beloved bookshop

I read something the other morning which triggered a memory of my favorite bookstore. The memory came with a longing and a deep sense of nostalgia. How I love my bookstore.

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But wait.

I realized, with some surprise, that this bookstore exists in my dreams, and that I have visited this bookstore many, many times over the years. It is possible that this blog post marks the first time I’ve considered it in my waking life.

There are clues pointing to it as a dream, if my dreaming self cared to know. The bookstore is set in a far corner of an empty, or abandoned but well-maintained, shopping complex. It takes a few specific twists and turns to find the bookstore.

Once there, the bookstore is well-lit by floor to second story ceiling windows along one exterior wall. The windows look out upon an ocean grey enough to be mistaken for a parking lot with a careless glance.

My section, where I know all my favorite books are yet to be discovered, is set upon a raised, rounded stage that looks over the rest of the bookstore. All the shelves in this section are wooden and black, in contrast to the beige metal shelves below. The flooring of each matches the shelves.

There is a large cabinet against the wall with glass doors. Inside this cabinet are second-hand, out-of-print books, all of which I know I’ll love. I handle them like fragile treasures.

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The employees know me by name, and spend their shifts behind counters, usually nose-deep inside a book. There is a swirl of magic in the air and the scent of cinnamon mingles with the book smell. The air is heavy, like it’s raining outside, but cozy, as if the atmosphere is carefully curated to make it easy to slip inside a story and read and read and read.

I’m half-sad to discover this beloved bookshop exists in my subconscious, but the feeling is mixed with a curious sense of pride and protectiveness. Do you ever dream of a place that seems more real than the waking world?

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Submit Your Stories Sunday: Steampunk Edition

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. I’ll follow it up with the best read from my week to inspire your writing and a small collection of writerly articles to aid your craft.

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Steam and Lace

Eligibility: The Steam and Lace anthology, to be published in print and ebook, is seeking noblebright, fantasy, steampunk stories from 1 000 to 10 000 words with a theme of ‘steam and lace’.

Take Note: the setting must be steampunk in some fashion, but reliance upon steampunk elements may vary. Editor’s notes suggest that the stories should be free of sexual content.

Payment: $0.01 per word, USD.

Submit by: November 1, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

What I’m Reading:

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of J. B. Cameron’s steampunk novella, Flights of Fancy: the Great Atlantic Run. I do love a good airship adventure and Flights of Fancy is such fun to read I finished in one setting.

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The story opens with Captain Fancy arriving late to the Great Atlantic Run, fumbling into another captain, and “accidentally” betting her ship against his lumbering behemoth of a ship. Fancy might have a gambling problem. By the time she finally makes it to her beloved Persephone, the race is on and she discovers the lumbering behemoth is, in fact, the fastest ship in the race. It’s going to take some serious ingenuity to keep the Persephone under her name, especially with a stowaway in her hold, a storm approaching, pirates ahead, and a renegade steam-bike gang out to get her. Fancy is just the lady to rise to that occasion.

This book is a lot of fun. Remember when books were always fun? This is book for those days. It reminded me of rainy, youthful days spent reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped and Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. If you’d like something to put a smile on your face and forget about your cares for a while, this is the book for you. I absolutely loved it.

Click here to learn more about Flights of Fancy: the Great Atlantic Run.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Have you ever considered consulting a sensitivity reader, or being one?  Click here to read Lila Shapiro’s interview with Dhonielle Clayton’s work as a sensitivity reader and a chief executive of We Need Diverse Books.

The Atlantic published Greg Manaugh’s fascinating article entitled How Police Will Solve Murders on Mars. The research here is noteworthy. Definitely a must-read for science fiction writers.

 

IWSG: book or film?

Today’s post is a part of a monthly blog hop called the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where writers can share concerns and bolster each other. You can see the participating blogs here. This is my first IWSG post. Planet Pailly’s IWSG posts about his muse inspired me to sign up and join the conversation.

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I’ve been wrestling with the concept of why some stories should be written rather than filmed. Why it is we often hear “the book is always better.” Its easy to say, ‘I prefer to read, it’s a different activity than watching, I get to use my imagination’ and dismiss the argument as irrelevant, but I think writers have a vested interested to understand what books can do that films cannot. We should take advantage of those aspects, shouldn’t we?

According to a 2015 article by Carol Test, the reason the written word is unique is because of the ‘interiority’ of the book or short story. When we’re reading, we are able to follow the story directly from the character’s, or narrator’s, mind. We open a book, put on their perspectives like a coat, and watch the world from their eyes.

But consider movies like 2011’s Limitless, where the character’s interiority anchors the story.  My partner watched Limitless over the weekend, bringing it to mind quickly, but a slew of others follow. Fight Club. Six Feet Under. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Most film makers chose not to use interiority as a device, but the fact remains that they can, and they do.

Words can be chosen to manipulate a reader into a certain frame of mind or expectation, but a movie score can do the same.

Where is the space where books remain unique?

I’m pulled back into those earliest of writing lessons, teachers rapping on and on about using all five of the senses. Movies, I realize, can only use two senses: sight and sound. Touch, taste, and smell are a void. Movies smell like popcorn, the touch of buttery fingers, and the acrid taste of buttersalt. They can show you the incense burning in a medieval church, but it takes the written word to fill your senses with musky, perfumed smoke thick enough to hide the smell of the congregation’s unwashed bodies. To remind you of how its half-forgotten scent clings to your woolen tunic and your hair as you walk home.

Can it be as simple as these three missing senses? I don’t know. My gut says there’s more, much more, and to keep hunting. Books hold space in our lives. There’s poetry and rhythm and so many things to consider, to experiment with.

That said, I’ll be extra conscious of writing touch, taste, and smell into my work this week. What do you think? What else can books do that films cannot?

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Photo by Free Photos.cc on Pexels.com

 

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Spaceports and Spidersilk

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance.

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Spaceports and Spidersilk

Eligibility: Entertaining genre stories with a maximum of 3 000 words, poems 25 lines or less, written for children aged 8 to 17-years-old.

Take Note: adventures preferred. No swearing or sex, obvs.

What makes this call stand out: Spaceports and Spidersilk has a special place in my heart because this is where I got my first acceptance. Editor Marcie Tentchoff is accepting of writers with no publication credits which makes this an excellent place for beginning writers to get their start.

Payment: $6.00 per story, $2.00 per poem or reprint

Submit by: submit anytime. Spaceports is an ongoing, quarterly journal

Click here to go to the original call for details.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

L. L. McKinley wrote this thoughtful article for Tor about representation in fairy tales, and who, if anyone, “owns” these stories.

What I’m Reading:

My daughter Evening and I read Sherry D. Ramsay’s Planet Fleep this week. Planet Fleep is a middle grade novel with a third-grade reading level. Evening is in grade one, but she loves science and science fiction so I read a few chapters to her before bed every night.

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Planet Fleep follows two adopted siblings known as ‘the Science Twins’ as they crash into a strange planet with no one but an annoying robot named BIFT to watch out for them (Roald Dahl would approve, methinks). They soon befriend the local fauna, guinea pig-like critters who make a sound like a ‘fleep.’ When the twins discover an unfamiliar alien species is trapping the fleeps to sell for food and fur, the twins vow to rescue the gentle beasts, but how? And why aren’t their parents answering on the communicator?

Evening tells me her favorite part of the book was BIFT the robot. “And I’m glad that I know how to survive without my parents on an alien planet now.”

“Uh. I’m not sure that’s quite true, sweetie. You learned about surviving on Planet Fleep, but not all of the planets.”

“Nah, I’ll be fine. I’m a Science Twin now. I just need a robot, granola bars, and some fleeps.” She crosses her arms.

I consider the defiance in her expression. Pick your battles, Jennifer. What are the odds she’ll be crashing into an alien planet in the next few years? I let it go.

She goes on to tell me that she liked the book so much she plans on keeping it forever and possibly marrying it when she grows up. I’ve never asked her to rate a book before so I am unaccustomed to such… devotion. In terms of kid-speak, I believe this translates to a four-point-five stars out of five star rating.

Happy writing!

 

 

a crumble of castle

There’s a liminal nature to abandoned or neglected buildings which attracts me. The place in these photos is an old gypsum silo situated at the back of the village of Hillsborough, NB. The dock where ships laden with gypsum moved up the Petitcodiac River into the Bay of Fundy is gone but for bundles of wood emerging from the shifting mud.

White gypsum pebbles, a form of selenite, dot the earth. Some make their way into my pockets.

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The concrete silo is the closest thing to a castle you’ll find in these parts.

The graffiti is a beautiful, hidden expression by individuals trying to exist as liminal as the structure itself. Most of us are that person, desperate to leave a mark, any mark, at some point in our lives.

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There are beautiful graffiti artists who leave a memorable image, knowing it will not last. It is art meant to be destroyed to make way for more art. I struggle with this metaphor as a creative person. I dream of a story that echoes through generations and lasts forever. This is that dream’s opposite and I cannot look away.

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There are other graffitists, too, caught unprepared with a can of spray paint and a sudden desperation. They scrawl a curse word when they panic in the moment, unable to think of anything clever and too uncertain to make something beautiful. These curses remind me of a primal scream. Of something trapped. I imagine this feeling repeating itself in a future lunch room, a coworker’s unexpected get well soon card laid before them, their mind blank and unable to think of anything more clever than the card already says. They don’t swear this time. They sign their name instead. Maybe they’ll remember the old castle tower in the moment, maybe they won’t.

The tower doesn’t care. It watches the tide go up and down on the river and dreams of pretty white stone.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Still on Patrol

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance.

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Still on Patrol

Eligibility: Otter Libris is looking for stories surrounding the tradition of referring to lost American submarines and their sailors as ‘still on patrol’ rather than lost at sea. What happens if those sailors return from patrol? Stories from all countries are welcome. Stories should be from 3 000 to 6 000 words.

Take Note: no stories disrespecting the military or depicting abuse will be tolerated. Writers should also be aware that the publisher expects non-exclusive audio, print, and ebook rights for five years after an exclusivity period of one year has passed.

What makes this call stand out: we’re coming on to the perfect time of year to write a spooky supernatural story.

Payment: $25 per story

Submit by: December 15th, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Here’s an article that offers questions writers should ask of their characters. The majority of these are excellent. None of that ‘what is their favorite pizza toppings’ to be found here.

The Guardian reported on an uproar that happened among booksellers in France last week when an Amazon-only title was longlisted for a prestigious French prize. I think this whole mess highlights the nasty affect Amazon has had on small bookshops, but also shows the conundrum of what an author is to do when Amazon is their only option. Food for thought.

Inclusive YA lit mag Cicada has closed, which gave me pause. 2018 has been hard on some of the great fiction magazines out there.

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Photo by Free Photos.cc on Pexels.com

What I’m Reading:

I had A.J. Pearce’s historical fiction Dear Mrs. Bird on my TBR list simply because I have a beloved aunt who is a Mrs. Bird. Somewhere on the interwebs I read that fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society would like it which had me racing to the library. Guernsey is so good I have spare copies in case I meet someone who hasn’t read it.  *Ahem* this is the part where I grab you by the shoulders and ask you if you’ve read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. No? I have an extra copy, hold on.

Dear Mrs. Bird is set in London during the Blitz. Pearce mentions in the story notes that she was inspired to write the book after reading through the advice columns of women’s magazine from the Blitz. They gave her a deep sense of the unique challenges women faced at that time.

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The story follows young Fire Brigade volunteer Emmy as she fumbles her way into a job typing up letters for a grumpy advice columnist with strict ideals of what is allowed to be spoken in polite society. As bombs drop and lives fall apart around her, Emmy struggles with ignoring the Unacceptable letters of desperate girls who write in for help with controversial issues. She begins writing back, posing as Mrs. Bird, to help the girls find their way.

This book has many lines that made me stop and think. At it’s heart, this book is about a writer. At one point, Emmy’s mentor of sorts, Mr. Collins, “Find out what you’re good at, Miss Lake, and then get even better. That’s the key.” Such simple, important advice. I had to stop reading and jot it down.

It’s also a book about living in a war zone and a city experiencing relentless raids. There are moments of devastating reality. Pearce writes these scenes with skill, zeroing in on the small moments of character. “Some cried out, saying It Hurts, It Hurts. I ignored them and that was disgusting of me. I ignored people who were dying. At the time, it didn’t feel like a decision. If (redacted) was alive (redacted) would need help, so I kept going.” (edited to avoid spoilers).

Dear Mrs. Bird is an excellent read, I recommend grabbing a copy of your book-getting place of choice and settling in for a few hours.

Happy writing!

 

 

Toby’s Alicorn Adventure is out and it looks amazing!!

Toby’s Alicorn Adventure, my middle grade fantasy short story about a little girl who finds an alicorn (unicorn’s horn) and uses a magical website to find its lost owner, is out in this month’s issue of Cricket: the Realm of the Imagination!

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It’s a real thrill to see my name in the table of contents of a magazine I love reading with my eldest daughter. She says it’s exciting for her too but… I might win the excitement award on this one.  *wink*

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Artist Benjamin Schipper illustrated Toby and he did a marvelous job. I’m so thrilled to see my characters come to life.

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In the story Toby posts an ad to find the owner of a lost alicorn on a website for magical creatures called the Hag’s List. After posting her ad with directions to her bedroom window to claim the alicorn, a few shady characters turn up.

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My story was inspired by my partner’s misadventures trying to sell a tractor on a buy-and-sell site popular in our area. If you’ve ever tried to sell something on the internet, you can probably relate to the strange responses Toby gets.

I am happy to admit I squealed with delight when I saw the flying rhinoceros got his own illustration!

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If you want to read it for yourself or think your kids would enjoy my story, it is available on Cricket’s website, many fine bookstores, and your local library.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Poems for Le Guin

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance.

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Ursula K. Le Guin Tribute Poetry Anthology

Eligibility: original poems which pay to tribute in some way to the late poet and writer Ursula K. Le Guin. Speculative elements are welcome, but not required. There are no limits to words, lines, or style.

Take Note: writers can submit up to three poems

What makes this call stand out: it’s a lovely way to pay tribute to a prolific writer

Payment: $20 per poem, reprints are welcome but the rate will be lower

Submit by: October 15th, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

In the greatest foreshadowing fail I have come across, a writer who specializes in stories about ladies killing their spouses is charged with murdering… her spouse. Welp.

Last Thursday would have been Roald Dahl’s 102nd birthday. In tribute, Emmanuel Nataf put together this collection of Dahl’s “Gloriumptious” words. Best read with a smile on your face.

What I’m Reading:

I’ve been reading the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue of Uncanny. Having guest editors makes it stand out from other Uncanny issues in terms of overall style, but Uncanny’s ideals of inclusivity and imaginative fiction hold true.

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cover art: And With the Lamps We Are Multitudes of Light by Likhain

My favorite story in the collection is A. Merc Rustad’s first-contact story The Frequency of Compassion. It is nothing short of a masterpiece. Rustad is easily one of my favorite short story writers publishing today. I get a rush of delight when I see their name in a table of contents.

I tried and failed to chose a favorite from the nonfiction included in the issue. As a mother who experiences a varying range of anxiety, A. J. Hackwith’s And the Dragon Was in the Skin resonated deeply. Each essay changed something in the way I see the world. If you’re a writer, read them. Devour them. Listen. They have the power to make us better writers. Better people.

Julia Watts Belser’s poem You Wanted Me to Fly hit me hard, the last line especially. As writers, we need to do so much better.

If you’re not in a place to support Uncanny magazine financially (Space Unicorns!), you can read half of the issue for free at the link above. The second half should be available on the Uncanny website in October.

Happy writing!

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo!

After a dangerous voyage from the Rivendell wilds of New Zealand, my print copy of the children’s anthology Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tired Tykes has finally made it to my mailbox.

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This is a larger book than I had pictured, much bigger than a typical scribbler (school notebook). The print is a nice size for reading and the full page illustrations preceding the stories pop off the page. All of the illustrations were done by artist Jon Stubbington.

The table of contents is a series of those illustrations rather than words, which works well for the younger end of the 3-7-year-old audience. They select a picture and their readers turn to the page to read the title. This frustrates me a little, I’ll admit, being used to titles in my tables of contents, but my girls love this feature.

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My story contribution, Leif the Story Hunter, sits somewhere in the middle of the book. Of course I flipped there to read it first. It’s about a boy who lives in the woods with his father, hunting for stories which they trap inside blank books and sell to the bookstore in the city. It’s a wonderful life, but when they trap the wrong story Leif’s father is held hostage until Leif can catch a replacement. Lief has never hunted on his own before…

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This is a fun book, and what’s great about it is that it’s geared to kids, not adults, on every level of its design. If you’d like to grab a copy, you can find them at the Patchwork Raven.

That’s it for now but stay tuned because the September 2018 issue of Cricket: the Realm of Imagination is out and I’m watching my mailbox for it. It takes a little extra time to make it into Canada but it’s going to be worth the wait because my funny fantasy story ‘Toby’s Alicorn Adventure’ is inside! The girls and I love reading Cricket and I am so excited to see my story inside those beloved pages.

Happy writing!

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Constellary Tales

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday! Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance.

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Constellary Tales

Eligibility: fantasy or science fiction stories from 1000-3500 words

Take Note: reading the welcome launch, the editors appear to prefer ‘hero’s journey’ stories

What makes this call stand out: this is a brand new market on the speculative fiction scene which pays pro rates

Payment: $0.06 per word

Submit by: this is an ongoing podcast/magazine, so submissions are open unless otherwise noted.

Click here to go to the original call for details.

Writerly links worth sharing this week:

Here’s a timely article writers can use to write without using gendered language.

What I’m Reading:

I’m currently in literary love with Martha Well’s first book in the Murderbot series, All Systems Red. Yowza! This is not what I expected when I started hearing the term ‘Murderbot’ everywhere I went. Murderbot is a clone/robot with a dark past and an introverted nature who hacked their governor module to achieve free will. They just want to watch their soap operas, but now they have to protect their human crew on a hostile planet and-ugh!-the humans keep talking to them. Looks like I’ll be catching up on the other Murderbot books in the series this fall.

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How I feel reading Murderbot  – Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Happy writing!