March 28, 2012

CKUT Interview with Kathyrn Butler

We were lucky enough to be interviewed by Kathryn Butler of CKUT earlier this month. It was right before our issue 6 launch (thanks again to everyone for coming!) so we were pretty excited about the whole project. Kathryn did a very good job of making us sound much more on-point than we actually were, but I don't want to ruin the illusion too much, so here is a link to the interview.

If you have more questions that you would like us to answer, please send them to us as comments or emails. We would be happy to hold onto that feeling of being media icons :) Thank you -- Alex Newcombe

March 21, 2012

What Did You Think of the Launch?

Spring was making a discreet appearance in the fog on Friday, as we gathered for the launch.  Dozens of poeple packed the Cagibi, a nicely decrepit café on St-Viateur.  We drank and ate and talked.  We listened to music and wrote,  while mist covered the windows.
            Here Be Monsters launches mark time for me, like a little pause in our hectic lives to live our passion for stories.  I’m always humbled by how many people come to share that with us.  It’s an amazing feeling, and I always end the night with a nicely swollen ego.
            What I mean to say is, we had a great time (but being a writer, I needed two paragraphs to get there).  And now, I’d like to ask you how you liked it.  What did you enjoy?  And most of all, do you have any suggestions to make our future launches even better?  As an example, we’ve been talking about asking people to participate in the prompt-writing.  What do you think of that?  Would you do it?  Or at least would you enjoy watching new, different people struggle with impossible combinations of ideas and then look awkward on stage reading their stories?
            Anyway, if you want to take a minute to send us your comments, it’d be greatly appreciated.

            We’d also like to thank everyone who helped us bring about issue 6: Alana Newcombe (graphic design), Annabelle Métayer (cover art), Parissa Mohit (book trailer), Sam LeClair (editing), and all the writers whose work appears in the issue: Anna Avdeeva, Kim Goldberg, Tyler MacFarlane, Molly Lynch, Ira Nayman, Justin Joschko and Ben Lemieux.  Thanks also to Le Cagibi for being wonderful hosts, and to Sam LeClair and Nathan Wilsonand the Byrd of Prey for the gift of their wonderful music.

            See you soon.  And don’t forget that Issue 6 is now out, and also available online.

March 15, 2012

An Excerpt From Molly Lynch's USS Roosevelt

Here is our last excerpt before the launch tomorrow.  It's the opening of USS Roosevelt, by Molly Lynch.  It's a wonderfully rich and complex story about a retired aircraft carrier that's turned into a country.  Yes, I know, I wish I'd had that idea myself.

On August 7th 1977, Columbia law graduate June Ashland and CUNY English professor, Cormac Madden boarded the ex-USS Roosevelt, a defunct military aircraft carrier anchored in the Bay of Maine. The 700 thousand ton hull had been stripped of its armor and armament, its air-traffic-control equipment and twelve hundred beds, in preparation for sinking. When the couple were confronted by armed coastguard, the young law student held a megaphone to her mouth and read out the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. She followed this with section two of the Civic Land Use Act, declaring that, as the ship had been gifted by the US Navy to the people of Maine, it thereby fell into the category of property deemed accessible to the public.
After maintaining open and continuous possession of the vessel for twelve consecutive months (receiving supplies from a network of international supporters), the couple put forth an official “claim of title based on adverse possession.” Then, with the nautical and engineering aid of a small crew of supporters (including three Caribbean coca traffickers and two Cuban secret envoys to the US), the archaic engines were set in motion and the vessel was taken out to sea. 159 miles east of Nova Scotia, they stalled the giant engines and anchored the rig in international waters.
Two days later, June went into labour, and with the guidance of the NYPD manual on emergency delivery, Cormac cut the umbilical cord of their first daughter, Dashiell Ashland Madden. On August 13th 1978, June hoisted a six-coloured surrealist painting of a galaxy of fish over the ship and renounced her American citizenship. Cormac tossed his Green Card into the Atlantic, tore up his Irish birth certificate and the couple declared legal sovereignty over Roosevelt Island, the first North American Marxist Democracy. Baby Dashiell was the country’s first naturalized citizen.

Molly Lynch writes fiction and poetry.  She grew up in the woods in BC, studied English and religion at Concordia in Montreal and is presently completing her MA in creative writing  at the University of Toronto.  She has recently finished her first novel.

March 13, 2012

An Excerpt From Ben Lemieux's Grace

Today we present another excerpt from issue 6, as we gear up for the launch on Friday.  This one is from Grace, by Ben Lemieux.  It's a poetic and haunting story, and I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  He claims it's his first work of fiction, which makes me extremely jealous.
See you on Friday!

      The old woman shuffled slowly through the spring heat, eyes fixed on the footpath before her. Long had Grace lived in the world of her mind, far removed from the clank of the streetcars, clamour of car horns, and the shouting of vagrants and hustlers who the city had long since forgotten.
      In every town the methods are different but patterns of neglect the same. At first a person may be dismissed from a job or church group, since not everyone proves to be cut of fibre resilient or effervescent enough to have an impact on the world or community around them. Those people whose desks the discarded used to pass in the morning or whose lunches they used to share soon become like strangers or acquaintances they may have last seen at a long-ago party. Like smoke from a candle blown out.
       A person may become lonesome, reclusive, and morose. They may become a financial or emotional burden on their relatives or close friends; a burden that no one is
any longer willing to bear.
       Before long, even the small courtesies exchanged with strangers and passers-by will disappear from view, and a world that took a lifetime to build will be reduced to the mutterings and hazy memories of another new dweller of the city’s underbelly. And their existence, once brimming with the passion and alacrity of youth, will become as fragile and delicate as a desiccated plant bending under the weight of the atmosphere. If one were to pick the city up by its heels and shake it out like a dusty carpet, people such as Grace would fall off and be taken by the wind. Those remaining would tread along streets noticeably less cluttered and reverberant but would never once ask themselves how or why it was any different. Most cities had forgotten how its streets were supposed to feel long ago.

Ben Lemieux is a London (UK)-based writer whose work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, entertainment and financial websites, and business-to-business publications. “Grace” is his first work of fiction.
He will always remain a Montrealer at heart, having grown up in Mile End, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science from McGill University, and later serving with the Canadian Grenadier Guards.
He can be found in coffee shops and music nights around Hackney.

March 11, 2012

Lamiai Excerpt

This was one of the first stories that stood out to me from our batch of submissions for Issue 6. Anna Avdeeva has crafted a tense horror story that is also full of historical detail. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did. Here is the beginning of "Lamiai":

Ancient Athens, 3rd century BC.

"If you don't go to bed immediately, the Lamiai will come and get you," Melantho said.
The girl gasped and dropped the rag doll she was about to throw at the nurse.
"Oh, they will come," the older woman grumbled. "The Lamiai have black snake-like hair and long fingers with claws – all the better to grab naughty children!"
With this, she lifted her four-year-old ward and hoisted her into the crib.
 "I don't want to go to bed!" The girl made a face and waved her arms at Melantho.
"Don't be so difficult." Melantho unwrapped the child's thin chiton. "Close your little bright eyes. If you don't, Empousa will come. She is the Lamiai's leader and the most vicious of them. She snatches little children who refuse to sleep at night, carries them into the wild hills and sucks out their sweet blood.
The girl shut her eyes tightly and pulled the woolen coverlet up to her ears. If her mother was there, Melantho would have had to resort to long-winded blandishment, promises and lullabies: lady Timeia disapproved of horror stories, but Melantho had been a midwife, wet-nurse and nanny longer than Timeia a mother; she knew that fear was the most efficient tool for calming uncontrollable children.
Melantho adjusted the coverlet so that the girl wouldn't suffocate. She walked around the gynaikeon strewn with rag-dolls, laying with their embroidered faces up or down like city-dwellers after the plague, which, thank gods, passed this household by. Melantho picked them up and placed them into a big basket. Then she straightened her back with a grunt, perched on the edge of her own cot and trimmed the wick of an oil-lamp which had been smoking quietly on the night-stand by the headboard.
"Nani, nani, mikro nani..." she chanted to the girl who remained immobile under a weight of fear. Soon enough the child let out a sigh of relief and went limp, very much like a rag-doll with flaxen hair herself.
Pre-sunset glow seeped through a tiny window closed with a stretched sheep's gut; on its way to the windowless women's bedroom it waned and wore out. Darkness fell swiftly; soon lady Timeia and her sister-in-law would come back from the inner courtyard, where they had been enjoying the last of the fair weather, looms and spindles in hand.
Once the girl had been settled, the nurse had every right to go to bed herself, but it seemed a shame to waste the residual light and warmth of the dying day. With a glance she made sure her ward was sleeping and went into the women's chamber. The gloomy corridor in front of her was empty, but the room behind her suddenly held its breath. Melantho froze in her tracks. Someone sighed, adjusted a rustling garment. Melantho crossed her fingers against the evil eye and looked back. The girl was quiet. The nurse recovered her wind and scurried to the exit as fast as her grating joints would allow. 

Anna Avdeeva is a poetess and fiction-writer. Her main interests are linguistics and ancient history - things that connect people through time and space. She recently graduated with a BA in Greek and Roman studies and currently works and resides in Ottawa, Canada. 

March 8, 2012

Working on Digital Editions

Here at HBM headquarters, we're always working on new technology and fantastic inventions. However, we're not ready to share our trans-dimensional coffee injection apparatus quite yet, so instead I'm going to talk about our digital edition/ebook.

We've wanted to do an ebook version of Here Be Monsters for quite a while, and we've heard from several of our readers that they would prefer that to a paper edition. With issue 6 being a kind of rebirth of HBM, it seemed like the perfect time to do it.

What I thought would be an easy process, given that InDesign has a function called "Export to EPUB", was actually fairly complex. It took a lot of experimentation, consulting online resources, and honestly a little bit of dumb luck to figure out how to make an ebook of the same quality as our printed book. We wanted to make sure it had pictures that worked well in the format, and links that made it easy to navigate (plus weblinks to handy places like this blog!). But it is almost done now, and I'm very proud to say that HBM will have electronic versions ready to go at the launch of issue 6.

Currently we have Epub version which will be available directly from our site, and a Kindle version available through Amazon. There may be more versions on the way, so we'll keep you posted via this blog and our facebook page when they show up.

If you have any questions about this, or requests for specific formats/distributors, please let us know either here or through our email.

Thank you,

Alex Newcombe

March 7, 2012

Exerpt From Vincent Mackay's One Move From Checkmate

Today we post an excerpt from my own story, One Move From Checkmate, to be published in issue 6.  It's a strange story that came to me while I was walking in the suburbs of Ottawa, on a snowy night in late december.  I hope you enjoy it.

The parking lot was empty now, except for Vesel's own black Kia, already half-buried in snow. In the distance, he saw the big “Happy New Year” spelled in white Christmas lights on the stock exchange tower. The digital clock’s red numerals under it read 19:00. It was time. He finished his cold coffee, stood and hitched up his pants.
The door was solid oak, or mahogany, or something expensive: it was in the management section. The sign on it read Conference Room 0089-1. Every year, Vesel wished for a loftier name for his battlefield, but he knew he had no say on the rules of engagement. That was above his pay grade.
He dug into his jacket and retrieved the little chrome Tim Horton’s key ring that held his Player key. Its weight in his hand gave him some form of courage. All year long, he trained in bleak community centers where the best players gathered. He read, meditated, played online against man and machine, all for this last night of the year. And, if he failed, maybe the last of all years. Come to think of it, the weight of a promotional key ring was probably not enough.
He started to sweat, turned the key and entered Conference Room 0089-1.

Vincent Mackay enjoys stories of things about to end.  He likes to find humour in deadly and desperate situations, which makes him wonder about his mental health, but not for long, since he has the attention span of his seven-month old son.   What was I saying?

March 4, 2012

An excerpt from Justin Joschko's Statues

Our next excerpt is from a great story with a  mysterious feel and a fast pace. I found the tone and description just right to allow me to be in the same place as the characters... whether I wanted to be there or not. The descriptions were familiar and drew out the imagination, rather than force it.

... I have now spent more time than I would like at my key board reflecting on how to use a certain phrase... it isn't going to happen. It might be easier to draw blood from a stone... So, I present an excerpt from Justin Joschko's Statues.
Dawn came in full plumage, its brilliant colours undiluted by the light pollution that leaves city sunrises looking washed-out and grainy – old footage poorly stored. I greeted it amicably on our veranda, a mug of green tea cradled in my lap, then went inside to wake the others. We’d agreed on an early start. Tonya was already awake, reading by the sunlight streaming through the slightly parted curtains of a nearby window. Kyle, however, required some prodding, shaking, and a semi-serious threat from both Tonya and I that we would leave without him. Grumbling, he dressed, and the three of us set off.
The road undulated beneath us, rising and falling with the land and weaving around large outcrops of stone. The radio dissolved into static as we progressed and by the time we approached Verde, we could hear only the purr of the engine and the occasional rustle of one of us shifting in our seat.
The town came suddenly and without fanfare. A small sign, its edges jagged with rust, announced our arrival at Verde, population 300. The trees spread out, revealing a single road lined on each side with clapboard buildings, a few tributary cul-de-sacs branching off from time to time. We stopped the car and got out.
“Well,” Tonya said, “it certainly doesn’t seem occupied.”
“Told you,” replied Kyle.
The town was windswept and solemn, its air heavy and somehow stale, though the surrounding forest should have produced the opposite effect. It felt wrong, though there was nothing overt that would have made it so— there were no shattered windows or spray paint tags or other marks of vandalism, no signs of poverty or despair amongst the disappeared populace, no apparent natural or chemical disaster that might have driven the people who had once lived here away. Only the statues.
Tonya was the first among us to approach one of them.
Justin Joschko is a freelance writer residing in Ottawa, Ontario. His work has appeared in echolocation magazine. He writes and draws the weekly web-comic series Flannery Row.

March 1, 2012

Ripples, Or Making a Book Trailer

Today we're releasing our all-new (and very first) book trailer.  As with pretty much all things Here Be Monsters, it was created by using (read: exploiting) our talented friends.  In this case, it's the work of Parissa Mohit, a friend and incredible filmmaker and animator.  We are honoured to have her contribute to our project.
Which brings me to something that struck me recently while thinking about Here Be Monsters (which, obviously, I do a lot of, oh narcissistic me).  I realized how creative projects tend to generate more creativity.  A sort of ripple effect of creation, if you will, that spreads and builds and swells and motivates other artists of all kind to go places they might not have ventured had not this first project happened.
What made me think of that was actually making this book trailer.  I started by writing a very basic script of a few sentences, with a few indications of some beats and a few things my completely non-visual brain thought would be cool.  Then I showed it to Parissa (first ripple), and told her to use it or not, as she probably knew much better than I did what would work and what would be an unadulterated catastrophe.  She looked at it, and immediately suggested we use as a background the amazing cover illustration Annabelle made for us, and base the animation on that (second ripple).
Then I suggested I could make the music with my band, Les Ordures Ménagères, (third ripple, albeit self-directed).  As Parissa went away to work on the film, I went to my friend and band drummer Olivier Dufault.  I told him about the project, and we settled in our practice space to come up with something together.  We made a first song, mostly from a keyboard line I produced.  It was alright, but kind of boring.  So I told Olivier: "You know that weird thing you do involving contact mikes on your drum kit, effect pedals, amps, pre-amps and a mixer, and that I really don't understand but sounds really cool?  Well we should use that".  So he played something really cool (fourth ripple), I added some keyboard to it, and we tried to record it.
The recording didn't sound very good, but the piece was exactly what I wanted.  So we asked third Ordure Ménagères band member Jérome Simard, who knows his way around all kinds of arcane recording devices, to rip himself away from his newborn baby, and come give us a hand.  Which he did (fifth ripple), recording something of incredible quality in a space that was not soundproofed (we could hear some Tom Waits and some Ozzy Osbourne being partially massacred next door), using only two mikes and a very basic console, on a laptop that is so old that creationists would probably believe it has never existed.
So, what I'm saying is, we're really lucky to be surrounded by such talented people, and that they're willing to work with us with such enthusiasm.  But I also believe that enthusiasm begets enthusiasm, and that once you start a creative project, it attracts creativity from all around.
So check out our trailer, and enjoy.