Tag Archives: fantasy

Women in Horror: Robyn Alezanders

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Today, Robyn Alezanders talks about acting, Dracula and the role of consent and sexuality with vampires.

Female Vampires in the Age of #MeToo

A couple of months ago I decided to challenge myself, try to check off a bucket list item, and hopefully get my creative mojo back by auditioning for a play. Not just any play either, but a community production of Dracula, and proud to say I landed it, portraying one of the vampire brides/Vixens. An absolute dream role, one I’ve coveted since I fell in love with vampires and the horror genre almost four decades ago.

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Robyn Alezanders playing the bloodthirsty Vixen

The entire theater experience thus far has been amazing and inspiring, thanks to an amazing woman director and a cast and crew who have made me, the newbie, feel entirely at home. Everyone is very open, very candid about themselves and what they bring to their roles, and as to be hoped and expected for, consent is strongly instituted. In a production where the story dictates a lot of touching and physical interaction, we have all discussed comfort levels and boundaries.

Dracula involves multiple obsessions: sex, feasting (food), faith, love, life, and death, but it’s the sexual component that has me most intrigued. It’s easy to analyze the Transylvanian count and see the flaws in his seductive dance, especially when focusing on his behavior with Lucy and Mina. He pursues who he wants and takes what he wants, and yet it’s that kind of control that many men and women find incredibly appealing about vampires. I, like many of those admirers, have a vampire fetish, extremely turned on by the neck biting, the submission, the feeling of being carried away into the depths of erotic imagination.

During these rehearsals, I’ve thought back to my goth nightclub days, where I alternated between “baby vamp,” hair pulled up in Pebbles Flintstone style, baggy white nightgown, and large wooden upside down cross, and “sexy vamp,” black lace, velvet, and fishnet stockings. Under either persona, I attracted flirtatious responses, emulating that compelling creature that’s become no pun intended, a forever classic in literary, cinematic, pop culture, music, and role-playing ventures.

The Vixens are eye candy and then some in three momentous scenes of this production. Clad in vintage flowing wedding dresses, we slither and crawl, evoking that interesting line between lust and fear−sadistic, wild, feral women ready to pounce on what (and who) they desire. It’s many a heterosexual man’s fantasy, isn’t it, to have four bewitching women all over him, despite the ultimate reveal that they bear more than just a sexual appetite?

We fondle, grope, and hold Harker down, moaning, cooing, giggling, and sniffing, exhibiting an over-excitement at hopefully satiating our hungers. And this in particular has me thinking about the role reversal of the Vixens vs Dracula−the portrayal of aggressive, overpowering, coercive women. Are we simply owning our sexuality, that which we should, that which men often already do, or are we, in the same context of dissecting Dracula, something more suggestively sinister? Harker is a perfect match for the virginal Mina−he is conservative, cautious, a by-the-rules gentleman. It is that purity that adds to Dracula’s attraction to Mina, and the obvious contradiction between her and Lucy, who has presumably not behaved as virtuously with some suitors. If Lucy is still indeed a virgin, she is at least a lot more self-aware of her beguiling wiles than Mina.

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Harker being seduced by the Vixens

In the seduction scene between Harker and the Vixens, he is asleep, and we guess that he is most likely dreaming of his beloved. He feels the Vixens licking, nibbling, and stroking him, but is in that blurry state of applying those actions to what he’s dreaming about. He may even naturally be getting turned on, softly mumbling his fiancée’s name, before suddenly snapping awake, and realizing who is atop him. We hold him down, force against his struggles, and still try to dominate him (three Vixens at his arms and chest, me at and then between his legs), only to be cast off by Dracula entering the room and commanding us to stop. In those fleeting moments we have with Harker awake, is he solely aghast at seeing our fangs for fear of being killed, or because it hints at dangerous, unwillful sex? Were our fangs not evident, were the threat not so obvious, how far would the sexual element go? Would he even dare to touch us back? What of the metaphors between the Vixens and sex?

Our movements are animalistic, that of jungle cats on the prowl. We are also each from different centuries, and in this production, reminiscent of or inspired by historical female killers. There are multiple layers to muse on – did their inherent viciousness draw them to Dracula, or something else? What are they now, as compared to their mortal lives as rulers, forces unto themselves, formidable women not to be messed with? They have an essence of Manson Girls about them, that semblance of subservience, and what does that say? They’re trying to satisfy their lusts in the only ways they know how, but that’s quelled by Dracula−we are ordered to obey, and pacified like children. Lucy Westenra roams freely after becoming a vampire−it is her conspicuous behavior as the “Bloofer Lady” that leads to her ultimate demise. Have the Vixens just been lucky in avoiding the attention of vampire hunters, or are they kept quarantined to the castle? And if held to their home, why them, and not Lucy? What is the full extent of Dracula’s dictation, and how does it affect the Vixens’ sexual drives?

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Robyn as Vixen

As with any centuries-old story, it’s not unusual for adaptations and variations to echo societal issues or notable distinctions of the present time period. So what to do in this age, where we are redefining boundaries, encouraging and supporting more outspoken discussions, and pushing #MeToo to the forefront of conversations? What are the obligations, if any, from horror writers, women horror writers, women horror writers who can personally relate to #MeToo?

Putting aside Dracula’s sole behavior being called into question and castigated for ignoring consent, what if the Harker seduction involved more than one male vampire pinning down a woman? Unless explicitly designed, promoted, or described as something otherwise, how would it not then seem a bit uncomfortable to watch or unseemly? Contrary to the titillation of multiple women trying to have their way with a guy, against his true will, strutting with sensual purpose, and oozing with their sense of empowerment.

Bela Lugosi in 1931 film Dracula. Creative Commons

As I said, I am loving this role simply because it’s personally awesome to portray a vampire, and because it has re-ignited a long dormant creative rut. But I’m also seeing the story in another light, and despite the still erotic components, also seeing that Dracula is not the only one with debatable actions. As horror writers, we evoke and depict that which scares and unsettles us, weaving commentary into our spooky scenes and monsters’ motivations. We create atmospheres that often have much more layers for analysis than the surface impressions and words. As writers in general, we also tend to insert our own experiences into stories, either as catharsis or as in-your-face terror.

Do I now soften the vicious women I write about? Mirroring real life, there are indeed women who are just as awful and criminal as men, so whether I keep my characters as mortal or otherworldly, they shouldn’t all be victims or the nicest gals around. At some point though, I may incorporate my own #MeToo experience into some story, which hearkening back to reality, would be in the guise of a male character. It’s all an entirely new scope to explore, in step with this recent landscape we are carving….one which may take interesting turns when (re)interpreted in creative works.

Robyn Alezanders made her horror debut with the short story, “Soul Stains,” in Des Lewis’ Alezanders Bio Pic (002)critically acclaimed Nemonymous 5, and earned an Honorable Mention in the 19th Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror. Her work has also appeared in The Mammoth Book of the Kama Sutra, Eternal Haunted Summer, and New Spirit Journal. She hopes to pursue more theatrical roles after Dracula, and to further explore the intricacy of haunting women characters.

https://nemonymous123456.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/soul-stains-robyn-alezanders/

https://www.amazon.com/Mammoth-Book-Kama-Sutra/dp/0762433930

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Eye to the Telescope Submission Call

anthology, writing, submissions

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

Lisa Trimpf, editor of the Eye to the Telescope submission call on sports and games gives some insight into what she’s looking fr.

Wanted: “Sports and Games”-Themed Speculative Poetry

Star Trek’s three-dimensional chess. Quidditch, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. The race to solve a gaming challenge in Ready Player One. Those are only a few examples of sports and games popping up in speculative literature, movies, and television—sometimes in a feature role, and sometimes as a side interest.

When the call went out for volunteer editor for Eye to the Telescope, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s quarterly online magazine, I put up my hand. Tasked with suggesting a topic, I thought, why not sports and games? Having played a variety of sports throughout my lifetime, it’s an area of long-standing interest for me. Plus, the field is wide open for more speculation, more thought, more invention.

From where we’re standing in early 2019, it’s hard to predict with any certainty what the

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Lisa Trimpf writes and plays sports.

future of sports and games might look like. We might guess wrong, and we might guess right. The reality might surprise us, because it’s something we didn’t foresee at all. I can attest to that from my experiences as a female athlete.

When I was growing up, there were no girls’ hockey teams in my home town, and as for playing on a boys’ team—at the time, it just wasn’t done. So my friends and I played pick-up ball hockey instead, or rented the local arena occasionally for a game of shinny. We wore the jerseys of our favorite NHL hockey stars, because those were our only role models.

balero(1)In the space of just under 40 years, so much has changed. Girls’ house league and rep teams abound in many areas of Canada. Women’s hockey is now in the Olympic Games—something that I would have found difficult to imagine in the late 1970s.

There have been, and continue to be, female role models young players can aspire to emulate, people like Hayley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin, Cassie Campbell—and the list goes on. Women are now sports announcers and commentators. A handful of female hockey players have even been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, something I can assure you my friends and I never saw coming back when we were shooting a tennis ball at a goal my friend’s father cobbled together from two-by-fours and plastic netting.

There are other trends, too, that many of us wouldn’t have imagined a few decades ago. marblesFan participation in certain aspects of sport has broadened—all-star voting, for example, or fantasy leagues, in which fans get to pick their “dream team” and see how they perform. The Olympic Games now include events like aerial skiing or half-pipe snowboarding, sports that weren’t even a thing back when the modern Olympics were re-vitalized in 1896. And, of course, there are increasingly sophisticated sports-themed video games, a notion that seemed light years distant back in the 1970s when we thought Atari’s Pong was a big deal.

So, here we sit in 2019, almost 2020. What will sports and games look like four decades from now (or later) here on Earth? What new twists might we see on existing traditions? Will we eventually see gender parity in sports? Will parents of the future opt for genetic tweaking to produce the ultimate athlete? What sports and games will colonists bring with them to Mars, or the moon, or asteroid mining operations, or even further afield? What pastimes might aliens enjoy? Those are examples of ideas that might be explored or entertained in a speculative sports poem.

But the great thing about speculative poetry is that thinking about the future is only one avenue you might pursue. Speculative poetry opens so many other doors: magic and magical creatures, alternate histories, parallel universes, and so on.

Just one caveat: every editor has their own biases, and while I’m looking for good poems, I’m also looking for poems in which the link to the theme of sports and games is direct rather than oblique.

Some people like to participate in “theme-related” submission calls, while some do not. While everyone is entitled to their preference, I can say from my personal experience that themed submission calls such as the ones provided in Eye to the Telescope have spurred me to create works I might not have created otherwise.

In some cases, I’ve had success with submissions. In other cases, I’ve had submissions declined by the publication they were initially inspired by, but have later placed them elsewhere, making it worth the effort. Over the course of time I’ve learned not to look an inspirational gift horse in the mouth.

I’d encourage anyone with the inclination to do so to send in a poem or three Eye to the Telescope: Issue 32, Sports and Games. The complete guidelines can be found at the Eye to the Telescope web site.

So, why not give it a shot? Deadline is March 15, 2019, and all submitters should expect to receive an acceptance or decline by April 1, 2019.

Simcoe, Ontario resident Lisa Timpf first started writing speculative fiction and poetry in 2014 after retiring from a 26-year career in human resources and communications. She has had more than 30 speculative short stories and 70-plus speculative poems published. Timpf’s work has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including Star*Line, New Myths, Neo-Opsis, Enter the Rebirth, and Tesseracts Twenty-One (Nevertheless). You can find out more about Timpf’s writing projects at http://lisatimpf.blogspot.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

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Writing Guest Post: DD Barant

Happy New Year to everyone the world around. I realize that in other cultural calendars the year begins at different times and that in some ways a new year is an arbitrary thing. If I look at all the things that happened in 2018 it definitely began with a bang last January (a car accident) and ended with settling into a new place.

Because of a very tumultuous year ,many things were sidelined including my writing and my blog. In an effort to have posts appear more regularly I have asked some writers to do a guest post. The first one is by DD Barant. Take it away, Don.

Thanks, Colleen, for letting me guest. Your earlier post about life sucking you into a vortex got me thinking−you see, I know a little about the Life-Sucking Vortex and how much its suckage can suck. I also know something about Alice−which is the subject of the short-story collection Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, edited by you−and now I’m going to stop addressing Colleen directly because it sounds like I’m mansplaining.

When I first heard about this collection, I was in the midst of my own Alice-related project. I wanted to submit something, but didn’t. Partly because my project is a webcomic, not prose−but mostly because of the Life-Sucking Vortex.

When you get to a certain age, you’re abruptly at risk for the Big Trifecta: parents dying, divorce, and health problems. Guess who nailed all three? (Hint: it me.)

And suddenly, like Alice, I was falling.

The main difference between the Rabbit Hole and the Vortex is that the Vortex tends to be rather aggressive. It grabs you and sucks you down, and while you’re in there you tend to smash rather a lot into other things. What those things are doesn’t really matter; the point is, you usually wind up breaking them or they break you.

But eventually−like Alice−you find yourself somewhere else. Confused, shaken up, hopelessly lost. And you can either sit and drown in your own tears, or get up, fortify yourself with whatever’s at hand, and go have adventures.

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Barant created strange creatures from second-hand toys as he escaped the vortex. Copyright DD Barant

Like Alice, I did both. Like Alice, the experience was transformative: I made myself into an artist. I’ve been a prose writer my whole life, but I love comics and have always wanted to make them. I can’t draw worth a damn, so I taught myself how to manipulate digital images instead. I downloaded hundreds of public domain images from online museums and art galleries, scoured the internet for Creative Commons photos, took stills from old black-and-white films, made bizarre creations out of second-hand toys and stuffed animals and took pictures of them.

Alice had no control over which unusual creatures she encountered, but I did.

My Alice goes by the name Liss. She comes from an alternate fictional world known as an

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Liss searches for other Alternities. Copyright DD Barant

Alternity, one where Alice Liddell refused to believe that her childhood adventures were a dream, and devoted her time to the study of the occult. She grew up to be a powerful eyemage under the tutelage of Londinium’s most powerful magician, until she was forced to flee her own reality. These days, she works as an interdimensional thief, pilfering alternities for private collectors who’ll pay through the nose for a genuine artifict−a prized item from a fictional universe.

She does most of her business in a multiversal bar known as The Crossover, neutral ground for all manner of smugglers, thieves, and assassins. She uses a flamingo as a weapon.

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Help from strange beings in the Alternity. Copyright DD Barant

Everybody has their own Vortex, sooner later.  It sucks you in and whirls you around, you smash into things and things smash into you.  We all live in worlds of both chaos and order, and this is the chaotic bit.  But as dire and deadly as chaos can be, don’t forget that it’s also what makes freedom possible.  That can be hard to see in the middle of all that whirling debris . . . but it’s there.  When I look at my webcomic, at the mishmash of styles and images and ideas and characters, I see that chaos; but I also see how I’ve used it, nudged it here and there, made this piece bounce off that piece to wind up in a new orbit, got it to twist and swoop and lunge in a particular way.

You can’t control the Vortex.  But you can teach it to dance.

THE CROSSOVER is now up at : http://thecrossover.thecomicseries.com/. You can find more information about it at my blog, on Facebook at The Officialicious DD Barant page.

DD Barant is best known for the Bloodhound Files series: Dying Bites, Death Blows, Killing Rocks, Better Off Undead, Back from the Undead and Undead to the World. He also writes science fiction under the pseudonym Don DeBrandt: The Quicksilver Screen, Steeldriver, Timberjak, and V.I., as well as numerous pop-culture essays for Smartpop Books, and the Buffyverse media tie-in Shakedown (an ANGEL novel).

As Donn Cortez, he’s written five CSI: Miami novels, two CSI: Vegas novels, a murder mystery set at Burning Man (The Man Burns Tonight) and a thriller (The Closer) which became a bestseller in Germany. (The sequel, Remote, is available as an e-book in English).

As Dixie Lyle, she writes the paranormal animal cozy series The Whiskey, Tango and Foxtrot Mysteries: A Taste Fur Murder, To Die Fur, A Deadly Tail, and Marked Fur Murder.

Books: Steeldriver: https://www.amazon.ca/Steeldriver
Timberjak: https://www.amazon.com/Timberjak
V.I.: https://www.amazon.com/V-I-Intelligence
Bloodhound Files: https://www.amazon.com/Dying-Bites-Bloodhound-Files
WTF Mysteries: https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Fur-Murder-Whiskey-Foxtrot/
Remote: https://www.amazon.com/Remote-Suspense

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Writing Update & Call for Submissions

It’s been a busy month or two. In March I drove down to the Olympic Peninsula for the Rainforest Writers Retreat, where I accomplished a lot, writing several stories, and ended the event with catching the flu, alas. I then rode the wave of the flu (haven’t had one in over 8 years) in time to go to Ottawa and work on more writing as part of my Canada Council grant. Thank you, Canada Council.

Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland is out on the shelves, as we speak (figuratively) and if you’re in Ottawa, check out the launch and readings at The 3 Brewers/Les 3 Brasseurs.Alice Ottawa

There is a great lineup of writers and it’s also available through Exile Editions and Amazon. I hope to have a reading in Vancouver in June. More details as they come.

I’m also editing Eye to the Telescope #29. The theme is the Dark. I want to see how one fights the dark or succumbs to it. How the dark enhances light, or obscures truth. What blooms in the darkest shadows and what is better left there. Click to go to the guidelines. I look at all forms of poems. Reprints will be a harder sell but if you think it’s stellar I might consider it. Eye to the Telescope is part of the Speculative Fiction Poetry Association (though they don’t seem to have changed the name yet on the site), which also publishes Starline. You do not have to be a member to submit, and anyone anywhere can submit as long as it’s in English, so if you think you have a poem that embraces the dark, send it in before June 15.

Arhtur, Camelot, knights, the Round Table, chivalry, battle, valorIn publishing news, my story “Sir Tor and the River Maiden” will be out in By the Light of Camelot, published by Edge Publishing, edited by J.R. Campbell and Shannon Allen. It’s available as an ebook in July. There are 13 tales in this anthology.

And a fun little sea shanty “Washday Blues” has been published in Polar Borealis #6, a collection of Canadian poetry and fiction that’s free to read.

There are other things in the works, including a trip to the UK this fall for the launch of my dark fiction collection from Black Shuck books, A Body of Work.

Now, I have to get back to writing and editing, and getting some more poet interviews up.

 

 

 

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Poet Interview: John Reinhart

SFPA, poetry, SF, fantasy, humor, writers

Poet John Reinhart lives in Denver, Colorado and has several collections out.

In an attempt to write more frequently in my blog, I’ve decided to do some interviews with poets who write speculative verse. That’s fantasy, SF, horror and the subgenres. My first interviewee is with John Reinhart, who recently edited an issue of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s (SFPA) Eye to the Telescope #25, the “garbage” issue. Following, italics are me, with John’s responses.

Let’s start with you telling me when you first found a love for poetry and what were you reading?

My first pen was dipped in the pain of puberty, followed closely by a 50-pound IBM Selectric that wrote in smoke. Writing in flailing and fits, I continued to drivel through high school, even submitting for publication. Then, mercifully, I put my words to other use. My next foray into verse came 15 years later, coinciding with the birth of my daughter. I quickly realized that the development of the internet and online submissions had changed the face of publishing since my typewriter days. My earliest favorite poet was Robert Service, which says little about my subsequent writing except my love of quirky humor. 

poetry, humor, writing

John Reinhart’s collection screaming, available at Amazon.

So you’re saying you dipped your pen into the pain of puberty? That does sound painful. Did Robert Service inspire you to write or were you already writing and he inspired you to greater heights? On that point, which authors in your formative years caused you stretch your poetic wings? And what was your first published poem?

Actually, I was inspired to do my earliest writing (short stories) after reading Jay Williams’s “Danny Dunn” books. My sci-fi interest continued to develop with Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin, Arthur C. Clarke. Mostly I wrote rhymed garbage those early years, including a poem about pipe smokers that was published in the Pipe Smokers Ephemeris. Twenty years later, I learned of the SFPA (then, the Science Fiction Poetry Association).

reinhart 2As I re-entered the poetry writing and submitting scene, I read Campbell McGrath, Paul Goodman, D.H. Lawrence, Kenneth Rexroth, Russell Edson, and eventually anything else I could get my hands on at the library in an attempt to expand my poetic experience and teach myself about modern poetry. After I was awarded the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship from the Horror Writers Association, I actually took a poetry course, but the last poetry course I had previous to that was in high school. To date, I have published a collection about people around me, an experimental collection, a prose poetry collection, and two speculative collections. I like to think that I absorb everything I read and earthworm it into new substance to fuel new views of our technicolor world.

We grew up on the same authors. Congratulations on receiving the scholarship. You’ve reinhart 3named a lot of published collections. Have you published individual poems in magazines or anthologies where people can search them out? Oh, and where do you hail from?

I have spent most of my life in Denver, Colorado. I did achieve escape velocity once, but drifted back into orbit and found the Rocky Mountain gravitational pull too strong. I’m rebooting the engines as we speak.

My work has been featured in recent issues of Crannog, Pedestal Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Holy Shit, Grievous Angel, Quatrain.Fish, and many issues of Star*Line and Scifaikuest. I was particularly touched to land a couple poems in A Poet’s Siddur, alongside a poem by Leonard Cohen.

What would you say is the most important thing about poetry as compared to fiction?

The most important thing about poetry, as compared to fiction, is that I can compose a poem in less time and space than I can compose a short story. Black holes condense matter into meaninglessness, sucking in enough light to exhale in humorous high tones like people do at birthday parties with helium balloons. What we wheeze out of the ordinary vegetable universe ought to be blood out of turnips: poetry.

Would you say you have a particular style of poetry that you write, or topics that you explore?

I hope for my poetry to open new perceptions into our technicolor vegetable universe. Frequently, I utilize sci-fi/fantasy/horror as a means to highlight social issues, of which I think that observing and knowing our world is primary.

In terms of style, I often lean on humor in my observations and reflections on the daily mundane elevated to poetry. Though I have a fine selection of scifaiku in print, I tend to write free verse, with a special love for villanelles.

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Reinhart has written SF, fantasy and horror poetry.

What would be the one piece of wisdom you would pass on to any aspiring poet? And last, is there anything else about poetry that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked, or upcoming works you’d like to chirp about?

For aspiring poets – write, read, write more, read more. Submitting—and submitting frequently—is a good way to engage in the contemporary poetry scene, which should encourage you to read what appears in journals and online as well as the books you find at the local library. Find authors you love and read everything they have. Find authors you dislike or don’t understand, and read everything they have. Honestly, I love to write poetry. I like what it does to me, how it shapes my perceptions and changes my interactions with the world. That part is awesome. But it’s balanced with my thorough appreciation of walking this weird path with so many other talented and gracious artists. I leap at chances to meet up with other poets, regularly exchange emails with poets across the world, and revel in the beautiful work that shows up everywhere, if you dig below the surface.

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John likes to use humor as a lens through which he writes some of his poems.

I have two collections coming out shortly: dig it (Lion Tamer Press), and arson (NightBallet Press). dig it fulfills a goal at Patreon, where my patrons helped me reach a funding goal at which point I promised to self-publish a full-length collection. To date, this is my longest collection. As with my previous collection, screaming, this one veers away from much of my earlier form, though eccentricities and humor still make regular appearances. arson is a chapbook-length take on my multifaceted understanding of arson. It starts with a poem/syllabus on Arson 101.

Thanks, John. Check out John’s works through the links above and through Amazon. If you are a published speculative poet, feel free to contact me for an interview.

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My Year in Recap: Writing and More

2017 was an amazingly busy year. I flew three times and read for three different things, so in fact there was less writing on my part, though a number of sales.

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Dennis Anderson, honorary doctor of law from the University of Edmonton

I first flew to Edmonton where my brother, Dennis Anderson, was honored with an honorary doctorate for his work and advocacy in mental health. This was a big deal as much of the work he does, he does for free, serving on boards, chairing committees, and being the person who created the Chimo Project (named after a dog he once had), which advocates  for pet-assisted therapy for people with mental health issues. My brother actually never finished high school, and while he did attend Rochdale College, I have a feeling that was more an adventure through the 60s & 70s than a book-based education. His stories rival those of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and one day I hope he writes these memoirs. Still, he has done a lot of work for mental health and I was proud to see him recognized for his work.

Lynmouth, UK, seaside towns, Devonshire, high tide

Lynmouth, UK, one of the highest tides in England.

I then did a trip to Lynton, UK in July for my friend’s daughter’s wedding. The weather was a bit rainy while we were in Brighton and Lynton but did get nicer. You can see the south coast of Wales from Lynmouth, a steep, hilly seaside town, deep in bucolic Devonshire where clotted cream and numerous ciders are the specialty. I may devote one blog to this trip alone. I t was a lovely, but fast-moving week. I think I’ll have to go back one day to explore more of Devonshire and the ciders, where one pub alone had more than 80 types.

funicular, Lynton, Devonshire coast

Lynmouth’s water-powered funicular. You can also walk on a long switchback path

In between all of this, I was reading for Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, an anthology based on the characters and magic of Lewis Carroll. The anthology is due to be released in April and I hope to have a cover and list to show soon. I was also on the collections jury for the British Fantasy Awards, where Adam Neville won with Some Will Not Sleep. I was also on a jury for the Stoker Awards.

Klatovy, apothecary, Czech Republic, historic, medicine

The Baroque apothecary of Klatovy, in use from the 1600s up until about 1950.

My last big trip was to the Czech Republic in late September, where I stayed in Prague for a week. Fellow writer and friend Nancy Kilpatrick joined me for the second week, where we rented a car and drove around to various towns viewing ossuaries, bone chapels, mummies and some cathedrals. There was also one very amazing Baroque apothecary, complete with a unicorn’s horn (Narwhal tusk), and was called the White Unicorn. This trip will definitely be a separate blog post or two but I’m so very behind on blogging about my trips.

ossuary, bone chapel, Brno, Czech Republic, bones
Brno’s crypt of skulls. Many of the cemeteries were filled to overflowing by the Hussite wars as well as other wars and illnesses.

While on my trip I found out I had received a Canada Council Grant. These grants are given out for all of the arts but you must apply for them. It takes a fair amount of work and I’ve never been successful until now. I was ecstatic. I’m not a writer who’s satisfied where I’m at but always trying to improve my writing. Until I can sell every story and poem I write it means there is room for improvement. I request to receive a grant for being mentored in writing. I would love to do a masters program in writing but I cannot afford the outlay in costs. Maybe some day. In the meantime, the Canada Council has given me the opportunity to move my writing to the next stage.

I first had a short SF story “Changes” come out in Deep Waters #2, from Golden Fleece Press. Then “Love in the Vapors” came out in Futuristica Vol. 2 through Metasagas Press, and it’s one of my few happy ending stories. “Sins of the Father,” a tale of fungal horror, came out in OnSpec #105. You can order the magazine, if there are any left, through their website, but here is a review of my story on Speculating Canada.

I also had numerous poems published, and links are provided as most are  online and free to read. “This Song” came out in DeadLights Magazine, “Voodoo Doll” in Grievous Angel, and “Bone People” and “Evidence” in Transition Magazine, put out by the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. “Spirit Bottle” and “Geomystica” came out in Eternal Haunted Summer, and “Blood Thirst” and “Last Evening” came out in Polar Borealis #4.

SF, science fiction, writing, short fiction, speculative fiction

OnSpec is a multiple award-winning Canadian magazine

poetry, SF, fantasy, horror,dark

HWA Poetry Showcase available at Amazon

I was pleased to finally end up in Eye to the Telescope #25, to which I had rarely submitted. “Tooth Fairy’s Pouch” was included in the “garbage” issue.  “Wings” ended up in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. IV (Horror Writers Association), and “Rapunzel and Medusa” was published in Polu Texni where quite a few of my poems have shown up. The Future Fire #42 published “Witch Moon” and The Quilliad in Ontario published “you cannot close as cat’s eyes,” though I’ve yet to see a copy and I hope they come out of hiding to send me mine. My poem “Ode to Andrew Brechin” placed third in the Angela poetry contest put on by Wax Poetry and it should be published this year. This poem had a special place in my heart as it was indeed an ode to a friend who died suddenly several years ago.

There were other sales but as those pieces haven’t come out yet, I’m saving them for another post. As an attempt to be more active with my blog, I’ll be doing poetry interviews over the next few months. I hope to post the first next week. And if you happen to be a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, these poems are eligible for the Rhyslings and for the Aurora Awards as well.

 

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Alice Unbound Guidelines Update

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

For those writers thinking it’s too late to get something in for May 31, know that the deadline has been extended to July 15. I’m just not getting enough stories of the caliber needed for an anthology.

If you are submitting, read all of this post–to the end. People are ignoring the proper submission format and I won’t read a story until it is sent double spaced, with word count, and full contact info on it. That should be easy enough to do, you would think. And page numbers, please.

Now, I’m seeing a lot of the main Alice characters so remember, if I have five Mad Hatter stories I might have to select the best. Alice, White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat are all becoming very popular. And tea parties and rabbit holes. I’ll post the expanded guidelines at the end of this but here are a few important things to keep in mind, Stories:

  • should not be rehashings of the same old tales.
  • need to take place in the modern world or the future
  • can take place on another planet
  • can be steampunk but if you stick it in Victorial England you need to bring it forward
  • can be time travel but know I don’t like these tales much as they can get too convoluted (but I do like most Dr. Who)
  • can be combined with characters from other times/place
  • should be as original and unique as possible–the farther you veer away from rabbit holes and tea parties, the more original it will be

Remember these rules of writing:

  • do not tell me someone was upset or mad; show me
  • watch for passive action–seek out words like was, could, would and try to replace them
  • plot–you must have one, even in a poem, and conflict–either resolve it or show the fail
  • use all five senses–this helps give setting and atmosphere
  • do not put a veneer of SF or fantasy on a story that isn’t–ask yourself if the story would work without the SF/fantasy element–if yes, then it’s not spec
Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

Sir John Tenniel illustration.

What is Alice Unbound about?

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche? They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but new stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. Your tale may take place in Wonderland but only if it has connections with this world. That’s not someone thinking about having a drink at the café they miss but actually integrating modern elements. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice. Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. NOTE: I am getting many Alice, falling through rabbit hole and Cheshire Cat related stories. Which means competition will be harder in these areas. You might want to look beyond these elements.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  •  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  •  Through the Looking Glass
  •  The Hunting of the Snark
  •  Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in an endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.
  • From space comes a delegation that looks a lot like the card soldiers. They have a concern with Earth for harbouring fugitives from their world.
  • A company has perfected an AI that emulates the Mad Hatter, something to help run parties and liven them up. What could possibly go wrong?

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word CDN (that’s 5 cents a word, not a half cent)

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words (and 2 may be submitted at the same time: submit each in a separate document and submission).

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc.) This also means full contact information on the first page, unless you want me to attribute your piece to someone else. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected without being read. Canadian spelling would be awesome but I won’t turn down a story that comes in UK or US spelling. Submit .docx, .doc, or .rtf only.

Deadline: Extended to July 15, 2017

Publication Date: April 2018 (tentative)

Rights: First English-language rights & non-exclusive Anthology rights for one year from publication (print and eBook).
Submit here: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/77982/alice-unbound

 

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Writing Update

SF, fantasy, Canadian fiction, anthology

The Sum of Us, by Law Media

Hi Everyone,

I hope to receive more stories for Alice Unbound. These can be SF, horror, fantasy, or a subgenre. They should be present time or future, and involve a character or sense of Lewis Carroll’s world. They should not be in his style, but your own and I do not want retellings of stories that already exist. Put the Jabberwock in the zoo, or the Caterpillar in space. Perhaps the Mad Hatter is an ineffectual detective and the Walrus and Carpenter are facing a rebellion from the oysters who are campaigning on animal cruelty. Maybe the Duchess now has her own estate but is plagued by pigs. Go wild. Think beyond the borders and if you’re not sure, send me a query. The guidelines and submission portal are here: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit/77982/alice-unbound Remember, you must be living in Canada to submit to this anthology.

In other news, Joshua Pantellersco interviewed me last month. You can listen to the podcast, where I talk about Alice and writing and other things. Check out Just Joshing here, and listen to his interviews with some other writers as well. And the Canadian Aurora nominations are nearly closed. I have numerous poems and several stories that are eligible for nomination. The poems are all almost found online, and one story. The Aurora lists have problems with listing works by authors so it makes it more difficult and you’ll have to do a search, but links are provided.

SF, women protagonists, near future, Venus

Futuristica Vol. II, by Metasagas Press

In publishing news, I received my copy of The Sum of Us, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas Law, with my story “The Healer’s Touch.” Stories are about healers and caregivers and some of the proceeds go to chairty. Release date is Sept. but you can pre-order. And I also received Futuristica Vol. II edited by Chester Hoster, with my story “Love in the Vapors.” These both came last week, during my birthday. And my poem “Voodoo Doll” is now up at Grievous Angel and free to read. “Changes” came out in Deep Waters 2 earlier this year. And a poem “This Song” is in DeadLights magazine.

I’ve been on a bit of my own hiatus, possibly reading fiction for Alice Unbound. But I’m about to start working on some new pieces. You should too. Pick up a pen, a pencil, a tablet a computer and be inspired. 🙂

 

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Alice Unbound: Call for Submissions

Hello, world, and happy new year.

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

Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

I can’t guarantee I’ll get more posts out this year but I can start with a bang. I last co-edited Playground of Lost Toys with Ursula Pflug. The anthology was nominated for an Aurora Award, as well as one author being nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award, and three longlisted for the Sunburst Award with Catharine MacLeod’s Hide and Seek winning in short fiction. Now, to hopefully repeat that sucess, I will be editing an anthology of speculative fiction, due to be published by Exile Editions in the spring of 2018. Read on for Alice Unbound guidelines.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. Many characters in his tales are anthropomorphic, whether talking cards, crying mock turtles or saucy Tiger Lilies. Over 150 years later, people still recognize characters from Carroll’s works. Who doesn’t know of vorpal blades and tardy white rabbits, protagonists and antagonists that resonate in a primal part of the human psyche. They hearken to the mysticism and mystery of the ancient world, when one wondered how the rain fell, or which gods empowered madness through drink, or whether a person was separate from an animal or could become one.

Alice in Wonderlnand, Through the Looking Glass, fantasy, speculative

Sir John Tenniel’s famous Alice illustrations. The Griffin, the Mock Turtle and Alice.

Centuries passed and myth became fairy tale, evolving to resonate with each era, showing the triumphs of the common man, the humble and generous woman who outsmarts tempters, jailers, and evil stepmothers, or the trials and tribulations of seeking the unknown. Carroll’s characters jumped forward, not just following the regular metamorphosis of an age-old tale, but leaping off the cliff of the familiar into something altogether new, different and endearing. We might not truly want to live in the world of Alice or have to deal with mad queens and bandersnatches, but what if that Wonderland ceased to exist on a separate plain, and melded with our modern world? How would these characters fit in, and what would they bring or change? Are we ready to accept Alice Unbound into our hearts and let the Jabberwock in the back door?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was Carroll’s most famous work but there are other stories and poems (some within the greater works) where madcap creatures abound. Alice Unbound should contain an element of the speculative and may embrace fabulist, weird, myth, SF, fantasy, steampunk, horror, etc. Other speculative elements or characters may be combined in any way. I don’t want to see rehashings of Carroll’s tales but stories taking place in a modern or slightly futuristic world. I’ve seen many of the Alice as well. If you have a talking cat, it must be recognizable as the Cheshire Cat. I will consider a few very select poems, but they must have a storyline and not just be an observation or an image. You should not be copying Carroll’s style but telling a new tale in your voice.  Too many stories submitted with the same character will limit chances of the story being accepted. The anthology needs to go beyond Alice in every way.

Whether the Mad Hatter, the mock turtle, or Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, use Carroll’s elements and characters to write a new tale. QUILTBAG or people of colour as characters are encouraged. Alice doesn’t have to be white and blonde. I will accept any characters from the following works . I have not read everything so if you want to write about another character that fits into Carroll’s fantastical tales, please write first and ask.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    Lion and unicorn, Alice, Through the Looking Glass

    Sir John Tenniel illustration.

  • Through the Looking Glass
  • The Hunting of the Snark
  • Phantasmagoria

These are story examples only but not requirements:

  • The caterpillar is the owner of a medical marijuana store but turns out to be part of a moonlighting superhero team by night.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter’s strange relationship is strained farther when they both fall for a mermaid, who crusades for the murdered oysters.
  • The Snark is as elusive as the Sasquatch, but when they vie for the same space in endangered environment, what happens?
  • The last Jabberwock is captured and used to battle an overpopulation of vampires.

Writers must be Canadian citizens (living in Canada and/or paying taxes in Canada) or permanent residents of Canada. LGBQLT, POC are encouraged to submit. I will read cover letters last and will choose stories on merit first. This resource may be of use in your research: www.alice-in-wonderland.net

Payment: .05/word

Length: 2,000-5,000 words. Poetry: minimum 1,000 words.

Submission window: Feb. 1 to May 31 at: https://exilepublishing.submittable.com/submit Please go to this site to see some expanded information.

Simultaneous submissions: No; if you submit to me, please do not send it anywhere else until you receive a rejection.

Multiple submissions: You may send one story, or two poems. Please wait until I’ve sent a rejection before you send anything else. I may hold some pieces until the submission window is closed.

Acceptances: Final acceptances will go out a month after the submission window closes. I may ask for rewrites before making a final decision.

Manuscript format: Please use standard manuscript format (Google William Shunn): CDN spelling, double-space (except for poems), no extra spaces between paragraphs, indented paragraphs, title, etc. Failure to follow formatting may see your piece rejected unread.

Now, don your Mad Hatter’s cap, clean out the teapot and start writing.

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Filed under fairy tales, fantasy, horror, myth, poetry, Publishing, science fiction, SF, Writing

Writing Update

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

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

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

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

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

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

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

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

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

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

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

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

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