Tag Archives: When Words Collide

Writers Writing: Joshua Pantalleresco

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Creative Commons: Ninha Morandini

Here in Canada, we’re a small but mighty population. We have many amazing writers, some quite famous, some not as well-known but equally amazing. We write to stave off boredom, the always encroaching cold of the north (remember the North!), wendigos, sasquatch and Ogopogo. And we write to explore and express new thoughts and worlds.

In our mighty little nation, (lots of land and the population of California) we have an active, widespread speculative community. There is written word, spoken word, podcasts, plays, music. Hawksley Workman is a musician who has clearly explored the mythic and speculative in his works (such as The God that Comes). There are numerous examples and I won’t wander down that path right now or I’ll get lost.

We also have the creator of the Just Joshing podcasts, Joshua Pantalleresco. He has spent quite a few years interviewing writers, actors and other artists and the full list of some 350 plus episodes are here. I met Josh many years ago at a local convention, When Words Collide, in Calgary. He was a veritable energizer bunny, full of enthusiasm, ideas and an inquisitive, friendly mind. Over the years we have come to know each other better and of course I’ve run into Josh interviewing this person or that for his podcasts. He even received an Aurora Award for Just Joshing. He interviewed me back when I was editing Alice Unbound. I like to think of him as Josh Pants to the Rescue, and he would have been a great sidekick for Captain Underpants.

Alice opened the box and was punished for her transgression by being locked away in our world. As a patient in an asylum, her captors are the playing cards, and the ruler of the asylum is a certain black hearted Queen. To make things worse (?) Alice’s only companion has a certain Cheshire Grin. She must escape her current situation, and remember who she is, not only to save herself but to save us all.

Josh also writes, a lot. He wrote an Alice poem for Alice Unbound, but I did not accept it. Professional writers are used to rejection and even from their friends. And editors often have more good stories or poems than they can accept. I remember Josh capturing the madcap way of a Lewis Carroll world. Well, it seems that that challenge also spurred him to even greater things. Josh has now completed a book, Alice Zero. Without further ado, I’ll let Josh speak for himself about his latest project.

It’s all Colleen’s fault.

I mean it. It was her idea. Kind of. Sort of.

Colleen had this great idea for a Lewis Carroll anthology and she invited me to write for the anthology. I was flattered. I said yes. Of course I will write for you. Colleen is an awesome human being with a great gift for poetry and prose herself, and to be recognized is just awesome.

Once I said yes, I realized that I had put myself into a conundrum. What can I possibly say about Lewis Carroll that hasn’t already been said? I mean, I love Alice in Wonderland and knew that I wanted to write something about wonderland. But what exactly?

That night, I went to a bar and remembered meeting a girl with a gorgon tattoo. Now I was eventually turned down because she plays for the other team, but there was something magical about this woman. Not just the tattoo she created on her arm, but she was just an intriguing, artistic, wonderful human being. She’s still a good friend of mine to this day. We talked for a bit, and I promised I’d put her in my story.

The gorgon was something I needed to see. Medusa is a fun character. She is an interesting monster, and beautiful and deadly. In wonderland where up is down and right is wrong, perhaps, she’d be a hero? I imagined a gorgon knight protecting Princess Alice from the depths of the shadows in this weird world of wonderland.

And then I made the magical connection. What if I did a mashup of Alice in Wonderland as Greek mythology? What if Alice was Pandora? It made a lot of sense in a lot of ways and I was so happy. If it wasn’t for Colleen I truly don’t believe I would have met my friend. It wouldn’t have been a problem I needed to solve. I wouldn’t have thought to go to the bar, and I never would have had the opportunity. I would have missed so much.

So I had my story. Greek Alice. And it came to me, this asylum with the playing cards being her jailers and the warden being the Queen of Hearts. Alice is on a quest to find herself. She opened the box, and now must face the consequences of her actions.

I wrote it and had a blast and handed it to Colleen. I was so happy. Then Colleen rejected it. It was her decision, and I understood. The collection didn’t need another Alice story, but I was so happy with my Alice story that I wanted to do something. Some things, actually. Stay tuned for the following year. But I wanted to work on doing something on my own.

I have to admit I got in my own way for awhile. I’ve done the epic poetry thing with Mirror World Publishing and I loved that I got the chance to do so. But this is me again, for the first time. At least this time I got some help. Kenzie Carr is an amazing world class artist. I’m hoping we continue this collaboration as she did some killer things inside. Love her work and was pleasantly surprised how it all came about.

I had other people help out too. Vanessa Cardui did a wonderful job advising me, and I listened to a few others as well. Thank you, all.

Finally, here it is, courtesy of myself and Kenzie Carr. I never would have done it if it had not been pushed in that direction if it hadn’t been for an email from a dear friend. Colleen, it’s all your fault. But I’m so happy you were the catalyst in this. Thank you for being an amazing friend and an inspiration. Keep being you.

Perhaps, Josh gives me too much credit. Without his own imagination and talent, he would not have even created this. But it’s true that we can be inspired and spurred in new directions by others. Josh, I’m glad a tree grew from the sprout. I’ll be reading his work lately to see what crazy things Alice gets into. I hope you considering exploring his worlds as well.

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Writing Year in Review

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Creative Commons: Drew Coffman, Flickr.

Well, it’s time to reflect on my year before I run off for the New Year’s celebrations. I did start the year with the three-month Apocalypse Diet, which I blogged about. It was an interesting experiment and I didn’t have to eat brains or truly battle zombies.

This year I was determined to write more and send out more. I can say I had a record year for submissions and rejections, and maybe even for acceptances. In some ways I call this my bridesmaid year, as in always a bridesmaid, never a bride. I think I had a record number of stories held for final selection or shortlisted, but in the end did not make the cut. In some ways this is more painful, yet encouraging. So that this is not hyperbole I’ll give a list of those places where my stories and poems were held past the first reading:

  • Writers of the Future honorable mention for Monstrous Aberrations
  • Friends of Merril fiction contest (one of ten shortlisted) for The Ties That Bind
  • Aurora Award nominee (poetry) A Good Catch
  • Punchnell’s (literary fiction)
  • Pedestal Magazine (poetry)
  • New Quarterly (poetry & literary fiction)
  • Gulf Coast (poetry)
  • Tesseracts 16 (fiction)
  • Whitefish Review (poetry)
  • Stupefying Stories (fiction)
  • Dark Faith 2 (fiction)
  • Penumbra–Dreams issue (fiction)
  • Scape (fiction)
  • Plasma Frequency (fiction)
  • Abyss & Apex (fiction)
  • Heroic Fantasy Quarterly (fiction)
  • Horror World anthology (fiction)

But…it was also a year for acceptances and works published, though in the end I’ll see most of these out next year. The first four were published and the rest are out next year I hope.

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Embers Amongst the Fallen available through Smashwords

  • Mermaid (poem) in Polu Texni
  • Legend (poem) in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly
  • Queen of Heaven an Earth (poem) in Eternal Haunted Summer
  • The Brown Woman (fiction) in Over the Brink from Third Flatiron Publishing
  • Red is the Color of My True Love’s Blood (fiction) in Deep Cuts
  • The Highest Price (fiction) in Heathen Oracle: Artifacts and Relics
  • P is for Phartouche: The Blade (fiction) in Demonologica Biblica (Britain)
  • The Book With No End (fiction) in Bibliotheca Fantastica
  • Gingerbread People (fiction) in Chilling Tales 2
  • Lady of the Bleeding Heart (fiction) in Fantastic Frontiers 2
  • Tower of Strength (fiction) in Irony of Survival, Zharmae Publishing
  • Visitation (poem) in Bull Spec (I hope next year…it’s been 2 years now)

My goal was to get at least 12 items accepted and while Visitation was accepted previously, as was Gingerbread People I believe, I think I ha a pretty good year of near acceptances. While it’s disappointing on one side it means my writing is getting closer. I’ve also identified one of my issues. I put in too much backstory up front and now that I know this, I can try to chop frugally.

Carolyn Clink and I edited and chose some fine poems for Chizine. I also drove out to Calgary and attended theconvention When Words Collide, where I read a bit of fiction an poetry, and was asked by Brian Hades to co-edit Tesseracts 17 with Steve Vernon. We’re working our way through many stories right now.

Steve Vernon, Tesseracts 17, Canadian fiction, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, SF

Nova Scotian Steve Vernon will be co-editing Tesseract 17, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction.

I also flew to Toronto and did a poetry reading at the Art Bar Poetry Reading Series and thank them for inviting me. I attended the Specfic Colloquium and World Fantasy Con. I met some new writers and had a blast visiting old friends Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory of Chizine Publications an getting to know some new people. Another project started to germinate there but I can’t mention it yet until we have more details to make sure it’s happening.

I almost forgot but I also self-published a collection of my reprint stories, Embers Amongst the Fallen. It is available through smashwords and Amazon.com. I also put up two erotic stories under T.C. Calligari. I plan to put up the rest of them in the new year and get a bit more speculative fiction up. Should you have read a copy, please leave a review on those sites as well as Goodreads.

As well, I hosted a specfic cocktail party for writers an it was a success. I’m trying to build community here in

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Not hard to guess what this one is about.

Vancouver and I’ll be hosting another one at the end of January or early February. I’m also looking for the right venue to see if we can spring the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, which happens monthly in Toronto. We’re hoping to launch it in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Vancouver in April so I’m looking for the right type of bar for a Wednesday evening.

I and continued to write and read. For my holidays (ending tomorrow, alas) I decided to catch up on Tesseracts reading, but also get working on that novel I’ve been working on for ten years. Yes, ten years! I watched all of Game of Thrones seasons one and two to inspire me and then hunkered down. By tomorrow I will have completed the story arc for one of three viewpoint characters, and I’ll have half of my chapters written. This is good considering how slow it’s been up until now. I have a deadline of April to finish the first draft and hopefully the rewrite. Then it’s off to the agent and editor who expressed interest nearly two years ago. Yes, I’m stupid.

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When it comes to writing and reading, just do it! Creative Commons: Eric Guiomar

Doing this review helps when I begin to think of all those rejections I’ve received, and that the stories that were shortlisted or received honorable mentions won’t sell anywhere, or that what I consider are my best three-four stories also won’t sell. But then, some of my stories, that I thought were good have taken ten years to sell. There is hope and maybe I’ll look at those four again and see if there is too much up front for all of them.

The main thing is to persevere and not get depressed. I’ve wanted to edit an anthology for a long time and now I’m doing it. I’m hitting some of my goals and therefore are setting new ones. To all of you who write, edit or read, continue doing so. Support writers and buy books and magazines. Give your input, give your reviews. We all need each other. So have a great new year. May it be productive and fulfilling and may all your endeavors bring you success.

Happy New Year! Creative commons: Flickr Champagne Toast

Happy New Year! Creative commons: Flickr Champagne Toast

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When Words Collide Writing Convention

 

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Chizine’s table at the room party.

When Words Collide is a writing convention in Calgary, Alberta, organized by Randy McCharles and a host of helpers. This was its second year in the making and it’s growing too big for the Best Western it was held at. There were a host of panels and a moderate sized dealers room for various publishers to sell their wares. While there was a heavy accent on the speculative in the panels there were also mystery and romance panels. The romance writers had their own party and IFWA (Imaginative Fiction Writers Association) of Calgary was present.

There are cons that are professional track and some that have fan tracks. WWC is a professional track, with some readings, panels about writing and publishing and parties held by publishers. I combined a trip to Alberta to visit family and friends, and to meet some of the writers I knew through email but had not met in person. I could spend time with friends, participate in writing related fun, and yes, the Aurora Awards were held at this event.

I’m actually a bad convention goer. I go to conventions and talk and drink with

Brett Savory, writer, publsher, CZP, Chizine, When Words Collide, writing conventions

Brett Savory, writer, and publisher of CZP at one of the happy room parties.

people, visit the parties and maybe get to a panel or two. This time I was on a good size of panels so felt less inclined to go to other ones. I had intentions of going to a reading or sitting in on a panel discussion but I only made to part of one reading. I did do a combined reading with Bob Stallworthy who read some really excellent poetry, and Susan Forest, who read part of a story that is up at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She was also up for a short story Aurora. I read two poems and part of a story, and not too good a reading since I was a little foggy from the parties the night before.

I also did a  live-action slush reading which involved people handing in the first page of a story. Guest of honor Jack Whyte would read the page in his lovely deep, accented baritone. When we as editors would have stopped reading a submission we put up our hands and said why. In truth I have a habit of trying to read through a full submission because sometimes a writer will hit their stride after a while and just needs some editing. The writing might be sucky but they idea might be great and it might be worth salvaging. The panel also had Susan Mac Gregor and Hayden Trenholm.

wriiter, When Words Collide, editor, Susan MacGregor

Writer and editor, Susan MacGregor

The panel I sat on about poetry and how not to make it boring turned out way better than I thought it would. Poetry has a bad rep of being inaccessible. Sandra Kasturi is a great moderator and there were enough people in the audience so it went well with input from the audience and the panel. The panelists meshed well and the audience seemed interested.

The last panel was on sex in fiction; should you put it in, how much when. We had a publisher of erotic fiction, a writer who writes young adult fiction, another who writes male to male erotica and I write short mostly hetero erotica. Many points were covered but I don’t think the panel flowed as well as the poetry panel. It felt a bit like we were trying to get across individual crusades as opposed to looking at how erotic and explicit scenes can be fit in all types of fiction if warranted. Still, the panel was intelligent and well-versed so the audience got their money’s worth. This panel was set against the publisher parties, but didn’t harm it too much.

The parties and the liquids were plentiful, and Bundoran, Tyche, Edge and ChiZine were some

Aurora Awards, nominee, Derryl Murphy, writer, writing convention

Derryl Murphy was one of the nominees in the Aurora novel category.

of the publishers throwing parties. Jack Whyte had to leave early Saturday morning due to an emergency but he was the hub of a scotch party, which involved four bottles of scotch and a lot of pretty interesting talk about sex and writing and all sorts of things. There wasn’t a drop left by the end of the night but there were a few green faces in the morning.

In all the convention was very enjoyable and I met many authors who I had only chatted with

Aurora Awards, writing convention, When Words Collide

The Aurora Awards were presented at the convention and the list can be found on their website.

in the past. This is a great convention for the new or established writer, and for fans who want to take in a few readings and the parties. Next year’s convention will be August 9-11, in Calgary.

The Aurora Awards ceremony was held Saturday night after the banquet. The list of winners can be found on the site. While I was nominated in poetry I didn’t win, but Helen Marshall won for Skeleton Leaves. Her poetry is excellent and anyone should pick up this gem published by Kelp Queen Press. It was worthy of winning.  Oh, and Randy McCharles won for his organization of the When Words Collide in 2011.

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Writing Update: Aurora Award & Smashwords

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Creative Commons: gnuckx, Flickr

I’ve been remiss in mentioning this so here we go. I’m nominated again for the Aurora Award in poetry, one of Canada’s speculative fiction awards. This is for my poem “The Fish Wife” which was up at Polu Texni last year (April 3, 2011). If you’re Canadian you can vote for the Aurora Award nominees in all categories. Up to five people are nominated. There is a $10 fee (I’m not sure why but I think it funds the trophies) but if you already did a nominating ballot that fee covers the voting as well. People can vote until July 23 and the awards are given in August at the When Words Collide convention in Calgary.

writing, anthology, speculative fiction, publishing, science fiction, Third FlatironI also have a story titled “The Brown Woman” in an anthology titled Over the Brink from Third Flatiron Publishing. What’s different about this one for me is that it’s completely electronic version put up through Smashwords and Amazon for e-readers. I’ve not tried this format before but I’m working on getting my reprint collection up for July. Wayne Allan Sallee, a longtime writer in the dark fiction genre has given me a small intro for my book. He compares me to Shirley Jackson and Ray Bradbury, which is flattering.

And speaking of Bradbury, who died recently, he had a great influence on my way of thinking and eventually, writing. When mentioned on SF Canada, the list for professional Canadian writers in the speculative genre, it turns out that he was influential on a number of people. He had a great mind and I can only hope to be as great as he was.

Writing is filled with hope, imagination and sometimes rejection. It’s been a hard few months for me where I’ve had four stories make it through all the readings and cuts for different anthologies only to be cut in the final selection. It means the stories have merit but having so many not quite make it, when I had my hopes pinned on them, has been depressing. My writing doesn’t stay static. I’m always trying to improve, be more creative, be unique, but it’s a tough road sometimes. While persevering both in my skills and in submitting, it’s still hard to swallow a lot of rejections a once. So what I need right now is something to be accepted, just to lift my spirits. I have to remember my accomplishments while taking the rejections in stride.

So I continue to write, having finished one new story a week ago and working on another that will need to be done this month for submitting to an anthology. And I’m still trying to come up with a superhero/supervillain idea. Once more, into the breach.

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