Category Archives: people

That LGBT Thing & Writing Guidelines

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Benson Kua, Wikimedia

This post probably won’t be what you think it is. It’s about writing and my submission guidelines for Alice Unbound but it’s about more than that. The above letters refer to people of various gender preferences or identities. It’s also called QUILTBAG, for ease of remembering the letters in the acronym.

It is very common to now see a statement in submission guidelines that states something like: “Submissions from the QUILTBAG community are accepted/encouraged/not discriminated against.” The words vary but the intent is the same: inclusion. That’s the basis, though I’m not sure of the full evolution of this in terms of writing.

As some point in the past, someone or some people felt there was a prejudice against  gay or lesbian people or those identifying with any other version of gender identity. I’m going to state this here first, though I’m sure to offend someone. I’m an egalitarian. I believe in equal rights and the same treatment for all people. Now I’ve judged and juried several writing competitions and awards, edited some magazines/zines and a couple of anthologies. And even before I did any of these things I was a reader. Never did I choose to read a person because of their color, their gender or who they liked to have sex with. In fact, the latter especially is none of my business. I read because I liked the story and I went back to the same author because I liked their style.

As an editor and juror, I read for great stories first. I may know by a person’s name whether they’re female or male, but not necessarily. I don’t know if they’re a person of color or if they’re gay and asexual, or bi-curious, or bi, or gender fluid. And really, as far as I’m concerned, it does not matter. I’ve never submitted a story and said, hey, I’m a white girl whose Italian mother was ostracized by my father’s Scandinavian family, and I’m bisexual but only like black guys and white women. (Some of this statement is true and some is fiction, but again, it doesn’t matter. Some of that statement could be valid in submission, if the magazine only published Italian writers, or people of color. And likewise, the anthology I’m editing must have Canadian or residents of Canada as writers.) It is nobody’s business and has absolutely nothing to do with my writing. I also would feel uncomfortable stating any of this while submitting to an anthology/magazine, because I want my story to be chosen on its merit; not who I know, who I bed or how I identify.

Now, I’m not saying that there has been no prejudice. There probably has been in some cases or some areas. I just have lived in a bubble and don’t know about it overall but I don’t know every magazine out there. But an editor reading relatively unknowns from different geographies isn’t going to know these things about a person, unless that person is already known to them, or tells them. So where does this prevalence for guidelines saying “LGBT welcome” come from? I’m not sure. Some is general gender awareness and the rise of equality for gay and lesbian rights, and then more awareness of other gender identities/preferences. It’s only natural that it would get tagged into something as powerful as writing. And in the speculative genre, some might say that there has been a predominance of white Amerocentric characters, while at the same time, and long ago, speculative fiction was one of the first places where strong female characters and other types of sexual relationships were explored, even if it was once white men only writing them (and Samuel Delaney). Robert Heinlein was a product of his times but he was exploring identity and genders in his own way decades ago. Spec fiction has always been open to pushing boundaries. And yes, some female writers started out with male names to stop any prejudice against women.

This blog piece has evolved from comments on a thread where I posted the guidelines and someone said, why list this LGBQT stuff? At the same time, another person said editors were lazy for posting this and should solicit people directly. So let’s address that aspect.

If I have open submissions and the anthology is not invitational, then to solicit specifically from a transgendered person, or a gay person means I’m giving preferential treatment over other people. It’s an open submission and I’m an egalitarian. Second, editors don’t always have time to solicit this person and that. I’d have to start researching writers I know of, as opposed to those just starting out where there would be little to research, to find out who is gender fluid, transgender, asexual, bi, gay, lesbian, etc. to solicit a story from each of them. And I’m sure to leave someone out and cause more ill feeling. And then what about the hetero people, or cisgender? By being equal and fair, I list the guidelines so anyone can submit. Just send great stories.

Well then, why are you encouraging QUILTBAG in your guidelines? Because, if you don’t these days, someone is sure to attack you as being prejudiced. And in Canada, many small presses receive grant funding from provinces and the federal gov’t. Those governing bodies also require fair and equal attention to all types of writers. The statement is pretty much standard. So, if anyone of color or whatever gender identity feels like they might be ostracized or blacklisted, this tells them that they are not. And again, I’m really not going to know 99% of people’s gender identities or preferences.

Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Lion or unicorn, or girl, you’re welcome to submit to Alice Unbound. Sir John Tenniel illustration.

In the end, as I’ve said before, I read for good stories. I don’t even read the submission letters first, and I don’t care who you have sex with. And please, don’t tell me. I don’t need to know. It’s none of my business and I will not reject or buy your story because you are any of the above. However, sometimes for those grants, if the publisher says, yes we had three transgendered writers, then that might help with more grant funding. Exile Editions actually has authors sign (voluntarily) a form that discloses if they are a minority of any type, but it doesn’t affect my selection.

And to those who decided to call editors lazy, try being an editor first before you make that statement. To close this post, I’ll state again, I’m an egalitarian. I don’t care who you are, or how you identify. I care that I have the best stories to emulate the premise for Alice Unbound.

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Scarborough, Slugs and Suicide

Scarborough, Fantasycon, writng, speculative writers, seaside resort

The short side of the Grand Hotel. To the right is the front facing the sea and going down several more stories.

I’ve been meaning to post pictures and tales from my trip to the UK last September. I traveled to the midlands, starting in Scarborough, a seaside town on the east coast. English seaside resorts were all the rage in the early 1900s. The Brits tell me that they’re falling into decline because everyone can now catch a cheap flight to a warm Mediterranean coastline. These places are happy to have some cheaper rates and conventions still help fill the towns. So it was that I went to Scarborough for the Fantasycon by the Sea, put on by the British Fantasy Society. I’ve been to the UK a few times but never to the midlands so I combined it with a vacation.

I went a day early with a Brit I met at the last con, Paul Woodward, one of many writers I’ve met on my writer journeys. We went to Whitby Abbey the day before the con, and a beautiful day it was too. I’ll post about that soon but the night before the convention there was a walk through the amusement called the Terror Towers, where supposedly part of Michael Jackson’s Killer was filmed. It’s one of those cheesy scare factories with creepy clowns and vampire girls and spooky animatronics. These things never even get me with a jump-scare and I think I creeped out the creepy clown at one point when I sneaked up behind him.

slugs, Scarborough, creepy things, slimy

Just a small sampling of the slimy congregation.

After we went through the amusement (these seaside towns are famous for arcades, candy cane, tacky souvenirs and other amusements, we wandered back to the Not So Grand Hotel. It’s a behemoth that was once a a grand dam in its heyday, stories tall and overlooks the ocean. Now it’s a bit shabby, with plastic plants, weird baby blue and pink painted walls and some weird rooms like jail cells (not all though). The side facing the water is about eight stories tall with probably 100 stairs up one side. We chose to take the ramp up around the other side to the top. There, we came across a very strange site, something like 50 slugs congregating on the sidewalk like the best lettuce was to be found. It was dark and we couldn’t see any reason for the massive oozerama, almost like a visitation from the dark side.

overpass, suicide, jumping, Scarborough

To the very left of the picture is where the girl was first standing. To the right, you can see the road far below.

Then, as we moved up toward the hotel there is a pedestrian walkway that goes about a hundred feet over the road by the sea. We passed a teenage girl on the other side of the mint colored, cast-iron railing. It was waist-high and I said, wow she’s going to have trouble getting over to the other side. I thought she was trying to climb over and that she’d come up from the incline below. But something just didn’t feel right. I looked back, then stopped and looked back again. I realized this girl was not trying to get over to the right side, but was gradually working her way out over the bridge. I walked over to her and asked what she was doing, not quite believing what I suspected.

She pulled up her hood kept working her way out over the bridge. At this point I started to realize she was serious and tried grabbing her hand. She kept pushing me off and I turned to Paul and said call the police. Things like this tend to slow down time. It felt like long minutes, a half hour but it may have been no more than ten. Two older men walked over the ramp and I called out, asking can you help or call the police. She’s trying to jump. They pretty much said, let her jump and kept walking. I was so stunned at this and told them that I hoped nobody stops for them some day when they need help.

writing convention, British Fantasycon, teenage suicide

Yes, the drop off of this picturesque bridge would have killed the girl. Taken from the ramp, where the slugs were.

I finally clamped my hands around the girl’s wrist and put my back to the railing trying to hold her on. A young guy and his littledaughter came by and I got him to call the police and then another guy who had just finished working also came by and he came over to help me hold her on. Eventually a couple came by and they helped, with the woman spelling me off. The whole time this girl never said a word.

Scarborough, bridge, overpass, design

The ornate bridge from below.

Four police officers arrived and handcuffed her to the railing. Since several were women, none had the height to lift her over the railing. Four more arrived right away and they pulled her over. At that point, our job was done. We saw a couple of women walk over and I presume they were social workers. I hope that girl got the help she needed and that her life will get better.

grand-hotel

Inside the Grand Hotel, not looking as shabby as it does in real life.

All I can say is that I’ve never stood by when I saw something bad going down. I would not have been able to live with myself had I walked away and then heard the girl had killed herself. As the saying goes, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, or in this case, for bad to happen is to stand by and not be involved. I got involved and at least saved someone’s life.

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Writing Update

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

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

My busy year has been full of many things, writing or other. Playground of Lost Toys, co-edited by Ursula Pflug and me, is up for an Aurora Award. The winners will be announced in August at When Words Collide in Calgary. I’ll be there, on several panels, a reading I think, and a blue pencil session where you can sign up and have a few pages edited by me. And kudos to authors in the anthology who have been nominated for other awards. Karen Abrahamson’s story “With One Shoe” was shortlisted for an Arthur Ellis Award, and has been longlisted for a Sunburst Award in short fiction. Catherine A. MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” and Dominik Parisien’s “Goodbye is a Mouthful of Water” are also longlisted for the Sunburst.

And mentioning Dominik Parisien, editor of Clockwork Canada also published by Exile Editions, my story “Buffalo Gals” is in the anthology. Airship Ambassador has done a four-part interview with me about the story (and with other authors as well). The first part is here and you can click in the right column of the site to get the other parts as well.

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

Clockwork Canada is available on Amazon and through Exile Editions. Steampunk stories about Canada’s revisioned history.

Other fiction that has been published this year includes “Freedom’s Just Another Word” free to read at Agnes and True, “Mermaid’s Curse” and “Paul Bunyan’s Toils” at SpeckLit. These two are drabbles, which means they’re 100 words exactly. They were fun to write and good practice for having the purest essence of a story. And just hitting the shelves for pre-order now is Alessandro Manzetti’s anthology Beauty of Death, which includes my story “Season’s End.” It’s chock full of stories and I quite like the cover.

horror, dark fantasy, death, speculative fiction, Season's End.

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

Earlier this year saw my poem “The Hedge Witch” come out in OnSpec along with an interview (that’s two interviews in a year), and “Book of Shadows” in Devolution Z #8. More recent, “Beltane Fires” came out in Eternal Haunted Summer’s Spring issue, and “Patchwork Girl” has just been released at The Future Fire. And two more poems “Short Sighted” and “Pilot Flight” have been released in Polar Borealis #2. Most of these poems and stories are free to read on the net so go and read great fiction and poetry and discover some new authors.

I have many more irons in fires, with more poetry and stories coming out this year but I’ll leave that for another post. I can say I’ve received approval to edit another anthology but it will be another year until you see info on that. In the meantime, I’m working on a poetry collection, and a fiction novel, and was honored to be one of the judges for Exile’s Carter V. Cooper short fiction prize. The longlist can be seen here. Gloria Vanderbilt will now choose from that list.

I’m diving back in to more fiction as well, so away I go. And if you’re a writer, don’t stop, never give up. Every skill takes practice and practice. I’m still practicing my craft and getting better all the time.

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Kuriata & Demeulemeester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

www.grimhill.com

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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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Fetishes, Flaming and Facts

A few weeks ago an extremely popular, Canadian interview host, Jian Ghomeshi, was fired from CBC radio. When this first happened, CBC said it was because of information they had received about Ghomeshi. Well, that was rather mysterious. I point out that I also heard this on CBC Radio, not on another station. (I don’t have TV so I get my news by listening to radio.) Then Ghomeshi put out a  statement that he has a kinky lifestyle and indulges in bondage and domination, and that CBC found this “sexual behavior was unbecoming of a prominent host.”

Jian Ghomeshi, rape culture, sexual abuse, kinky lifestyle

Ghomeshi in the Q studio. From: http://www.blogto.com

Jian Ghomeshi hosted the popular radio show called Q. He interviewed many famous personages from writers and politicians to actors and singers. The interviews were good, with depth and Ghomeshi asked good questions. He received at least one award for his interviews. For those who watched the filmed versions, Ghomeshi had charm and women found him cute, handsome or some other mysterious mix of enticing.

Now, it’s a known fact that our current, super, ultra right-wing, Conservative government thinks the arts only consist of artists standing around in evening gowns and tuxes sipping champagne (to paraphrase a comment from our prime minster), which shows the lack of reality in how tough it is for artists to make a living and the disconnect  when even political speeches and political party branding come from artists. It’s also known that Prime Minster Harper is trying to muzzle scientists and get rid of the CBC by drastic funding cuts. These days I’ve heard the same program as many as three times in one week, due to these cuts. Q and The Current are two radio shows that through their popularity have survived so far.

Now, because Prime Minster Harper’s strict and religious roots tend to show from time to time (and unlike the US, Canada has not mixed religion and politics) and from what looked like the unveiling of Ghomeshi’s sexual practices and CBC’s vagueness, it seemed pretty clear what had happened.

I posted the following on my public facebook page:

So CBC fires Jian Ghomeshi because he leads an alternative lifestyle. So what! Let’s get this right. He is not a criminal and hasn’t been charged with anything. This is the same as CBC firing someone because they’re gay, or single, or married, or like to do it in the missionary position. It’s no one’s business.

Let’s not mention how the Harper government has stripped CBC of programming so badly that the nakedness of this national broadcasting station is far more shameful. And as Pierre Trudeau once said, and CBC exec, you should pay attention: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

And what can I say…the vitriol started to fly. Remember, this was within 24-48 hours of the initial news and it sounded like he didn’t meet their ideal of upright citizen.

One response was this (language alert):

God, I am so sick and fucking tired of seeing this unexamined argument. The CBC fired Ghomeshi because he’s under journalistic (and not far off from a criminal) investigation into multiple instances of rape and a host of things too foul to mention. Ghomeshi is not the injured party.

At this point what I had heard on CBC Radio was that there was no criminal investigation, no mention of rape and no mention of things too foul to mention (Iif they weren’t mentioned, how do we know they are foul?). I have to say I wasn’t doggedly digging up every article coming out and I don’t live in Toronto, so perhaps the super irate people were glued to their media devices (I was at work). I thought it unfair to fire someone on hearsay of a possible kinky and consensual lifestyle as it was presented. I said, what happened to innocent until proven guilty and got even more anger.

…you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, and … actually, fuck it. I’m done. You go do whatever you want.

So, okay…the conversation had only just begun but obviously, according to some people, I’d thrown in with Jian Ghomeshi. More people made it sound like I hadn’t a clue about the world, that abuse doesn’t always go reported, that I thought rape was good, that I didn’t care about women’s rights. No one said this but they sure implied it. I responded with the following (if you want the full thread you can find me on facebook and read it):

Let’s put it this way. Let’s say you jam olives up your nose. While most people don’t (do this) and more don’t like it, it’s not illegal. However someone tells your employer that you’re an olive jammer and you’re fired on the spot, because they don’t like it and it’s shameful. Now let’s say you stomp olives and that’s illegal. Well then you’ll be charged and the courts will rule accordingly. Should you be fired while it’s going on, even if you only sell hot dogs or collect garbage? And yeah, Rob Ford wasn’t fired. They couldn’t wedge him out.

If Ghomeshi is guilty or if there is enough evidence then he’ll be charged for a crime. However, the CBC firing someone because of an alternative lifestyle is no different to when the gov’t used to check up on women on welfare in the 40s to make sure they didn’t have boyfriends. It’s about rights (and yes if women didn’t consent and were abused, that’s an abuse of rights) but the right to free speech and the right to having sex however you like it is there for everyone, unless it harms someone, unless it’s consensual. And sorry, but no matter what the courts say there are many many people who have relationships that are “kinky” however you define it and that’s consensual whether you or I like it or not.

Someone then said well yes, you can fire people before they’re charged and posted about the guy who was fired as a CEO because there was a video of him kicking his dog in an elevator. However, that’s tangible evidence…a video. At this point it was CBC and Ghomeshi saying he’d been fired because of the sexual practices. It was not yet clear on how much CBC knew or believed.

If anyone has a doubt about how I feel about women’s rights and sexual abuse and if anyone even presumes to think that I think this okay, then they’re guilty of jumping to conclusions. I was defending human rights based on what I heard, reported by the radio broadcaster that fired Ghomeshi. Perhaps people should think before they grab pitchforks and torches. I’ve been sexually abused by my father and I can say I never shed a tear when that monster died. I’ve spoken about rape culture and sexual abuse in such posts as “She Dressed that Way; She Must Have Wanted It,” and “Rape; It’s Just a Social Media Trend.” So if someone thinks I support sexual abuse, then they don’t know a thing about me.

Since I posted, something like eight women have come forward with allegations that Ghomeshi’s sexual practices were not consensual. I have only heard one interview and while it seems no one was raped, they were assaulted in other ways. I could be wrong about this. I haven’t seen the reports. That’s a lot of people,  even without hard evidence. Witnesses are used in trial and there could very well be a body of information to convict him.  I never said he was innocent except for saying he wasn’t a criminal when CBC was extremely vague about why they fired him. I was defending a person’s rights to be innocent until proven guilty. I saw an infringement on the rights of someone to an alternative lifestyle, not an infringement due to sexual abuse which was as yet not made clear. And now, CBC execs have given more information.

I wonder about Ghomeshi. Someone of his fame indulging in a fetish lifestyle that left marks would have needed to be extra careful. And I know people of many walks of life and of different lifestyles. Some sexual practices aren’t for the faint of heart but there are people who pursue and like variations that might be “too foul to mention” for others. As I’ve always said, if it’s consensual, then it’s no one else’s business. But I”ll stress. IT MUST BE CONSENSUAL (and of legal age).

If Ghomeshi is guilty of abuse, then he must have been arrogant and narcissistic to think something like this wouldn’t surface. Either that, or he wanted to be caught. Either way, the courts will decide. However, it is true that many women never voice the threats and abuse that have happened to them. My father got away with it. And it’s complicated why he wasn’t brought to trial. There were others who were too damaged to go through that. I’ve seen what a trial can do to a woman who was raped, how it’s made to seem that she enticed, that she flaunted, that she taunted, that she was the guilty party. I will never condone sexual abuse, and I’m pretty insulted that people presumed that about me and conflated my comments about human rights with supposedly supporting sexual abuse.

If I’ve made enemies, that’s fine. I’m glad that we have people running trials and gathering evidence. Otherwise, I might already have been lynched by misconceptions. Ghomeshi is on trial on many levels already. This has shed a light on the fact that rape culture still runs rampant, that women are still blamed when they are raped. Let’s not even get into other cultures and how a woman can be stoned if she’s raped or called a slut. It makes my blood boil.

I will however say again, that if someone was fired because they were into spanking, or bondage, or master-slave relationships that were consensual that they have that right to do in their own home as they wish with adult and consenting partners. You and I don’t need to like it. We might find it too foul to mention but that’s not a reason for a person to lose their job. Our private lives are our rights and gay and lesbian culture and relationships were once treated as being too foul to mention.

 

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Edgar Allan Poe and Crowdfunding

Poe, macabre, dark fantasy, horror, Gothic fiction, Edgar Allan Poe, crowdfunding

Poe themed coffin art by AhtheMacabra. There are only four and two are claimed.

I have to mention this particular crowdfunding because I just love it. There are many projects out there from books to gadgets and many add perks that entice people to donate. Not only do you often receive the item that the crowdfunding is for but you also get extras. With publishing it’s a hard numbers game. Costs of printing and distribution are set. So you have to add those costs into a cover price but if you go too high no one will buy your book. (For the purposes of this blog, book means paper and/or ebook.)

Publishers have to pay their staff and if they’re small or independent presses that staff might include unpaid interns or no one but the editor and possibly another dedicated soul or two. Those publishers have to pay their writers and while no book would exist without the writer, we are often at the bottom of the pay pile. I do not agree with publishing “for the love” as it’s called and believe that if you’re publishing a book for the love you should still pay the authors for their labor. Because of this structure, often paying everyone hinges on selling enough of a book. The publishers must market and sell and promote in as many ways as they can and a great amount of money can get caught up in marketing alone. These days the business models include the authors also trying to market themselves. And of course, there is crowdfunding, where you get a more direct piece of the pie and can buy into projects you might never have seen otherwise.

mystery fiction, Gothic fiction, fantasy anthology, Nancy Kilpatrick, Caro Soles

The anthology nEvermore! will collect tales from authors of mystery, murder and the macabre.

So I come to nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre. Editors Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles have come up with a great idea. The anthology will contain many tales. The indiegogo campaign says:

Poe is the father of the modern detective story.  And his genius at writing dark, supernatural tales and poems is legendary.  Poe wrote at a time when genres didn’t exist.  Readers wanted a good story; how it fit on a bookstore shelf didn’t matter.  We want to recapture that sense of excitement and discovery of short fiction. 

nEvermore! will bring together mystery writers who include a slash of the supernatural and dark fantasy/horror writers who slip across the shadows and touch on the mystery genre.  This will be a  “big book,” an homage to the glorious, Gothic style of the master, Edgar Allan Poe, bringing Poe-inspired fiction into the 21st century.  A book that will revive and refresh all of us who love to read short fiction! Help us create this unusual anthology.  Be a part of it!

poetry, Gothic fiction, Edge Publishing, horror, fiction crowdfunding, fantasy anthology

Living Dead Dolls of Poe and Annabell Lee, with coffin, raven and death certificate.

As with most crowdfundings, you donate different amounts and receive different or more perks. The perks here are wonderful and unique. For writers, there is a writing contest to be included in the anthology. For $50 you get “Descent into the Maelstrom,” which includes a nEvermore ebook, a free download of The Raven by Masochistic Religion, and entry into the writing contest. Only three stories will be chosen and there are 100 spots in the campaign. For $125 you get one of the coffins pictured above (each one individual and only four were made), an ebook and the music download. These adorable Poe dolls are rare and only one set is available for $250, under “Premature Burial,” which also includes an e or print book and the music download.

For other writers, you can pay $1,000 to have a full-on critique of your manuscript and face to face time (or phone depending where you live) with Nancy or Caro. This is a fair price (plus you get the book and the download as well). As a copyeditor, I have easily charged this to copyedit a novel manuscript, though copyediting is somewhat different than critiquing. Who are Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles?

Nancy Kilpatrick is an award-winning author and editor known for her dark fantasy/horror and mystery stories.  She has published 18 novels, over 200 short stories, 6 collections, 1 non-fiction book, and has edited 14 anthologies.  She has worked for major publishing houses and small presses and some of her fiction has been translated in several foreign languages.  Poe’s works have been a lifelong passion and she is thrilled to have this opportunity to create an anthology that honors this exceptional author of style and genius.
Poe, the Raven, nevermore, Caro Soles, Nancy Kilpatrick, horror

Quoth the raven, I have to have my nails done. You know you want them.

 

Caro Soles is best known for founding the Bloody Words Mystery Conference to highlight Canadian mystery writing. She received the Derrick Murdoch Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, was short-listed for the Lambda Literary Award, and inaugurated the Bloody Words Mystery Award several years ago.  She has published 11 novels and many short stories and has edited several mystery anthologies.  She writes and reads mysteries, teaches writing at George Brown College and loves a good ghost story.

Nevermore, the Raven, Poe,

nEvermore! a Poe-inspired anthology. Support the crowdfunding and get the book.

There are many other perks in this crowdfunding campaign, from Poe lunchboxes, action figures, stamps, band-aids and air freshener as well as raven books, nails, magnets and plushies. Some items are very limited so check it out now. New perks will be arriving as others sell out. So how fun is that? Support authors, get an awesome anthology and other fun items. Go here. On for two more weeks. It’s definitely a win-win.

 

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The Chi Reading Series

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster - July 2014The truth is I’ve been far too busy to blog of late and so my blog has been suffering badly. My day job became overwhelming and has eaten all of my energy. I’m hoping that will change soon. So, in trying to keep a toe over the threshold and into the world I’d like to mention that I’m still hosting the ChiSeries Vancouver, part of the Chiaroscuro Reading series started in Toronto some five or so years ago by Sandra Kasturi and friends. In Toronto, where the wild things are, and there is an abundance of culture and population, the series has run successfully every month.

Cov_TheDoorThatFacedWest_large

On sale at the reading, as well as A Parliament of Crows, and Of Thimble and Threat The Life of a Ripper Victim

Last year, along with Ottawa and Winnipeg, we launched in April, and ran quarterly, with readings in July, Oct. and then in February. The next one would have been May but EDGE Publishing was bringing dark fiction author and vampire aficionado Nancy Kilpatrick in May so we did a reading with Nancy, which included  Rhea Rose and me reading as well. With these readings we had several hurdles to get beyond. One was the venues brought some challenges, and with the new reading for this July 22nd we will be moving to the Cottage Bistro at 4468 (or possibly 4470) Main St. The Cottage Bistro is known for hosting live music as well as several other reading series and is happy to have the ChiSeries on stage.

This is an exciting and very central venue so I’m hoping that many people will come out and enjoy the tales. ChiSeries is free and the readers are TheIncomingTidepublished authors of speculative fiction and poetry. This includes science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, mythical, dark fiction, horror and all subgenres in between. This July, we have guests arriving from Oregon: Alan M. Clark, Kirsten Alene, and Cameron Pierce.

Some people might recognize Alan’s name. He has been a well-known and award-winning artist in the dark fiction genre for a number of years. He was this year’s emcee for the World Horror Convention, as well. His paintings range from thoughtful to disturbing and he has created illustrations for hundreds of books, including works of fiction of various genre,s nonfiction, textbooks, young adult fiction, and children’s books. Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chelsey Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including seven novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His latest novel, The Door That Faced West, was released by Lazy Fascist Press February, 2014.

bizarre fiction, fantasy, US authors, ChiSeries, readings in Vancouver

Kirsten Alene’s book will be available at the reading.

Writing couple Kirsten Alene  and Cameron Pierce live in Portland, Oregon. Kirsten’s books include Japan Conquers the Galaxy, Unicorn Battle Squad, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, and the forthcoming short story collection, Rules of Appropriate Conduct from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2015. Her work has appeared in such places as Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Innsmouth Magazine and The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction.

Cameron Pierce’s ten books include the Wonderland Book Award-winning collection Lost in Cat Brain Land, Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon, and the forthcoming novella The Incoming Tide. His work has been praised by The Guardian, Cracked.com and many others. Cameron is also the editor of three anthologies, most recently In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch, and is head editor of the popular indie publisher Lazy Fascist Press.

The reading runs from 7:30 until about 10;30 pm on July 22. Come join us or leave me a message here if you’d like to get onto a mailing list for future events. If you’re interested in the other ChiSeries events in the other cities, check out the Facebook pages and the website:  http://chiseries.com/

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Rainforest Writers Retreat

rainforest, Lake Quinault, writers retreat,

The Lake Quinault Rainforest was mossy and very green.

I just returned from five days at the Rainforest Writers Retreat in Lake Quinault, Washington. Lake Quinault is on the Olympic Peninsula, tucked away amongst trees, and why yes, a lake. Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press organizes these and does two a year, a week apart. I’ve been trying for three years to get in but it always sells out quickly. Last year, I finally got in but was on a waiting list (for about a half a day) because I had registered 24 hours later. Yes, it sells out that quickly and there are many alumni that return every year.

As a “newbie” there were many things I didn’t know about the retreat structure but Patrick gives pointers on the website on what to bring, and near the time of the retreat we’re all on a yahoo list where we can ask many questions. I picked up another writer on my drive down from Canada and we did the leisurely, longer Pt. Townsend ferry route to the Lake Quinault Rain Forest Resort. Neither one of us having been before, nor secure in our direction sensing abilities, we did make one wrong turnoff, not to mention somehow taking that different route on Whidbey Island (I have driven there numerous times but it’s easy to take the wrong turn–still it’s an island so you eventually get to the same spot). We arrived Wednesday evening and got our rooms in the hotel.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Patrick Swenson, writing,

Writers writing in the lounge. The guy in red is writing by hand!

The resort has cabins, cabins with fireplaces and motel rooms. I had no clue as to what was good or not so ended up in the motel room. The cabins are more costly. The rooms are fairly basic, sort of rustic woodsy toned. Mine had an odd smell and faced the back but the bed was comfy and I wasn’t in it much. I guess these ones get shut up more in the off season. The restaurant and lounge is where the writers congregate, and besides the lodge being open for dinner in the evenings, we had the run of the place night and day. Being off season, Patrick made special arrangements. Most breakfasts were included but lunch and dinner were on our own. There is “Cabin 6” where spare munchies, some sandwich makings and the word count board lived. The other good thing is there is a homemade soup and grilled cheese sandwich day in Cabin 6 and then we have a party on Saturday night.

writing, revising, writers retreats

The Albertan contingent entrenched near the fireplace. Dead things decorate the walls.

The word count board is where everyone writing lists how many words they’re creating. Some people go into the negatives if they’re revising. I was working on revising a novel so while I did add about 4,500 words I also got rid of some as well. The main thing is to write and everyone does it differently. You can go off to hide in your room or to Cabin 6 or you can stay in the lounge or dining room, in a group or by yourself, though others will filter in and out. I went to write and write I did. By the end of the weekend, the winner of the word count had written over 32,000 words, and between the 37-38 of us there we created over 300,000 words. That’s a trilogy right there.

books, writing, short fiction

The bookstore is set up in the lounge, for writers or locals.

Most of the people are at different pro levels though some are newer writers, but I’d say the majority were working on novels. There were several, optional one-hour discussions given by Nancy Kress, Louise Marley, Daryl Gregory, Randy Henderson, Jack Skillingstead and a panel discussion with Nancy, Jack, Daryl and Ted Kosmatka talking about outlining. Many of the discussions aren’t necessarily about things we writers don’t already know but it’s always good to chat about them, be reminded about them and hear how others do it. Outlining went from those who don’t even know how their book ends when they begin writing, to those who bullet point the details. There is no right way, just many ways.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Lake Quinault

It’s chilly enough to encourage people to write, but worth a walk to see some of the area.

Rainforest Writers Retreat, Fairwood Press, writing

Rainforest Writers. Big sweaters, booze and laptops.

As well, on Saturday night the University (of Washington) Bookstore sets up with books of all the writers present. It’s very evil and tempting and I’d wished I had more money. Writing, perhaps of all the arts is probably one of the most solitary. We sit alone at our desks and write. At the Rainforest Retreat, there was the lovely (if chilly and cold–it IS February) rainforest to explore that also has the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. It didn’t look that big until you walked up to it and realized you could put six people up on its trunk. There’s a store that sells various items including Sasquatch poop. We also sat quietly typing away or taking a break and talking with others. But it was actually really nice to look up and just see others doing the same thing; a camaraderie of our group writing solitary together.

forest, rainforest, Lake Quinault, Olympic Peninsula

The land of super mossy trees. The setting was inspiring for writing.

I made it through 50,000 words of revision on my novel, fixing some things as I went, that I’d woken up to through the talks. I got to know some of the writers a little better, and everyone would take a moment at some point to geek out and talk about “their story.” It was thoroughly inspiring, productive and fun. I’m not sure if I’ll do the retreat next year but like the group that comes out from Alberta every year, it could very well become an annual pilgrimage.

I won’t mention that I drove home through an unexpected snow storm, with the heater not working in my car and how I had to stay in Bellingham the night. No, I won’t mention that because I had a great time even if I was a popsicle by the time I got home.

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Tesseracts 17 Interview: Patricia Robertson

anthology, speculative fiction, SF, fantasy, Canadian authors

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

Today, I give you the last interview of the authors in Tesseracts 17: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s not quite a complete set as I don’t have Vince Perkins from New Brunswick, nor Jason Barrett from Northwest Territories. However, should they eventually contact me I will include their interviews. You can find their bios listed for Tesseracts here. Last in the table of contents and our other Yukon author, is Patricia Robertson.

CA: “The Calligrapher’s Daughter” has the feel similar to tales like The Arabian Nights, or The Steel Seraglio. It mixes lesson and observation but in a subtle telling. Were you following a particular literary form when you wrote this?

I was aware that it was a fable, a form or mode I feel we need much more of as a means of responding to our increasingly nightmarish “reality.” Fables deal with archetypes rather than highly realized characters (which is why the calligrapher’s daughter is called that throughout the story rather than given a name). That said, I was conscious of the form without being inhibited by it (I hope!)

CA: Your world is vivid in description and feeling. What did you research in the process of this creation?

I love exploring worlds I don’t know and have been interested in Islam and Arabic history for a long time, ever since I lived in Spain (where the Arabs ruled for 700 years). I do lots of research in both books and on the Net to get the details right, or, where I’m inventing, so I know I’m deliberately altering or embellishing “reality.” Though I’ve discovered that there’s really nothing you can make up—so-called fantasy is only such in our current idea of what constitutes reality!

CA: We’ve had stories set in the modern world (the majority), a few other worlds and those in far space, with a smattering in the past and the future. Yours is the only setting that looks at Middle Eastern history. Why did you choose this setting and do you think your tale would have been as effective if told from another culture’s point of view?

As I explained above, Arabic history fascinates me (the setting here is actually North Africa). I’d recently written a suite of four novellas/short stories all linked by the theme of illegal migration and set in Spain and Morocco, so I suppose the setting was fresh in my mind. And I’ve always found the Arabic script incredibly beautiful, with its flowing curves. At some point I stumbled on the fact that there were female calligraphers early on in the development of calligraphy as an art form.

Arabic stories, calligraphy, speculative fiction, fables, fantasy, Yukon authors

Patricia Robertson creates a world of beauty and values in The Calligrapher’s Daughter.

All of that means I can’t imagine the story from another culture’s point of view! It’s too specific to this one, although I’m sure there were female calligraphers in other traditions.

CA: While following the norms of her society, the Calligrapher’s Daughter manages to find strength of purpose. Do you think that people who are under the strictures of their culture, which may give unfair advantages to some and not to others, can still find a strength of purpose and prevail?

I think people do that all the time. There are always people who, through a combination of talent and tenacity and opportunity, forge lives for themselves that may be unusual or somewhat outside the norm. They usually pay a price for such behavior, too. Researching the story reminded me that history provides much more nuance than we usually see—women in such cultures are not always, in all conditions, “oppressed.” Cracks and byways and interstices can be found, or created.

CA: This was such a rich world. Have you used it in other stories and what will we be seeing from you in the future?

As I said earlier, I love exploring different worlds, so no, I haven’t used this one in other stories and probably won’t use it again. At the moment I’m working on a young adult fantasy called How to Talk to a Glacier as well as completing a third book of short stories. And I have a short adult novel, a fantasy, in mind too.

Born in the UK, Patricia Robertson grew up in British Columbia and received her MA in Creative Writing from Boston University. She has published two collections of fiction: City of Orphans, which was shortlisted for the BC Book Prizes (Fiction), and The Goldfish Dancer: Stories and Novellas. Her work was selected for both Best Canadian Stories 2013 and Best Canadian Essays 2013, and has been shortlisted for the Journey Prize, the CBC Literary Awards, the Pushcart Prize, and the National Magazine Awards (three times). She is currently the first writer-in-residence at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library in Kingston, ON.

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