Stories Podcast reading: The Year Christmas Got Cancelled

This audio file is hosted on Podbean

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. 

Photo by Jameel Hassan on Pexels.com

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!

Rejections…one win and author logos

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!

Immersion and Brave New Girls

Immersion, an Asian speculative fiction anthology of fifteen stories which I edited with Allan Cho and William Tham is out! Two years in the making, we’ve used a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this project. The stories range from glimpses into loving relationships (with mermaids, grandparents, etc) to science fiction (using fish slime for fashion) to horror (supernatural beasts and an artist painting in blood). When we started the project we didn’t know what would come in the door. All we knew was we wanted to offer a chance to authors to send in the fantastic and surprise us! Towards the end we also did a cover re-haul and it looks completely different from before!

My latest published short story, The Curse, made it into Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gales and Gizmos. This anthology is the latest release from editors Mary Fan and Paige Daniels, featuring young adult science fiction tales about teen girls with a knack for science, tech, engineering and math… hackers, mechanics, inventors, and more! Proceeds from sales will be donated quarterly to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund.

 

 

 

 

Futuristic Canada Out!

Futuristic Canada is finally out! I’ve been working on this book for the past two years with Sarah WaterRaven. The project went through a lot of changes, with authors coming and going, lots of hospital visits (family members and ourselves), changes in directions for things…anyhow, the project is over and our book baby is finally here!

Admittedly creating a book about the future of Canada is not the best business decision given our small population and seemingly boring country. However, the stories in here will surprise people with their twists and unforeseeable endings! A superhero librarian, woo hoo! Puritans taking over the future, oh boy! Government sending old people dates for their executions, oh dear.

Sometimes a writer makes a terrible editor too because we spend so much time thinking about how the story will flow and we tend to get bored easily if a story is too predictable. I have to say that the writers in this book managed to make me jealous of their storytelling abilities and lyrical words.

We’ll be giving away Futuristic Canada as an e-book during Canada Day week of July 1-5, 2019. Grab a free copy from Amazon and please leave a review on Goodreads/Amazon if you can. Many thanks and enjoy!

Ingram Spark Vs Amazon KDP Createspace

For publishing purposes, mainly I’ve been using Amazon Createspace (print division) and Amazon KDP (e-books) for distribution. These two were merged recently and not much has changed other than the fact you don’t have to fill in tax info and log in twice. Some past receipts have gone missing, but other than that, the transition has been quite flawless. Creating a title for publishing has been great on Amazon. There is no charge for uploading, you keep what you earn minus fees.  If the print book comes damaged, they will offer to re-print another copy.

Some of my indie publishing friends have gone with both Amazon and Ingram Spark because they want the most out of distribution. Amazon distributes to limited venues and although Amazon captures 60% of the market, the other 40% is still land worth venturing into.

The site Ingram Spark has gone through many changes lately since I visited a few years ago out of curiosity. They provide very detailed manuals on how to publish and upload files. They have a live chat and telephone customer support system during office hours.  However, it costs $25-49 to upload a title and for every revision it will cost $25. There used to be an annual fee of $12 per title, but I believe that has been dropped now. Regardless, I had high hopes for Ingram given they are a giant distributor and supposedly more “professional” for publishing than Amazon.

Last night I tried to set up a title for both print and e-book distribution on Ingram Spark to try out their service. The first snag was the software on the website not allowing me to save the book title. The title “Trump Utopia of Dystopia” has no funny characters, so I was surprised at this happening. After the 10th try of pressing enter, something happened and I was allowed to go to the next page. This hope was false because I would hit other errors on the worldwide rights page and ISBN page. No matter what I did, the page would’t move on. I renamed the title to draft and tried again, only to be stuck on the title error once more. After numerous attempts and running into the same errors over and over, I gave up and went to bed because their customer service hotline was closed.

Waking up, I called them first thing and told them what happened. They asked what browser I was using. I said I tried chrome, explorer and safari. The person on the line advised me to download firefox. So I did and behold, firefox didn’t work either! After calling them back, they sent an email saying tech support will get back to me (unknown about timeline). They mentioned that the issue was trying to use the print/e-book uploading option. Apparently if you upload just print or e-book it’s fine. There is a bug in the code to do both print and e-book at the same time and they it’s been happening after their last software update.

In comparison, Amazon’s software has been fairly flawless for me. Their print and e-books are separate processes with the option to link both onto the product page later. The only time I’ve had a mental breakdown with publishing on Amazon is due to formatting but it’s nothing to do with their software not working.

I am on the fence about using Ingram Spark. If their tech people ever contacts me perhaps I will try again. However, my time is worth something and with tons of things to do, the price of putting up with flawed software might not be worth it in the end for me.

 

 

 

 

What’s In a “Basket of Ridiculousness”?

Since we are doing a Trump: Utopia or Dystopia book launch at Can-Con in Ottawa this coming weekend, we put together a gift called a “Basket of Ridiculousness” as a free draw prize to attract unsuspecting and sort of innocent future readers!

To get free draw tickets, please find me or Jen Frankel and ask us nicely for a ticket at the Can-Con event:

FRI 20:00-20:50 Panel – Braaaains. Please. Sorry  Salon D (Jen Frankel)

SAT 10:00 – 13:30 Dealers Room Table –The Alternate Reality News Service

SAT 11:00-11:50 Panel – Economics of Traditional Publishing Salon E (JF Garrard)

SAT 14:00-14:50 Indie Group Launch Event with food (basket will be given away at this event)

You may think, wait, what’s in this bloody basket worth hunting down strangers for?
The basket is valued at $50 and we put everything we thought we would want into it. So if no one wins or shows up for the book launch we will divide up the goodies among ourselves! Contents include:
1) A copy of Trump: Utopia or Dystopia to laugh, cry and get angry with.
2) A set of politician masks – Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton and Justin Trudeau. In time for Halloween and to re-enact scenes from the Trump book!
3) Lay’s Grilled Cheese chips – it just sounded yummy…and strange…
4) A $10 Starbucks gift card – caffeine just makes the day brighter!
5) Batman Story Cubes – making stories with yourself as Batman, just because.
6) Naughty mug – heck, we’re promoting a Trump satire book!
7) Snickers bars – to eat while watching CNN.
8) Fuzzy Peaches – it’s orange, enough said.
9) Crunch ‘n Munch popcorn – more to eat while watching CNN and Fox News.
10) SPAM – goes hand in hand with fake news.
11) Glow in the dark tie – to transport you to the Oval office.
12) Rubber Ducky Socks – we live in Canada, a tribute to our Prime Minister.
13) Dark Helix Bookmark – to keep your page in the book while you watch the destruction of the free world!
Looking forward to meeting random people in Ottawa and sharing the joy of this Trump book which has fantasy, horror and science fiction stories from writers around the world!

Call for Submissions – Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction

Call for Submissions: Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction

Deadline: Open February 15, 2018 – December 31, 2018 (deadline extended from previous Oct deadline)

Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop and Dark Helix Press are collaborating! We are searching for submissions for “Immersion: Love, Fantasy, Science” an anthology of speculative fiction stories to be published in the summer of 2019.

The anthology editors are Allan Cho, (Inside the World’s Major East Asian Collections), JF Garrard (Trump: Utopia or Dystopia, The Undead Sorceress) and William Tham (Kings of Petaling Street).

Construct a story about an Asian main character set in an immersive alternate past, present or future. Fill this reality with hints of reality, magic, or fantastical but believable science. If you are interested in writing about a motorized caravan train across the Silk Road, or sages searching for magical apprentices in the South China Sea, now is your chance. We also like good wuxia swordplay and other martial arts as much as we enjoy postcolonial politics and other contemporary topics. Draw on your heritage and transport us to a different world.

We are collecting short stories and flash fiction; please make sure there is a beginning, middle and an end.

Stories may be dark in nature, but no gratuitous violence, sex, or racist content. Novel excerpts not encouraged unless they tell a complete story.

For more details on how to submit, visit Dark Helix Press’ website link.

Please read the instructions. Stray stories are hard to keep track of and do get lost no matter how good they are!

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!

http://www.darkhelixpress.com/yachildren/feeding-the-kraken/

 

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!

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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!

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!