December 8, 2010

Alex's Writing from the launch

At our launch on the 4th, we asked the audience to write a person, place, or thing on a scrap of paper and throw it into a jar.  We then picked two prompts each out of the jar and had to cobble them into stories in the time it took for the wonderful Georgia Peach Trio to play their set.

Here is what I ended up with:

"Wig Specialist" and "Steampunk Adventurer Sir Dorito 'Chunkles' Neckwisp Corset Zybourne of the HMS Unfuckwithable" (thanks to new HBM author Jeanine Chau for that gem)

And now to transcribe the story from my hastily scratched handwriting:

"Why does he have such a terribly long name?" asked Corrim as he stitched the final e into the inside of the red captain's coat.
"What," said Delilah, the HMS Unfuckwithable's wig specialist, "you mean Sir Dorito Neckwisp Corset Zybourne?  It's not that bad.  At least we can all call him 'Chunkles'.
"Don't get me started on that name.  It makes even less sense than his real one."
"Well," countered Delilah as she adjusted the curly coifed white hair of Sir Zybourne's second-favourite wig, "I suppose you can call yourself whatever you want when you've commanded an airship to victory in two different wars."
"Yes, and never without his hair just so," said Corrim.
The tailor and wig specialist finished preparing the captain's clothes for the next day.  It was bound to be important, as they were patrolling their newly won skies.

Sir Zybourne looked at himself in the mirror the next day.  The adjustments helped to keep his "victory" gut in check.  Still, he'd have to work harder if he was going to represent Her Majesty's Airborne Navy on the patrol.
Sir Zybourne walked out onto the windswept deck.  The men were all ready for inspection, the steam-cannons polished until every guage and dial reflected the smart uniforms of the HMS Unfuckwithable's crew.
"Today", began Zybourne, "we show our new territory the we are the undisputed rulers of it.  We are a beacon of the security that we have brought to this land."
As he was about to launch into the rest of his speech, the rigging was shaken by the passage of several cannonballs.
"To your stations!" cried the the always-watchful first mate.
The deck became a flurry of activity, but one man stood still in the midst of the sailors running to and fro.
The tailor, Corrim, held up his fist.  "Down with Chunkles!" came his rebellious cry.
With that, there was a groan from below decks as sabotaged pistons and boilers failed.
"How dare you?  Do you not realize the ship that you are on?" shouted Zybourne above the din.
"Read the inside of your hat you pompous tyrant."  With that, the first mate pulled out his pistol and shot Corrim, who fell unnoticed amongst the rush of the ship's men.
Sir Zybourne removed his hat and, with a hurt little silence, read Fucked With where he would normally find his regal name.

The ship began to go down.

December 6, 2010

Here Be Monsters is pleased to make another call for your submissions!

Here Be Monsters is pleased to make another call for your submissions!

We are looking for unpublished works of fiction in any genre, that are less than 10,000 words long. If you are a Canadian resident, and have a story that you would like to submit, please send it as an attached document to with the subject "Here Be Monsters Submission". In the body of the email, please give us your name, address, and an email or phone number where we can contact you.

We are currently looking for stories for the fifth issue, which will be out in spring 2011. If you would like to have your story considered for this issue, please submit no later than February 7th, 2011.

Standard payment is $30 and a free copy of the anthology in which your story appears. Here Be Monsters will purchase first Canadian rights, non-exclusive anthology rights, and first online rights. We do consider simultaneous submissions, but please note this in the body of your submission email.
We would also like to thank everyone who has submitted in the past.

We are looking forward to reading your stories. Thank you.

December 5, 2010

Writing at the launch

Last night we launched issues 3 and 4, and as usual we did some improvised writing using prompts from our guests. I feel like it actually was the best crop of improv writing in our three launches. So for your enjoyment, here is the little story I wrote last night in about 20 minutes (that's so you won't be too harsh on it), using the prompt "À la claire fontaine" and "Not strip poker but STRIP MONOPOLY".

Somewhere at the edge of town, at the bottom of a dark, cheerless alley, lies a bar. The bricks of its facade crumble and fall, but they still support a blinking neon sign, like a one-eyed drunk in the mist. In fact, a one-eyed drunk often falls asleep under it in the small hours of the morning, when all that's left on the streets are the damned and the graveyard-shifters.
The bar is called "À la claire fontaine", though there's nothing clear about what happens behind the brick facade and the one-eyed sign. The owner once said it was named after his favorite childhood song, but it's hard to believe Joe Gillitz ever had a childhood.
Most nights, he sits behind the bar, as drunk as the few clients who still patronize his crumbling establishment. Most nights, that is, until two weeks ago. That's when Gillitz launched his new game int the backroom. He says it didn't cost him much, just the board and the dice, which he bought second hand, but everybody knows he must have paid the girls. And they're definitely not second hand.
That's was I was thinking that night when I walked the backroom for the third time that week.
I've been told before by some quack psychologist, or maybe it was my dealer, that I have an addictive personality, i.e. I tend to get hooked on pretty much everything. I'd never believed it until now. Because to get hooked on strip Monopoly, I agree you have to be missing a few braincells. Or be very lonely. Both, I guess.
One of the girls smiled at me as I sat down in one of the plastic chairs around the board and selected the shoe. I did notice something strange in her eyes, like her pupils weren't really round or something, but at the time I didn't really care. I should have, though. 'Cause it turns out, Gillitz didn't pay for these girls. No. They don't need money. Or food, for that matter. At least, not our kind of food.
That's right. I said earlier I was missing a few brain cells. Where do you think I lost them?

Vincent Mackay

December 1, 2010

HBM Interview on CKUT by Jeffrey Mackie

On Tuesday, Vincent and I were interviewed by CKUT's Jeffrey Mackie.  We talk about the start of Here Be Monsters, publishing new authors, and the launch party this Saturday.  Please give it a listen.

November 19, 2010


J'espère vous voir au lancement de nos 3e et 4e éditions de Here Be Monsters. Nous avons changé la date de l'évènement parce que notre lieu de rassemblement original (ouvert pendant des années) a fermé ses portes! Donc le lancement ne sera plus au Café L'Étranger, mais au Café Shaika, proche du métro Vendôme. Pour savoir comment s'y rendre, consultez le lien Google Map que je vous envoie. Si des gens ont besoin de plus d'infos pour trouver la place, ils peuvent m'envoyer un message ou m'appeler. La bonne nouvelle est que maintenant le lancement va se tenir un samedi! La nouvelle date est le 4 décembre à 20 h.

Amenez vos ami(e)s! Ça va être une belle soirée! Il y aura de la musique, et les éditions 3 et 4 seront en vente!

Même si Shaika est un café, de la bière et de la nourriture seront disponibles sur place.



I hope to see you at our all at our Launch for issues 3 and 4 of Here Be Monsters. We have had a change of date because our original venue (open for years) actually shut its doors. So, the launch will no longer be at Café L'Étranger, but instead it will be at Shaika Café near Vendôme metro. I am attaching a google map, but if anyone needs better directions they should feel free to email or call me. The good news out of all this is that it will now be a Saturday! The new date is December 4 at 8:00 pm.

Bring your friends! It will be a great evening, with music and our third and fourth issues available for sale.

Even if Shaika is a café, beer and food are available.

November 7, 2010

Bookstore Review 2 - Paragraphe Books

Here is the second of our reviews of local Montreal books stores.

Paragraphe is the biggest of the non-chain bookstores in town.  It resides in a sleek, glass-fronted building, right outside the gates of McGill.  Walking in, you're greeted with an upscale, well-presented, store, with a selection that rivals any of the big-box superstores. It would be a mistake to assume that it is simply another place to pick up bestsellers, however.  Paragraphe incorporates its traditions as one of Montreal's longest running English-language bookstores with its modern business.

Each week, authors, artists, and speakers are brought in to show their work and meet with the public.  There are two regular series (Books and Breakfast and Words After Dark) that feature well-known authors as well as frequent appearances by lesser-known writers throughout the month.  Hosting such a huge number of readings for all sorts of books is a great service, and certainly unique to that store.

In addition, they show a lot of support for Canadian authors on the shelves and keep a well-stock political discourse section.  Since they cater to the McGill student crowd, they put common course books aside to save them from wandering the stacks.

If you're looking for a hidden gem, or a well-worn classic, this isn't the right place.  But if you're looking for a newer title, or kids books, or any of the other types of books that aren't well serviced by independent bookstores, then Paragraphe offers a great alternative to the monolithic Chapters/Indigo.

Paragraphe is located on 2220 McGill College (corner of Sherbrooke Ouest)

If you'd like to pick up Here Be Monsters, it is in the Anthology section, on the left as you enter.

October 24, 2010

Bookstore Review 1 - Encore Books

This is going to be the first of a series of reviews on the stores that carry Here Be Monsters.  To me, one of the most exciting things about putting out Here Be Monsters is seeing it on store shelves.  So, I thought people might want to know more about the places that have been good enough to help us distribute the anthology. 

Encore Books and Records started in 2004 and has since become a staple of the NDG neighbourhood.  It's original location has expanded and they have opened a second store (under the name Diamond Books) in Westmount.  The atmosphere is just what you want from a used bookstore.  It's comfortable, you're free to look around, and the store has a DIY, creative feel without getting too cluttered.  There are some couches and chairs (with as much character as the old books) if you want to kick back and read there.  The staff is fairly reserved and quiet, but they're helpful if you approach them. 

The stand out quality of Encore is its organization.  Given the size and variety of their collection, you'd expect to have books stacked up on the floor, strewn about the shelves, and generally mixed into unrecognizable heaps.  But they've managed to wrangle most (not all) of their stock into reasonable categories and make it presentable.  The literature section is the main focus and is always in good shape, but they have a very well laid out non-fiction area as well.  Fantasy and Sci-Fi is in a side room, which I might take offense to if they didn't have such a good selection :)  There are new graphic novels and old cheap comics.  They even have a shelf of pulp books filled with awesome/horrible detective stories from days long gone.  All in all, Encore does an excellent job of making it easy to browse, though a dedicated hunter could still dig out some treasures in the shelves if they wanted.

It's obvious that the people who run the store really love the trade they are in.  Along the highest shelves and near the windows, you can see sets of old encyclopedias, histories, tomes of studies long since made obsolete.  Books with beautiful, engraved covers that I imagine will never sell.  All given a place of respect despite their age.  For me, that is a very comforting sign when I go into a bookstore.

If you'd like to pick up Here Be Monsters at Encore, you can find it at the counter with the other local talent.

Encore is located at 5670 Sherbrooke Street West

September 11, 2010

Here Be Monsters Call for Cover Artists

We always aim to put out a high-quality book for our readers to enjoy, and part of that is good art for the cover.

We are currently looking for artists for our third and fourth issues.

For the 3rd issue, all the stories take place in the same fantasy world and revolve around enormous creatures called Cities. The working title for this issue is “Where Cities Tread”. Though we do want to advertise what the stories are about, we don't need a literal picture of the creatures. If this job interests you, please contact us and we'll be happy to share more information about it with you.

For the 4th issue, tentatively called “The Idea Shop”, we are looking for a more atmospheric, less specific piece. This issue will be the first one where we will be publishing work from writers outside of our group, so pieces evoking collaboration, entrepreneurship, or a weird marketplace could all fit. However, we're very open to other concepts, so please feel free to contact us with your proposal.

Here are some examples of our previous covers, though you need not feel that you have to “match” their style.

Both issues will be published simultaneously in November, so the cover piece must be submitted to us by October 17th at the latest. In addition to having your work on the cover, you will be credited on the website and in the book. You will receive one free copy of the issue and you may buy as many as you like for cost.

We look forward to seeing your work. Please send all questions and samples to You can also find us on Facebook

Thank you,

The Here Be Monsters Staff

September 5, 2010

Friendly Reminder about Submissions

Hello everyone,

First off, let me say we've been very pleased with the response to our first ever call for submissions.  We've gotten some great stories, and we're excited to work with new authors.  If you haven't submitted yet, this is a reminder that the deadline for getting your work into the 4th issue is September 15th.  There is still time, but not much!

To those that have submitted, thank you, you're awesome.  We'll be sending out notices of our decisions soon.  If anyone has any questions about the submission process, feel free to email us at

Thank you again to everyone who reads the blog and the books.

- Alexander Newcombe

Chronicles of a Sedentary Foreign Correspondant

There are days when I feel like a foreign correspondent in my own city. Not because the people around me are strange, but because for about two years now, I've been writing in my second language, that is, in English.
Despite my very Scottish last name, I've been raised in a completely francophone household. My interest in English writing started with an Ontarian high school teacher who had us read Shakespeare, Cohen and William Blake, bringing us to the park to make us read poems at the top of our lungs in our accented English, looking and sounding quite ridiculous I'm sure. I loved it. I started reading in English. Not that it's unusual. Lots of French-speakers do it. Albeit, in my case, at least at the beginning, with a nagging feeling that I was somehow betraying my heritage (I almost said my country, but I don't want to open the eternal Canadian Pandora's box).
A friend recently pointed out that at Renaud-Bray, the big Montreal French bookstore, the English books are right next to the erotica, in a corner of the store. I laughed and said that it's probably so that both erotica and English readers could indulge in their guilty pleasure more discreetly.
Not that anybody has ever judged me for reading in English. If anything, it mostly attracts positive comments. It's more that I myself sometimes have this nagging feeling that I should make an effort to read more in French. And I do. But the thing is, I have this huge chip on my shoulder about French literature. It's a mostly irrational chip, but I find that a lot of French writers feel like they have to do more than tell a story. They have to delve deeper, to look for some humanistico-philosophical truth. The results are, to me, occasionally brilliant but mostly powerfully annoying.
It requires me to take reading seriously, and I don't want to. Reading is about fun, about thrills, laughter and imagination. These are powerful enough human truths for me. And depth does flow from a good story without need for all those discursive devices that make me feel like the author is trying to teach me instead of just being with me for the length of a book (not that English writers cannot be powerfully annoying too, but I feel like the culture in the Anglo-Saxon writing community is closer to the story). There are also some notably excellent ("Powerfully annoying", "notably excellent". Hm. I sound like a movie critic all of a sudden) exceptions in French literature, Alexandre Dumas Senior, Fred Vargas, Daniel Pennac and Tonino Benacquista being a few of those, but I'm talking about the dominant writing culture here.
Anyway, it felt only logical that the next step would be for me to write in English. Which I've now been doing for two years, and loving it, even though it's wreaking havoc on my abilities in both of Canada's official languages. That havoc and other states of identity confusion I will try to describe in a next post. In the meantime, be good, read and write good stories, and try to be more notably excellent than powerfully annoying.

Vincent Mackay

September 1, 2010

That's the fun of writing

In the last few days, I've been chasing the spark. That is, the elusive little invisible thing that makes you start a story. Yes, it's true that inspiration isn't everything, that sweat and hard work and all that protestant work ethic thing is indispensable to good writing, but in the end, I'd never do it if not for the thrill of that spark. It's my drug of choice, and it's hard to come by, because nobody knows exactly where to find it. It's buried somewhere at a crossroads of ideas, under a signpost that shows the direction to somewhere you'll never get to. You have to bump into it while walking with your eyes fixed on a different horizon; then you'll shake your head, blink, and you'll see it. For an instant, you'll think it's obvious, how could you have missed it, it burns your brain with its intoxicating light. And then, you'll spend days and month writing, trying to get it back. That's what keeps me doing it. That's the real fun of writing.

August 23, 2010

Welcome Back

Hello to all,
After a summer of writing, we have succeeded in the last writing challenge that we'd set for ourselves in our ongoing need to inflict new labor pains onto our creative minds: each writing a fantasy-like story in a common world. I've read my two co-authors' stories, and I have to say, they're really good. We will therefore be releasing them in our third issue, along with our new website, in mid-November.
Which brings me to said website. You will soon be able to follow everything related to Here Be Monsters on a new, classy, trendy, incredible website that our very own Andrea Davidge is designing for us. This website will also be launched mid-November, which will give us another good reason to throw a party.
We are, as previously said, also accepting submissions for our fourth issue. The submissions guidelines can be found on the blog. We're already receiving stories and impatient to read more.
The coming fall always brings with it a fresh need to write for me. Maybe it's a way to hunker down and prepare for the year; maybe it's just that my brain awakens after the stupor the heat of summer put it in; in any case, new ideas usually come in the fall. I like that. Every year it feels like meeting a familiar friend, that part of me that wants to write, promising new labor pains but also, and above all, good stories.
Get a hearth fire going.
See you soon.

April 29, 2010

Here Be Monsters Open For Submissions

Here Be Monsters is now open to submissions!

We are looking for unpublished works of fiction in any genre, that are less than 10,000 words long.  If you are a Canadian resident, and have a story that you would like to submit, please send it as an attached document to with the subject "Here Be Monsters Submission".  In the body of the email, please give us your name, address, and an email or phone number where we can contact you. 

We are currently looking for stories for the fourth issue, which will be out in winter 2010.  If you would like to have your story considered for this issue, please submit no later than September 15th, 2010. 

Standard payment is $30 and a free copy of the anthology in which your story appears.  Here Be Monsters will purchase first Canadian rights, non-exclusive anthology rights, and first online rights.  We do consider simultaneous submissions, but please note this in the body of your submission email.

We are looking forward to reading your stories.  Thank you.

March 23, 2010

Safer Where You Are reviewed in The Link

Good news.  The Link, Concordia's independant newspaper, has printed their review of our second issue.  You can see it on page 14 of this week's issue or online here.

The review is pretty positive, and we'd like to take this opportunity to thank Samantha LeClair, Andrea Davidge, and Alana Newcombe.  They are, respectively, the editor, cover artist, and graphic artist of Here Be Monsters.  They bring a level of polish to the book that we lowly authors could never accomplish.  They are equally responsible for any praise it gets.

Thank you ladies.

Alexander Newcombe, Duane Burry, and Vincent Mackay

March 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning


As I was trying to think of a topic for today's post, I ended up sorting through a lot of my old work.  Like a lot of people, when I procrastinate, I try to do so productively so that I don't feel as bad.  I went in and edited some stories I have no intention of working on again, I reorganized my folders on the computer, and I added a few lines to some extremely stale false starts.  While doing that, I came across this piece that I almost forgot about.  I think it was written about a year and a half ago.  Even though it is just an intro, there's something that I like about it.  Perhaps I'll put some more into it down the road.  For now, I want to show you guys a snapshot of some of my pre-HBM writing.


When I was eleven years old, all I wanted to do was fall in love.  As far as I knew, it was amazing. It involved romance, adventure, struggle, sacrifice, sex, and heart-felt words; it was everything about the world that I craved and had never experienced. Only when in love would you have the opportunity and motivation to say, “I would never let anything hurt you.” I think, in addition to the other perks, I believed that love gave you superhuman powers, allowing you to stop oncoming city buses if your loved one was in their path. 

I tried to find love.  I went to all the school dances and I always asked someone to dance.  I braved the ridicule and glares and spoke to girls outside of the dances, even the ones far too cool to be friends with me.   It was in vain, of course. I turned twelve in the middle of grade seven and remained loveless, even danceless. 
My determination for love saw me alternating between morose dejection and elated excitement. As often as I was let down by the eventual detachment of a girl in my class, I was thrilled by a glance, a genuine laugh, or a small kindness from another.  This over-sensitivity to the changes of fate made me prone to replaying my day in my mind, looking for a clue as to whom my one true love would be.

It became a habit to keep myself occupied while my mind tabulated my luck for the day.  It was frustrating to consciously mull over every small event.  One day, I had wandered into our pantry, where I lifted up our trap door and peered into the crawlspace underneath the house. It was pitch black inside but I could smell the gas from the furnace and slightly rank smell of the dirt and clay.  Still wondering whether Jenny had meant to brush up against me while I was at my locker, I flicked on the light and went down.

I think I was going to have this kid make a tunnel under his house to...somewhere.  I can't remember.  Maybe I'll put him into someone else's story instead of this one.  Like I said, there's something about him that I like.

Alex Newcombe

March 18, 2010

Last Friday night, I realized, admittedly not for the first time, that I was getting old. Not bed-ridden, dispill-carrying old, but old nonetheless, like a budding pot-belly or a longer hangover.
I had endeavored to walk from my place in the Mile-End to downtown, on Bishop, where the launch of our second issue was about to start. A nice walk, in the cool night air that had just begun to fill with the unmistakable aroma of spring - including both wet grass and the yearly crop of turds. To get to Bishop, I decided to cut through the McGill ghetto where it was, of course, Friday night at the residences, which means I met a lot of students at various stages of alcohol, or other, intoxication. And here's exactly what I mean: I presumed they were drunk mostly because they were loud, boisterous, laughing a lot, having an obvious good time, and annoying me to no end.
It's the annoyance that bothered me. Why was I annoyed by people having fun? It made me wonder if maybe I'd forgotten how to have fun like that, how to not care, or maybe it occurred to me that to be like that, to be boisterous and to laugh in exactly that manner requires something that I may have lost: total freedom and having the whole wide world in front of you with the feeling that it will last forever. Not a very original thought, I grant you, but nonetheless kind of dark when it strikes you.
Of course, I then proceeded to go to the launch and have a fabulous time and laugh and maybe I was even a little bit boisterous. So I might not be that old, who knows. My hangovers do last longer, though. I bet they'd still ask me for ID if I asked for a drink in the states. I'll have to go try.
See you all soon.

March 10, 2010

Here Be Monsters on the air

Hello everyone,

We had the good fortune to be interviewed on CKUT this morning.  Ariel talked to us about the book and the upcoming show.  You can click here for the whole segment; we're about three-quarters of the way through that audio file.

Thanks again to Ariel and CKUT!

March 9, 2010

A piece of my story

The second issue is coming out and we worked hard to put it together, but we are all very pleased with it and we hope everyone else is too. We have many goals in mind for what is to come and plenty of ideas. Here be monsters is serving well as a creative outlet and hopefully as an idea machine.
It is entirely possible that we have never explained why we call it here be monsters. The first issue came out around Halloween and we thought, geez hope nobody thinks this is specific to Halloween... because it has nothing to do with monsters. Huh? No monsters (well... not quite, not all the time). The title has to do with that space at the edge of the map. It was the here be monsters on maps used to indicate uncharted territory... It was uncharted in so many ways and our stories are either on the borderline of reality, or even more often completely off the known-reality map... Completely fantastical, for example, mine this time takes place in Montréal. Not many more fantastical places.

Here is an piece of it:

The cold light seemed to burn away what he thought he knew like tiny bits of paper. The solid matrix of his mind had been a well-constructed puzzle when he fell asleep that night. During that night's sleep, however the last piece of the puzzle did not fall into place: rather it flew across the room of his mind and cracked off of the hardwood floor. There it lay. Still within sight. Slowly, it would seem as if that puzzle piece was the centre of his mental Rubik's cube, or was it some other more torturous puzzle box?
Everything he believed until now, or much of it, was a lie. Not a lie constructed by people, nor a conspiracy, nor a plot against him. The deceiver crept within, most parasitic. It knew him intimately. It created things from the void and erased things from plain sight. At some indeterminate point his mind had become his enemy. At that moment he could only conceive that much of what he believed was like seeing the world through the eyes of someone that many would cross the street to avoid. That morning six months ago, it was clear that lenses of another colour than truth had been bolted over his eyes. This colour was a strange orange, an ugly yellow, or green. Something dark, something sickly.
In the first days following his revelation he had found some solace in writing. He had hoped it could be used to rebuild the foundation and eventually to fashion a portcullis to separate the truth from the lies his enemy whispered and showed him.

165 days ago,
The light this morning hurts my eyes and I don't need to tell you why. If you don't know then you won't hear it from me. I know my name. Tsotev. I know my birthday, my age. Not much else over the last few days is certain. Time and memories have blurred. My vision also, from the pain in my head.
Where and what I studied is anyone's guess; where my parents, or any other family, reside is as clear to me as a steaming pile of dung. It is also just as hard to ignore. I feel like a beetle, but not a musician. Clearly, I did not study necrogenesis theory. And the memories of a scholar exploring metaphysics or the elements and manifestations of other dimensions are delusions. My memories place me in multiple academic settings, and I have a diploma on my wall. Strangely, I do not feel like I am the type to hang my diploma on my wall. I do not remember studying geopolitical economics. My brain feels like it is frozen and being chopped, and bounced about in a blender. Since my moment of lucidity, I am tormented by a light behind my eyes. Whenever I close them I see it: a small florescent point of white on ink-black silk. It is a curtain hung at the front of my skull anchored in flesh and bone.


March 6, 2010

Preview of Alexander Newcombe's "The Spark Gap Blog"

The release of our second issue is just around the corner and inside it you'll find this story.  The Spark Gap Blog is written as a series of blog posts by a blogger/reporter named Christopher Bartley.  He spends a few weeks in Steel Hawk, an (almost) abandoned mining town in British Columbia.  This excerpt takes place a few days after he arrives.

Night Out in the Ghost Town           

Perhaps I hadn't adjusted to the early schedule of Steel Hawk yet, or maybe it was an aversion to curling up in my insect-ridden house, but I didn't feel like going to sleep after I left Ed's hydro plant.  I began walking down the main road, towards the town's entrance.  Occasionally I would see a house with a few lights on, or hear the sounds of never-ending home repairs, but the streets at night really bring the “ghost” out in ghost town.  I was jumping at rustling trees and animal noises more than I'd like to admit.  Eventually, I heard a large group of people talking.  And not just talking; laughing, shouting, and swearing.  I wasn't sure at first, but once I heard the undercurrent of music in the mix, I knew I had stumbled onto a bar.  It was right on the edge of town, in a building older than my new house by a decade or two.  The original sign hanging from the low roof had been removed and was replaced with cut sheet-metal letters that spelled out “The Company”.

I needed to find out what people did for fun at some point, so I went in.  Perhaps it wasn't only unyielding professionalism that led me inside, but I promised to keep myself standing long enough to get a feel for the night life of Steel Hawk.  I'm not sure what I expected.  Perhaps a rowdy saloon, with bottles getting broken over skulls every few minutes; maybe a wild pleasure-den on the fringes of civilization, where any vice was welcomed.  In fact, The Company was mostly like any busy local pub, with a little saloon and pleasure-den thrown in.  It was clean enough not to be unsettling, but it wore its shabbiness with comfort.  A jukebox (the kind with CDs), played classic songs while the patrons ignored it.  It was mostly men, sitting around tables in the centre of the bar talking and laughing.  And smoking.  Having lived without smoke in bars for my legal life, it was a shock to walk in and nearly choke on the heavy grey cloud that seemed to be as permanent as the tacky brass lamp shades.  Not all of it was tobacco either.  There was a group in a booth to the side that were sedately smoking well-rolled joints.  I went to the bar, but before I could give the bartender my patented “I need a drink badly” look, he began shouting at a man sitting on one of the bar stools.  The shouting went back and forth, all the eyes on the bar turned to the action, voluntarily or not, and the bartender's swearing reached a crescendo.  The man at the bar raised his hand, it wasn't quite a punch, but it wasn't a harmless gesture either.  The bartender slapped his hand down and then shoved his other hand into the man's face.  The (apparently very drunk) customer toppled off the stool but continued swearing.  The bartender was circling around the bar, still fuming.  By this point, others were working to get the drunk up and hold the furious bartender back.  They dumped the confused man in a heap outside the door and worked at cooling off the bartender.  I heard one guy say, “It's okay Fergie, just keep him dry for a few days and he'll come around.”  By the time Fergie was back to the other side of the bar to serve drinks, the place had gone back to normal and good-natured talk was jostling with the music again.

I waited for the bartender to settle and then leaned over the bar.  “Hey there, could I get a rum and coke?” I asked.

“Just rum okay?”

I didn't like guessing wrong, and I wanted something that I could sip for a while.  The bartender sounded gracious, as if he regretted being short on supplies.  I ordered a bottle of beer and it came in plain brown glass with no label.  I was deciding whether to pay then or wait, but he left and served someone else, saving me from another gaffe.  
I was nervous.   Most of my reporting involves reading websites, sending emails, and doing short interviews over Skype.  It is rare that I have to use anything like social grace.  I listened to a Johnny Cash song until it finished, trying to look comfortable on my own.  At the same moment that I started feeling ridiculous, one of the few women in the bar approached me.  
She was younger than me, with straight black hair and light copper skin.  She was wearing a flashy black camisole that would have been in fashion back in Van and looked haut-couture here.  She also had a simple hemp bracelet on, the kind of thing you'd see at any flea market or street vendor.  She smiled and struck up a conversation right away.  No pretence, no tricks, just straight-up, “Hi, how are you?”  We went through small-talk.  I imagined that her interest was solely based on me being the new guy in town.  I'd heard that in isolated places like this, the smell of the outside world is better than any cologne.  I felt confident and began to flirt.  Soon, the conversation turned to when I was planning on leaving the bar.  I made an effort to evaluate the perks of leaving with my need to stay and learn more.  As I evaluated, I happened to look the young woman up and down, and my eye caught on the hemp bracelet again.  I looked around, and, sure enough, every other woman at the bar had a similar bracelet on.  I finally caught on to what I'm sure you have already gathered.  I asked the woman what she did for work and she said she worked in the rooms next door.  That helped my rational mind make the case for staying and doing more actual work.  At first, Caroline (the woman), was confused by my renewed interest in mere conversation, but after I offered to pick up her drinks, she was happy to talk more.  She was one of Steel Hawk's part-time prostitutes (she was also a house painter and a hairdresser).  The bracelets were a signal to the men that they were working.  Since they had to come to the same bar and see the same people when they wanted to relax, they needed a way to be off-limits.  I don't think she was trying to entrap me when she invited me out with her.  She had just become so used to the system that she forgot that an outsider wouldn't understand that he was being hit on professionally.

Caroline drifted away after finishing her drink.  She was immediately replaced by a tall man in his thirties, with a clean plaid shirt open over a white tee and nice, if worn, jeans.  He shook hands with me and introduced himself as Jake.  I checked his wrist for a bracelet as he pulled his hand back.  No reason to assume otherwise, I figured.  My reality check with Caroline reminded me that people don't usually chat with strangers at a bar because they don't want something from them.  Since Jake wasn't here to proposition me, I kept an eye out for whatever he was looking for.

February 21, 2010

Here Be Monsters in the Future

We're all ready for our launch party, and the stories are wrapped up, so I've been thinking a lot about what is coming next for Here Be Monsters.  There are two ideas that we've wanted to do for a while now, but they are almost mutually exclusive.

First, the three of us came up with a really interesting setting that we all want to work in.  We've been talking about doing shared world pieces since we started our writing group, and I think we've found a place where that can happen. 

The second idea is opening up the anthology to submissions.  Currently, we've been open to anyone who is in our writing group (which is more than just the three regular authors of the book), but this would be an actual open call.  This is something that we feel is important for the anthology, and I think it would help us in our big goal, which is to become better writers by exposing ourselves to new work.  It involves a whole new step in the process, though, so it's not a task I want to take lightly.

In the end, I think we'll do both of these ideas.  We will have a collection of stories that all take place in the same fantastical setting.  We will also have an open call for short stories that are fun and great.  It's mostly a matter of choosing which goes first.  With the extra work involved in accepting submissions, I believe that will come later, but don't take that as the official word.  If you're interested in submitting your writing, stay tuned to this blog and we'll make sure you hear about it as soon as we start accepting.

That's it for now.  I just wanted to give some outlines as to what to expect from Here Be Monsters in the coming months.  I very much look forward to seeing everyone at the launch party.

Alexander Newcombe

February 17, 2010

An Exerpt From Our Next Issue

Goo day everyone,
Our next issue, "Safer Where You Are" is going to be released on march 12th, and I though I was time to give you a little taste of what's going to be in it. So here it is, a preview of the story I wrote for the next issue. You can read the rest in Safer Where You Are, out march 12th.

Alistair's Armageddon.

Alistair was at the country club when the world ended. Had he known it was coming, he’d have ordered better wine, but as is the way of such things, he had been thinking of habit rather than pleasure when the jacket-clad waiter had switched on his note pad. He’d asked for the usual house Zinfandel which, though adequate, hardly suited the grandeur of the moment. Alistair snorted. How annoyingly predictable of him.

Of course, he supposed he could have foreseen the event, what with all the agitation back in the city. The commoners running around with suitcases packed to bursting, soldiers in green fatigues setting up barricades and going on and on about curfews and rations, blocking the path of Alistair’s Rolls with their tanks and barbed wire. Yes, things had certainly been more afoot than usual; although, since the monstrosities had come out of the sewers sixteen years ago, it was hard to distinguish normal trigger-happiness from all-out war. Oh well. Maybe Alistair should be grateful he had been spared the humiliation of being recruited into the awfully-dressed and ill-fated militia that the President had said would save them.

As for now, the blast illuminated the horizon behind the mountains in a yellowish glow that reminded Alistair of hollandaise sauce and made him hungry. He wondered if he would have time for some eggs Benedict before he got obliterated. Probably not, but he signaled the waiter nonetheless. One should never be overly pessimistic: it was neither healthy nor becoming.

The waiter walked up to his table and bowed. “Yes, sir?”

“Do you suppose it is too late for eggs Benedict, James?” Alistair asked.

The waiter looked briefly at the mountains, over which a massive column of black smoke was now rising.

“We can certainly try, sir. The Silver Mountain Club always does its best.”

“I know that, James, but you will agree with me this thermonuclear explosion over there in OldCity lowers our prospects of survival considerably.”

“Absolutely, sir, although you will be happy to know that the Silver Mountain Club, in an always ongoing effort to anticipate the needs of its members, has recently acquired the latest in Xuvar Shielding technology, through the generosity of Mr. Xuvar himself.”

“Laszlo Xuvar? I know him. Splendid chap, if most underdressed. Must be that unwieldy Hungarian culture of his. Or is it Bulgarian? Is he here? Would love to spend my last moments with someone of equal social rank - no offense, James.”

The waiter smiled apologetically which, in the orange apocalyptic glow, gave him a creepy look that did not belong on an employee of the Silver Mountain Club, but Alistair supposed you had to make allowances.

“I’m sorry, sir,” the waiter said, “Mr. Xuvar is down at the pool house, where he set up what he calls his main generator and I believe he’s rather busy.”

“Pity.” Said Alistair. “How about those eggs Benedict, then? I shall spend my last moments with them instead.”

“Very well sir. Would you prefer forêt noire ham or pancetta with that?”

“Pancetta, of course, James. Always Pancetta, even in the face of annihilation.”

“Coming up, sir”, James said, and turned smoothly on his heels towards the kitchen.

“Say, James?” Alistair called as the waiter was leaving.

“Yes, sir?”

“Do you think good old Xuvar’s shielding will really protect us from the radiation?”

“Mr. Xuvar seems to think so, sir.”

“Jolly good. I think I’ll have another glass of Zinfandel, then.”

Vincent Mackay

February 9, 2010

No room on the life raft... and a link to our interview with the Link

Understandably, some people have been asking us about the cover and title of issue one. They read the stories and then asked themselves what this has to do with No Room On The Life Raft. Not in a bad way, simply what is the connection? The amazing cover, that hopefully people have seen, depicts an empty life raft adrift before an otherworldly city. None of the stories take pace in the water... We brainstormed for a unifying factor and that factor was cities. More honestly, the settings for each of the stories. In issue 1 we felt that the settings were important players. The title, No Room On The Life Raft was to evoke a sense of desperation. So in the end, the title and cover were more about mood. All of the protagonists find themselves in situations with the odds against them. They are sinking and they have nothing, or little to hang on to. We have made the promise (maybe a bit too strong of a word) to aim for a cover and title that encompasses what we have done as best we can. Not easy. We have the title for issue 2. Of course we encourage people to interpret what they want in what we do. We are not thought police, mostly. In fact even amongst us there are differences on how we see it. So that is my two cents of incite. Maybe next I will tackle why we call it Here Be Monsters.

On another note, we were interviewed by the Link, the Concordia paper. So anyone in Montréal can pick up a copy. Of course, why do that when all the articles are online? From MMA to bixi bikes to Here be monsters. They could be prompts. Here is the link.  My masters isn't in linguistics, but linguistics was my second choice and it was my BA. I think the article gives a good idea of what we are about. Take a look.


February 7, 2010

Launch Party for Issue 2 - Mar. 12th

Hello everyone!

We've confirmed the details for the second launch party.  Once again, we'll be hosted by the incredible Burritoville.  For those unfortunate souls who were not there last time, it's a bar and vegetarian restaurant downtown (not in NDG, despite what Google might say).

At Here Be Monsters, we like to focus on the "party" portion of "launch party". There will be a bartender, great live music, readings, and other hijinks that we come up with on the spot.  So please, come celebrate the bigger, better second issue.  The last launch was a great success and we're hoping to top it with this one.\

Personally, I'm really excited.  Getting a second issue out of the door is a milestone for me.  And we were able to put it together despite the holidays and a lack of time for everyone involved.  My big hope is that if we're able to stick to the 4 per year schedule, people will start anticipating the next release.  That would be amazing.  Maybe I'll start ending my stories with "To be continued..."?  Nah, that isn't fair.  If you see that in a story soon, I promise it's for a legitimate reason and not just because I want to pull a JJ Abrams.

You'll see more details as we get closer, but if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them here or contact us over email.  

- Alexander Newcombe

January 31, 2010

Fresh from the Writing Group


Today, I'm going to post one of my pieces from our regular writing group.  In case you're not familiar, every two weeks or so, several of us get together and do some writing exercises.  It's where we generate some of the ideas that eventually become the stories in Here Be Monsters.  For this piece, I was given two prompts: "Use the word 'trials' 3 times in the story" and "Levitation Classes".  So, obviously there is only one story that can be told with these two building blocks.

"The Trials of Korm-Ra-Ton"

I saw the strange title on my Aunt's desk three years ago.  There were other books on the desk, my aunt having been a collector and lover of rare books since her husband had died.  But this one, the "Trials of Korm-Ra-Ton", had a quality unlike anything I'd ever seen.  I can best describe it as "weight"; as if the eye, the interest, was pulled towards it like an anchor dragging its chain into dark waters.

How I wish that I had chanced upon any other piece in her collection.  I know now that no matter what, eventually I would have found it, and felt the desire, disguised as piqued curiosity, to take it with me.

I found myself unable to focus on the rest of the estate that day.  My sister (always such a caring woman!) had to take charge of the divvying up of my aunt's out-of-date will.

My sister and I had puzzled over that for some time.  Our aunt was meticulous and orderly.  She had, in fact, been our least favourite baby-sitter as children.  She was coherent and competent when we'd seen her a week before her death. She even made it to her monthly meeting with friends from the nearby home.

Now, I know all too well how little of my aged aunt there was near the end of her life.  She was a shell, hollowed out by the despair of a lost husband, the frustration of age, and the Trials.

It overwhelmed me once I was back from her home.  This desire, this weight.  I spent the night reading the story of a tortured mad man, some kind of priest from ancient Kush.  I say I read the book, but in truth I read the translations in my aunt's handwriting that had been inserted between each page.  Those and the cover were in English, but the pages were fragile with age, and written in what I believed to be a dialect of Arabic.

After that, there were many similar nights spent pouring over the arcane, obfuscated confessions of the mad priest Korm-Ra-Ton.   Soon, I began to understand the secrets woven into the metaphors and allusions of the text.  I found myself obsessing over the rituals described in fearful detail.  Some months after I'd first opened the pages of the damned book, I carried out certain chants over the corpse of a bird.  It was a strange sensation, to be so sure that what I was doing made no logical sense, could not possibly be real, and yet to have absolute certainty that it would work.  As I completed the final phrase (which I dare not transcribe here) I began to hover off the floor.  I was able to push around the room as if buoyed up by the air.  That most universal and earthly of forces, gravity, had no effect on me.  I was exultant, and spent the evening in childish glee at my little trick.  For that is what it was, just a trick played on me by a force I did not understand, over which I had only the illusion of control.

Another year passed, and I felt that I had sufficient mastery of the secrets of Korm-Ra-Ton to begin spreading them.  After all, why would I keep such marvels to myself?  I was not looking to abuse the powers I had discovered, I wanted to share them so that all people could break free of the physical laws that had shackled us to such misery throughout our existence.  Dear reader, you must forgive my foolish ideals; I truly believed I was the harbinger of grand times to the world.  It was with this in my mind that I began meeting interested prospects in my home.  I did not yet want to spread the teachings to the masses, afraid that I might be misunderstood as a cultist or madman.  Instead, it was a select group who were interested in learning of such lost knowledge.  After several months spent simply reading from my aunt's copy, I led them all through that first ritual, the one that had truly opened my eyes to the powers hidden inside.  They all began levitating, and for a long moment they were transfixed.  The realization of the enormity of what they were experiencing eventually gave way to the giddy exploration of their weightlessness.  They paddled and pushed around my house for hours, finally settling back to the ground after midnight.  After that night, they returned every day, looking for more.

In my pride, I indulged them.  Soon, each of us had our own copy of the book, made from my aunt's English translation.  Our rituals grew more complex and dark.  More adherents came, enticed by the stories of those already under my wing.  Most began staying at my home permanently.  The plan had taken hold of all of us.  And not one of us questioned it!  I had wanted to use only the most reliable ceremonies from the book and disregard those that seemed too depraved or unpredictable.  But now we felt that to truly transform the world, we would need those darkest of rites.  That would mean we must operate in secrecy, so as not to frighten the very populace we hoped to liberate.  When had this plan been formulated?  Who had suggested it?  We never contemplated the answers to these and other pressing questions.  Perhaps we were unable to.  Facing them would point towards the unfathomable truth.  Worse, it would show the others that there was doubt in your heart.  We could not risk our secrecy, so those who showed such doubt were inevitably the next strapped down to the table for sacrifice.

It was two days ago when my sister came to check on me.  We had lost touch shortly after my aunt's death, and at first she assumed I was simply wrapped in my own life.  Then, when she could not reach me and her calls to neighbours carried the rumours of my bizarre life to her, she travelled to see me in person.  As I saw her walk up the front drive from inside my home, I recoiled.  She could not see me like this, with these strangers living in every nook and closet of my home.  The last thing I should have been worried about was my family being embarrassed of me.  I called to some of those near me, "Quickly!  She must not find out about us."  I was frozen with dread as my sister opened the door to my once lovely home.  Shock passed over her face as she realized how many others there were with me, and then before she could utter a sound, they descended on her.  I cried out in warning, in anger, but the sound of my voice was only one in the nonsense cacophony that erupted from my brethren.  They tore into her like rabid animals, in the space of a few panicked breaths, there was nothing left of my sister that I could recognize.

I collapsed.  The despair, the madness, the gruesome sight were too much for me.  I awoke in one of the beds on the second floor, still wearing the bloody clothes of the day before.  It was relatively quiet, and there were no others around.  I took the opportunity to write this.  I don't know when I will next have full control of myself, so I must finish.  

My plan is to sabotage the gas stove in the kitchen.  I only hope that the fire it starts will be enough to consume the house and all of us inside.  Whatever power lurks in that book will not stop until it has pressed all of humanity to its whims, and I know that I, for one, am not strong enough to resist it.  These pages are being locked into my bedroom safe, where I believe they'll survive the fire.  I am forsaken, there will be no forgiveness for me or any of us.  We do not deserve pity or remembrance.  My only wish is that those who find this will destroy all traces of what we have done, and most importantly, destroy every last word of the Trials of Korm-Ra-Ton.

-- M

Thanks for reading everyone.  This is my first attempt at mimicking the style of the original Lovecraft stories.  I've always been a big fan of them.  Keep watching here for more posts from the rest of the Here Be Monsters crew!

Alexander Newcombe

Tomato-Based Non-Food and the Writing Stomach.

As we sail towards our next release, heading once again to one of those many improbable edges of the map, we need all the help we can get. In addition to some paper and ink, to Alex’s very tactful advice on style, to Duane’s unbelievable imagination that can put Queen Victoria in a space station looking for a treasure island while she treats a wound to her second pair of eyes, to my overlong sentences and recurring questions about English language (is there a difference between toward and towards? What’s the nuance between farther and further? Why the Hell is it written Wednesday?), in addition to all that, we need tomato-based non-food.
Non-food is defined as food that had no other purpose than its taste and possible induction of nausea if consumed in too great a quantity. Its taste is usually salty, or, towards (toward?) the end of the night, sweet. It cannot in any way be nutritious. In our case, it’s usually tomato-based in some way: pizza base, pizza-flavoured chips, tomato spread, and so much more. It provides comfort and helps grease the wheels of the group as we struggle with our pens, so that at least if the pages stay empty, our stomachs do not, and neither do our souls, filled as they become by the warmth of salt and red additives.
I know. Overlong sentence again. But I can do better. Next post, I’ll try for a single-sentence paragraph.
Now don't let this ridiculously-themed post mislead you. We are working hard, and the next issue promises to be even better than the first one. Look for it in early march.


January 23, 2010

Never Tell Me the Odds

It's a lovely, cool Saturday morning and I am thinking about writing a lot.  This is, of course, due to the looming deadlines for the next issue of Here Be Monsters.  We're all geared up though, and I'm even more excited to bring this issue out than the first one.  There's a kind of momentum around a second issue that makes it seem more permanent than the first.  But like I said, I was thinking about writing:

When people ask what kind of stories we write, I tend to say, "They're genre fiction."  For some people, this means nothing.  For others, this is not a label I should admit to.  But I think it suits what we're doing, so I'll happily use it until it no longer fits.  As Here Be Monsters continues, you'll see more variety in the stories, but I imagine that the love of an exciting, adventurous tale will always inhabit them in some way.  So, on the topic of genre fiction, here are a couple of fun links that I recommend you check out:

The Han Solo Theory - A quick podcast about applying the lessons learned from Star Wars to fantastic fiction

Interview with China Miéville - An interview with one of my favourite authors about genre, fantasy, and morality

Keep your eyes on the blog (or the Facebook page) for more updates, excerpts, and thoughts.

Alexander Newcombe

January 20, 2010

Issue Number Two

Issue the second of Here Be Monsters is now on the way. The powers that be have gathered and forged it out of imagination, ink and ginger ale. Which, by the way, is much better a writing drink than wine, my apologies to Mr. Beaudelaire, but have you ever tried writing drunk? You think you're a genius until the next morning when you re-read your masterpiece, crumple it into a little ball the size of your hungover ego and throw it into the recycling bin. And that is why we, in our writing group, run on ginger ale. The fact that I'm a complete lightweight has absolutely nothing to do with it.
But I digress. I was saying that the agony of giving birth to our incredible and upcoming issue has started, and we're so brave, we're not even having the epidural until it's three in the morning and the anesthesiologist is at home sleeping. So for the next fer weeks and until delivery, you can expect some exciting story excerpts, random thoughts about writing, some edifying considerations on writing props such as ginger ale and tomato-based non-food (more on that in an upcoming post), as well as many overlong sentences.
Stay with us. Be good. Don't drink and write.