Category Archives: Publishing

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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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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Writing: Marketing at Cons

Literaryliaison sent me this question:

cosplay, fantasy conventions, fans, SF, marketing writing

Dressing like this might get you the attention of an editor. Creative Commons: Florian Fromentin, Flickr

This year, I will be going to my first con. My sister and I will be dressing up as characters from The Hobbit, but we were wondering if a con is a good place to market fantasy. Have you had a lot of success in the past? Do you dress up as one of your characters? We thought that might be a creative idea.

I thought I’d actually write a post about cons and marketing your writing. First, there are three “world” cons. There is World Fantasy Con, World Horror Con and Worldcon. All three move from city to city and sometimes country to country. The first two are what is called a professional con. These conventions are mainly for the publishing industry. The industry is composed of writers, editors, artists, agents and publishers. Therefore your percentage of professionals to fans ratio is very different than Worldcon or any other fan cons. While fans may attend WFC or WHC, they are small in number. But yet, there are still fans but in this case those fans are writers of differing degrees, from the new writer with a first story to sell to the seasoned pros who come to mingle, be on panels, check in with their agents and publishers in person.

Professional cons tend to not have any fan tracks. There will be no gaming, no movies going on, no costume contest, etc. Therefore, there will be no costumes. What has been a somewhat snobbish view in the publishing industry is that if you show up at a pro con in costume you’re just a fan and not really a writer. I don’t agree with this and it’s my pet peeve that WFC is held around Hallowe’en every year and they don’t do costumes. Except last year, in Brighton. I’m also not all knowledgeable in this and it could be attitudes are changing. Those of us that go to the pro cons might affect weird contact lenses, flamboyant clothing and jewellery. I’ve been known to wear a pink brocade tricorn hat. It’s not a costume; it’s my clothing.😉 It’s sort of a subtle way of circumventing the costume rule.

Now I should say I’ve only attended one Worldcon and that there are other very large conventions in various cities, such as Dragon Con in Georgia or Comic Con. The last, while more comic oriented is huge, filled with media stars and people wearing cosplay. I don’t know what writing/pro tracks they have but the norm is costuming.

fantasy authors, writers, professional conventions, World Fantasy Con

Do you think George R.R. Martin cares what you’re wearing? No. But he might not buy your novel either. Creative Commons: dravecky

You could always do a combo at the cons. Definitely dress up, have fun and, if you can manage it, do go as one of your characters. While agents or editors might look askance, or be drawn to your outfit, the other fans will eventually be your reading audience and they count. Writers won’t care. Maybe editors won’t care, especially if you’re wearing one of the skintight outfits of female superheros, or the bare-chested brawny male hero version. Also if they have panels to do with writing and marketing fiction, attend them, even in costume. These panels can give you a wealth of info and you might get a chance to talk to an editor or agent and see what they want. Sometimes there are publisher parties. Another good place to chat with editors and find out what they’re looking for.

If you’re self-publishing, use every gimmick you have to spread the word. Bookmarks, free giveaways and dressing as one of your characters is a good way to make people aware. These days, there are thousands of books and authors, and not everyone who is successful writes great works. Some have good publishers, agents and marketing. Marketing matters, even for people with large publishing firms.

I’ve not dressed up as one of my characters but then I haven’t written a character that I look like at all, but it’s a great idea. If you do happen to go to World Horror or World Fantasy, you might tone down the costuming because you’ll stick out like a sore thumb but with all other cons, you’ll be part of the fun. I do hope though that a good editor or agent would not miss the opportunity to find a great writer just because of a costume. Good luck!

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Writing, Readings and Cons, Oh My!

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster-web-2014This weekend is VCon, Vancouver’s SF and fantasy convention. I haven’t gone in a few years but I will be attending this year and will be on a panel about Finding Your Muse, tomorrow at 1:00 pm. I have a reading at 7:00 pm where I will read from a story that was long listed for the Stoker Award. And on Saturday I will be on a panel about the role of religion in speculative fiction. If you’re not doing anything come on down and experience the breadth and depth of convention fun.

I should also mention that my poem “Family Tree” has come out in the collection They Have to Take You In, edited by Ursula Pflug. “The Collector” came out earlier this year in Cemetery Dance. My story “Pearls and Swine” will be coming out in the New Exile Book of Canadian Noir, and Our Lady of Redemption, plus an article “Universal Monsters” will be out in Nameless Magazine sometime in the near future. And check out this interview with me at the Reality Skimming blog, by Christel Bodenbender.

On Tuesday, Oct. 7, I host the Vancouver ChiSeries. The Chiaroscuro Reading Series started in Toronto and is held quarterly in Winnepeg, Ottawa and Vancouver. I have a great lineup of authors. You can attend for free, listen to the readings, peruses the books for sale and ask questions of the authors. The Cottage Bistro is a nice little venue at Main, near 28th St. and offers drinks and food as well Easily accessible by bus and lots of street parking. Now read below to see who is coming.

SF, free readings, Vancouver, ChiSeries, CZP

Paula Johanson is a writer, teacher and editor.

For over twenty-five years, Paula Johanson has worked as a writer, teacher and editor. Among her twenty-nine books on science, health and literature for young adult readers the most recent are Love Poetry: How Do I Love Thee? (Enslow Publishers), Fish: The Truth About The Food Supply (Rosen Publishing), and the science fiction anthology Opus 6 (Reality Skimming Press). Twice she has been shortlisted for the Prix Aurora Award. An accredited teacher, she has written and edited curriculum educational materials. Recently she completed an MA in Canadian Literature at the University of Victoria.Twitter: @ PaulaJohanson

publsihing, ediucation, SF, writing, Canadian authors

Lynda Williams teaches, writes and is starting a publishing company.

Lynda Williams is the author of the ten-novel Okal Rel Saga and publisher of Reality Skimming Press. Lynda holds two post graduate degrees, manages an e-learning team at SFU and teaches part-time for BCIT in introductory web development. She is also editor for the Collidor project to create an SF web app magazine. http://okalrel.org/reality-skimming/

Alma Alexander’s life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. http://anghara.livejournal.com https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alma-Alexander/67938071280

Secrets of Jin Shei, fantasy, ChiSeries, CZP

Alma Alexander is the duchess of fantasy, or maybe a lost nation.

Come out and meet some of the writers, and chat with us. We’d like to see more of a community that appreciates SF, fantasy and dark fiction. The next ChiSeries after this one will be in January so this is the last one of 2014. Starting at 7:30 pm.

And one more thing, Nancy Kilpatrick and Caro Soles are editing an anthology called nEvermore! It’s an homage to the glorious, Gothic style of the master, Edgar Allan Poe, bringing Poe-inspired fiction into the 21st century. nEvermore! brings together mystery writers (who already include a slash of the supernatural in their writing) and dark fantasy/horror writers (who currently slip across the shadows and touch on the mystery genre).

It’s crowdfunded to support the authors and has some great perks. Some rare Poe stamps, four one-of-a-kind mini Poe coffins, steampunk Poe necklace, glass tile magnets, the book and more perks to come. And for writers who want to join this anthology, there is a contest. Only three stories will be selected to join the other authors in this anthology. Check out Descent into the Maelstrom for contest and writing rules.  Personally I would love any of the perks. It’s an awesome concept and worthy of supporting on several fronts.

About the editors: 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. 

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.

So check out the crowdfunding perks and sign up to get yourself some special Poe stories and items. And come out to VCon and to the ChiSeries readings. You can’t get too much of a good thing. October is the official month of bats and pumpkins and things that go bump in the night and slither quietly by day.

 

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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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Book Review: The Warded Man

fantasy, epic fantasy, Peter Brett

The Warded Man was released in the US in 2009, Harper Voyager imprint

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett came out in 2008 in the UK (as The Painted Man) and 2009 in North America. It’s the first of the Demon Cycle. Yes, there are spoilers.

This fantasy takes place in world that once had the age of science but something happened and demons from the core (of the world) materialized every night, bent on destroying humans. Small villages and hamlets use wards on posts and homes that keep the corelings at bay. Everyone knows how to ward, but some are better than ever. If a ward is drawn wrong, or gets marred, it leaves a way in for the corelings to destroy everything. Larger towns have warded boardwalks  so one can cautiously get place to place but pretty much the night is owned by the corelings.

The “free” cities are encircled by huge stone walls, with the streets lined with stone. Everything is warded with sigils by the guild of warders, and demons rarely get in. But still people only very carefully venture into the night. This leads to an isolated society, where travel more than a day is difficult and people must ask for succor in another place before the sun goes down. The centuries of isolation has lead to various places jealously guarding the wards they use, as opposed to sharing. News and merchandise must still get from town to town and this is left to Messengers and Jongleurs. The jongleurs bring the news and tales and a respite from the terror, with their songs and acrobatics. The Messengers are combinations of merchant, knight and postman and hardened souls used to the vagaries of the night world. They carry portable ward circles, warded shields, weaponry and a host of scars.

The elemental air, rock, wood, sand, water and fire demons. While the wind corelings seemed similar to pterodactyls they are terrifying creatures of nightmare. The story begins with eleven-year-old Arlen, a good warder who witnesses the coring of his mother. The subsequent search for healing lead him on a journey to one of the free cities where he apprentices as a warder and messenger. Over ten years pass in the span of Arlen’s life as he hones his skills, faces betrayals and alienates himself from humankind in his relentless search for the old battle wards and artifacts, and his vengeance against the demons.

Leesha is a young girl, unjustly marred by a braggart fiance and spiteful mother. She apprentices to the extremely old, cranky and mean herb gatherer Bruna. Leesha’s gains independence and eventually travels to help neighboring towns. But she runs into her own hardships and terror when she returns to help her village and the Warded Man rescues her and Rojer.

Rojer lost his family at a young age and was raised by a drunkard jongleur. With his damaged half hand he’s never very good at juggling but is a passable acrobat and plays a mean fiddle. On the road with his master they meet calamity and then Rojer meets Leesha. He has found that the sound of his fiddle can repel the demons and Leesha knows how to make a burning liquid that can injure the previously thought indestructible demons.

While these two have their own threads as they grow and learn their strengths and fears, Arlen is the main focus.He ends up in desert city Krasia, the only place where they actively fight to repel the demons. Arlen hopes to pass on his discoveries of the battle wards but is betrayed by a culture where he is considered an outsider.

Overall I found the story engaging and it kept me reading. The action is clear, but I would have preferred descriptions of the characters to come more as part of the story as opposed to exposition. But the exposition is light. Most of the logic for the warding works. Demons can’t go through stone but can go through wood. The wards have to be in a circle to work on buildings, but you can repel with a ward on an object such as a shield. The battle wards were lost because the demons had been expunged and people forgot. I just don’t quite see how three centuries can go by where people put wards on shields but never put them on swords or spears.

There are two aspects I disliked about this book; one is endemic in many medieval fantasies. Game of Thrones suffers from it as well, even if Aria and Brienneare are exceptions. But they are exceptions in a patriarchal world where women are still chattels and brood mares and expected to be good and silent wives. In many cases, these worlds are styled on our own history, if given different trappings such as species, magic or geography. But I’m getting heartily sick of the role of women always being virgin, mother, whore or sacred warrior (Joan of Arc anyone?). In this way it’s still a man’s world. While Leesha and Bruna are strong women, they don’t step outside the traditional roles. If exploring a patriarchy and the liberation of women was the goal, then this would have been more acceptable.

The other aspect I really hated was the Krasians. They’re a desert nation who put no god before the Creator and the Deliverer is his prophet, where their women are veiled head to foot and outsiders are considered dirt. They eat figs and dates and dress in baggy pants. Medieval Middle East, with not even a veil to disguise it. At this point I threw up my hands. Do terrorists always have to be Middle Eastern? Yes, there are plenty of white-skinned bad guys in this book, but the thin veneer of our world’s cultures made me sigh in exasperation. I knew what the second book was going to be about. The betraying Krasians steal the magic spear and decide to take over the world, delivering people from demons but changing them into believers of the new faith. And the Warded Man must stop the holy war.

I find it annoying to have our world with just a touch of different icing for fantasies. I liked the book well enough and the overall premise of battling these corelings, but I don’t think it went far enough. I’d be tempted to read the second book but I’m not dying to. I saw enough of this world to feel I had a complete story. I’d give The Painted Man three and a half wards.

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