Giving “The Tear Closet” a Second Chance

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 15th slot in the Table of Contents is: The Tear Closet


Of all of the stories in ELEMENTS, I would have to say that The Tear Closet speaks closest to my heart’s truth. It is also one of the stories that helped me to truly break out as a writer.

This story marked my first appearance in the Tesseracts anthologies, an annual series of Canadian speculative fiction published by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. And two writers that I truly respect — Nancy Kilpatrick and David Morrell — edited Tesseracts Thirteen. I’m grateful for their support for this story, as well as their ongoing kindnesses. Both Nancy and David read an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of ELEMENTS and provided generous quotes for the book.

Tesseracts_XIIICover miniAfter I submitted to T13 and was waiting to hear back from the editors, my friend and fellow writer Louise Herring-Jones took David Morrell’s writing workshop, which was offered right before World Fantasy Convention (WFC) began in Calgary, Alberta in 2008.

Before I arrived at the con, Louise emailed me to say that David Morrell liked my story, but didn’t think the ending worked in its current state.

Once I arrived at WFC, I approached David Morrell and asked about the story. Over lunch we discussed Tear Closet and brainstormed possible endings.

I cannot thank David Morrell enough for (a) generously sharing his time to brainstorm the ending (b) giving the story a second chance and (c) being so supportive of my career since then.

Thanks also to Louise Herring-Jones for chatting me up with her instructor. She’s always been (and continues to be) an ardent supporter of my work!

Fun Fact
In the story, Mabel walks over a long bridge.

Bridges and Structures Morrison HershfieldFact: the bridge in the story is the real-life Leaside Bridge in Toronto’s East York. The bridge has six lanes of traffic and passes over the Don River, the Don Valley, and the Don Valley Parkway, and this photo doesn’t really do it justice.

When I was a kid, we used to have to make the ten+ minute walk over this bridge to get to the shopping mall nearest to where we lived. We would often stop partway along and look down…way, way down…at the river and valley and cars below. And let me tell you, it’s a looong way down.

I’m also reasonably certain that the Leaside Bridge is the main reason why my mother and I are both afraid of heights.

As a kid, during the whole trip across I’d imagine all of the ways that the bridge could fail: earthquake, tidal wave, explosives, car crashes — growing up during an era when disaster movies about earthquakes and tidal waves were popular is probably partly to blame for this doom-agination.

I used to count to sixty in my head, trying to guess how many more minutes before I’d safely make it to land on the other side. And with my heart pumping in terror, I had to be careful not to trip and end up getting run over by a car racing along the bridge (which in retrospect was much more likely than the bridge collapsing from an earthquake).


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Meeting the Gray Lady

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 14th slot in the Table of Contents is: Gray Love


From 2000 to 2006, I was part-owner of a cottage on Lake Muskoka, about two hours north of Toronto.

Our cottage (which was actually more of a house) was situated on the same bay–Muskoka Bay–as the empty former residential facility for people with developmental challenges. This institution was run by the Ontario government from 1963 to 1994. The grounds were first developed in the 1890s as a tuberculosis treatment sanitorium.

The original sanitorium grounds were so extensive that they used to have a second lodge to accommodate visiting friends and family. The lodge land was purchased and developed by our neighbours, who built their home on the former lodge site. gazebo on Muskoka LakeThe original gazebo for the lodge was on our property. Here’s a photo of the gazebo in the early 2000s.

I used to run along the county road that connects the sanitorium to the town of Gravenhurst, and I set Gray Love on that road. On one brutally hot and humid day, I saw a woman during my run. She looked totally gray and washed out. She didn’t speak or interact with me, she simply stayed across the road from me and smiled.

Maybe I was suffering from a mild case of heatstroke, but that woman looked really wrong to me. By the time I was back at the cottage, I’d convinced myself that I’d seen a ghost from the facility. And even though the Gray Lady in Gray Love isn’t a ghost, her creation was a direct result of my run that day.

Fun Fact

I read Gray Love for my first public reading. I remember feeling a combination of thrilled and terrified.

The reading took place near the end of my Clarion South 2005 trip to Brisbane, Australia. As a result, the majority of the audience members were my classmates, and I seem to recall that we were all pretty worn out by then. My audience first readingI was so keen to record the experience that I took this photo of my first audience!

Our week six tutor, Scott Westerfeld and his wife Justine Larbalestier each read their fiction at the same event. They’re both in the front row in the audience photo, along with classmate Ellen Klages and conveners Kate Eltham and Robert Hoge. Look for Robert’s book Ugly: My Memoir. I found it fascinating and inspiring.


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available in Canada the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Tattoo Research Goes a Long Way

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 13th slot in the Table of Contents is: Tattoo Ink


From January 2 to February 12 2005, I attended Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia. What an adventure! I certainly learned more about writing and editing in those six weeks than I had learned up until that point in my writing career.

One of my classmates, Shane Jiraiya Cummings and Angela Challis edited the innovative charity anthology Shadow Box. The project was described as, “a fusion of dark art and flash fiction lashed together with multimedia nastiness.” With 70 stories, creepy music, and twisted artwork, the anthology arrived on a CD and was well worth the money.

sboxcoverI looked through my old emails and couldn’t recall the tight word-count guidelines for submissions, but I believe the maximum was 125 words.

Not very many words at all!

I was delighted to learn that Tattoo Ink would be included in the project.

On some level, I believe that my research into the tattoo arts not only inspired this tale, but also the rules for tattooing the population in Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle.

Fun Fact

I began blogging after my two-week writing workshop at the Center for the Study of Sciece Fiction in Kansas in the summer of 2004. Lucky for me, I was comfortable enough with blogging that I was able to blog during my Clarion South trip.

And although Clarion is one of those experiences you can only have once, my thoughts and insights will exist online as long as LiveJournal stays in business.

While some of the links might no longer be active, you can still read my Clarion South adventures on LiveJournal.


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

The Inspiration for “Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop”

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 12th slot in the Table of Contents is: Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop


The music-snorting dance-club hopping story, Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop was probably born during my university work-terms in the 80s, when I used to frequent clubs like RPM and The Copa in Toronto.

Synch Me  is still available to read online at cw_68Clarkesworld, and is also available as a podcast on their site.

Like “Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle”, Synch Me  was a finalist for an Aurora Award (in 2013).

I love music. We’re talking a serious obsession here.

When I write, I listen to music. I’m much more productive with music playing. And on the days that I forget my headphones, I’m somewhat cranky by the end of a writing session at a cafe.

When I participate in NaNoWriMo I create a special playlist for that new novel. Whenever I go back to edit the novel, or submit queries to agents and/or editors, I usually play the tunes I selected for that novel’s creation.

I always drive with tunes in the car. And whenever I’m a passenger in someone else’s car, and I they won’t offer me the controls to song-selection…well let’s just say everyone is happier if Suzanne is allowed to play DJ.

I was destined to write a story inspired by music.

My two sons listen to two types of Electronic Dance Music (EDM): Dubstep and House music. They both attended The Veld music festival in 2012 and 2013.

And since EDM is tech-savvy, I was inspired to write a cyberpunk story where people can snort music directly into their minds like a drug.

The better clubs brought all the vibes together, so that every song you sampled was in perfect synch with the club mix on the speakers. When the drop hit, everyone jumped and screamed in coordinated rapture.

If not for my kids’ enthusiasm for EDM (as well as their explanation of “the drop”), I never would’ve written Synch Me.

Fun Fact

At one point in Synch Me, Alex is trying to decide which song to purchase.

Three tables were set with products in stacks like poker chips. The first was a sea of purple, tiny lower-case “i’s” stamped on every top-forty sample like a catalog from a so-called genius begging on a street corner for spare music. The second was a mish-mash of undergrounds like Skarface, Audexi, and Brachto.

In an earlier draft of the story, I’d written totally different names for the three underground artists. When my older son read it, he said, “Mom, the names for the bands kinda suck. How about I make up some names?”

He made up the artist names: Skarface, Audexi, and Brachto.

Thanks, Joseph!


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction  is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Interview: Eugie Foster

official_eugiefoster miniEugie Foster calls home a mildly haunted, fey-infested house in metro Atlanta that she shares with her husband, Matthew. After receiving her master’s degree in psychology, she retired from academia to pen flights of fancy. She also edits legislation for the Georgia General Assembly, which from time to time she suspects is another venture into flights of fancy.

Eugie received the 2009 Nebula Award for her novelette, “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” the 2011 and 2012 Drabblecast People’s Choice Award for Best Story, the 2012 eFestival of Words Best Independent Short Story Collection eBook Award, and the 2002 Phobos Award. ReturningMySistersFace mini Her fiction has also been translated into eight languages and been a finalist for the Hugo and British Science Fiction Association awards. Her short story collection, Returning My Sister’s Face and Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice, was published in 2009 and has been used as a textbook at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of California-Davis.

Visit her online at EugieFoster.com.


Suzanne Church: We first met at the Dragon Con 2000 writers’ workshop run by Ann C. Crispin, and our writing group that formed as a result of that workshop continues to this day. If 2014 Eugie could speak to 2000 Eugie, what advice would she offer?

Eugie Foster: “Don’t be afraid to lean on people more.” It’s my nature to want to go it alone and not ask for help, but I’ve learned — the hard way, oftentimes — that sometimes I just need to accept the offers of assistance folks are so generous about proffering up, that I’ll burn out if don’t share some of the load. Our writers group epitomizes how supportive the writing community is on both personal and professional levels. I wish I’d started relying on y’all more, sooner.

king_of_rabbits miniSC: When you were first diagnosed with cancer, you hesitated to post the news on your blog. Since then you’ve shared your journey pretty openly via Twitter and your blog. How does sharing the experience help you?

EF: This ties in pretty tightly with the first question. My first impulse was to keep my cancer diagnosis private and deal with the fear and uncertainty, all the ordeals I knew I’d have to go through in the fight to beat it on my own, and I’m so glad I didn’t. The outpouring of support, the shared experiences of other cancer survivors, the reassurance and compassion from friends, colleagues, and strangers — it’s been uplifting, inspiring, and moving beyond words. On my worst days, I re-read some of the comments and notes I’ve gotten, and I always feel better.

SC: Your novelette “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” won the 2009 Nebula and was nominated for the Hugo, the WSFA Small Press Award, and the BSFA Award. When you were writing the story, did you sense that it was evolving into an extraordinary tale?

EF: Honestly? Yes and no. I think every writer has stories or passages which they feel are extraordinary, something special that evokes a visceral response as the words hit the page. “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest” was like that, but I’ve had other stories which I felt were on par with it which didn’t get the sort of reader response that “Sinner” did, as well as stories which I thought were good, but without that evocative gut-kick it had, that were particularly well received. It’s so hard to gauge how our words will be embraced. I figure, the only thing we as writers can do is craft the best stories we can, send them out, and cross our fingers.

SC: If your characters were real people, which one would you choose to interview first on your blog. Why?

mortalclay_stoneheart miniEF: Ooo, that’s a hard question. Some of my favorite characters are not ones I’d really feel comfortable (i.e., safe) being in the same room with, like Bunny from “The Bunny of Vengeance and the Bear of Death” and Trixie from “Trixie and the Pandas of Dread.” (I’m not sure what it says about me that two of my favorite characters off the top of my head are vengeance gods.) So I guess I’d go with Ayame from “Honor is a Game Mortals Play.” Being a young, half-demon demon hunter, she’d have a unique perspective, not to mention a lot of interesting stories to recount, and she’d be unlikely to whack my head off if I accidentally said something out of line.

SC: You maintain several Children’s Market databases on your website. What motivates you to so generously help others?

EF: Actually, it’s as much a resource for me. It’s as easy for me to keep a market listing online as it is a private spreadsheet, and the virtue of having it on my website is I can access it from any location. I’m just glad that folks find it useful.

SC: What are you working on now?

EF: I’m working on the perpetual novel project—it feels like I’ve always got a novel looming in the background — as well as several short stories for anthology projects I’ve been invited to submit to. Stay tuned on my website for more details as they crop up.

For the following flash questions, try to answer with the first idea that pops into your head.

SC: Imagine a prison of eternal misery. Is it hot or cold?

vampire_quintet miniEF: Cold! Definitely cold. Winter and I don’t get along — which perhaps explains the recurring theme of winter/cold as antagonist in multiple stories I’ve written: “The Reign of the Wintergod,” “Beautiful Winter,” “The Snow Woman’s Daughter,” “Honor is a Game Mortals Play.”

SC: Sweet or savory?

EF: Savory! I’m so addicted to greasy, salty snacks.

SC: Stickers on your laptop or pure out-of-the-box plain?

EF: Um, um, out-of-the-box plain. But only because I’m sure I’d have sticker remorse after committing to whatever sticker(s) I selected and would then just keep adding more and more until I ended up with a chaotic collage plastered so thickly on my laptop I’d have trouble finding the on switch.

SC: You suddenly find yourself with one hour of free time between shifts as editor of The Daily Dragon at Dragon Con. Do you shop in the Dealers’ Room, head over to the Marriott for cosplay-gazing, or grab a quick nap?

EF: Yes! Wait, I mean shopping. No, people watching! Well, maybe a nap would be a good idea. Um. This might explain why I don’t leave Daily Dragon headquarters very often…

SC: Thanks to Eugie Foster for participating in this blog tour!

Because Door Prizes are Fun to Win…

At my upcoming book launches I will be giving away door prizes, because winning makes an event all that more fun!

Here are some of the goodies up for grabs:

Danse-Macabre 3In 2012, my story “Death Over Easy” was chosen by editor Nancy Kilpatrick to be included in the anthology, Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper.

Death Over Easy was published too late to be included in ELEMENTS. So winners will receive an extra story from me, not to mention the other 25 stories where death plays a role.

Fellow Stop-Watch Gang member Brad Carson’s story, “Mr. Go Away” is also in Danse Macabre.

Book of Shadows Cover miniIn 2006, my story “Driving the Past Home” was chosen by editor Angela Challis, founder of Brimstone Press to be included in the anthology, Book of Shadows, Volume One.

Book of Shadows includes 42 flash fiction stories from many Australian authors, as well as a few lucky international authors. Each story originally appeared in Shadowed Realms an online horror magazine that is no longer active.

This book was only available for sale in Australia, but I had a few copies shipped to my home. I have one extra copy to give away as a prize at the Waterloo launch of ELEMENTS.

NeoAnthoCoverSmIn 2006, my story “The Wind and the Sky” was chosen by editor Karl Johanson to be included in the anthology, The Best of Neo-opsis Science Fiction Magazine published by Bundoran Press.

The Best of Neo-opsis contains 10 stories by authors from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, including the works of Hayden Trenholm, Nina Munteanu, and Vaughan Stanger.

Other non-book items will also be available to win. Check this space for updates.

Destiny Lives in the Title’s Power

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 11th slot in the Table of Contents is: Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle


Of all the stories I’ve written to date, I think that I’m most proud of the title, Destiny Lives in the Tattoo’s Needle, the first of my short stories to be a finalist for an Aurora Award.

I believe that most writers struggle to pen great story titles. Back when I used to do formal critiques for Critters, I used to say that titles were my nemesis.

tesseracts 14 cover110Like the cover for a book, the title draws the reader in. It should also foreshadow the plot. Coming up with words that meet all of these requirements is hard.

One of the techniques I’ve grown to appreciate for generating a title is choosing a phrase from the story, which is how I chose this one.

Destiny  is my first steampunk story. It begins with:

I dropped from the airship like a rock, praying for my chute to open.

AIRSHIParthursfortunecityBecause, hey, if you’re going to wave the steampunk flag, you might as well use an airship. And what better way to introduce an airship than with an explosive crash to the ground!

Although this particular story doesn’t include any corsets or goggles, the sequels might. Which begs the question, “Where are these sequels that you speak of?”

They aren’t written. No yet.

Many of Destiny’s  readers have asked me to write more fiction about these characters and their world. And on more than one butt-in-chair occasion, I’ve considered writing more about them.

Maybe even a novel.

Encouragement for such adventures is greatly appreciated. 😉

Fun Fact

In my post Storm Child – Putting a Fresh Face on a Timeless Myth I mentioned the writers’ group that formed after the workshop I attended at DragonCon 2000.

SFSciFiCoverOne of the members of the DC2K Writers’ Workshop, my good friend Louise Herring-Jones challenged me to use the word “sage grass” in a story.

I asked her, “What’s sage grass?”

She answered, “It’s a horrible, bitter weed. Even goats won’t eat it.”

Not only does sage grass appear in Destiny, but I also used her line about goats refusing to eat the stuff.

Thanks, Louise Herring-Jones!


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction  is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

It’s Not Easy to be Fuzzy or Green

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 10th slot in the Table of Contents is the last of the Couch Teleportation Universe stories: “Fuzzy Green Monster Number Two”


My third story in the Couch Teleportation Universe examines the definition of a monster. Fuzzy  was originally published in Neo-Opsis Magazine, Issue #12.

neoopsis 12 miniGreenie is a teenaged Strunjox–a towering green beast with a long snout and sharp claws. His species are native to the desert planet Deslot, a world where drug trafficking is the source of employment for more than half the population.

Before the story begins, Greenie has scrounged enough money for a one-way couch-teleporter ticket to Earth, where he hoped to find a better life away from the desperation of drug addiction that permeated his home culture.

Instead of prosperity, he finds discrimination and a lack of employment for sentients without opposable digits.

With Fuzzy Green Monster Number Two I wanted to tell a story from the monster’s point of view. Greenie doesn’t consider himself a monster at all. He’s simply a Strunjox  trying to blend in among the humans.

As Greenie’s circumstances evolve, I wanted the reader to re-examine the definition of a monster. Like many fables, I wanted to ensure that the reader’s initial interpretation of a beast’s outward appearance didn’t coincide with what they learn as they peel away at the layers beneath the surface.

Science Fiction is a genre designed to nudge the reader to interpret the social hierarchies of our own lives through an approachable and entertaining lens.

Fun Fact

In 1992 I visited Los Angeles almost exactly one month after the riots.

And while the timing wasn’t ideal for a visit, I was continuously amazed by the dichotomies of the city: incomparable wealth on one side of the razor-wire fence and abject poverty on the other.

That’s why I set Fuzzy in LA; to examine the contrast between haves and have-nots. But also because the legends and social references to the city are so ingrained in North American culture.

tv headOn the day I visited the Sunset Strip, I spotted a man wearing a cardboard box covered in aluminum foil on his head. The front of the box had been cut open, and knobs had been drawn on with marker, making the end-product look like an old-fashioned CRT television. He’d also attached an ancient broken antenna to the back.

That dude (whatever his name) makes an appearance in Fuzzy:

. The sidewalks in this part of the city were crowded with eccentric humans and a variety of aliens. One man wore a cardboard box over his head that looked like a vid.

I hope that dude is still alive today, wandering around LA with a cardboard flatscreen on his head. 🙂


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction  is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Toilets in the Couch Teleportation Universe

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 9th slot in the Table of Contents is the second of the Couch Teleportation Universe  stories: “Waste Management”


I mentioned in my last post on the story behind Everyone Needs a Couch  that many people wanted to hear the other side of Tanker’s sad story. So the couch makes a second appearance with Lorna Watkowski, Tanker’s ex-girlfriend, in Waste Management.

challenging destiny coverSince I’d had such a quick and amazing success with Couch, I wrote the follow-up story with Oceans of the Mind as the ideal magazine to buy the story.

Oceans  didn’t work out, but that’s okay.

I had another funny story written, and I wasn’t going to allow a rejection to slow me down!

Many writers return to the universes they’ve created. I loved the planet Forbi, especially the scum-lords who own all the real estate–carnivores native to Forbi known as the Braklez. They’re a hoot to write, and I had the chance to introduce several more Braklez characters in Waste Management, including the first female, Alawas.

My second favourite species, the Drips return in Waste Management. They’re squishy, multi-tentacled creatures whose skin turns various shades depending on their mood. They secrete ooze from their “many orifices” allowing me the opportunity to insert “Drip ooze” jokes. Who doesn’t love to chuckle over Drip ooze? 🙂

toiletThe protagonist, Lorna, is an engineer hired to improve the toilet designs on a space station. And we all know, from a fairly early age, that toilet jokes never go out of fashion. If you don’t believe me, try reading one of Dave Pilkey’s Captain Underpants  books.

I don’t want to spoil the plot in Waste Management, but make sure you’re not eating chicken noodle soup while reading this tale. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for causing you to shoot a noodle out your nose! Believe me, it can happen. That’s why the phrase, “Is that a noodle?” makes my kids laugh every time.

Fun Fact

Back when I was submitting Waste Management  to magazine markets, I was also shopping around The Wind and the Sky.

neo-op five coverOriginally, I submitted Waste Management  to Neo-Opsis and The Wind and the Sky  to Challenging Destiny.

Both stories were rejected by their respective markets. Total sad-face, right?

But then, for the next round of submissions, I pulled a switcheroonie, sending The Wind and the Sky  to Neo-Opsis and Waste Management  to Challenging Destiny.

And both markets BOUGHT the respective stories.

The lesson to be learned here: sometimes a switcheroonie is a writers’ best friend.


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction  is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Everyone Actually Needs a Couch

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 8th slot in the Table of Contents is the first of the Couch Teleportation Universe  stories: “Everyone Needs a Couch”


My first-ever published story is: Everyone Needs a Couch.

Amazingly, I sold the story to the first market I submitted it to.

I sold Couch  on January 12th, 2002 to Oceans of the Mind, a Science Fiction magazine that no longer exists. It was published in 2003 for their September Mysteries issue.

So when people ask about my first sale, I respond, “It’s a Science Fiction comedy mystery.”

writing March 2002 miniThis is a picture of me writing/editing in the spring of 2002. It’s possible that I was actually working on Couch  that day. I love how there’s a bottle of Heinz Ketchup on the table, since back then every meal involved HK.

I love writing comedy. Probably because sarcasm is one of my favourite forms of communication. And Tanker’s life is the ultimate hard-luck-writer’s tale. Which leads me to the following insight…

When you begin your writing career, you often hear this advice:

Don’t write about a writer who’s trying (and probably failing) to sell their work.

Don’t write comedy because it’s really hard to get right.

Don’t begin a story with dialogue.

I break all three of these rules in Everyone Needs a Couch.

If you’re starting out, it is really important to understand and follow the rules of the trade. But you should also be brave enough to occasionally break the rules.

Read my writing tip post: Following the Rules.

Then read my writing tip post: Breaking the Rules.

Fun Fact

Beginning with my broke-student years (mid-to-late 80s) and ending with my young-messy-kids-at-home years (mid-to-late 90s), I used to have a hand-me-down couch in my living room. The couch had originally belonged to my grandparents.

Yeah, that’s right. My grandparents.

Chuck Lenora Chris on couch miniI think they might’ve bought the couch in the 1950s (1960s at the latest), and furniture manufacturers sure don’t build couches to last that long now. It was old and somewhat ratty (we used to cover it with a quilt to hide its ugliness), but virtually indestructible. Here’s a shot of of the couch, including my aunt, uncle, and cousin in the early 70s.

What made the couch so unique was that it was an old-fashioned two-piece sectional, designed to fit into a corner so that each half of the couch had an armrest on one side and nothing on the other side so it could sit right up against an end-table.

My grandparents used to have their entertainment unit (which consisted of a radio and a turntable that played 78s, 45s, and 33s) in the corner, and each open-ended piece of the couch was placed up against the unit.

E on couch July 2002 comboWhen the couch was in my possession, we used to push the two halves together. (Except for that one co-op term when my apartment was so small that I only had room for HALF the couch.) My kids–and the occasional unsuspecting guest–would sit too close to the middle and fall through the gap onto the floor! (as my younger son demonstrates with his head in 2002) The couch sat on hardwood floors and we had no way to fasten the two pieces together.

Suffice it to say, that old couch was the inspiration for Tank Lazier’s couch in Everyone Needs a Couch.

Because so many people wanted to hear the other side of Tanker’s sad story, the couch makes a second appearance along with protagonist Lorna Watkowski, Tanker’s ex-girlfriend, in Waste Management.


Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction  is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.