Gunn, The Muse


You know how some writers say their muse whispers in their ear? Mine does too, well, she did. Her name is Gunn. Lately she’s not whispering. She sits beside me making suggestions conversationally.

“So, wanna tell me why you’ve abandoned Butter?”

“I haven’t.” I protest.

“Yeah you did. You haven’t worked on her story in ages.”

“I got stuck. I had to let her story percolate. Like coffee. I need coffee…I wonder if there is any left in the pot.”

“How would I know, I’m not your assistant.”

(Gunn has a wee bit of attitude)

I roll my eyes and go into the kitchen. There’s no coffee, so I make a pot of half and half. Half decaf, half full strength.

“You know it won’t make a difference in how much sleep you get. You still won’t get a full night’s sleep.”

“I know,” I agree. The dog will still take most of the bed, right where I want to put my legs. The birds will still sing in the tree outside the window at four in the morning and my wife will still snore at five thirty. It makes no difference how much coffee I drink, decaffeinated or not.


“So you think you might finish this one?” Gunn asks as she leans toward the computer monitor.

“Yeah, I want to submit it to that online mag we found the other day.”

“Thought you were collecting your short stories and micro-fiction to put into that anthology you’ve been dreaming of for years?” She asks me.

“I am.” I pick up my mug, but it’s still empty. I give it a disapproving look and put it down.

Gunn watches me type for another few minutes. “No, you don’t want to have Devi do that yet. She has to flirt a bit before they hold hands.”

I side-eye her and re-read what I’ve written, and get disgruntled when I realize she’s right.

I hit the backspace key repeatedly, then re-type the scene. She must approve of the changes, because she says nothing more as I finish the section.


Finally, the story is at the three quarter mark. I’ve been worried about the five thousand word limit. When I hit my stride, I can be wordy. But I think I’ll make it this time. I move the cursor to the beginning and re-read the whole thing, nodding. Yep, I like this one.

“So, you’re really going to submit this?’ Gunn asks.

“Yeah, I think it might be one of my better ones.”

“And if that place doesn’t take it?”

“I might shop it around, or I might decide to keep it for the anthology.” I respond.

“You know, I think you could get a few stories out of a woman who can hop through universes. It’s not quite the Doctor, is it? Especially if you give her a girlfriend.” Gunn sounds ever so slightly impressed. “Never thought you could write speculative romance, but this is good.”

My coffee maker beeps to let me know the pot is done, and when I glance back toward Gunn, she is gone. I re-read the story again, smiling. I didn’t think I had it in me to write speculative romance either. I think I like where ‘what-if’ has taken me this time.

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Word of The Week



Today’s Word: schadenfreude

Pronunciation: [‘shahd-n-froi-dê]

Definition 1: Mischief-joy, pleasure in the misfortune of others.

Usage 1: This word is so typically German, that there is little to be done with it. It doesn’t even double as its own adjective felicitously. Just keep in mind that “sh” in German is spelled “sch” and that the vowels in “Freude” are pronounced like “Freud.”

Suggested usage: We suggest avoidance this word and the experience that accompanies it. Schadenfreude is a base substitute for pity, much more the human reaction to the misfortune of others. However, the driver of an old Ford pickup might get a twinge of schadenfreude at the sight of two Mercedes colliding. And if someone fell and broke their arm in the process of robbing your house, a modest touch of schadenfreude should do little damage to the soul.

Etymology: German schaden “to hurt” + Freude “joy.” “Schaden” comes from Old High German “skado,” which also devolved into English scathe “harm, hurt” via Old Norse “skaða.” “Freude” comes from Old High German “frewida,” akin to the same fro “happy” found in contemporary German fröhlich “happy.” Greek is one of the few other Indo-European languages with a native word expressing this unsavory emotional reaction: epichairekakia from epi- “on, over” + chair- “enjoy” + kakia “hurt, vice.” The Dutch equivalent is “leedvermaak” from leed “pain, sorrow” + vermaak “enjoyment” and in Swedish it is “skadeglädje.” (We owe a double debt of gratitude for today’s word to Trevor Wilcock of Halifax, England and Margot Fraser.)


Why We Need Queer Fairy Tales: Complicating the Happily Ever After

An interesting perspective on why we need more queer fairy tales and the witches, monsters and dragons that accompany them.

Over the Rainbow: Folk and Fairy Tales from the Margins

Why We Need Queer Fairy Tales:
Complicating the Happily Ever After

By Derek Newman-Stille


So many fairy tales end with a Happily Ever After that involves a straight relationship, as though everyone’s life becomes complete when boy meets girl. This is a message that is repeated to queer people through our heterosexist society – that life is only positive if it is heterosexual.

Narratives shape us and queer people are often confronted with narratives that tell us that we don’t belong in our own societies. We grow up with repeated messages that we don’t belong, that we are outsiders in our own societies. Like many of the heroines and heroes of fairy tales, we are left in a place without a home, without a sense of belonging to the world we grow up in. We are dislocated.

Fairy tales also provide a chance to change our circumstances. I have always…

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The Wilderness In My Soul


I’ve been writing for a number of years now, and over the years, my Muse has been both helpful and a fickle twit. Once upon a time, she abandoned me for nearly a decade. I thought I would be story-dry for the rest of my life.

Turns out, all I had to do was move back up north.

Once I settled back into a life among the wilds, my Muse raced back with a speed that was unsettling at times. It was as if she was perked up by pine-infused air, and boosted by birdsong!

One of the first short stories I began developing shortly after moving was inspired by taking my dog outside. As he was sniffing, I looked around me at our end of the valley. I was home, safe, cradled within the cliffs dotted with birch and maples. It wasn’t hard to imagine a young woman trying to climb over the ridges and make her way out of the valley. But what would make someone attempt such a hazardous trek? She has no choice…her survival, and that of her people, depends on her quest. It was easy to slip inside her skin as she huddled around her campfire that first night. She heard the coyotes that sang the song of their people outside my door. She heard the call of the owl in my backyard, and she saw the beaver that slapped its tail in the pond twenty feet away from my front door. That young woman, Butter, not only has to make her way in uncharted territory and survive in a wilderness she’s never experienced before, but she also has to decide if she can trust the outcast whose path she crosses. She cannot forget the point of her quest, either. To come back with a whole, living plant that will save her people and their future.

I am incredibly fortunate to live surrounded by trees, water and wild animals. This is a large part of my identity, both as a person and as a writer. But I have always felt the pull of the women whispering stories in my ear. The women explorers who curled up with their female companions at night. The women chasing convicted criminals across time and space. Those women that undertook impossible quests to save their people, and those that agreed to live with dragons and be a voice for her people. (Thankfully, my wife doesn’t mind sharing me with them!)

There is a growing library of work set in Canada, and for some reason, the majority of these seem to be either crime or romance. I’m fascinated and intrigued by the potential for speculative fiction here. I’ve found few pieces of fiction set in Northern Ontario. I hope to change that. I realize there may well be a small number of folks who are interested, but that’s the direction that my Muse has been tugging me. Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

I find further encouragement in the words of J.K Rowling, “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”

And on the days that I need just a bit more encouragement, I turn to this bit of wisdom from Eric Morgenstern, handwritten and taped near my computer.

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”

My Muse agrees.