Stories

Genre Mash-Up! workshop.

 

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Back in January, Ben and Christian were asked to host a workshop for Gertrude’s Writing Room. The evening focused on Science Fiction and Horror writing and was a blast. It was so fun, in fact, that they’ve been asked to do it again. This time as part of a month-long series of workshops called the Genre Mash-Up!

The series begins with the boys returning to dish out a second helping of the spooky, weird and futuristic, and then continues each week with workshops on: Poetry, Fiction and Screen Writing. From fine literary talents as: Vanessa Shields, Casey Plett and Nick Shields. (more…)

The Fifth Monday Four: Ounta – Part Two

By Christian Laforet

The fire swirled and crackled. A knot in the pine log popped, sending a small army of embers floating into the night. Aen, laying in his sheep-skin sack, watched as his mother stoked the flames. Tartara had only been in his life for a few months, but that time had been a whirlwind of instruction. She had taught him how to use his gift—to shift between the form of man and tiger—along with other useful traits. During all of those lessons, however, she had managed to carefully avoid his only real question: what happened the day the humans found him? Whenever Aen would broach the subject, his mother would give a vague, unsatisfying answer. His favourite being, It was so long ago, I cannot clearly recall.

Her refusal to shed light on that day, the day he went to live with the human tribe, had become so expected, that he stopped asking about it. That is why, while camped on the north road to Nythland, with freshly killed rabbit cooking over the fire with fat, lazy snowflakes danced to the frozen earth around them, Aen was shocked when his mother began to speak of the past without prompting.

“We had been travelling for many days before we encountered the group of humans. Your father, his name was Morga, felt that our safety lie in hiding amongst their kind.” As she spoke, Tartara, kept her gaze on the browning meat of the rabbit.

Aen pushed himself to sitting. “Why are you telling this to me now?”

Slowly, the woman, clad in a layered cloak, turned her attention to her son. “The event still hurts like a fresh wound. I would prefer not tell you at, but if we are going to continue on our quest, you need to know what happened.” (more…)

Uncharted Excerpt

For our final week looking at featured author Justine Alley Dowsett, we have an exclusive excerpt from her upcoming novel, Uncharted!

Uncharted

Chapter One

“Sam!” Reginald exclaimed, making a point to sound jovial when addressing the sour-face postmaster. “How’re the kids? How’s Frank?”

“Har, har,” Sam replied in a flat monotone, barely looking up enough to glance over the edge of his half-moon glasses. “Like you care. I don’t even know why you bother to stop in here, you’re just going to throw out the letter from your mother without even reading it.”

“You’re reading my mail now?” Reginald raised a quizzical brow in Sam’s direction.

The postmaster shrugged lazily instead of answering, reaching below his desk to pull out a familiar-looking manilla envelope to hold it out to Reginald. He did all of this without taking his eyes from the newspaper article he was reading. Leaning forward, Reginald took note of the headline: Kevlan Warship Spotted Off the Eastern Coast – Coincidence or Portent?

Reginald shook his head. Kevlans, our modern day boogeyman. Sure, relations with Kevla aren’t great, but one ship in our waters is hardly a declaration of war.

Regarding the man suspiciously now, Reginald took the proffered letter and ignored the wastebasket this time in favour of stuffing it into the breast pocket of his sailor’s jacket. Sam didn’t seem to notice the change in Reginald’s routine, or if he did, he simply did not care.

“So if anyone comes this way looking for passage, you’ll direct them along then, right, Sam?” Reginald fought to get Sam’s attention one last time even as he backed away, intent on the door. “Especially a–”

“A Priestess,” Sam finished for him without looking up, “yes, yes, I know.”

“Right, because Priestesses are leaving here all the time, heading out to perform weddings, act as diplomats, healers–”

“Reginald,” Sam stopped him, “I live here. I know more about Priestesses than you do. I’ll send them to you if anyone is coming to book passage.”

“Thanks, buddy. I knew I could count on you.” Reginald forced a smile in the off chance that Sam should look his way.

“You mean you knew you could count on your coin buying my discretion,” Sam commented drily, directing his words to the paper in his hands more so than to Reginald as he turned the page.

“That too,” Reginald mumbled half to himself as he let himself out of the trading post and into the early morning sunlight. “Rat bastard.”

The street was bustling, at least for the Temple District in early spring. It wasn’t cold out, and perhaps that was the reason, this having been the first real nice day since winter broke. Kids laughed as they ran in the street, chasing one another, and Reginald nearly tripped over one of them as they got near enough to be underfoot. (more…)

Unmoored

By Justine Alley Dowsett

Red in the face, Renaud Laurent stood and slammed his cup down, splashing ale on the table’s checkered cloth. “I’ll bet any one of you here,” he slurred in his thick French accent, “that I’m the luckiest man ever to have crossed the Ismeran Channel!”

“Aww, sit down and put your money where your mouth is, Renaud!” His dicing companion, a red-headed Haldoram man, nudged the dicing cup toward him, taking a swig from his own ale cup and wiping his scruffy chin with the back of his hand. “All you do is talk.”

“Ginny, another round please,” Renaud called out after dribbling ale all over his thick curly beard, “I’m about to win all of Dagan’s coin.”

“If you lose this hand, I’ll buy the round,” Dagan countered.

Renaud grinned, scooping the dice up into his calloused hands. “As you say.”

He blew on the dice in his hands for emphasis, his blue eyes twinkling with more than just drink under his thick brown brows, before he let them fly onto the checkered cloth below and waited, holding his breath.

“Ha!” Dagan jeered. “That’s a win for me.”

Renaud studied the results of the dice closely, feigning shock. “Why, I believe you’re right, Dagan.” He lifted his head. “Ginny, I’ll have that ale now.”

“You’ve had more than your share,” Ginny called back, but that didn’t stop her from delivering another cup at Dagan’s expense, sashaying her ample bottom as she did so.

Dagan scowled, seeming to realize he’d been played, but wisely kept his thoughts to himself. Seeing that he’d possible overstayed his welcome, Renaud downed his first cup and started in on his second as he looked about for another dicing partner.

“Ah, well, I guess I better call it a night,” he said loudly, wobbling slightly as he reached for his winnings from the night. Not bad, he noted, mentally tallying them, though I should’ve bet less on that last round.

He turned about, ready to depart, only to find a lithe, dark-haired man staring intently at him. Renaud squinted at the newcomer. By his appearance, he was not a sailor like most of the patrons at The Crow’s Nest. His hair was greasy and pulled back into a loose tail at the nape of his neck, and his clothes were well-tailored and expensive looking, though they had clearly seen better days.

“Excuse me,” Renaud belched. “I was just leaving.”

“Luckiest man ever to have sailed across the Ismeran Channel, huh?” the man questioned, eyeing the dice on the table. “Ever thought of playing a game with a bit more skill involved? Poker, by chance?”

Renaud looked down into his mostly full cup. “Well, it seems I’ve still got some left in me after all,” he drawled. “Why not?” (more…)

Unintended Excerpt

We’re very pleased to bring you an excerpt from the novel Unintended, by Justine Alley Dowsett!

This book is available now! So if you enjoy what your read, make sure to pick up a copy. The e-book can be found here, and the physical copy, here.

Unintended

Chapter One

The rolling hills and grasslands of Ismera were strange to her in the beginning. Now, after nearly a month of riding through them, they had begun to seem commonplace. What the High Clan Chief’s daughter was not prepared for, however, were the high turrets of the palace she was headed towards and the sprawling city of Ismer that surrounded it. Even more surprising than all that was the fanfare that greeted her when at last she reached the city’s high-walled gate.

A handsome man atop a white horse rode boldly out to greet her, without so much as a weapon drawn or a friend to watch his back.

They are much more trusting here of strangers than they are back at home, she noted. Unless, it’s only that they don’t consider me a stranger.

Mackenzie en Shareed of Haldoram straightened her back, instinctively preparing herself to make a good impression. She felt her breath catch in her throat as he came closer and she realized that the man before her, with his sunny hair, tanned skin and bright blue eyes, could be none other than the man she’d ridden all the way here to marry. She felt her usually flawlessly tanned skin flush an uncomfortable shade of red as she watched him dismount and walk the rest of the way to her side, a wide grin spreading across his face at the sight of her.

I didn’t expect him to be so handsome. Kenzie found that as much as she might want to, she couldn’t deny the pounding of her heart or the fluttering in her stomach. I’m very fortunate to be attracted to him so easily.

If he took notice of her discomfort he didn’t show it, bowing over her hand and kissing it lightly. “Princess Mackenzie, let me be the first to welcome you to the City of Ismer.”

Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Kenzie reached for the marriage bracelet she’d woven herself for this very occasion. Unhooking it carefully from her belt, she caught his hand before he could take it away and swiftly wrapped the small, white-flowered wreath about his wrist, tying it with a practiced motion.

She could see in her husband-to-be’s eyes that he was confused, but she didn’t have time to explain it to him now. That would come later, after they were entwined together in their marriage bed. Right now, only the ritual mattered.

I have to do this now, she affirmed silently. Once I enter this city of theirs and am completely surrounded by Ismeran culture and politics it will be too late to marry him in my own way, in front of my people and by our customs. It’s the only way I will feel comfortable with his arrangement. I can marry him in the Ismeran way afterwards. (more…)

The Fifth Monday Four: Ounta – Part One

Jason Abbott

Aen crouched in the brush, surveying the path that curved between massive redwood trunks and lesser conifers. The young hunter, no longer a child but still absent a beard, concealed himself beside a rotten and shattered pine. Having been there since dawn, dusk now deepened the shadows that filtered down from the towering forest canopy above.

Green eyes still focused on the path, Aen’s finger touched the knapped flint head of his best throwing spear. He left the weapon on the ground beside his knee to glance at the ash wood shaft of his second javelin. It leaned upright against the stump, beside a stout fighting spear.

Aen heard a shift in the birdsongs around him, and turned a keen ear to listen as the calls fell silent one-by-one. His gaze returning to path and forest, the growing hush was interrupted by a chittering treetop squirrel. He saw it drop a pinecone to the ground before skittering branch to branch.

His tanned limbs and back moved with a controlled, lean strength. Shifting his squat in a buckskin loincloth, Aen licked a finger and tested the air. Confirming he was still downwind of the path, he crouched deeper in the leaves and took hold of the spear on the forest floor beside him.

Slow, padded footfalls barely disturbed the carpet of orange pine needles upon the animal path. Yet Aen heard their approach, and eyed the bend that disappeared around a great redwood trunk. (more…)

The Two Bill’s – Part 4 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

The Other Bill

 

I chose Cody, Wyoming as our next stop, after Yellowstone. It is only a couple hours out of the park, and it looked like a good place to get off the bike for a day. It is also the hometown of Buffalo Bill Cody, famous buffalo hunter and founder of the wild west show in his name. The local dam, the town, and museums there are all named in his honour.

Checking in early, we were able to catch up on some laundry, have a swim and take a little cat nap. We were only a ten minute walk from downtown, so we strolled that way to check it out. Wouldn’t you know it? One of the first places we saw was a micro brewery. We stopped and sampled, but weren’t all that impressed with the beer or service.

We walked around the historic downtown, deciding that the bar at The Irma Hotel was the best place to hang out. The place was built by Buffalo Bill, and named after his daughter. It opened in 1902. The collection of photos and memorabilia on the walls is outstanding. The cherry wood used on the bar was a gift to Buffalo Bill from Queen Victoria. Some of the drunken regulars in the bar were as colourful as the hotel’s past.

Our hotel was next door to one of Cody’s western museums—there’s a couple that are reportedly top notch, but we’re not really the museum kind of folks. On our second day there, after a leisurely breakfast, we went to the Old Trail Town. It’s a collection of historic old wooden buildings that have been relocated on the site where William Cody first laid out his town. The buildings, furnishings and artifacts are all genuine.

One cabin that was relocated there was used by Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-wall gang. The replica frontier town has a saloon where the gang frequented, a blacksmith’s shop, and stables where vintage wagons and a hearse are on display. A small museum houses various weapons from both the cowboys and the Indians.

On the edge of the old town lies its founder, William (Buffalo Bill) Cody. His grave is there along with others, like Jeremiah Johnson, who was portrayed by Robert Redford in the movie of the same name. The town is authentic, right down to the tumbleweeds that grow in the dirt street.

A lazy afternoon by the pool finished our day, and we walked back downtown for dinner at The Chophouse. The place was packed and the food excellent. (more…)

The Two Bill’s – Part 3 of 4

Edmond Gagnon

The Way Back

 

Usually, going somewhere is more fun than coming back. Whenever I plan a trip I try to take that into account. I don’t know how everyone else feels, but I hate covering the same ground twice. I’d much rather make a loop and go out of my way, than drive down the same road more than once, unless something is worth seeing again, from a different perspective.

Cathryn and I had a great ride getting to Vancouver, but I knew I had my work cut out for me trying to find an eventful and scenic way back home. The whole idea of the trip was to cover new ground, since both of us had been out west before. Seattle came to mind. Although I’d been there twice, I never had time to see more than a few token attractions on the waterfront.

I loved what I’d seen in the city before, and I knew it had a lot more to offer. Cathryn had not been there. From Surrey, my sister and her boyfriend suggested taking the truck route south, across the border to the states. Seattle was only a couple hours from their home, depending on traffic at the border and on the highway.

On Tuesday, July 19th, we crossed back into the states of Washington. Our Nexus cards made the border a breeze, and we enjoyed about thirty miles of quiet roads, before being dumped on Interstate 5 South. I’d called ahead to our hotel for an early check-in, figuring we’d arrive around noon.

Merging to the right put us on Highway 99, which parallels the Interstate, and is an express route to downtown Seattle. Our motel was right on the highway, and it soon showed up on the GPS. Sometimes the machines are a pain in the ass—this was one of those times. There was a cement barrier down the middle of the highway, leaving us no access to the opposite side of the road where our motel was.

Cathryn got a bird’s eye view of downtown from the elevated highway, because I couldn’t turn around for a couple of miles. Turn’s out there was a way to do it earlier, but it was cleverly hidden under the highway. Live and learn. Checking in at the Marco Polo Motel was a hoot. The Chinese owner/operator should have been a comedian, kind of an Asian Gary Shandling.

The man loudly repeated everything I said, and even though I’d called ahead and was promised an early check-in, our room wasn’t ready. He yelled at another Chinese man to get it ready. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I’d made arrangements to meet an old friend downtown for lunch, at 1:30. It was noon.

After showering and changing clothes, I asked the manager if he could call us a cab. He suggested Uber. I got frustrated fiddling around and trying to download the app. I asked him again for a taxi.

He said one would be there in ten minutes. After waiting twenty, I went back into the office to ask him if he could check on our cab. He was on the phone with someone who called to reserve a room. He yelled back to them, telling the caller it was first come, first served. He repeated that at least three times without taking a breath. He nodded yes and waved me back out the door.

When the cab finally pulled up, Gary came out into the lot. He held the phone to his ear and yelled at someone from the cab company. We laughed and waved, and went on our way. Even with the delays, we walked into the restaurant right on time. My friend was impressed at how we drove across the whole country and managed to be so punctual. (more…)

Hole in the Wall: The Fifth Monday Three – Part Four

By Edele Winnie

“Jocelyn, is it really you?” Carol asked the white-coated woman up on the catwalk. “I am so…. muddled.” Carol ran her hands through her brown hair but the confusion remained. They were surrounded by buzzing machines, tubes and metal catwalks. “What is this place?”

Jocelyn laughed. “It’s definitely not the bank. The Jocelyn who works there with you is just one version of me. A sister, if you like.”

Carol pointed at one of the large glass tubes. It was filled with green liquid and an exact copy of Carol herself, floating languidly. Beside that there were more tubes and copies. Carol shook her head, unable to find words. Beside her, Gary shifted into a quivering red cylinder shape.

“I see you’ve met Gary. He’s a portal jumper. A creature that can transfer between dimensions without decomposing.”

“You make me sound so dull.” Gary complained and transformed into a star shape. “I’m actually a star.”

Everything seemed to be swirling in her head and Carol looked for a place to sit. She settled on the bottom step of a metal ladder that led to a catwalk above.

Gary changed into a rhombus. “There was a cloh enforcer right behind us.” (more…)