Category Archives: relationships

That LGBT Thing & Writing Guidelines

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Benson Kua, Wikimedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

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

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

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

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Eikamp and Runté

Today, authors Rhonda Eikamp and Robert Runté. Their tales are both science fiction and involve games of strategy: chess. And while one deals with issues of ego and doing the right thing, the other examines more the consequences of doing the wrong thing, though you could say that in both cases ego blinds the characters.

Rhonda is an American living in Germany and her story was the only one we could accept from out of the country. That meant competition for the spot was very tough and we hung on to a few stories right until the end. Rhonda’s story “The Garden of Our Deceit” is one of the few we received that takes place off planet. It’s far future, as is Lisa Carreiro’s “Makour.”

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

I was inspired by the call for submissions and Jonathan Carroll’s wonderful quote. Stories of childhood and toys just strike me as the perfect juxtaposition of innocence and creepiness that you can do a lot with in genre (proven by the stories the editors have put together here!). I started out with something slightly steampunky-Victorian, with the idea of giant powered chess pieces, but the focus ended up on the alien corothai and issues of tyranny and freedom.

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

    chess, strategy, aliens, SF, short fiction

    Rhonda Eikamp’s story deals with games, betrayal, control and rebellion in Playground of Lost Toys.

I wasn’t exposed to chess until my 8th-grade math teacher taught us all and set up tournaments. I’d only played sporadically since, and so I played some online games to get the feel again while writing, which made me realize the corothai would want to hang from the ceiling to get a better view of their tournaments.

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

I love exploring how alien intelligence and psyches might differ from our own, what the good and bad in being human is and why we will probably never overcome that (and shouldn’t). Would an alien race understand us, our love, relations, humor, the need to play? And I love a good rebellion. I’m interested in how we’re manipulated by those in power, the media, etc. Schools should be teaching kids how to assess what they’re told and how it’s being presented, and to get to the truth. The way news is channeled and selected now, at some point we’ll all be obliviots, knowing only what we want to know.

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

The takes on the theme here are amazing. Each story puts its own twist on playing or on that long-forgotten item from your childhood. Chris Kuriata’s “Fun Things For Ages 8 To 10” even captivated my refuses-to-read 14-year-old.

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

I have a story coming up in Pantheon (for which I had to dip into my childhood as well and my memories of tornadoes trying to pick up our Texas house) and a story in Midnight Circus: Age of Legends, which should be out January.

There’s a list of my stories that can be read online, at my (very neglected) blog https://writinginthestrangeloop.wordpress.com/.

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

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

Robert Runté’s tale “Hacker Chess” has a lighter tone but examines well the obsessive nature of games, without always taking in a the bigger picture. It’s an amusing look at our current to near future, when all of our devices are automated, linked and “smart.” Robert chose to answer the questions in a block. Robert’s story is like Geoffery Cole’s where the characters get a little too caught up in their games.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
  2.  Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
  3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
  4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology you’d like to mention?
  5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.
chess, hackers, computers, smart technology, SF

Robert Runte’s “Hacker Chess” is a fun romp in Playground of Lost Toys.

When the call for submissions went out, I had no story, nor any idea for a story that would fit the theme. But I really respected both the editors, and the idea of writing to a specific target appealed to me, so I ended up submitting three stories: the first was too far off the theme; so I wrote the second directly on target, but the editors didn’t go for it; so I wrote the third at the 11th hour, and the editors took that one. That whole process was a lot of fun, actually. And I’ve already sold the first one elsewhere, and the second is off to a CanLit market, so we’ll see.

I would therefore recommend accepting the challenge implicit in writing to a specific theme, however unfamiliar, since that enables one to write several stories more quickly than starting from a blank page. But you have to trust the editors involved: it’s their job to tell you if you missed the target or if the story isn’t up to standard. I knew these two had high standards so that allowed me to play fast and loose, secure in the knowledge they wouldn’t let me embarrass myself.

The second story was right out of my childhood; the first was out of my friend’s childhood; and the third was based on an anecdote told me by another friend. The moral is, anything you tell a writer is likely to be taken down and saved against the day when they can turn it into a story.

“Hacker Chess” is about getting carried away when playing a game, rather than about a specific toy; though we often refer to computers as “toys” when guys get too fixated on having the latest and greatest tech. The main theme of “Hacker Chess,” to the extent that there is one, is recognizing childish behavior, and maybe, you know, to stop doing that. The characters and the world they inhabit are part of several other stories I have on the go, so hopefully I’ll be able to gather them together at some point to create.

The next story I have coming out is “Age of Miracles” in Strangers Among Us, but I am most excited about two books I’ve edited for Five Rivers: Den Valdron’s The Mermaid’s Tale and Dave Duncan’s Eocene Station. Den’s book is the best thing I’ve read in a decade and I consider my discovery of that manuscript the high point of my career so far: it’s going to win every award on the planet. Duncan’s book is SF, something we never see enough of, and the character of Tempest is just brilliant. So, pretty happy about how things are going!

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The Benefits of Courtesy

kindness, courtesy, politeness, good feelings

Creative Commons: Nicole Ellis, Sunshine's Reflections http://sunshinereflections.wordpress.com

It’s amazing how self-centered we’ve become, worrying about our finances, getting the kids here or there, keeping our jobs, getting a better job, finding time for fun, rushing to or from the supermarket, the game, the meeting, the mall, the party. It goes on so that we’re caught up in a whirlwind of activity and sometimes barely notice the world around us.

That world isn’t all strife, war and trauma as the news likes to focus upon but also full of beauty, ingenuity and intelligence. We get so caught up at times that we forget that there are thinking and caring humans all around us. Their lives are as important as your or mine. And some days, we just have bad days.

So would it hurt any of us to try to be a bit nicer, to try some courtesy? I have found that often this can go farther than being grouchy and boy, do I have my cranky pants days. I’ve taken to telling random strangers that I like their hair, or dress or shoes if I do. It doesn’t hurt me to say it and makes their day a bit shiny. I know when some stranger has paid me a compliment that it gives me a bit of a glow.

I try to think about others when I’m shopping so I don’t stop with my cart in the middle of the aisle but pull it over so it’s out of the way. I don’t stand in front of the mushrooms blocking it for all others to reaching in but try to stand a bit to one side so that others can share. I say thank you when someone holds a door open for me and likewise hold doors for others. I wave when someone lets me change lanes while driving and try to let people in. It’s especially hard while driving to stay in a good mood because people feel they’re losing a race if they let anyone in. But there is someone always ahead of us.

Don’t get me wrong. I have pretty big crankypants and get really irate when I think people aren’t being fair. But I try to reciprocate kindness with kindness. Sometimes I’ve been in line with groceries with two items and someone will let me in, in front of them. Suddenly we’ll chat a bit and become human to each other, not just another stranger whose in our way. It makes that waiting in line pass faster and you get to know something about another person.

Just imagine how pleasant we could all be if we did a small kindness for someone else, said something nice? Giving a gift of courtesy could be the biggest reward and put some sunshine in everyone’s day. Here’s hoping we can all just be nicer to each other and find the world transformed without us trying to transform others or ignore them.

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How to Bomb Out on Dating Sites

dating, love, dating sites, sex, men, chatting

Creative Commons by Motoyen (Flickr)

I’m in a state of singlehood at the moment, which some liken to being a leper while others might see as being a lion amongst a herd of gazelles. People often have different requirements on a dating site. Some want short-term dating, some long-term leading to a permanent relationship. Others want casual companions or to hook up with a bed buddy for the night. In the last situation you might start your online chat with, “Do you like it doggy style?”

But for me, there is no faster turnoff than a guy who doesn’t bother to chat about life, the universe and other intriguing things (notice I didn’t say “everything”) but instead begins with “I’m very physical. I like to cuddle/neck/be oral/snuggle/have a high libido/enjoy holding hands. What do you like?” To me, it’s rude and crass. Stick it in your profile, if you must. Often, we haven’t exchanged names yet so it’s like a guy on the street flashing open his trenchcoat.

If you met someone at a friend’s dinner party, would you start out saying, “Do you like it hard and fast or slow and soft?” Perhaps it’s suitable in some cases but in most it would be crossing a line way too soon. And without the benefit of alcohol when online (I presume here) it’s certainly a rude slap. A guy that starts with the 20 questions about sex may as well stick a picture of his penis up online as well. And if that’s all he can really think of to talk about he should just say he’s looking for sex. I couldn’t lose interest faster.

The other way to bomb in the dating field is to do another twenty questions about the age and ethnicity of guys I’ve dated. It’s one thing to know if I would date someone younger or older than me but another to want me to list their nationalities. In my bomb shelter I will hide from the barrage of such questions and wonder what the reason for asking is. If I’m willing to talk to a person younger or older and of any color it already shows I’ll likely date them. Listing every nationality or religion is bizarre.

I’d prefer not to be bombed with a multitude of questions but to trade questions and answers back and forth, even discussions about life and interests. Guys like the top two examples make me think they wouldn’t be good dating material because in one way or another they’re more hung up on sex than on relationships and on who to date by looks than just who is compatible. I do believe sex is part of a good partnership but it’s not all. If it was, I wouldn’t worry about being single or not. A great mind is more likely to get me into bed than a sex fiend is.

If you’re a guy or a woman and you think you’d like a relationship but all you can think to talk about is sex then I would suggest learning how to carry a conversation. You certainly don’t want to arrow in on the genitals in the first few chats online with someone. Unless a relationship is established, to me, it will always be crass. Those intimate questions are better left to discussions in person. If all you want is to have online sex, go for it. Just don’t bother chatting with me. Forget about love; let’s start with a decent conversation.

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Platitudes For Attitude

Ever wondered what a platitude is? Probably not but we use them all the time. A platitude is defined by Websters as a “banal, trite or stale remark.” A homily is an “inspirational catchphrase.” Making any sense yet?

Let’s put it into context. I’ve heard plenty on being single, without people necessarily knowing my situation. Here are a few.

  • Oh, you’re trying too hard.
  • When you stop trying, that’s when it will happen.
  • You’re not trying hard enough.
  • You need to look in new places.
  • You’re too picky.
  • The right one will come along.
  • Don’t give up hope.

They work for all situations, such as being laid off or being fired.

  • A better one will come along.
  • Sometimes we just need a change.
  • Things are bound to change.
  • I’m sure you’ll get another job soon.
  • If you don’t succeed, try and try again.
  • Don’t give up hope.

How about for health? “It’s God’s will.” Children? “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” People? “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Travel? Sports? Education?

I’m sure there are a million platitudes. The road to hell is, after all, paved with good intentions. And platitudes. Gobs and buckets full of oozing platitudes.

After hearing the numerous and often contradictory homilies from well-meaning friends I just started saying, please, no more platitudes. These phrases seem to be a way for a person to try to ease someone’s pain, fears, worry, sadness or situation that looks lacking to those who have better circumstances. Perhaps it is just a human need to try to offer some form of cheerleading. Perhaps we feel uncomfortable when someone has encountered a setback in their lives. Perhaps, like reading crystal balls and tea leaves, we believe that to offer a homily will be a prediction come true. But the fact is, no one knows what the future holds and there are many people who don’t get what they want or need through their lives. Giving some shallow catchphrase does very little good.

Sad fact, but life isn’t fair and it takes work. Only those privileged few born with gold spoons in their mouths don’t have to try. Maybe they get platitudes too. But I’ve found, after hearing some of these phrases far too many times and catching myself even saying them, that they just sound hollow. I would prefer someone saying, We’re here to support or help you as a friend and I hope things get better soon. That seems far more genuine.

I’ll leave you with Aldous Huxley‘s comment about platitudes: Proverbs are always platitudes until you have personally experienced the truth of them.

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Plenty of Fish is For Suckers

There are many dating sites out there and some are better than others. Some of course are better for one person over another depending on how it’s set up and what you’re looking for. Of the ones I’ve tried Plenty of Fish was pretty much a stagnant sea. I had a male friend who liked it though because he called it Plenty of F**ks. He wanted one-night stands and women were happy to comply. I didn’t want that, so it wasn’t that good. In fact, I found communication with potentials lacking so completely that I decided to not just inactivate my account but delete it.

Plenty of Fish = Plenty of Leeches

Plenty of Fish = Plenty of Leeches Creative Commons: http://monkeyfilter.com/link.php/14452

That was over two years ago. I removed my profile, but I was still getting notices. I removed it again, went deeper in and tried to remove it all the way to the bone. I deleted the account, which means I shouldn’t exist in POF’s database anymore. That seemed to do it, so I thought. But oddly, when they were hacked a couple of months back I got warnings about changing my password. WTF? I sent them an email saying I had no idea what my password was anymore, and to remove me from their site as I had already done this once. I got another computer generated message, and another, and another.

I sent messages each time that bounced back to me. Yes, this was their customer service email. Some customer service. I sincerely hope no one pays for this crap. This last week I’ve received three emails with my “matches” even though I no longer have an account according to their deletion instructions. I’ve sent them two cease and desist emails and let me tell you, it’s not easy. You have to go to their website and dig around. There is something that actually says “contact us”, but if you click on the header that says “Delete/Hide My Account” you get nothing. Oh sorry, you get more little messages telling you what to do but you don’t get to send them an email. Click again, yet another layer of message.

When you finally find a way in to to send an email, you get no answer as I can attest with the ones I’ve sent. I shouldn’t have to deactivate an account I deleted over two years ago. Here’s what they say about getting rid of the notification messages:

I do not want any more email notifications.

You can stop message notifications (sent out when you get a message) in Mail Settings. Unfortunately you cannot stop the “latest match” emails usually sent out on Mondays – if these are a problem we’ll delete your account upon request.

Oddly enough I’ve asked POF at least four times to delete me permanently. And try to find a place to contact them to do this deletion. It’s a blatant lie. I have received neither an answer nor a deletion from the continual messages. And of course, I can’t delete my account because I no longer know my username or password. I finally had to email for it again and you have to go through many messages of “wait, don’t go” to get to deleting, if it works. My next step will be to see if I can charge them with harassment, and report them to any place or regulatory body I can. If you know of any such bodies on this, and on them storing my information after I expressly deleted it, let me know.

But for your own sakes, do not ever join up with Plenty of Fish. Obviously they treat their clients as suckers and you’ll have better luck getting barnacles off your ship than these leeches off your back. My rating on this dating site: -5. Stay far away.
Addendum: here it is Feb. 22, nearly a year after this post. I did send a letter to the Privacy Commissioner last year and received a letter back saying it didn’t fall in their jurisdiction but to try the provincial Privacy Commissioner. I was going to toss the letter as I thought POF had stopped harassing me and guess what, last week more spam from POF. They will go against the law and keep your information forever because they probably know how hard it is to track down even who to send this to.

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Our Lives: the Microcosm vs the Macrocosm

The world revolves on a grand scale and on a small or microcosmic scale. The macrocosm can be something as enormous as the galaxy or the universe. But within the environs of the earth it comes down to a country’s personality. It is also earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, volcanoes. It is war, and pandemic diseases. As well it is the nature of both humankind as a whole and the planet in its entirety. On this grand scale we see the war in Libya, the overturning of the government in Egypt, the rising price of gas, heating, food, etc., the many deaths from Japan’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, the political temperament of France or Tunisia, the cholera in Haiti, the religious fervor in Afghanistan or the human rights issues of China.

The macrocosm can be scary and all-encompassing. It is the onslaught of the human condition. It can also be beautiful: the ocean, the skies above, a forest, the many species that blanket the earth. It is humanity in all its great creativity, the collective consciousness, the evolution of our kind.

But when we look at the world as a whole we see doom and despair. We see death and cataclysms and everything looks like it’s spiraling down the hole. There are rapists and murderers and pedophiles, drug dealers and car accidents, disease and poverty, wars and subjugation. The news dwells on the negative and not the uplifting. It’s one reason I don’t read newspapers or watch TV; to lessen the onslaught to my sensibilities. My soul weeps when all I see is the tragedy of life and ever impending doom.

But…and this is a big emphasis on a small word…but when I look at the microcosm I see my neighbor who will rescue my cat, the friends who push my car through the snow, the person who holds the door open for me, the intimacy and love of friends and family. I smell a flower, watch a tree slowly unfurl its leaves and blooms, pet a cat, plant a flower, nod to a fellow shopper, go to a party, have a drink with friends and listen to their trials and tribulations, and relate to people every day. That’s my world.

We have to remember this  to achieve some balance in life. To look only at the macrocosm means the world is a despairing place bereft of good and beauty. To look only at the microcosm can mean your problems seem to be mountains or you are ignorant of the world around you. I remember the microcosm daily so that my spirit lifts and I have hope and joy. What matters most are the relationships we form with the people around us, and our environment. What is greatest is sharing love and joy. It is the only way to exist and stay sane in a world filled with chaos. Here’s to the intimate moments in the microcosm.

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Writing: The Green-Eyed Monster

Creative Commons--http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankhg/1457861005/

In writing, as I’m sure in other professions as well as life, the green-eyed monster can raise its hoary head. This is not one created (usually) for a story but the one that manifests at the successes of an individual. Yes, the green-eyed monster Jealousy, with its diminutive cousin Envy.

There is professional jealousy when one writer thinks another writer is unworthy of having a piece published or winning an award. Sometimes this is justified and if truly judged by informed peers, it would not win. Some awards are indeed popularity awards. One type of award is that you’re popular because you have fans or readers. The second is that you just need to get enough votes and anyone, including friends, colleagues and family, can vote you in because they know you, not on the merit of your work. This happens all the time

But in the realm of jealousy, a writer feels that: how could that person win/succeed when I’m so much better? My work deserves recognition. Why isn’t it being recognized?  Etc. This came up in a writers group today, where a friend of one of the writers and likewise a writer continues to cut down the more successful person, praising one moment, being scathing the next. Often jealousy is a sign of a person’s own insecurities and I’m sure many of us in writing have felt that we’re doing all that we can, we think we’re good, what’s wrong, why aren’t people buying my stuff. I know I think it at times but I wouldn’t say I’m jealous of someone else for succeeding. To me the sum of the parts strengthen the whole. I wonder how writer couples ever manage to make it work, though, if they aren’t both successful. In fact, I know that such a state has been damaging enough to the ego to have broken up a few couples.

Jealousy of course happens in all walks of life and did happen to me, but not so much in writing. A very important aspect of SFC (SF Canada; the professional speculative writers’ organization) is that we are supportive. Members can get advice, information, be silly, commiserate and congratulate. I’m sure some may be jealous but thankfully they never post such to our e-list.

I actually believe very seriously in supporting whenever I can the arts  and friends who are artists in any medium. This might be as small as saying congratulations and as big as cheering in the front row or buying someone’s work. If I had buckets of cash I would support the arts more. Without art in all its myriad forms the world would be a very drab place indeed.

Why do I feel I must support artists? For many reasons but I KNOW as an artist how difficult it is to create and create well. And then on top off that, to take that creation and make it into something to be viewed, read, watched, heard or otherwise appreciated. It takes a lot to complete something, putting blood, sweat and tears into it and then no one knows about it at all. And then to get any monetary acknowledgment for that accomplishment is very difficult, especially enough to live on. Being an artist is not simple and certainly isn’t the easy road, no matter what Prime Minister Stephen Harper thinks about artists attending high-end galas (that they probably paid to get to or put in a lot of work beforehand).

On our list I try to congratulate everyone who has an accomplishment/sale. It’s good to give and show support and really doesn’t hurt at all. Sometimes people even reciprocate. We might not all be Picassos and Hemingways. We may never make a living at our art and we might not even be that good at it. But we are all, indeed, worthy of recognition. Whether the accomplishment is small or grand, it’s enough to be cheered on. Jealousy has never, anywhere or any walk, served anyone well. It’s as destructive as hate. Next time you feel the green-eyed monster riding your back, try to be generous with a complement. I bet you’ll get farther and feel better.

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Royalty, Royalty, Blah Blah Blah!

Queen Bess might have been the last needed monarch, but then there was Cromwell.

This came out in a conversation recently, even before the whole Kate+William brouhaha, and I can say I was almost treated like a troglodyte for being an anti-monarchist (and the only one I  think) amongst monarchists. I actually was very surprised. I expected a few to be monarchists but I thought the strong monarchist movement was more of my parents’ generation than mine, or even younger people.But obviously I’m wrong.

I’ll back up a bit here. Canada is a sovereign nation. We have our independence; we have our own government. However, we are a commonwealth country, one of those countries that was once conquered by the great British Empire. Once called the British Commonwealth there are now 54 countries in this union. From Wikipedia: The member states co-operate within a framework of common values and goals as outlined in the Singapore Declaration.[1] These include the promotion of democracy, human rights, good governance, the rule of law, individual liberty, egalitarianism, free trade, multilateralism and world peace.[2] The Commonwealth is not a political union, but an intergovernmental organisation through which countries with diverse social, political and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in status.

These supposed independent member states still seem to pay a lot of lip service to the British royalty. The queen’s head adorns Canada’s coins. We have a governor-general who represents the queen in Canada and actually is head of the military. And heaven and hell forbid if we actually still pay tithes to Great Britain. Even in the British Isles, the royalty is not the governing body because there is a parliament and a prime minister. To some, we’re probably still considered the “colonies” though that ended with confederation in 1867. Interestingly those former members of the Commonwealth who did not join in this web of goodwill, and most likely because of the extended obeisance, were many of the Arab or Middle Eastern countries. Some of them still have their own royalty.

So…back to Kate and William’s engagement. The media is already referring to her as a commoner, which means common people, the masses, the hoi polloi, or you and me. It means everyone who has not gained their position by blood, inherited it through some divine right. Family business is one thing but even new popes are voted upon, but royalty are not. I could be the stupidest bump on a log or even a murdering rapist and if my parents were kings and queens, then I too would be royalty. There were rumors, never substantiated, that Jack the Ripper was the Duke of Clarence at the time. However since Jack was never caught we can speculate forever.

What we have are people who are idolized and fawned over because they are royalty. And royalty these days are people who get to be so because mummy and daddy were. No working for the position, nor being elected to it. Just because their great great ancestor had a bigger army or poisoned more people makes them royalty forever. Wow. When someone names me royalty I’ll get to make my heirs royal and make their life hell (note Princess Diana’s unhappiness while she was alive) as they live up to royal expectations. There are a few hoops, even for the rich (unless you’re Paris Hilton).

Wallis Simpson, an American, a divorcee, a commoner, could only marry King Edward if he abdicated. Princess Di wasn’t a commoner but that didn’t save her. Didn’t help Fergie either. So the royal reigns have relaxed to let a “commoner” marry Prince Willy. Of course she’s a commoner in the millionaire model because some working class slob would probably not do. And she’s of a good line of obedient Christians attending the right church. I doubt William would be allowed to marry a Buddhist, Muslim or Wiccan. They live the high life but it’s not all fun.

My biggest beef: tons of money wasted on an obsolete dynasty that can still get all sorts of special treatment because they’re royal. “Ooh, I don’t have a life so I’ll submerge mine in these land-based gods.” Oh and their wedding, like Prince Chuck  and Princess Di’s, it will cost millions and millions and the taxpayers will probably pick up a hefty tab for it, even if it will supposedly boost tourism, while many people won’t be able to pay their mortgages or keep their jobs in Britain’s down-turned economy. But don’t worry, William and Kate promise austerity. I’ll do the same if taxpayers want to pay for my wedding or my vacation too.

I should say I have two beefs. The second is that this is England’s royalty, not Canada’s. If we’re truly of our own governance and reconnaissance, then we shouldn’t owe anyone lip service. And just because the British were in parts of Canada (which was something completely different geographically) in the good ole days does not mean we owe them much over any other country that explored or settled in these lands. (Not that the French or the Spaniards didn’t have their play here too.) The native peoples of Canada might see that whole invasion and British rule thing through slightly different eyes as well.

Maybe if I lived in England I wouldn’t be an anti-monarchist but it makes no sense to keep someone else’s royalty as our own desperate attempt at dignity and venerability. If we truly need royalty in Canada, then let’s make me the queen, or hold a lottery. It’s as valid as saying someone else has blue blood and letting them interbreed to keep their blood pure. So what do I think of Kate and William’s engagement? Great. Wonderful. People should be happy but I’m not going to swoon over it, watch it or buy the souvenir napkins, just as I wouldn’t for our prime minister, any rock star or even a NASA astronaut’s wedding (the last being the most likely for me to buy into). Go get married but stop (to paraphrase past Prime Minister’s Trudeau’s words) getting the nation involved in the bedrooms of the royalty.

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Writing: The Process

I’m sure I’ve written about this before but right now I’m in the middle of the full-fledged process. I’m trying to get a story done for the World Horror Convention writing contest, as well as doing and online interview with the other Evolve authors on Bitten By Books. Go over there now if you have questions to ask or want to see a bit of how different authors view the process of writing or writing specifically about vampires: www.bittenbybooks.com I’ll also be at Orycon from Nov. 12-14 in Portland to talk about writing and to do a reading, maybe two. Right now I think I might read this virginal story I’m working on.

Indirectly, perhaps, it involves the picture to the left. Those are barrow mounds in Ireland, at Knowth. However, to back up to the beginning of this process is the kernel of an idea I had. Perhaps it started with Nancy Kilpatrick saying she was doing a second anthology of vampire fiction. I wrote one page and couldn’t think of a plot. I had atmosphere, a character and…that was it. Well, sure there was a thin plot showing itself but it was a cliché vampire tale and I didn’t want to write that, nor would anyone want to buy it.  So I put it aside and pondered. And pondered.

And came up with nothing. Thinking this one page still had something I finally emailed a bunch of people and said, “Is anyone willing to read one page of fiction and tell me what you think the story should be.” About five people responded. One went for humor, which this story was not, two gave suggestions not really suitable even to the first page, and two others gave me enough suggestions that I could kickstart the thinking process again. Sometime we need a mental smack upside the head to knock us out of those cliché grooves.

Often my next step in the writing process is this: ruminate. Turn the ideas over, think about this or that factor, literally sleep on it and work out a whole bunch logistics in my head before even hitting the paper. Then I start to make points, bits of conflict, images that come together. I went to Ireland a few years back and I’ve never used anything Irish as a setting for a story. Once I started thinking that my story started to come together better and the characters inhabiting it made more sense. Then those thoughts lead to the ability of my character to change or not and the depth of the conflict.

Next, I start writing. And stopping. And writing. And going to clean. And writing. And napping. Sometimes the story pours out and sometimes it creeps shyly. I wrote six pages last night after taking a day to write one page. And now I’m stopped (procrastinating writing this) as I try to work out the next stage. My character has overcome one conflict, but is that it? No. A good story usually has internal and external conflict so I need to bring up her internal conflict and whether she succumbs, fights or changes will remain to be seen but I have to make sure there are enough stakes in the game for my character (whose name is changing as I write this) to either emerge triumphant or changed by her travails.

Some stories have taken me years to finish because I can never satisfactorily work out the plot and conflict to my satisfaction. Some stories leap fully grown from my head like Athena from Zeus’s brow. And some are a bit of both worlds; parts flowing out while others turn to concrete in my head.

And now that I’ve defined my problem, the internal conflict, I guess I need to decide if in fact the theme that I often write about in my stories will be the same here. Morality. “An Ember Amongst the Fallen” was a morality tale. “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” is maybe an immorality tale and this one, well, yeah her morals are question. I’ll see what the character decides.

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