For What It’s Worth

Although I work a day job, I try to advance my creative endeavours in fiction and gaming whenever I can. It’s a long slog peppered with occasional setbacks, but I’m determined to realise my dream. One motivational tool I use is to pin up copies of all of the covers of the roleplaying modules I have written, as well as the anthologies and magazines that have featured my work as a reminder of how far I have come. I don’t trumpet it to my co-workers or brag about what I have done; I let the covers speak for themselves (and I have a few more to put up…)


Last week a co-worker came by my office to talk about something, and noticed my collection. The conversation went something like this:

Colleague: “Hey Geoff, what are all those pictures in your office?”
Me: “Those are covers of all the anthologies my stories are in.”
C: “You write? Cool! I’d love to read them!”
Me: “I’ll send you the Amazon links if you like. All I ask is that you post a review.”
C: “Oh. I was hoping to be able to read them online.” (shuffles away)


Like anything else that is worthwhile, art takes a lot of time to create and even more to master. On the latter, I see the skillful demonstration of any craft as being analogous to an iceberg—the part you see is tiny compared to what lies hidden. Basically an iceberg squared, if such a thing could exist. Whatever creative endeavour one pursues, it’s work—and a lot of it:

It’s stewing in one’s creative juices trying to come up with something worthy of making into art.

It’s the first abortive attempts that seem awesome at first, and then appear totally worthless as our confidence and initial creative euphoria erode in revision runoffs.

It’s finally, after many twists and turns, making something that seems to match what we had in our heads…and then submitting it for scrutiny (whether by an editor, a gallery, etc.), only to find ourselves on another emotional rollercoaster where we often question our integrity and value as artists until our work is either accepted or rejected.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

All this to say, any form of artistic expression, whether it is done “for the love” or because the artist is trying to make some money from their craft, requires sacrificing a great deal of time and energy from an all-too-finite pool. And that sacrifice is, in itself, a gesture of love towards one’s craft.

As an artist’s friend, colleague, partner—or even if you’re a complete stranger—you should not, out of respect for that love of craft, dismiss their work out of hand. Approach their work with a curious eye or accepting ear, and above all an open mind. If, in the end, you don’t like their work then give honest, respectful feedback and explain why. Likewise, if there was something about the artist’s work you did like, give them the affirmation they need and tell them so—and post a review.

Above all, if the artist respectfully tells you that they aren’t about to give you their art for free don’t scurry away, because in doing so you are telling them how little value you place on their work.

Stories Come in Many Forms

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

– Michelangelo

Everyone has a passion somewhere inside them, and they should be encouraged to pursue it as much as they desire so long as it brings them joy. I love to write and tell stories, and I express this through writing fiction and through roleplaying games – both fairly safe and sane activities.

My partner, Fiona Plunkett, also known as The Witch of South Mountain, has long had a passion for stone carving. For her, it’s an organic process: She once told me she looks at a stone and sees the final sculpture inside it, as though the stone “knows” what it wants to be and it is up to her to free it. I get that. Often, a story idea pops into my head and the process of writing feels more like acting as a conduit for the story to tell itself through me.  In those moments I truly feel like I’m in the writing zone, and time flies by.

This month, some of her carvings are on display at the Brockville Arts Centre, a venue that promotes regional artists of all forms. Looking at the display she put together, with her tools and raw stone at the bottom and her finished pieces above, I can see the stones telling stories of their own. The animal carvings show movement – are they escaping a predator, or are they searching for something? Likewise, I can picture her inukshuks standing on a barren Arctic plain, or sitting atop a craggy northern shore, which I could fill with characters of my own.

Someday I will draw inspiration from one of Fiona’s works and tell a new story of my own, but in the meantime I will enjoy the expression of her art. I hope you will, too.

I’m Doing a Blog Hop!

I was invited by my friend and fellow author (and East Block Irregular), Marie Bilodeau to participate in a blog hop. I eagerly accepted because I have no common sense, and very little dignity. Situation normal where my dealings with Marie are concerned (though she did eat a bug for me so I suppose it balances out, but that’s another story).

Marie encouraged original responses to her questions, and even urged us to break the rules – but that simply wouldn’t do. After all, she tagged me as a spawn of the Elder gods, and when someone saddles you with a label like that, garden-variety madness simply isn’t going to cut it. No, she deserved the special reserve – that select variety of perverseness I stash away for those who are truly special. My connoisseurs, if you will.

Takes one to know one, I suppose. 😉

On to the questions!

1. What research would you conduct to write a scene in which squirrels become the sole proprietors of the Febreeze Empire?

Hold on. What do you mean, “in which the squirrels BECAME the sole proprietors”? They were always the sole proprietors, because the great progenitor, the Flying Ra’aki (May He glide forever!) ate a bad nut at the dawn of creation and vomited out the cosmos for the enjoyment of His children. He then horked out a shell fragment which became – as all right-thinking people know – the Febreeze Empire. The sacred texts of Ra’aki (May He glide forever!) say so.

Unless, of course, you have been reading the heretical works of Ch’p and Dhail. Please tell me you have not been doing so, Marie. Swear by the Holy Pouch, and by St. Bolwinkul, that you have not. I have no wish to call the Inquisitors…

You did, didn’t you?


2. If you could conjure one mythical creature to finish a book for you, which one would get to select the ending and why?

Well, that’s one’s obvious. I mean, seriously dudette, how long have you known me? It doesn’t matter which mythical creature I chose to end my book, because Great Cthulhu would just kick the door down, drink all my beer, rearrange the furniture in disturbing ways, and then screw my storyline six ways from Sunday. And I’d love it because I’d be huddled in the corner, giggling maniacally and singing “I Left My Hearts in R’lyeh”.

Wait a minute. That’s a normal Friday night…oh crap.

3. Bigfoot sex. Discuss.

Some people think I’m sexually repressed because I’m half-English, into sadism because I’m part-German, or into kink because I’m part-French. While it’s been years since I’ve wielded a riding crop or poured melted cheese into a [CENSORED] and lapped it up with a side helping of [CENSORED], I do keep an open mind about sexuality in general. Bigfoot sex is no exception. I believe that we should love all people equally, regardless of skin colour, height, weight, body shape, or hirsuiteness. Rather than hunt our primal brethren, or speculate wildly about them in checkout tabloids of dubious quality, we should accept and welcome them with all appendages. They probably know some damned good tricks, too. If I lived in the woods I’d want to make sex more interesting.

Bigfoot sex is actually an underlying theme in much of my writing. Give any of my works a serious read and you’ll see. I’ll wait.

“Go big or go home,” as they say…


4. What would you need to do to become the most prolific writer ever (can include crimes, questionable science and lack of morality)?

Funny you should ask that. I’ve placed a hit on Father Time and if Sweaty Pete is as good as my bookie says he is, I won’t have any worries about deadlines, scheduling or crap like that because the time-space vector will collapse. So if your clock stops, you can thank me.


5. Does Vogon poetry have artistic merit?

If you’d asked me that in my pre-writing days the answer would have been a resounding “NO!” Everyone has to start somewhere, and as much as I hate to admit it there was a period in my life (before I was “enhanced” by the Elder Gods) when I was obsessed with such trivial, boring things like logic. Fortunately, I am no longer so encumbered, and since becoming an author I have crossed the threshold into realms of abnormality that are beyond the wildest dreams of my younger, more human, self.

That being said, after reading the collected works of the great masters for the first time, and after the echoes of my final screams had subsided, I began to see that Vogon poetry possesses a unique, putty-like beauty which smells slightly of old, peaty cheese. Who knew that beauty could have a scent? I didn’t. But it does, and that revelation was wonderful on so many levels.

Vogon poetry is a valid art form. My grant application to the Canada Council for the Arts is forthcoming.

6. Shoggoths – Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

I really don’t know. I thought they were a type of fungus for the longest time, but when I grilled one up the other day it didn’t taste a thing like the portobello mushrooms I served at the last dinner party – not even with a generous helping of Worcestershire sauce. It didn’t taste like the guests, either, so that rules out animal as well. One thing I will say is that despite the fact that the buggers can change their shape at will and can pass through the tiniest cracks, shoggoth gunk really gets stuck between your teeth. I flossed for a good half-hour to get it all out.

Trust me on this one.


7. What are you working on right now?

Oh, if you must. I mainly write short stories, and as we speak I have six of them in various stages of editing, and another two being written – half of them are horror. I’m trying to branch out, but I think the tone of this post should give you an idea of where I am spiritually, genre-wise.

I’ve also got a YA novel on the go, and a couple of gaming modules in varying states of completion. I’d get a lot more done if it weren’t for reality.

Good thing I’ve got Cthulhu on speed dial…

There you go, folks. Me – unfiltered. Please check out the blogs of my other writing buddies, Matt Moore and Hayden Trenholm, and see how they have responded to Marie’s fiendish questions.

Fear her!

Sometimes all you need is a fresh perspective

Have you ever had a story that you know has potential, but try as you might you just can’t get it accepted?

I’ve been pitching one of my short stories, a Lovecraftian sci-fi piece, to various editors since I wrote it in 2008. Among the form rejections there were a few personalised responses, where the editor was kind enough to tell me why my story didn’t make the cut. Each time, I thanked them and took the story back and reworked it, all along convinced that my story idea was solid, and if I could just get the right angle, I would have a winner. Persistence paid off, and as the months went by the rejections were more and more favourable. Finally, my story made one magazine’s short list. I was on cloud nine.

But, as P.G. Wodehouse wrote in Very Good, Jeeves, “Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove”. A few weeks later the editor informed me that the magazine was ceasing publication. I was frustrated, but saw it as an opportunity to pull the story back and take another good look at it. However, it had already gone through nine significant edits, and I felt I was too close to the story to see what might be done to make it more marketable. I needed a fresh set of eyes.

Fortunately, I had recently joined a local writing group, so I submitted my story to them. We met last night, and I got four fresh perspectives on my story – what works, and what doesn’t. Their advice and reactions were very insightful, and they have given me ideas that I probably would never have considered – like trimming the story still further into a flash fiction piece, which might suit the single theme a bit better. Some of them even wanted to see it again. This experience renewed my enthusiasm, which is probably what I needed most of all.

Ideas Come From the Strangest Places…

It’s amazing where story ideas can come from.  You can be going about your business, thinking nothing of it, and then it happens.  You see or hear something interesting, it sparks an idea, and all of a sudden you have one or two possible plots for a story.  It’s almost magical.

Here is an example from today.  I was having coffee with a friend in the underground plaza beneath our offices, and he made a remark about how many people were milling about in the food court.  He was right – it was far more than normal.  I suggested that maybe there was a board meeting or something similar in one of the neighbouring hotels that were reachable by tunnel.  This led him to mention that he had seen a group of office drones enter a service tunnel next to one of the underground meeting rooms that were nearby, and not come out.

Now this was odd, I thought.  I could understand food court or mailroom staff using the service tunnels, but not people like ourselves.  You didn’t need to use them to reach the parking lot, so why would they go in, and not come out again?  My imagination started firing up, and I jokingly suggested that perhaps they were part of some weird cult, or were going off to gamble or do any number of things generally not allowed while on coffee break.

Naturally, we decided to pop in ourselves.  We found ourselves in a grey world few people get to see, full of ductwork and strange panels on the walls, with locked doors of all sizes leading to even more mysterious places.  The service tunnel circled around the whole outer perimeter of the food court, and there wasn’t a soul.  Without consciously planning to, I began thinking about how a secretive organisation would operate there, how it would use the various rooms we saw, and what it would do to intruders.

It was a fascinating diversion, and now I have a plot idea that I might want to develop into a story.  But I still wonder what those office workers were up to.  Maybe that will become a story idea, as well…