Ghosts — by SG Wong

My friend, and fellow Edmonton author, SG Wong released the third book in her Lola Stark series this week so I invited her to share a guest post on my blog to help celebrate (because writing is a team sport, yo!).

Sandra’s Lola Stark novels are an interesting mix of hard-boiled detective-y noir-y goodness and paranormal fiction (because ghosts!). The series began with Die on Your Feet, continued with In For a Pound and the newest installment is Devil Take the Hindmost. Read about what Sandra has to say about the inspiration for the ghost in her story, and then check out her books by clicking the links below!

 

The Idea of Ghosts…

A Guest Blog by SG Wong

 

I set the Lola Starke series in a 1930s alternate-history Los Angeles, which I named Crescent City for the shape of its bay. The idea of Lola and the City grew from my love of hard-boiled fiction by the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I made the femme fatale the PI and re-imagined the city of Chandler’s iconic shamus, Philip Marlowe, as a Chinese metropolis. And I purposefully left Lola a non-Chinese character in order to explore her place as the Other in her own hometown.

I could’ve stopped there, of course. I had plenty of angles to ponder and explore, not to mention plan and execute. But then the idea of ghosts came up…

And from an unexpected source, no less.

One day, many years ago, my mum called to tell me she’d been to a medium, a spiritualist who specialized in connecting the living with the dearly departed. She’d gone to visit this medium with her former landlord, Mrs. Wong, who’d also referred my mum.

Now, Mum is a devout follower of Chinese ancestor veneration, so in her heart, she believes that my father resides in the afterlife. (He died in 2000.) She regularly makes offerings in the name of his spirit and she’s even burned a copy of my first book for him—with my blessing—as offerings from the land of the living travel to our dead ancestors via flames and faith.

I’m a believer in reincarnation, though, so she and I disagree on where Dad is at the moment. And in my case, that there even is a “Dad” anymore. As far as I’m concerned, my father’s spirit has moved on to another life.

However, I am also—more often than not, I hope—a dutiful daughter. So when she said, “I visited a medium today and I spoke with Dad,” I replied, “Oh?” in what I’m proud to say was a very mild tone indeed.

“Yes and he’s very happy, honey. He says he’s very content.” My mother cried when she told me that. I started to cry too.

Then she said, “He’s with Mr. Wong.” And my tears dried up.

She wasn’t, of course, talking weirdly about my father. No, as I mentioned, the Mrs. Wong with whom my mum had visited the medium was a former landlord. Her husband, Mr. Wong, had died a few years before my father had. I hadn’t known Mr. Wong well at all. I’d been living abroad when my parents had moved to that apartment. But I did know that my father had—and pardon my bluntness here—detested his former landlord. Just couldn’t stand the man. I’d heard Dad complain many times about Mr. Wong in clear and vociferous terms. I knew Mum had heard it even more than I had.

So why the hell would my father be hanging out with his hated landlord in the afterlife?

My suspicious little brain really got whirring then. This so-called medium was nothing but a sham. Some crooked grifter looking to profit off the misery of the grieving. And I got angry. I remember my face flushing really, really hot with it. Just what had Mrs. Wong got my mum into? And how much had it cost her? I can still feel the scowl on my face as I opened my mouth to grill Mum on the particulars.

Then it hit me.

Mum had cried when she said Dad was happy. She’d cried because she was happy.

In a rush, I remembered why I never argued with her whenever she talked about Dad in the afterlife. Because she was comforted by the idea that Dad had found joy and contentment after his death, things that he’d had such trouble finding while he lived. Her relief was a profound and precious thing. Who the hell was I to trample on it?

So I clamped my mouth shut, took a deep breath, and I said, “That’s great, Mum. I’m glad Dad’s happy.”

(And just so you know I’m no candidate for sainthood, I admit I also added, “What a funny coincidence that he’d be with Mr. Wong, though, eh? Just when you were at the medium with Mrs. Wong. That’s handy.” I know, I know: BAD Sandra.)

At any rate, that whole conversation got me thinking about death and grief, and about the nature of sorrow and comfort. Religion and spirituality offer solace to many of us when we grieve. Yet, we all know people who are haunted by deaths, unable to let go of beloved relatives or lovers or friends. We all know people burdened by deaths that are hard to accept and impossible to understand. Sometimes, we are those people.

I wondered, what if ghosts could haunt people for the best of reasons? To offer comfort and guidance and love. To continue a story that would otherwise be over. Wouldn’t that be something?

With Crescent City, I created a society in which ghosts are a normal part of…life. And death. A dying person can choose to be tethered magically to a living host in a ceremony. It’s usually done out of love, although there are exceptions…

Oh, right. Magic. In Crescent City, magic is performed only by those with the talent to see and use ghosts. There are different categories of talents, but hosts aren’t automatically magic users and those who are not magically-talented can only hear their own ghost, not see them.

Of course, I’m a crime fiction writer, remember? A fan of hard-boiled and noir stories where bad things happen to good people. So I handicapped Lola with no talent for magic and a ghost she can’t abide.

…Did I forget to mention one of my favourite sayings? “Life is hard and then you die.”

 


 

Die On Your Feet

In For A Pound

Devil Take the Hindmost

Magical Menageries Colouring Book

Unicorn in an autumn forestI’m currently open to submissions of speculative stories about all things equine for Equus, the latest title in my Magical Menageries series. If you’re interested in submitting check out the call for submissions here, or find out what happens after you submit here.

But this is not about that 🙂

Not only is Equus the fifth title in my Magical Menageries series, it’s also meant to be the final book in that series. With the series coming to a close I wanted to come up with a way to mark and celebrate it because it is one hell of a collection.

So I’m going to produce a Magical Menageries colouring book!

The idea is that I will give it away as swag at conventions or sell it at the cost of shipping from my website for those who won’t be at the same conventions that I am. The only problem is I am *so* not an artist.

Which means I need to hire some.

I will be asking each participating artist to provide me with one colouring page to represent each book in the Magical Menageries collection, so five in all. Those books are:

  • Fae — fairies, forests, fairies, green men, fairies… you get the idea. Mostly fairies… but not so much of the Tinkerbell variety.
  • Corvidae — Magpies and ravens and jays, oh my!
  • Scarecrow — D’oh! I should have saved the Wizard of Oz reference for this description. Because yes. Scarecrows.
  • Sirens — Sirens from both the sea (mermaid type) and sky (winged type)
  • Equus — Horses, unicorns, Pegasus, centaurs…

If you’re not familiar with the books and find yourself stuck for subject matter I will be happy to provide a sample story to help inspire you.

I’m looking for colouring pages however you define that. It might be something as complex and detailed as this:

Detailed zentangle mermaid for coloring page

something simpler, like this:

Coloring page The magic bird

Or even this:

Outlined illustration of an adorable fairy

I want a mixture of styles and detail levels and will be asking for the nonexclusive use to the images (which means you’ll be free to sell or use them elsewhere too).

I will offer a token payment per image (starting around $5-10) plus contributor copies.

If you are interested in contributing to the colouring book please contact me at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com with a sample of your work or a link to your portfolio and a note about your expected rate of payment.

I’d like to have all the artists lined up by January so I’ll be open to receiving emails about this until December 15th, 2016.

Thank you!

Equus is Open

Equus Submissions Banner

Yesterday I opened to submissions for Equus. Today I’d like to make sure that everyone knows how to submit and what happens once you do 🙂

To Submit to Equus:

  1. Click the button below or go here –> http://niteblade.submittable.com/submit
  2. Read the guidelines one last time just to make sure you haven’t missed anything.
  3. Click on the orange ‘Submit’ button at the bottom of the page.
  4. Fill in the form.
  5. Upload your story file (which does not have your name anywhere on it).
  6. Click submit.

What Happens After You Submit to Equus:

  1. You will be redirected to a confirmation page that says your submission has been successfully submitted.
  2. You will receive an email confirmation that your submission was received. This email will contain a link you can follow to check the status of your submission at any time.
  3. My amazing submissions wrangler will check your submission to make sure your name doesn’t appear anywhere on the story file.
    1. If your name is on the story file, they will reject your story and ask that you re-submit with an anonymous story file. If this happens please do resubmit! We understand mistakes happen and I really do want to read your story… but I want to read it blind.
    2. If your name is not on the story file, they will assign it to me to read.
  4. I will read your story blind and respond one of three ways — I will pass on the story, shortlist it or ask you to revise and resubmit
  5. And we will take it from there 🙂

 

This is going to be the final title in the Magical Menageries series and I want to go out with a bang! One of the keys to having a really awesome anthology is having a lot of really awesome stories to choose from, so please submit, and send me your best work.

If you have any questions or concerns, hit me up. It’s what I’m here for. Otherwise:
submit

Women in Practical Armor

WomenInPracticalArmorIf women in fantasy are capable and intelligent enough to lead in battle, wouldn’t they also be intelligent enough to protect their abdomens, tie their hair back, and cover their faces in battle?

Edited by Ed Greenwood and Gabrielle Harbowy, this anthology of eighteen short stories showcases an already empowered female warrior who knows how to handle herself in battle. Take charge of your fantasy reading with Women In Practical Armor!

Steve Bornstein – “Serendipity”
Cassandra Rose Clarke – “A Night in New Verashtin”
Erik Scott de Bie – “King’s Shield”
Kristy Griffin Green – “The Family Business”
Amy Griswold – “The Raven and the Swans”
Sarah Hendrix – “Hero of Ithar”
Crystal Lynn Hilbert – “Stone Woken”
Chris A. Jackson – “First Command”
Mary Robinette Kowal – “The Bound Man”
Eric Landreneau – “Pride and Joy”
Wunji Lau – “No Better Armor, No Heavier Burden”
Todd McCaffrey – “Golden”
Rhonda Parrish – “Sharp as a Griffin’s Claw”
Anya Penfold – “The Lioness”
Mary Pletsch – “The Blood Axe”
Alex C. Renwick – “Ravenblack”
David Szarzynski – “Armor the Color of War”
Judith Tarr – “Attrition”

It’s out! It’s out! See that bolded name up there? That’s mine! I am so stoked about this.

My contribution is an Aphanasian story that includes some new and some familiar (*cough* Bayne *cough*) characters.

And readers are enjoying it. Check out this review:

“An unusual love story unfolds between an imp and a half-elf in “Sharp as a Griffin’s Claw” by Rhonda Parrish. I liked the unusual protagonists in the story, and how they came to love each other. I really liked how each of them gave their all to the relationship, and each became much more than they would have been had they been alone. Very smartly told, and an awesome addition to Women in Practical Armor.”

Check out the full review of this anthology I’m SO proud to be a part of — http://www.my-sf.com/2016/08/29/women-in-practical-armor-edited-by-ed-greenwood-and-gabrielle-harbowy-anthology-review/

Buy It Now 🙂