Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Story 2020

My Christmas story, "Ransom and the Christmas Tree" is up and available free to read at Abyss and Apex magazine:

Pleased to have any connection to Abyss and Apex. Great to deal with.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Short Story Released in Audio

It's been a good month!

Very pleased that my short story, "Hacker Chess," has been released by Centropic Oracle Nov 20, 2020 as an audio production read by Larissa Thompson. Listen here:

Thanks to Charly Thompson for choosing it! Thanks to Larissa Thompson for her nuanced reading!

The story originally appeared in the anthology The Playground of Lost Toys, edited by Ursula Pflug and Colleen Anderson in 2015 and was previously reprinted in Exile Literary Quarterly 39(3) 2016.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Fatal Flaw Magazine

Pleased that my drabble (which is a story exactly 100-words long) "Perfect Storm" was published today by Fatal Flaw magazine in their special "unreliable narrator" issue. It's available to read free here:

Monday, November 16, 2020

Elevator Adventures

I related this story in a comment on Facebook, and thought I should probably post it somewhere more permanent. I'm going to try to post more anecdotes as they pop into my head, partly to fill space here, partly so I get stuff down when I remember it.

Once, when we were in our twenties, I was on a crowded elevator on my way to an ESFCAS meeting on the top floor of the Students Union Building at the UofA, when Ardian ran up. Seeing me already in the elevator he pushed his way in to stand next to me in the back. Because I thought saying random spy stuff in public places was funny, I turned to him and said in a stage whisper, "Did you bring the explosives?" .

Ardian stares at me strangely and says, "Yes. Yes I did" and opens his coat to reveal twenty sticks of dynamite strapped to his chest.

And we stood staring at each other as everyone else started jabbing buttons for the floor the elevator was passing, and got the hell out of there, even though it was after hours and those offices were all closed.

"Adrian," I asked when we were alone, "Why are you wearing a dynamite vest?"

To which he reasonably replied, "Because Ive just come from a audition for the play House of Blue Leaves and I was trying out for the part of the guy with the dynamite vest. Why did you ask me if I had brought explosives?"

"I don't know," I shrugged, and we went to our meeting.

* * *

I've told that story more than once over the years, because it's a pretty good story, but my daughters often looked like they didn't believe me. Then they had the opportunity to meet Adrian on one of our trips, and the youngest one looked at him and said, "elevator story?" and Adrian said, "Oh, you mean the dynamite". So that was another good moment, because if they had to believe that one, then all the other slightly less outlandish stories were also now on the 'could be true' list.

* * *

A few years later I got into another crowded elevator, this time at work with Dr. David and he asked me something like, "Why in the world did you volunteer to be on that committee?"

And I said, "Because if I get on that committee, it's possible I'd qualify for [more senior] committee and if I did well there, I could maybe work my way all the way up to the [most senior] comittee."

"But why would you want to be on that [senior] committee?"

"Because then I could rise to be Chair of [Department]?"

"Okay, but why would you want to?"

"Because once there, there'd be no stopping me. Tomorrow, the World!"

"Yes, but why would you want to rule the world? It would entail a lot of headaches."

"Yeah, but...if I ruled the world... maybe then I could finally get a date."

At which point, the rest of the elevator, colleagues from other departments who had been trying hard to pretend they weren't listening to us, exploded into laughter. And the doors opened on the ground floor, and everybody went their seperate ways. I was pleased I had been able to lighten the mood, if only momentarily, for an elevator full of stressed management types. A few perhaps, might even have given thought to their own motivations for struggling up their respective career ladders.

* * *

And then there were the elevators at the Faculty of Education at the UofA where I was doing my PhD. Whenever I got in it, I would say hello to the elevator, and wish it a good day when I left. Which was, admittedly odd behaviour, but I was living alone at that point, and didn't really have classes, so was pretty much on my own a lot of the time, so talking to the TV and the computer and now the elevator had become a bit of habit. (Fans of my short stories will recognize where Alan and Fami get their perchance for talking to their toasters, fridges, watches, etc.) Anyway, inevitably, I got caught doing this a couple of times by colleagues who, not unreasonably, inquired after my well being and, I believe, mentioned it to the Chair of the Department.

I'm told you talk to the elevators," he said once when we both arrived at the elevator doors at the same time. He used a jocular tone as if to say, "I haven't called yet security, but let's see where this conversation takes us."

"True," I confessed, "but I would like to point out I am the only person in the department who has yet to be stuck in the elevators."

"What, never?" Because, getting stuck in the elevators had become sort of a regular thing that year. At least, it happened a couple of times, and people arriving late for meetings or night classes and would frequently announce, "Sorry I'm late, but I got caught in the elevator again just now."

"Not once."

He gave me a calculating look, and did not raise the issue with me again. But then, several fellow grad students, rather sheepishly, approached me with something like, "I hear talking to the elevators means you don't get stuck in them, eh?"

"Talking politely to them," I would always clarify. Because often, getting stuck in the elevator had caused them to express some very negative feelings about the elevator for some weeks following any little incidents, like "I hope this stupid f-ing elevator doesn't get f-ing stuck again. I don't have time for that s**t today."

I never once got stuck in either of those elevators for all the years I took them (over 20 by my calculations) and I noticed that people had stopped swearing at them and that the elevators stopped getting stuck, though who is to say in which direction the causation runs there?


Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Another New Story Out

My story, "Detour on the Eightfold Path" appears in Issue 31 of Neo-Opsis magazine, released today. It's my first story in Neo-Opsis, though I've had reviews and commentary in the magazine over the years. The story is one of four (so far) featuring Fami and his friends. "Al/ice" is forthcoming in Shores of Infinity and "Fami's Dissertation Defense" has already appeared in Ripples in Space (

Monday, August 31, 2020

Too Many Words

I am frustrated trying to make the necessary cuts to my novel. I have to cut about 30% of what I pantsered out, not just because the novel is way too long, but because the pacing's off.

I think I have pretty good tension in the first 70 pages or so (wherein I blow up the world our hero's on) but then it dissipates in pages and pages of talking. I have the Colleen Anderson quote "Characters talking about doing things is not the same as characters doing things" posted over my workstation, but the book is kind of about how the hero keeps jumping to the wrong conclusions, so he spends a lot of time explaining his wrong theories. This may not have been the best premise for an action adventure novel.

Listening to Jonas Saul's presentations on pacing at this year's When Words Collide re-motivated me to go back in to tackle those problems. I know I have to keep things moving, which means losing everything that isn't action. But every time I try to take out a chunk, it means losing one of the subthemes (which are kind of the point of the book), or I'm chopping one of the key characters (the love interest?!), or the logic of the underlying mystery gets lost. Something has to go, but every time I tug on any particular string, the whole thing unravels.

That's the problem with being a panster: every line flows logically from the one before and leads logically to the next line. The story develops though each of those moments as lived by the character. Now, as I go back to try to impose some structure, cutting out scenes doesn't just mean killing my darlings, it means interrupting that flow and therefore the logic of hero's actions/ reactions/ motivations.

I have no problem editing other people's books but it's impossible to edit my own. I'm okay chopping out scenes I loved writing (especially when one of my beta readers said this scene was NOT funny and this other one was so boring she contemplated killing herself rather than read to the end of it--more motivational feedback than the more tactful and therefore vague comment of "the elevator scene drags a bit" from other beta readers :-) ) but it's hard to see how the pieces can fit back together when you've ripped out random pieces from the puzzle.

It's like...having to rewrite the whole thing. Almost from scratch. But that would be, you know, work. Like a lot of work! Really, it's HARD....

*Sigh* As an editor, it drives me crazy when I have clients who are one draft away from being publishable but don't do what I tell them because it's too much work or wouldn't be as fun as starting a new book. I have no problem bossing other people, but apparently, I am not the boss of me.

[I have managed to stop myself from starting any of the other twelve novels in my head until I finish this one--but there's a reason I've been pumping out so many short stories and flash lately...]

It's tempting to send this off to an editor to get them to do it for me, but I know (thanks to my beta readers) it's still too rough. It has to be at least polished enough for the editor to see what I'm trying to do. And...I just have to stop being lazy if I'm serious about getting this out there. So, I just have to put my nose to the grindstone. As soon as I finish this post.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Elixir of Life

 I enjoy CBC's Grown-ups Read What They Wrote As Kids,  so in the same spirit, here is my major creative writing assignment from Grade 6*.

Clearly, a budding genius even then.

I'd kept it all these years partly because I was raised by a hoarder who taught me one must never throw anything of that sort out; and partly because I was aware that I would someday become a teacher and would need to calibrate my expectations for students by comparing their work with mine at a similar age, as opposed to against the great masters of literature, which seemed to me at the time to be the bar. I didn't become a Grade 6 teacher, but I did have daughters, both of whom were greatly relieved that no matter how bad their own Grade 6 writing, they were considerably better than their dad. My also kept all my university papers, and looking back at those periodically has kept me humble and a better marker. "These kids today don't know anything!" is a common refrain, but people forget how they didn't know much as an undergrad either--kind of the point of going to university, really.

I also clearly remember being concerned my teacher would think I had plagarized from Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Colors of Space which I had read as I start outlining for the assignment and by which I was greatly inspired. I had only discovered Science Fiction half-way through Grade 6, and Bradley's was perhaps the second or third book of that sort that I had read, so my limited familiarity with the field meant that I thought I was copying by having, you know, spaceships. In retrospect, I'm fairly certain anyone would be hard-pressed to find any parallel between the two works. href="" style="display: block; padding: 1em 0; text-align: none;">

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Bundoran Press Closes

Yet another Canadian speculative fiction press has closed. Bundoran Press has been around a long time. The current owners took over from Virginia O'Dine in 2013. Under authors Hayden Trenholm, Elizabeth Westbrook-Trenholm and Mike Rimar, the company published 4 anthologies and 20 novels, racking up awards and nominations. I am very sorry to see it go, but again, appreciate that the owners wrapped the business up in an orderly and professional fashion, rather than push on until they collapsed from exhaustion or etc. A great press that did great things for Canadian SF.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

New Short Story: Deep Dive

My short story "Deep Dive" is posted on Ariel Chart International Literary Magazine at

My thanks to Senior Editor Jana Begovic for choosing it.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Five Rivers Publishing Closes

Lorina Stephens today announced the closing of Five Rivers Publishing.

The press, unlike so many others, did not fail. It was in fact thriving, but family issues related to Lorina taking on eldercare made it impossible for her to continue Five Rivers Publishing. I am sad to see Five Rivers go, but Lorina’s reasons are altruistic and it was the right decision.

Lorina helped many authors launch their careers, and her belief in me made my career as a professional editor possible. It was an honour and a privilege for me to have been associated with Five Rivers for nearly a decade.

I hope that Lorina is able to continue her own writing. Her own books were, in my view, undervalued. I met Lorina (online) when I was one of the few reviewers to find and rave about her first novel, and it was through that contact that I became a beta reader on her second novel, then an Editor at Five Rivers, and then Senior Editor. I watched Lorina put more time into the press than into her own writing, and I know she always paid authors, editors, and artists before she took a dime herself.

She put her time, energy, and money into the press because she believed in the community of writers, editors, and artists that she gathered around her. She made it all work in spite of the turmoil in the publishing industry: Five Rivers survived and thrived when other independent presses around her were wiped out.

My hat is off to her vision, her stubborn survival in difficult times, and her promotion of Canadian voices in literature.

I will always be grateful to Lorina and to Five Rivers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

New Story: "Fami's Dissertation Defence"

My flash fiction, "Fami’s Dissertation Defense" was published today by RIPPLES IN SPACE and is available free at: The tagline is "Having your AI pass the Turing Test may not be the problem…"

Friday, May 08, 2020

Aurora Nomination

My memorial essay, "Dave Duncan's Legacy" in On Spec magazine #111 has been shortlisted for an Aurora Award, in the "Best Related" category. It is an honour to be nominated, but it is up against five magazines, an anthology, and a podcast, all of which are extremely worthy and all of which represent much more sustained effort than my one essay. So, happy to take being shortlisted as validation of the essay, but the others need their much more substantial contributions to be validated by the win. Good luck to them all, I know I will have difficulty choosing which of them to vote for.

Friday, April 03, 2020

Page and Spine Story

My flash "fiction" (*cough cough*) piece, "The Novice Instructor" is available at Page and Spine in their "Reading Lamp" section.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

My story "Third Shift" came out today from The First Line Magazine. Yay!

I love the concept of The First Line, where all seven stories start with the same (assigned) line. (The magazine's tag line is, "It all starts the same, but...") Writing a story to one of their prompts is great because it takes you out of your usual mindset and forces you to mix things up a bit. This issue's opening line is "Ravi had just worked a double shift and was having trouble keeping his eyes open." The story just jumped into my head, essentially fully formed.

This is my second story in published in The First Line. They rejected one (which I sold elsewhere, having made only a minor change to the first line) and I've just now sent a fourth off to them, with my fingers crossed. So much fun.

They also publish The Last Line magazine, and Workers Write, all of which are worth a look.