Tag Archives: Guest blogger

Dark Shadows on the Earth

For this year’s Giftmas blog tour has an advent theme each participant has donated a story — one each day between now and Christmas Eve, with a special surprise on Christmas Day. Not every participant has an active blog, however, and so for those couple who do not it is my pleasure to host them here. Cat Rambo has a blog, but today it is full of announcements about her end of the year sale at her writing academy. If you’re a writer, definitely check that out here –> http://www.kittywumpus.net/blog/about/ . So, anyway, since her blog is busy and my blog is not, I get the pleasure of sharing her story here 🙂

Before we get to the story, however, a quick word about the tour, if I may. The purpose of the blog tour is to fundraise for the Edmonton Food Bank. We do that by collecting donations through our Canada Helps page which you can find right here. We use Canada Helps because it’s easy, and also because then you can give with confidence knowing that the money is going exactly where it’s intended — to help struggling people. Also, by using Canada Helps it means Canadian contributors will be able to get a tax receipt. Oh, and American donors? You get some awesome value for your money because donations are all in Canadian dollars so the exchange rate will definitely work in our favour here 😉

Finally, in addition to offering a story a day to everyone who’d like to read them, we like to reward those people who do what they can to help out. However they help out. Whether that be by making an actual donation, helping to boost our signal or just leaving encouraging comments on the stories themselves. They all help. So we’ve got a rafflecopter with tonnes of prizes. You can read the full list here but they include loads of books, critiques, a magazine subscription, dice and more.

Enter to win here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(If the widget doesn’t load for you click here, it will take you to the page so you can enter directly)

And now, without further adieu…

Dark Shadows on the Earth

Cat Rambo

I loved Christmas lights till I knew better. Loved to look out my kitchen window, down the hill, and see the lights twinkling, sparkling, lines going off and on, leading the eye in complicated cuneiform, punctuated with glowing candles and the faces of luminous angels.

When the new guy first moved in, three years ago, that Christmas was downright subdued by the standards he’d come to set, but even then everyone said Gaudy in whispers or sometimes not whispers, conversations on the street or at the bus stop, in the grocery checkout while buying tasteful pine wreaths and poinsettias in red and white and marbled pink.

No one said anything that first year, but in October they started talking about nipping it in the bud, gathering conscripts for a delegation sent the Sunday before Thanksgiving to ask him to tone it down that season. Do something a little more in fitting with the overall atmosphere of the neighborhood.

No one expected someone so dedicated to Christmas cheer to meet them wearing a dilapidated Santa suit with Kevlar showing underneath split seams, bedraggled red velvet. He was hostile, he was obdurate. He shouted, “Atmosphere? Just wait till you’re breathing methane!” And then he laughed and laughed, just before he punched Mr. Takenada from 830 Park Avenue in the face.

He would not explain his ways, let alone change them.

I mentioned something about it to my brother-in-law Arturo in Denver, and he said, “There’s one in every neighborhood, isn’t there? We have one, moved in a couple of years ago, and you wouldn’t believethe problems we’ve had.”

Even then, see, the clues were there. How could I have been such a fool?

I don’t know, but I was — even when Willa at work mentioned her own homeowner’s association having problems.

I wasn’t the only stupid one. You would have thought that someone in a satellite would have noticed the overall patterns. The pictograms formed by the display locations. Even if no one could read them. Even if no one realized they said, Almost ready.

And so we the neighborhood didn’t grasp the larger picture. We took that year’s display as war, not realizing it was literal. He expanded the gnome village, had them all over his lawn and garden, each one carrying a lantern. There were choirs of angels perched on the roof, in the garden, everywhere, even a big golden one next to his mailbox. And five Santas, each in a different location, with herds of reindeer and elves capering around him. Christmas carols blaring whenever it was legally possible. And the lights, all night, bright and twinkling and illuminating his display and the dark shadows it cast on the snow.

This year we thought we were prepared. Takenada had figured out the power lines: exactly where to snip, long enough to get in close and do additional snipping. Cut those wires enough times that he’d take a thousand years to splice them all back, he cackled. Takenada has always been one to hold a grudge. It was a rainy season, and we didn’t even have snow yet, just rhododendrons with leaves curling against the cold and dry leaves scrabbling at the ground as the wind scraped them away.

Rudolph and all the other reindeer had a feral look to them, and the candles the angels were holding looked more like laser pistols. We waited until a half hour before the dark, when the lights would snap on. We figured that was the closest to dark we’d get.

His defense system was in full working order. The gnomes swiveled, the lanterns flickering to life. The angels on the roof peered down and revealed fanged smiles. The Santas let out ear-splitting whoops, a discordant version of Jingle Bells.

We pushed forward, not understanding until it was too late.

They landed when all the lights across the city came on and unleashed the hunting robots. All those other Christmas figures came to life and joined them. By then Takenada had gone down screaming when that big golden angel sliced his throat with a razor-edged wing tip. I barely got away with my life; I was in no shape to resist when a patrol of elves rounded me up with some other resisters.

Did they pick that scheme because they thought we’d be vulnerable, filled with love and the spirit of the season and therefore unable to understand the attack until it was too late? Or was there some special humiliation, a particular way to score points in some enigmatic alien game we had no chance of understanding, scoring points for despoiling our childhood loves and turning the holiday into horror?

I do not know. Nowadays we toil in their factories, under the eyes of wise men and security Santas. Walking home at night, I see the angels swooping overhead, watching us, their lasers in their hands. They glow, the angels, and as they move, they cast dark shadows on the earth, and the shadows make their horrible glow all the stronger.


Originally published at Every Day Fiction, December 30, 2015


Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 150+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and Tor.com. Her short story, “Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain,” from her story collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012 and her first novel, Beasts of Tabat, appeared in 2015. She is the current President of SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see www.kittywumpus.net.

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…


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 — 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,

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Candas as a Queen of True North SF

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 several Fridays I was honoured to feature more stories about Candas and the anthology in the form of guest posts on my blog. Today’s entry is going to conclude this series which I called:



Thoughts about one of the Queens of True North SF

by Gregg Chamberlain

I’ve been a fan of speculative fiction since I was kid watching Rocket Robin Hood on CBC and getting a Tom Corbet, Space Cadet juvenile hardcover for a Christmas present one year. Over the years my taste in speculative fiction has broadened and, I hope, matured (though I can still sing both the opening and closing theme songs for Rocket Robin, and will do so despite all attempts to stop me. BIG GRIN).

But for a long while, I thought all the writers of sf and fantasy were either British or American (Jules Verne being the sole exception to the rule). I didn’t know that A.E. Van Vogt was Canadian, though I enjoyed reading Slan. While in high school I discovered H. A. Hargreaves’ North by 2000 collection of short stories and I was amazed. The stories were good, although a bit depressing in their depiction of the future, and that was my impression of Canadian SF then. Cold, bleak, and dark. Kind of like the middle of January in Northern Ontario (and I know what I am talking about, since my family spent two years in the Kenora/Rainy River area—first time ever heard the boom of ice cracking on a river late at night in the middle of winter while the cold stars blinked in the midnight sky).

Now, I did know there were women who wrote sf. Andre Norton and Leigh Brackett were two of my favourite authors, both then and now and always. But again, they were not Canadian sf writers. By a curious chance, during my senior year in high school while the family was living in Kenora, I met in person with Phyllis Gotlieb during a humanities class field trip. But she was introduced to us as a poet, not a writer, and certainly not a writer of speculative fiction. Though she did treat us to a short reading from her novel, Sunburst, during the poetry workshop session with my class. But I did not clue in that this was an actual living breathing Canadian SF writer!

Fastforward to my college years and my somewhat brief nationalist phase. By then I knew there were Canadian sf writers. Giants of the field like Van Vogt and Gordon Dickson, yet Gotlieb was still the only female Canadian sf writer than I knew about (finally figured that much out, I did).

Then, during a trip to visit with the cousins down in the Greater Vancouver area (also known as the Lower Mainland to most of us in B.C.), I discovered the White Dwarf book store. Heaven. Bakka Books in Toronto may be the Mecca for any Canadian sf fan’s mandatory pilgrimage. But the Dwarf was always the one mandatory stop for me any time I was in down in Vancouver town.

There I found Machine Sex and Other Stories by Candas Jane Dorsey. And I was amazed. This was a kind of sf I had never seen before or even imagined. It was edgy, it was off the wall, it was just bloody unbelievably WOW!

I have never met Ms. Dorsey. But then I’ve met in person only a very few of the writers whose works I have enjoyed and loved and treasured over the decades. When you live in the boondocks of Canada most of your life, far from the big cities of Vancouver or Calgary, Toronto, or Montréal, you don’t get a lot of chances to attend sf conventions or hang out with all that many of your fellow sf fans. I am lucky that I was able to attend at least one WorldCon (Torcon 3 is the place for me! Yaaaaay! BIG GRIN again).

Doesn’t matter. I have the words of Ms. Dorsey and all the others. Words which have filled me with wonder, sometimes made me weep, other times had me rolling on the floor laughing, and often left me rubbing my chin and going “hmmm”.

Dorsey and Company all inspired me to put down my dreams into words, and also gave me the courage to send those words out into the wild and see if they might fly. Some crash and burn. But others are soar upwards seeking the stars.

Thank you, Candas Jane Dorsey. I am proud to do my part to honour both your work and the legacy of creativity you gifted all of us.

Gregg Chamberlain

Plantagenet, Ontario (at present)

May 25 2018 (for now)



Download it for free at:

Also available at Amazon

Paperback available at Amazon:

And add it to your shelves at Goodreads


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

Giftmas 2017: Lighting Up the Lives of Others…

2017 was very difficult for a lot of people in my world, myself included. Over the past months I’ve occasionally felt like I was floundering in all the bad news, tragedies and crises. The thing that has helped me out of those dark spots was to make a concerted effort to seek out and focus on positive things going in the world — things are are far too often overshadowed by the bad.

WIth that thought at the very forefront of my mind I decided to make the theme for this year’s Giftmas Blog Tour ‘Shining a Light’.

By sharing our stories and raising money to help feed hungry families, my hope is that this blog tour will be a light as well.

Our fundraising goal is $522 (that’s one dollar more than we raised last year!). Because the Edmonton Food Bank can stretch every donated dollar into three meals if we reach our goal we will have contributed 1,566 meals to families this season, but we can’t do it without you.

If you are able, please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank. Every dollar counts and, in addition to the warm feeling that comes with helping others, we are also offering a whack of goodies to every person who contributes. You can check out the details and claim your rewards by clicking here but those rewards include ebooks, holiday cards, stickers, Tuckerizations, handicrafts and more!

And here is the most important link in this whole blog tour:

Please donate to our fundraiser for the Edmonton Food Bank


Today I’m hosting E.C. Bell on my blog and making an appearance on hers. Please enjoy this post from her about lighting up the lives of others:

When I see Christmas lights I think charity, and I thank my parents (and grandparents) for that.

On the farm, back in the eighties, my grandmother would start knitting mittens “for the kids” a month before she started making Christmas gifts for us. (Yeah. She made our gifts. And they were amazing.) The kids she was knitting for were teenagers who were going to spend Christmas at YESS, a local emergency shelter for teens.

While she was busy at that, my dad would get the outside evergreens prepped to light. He ascribed to “The Christmas Story” theory of Christmas lighting. (He used a tractor with a bucket, not a ladder, to get high enough to decorate them, but the theory still holds.) He’d add strings until breakers blew, and then he’d back off one string. All of it would have blown the mind of every safety officer in the known world if they’d seen, but hey, it was a different time, and that was the way he rolled.

In mid December, he’d light the trees. Then, he’d buy a bunch of frozen turkeys and take them and the mittens in to the shelter, so those kids would have warmth and food, at Christmas.

I imagine those trees were a beacon to him, calling him home to the warmth and laughter that was the farm, after his Santa run.

My father and grandmother are now gone, but their tradition isn’t. It just looks a little different at our house.

One December a few years ago a kid knocked on our door. He was half frozen because it was (surprise surprise) bitterly cold and he was NOT dressed for the weather.

“Nice tree,” the kid said. He was talking about the huge evergreen in our front yard that my husband had decorated with Christmas lights. He’d done it for me soon after we’d moved into the place, because I’d so loved the trees out on the farm.

I will never forget him sitting at our kitchen table calculating exactly how many strings of lights the outdoor electrical outlet could take, (he’s an electrician, so that’s the way he rolls) and then developing a tool (with duct tape, of course) so he could get the lights to start exactly at the top. Nothing like the way my dad lit his trees, but the effect was the same. It looked wonderful.

“Thanks,” we said. And then we waited, because we knew the kid was going to try to sell us on donating to his cause.

“I know you won’t want to make a donation,” the kid said, waving a sheaf of papers at us. “Nobody on your block does. But at least you opened the door. Would you mind if I came in for a second? Just to warm up?”

The wind was howling and he looked miserable, so we said yes. And we let him give us his pitch, even though we donated to local charities and had hit our financial limit for the year.

He warmed up, thanked us for listening, and went on his way. My husband and I watched him trudge off into the darkness, and for a second I wished I knit mittens, because that kid could have used ta pair. Then, my husband said, “Hell, he’s only asking for $35. We can afford that much.”

So we called him back, signed up to be foster parents, and gave him the money. We actually did it for him, more than for a kid from Haiti, but now we are helping a little girl who was caught in a bit of hell not of her own devising. My husband was right. The money isn’t much, to us.

Last year we fostered a couple more orphans. Two young elephants from Kenya, caught in hell. It’s not much money, but—I hope—we are making a difference in their lives, too.

And we turn on the Christmas lights before we donate, so our house looks as warm and welcoming as my parent’s farm did, so many years before.

About E.C. Bell:

My debut paranormal mystery, Seeing the Light  (2014)  won the BPAA award for Best Speculative Fiction Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Award for Light Mystery. The 2nd and 3rd books in the series are out now (both shortlisted for awards, look at me go!) and the 4th will be available in October, 2017. Which means I’m hard at work on number 5. My short fiction includes the Aurora Award winning fantasy anthologies Women of the Apocalypse and The Puzzle Box.  When I’m not writing, I’m living a fine life in my round house with my husband and our two dogs.

Jeanne Kramer-Smyth Reading ‘J’

We’re going to be launching D is for Dinosaur here in Edmonton this March:

D is for Dinosaur

(Details here)

But because the D is for Dinosaur contributors are spread so far out across the globe (and there are twenty-six of them!) we couldn’t possibly include everyone. So I asked the other contributors if they’d like to record themselves doing a reading from their story and I’d share it on my blog. In response, Jeanne Kramer-Smyth sent along this recording of part of her story, “J”. Give it a listen — it has one of the best opening lines in the entire anthology 🙂

“J” by Jeanne Kramer-Smyth


Pre-order your copy of D IS FOR DINOSAUR now and get it for only $0.99!


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Dinosaurs: Do I Include Them

A Reasoned, Five Step Plan to Answer the Difficult Query of

“Dinosaurs: Do I Include Them”;

A Bulleted Plan to Cover All Writing Decisions

By Michael B. Tager


Step 1) Ask yourself: Does this piece require dinosaurs?

  • That’s a damned good question, thanks for asking. I think it depends on what you’re writing.
    • Are you writing a book about dinosaurs?
      • If so, yes. You probably need dinosaurs.
      • Are you writing any other kind of story? If so, see Step 2

Step 2) You’ve determined that the pieces may not require dinosaurs. Should you include them in your poem/story/play about love/aliens/Vatican conspiracies?

  • Should is a tricky question. A better question is: do you want to include them?
    • If you want to include dinosaurs, continue.
    • If you don’t, don’t. Not rocket science.

Step 3) Including dinosaurs is something you want to do in your Victorian Romance (insert any other work in the underline). How in the world do you rewrite to make it work? Maybe you should give up!

  • Well, plots are not very important.
  • Neither is rhyme/meter or play structure.
    • The venue (form) is irrelevant.
    • You can change shit based on needs. Not much of a barrier.
      • Plot changes make ripples, but it’s part of the writing process.
      • Form changes also make ripples. Also part of the process.
    • If rewriting doesn’t scare you, proceed.

Step 4) Ok, you’ve determined that you can make changes. Now what?

  • Have you added dinosaurs? No?
    • Add some fucking dinosaurs.

Step 5) Well, you think, aren’t dinosaurs kind of stupid and juvenile? Maybe you should stick with what you have and not worry about dinosaurs

  • I don’t know. They existed, didn’t they? I’m not sure how anything that has existed can be stupid or juvenile.
    • It’s mildly lame that the surviving dinosaurs evolved into birds, but
      • Birds are kind of awesome:
        • Shrikes
        • Cuckoos
        • Eagles
        • Fucking condors
          • Yes, turkeys are kind of dumb
        • In other words, no, dinosaurs are awesome.


Conclusion: If you want to add dinosaurs, add some dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are great. And so are you. QED.


Michael B. Tager is a writer of many short stories, essays and poems. He is the Managing editor of Writers and Words, a monthly Baltimore reading series, the Book Reviews Editor of Atticus Review, and the founder of the literary journal, The Avenue. He writes a monthly video game biography “Retrogamer” for Cartridge Lit.

He likes Buffy and the Baltimore Orioles. He lives with his wife and cats.


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Six Reasons NOT to read Char

When Kristina Wojtaszek’s new novel, Char, came out I invited her to share a guest post on my blog, because writing is a team sport (I mean, among other reasons). I sent her a list of suggested blog topics, one of which was “Top Three Reasons To Read My Story/Book”. Kristina took that and turned it on its head, instead writing the top six reasons to not read her book. Because of course she did. That’s how she rolls 🙂

Six Reasons Not to Read My Novel Char, of the Fae of Fire and Stone Series.

by Kristina Wojtaszek


  1. You prefer characters to be fair skinned, blonde haired and blue eyed, who practice good manners and never question authority or the rules of their world. For the rest of you, I’d like to introduce Luna, an ebony skinned woman with deadly powers who questions the patriarchal leadership that threatens to dominate, and even obliterate, her ancient race.


  1. You can’t stand confident, intelligent female protagonists. While there’s a smidgeon of strong, heroic males coming to a lady’s rescue, most of my series focus on the relationships between women—strong women. Queens who defy; princesses that refuse their own humanity, let alone humility; wars waged by women; and entire mythos surrounding the Queen of the Wood, the very goddess that began the race of Fae in my series, are all at your fingertips in OPAL and CHAR, alongside interesting men who serve as fathers, lovers and betraying enemies.


  1. You expect perfection from the book’s heroine. Because a hero is destined to greatness from the glorious, rainbowed day of their birth, and every action performed by their great coming-up is made with ultimate wisdom, compassion, honor and skill (I might have gagged just a little). While my heroine is Fae, and thus not quite human, I think you’ll find her more human than most.  She screws up, and I mean big time.  In fact, she starts out in the beginning of the book labeled a “witch,” cast out by the very people who raised her, and cursed to live out her days in isolation so she can’t harm anyone else—not unlike the solitary confinement of a mass murderer, in fact.  Heck, even her mentor was a murdering, defunct queen whose bitterness caused her to shun her own child.  So how can I expect you to root for either of these characters?  Oh, but you will!  That is the promise of a tale worth telling.


  1. You like your fairy tale retellings to follow the well known, Disneyfied versions of classic tales. If so, please don’t even bother to pick up CHAR or OPAL, whose first inspirations came from the roots of the oldest versions of Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and The Seven Ravens, among others, and whose twists and turns call into question the motives of witch and queen alike. Because in this series, the Seven Dwarfs have been replaced by the Seven, a circle of ancient and powerful Fae, and symbolism of animals often used in fairy tales has taken on a whole new meaning in the story of these shape-shifters.


  1. You like your fantasies set in a generic medieval time in which religion, and religious persecution, don’t exist. While I did use somewhat of a generic medieval era for this series, I did a lot of research on medieval times, reading such titles as Medieval English Nunneries by Eileen Power, and Raised to Rule: Educating Royalty at the Court of the Spanish Habsburgs by Martha K. Hoffman, among too many others to list. And though I’d still consider myself a novice, I know this much: religion was of utmost importance to just about everyone living in the middle ages.  Crusades were fought in the name of God, kings were said to be anointed by heaven, and those who fell from favor were often sentenced to death or torture based on accusations of heresy.  Religion, and religious persecution, plays a heavy role in my series, and while you won’t be able to wholly identify one race with Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam or another of our major religions, you can certainly pick up aspects of various faiths, and even parallels to historical religious persecutions in my books.  The Fae are believers in a Great Mother, which, while entirely imagined, has some ties to pagan beliefs of old.  And my editor once commented on how some of their sufferings reminded her of what the Jews went through, and I was proud to have had someone recognize that, though this is hardly their story, nor the story of any specific religious struggle.  It is a fantasy, after all.  But even fantasies need some element of reality to rein them in and align them with our own, searching souls.


  1. When you read the word Fae, you expect to find another race akin to Tolkien’s elves or some such tree-dwelling fairy-like creature with pointed ears, pure hearts, and unnatural beauty. If that’s the case, please read Tolkien, because he did it first, and he did it best, and I don’t believe in redoing the awesomeness that created its own trope. My Fae creatures are quite like humans, except their eyes are just a little too dark, and their various powers allow them to wear the skin of a snake, draw down a blizzard, or decipher the quiet mind of a plant.  I believe the only inherent truth about Fae is that, unlike humans, they are bound by nature.  So rather than taking all my influence from ancient Irish lore, I dove much more heavily into Native American mythology in the making of my Fae.  Because what human society dwelled more in the heart of nature than Native Americans?  So if you like the idea of surly old men who shape-shift into the disgruntled bears they take after, or sly, shadow-seeking women who prefer life in the shape of owl, amphibian or wolf to the domestic entrapment of men, you might just want to take a peek at my series.


Char Wraparound Cover

Fire is never tame—least of all the flames of our own kindling. Raised in isolation by the secretive Circle of Seven, Luna is one of the few powerful beings left in a world dominated by man. Versed in ancient fairy tales and the language of plants, Luna struggles to control her powers over fire. When Luna’s mentor dies in her arms, she is forced into a centuries-long struggle against the gravest enemy of all Fae-kind—the very enemy that left her orphaned. In order to save her people, Luna must rewrite their history by entering a door in the mountain and passing back through time. But when the lives of those she loves come under threat, her rage destroys a forest, and everything in it. Now called the Char Witch, she is cursed to live alone, her name and the name of her people forgotten. Until she hears a knock upon her long-sealed door. Interwoven with elements of Hansel and Gretel and The Seven Ravens, Char is the stand alone sequel to Opal, and second in the Fae of Fire and Stone trilogy.

Find it Online:
Barnes & Noble
Independent Bookstores
iTunes/Apple iBooks

Possible Blog Post Topics

Writing is a Team SportAs part of my ‘Writing is a Team Sport’ uh… initiative (is that the word I’m looking for? It sounds awfully grown-up…) I’ve offered to host more guest blogs here than I had previously. And more than a few people have been in touch to take me up on that offer but frequently our conversation gets to the ‘But what am I going to write about?’ stage and then my potential guest gets stuck. Sometimes they get stuck to the point that the blog post doesn’t happen. >_<

In an attempt to help answer the ‘What do I write about?’ question, I’ve come up with this list of suggestions 🙂

Ten Possible Topics for Guest Posts On My Blog

  1. Write a scene from your story from a different point of view.
    • If the scene is a conversation between Bob and Betty and in your story it’s told from Bob’s point of view, tell it instead from Betty’s. Or show us how the cat sitting unobtrusively in the corner see things. Or–?
  2. Make a YouTube playlist that is meant to be used as the soundtrack to your story. Share a little bit about the overall feeling of the music or how it relates to your tale–no spoilers!
  3. Interview one of your secondary characters about their role in the story, or how they feel about the main characters. Or let the secondary character interview a main character. Or vice versa.
  4. Gather and share a collection of images which somehow relate to your story, or that exemplify your story’s aesthetic and talk about why you chose what you did. Again, no spoilers.
  5. Make a list. “Top Ten Things I Learned While Writing This Story/Book”. “Five Interesting Things About My Main Character”. “Top Three Reasons To Read My Story/Book”. Whatever. Be creative. Be interesting. Write something that you would want to read.
  6. Write about the ‘Why’ of something. “Why I Wrote Story/Book” “Why stories like mine matter”
  7. Write about one of your hobbies or interests outside of writing. Bonus points if you can relate it to your most recent story/book.
  8. Write about why you love books/reading.
  9. Share a drabble or bit of flash fiction (short, short, short) that is somehow related to your story/book.
  10. If you’re promoting a story (rather than a book) pretend you get to give it a cover just like a book. What would it look like? If it’s a book share some of the cover ideas/options that were considered but dismissed.

This list is not exclusive, it’s mostly meant to help get ideas flowing. I think the most important thing is to enjoy what you’re writing about (people can tell when you’re forcing it).

Oh. And bonus points if you include an image or two that I can run with your post. 🙂


If you’d like me to host a guest post by you drop me a line at rhonda.l.parrish@gmail.com and we’ll chat!

10 Things I’ve Learned Along the Way

Writing is a Team SportIn the spirit of writing being a team sport (get your buttons now! :-p) I wanted to open up my blog to more guest posts about things which might interest my readers. It’s a win/win situation, really. The guest blogger gets to increase their signal, my readers get to read something cool and I get content I didn’t have to write. So… I guess that’s a win/win/win situation really 🙂

I’ll be posting some guideline-type things and information about to snag a guest blogging spot here in the near future, but for now if you’re interested hit me up on social media or via email. Like Tabitha did 🙂 She contacted me on Twitter and boom, bang, just like that I’ve got a great blog post, written by her, ready to share with you. Check this out:

10 Things I’ve Learned Along the Way

by Tabitha Lord

There’s a lot of advice out there for writers. I spend a considerable amount of time during my workweek reading articles and blog posts on everything from marketing strategies to writing craft. Much of it is helpful. Some doesn’t resonate at all. But I do believe it’s dispensed with a generosity of spirit and a desire to be helpful that is characteristic of the writing community. So with that in mind, I’ve created my own list of (hopefully) helpful tips for writers new to the job. Here goes…

1. A completed manuscript is a draft. It isn’t even close to the finished product!

Typing the last word on the last page of my first novel was one of most satisfying things I’d ever done. Writing a book had been on my bucket list of personal and professional accomplishments for years, and when it was finally finished, I was giddy. But, wow, I look at that manuscript now and cringe! Clunky writing, character issues, and loads of info dumping littered my pages.

The thing is, that’s okay. That’s a first draft! But thinking the first draft is ready for the world to embrace, well, that’s a rookie mistake. Don’t get me wrong; completing a first draft is an accomplishment of epic proportions! Celebrate! Rejoice! And then proceed to edit!

2. Beta readers are critical.

Beta readers see things in our manuscript that we don’t because we know our story so intimately. With my first book, for example, some of my beta readers had a problem with the male protagonist. They didn’t like him at all! I had to figure out what they were seeing in him that I wasn’t. In my mind, he was in his early twenties. But once the plot got moving, he needed to make decisions and have a certain authority in his own world that required him to be older and have more experience. The character I had written was still too arrogant and immature to be the hero I needed him to be, and I think this is what my readers recognized. So I did a major edit of his scenes, attempting to keep the essence of his character, but giving him more depth and maturity.

3. Rejections, and lots of them, are part of the deal.

The first time someone said “no thank you” to my manuscript was the worst! But the thing about rejections, once you recover from the sting, is that they can sometimes be helpful. If your manuscript isn’t polished enough, you may need to work with an editor. If the story isn’t pulling people in quickly, you may need to spice up your opening chapters. Usually there is a common thread, and if you are open to hearing it, you can make adjustments and move forward. My first round of rejections, which included one R&R (rewrite and resubmit), suggested that I had a good story, but the manuscript needed more work. I hired an editor, and after months of rewriting, I had a much-improved draft.

4. Everything takes longer than you think in the publishing world.

If you take the traditional publishing route, some of the timeline is out of your control. Acquiring an agent, sending a project out on submission, negotiating a contract, and proceeding to production all take time (think years). If you are independently publishing, it is on you, the writer, to manage the timeline. But either way, a quality product takes time! It took me three and a half years to bring my first book to print, and that’s considered quick. But I’ve learned you can’t rush the process. I wanted a finished product I could be proud of, and it required a lot of time and effort to make that happen.

5. Independent publishing means starting and running your own small business. It’s a viable option – for the right reasons.

I think there are compelling reasons to self-publish. But if you choose this path, it’s an investment. You are essentially starting a small business and you have to treat it as such to be successful. First and foremost your product has to be good, and you have to be willing to put in the time, energy, and funds to make it so. You also have to build an audience, and then promote and market yourself, or be willing to hire others to help you do it. You have to take ownership of it all. For some writer’s, this is exciting. For others, it’s terrifying.

6. Good editing and good cover art are a must.

The first thing a reader sees is the book cover. An eye-catching cover can mean the difference between a potential reader flipping to the back cover blurb, or waking away without a second glance. Likewise, a really good editor offers just the right cues to improve the story. My editor found those places where my characters or plot weren’t working and prompted me to fix them without imposing a solution. I can’t stress enough how important these things are when bringing a book to life.

7. Don’t read the negative reviews!

People like different things. Not everyone is going to like my story. Logically, I understand this, but it still hurts to have my book baby slammed in writing! Early on I received very solid advice: Don’t read the negative reviews. Once the book is out in the world, the time for helpful critiquing is over.

8. Creating balance in my work life is more challenging than I thought.

Two years ago I left a job I loved to do something I loved more – write. Turns out, even though writing is now my full-time work, there still aren’t enough hours in the day! I struggle to balance writing creatively (making up the new stuff), with promoting my existing book, networking, blogging, editing, etc. And there is still a household to maintain!
When I was working full-time outside my home, I made time to write and I protected that time fiercely. Now, other things weave their way into my day and cut into that valuable time. It requires real discipline to stay productive.

9. Writers are wonderfully supportive of other writers.

I love the network of writers that surrounds me. I’ve met lifelong friends at conferences and received valuable advice and guidance from the writing group I belong to. Writers want other writers to be successful, and this sentiment is pervasive and authentic.

10. Go with your gut. There will be decisions to make, and once you’ve done your research, it may come down to trusting your instincts.

There are a lot of resources and good advice for writers out there. Not all of it applies to every person or every project. Whether the advice is about your daily word count or the best path to publishing, there is no one right way. I do my research, ask people I trust who are industry professionals – or who at least have more experience than I do, and then I weigh their information against my own instincts and go with my gut!


tlj_110714_0134Tabitha currently lives in Rhode Island, a few towns away from where she grew up. She is married, has four great kids, a spoiled Ragdoll cat, and lovable black lab. The house is noisy and the dinner table full! She holds a degree in Classics from College of the Holy Cross and taught Latin for years at a small, independent Waldorf school. She also worked in the admissions office there before turning her attention to full-time writing.

You can visit her author blog at www.tabithalordauthor.com where she hosts guest bloggers and discusses favorite topics including parenting, and follow her on www.bookclubbabble.com where, as a contributing writer, she posts author interviews, reviews, and more. She released her first novel, Horizon, on December 1, 2015.