Tag Archives: Playground of Lost Toys

Convention Update

I’m at When Words Collide, an ever expanding convention in Calgary. While it has a heavy focus on speculative fiction there are romance and mystery writers here as well. Yesterday I was on a panel about writing and making a living at it. The four of us on the panel agreed that you can’t make a living but talked about the money you can make, some innovative ways to market poetry and some of the reasons we write poetry, as well as what is a poem.

I was then on a panel with Nancy Kilpatrick, Pat Flewwelling and Brandy Ackerley on why we need dark fiction and horror. We discussed how it dark fiction/’fantasy has evolved, marketing and genre names (weird fiction, dark fiction, horror, etc.) and why we need it. Why are people repelled, why are they drawn to it and what are our monsters and fears.

I also sat on the panel for one of the live action slush groups, where people turn in one page, which is read out loud. The panel of four editors put up there hand when they would stop reading. We made it through several pieces and overall the writing was good. A full house on that one.

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

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

Today, I’m only on the autograph signing and of course attending the Aurora Awards, where Playground of Lost Toys is up for an award (co-edited with Ursula Pflug). I’m also in the anthologies nEvermore! and Second Contacts (cowritten with Rhea Rose), which are up for the same award. I’ve also been visiting with and getting reacquainted with many of the writers I sometimes only see virtually.  On Sunday, if you’re attending the con, I’ll be on the panel for poetry markets and approaches and doing a reading afterwards with three other poets. At 4pm I’ll be doing a blue pencil session. There is one space left and if you bring 1-2 pages I will edit and comment on it. There really isn’t time for more than one so first come first served.

I have other sales to report but that will have to wait. Though you can check out Heroic Fantasy Quarterly for my poem “The Persuaders,” and Maple Tree Literary Supplement for four poems titled “Cuntipotent,” “Cremating Love,” “Oh You!” and “Come and Go.” These are hard hitting poems about sex and sexuality. Now, back to the con. 🙂

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Writing Update

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

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

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

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

steampunk, cogs, clockwork, Buffalo Gals, fantasy

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

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

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

The Beauty of Death, edited by Alessandro Manzetti.

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

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

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

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Writing: 2015’s Year in Review

I’m a bit late with this, so imagine where I’m going to be with my taxes this year. I’m recapping last year’s writing accomplishments. I managed to complete a novel that’s taken far too many years and it’s off making the rounds.

speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF, Years Best

From left to right: Burning Maiden, nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, Playground of Lost Toys, Second Contacts, New Canadian Noir, (front) On Spec Summer, Best of Horror Library, Imaginarium: Best of Canadian Speculative Fiction, and Blood in the Rain

Last year was very busy. How busy? What do all the books in the picture above have in common? Why, I’m in them all. The biggest project was Playground of Lost Toys and I’m pleased to say that Ursula Pflug and I (co-editors) are nominated for an Aurora Award in Best Related Works for the anthology, published by Exile Editions.The books to the left and right are nEvermore! Tales of Murder, Mystery and the Macabre, and Second Contacts are also nominated. My story “Asylum” is in the first and “Scar Tissue,” written with Rhea Rose in the second.

Burning Maiden Vol. 2 published three of my poems, “As I Sleep,” “Medusa” and “Tea Party,” and On Spec published my poem “The Hedge Witch” along with an interview of me, which actually came out in January though it says summer 2015. Those weren’t the only poems: “Visitation: Leda’s Lament” was in the HWA Poetry Showcase, “the moon: Fever Dream” was in Pantheon magazines Nyx issue, “Morrigan’s Song” was in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly #24, “Persephone Dreams: Awakening” was in Eternal Haunted Summer’s summer issue, and “I Dreamed A World” was published at Polu Texni. This last poem is also nominated for a Rhysling Award (SF Poetry Association) in the long form category. (Clicking on any story or poem title will take you to the actual piece.)

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

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

 

Other stories included three reprints: “The Book With No End” (which made it to the Stoker award longlist in 2014) was reprinted in CZP’s Imaginarium 2014: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing. And “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha” (honorable mention in the Year’s Best Horror) was republished in Best of Horror Library I-V. In Blood in the Rain, a collection of erotic vampire fiction, my story “Hold Back the Night” was reprinted. This story had also been shortlisted for several awards and received two honorable mentions in the Year’s Best anthologies.

A couple of online stories appeared in Black Treacle with “Shaping Destiny,” and “Symbiosis” in the Scottish Shoreline of Infinity #1. “Pears and Swine” an erotic noir story appeared in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.

So, yes, it was a very busy year. On top of that I wrote 33 new poems for a collection contest, only to find the publisher had been sucked into a vortex and disappeared. Now I’m shopping that around as well.

This year has started out busy and successful and I have several more projects brewing but I’ll save these for another post.

 

 

 

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Playground of Lost Toys: The Last–Story

Today wraps up the interviews with the authors of Playground of Lost Toys. Last but not least is Kate Story, but before I get to Kate’s story, I wanted to just mention that I’m hosting the West Coast launch tomorrow night in Vancouver. If you’re not doing anything, come out to the Railway Club to hear five of the authors read. Food and drinks from the bar and books will be available for sale.

speculative fiction, anthology, Exile Editions, Canadian launches, Vancouver readigns

Playground of Lost Toys launches Feb. 10 for the West Coast

Now, Kate wrote “Show and Tell,” which ties into those many days we spent in school, where there were good times, but also bad time. Revisiting the place of old memories can stir up the past and present different possibilities. This story also involves a doll, which turns out to be the vehicle for change.

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

Ursula sent out an eleventh-hour call for submissions. I’d managed to miss the initial call, and when I got her message, it felt like an assignment. I love assignments. The premise was very evocative for me.

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

Canadian writers, speculative stories, alternate realities, fantasy, dolls

Kate Story is a writer and performance artist.

I did actually have a Saucy Doll, although I don’t think I ever brought her to Show and Tell. I was bullied as a child, although not as badly as my protagonist. But I was haunted for many years as a young adult that my life had branched off at some point, and I’d missed my boat somehow—as if I was in some parallel reality that wasn’t really mine. I was in the wrong world. It was a rather nightmarish feeling, and constant.

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

I wonder sometimes if what and how we choose to remember has more power than we think it does. In no way do I want to be victim-blaming here. I dislike the whole “The Secret” kind of thing intensely—it’s really oppressive—so, you’re a child soldier, I guess you just didn’t envision your ideal future HARD enough. No, no. But on a more subtle level the material we have to work with—our past, our present— there’s alchemy there. At least, that was the idea I was interested in looking at.

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

There’s something very appealing to me about the ugliness of some toys. Even as a kid we kind of know they’re ugly, yet we love them. The broken, the horrid, the unwanted—I wish we worked harder to hold onto our ability to fall in love with that.

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

I just had a piece come out in Stone Skin Press’s Gods, Memes and Monsters a 21st Century Bestiary. The collection is excellent—yay, Heather Wood! And last year I had a story in Carbide Tipped Pens, a SF collection from Tor Books edited by the marvelous Ben Bova and Eric Choi. Upcoming, I have a story in Exile’s Canadian Steampunk anthology edited by the wonderful Dominik Parisien, Clockwork Canada. And next year my first young adult fantasy novel will come out with ChiZine Press. STOKED. My website is www.katestory.com

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Mehrota & Yuan-Innes

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

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

Today, I have Rati Mehrota and Melissa Yuan-Innes. Not every tale in Playground of Lost Toys has an actual child in it, but both of these do and the children are very central. Both of these stories examine the magic we see or grasp as children, but in different ways. Rati’s “Chaya and Loony Boy” is one of the doll stories we actually accepted, and there were many.

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

It’s such an enchanting topic! The power of once-beloved toys, memories of childhood, and a speculative twist all coming together in one unique anthology. I knew at once that I wanted to read this collection when it was published. And close on the heels of that thought—hey, I have just the right story that might fit under this lovely umbrella.

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

Rati Mehrota, author of “Chaya and Loony Boy”

Absolutely. While the story itself is fiction, I grew up in just such a house as I have described – my grandmother’s house. I also had a doll with only one eye to whom I ascribed various magical properties. And I did lose her in the end. But my grandmother never locked me in the attic!

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

The theme of otherness, of loneliness, and how we give and take power from ordinary objects to increase our own sense of control.

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

Just that it was a joy to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in this collection.

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

I am currently working on a fantasy novel based in an alternative, post-apocalyptic version of Asia. I have several short stories published and upcoming in various venues—the best place to find them (or news of me) is at my blog ratiwrites.com. In particular I am very excited about the upcoming Exile anthology Clockwork Canada which will include my story “Komagata Maru.”

Melissa Yuan-Innes is a prolific writer, with many mystery/thriller novels to her name. “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” was a gentle tale that hitches on every adult’s fear for their child, that they will get sick. And like dvs duncan’s story “Treasure,” there is the wish that the adult might regain the lost magic of childhood.

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

Money. Fame. And the desire to join a collection of excellence.

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

In this case, I was thinking more of my son Max’s childhood. I wanted to capture his world, making the transition from toddlerhood to preschooler years: the tenderness, the stubbornness (fighting over getting his Crocs on and off!), the imperfect words.

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

What if magic really existed? How would a day care worker—or an ordinary mother—react? I figured it would range the gamut from calm acceptance to fear to exploitation.

One of the sayings that resonated with me was “As a mother, you’re wearing your heart outside your body for the rest of your life.” If my son or daughter had the opportunity to learn magic, I would be excited but wary, too. Is it real? What’s the cost? Because nothing’s free, baby.

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

I’m so glad that I captured Max then. He’s nine years old now! If you’re a writer or an artist as well as a parent/caregiver, I encourage you to use your talent to freeze-flash your children for a moment. I want to thank Max and Anastasia’s caregivers, and really all people who take care of our children. It’s such important work, under-recognized in our society, but it touches my heart when people truly look after my kids and get to know them as individuals instead of little widgets. I’d like to thank Liz, Gisele, Aly, Tanya, Mme. Marguerite, Catherine, Ben, and Sabrina.

This interview made me realize that I’d never read “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years” to Max. So I did it last night. He enjoyed seeing himself. “Not bad. I’m kind of the star.”

 

Yuan

Melissa Yuan-Innes’ mystery thriller is a new release involving medicine.

One more thing. After the Can Con mini-launch of the Playground of Lost Toys, a reader named Rene told me he’s volunteered at his daughter’s day care for fifteen years, and I got the details right. We laughed about things like the fact that parent-friends will know the names of all your kids, but you’re just “Julie’s mom.” That’s your name. You don’t have any other identity now. He also liked that it seemed like a lighthearted story instead of a grim, bloody one. I assured him that it was. I have bloody stories, but I don’t write them about my fictionalized children.

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

Speaking of bloody, I write a lot of mysteries. I’m very proud of my latest Hope Sze medical thriller, Stockholm Syndrome (http://melissayuaninnes.com/), about a hostage-taking on an obstetrics ward in Montreal. If you click on that link, you can check out my TV, CBC Radio, and print interviews about it. Some readers have told me it’s my best book, which is satisfying. I like to think my skills are improving. I also have a new collection of critically acclaimed short mystery stories, Reckless Homicide: Five Tales of Death and Deception (http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/reckless-homicide-five-tales-of-death-and-deception/). I’m also proud of my werewolf thriller, Wolf Ice. http://melissayuaninnes.com/books/wolf-ice/​

Fantasy-wise, Fireside has slated my short story, “Fairy Tales are for White People,” for its February issue. It’s about the power of family, magic, and Chinese barbecue. Galen Dara has created gorgeous art for it. It may be my favourite art piece ever! http://www.firesidefiction.com/

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Whan & MacLeod

Meagan Whan and Catharine MacLeod are the authors featured today. Their tales both start out innocently enough, involving a found die and a game of hide and seek. However, these stories have a darker heart as you read them.

Meagan’s “The Die” looks at alternate realities. It’s another one that touches on time travel, but worked well without getting twisted in its own logic (one reason I hate many time travel stories). But it might also be the same time and just an alternate universe.

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

 I was reading calls for submissions and the concept of a supernatural toy intrigued me. It seemed like a good challenge to come up with a unique toy. As a sometimes doll maker (I made the one in the photo), I thought of dolls first, but they seemed too common, so, I continued to think of options. Once I thought of the die, Elizabeth’s story snapped into place.

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

toys, games, chance, dice, alternate realities

Meagan Whan makes dolls but “The Die” looks at the game of chance when it involves your future.

When I was a child, my father and I were in the vegetable garden digging and unearthed a porcelain figurine of a hound dog. A curious find as our property had been a field before we lived there and the figurine did not belong to us. The owner of that figurine, like the origin of the die in my story, remains a mystery. 

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

I’ve always been interested in stories involving multiple universes, alternate takes on a single character. I wanted to play with the variations of a character, exploring how different decisions would alter her circumstances and those of the people in her life.

The human mind is constantly prophesying/ planning for innumerable futures; in those moments, we are all living “alternate” lives.

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

There’s such a great variety of stories in the collection. I look forward to sharing the book with the people in my life, and I hope readers enjoy the collection.

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

I’m working on two projects, one an episodic story about brothers in the 1930’s & 1940’s, the other a low fantasy about loss. Sometime in the new year I’m hoping to set up a presence on social media.

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

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

Catharine story looks at what it means to become an expert at the game of hide and seek. But in fact, there are two different ways to hide, and the seeking travels the very dark edge of terror. Like the game of hide and seek, you eventually want to be found, but that’s only if you know you’re in the game.
 1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys?
I had a strange little story that didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I submitted it to PLT with my fingers crossed.
 2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood?
I used to be pretty good at Hide-and-Seek. But thank Heaven that’s all I have in

macleod

Catharine MacLeod’s “Hide and Seek” explores what it means to be truly invisible.

common with my main character.

 3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story?
It fascinates me how some people can go completely unnoticed–and scares me how many people actually want to.
 4. Is there anything else you wish to mention about your story or the theme of the anthology?
The only toy I can ever remember losing was my Slinky. I found it a week later in my mom’s garden. She’d wound it around the tomato plants to keep the rabbits off them.
 5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?
The only story I have out that’s really current is “Sorrow’s Spy” in CZP’s The Unauthorized James Bond. My story “Sideshow” will be in Imaginarium 4. Beyond that, I don’t know. The writer’s life, it’s all about the hustle…

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Abrahamson & Renwick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Simmons & Dorsey

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

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

Today’s authors are Shane Simmons and Candas Jane Dorsey. Playground of Lost Toys, by its nature and the guidelines Ursula Pflug and I set up, has many stories that deal with nostalgia and loss. Not all but many look at family as well.

Shane Simmons wrote “When the Trains Run on Time.” It’s a very clever play on time travel, and I have to say that I don’t overall much like time travel stories. Shane’s tale was so poignant and sad that it grabbed me and tugged on my heart. It is one of the darker stories in the anthology and definitely worth a read.

toys, trains, Shane Simmons, tragedy, SF, time travel

Shane Simmons draws and writes. Picture borrowed from Shane’s site Eyestrain Productions.

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

The only good reason for submitting a story to an anthology: I had an idea that was on-topic and a story worth telling. Playground of Lost Toys was a compelling concept for a collection, and I knew I had to come up with something that would fit.

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

It was very much inspired by a model train set I got for Christmas one year. Mine didn’t come with a tunnel that warped time, however.

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

Every kid can’t wait to grow up. Childhood seems to take so long, but before you know it you’re an adult and the years fly by.

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

A lot of my work has to do with twisted, distorted memories of my youth. I’ve made a living for years writing cartoons for kids, so when I’m writing material for my own amusement, it often explores the dark side of childhood.

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

I’ve had seven short stories published last year, with three more scheduled for 2016 so far, plus a novella. All the news about my career that’s fit to print can be found on my website, eyestrainproductions.com.

Candas Jane Dorsey’s tale “The Food of My People” has a very homey type of magic. It’s tied up as much in the person as it is in the rich visions of food. This story explores not so much the loss of a toy as the loss of something or someone special in a child’s life. (brackets are added by me)

fiction, fantasy, puzzles, Playground of Lost Toys

Candas Jane Dorsey brings us The Food of My People. Picture from Gigcity.ca

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

I loved the idea of the anthology, and the editors are great, and I had a story in progress that I could finish in time! As people probably know, I am a slow writer, so I don’t usually write anthology stories to order for calls for submission. But I tried with this one–but it wasn’t this anthology–and of course, I missed the deadline. But the outcome was great. I was really impressed with the editors and with the publisher, so meticulous about catching the errors and typos and little bits of illogic that crept in unbeknownst. So first off, thanks to everyone involved!

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

About half of Cubbie is based on my godmother. But my godmother was also really different: she was plump, yes, but rather more elegant, wore corsets and those black lace-up oxfords with Cuban heels, and her son was a diplomat so she was always going off to live in Japan or somewhere, and sending me presents from there (her daughter-in-law was in a famous diplomatic incident in South Africa actually, where she marched in an anti-apartheid march, but that’s another story). The half that is Cubbie is the comfort and love half. I meant to put in her candy jars but the story was already too long.

What is really based on my life is the food. It’s Alberta prairie family reunion food (non-Ukrainian variety–so alas, no pyroghy!) My relatives in central Alberta all had gardens, went berry picking, cooked well, and food was central to the experience. Jellied salads at family reunions–a staple food. My mother made an awesome flapper pie–though it’s a pain to make and you have to be in the mood–and used to whip up a bread pudding every couple of weeks to use up the stale bread. Saskatoon pie. Kraft dinner spun out with some “real” macaroni and some real cheese, but still that electric yellow-orange colour. Makes me hungry–even now it says comfort-food to my backbrain.

There was a lot of food I didn’t have a chance to include. Beets and beet greens–yum. The Galloping Gourmet’s curry sauce, so mild and therefore beloved by all the prairie food conservatives even in the 1960s. I just found out that one of my best friend’s mom made the very same sauce, from the same source. My mother is in the story as “the lady in the next bed” who was 99 and still telling stories, because she was both those things. That was one of the last things I put in. My mother died this spring (2015) at the age of 99 years 5 months. Even though she worked at home for years during our childhood, she wasn’t temperamentally suited to it. She always said “cook” and “bake” were four-letter words, and was a reader and historian and toponymist–but whatever she took on she did well, and I still remember her flapper pie and bread pudding. And a candy called “seafoam” that was really little meringues, and too hard to make more than about once a year. That was the first recipe I asked for when I left home. (Bread pudding was the second one I wrote in my recipe book in my own house, but I knew it from watching–it was never written down.)

And we had a jigsaw puzzle that was a big red dot. We did it. Once. (Once.)

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

My original idea was for an anthology Nalo Hopkinson edited called Mojo Conjure. I have always been annoyed at how fantasy writers who come from what’s now being called “settler” roots have taken over the voudoun and First Nations mythologies because they are “cool.” Don’t we have enough imagination to think about where our own cultures’ magic comes from? But at the same time, I am divorced from my own heritage by immigrant circumstances, so I have no idea what the Celtic or Anglo-Saxon stories from my family’s origins were either, even though my heritage is English and Scots. I am third and fourth generation on this land–but what is the magic of my people? So I decided to think up some “mojo conjure” of my own personal heritage, and this is what came out.

A lot later, long after I’d missed Nalo’s deadline, the image of the last red piece dissolving on Cubbie’s tongue came to me, and I realized then where the story had to go. When I saw the call for this anthology, I was delighted, and I pushed myself to finish the story on time. I sent it to Ursula (and Colleen) thinking that it was too long but it was too new to be objective about it so I told her she had to help me cut it! When she accepted it, then I was motivated, and I did manage to cut it back, a bit.

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

Reading the anthology when my author copy arrived was really a wonderful experience. Such a variety of works! I’m always surprised at how a story looks in print, so formal, after having ideas for it in the bathtub, or while half alseep. The readers can’t see the state my hair was in when I was writing it! I was really impressed with the range of ideas. Also how spooky some people think childhood is. That comes of all those years being the weird kids in the class, I guess. Or at least, I was. (Baby writers probably mostly were That Kid at the Back–or the Picked-On Kid…)

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

My novel Black Wine was recently re-released by Five Rivers Publishing, and is available as an eBook or paper book. Originally my novels were from Tor, and I also have two short fiction collections that are out of print at the moment. Five Rivers and I are talking about bringing some of those out again too, in the fullness of time.

In progress, I have finished two mystery novels about a nameless bisexual downsized social worker and her cat Fuc…er, Bunny-wit. She lives in the inner city and knows a lot of diverse people, and has gotten into two very different adventures, one with drag queens and religious fundamentalists, and one with software millionaires. I also have a YA novel about an intersex teen. All these are off in the slowly-grinding mills of the gods, being Pronounced Upon. I’m working on a Great Looming Serious Novel which may or may not be fantasy, and which I am completing with the help of a project grant from the Edmonton Arts Council which is finished soon, so I am off in a fog at the moment, thinking about scene order…

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Cole & Duncan

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short storiesGeoffery Cole and dvs duncan are the featured authors today in the Playground of Lost Toys. Cole’s story “Wheatiesfield in Fall” is humorous but a warning of what happens when you lose touch with the world around you and immerse yourself in games. In this case the game is woven with one’s life and when you defeat the boss, he is in fact your boss in the work world.

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

The premise worked well with one of the story ideas sitting on my “To Do” pile. The list is very long at this point, as I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years, but I will sometimes take a break from the novel if a theme anthology comes along and it meshes nicely with one of the story buds on the list.

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

 Old video games evoke a different kind of nostalgia than watching a childhood movie or reading a favourite childhood book. I had pneumonia as a kid, and as a result, I had to stay home from school for several weeks. I’m sure I watched lots of TV and read many books during my illness, but all I really remember is playing A Link to the Past on my friend Jamie’s Super Nintendo that he lent to me (we had a Sega Genesis). We’re still best friends, close to twenty-five years later. Every few years I find a SNES emulator and take ALTTP for a spin, and I’m instantly transported back to those days of banana-flavoured antibiotics and the quest for the Triforce. The music alone is enough to make me start looking for a boomerang.

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

I wanted to explore the gamification of mundane life in “Wheatiesfields in Fall.” In the future depicted in the story, every transaction or interaction is gamified: you gain gold and experience points for performing well at work, at school, playing games. Having marital relations with your spouse also rewards you with experience and gold. Gold lets you buy things in this world, and experience points determines your level, which has far-reaching impacts on your daily life. The main character, the low-level Loufis, lusts after a higher-level woman, Nurse T. By virtue of their level disparity, she is forever out of his reach.

Level determines the jobs you can get, the transportation you can take, the houses you can buys. Level also affects what happens after you die. Loufis works at an Upload Palace, a place where people have their personality uploaded to a computer. Low-level people send their copied personalities to Upland, a digital afterlife, but for higher-level people, they have the option of downloading into a new body. Extra lives, the most coveted resource in video games, become a reality for high-level people in this gamified world. Those who win extra lives also tend to own all the gold, creating a society of rampant inequality.

The antagonist of the story, Mr. Yao, has won several extra lives and has amassed a huge fortune in his centuries on Earth. As he prepares for yet another download, he sends Loufis on a quest to find a video game he played way back in his first life. For Mr. Yao, that video game symbolizes everything he’s lost in his too-many years. For Loufis, it is the key to levelling up and maybe winning Nurse T’s heart.

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

I recently learned that China has created a system that could end functioning much like the level system I described in my story. It is terrifying stuff, and I hope the Chinese people see it for what it is and shut it down.   5. What other projects do you have in the works, or pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.

5. 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 out from Nameless Digest next year, and I’ve been asked to contribute a story to Grimm Futures, which has been very fun to put together. I’ll be shopping around my novel Frozen Jellyfish Blues next year as well. Most of my published work is available through my website, www.geoffreywcole.com. Drop by and say hello.

dvs duncan, Treasure, short fiction, transformers

dvs duncan journeys into the Playground of Lost Toys

Next is dvs duncan, who wrote “Treasure,”very much a tale of loss and regret and that wish to capture something of the innocence of childhood and simpler times.

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

It liked the premise of the anthology. Perhaps I have never entirely left childhood behind. I still have a fascination with toys and jealously guard a few treasures from my youth. It seemed only natural to write about such things.

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

“Treasure” does not relate explicitly to anything in my childhood but every toy I had was imbued with magic. They were my companions and guides on incredible journeys. I have recently been reminded of this while watching my grandchildren play.

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

I think that real toys are mysterious and I love a good mystery. A real toy is not just a piece of plastic and metal and cloth. A real toy is something created out of imagination. Its bones might have been fabricated by Mattel or Hasbo, but its flesh and blood are the vision and inspiration of the child that plays with it. It was these latter aspects I wanted to explore and how they reflect our relationship with the work as a whole.

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

I hope that the anthology will inspire people to examine the meaning of toys a little more closely and, by doing so, come to know themselves better. Our toys, and the ways we play with them, tell us something fundamental about who we are.

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

I am finishing edits on a novel, a story of how the Victorian village of Chandling on Wode is transported to an alien work where the stalwart Brits are forced to deal with overly inquisitive robot spiders, marauding aliens and a super intelligent computer on a mission to save the universe. Dame Hesta Electra Rutherford is utterly horrified by this unseemly translocation and will have things put to rights. She has a plan and it just might work if they can find a fresh supply of tea.

 

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Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Adler & Davies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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