Category Archives: family

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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Filed under Culture, entertainment, fairy tales, family, fantasy, horror, people, Publishing, SF, Writing

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Mehrota & Yuan-Innes

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

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

Today, I have Rati Mehrota and Melissa Yuan-Innes. Not every tale in Playground of Lost Toys has an actual child in it, but both of these do and the children are very central. Both of these stories examine the magic we see or grasp as children, but in different ways. Rati’s “Chaya and Loony Boy” is one of the doll stories we actually accepted, and there were many.

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

It’s such an enchanting topic! The power of once-beloved toys, memories of childhood, and a speculative twist all coming together in one unique anthology. I knew at once that I wanted to read this collection when it was published. And close on the heels of that thought—hey, I have just the right story that might fit under this lovely umbrella.

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

Rati Mehrota, author of “Chaya and Loony Boy”

Absolutely. While the story itself is fiction, I grew up in just such a house as I have described – my grandmother’s house. I also had a doll with only one eye to whom I ascribed various magical properties. And I did lose her in the end. But my grandmother never locked me in the attic!

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

The theme of otherness, of loneliness, and how we give and take power from ordinary objects to increase our own sense of control.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

Just that it was a joy to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in this collection.

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

I am currently working on a fantasy novel based in an alternative, post-apocalyptic version of Asia. I have several short stories published and upcoming in various venues—the best place to find them (or news of me) is at my blog ratiwrites.com. In particular I am very excited about the upcoming Exile anthology Clockwork Canada which will include my story “Komagata Maru.”

Melissa Yuan-Innes is a prolific writer, with many mystery/thriller novels to her name. “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” was a gentle tale that hitches on every adult’s fear for their child, that they will get sick. And like dvs duncan’s story “Treasure,” there is the wish that the adult might regain the lost magic of childhood.

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

Money. Fame. And the desire to join a collection of excellence.

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

In this case, I was thinking more of my son Max’s childhood. I wanted to capture his world, making the transition from toddlerhood to preschooler years: the tenderness, the stubbornness (fighting over getting his Crocs on and off!), the imperfect words.

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

What if magic really existed? How would a day care worker—or an ordinary mother—react? I figured it would range the gamut from calm acceptance to fear to exploitation.

One of the sayings that resonated with me was “As a mother, you’re wearing your heart outside your body for the rest of your life.” If my son or daughter had the opportunity to learn magic, I would be excited but wary, too. Is it real? What’s the cost? Because nothing’s free, baby.

  1. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?

I’m so glad that I captured Max then. He’s nine years old now! If you’re a writer or an artist as well as a parent/caregiver, I encourage you to use your talent to freeze-flash your children for a moment. I want to thank Max and Anastasia’s caregivers, and really all people who take care of our children. It’s such important work, under-recognized in our society, but it touches my heart when people truly look after my kids and get to know them as individuals instead of little widgets. I’d like to thank Liz, Gisele, Aly, Tanya, Mme. Marguerite, Catherine, Ben, and Sabrina.

This interview made me realize that I’d never read “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” to Max. So I did it last night. He enjoyed seeing himself. “Not bad. I’m kind of the star.”

 

Yuan

Melissa Yuan-Innes’ mystery thriller is a new release involving medicine.

One more thing. After the Can Con mini-launch of the Playground of Lost Toys, a reader named Rene told me he’s volunteered at his daughter’s day care for fifteen years, and I got the details right. We laughed about things like the fact that parent-friends will know the names of all your kids, but you’re just “Julie’s mom.” That’s your name. You don’t have any other identity now. He also liked that it seemed like a lighthearted story instead of a grim, bloody one. I assured him that it was. I have bloody stories, but I don’t write them about my fictionalized children.

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

Speaking of bloody, I write a lot of mysteries. I’m very proud of my latest Hope Sze medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome (http://melissayuaninnes.com/), about a hostage-taking on an obstetrics ward in Montreal. If you click on that link, you can check out my TV, CBC Radio, and print interviews about it. Some readers have told me it’s my best book, which is satisfying. I like to think my skills are improving. I also have a new collection of critically acclaimed short mystery stories, Reckless Homicide: Five Tales of Death and Deception (http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/reckless-homicide-five-tales-of-death-and-deception/). I’m also proud of my werewolf thriller, Wolf Ice. http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/wolf-ice/​

Fantasy-wise, Fireside has slated my short story, “Fairy Tales are for White People,” for its February issue. It’s about the power of family, magic, and Chinese barbecue. Galen Dara has created gorgeous art for it. It may be my favourite art piece ever! http://www.firesidefiction.com/

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Simmons & Dorsey

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

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

Today’s authors are Shane Simmons and Candas Jane Dorsey. Playground of Lost Toys, by its nature and the guidelines Ursula Pflug and I set up, has many stories that deal with nostalgia and loss. Not all but many look at family as well.

Shane Simmons wrote “When the Trains Run on Time.” It’s a very clever play on time travel, and I have to say that I don’t overall much like time travel stories. Shane’s tale was so poignant and sad that it grabbed me and tugged on my heart. It is one of the darker stories in the anthology and definitely worth a read.

toys, trains, Shane Simmons, tragedy, SF, time travel

Shane Simmons draws and writes. Picture borrowed from Shane’s site Eyestrain Productions.

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

The only good reason for submitting a story to an anthology: I had an idea that was on-topic and a story worth telling. Playground of Lost Toys was a compelling concept for a collection, and I knew I had to come up with something that would fit.

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

It was very much inspired by a model train set I got for Christmas one year. Mine didn’t come with a tunnel that warped time, however.

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

Every kid can’t wait to grow up. Childhood seems to take so long, but before you know it you’re an adult and the years fly by.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology that you’d like to mention?

A lot of my work has to do with twisted, distorted memories of my youth. I’ve made a living for years writing cartoons for kids, so when I’m writing material for my own amusement, it often explores the dark side of childhood.

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

I’ve had seven short stories published last year, with three more scheduled for 2016 so far, plus a novella. All the news about my career that’s fit to print can be found on my website, eyestrainproductions.com.

Candas Jane Dorsey’s tale “The Food of My People” has a very homey type of magic. It’s tied up as much in the person as it is in the rich visions of food. This story explores not so much the loss of a toy as the loss of something or someone special in a child’s life. (brackets are added by me)

fiction, fantasy, puzzles, Playground of Lost Toys

Candas Jane Dorsey brings us The Food of My People. Picture from Gigcity.ca

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

I loved the idea of the anthology, and the editors are great, and I had a story in progress that I could finish in time! As people probably know, I am a slow writer, so I don’t usually write anthology stories to order for calls for submission. But I tried with this one–but it wasn’t this anthology–and of course, I missed the deadline. But the outcome was great. I was really impressed with the editors and with the publisher, so meticulous about catching the errors and typos and little bits of illogic that crept in unbeknownst. So first off, thanks to everyone involved!

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

About half of Cubbie is based on my godmother. But my godmother was also really different: she was plump, yes, but rather more elegant, wore corsets and those black lace-up oxfords with Cuban heels, and her son was a diplomat so she was always going off to live in Japan or somewhere, and sending me presents from there (her daughter-in-law was in a famous diplomatic incident in South Africa actually, where she marched in an anti-apartheid march, but that’s another story). The half that is Cubbie is the comfort and love half. I meant to put in her candy jars but the story was already too long.

What is really based on my life is the food. It’s Alberta prairie family reunion food (non-Ukrainian variety–so alas, no pyroghy!) My relatives in central Alberta all had gardens, went berry picking, cooked well, and food was central to the experience. Jellied salads at family reunions–a staple food. My mother made an awesome flapper pie–though it’s a pain to make and you have to be in the mood–and used to whip up a bread pudding every couple of weeks to use up the stale bread. Saskatoon pie. Kraft dinner spun out with some “real” macaroni and some real cheese, but still that electric yellow-orange colour. Makes me hungry–even now it says comfort-food to my backbrain.

There was a lot of food I didn’t have a chance to include. Beets and beet greens–yum. The Galloping Gourmet’s curry sauce, so mild and therefore beloved by all the prairie food conservatives even in the 1960s. I just found out that one of my best friend’s mom made the very same sauce, from the same source. My mother is in the story as “the lady in the next bed” who was 99 and still telling stories, because she was both those things. That was one of the last things I put in. My mother died this spring (2015) at the age of 99 years 5 months. Even though she worked at home for years during our childhood, she wasn’t temperamentally suited to it. She always said “cook” and “bake” were four-letter words, and was a reader and historian and toponymist–but whatever she took on she did well, and I still remember her flapper pie and bread pudding. And a candy called “seafoam” that was really little meringues, and too hard to make more than about once a year. That was the first recipe I asked for when I left home. (Bread pudding was the second one I wrote in my recipe book in my own house, but I knew it from watching–it was never written down.)

And we had a jigsaw puzzle that was a big red dot. We did it. Once. (Once.)

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

My original idea was for an anthology Nalo Hopkinson edited called Mojo Conjure. I have always been annoyed at how fantasy writers who come from what’s now being called “settler” roots have taken over the voudoun and First Nations mythologies because they are “cool.” Don’t we have enough imagination to think about where our own cultures’ magic comes from? But at the same time, I am divorced from my own heritage by immigrant circumstances, so I have no idea what the Celtic or Anglo-Saxon stories from my family’s origins were either, even though my heritage is English and Scots. I am third and fourth generation on this land–but what is the magic of my people? So I decided to think up some “mojo conjure” of my own personal heritage, and this is what came out.

A lot later, long after I’d missed Nalo’s deadline, the image of the last red piece dissolving on Cubbie’s tongue came to me, and I realized then where the story had to go. When I saw the call for this anthology, I was delighted, and I pushed myself to finish the story on time. I sent it to Ursula (and Colleen) thinking that it was too long but it was too new to be objective about it so I told her she had to help me cut it! When she accepted it, then I was motivated, and I did manage to cut it back, a bit.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology that you’d like to mention?

Reading the anthology when my author copy arrived was really a wonderful experience. Such a variety of works! I’m always surprised at how a story looks in print, so formal, after having ideas for it in the bathtub, or while half alseep. The readers can’t see the state my hair was in when I was writing it! I was really impressed with the range of ideas. Also how spooky some people think childhood is. That comes of all those years being the weird kids in the class, I guess. Or at least, I was. (Baby writers probably mostly were That Kid at the Back–or the Picked-On Kid…)

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

My novel Black Wine was recently re-released by Five Rivers Publishing, and is available as an eBook or paper book. Originally my novels were from Tor, and I also have two short fiction collections that are out of print at the moment. Five Rivers and I are talking about bringing some of those out again too, in the fullness of time.

In progress, I have finished two mystery novels about a nameless bisexual downsized social worker and her cat Fuc…er, Bunny-wit. She lives in the inner city and knows a lot of diverse people, and has gotten into two very different adventures, one with drag queens and religious fundamentalists, and one with software millionaires. I also have a YA novel about an intersex teen. All these are off in the slowly-grinding mills of the gods, being Pronounced Upon. I’m working on a Great Looming Serious Novel which may or may not be fantasy, and which I am completing with the help of a project grant from the Edmonton Arts Council which is finished soon, so I am off in a fog at the moment, thinking about scene order…

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Filed under Culture, family, fantasy, food, memories, Publishing, science fiction, SF, Writing

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Lalumière & Parisien

Lost ToysToday’s authors from Playground of Lost Toys are Claude Lalumière and Dominik Parisien. Their tales range from terror to nostalgic, but both cover grief in very different ways and look at the strong ties of family.

Claude Lalumière has authored many stories and several books. “Less Than Katherine” is a very visceral story, and disturbing. I like stories that make me think and leave a lingering sense, whether of joy or horror.

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

I have an obsession to try to be on the table of contents to as many Canadian (and sometimes non-Canadian) theme anthologies as I can. I love flexing that imaginative muscle, to try to find my own stories to tell within the context of a theme I might not otherwise think of.

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

Not at all. I have no idea where “Less than Katherine” came from. From Claudesome dark recess of my imagination I don’t have full conscious access to, I suppose.

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

That’s for the readers to discover. Whatever I put in the story, consciously or subconsciously, has little or nothing to do with what readers will bring to it, what ideas and themes they will find in it.

  1. What else would you like to say about your story or the theme of the anthology?

The deadline was nearing for Playground of Lost Toys, and I feared I might not come up with anything. Then, one morning, probably too close to the deadline, I woke up with “Less than Katherine” in my mind, completely unbidden, and I wrote it as fast as I could, in three sittings.

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

I’m the author of Objects of Worship (2009), The Door to Lost Pages (2011), and Nocturnes and Other Nocturnes (2013). My fourth book, Venera Dreams, is coming out in 2017 from Guernica Editions. Aside from Playground of Lost Toys, other recent Canadian anthologies that feature my work include: Licence Expired: The Unauthorized James Bond, edited by Madeline Ashby & David Nickle; Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; Tesseracts Seventeen, edited by Colleen Anderson & Steve Vernon; Chilling Tales: In Words, Alas, Drown I, edited by Michael Kelly; Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. My website is at claudepages.info. I’m going to be at Eurocon in Barcelona on the first weekend of November 2016 (some other 2016 appearances are already scheduled, but I can’t talk about them yet).

Dominik Parisien’s story is ephemeral yet latches onto your heart and pulls. Ghosts may not be something you think of with toys and games, but the games of make believe are sometimes our most vital and imaginative.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys? And What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?

Memory is a recurring theme in my work in general, but particularly in how it relates to children and the elderly. As Colleen mentioned in her introduction, the “playground of thoughts” is an ideal environment in which to explore memories, for individuals of all ages, so that’s what I decided to do here for Playground of Lost Toys.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood? 3.  What else would you like to say about your story or the theme of the anthology?

Dominik_ParisienI’ve wanted to write about a drowned village for years. My late grandfather, Alfred Joanisse, grew up in le Chenail, a village by the Ottawa River that was submerged (relocated for the most part) when the government built the Carillon dam near Hawkesbury. I grew up hearing stories about the village – he even brought me to the remaining stretch of land on several occasions and I still visit when I can–and le Chenail has haunted my imaginative landscape ever since. I tried writing about it repeatedly, but the emotional core of the story eluded me. After grandpa passed I could never quite manage to write about him, or his village. It felt too real, too close. Eventually, I decided to try my hand at the story again (it’s been five years since his death). This time everything clicked. The village here isn’t exactly le Chenail, it’s a composite of that and some of the Lost Villages of the Saint Lawrence River. The people here too are composites, drawn up from family, friends, and some of the elderly I’ve done volunteer work with over the years. It might just be my favourite thing I’ve written so far.

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

Other than “Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water,” I have several editorial projects coming up. The first is the very first anthology of Canadian steampunk, Clockwork Canada. The ToC can be found here and it includes two PLT writers: Rati Mehrotra and Kate Story–Clockwork Canada on BlackGate.com.  Clockwork Canada will also be published by Exile Editions in May 2016.

In addition, I co-edited an anthology of original fairy tale retellings with Navah Wolfe for Saga Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. The book features an all-star group of contributors and the ToC is available here: The Starlit Wood. It will published in October 2016.

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Filed under Culture, family, fantasy, horror, memories, Publishing, 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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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Elise Moser

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Elise Moser brings a softly undulating tale of  discovery and transformation in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast.

CA: Your story “Sandhill” is one of transformation. Such stories harken back to the earliest myths and rituals. Were you building on that tradition?

I wasn’t building on that tradition in a conscious way, although I like the idea. Really I started off just loving the cranes and trying to think my way closer to them somehow. I think a lot of our human socialization works to separate us from animals and animal consciousness, and we would be better off, as individuals and as planetary citizens, if we could find a way to open ourselves to the animal world again. And then of course once my characters were teenagers, it became all about the struggle through transformation.

CA: Childhood is in itself a transformation until we become adults. Do you think our transformation, like a butterfly or moth’s, ends upon adulthood?

No, with possible exception of some very sad and unlucky people.

CA: Are you exploring this theme in any of your other works?

Yes, probably always, one way or another.

CA: “Sandhill” is also a tale of being one with nature, whether animals or the environment. Where do you feel humankind is in this respect? Do we need to pay more attention to nature or do we, as individuals, manage it as best we can in a modern world?

animals, environment, fantasy, myth, Tesseracts 17, Canadian writers

Elise Moser explores transformation and environment in “Sandhill.”

I gave part of my answer to this question above, but I will add here that I don’t believe we are managing very well at all; on the contrary, our “managing” is disastrous. We need to pay more attention to nature — our nature, the natures of others, the nature of reality, of power, of suffering, of respect and of compassion.

CA: What other projects do you have in the works?

In September my YA novel, Lily and Taylor, which is about a transformation of a different kind, was published, and I have been busy launching and publicizing that. I have written the first draft of a play adapted from “Sand Hill.” And I am developing another project which isn’t ripe enough to pick yet.

Elise Moser has published short stories in journals and anthologies, and coedited two anthologies. Her novel Because I Have Loved and Hidden It came out from Cormorant Books in 2009. She was founding literary editor of Montreal online arts and culture magazine The Rover, and was president of the Quebec Writers’ Federation for three years. Her YA novel Lily and Taylor appeared in 2013 from Groundwood Books, just before her story “Sand Hill” hatched in Tesseracts 17.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Holly Schofield

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

Tesseracts 17 is now out with tales from Canadian writers that span all times and places.

Holly Schofield writes a thoughtful piece about one possible future of our digital world in “Graveyard Shift.”

CA: “Graveyard Shift” is about a moral dilemma. Why did you choose to explore it through the aspects Asian tradition?

I knew I wanted to write about the soul-crushing debt that post-secondary students are incurring now and how that may worsen in the future. By adding in a cultural challenge, I was able to increase the struggle of the main character, Ryan, and deepen the story.

Like many young Canadians, 23-year-old Ryan precariously straddles two worlds. He’s a child of mainstream urban Canada, with all its peer pressure, capitalism, and emphasis on a unique sense of self. And he was raised in a traditional Asian multigenerational household, with its sometimes conflicting components: an unyielding respect for elders, a severe work ethic, and a unified sense of family.

Ryan’s ability to choose which of the two culture’s many elements to apply to his growing set of problems is essential to the story.

CA: You story deals with a near and very possible future where the effects of automation and a global village are wiping out the need for certain jobs. In some ways, it’s what happened when the Industrial Revolution happened. Do you think we’re going to go through more of these industrial bumps? Is there a chance for people to be assimilated into new jobs or will we end up with a leisure society?

Asian culture, techology, SF, speculative fiction, Canadian authors, Alberta writers

Holly Schofield’s story is about straddling cultures and changes in the world.

History is full of speed bumps. I don’t see that changing. Our current challenges include technology’s effect on jobs, the uneven division of wealth, and the increasing need for life-long learning. In this story, Ryan has chosen an educational path that is perhaps no longer appropriate and needs to adjust his expectations accordingly—a familiar feeling to anyone applying for jobs in our post-2008 world.

The line between work and leisure may well blur as technology advances. Even ten years ago, it was almost impossible to imagine a job in the social media field, yet now that’s a burgeoning employment sector.

The key, in both real life and in the story, is flexibility. Does Ryan have enough transferable job skills to cope? Readers will have to learn for themselves.

CA: You mentioned that you hope to save the world through science fiction. Whether serious or not about that statement, do you believe that writing SF can make a difference?

I’m certainly hoping it can. I know that reading SF has made a difference in how I perceive the world and where our civilization is headed.
It’s proven that reading fiction, any fiction, measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people. Levels of emotional engagement rise in the long-term, compared to non-fiction readers.

Something not yet proven, but I tend to believe, is that SF readers have even more of that engagement and, even better, an understanding of the real potential of humankind. In my own case, watching the original Star Trek on TV as a child–seeing that imaginary future world without poverty, where humans can satisfy their need to simply explore–gave me a “big picture” view of how wonderful our civilization can be. Thousands of SF stories later, I’m sure I do see the world in a different way than a reader who has never ventured outside of mainstream fiction.

I would like to impart some of that optimism in my own fiction.

CA: What’s your next project?

I tend to work on several stories at once. Soon-to-be-published stories involve Alberta petroglyphs, a wimpy superhero, and a garbage-collecting cyborg. Stories in progress feature a brain-augmented cat, a woman who mind-melds with eagles, and a castle built by a time traveller. Keep checking hollyschofield.wordpress.com (http://hollyschofield.wordpress.com/) for upcoming publications.

Holly Schofield has several publications in the online magazines, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review and Perihelion. Her work will soon appear in three anthologies: Tesseracts 17, Oomph: A Little Super Goes A Long Way, and The Future Embodied.

She travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of a prairie farmhouse and her writing cabin on the west coast.
She plans to save the world with science fiction stories and home-grown heritage tomatoes.

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Supporting the Arts

I’m highlighting a few worthy causes today. One is local, taking place in Vancouver, and the other takes place somewhat virtually through Canada.

COLLABORATIVE ART

First is the Magpie’s Nest Community Art Space Events. This is a group of local artists who are trying to create pop-up art spaces for artists to come by and work in, and just spread the fun and love of art.

artists, community art, Vancouver art space, painters, collage, creativity, local events, Vancouver

May 25 at Astorino’s
1739 Venables Street, Vancouver, BC

Magpie’s Nest Community Art Space invites you to create a patchwork of ideas and creativity with your neighbours, young and old.

The completed collaborative mural will be a tapestry of painted and embellished circles – each circle being made up of four quarters.

Each quarter completed by an individual will connect to the work of three others, creating a visual representation of continuity within and encircling our neighbourhood.

The Community Circles Collaborative Mural will be kept and put on display by Britannia Community Centre.

All supplies will be provided by Magpie’s Nest. We will provide paints and printing inks, objects to print with, and ephemera to embellish with: beads, buttons, ribbon, embroidery floss, yarn, and needles.

artists, local events, arts, Vancovuer, East Van

June 2: if you’re in Vancouver, come out and get good food and support the arts.

As well, they have a fundraising dinner for more of those community supplies. East Feast takes place on June 2 and for $20 you get a meal, entertainment and three artist presentations that you can vote on.  I find I love public art, whether it’s a mural paint on the wall by the community (see my previous post on East Van wall art), the knitted cozies wrapped around trees and fences, people bursting into song in a mall, the zombie walk, the machine animals of Nantes (see previous post for this as well) or a myriad other things. These pieces are not done for more than surprising people and bringing smiles to our faces. We need more of this in our everyday lives and to recognize that we are community.

CROWDFUNDING AN ANTHOLOGY

Canadian award-winning author Ursula Pflug is editing an anthology called They Have to Let You In. It is due for a 2013/2014 release through Hidden Brook Press.

Details can be found at the site (by clicking the title above) but here are the basics:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

 Whether or not we agree, we have probably heard Tolstoy’s famous quote. “What is unarguable is that our family shapes us as nothing else.” Family elicits our strongest emotional responses, whether joy and love, or rage and fear. For this anthology don’t feel you have to sugar coat your work—we aren’t timid and want to include stories and poems that explore the darker aspects of family life. After all, healing requires our truth as well as our forgiveness. But also—please don’t forget to include work that expresses the deep sustaining joy our families can provide. The love we give and receive within families is irreplaceable.

This month’s government cuts to CSUMB (the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit ) will put more families on the street. 100% of royalties from the sale of They Have To Take You In will benefit the shelter system in eastern Ontario.

This anthology will have poetry and fiction and is open to almost any genre. If you’re Canadian or expat you can enter. And instead of crowdfunding to buy a video from drug dealers on Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s alleged drug abuse, why not put the money to something that can doubly benefit people: both the family shelters in Ontario and to writers who submit? And, like all crowdfunding, by donating you’ll also get cool stuff. Go here to support and read more about it: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/they-have-to-take-you-in/x/2238410

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Book Review: The Steel Seraglio

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

Available through ChiZine Publications and Amazon.

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

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

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

REM_small

The Steel Seraglio has some interior art by Nimit Malavia.

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

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

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

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

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

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How I First Learned About Money

money, working, first jobs, allowance, chores, babysitting

Creative Commons by cupwire.ca

CBC Radio One was talking about allowances today and whether they’re good or bad, or should be allowed. As a child, I was one of four to a working class family. We didn’t have a ton of money, or at least that was the way it always came across. I wasn’t given money that I can remember and maybe as a small child I was, so that I could learn how to spend it and count it out. Or maybe I learned about it in grade school. I actually can’t remember any specific lessons about money.

But…by the time I was six or seven I had my first job. It wasn’t a paper route but it was selling Regal Cards, a mail order company for Christmas and birthday cards, door to door. They’re still going strong Probably the cuteness of being a little child helped me sell those cards but I was working early on. My mother didn’t believe in letting us shirk any duties and she’d grown up a Depression Era child so making your own way was part of the game. We may have been lower middle class but my siblings and I were richer in goods than my mother had been at that age.

After Regal Cards, came babysiting, when I was old enough. I babysat for the people across the street and for a while had a job babysitting on Saturdays for a woman who worked. A full day of entertaining a two-year-old who wouldn’t sleep if the didn’t have his bottle (and threw it over the balcony one day) was more than I could take and I eventually quit. But the fact is I was familiar with working and being paid for it probably since I was seven. I opened a savings account between the ages of 12-14, where my mother had to come with me because they weren’t used to kids with bank accounts at that age. Now, every kid can get a bank account. I had a chequing account just a few years later.

In between all this I asked my mother, probably around the age of 13 or 14 if I could receive an allowance. By this time my two older siblings were out of the house and it was just my brother and me. We already had chores to do, such as vacuuming, mowing lawns, shoveling walks, washing dishes so it’s not like the bribe of money made us do the chores. The threat of grounding or being spanked made us do the chores. However, my mother had started working so she was less diligent about such things. But when I asked for that allowance I was pretty much told it wouldn’t be fair to give it to one and not the other, and because my brother never did his chores I was punished for his chaos.

By the time I was sixteen I was working in a movie theater, my first real job with a regular paycheck. I had that job for a

ju jube, candy, working, movies, entertainment, first jobs

Ju Jubes from charlieschocolatefactory.ca

couple of years, until art college. It was a great job for a teenager. We could sneak in to watch some shows at the slow time. My girlfriend also worked there with me and we’d pick out the choicest popcorn to eat. Sometimes we’d order a pizza slice or two from Stromboli’s next door and dip the thick puffy crusts in some butter we had poured off. We’d count the ju-jube bags and buy the ones with the most red or black ones and we’d buy the Twizzler bags that had the highest count. Something only teenagers could get away with.

I was definitely buying most of my own clothes by the time I was 16, with little if no cash from my mother. So I learned the value of money from a very young age and I learned how to save. After all, I put myself through college, no savings from relatives. But back in those early days, yeah, an allowance would have been nice.

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