Upcoming Work


I’m very excited to find a home for my scifi piece ‘Netflix and Chill’ with Jeani Rector’s The Horror Zine. Print and Kindle copies of the Summer 2017 edition are available through Amazon. Some of my lighter pieces  (that often have scifi or magical realism elements) are freely available at Commuter Lit.

I’m having fun with breaking some boundaries with a lovelorn piece at Sick Lit and a gritty urban take on sex trafficking over at Feminine Collective. You HAVE to check these pubs out, truly amazing things are happening there. But, don’t worry horror and noir fans, I have work soon to appear in Yellow Mama (*waves hi to Cindy Rosmus*), Near to the Knuckle, and Black Petals. And of course, Twisted Sister.
Be sure to drop by all these fine folks and show them some love.

Sometimes an external view brings focus to a piece.

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Finding Place

Image - leftofurban

Image – leftofurban

One of the things I love in this great wide web of ours is connecting with new writers, or writers who may be new to me.

I’ve seen writers who only want to focus on one thing – be it sci fi in all its myriad forms, high fantasy, steamy romance, or post apocalyptic dystopian trilogies.

Personally, I like a combination of all of the above, sometimes together.

But, it gets kind of hard to find a place willing to take it. I recently wrote story that was rejected by a lit mag, and then another, and then I ended up in discussion with an editor at another zine, and we talked for a bit, and I took her suggestions, and tweaked the story to make it fit itself.

It was a matter of finding the true essence of the story, and following it, however it leads.

That story ended up being published at the first lit mag that originally rejected it. (You can check it out here.)

I kept working at the story, and made some changes to make the story tell itself. A POV shift added complexity and depth, and honestly that wasn’t happening before.

But I kept at it because I liked the story, and wanted to share it.

Which brings me to sharing your work. Because writers, no matter how secretive they may seem, want to share their stories with others. Its what keeps writing alive.

Sometimes, that story might only be shared with yourself, read months or years after writing it, and you shake your head in amazement or laugh. Or both. It is your story after all.

Sometimes that story might be shared only with someone you already share your bed with, or other aspects of your life. A close friend, or relative perhaps. And then that story lives between you.

But sharing your story with the world (or readers of whatever journal) is a whole other issue.

In querying different journals, the advice seems to be to read the publication, and submit work that is similar to what they’ve already published. This has a certain amount of sense to it, the guys over at Near to the Knuckle don’t want your Twilight-esque chick flick fiction, but the folks over at Twisted Sister might.

It’s all about finding a place for yourself.

And for me, with an inside view of the lit mag world, that’s where the magic really happens. Pulling together stories and writers of different styles, and somehow, when they’re together, they just work.

And a lit mag is born.

ESSAY — War of the Words

Image from Wikipedia Commons

Image from Wikipedia Commons

Stuff sells.

Somebody out there wants to buy whatever you’re selling, as long as you dress it up right. Advertising is powerful, and subversive, and a part of everyday life.

Most people are used to goods and services being sold – and have developed a pretty thick skin in the face of the adman’s pitch. What we’re not used to is the constant bombardment of ideas that are being consumed at lightening speed, around the globe. We have little time to process meaning or truth (all truths being relative) and go with a vague gut instinct, a ‘sounds about right to me’ way of understanding the world.

Which leads us to political rhetoric.

And that is truly scary – somehow or other, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, despite the throngs turned out to protest his inauguration and in such that the numbers of protestors far exceeded those attending the ceremony itself.

Clearly he’s not a popular guy, but he did win the popular vote. And that’s where things get weird.

The protests in themselves aren’t scary – it’s the voices defending Trump as president that drift into the weird zone. Defenders use short, statements that rely on simplistic truths and strange flips of logic and impositions of power on others. (I’m not going to discuss them all, just a couple common ones.)

Assertions stating that ‘he is your president’ and statements of ‘shut up and entertain us (act/play music/ write books) because we pay you to’ do a few things. They lay an implied claim upon the intended audience – a sense of ownership, and as such, the audience must perform in some way. The ‘he really is your president’ relies on a distorted notion of citizenship and patriotism – he is your president, your leader, and therefore you must respect his authority.

Uh, no thanks, I don’t. I can think what I’d like, because (a) I’m a Canadian, and he’s really not my president, and (b) even if he was, I’d be protected under the Constitution, and have the freedom to think and believe what I want.

(And honestly, if you know me at all, you’d know that no matter what, I’d question any kind of authority, never mind respect it. But I digress.)

The whole point of a democracy is so that the people themselves have a say in the system, their voices will be heard, and the right to dissenting opinions is respected (so long as they don’t impose on the rights of others.) Think the good ol’ American right to life, liberty, and freedom.

So, I can say and think what I want, and memes from Trump supporters aren’t going to change that.

But – and here’s the big but – it’s not about me, as the intended audience. Sure, I am anti-Trump. But his supporters don’t really care about convincing me – they care about convincing themselves (which is why the statements empower themselves, like claiming the ownership of entertainers. It’s a sort of anti-boogey man charm – you can’t hurt us, because we hold power over you.). They also care about convincing other less decisive voices, the sort of grey area of supporters, and by maintaining a strong image, the promote a decisive ideology of pro-patriotism (even if you don’t like the guy, you gotta respect him).

Sound familiar?

Think Nazi propaganda – identifying marginalized groups, purporting power of them through use of laws, words, and imagery, and maintaining that power at all costs.

Which is obvious when you see it in this context, but, in the world of memes and .05 second attention span, strange understandings become truths to uphold.

You must be patriotic, because otherwise you’re un-American.

We must learn to like Donald Trump, because he’s our president. (This relies on implied and absolute respect for authority, and adherence to patriotism as part of American identity and culture.)

Again, in this context, these statements are jarring instances of propaganda – but – they creep into memes and rapid fire social media discussion. And people, through lack of analysis, and unfamiliarity with this type of ‘advertising,’ and the cognitive demands of life in a fast-paced world – fall for it.

That is when the war of the words becomes truly terrifying – when people ‘on the fence’ about an issue (take Donald Trump for example) start to cave in through blanc mange justifications – sticky stuff, and without substance, but draws you through to the other side. And I’m seeing this in social media – people, very kind and well-intended, try to ‘make the best of things’, and accept ‘our new president’ for what he is.

And they’re turning.

This is where the true horror creeps in. People (formerly on the fence about an issue) start to slide toward one side or another, and the abhorrent nature of one side slowly dissolves into vague phrases and dreams of American ideology – apple pie, picket fences, and mom and pop.

Or, an Aryan race.

When you’re ‘trying to make the best of things’ and following a leader (because he’s your president, and to not do so would be ‘un-American’) you might find yourself going in a direction you never intended.

Don’t believe me?

Ask Germany.

*

This essay was based on my experiences writing advertising copy for various products and services, that are all a bunch of crap, but sold really well. Oh, and by the way, I’ve got some pink salt you might be interested in, mined from the ancient Himalayan mountains and imbued with holistic healing properties… and with no discernable difference between it and regular table salt – other than the price.

***

Liz McAdams is a short, sharp writer living in the wilds of Canada. Her work appears in the usual places, including Spelk, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey and scattered around Twisted Sister. You can check Liz out at https://lizmcadams.wordpress.com/

ALL WORK COPYRIGHT Liz McAdams (2017)

Image from Wikipedia Commons

 

I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you…

image - leftofurban

image – leftofurban

I might have been hiding out a little lately, but my work’s been getting around. You can find me featured at Scriggler, Channillo, hanging out at Yellow Mama and I’ve been visiting over at CommuterLit. I’ve been popping up in all kinds of strange places, and of course you can always find me at Twisted Sister.

In light of the recent US presidential inauguration, I’m really  feeling my sci fi noir-ish short story, The Man Who Knew (as well as a post apocalyptic dystopian novel I started over a year ago — I cannot believe the similarities as real life follows (still unfinished) fiction).

The Man Who Knew was featured both on Scriggler and Commuter Lit on the same day, and although originally rejected by Twisted Sister, it was used as a symbolic ‘flying at half-mast’ when Donald Trump was voted president elect. And for me, that is the power of the arts — when the artist can comment on a situation, and address a complex topic with accuracy, and insight, and in doing so, hopefully provoke greater thought than conventional discourse.

Writers, musicians, and artists have been doing this throughout history — seeing things for what they are, and, inspiring change. So in the spirit of the visionaries who came before me, I’m sharing this subversive story with you now.

The Man Who Knew

Frank looked up and nodded as I walked into the diner. From behind the breakfast bar the waitress smiled at me and picked up a stack of dishes, swiping at a table with a greasy rag. The breakfast rush was nearly over, the place slowly emptied as cabbies and cops dropped a couple quarters on the counter and turned to leave. Across the diner two business suits sat in the corner, both of them scanning the stock pages of the newspaper.

Busy, but not too busy. I saw why he’d want to meet here.

Sitting down beside Frank at the breakfast bar, I smiled at the waitress as she set a cup of coffee in front of me. “You know what you want, hon?”

I glanced over at Frank’s plate, toast and eggs, now half eaten. “I’ll take the special.”

“You got it, hon.”

As she walked away, Frank nodded at me. “You remember what happened with Kennedy?”

“Yeah, who could forget that shit.” I glanced down at my cup of coffee. “Wasn’t Jimmy supposed to be on him?”

He shrugged. “Had to miss. His wife went into the hospital, some kind of emergency appendix job.”

“She sick?”

He shrugged again. “Was fine when he went to work. Got the call before lunch.”

“Jesus – you mean –”

“Don’t know what they’ve got on you, Bob, but –” he stopped as the waitress wandered back down to our end of the breakfast bar, and he held out his cup. “Thanks.”

“Anytime, sugar,” and she wandered back, coffee pot still in hand.

Turned toward him, my voice lowered, “You mean they got stuff on me too.”

He held up his coffee cup, in the classic cheers motion.

“Oh shit. Irene and the boys.” My stomach dropped. “What do I do?”

“Whatever they tell you.” He stared down into his cup, his voice just a mumble. “Word is there’s gonna be some big shot coming through. Ambassador or something from some foreign country.”

“The Albania detail.”

“Yeah, where ever.” Staring down at his cup, he shifted in his seat. “Our guys can’t figure out where he came from, seemed to come out of nothing. No family, no people back in Albania.”

“Weird.”

Sipping his coffee, Frank nodded.

“So this nobody’s coming through, no big deal, right?”

“It’s a big deal.” He frowned, “Folks really seem to like him. Say he has a message of some kind.”

“Jeeze – there’s gonna be another one.”

Frank tipped his head, nodding slightly, and kept staring at his coffee.

“If this guy gets it – could be the start of a war. His people’d be all over it.”

Looking up, Frank’s eyes met mine. I never noticed the colour before, green-blue. Aqua. Irene’d say that colour’s aqua.

“What do I do?”

He shrugged. “Whatever the hell they want you to.”

*

Frank was right. I was assigned to that detail, and I wasn’t happy about it. Big political talk in a local park, a bandshell of all places; at the ambassador’s request, and impossible to secure. Even with extra men along the perimeter, guys in deep cover, it still wasn’t enough. Over the past couple weeks most of our guys were a little on edge, twitchy, even. There’d been a lot of talk in the papers. Folks seemed to love this ambassador, said he had great things to say, told the truth and would change everything. All that crap.

I was stationed right up by the stage.

Frank stood on the opposite side, and he nodded at me, once, then kept his eyes on the crowd. Watching for any sudden movement. Standing there in his sunglasses and suit with his magnum holstered beneath his jacket, he looked all business; but I could see the trickle of sweat run down the back of his neck.

I guess I looked the same. Tugging at my jacket in the heat of the day, I wiped the sweat from my brow. Sun was nearly straight over head. Gonna be a scorcher.

Both of us zeroed in on an old lady lurching toward the stage, she hobbled along, leaning hard on her cane with a huge bag flapping along behind her. The crowd pushed her around a little, and then suddenly parted and she sank into a seat. Front row.

Frank glanced over at me. Gotta watch her.

That oversized purse could be carrying anything, and she gripped a couple leaflets in her hand, her eyes wild with frenzy. As I watched, she cracked open the bag and pulled out a tin of mints, popping a couple in her mouth, her eyes still glued to the stage.

*

When the governor stepped out on stage the crowd stood up, straining forward. As I tried to keep my eye on the crowd, bodies shifted and moved together, like watching waves on the ocean; it was nearly impossible to see what was going on.

Details around this gig were hushed, and I knew our guys were out there in the middle of it, but there was no seeing them anywhere. The boys along the perimeter were buried out there too.

As the governor approached the microphone, a short bust of feedback squealed, and he stepped back, startled, and then started talking, his voice cracking a little under the strain. “Welcome, I – I’m very p-p-pleased to pleasant, uh, er, present our guest to our great nation…”

Nervous.

Something was up.

The governor continued. “Uh, yes, and present to you a man with, er, bringing words and wisdom…”

The noise of the crowd swallowed up his words.

I glanced over at the governor, and he looked ashen, like a performer forced into a part, and as the ambassador stepped out on stage he clapped politely, standing back from a distance. No handshake. No posing for the press, the governor just got the hell off that stage fast.

Oh shit.

As the ambassador approached the microphone, the crowd went wild, everybody rushing toward the stage. Even the old lady was on her feet, yelling something about God’s will.

I lost sight of Frank for a minute, and then as the ambassador started talking the crowd settled down. The ambassador’s voice was oddly quiet, and calm.

I couldn’t see what the big deal was about, he wasn’t one of those speakers that whipped the crowds into a frenzy, like the revival minsters speaking in tongues and handling serpents.

As I scanned the crowd, most of them were sitting on folding chairs, leaning forward and listening like they were school kids following the teacher at story time.

His words drifted around me, and they sounded kind of familiar, but I couldn’t place it.

“You have developed speed, but shut yourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left you in want. Your knowledge has made you cynical. Your cleverness, hard and unkind.” He kept droning in a flat tone, reminding me of a radio news announcer, with transmissions traveling over the airwaves.

As I scanned the crowd, the old lady was fanning herself with the leaflets, tears in her eyes. Most other folks looked about the same, like they were listening to something really important.

“You think too much and feel too little. More than machinery you need humanity. More than cleverness you need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

The ambassador paused, and I glanced up at him. Thin guy with long arms and legs, bulging forehead and big ears. His suit just hung off his skinny frame, but, as I looked back over the crowd, the ladies seemed to like him. Most of them were standing around, with tears in their eyes, staring up at him like he was a big time movie star.

He continued, talking in the quiet voice of his, just as calm as he was reading the newspaper, and droning on.

“I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. We all want to help one another. Living beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but you have lost the way.”

Folks were sitting stock still, listening, real quiet-like; so still, you coulda heard a penny drop. It reminded me of a movie about a hypnotist, putting everyone under a spell, and then a sharp crack rang out.

Gunshot.

Startled, my head swiveled to the side of the stage. A cloud of smoke hung in the air, and I caught a glimpse of Frank as he reholstered his gun, and stepped away from the crowd, cutting behind the bandshell.

I stood frozen, for a second and by the time I pulled out my gun, he looked over at me. Mouthed the words, ‘see ya,’ and disappeared.

I lowered my gun and stared after him.

“Get him outta here – Now!”

I jerked back to reality as voices swam around me, the crowd twisted upon itself. Half of them tried to push toward the stage, the others tried to turn and run and everyone was caught up in the confusion and noise; women were screaming and men were swearing and yelling.

To avoid the crowd, I hopped up on the stage behind me. A couple of our guys were bent over the ambassador, Regent was trying to cover him with a jacket. In rolled up shirt sleeves, a new recruit, just a kid, was pressing onto the ambassador’s chest, doing compressions, while the chief barked into his walkie talkie. “Medic – stat.”

“Get him outta here,” the chief jerked at the back of the stage. “Move him. Get him out.”

“Uh – gotta problem here guys.” The kid looked down at the body, and then held up his hands, palms out. They were covered in some kind of greenish goop.

“What the –” the chief leaned forward. Scattered droplets of red blood soaked through the ambassador’s shirt, and green stuff oozed out of a deeper wound.

“What’s that green shit?”

“He was bleeding, and then this started coming out of him.” The kid stared down at his palms.

“Hey, guys, we’re losing him,” Regent looked up at us. The ambassador choked, making deep sucking sounds of wetness rattling his lungs, and then arched backward. His arms and legs seemed to grow longer, thinner, stretching right out of his suit.

“What’s going on?” the chief stared down at the body.

“I – I don’t know.” The kid gaped, as the ambassador’s forehead bulged even more, swelling to the point of bursting.

A sudden burst of light struck the stage.

“Oh my fucking god,” the kid jumped back.

“Get down,” the chief yelled, all of us darting to the back of the stage, weapons at ready, we stared out. The crowd still pressed against the stage, voices and bodies caught in confusion, but where the ambassador was lying, there was nothing left but an empty jacket.

“What the hell just happened?” the kid glanced down at his hands, still covered in greenish crap. “Where’s the ambassador?”

We all stared at each other.

His words suddenly floated inside my head, “Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”

*

The ambassador’s speech is from Charlie Chaplin’s classic 1940 film, ‘The Great Dictator,’ a political satire comedy-drama film about the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany. This speech is deliberately used to highlight how throughout history saviours and prophets have appeared before us in various forms, yet we do fail to heed their simple message – be kind to everyone.

***

The Man Who Knew first appeared on Commuter Lit.

Liz McAdams is a short, sharp writer living in the wilds of Canada. Her work appears in the usual places, including Spelk, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey and scattered around Twisted Sister. You can check Liz out at https://lizmcadams.wordpress.com/

ALL WORK COPYRIGHT Liz McAdams (2016)

Fractured Fairy Tales — My new series at Channillo

I am very excited about my new series over at Channillo Fractured Fairy Tales, perfect for those who like their princesses less puffy and tulle-covered. Often darkly humourous, Fractured Fairy Tales are retold through a modern and feminist lens, and then twisted upon them selves into something else entirely.

Series Description:

Fairy tales, that staple of childhood imagination, have always been filled with excess – fairy godmothers, magical pumpkins, talking mirrors, and the usual assortment of woodland creatures that tend to follow princesses about.

In Fractured Fairy Tales magical excess is pushed right over the edge – with often darkly humorous results.

In Cinderella and the Probate Will, plain and simple Cinderella earns the equivalent of a law degree, reclaims her family estate, and then deals with her ‘Sweet Prince’ in a truly twisted manner.

And Snow White and the Miner’s Union end up restructuring the entire economy of ‘a land far away’ while finally resolving unhealthy stepmother-stepdaughter relationships – all with a bang.

And in Little Red Riding Hood, well, you don’t want to know what happened to that wolf.

Enjoy these, and other short stories, in the series Fractured Fairy Tales over at Channillo now. And, if you’re looking for a spooky read, my novella, Lot 149 is still over there as well.

Don’t forget my previous post about Channillo on this site.

lot-149