All posts by jfgarrard

JF is the founder of Dark Helix Press, Marketing Strategist for Ricepaper Magazine and Slush Pile Editor for Amazing Stories Magazine. She is an editor and writer of speculative fiction (The Undead Sorceress, Ricepaper Issue 19.3), non-fiction (The Literary Elephant), as well as children’s books (Feeding The Kraken!, 3x Bilingual Series). Her contributions have been published in Entrepreneur,, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, MochiMag, My Corporation, Indie Pubchat, Authors Helping Authors, among others. Find her on Twitter or Instagram @jfgarrard.

Dark Helix Ezine

We are defrosting in Toronto, the weather is slowly getting warmer, but it’s still below 0.

I have been taking part in the submission and rejection cycle once again as a writer. I’ve discovered there are a lot of new ezines out there, but they do not pay. That’s fine, but I’m not sure if it’s worth my while to write and then get not much out of it.

Since curating the Trump: Utopia and Dystopia book, I’ve become good friends with quite a few authors. Dark Helix has newsletters, but I thought it would be a great idea if we could do an ezine. This would be like a mini Costco magazine. Instead of food samples, we’ll have stories from writers and interviews with them so people can read new material that they otherwise might never come across in this vast internet world of words.

Announcing the Dark Helix Ezine, a speculative fiction ezine which will be available for FREE for readers. We hope to have the first issue out in May before Anime North hits. We want to help out Indie authors as much as we can and hopefully this will take off!

Dark Helix Ezine

Adobe Indesign is the gold standard for magazines, so I am pulling out my hair and learning the basics of how to do an ezine in this software. Trying to be careful about not over committing as I’m working on a Futuristic Canada anthology, writing short stories and taking a novel writing class. Oh, and I have that kraken toddler I have to feed and play with on a daily basis!




Feeding The Kraken Children cookbook out!

Feeding the Kraken! is a toddler/children cookbook I made in 2016. It was a successful Kickstarter project and it features over 50 recipes as well as parenting advice. I had hoped that my father (a chef) would be around to test recipes with me, but well, he died.

This book is a big lesson about me being too creative without thinking ahead. I used up a lot of time to make it look pretty and had lots of beautiful nautical graphics in it…which doesn’t translate well in e-book format. In fact it looks really crappy because the coding is very difficult and to make the book commercially viable I have to strip out most of the graphics.

I procrastinated about this for over a year.  Good thing I’m not depending on books/writing to pay bills because I would be starving and dead by now!

In the end I decided to put up the original book as a pdf with all artwork intact on the Dark Helix Press website as a download. Since the reader has to do extra work, instead of the usual $4.99 price point, I have dropped it to $3.99. I also didn’t realize that paypal took a cut per transaction, so I learned about being dinged for fees too.

In the future I will make an e-book but it won’t be as nice. As for print book, I have InDesign, but haven’t taken the time to learn it yet. There is a high learning curve, but it is the gold standard for printing software. The print book can have most of the artwork intact but will be expensive to print due to color ink.

Anyhow, if you have any krakens (children) to feed, I think this is a great cookbook to look at. My child actually asks for the healthy red lentil muffins listed in the book! A cookbook is only successful if you use recipes more than once!

Here is the link, bon appétit!



Trump book published on Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Trump: Utopia or Dystopia anthology is now live and available for sale or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers on Amazon!

I’m not sure if I ever want to publish a book on Christmas again as it is quite stressful. A lot of frantic phone calls, emails and general panic about last minute changes. Although these things are typical of the publishing process with any book, I wasn’t sure if anyone would be working at Amazon on Christmas day to make it happen. It turns out there is a lot of automation I presume and at least one poor person (hopefully making triple salary) processing kindle books out in Amazon land.

Sadly, I’ve discovered that the previewer in Amazon isn’t that great. However, once I download the book or see it in the official previewer software for publishers, the book looks fine. Apparently it’s an ongoing problem that hasn’t been fixed by Amazon yet.

Jen Frankel and I are proud of the Trump book as it is one of the most creative exercises we have ever taken part in! All the writers have been great to work with and I’ve noticed that a few are in other Trump anthologies as well.

Our family also had fun with a Duplo building contest to see which design was deserving of a copy of the Trump book! There were a lot of abstract builds!


In the new year I need some energy to finish an anthology about Canada and will be working with Sarah Water Raven. She will be the main editor as I will be contributing a story, so I need someone else to tear me to pieces. One becomes blind to their own writing after a while and the only cure are fresh eyes!


The Year Christmas Got Cancelled

This was written for the Renaissance Press Holiday Blog Roll 2017!

One year, a fake auntie (not blood related) gave my sister and I a real Barbie doll to share. We never had a real Barbie before because they cost too much. We only got the Bargain Harold’s or Woolco generic dolls. I remember not wanting to play with Barbie anyways because I would rather play with Transformers, which was more interesting. 

A few days before Christmas, a blood curdling scream went through the house. My seven year old sister and I were doing extra Kumon math exercises without any joy. We shrugged and continued our grueling work. Mom screamed a lot; she could be either yelling on the phone at someone or mad about something on tv. Our tiny bodies tensed when she appeared in the doorway of the living room, holding a severed Barbie head by its long blonde hair.

“Who did this?” Mom demanded in her loud voice in Cantonese. Her giant afro perm bobbed up and down, as she stormed into the room and flickered a severed Barbie head by it’s long blonde hair in our faces. She was a tiny woman, but had enough power to topple over any mountain or rip apart any savage animal in our eyes.

Being the wiser ten year old, I shook my head and spoke calmly. “I don’t know mommy.”

My sister was frozen with fear, but after a few seconds of silence, parroted me in a squeaky voice, “I don’t know!”

Both of us looked around for our younger brother who was five. He was nowhere to be seen, but it didn’t matter, he was the golden child and could do no wrong.

“Christmas is cancelled! No more presents! You are naughty children and presents should go to good children!” My mother was livid that no one was owning up to destroying an expensive doll. We rarely got any toys from our parents because there was no extra money in an immigrant family home in which chocolate milk was considered a luxury. 

I sighed and tried not to roll my eyes. A few years ago my mother had suddenly told me that Santa didn’t exist, but my cynical seven year old self was already aware of this. I was more upset then that my shrine to Jesus had been ignored by everyone and became an atheist soon after. As the first child, I was continuously being experimented on by my parents.

“But we don’t get presents from you anyways,” my sister smirked.

“I’m talking about all presents! Even from other people! You are all bad children!”

“No, mommy! I want presents from the uncles and aunties and Santa!” My sister started wailing and crying.

Mother looked happy that one child had reacted to her stern lecturing. “There is no Santa! Hahaha! Now who took apart this Barbie?”

“I don’t know,” I said in an exasperated tone.

My mother shot daggers in my direction as she glared at me.

“It wasn’t me!” My sister sobbed, her chubby cheeks becoming red and streaked with tears.

“No one is confessing? No more Christmas!” My mother stormed off to dispose of the doll head.

“What do we do now? What did she mean that there’s no Santa?” My sister asked me.

I shrugged. “It’s ok, she’ll calm down and change her mind. I’m sorry, the whole Santa thing was really mom and dad all along.”

“Oh,” my sister said as she wiped her tears. “No wonder Santa always gave us such crappy presents.”

As with many things, I was wrong about mom changing her mind about un-cancelling Christmas. I also never found out who tore off the doll head. In the following years, any presents given to us were never seen by us. It’s presumed that they were re-gifted to another child who deserved presents. 


Although we didn’t get presents at Christmas, we still got red pockets (cash) at Chinese New Year, birthdays and whenever we passed any big tests. Admittedly all the red pockets went into our bank account which we later learned was paying for household expenses. 

There is a Chinese idiom about daughters: “Daughters are water poured out of the family after they get married.”

After I started dating a Caucasian Canadian guy in university, my Christmases were spent with his family. We eventually married as well and he was relieved that there were no fights about splitting up the Christmas holidays since my family didn’t celebrate it.

My sister and I have children now and they have great Christmases compared to our childhoods. Maybe we are trying too hard to compensate for the fact that we didn’t celebrate it or have any toys and want our kids to have everything. I hope that the kids don’t end up being spoiled brats! They will sigh as I tell them this story about Christmas being cancelled and probably won’t believe me since grandma always brings them presents!


Beauty of Cantopop

Growing up we listened to a lot of Cantonese music from the 70s-90s due to my parents refusing to listen to contemporary English music (except for oldies from the 60s, that was acceptable). A few years ago I confessed that I loved Sam Hui music to a friend. He told me I was an old fashion person because a lot Cantopop music has moved on with the rest of the world into dance and hip hop.

Every since China took back Hong Kong in 1997, there has been more demand for Mandarin products than Cantonese. However, in my opinion, Cantonese entertainment still reigns supreme as the writing styles in TV/movies are mature and always keep the audiences watching for the next plot twist. In China, the industry is still “new” compared to Hong Kong and maybe I’ll get addicted to something in Mandarin, but it hasn’t happened yet. Sadly there used to be over 300 films a year coming out of Hong Kong, and now there is only 30 as all the money is in China.

Regardless, an article in the South China Morning Post explains why Cantonese is still such a great language. (quote from article: “seng gau char siu ho gor seng nay”, which literally means “better to have given birth to a piece of barbecued pork than you”. )

chines barbecue pork Chinatown Char Siu

A lot of the music my dad liked to listen to ranged from very calm songs about waiting for someone (English lyrics to Danny Chan – 等Wait) or funny ones about the common man getting ripped off by the boss (English lyrics to Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels).

Lately I’ve been listening to this music again and it makes me cry because I remember sitting bored in the living room with the family while watching the horrible music videos of these songs on tv. A lot of Cantonese tv was family oriented and after dinner we would all sit down to watch tv and eat fruit. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to leave the house for life to start. Now I finally understand the longing and nostalgia of times gone past because people can’t be brought back from the dead.

Anyhow, I wanted to share  a few Cantopop songs via YouTube to those interested in trying out a new type of music. Other than the melodies being catchy, the lyrics are well written and usually the performers had great voices. There was less focus on “packaging” versus talent. Many of these legendary singers have died or retired. A few of them are still around and are still doing well. I don’t listen to much new Cantopop anymore unless they are title songs to tv series but these oldies are always welcomed in my home!

Sam Hui – 半斤八兩 Half a catty, eight taels (1976)English lyrics here, about the common man always getting the short end of the stick!

We are a bunch of working guys Working as slaves for money for life

Leon Lai – 愿你今夜提房距 Hope You Will Not Leave Tonight (1993)English lyrics here. This was the theme song to the TVB series The Legendary Ranger, science fiction series with aliens and a kick ass bodyguard (Faye Wong)! Leon was my fav of the Four Heavenly Kings!

Hoping you will not leave tonight.
But you have disappeared in such a hurry
to live a life in another world to be with someone else.

Hacken Lee – 红日 Red Sun (1992)English translation here, a great song for any bad day!

the path of life so twisted and winding, I have walked it
when did you start to accompany me on this path, giving me encouragement?
like the red sun, this fire lights up the real me
walking together, we can climb a thousand mountains

Jenny Tseng & Roman Tam – 問誰領風騷 (1987) – couldn’t find English translation, this is the theme song to a Wushu superhero series in ancient China. They both have AMAZING voices!

Anita Mui – Stand By Me (1988) – couldn’t find English translation, this was a thank you song to her fans for standing by her for many years.

Leslie Cheung- 有心人 A Man of Purpose (1996)English Lyrics here. This was the theme song from the gender bending romance movie, Who’s the Woman, Who’s the Man?

Wish I could have yet grown up Look for the one simply by instinct

Danny Chan – 等 Wait (1984)English lyrics here. A really sad and beautiful song about being depressed because a love left.

Lonesome till deep into the night
The night gradually becomes desolate
The night gradually becomes dusky
Don’t say that you’re the one choosing people
People can also choose you

Sam Hui – Heart of a Loafer (1976) – English translation here, a song that reminds you to be humble and don’t be overly anxious.

If life destines something for you, you will have it in the end
If life destines you never to have it, there is no point forcing it





Reel Asian 2017 Articles

The Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival is heading into town and I’ve been dispatched by Ricepaper Magazine to cover it. A few pieces were also done for Looseleaf Magazine, a Project40 Collective publication based in Toronto. Since festivals want press coverage before the festival is open to the public, I’ve been busy writing and watching the films as of late. When my husband asked what it meant that I was dispatched to cover this, I told him that it meant he had to babysit more!

I’ll continuously be updating this page as more work gets published, the Reel Asian Film Festival runs November 9-18, 2017 and a lot of the films get only one showing, so grab tickets while you can! For inspiring film makers there are lots of seminars on how to hone your craft or handle taxes, but you have to reserve your spot ahead of time.

For parents with krakens, there are Wee Asian events on weekends with free animation films and crafts for children. It’s at the TIFF building which means lots of space and large bathrooms for diaper changes.


Reel Festival Overview of events

Press conference coverage for The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 

Wee Asian Diary Entry 

Film Reviews

Summary post of all film reviews

Stand Up Man (Canada, 2017)

Bad Genius ฉลาดเกมส์โกง (Thailand, 2017)

Dear Etranger 幼な子われらに生まれ (Japan, 2017)

A Whale of a Tale おクジラさま〜ふたつの正義の物語 (Japan 2017) 

The Posterist (Hong Kong, 2017) 


Summary post of all interviews

Simu Liu, Kim’s Convenience Actor

Aram Collier, Director of Stand Up Man

Nattawut Poonpiriya, Director of Bad Genius

Yukiko Mishima, Director of Dear Etranger

Kristine Estorninos, Reel Asian Head of Programming

Looseleaf Magazine article

Film review: Jesus is Dead (Philippines, 2016)



Cover Reveal for Trump Utopia or Dystopia!

Whoopee! The great Jen Frankel and I are almost done editing this Trump book! Instead of 20 stories as planned, we have 30 stories. Too much of a good thing won’t kill you…I think…depends on what…

Anyhow, we revamped the cover too to make it a bit stronger. There were debates over changing the title too, but in the end, we stuck with the same title as Trumptopia, Trumpocalypse, etc were all taken.

It was great to work with all the writers and although sometimes we agreed to disagree, everyone worked hard on polishing their stories. We hope that reader will enjoy the book as we had a fantastic time editing!

This week I’m off to read a new piece about Toronto convention no-nos at the Tartan Turban Secret Readings #5. I honestly don’t know what to expect. There could be 5 people in the room or 50! Looking forward to connecting with local authors and seeing if they know more secrets about success than I do.

I had a talk with the organizer who asked me about where I published other than self-publishing. I said only Ricepaper Magazine and their anthology. Then after hanging up, I realized that I had either written or contributed a bunch of stuff to rather large outlets such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Women’s Health, Book Baby (blog), Authors Helping Authors, etc. I’m just not used to taking credit for stuff. The lesson from my MBA marketing prof: ‘ if you don’t toot your own horn, no one will do it for you!’ obviously didn’t stick to my brain that much.

Over the weekend one of my American friends told me about some course on selling millions of books. I told her that at the end of the day, I believe it’s about creating a good quality story. Marketing/selling is a different skill set than writing, but first you have to write something worth selling!


Trump Book Almost Finished!

Apologies for not updating this blog as of late.

Trying to finished the Trump book has been a priority (oh and that toddler creature needs to be take care of too) and we just finished signing our 30th author (Timothy Carter, who sent in a fantastic story that made me laugh loudly) that will be featured in the book. The stories selected are pretty fantastic and unpredictable. As a writer I don’t like reading things in which I know how things will end. The publishing date we set is November 31, 2017 for the e-book and January 2018 for the print edition.

By the way, I am a horrible person to go to the movies with!

Jen Frankel has come on board as the second editor of the book and she has been fantastic to work with. There was another editor that came and went – lessons learned was to always keep communication open and to be organized, since things get hectic with 30 stories! Also parting amicably is a good thing because one never knows what the future may bring!

Labor day weekend (Aug 31-Sept 3) Dark Helix Press was at Fan Expo , a scifi/fantasy/horror/sports convention which brought over 100,000 people to one place. As a not very famous author, it was a loss financially, but I made some new contacts on the creative front. My husband couldn’t understand why I was exhausted every night. “You just sit at a table!” he said. Well, sitting at a table from 7am-8pm and talking all day is really tiring. Especially when you are not a natural salesperson. But if people don’t know about your book, they won’t read it, so you have to put a piece of your heart out there and let it get stomped on usually! There were a few people that heard me speak at other conventions so it was really nice to meet these people that have similar passions!

Recently I couldn’t find too much information about a device which I splurged hundreds of dollars on called Ovusense, so I will do a future post about this device and how it helps women with PCOS who are considered infertile. Time is passing for me, so I am hopeful, but trying not to be in case I get disappointed (Baby Shadows, an essay I wrote a long time ago explains more).  I wish that my husband could have the baby because I seriously hate labor and recovery.

For those bugging me about the second International House of Vampires book, I am working on it, really. I know people are waiting and I have to get it done. I hope to have a draft by December, then find an editor in Spring 2018. This one is about mankind spewing too much garbage into nature and the consequences of that. Have you watched Plastic Ocean on Netflix? Birds and whales among other animals all starve to death because  of plastic junk they swallow! The ocean has become a trashcan. Just one example of how horrible we are. Although if any other species took over the planet I’m sure they would do similarly destructive things…

On that cheerful note, have a great weekend!



Diversity Is For The Next Generation

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.

Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.

Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.

I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!

We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.

The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.

The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.

“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.

The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive? 

I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.

But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.

Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.


The Truth About Submissions And Why Editors Reject Your Story

The following is a response to a writer who submitted to the Trump: Utopia or Dystopia Anthology and had questions about what to expect when submitting stories, what it means when they receive comments and why they need to rewrite:

Hi XX,

I am glad that you wrote in with questions, don’t be afraid to always ask – I don’t believe that anyone is a true expert, everyone is always learning.

Generally when you submit anything, you will never hear anything other than, “sorry your piece didn’t make it into the book/magazine.”

As a small publisher for the Trump Anthology we got over 100 submissions (deadline isn’t over yet). An agent typically gets 10,000 submissions/year. Big publishers even more. It is a tough, tough business to select and chose stories. Then it’s another tough road to sell it to readers. 9/10 books don’t sell to recoup costs of editing/formatting/publishing. It’s the one superstar that pays for everything for the publisher during that year.

When a story is selected, it’s because:

1) it connected with the editor (super subjective and editors read a lot, so the story has to be super special),

2) it was well polished, which means that the publisher buying doesn’t need to invest more time/money into the piece,

3) it was an ok story which the editor knows will be an easy sell to the readers.

To be honest, yours is perhaps the 95th story in which the story focuses on a violent incident. After getting so many of them, they all start to blend together unless there was something different about it.

For example, there is a lot of death and violence in one story we bought – “Trump Vs The Zombies” by E. Reyes. His story was the best one selected in which Trump built a wall to keep out zombies (there were about 5 of them) and because he is Mexican American, some of his cultural background also made it into the story. There were many creative twists in the story that made the editors want to  keep reading.

Most likely we will pass on your story, I have another editor I work with on making such decisions. We held back on rejection letters as we wanted to get everything in the pool first before we started tossing out stuff. We are going to send a note out to people to let them know that we will be sending out rejections soon. Already one writer wrote back to let us know that he sold his story to another publisher which is great. That’s why we allow simultaneous submissions; we don’t want writers to miss out on another publisher buying even if we don’t!

When you submit a story and get feedback, that is the most valuable part of submitting. If people don’t give a shit, they won’t give you any feedback.

Think about why we sent you such questions or comments and yes, it means a rewrite.

The next version could be sold to another publisher or you can self-publish yourself. On other projects, I’ve worked with editing teams in which we presented such questions to writers and they refused to rewrite. This means we could not recommend the publisher to buy because it means the writer isn’t willing to meet a higher standard.

There was another story in which we had numerous comments/questions, however, the main theme in the short story connected with us. This means another 4-6 months of editing back and forth (between editors & writer) to get the words and ideas in the story to flow properly to make the story better. If we didn’t like the story, we wouldn’t bother spending so much time cleaning up their writing. Another story was so well polished; we finalized it in 3 weeks.

No matter how good of a writer you are, you will always need an editor. I see writing as an art form and it takes time to discover your voice and to perfect a piece, like a painting (I used to be a painter). Anyhow, expect a rewrite every time you receive comments. It will get to a point in which the editor is satisfied and then it will be published. Then sometimes post publishing readers will point out stuff and then another rewrite. It really never ends sometimes…

I hope that you have a day job as many full time writers struggle to eat. It’s hard to become a writer superstar. I don’t think it was every easy – we just never hear about the struggles as much. Self-publishing does fill the gap for those who want to publish, but even for self-publishing, higher standards are being brought in or else readers will not trust this new group of publishers. The landscape continuously changes and I don’t think anyone knows what the secret is to becoming a writer superstar.

Anyhow, hope this helps and let me know if you have any more questions.