Thursday, December 20, 2012

Apocalypse Nowish...?

December 21, 2012. The end of the Mayan Long Count Calendar.

It's hard to believe that day is almost here. Even when that movie with John Cusack came out, we still had another three years to go. Now it's tomorrow. Not even the day after tomorrow! In just over an hour we'll know if The End of The World is upon us, or if the human race will continue to watch Survivor and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

It's pretty quiet out there right now. The weather's drizzly and unpleasant, but that could be any day in England. I've got a horrible feeling that 12/21/12 is going to be a day like any other.

Yes, horrible! I've been anticipating this day for years now, with books and movies and specials on the Discovery Channel fueling my imagination, and there were times when I wondered if the worst might actually happen.

I'm no stranger to the End of Days, having written Epoch, my very own version of it. Complete and utter worldwide destruction in the year 2012 seemed a lot more plausible when I wrote that novel back in 2005. Now that the day is almost here, I can't help but feel a little silly for giving the idea any credence.

Don't get me wrong, I'll be very grateful for the chance to continue living if the apocalypse fails to materialize yet again. Nevertheless, unless we get at least an asteroid near-miss, I'm going to feel just a tad disappointed.

Consider this: if The End does come tomorrow, how cruel is it that it's a Friday? You bust your butt all week at your job, only to go extinct before the weekend! F*$#ing Mayans.

As of now, there is less than an hour to go until December 21. That is, less than an hour in my neck of the woods. By now, that fateful day has already arrived for most of the people on the planet. With the Internet being the speedy source of info that it is, if India or China or Europe or Australia were facing Armageddon, I'm sure we would have heard something. Even Megiddo seems pretty quiet.

Of course, just because we've had thousands of years of advance notice doesn't mean the end won't come without warning. Ever hear of a rogue comet? Neither had I until I read about them just now. They're like regular comets except dirtier, which makes them harder to spot. One could be on its way right now... Or maybe that supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park will erupt. Or aliens might invade. Or zombies. Everyone loves zombies!

Just in case the worst doesn't happen, here's a link to the Apocamix, a "mashup of Hollywood's best end-of-the-world scenes" by Eclectic Method. Enjoy!

See you all tomorrow.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

So Now I'm 40

Yes, today is the day of my 40th Birthday. It's an enormous milestone, the way all birthdays that end in a '0' tend to be. I'm glad I was able to get one last birthday in before the apocalypse, which is of course scheduled for next Friday.

*#$*ing Mayans.

The day has gone well. I had a job interview that seemed to go swimmingly. I got some more work done on my current novel project, Zombie Jesus Day, and am nearing the 1st 3rd mark. Violet got me the blu-ray of The Avengers as my birthday present, and I am currently enjoying a second viewing (with director commentary!). I had my party last Saturday; it involved good friends, English beer, and a fantastic selection of chicken wings. Good times all around, and memories I shall cherish while the world is ending.

I've had some good writing-related stuff recently. My good friend Rebecca Lovatt reviewed my novel The Cupid War, and you can read that review here. She also did a thorough and intensive interview with me, and the link to that is here.

My good friend Steven Pearl, author of Tinker's Plague, filmed an interview with me at SFContario. You can see Part I of that interview by clicking here.

So, happy birthday to me! Jolly good, and all that stuff. Now, if you'll excuse me, The Daily Show is on. Bye!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Speculating Canada Reviews EVIL

There's another review of EVIL? out on the web! This one comes courtesy of Speculating Canada, and can be found here.

The review, written by new best friend Derek Newman-Stille, focuses on the anti-bullying aspects of the book. This is amusing to me, because anti-bullying hadn't been foremost in my mind when I wrote it. Indeed, I'd been given a directive from my editors to write about something other than the kid who gets picked on; anti-bullying had been a very strong theme in Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters, and a minor theme in Epoch, and they felt I needed to 'grow as a writer'. Stuart is the victim of bullying, however. It may have been brought on by supernaturally-enhanced religious zeal, but it's still bullying. Turns out I did write another book about the picked-on kid! I'm grateful to Derek for noticing and pointing that aspect out. It's a theme I'm not done with, not by a long shot.

Since this post is about EVIL?, let me take a moment to remind everyone about the short story sequel I wrote, Walk of Evil, which can be found here.
If you haven't already checked it out, please do so immediately!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SFContario Weekend Part II

And now for Sunday, the second half of my SFContario experience. Although it wasn't really half the experience - I had only two events, compared to the five I did the day before. Nevertheless, it was a very full and rewarding day!

My first event was the Writing in the Digital Age panel in Ballroom BC, with fellow panelists James Bambury, Lynna Merrill, and my new best friend Sarah Water Raven (seen here stuffing a pen up her nose).
The panel started at 10 in the AM, which is a problem to anyone who understands the Sunday schedule of the TTC. Basically, the trains don't start running until 9:00 AM, with very little service before that (including my local bus!). From the time the first bus of the day picked me up, I had about 45 minutes to get to the panel on time! And somewhere in there, I had to squeeze in another cup of tea, too! Once more I was extremely grateful for that Tim Hortons inside Finch Station.

I got to the Ramada Plaza Hotel in decent time (read: not too late), but I still had to find Ballroom BC. See, the rooms in that hotel were tricky to find without a strong sense of irony. After all, the Gardenview had no view of a garden, the Courtyard wasn't anywhere near an actual courtyard, and the Solarium had no sun. The name Ballroom BC suggests a very large dancing room with a stone-age theme, so I knew I to look for a small room with lots of tech lying around. And that's pretty much what I found!

The panel itself was insightful and fun. I got a chance to gripe about how I had to learn Internet marketing by trial and error, and the others spoke about what had worked for them. I learned some good tips about ebook publishing, for which I am grateful to my co-panelists.

Afterward, I visited the con-suite with Sarah the pen-sniffer and her minion, Keli. It really is terrific for authors and other panelists to have a place to go and relax with a snack and a drink in-between our scheduled bits of programming. Having had a table at most other cons, I would often return to said table instead of taking advantage of the con-suitey goodness on offer. My lack of a table this time meant I sold fewer books, but I had the chance to unwind in the company of some awesome people. And Keli the minion bought a copy of Section K from me, so it was awesomeness all around (thank you, Keli!).

My last bit of official programming was a book signing, located in the Hallway. Which hallway was the Hallway? That's what I had to find out with all speed. Luckily I received directions, and was delighted to discover that the Hallway was, in fact, a hallway! No irony in that designation at all. I shared a table with Violette Malan and two other authors whose names I really should have written down (sorry, guys!). The Hallway was empty, with nobody for us to sign books for. It looked to be a very dull and depressing hour...

...but then my friend Rebecca Lovatt arrived with brownie cookies and chocolate chip & cookie dough muffins! And there was much rejoicing. Nom, nom, nom!!! Words cannot describe how awesome Rebecca's baked goods are, so I won't waste any trying. No books were sold or signed, but boy were we well-fed! Nom, nom, I say again, nom!

The signing ended, the muffins were woofed, and one last bit of business for me remained. My friend and fellow author Ira Nayman (Alternate Reality Ain't What It Used To Be) had requested a copy of my first published novel, Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters. Who was I to day no? He is probably the last person on Earth to have purchased a copy... at least until I sell it to another publisher!

I left that day feeling grand. SFContario had been good to me, and I definitely plan to return next year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

SFContario Weekend

Another good time was had by me at SFContario. Or, rather, I had another good time at SFContario! Much better. Always avoid passive voice if you can.

But I was far from passive at last weekend's convention, ever so conveniently located(for me, anyway) in the heart of downtown Toronto. I turned up bright and early on Saturday morning at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, ready to do my half-hour reading, three panels and Kaffeeklatsch(which I still can't pronounce). My reading at 11 was poorly attended, but two wonderful people did turn up midway through to hear me read from The Cupid War. Suzanne Church came in for the next reading, and she was just terrific. She read a story in which Death orders breakfast at a diner before going to Niagara Falls. All three of us were hooked, hanging on her every word. Then she ended her reading without finishing the story, which can only be seen as an intolerable act of cruelty. >:( Shame on you, Suzanne Church, for writing such a compelling story!

I went from the readings straight into my first panel, Urban Fantasy. Joining me were fellow authors Violette Malan, Michael Mattheson, Shirley Meier. Turns out I was the moderator! That's not something you want to find out at the last minute! I'm happy to report that I rose to the occasion; I thought up some decent questions to ask my fellow panelists, and kept things running smoothly.

The Kaffeeklatsch was a non-event. I hung out in the room with my good friend Mike Bryant for half an hour, then we left to go have lunch. I had the blandest bowl of beef and barley soup I have ever eaten; not gross, just kinda ho-hum. Glad I brought my own sandwich.

At 4 o'clock it was time for revenge. And guilt. Scheduled to appear with me on the Vengeance and Guilt as Motivation panel were Herb Kauderer, Michael Mattheson, Gareth McGorman, Tony Pi, Caitlin Sweet. And yet, I seem to remember only four people on that panel, including me. I can't say exactly who was missing... I should've taken names at the door! Anyhoo, the panel went well...ish. I got a little muddled while trying to make a point about heroic behaviour vs. vengeance. Overall, though, it was okay. Not feeling vengeful. Maybe a little guilty.

My final bit of programming for Saturday was SF and Gender, with Kathryn Allan, Shirley Meier and Sarah Water Raven. I was a tiny bit late, having left the con to grab a burger and do some writing. Ten minutes can only stretch so far! I spoke once again about James Alan Gardner's Commitment Hour. And that's about all the speaking I was able to get in! It felt a bit like the others were hogging the conversation, but that's only because they were so very enthusiastic about the subjectmatter. The panel covered a lot of ground, and managed to be completely different from the similar panel I did at Can*Con (except for me talking about Commitment Hour, which is a fabulous book).

Sarah Water Raven had come to promote her new novel, Detective Docherty and the Demon's Tears, and SFContario was her first con! She and I hit it off, and I wasted no time making fun of her main character's last name. Y'know, Docherty. Doche-rty? Douche-bag? Well, I thought it was funny...

I think I'll stop here for now, and make a new post for Sunday. Until then!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

SFContario Schedule

Next weekend I will be attending SFContario at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on 300 Jarvis St. It won't be that far of a walk from College Subway Station; for once, I'll be attending a con that is really, really easy to get to by TTC!

I have no programming on the Friday, but Saturday looks to be quite busy. Here is my schedule in brief:

Reading - Saturday 11:00 AM Gardenview

Urban Fantasy: Fairies Around Every Corner (Timothy Carter, Violette Malan, Michael Mattheson, Shirley Meier) Saturday 12:00 PM, Solarium

Kaffeeklatsch – Saturday 2:00 PM Room 207

Guilt and Vengeance as a Motivation in Fiction (Timothy Carter, Herb Kauderer, Michael Mattheson, Gareth McGorman, Tony Pi, Caitlin Sweet) Saturday 4:00 PM, Courtyard

SF and Gender (Kathryn Allan, Timothy Carter, Shirley Meier, Lynna Merrill) Saturday 6:00 PM, Solarium

Writing in the digital age (James Bambury, Timothy Carter, Lynna Merrill) Sunday 10:00 AM, Ballroom BC

I also have a book signing session on Sunday at Noon.

Just what is an Kaffeeklatsch? I had to ask about that.
Apparently it is some sort of round table discussion between myself and approximately 20 people on... anything. I suppose I'll talk about my areas of expertise: writing, blogging, conventions, Transformers, Doctor Who, being unemployed, freaky religious stuff, mental health, and tea.

This will be my last con of 2012 (or ever, depending on what happens on December 21st!), so I plan to have as much fun as possible. It will be a long stretch before my next one, Ad Astra 2013.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Cupid War: Fallon's First Couple

“This is as good a place to find love as any,” Caleb said as he and Ricky Fallon approached the pub and performance house known as the Desert Spring, “but are you sure you wouldn’t rather choose an easier venue?”
“And have you miss out on another night of bad poetry?” Fallon replied. They stepped up to the Desert Spring’s front door and phased through it as if it wasn’t there.
“They weren’t all bad,” Caleb said. “Some, I thought, had quite a bit of talent.”
“Some,” Fallon admitted. “But not all, or even most. Put them on X-Factor, and that British guy would demolish them.”
Fallon and Caleb walked through the pub like ghosts, which wasn’t far off from what they were. No one saw them as they headed for the back, even though both wore bright pink body stockings with red hearts emblazoned on their chests. No one complained or even noticed as they phased through tables, chairs, the drinks, even the people.
Caleb stopped in the middle of a table near the back. A man and a woman sat on either side of him, talking animatedly while enjoying some pub fare. Caleb reached out both hands and slid them into the couple’s chests. There was a flash of pink light from the area around Caleb’s hands, and the two diners paused in their conversation to stare lovingly into each other’s eyes.
“That’s just showing off,” Fallon said when Caleb rejoined him.
“They were already in love,” Caleb replied. “I set them together the last time we were here. All I did was give them a little boost.”
“Well, I also noticed a potential duo last time,” Fallon said, “and today I’m going to make them my first couple.”
“Then do so,” Caleb said. “I shall be listening to the poetry.”
They walked through the door in the far wall and into the back room. It was half as large as the restaurant, packed with small tables and chairs, with a stage at the far end. The stage was well-lit but the rest of the room was dark. A throng of people crowded the area, enjoying drinks and watching the show. A young woman stood on stage, a microphone in her hand, performing a poem.
On the right side beside the door, an attractive twenty-something woman stood behind a small counter. She was Emma Brownridge, one of the performers Fallon was hoping to match up.
Someone came through the back door and approached the counter. Emma asked him for the cover charge, and he paid up. Fallon touched the guy’s heart, just to check; he had no romantic interest in her.
Just as well, Fallon thought. He had another guy in mind for Emma. Provided, of course, he could find him. It occurred to Fallon that his man might not even be here tonight. That would suck, and be somewhat embarrassing.
Fallon turned and made his way through the crowd, looking for the other half of his couple.
On stage, a poet lamented on the state of the world. Fallon ignored him, and so did most of the audience.
“Derrick’s doing another political rant,” said a large twenty-something man in dreadlocks and a beard. “I’m very nearly surprised.”
“Third one tonight, too,” a young woman with flaming orange hair replied. “I’m not sure who I’m supposed to be angry at, anymore.”
“That’s... it!” said the other young guy at the table. He pulled a notebook from the back pocket of his jeans and a pen from brim of his black Fedora, and began to write furiously.
Fallon walked over and stared into the young man’s face. It was Colin Triller, the second half of Fallon’s couple-to-be.
“Gotcha,” he said, even though he’d done no such thing. He still had to match Colin to Emma, an action that would require patience, finesse, and not a little bit of luck.
First, he needed Colin and Emma to look at each other. Then, when one of them was looking at the other, he’d fire Love into their heart.
That was where the patience came in. He could only do one of them at a time, but he had to do both of them to form a couple.
Colin looked up from his notebook, a devious look in his eyes.
“Brody, Raquel,” he said, holding up his notebook, “you are gonna love this!”
Fallon touched Colin’s heart, the way he had the last time he and Caleb had been here. As Colin looked at his two friends, Fallon sensed he was a little interested in Raquel but not at all interested in Brody. If only Raquel had been interested in him, Fallon thought; he could match them up now and be done with it. Even if she were, Caleb had already joined Raquel to Brody several months ago, and Fallon wasn’t about to mess with that.
Besides, where was the fun in doing something easy? He had his couple picked out. Now he just had to get them to look at each other.
“Derrik Mont, everyone!” announced the host, a thin young woman with dark purple hair. “And next on the open mic list, a returning favourite from the distant land of Thornhill, Emma Brownridge!”
Fallon’s eyes widened, and he turned to see Emma get up from the till counter and make her way to the stage. He’d counted on at least one of them going up on stage tonight. Now he could zap Colin while he watched Emma perform. And he could do Emma when Colin took the stage. It couldn’t be simpler.
Provided Emma didn’t leave before then...
Emma took the stage and launched into a poem. Fallon put his hand back into Colin’s heart and prepared to fire.
Colin didn’t look up. Instead he kept writing in his notebook with an expression of manic naughtiness on his face.
“Look up,” Fallon said. With his hand in contact with Colin’s heart, he knew he could plant a suggestion into Colin’s mind. It didn’t always work, however, especially if the person’s mind was busy. Colin kept writing, oblivious to all else.
“C’mon, man!” Fallon said, bending over to talk directly into Colin’s ear. “Look up and see the hot chick!”
Colin did not. And, up on stage, Emma finished her poem.
“Aysha, do I have time for one more?” Emma asked the host as the audience applause died down.
“If it’s a short one,” Aysha replied from the side of the stage.
At the same time, Colin stopped writing and put his pen down. Fallon took note, and he leaned in close again.
“LOOK AT HER!” he shouted, and Colin actually jumped. His head snapped up and he saw Emma up on stage. Fallon registered the interest in his heart, and with a burst of pink light he filled Colin’s heart with Love.
Colin gazed at Emma, his eyes wide open and his ears taking in every nuance of her poem. Gotcha, Fallon thought. One down, one to go.
Emma finished her poem and left the stage. Fallon went to her, and tried to direct her over to Colin’s table.
“Turn right, go to the guy with the dorky hat,” he said, his hand in her heart, ready to fire. Emma did turn, but as she did so Brody stood up and obscured her view of Colin.
“No, not that guy!” Fallon said.
Emma frowned, then she resumed walking to the back of the room. Brody took his and Raquel’s empty glasses and headed for the bar. Colin watched Emma as she walked; now you look, Fallon thought.
Another poet began his set. He was very angry, though at what Fallon couldn’t say. He ignored him and headed back to Emma’s side.
“Going well, I hope?”
Fallon looked around and saw Caleb sitting on top of the table closest to the till. Two young men watched the show through Caleb’s back, completely unaware of his presence.
“I got him to like her,” Fallon told his mentor. “Now I just need to get her to like him.”
“Be patient,” Caleb said. “An opportunity will come.”
“I know,” Fallon said. “I have a plan.”
And he did. All he had to do was wait until Colin went up on stage; Emma was sure to look at him then.
“Hey, Em,” said a stout blonde in a short skirt and fishnet stockings. “Wanna go for a smoke?”
“Sure, Marion,” Emma replied. “This guy bugs me, anyway.”
“Wait! Don’t go,” Fallon shouted as Emma and her friend went out the door. Of course they didn’t hear him, but Caleb did.
“What’s so funny?” Fallon snapped at him, but his mentor only chuckled.
Up on stage, the angry poet finished to a smattering of applause. Aysha hopped back onto the stage, and Fallon feared she would announce Colin Triller as the next act.
“And now,” the host said, “put your hands together for Danger Girl!”
A short girl in a goth dress slunk up onto the stage.
“I’m not Danger Girl anymore,” the goth girl said. “Now I’m called Lady Deadly. Get it right.” She then proceeded to read a really terrible poem in a voice barely above a mumble. In response, the audience resumed talking amongst themselves.
Fallon hurried over to Colin’s table and planted his hand back inside Colin’s heart.
“If you want her,” Fallon told him, “you’d better get up and go after her.”
Colin looked at the door for a moment, then he seemed to come to a decision. He stood up and headed for the back door, but when he arrived Aysha intercepted him.
“Two of my readers didn’t show,” the host said. “You’re up next.”
“I... oh. Okay,” Colin replied. The door opened and Brody stepped through with two drinks in his hands. Colin looked out at the restaurant, and could just see Emma and Marion sitting at the bar.
“Do I have time to get a drink?” he asked.
Aysha looked up at the goth girl on stage, then shook her head.
“Probably not, if we’re very lucky.”
Colin couldn’t help but smile at that.
“Okay,” he said.
“No, not okay!” Fallon said. “You’ve got to go talk to Emma!”
Colin hesitated, clearly torn, and Fallon thought he had him.
“Kay, that’s all of my poems, bye,” said the goth chick, and she slunk herself offstage.
“Okay, you’re up,” Aysha told Colin, then she rushed to the stage. Colin hurried back to his table and snatched up his notebook, leaving Fallon standing alone by the till.
“Come on!” he cried. Then he turned and glared at Caleb, who remained sitting on top of the nearby table. “You don’t have to keep laughing, you know.”
“I do apologize, my friend,” Caleb replied. “You are reminding me of my first couple. My troubles were not that dissimilar to yours.”
Up on stage, the host announced Colin Triller as the next act. Colin headed up amid a moderate amount of applause.
“Don’t suppose you have some relevant experience to share, do you?” Fallon asked as he walked through the table to Caleb’s side.
“Just this,” Caleb replied. “I had to ask myself why my two lovers were open to each other in the first place.”
Fallon thought back to the first time he and Caleb had come to the show, when he had discovered that Emma was open to Colin. Emma had been watching from the cash desk while Colin performed on stage. She’d laughed and laughed at Colin’s performance. What was it he’d been reading?
No, not reading...
Fallon hurried over to the stage. It was a small stage, and only a foot off the floor. Fallon had yet to learn how to interface with different levels, however, and his feet vanished into the wood. Luckily, he was still able to reach up and touch Colin’s heart.
Colin was in the middle of the bit he’d been writing only minutes before - a spoof of Derrick Mant’s latest rant. When he reached the end and received his applause, Fallon shouted as loud as he could, “Do the pen song!”
Colin leafed through his notebook. Fallon watched him, and hoped his message had been received.
“You know,” Colin said, “I have something that helps me with my life. It’s long, hard, filled with fluid, and I’ve got it right here in my pants. It’s...” he reached into his trousers and pulled out... “my pen!”
Yes! Fallon thought. He’d gotten through to him!
“I’d like to sing a little song,” Colin went on, “about how wonderful I think my pen is.”
Fallon ran across the cheering audience and through the door to the pub while Colin began the Pen Song.
“Oh, when poetry takes seed, what’s the one thing that I need? My pen is!”
Emma and Marion remained at the bar, chatting. Fallon slid his hand through Emma’s back and into her heart, then whispered in her ear:
“Colin’s doing the pen song.”
Emma’s eyes widened. Then she giggled.
“Gotta go!” she told Marion. “He’s doing that song again!”
“That song... oh, grow up!” Marion called after her.
Fallon was right behind Emma as she quietly re-entered the back room. The song was in full swing, and some in the audience were singing along.
“What makes me feel grand, when it’s lying in my hand? My pen is!”
Emma looked up, saw Colin...
...and Fallon fired Love into her heart. People come together for all kinds of reasons, he thought. Why not over a song filled with thinly-veiled innuendos?
“Well done,” Caleb said when Fallon joined him at his table.
“Thanks for the advice,” Fallon said.
“Thanks for taking it,” Caleb replied.

As the show wound down, Colin and Emma went to the bar for a drink. Then they left together to go get some coffee. Fallon sensed this, even though he and Caleb were long gone.
“I can still feel them, like you said,” Fallon told his mentor as they ambled on down the streets of the club district. “Is it always this, I don’t know... psychic?”
“You’ll get used to it,” Caleb told him, “and then it will be more of a subconscious thing. You will sense automatically when they will need another Love boost.
“And speaking of boosts,” Caleb turned to face a sports bar, “I have a few couples in need of a topping up. And would you look at that?” he pointed through the window at a flat screen TV hanging on the far wall. “It would seem the Argos are playing tonight.”
“How about that, eh?” Fallon said. In life, he’d been an Argos fan.
“To your first couple,” Caleb said, raising a pretend glass in a toast. “May there be many, many more.”
“Oh, there will be,” Fallon said as they walked into the bar. “I’m just getting started.”

Continued in The Cupid War, available from and Flux.

What’s There For Me on Halloween? My Pen Is!

I don’t really have anything scary to post here for your Halloween enjoyment, so I decided I’d go with naughty. The following is a song I wrote during my spoken word days while under the influence of immaturity. I amused many an audience with it; the lyrics more than made up for my lack of singing ability.

And, I am featuring this song (well, parts of it) in the short story I’m posting tomorrow: The Cupid War – Fallon’s First Couple. It is an extremely integral part of the plot.

So now, without further ado…

My Pen Is

I'm a writer, and I have something that helps me whenever I need it. It's long, pointy and filled with fluid, and it's right here in my pants! Can you guess what it is? Yes, it's my pen. I want to tell you how wonderful I think my pen is.

When poetry takes seed
What's the one thing that I need?
My pen is!

When my fingers long to dance
What is right there in my pants?
My pen is!

When other boys were in the field
Playing with their balls,
I'd be in my room
With the greatest gift of all.

What makes me feel grand
When it's lying in my hand?
My pen is!

When life seems much too much
What's the thing I long to touch?
My pen is!

What's the thing I seek
Even when it's got a leak?
My pen is!

I know a lot of people
Don't really understand
The joy that I am feeling
When my pen is in my hand.

What is the one thing
That just makes me want to sing?
My pen is!
My pen is!
My pen is!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cupid War Fans, Don't Forget...

My new short story, The Cupid War: Fallon's First Couple featuring Fallon and Caleb, will be posted here in less than three days! Don't miss this charming expansion of the Cupid War universe, the perfect sweetener for when your Halloween candy runs out. ;)

I'll Be A Panelist @ SFContario!

This month I'll be taking part in a new sci/fi convention - well, new to me that is. I met some of the SFContario people at Can*Con, and before I knew it I was made a panelist at their con!

Cool beans.

I'll be doing a reading from The Cupid War, participating in at least four panels, and taking part in an autograph session, too. I will not have a table, however; fans who want signed copies will have to bring their own. I'll bring some, but only what I can carry.

The con takes place on November 9, 10 & 11. I'll update with more information soon!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Based on The Truth?

Writers always weave their personal stories in with their fiction. It's one of the things that makes each author different (and bad authors that much easier to spot). Be it a person, a place, a thing or an event, not a single experience in a writer's life is ever wasted - not when it can be used to make their work feel more real.

My recent short story,Walk of Evil, and my upcoming The Cupid War: Fallon's First Couple, are great examples of my fiction combined with my life. My Cupid War short story, due to be released here on November 1, is a fictional retelling of how I met my wife. Not all the details are exactly the same, but Violet and I did meet at a spoken word event hosted by a mutual friend, and we each saw the other perform on stage before we'd been introduced.

Walk of Evil combined a number of things, such as my familiarity with Orillia and my love of Tim Horton's. The reason the story came to be was my chance meeting with a very devout woman at a church service attended by my cousins. This woman gave a talk about some of the things she'd done, including her 'faith walks' around mosques (with the intent of opening Muslim eyes to the Truth), and her efforts to cure gay people. Taking that brief impression and molding it into the character of Meredith (Walk of Evil's antagonist) was as easy as it was rewarding. If I see her again, I should thank her. Maybe. She did, after all, give me so much material to work with.

People often ask me if they're going to end up in a story of mine someday. The answer isn't no, but it's not exactly yes, either. Not all people are as ripe for spoofing as that faith walker was. I get bits of character from all over, and work them in when I need them. When it came to Meredith, the bit I took was bigger than most.

In the end, of course, it's all fiction. There is truth in fiction, however - each author presents the world as they see it in their work. That's what makes fiction feel true, which is important for drawing readers in. And, when you write supernatural fiction as often as I do, you need all the truth you can get!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Free Written Stuff? Not From Me!

The following is a call for submissions I just found:

Good Day,

I am currently seeking submissions for my new book about ghosts and legends in Canada. I am looking for personal stories as well as legends specific to the area you live.

When submitting your story, include the following:
1) As much detail as possible about the story. Is it a personal account or legend? How do you know about the story? What makes it a good fit for this book?
2) A short paragraph about where you are from. Tell us about your town/community. As much as this is a book about ghosts and legends, it also focuses on where these stories come from.

I will contact all people submitting stories personally. Should your story be considered for the book, you will be acknowledged in the book and on my website. I will also add you to my mailing list which will keep you informed on when and where you can purchase the book.

I look forward to reading your submissions.

Location: Canada
Compensation: No monetary compensation

In other words, this guy wants three pieces of written material: a short story about Canadian ghosts & legends; a write-up about the story with "as much detail as possible"; and a short paragraph about the area the writer lives in. All that amounts to a fair bit of a writer's time.

Now let's look at what the guy is offering in exchange for the written work. He offers "no monetary compensation." But that isn't the most insulting part. He says he will tell the writers "when and where you can purchase the book." He's not even offering a stinking free copy to contributors! So what is he offering, exactly? "You will be acknowledged in the book and on my website." That's it.

Woo-hoo, huh?

How many times do we need to say it... YOU HAVE TO PAY WRITERS FOR THEIR WORK!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Expendable - My Struggle With Bullying in School

There’s been a lot of talk on the subject of bullies over the last year. I’ve read about it in blog posts and newspaper articles, heard it from friends and media personalities, even saw a TV special on bullying in school. Much of this talk came as a result of the most recent string of teen suicides. So often it seems that, if you are a teen suffering relentless abuse from your classmates, suicide is the only way to make your suffering worthy of attention. And that simply isn’t acceptable.

Considering that this is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, I figured it was time to throw my own two cents into the discussion. After all, I am something of an expert on the subject. There hasn’t been a phase of my life that didn’t involve a bully or three. They have, for better or for worse, shaped a large part of my life.

I’m going to detail four examples of bullying from my own school experiences (for this post I’m going to stick to high school bullying, and save workplace bullying for another time). I’m not looking for sympathy – it’s way too late for that. And I’m not “being brave,” either. I’m venting, and adding my stories to the pile. I do believe, however, that I can illustrate a crucial factor in why bullying remains a major problem.

In grade five, I was attacked by a much stronger boy because I’d kicked his soccer ball. This boy knew karate, and gave me quite a few good licks before deciding that my offense had been properly dealt with. I ran and told the recess monitor, and she assured me that she’d deal with him.

She didn’t. I watched as she walked toward the stronger kid. Then, for no reason I could discern, she turned and walked off in another direction. I stood there, confused and hurt, wondering what she was doing. Wasn’t she going to go get him? Was she going to come back to him later? Maybe she would punish him for hitting me as soon as she’d dealt with something else? Nope. Perhaps she didn’t know for sure which boy had hit me. If so, why hadn’t she come back to me and asked? She could have done that, but she didn’t. For five minutes I watched as she wandered around in what seemed an aimless fashion, and then the bell rang and it was time to go back inside.

That was my first experience with the uselessness of grownups, at least as far as bullying was concerned. Other useless adults would say things like “you’re being a tattle-tale!” and “you have to sort these things out for yourself.” And, of course, “you’ve just got to develop a thicker skin!”

In grade 7 I started attending a private school. They had a very strict policy on fighting – the one who started the fight would be suspended or expelled. Unfortunately, that rule only applied if punches were thrown. All other forms of physical harassment were deemed okay. You could be shoved, picked up from behind by your underwear, grabbed in a headlock or choke hold or wresting move, or even have your arms or fingers twisted or bent almost to the breaking point, all with the blessing of the school. And why not? It was just boys being boys. The headmaster himself once told me, “Timmy, ya gotta toughen up."

That’s why a boy whom I’d thought was a friend was allowed to scrape a sharp rock across my face while his two friends held me in place. He wanted to know if the rock was sharp enough to cut skin, and I was handy. Sadly, from his point of view, the rock wasn’t sharp enough to draw blood. He shrugged, tossed away the rock and walked away, and his two friends released me and followed. None of them spared me a backward glance. I didn’t bother reporting it: no punches had been thrown, so no punishment would be forthcoming. All I could do was try to “toughen up.”

I liked to draw comic book stories back then. I was no artist, but the crude drawings I was capable of by the time I got to Grade 10 were good enough for me. I was (and remain) a big fan of Transformers, so they were the characters I drew the most. So pleased was I with my budding ability that I actually went and drew one of the robots on one of the school’s blackboards. This was five minutes before the start of my French class, so I wasn’t interrupting anything. I took my seat and gazed up proudly at my handiwork.

When my classmates arrived, they laughed and made fun of me. I’d expected that, and didn’t let it bother me. The teasing evolved into horsing around, and when the teacher arrived he wasn’t happy in the least. He saw my drawing, and saw the way the class was acting, and somehow in his mind he put two and two together. His response? He ordered me to write lines. I had to write out ‘I will not draw on the blackboard’ twenty times and bring it in for him the next day. I was so upset by this that I actually developed a tiny bit of backbone. At the end of the class, I approached him and asked why my punishment was necessary.

First, he yelled at me to ”just do it!” Then he calmed, and explained that the students had been acting out at the beginning of the class as a direct result of my blackboard drawing. Therefore, I needed to be punished for causing the behaviour of the other boys.

Looking back on this incident, I’ve been able to put myself in that teacher’s shoes. What, for him, would have been the path of least resistance? Punishing half the boys in the class, or punish the meek little boy who’d ‘started it’?

The last example I wish to share occurred in Grade 11, when I’d left the private school and spent my remaining high school years in a public one. I’m not going to discuss how I was repeatedly picked on in Phys Ed (in front of the teacher), to the point where I had to quit the class. I won’t talk about the group of boys who relentlessly taunted and intimidated me in the hallways. I could talk about the creative bully who drew mocking pictures of me on the classroom blackboard every day for an entire semester, but I won’t. No, this final story tops them all.

I’d been on the private school’s cross country ski team during grades 9 and 10, so I decided to join the public school team. One of the coaches couldn’t walk properly due to a physical disability, and the other coach was a big guy who liked to shout. On many occasions they shouted at me, expressed irritation in my lack of ability, and on one occasion called me stupid to my face. I stuck it out because I believed that quitting – or giving up – was a bad thing.

Training started long before the snow arrived; we did a lot of running and weight lifting. On one occasion, the disabled coach brought in his wife to lead us in an aerobic workout. I wasn’t as strong or as fit as the others, and before long I was exhausted. I was determined to soldier on and give it my best – remember, giving up was bad - but I just couldn’t keep up. My arms flopped and my shoulders sagged and my breath came in gasps – basically, I looked absolutely hilarious to anyone who might have been watching. I know this for a fact, because some people were watching. I looked up at one point and saw two guys pointing in my direction and laughing like they’d seen the funniest thing ever. Did the coaches step in and put a stop to the ridicule? No, they did not.

Because the two guys laughing at me were the coaches. The two people responsible for making the team the best that it could be were openly laughing at me in front of the others. Proof, if any be needed, that my best simply wasn’t good enough.

As I said, one of the coaches was disabled. He couldn’t have done that workout any better than I did. You’d think he’d be more understanding and compassionate, but you’d be wrong.

Want to know how I felt when I saw my coaches laughing at me? I mean, besides humiliation and anger and self-worthlessness? I felt EXPENDABLE. To my mind, school officials are supposed to build students up, make them believe they can achieve great things. That should apply doubly for coaches and phys-ed teachers – their job is to have students leave school in better physical shape than when they went in. When two coaches go so far as to laugh at a student who is having trouble reaching this goal, the message it sends is as follows:
You’re not worth the trouble. You’re hopeless, and deserve to be mocked. We might worry about the self-esteem of your peers, but you? Who the hell cares? You’re a loser, one we’re more than happy to let fall through the cracks. You’re an acceptable loss. You have so little value to the team, your efforts are truly laughable. If you kill yourself, we’ll pop a beer and say, “Finally! What took him so long?”

This post has had many stops and starts, writes and rewrites, over the last year. I was afraid my stories might seem too self-pitying. Perhaps they are. Perhaps I simply need to “get over it,” and “move on” or “stop feeling sorry for yourself!” Nevertheless, I hope the point of these stories has been made clear.

If not, let me spell it out: school officials need to stop being part of the problem. They need to stop enabling the bullies and ignoring/punishing/belittling the victims. When students report bullying, they need to be taken seriously. Schools need to show students, and especially bullies, that something is actually being done. And not just the easy stuff, either. That’s been done. It didn’t work.

No school student should ever feel expendable.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Cupid War - First Love!

I am tremendously grateful to my editors at Flux for helping me make my books the best they could be. A perfect example of their help came during the revisions of The Cupid War, when they suggested I flesh out the details regarding the first couple Fallon had created. Originally, I had simply mentioned at the beginning of Chapter 9 that Fallon had successfully brought two people together. Flux thought I could do better, and I did; I came up with the idea that Fallon had united two writer/performers at a spoken word event. Thanks to those extra details, I not only had a stronger scene in the novel, I also had the seeds for a short story!

The Cupid War: Fallon's First Couple is an even-more-fleshed-out version of that scene. It features both Fallon and his mentor Caleb, and includes a certain naughty song that I wrote during my own spoken word days. I plan to release this story here, on this blog, in just under a month's time. If you liked The Cupid War, don't miss this sequel... no, it's not a sequel. Or a prequel. It's more of an... inthemiddleofquel. You'll see what I mean when you read the story. And you can do so on November 1st.

Mark your calendars, cancel your appointments and practice your call-in-sick voices! You won't be sorry.

Don't forget to check out this blog's other short story, Walk of Evil. And please post some comments - I love feedback!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Occupations

My Ottawa vacation is over, and October has begun. My search for employment continues; I could really use a good job that lasts a few months. Maybe even a year. Or two. I'd hoped to come back to such a job - I'd been chasing a data entry position before my holiday, but unfortunately that whole thing fell apart. A real shame, as it would have had good pay and benefits and everything.

I've finished the first draft of my latest novel, currently titled I'm So Goddamn Sick of Vampires. My next project is called Zombie Jesus Day, and I've already got a good start on it. I don't know if I've ever jumped so easily from one novel to another, at least not without a month of downtime in-between. ZJD is a concept I've been punting around in my mind for several months now, and I can't wait to tell it.

Apart from those projects, I still have several completed first drafts that need revisions and rewrites before they'll be ready for public consumption. I've also got I, Suicide and Evil 2 to return to, when I'm ready for them. I'm contractually bound to offer any sequel or spin-off of The Cupid War(such as I, Suicide) to Flux before any other publisher. Unless some kind of miracle happens and The Cupid War becomes a best-seller, Flux will not want to publish it.

Evil 2, however, is another story - all the unsold rights for Evil have reverted to me. No reason I can't pick up where I left off with that book, provided the story stands well enough on its own.

For now, though, I'm sticking with Zombie Jesus Day. It looks to be a very fun write. I'll need that kind of a project to help me through the job-searching days ahead. Fingers crossed I get some decent employment soon!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Can*Con 2012 - Sunday

Sunday was my busiest day, with two panels and a reading. I started the day off right with a Tim Horton's breakfast, and I surprised Violet with said breakfast in bed! Best hubby ever? Uh huh!

I was nearly late for my reading with Eric Choi and Melissa Yuan Innes! We each read for twenty minutes: Eric read his essay Making Mars A Nicer Place, Melissa read the first chapter from her book High School Hit List, and I read from The Cupid War. All of us received our due from the audience, but Melissa's reading generated the best reaction, and deservedly so. I can't wait to read her book now!

There was no rest for the author of Evil (ha ha, see what I did there?); I had to run all the way next door for my next panel. That is one tremendous benefit of having a smaller con - no time lost running across hotels (or even highways[looking at you, Anime North!]) to get to your next event. This panel was GLBTQ Reader, looking at the issue of gender identity in speculative fiction. Brett Savory, Liz Strange and I were lucky to have a very involved audience, and it became more of a room discussion.

Another hour of dealer’s room time, followed by my final panel: Humour in Science Fiction, with Ira Nayman(Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be) and Cenk Gokce. Here's a picture I took of our terrific audience:

We talked about different types of comedy, and comedy in sci/fi we enjoyed, but the consensus of the panel was that humour in sci/fi equals an automatic rejection from publishers at the current time. Of course, that will change overnight if somebody writes a fantasy/comedy that sells a million copies!

Also, my high school friend Kevin Booth dropped by the panel to wish me all the best – everyone should have a friend like that.

As the convention wound down, I made a final tally of my sales: 23 books in all, including 8 copies of Evil; 5 copies of Epoch; 6 copies of The Cupid War; and 4 Section Ks. Not bad at all! Seems a shame Flux has given up on Epoch and Evil when there is clearly still an audience waiting to be found. I also sold eight Transformers toys, netting me some fine pocket change!

Goodbyes came next, to friends new and old. As always, it was sad. My thanks to Farrell McGovern, Caycee Price, Derek Kunsken, Elizabeth Buchan, Tim Sellmer, and everyone else who worked so hard to put this convention together. I had a fantastic time, and next year I must return for more!

Can*Con 2012 - Saturday

On Saturday I checked into the hotel. We could have stayed with my folks again, but having a room at the hotel just seemed easier. I wanted to have the freedom to do con stuff late into the night without worrying about how I was getting home(OC Transpo and I have, shall we say, a sordid history). Besides, staying in a hotel is kind of exotic. And it was great for Violet and I to have a place to dump our suitcases.

I had no panels that day, so I spent a lot of time in the dealer's room selling my stuff. I was delighted to see so much interest in Evil and The Cupid War - it was my first Ottawa convention, so I was introducing myself to a lot of new people. Do you have any idea how amazing it is to look over and see someone reading a book you wrote? Well, trust me, it's fantastic. But almost as fantastic was hearing the person next to them saying, "I'm stealing this from you. This looks awesome!" Thank you for that, S.M. Carriere (author of The Dying God & Other Stories)!

Apart from my novels, I was also trying to unload some of my Transformers toys. I know I made some fellow Trans-fans very happy (I'm looking at you, John Seed!).

In the afternoon, I attended a panel on marketing one's novel(with Marie Bilodeau, Matt Moore, Allan Isfan and Above author Leah Bobet), and learned the benefits of not being an a$$h0le. Apparently that's a really bad thing. All kidding aside, though, I came away from that panel with plenty to think about. Afterward, Marie joined Violet and I for dinner at a small Vietnamese restaurant across the road from the hotel. Good soup, and lots of it; when they say a large bowl, they really mean LARGE!

That night I went to the ChiZine launch party for John Park's new novel Janus. I missed his reading, sadly, but I got there in time for good conversation and plenty of beer! It was a perfect way to unwind after the events of the day.

Then I slept. Just down the hallway from the dealer's room. Super convenient, and it sure beats lugging a suitcase full of books back and forth by transit, lemmie tellya!

Can*Con 2012 - Friday

Last weekend I attended Can*Con, a sci/fi convention in my home town of Ottawa. It reminded me a lot of Ad Astra and Con-Cept - not too large, and more of a literary focus. Actually, I was surprised at how small the convention space actually was; three panel rooms, a con-suite, and a tiny little dealer's room! I worried the con wouldn't be very well attended, but that concern was quickly put to rest. I sold lots of books, had a great time, and hope to make my attendance an annual thing.

I have a lot to say, so I'm splitting this post into three parts - one for each day of the con.

Violet & I arrived by train Thursday afternoon and stayed over with my parents. It's been a long time since I got to spend quality time with them, and the convention provided a wonderful opportunity to kill two stones with one bird! My folks drove us to and from the hotel on Friday night, which was extremely kind; they live in Orleans, which is as far East of Ottawa as the hotel is West! They must love me or something(Awwww!!!). It was nice to show them what I do for an almost-living!

We arrived in time for the Paper Airplane Contest, hosted by my friend and fellow author Marie Bilodeau. But she was no friend to anyone that night, oh no... as judge of the contest, she was a living embodiment of fear itself! I still have nightmares(hold me). There were many impressive and flight-worthy airplanes made from paper that night. Mine was not one of them.

Nevertheless, the evening was a joy. To get the extra-special folding paper, Marie insisted we sing. I stood and gave a terrific rendition of the Lumberjack song, with Violet as my Best-Girl-By-My-Side. I also made friends with some kids, all of whom gave me their paper airplanes afterward. It may have been out of pity, but I prefer to think of it as a sweet gesture!

We didn't stay any later Friday night, preferring to save our energy for Saturday. The Saturday post is coming soon...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Can*Con This Weekend!

This weekend I'll be in Ottawa for Can*Con 2012! This will be my second time at this convention - the first was many, many years ago, before I'd even published my first short story - and my first time as a pro writer.

My panel schedule is fairly small, and all of them are on Sunday. First, I'll be reading from The Cupid War in Room 3 sometime after 12:30 PM. Immediately after, I have GLBTQ Reader in Room 2(I love how the rooms are so clearly labelled!) at 1 PM. Then, at 3 PM, I'll be doing Humour in Science Fiction with my good friend Ira Nayman (author of Alternate Reality Ain't What It Used To Be) in Room 1.

All day Saturday I'll be selling Evil & Epoch, which I suppose I could classify as collector's items! I'm also hoping to take part in Friday night's paper airplane-making contest, hosted & judged by author friend Marie Bilodeau (Destiny's Blood & Destiny's Fall). I'm lucky in that there will be plenty of people there (like Marie & Ira) whom I've met and befriended at other cons. Gives these events a feeling of community!

As always, I'll provide a full write-up of my experience when I return to Toronto.

Can't wait! Cons are good for me.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Out Of Print

You know how I said this month is looking pretty good for me? That was before I got the bad news. My books haven't been doing all that well, hence the decision on my publisher's part not to go ahead with another book from me. That was hard enough for me to take, but this new bad news is even worse.

My publisher has decided to let my first three novels go out of print. As of Monday morning, September 17, all remaining stock of Epoch, Evil, and Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters will be pulped and recycled. This is a huge blow to my writing career; it isn't over, but it is in serious trouble.

I was expecting this news for Soul Hunters. It's been out since 2005, and since 2006 the average sales have been less than twenty copies per year. I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did.

The decision to pulp Epoch and Evil, however, came as quite a shock. Epoch sold relatively well in its first couple of years; Evil, not so much. I had hoped this situation would improve as my Internet presence grew. Since Evil's publication, I've had lots of reviews and quite a few guest posts on numerous blogs. I've discovered the promotional possibilities to be had with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads and Amazon, to name just a few.

I've also kept up a regular presence on the convention circuit. I'm a regular attendee of Ad Astra and Polaris in Toronto, and a few others when I could. I was the guy with the cartoony leaflets, handing them out to anyone who'd take one, leaving them on chairs and tables, trying to get myself noticed.

I've been busy, worked hard, and had an extraordinary amount of help. To every person who has friended or followed me, or Liked my fan pages; to every blogger who reviewed me, interviewed me, or asked me to write a guest post; to everyone who posted comments on those blogs, or wrote critiques of my work on Goodreads and Amazon; to every convention organizer and volunteer who helped set me up with what I needed, worked me into the programming schedule; to every fan I met at the cons who bought a book from me, took one of my flyers, sought me out at my table, commented at one of my panels, befriended me, and generally made me feel welcome and accepted... I can't thank all of you enough. I am so grateful, and feel so lucky, to have met you, and I want to shake every one of your hands.

And yet... it wasn't enough. Not by a longshot. I tried to get the word out, and all of you stepped in and gave me a boost, but the word simply didn't spread far enough. My novels didn't earn the sales required to justify keeping Epoch and Evil on the shelves.

Thankfully I still have The Cupid War, and I will continue to fight for it. It will be a much harder fight, however, now that I'm no longer taking up as much shelf space. I still have my small press books: my ebook for children, Closets; and Section K, my sci/fi comedy for grown ups. And, of course, I'll keep writing. I still have hope, and a burning desire to write I'll keep going.

Maybe someday I'll sell those three novels to a new publisher. The rights have reverted to me, apart from those already sold. I really don't know what's going to happen with the digital versions of those books; I'll update when I do.

This isn't the end. It does, however, feel an awful lot like the beginning of the end. I wish I sounded more positive about this, but I'm not going to sugar-coat the situation, either. I'm in a bit of a funk, and I'm not going to snap out of it for anyone else's comfort. This is me, reeling from a blow delivered by a harsh reality, and I haven't managed to bounce back yet.

But I will.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Welcome To September 2012

It's going to be a busy month for me. There is a strong possibility I will have a new job by the end of this week, for one thing. I also anticipate finishing my current novel project this month; I'm on Chapter 31, right in the heart of the climax! Another two chapters and an epilogue, methinks.

When that's done, I'll need to pick a new project. As always, I have a wealth of ideas. I also have a couple of projects I could return to.
In the middle of the month I'll be in Ottawa for Can-Con, another science fiction convention. It will be my second time doing an out-of-Toronto con, and I've wanted to do this one for a very long time. Why? Because it's in Ottawa, the town where I grew up! Aside from Can-Con, I will visit my parents and a few old friends and generally have a good time. Expect a full report here in a few weeks!

I will also unleash a new short story on my readers sometime this month. The story is set in the Cupid War universe, and will expand on something the novel only touched on briefly. More details to come soon.

With all this to look forward to, September is looking to be a pretty good month for me!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Awesome Fans, Positive Feedback

I've recently received some extremely positive feedback on my work, so naturally I wanted to share it here. The first is a review of The Cupid War from my new friend Nicki Weisz on her blog, Books Complete Me. Read the review by clicking here.

Next, I have two emails from new fan Charlie Checkers. The first concerned his thoughts on the German edition of Evil, which is a first for me. The second is in response to my request to print his first email here.

Dear Mr Carter,

I've just finished reading the German version of 'Evil?' and I wanted
to express my gratitude towards you for writing such a great book. It
made me overthink my opinions on many topics even though I don't
consider myself as someone with many prejudices. Especially since I
often reflect on religion, this book gave me some thought-provoking
impulses. I think it is important to make people think about topics
like homosexuality (which I find especially important since one of my
friends is homosexual and people often meet her with prejudice and
hate even though they don't even know her), racism and masturbation.
These topics are all 'taboos' somehow, but I think it is crucial to
figure them out. Thank you for this great book. I'll also read 'Epoch'
as soon as I get my hands on it. ;)
Your demons are so cute. Fon Pyre was intimidating at first, but it
was easy to like him since he likes coffee and doughnuts and in the
end, he's really funny and smart and cool. I also like Stuart so much,
he's so cool and brave!

There are two questions I'd really like to pose: Will there be a
sequel to 'Evil?'? I'd like to know how Stuart's journey goes on.
There are so many other fallen angels in the world, sure he will meet
some of them sooner or later.
I'd also really, really like to know why the demons smell like
detergent. It's fun to imagine that the devil always cleans up his
hell, but what was your idea behind that detail?

Yours faithfully, Charlie

Dear Mr Carter,

thank you very much for your answer! Of course you may put my e-mail
on your blog - it's an honor for me. ;)
The short story is AWESOME! I think Stuart's my hero number one. He's
so smart. =) And Fon Pyre is the coolest demon in the world anyway and
it's so funny he doesn't like Starbucks. Everybody in my age drinks
Stabucks coffee just because everybody else does it too, but the
coffee really isn't that good. Fon Pyre rules! I'm totally looking
forward to another book about them!

Yours faithfully, Charlie

Needless to say, I couldn't help but feel grand after I'd read each of those messages. And I had similar feelings in response to the below email from Rowen Lohmann, which came with the subject line: Hey, Your Book Was Sorta Really Lovely

Hey there! I'm Rowen, and a first-time reader of your books as of yesterday.
So, it's hot. It's humid. It's gross, and I figure, 'what better to do with my time, than dig into a book about demons and elves?'.
So I did.
And I have to say, Epoch was pretty great. Yeah yeah, I could say the ending was a touch unsatisfying, but that's only because I felt so engrossed in the characters that it was almost painful to say goodbye.
...some could also argue that I sometimes exaggerate.
None the less, I really did love the book. Every once in a while it takes a book like yours to restore my faith in the, overly-stigmatized(and sometimes for good reason), wonky genre, that is Young Adult.

Get a bit of inspiration from the Westboro baptist church, did we? That place tends to be my fallback when I need inspiration, you know, a fleshed-out model of the perfect antagonist bad-guy.
Alright. I'm blabbering a bit, but here's the condensed version of what I've been trying to articulate:
1. I loved your book.
2. I hate characters, I loved others. You did it well.
3. thanks for writing something in the genre that didn't put young people to shame. The intriguing, layered personalities of your characters had me cheering, spitting, and grasping to find something to hug.

Well done, and I'll be sure to check out some of your other things.
Hopefully this won't be my last email before the end of the world,

Not a bad time to be an author! Thank you Nicki, Charlie & Rowen. Your feedback gave me a real boost.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Polaris 2012

Once again, Polaris was a fantastic experience for me. I sold 12 books, including five copies of The Cupid War, and I also sold off a large number of toys from my collection. Good thing, too, because I spent over a hundred dollars on Doctor Who toys! I felt a little guilty about that, but luckily my toy sales covered that bit of splurging.

My panels, for the most part, went very well.

I did six, five of them fandom-related and one of them focusing on Internet communication and social media. I would have liked to have done more professional panels and writing panels, but I’m still very grateful for the schedule I had. Along with the Internet panel, I did two Star Trek panels (Defending Voyager, remembering TNG), two Doctor Who panels (Madman With A Box, 50th Anniversary Approaching), and one on the 15th anniversary of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The Star Trek and Doctor Who panels were lots of fun, with lots of interesting points raised, friendly disagreements on the quality of certain episodes, and plenty of fond memories remembered.

The Buffy panel, on the other hand, was very difficult. I was moderator for that one and the room was packed, making the juggling of speaking time and audience questions tricky.
That I could have handled without much stress, but I also had to contend with a live, in-the-flesh embodiment of The Simpson’s ‘Comic-Book Guy’. He called me an idiot in front of the entire room because I liked something that he did not. I was taken aback – that is not appropriate panelist behaviour, to say the least - and I did not let it pass. I told him if he insulted me again, I’d have him removed. Good for me for standing up for myself, I say. Still, I’m grateful the guy did not choose to challenge me on the point. I’m not sure what I would have (or could have) done then. He continued to be difficult, and showed no respect for my role as moderator, but I made it through the panel with most of my dignity intact.

On a much more positive note, I made some new friends and cemented a few old ones.One fan and Facebook friend sought me out on Sunday to have her copy of The Cupid War signed. And she’d made a booklet out of Walk of Evil, complete with cover! That was extremely cool. Another friend I made that morning on the bus ride in picked up a copy of Section K. One of my fellow panelists, Graeme Burk, co-authored a book on Doctor Who, titled Who Is The Doctor? I look forward to reading it (even if he didn’t like A Good Man Goes To War!).

And I saw my favourite group of Doctor Who-costumed ladies – always a highlight of the con.

And there were Daleks! Woo-hoo! I mean, Ex-ter-mi-Nate!

When it was over, I left without feeling the usual crushing post-con depression. Instead I was simply content. Another good con. Let there be more!

I’ve heard there may not be a Polaris con next year. Things are changing – there’s talk of a different event in November – and nobody’s entirely sure what will happen yet. Time will tell.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Polaris Saturday Morning

I just missed the bus, so I'll be a little later than I would have liked. Nevertheless, I am soon to be on my way with all my stuff.

Here is a list of the days and times for my panels:

Saturday 11am In Defence of Star Trek: Voyager
Saturday 2pm Communicating On The Internet
Saturday 3pm TimeWarp 87: The Coming of Star Trek: The Next Generation
Saturday 5pm Yes Amy, I Am A Mad Man With A Blue Box

Sunday 1pm A Half-Century of Doctor Who
Sunday 5pm The 15th Anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Must go. I have to wipe the cat hair off my suitcase (Karma & Ron LOVE suitcases!).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Polaris is Upon Me Again!

Tomorrow I will be heading out to that hotel in Markham to once again experience the awesomeness that is Polaris. I have a box full of books to sell, lots of flyers to distribute, and good friends to see again.

This time, however, I will not be plugging anything new. Over the last few years I’ve either been releasing a new novel a month after Polaris, or I’ve just learned I will be releasing one the following year. There is no new book under contract for me to announce this year, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, I will be there to market what I do have. Good times are ahead, and I can’t wait!

Oh, wait, yes I can. I’m not going tonight for the opening ceremonies/blastoff party. I still have some things to prepare, and panels to prepare for, but mostly I won’t be going because I’m simply too tired. Friday night will be for relaxing, so I can hit the convention fresh first thing Saturday morning!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Walk of Evil

“It was bound to happen sooner or later,” said the Tammy Faye wannabe at the next table. “That jujitsu’s of the Devil, like all those other martial arts.”
My ears pricked up at that. How could they not? After what had happened to me in Ice Lake, my ears are tuned to all conversations featuring both religion and ignorance.
“I’m just so glad she came!” said the Tammy Faye lookalike’s friend, a man with the voice of Pat Robertson and the body of Jerry Falwell. “A literal Godsend, if ever there was one.”
Tammy, Pat Falwell and I sat in a Tim Horton’s in downtown Orillia, a medium-sized town two hours north of Toronto. I’d been job hunting, and was enjoying a coffee after a lengthy interview with the manager. Now, though, I was very interested in the conversation next to me. I’ve had some experience with the supernatural, specifically angels and demons, so naturally I’m nervous about all things God-sendy.
“Do you think that man will try to open another dojo?” Pat Falwell asked. “He did put up quite a fight to stay open.”
“No. Not possible,” Tammy said. “Not after one of Meredith’s miracles.”
My ears perked further. First a godsend, now a miracle? Time for me to butt in.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I’m Stuart Bradley. Did I overhear something about a miracle?”
Tammy and Pat Falwell were only too pleased to fill me in. It seems there was a jujitsu dojo down the street, and it had drawn a lot of opposition from the Christian community. Why? Because the dojo owner, Lesley Peters, was a gay man. The fundies had protested outside the dojo, waving signs and handing out fliers to anyone who would take them.
“We had to warn people!” Tammy said. “Otherwise, parents might send their children there, ignorant of the danger.”
“What danger,” I asked, “would that be?”
“Well, he is a homosexual,” Tammy said, as if that explained everything.
“You don’t put a wolf in the henhouse!” added Pat Falwell.
I smiled, and resisted the urge to punch them.
A number of parents pulled their kids out, lest they be exposed to the gay virus that people like Lesley (and me, by the way) were put on this earth by Satan to spread. The loss of those kids hit Lesley’s business hard, but he hung in there and stayed open. The fundies responded by stepping up their protests, but their efforts failed to have the desired effect. The dojo owner called the police on them several times, and tried to get them charged with harassment. Things looked bleak for the fundies and their cause to drive an innocent man out of business. But then the miracle happened.
Meredith Donic came to town.
“She’s just wonderful!” Tammy said. “So prophetic!”
“You can see the light of the Lord shining in her eyes,” Pat added. “A real soul-winner.”
“Who is she?” I asked. “And what did she do?”
Meredith Donic, they told me, is a modern-day miracle worker. She travels the country ‘as the Lord provides’, righting wrongs in the name of her Heavenly Father. She came to Orillia because ‘she sensed a calling.’
“She always turns up where she’s most needed,” Pat Falwell said.
“Do you remember that mosque they tried to build in Toronto?” Tammy asked me. “The one at the very spot where the terror attack on the subway took place?”
I did remember the Muslim community centre that was to be built five blocks north of the subway bombing site, and two blocks west.
“Meredith went to the building site,” Tammy said, “and the next day those Islamists lost a critical part of their funding. The whole project was cancelled!”
“Same thing happened to that dojo,” Pat Falwell said. “Isn’t that wonderful? The Lord in action!”
“Fantastic,” I said. “So where’s this Meredith now? Has she moved on?”
“No, she’s staying in our church out on Brodie Drive,” Tammy said. “Apparently the gays are organizing some kind of rally.”
“And they’re planning on holding it in the park right next to our church!” Pat Falwell added. “They blame us for what happened to the dojo.”
“There’ll be dozens of them,” Tammy said, “right outside our place of worship. And during a service, too!”
“Children might see them!” said Pat Falwell.
“As if they had the right,” Tammy added.
“You mean, holding a demonstration outside a place they’re at odds with?” I asked. “Waving signs and handing out flyers?”
“Exactly!” Pat Falwell said. “That kind of behavior, well... it’s disrespectful.”
“It’s discrimination, is what it is,” Tammy said. “But Meredith will be there in our hour of need. Those queers will never have their rally.”
“I see,” I said. “I’ve got to meet this Meredith. Where can I find your church?”
They gave me directions, and told me the best times to catch her there. I thanked them for the talk, shook both their hands, then told them I was gay. The looks on their faces were priceless. As I left, I saw them squirting sanitizer onto their hands.

Lesley’s Dojo was easy enough to find. Like Tammy and Pat had said, it was just down the street at Peter and Elgin. I looked through the front window and saw a man sitting on a large gym mat next to a case of beer.
“We’re closed,” the man said when I came in.
“So I’d heard,” I replied. “You Lesley?”
“That’s me,” he said. “You here to gloat?”
“Have the fundies been doing that?” I asked, and he nodded. “I thought their holy book didn’t encourage pride.”
“Their book says a lot of stuff,” Lesley said with a hint of a smile, and he waved me over. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I heard there’s going to be a rally this weekend,” I said as I walked over to join him on the mat. “I want in.”
“I’m not sure that’s still on,” Leslie said, taking a long pull from his beer. “After what happened...”
“What did happen?” I asked.
“Why so curious?” he wanted to know. He made to offer me a beer, then seemed to think better of it. I am still a teenager, after all.
“It’s... kinda my thing,” I told him. “I ran into some of your gloaters, and they told me about a woman named Meredith...”
Leslie straightened, and his eyes widened.
“That woman freaks me out,” he said. “She told me if I didn’t close myself down, she would ask the Lord to do it. I didn’t take her seriously, but that night she walked around this block, around and around with her arms out like this,” he demonstrated for me, “and singing – really badly, by the way – about how she wanted God to close me down.
“At the time I laughed, but the next day over half my remaining clients pulled their kids out. Someone’s check bounced, too. And then the landlord called up to tell me he was raising the rent. Just like that! Everything was going fine, except for those religious homophobes who kept showing up outside. Then that woman comes and suddenly I’m in hell.”
“Ouch,” I said.
“My friends want to help me organize that rally,” Leslie went on, “but I’m having some serious second thoughts. When I heard that woman’s doing her walking thing – I think she calls it a prayer walk – around the field where we’re planning to have it...”
“You really believe she has some kind of power,” I said, “don’t you?”
“She’s got something,” he replied. “You know, when I was closing up shop after I got the bad news, she came right up to me and said, ‘the power of the Lord in action.’”
“Don’t call off that rally yet,” I said as I rose to my feet. “I know someone who might be able to shed some light on this...”

“Hmm,” said Fon Pyre, a two-foot tall, brown-scaled creature. “That sounds like the work of a djinn.” He sat on the kitchen counter, staring disdainfully at the cup of coffee in his hands.
Fon Pyre was a demon, and therefore an expert on the supernatural. I’d summoned him up a few months ago to help me deal with some unpleasantness in my former home of Ice Lake, Ontario. It involved fallen angels and angry townspeople, and nearly cost us both our lives.
“A djinn?” I asked. “Is that like a genie?”
“Not really,” Fon Pyre said, and he sipped at his coffee. “Ugh. Where’d ya get this crap?”
“Starbucks,” I replied with a sigh. “I forgot to get your stuff while I was at Timmy’s. Sorry.”
Fon Pyre clenched his teeth and grunted. Then he did so again, his entire body shaking.
“Since I’m unable to toss this swill in your face,” he said, “we can conclude I’m still bound by the demon code of honour not to hurt you.”
“So it would seem,” I said, trying not to look too smug.
“However,” he went on, tossing the coffee over his shoulder, “I can still irritate you.”
“Right,” I said, and I got up to get a rag.
We lived with our friend Father Reedy, the former priest of Ice Lake. His cousins, Lionel and Wendy Wefland, owned a two-level house on Cleopatra Court, and had been kind enough to give us their children’s former bedrooms after we’d high-tailed it out of Ice Lake. Because of that unpleasantness I’d mentioned, with the fallen angels.
The Wefland’s don’t know about Fon Pyre, and hopefully they (or anyone else, for that matter) never will. They are, however, really anal about keeping things clean. Knowing Fon Pyre the way I do, I keep several rags around their house in strategic locations for just this sort of situation.
“You were saying about djinn?” I prompted him as I began the clean-up.
“Oh, no,” the demon said. “I’m not sayin’ squat until I get my cup of Timmy’s.”
“I am not,” I said, “going back into town just to get you coffee.”
“You’re right,” Fon Pyre said. “I also require a donut.”
“Forget it.”
“Then no info,” Fon Pyre said, eyeing me triumphantly.
“Oh, come on,” I said. “This fanatic is gonna use her djinn to stop a gay rally. I could do something about it if I knew what I was dealing with.”
“And I should care because...?” Fon Pyre said.
What could I say to that? He was, after all, a demon.
“Answer me something,” Fon Pyre said. “Why do you care? A guy got his business shut down and a bunch of other guys are gonna lose a rally. What’s it to you?”
“Because people like her,” I said, “really piss me off.”
“Ah, so it’s a revenge thing,” Fon Pyre said. “That I can get behind. One condition, though.”
“Coffee and donut?”
“I’m getting that anyway,” Fon Pyre said, and it was his turn to look smug. “If you want my help, I get to come with you.”
I sighed, shook my head and tossed the rag in the sink.
“You know I promised Reedy I’d keep you here,” I said, remembering when we’d first arrived here in Orillia. While we were still unpacking, Fon Pyre took off to have a little fun on the town. The next day, there were reports of dead pets all over the neighbourhood. I’d given Fon Pyre some marching orders when I summoned him, ordering him not to kill anybody. He’s also under a special demon code to protect me, because I saved his life one time. None of that, however, can stop him from killing dogs, cats and the occasional rabbit.
When he got back to the house, I went back into my summoning manual and set up some special wards that a demonic creature cannot cross. Father Reedy made me promise not to release those wards under any circumstances.
“Yep, I remember,” Fon Pyre replied. “Do you want my help or not?”
I glared daggers at him. He beamed enthusiastically back at me.
“Fine,” I said. “But don’t do anything I’ll regret.”
“Swear to God,” Fon Pyre replied, crossing his heart.

Fon Pyre filled me in on djinn while we made our way to the church. Well, not right away. He remained silent until I came out of the nearest Tim Horton’s with his order.
“Djinn,” he began, his mouth full of Boston crème, “are nasty little buggers. Smaller’n me and harder to spot, but really powerful. They can bend reality.”
“Bend... what?” I asked.
“I don’t know how they do it,” Fon Pyre said, “but they can change the course of events to make wishes come true. If we’ve got a djinn to deal with, well... this is gonna get interesting.”
“Come on, Fon Pyre,” I said. “They can’t be that powerful. Can they?”
“I guess we’ll find out,” my demon said, and we walked the rest of the way in silence.

We arrived at the church, a modern brick structure just a stone’s throw away from Orillia Square Mall. It didn’t look all that big; I guessed it would only hold about sixty, maybe seventy people. As advertised, there was a large grassy field next to it.
I looked over at the field and saw a woman walking slowly around the field’s perimeter. She had blonde hair down to the small of her back, and the dress she wore was so modest and conservative it rendered her almost androgynous. She had her arms outstretched in that way believers do, to show they are filled with the Holy Spirit. We could hear her was singing, and even from a distance I could tell she was flat. Lesley had been right on the money.
“That looks like your baby,” Fon Pyre said. “Want me to pull her lungs out?”
“Sounds like she’s doing that to herself,” I replied.
“Ooh, snap!” Fon Pyre said. “So what do you wanna do?”
“We should check for the djinn first,” I suggested. “If Meredith is staying in the church, then...”
“It won’t be in there,” Fon Pyre said. “Non-dimensional beings like myself are not fond of holy places, remember?”
“Right, right,” I said. “Well, that’s one less place to look, I suppose.”
“I’ll find him,” Fon Pyre assured me. “Why don’t you go talk to the cacophontrix over there.”
“Okay, good plan,” I said. “Meet me behind that fishing supply store we passed on the way here. We’ll compare notes then.”
“Roger,” Fon Pyre said, and he ran off into the foliage.
I walked across the field toward the woman, thinking about how I should play this. After all, it wasn’t as if I had any kind of authority. If she wanted to keep singing badly while walking around this field, I had no grounds on which to stop her.
I did, however, have a moral obligation to try.
“Excuse me,” I called to her as I approached. She kept on walking and singing as if she hadn’t heard me. She sang the same thing over and over: “Lord, keep the gay people off this ground.”
“Pardon me, hello?” I said as I arrived next to her. “Are you Meredith Donic?”
She continued as if I wasn’t there. Time to resort to drastic measures.
“Jesus Goddamn Christ!” I shouted.
That worked. Her eyes flashed open, the cat-strangling stopped, and her face took on a look of righteous indignation.
“Do not take the Lord’s name in vain,” she instructed, her voice high and nerve-pinching.
“I won’t if you won’t,” I replied.
“Young man,” she said, “I have never, in my life, taken the worthy and precious name of our Lord in vain.”
“I’m talking about the things you do in his name,” I said. “Like what you’re doing now, for instance.”
“I am on a prayer walk,” Meredith said, “to bless this land in preparation for the coming of the unclean.”
“...the coming of the unclean,” I repeated, not quite maintaining a straight face. Who actually talks like that? Seriously. “Would that be the planned rally to protest the closing of Lesley’s Dojo?”
“Those people are homosexuals,” Meredith said. “I have tried to reach out to their community, but few of them welcome my message of Salvation.”
“Fancy that,” I said. “Maybe it’s because they think you had something to do with the dojo’s closure. Did you?”
“I did a prayer walk around that block,” she said, “and asked the Lord to work his Will.”
“The ‘Lord’s Will’, huh?” I said, making quote marks with my fingers. “You wouldn’t say, then, that you have other supernatural forces working for you?”
“Certainly not!” Meredith snapped, and the horror in her eyes was real. Whatever kind of creature was carrying out her wishes, she clearly wasn’t aware of it.
“The Lord works through me,” she went on. “It was His Will that the dojo be closed, not mine.”
“But it didn’t exactly sadden you when His Will was done, did it?” I said.
“Of course not,” she said. “I rejoice when the Will of the Lord is done. Now, if you will excuse me...”
“Not so fast,” I said, holding up a hand. “You are hurting people with your prayer walks. I want you to stop. I’m asking you, nicely, to stop. Please.”
“I will do as the Lord asks,” she replied. “Not you. Now stand aside.”
I did so. There was no point in refusing. I wasn’t going to convince her to stop, that was clear. Hopefully, Fon Pyre would have some information for me about her supernatural help.
I watched as Meredith walked away, arms spread and voice howling. She really believed she was doing God’s work. Me, I’ll settle for just doing the right thing.

I met up with Fon Pyre half an hour later, next to the dumpster behind the fishing supply store near the mall. He wasn’t alone; he held an apple-sized creature in his hands.
“Who’s your friend?” I asked.
“This,” Fon Pyre said, “is our djinn. Nasty little bugger, isn’t he?”
Fon Pyre held the fat blue creature at arm’s length, where it wiggled and struggled in his grip. It looked like a small Bhudda statue, except its eyes were longer and almond-shaped, and his ears were like Mr. Spock’s.
“Leggo! Leggo!” the little djinn cried. “Tell your demon to release me.”
“Want me to kill him?” Fon Pyre asked hopefully.
“No! You can’t,” the djinn said.
“Oh, I can,” Fon Pyre assured him.
“But you will not,” I said. “Djinn... do you have a name?”
“Rofar,” the blue creature said.
“Rofar,” I said, “you are granting wishes for a woman named Meredith, aren’t you? We want you to stop.”
“That’s what this is about?” Rofar asked.
“We don’t like what she’s doing,” Fon Pyre said. “Well, Stuart there doesn’t like it. I don’t really give a...”
“Shush,” I said.
“Look, um, guys,” Rofar said. “I can’t stop.”
“Sure you can,” Fon Pyre said, and he squeezed harder.
“Noyoudontunderstand!” the djinn cried.
“Ease up on him, Fon Pyre,” I said. “What do you mean you can’t, Rofar? Help us to understand.”
So he did. He explained that when a djinn is summoned to the Earth dimension, they must agree to a pact with the summoning human. In that way, it was very similar to the rituals I’d done to summon Fon Pyre. For djinn, in order to leave the ritual site and fully enter our world, they had to pledge their lives to a person of the summoner’s choosing. Usually this person would be the summoner themselves, but occasionally they would choose to bond their djinn to another.
And that’s what had happened here. Meredith’s sister, a woman named Raven Donic, had called up Rofar. She’d pledged the djinn to Meredith, and instructed him to carry out Meredith’s prayer walk requests.
“So, whatever she asks God to do,” Fon Pyre asked, “that’s what you do?”
“That’s it exactly,” Rofar replied.
“And Meredith has no idea you exist,” I said.
“That was one of the terms of my pact,” Rofar said.
He went on to explain how he went about fulfilling Meredith’s prayers. It turned out he couldn’t simply change reality as Fon Pyre had thought. At least, not exactly.
“To get the dojo closed,” Rofar told us, “I talked to the parents of the kids who went there. I visited them while they were asleep, and planted the suggestion into their heads to take their kids out. Same with the landlord of the place. Told him to raise the rent, and he did.”
“And the cheque that bounced?” I asked.
“That was just a coincidence,” Rofar said.
“And you have to obey, right?” Fon Pyre said. “No way out of the pact you made?”
“Can you get out of your pact with your human?” the djinn retorted.
“He is not my human,” Fon Pyre pointed out.
“But you do obey him.”
“Hah!” I said.
“It’s a demon code thing,” Fon Pyre muttered. “Not the same at all.”
“Tell me something,” I asked the djinn. “Do you go by the words that Meredith uses, or by what she actually wants?”
“Isn’t that the same thing?” Rofar asked.
“You tell me,” I said.
“Well, technically,” Rofar said, “I grant her wish based on what she sings. Like this time, she’s been singing for God to keep the gay protesters off the ground of the field next to the church.”
“Don’t know if I’d call that singing,” I said, “but yeah, that’s what I heard, too.”
“I was gonna arrange a few accidents for some of them,” Rofar went on, “maybe get a few of them sick...”
“But all you really need to do,” I told him, “is keep them off the ground.”
“Huh?” Rofar said.
“I think I see where Stu’s goin’ with this one,” Fon Pyre smiled. “Tell me, Ro, you actually like that woman you’re stuck with?”
“Not really, no,” the djinn replied. “If she knew about me, she’d consider me an unclean thing.”
“Then listen to the kid,” Fon Pyre said. “You’re about to have some fun...”

When Rofar heard my plan, he was all over it. He spent that week sneaking into the homes of Lesley, his friends, and anyone else remotely interested in the rally, planting seeds in their minds. He also put in a word or two with members of the press.
The night before the event, Rofar grabbed the materials for a special piece of equipment. I went out to help the djinn set it up, and I brought Fon Pyre with me. It was the second time I’d taken down the wards that kept my demon in the house, but he’d proved he could be good under supervision. Besides, we needed his strength to carry the materials around.
On Sunday morning I turned up bright and early at the church, and so did Lesley and the other protesters. None of us set foot on the ground of the park. Instead, we all stood upon a wooden platform that hadn’t been there the previous night. It was big enough to fit all one hundred and twenty-two of us with room to spare, and when seen from above (like, say, from the vantage of the news chopper that flew past), it was clearly a giant triangle.
None of the protesters left the triangle for the ground around it; Rofar had instructed them not to. The djinn’s marching orders had indeed been carried out to the letter.
As the parishioners arrived, there was no disguising their shocked surprise. Clearly they’d been so sure of Meredith’s abilities that the idea of the rally actually happening hadn’t occurred to them.
The look on Meredith’s face was priceless. I thought I’d bust a gut laughing when she emerged from the church and saw us. She looked the way my mom used to when her PC crashed; “I’m pushing the right button,” she’d say, “but nothing’s happening!” The other parishioners didn’t seem to know who to be mad at: us, for showing up; or Meredith, for having failed them.
Meredith didn’t stay stunned for long. She launched into a prayer walk around us, arms out and screech-singing to the heavens. “Remove these homosexuals from our sight!” she sang. We all covered our ears, and so did quite a few church-goers, but we stayed put.
I felt something small zip up my left side and perch on my shoulder. It was Rofar, and he did not look happy.
“I have to obey her,” he told me.
“I know,” I replied. “But she isn’t saying when she wants us removed from her sight, now is she?”
Rofar’s pained expression turned into a beaming smile. He gave me a thumbs-up, then zipped off once more.
When Meredith had completed one full orbit around our group, and we still hadn’t budged, the parishioners apparently decided it wasn’t going to work. One by one, they turned and walked into the church. Meredith continued her prayer walk, oblivious.
I walked toward her, taking care not to leave the triangle, and I gestured at Lesley to follow. I came up with something appropriately rude and blasphemous to say, and said it as she started to walk past us.
“Meredith,” I said when she turned to face me. “This is the power of gays in action.”
Lesley and I exchanged a high-five while she bustled off in a huff into the church.

There was a party afterwards. How could there not be? I made several new friends, and nabbed quite a few phone numbers. My social life had taken a turn for the best!
Sadly, I had to leave early; turns out my job interview at Tim Hortons had gone very well. As I headed for the bus stop, a tiny figure darted out of the bushes and ran toward me.
“Rofar!” I said. “Nice work today, man. I can’t thank you enough.”
“I should be thanking you, Stuart,” Rofar said as he climbed up onto my shoulder. “Seeing my master taken down a peg was the most fun I’ve had all year!”
“I gotta say, you really went to town,” I said. “Convincing the media to come... and where did you get that lumber, by the way?”
“Don’t ask,” Rofar said. “Look, I just wanted to say goodbye. My master’s leaving town tonight, and I have to go with her.”
“I wish we could free you from your pledge,” I said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Rofar replied. “I’ve never felt so free.”
“Wonder if I’ll ever know what that feels like...?” a sullen voice muttered when Rofar had gone.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at home in the closet?” I asked, looking down to see Fon Pyre.
“You forgot to reset the wards last night,” my demon informed me. “Guess you’ll take care of that the second we get in, right?”
“I’ll have to, yes,” I replied. “Reedy’s getting suspicious.” Then I paused, and considered. “I’ll reset the wards when we’re both home.”
“When we’re both...?” Fon Pyre said.
“Just stay out of sight, and be quiet coming in,” I said. “And please don’t kill any pets.”
I rarely see surprise on Fon Pyre’s face. This was one of those times.

On Monday morning, I started work at the downtown Tim Hortons where all this had started. And who should come in but Tammy and Pat Falwell! They did not look like happy campers, not at all. I started to make a pot of coffee while straining my ears to hear their conversation.
“...couldn’t believe it, either!” Pat was saying.
“She thinks she must have offended God somehow,” Tammy told him, and I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. “She left town to get back in touch with the Spirit.”
“I hope she does,” Pat said, “or it could be a devastating loss for our church.”
They reached the counter and placed their orders. I poured their coffee, but when I tried to hand them over they stepped back in disgust.
“We know this person,” Tammy told the cashier. “He is a homosexual. We don’t want any coffee that a homosexual has touched.”
Whatever, I thought, as I held my customer service smile in place. We’d won a battle, but the war goes on.

The End