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The Ugly Woman is now an e-book.

ugly woman smallMy recent Child of a Hidden Sea prequel, “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti,” is now available as an e-book. You can, of course, read it at for free, but if you prefer your Kindle, Kobo or Nook, the story is up at Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, and in the iStore.

Here’s a taste:
“Had that soldier heard of you?” Parrish asked.

Few people took notice of Gale, or remembered her when they did. This was the work of a spell her parents had written when she was a child, making her forgettable, beneath notice. They’d meant for it to keep her safe. They hadn’t foreseen that it would lead to her into spying.

“I’ve fallen into a reputation here in Erinth,” Gale said. “When I moved into the mistress suite—”

“Excuse me?”

“There are buildings, near the palazzo, reserved for courtiers and special pets of the Contessa. My home—”

“Castello di Putti, they call it,” Royl put in. “In Fleetspeak, Strumpet Court.”

One of the things I sheerly love about having my stories come out as Tor Originals is this spill out to the e-book world. I tend to write long stories (though I have been working on brevity, of late), and I think my usual 8,500 word length fits well with the e-book format. At a buck, they’re rather a good deal. And the folks at the Tor site showcase their authors’ work so beautifully, with superb covers. It’s heady to have an attractive shelf of my fiction readily available to anyone who wants it.

Chaos at the Casa

Some of you probably know that I am just back from a vacation in Austin, Texas. It was super to get away, to see dear friends and visit the desert. I kept about six hundred of the pictures I shot–we saw everything from scaled quail to a fox!–and these are percolating out to my various photo sites.

Coming up in the next very short while: I will be at the Ad Astra SF Convention this weekend. This’ll be your first chance, if you’re local, to hear me read from Child of a Hidden Sea. We are wrapping up the paperwork portion of our condo purchase next week, and plunging into a few necessary renovations before we move. My next UCLA Extension Writers’ Program course, Writing the Fantastic, opens on April 14th. (There may not be slots available right now, but if it has filled there is a waiting list.)

Then we move to the new place! In, seriously, three weeks!

Much is happening, in other words. How about all of you?

Telewitterings: Hannibal, a.k.a. When Crafters Attack!

imageSeason Two of Hannibal has begun and I am so happy to have it back. It’s stylish, gory, well-cast, and, as a weird bonus, filmed around here. Kelly walks past the building that plays Hannibal’s home and office on her way to work–it tickles us every time we see it on screen.
But geography aside, the show is about things that are dear to my heart: art, arts communities, and artistic critique.
The always-interesting serial killers in Hannibal are demented and horrifying artists. Or possibly, artistes. Hannibal is, of course, making food of his victims. In S1, we see killers making use out of human remains, over and over again, either sculpting the corpses directly or staging crime scenes around them. One makes throw pillows out of leather and hair; another prepares strings for musical instruments using his victim’s guts. There are body collages and mushroom farms.
Will Graham’s oft-repeated line as he assumes their point of view: this is my design.
There is an intense aesthetic sensibility to this show that pervades Hannibal the character and spreads outward, from him, to every element of the show.
Other crime dramas, of course, have put significant effort into creating disturbingly pretty crime scenes. Even some murder-of-the-week shows, like Life, did this. But Life would have been the same show, more or less, if the set dressers hadn’t bothered to take the occasional pre-Raphaelite extra, dress her in angel wings and crumple her beautifully all over the hood of a car. In Hannibal, this improbable design sensibility is integral to nearly every murder.
There is a degree to which these people are scrapbookers on a homicidal materials-collecting spree.
Within this entirely bent community, this fantasy circle of destructive creative spirits, artistic dialogs take place. Will Graham functions as a sort of critic, trying to understand what the killers are working to achieve and communicate. Interestingly, he’s an instructor when we first see him. It’s an interesting riff on that old saw: “Those who can’t do, teach.”
Killers imitate each other on this show, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. They embroider on each other’s themes. When they get called out for plagiarism, heads can literally roll.
The process begins in the very first episode of S1. When Hannibal takes on the role of copycat killer to the Minnesota Shrike, he stages a crime scene whose explicit intent is to show Will the Shrike… by demonstrating all the things he isn’t. He creates a corpse-sculpture that is a reverse image of the Shrike’s work.
It is the beginning of Hannibal’s obsessive fascination with Will Graham. As the person who is both an expert in the field and who stands apart from its practitioners, it is Will whose understanding Hannibal craves. He wants to hear what Will thinks about his “work.” He wants to draw him into participating more actively. He wants to be seen, even though courting Will’s comprehension is an immense risk.
It is a strange and compelling portrayal of monster as aesthete, demon as artist. It’s gruesome and scary and weird, and I don’t know, yet, what the show will ultimately say about the practice of art. I am incredibly excited, though, to see where they go next.

Toronto: Day 293 (Nice Ice Lady)

When I lived in Alberta, I hated winter. I hated waking up in darkness and leaving school or work in the black.  I hated being wet of foot, dry of skin, and bone-chilled every time I came in from outside. I hated mushing around in heavy winds while snow accumulated on my forehead, melted its way down my face and glued my glasses to my nose.
I hated forty below for weeks on end and occasionally getting into cars that were iceboxes and shivering all the way across town in same, arriving–inevitably–five minutes after the crappy heaters had begun to pretend to kick in.
Here in Southern Ontario, we are reportedly having the worst winter in twenty or so years. It has snowed often. It has been twenty below three or four times.
Now, here, I have a warm feather-filled bag that covers me from crown to toe. I have sweaters, and thermal tights and toasty waterproof boots. Good stuff, none of which had to be bought by a parent who was weighing a certain amount of poverty against the general concept of Why buy quality for a kid who’ll outgrow this all in a year?
Even in the chill, it has been sunny, so sunny. The amount of light here is amazing. Hazy days seem few and far between.
And you may have noticed that I am nuts for icicles.

This isn’t a new thing. I would try to get good icicle pictures in Vancouver, or on our trips to the Prairies to see the kin. Opportunities were few and far between, but I tried. Here… ha! The old gutters on all these picturesque Victorian houses overflow, and ice over, and spill. Constantly! The resulting frozen structures are spectacular. They stay in place until the light’s good. You can get close to and atop them. You can get under.
Which would be how I’ve worked out that any patch of ground beneath a good series of icicles is also slippery as shit.
Anyway. It’s March. Nobody in Vancouver has sent me a crocus photo yet, though I did make a point of telling all my west coast loved ones that they should gloat. This winter, this unusually cold and terrible winter–as the locals would have it–I have been cold and miserable and sad to be outside all of twice.
It feels like I’ve gotten away with something.
I haven’t enjoyed everything. I am a bit tired of bundling up, which is a wearying chore. I have realized or remembered that the primary thing that I dislike about snow is the stage where it’s dirty and festooned in various types of dog waste.
I am also headed somewhere warm in a couple of weeks. And, in the meantime, here’s some ice for you all.

Friday Instagrams

I told @camillealexa that my necklaces disappeared in the move and so she gave me this birdie.King street rocket at sunset. Go TTC go!Icicles on a water pipe, Queen West.InstagramsInstagramsThe CN Tower stumbled into some good light today. Clouds!
Someone on FB asked me what the inside of @ROMToronto looked like... so here's some!The spectacular facade of @ROMtoronto.Me signing books at the Ontario Library Association superconference yesterday, courtesy @raincoastbooks.Statue from @ROMtoronto. I love the way wood sculptures break down--somehow, it speaks to me.Sea horses are so funky and alien looking.Alewives ascending.
Backstage at Ripley's Aquarium: where the water comes from.Jellies! Gotta love them!Toronto Photo goes to Ripley'sToronto Photo goes to Ripley'sMotion in the ocean, ooh, ahh!Probably my most romantic shark shot.
Shark teeth... overhead? Trippy experience in the Ripley's tunnel.Up against the (jellyfish) wall with the #TOPhoto peeps at #ripleysaquarium.Sea jellies are so irresistible to photographers!View from the Grange, Art Gallery of Ontario. Playing at being the kind of olde fashioned lady who has a "The Club."Inflatable white dudes keep an eye on our favorite bakery, Forno Cultura, from the corner of King & Portland.Charcuterie plate waiting for homebaked crackers! Mmmm.

Instagrams, a set on Flickr.

It has been a remarkably intense and stressful week, filled with medium-crappy incidents. The kinds of thing that aren’t life shattering in any sense, but that do make one grumpy and frustrated and less capable of appreciating the good.

There was good. Most recently, we had dinner with an old friend and her partner yesterday evening, and then went to his art opening. The recent snowstorm, which is where the icicle shot comes from, was thoroughly fantastic. One thing that I thought was going to be very hard turned out to be pretty easy.

Life. As always, the mixed bag. But here are pics and captions for you all.

Being the sentimental part of the #alyxkelly25 project

There’s a line early in The Winslow Boy: “Let’s take the sentimental part of the project for granted,” it goes. It’s a dad’s way of saying to a young man, “I get you’re in love with my daughter, but let’s not go talking about all these feels of yours, all right?”

To which I say Fuck That! If I’m gonna make a big public fuss over my anniversary, let’s lead with emotion.

I fell irrevocably in love with my wife Kelly when I saw her dancing at a bagpipe funk concert sponsored by the Lethbridge Folk Festival, back in the late Eighties. I remember the moment. The thunderbolt. We’d been friends awhile, had gone to the concert together, but boom. Everything changed. And that night she slept over at my place and…

… and nothing happened. No romance, no heartfelt confessions. I was dating someone else, see.

(Which was a situation that went on, messily, for rather an embarrassingly long while. It took time for me to get my head out of Denialsville, otherwise known as my ass, and the rest of me out of the prior relationship.)

This thing K and I have, it is the billion dollar lottery win. It is the One True Love™. It is hearts and flowers; the glass slipper. It has the feel of fate, and tastes of the marrow-deep conviction that there is no other. All those schmaltzy “two hearts beating as one” lyrics and greeting cards may as well have been written for us.

And though it doesn’t feel anything but right, it’s easy to see from a distance that it’s weird, because I’m a pragmatic, tough-minded and generally rational being, with little patience for magical thinking. My head doesn’t take seriously the proposal that in a world filled with billions, each of us has one other half whom they might never actually meet. I’ve watched Tim Minchin’s lengthy, slightly NSFW, “If I Didn’t Have You” a hundred times because I love it. (Thanks, Linda C, for that!)

And my brain buys in, utterly. Perhaps especially the part of love being made more powerful by the trauma of shared existence.

Logic aside, I live the happily ever after implied in every Austen novel and romantic comedy. The right person came along for me, the One. And that, my friends, is that. I love Kelly with a passion that borders on worship.

I am incredibly, unbelievably fortunate.