Category Archives: Publishing

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Abrahamson & Renwick

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

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

Karen Abrahamson’s “With One Shoe,” and Alex C. Renwick’s story “Between the Branches of the Nine” are two of the last three stories in the Playground of Lost Toys, with Geoffery Cole’s “Wheatiesfields in Fall” in between. When editing a themed anthology, the editors always look at balance. Are there too many SF stories and not enough fantasy; are there authors of various genders; are there too many doll stories, etc.

As well as that balance, after we’ve selected the final stories, we need to decide on what order they should appear. Do you put all the SF together, do you put the train stories or the chess stories together? There were many ways to arrange everything. Because several of the stories are very dark and horrific and some are lighter and uplifting, would it make sense to put the darkest next to the lightest?

In some cases we eased readers toward the dark and then eased them back away. Cole’s story is humorous and SF. Abrahamson’s is a tale of hope and a mystery. Last was Renwick’s, which deals with games of the gods and it seemed a great way to end the anthology with the cyclical and immortal aspect of time. Karen comments first on her tale.

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

 When I heard about the anthology theme it gave me a little shiver down my spine. I immediately had the idea for the story and so I just had to write it. I haven’t written a lot of short fiction over the years as I seem to prefer novel length. This was a chance to practice the short form.

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

    fantasy, magic, mystery, swings, toys, hope, speculative fiction, Karen Abrahamson

    Karen Abrahamson is the author of several serial novels. She also writes as Karen L McKee.

Funnily enough, yes it does. I had very vivid dreams as a child and one of them was of a magical swing. In my dreams I could swoop down and rescue my family and friends from evil giants and escape afterward. Writing the story was just a natural extension of the scenario of what would happen if a child really did leave on such a swing.

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

Hope and how society kills hope through our expectations and institutions. I’ve been doing some work with youth in my day job and I hear so much about the importance of youth finding their passion in order to successfully transition to adulthood. The trouble is, too often we tell young people that their passion is impossible, like you can’t make a living as an artist so you’re better off becoming a lawyer. This story is about the desperate need to be what you are.

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

I was surprised and a lot pleased that “With One Shoe” turned into a detective story. I’ve written a lot of fantasy and romance, but these days mystery really has me by the throat. I had fun with experimenting with that jaded Harry Bosch-type voice. I can see myself writing more like that.

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

Hmm. Lots to tell. My first mystery novel, Through Dark Water just came out this fall under the name K.L. Abrahamson. I also have an urban fantasy series, The American Geological Series that involves map magic, with the first book, Afterburn, currently available for free. Finally, along with a number of romantic suspense novels set internationally, I have a paranormal series, The Unlocking Series set in the sunny Okanagan. Book 4 was out over Christmas, Book 5 in January and Book 6 in February. More mystery and fantasy will be coming out next year. You can check out my novels at www.karenlabrahamson.com

Alex C. Renwick’s “Between the Branches of the Nine” is a great adventurous romp with two warriors bent on besting the other.

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

I’m a huge fan of the short story form, and always excited to be invited to participate in any worthy anthology endeavor. Shortfic FTW!

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
gods, Norse, fantasy, games, speculative fiction, Alex C Renwick

Alex C. Renwick’s tale deals with Norse gods and the game pieces they move through Midgaard.

My Norwegian grandmother had one of the most amazing private SF paperback collections I’d ever seen, all stirred together with her illustrated Scandinavian mythology books and cheesy 1970s Harlequin romances. She came to live with us when I was about ten years old, and nothing in her library was off limits. The character Sigunna’s name is a nod to my gran’ma Sigrid.

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

I’m fascinated by the uncaring nature of the universe. We’re conditioned (by dint of being human) to try to attribute reasonableness and pattern to the courses of our individual existences…but the universe doesn’t care, no matter who or what is—or isn’t—running the show. Fate, Cosmic Intelligence, Ancient Norse Gods, Random Molecular Trajectory: we’re just ephemeral playing pieces on a vast and unfathomable board.

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

I so rarely write full-tilt fantasy! Fun stuff. Had a blast.

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

I’d urge everyone to read another fantastic Canadian anthology from Exile Editions, cover to cover; (it) was one of the best contributor’s copies I’ve received in ages: The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir. Other current short stories of mine are just out or out soon in Tesseracts 19: Superhero Universe, Blurring the Line, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, and PS Publishing’s Postscripts anthology, Breakout. If you’re up for more sword & sorcery mayhem check out my “Ravenblack” in Women in Practical Armor from Pacific Northwest micropress Evil Girlfriend. Anyone in this neck of the woods in 2016 can come find me at Seattle’s Norwescon, or around the known universe at alexcrenwick.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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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Adler & Davies

Lost ToysPlayground of Lost Toys hit the stores in December and is available on Amazon and through Exile Writers. The holidays and being in no WiFi land put another gap in the posting of these interviews so without further ado, here is Nathan Adler and Joe Davies. Nathan, who wrote “The Ghost Rattle,” gives us a a tale about consequences of mistaking something for a toy.
1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

 I’d finished a novel, and wasn’t ready to commit to another large project, so I started writing short stories. The Ghost Rattle fit the theme, so I submitted.

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

It was important that the teenagers in the story weren’t the good or bad guys, just the run of the mill fuck-ups a lot of us probably were when they were younger.

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

ghost stories, nostalgia, fantasy, horror, First Nations, Indian

Nathan Adler brings us “The Ghost Rattle,” a different take about Indian burial grounds.

I started out with the idea of having three objects, and three characters, and three ghosts, and how the objects which had once belonged to the dead connected them all together. It was important that the ghosts weren’t purely malevolent, they needed to be as well-realized as the living characters. Tyler’s story-arc is part of a larger narrative that follows the arc of his friends, Dare Theremin and Clay Cutter, and the associated objects and hauntings.

I wanted to tackle the trope of the Indian Burial Ground, which is a pretty common theme in horror movies as the basis for a bunch of scary shit happening, but it’s usually a back-drop without much depth: “Oh yeah, also, this pet cemetery/hotel/house was built on an IBG,” and then never mentioned again. I also had real world events like the Oka Crisis swimming around in my head, which revolved around the construction of a Golf Course on an IBG, and also the flooding of my reserve, Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation, which unearthed coffins and damaged traditional burial sites.

I think part of mainstream horror narratives is the discomfort settlers have with the reality that this is Indian land, that it’s basically all stolen, and an IBG is this blank canvass for stories of white guilt and fear. So I didn’t want to fall into any of those ways of approaching a story about an IBG with mindlessly angry ghosts. Instead the ghosts have their own histories, and react in very different and unexpected ways.

4.Tells us anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology.

The setting of Ghost Lake is part of a larger fictional universe. The story also operates as something of a back-story for the character of Dibikazwinan, as she has living descendants who appear in other stories, and she also has a cameo appearance in a novel I wrote called Wrist, as a minor (living) character in 1872.

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 called Wrist is slated to come out in the Spring of 2016 through Kegedonce Press, Available for pre-order here: http://kegedonce.com/bookstore/item/73-wrist.html.

I have some of my published writing on my blog here: https://nathanadlerblog.wordpress.com

And I’ll probably be having a Book Launch for Wrist in Toronto sometime in the summer, and doing some readings. And I’ve been working on a collection of inter-related short stories, as well as another novel that follows after Wrist.

Joe Davies wrote “The Compass,” another piece that deals with the consequences in childhood of taking something that is not yours.

The idea for my story, “The Compass,” evolved the way many of my stories do. It began with an image, a moment, in this case two boys pushing their way through tall grass on a bright summer day and that feeling of being young. For me it was an evocative enough moment to build a piece around, but to be honest, I don’t remember the details of the rest of the process very well, or even how the compass presented itself as the lost toy to be. When I write, it feels like what I produce comes together by cobbling the bits and pieces out of whatever I happen to come across while feeling around in the dark. A lot of it may be associative, but if it is, those associations made while writing aren’t usually available to me afterwards when I try to figure out what it is I’ve done.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Joe Davies is the author of “The Compass” where nostalgia and regret play a part.

The genesis of each story is a bit of journey, and a bit of a mystery. The only other thing I can really think of to say about the process is that I know that when I’m writing I don’t try to make a story bend one way or another. I try to respond to what’s happening on the page, to what kind of story it could be, what different directions it could take and to be open to the possibilities. In the case of my story, “The Compass,” I had a couple of details: the image mentioned above, and knowing that somewhere along the way a toy was going to be lost and then found once again. Enough to get a good start.

At the moment I’m working on a couple of projects, both of them short story collections. One is a set of short absurdist pieces where the basic premise or setup of a story gets repeated in another to become a different kind of story altogether. At the moment this project has the ridiculous title Fluff & Balconies (one story of which will appear shortly in The Dalhousie Review; others have appeared recently in PRISM International and Crannog, in Ireland).

The second project is a collection of longer pieces that are derived and spun out of changes happening in our society, for example, the changing roles around gender, and with a particular eye to how men are (or aren’t) adapting. And actually, there’s one other project I’m tinkering with. Lately I’ve unearthed a novel sort of thing I wrote almost twenty years ago, and I’m just weighing the prospect of a rewrite.

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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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Writing: Playground of Lost Toys Interview: Cockle

Lost Toys.jpg

Playground of Lost Toys, published by Exile Editions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

balero(1)

Kevin Cockle’s balero. Photo by Kevin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Writing Update and Free Book Giveaway

More news on the writing front, which has kept me seriously busy.

erotica, books, writing, historical, Greek

Dance of the Minotaur, by T.C. Calligari

So, in reverse order: I write different types of fiction and have some late summer sizzlers now available. Until Thursday you can get a free download of two books on Amazon.com. That’s right! Absolutely free. They are Crossing the Line: Four Sultry Tales of Submission and Dance of the Minotaur. The second is historically set. Yes, these are erotic tales, so be forewarned. Go ahead and download them (click on any underlined title), spread the word, and if you are so inclined, please leave a review. The kindle app can be downloaded to your computer and you can read them that way if you have to reader device.

fantasy, myth, poetry, writing

Pantheon Magazine’s Nyx issue

New out in the last few months: “the moon: Fever Dream” has just come out in PantheonMagazine’s Nyx issue. Also available on Amazon. “Scar Tissue,” written with Rhea Rose, is coming out in Second Contacts from Bundoran Press and should be on the shelves soon. Another free to read poem is “Persephone Dreams: Awakening” in Eternal Haunted Summer’s Summer Solstice issue.

There are alas, some long delayed works that I’m still waiting to see from Nameless, Burning Maiden, Our World of Horror and OnSpec. I’m hoping those will all come out this year. Other recent works include “Asylum” in nEvermore: Tales of Mystery, Murder and the Macabre, based on stories from Edgar Allan Poe. It’s available on Amazon as an ebook and pre-order for paper, due Oct. 1. The Best of Horror Library Volumes 1-5 includes “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror is doing very well and currently #1 on Amazon in hot new releases.

Yet to come and recent sales include selling “Hold Back the Night” to Blood in the Rain. This is a vampire anthology and my story is a reprint first published in Open Space. It was shortlisted for several awards and received honorable mentions in the Year’s Best anthologies of SF and of Fantasy. I’m pleased it’s going to appear again. I’ve also sold “Buffalo Gals” to Clockwork Canada. Edited by Dominik Parisien, this collection of Canadian tales will look at alternate histories where steampunk redefines the face of Canada. I believe both of these tales will come out last year.

The Playground of Lost Toys has been completed by Ursula Pflug and I. It’s an anthology due out from Exile Editions this November and contains 22 tales about toys and games. They range from humorous to darkly disturbing and from fantasy to SF to horror. I think it’s a good collection that explores toys, games, childhood, nostalgia, loss, love and many other things very well. On top of that I completed my synopses for books 2 & 3 and have sent the whole kaboodle to an agent. I’m trying not to bite my nails. And last, but not least, I’ve written 33 new poems for a poetry book competition. They just need a few more tweaks and I’ll be submitting it.

This is why I haven’t been posting very often. I’ve just been far too busy of late. In October I’m going to the Stanley Hotel Writers Retreat in Colorado. This is the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s The Shining. I plan to start a new novel that will take place in the world of my Evolve story “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” but a few centuries before. I’m hoping I can post a bit more often, so stay tuned for more writing news and just other pieces about stuff. 🙂

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Writing Update

Okay, someone is sucking time away. I haven’t posted for a while for several reasons. I went to Spain in April and there will be pictures about that eventually but I’m also co-editing The Playground of Lost Toys with Ursula Pflug. Submissions closed on April 30 and we had 150 in all. We’re down to our last 30 subs and there will be between 16-25 stories in the final selection. Right now, we probably will have to cut four more stories from our yes list, but we’re rereading, editing the stories, weighing SF to fantasy, as well as types of toys/games. That’s taking up all of my time beyond my day job. Oh how I wish I could just edit and write all the time.

Top Pet Peeves on Submissions:

  1. Not following submission format. Some stories came without author names, addresses, word count (super annoying) and not double spaced. Editors ask for this for a reason. The next anthology I edit will have a very strict rule on this. You don’t follow–I don’t read, and reject.
  2. Sending a story that had no speculative element in it. If you don’t know what this means, google it. We even said fantasy, SF, horror, magic realism, etc. Really, people, (and some of you know better) did you think we’d just ignore this because your story was awesome?
  3. Sending a story that didn’t have a toy or a game. As above we had specific guidelines that said this must be integral to the story. A wide interpretation was allowed but some people took it down to a thin thread.
  4. Not proofreading stories. I’ll allow some grammatical issues, especially in newer writers who are still learning their craft, but everyone can run a spellcheck. Rereading your piece helps, and it can save aggravating your editors. 🙂
  5. Both too many stories of stuffies and dolls, when there are worlds of possibility. We were worried at first that people were just not using their imagination to think beyond the box. There were some very good stuffy and doll stories; and there may be one or two in the anthology, but remember this whenever you’re submitting to any themed anthology: there are popular tropes and you have a better chance if you go for something unique.

Besides the editing for the anthology, I had a rewrite to do, and planned to get my novel manuscript off to an agent before I left for Spain. I did that! But! Turns out the agent wants old school, which means printing the massive tome (folks, make sure you use proper manuscript format if you ever submit to an editor or an agent). But the agent also wanted an outline for books 2 & 3. When I emailed everything I was told, that they should be synopses, not outlines. So…I still have to do that. When I’m done editing. I’m also working on 50 new poems by September. I have the roughs but next will be researching and refining, after the editing, after the synopses.

poetry, myth, fantasy, fairy tales

Walter Crane

Now, I do have a few things that have come out recently or are due up in the next couple of weeks. You can read my poems “I Dreamed a World” up at Polu Texni, and “Morrigan’s Song” up at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. Both are free to read. The story “Shaping Destiny” is available at Black Treacle and there is a free Smashwords version. The site should also have it in the next couple of weeks. And out of Scotland is the new ezine, Shoreline of InfinityMy flash fiction piece “Symbiosis” will also be up by June. You’ll have to pay for this one but you will get other stories as well.

Recent stories that have been published are my erotic noir story “Pearls and Swine” in New Canadian Noir, available through Exile Editions, and “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” republished in The Best of Horror Library, Vol. 1-5. This story originally received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror, and I was recently contacted by an agent. But I have no horror novels, so guess what is on my list as well?

There are other poems and stories coming out later this year but for now, this is my holdover until I can blog about more.

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Publishing News

horror, dark fiction, short stories, fantasy

Issue #71, only the third all-fiction issue in 25 years.

Okay, this is really sad, and I’m not talking about all the annoying changes WordPress is making. I’m talking about tooting my own horn. Sigh.  The following paragraphs in italics are what I started writing 8 months ago. Good God!

I’ve been so remiss on my updates here that I’ve neglected to mention the pieces that have come out this year and that I’ve sold. In May, “The Collector” came out in Cemetery Dance magazine. From submission to publication, this story took 6 years. That’s a record but it was worth the wait.

Last fall, “Gingerbread People” was published by EDGE Publishing in Chilling Tales 2: In Words Alas Drown I. Unfortunately many magazines and anthologies never get reviewed but there is a short one up at Bitten by Books and Tangent. However, be forewarned that Tangent reviews tend to give summations of the stories as well.

So, continuing on from there, just a note that “The Collector” is eligible for a Nebula, Hugo or World Fantasy nomination. Not that that will happen much as I’m still a fairly unknown pea in a pod. I actually had very little published last year. It sometimes happens like that, with sales happening one year and the publication in the next. I did also sell the poem “Family Tree” to They have to Take You in, a book published in Ontario and edited by Ursula Pflug.

fantasy, horror, speculative fiction, writing

Imaginarium: Best of Canadian Spec Writing

Now, for this year, there is a ton of news! “The Book With No End,” first published in Bibliotheca Fantastica, was reprinted in the current Imaginarium 3: The Best of Canadian Speculative Writing, from CZP. It came out in February, and this month “Pearls and Swine” came out in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, editied by David Nickle and Claude Lalumière. Polu Texni has also published another one of my poems, “I Dreamed a World,”  which is up and can be read for free.

Later this month (I hope) Burning Maiden will be published and I’ll be the feature poet with three poems. It’s from Evil Eye Press. “Sins of the Father” was sold to Our World of Horror, (Eldritch Press) and “Symbiosis” to Shoreline of Infinity, a new online mag out of Scotland. And “Our Lady of Redemption” should be out in Nameless Magazine sometime soon. There are also a couple of articles on monsters.

Rhea Rose and I sold “Scar Tissue” to Bundoran Press’s Second Contact anthology, about aliens after the initial introduction. “The Hedge Witch” will be published in OnSpec this summer and there are rumors of an interview. And “Persephone Dreams” will be published this summer in the online magazine Eternal Haunted Summer. Also, Horror Library is being resurrected and “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which received an honorable mention in the Year’s Best, will be reprinted in The Best of Horror Library, sometime later this year. There is one other story sold to a dark fiction anthology but more on that later when I’m allowed to mention it. 🙂

noir, erotica, fantasy, anthologies, SF

Cover for the Exile Noir book. Available now and a collection of all noir genres.

So yes, I’ve been rather busy. And I’m co-editing The Playground of Lost Toys as mentioned a couple of posts ago. On top of that, I’m trying to write 50 new and dark poems by Sept. That’s a lot so I am working on them now. I’m about to send a manuscript and outlines off to an agent to see what will happen there. And in the meantime I’m also working on a few stories. I’ll be taking a good old fashioned blank book with me to Spain to do some old fashioned writing, as well as a tablet. It will be a vacation but writing will be involved.

I’m off to my best year for published works so I’ll see what the rest of the year brings.

 

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Writing: The Playground of Lost Toys

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

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

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

Jonathan Carroll

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

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

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

Get writing and send us your best.

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

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

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

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

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

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

PAYMENT: .05/word

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

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

PUBLICATION DATE: Nov. 2015 (tentative)

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

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

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

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