Floral notes: July (belated).

If you’ve ever spent any time in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, you have probably visited the town of Banff, located in the National Park that bears its name.  My hubby and I don’t travel to the townsite often even though it’s not very far away, but we decided to make the trip a few weeks ago so we could summit Tunnel Mountain, which overlooks the town.  Instead of driving and worrying about where we would park in the busy tourist-filled town, we took a commuter bus operated by On-It Regional Transit.  For ten dollars each way, we were able to board the bus near our home and relax enjoy the incredible scenery nap all the way to our destination and back. The On-It buses operate between Calgary, Canmore, and Banff and have a regular weekend schedule with several routes running during the summer.  It’s definitely a great option if you don’t want to drive from Calgary and back.

As for Tunnel Mountain…we had fun doing this quick trek under cloudy conditions.  It’s a short peak, relatively speaking, topping out at 1,692 metres. (It’s a 4.3 kilometre trip return, with a 300 metre elevation gain). Despite the name, the mountain doesn’t actually have a tunnel.  When the Canadian Pacific Railway was working to push tracks through the area in 1882, they wanted to blast right through the mountain.  While it was a shorter route than what was eventually constructed, it would have been far more costly, in dollars and labour, to build the tunnel.  So the mountain doesn’t have a big hole in it…but the name has stuck. (The mountain’s Indigenous names include Sleeping Buffalo, Iinii Istako, and Eyarhey Tatanga Woweyahgey Wakân).

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(I wasn’t asked or compensated to provide a review of the On-It service – we just loved it so much I wanted to talk about it!).   🙂

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There is a brand new story up at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, the online flash fiction magazine I publish six times a year.  Check out Ed Ahern’s bittersweet “The Spring” here.  

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We have a very cool art exhibit going on at the library branch where I work, a sample of multi-media work by children participating in art classes at the Wildflower Arts Centre.  These kids are aged 5 through 14 and it is amazing to see such talent!  Paint, charcoal, fibre, paper (collage and mâché)…the creativity is fantastic!

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Reading highlights for the month: the hilarious and action-packed YA novel The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, by F.C. Lee.  Think Chinese mythology meets California high school – it has Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes but it’s way loonier and, quite frankly, a bit more juvenile.  But it’s silly good fun and I can’t wait for the next book…hopefully it is published soon.

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Another YA offering: M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand. I laughed, I cried, I despaired. I think I was supposed to eventually feel hopeful, but that’s actually the point where the tears appeared.  This is a satirical (and just plain devastating) story of an alien invasion of Earth that has some startling, wayyyyyy too-close-to-home consequences.

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Soundtrack for the month: The 1990 grunge album “Uncle Anesthesia” by Screaming Trees; the newly-released single “Half-Light” by Madrugada.

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Early in the month, my hubby and I took a tour of the Coutts Centre for Western Heritage, near the town of Nanton, Alberta.  This amazing place is the family homestead of Dr. Jim Coutts (1938 – 2013), a prominent southern Alberta lawyer, businessman, and art collector – and in addition to all the artifacts and buildings onsite, it boasts the most incredible gardens filled with predominantly native prairie plants.  Truthfully, I hope no one noticed me while I was wandering around the grounds, because I believe my lower jaw was firmly positioned somewhere around my ankles and I may have been drooling a little.  If you happen to find yourself in that part of the province during the growing season and plants are your thing, make it a must-do pit stop – it really shouldn’t be missed.  And, if the gardens aren’t enough (what!?), the place boasts what is likely the only example in Canada of a camera obscura built from a 1920’s-era grain bin.

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These. Poppies. Seriously. 

Re: my vegetable garden.  Things are just sort of making an appearance, finally, after thousands of days of rain. I have golf ball-sized kohlrabi!  I have really diminutive turnips!  I have the smallest, most perfectly round pumpkins you’ll ever see…the kohlrabi are actually larger and at this rate, it will be about a year before I can harvest them, LOL.  The zucchini fruit might be more than five centimetres long next week…we’ll see.  I’m heartened by this new grand emergence of things but…um…cautious.  The weather has been WEIRD…it’s mid-August already and we occasionally get frost(!) at the end of the month, so you can see where I’m coming from.  I am harvesting dill and parsley and potatoes right now, which is delightful (especially as those three things go really well together at suppertime).  And these supremely pretty bush beans, ‘Dragon Tongue’, are just coming on now.  I simply want to gawk at them – they’re almost too gorgeous to eat!

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I was very rushed before the growing season began this year and I failed to get a handle on them as the months flew by. Next year, I am planning to do more winter sowing – it truly provides the jump start often needed in this climate.  If my personal assistant, Smudge, deigns to allow me to do so, I’ll start some seeds indoors as well…but she has an annoying habit of constantly snacking while at work.  😉

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Smudge’s Sage Advice: It’s important to actively track your prey in case it goes somewhere.  Even if it can’t, really.  ♥

 

 

Slip, sliding away….

As a first reader for the online speculative fiction publisher Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, I am privileged to read many amazing stories that writers have submitted. We were working through a reading period this past month and one story in particular really resonated with me. (Unfortunately, I cannot talk more about the work – if it is published in a future issue, I’ll update this post and let you know how you can find it).  The story was slotted by the writer into the “slipstream” genre and I got to thinking that I wasn’t aware of the origin of this term.  A quick jaunt on Google revealed that Bruce Sterling, a prolific American SF author and a creator of cyberpunk, coined the word a couple of decades ago. (A personal recommendation for anyone who hasn’t read Sterling’s work: scour around for a copy of The Difference Engine, a steampunk novel that he co-authored with William Gibson and published in 1990). Basically, slipstream stories blur the lines between mainstream (literary) fiction and science fiction, bringing elements of SF into genres of writing that are usually determinedly and decidedly un-SF. (Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is oft-touted as one of the more famous and commonly read examples). I uncovered a document Sterling wrote in 1998, discussing the not-yet-fully-accepted term and its meaning, but the real gem of the missive is the end, where he lists a fairly significant number of what he considered “slipstream” works to that time. Take a look at a copy of the list here.

These are books which SF readers recommend to friends: “This isn’t SF, but it sure ain’t mainstream and I think you might like it, okay?”

~Bruce Sterling, Slipstream (essay)

Do you have any more to add, over two decades later? Goodreads has put up a list of what it considers Popular Slipstream, found here.  One of my favourites on this list is Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane…and I’d argue that more novels by Douglas Coupland belong here, in addition to Girlfriend in a Coma. Have you read any of these slipstream works?

Book review: Library Lost by Laurie Graves.

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I know for a fact that Laurie is currently hard at work on the third book in The Great Library series and after finishing Library Lost, I’m excited and eager for her to get it out into the world so I can find out what happens to Maya Hammond and her companions!

The fate of the Great Library – the source of all of the knowledge and information in the universe – remains at stake in Library Lost.  As Time and Chaos battle for such a powerful and valuable prize, other players have their own agendas.  It’s up to our smart, strong teenage heroine, Maya, and her allies to stay out of danger and initiate a plan to save the Library.  Unfortunately, the best-laid plans don’t always pan out the way they should, and the result is an engaging, action-packed (and magical!) adventure with brilliant pacing and and an exquisitely detailed and realized setting.  This is truly the kind of book that you take to bed and read by flashlight under the covers until the wee hours of dawn. ♥

(If you want to order a copy of Library Lost and the first book in the series, Maya and the Book of Everything, click here to go to Laurie’s website).

Calgary snapshot: Little Free Library.

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If you follow me on Instagram (or if you don’t, you can find me here) or my new Facebook page (here), you may have seen me share this photo, but just in case you missed it, I’ll put it up here as well. The Little Free Library set up near the community garden I belong to is so adorable – I love the colour scheme that was chosen for it.  From what I can tell whenever I stop by and open it up, it’s a popular fixture, with a varied and well-circulated selection of reading materials – everything from James Patterson to Robert Munsch, novels in multiple languages, cookbooks, hobby magazines, and religious tracts.  Are there any Little Free Libraries in your community?  Do you use them?

Tuesday tidbits and a long overdue apology.

Heartfelt gratitude

Flowery Prose has sort of been languishing on the backburner for the better part of a year now as I’ve been tackling a zillion other projects…and while this has been going on, I’ve completely broken all the rules of good blogging.  Blogs that are worth their salt are built on the interactions between writer and reader. Although you’ve all been utterly fabulous and continued to read and comment whenever I’ve managed to squeak out a post (which has been less and less often as the months have gone by), I have, sadly, completely failed with regard to responding to all the fantastic comments I’ve received, as well as reciprocating by reading your blogs.  I not only need to issue a huge apology, but I need to take action.  So…effective immediately, you’re going to see a re-energized Flowery Prose.  I am also going to make a far greater effort to spend time finding out about what is going on in your part of the world, via your blog posts.  Please don’t expect huge strides, as I’m still swamped with projects.  But I am going to make a change.  Baby steps.  Thank you so much to all of you for sticking around this entire time, even when there was a whole lot of silence on my end – I am deeply grateful for your kindness!

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It looks as if I will have to fire my research assistant…this is the fourth time today I have caught her sleeping on the job….  😉

Writing updates

The Central Library here in Calgary and the local writer’s group Loft 112 have a cool little thing going on…they’ve set up a Short Story Dispenser, conveniently located near Luke’s Café on Level 1M.  While you’re sipping your tea or coffee, you can indulge in a randomly-selected one-minute, three-minute, or five-minute short story that is released from the dispenser at the touch of a button.  The stories have been written by both international and Calgary-based writers – and I’m absolutely delighted to say that two of my five-minute stories are currently stuffed somewhere in the dispenser, waiting for someone to read them. If you live in Calgary and area, Loft 112 is still looking for more stories to fill the machine, so take a look at the call for submissions and have fun with it!

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Local interest

I recently found a little gem of a book by a southern Alberta-based writer, Joyce Moore: A Guide to Alberta Outdoors – Rides, Hikes, Birds, and Beasts (Bayeux Arts, Inc., Calgary, 2009). It’s a brief but lively collection of nature/outdoors columns that were syndicated for several rural newspapers in the 1990’s.  She writes about ranching in the Highwood River area, the undertaking of several challenging and stunningly beautiful mountain treks, and observations of birds and other wildlife found in the Rockies and the foothills.  A one-lunch-break read, and a fascinating look at our beautiful province by a woman who clearly loves and respects the environment.

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Really cool places to get short stories.

If you’ve been following Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know that I LOOOOOVE all forms of short stories.  I publish flash fiction by many amazing authors over at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, and I occasionally write short stories myself.  (If there were more than 24 hours in a day, I’d write quite a few more!). But I have an especially soft spot for reading short stories…and I particularly adore science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  The more eclectic and inventive, the better!

If you love short stories as much as I do (especially speculative fiction), give these sites a try!  I am a first reader for Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, a longtime print subscriber to On Spec (which is based out of Edmonton, in my home province of Alberta), and I’ve had my work published in Polar Borealis and 365 Tomorrows.  Sites such as Daily Science Fiction are fun because you can have them send you one story each day – a treat to go with your morning coffee!  (Every Day Fiction is another source of daily stories, as their publishing schedule permits – and they publish all genres, not just speculative fiction).

On Spec (Canadian; print and digital editions available for a subscription fee)

Polar Borealis (Canadian; online only, free to read but donations welcomed)

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores (must pay to subscribe, but they always have a free sample story up on the website to enjoy; a new feature are the podcasts, which you can listen to for free!)

365 Tomorrows (free to read!)

The Martian Magazine (free to read; The Martian publishes drabbles (fiction of 100 words or less) so you can gobble down several of these in one sitting)

Daily Science Fiction (free; if you give them your email address, they’ll gift you with a new story five days a week!)

Every Day Fiction (free; subscribe by email. New stories are published frequently)

Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction (of course I have to include this one!  Free to read!) – right now, I’m featuring a hilarious gem by Gregg Chamberlain, “Poetic Licence.”

Do you read short stories?  Do you subscribe to any short story magazines, or do you prefer book-form anthologies or collections (one author or multiple)?  Please share any recommendations you may have – it doesn’t matter where in the world you live!  

Calgary snapshot: Central Library.

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In November of last year, the doors opened to an absolutely gorgeous new library in Calgary.  Central Library’s Snøhetta-designed new home is a striking, light-filled mix of glass, wood, concrete, and steel.  The graceful curves and oh! that skylight! captivated me when my hubby and I visited on opening weekend.

Check out 100 Reasons to Love the New Central Library, a compendium of fun facts about this spectacular space!

P.S. If you look down into the lower part of the photo, you’ll see a life-sized statue of a bison.  Created by Cree artist Lionel Peyachew, it is made out of pieces of stamped metal representing words in various Indigenous languages.