Authors in Quarantine – Liz Westbrook-Trenholm

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

COVID fashion statement: bleachy duds and shaggy hair.

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID outbreak?

Liz Westbrook-Trenholm: Domesticity way up, writing way down.

I’ve been washing and bleaching everything inside and from outside our home, baking comfort foods, (state of emergency diet now enacted for the month of May) and sewing (searching for the most bearable face mask), all while listening to audiobooks, all cozy and historical mysteries as I seek respite from COVID news.

Routine has become strict and rarely varied. First it’smorning coffee, when we mutually drown in the firehose of social media, followed by a few hours spent on projectsuntil it’s time for an afternoon walk timed to beat the 3-5 pm jogging and biking rush hour on our preferred nature paths. We come back, dry off (we go in all weathers), readand play board games until wine-time, dinner, chat and music. Our day concludes with TV and bed. Rinse and repeat. Every day.

Excitement is laundry day, a video chat with a friend or relative, or Hayden’s weekly trip to the grocery store, me waiting at home for my hunter/gatherer (he has better lifting power than I do and we don’t run a car) to bring our weekly food, which I dunk in bleach mixture, except for eggs. Trust me, eggs in soggy cardboard containers do not go well. 

​The routine is comforting, at first, giving a sense of control to the uncontrollable situation we all find ourselves inhabiting. How can we react to the endless torrent of sorrow, disaster, fear and conflicting advice pouring from our media? Why, bake cinnamon buns, what else?

Aaaand it doesn’t take long for the comfortable routine to become a prison. Hayden starts taking dyspeptic pictures of himself in his bathrobe and turning them into silly gifs. I’m trying one hair style after another. After gentle discussion, we decide we need to schedule in some spontaneity. We write lots of activities on slips of paper which go into a cookie tin. (Hayden rejects ‘give each other haircuts’) We pull one out every couple of days when we get edgy. Sometimes just a game we haven’tplayed forever. Reading to each other, possibly with dramatizations. Looking at photos from years ago. A take-out Mexican food fiesta. Birthday party, with home-made hats (I knew there was a reason I’d kept a shoebox of orphaned earrings and feathers for decades). Other activities that are MYOB, so there. It’s not so much what we do, but that we burst out of the wire cage of routine we’ve built, and change things up a little. It’s surprisingly refreshing. Sex in the afternoon is awesome. Oops. I said I wouldn’t talk about that.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Liz Westbrook-Trenholm: All of which spills over into how we deal with social distancing. Note the ‘we’. This would not be possible without each other. Always a close couple, a kind of two-person party, we’ve become, if anything, even closer, more careful and tender. Of course, it was disappointing for two inveterate travellers like us to see our plans collapse and our world shrink to only anywhere we can walk to. We can get tetchy, but we cut each other slack when the black dog drops by, or when one or the other wants to be all alone. We don’t take offense. It all makes sense. An old friend once said, “Where is it written you should be happy?” Sometimes it’s necessary to sit under the dark cloud and just breathe until the sun comes out again. It does come out again.

That being said, we work hard at keeping in touch with others via Zoom, Facebook chat, phone, email and text – whatever medium works best for each. We have especially upped our calls with family. I talk often now with my daughter who is distancing alone in London (the UK one). She’s worked out some solutions and has produced some powerful art in her off-work time, but it got pretty dark and desperate before she found her COVID groove.My sister and I vent constantly, bless her for being there.Calling friends and acquaintances and hearing that they’reokay releases swacks of relieved endorphins and hugely shortens the list of people I have to worry about. If they’renot okay, I’m there to hear it out and keep in touch. Sharing their burden paradoxically lessens mine.

​Another side-effect is my tendency to babble uncontrollably at sight of another human. I strike up two-meter distance chit-chat with total strangers or the pharmacy clerk behind her plexi-glass shield. My urge to chat about anything anything at all, at some length, is difficult to contain. I try. Truly I try. Let me tell you ALL about it sometime.

​I’m also thinking about what comes next as treatments and, we hope, vaccines evolve over the coming one or two years. Years. Yeah. As an asthmatic baby boomer smack dab in the middle of one of the at-risk demographics, I’ll need to keep shying away from close contact with anyone who might be a carrier. While we’veall been in it together, it’s been do-able. When I become a minority, it’ll pose new challenges. My friends with disabilities and health issues are nodding their heads with grim grins and saying, ‘Yuh-huh. Tell us about it.” No need. In sharing your stories and concerns, you gave the world a lot of information and demonstrated a lot of coping strategies, long before COVID came along. I expect to be using them shortly! I’ll likely write about it.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Liz Westbrook-Trenholm: The times have affected my writing in two main ways. One is that I have done much less. My writing often takes me deep into dark corners and edgy issues that can leave me drained. I’ve been a little nervous to approach it.

But now, after a hiatus for bleaching and retreat, I find I’m approaching it with a gentle, cozy style. A young woman, a run-away on her last legs, physically and psychologically, falls into a carefully dug hole in the middle of a forest. She looks up from the pre-dug grave at a man silhouetted against the dawn who says, “That’s mine.” And they go from there, into a gentle interaction of restoration and understanding between generations.

Or the old woman, isolating alone in her apartment, who opens her door to the god of the underworld in the form of a lost toddler in a really odious diaper. She draws him into her home and nurtures him, fearless and practical. What deal will they cut when he reaches his full size? 

End of life is a theme in the back of mind for all of us right now and in both of these stories. It’s a topic that turns up in my fiction regularly, but in these, my emerging ‘COVID’ stories, I find the characters less fierce and more wise and accepting than my frequently angry, feisty dames. 

So. How about that COVID thing, eh? Who among us thought we’d be living through history in the making? How can anything be the same again, any more than it was after the plague years, or the potato famine, or the abolition of slavery in the west, or the world wars? So many scabs have been ripped off our social shortcomings. So much strength and ability has emerged, showing us what we, as a society, could be. What will we do with it? Where will we take this experience, both within ourselves and in the way we interact with each other? Now, there’s a good writing topic for any spec fic writer.


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Authors in Quarantine – Corey Redekop

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Corey Redekop: After a few hectic weeks of OMIGODWE’REALLGOINGTODIEREALSOON, I’ve managed to settle my mental state down a touch. If you consider that Stage One of self-isolation, Stage Two is the slightly more optimistic MAYBEWEWON’TDIEBUTHOLYGODTHISISTERRIBLE. I’m not at all certain of how many stages there are to this pandemic, but I’m glad to not having yet reached the Stage of MYHAIRCUTISMOREIMPORTANTTHANYOURLIFE.

Beyond that, I’ve got plenty of free time, being “temporarily furloughed” and all. I still work (very) part-time for Goose Lane Editions as their Social Media Maven, so I spend a small part of each day wading through online sites, looking for anything literary and/or marginally hopeful to share. I’ve tried a little baking, to mixed success; my bread is always fantastically heavy, but I’ve managed to produce a passable tea biscuit. I’m reading as much as ever—usually between 6-10 books a month—and I’m also trying to read at least one short story a day to keep myself interested (and to better get through my huge TBR pile).

I finally caved and subscribed to CRAVE, so I’ve binged a few shows, Watchmenand Devs being the highlights. I’m currently watching The Outsider, and I may go on to Penny Dreadful and Westworld afterward.

My usual job keeps me fairly active, so there has been a marked decrease in my exercise. I’ve quickly gained what I shall refer to as “The Epidemic Eight” and I’m well on my way to “The Quarantine Twenty.” The weighty bread does not help. I try to walk every day, but there’s only so many times you can look at the same streets without getting bored. Listening to podcasts helps; I recommend We Hate Movies, Teacher’s Lounge, and anything with Paul F. Tompkins.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Corey Redekop: I’ve never been the most outgoing personality, so I’m well-suited to bunker-style living thus far. I do miss the occasional night of board games with friends, but we’re looking into online options. And I really miss going to movies. I count myself lucky in that my last moviegoing experience was the excellent Parasite. I have a few online friends who must suffer a lackluster night of Bloodshot to fondly look back on.

When I do leave the house, I take all steps required to stay away and apart from others, wearing a mask when necessary and being respectful of others’ personal space. I see footage online of people refusing to take such measures, protesting for their right to get sick and die, which I suppose is… a choice? I try not to despair, but when politicians advocate for death over the economy — when people argue that their right to a haircut takes precedent over my health — it’s difficult to stay positive. 

Is humanity reallythis self-centered and stupid, Magic 8-Ball? All signs point to yes. White men, anyway.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Corey Redekop: Not much. It’s fortunate (in this exact scenario alone) that I’m a tremendously undisciplined and erratic writer. The impact on my creative product has been minimal.

havetaken major steps on finishing a novel I’ve been toying with for years. However, my cat of eleven years suddenly passed away a few weeks ago, which utterly wrecked me. I’m slowly coming around, but I still expect this silly, clumsy ball of fluff to be wandering around my office and squeaking for attention. It’s like phantom limb syndrome; I find myself reaching for her, and I’m still surprised when she’s not there anymore. Phantom pet syndrome. My brain acknowledges that she’s absent, but my body refuses the proof.

I’m getting back to writing, and I think I can have the first draft done by July. Thus far the book is wildly inconsistent in tone and plot development, there are scads of scenes that demand to be thrown out, I know I’ve forgotten about at least two characters, and I don’t know if the mystery aspect of it works at all. But hey, isn’t that what first drafts are for? My buddy Randal Graham (of the deliriously funny Beforelife) has given me valuable feedback and, perhaps more importantly, heaps of praise. 

Like most authors, I remain convinced and/or deluded that this isn’t all just a waste of effort.


Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD

Speculating Canada on Trent Radio Episode 43: WolfCop

In this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio, I am joined in the studio by horror movie scholar Amy Jane Vosper and we discuss the Canadian film WolfCop (written and directed by Lowell Dean).

We explore the relationship between werewolf films and gender, looking in particular at the over masculinity of the film and the use of this hypermasculinity to parody werewolf films, we examine WolfCop’s exploration of police masculinity, and we look at ideas of masks and the performative elements of gendered identity.

You can listen to this episode of Speculating Canada on Trent Radio at the link below.

Explore Trent Radio at www.trentradio.ca

Explore Trent Radio at http://www.trentradio.ca

This audio file was originally broadcast on Trent Radio, and I would like to thank Trent Radio for their continued support. I would also like to thank Dwayne Collins for his consistent tech support and help with the intricacies of creating audio files.

Make sure to allow a few minutes for the file to buffer since it may take a moment before it begins to play.