Miscellany

The Monster Within!

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This Saturday is the launch party for Enigma Front: The Monster Within, the third short story anthology in the Enigma Front series by Analemma Books. Not to brag (okay, I’ve been told I have to brag because this is my platform and such) but I’m proud to have had a story in each of them.

In The Monster Within, my story is a Y.A. horror called “A Budgie Named Karloff” about a girl whose pet bird becomes possessed by a demon. It’s darkly silly and sweet, very different from the historical body horror of “They Split Apart” which I contributed to the first Enigma Front, or the apocalyptic ghost story “The Red Bulb” in Enigma Front: Burnt, both of which are still available in the links above.

This time around, I was also on the editing team, something I’ve never done before and found rewarding. There are some wonderful writers in this instalment, 22 in all. I can’t recommend their stories enough. If you enjoy them as much as I did, please consider giving an Amazon review. It’ll help all of us out.

Cheers,

Erin

Monster Rises front cover

Aurora Nomination!

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I just downloaded the voter package for the 2017 Aurora Awards, which means I’ve got lots of reading to do before September. If you are a member of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (CSFFA), you should get cracking on that. If nothing else, it means a bunch of free new books that you don’t have to return to the library.

Also, and I’m excited for this, the Enigma Front: Burnt anthology, which contains one of my stories, was nominated. The Auroras are a nation-wide award. Woohoo!

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Also, for all you Calgarian readers out there, a whole bunch of local authors were nominated for their work. We hardly had any representation last year, so this is big. Even if you’re not a CSFFA member, the books are well worth reading. Check out the list.

typing types of types

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I took a fun personality quiz yesterday, which is part of a publicity campaign for the second edition of Monsterhearts, a table-top roleplaying game about teenage monsters. You can think of it as an exploration of some of the overarching metaphors in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, that high school is hell, that the changes you go through can be scary and new responsibilities can be both a gift and a burden. There’s another metaphor here too, that feeling like you’re different from everyone else can be alienating. You can feel monstrous, either less than or more than human, sometimes both. I’ve played Monsterhearts first edition and I’m looking forward to taking the new one for a spin.

Here’s the quiz: Which Monsterhearts Skin Are You? I got this result. Given all the options, it doesn’t entirely surprise me:

MonsterheartsFae

This got me thinking about character types in general. I’m currently working on a young adult horror novel and while it’s not based on Monsterhearts, I did take its archetypes into consideration. There’s a character in my novel named Bruno (at least that’s the name I have for him right now) who is absolutely a reflection of The Fae, and yet he and I are completely different.

To be clear, I’m not a fan of using archetypes for real world people. The worst is the whole “there are two kinds of people” thing. No. Introvert vs Extrovert? Optimist vs Pessimist? Male vs Female? Gay vs Straight? Fight vs Flight? I’m not even a fan of the Myers-Briggs Indicators, which claims there are 16 types. Sure, people do have personality traits that they like to stick with and archetypes are handy short-forms for clusters of traits, but the minds of real people have enough flexibility to make rigid categories unhelpful.

Here’s Bruno, who would get the same Monsterhearts quiz results as I did:

  • Extrovert
  • Pessimist
  • Cis Boy who presents like an androgynous glam rocker
  • Straight
  • Fight
  • ENFP: The Campaigner (Myers-Briggs)
  • Couldn’t care less about quizzes except to gently tease those who do
  • Knight of Cups (tarot)
  • Rowlf the Dog (Muppets)
  • Samantha (Sex and the City, which I didn’t watch but that quiz was everywhere for a few years)
  • Star Wars
  • Gryffindor (Harry Potter)
  • The Sorcerer (D&D)

And here’s an oversimplified and unhelpful summary of me:

  • Introvert
  • Pessimist
  • Cis Woman tomboy
  • Bi/Pan (one reason why the “two types of people” thing bothers me so very, very much)
  • Flight, until I get home and develop a plan or at least a better long-term response
  • INFP, the Mediator (Myers-Briggs)
  • The type who overthinks her answers on quizzes, especially when it comes to questions of personal values. Beliefs do vary from person to person, but we don’t always act according to our beliefs. We try and we fail and we try again and we adjust based on what we learn and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Are we supposed to answer those questions as “should” or “do”?
  • Temperance (tarot)
  • Fozzie Bear (Muppets)
  • Miranda (Sex and the City)
  • Star Trek
  • Ravenclaw (Harry Potter)
  • The Rogue (D&D)

This entire post makes me sound like a total curmudgeon who pretends to hate quizzes but secretly loves them. Quizzes are great, especially the ones based in nerdy fandoms. I take them with a grain of salt though, something to bring out flavours rather than define an entire dish. However, there are certain personality-related questions floating around that deeply intrigue me, even for real people. The first:

If sentient aliens land on your front lawn, what do you do first: aim your gun or offer friendship?

and

If you find yourself meeting your exact double, do you (given only two options) fight or, um, fool around?

I find these interesting because the reasons for someone’s choice may not be obvious at first glance. You might be tempted to see the alien question as a matter of Optimist vs Pessimist. Those who think we should aim our guns first may believe that the those who would offer friendship first are naive. As I mention above, I consider myself (unhelpfully) a pessimist, and yet I would start with the friendship thing. For me, the real question is “Which horrible fate would you risk: becoming a victim or becoming a villain?” Likewise, the doppelganger question might not be a matter of whether or not you like yourself. It could mean “Which do you prize the most: personal autonomy or being understood?” Maybe those who answer differently from me have other questions in mind.

Bruno, by the way, would aim the gun and hold very still, refraining from firing until he knows more, sharing inappropriate jokes in the meantime with anyone listening. As for his double, Bruno would tackle it, destroy it utterly, and then carry the secret of what he’s done to the grave. He’d never allow conversation about himself to get that heavy, at least not until an All Is Lost turning point near the end of a story arc. Even then, it would have to be well-earned. At least, I hope I can earn the right to force his emotional hand at some point. Bruno’s never going to go through either of these scenarios any more than he’s Samantha or Rowlf the Dog or a literal Fae, but it gives me a sense of how he handles obstacles, and because he’s a product of the imagination (and of too many hours inhaling books and movies and tv) that is a helpful thing.

Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures

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I have a short story and it’s in an anthology by the publisher with the single coolest name, aka Mad Science Journal. The anthology is called Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures.

fitting-in-ebook-cover

My story is called “The Face on the Wall, and the Chainsaw”. It’s about a century-old tree made newly human, who discovers all the hatred and compassion of humanity. He also discovers pizza. Check it out!

https://www.amazon.com/Fitting-Historical-Paranormal-Subcultures-Scientist-ebook/dp/B01MPYH4XB/ref

face-wall-chainsaw

This anthology launched on October 31, but I wanted to wait to announce this until a) everyone was done filling Facebook with pictures of costumed kiddies and b) my computer was back from the repairs place. But now you know. Now you know.

3-day 1/4 novel

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I spent the past weekend starting the first draft of a new* novel, using the rules of the 3-Day Novel challenge. The last time I tried 3-Day Novel I only got 20,000 words done, and a story that was completed but not at all usable except to cannibalize aspects of it into other projects. This time I got 24,000 words down, with legible sentences and paragraphs and chapter headings, etc. It’s an organized 24,000. I was actually editing a teensy bit as I went along and I had a separate file open to keep track of names and places and other details for continuity. I’m not including that other file in my word count.

My goal for the weekend was to surpass 20,000 words but my goal for the entire novel is 85,000. I’m just past the quarter mark of the word count and I’m conveniently also just past the quarter mark of my loosely-planned plot. I’m enjoying the characters. They are taking the story in directions I didn’t know they would go.** These directions feel pretty good.

Last time, I felt completely burnt out afterwards for days. Keeping that experience in mind, I planned to work on other things this week. Surprisingly, I feel energized. Last night I actually considered setting my other plans aside and devoting the rest of the week to completing the novel at the same pace. Locking myself in the office and guzzling down whole pitchers of tea for days on end, however, with walking to the bathroom as the only exercise, is probably not the best thing for the human body. So, I’m sticking to the schedule.

What I don’t have right now is a title. UNTITLED Y.A. doesn’t quite cut it. I’ll think of something.

To be continued…

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*actually based on an idea that I tried to turn into a novel a few years ago and had to abandon, but all of the characters and much of the setting have changed.

** characters hijacking the plot is something a lot of writers talk about as some higher ideal (as if understanding their desires and fears isn’t enough) but from what I’ve seen, it can lead to self-indulgence bordering on wankery. I hope like hell that’s not what’s happening here. Only time and beta readers will tell.

 

Review: The Wizard Killer

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Title: The Wizard Killer Season One
Author: Adam Dreece
Genres: post-apocalyptic fantasy serial

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The Wizard Killer is a popcorn adventure with gunslinging, glitchy magical tech and a hard-suffering hero in a world gone to hell.

The protagonist definitely has the sardonic edge of John McClane from Die Hard (as another reviewer pointed out) The setting is a bit closer to Mad Max and its scattered communities of survivors scrounging off each other and the old world’s leftovers. Normally I find combining magic and tech a questionable choice, but it works here because this magic is a difficult and often costly resource.

Although the book (Season One) is short and the chapters fly by, I suggest reading it in instalments, since the tone is a little uneven sometimes between chapters. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that each chapter is its own episode. In any kind of serial a tonal shift between episodes is expected. Kudos to Dreece for keeping this up week after week. I look forward to finding out what happens Season Two.

Available HERE

Official page at AdamDreece.com

Another NaNoWriMo Done

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Well, not “done” done. I’m still planning on attending a couple more write-in events that the local chapter of NaNo organized, but I’ve got my 50K words, which is the general goal.

I’ll admit that I’m a little disappointed in myself that it took me until the 26th to reach that 50K. In my first year, which was also my first novel, I got it done in twelve days. I wasn’t finished the story until November 25th of that year, but by then I had 111,199 words. Waaaaaay too long for the story I was telling. I’ve talked about this one before on the blog, so feel free to scroll down to wherever, or click backspace, or check Facebook or whatever you want to do.

I’ve tried to rework that first novel several times, most recently this past summer. It was a mess, which I guess is to be expected since I tried to type as fast as I could think (with occasional tripping over pinky fingers) and I apparently think in scattered meanderings despite working from an outline. I also refused to use the backspace key during that first draft. Thus the enormous word count. Since then, I have changed the format. I have changed the tense. I changed the era when the story took place and then I changed it back again.

Eventually, I figured out that the problem wasn’t even the type-as-fast-as-you-think prose. There were weird little moments from that which I would definitely keep. The problem was in the initial concept. After a few months of setting it aside, I think I know how to fix things so that the logic is up to my satisfaction, but it requires a choice that will affect the message I’m sending out. For the record, I’m not a fan of stories that exist to send a message, but every story has a message whether you want it to or not, even if the message is “the world is a weird and frightening place.”

In my second year of NaNoWriMo I was trying to do multiple projects at once and got my word count in, but the only thing I really completed was a 10K sample that I was using to apply for a job writing a novel series. A good exercise probably, and I can mine some of it for future use, but I didn’t get the job. The short stories I can definitely use, and I got a good dent in each of them, but I haven’t gotten around to finishing them up. I’ve written, completed, and rewritten other stories in the meantime. Should probably get back to these ones in the new year…

In my third year of NaNo, last year, I got the 50K in on day 20, and finished at the end of the month at 84,470. So much more reasonable, and it’s a project that I can definitely work with. I was doing rewrites for this one in summer and early fall, and I think I only need one more pass with it before I feel comfortable letting someone else read. I even pitched it to an editor at a respected medium-sized publisher who is interested enough that she told me to send it when it’s ready. Still, there were many moments in the first draft where I was writing as fast as I was thinking up words and it got weird in a not terribly useful way, as opposed to an entertaining way. I can definitely make it ready for the world, though.

This year’s NaNoWriMo, I decided to take a completely different tactic: make the sentences decent from the get-go, even though it means the number of words on the page are significantly fewer than the numbers of words that I actually typed during that time. It takes way longer, twice as long as that first giant blurt of novel three years ago. I’m now also doing more research more as I go, rather than leaving it to fix later. This new project is going up onto another blog, piece by piece, starting in January. When the time comes, you can read it here: TerribleTarot.com

Technically, my new site / NaNo project is not a novel but a humour blog with a smattering of characters and ongoing stories. If it were a book, I’d put it in the humour section rather than the fiction section.

I’m not worried about terribletarot.com being ready for January. I’d start uploading right away but I suspect drawing in new readers would be harder to do around the Holidays. There isn’t as much to do in January. People will be sitting at home trying to pay off their bills and fulfill their New Years resolutions and looking for new ways to procrastinate, which is what blog reading is for.

Wanna Trade Movies?

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My husband and I have what I think is an impressive movie collection. It’s not the biggest collection, but the contents are a decent reflection of the odd things we like to watch.

I tried to get movies that I would watch again with a friend if I ever found out that he/she/they/ze hasn’t (gasp!) seen it yet, and ideally that I would also watch whenever the mood hit me while having dinner or cleaning the house or doing crafts, much in the way that people will listen to their favourite albums.

Sometimes I’m spot-on about my movie shelf needs, sometimes not so much. Every movie lover is different, however. Let me know if you want to make some trades. Adam, feel free to veto any of these.

This should be on my shelf:

The Grand Budapest Hotel: I saw this in theatres and cheered it on during the Oscars. I’ve seen it a couple of times since then on Netflix. It’s got the kind of grownup goofiness and heartstring pulling (without being soppy) that I love.

What I would trade for it:

Get Low: This is a good movie. It’s also a grownup heartstring pulling comedy, but it doesn’t bounce around in my head. If Wes Anderson were involved, it probably would. Maybe it will with you.

This should be on my shelf:

Stoker: This is one messed up movie but in a thoroughly entertaining way. I could watch Mia Wasikowska’s performances all day, and her restrained transformation in this one is breathtaking. Speaking of which, piano duets have never been more sexy or disturbing. Also, the music is great.

What I would trade for it:

I Sell The Dead: I’ve tried to pair potential trades by theme or mood, but the only thing this one has in common with Stoker is that they both involve grave digging. It’s a dark comedy with Dominic Monaghan and Ron Perlman. During the 19th century, after years of selling corpses to people studying anatomy, a young man figures out that he can make way more money off the undead. Adorable mayhem ensues. I’ve only watched it once since buying it, though.

This should be on my shelf:

Dead Poets Society: Some say it’s manipulative and shortsighted, and that’s probably fair, but it shatters your soul in a way that can bring you back to it again and again. It’s a coming-of-age story about a high school English class with an inspiring teacher and a tragic clash between dreams and youthful impatience, plus all of that solidarity “Oh Captain my Captain” stuff. I’ve been wanting to rewatch it for a while. PS: it would still be soul-shattering even if Robin Williams didn’t eventually die the way he did. Let’s keep performer and role as separate as we can in this case.

What I would trade for it:

Agora: Rachel Weisz is phenomenal as Hypatia, the fourth century math teacher and philosopher who comes to a tragic end. It’s an important true story. It touches on social and political issues that still affect us to this day. It’s beautifully shot. There are some great scenes. You might find this one cathartic. I thought it would for me, but it doesn’t.

This should be on my shelf:

Bound: A noir heist lesbian romance thriller. I’ve seen it a few times. The dialogue and visuals are on-the-nose in a self-aware way that also make it funny on top of everything else. The heroines are clever. The gangsters are delightfully evil. It’s not subtle. I hope the Wachowski Siblings never try to make a subtle movie.

What I would trade for it:

Room In Rome: Alba and Natasha have a one night stand in a hotel in Rome. It’s supposed to be about identity and lies and whatever, and if a truly fantastic screenwriter had written it, then it would have been special. The monologues, however, are not the appeal of this movie. Let’s just say that I’d recommend it to those who are paranoid about their internet browser history, and that the filmmakers didn’t need a wardrobe category in the budget.

This should be on my shelf:

Chicken Run: Aardman Animation’s prison escape adventure about chickens on a chicken farm. I used to have it on VHS. I miss it.

What I would trade for it:

The Trotsky: I really wanted this one to my one of my go-to movies. It’s Canadian, and it’s funny. Like Chicken Run, there’s a “damn the man” teamwork vibe. It even reminds me of those Gordon Korman books I loved as a kid… but it rarely comes to mind. There are so many things going for it, though. Watch it at some point.

That’s all I have to say for now on the subject of our movie shelf. I have nothing witty to add. Let me know if there are any trades you want to make, or if you have any ideas for a last sentence that is significantly less mundane.

Cheers

happy belated Halloween

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November 1st at midnight was the start of NaNoWriMo, so I forgot to post this picture of my costume. There are a couple of flaws, especially with the shoulder armour, that I would fix before using again, for example if I were to cosplay at Calgary Expo this spring. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with it:

my Furiosa costume

STEVEN HARPER IS A HOLLYWOOD PLANT! (if I believed in conspiracy theories #1)

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That’s right, all evidence* points to Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper being an improv actor cast as a villain.

In a secret meeting between the Big Eight entertainment corporations, top executives lamented the character’s current lack of believably.

One anonymous tipster explains, “At this point, it’s surprising he hasn’t grown a Hitler mustache, or at least a Snidely Whiplash mustache. His party may have only prevented him because in today’s culture, facial hair is considered synonymous with youth and progressiveness. ‘Harper’ has resorted to not only protect white collar criminals, he has also done some real permanent damage, such as closing down and destroying labs and research libraries, and purposefully ignoring Canada’s First Nations population. This was only supposed to be a one-off character, so that the Canadian economy would end up in shambles and the major Hollywood studios could shoot all of their projects north of the border without having to pay so much as a dime. The less money the studios have to spend, the more profit they can make.”

The man we know as Steven Harper is a member of a secret theatre troupe known as Black-Ops Comedy, headed by stunt comedian Andy Kaufman, who faked his own death in 1984.

Kaufman reportedly said in the meeting “I didn’t do this for profit, I did it to shake up the system. We need villains, and this is way better than the wrestling villain I created for myself. Also, if I didn’t go with the plan, the corporations threatened to reveal to the public that I’m alive.”

Writer-Director Shane Black tried to warn the public about Steven Harper’s true identity when he made Iron Man 3, by adding a character called Trevor Slattery (played by Ben Kingsley), an struggling actor that the real villain hired to play decoy villain The Mandarin. Black told a friend, who also wishes to remain anonymous, “The audience didn’t get it. Some thought it was a great plot twist, some thought it ruined the decades-old Iron Man mythos, but no one thought to apply the lesson to what’s happening in the real world. Seriously, Canada? Harper isn’t a real conservative. There’s no conserving going on there. It should have been a dead giveaway.”

The Walt Disney Company, who owns everything involving Marvel and is also a member of the Big Eight, refuses to comment. Shane Black has been reported missing since the Canadian Federal Election was announced.

Our tipster said “The actor playing Steven Harper went off-book early on. He’s completely drunk with power. We couldn’t control him anymore. The CBC eventually figured out the hoax and tried to use his ridiculousness as a way of improving their own ratings, since their most popular television shows involve political satire. That’s when he went behind everyone’s backs and tried to sell the beloved public broadcaster, along with Canada Post to sweeten the deal. He wasn’t even bluffing. He wants to sell the CBC and Canada Post to the highest bidder.”

The tipster continued, “It’s getting pretty clear that while he wants to remain in power for as long as possible in order to reap the benefits, the actor playing Steven Harper partly wants the world to eventually catch on to his ‘genius’ performance. He’s not exactly subtle about it either. Bill C-51 is obviously a reference to Big Brother from 1984. [writer’s note: the year Andy Kaufman supposedly died! Coincidence?] Now ‘Harper’ has gone as far as referencing the Emperor in The Return Of The Jedi by diverting the protagonist’s (in this case the public’s) attention at the last minute towards hatred for someone who wears a black robe and keeps their face covered. For real, dude?

The Steven Harper character has become a living cartoon. Film executives warned the actor at the Big Eight meeting that his performance isn’t believable anymore, but then he showed them evidence that a certain percentage of Canada’s population still plans to vote for him, and that the election will be a tight race.

Screw the alien abductions and Illuminati stuff, the Steven Harper hoax is the most frightening conspiracy this blog has uncovered so far.

Open your eyes, people!

Peace out.

*the Hollywood plant conspiracy is for laughs, but the linked articles are real. Please vote, and please don’t vote for Harper.