Category Archives: memories

Playground of Lost Toys: The Last–Story

Today wraps up the interviews with the authors of Playground of Lost Toys. Last but not least is Kate Story, but before I get to Kate’s story, I wanted to just mention that I’m hosting the West Coast launch tomorrow night in Vancouver. If you’re not doing anything, come out to the Railway Club to hear five of the authors read. Food and drinks from the bar and books will be available for sale.

speculative fiction, anthology, Exile Editions, Canadian launches, Vancouver readigns

Playground of Lost Toys launches Feb. 10 for the West Coast

Now, Kate wrote “Show and Tell,” which ties into those many days we spent in school, where there were good times, but also bad time. Revisiting the place of old memories can stir up the past and present different possibilities. This story also involves a doll, which turns out to be the vehicle for change.

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

Ursula sent out an eleventh-hour call for submissions. I’d managed to miss the initial call, and when I got her message, it felt like an assignment. I love assignments. The premise was very evocative for me.

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

Canadian writers, speculative stories, alternate realities, fantasy, dolls

Kate Story is a writer and performance artist.

I did actually have a Saucy Doll, although I don’t think I ever brought her to Show and Tell. I was bullied as a child, although not as badly as my protagonist. But I was haunted for many years as a young adult that my life had branched off at some point, and I’d missed my boat somehow—as if I was in some parallel reality that wasn’t really mine. I was in the wrong world. It was a rather nightmarish feeling, and constant.

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

I wonder sometimes if what and how we choose to remember has more power than we think it does. In no way do I want to be victim-blaming here. I dislike the whole “The Secret” kind of thing intensely—it’s really oppressive—so, you’re a child soldier, I guess you just didn’t envision your ideal future HARD enough. No, no. But on a more subtle level the material we have to work with—our past, our present— there’s alchemy there. At least, that was the idea I was interested in looking at.

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

There’s something very appealing to me about the ugliness of some toys. Even as a kid we kind of know they’re ugly, yet we love them. The broken, the horrid, the unwanted—I wish we worked harder to hold onto our ability to fall in love with that.

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

I just had a piece come out in Stone Skin Press’s Gods, Memes and Monsters a 21st Century Bestiary. The collection is excellent—yay, Heather Wood! And last year I had a story in Carbide Tipped Pens, a SF collection from Tor Books edited by the marvelous Ben Bova and Eric Choi. Upcoming, I have a story in Exile’s Canadian Steampunk anthology edited by the wonderful Dominik Parisien, Clockwork Canada. And next year my first young adult fantasy novel will come out with ChiZine Press. STOKED. My website is www.katestory.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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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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A Eulogy on Character: Andrew Brechin

euology, memorial, writing, Andrew Brechin, Breklor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

characterization, writing, Andrew Brechin, Breklor

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

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

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

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

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

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Diary of a Taxation Dieter

Without much ado, I present to you the kernel from whence came the Apocalypse Diet. From 2002.

dieting, poverty, poor eating, food, culture, budget foods, food

Poverty means crimping corners on food. Creative Commons: psd Flickr

Forced into circumstances beyond her control, mild-mannered copy editor, Colleen Anderson seeks a new way to survive and pay the dreaded ubiquitous tax man. Yep, that’s me, though not so mild-mannered. The working poor, freelancer who’s just gone through the depression diet, good for a few pounds. But now, having lost money for the first time in my freelance business of copy editing, having paid tax on the proportion where I worked proofing exciting car ads, having earned $10,000 less than the year before, statistically putting me in the range of poverty level income, I find that I owe $1000 in taxes.

I’d borrow from my brother but I just did that to buy a car as mine was failing badly. I’d get a loan but I don’t make enough per month to pay on the loan. I’d cut back on all those frivolities but I already have. All I can do is cut back on the necessities. I still have to pay rent, hydro, phone, car insurance, RRSP loan, creditline payment and gas. I still have to buy toilet paper and feed the cat. My brother’s going to have to wait for repayment. It looks like I will cut back on food.

After all, I wanted to lose thirty pounds anyway and my place is stocked with the usual. I should be able to get by for three months without buying food and stash $20/week  (more than I was spending on food anyway) to give to the tax demons. That leaves me $30/week for incidentals and hopefully I’ll make enough to cover the bills.

DAY 1

Brought one of my frozen soups to work with two frozen buns. Didn’t eat it for lunch since I work twelve hours. I’ll save it for later when everyone’s ordering the weekly sushi at work. No more weekly wonton soup for me. Okay I’ve succumbed to buying a chocolate bar. Damn sweet tooth, it may break me yet. It’s nearly as bad as being a cigarette smoker, especially when you crave the good stuff. And I shouldn’t be eating cheap chocolate bars anyway. Too much dairy and I’m allergic to it.

Eat my thin veggie soup with the two buns for dinner, steal some sunflower seeds from the guys at work. When I get home, I go into the ohmigawd I’m limited on food thing and eat the last of my home-baked chocolate chip cookies as I fret over my taxes. That’s 6 small ones and a handful of slightly stale taco chips with the last of the chili pepper dip from my party a couple of weeks ago. I boil up some Asian style noodles for tomorrow and hit the sack.

As I lay there in bed I realize I better plan what I eat together, otherwise it’s going to get really weird when I’m eating sardines and jam. So, remember, use the crackers with the things you don’t like to eat by themselves. The frozen soups will last and be okay without any carbos. Maybe I’ll do protein one day, carbos another days, sweet jams another. I’m sure my doctor would kill me if she found out but I have to pay the damn taxes.

DAY 2

chocolate, poverty, food, dieting, candy, junk food

Chocolate: still my bane after all these years. Creative Commons: Wikipedia

Mixed the noodles with the last of the yogurt dill dip from my party, some sundried tomatoes steeped in oil, and pine nuts. That’s almost gourmet but how long will it last? It actually tastes good too. I can’t walk down to the store for a bag of corn chips anymore when I forget my lunch.

On the way home I succumb again to the evil sweet tooth. Maybe the tax man should team up with chocolate. They’d be unconquerable, taxing teeth, thighs and bank accounts equally. I stop at a chocolate factory and buy a bag of seconds using the debit card. When I get home, I eat half that bag and take a nap, only to wake to a horrible stomach ache. Too much dairy and I’m suffering for my sins. Well, that should get better as there’s nothing dairy left in the house. It’s going to get interesting though, when I’m down to nothing but a cupboard full of booze and a bunch of jam.

I set aside $20 for taxes and used the other $30 in one swell foop. That’s $25 for cat food since he was down to crumbs and $5 for toilet paper. I now have $2 and change in my purse till next week. And what money’s in the bank has to pay the bills and I probably will be short on rent.

I wonder if it’s like this in countries under siege. First everyone eats the delectables, afraid they’ll spoil or someone else will get them, eating too much like two buns with soup instead of a quarter of a bun with a quarter cup of soup. Wished I had more flour stored up. Low on all the carbos like rice and pasta. Ate the last of the potatoes earlier this week. Thank god I don’t have to worry about a coffee habit on top of the damn chocolate. Withdrawal will start soon.

DAY 3

Four crackers before I left for work at noon. No visions of sugar plums yet and frankly, what is a sugar plum? Probably some sugary prune before chocolate was cheap. Nowadays it would be visions of candy, chocolate, chips and pop dancing across the rotting teeth of kids. I think I probably have a couple of really old prunes somewhere and I’m sure I’ll get to them at some point.

I was offered an apple chip (coated in caramel sugar) at work and I wanted to grab the whole bag. But do you think it might set up a bad working environment to tell your co-worker you thought he was giving you the rest of the bag? Probably. Good thing I haven’t been eating much for a while so the mild growling barely fazed me.

After all that talk/thought about sardines and jam I thought I better eat some while I still have the cracker. Sardines in mustard, sort of a pasty hardly mustard, goo. Slapped them on some crackers, barely noticed the little spines that I usually must remove, and chowed down. Usually sardines are okay for twice a year and I really don’t know why I keep buying them because they’re kind of sinister for fish.  I mean, what other fish would lay itself down in a can with others of its ilk, side by side? At least salmon and tuna have the decency to be from one whole fish. I’m going to have to space out eating the other two cans. Bleah. And now a handful of getting-ever-stale taco chips, no dip, no guac. That’s my dinner.

Stopped by Dan & Nessa’s where they had leftover taco fixins’. I ate one and feel quite full now. Food saviors, gotta love ‘em.

DAY 4

Reprieve. Going to the US for the weekend. Since I have some US money set aside I’ll be able to buy some food. I don’t eat until we get over the border and into Bellingham at 2. I buy six dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice), and a bag of jalapeno potato chips, which I eat on the way. For later I buy a bottle of wine, cider, one lime, a bag of mixed nuts and four muffins to share, which are really cupcakes in drag, weighing a pound each. That comes to $30 US or $45 CDN. US food prices are very expensive.

The bag of chips is so big there’s no way I can eat them all but they and the dolmades do the trick. We drive and drive and drive, through traffic torture and heat and finally get in around 8:30. We set up the tent and I eat a banana and drink one cider. By the time we’re all done setting up it’s time for bed.

DAY 5

Mary brings me a bun with turkey in it sometime in the afternoon. Just turkey and dijonaise, no veggies. I ate a part of Pasha’s magic bar, chocolate and coconut and something else. Later on we have supper, honey garlic chicken and brown rice, with caesar salad. I know I nibbled on a few more of the chips throughout the day so I don’t feel hungry at all.

Evening is drink time, cider and wine and partying.

DAY 6

I wake up hungry but we have to attend meetings and then break down the tent. I eat a couple of chocolate chip cookies and half of the one-pound “muffin.” Back in camp we start breaking down the tent and nibbling grapes. I eat a few more of the ubiquitous jalapeno chips and drink a glass of wine from what wasn’t finished the night before. I pack the mixed nuts that I completely forgot about.

On the way home we stop at David & Jeff’s and they order Chinese food.  Lots of food, I pig out and then feel uncomfortable. We drive on and around 11 we stop for some gas and I’m looking for pomegranate juice because I’ve discovered it goes very well with vanilla vodka. They don’t have any but I find margarine with almost no whey in it. Being allergic to dairy can even eliminate most margarines and I’ve been looking for months for the brand I had bought. I don’t use butter or margarine much at all but it’s good to have some on hand. And I buy a few chocolates for the road because I’m falling asleep. Not the best and there’s dairy in them but there are exceptions, even for bad chocolate.

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Soup is a good way to fill up when poor. Creative Commons: foodgeeks.com

DAY 7

Monday, day off for Victoria day and it’s cold and blah and rainy. I wake up quite late and eat the rest of the chips and the chocolates throughout the day. That’s my meal until late at night when I finally do the finalized version of my taxes. Then I have a bowl of comfort soup, Lipton’s chicken noodle, the low salt one, which doesn’t have MSG like almost any other packaged soup, canned or dry. Why, I have no idea, but MSG gives me rashes on my face and I already overdid it with the chips.

I used the slow cooker today and made soup from a frozen chicken carcass, denuded of most meat until all that’s there would maybe make a sparrow. I put that in the pot with the last of the veggies in my place. That’s some slightly yellowing broccoli, about a half bunch of celery, some garlic, half a lemon and spices. Spices I have lots of. It cooks all night.

DAY 8

This morning I boiled up some alphabet noodles I forgot I had and added them to the soup. I took a big container and two buns with some margarine on them, to work. However, I didn’t eat them during the day because I knew I had a long night. I succumbed to a chocolate bar and took another to work tonight. That’s $1 I’ve spent on food.

When I did get around to eating my soup it was quite tasty. I put enough pepper and Ethiopian pepper in to make it spicy. Stole some sunflower seeds again from the guys and eventually ate the chocolate, Caramilk, which wasn’t very good.  Bleah.

Got home thinking to have more soup but then thought to have another bun. They’re starting to get that freezer burn taste. However, I settled for eating too many of the mixed nuts. Now I feel a bit bloated and it’s off to bed.

DAY 9

I had a handful of nuts today at work. I knew a friend was coming over to cook dinner so I skipped taking some more of the soup. When I got home I was really hungry though so I ate a handful of crackers and then got a stomach ache.

Once my friend D comes over we make stir fry with basmati rice, turkey, carrots, peas, peppers & lots of wine. I eat well and D bought all the food or we would have had very slim pickins.

DAY 10

Thurs. leftover stir fry, two ciders at penis poetry (I might have been doing a reading of my “penis suite” poems about the penis or I might have been at some other show…I don’t remember).

food, cravings, eating, dieting, poverty,

Dieting can make you crave food even more. Creative Commons: Sashamd Flickr

 

DAY 11

Friday, writers meeting, last of leftover stir fry, then over to Mikey’s for Vlad’s thang, some wine, Korean pancakes, peanuts, a couple of chips.

DAY 12

Kathy in town, meet her for rally, get a teacher’s free bag lunch, eat half the sandwich with no cheese, veggies with peppers & mayo, bottle of orange juice, cookie. Pub for two drinks then to K’s hotel. We hang out with pita, olives, artichoke hearts, red pepper spread, crackers, grapes, wine, then to lounge for more wine and cider, caeser, dancing all paid on her budget.

DAY 13 Over to Gibson’s with Kathy and to Robert’s and Wilson’s Creeks to see friends. Just a couple of cookies at Ross & Nancy’s, holding babies, a glass of blackberry wine. Two pieces of pizza with cheese pulled off (mostly), back on ferry, stop to buy can o mushrooms and some M&Ms because I found a spare $5 in my jacket pocket.

DAY 14 Tuna & frozen pasta sauce with wheel pasta. Banana chips.

Friday DAY 15 (You can see I started to lose enthusiasm for writing about this diet.)

chili

Saturday DAY 16

Ate some banana chips then went to help John move, or more unpack. His mom was there unpacking and hard at it. Helped in the kitchen and the bathroom, then we all went for dinner. Said I wasn’t going to go cuz I was broke but John said he’d buy. We had Mongolian grill food and it was tasty. All you can eat. I wanted to have more than one bowl but I was just too full.

Sunday DAY 17

Slept far too late even for a slackass day. Ate some banana chips and then Dan ICQed me to come over for BBQ. Met with Sam for coffee. Bought a grapefruit juice which has used some hard-earned coin.

Went to the BBQ and brought my contribution which was absinthe (left by friends after a party). I’m getting used to the taste. Ate chips, salad and a hamburger, which my stomach rebelled against later. But then it might have been the four bucks I spent, two on a bag of chocolate chips that I can eat through the week and two on chocolate covered peanuts that I chowed down too fast and I think they contributed to the stomach ache though I gotta say beef and me don’t see hoof to eye. I also felt waaay too full after eating the nuts. Not a good thing before going to bed.

Monday DAY 18

Slept in this morning and had to rush. I left when I should have been at work but made it in 20 minutes. So I gathered my last pennies and bought a bag of corn chips and some chocolate buds. That was lunch, balanced and healthy.

Had to work on some stuff tonight with a friend so I didn’t eat till 11pm and then I had the ubiquitous soup I made two weeks ago. It doesn’t seem to have turned yet though my stomach ached a bit after two bowls full. I had a handful of pine nuts too.

Tuesday DAY 19

Today as always I splurge and buy a bag of chips and a chocolate bar that I really shouldn’t be eating. That’s a buck from the $49 I have this week, $20 which will be set aside for taxes. I forgot to bring lunch with me and ten hours to get through. Guess I’ll be stealing sunflower seeds again tonight.

Around this time I must have got more work and went off the taxation diet.

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How I First Learned About Money

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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

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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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Accommodations: Of B&Bs and Hotels, Part II

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The Umi in Brighton

The last leg of my trip was in England, going to Brighton for a convention, then on to Canterbury and London. My first stop was Brighton, taking the 1.5 hour ferry ride from Calais to Dover (though the website said it was a half hour), then a 2-hour train ride into the throbbing, congested heart of Brighton. Thankfully I had a map.

The Royal Albion was where the British Fantasy convention was being held, so that’s where I headed, probably about a 15-minute walk from the train station through scores of people thronging the streets. I noticed how dirty the streets were here, permanently marred with dead gum and just generally trashy. I watched a woman open a tin of some sort of fish, toss the metal lid into the street and drain the liquid all over the sidewalk with a disregard for splashing anyone. It seems Vancouver, at least, is farther ahead on the recycling and garbage front.

The Royal Albion is no longer a grand dame even if it’s 200 years old. It’s more like someone who spent too long drinking away their life savings. Parts of the building were tatty and worn down. It took 36 hours to get an iron from them because it seems they only have one and they didn’t know who had it. The bathroom had a metal rack that heats up to dry clothes. However, there was no caution sign saying it got very hot, and was so close to the toilet that I burned my leg. There was no holder for the toilet paper so it kept falling and rolling under the rack. I had a gob of toothpaste on the wall by the sink that was there before I arrived and still there when I left. Service in the bar on the whole was friendly and many of the bartenders were very nice but others were slower than a sated slug. The one meal I had, some sandwich special was flavorless and slim to nonexistent. The Albion is very close to the beach because at the convention price of 79 pounds, it was not worth it.

Because of this I went to the Umi on the Sunday night, booking through the tourist information, which has you pay 10% up front. When I got to the hotel I paid cash (way cheaper than using a credit card in Europe and incurring extra charges at both ends). They didn’t give me a receipt and I was tired so I just went up to the room. They had upgraded me (for the 50 pound price) so I had both a double bed and a single in the room, a beach view, and air conditioning. The room was clean and the heating rack in this bathroom said it got hot. The one problem was that there was no light by the double bed so I had to turn off the light by the door and stumble to the bed. The other problem on checkout, where I was just returning the key and picking up my receipt, was that I was told I hadn’t paid. Confused, I said I’m pretty sure I paid but I paid again. Waiting for a ride I went back in and said, I know I paid because it was cash and it was an odd amount (left over after that 10%). They said they would check and let me know but I know they did not. I would only recommend them if you insist on your receipt right away. Being tired meant I got screwed.

I then went on to Canterbury and stayed at the Clare Ellen B&B. Be careful as the train I took went to Canterbury West but

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Clare Ellen

the B&B was at Canterbury East, which it turns out I would have had to transfer an hour or more back. Though a relatively short walk through the town, I was hot, dragging luggage over cobblestones and didn’t know where I was. I took a taxi halfway through and Clare Ellen was really about a 15-minute walk from the center of town.

The room was spacious; I’d been given a double because the single was taken (and paid about 50 pounds/night). This did include breakfast, which I partook of one day, and was the typical English breakfast, but whatever you wanted and as much:  eggs, ham, tomatoes, mushrooms, cereal or porridge.

Wifi was included in all three of these places though the pricey Royal Albion only had it in the lobby/lounge. The ISP was down in Canterbury but the B&B owner let me use his own computer so that I could book a room in London. Unfortunately, because of this and it becoming more last minute, I

Wembley Hotel, roach hotel, B&B, accommodations, London, travel

Wembley the roach hotel

panicked and forgot about some sites and couchsurfing. I booked the Wembley Hotel, which turned out to be a half hour north of London central (by the tube) and was not in a good area of town. It was very close to the station but when I first arrived I paid and they said they would give me a receipt the next day. I said no, today because of what happened at the Umi. The first room was down in the basement. There was no light in the corridor and the toilet was stained and dirty. I asked them to clean it so they moved me to another floor, through many doors and little 2-3 stair landings.

This room was small, by the tracks and looked clean enough though I pulled back the sheets to make sure. Again the floor and carpeting in the hallway were dirty, the toilet had grunge and pubic hairs around the base, the shower door looked like it had never been wiped down and there was dust and dirt in every corner. It was the type of place where I locked my suitcase when I went out. The one coffee cup (there were no other glasses) had so many murky fingerprints on it that I just used my water bottle. The basic room wouldn’t have been so bad but for this lack of cleanliness. When I had to leave the next morning at 6 am to catch my flight, I had not lights but the little table lamp, and there was no hot water, even after running it for ten minutes. The shower barely had water pressure at all. I would recommend staying far away from the skeevy dive.  It was definitely the worst place I stayed, even after the one bad couhcsurfing experience.

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Lessons Learned on Traveling in Europe

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Horley (near Gatwick) Station

I thought I would write a lot while traveling, even took a laptop (mini) to do so but there were quite a few factors that made me post only once. I managed to get some gut bug when I flew into Amsterdam. It might have been caused by suspect Chinese food in Horley (but then I’m sensitive to the change of flavor in meat–it might have been slightly old or…bad) or it could have been the water, which is far softer than Vancouver’s water and maybe my body just couldn’t adjust. Still, tummy troubles didn’t keep me down but made my day a bit slower to start.

In Holland, thousands of people use bikes. If I had rented one it would have been a nuisance because I don’t just take pictures of tourist attractions but of things on the street; leaves, textures, patterns. A bike would have meant that I would be hopping on and off constantly.

I found my suitcase was in fact too heavy and I would take even less next time, maybe buying more there. However I was packing for rain and cold and got a very warm, extended summer of 25-30 degrees Celsius. I didn’t wear some of the items I brought because it was too hot. Still, backpacking might have worked but I have a few back issues that might have made it worse, but lugging anything up narrow, multiple Dutch and Belgian stairs will indeed give you a workout, and thankfully, my knees are good.

Most B&Bs have towels, though if you’re couchsurfing, check beforehand. I did a bit of both with even a hotel or two in there. I hate water splashing in my face and have always preferred using a face cloth. While these are pretty standard in any hotel in North America, you won’t find one anywhere in Europe (Holland, Belgian and England were the countries I visited this time). I brought one but might have brought two next time so one could air and dry when using the other. I had to deal with a bit of mildew even in half a day of being packed wet.

Many European buildings are centuries old and, besides having many stairs, have very high ceilings. This means the light might be faint. If your eyes don’t do well in low light, bring another light. I also brought a container for water, which was a good thing when walking around all day. In Belgium a waiter told me it was against the law to serve tap water so you’ll pay as much for a small bottle as almost for a glass of wine. And on drinking, while cider is in the veins of the British, Irish and Scottish it’s harder to find in other areas. I usually found only one bottled type in various places in Holland but it was nonexistent in Belgium.

I took cash but also brought my bank card and credit card. While cash always works, a couple of times I had to use the

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An example of old, steep, narrow stairs in Amsterdam

credit card, for reserving a room, or for storing my luggage at a train station because the machines didn’t take coins. I never could find out if traveler’s checks would work or not, or if there was a fee.

Trains are plentiful and sometimes hook up to trams. Many of the information areas are helpful. However, I found the rudest service in London at the booths marked for information. While different people working about the station were helpful in telling me what line to catch, no one bothered to clarify that there are trains and then there are trains in England. There is the underground or the tube, which has trains, and then there are the overground trains. They come into the same stations and sometimes your ticket transfers between the two (and buses) and sometimes it doesn’t. The underground information people were not helpful with the trains and vice versa. No one bothered to tell me the difference. At Victoria Station there was in fact a Tourist Travel Information center, which no one told me about, but they helped me figure out the overground and underground trains to the airport (after three other ties). It was also cheaper to fly from London to Amsterdam than to take a train through the Chunnel. On the way back I took a ferry from Calais to Dover, so check all forms of transportation,  and several months in advance of your trip for the best deals.

This is an overview and I did so much walking and visiting of galleries and buildings that I was just too exhausted to write in the evenings. Over the next few weeks I will do reviews of accommodation, food and the places I traveled.

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Thoughts on 9/11 Ten Years After

I am probably one of very few people in North America who has never seen a picture of the Twin Towers falling. Ever. In ten years. There are several reasons for this. I didn’t and don’t have a TV because I feel very bludgeoned emotionally by the trauma and tragedy of the world. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. I care very much. Too much. So I have never wanted to see the people falling, the towers crumbling.

Even ten years later, when CBC’s The Current talks to a girl who was 12 at the time in a school near by, I find myself welling up with tears and emotion. It affected me enough that I don’t think I could handle the images. And I know what a terrible thing it was.

I was geographically far removed from the event, living in Vancouver, BC. And when a friend posted online in the morning before I went to work that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center I thought it was an unfortunate accident. As I drove to work I soon realized the severity of what was going on. I was glued to the radio all day, alternating between tears and panic.

I felt a fear that day that I had never known before and it makes me very sad to realize that many people have gone through this or live in a constant state of fear in countries and regimes fueled by violence and tyrannies. My world, my comfy world of little mundane issues was turned upside down. Like many, I didn’t know if we were under attack and war had reached our shores. I only know that my security was undermined and I was not prepared. Ten years later, were we to be attacked full on, I find I’m still unprepared. How do you prepare for such a thing. I’d like to think I’d survive, that I’m tough, that I’d adapt, but I don’t really know, and I hope I never have to find out.

The falling of the towers was also the final clincher in my mental health. I didn’t know I was going into clinical depression. I was already suffering from despair and sadness and not being able to cope with the little things. I was knocked completely for a loop after that. It was a long, painful year of recovery after that.

My story “Horizons” for the Mammoth Book of On the Road was for a collection of road trip stories. It was written during this time and about a woman who is late for work and therefore doesn’t die when 9/11 happens. She deals with guilt about being tardy while others were good and showed up on time. She also chooses to disappear, drive into the wilderness and camp for who will know that she didn’t die in the collapse of the towers? Interestingly, this story (which is not SF) got very little attention or reviews and even I forget about its existence. I might post it on this blog in the next few days.

What 9/11 did was put the Taliban on the map for many of us. It also gave George Bush his misguided holy crusade. Perhaps the good things were that emergency response measures and security were looked at closely but we also received an overlarge dose of paranoia. To this day it’s easier to fly from Canada to Europe than it is to the US because of ludicrous standards. And line ups and waits at airports seem to increase every year with another over-the-top precaution. Not all of them are but there are significantly stupid ones.

Many of us perhaps grew more fearful. Overall I haven’t, though it’s such reminders as this and close friends dying that tell me to enjoy every day and make it worthwhile. I still love and fear but I don’t let some threat keep me from doing the things I want, ever. And I will never understand nor condone that innocent lives should ever be taken just so some nutjob who wants to push his/her views on someone else can get attention. Here’s to world peace, letting us live and love and working at not hurting each other.

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