Category Archives: Blog Tour

Giftmas 2018

Each year I organize a blog tour to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank. This year’s blog tour has an Advent theme. That means twenty-four participants each sharing a story with you for the next twenty-four days. With a special surprise on Christmas Day. Check out this lineup!

These stories are not all happy. They’re not all holiday-themed. They’re not even all speculative. But they have all been donated by generous writers to help draw attention to our fundraiser for the Food Bank.

The stories will mostly be hosted at the blogs of the people who’ve written and donated them, so we’ll be spreading the love around. I will be sharing those URLs on my social media (Twitter and Facebook mostly) but once a week I’ll have an update here to share all the URLs and make sure even those of you who don’t follow me on social media won’t miss out 🙂

Most of the bloggers will be kind of subtle about the ‘passing of the hat’ portion of their blog posts, but not me. This is the one time of the year I am absolutely shameless about asking for your money. Because I’m not asking for myself, I’m asking for people who could use a little help. And every single dollar counts.

Because of their bulk buying power and community connections, each dollar donated to the food bank can buy three meals.

Our goal this year is $750

That means if we reach our goal we will have helped provide 2,250 meals to hungry people. And that, my friends, ain’t nothin’.

But we can’t do it without you, and every dollar counts.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE EDMONTON FOOD BANK

You’ll notice that link doesn’t go to a PayPal account or anything like that. None of this money comes to me. It all goes to the Edmonton Food Bank via Canada Helps. That means you can donate with confidence, knowing there is no chance your money won’t go where it’s intended. Also, Canadian donors can get a tax receipt and American donors can get crazy value for your money because those donations are in Canadian dollars. So every US dollar is worth about $1.25 Canadian!

But wait! There’s more!

While donating to the food bank is guaranteed to make you you feel good, we’re offering even more than that warm and fuzzy feeling in exchange for your donation.

Every person who donates to the fundraiser will receive a Giftmas card from me. However, the first five people to donate will find a custom poem (about a subject of their choice) included in that card along with some brand new ‘Writing is a Team Sport’ swag (in the form of a magnet) and for any of those donations which are $25 or more I will also include a special custom Corvidae die.

Also, every single person who donates $1 or more to the fundraiser will receive an electronic copy of Brandy Ackerley’s book, Fated.

Oh, but also? There’s still more 🙂 We have a Rafflecopter, and you don’t even need to donate in order to enter.

Because we know that money can be awfully tight around the holidays, so we’ve made it easy for you to support the fundraiser without spending any money — by signal boosting it. Check out the prizes that you can win. There are three prize packs, one which is open to anyone. One for the US only and one for Canadians.

First Prize

JB Riley — 5,000 word proofread

Beth Cato — Tuckerization within her current WIP novel. Her first ever!

Stephanie Lorée — 5,000 word editorial critique (first chapter, short story, whatever)

Jamie Wyman Reddy — 5,000 word editorial critique

JM Landels — One year e-subscription to Pulp Literature

Jennifer Lee Rossman — Signed copy of Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow

Alexandra Seidel — 5,000 word short story critique (horror or sff preferred)

L.S. Johnson — Signed copy of both Harkworth Hall and Leviathan

E.C. Bell — Signed copy of Hearing Voices

Rhonda Parrish — Signed copy of Equus

Stephanie A. Cain — Set of Circle City Magic paperbacks with signed bookplates (US & Canada only)

Julie E. Czerneda — The Web Shifters Trilogy, in trade paperback, (US & Canada destination)

Julie E. Czerneda — Audiobook of Search Image (Web Shifter’s Library series)

US Only Prize:

Ashley R. Carlson — signed copies of the first two books in The Charismatics series

Rhonda Parrish — Paperback copy of E is for Evil

Michael B. Tager — Paperback of your choice from Mason Jar Press

Canada Only Prize:

Kurt KirchmeierChronicles of Narnia

E.C. Bell — Signed copy of Hearing Voices

Rhonda Parrish — Corvidae Dice

O_O

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Or, if that widget doesn’t load for you click here to go directly to the page)

I’ll draw winners for the Rafflecopter on Boxing Day. Winners will have three days to respond to my email or I’ll draw a new name — so check your email over the holidays LOL Once winners have been contacted and finalized I will announce them here on my blog and on social media.

To claim your Giftmas card from me and/or copy of Fated, email me at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com. Include your snail mail address (for the card) and your preference of .mobi or .epub (for the book) and if you were one of the first five donors I will contact you about the subject matter for your poem. If you donated anonymously, please also tell me the time and amount of your donation so I can match them up.

And, in case you’ve forgotten how to donate (because this is a long blog post), I’ve got you covered. Check it out:

CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO THE EDMONTON FOOD BANK

Thank you! Enjoy the stories, the warm feeling of supporting this fundraiser, and good luck winning some of the goodies!

Giftmas 2018 — Advent Schedule

 

  1. SG Wong — “The Fix
  2. Alexandra Seidel — “Hans & Gretel
  3. Chadwick Ginther — “The Gift That Keeps on Giving
  4. Michael B. Tager — “Where the Dead Go To Disco
  5. Stephanie A. Cain — “Gift of the Werewolf
  6. Pamela Fernandes — “Letters from Bidbid
  7. J.S. Watts — “Christmas Traditions
  8. A.J. Wells — “The Feast of the Wolf King
  9. Randi Perrin — “Invisible
  10. JB Riley — “The Fool and the Wise Men
  11. Julie E. Czerneda — “Dear John
  12. Steve Toase — “Seeing With Pollen
  13. Premee Mohamed — “The Last
  14. Kurt Kirchmeier — “Souls on Display
  15. Tiffany Michelle Brown — “Anything But Plain
  16. E.C. Bell — “Oslo’s Wish
  17. Laura VanArendonk Baugh — “Cocoa
  18. Beth Cato — “Rootless
  19. Jennifer Lee Rossman — “Spider
  20. Amanda C. Davis — “Things That Matter
  21. Lizz Donnelly — “Eggscellent
  22. Cassandra Weir — “Never Too Late
  23. Kevin Cockle — “Eight Precious Spiced Jewels
  24. Cat Rambo — “Dark Shadows on the Earth
  25. [Top Sekkrit Surprise]

Giftmas 2018 Sign-up

Over the past few years it has become a holiday tradition that I organize a blog tour to benefit the Edmonton Food Bank. The way it works is that we have a holiday-themed blog tour and on each of the stops we invite people to support the food bank through our link and help feed hungry families. Some years we give away prizes, some years we just rely on the goodwill of others. Every year once the fundraiser is over everyone involved gets to feel that special kind of glow that comes from having done something unselfish and good for someone else.

It means a lot to me.

This year we’re going to be doing a sort of Advent blog tour. I will be asking each participant to share some fiction on their blog for their stop in the tour. That fiction might be a poem, or flash, or a short story. We will have one stop, one story, each day leading up to a very special stop on Christmas Day. The number of stops we have will be determined by the number of participants who sign up.

Would you like to participate? Do you have a story to share? It doesn’t need to be holiday or even winter themed, but I would appreciate it if it wasn’t completely dark and depressing. Something appropriate for all ages with a little hope, a little optimism, a little light would be wonderful.

To sign up to participate, or if you have any questions at all, hit me up at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com

Sign-ups will be open until November 15th or until I get 25 participants, whichever comes first.

Bright Spot — Alison McBain

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

This post from Alison McBain talks about something that’s all too easily forgotten and taking steps in the right direction…

NEVERTHELESS BLOG POST

by Alison McBain

I think the most important lesson I’ve learned in my writing journey is there is no down without an up, too. Writers talk a lot about harsh critiques, bad reviews, and rejections, rejections, rejections—but there’s also the opposite. Those days where you not only get one acceptance, but you get FIVE. Or when you get your story into your dream journal or magazine or anthology. When someone emails you and says, “Hey, I like your writing.” Or the best yet, when you get another writer saying, “You’ve inspired MY writing journey.”

Now, how cool is that? I had that happen to me this year, and when the person said it to my face, I wanted to turn around and look behind me to see who the person must be talking to, because it couldn’t be me. MY words were an inspiration to someone else who wanted to write? That just blew me away.

This year was a great one for me for a number of reasons—I had a lot of “firsts.” While I’ve had a number of short stories and poems published over the past five years, 2018 was when my debut YA novel, The Rose Queen, hit shelves in July. It’s a gender-inverted retelling of Beauty and the Beast and the first of a trilogy, and people seem to be enjoying it so far. In fact, I’ve had several readers ask when the next in the series will come out (answer: 2019).

Also this year, I became lead editor for the first time and helped put together a very awesome time travel anthology containing stories by a number of award-winning authors from around the world. It’s called When to Now and will be available for sale on October 1st. I was also “promoted” at Bewildering Stories, so I’m a coordinating editor and a member of the Review Board, and get to help choose the quarterly and annual awards to celebrate the best writing the magazine publishes each year.

I feel that now is the best time to be a woman, a POC, and a speculative fiction writer. Every day I hear /read about another anthology or another award that is going to an author in one of these aforementioned categories, to say nothing about the growing popularity of speculative fiction writers from many other marginalized communities and groups. For example, in the Fairfield Scribes’ soon-to-be-released anthology that I’m editing, When to Now, ten out of the eighteen stories are penned by women. And for the second year in a row, the Hugo Awards were dominated by women writers. I can’t say how inspiring this is to me.

I’m not blind to a number of ongoing trends around the world, however—and sometimes it’s hard to stay optimistic when I’m writing science fiction stories, since it seems like perhaps there won’t be a world as we would like to imagine it in 1000—or even 500—years. And perhaps, despite focusing on an optimistic outlook, things could change for the worse sooner than that.

I’ve written dystopian. I know how that line of reasoning goes.

On the other hand, I’d like to think that for every step backward, we’re taking two steps forward. Not just me, personally, but in all the realms of technology, society, and culture. We’re a global community of writers, now more than ever, and it’s a great time to celebrate how far we’ve come. And to look forward to where we have yet to go, and how we can get there together.


Alison McBain was born in Alberta, grew up in California and received her B.A. in African history and classical literature at U.C. Santa Cruz. After her nomadic twenties, she settled in Fairfield, Connecticut, where she is raising three girls and her husband.

She is an award-winning author with more than 70 short stories and poems published, and her YA fantasy novel, The Rose Queen, was released at the end of July. She is also an editor for an awesome time travel anthology coming out October 1st called When to Now. It has contributions from more than ten local authors, in addition to stories penned from around the world, including writers from India, New Zealand, Britain, and Canada.

When not writing, she practices origami meditation and draws all over the walls of her house with the enthusiastic help of her kids. Once in a while, she puts on her editor hat for the magazine Bewildering Stories, or interviews authors and artists at her website www.alisonmcbain.com.


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Bright Spot — Kate Heartfield

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

This post, by Kate Heartfield, is one I can relate two on several levels. I kind of want to talk about them, but that could diminish the impact of what she has to say, so we’re just going to dive right in 🙂

Optimism blog post

By Kate Heartfield

 

Soon after Anne arrives at Green Gables, Marilla Cuthbert chides her for not eating.

*

“I can’t. I’m in the depths of despair. Can you eat when you are in the depths of despair?”

“I’ve never been in the depths of despair, so I can’t say,” responded Marilla.

“Weren’t you? Well, did you ever try to imagine you were in the depths of despair?”

“No, I didn’t.”

*

The first few times I read L.M. Montgomery’s novel, I was very young, and I saw Marilla’s curt responses merely as a failure of empathy, a sign that she has a lot to learn about raising a child. And indeed, all of that is true. But now that I’m closer to Marilla’s age than Anne’s, I understand Marilla’s perspective more.

We talk about “youthful optimism”, as though it’s a quality that fades with time. But I don’t think that’s quite right. Youthful optimism is ephemeral, and it turns into despair all too easily. The optimism of old women is steady. It hardens under pressure, like carbon turning into diamond. The optimism of old women is quiet but stern. It doesn’t demand to be catered to, but it doesn’t back down, either.

The optimism of my grandmothers was Marilla’s brand of optimism. Both of them had been through hardships I could barely imagine when I was young, even the ones I knew about. They were, above all, practical. They woke up every morning and did the work that needed to be done, because someone had to do it.

There’s a strength that comes from carrying on not because you hope everything will be OK, but because you know that nothing will be OK unless someone does the hard and unending work to make it OK. A strength from knowing that you have it in you to do your share of that work. From refusing to give in to cynicism despite knowing all too well that humanity falters, that life is sad and unfair, that easy answers are lies. From knowing that you and joy have both survived, and some things can get better, when people make them get better.

Old women are too tired to give a damn about the things that don’t matter, and too fierce to stop giving a damn about the people who do.

Those are the women who people most of my stories, these days.

 


Kate Heartfield is a former journalist in Ottawa, Canada. Her novel Armed in Her Fashion was published in spring 2018 by ChiZine Publications, and she has a time-travel novella, Alice Payne Arrives, coming in November 2018 from Tor.com Publishing.

Her interactive novel, The Road to Canterbury, is now available from Choice of Games. She’s on Twitter as @kateheartfield and her website is heartfieldfiction.com.


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Bright Spot — Michael Milne

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today’s contribution comes from Michael Milne who is talking about humanity and optimism.

 

Smiling Happy Killer Robot Land: Optimism Through Imaginary Futures, Even The Bad Ones

by Michael Milne

 

It feels easy to write dystopian fiction. Looking around at how the world as it is today, it’s not hard to extrapolate to an imagined future where things look bleak. Take current climate trends and blow them out a few decades or centuries and you’ve got a dieselpunk wasteland. Think about rising tides of fascism and you’ve got yourself a YA fantasy government percolating in your brain. Consider how much of your data has been stored, copied, aggregated, and used against you and suddenly you can imagine a digital you gestating in a Silicon Valley tech lab.

But when I really think about speculative fiction, even those most dire and sad and gruelling adventures through whatever we’ve done to ourselves and the planet, there’s always the kernels of optimism. Even when a story is unrelentingly dark or pessimistic, there’s still usually somebody, somewhere in there, trying to do good.

Even beyond the big, rebellious adventures against the autocratic robot governments, there’s the tiny human stories. Under heavy oppression or acid rains or terrible laserwar, there’s characters being people. They might be the protagonist, or they might be someone in the background, but I always notice these people in the future. People having kids, and hoping those children will have a better life than the parents led. People falling in love, despite whatever in the world is trying to keep them apart. People working at their jobs, but dreaming of something more.

Even outside of optimistic stories like those in Nevertheless, it’s these human qualities in otherwise dark stories that can give me a sense of hope. They remind me that even over human history, where we’ve done pretty terrible things to each other, there were always still people striving to make things better. Bravery, compassion, empathy, and love have lived through some of the darkest eras of humanity, and no matter how dire we write our futures, those qualities seem to live out.

The seeds of humanity in these situations are still being planted and growing, even if the soil is irradiated by nuclear space monsters, or if we don’t even have soil anymore. If those characters can imagine a better future for themselves, if they can be faced with all the weight and horrors that their writers through at them and still hope, then I think I can too.

 


Michael Milne is an author and teacher originally from Canada. He writes and annoys barristas worldwide, but mainly in coffee shops in Korea, China, and Switzerland. His website is www.michaelmilne.ca and you can find him on Twitter @ironcardigan.

 


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Bright Spot — Lisa Timpf

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today we continue with this contribution from Lisa Timpf about, well, keepin’ on.

 

One Step at a Time

By Lisa Timpf

Step with non-operative leg, swing cane in rhythm with operated leg. Step, swing, step, swing. In the weeks since my total knee replacement operation, the mechanics of walking with a cane had become automatic. Maybe I didn’t move as fast as I had in my twenties, but I managed to get to my destination, one step at a time.

The temperature was warm on this May afternoon. Spring had been long in coming this year, but it appeared to have arrived at last. After weeks of being cooped up indoors, reluctant to risk wiping out on ice or slipping on snow, it felt liberating to be outdoors. To celebrate the return of more clement weather, we’d decided to work on the vegetable garden.

But being less than ten weeks recovered from knee surgery, I was in to no condition to operate the tiller or bend over to plant seeds. Those tasks would fall to my partner, instead. Never one to enjoy watching others work, I leaned against a tree and looked around for something I could do.

And that’s when I noticed the asparagus patch, a legacy left by the property’s former owners. Asparagus doesn’t like weeds, I reminded myself as I studied the three small, roughly circular beds. There were no signs, as yet, of asparagus spears poking through the earth, but it wouldn’t be long. Meanwhile, clumps of grass, wild violets, and other interlopers were insinuating themselves into the open patches of soil.

With the aid of my cane, I lurched up the eight-inch step into the garden shed. I grabbed my gardening stool and a hand-held cultivator with my free hand, then made my way to the asparagus patch. It took me a couple of tries to figure out the best way to lower myself onto the stool. My ultimate method of choice would likely have made my physiotherapist cringe, but I managed to get settled into place nonetheless, my still-healing left leg stretched out as I carefully tugged weeds out of the soil to make room for the coming crop.

The nature of the work left my mind free to wander, and I found myself thinking back on the past few weeks. Sometimes, battling against stiffness in my knee as I performed the exercises designed to improve flexion and extension, I’d wondered whether recovery would ever come. And yet, that day, warmed by the ever-strengthening sun, the simple act of digging my fingers into the soil helped restore my faith. Surrounded by new growth and fortified by the spring air, I finally felt certain that the frustrating stiffness and lack of mobility would become a thing of the past, and I would once again be able to perform some of the tasks I’d had to leave to other family members this year.

Maybe I wasn’t the picture of speed as I painstakingly moved from a completed section of the bed to the next area needing attention, but I was making progress, albeit one step at a time.

And sometimes, that’s enough.


Lisa Timpf is a retired Human Resources and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in a number of venues, including New Myths, Third
Flatiron, Star*Line, Liquid Imagination, and The Martian Wave. When not writing, Lisa enjoys bird-watching, golf, organic gardening, and spending outdoor time with her border collie,
Emma


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Bright Spots — Dorianne Emmerton

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today we continue with this contribution from Dorianne Emmerton about how today’s youth keep her optimistic.

 

Optimism

By Dorianne Emmerton

Optimism does not come easily to me. It’s possible I did this to myself, reading dystopian science fiction from my parents’ book shelves when I was young and impressionable. I’ve been worried about environmental devastation since I read The Sheep Look Up at some sort of tender age, and that concern has certainly not lessened over the years, as climate change becomes an increasingly clear and immediate danger. And there is no dearth of other things to worry about, on either side of the personal-political coin.

As an anxious kid, and an insecure teen, I felt powerless in the face of everything awful on earth. I wasn’t smart enough, rich enough, or politically influential enough to save the world. As a hard-partying twentysomething I had my period of youthful idealism, showing up at protests to shout slogans in a voice hoarse from cigarettes and lack of sleep. I remember the moment that stopped.  On a bitterly cold day in February of 2003, I froze my ass off protesting the American invasion of Iraq. Thirty-six million people around the world protested. But it happened anyway. I knew it was going to happen anyway. It didn’t matter, nothing we did mattered.

But the kids these days aren’t just marching. The kids these days give me hope. The kids these days aren’t standing around in the cold; they’re lawyering up.

I’m talking about the youth all over the world who are suing their governments for policies that contribute to climate change. Some of these litigants are literal children.

There’s a seven year old in Pakistan.

A nine year old in India.

A group called Nature and Youth in Norway.

And a group of 25 children and young people won their court case in Colombia!.

On October 29th, 2018, the “Trial of the Century” is starting in the United States.  Twenty-one Americans ranging in age from eleven to twenty-two have filed that their government’s actions that cause climate change have violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.

If it can happen south of the border, it can happen up here in Canada. The American kids are represented by lawyers from the legal non-profit organization Our Children’s Trust, who are partnering with other attorneys and youth around the world to file more lawsuits – and they have a page with our name on it.

I’m currently raising a kid of my own, and he’s already doing ground-level advocacy work in his kindergarten – though it’s a necessity, not a choice. He has to explain to his classmates that it’s possible to have two women as parents, because that’s what he has. He has to explain that some people use they/them pronouns, because those are people in his life.

And if he ever wants to sue the government over fossil fuels, he has my full support.


Dorianne Emmerton grew up in the woods on the North Channel of Lake Huron and currently lives in the metropolis of Toronto. She loves both of those environments, but wishes the drive between them didn’t take so long. She has recent publications in the Ink Stains Anthology; Friend. Follow. Text #storiesFromLivingOnline; and Issue #1 of Beer And Butter Tarts, as well as a personal essay in A Family By Any Other Name: Exploring Queer Relationships. She is currently working on a space opera novella in collaboration with Ottawa band
Saturnfly, and a novel about occult magic in Northern Ontario. She has a wonderful chosen family, an adorable son, and a black cat.


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Bright Spot — Jerri Jerreat

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline.

That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today we continue with this contribution from Jerri Jerreat how she stays optimistic.

 

Why I’m Still Optimistic

By Jerri Jerreat

I think a writer needs to be drenched in the real world, not holed up in a garret or mansion, separate from life swirling around. I am terribly curious, nosy, my sister says, about everyone. I enjoy chatting with the person beside me on the bus or plane, the waitress, the logger, the cashier. These small connections give me hope. I’ve learned that ordinary people are resourceful and hopeful. They’re all trying to create good lives, make wise choices. They are capable of learning new ways.

I support a variety of kick-ass charities, including Ecojustice, Greenpeace, environmentaldefense.ca, Friends of Clayoquot Sound, Help Lesotho, Women for Women International, etc. They are each accomplishing amazing things. I sign petitions, walk in marches. Martin Luther King taught us.

As well, I teach a classroom full of students under the age of 13. They have anxieties. My 9 year olds came to school in a panic after Trump was elected and I had to soothe them, explain that that was not our country. We were safe. But are we? We have to fight for our safety, our Human Rights and our right to clean air, water and land. Throughout the year, in class, we read newspaper articles together that inspire us all with hope. There were those kids in Yellowknife who wanted to be a sledge hockey team to play with their friend with cerebral palsy; the clever off-grid tiny houses built by the Secwepemc people to protect their alpine meadows; shaggy haired Boyan Slat, with an invention to use the ocean currents to remove plastic; and the Malawain lad, William Kamkwamba, who built a wind turbine out of scrap metal bits and an old textbook. I read them the book, “And Tango Makes Three”, to which one lad responded, “Well why can’t penguins be gay? People can be!” We heard Malan, a local teen, recently a refugee from Syria, chat to us about her life, and we played with her baby sister. My class ate a gorgeous lunch with Muslim Canadian families.

People are creative! We can unlearn prejudices. We can learn to repair our excesses. We can rein in those negative leaders, and work to halt the world’s warming.

I am optimistic, but I am also a fighter.


Jerri Jerreat’s fiction has appeared in The New Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, Fireweed, Canadian Storyteller Magazine, and won a Room fiction competition. She has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and has taught a variety of writing courses at St. Lawrence College, in Kingston, Ontario. She now teaches younger students, and each year, mentors a class to create a play together, then directs it. She read A Wrinkle in Time and other fine books aloud to her own kids, Tanner, Adan and Haven, walking them to school, and is proud to say she can still walk and read at the same time. When her family canoe trips somewhere like Algonquin Park, they all stuff massive books secretly into their packs.


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Bright Spots — Natalia Yanchak

When Brian Hades and I were discussing themes for Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) one of the possibilities he suggested was optimistic speculative fiction. I pounced on that idea for two reasons. First, because I’d just recently become aware of solarpunk (largely through Sarena Ulibarri) and was excited to work on an anthology that might include some and second… because I’d become convinced that we were living in the darkest timeline. That was in 2016. I had no idea how much darker it could become.

Still, despite a very difficult couple of years, I manage to find reasons for optimism. Lights in the darkness. And I’m not alone in that.

In the coming weeks I will be hosting a series of blog posts I’m calling “Bright Spots in the Darkest Timeline”. Each will be written by a Nevertheless (Tesseracts Twenty-one) contributor and I think they will serve the dual purpose of giving me an excuse to talk about the anthology, and shining a bit of light into people’s lives.

Today we begin with this contribution from Natalia Yanchak about shifting how we think and approach things.

 

How to Repurpose a Diss

By Natalia Yanchak

I’ve been mostly self-employed throughout my life, so taking a part-time job was a big change. The decision set my work-life balance askew — or, I considered, the regular pay cheque might recalibrate my life-life balance. Not to say my decades-spanning career in rock and roll wasn’t work, it just never really felt as such.

Now I’ve committed to going in to an office, and managing said office, several times a week. I ride public transit with commuters and have to run errands on the weekend—along with the crowds and everyone else. I promised myself this would be temporary. My band would be making another album and have to tour again in a few years. But for now, I can be normal-core.

At risk of sounding like clickbait, you won’t believe what happened next! The show that was coming to the gallery (did I mention the office was situated in a non-profit art gallery in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal?) would put my optimism to the test.

Part of my new job is being available to visitors of the space. I have to greet them and be able to answer their questions about what is being displayed or presented. This generally requires learning about the work via a walkthrough with artists and curators, or a group reading. In the case of nènè myriam konaté’s curatorial residency “yes, and… also”, gallery employees were invited to a closed reading and discussion of Naomi Klein’s Leap Manifesto — a call to action for economic restructuring and basic equalities for all Canadians.

Part of nènè’s residency included a challenge to only converse in positive terms. Their residency was partially an experiment on how to effect positive change. How intersectionality and improvisation can lead to radical openness, requesting that we “stand firmly in our yes’s + that we ask ourselves why.”

When chatting in the space, nènè would kindly reminded me to reword negative language. It was harder to “stand firmly in my yes’s” than I thought. When wanting to challenge a point in our group reading of the Leap Manifesto, I would begin to speak, then pause and reflect: “How do I criticise with something in a positive way?”

It is doable, but requires forethought. To be positive and optimistic we must defy our innate training towards cynicism. We lean too much on our competitiveness. We puff ourselves up by denigrating others, where this exercise curated by nènè planted the seed that it was possible to speak positively about, say, even the hugest asshole. Those negative thoughts only help to cast an outward, negative vibe.

The inspiration behind my story, “Lt. Andrewicz Goes Apple Picking” is simple: as I waited to pick up my son from daycare, I looked over the photos from a recent field trip to an apple orchard. I couldn’t spot my boy in any of the shots, but I knew he was there: he came home with a sack of apples that day! So where was he? Enter my imagination.

Enter, also, the concept of parenthood, enter the primal bond one develops with their children. Enter the terror of thinking that one day your child might not need you. Then the doubt: Have I done my best? Have I given them the emotional and critical tools they might need to handle whatever life throws at them?

This is where positive vibes come in handy, where the simple task of equipping the people around you — young and old — with a sense of purpose effects positive change. Take pause to work out how that would sound. Come up with something inspiring about someone, even if it’s behind their back, even if you never tell them.

Could you imagine, a day without sending or receiving a single microaggression? Try it for an afternoon. Judge and disagree in solely positive terms: express what would you like to see, instead of ranting about what you didn’t like. Reframe that negative idea, repurpose that diss, and manifest the future, the yes’s, that you want.

 


 

Natalia attended Concordia University’s Creative Writing program. After graduation, she toured  internationally as keyboardist and singer with The Dears. She writes speculative fiction in Tiohtià:ke/Montreal, where she lives with her husband and two children.

 

nataliayanchak.com

twitter.com/nataliayanchak

instagram.com/nataliayanchak

facebook.com/natalia.scifi

 

Author photo credit: Richmond Lam

 


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Candas as Mentor

We recently celebrated the release of Prairie Starport: Stories in Celebration of Candas Jane Dorsey but some of the contributors wanted to do something a bit more. And so for the next few Fridays my blog is going to feature more stories about Candas and the anthology in the form of guest posts for a mini blog series I’m calling:

Candas as Mentor

“I referred to someone as my mentor for the first time the other day. I thought you should know, since I was talking about you.”

I told Candas that as we were sitting in her car outside my house. We’d just come from having sushi and were, to paraphrase Candas, stuffed full as snakes. It was wintertime but the sunlight coming through the windshield warmed the car to a comfortable level. I was not comfortable, however, I was nervous.

It’s weird the weight that the word ‘mentor’ can carry.

I met Candas when I took one of her workshops. I went into it not knowing anything about her at all–I’d signed up primarily to buy myself some deadlines to get some writing done, any feedback I got in addition to that would just be a nice bonus.

Well, I got a lot more than I bargained for.

At that time I was in the midst of putting together a Niteblade anthology (I think it was Nothing to Dread) and I had questions. Questions I thought Candas might be able to answer. So during the breaks in our class I would follow her to the hot chocolate machine and pick her brain. And I found that in addition to knowing things I wanted to learn from her, I also liked her.

So, once the workshop was done I asked if I could take her out for sushi. And a friendship was born.

By the time we were sitting in her car and I was shyly confessing to referring to her as my mentor, Candas and I had been friends for a few years which made it feel a bit weird, like I was saying, “Hey, I know we started out as student and teacher, and then evolved into friends but, uh, I still feel like we’ve got a student/teacher thing goin’ on here…”

In retrospect my shyness was ridiculous, not only because I know that relationships are complicated and layered and stuff… but also because teaching isn’t just a thing Candas does, it’s a big part who she is (in my defense I’ve got a pretty big ego and there’s a certain amount of repression of that ego which comes along with acknowledging someone else as your mentor LoL).

Over the years Candas has taught me things. Here are just a few of them:

  • Get the words on the page however you need to get the words on the page. If your usual system isn’t working change it.
    • My first drafts are usually written long hand and then I do my first editing pass as I’m typing them up on the computer. One day, Candas and I went for lunch and I was complaining about how stuck I was. I had the ideas, I knew the story, but trying to get the words on the page was worse than pulling teeth. Candas asked me about how I wrote my first drafts, I told her and she said, “After lunch we’re going to get you a new pen.” We finished eating and hit up the store for a new pen. It sounds ridiculous, but it worked. I was so excited to use my new pen that I broke through my paralysis and got the words on the freaking page. Sometimes even the smallest changes can have a huge result.

 

  • When editing, or critiquing, you need to consider intent.
    • After the workshop Candas ran where I first met her, she taught another, slightly more advanced, class. I signed up. As part of the course each participant was expected to critique every other participant’s work. I was struggling with one submission in particular. I kept trying and trying to come up with some encouraging, constructive feedback, but no matter how many times I read it I just couldn’t find anything that worked about it. Finally, in desperation, I emailed Candas and was like, “What do I do? It’s just so bad…” I could hear her smile in her email when she replied and said, “Read it again and look for her intention. What was she trying to do when she wrote this?” That helped. Not just in that critique, but any time I come across a story I’m really struggling to critique or edit.

 

  • It’s all about doggy dominance.
    • One of Candas’ dogs was a timid little thing. In an attempt to socialize him, whenever I went to visit she had me spend time with him, and we had a lot of conversations about doggy dominance, and (basically) faking it until you make it. When I was writing my very first ever anthology pitch I showed it to Candas. She took her red pen to it, crossing out all the places I was the least bit hesitant or tentative and wrote ‘Doggy dominance’ across the page. I’ve never forgotten that and now anthologies are kind my thing. Who’s to say how much of that has to do with doggy dominance?

 

I could get into all the things I’ve learned about writing from Candas too… but that’s a whole blog post of it’s own. Maybe next time 😉

 

 

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All profits from this collection will be donated to the Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society in Candas’ name.

 

 

And the Winners Are…

As part of this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour we had a raffle. And the prizes for the raffle were pretty epic. There were two of them. Yesterday afternoon I let the Rafflecopter choose our winners and sent them emails to let them know.

Second Prize is:

  • Beth Cato will send you a signed copy of a Chicken Soup from the Soul book containing one of her essays
  • Signed copy of Vacuia Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • Themed packet of journaling/scrapbooking ephemera
  • Mini hand-bound leather journal by Lynn Hardaker
  • eBook copy of Bait by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

The winner, as determined by Rafflecopter is Anna P.!

The Grand Prize is:

  • Paperback copies of the first four books in the Amethir series by Stephanie A. Cain
  • Beth Cato will send you a signed copy of a Chicken Soup from the Soul book containing one of her essays
  • Signed copy of Vacuia Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • Copy of Three-Way Dance signed by Brian Rosenberger
  • Sensitivity read or poetry critique by Lisa Bradley
    • Will read and respond to up to 50 pages of fiction from her perspective as a queer USian Latina with chronic illnesses and depression OR critique up to two pages of poetry (one long poem or two shorter ones)
  • Paperback copy of The Stars in My Door signed by Doug Blakeslee
  • Signed copy of Monsters in my Mind by Ada Hoffmann
  • Paperback copy of Heavy Metal by Andrew Bourelle
  • Small piece of art by Lynn Hardaker
  • eBook copy of the Witches of Doyle three book set by Kirsten Weiss
  • Paperback copy of The Songweaver’s Vow by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
  • Tuckerization by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
    • Name if it fits the world and characteristics if it doesn’t, or Laura will substitute another world to keep the name
  • Custom cross stitch (6″ square or smaller) by Jennifer Lee Rossman
  • Art print from Barbara Tomporowski
  • Signed copy of Dying on Second by E. C. Bell
  • Download code for a free copy of He Sees You When He’s Creepin’: Tales of Krampus courtesy of Jude Tulli

This was won by Heidi B.!

Congratulations ladies, and thank you for supporting our fundraiser by boosting its signal. We really appreciate it. And if you didn’t win, I’m sorry — but the good news is we raised over $1,000 for a really good cause and you were a part of that. Thank you!

And thank you also to everyone who donated a prize to the pool. I couldn’t have done this without you 🙂

More details about the book I’m giving away and such will come in the following weeks.

Congratulations again, Anna and Heidi!