JF Garrard is an award-winning speculative fiction writer, editor and publisher. She is the President of Dark Helix Press, Co-President for the Canadian Authors Association’s Toronto Branch and Deputy Editor for Ricepaper Magazine. Her portfolio of works is listed on jfgarrard.com and you can find her on Twitter @jfgarrard.
February is Women in Horror month and to celebrate at Dark Helix Press we are giving away a set of books containing horror elements. Prizes include: My Girl, a short story by JF Garrard, Immersion an Asian speculative fiction anthology and Trump: Utopia or Dystopia anthology.
No purchase necessary and reward will be delivered via e-mail.
Since I am stuck at home during the pandemic, I have been cooking and buying more junk food. Let’s be honest here, comfort food isn’t the healthy stuff most of the time. I’ve been trying new snacks and other random foods so I thought I would share my opinions about them. I’ll compile the reviews onto my “Food Sanity” page since eating is what’s keeping me sane during the pandemic!
The first item I’m posting about is Pizza Pizza’s Superfood Pizza Crust. This was introduced to me by my food conscious sister who said that pizza was an easy way to get vegetables into a kid’s diet. I have yet to have my child successfully eat this, but that’s the theory anyways.
Pizza Pizza’s website states that the curst is “made with antioxidant rich vegetables such as purple cauliflower, purple sweet potato, and butternut squash. It’s vegan, gluten free and contains no artificial flavors or colors, starting at 12.99.”
Ordering the pizza was easy, I did this via the website and paid the delivery man when they showed up. The food was luke-warm but it was a cold snowy day. The pizza cost about $18 Cdn (pre-tax) after selecting medium size, superfood crust, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, pineapples, ham and mushrooms.
Sight (10/20): The pizza I received looked like a pizza but I was super disappointed the crust wasn’t purple and it was slightly burnt.
Availability (20/20): For Canadians it’s easy to buy online and to have it delivered, if a store is in the neighborhood
Smell (10/20): I didn’t smell much of anything.
Taste (10/20): I really wanted to like the pizza but the crust didn’t taste very good. It felt like I was chewing tough fibre even though the toppings were alright.
Touch (10/20): It felt like a pizza slice with melted gooey cheese and pizza sauce, but the crust was quite tough. A few slices weren’t cut properly and I had to yank hard to get them to separate.
Overall score: 60/100
Would I order again? Sorry, no. I tried this pizza crust twice already because I really wanted to like it but was sadly disappointed each time! Maybe in the near future someone will invent a tastier crust that’s made from veggies.
Admittedly I have a little bit of imposter syndrome because I don’t write in just one genre. I’m greedy and as a speculative fiction writer, my stories may involve horror, fantasy and science fiction all mashed together sometimes. For my horror author pic I used the PITU app which I adore to make myself look eerie. My husband says I laugh like a maniac whenever I use this app, but I can’t help it, it’s hilarious to play with!
For this panel I will be reading a pure horror story – My Girl, which I made a YouTube reading of (link here) earlier this month. It was inspired by a time when I had a miscarriage. In this story, a woman has a chance to giver her dead baby life by stealing the life of another baby’s. If this was possible, would women do this? I have no doubt that some would and some wouldn’t. It depends on a person’s values in the end even if they are in a horror story.
I’m also trying something new at this panel, the King Sumo raffle service. We’ll be giving away some Dark Helix books in a digital raffle and one audience member will walk away with a few books.
During a meeting in Jan 2021 with a few Asian authors, they lamented over the fact that they haven’t been getting much support from others since they were isolated due to COVID-19 and they lived in places with relatively few Asian people. This inspired Ricepaper Magazine to put together a Write-Rice Asian writers support group. Of course, it’s also open to anyone supportive of diversity, we want to be inclusive as well!
The list of topics we will touch upon includes the different methods of publishing to tips on how to write better. The hosts for 2021 are JF Garrard, Vincent Ternida, Derwin Mak and Cynda Yeasting. For more details and to register for these free sessions, click on this link: ricepapermagazine.ca/writerice
Feb 19 – JF Garrard (What are the different options for publishing? Traditional/Self-Publishing/Vanity/Podcasting/Youtubing, etc)
March 19 – Vincent Ternida (What is the difference between short stories, novels and poetry?)
April 16 – Derwin Mak (What do editors look for? Surviving the slush pile and looking for submission calls for fantasy and science fiction genres)
May 14 – Cynda Yeasting (What is an author platform? Discussion about networking and promotion ideas)
June 18 – JF Garrard (What is the difference between genres? Scifi/fantasy/horror/specfic/magical realism, etc)
July 16 – Vincent Ternida (Writing a good villain and interesting characters)
August 20 – Derwin Mak (What happens at genre conventions for science fiction, fantasy or romance? Are they worth the money to learn about writing?)
Sept 17 – Cynda Yeasting (Social Media 101. What is the difference between Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Tiktok, etc)
Oct 15 – Vincent Ternida (Writing realistic fiction and plotting)
Nov 19 – JF Garrard (Nainowrimo Write in session, e-book prizes during “Word Wars” in which people compete to see who can write more words in 10 mins)
Dec – no session, survey link will be made available for feedback
Since we are all stuck at home because of COVID-19, it’s made it easier to attending writing events. Mind you, I miss connecting with people in person, nothing can replace this and I hope COVID-19 is over soon so we can travel.
As a person on a budget I’m always looking for free things. Probably cause I grew up in a frugal household. Anyhow, below are a few free events I’m attending which are virtually held to learn more about the craft of writing. Usually after reading sessions there are Q&As, so you can ask questions to help with your own work.
If I find any more interesting ones, I’ll repost with additional information. Eventbrite also has a lot of free online events as well.
The festival takes place in Brampton, Ontario, providing an important space for writers to discuss their craft and the challenges involved in creating stories that ask difficult questions, expose hard truths and push literary boundaries.
This online author conference run twice a year in association with the Alliance of Independent Authors and (in normal times) other major global conferences like Digital Book World (US) and the London Book Fair (UK). The event attracts the foremost speakers, sponsors and followers. Competitions and giveaways, as well as interviews, panel sessions, debates, round tables, and live-tweeting all add to the excitement on conference days.
This year I’m doing a few talks at Capricon 41 (Feb 4-7, 2021), a spec fic convention based in Chicago. I’ve been sent their panelist invites a few times, but this is the first time I’m attending.
To my surprise after receiving the schedule, I saw that I’ve been paired up with a few people I know from Toronto and someone I met at Detcon1 years ago! Looking forward to meeting these friends virtually again!
The con features many panels on writing, science and fandom – so if you’re looking for people to chat passionately with about geek topics, come hang out!
To get everyone into the holiday spirits for some merriment and laughter despite COVID-19 still lingering about, here is a podcast of me reading a story about mom cancelling Christmas after finding a severed Barbie doll head. I had originally written it for the Renaissance Press Holiday Blog Roll 2017. Text of the story is re-posted below, enjoy!
The Year Christmas Got Cancelled
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.about:blankREPORT THIS AD
“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!
For any parent with a young child, you may have encountered Numberblocks on Netflix. It’s a British made show which features all the numbers as characters who can merge (add), detach (subtract), multiply and divide. It’s a bit confusing at first because each number has a distinct voice and as they sing and dance, they become different characters (numbers) with different voices. It’s like watching a Broadway musical with people merging to become different people and then detaching again to become themselves. Confused yet?
The episodes are about 5 minutes long and there are five seasons. The stories in each episode are amazingly creative, the numbers are detectives in one, superheroes in another. After watching them, children attached to this show become obsessed with math and demand math quizzes every few minutes from their parents. It’s a wonderful and terrible thing at the same time because while I love the fact that my kid picked up multiplication from the show, my brain has no energy after working and writing (NaNoWriMo) to brainstorm math quizzes for fun at the end of the day.
For those who have the energy to do some celebrating, I’m sharing Numberblocks tags that I made with the Avery 8163 template. You can print it onto Avery stickers or cut them out if you are using regular paper (the guidelines won’t show up). If you have fancier ideas, you can add Christmas/Easter/Valentines clipart too to customize further.
Click link below to download, it has no spam or email signup requests, I am an exhausted parent and I hate that type of nonsense. If you like my books, you will buy them, I am a horrible salesperson anyways…Enjoy these tags and hope you have fun with the little ones during these strange COVID times!
Lately I’ve been querying more and have been getting lots of rejections. As usual I wonder why the heck I am a writer. We are the most depressing people we know! I won one short story contest which was fantastic and I’ve been promoting that by making a cover for it (The Blue Son), but the glory is over in ten seconds!
With this COVID stuff going around, everyone is scared and rethinking about what’s important to them. I’ve been writing a more since I’m leading a writing group for the Canadian Authors Association’s Toronto Branch and have an obligation to keep writing. I horrified a few writers by confessing that I tossed out the draft manuscript for my second vampire book (sequel to The Undead Sorceress) and am starting again from scratch. Between publishing my first book and now, I have learned a lot from my creative writing teachers, my style has changed and my ideas of plot lines for the book has been thought out more. I’m also selling/publishing more short fiction as they are easier to pitch than novels. For the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop, we are working on another anthology and that will probably come out next year.
Today a friend sent me an article about author logos. It’s a pretty good read and talks about advantages of having one. Similar to any corporate logo, it will only take you so far because at the end of the day, you still need a good product (your writing). I made one as an exercise for fun and am not sure if it works or not. The logo has robots because I write a lot of sci-fi/people and the flower is for fantasy/Asianess. I write horror too, maybe I should have added some bloody drops? Or a ghost rising out of the flower? Should I add I’m a publisher too? Will have to think about this some more!
Please enjoy your time while this COVID nonsense is going on and stay safe!
I’m very excited to be invited to be part of the first virtual speculative fiction convention called Amazing Con held by Amazing Stories Magazine!
Featuring over 42 authors, there will be tons of author readings, panels, musical performances and panels over a period of 3 days. Closer to the date I’ll post my reading date so people know when to look for me.
Registration is free and a suggested donation of $25 will give you access to the con along with a digital bundle of a year’s worth of Amazing Stories magazines! Click here to register
Since we are all hiding out due to COVID-19, this is an easy way to experience what a con is like from the comfort of your own home!