up and polishing a few, which are just about ready: everything from a man who finds a youth who claims to be a god who’s fallen from the sky to a woman travelling to Proxima Centauri with a crew of genetically enhanced tigers.

5.  What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

Some of my earlier short stories have appeared in Tesseracts Eleven, On Spec, and Strange Horizons.

Thanks again to Lisa and Christine. I’ll bring more interviews in a few days when next I meet the internet.

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Writing: Playground of Lost Toys Interview: Cockle

Lost Toys.jpg

Playground of Lost Toys, published by Exile Editions

Just in time for the holiday season is the release of Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me. It is published by Canadian publisher Exile Editions, and available in trade paperback or as an ebook. This is a collection of stories by various authors that center around toys or games, a sense of something lost or found and that connects in some way to childhood.

With that premise we put out a call this year and gathered a wide range of stories from authors. At first we were getting worried. In any genre or style of story there are familiar and popular tropes. For stories about toys, we’ve seen some of these used over and over again in TV and movies, whether they’re creepy or nostalgic. Look at the Chucky horror movies and others that use creepy dolls come to life with a demonic intent. Teddy bears and stuffed animals also are imbued with a strange form of life in a thing that mimics like a living creature. Whether it’s scurrilous teddy bears like the movie Ted, or savior dolls like Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story (much rarer than devil dolls, by far), these childhood toys are very common in stories.

And so it seemed that we were going to end up with tales that did not vary greatly. Many were predictable. I refined the guidelines and we put out notice that we would take very few doll or stuffy stories. After all, the anthology was about all sorts of toys, even alien toys, but it wasn’t a collection of doll stories only. In the end we received a good range of stories, from science fiction to fantasy to horror. I won’t go on longer or I’ll run out of time but I asked the authors to answer a few interview questions. I’ll post these as I can but I’ll start today with Kevin Cockle.

1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

 Basically, if I’ve got an idea that fits the antho parameters, and a beginning/middle/end – I’ll submit a story.  I never leave any story I’ve written unsent.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood.

God, no.  At least, nothing about the dramatic situation relates.  I HAVE had a  balero since childhood, and it is difficult to play, and I am pretty good at it, but that’s about it for similarity.

balero(1)

Kevin Cockle’s balero. Photo by Kevin

 3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story. 

In broad terms, I was exploring the role “place” plays in identity.  Since there’s a natural tension between markets and identity, I contextualized the exploration within a world where citizenship has been privatized.  You get to stay in a place if you can afford to: you’re not entitled to stay there simply because you were born there.  Cue anxiety.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you wish to mention?

I had already been thinking about the background concepts – and I had some pre-existing story fragments written – but the “toy” aspect initially made me think I couldn’t participate in this project.  Then I remembered the balero, and was able to make the game mechanics the frame for the story.  You could say that this story in its final form was more a case of “splicing” than writing per-se.  Worked out well – prior to PoLT – I wasn’t getting anywhere with the dramatization of these ideas.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year. 

My debut novel Spawning Ground will be coming out in 2016, from Tyche Books.  The background world is similar to the one I sketched in “Balero,” and once again the implications of market-norms for identity will be explored.  I also have a story coming up in Tesseracts 19, and a couple of film projects in various stages of pre-production.  The Whale – a short film I co-wrote with Mike Peterson made it into Cannes this year, so keep an eye out for that on the film-festival circuit.

Thanks to Kevin for answering the interview. The holidays are hitting but where I can I’ll post more interviews so stay tuned.

 

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Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

Hi, World. Sorry I’ve been away so long. I’ve been going non-stop since Spain in April and haven’t even had time to post. I think I already mentioned the editing, the writing, the editing and the writing, not to mention grant applications, oh, and regular work.

writing, publishing, playground of lost toys, SF, fantasy, horror

Mary Beth Griffo Rigby, Flickr

Ursula Pflug and I finished our selection and edits of the stories for The Playground of Lost Toys. We’re now discussing cover art with the publisher but none of us can agree. Still, we’re looking at a November release from Exile Editions. Initially we were worried because people did not seem to be expanding their imaginations when it came to thinking about toys or games. We wanted unusual. Too many creepy doll stories have been done to death, and we did get a few. Then there was the stuffy barrage, and oddly enough bunnies more than bears. People seemed stuck in the same old tropes and there was little that excited us. I began to worry but I should have known better. When a submission period opens, people will often pull out their trunk stories, ones that have been languishing without a home, and send them in.

Some may be suitable and others are a stretch. We received several very good stories from authors but there was either no toy or game, or there was no speculative element and we had stipulated that both were required. The speculative element had to be integral to the piece. Otherwise, if you can remove it and the story still runs, then you have a story that is not fantasy or science fiction. I figured with the topic that we would have a majority of fantasy stories. In the end we ended up with 22 stories, 8 or 9 of them SF, depending on how you interpret that. We have 12 women and 10 men so not a bad split in gender. They are all Canadian writers, except for Rhonda Eikamp. The mandate was that 90% had to be Canadian, due to funding rules.

The tales themselves: yes, there are two doll stories and one bunny stuffy tale. There are also stories about chess, wooden games, time travel, parallel times, dragon toys, trains, compasses, daggers, puzzles, dice, rattles, nursery rhymes, hide and seek, and show and tell, transforming toys, swings, make-believe, online games and godly games. It’s a good mix, which involves everything from nanotech and police procedurals to ghosts, magic and wishful thinking. We have a range that Ursula and I are pleased with. They’re funny, thoughtful, poignant and terrifying. Over the next few months I hope to do short interviews with the authors and post them here.

Here is the table of contents:

  • FUN THING FOR AGES 8 TO 10
    • Chris Kuriata
  • THE COMPASS
    • Joe Davies
  • HIDE AND SEEK
    • Catherine MacLeod
  • SHOW AND TELL
    • Kate Story
  • THE DIE
    • Meagan Whan
  • THE FOOD OF MY PEOPLE
    • Candas Jane Dorsey
  • CHAYA AND LOONY-BOY
    • Rati Mehrota
  • THE GHOST RATTLE
    • Nathan Adler
  • THE GARDEN OF OUR DECEIT
    • Rhonda Eikamp
  • HACKER CHESS
    • Robert Runté
  • AND THEY ALL LIVED TOGETHER IN A CROOKED LITTLE HOUSE
    • Linda DeMeulemeester
  • BALERO
    • Kevin Cockle
  • LESS THAN KATHERINE
    • Claude Lalumière
  • GOODBYE IS A MOUTHFUL OF WATER
    • Dominik Parisien
  • TREASURE
    • DVS Duncan
  • OF DANDELIONS AND MAGIC
    • Christine Daigle
  • WHAT NOT TO EXPECT IN THE TODDLER YEARS
    • Melissa Yuan-Innes
  • WHEN THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME
    • Shane Simmons
  • MAKOUR
    • Lisa Carreiro
  • WITH ONE SHOE
    • Karen Abrahamson
  • WHEATIESFIELDS IN FALL
    • Geoffrey W. Cole
  • BETWEEN THE BRANCHES OF THE NINE
    • Alex C. Renwick

My next posts will be another writing update but also about the urban archeology adventure I did in April, for my birthday. Happy Reading!

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