Tag Archives: Sandra Kasturi

The Chi Reading Series

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster - July 2014The truth is I’ve been far too busy to blog of late and so my blog has been suffering badly. My day job became overwhelming and has eaten all of my energy. I’m hoping that will change soon. So, in trying to keep a toe over the threshold and into the world I’d like to mention that I’m still hosting the ChiSeries Vancouver, part of the Chiaroscuro Reading series started in Toronto some five or so years ago by Sandra Kasturi and friends. In Toronto, where the wild things are, and there is an abundance of culture and population, the series has run successfully every month.

Cov_TheDoorThatFacedWest_large

On sale at the reading, as well as A Parliament of Crows, and Of Thimble and Threat The Life of a Ripper Victim

Last year, along with Ottawa and Winnipeg, we launched in April, and ran quarterly, with readings in July, Oct. and then in February. The next one would have been May but EDGE Publishing was bringing dark fiction author and vampire aficionado Nancy Kilpatrick in May so we did a reading with Nancy, which included  Rhea Rose and me reading as well. With these readings we had several hurdles to get beyond. One was the venues brought some challenges, and with the new reading for this July 22nd we will be moving to the Cottage Bistro at 4468 (or possibly 4470) Main St. The Cottage Bistro is known for hosting live music as well as several other reading series and is happy to have the ChiSeries on stage.

This is an exciting and very central venue so I’m hoping that many people will come out and enjoy the tales. ChiSeries is free and the readers are TheIncomingTidepublished authors of speculative fiction and poetry. This includes science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, mythical, dark fiction, horror and all subgenres in between. This July, we have guests arriving from Oregon: Alan M. Clark, Kirsten Alene, and Cameron Pierce.

Some people might recognize Alan’s name. He has been a well-known and award-winning artist in the dark fiction genre for a number of years. He was this year’s emcee for the World Horror Convention, as well. His paintings range from thoughtful to disturbing and he has created illustrations for hundreds of books, including works of fiction of various genre,s nonfiction, textbooks, young adult fiction, and children’s books. Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chelsey Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including seven novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His latest novel, The Door That Faced West, was released by Lazy Fascist Press February, 2014.

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Kirsten Alene’s book will be available at the reading.

Writing couple Kirsten Alene  and Cameron Pierce live in Portland, Oregon. Kirsten’s books include Japan Conquers the Galaxy, Unicorn Battle Squad, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, and the forthcoming short story collection, Rules of Appropriate Conduct from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2015. Her work has appeared in such places as Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Innsmouth Magazine and The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction.

Cameron Pierce’s ten books include the Wonderland Book Award-winning collection Lost in Cat Brain Land, Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon, and the forthcoming novella The Incoming Tide. His work has been praised by The Guardian, Cracked.com and many others. Cameron is also the editor of three anthologies, most recently In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch, and is head editor of the popular indie publisher Lazy Fascist Press.

The reading runs from 7:30 until about 10;30 pm on July 22. Come join us or leave me a message here if you’d like to get onto a mailing list for future events. If you’re interested in the other ChiSeries events in the other cities, check out the Facebook pages and the website:  http://chiseries.com/

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News in the Summer

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A collection of previously published speculative fiction, available through Smashwords and soon through Amazon.

Okay, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks. I was working hard to get my book up on Smashwords, and Embers Amongst the Fallen is available now there. It turns out that Smashwords, while they say they put it up on Amazon, doesn’t really because Amazon won’t accept from Smashwords. So I next have that to do.

I also put up two previously published erotic stories, under my pen name, T.C. Calligari. Those are all available now but will soon be up on Amazon. I’m still hoping to have my end of the month goal of the print edition of Embers.  I have other writing news, some that I can reveal and some that is in the works.

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Obvious what this one is about.

Imaginarium: the best Canadian speculative writing has come out through ChiZine Publications and is edited by Sandra Kasturi and Halli Vallegas. Any one who has had published speculative pieces for 2012 can submit to the next one, as long as you’re Canadian, living in Canada or expat Canadian. None of my pieces placed in it but I did received two honorable mentions fro poems:

  • Anderson, Colleen. “Darkside,” ChiZine.com, April 2011
  • Anderson, Colleen. “Shadow Realms,” Witches & Pagans #23

I did sell another poem to Polu Texni.It’s a villanelle titled “Mermaid” and I don’t know yet when it will be up on the site. As well, just before I left for holidays (hence the big lag in posts) I found out I had sold my flash fiction piece “Lady of the Bleeding Heart” to Fantastic Frontiers for their second issue. Their first issue will be coming soon.

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Through Dagan Books, available soon.

I’m still waiting for another poem to go up at Bull Spec. Better ask them again as it’s been a year. And I think Bibliotheca Fantastica is coming out soon with my story “The Book with No End.” I’m negotiating a contract for a story right now and if we can agree on that contract I will be able to announce that information soon. As well, I will be editing an anthology and I’m just waiting for the moment to announce that, when the publisher gives the go. More details by September. So, yes, it’s been very busy in the writing front, and I’m certainly not done. Rewriting a story, working on several others and of course trying to get more works up on Smashwords in the near future.

The posts were on hold for the last two weeks because I drove from Vancouver to Calgary to visit family, friends and to go to the When Words Collide writing convention. The Aurora Awards were also being presented and I was a nominee in the poetry category. I did not win but Helen Marshall did for Skeleton Leaves and it was well deserved. If you can, go get a copy of this lovely book that is a poem that is a story.

When Words Collide was great fun. Held at the Best Western in NW Calgary, it wasn’t all about speculative literature but there was definitely a large portion that favored this area. The Romance Writers were also present. Panels abounded and numerous authors from across Canada were there to read, be on panels and hobnob. Jack Whyte was guest of honor but had to leave early due to a family emergency. But not before he showed up at a room party wearing a dapper shirt, singing in his deep voice, chatting amiably with his lovely thick accent and flirting with the crowd. I’m not sure he was responsible for all the scotch but he was definitely a major contributor. Perhaps it was the power of his dark sorcery that left a few people looking a little green in the morning.

There were book launches and parties by ChiZine Publications, Bundoran Press, the Steampunk group, Edge Publications and others. I got to meet many new people and put faces to some names. I bought a few books and am currently reading Nancy Kilpatrick’s collection Vampyric Variations.

The weather was hot, the hailstones, when they fell, the size of golfballs & then peas, and the company great. In between all that I made a trip to Edmonton to visit more family. It’s been a long time since I did the long drive out to Alberta. I broke it up by staying with friends in Penticton. Overall the trip was really good and that’s because I saw lots of people and visited with some great friends including Andy Tarrant, the talented artist of Trespasser Ceramics. If you’re looking for a gift, check out his site.

One thing I forgot on my drive, was how beautiful the mountains really are. Rogers pass was filled with blues; azure, indigo, phthalo, navy, and greens: emerald, kelly, peridot, lime, forest and more. The scenery is truly amazing and the weather was perfect. Of course I didn’t stop, thinking I would do this on the way back and then I couldn’t find my camera. I thought I had left it in Calgary until I got to Revelstoke and realized it was in a bag with books. Of course it was too late then. I love the scenery around Merritt as well where it turns into rolling hills spilling out of the Coquihalla, with ponds tucked in between. So lovely. Too bad the drive is so long and a bit hard for me. Next time I might see if I can snag someone to share.

I had limited internet and decided to just enjoy the break. I’m right back in the swing of things now, and on to the new writing projects. I expect to be quite busy this fall, and hope to even get a few readings going where my book will be available for sale. More on the writing front as it happens.

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Writing: The Cover Art Process

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks getting Embers Amongst the Fallen ready for publication. I decided to go the electronic reader route first and chose Smashwords, which will format it for different ereaders, PDFs and html. While formatting a story is relatively easy (I have a couple of stories I will be putting up) the formatting of a book with titles, footnotes and table of contents took far more time. And even then I had to keep correcting items. Eric Warren of Creative Touch Design Group did the cover for the book. I’ve never had control of the cover before and the process was an interesting one.

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One of our first tries, before I changed the title.

Eric is a friend, a writer and a great photographer. I told him that I wasn’t sure what I wanted but it needed to be darkish and smeary, with red, brown, green in it. He read a couple of stories and I filled him in on what some of the others were about. The images that caught him were ghost children, a woman being swarmed by insects and a funeral pyre. He sent me the version on the left. I liked the image of the person but I didn’t like the glaring white of the shirt. I liked the blurred features but felt the background was too indistinct. When I stood back and looked at this book there was nothing that really said fantasy or horror and it could just as easily be a book on spiritual inspiration.

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Version two did not have “speculations” but we thought this would help clarify the category though it has confused a few of my friends.

So we talked about it. One problem is finding enough images in the public domain where there isn’t copyright infringement. Sometimes you can change a picture enough. I liked Eric’s ideas and said can you add a wing behind one shoulder of the person? After all, there is a tale of angels in the book as well. With some hunting Eric found the right wings. Sandra Kasturi suggested I go with Embers Amongst the Fallen, taken from the title of one of my stories and much more imagistic than Temptations and Transformations. I also used Facebook to poll people.

Version 4 with image toned down and bugs added.

Version two was significantly closer. It had the blurb from Wayne Sallee, and the new title, flames and wings. But it was still too white. I didn’t like the white. And I liked the blurry androgynous figure better. This one looked like a man. To me it didn’t mesh. I was happy with the font. We decided the blurb was too busy so we dropped it.

Eric sent me a blurry and a non-blurry version because sometimes our brains envision other than reality. I also said, how about a swirl of insects coming over the body and up under “Embers.” Like an S curve, Eric asked. Yeah that’s it. Okay, it was getting better but it was still too white for me. And the font was a little too subtle in color.  I suggested taking the yellow color from the fire and using that on the font instead. The bugs looked more like ships from Star Trek and I wanted some contrasting color. I asked Eric to put a mask on the shirt and make it green and put a slash of green into the background. I also asked for one version with a cursive script just to see how it would look. Eric added a screen to the background, which also helped in texturing.

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Version 7 is getting much closer. There is more depth between the background and the font and the bugs look better.

Version 7 was getting closer. But the cursive font didn’t work. Too light to be seen in a thumbnail image that Smashwords puts up on their site. Eric added in some bees and beetles that helped define the swarm better.  The flames also stood out from the background, and the greens were helping. But the shade on the shirt wasn’t right, too opaque. I asked him to make both like the background color.  Then I was fooling around in Picassa when I downloaded one of his versions and I hit one of the screens. It turned the whole thing a bit more yellow but it made the wings creamy. That’s what I wanted, no white except my name. I also suggested putting a dark green drop-shadow behind the title to differentiate it a bit more.

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Version 10, with many tweaks. At this point I posted it for comments.

We went back to the other font and added Aurora Nominee above my name. He suggested Two-Time Aurora Nominee but I thought that was too much and would be cluttered. We decided to try a few bugs over top of the font. At version 10 I asked for opinions. Overall positive, but I’d already noticed that the beetle over the “L” in Fallen cut the word too much. People said it looked like an “I”. We moved it down but it was still cutting it too much so I said, try a bee instead. We also dropped “Speculations” down a bit to differentiate it as a subtitle. Embers had also been too close to the border so I had Eric bring that down as well.

I’m quite please with how the cover turned out. Eric’s happy with it too. The important thing in designing a cover is to allow for some artistic interpretation and know your first design probably won’t stay.

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Embers Amongst the Fallen available through Smashwords

Your ideas may not come out exactly as you envisioned: I know what I had in my head but it probably would have involved an illustrator. Still, this works well and I let Eric actually begin the process. Bugs and flames and wings speak of more than one thing and it references the 16 tales in this book. So here is the final version and if you would like to order an ecopy go to Smashwords. I should have a print version by the end of August and will post that when I do. Now I’m off to Alberta to the When Words Collide convention where I will be on several panels, do a reading and see if I win the Aurora Award.

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Writing Update: The Collection Progresses

I have actually been too busy to write here but I thought I’d toss in an update on what’s been transpiring.

Deadline for voting in the Aurora Awards closes on Monday, July 23 so if you’re Canadian and would like to vote you can go here. There is also a voters package that contains the works being nominated. Since you pay $10 to vote (unless you already paid to nominate), then you can consider it a purchase of several novels, short, stories, art works and poems. My poem “A Good Catch” is nominated in the poetry category and the awards will be given in Calgary at the When Words Collide convention, which I will be at.

I have a week left to finish my story for Masked Mosaic. It’s been a bit of a struggle so I’m not sure how successful I’ll be. But mostly my time has been taken with formatting and getting my collection of stories ready for putting on Smashwords, for ereaders and then for print. If you’re interested in a print copy, send me a message and I’ll let you know when it’s ready and the cost.

The collection will be called “Embers Amongst the Fallen” and will include sixteen stories, two of them new. Wayne Allen Sallee has written a lovely blurb:

“Anderson is an enigma. Many of her stories evoke the tense subtleties of Shirley Jackson, but then I go on to another story and it breathes of Richard Matheson or the late Ray Bradbury. Few people can pull off the whipsaw of terror to wonder and back, but Colleen makes it way past easy.”

Wayne is a “5 time finalist-Stoker Award-First Novel, Collection, Novella, Novelette, Short Story.” East Coast, dark fiction writer Steve Vernon is writing an introduction for the collection as well so I feel very honored that these people, along with Sandra Kasturi of CZP who proofread it, have agreed to be part of it.

Polu Texni has bought another poem, “Mermaid,” which is written in the style of a villanelle. I’m not sure when it will be up on the site. Now, on to the process of self-producing a book.

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Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

Smashwords is for ereaders and once you have your book formatted they will make it readable for different readers and send out a catalog. You have to meet their formatting guidelines and produce a cover. I have a friend working on one right now. There is a giant book that can be downloaded for free that is the Smashwords style guide. Interestingly enough, it has formatting issues in rtf, but is okay in PDF. It’s written for those who are not even that familiar with using Word. I’m pretty much an expert (though the stupid Office/Word 2007 sucks big time and annoys the hell out of me) so I’m finding the book a bit tedious in some sections. I have to glean through though because some information is buried and some not so clear.

I have got rid of most of the marks and spaces that they require but I also have one story with footnotes and I still have to determine how to make sure those show correctly. I’m presuming once I get to the submission part that I’ll get to review before it goes to the vetters (they send it back if  there are formatting errors). It’s that part that could slow down my release date of Aug. 1.  I’m more than half way through the formatting and just waiting for the intro (and to complete my acknowledgements) so I hope by this weekend I’ll only be dealing with getting the cover art finalized.

It’s been an interesting process and I’ve been working on a few erotic stories to put up as well. Formatting one story is much easier than the book but I’m learning some things when doing this. Stay tuned for the release of my first collection.


			

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Writing Update: Aurora Nominee

Creative commons: photosteve101, flickr

I’ve been really busy for the past few weeks with some freelance editing, and I’ve had little time to post. On top of that, the Rannu competition is open until May 31. It is run by Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi and affords a $500 prize to the winner in each category of short fiction and poetry. I’ve been a runner-up and shortlisted in the past, and a judge but never a winner so I’ll try again. The entry fee is small $5, and it supports a Canadian fund so it’s one of the few paid contests I bother to enter. Anyone in the world can enter as along as the work is in English.

So, this gives me a week to write a story from scratch. While it’s taken me 15 years to finish a story, it’s also taken me a day. I have the plot worked out in my head and as soon as this post is done I’ll be working on it. Sometimes the plot in the head ends up with holes once it’s down on (virtual) paper. I’m hoping I have enough conflict and get the pacing right, because that is still my bane. A writing friend was up for a visit recently and she’s only been writing for about five years and says she’s sold almost everything she’s written. I was stunned. It tells me I still have a way to go. Of course she can write full time, while I squeeze it in around a full day but that’s not an excuse for excellent or poor writing.

One story to finish in a week, and the reprint collection is with a friend for editing. By mid June I hope to start formatting it and writing, awards, rejection, story process, short stories, fiction, speculative writinghave it up on Smashwords by July. My story in Bibliotheca Fantastica “The Book with No End” should come out sometime this summer and I still haven’t heard when Bull Spec will publish my poem. “The Book with No End” was written rather quickly and I tried a template because I often put too much lead-up into my stories (which, coincidentally, is very much how I talk). Even with the template the editor cut out the first two pages. I’m still learning after all these years. And unfortunately there has been a flurry or rejections. When they come all at once it’s ego flattening. But I persevere and continue to hope some stories will find a home.

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Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall won the Aurora last year for best fan organization for the SpecFic Colloquium.

And…just to keep the ego floating, I’m a nominee in poetry again this year for the  Aurora Award. If you’re Canadian (even ex-pat) and care to spend $10 you too can vote for your favorite in Canadian speculative fiction. The list of nominees as well as registering to vote are all on the site. My poem, “A Good Catch” can be viewed at Polu Texni (Apr. 03, 2011 on the site).

I was also out of town this week, visiting an uncle. It turns out I can trace the Norwegian branch of the family (by way of Rovang Gaard and South Dakota) to the 1600s. I’m curious now about the Danish and Italian branches. But that took time, wandering through the memory lane of pictures. There is a book on the Rovang-Nelson descendants called Wilderness Home and I’ve borrowed it from my uncle to read up on my ancestors. I might get a story out of that as well.  Now I go to start the story for the Rannu competition.

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Writing News: Sales and Nominations

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Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, flickr

The Chizine Reading Series will host a reading of the Friends of Merril shortlisted contestants in June. This is in Toronto and while I hope to be there in the fall for the World Fantasy Convention, I won’t be attending this reading. Maybe they can skype us in. My story, “The Ties That Bind” was one of nine shortlisted but not a winner. And speaking of being shortlisted.

I waited to put this out so that it coincided with the official notice for the Aurora Awards. For the second year, I have made it onto the nominating ballot in the poetry category. My poem, “A Good Catch” (still up at Polu Texni) is eligible to win the award. I have a one in five chance. Last year I was the only west coast poet, with the rest being in Toronto and all writers I know. And while I don’t know where Heather Dale lives, I am up against some of the same nominees: Carolyn Clink, Sandra Kasturi and Helen Marshall. And besides Heather, we’re all part of ChiZine Publications. Yes, it is a small world. And ChiZine Publications has done well in the novel category with four of six authors being published by CZP. Voting begins April 16 and goes to July 23. If you’re Canadian and have paid the $10 registration, you can vote.

On top of that I’ve just signed contracts for two stories, which I sold on April 1 & 2. If only all months (and days) were like this. “The Brown Woman” will be in the inaugural issue of Third Flatiron Publishing‘s e-anthology, due out in June with a theme of environmental disaster. This might be the first full-on e-reader style story that I’ve sold. That story has undergone many rewrites and point of view switches.

The story, “The Book with No End” will be out in Bibliotheca Fantastica, an anthology about magical books. Dagan Bookswill put

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Creative Commons: Eric Guiomar

this out sometime this summer. This story is about power and skin. In fact, when I look at many of my stories, they involve some aspect of skin. Even the Brown Woman involves the changing of a skin. It seems to be a theme I keep exploring. After all, skin is one of the largest organs in the body. Yes, it is an organ and considering the area it covers it’s very versatile in holding us together, maintaining our temperature and protecting us from environmental intrusions.

While it’s great to have several stories coming out, I’m by no means getting rich. That’s a work in progress indeed. Below is the full list of the Aurora nominees.

BEST NOVEL – ENGLISH

Enter Night by Michael Rowe, ChiZine Publications
Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism by David Nickle, ChiZine Publications
Napier’s Bones by Derryl Murphy, ChiZine Publications
The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet, ChiZine Publications
Technicolor Ultra Mall by Ryan Oakley, EDGE
Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada

BEST SHORT FICTION – ENGLISH

“The Legend of Gluck” by Marie Bilodeau, When the Hero Comes Home, Dragon Moon
“The Needle’s Eye” by Suzanne Church, Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd Did I Live, EDGE
“One Horrible Day” by Randy McCharles, The 2nd Circle, The 10th Circle Project
“Turning It Off” by Susan Forest, Analog, December
“To Live and Die in Gibbontown” by Derek Künsken, Asimov’s, October/November

BEST POEM / SONG – ENGLISH

“A Good Catch” by Colleen Anderson, Polu Texni, April
“Ode to the Mongolian Death Worm” by Sandra Kasturi, ChiZine, Supergod Mega-Issue, Volume 47
“Skeleton Leaves” by Helen Marshall, Kelp Queen Press
“Skeleton Woman” by Heather Dale, Fairytale CD
“Zombie Bees of Winnipeg” by Carolyn Clink, ChiZine, Supergod Mega-Issue, Volume 47

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL – ENGLISH

Goblins, webcomic, created by Tarol Hunt
Imagination Manifesto, Book 2 by GMB Chomichuk, James Rewucki and John Toone, Alchemical Press
Weregeek, webcomic, created by Alina Pete

BEST RELATED WORK – ENGLISH

Fairytale, CD by Heather Dale, CD Baby
The First Circle: Volume One of the Tenth Circle Project, edited by Eileen Bell and Ryan McFadden
Neo-Opsis, edited by Karl Johanson
On Spec, published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society
Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales, edited by Julie Czerneda and Susan MacGregor, EDGE

BEST ARTIST (PROFESSIONAL AND AMATEUR NOMINATIONS)

(An example of each artist’s work is listed below but they are to be judged on the body
of work they have produced in the award year)

Janice Blaine, “Cat in Space”, Cover art for Neo-Opsis, Issue 20
Costi Gurgu, cover art for Outer Diverse, Starfire
Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications
Dan O’Driscoll, “Deep Blue Seven”, cover art for On Spec magazine, Summer issue
Martin Springett, Interior art for The Pattern Scars, ChiZine

Fan/Volunteer Award Nominations

BEST FAN PUBLICATION

BCSFAzine, edited by Felicity Walker
Bourbon and Eggnog by Eileen Bell, Ryan McFadden, Billie Milholland and Randy McCharles, 10th Circle Project
In Places Between: The Robin Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest book, edited by Reneé Bennett
Sol Rising newsmagazine, edited by Michael Matheson
Space Cadet, edited by R. Graeme Cameron

BEST FAN FILK

Stone Dragons (Tom and Sue Jeffers), concert at FilKONtario
Phil Mills, Body of Song-Writing Work including FAWM and 50/90
Cindy Turner, Interfilk concert at OVFF

BEST FAN ORGANIZATIONAL

Andrew Gurudata, chair of the Constellation Awards committee
Peter Halasz, administrator of the Sunburst Awards
Helen Marshall and Sandra Kasturi, chairs of the Chiaroscuro Reading Series (Toronto)
Randy McCharles, chair of When Words Collide (Calgary)
Alex von Thorn, chair of SFContario 2 (Toronto)
Rose Wilson, for organizing the Art Show at V-Con (Vancouver)

BEST FAN OTHER

Lloyd Penney, letters of comment
Peter Watts, “Reality: The Ultimate Mythology” lecture, Toronto SpecFic Colloquium
Taral Wayne, Canadian Fanzine Fanac Awards art

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World Horror and its Aftermath Part I

World Horror Convention 2011

This last weekend I was in Austin, Texas for the World Horror Convention. I arrived on Wednesday, relishing the heat after our record cold April, and was picked up by Portland author Camille Alexa, former resident of Austin. We were meeting up with Boyd Harris, publisher of Cutting Block Press and one of the committee members for the convention. Since Camille was off to her own meetings Boyd pretty much did two round trips from the hotel to the restaurant to get fourteen people together for dinner.

Now Texas is the land of tequila and barbecue; oh and Tex Mex so we ate at Polvos, a Mexican restaurant, with pitchers of tangy Margaritas. There were many people including Bailey Hunter, of the retired Dark Recesses magazine and cover artist for some (maybe all) of the Cutting Block covers, R.J. Cavender, editor with Cutting Block; Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi of Chizine Publications and many other people. I ate camerons diablos, or spicy prawns. I would say it was pretty good but a couple of my prawns were off and with such a crowd I couldn’t get the waiter. After a seafood poisoning experience in Baltimore at a World Fantasy Con I decided not to eat the suspicious prawn. The salad that Camille had was pretty bland and unimaginative. She had to ask for salad dressing; what kind of salad has no dressing. That’s just rabbit food.

Afterward, many people went back to the hotel but Boyd dropped Bailey, Rena and me off at an Irish looking pub called Il Fado. I felt like I was in Lord of the Rings with its organic, meandering interior, polished trees crawling up the walls to the ceiling and various Viking art and plaques. Boyd and R.J. joined us after the two trips for dropping people off. By the time we got back to Boyd’s to sleep that night, and more talking it was about 4am, a typical start to a convention.

The next day we went off to the Crown and Anchor for lunch. In Austin, whose logo is “Keep Austin Weird” food and well-drinks can be very cheap with beer and hard alcohol only costing around $3. Wines are more on the average of $6-$8. Crown and Anchors food was pub food. My chicken sandwich was standard fare. Then we hit the Doubletree Austin, a nice and airy hotel with a central courtyard consisting of trees and fountains an a swimming pool on the second floor.

I missed the opening ceremonies, as I always seem to do and ended up spending most of the time in the bar, drinking and chatting with people. Friend and past editor (of a story of mine) Claude Lalumiere, an excellent writer, also met up with us. We walked down the street (Austin has a ring road/highway that encircles the downtown and it’s busy) to a little Japanese restaurant. I ate light since I’d had a late lunch. Friday truly began the convention.

I began with a pitch workshop. This is something unique to any con I’ve attended. Kudos to the WHC folks and Rhodi Hawk for putting together the workshop, and letting us practice how we would pitch our novels to agents or editors. I had to really work mine out as it’s a complex storyline so this truly helped. In the afternoon I interviewed Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi, editors and owners of Chizine Publications. The hour-long interview covered Brett and Sandra’s writing careers and reasons for getting into dark fiction, as well as publishing. When I asked Brett, why dark fiction, his answer was “Why am I bald?” It’s that inherent to him. Sandra read a piece of Brett’s work and two of her poems, then we talked about the evolution of the magazine, the style of printing they do as well as where CZP is going and the bumps along the way. I hope to publish the full interview at some point in the near future.

After that I checked out the dealers’ room. Dark fiction has a lot of independent presses and there were publishers from the US, Canada and Britain. I might be biased since I edit for Chizine but by far the covers on CZP books are more imaginative and the best compared to the others. Edge Publications is getting better covers too. There are far too many red, bloody, skull-covered books in horror writing. CZP goes farther with great design and concepts. I’m going to do a cover art review of the books I brought home with me at some point soon.

The evening wound up…or began…with the art reception, which was small but had some stellar art, the Damnation Books launch party and then the Chizine launch party. Here we chatted, drank margaritas and wine, ate hot dogs (for those who dared like Dave Nickle and Peter Straub) and looked at the goods. A few people read excerpts from their stories so it was a great way to sample the merchandise and the hospitality. I met so many people, which to me is the sign of a good con, that I can’t remember them all. I met the minotaur guys who are working on a full length animation. I chatted with a writer who is slow on submitting, and I sampled wine and margaritas, Texas style. Most attendees are writers, editors and publishers but there was also the magician Jonathon Frost who’s interested it putting a dark slant to his prestidigitation. I should also mention that I got to put faces to all of the CZP staff since I’d only talked with them through email before the weekend.

The night was still young at 2 am but since I was fighting a cold I chose to go to bed and not be completely insane. This post will be continued in the next day or two with the rest of the convention.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Editing

Here at the Chi hub (Chizine.com and ChiZine Publications…that’s online magazine vs paper books) I’m juggling my several hats, and getting ready for a short sojourn into the US. First, we’re accepting poetry again at Chizine as well as fiction, so get on it. I’ve just read two poems with provisional acceptances. What does that mean? It means we want a few changes but overall have accepted the poem. And Steve Vernon and I have  made our picks for the poetry winners of the Rannu competition. The winners will be announced next month (they still have the fiction winners to sort out).

Whats this got to do with editing?

Taking off my plumed poetry editor hat and donning my slush editor fedora for ChiZine publications, I’m almost through my part of the slush backlog. Only one manuscript left in that pile. But…I have about three full manuscripts to read where I asked for revisions and to see the whole thing. A couple more might come in. What I find fascinating is that when I send out a positive response–saying these things need fixing. Once you’ve done so, send me the full manuscript–I often never hear back from the person. You would think… Hell, I would think because I am a writer too, that if I had a reply from a publisher I would definitely jump on the wagon…unless of course I have so many publishers knocking at my door. That’s a rare occurrence. But even if some other publisher is looking at the manuscript I’d be sending a polite thank you to the publisher. You never want to burn possible bridges of crossing for the future.

Still, there are some fascinating ideas swirling around out there in people’s minds. My travels to the US are going to be pleasure. I’ll have to do some editing for the first part because I am getting snowed under. But I’m also on my way to the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas next week. It’s going to be a great time with parties thrown by Chizine on Friday night and Cutting Block Press on Saturday. In personal editing, I’ve signed up for a pitch session where first there will be a workshop on how to pitch one’s book and then a one-on-one with an editor or agent to pitch. I’m a bit nervous about that as I’ve never pitched before but what have I got to lose. The worst they can say is no.

Besides sitting on a vampire panel Saturday morning I will also be interviewing Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi, owners of Chizine Publications and editor guests of honor at the convention. It’s an hour interview and I’m taking questions from the virtual audience to add to the list, so if you want to ask something of dark fiction and poetry writers, small press entrepreneurs and dark fiction editors, then post your comments here. I’ll be publishing the interview afterward, somewhere, maybe even here.

So, you’re possibly wondering, what does the above picture have to do with editing besides that I just wanted to stick a picture in here? Well, I am an editor and I am edited. I’m between a rock and a hard place. Because I wear the hat of a writer as well I see the writing world from two sides. Do I ever worry that someone I rejected, who also might be an editor, might reject me in revenge? No. We’re professionals and it’s the name of the game. I have a friend who is editor of one of the “Big Three” SF mags (which really is the big five) and he’s faithfully rejected me for years. It’s the way the world works. Likewise I don’t expect a writer to get all bitter and angry when I reject them. It happens to us all and yes, someone else might buy the piece. We’re human after all, with our own experiences, training and predilections.

It’s a business and that means the shopper and the contractor have choices. If more people actually looked at writing and publishing this way we’d have less bitter writers. Sorry I didn’t buy your lawn chair. I like this one better. I like that brand of makeup over this one. I like my produce from the mom and pop shop, not from Safeway. Someone else will like otherwise.

The blog entries could be sporadic this next week but I hope to blog about the con while I’m there. See you on the writing side.

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Writing: Rannu Competition and Update

I’m working away on several things and of course we’ve hit the busy social season, but I’m hoping to get my cyber-feypunk novel rewritten before the end of the year. Which means my steampunk story, all but laid out in my mind, is on hold until this is out of the way.

I’m still reading slush for CZP but it’s slowed down with all the other stuff. I still have about ten submissions to get through and have requested the full manuscript from one person. I’ve also forwarded about three on to Sandra and Brett. There are several readers for the manuscripts so it’s hard to say how many submissions we have at once or how many are forwarded, unless you’re Sandra.

And today it’s been confirmed that Steve Vernon and I will be judges for the poetry end of the Rannu competition. We are both horror/dark fiction writers, in one of our guises and live on opposite coasts. We are of course not the only writers in Canada of that ilk. And the poems entered do not need to be dark fiction/horror; they just have to be speculative. Steve won last year’s poetry competition and I was one of two runners up.

Barbara Gordon and Francine Lewis will be the judges for the prose competition.Barbara won last year’s competition and Francine was one of two runners up in both categories. The competition gives a $500 first prize in each category, open to anyone in any country and the deadline is January 15, 2011. Full information and the past two years’ winners can be seen here: http://rannu.webs.com/ The award was created by Sandra Kasturi of Chizine.

I’ve not been a judge before; just a writer, competitor, copyeditor, editor so this will be fun and something new. I have no idea how many poems we’ll have to judge but I suspect we’ll be busy. Editing poetry is quite a different pony from editing prose. Whereas you can start with the basics of grammar for prose, it doesn’t necessarily hold true for a poem that can have a different style from the next one. Grammar doesn’t work the same way if at all. But some hints on how to write good poems is to stay away from cliche images and sayings. Things like sunsets, moons and suns have been described so many ways that making them unique becomes harder. Also these days rhyming poems aren’t really in fashion. I wouldn’t dismiss a poem for it rhyming, but there are few people who can do it really well. It better not be trite and simplistic. Google Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” for an example of simplistic and bad.

If a poem is using specific imagery, then that image/simile should follow through or be completed, not left hanging to go on to another image. Sandra’s amusing and acerbic guidelines for Chizine can apply to any poem. I’m copying the relevant parts here:

  1. Note on Goth poems. BEFORE YOU SUBMIT, go to the Goth-o-Matic Poetry Generator and create a poem:
    http://www.deadlounge.com/poetry/poems.html
    If the poem you want to send me even remotely resembles the one you just created with the Generator, DO NOT submit your own poem.
  2. Unless you have had poems published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly or a similar calibre of magazine, DO NOT SUBMIT:
    1. formal verse of any kind whatsoever
    2. vampire poetry
    3. any poem with the word “blood” in it
    4. any poem with the word “womb” in it
    5. anything remotely related to J.R.R. Tolkien
    6. any werewolf poem. We know you think your werewolf poems are good. We don’t. We’re tired of the howling and the biting. You give us mange.
    7. any poem entitled “Underworld.” The movies weren’t THAT awesome. Also, it’s the name of the knicker factory on Coronation Street, so it elicits immediate snickers from the editors.

A poem should say something new, in a unique way. It shouldn’t be a story. That’s what prose is for. A poem should be succinct with strong imagery, atmosphere or feeling. It shouldn’t all be angst or broken hearts. God forbid that’s what we get. Judges are people so there will be things we prefer or don’t prefer but I’m pretty good in separating my personal opinion from judging something on the strength of execution and style. If I wasn’t judging I’d be entering again. We’ll be blind judging so there is no chance of favoritism.

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Writing: Rumors of Chizine’s Demise

Are indeed greatly exaggerated and completely untrue. Chizine, or Chiaroscuro the online magazine of dark fiction/poetry is not defunct nor has come even close to this state. As an assistant poetry editor, I am in the know and kept in the loop. Chizine was a viable entity before it was sponsored by Dorchester Publishing/Leisure Books and continues to be so. The magazine is no longer sponsored by this company, which has been hit with low sales and is dropping their paperback line. What happens to Leisure really has nothing to do with Chizine.

While Chizine did enjoy sponsorship and some joint projects such as the “Fresh Blood” contest  (which Chizine Publications [CZP] will publish the winner’s novel in limited, signed, hardcover edition as previously planned) they were never owned by Leisure Books. As well Chizine Publications is a completely separate aspect, and CZP publishes limited edition books. CZP was never sponsored by Leisure/Dorchester and is the brainchild of Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi.

Full announcements can be found on our sites: http://chizinepub.com and http://chizine.com. Chizine has a pretty big slush pile at the moment and is closed to poetry submissions, but fiction submissions are still open. Pay rates are $10 USD per poem and .07 cents per word for fiction to 4,000 words. An aside: I can’t fathom why someone would go through the process of submitting and when we say we like it but would like you to work a bit more on it, never bother to respond back. It’s a competitive world out there in the speculative fiction field and not that easy to get published and paid for it. I certainly would work on the piece if an editor asked me to.

Feel free to check out this Bram Stoker Award winning magazine, or look at the submission guidelines for book manuscripts. And know that Chizine and CZP is running strong.

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