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Unless of course you upload it to YouTube….
The Broadsword Bandits are back for another episode. Watch authors KC Dyer, Arthur Slade, Adrienne Kress, Kevin Sylvester and myself blunder our way through a James McCann dungeon, falling into pits and wandering into medusa rooms, all the while trying to find an answer to the eternal question: “Where do I find that on my character sheet?”
It’s lovely news to hear my most recent book, Has the World Ended Yet?, made the long shortlist for the ReLit Award. Some of you may remember my first book, Please, won a ReLit Award back in… well, let’s just say Life Before the Pandemic.
I’ve been lucky enough to win a few writing prizes over the years, and they’ve all seemed to come just when I was ready to give up on writing altogether. Most writers will recognize that feeling — it’s a lonely affair at the best of times, and self-doubt and imposter syndrome comes with the territory. So it’s nice to get that validation from strangers sometimes that maybe someone out there actually does like your writing.
The ReLit is one of my favourite awards even though there’s no money involved. The prize is a ring made of moveable dials engraved with letters, so that you can spell words with it. It is a lovely little fetish object and the perfect award for a writer. Even though I won it many years ago, it’s still on my writing desk today.
Not only is the ReLit Ring a beautiful creation, it is also a frequent and much valued reminder to myself that other people do care about what I write. Sometimes you need that reminder while staring at the blank screen, wondering what to do with these obstinate characters who refuse to tell you what they want. Sometimes that reminder is enough of a writing prompt that I continue to write when I feel like giving up, and I press on and get through the day until I finish the story or book or whatever mad experiment it is I’m working upon. The ReLit Ring was a prize for a book I had already published, but it’s helped me to write many other stories, and for that I will always be grateful.
Plus, I get to write secret messages to myself with it!
Learn more about the ReLit Ring and the ReLit Awards here: http://www.relitawards.com
(I know not everyone has a spare magic ring sitting around to throw at their favourite writers, but a good review works wonders as well. Please consider making a writer’s day by writing a review for a book you’ve enjoyed. Any writer — this isn’t about me. Trust me when I say it will make a difference.)
I had the opportunity to talk with James McCann of the Richmond Public Library about Dungeons and Dragons and the creative process, and it was probably the most fun I’ve had during the pandemic. D&D has always been a big part of my life and probably one of the reasons I became a writer — if you can handle creating a D&D campaign, you can probably write a novel or at least a short story! Check out the video interview where we talk about the magic of writing, world building, and why I secretly want to be a necromancer. Also, we come up with the idea for a Beholder Ranch adventure! It’s all fun and games until something kills you with a magic eye….
I was really looking forward to seeing the dance adaptation of Christian Bok’s Eunoia at the Firehall this May, but that won’t be happening now because of the COVID-19 crisis. I donated the value of my tickets to the arts centre rather than ask for a refund. Please consider doing the same for any shows you bought tickets for that have now been cancelled. We will need the arts even more once this crisis has passed, and your donation may make the difference to the survival of arts venues and artists in your community.
This seems like a good time to remind people you can read an excerpt of my latest book, Has the World Ended Yet?, for free online, courtesy of my publisher Wolsak and Wynn.
Titan is the first person in the world to see the angels. He’s drinking his morning coffee at the kitchen table and watching the house across the street when they start falling from the sky. The house across the street looks just like his house. Every house on the street looks just like his house. The only things that are different are the colours of the front doors. He got lost the first few times he drove home after moving here. He never got lost returning to the Hero Hall. He could still find the Hero Hall today if they called him back. He sometimes wonders if that will ever happen, even though he knows it won’t.
It’s the end of another year, and I hope you achieved all your goals and had some surprising accomplishments that you never could have predicted at the end of last year. I hope you have gratitude for all the good things that happened or came your way. If it was a hard year for you, I hope you take comfort in simply surviving and acknowledge your strength and resilience. Sometimes it takes all we have within us to survive.
I have 20 wishes for you in 2020. Add or delete as you will to make your own personalized list.
- May you find/continue the love that you deserve — even if it is simply love for yourself. That is often the hardest love of all to discover.
- May you do that thing you’ve always dreamed of doing. Time will not wait for you, so why wait for time?
- May you discover something that changes your world and helps you find a better, more positive place in the universe. Therapy, spirituality, kink, travel, creativity, photography, meditation, parenting, whatever it is, I hope your journey takes you to new and better places within yourself this coming year.
- May you create. Create art, create life, create political change, create a new startup. Make something new that didn’t exist before, that only you could create.
- May you be compassionate with others. We are all struggling with things no one but us can see. Remember that when thinking about others, be they family, friends, co-workers or strangers.
- May you be compassionate toward yourself. We are our own harshest critics and never stop judging ourselves. We never forgive ourselves for things we have done that no one else even remembers, let alone cares about. Recognize you are human and every moment has been a learning experience to get you where you are now. Forgive yourself. Heal yourself. Love yourself.
- May you love others. Life is too short to get lost in judgement, anxiety, competition, envy, jealousy, all those things we feel toward others when our own life fails to meet our expectations. Love each and every one of us for the random, impossible miracles we are in this universe.
- May you read a good book. May you read many good books. A life without reading is like a life without colour. You can live such a life, but do you even know what you are missing?
- May you say yes to everything that comes your way. It is easy to say no, but what change happens when you don’t try something new? Say yes for a year and see how it transforms you.
- May you say no to everything that comes your way. It is easy to say yes to everything, but you can become lost in other people’s issues. What space can you make for yourself and your dreams by saying no? Say no for a year and see how it transforms you.
- May you let go of things that no longer serve you — those household items in storage, friendships that have become toxic or at least not inspiring or uplifting, relationships where you no longer recognize each other or help each other to become better people, jobs that have become work instead of a calling. Those things served a purpose in your life and brought you to where you are. But sometimes things can drag you down if you don’t let go of them. If something no longer serves you in any meaningful way, perhaps it is time to let go of it without having to let go of the love you once had for it.
- May you think about death. We are all dying every day and we try not to think about it. We should not be concerned about death. It is the most natural thing of all, more natural than life even. Contemplate death, for thinking about death will surely change the way you think about life.
- May you think about life and what sort of life you truly want to live before death. You only have one life (in this body and mind, anyway). Live it like you want to live it because one day there will be no later for you.
- May you care for yourself. Watch Netflix. Read. Sleep. Go to the movies. Go to the spa. Ask to spend more time with friends. Meditate. Exercise. Buy things for yourself you wouldn’t normally buy. We spend so much time in life looking after others that we often forget to look after ourselves. Look after yourself.
- May you change something about yourself. Life is transformation and change, from the moment we are born to our dying breath. If you are not changing, you are not really living. Embrace change. Embrace life.
- May you see the magic in life. We live on a rock spinning through the cold nothingness of space, just near enough and far away enough from a dying star that we may exist, but that star is itself just a speck of light in a vast universe that we know next to nothing about. Every second of life for all of us has been and always will be a miracle with no clear origin, an act of magic that seems to have been generated by the uncaring and unknowable universe itself. To see that shouldn’t invoke nihilism or existentialism but instead should inspire joy and wonder. Against all odds, and for no reason at all, we are here. For a brief split second in time, we exist when there was nothing before. What else is that but magic?
- May your every action be meaningful this year. We spend so much time doing nothing but wasting time — reading celebrity gossip, following the arguments of strangers on Twitter, watching viral videos about someone else’s misfortune. Imagine what your life would be if instead you spent that time in meaningful pursuits — learning new information or teaching yourself a new skill or improving your fitness or creating a new artistic project. Where would you be in a year’s time if you did this for yourself?
- May you discover wonder again. As we grow older, we often become cynical, judgemental and skeptical. Try to remember what it was like to view the world as a child and bring back that sense of wonder again. The world is a rich, complex and wondrous place. View it as such and discover the wonder in yourself again.
- May you learn to be comfortable with yourself. We see ourselves through the lens of others and find value in our lives by imagining how others perceive us. What if you were stranded for the rest of your life on an island with no other people? What if you were the last person left alive on the earth? What if there was no one else but you? How would you live a meaningful life then? Imagine a life that would make you happy in those circumstances and then live it in our actual, present world.
- May you find the courage to do the things you once found impossible, because everything is possible at the start of a new year.
“Give me the impossible city, the perfect Paris,
its people wearing shoes made of saltwater,
its streets full of whipped cream and opera,
its fire-breathing street vendors selling
both balloons and bourbon bottles.
Give me books written on illuminated
garlic skin by domesticated foxes;
the cloud-breaking Eiffel Tower
afloat on the buttery backs of croissants.”
(Photo is of me in a gallery in Paris, many ages ago. Long before I’d dreamed up Cross and The Mona Lisa Sacrifice!)
Oh my, I’m honoured to see my story “Casual Miracles” from Has the World Ended Yet? made the 2018 Sunburst Award longlist for Short Story Fiction.
The story is one of my favourites in the collection – and one of the last to be written. I was lounging in the bath one day, as writers do, reading some news story or another about Craigslist when I started thinking about what sort of crazy services people advertise online. That’s where I got the idea of “casual miracles” – miracles that don’t really change anything in the grand scheme of things. And now here we are.
Anyway, I’m honoured to be included in such an amazing group of writers! Go read them all now!
I’ve been reading a bunch of different things at once lately – a couple of print books, some ebooks, a short story online, an analysis of another story. It may be I have a short attention span, but I prefer to think of it as the life of a parent with a full-time job.
Anyway, this is what’s on my bookshelf right now:
When the crew of the Nightjar find a merman of the fleet wounded and stranded in the ocean, Gale’s sister, Beatrice, is forced to take a back seat while Gale and Parrish work to find out who would assault a member of the nation of Tallon’s intelligence service. They soon discover a plot that could shake the foundations of the fleet and Beatrice might be the key to preventing a catastrophic disaster.
Dellamonica has more tales more in this universe if you like this story.
Resistance is Futile: Peter Watts’s “The Things” – Tor
Peter Watts is one of my favourite writers, and his story “The Things” is one of my favourite stories – and fucking difficult in a way his works are always challenging. So I am pretty much the target audience for this Tor analysis of the story.
In Lovecraft—and in Carpenter—difference equals horror. For Watts, that works both ways. The singular Thing is shocked and frightened by our individual isolation, our inability to change, our inevitable mortality. Our brains are sapient tumors, our bodies haunted by invisible ghosts. We’re like nothing it’s ever encountered before, though its instinct in the face of that strangeness suggests we might have something in common after all.
For the human readers, the horror of Carpenter’s original shapeshifting identity thief is amped up to a universe in which our individuality is the aberration. We’re a fragile fluke amid worlds of communal entities engaged in an ecstasy of mutual assimilation. Resistance is futile—we survive only as long as we’re not noticed.
Rumi and the Red Handbag by Shawna Lemay
I never thought I’d be interested in the lives of a couple of women working in a second-hand clothing shop, but here I am, lingering on every beautiful sentence and thought. I’m not alone in loving this book.
See also Lemay’s wonderfully calming and meditative blog Transactions with Beauty.
Spellsinger by Sebastien De Castell
You already know I love Sebastien De Castell’s Greatcoats series. Now he’s got a new bunch of books for me to fawn over – the Spellsinger books, about a magical society where everyone is a gifted mage… except for the hero of the story. Sounds like my life, which may explain why I’m enjoying it so much.
All right, enough blogging – back to reading.