No News Is Not Precisely Good News

While this is primarily a place to slap down all my stories for convenient finding, with the occasional slew of Toronto After Dark movie reviews, the observant may notice that none of that has happened for a year. This has been a weird year for me.

I’ve been a registered massage therapist for 15 years. It’s been my primary income, my only schooling, my one career my entire life. Maybe a decade ago I started writing for funsies and negligible profit. Writing was always, always meant to be, first and foremost, a fun hobby. Making a couple bucks from it was pleasant validation, but it was always meant to be for pleasure and not for work.

Massaging during the pandemic has been a fucking ride. A couple years prior, I had developed a new service to add to my menu that I called, quite literally, Targeted Face Massage. (Not a great name, but the place I work already does facials, so that name was taken.) Haven’t been comfortable offering that service for a couple years. Would rather people keep masks on for the up to 90 minutes we’re in a small room with no proper circulation. And lots of coworkers and clients don’t mask. It’s been stressful. Massage therapy should be relaxing for everyone, but I would be having little crying jags on my walk to work, my stomach would feel gross, it was simply not a good time.

So in January I started getting shingles symptoms. (Had chicken pox as a wee tiny babe, and shingles can reactivate decades later from stress.) Luckily I was able to immediately take several weeks off work to decrease that stressor and even more luckily, those itchy-hot-along-one-side-of-the-ribs symptoms died down and never developed into full-blown shingles.

It did make me reevaluate my career though. Long story short, I got trained and certified as a crematorium technician (casual part-timer, exactly what I wanted!) and began working at the new place in May. At the end of October, I officially retired from registered massage therapy. (The CMTO – that’s College of Massage Therapists of Ontario – is its own separate beast of an entry, and it can go suck an egg in hell, and they did chide me for telling them to fuck off in a twitter post that someone snitched to them about, because I sure as shit don’t do hashtags. Their membership fee went up by a ludicrous amount this year, and it certainly was a factor in why it finally drove me away, but it’s okay! In their words, they expected the increased fee to decrease the number of registrants, but those who stayed and paid will make up for the financial loss. [“If the fee is increased, it is likely that some registrants will resign, some will pay the higher fee to remain Inactive, and some will renew as General. Lost revenue from registrants who choose to resign will be offset by the increase in total fees.” Sucks to be you guys! You can still read the full 2023 Fee Briefing Note if you have run out of niche and esoteric things to feel outraged about. It also says COVID was not a valid medical excuse to take a break from the profession and that if we can’t pony up the cash, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this at all [[“Even if registrant numbers decrease as a result of fee increases, this would be offset by the increased fees. In addition, those who might choose to leave the profession over fees may not be in a position to fully commit to being an RMT.”]] Oh fuck am I mad all over again! Remarkable! Fuck those guys!])

So that’s been a bit of a sea change.

The clinic owner has let me stay on board as a masseuse (and boy howdy cannot wait to see how that change in title affects my working relationships, because RMTs were always taught that a masseuse is the lowest of the low, an ignoramus at best and most likely a whore [SEX WORK IS WORK, and guess what profession fought to be recognised as ‘not sex work’?? Ding ding ding massage therapy!! Elevating one to spit on the other! Did you know that in Toronto, to become a body rubber [[like, the worst most deliberately denigrating term that could have been chosen?]] it still costs several hundred dollars to get registered? This shit ain’t free!] but at least I won’t have the CMTO telling me how mean I am for telling a client to fuck off if they do something sexual that makes me uncomfortable!*), but I have yet to get any bookings. Which is fine, can always reevaluate again, change the prices and services, but casual part-time cremating does not a bill pay.

*exaggerated, but based on a true story!

All of which is to say, I do not have the creative juices at the moment. November is when shit got real: I quit the only profession I’d had for 15 years, I covered longer shifts on my own at the crematorium, I took the month off entirely from massage. December was meant to be a refreshing change, with me back to part-time shifts at the crematorium and one day a week doing relaxation massages, finances covered and breathing easier, maybe even get back into writing now that things have settled. This is looking less likely, so: worry and stress. And lack of writing.

There is grief in leaving a profession that defined you. My attitudes and opinions towards it have changed over the years. I refuse to say it made me who I am; it solidified what was there and waiting.

There is grief. There is grief. And massage therapy has taught me this: you compartmentalise the feelings so you can keep massaging, because the client is paramount. And writing has taught me this: a compartment is a box you can open with a key, a breath, a song, a bird; a compartment is not a box but a structure, and structures can fold and flatten, and a client is just a person and I am just a person; I am letting myself be grief, and you cannot take me away from me, you cannot make me not exist; I am a key, a breath, a song, a bird.

Hello I Am Eligible for Awards

Hello yes this is the awards eligibility post 2021 thank you yes.

Rutstuck (short story) – Welkin

Any Direct Flight (flash) – Theme of Absence

Open Up and Let Me In (short story) – Rowland Books

Take Care of Brooke (short story) – “Handmade Horror“, Frost Zone Press

Trust! The Will of the Fashion Gods (short story) – The Lorelei Signal

The Last Limerick Out Of Dirt Rut (short story) – The Colored Lens, iss. 40

A Quiet Afternoon 2 (anthology; slush reader for) – Grace&Victory

Links to individual stories where possible, or at least links to buy pages and publisher pages.

Warning: Contains Nudity

My very silly Emperor’s New Clothes heist story TRUST! THE WILL OF THE FASHION GODS is now available for your reading enjoyment at the Lorelei Signal. The magazine is free to read but offers a tip jar option, so if you really like very silly heist stories (WITH NUDITY) maybe throw a buck their way.

Also, Apparition Lit wrote some really nice words about A QUIET AFTERNOON 2 (okay so like it’s because I asked them to review it but it’s not like they had to say nice things.

(warning: app lit’s reviews contain no nudity, aside from nakedly baring their souls? it’s 7:30am right now okay)

A Quiet Afternoon 2: Recipe Guide

Autumn in the Western hemisphere: when thoughts lightly turn to hearty servings of warm, dense calories.

No recipe guide is complete without meandering anecdotes (remember, you can’t trademark recipes, but you can trademark the anecdotes that go with them!), but I am neither a food writer nor blogger nor getting paid for this, so in lieu of lengthy anecdotes I’ll instead encourage you to pick up a copy of A Quiet Afternoon 2 and read those for anecdotal enjoyment instead.

In addition to not being a fancy food writer, I am also not a professional chef. I may, in fact, not be anyone’s first choice for being in a kitchen. I am impatient and easily aggravated. Actually, you know what, here are two anecdotes emphasising the sheer audacity of my putting together a recipe guide in the first place:

In addition to not being a fancy food writer, I am also not a professional chef. I may, in fact, not be anyone’s first choice for being in a kitchen. I am impatient and easily aggravated. Actually, you know what, here are two anecdotes emphasising the sheer audacity of my putting together a recipe guide in the first place:

1. My husband (who does cook for a living, and does it for enjoyment as well) once came home to me thrusting a bowl of cookie batter at him and growling, “YOU DEAL WITH IT.”

2. For my husband’s latest birthday, I had bought him four different varietals of local honey. We did a honey tasting and hot diggity! They did taste different! So when making the anzac cookies (listed below, which I had made before, to excellent results), I thought: Hey. There’s no egg in this recipe and I can easily divide it into four wee batches, each time using a different kind of honey and seeing how the flavour changes. Fun! And it’d make a cute little photo shoot too, matching the cookies to the wee honey jars. I should add photos to this recipe guide! Recipe guides love photos! What a great idea!

So I took the recipe and divided everything by 4. One cup of rolled oats became  a quarter cup of rolled oats. Easy! Four tablespoons of honey became one tablespoon of honey. Ha ha! Three-quarters cup of white sugar became…um…let’s look up how many tablespoons are in a cup! How many grams of butter are in a cup, anyway? Let’s do our due diligence!

I did the research. I did the research. And I wrote it down and measured everything out and my first batch barely qualified as granola. I couldn’t even form it into cookies, it was so dry. I could only squish it into one rough oblong and it crumbled when I tried to break a piece off. Somehow math had failed me. For each subsequent batch I tried tweaking a bit here, adding more there. The last one finally turned out something resembling cookies, but there was no way I could photograph any of them and fake it off as being ‘artisanal’ or ‘rustic’. (Fun fact: this is why there are no accompanying photos for any of the recipes. Also: not a photographing genius with access to decent photography equipment.)

Bamboozled and befuddled, I showed them to my husband when he came home from work and explained my perfectly brilliant system which had nonetheless failed me.

“See, I wrote it down…four tablespoons to a cup.”

Anyway I have other things to offer in a relationship.

Why did I get put in charge of this recipe side project? Because I have moxie, that’s why.

I do apologise if you are a competent chef. The measurements are a terrible hybrid of imperial and metric, cups and grams, pinches and ounces. I’ve tried to be as exact as possible with the baking projects, since baking is much less forgiving than cooking, and I can confidently say that I have in fact tried out all these recipes (well. Not the ones our writers offered. Those I’m taking on faith that they’ve been tested) and they have performed more than admirably (with the exception of trying to quarter the anzac cookies).

The point is, I am not patient or brilliant and these recipes still came out fine. We are all of us Doing Our Best and sometimes that is all you can do.

Happy eating.


From RecipeTin Eats

Inspired by The Irish Luddites. Sometimes I am uncreative.

2 cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoon salt

2 cups buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 430℉. Have a cast-iron skillet handy nearby.

2. In a large bowl, add dry ingredients. Whisk together.

3. Add buttermilk and stir it in until it is too difficult to stir. Get your hands in there and squish the dough a few times. Do not knead too long or too vigorously.

4. Turn dough lump out onto cast-iron skillet and pat it into basically a circle. With a knife, cut a deep X into the middle, end to end. This is a very dense, wet loaf, so the X is necessary to ensure the bread bakes through.

5. Shove skillet into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then turn oven down to 390℉ and bake another 15-20 minutes. The base should sound hollow when tapped in the middle.

6. Transfer to a cooling rack and let sit for 30 minutes before slicing.

You can also add 1 cup of raisins or currants to the dry mix, or ½ cup of seeds to the dry mix. Sunflower seeds turn a disturbingly bright and aggressive green and I don’t see why I should have been expected to just ‘know that’ before trying it out and being subsequently horrified.


Adapted from The Elder Scrolls® The Official Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel

Inspired by Weathering Boredom, Rab the Giant Versus the Problem Neighbour. No, it’s not banana cake, but close enough eh.

Yield: 9 muffins

¼ cup butter, room temperature (more if you’re buttering the muffin tin)

¼ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup molasses

1 egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup (125 g) shredded carrot

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 350℉ and prep muffin tin (either by buttering and dusting with flour or lining with silicone cups or whatever).

2. Grate carrots.

3. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Mix in molasses, egg, vanilla and spices. Stir in the grated carrot until evenly distributed. Mix in the flour, baking soda and salt; the batter should be glossy and smooth (aside from, you know, the carrot shreds). Evenly distribute the batter between the muffin cups.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. Eat plain, drizzled with honey, or topped with carrot halwa.

Mess around with the spice blend. If you don’t like something, take it out and add something else. Or keep adding to it. Throw in a handful of dried currants. Add chocolate chips. Follow your heart.


Adapted from Swasthi’s Recipes

Inspired by A Strange Recipe. Fortunately this recipe does not require blue-tinted water and is much less time-consuming to make than the strange recipe.

Makes 4 servings.

250 g carrots, peeled and grated

3 almonds, chopped

3 cashews, chopped

1 cup 18% cream or milk

¼ cup white sugar

2 tablespoons + ½ tablespoon ghee

¼ teaspoon green cardamom powder (about 1 pod)

1. Peel and grate the carrots

2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat, roast the nuts until fragrant and remove from heat. Set aside.

3. In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons ghee and raise heat to medium. Add the carrots and sauté until slightly softened. Add 1 cup of cream or milk and stir until the milk evaporates.

4. Once the milk completely evaporates, add the sugar and keep stirring. The mixture will go gloopy again. Stir until moisture is half evaporated, then add the ½ tablespoon ghee and stir some more. Once it thickens, add the cardamom powder.

5. Serve immediately, garnishing with the nuts.

Can be eaten hot or cold. It will taste sweeter when it’s hot. You can also add raisins, or more nuts, or none of either, whatever, I ain’t the cops.


From Martha Stewart

Inspired by The Unmaker of Cakes. Just savour the mix of horror and disappointment on that child’s face as he reconstitutes the base ingredients.

3 medium beets (you will need 1 ¼ cups beet puree, which is roughly like 150-200 g or thereabouts)

¾ cup warm water

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups white sugar

½ cup Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¼ cup neutral oil (peanut, sunflower, etc)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter to coat the pan

1. Trim and cube the beets, put them in a pot, cover them with water and set to boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Cook beets until tender and easily pierced with a knife. Toss in a blender and puree. *Note: you will likely need to add water to the beets so they actually blend smoothly, so just add the ¾ cup of water here. Of course you will not know how much puree you end up with until everything is blended, and then the extra water will add to that 1 ¼ cups puree you need, but this recipe is fairly forgiving. I just up it to 1 ½ cups of beet-and-water puree and move on with my life.

2. Preheat oven to 350℉. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add beet puree, eggs, oil, and vanilla and stir until everything is incorporated smoothly.

3. Get out a 9-inch round cake pan and coat with butter, maybe line the bottom with parchment paper. Pour batter into the pan. Bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Turn out cake from pan, discard parchment if used, and cool completely right side-up on wire rack.

The beet flavour will be most prominent when the cake is warm but mellows out significantly after the first day. Don’t bother peeling the beets, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. This is a dense, hearty cake that freezes well. Can be eaten as is, or topped with fruit or chocolate ganache.


From Martha Stewart

Inspired by The Future, One Summer Behind. Time and chocolate heal all wounds, unless you don’t like chocolate. It’s more cost effective, at least.

8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

1 cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Coarsely chop chocolate and place in a bowl.

2. In a pot over medium-high heat, bring cream to a bare boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate and add salt. Let it sit for 10 minutes and think about what it’s done.

3. Stir with a whisk until smooth and shiny, making sure to get whatever chunks might be adhering to the bottom and sides of bowl.

On the assumption you’re glazing the beet cake with this, make sure the cake has completely cooled and that the ganache is lukewarm but still runny enough to pour over the cake. You can put the cake on a wire rack first before pouring the ganache over it, but why?


origin unknown

Inspired by In the Fullness of Time, because I am not patient enough to make pierogi.

Butter, to sauté leeks and onions

3 leeks (white and light green parts only), chopped

1 onion, chopped

4 potatoes, chopped

6 cups stock

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup 18% cream

1. In a large pot on medium heat, add butter and toss in leeks and onions, cooking until tender. Turn up the heat and add stock (chicken or veggie, whatever, homemade if you’ve got it, or prepackaged if not, or just plain water if you can’t be arsed), potatoes, salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender.

2. Transfer soup in batches to a blender and puree until smooth.

3. Return soup to the stovetop, stir in cream and heat for about 20 minutes.

I do not fear the skin of potatoes, so I don’t bother to peel them.

What size potato and onion? Small? Medium? Large? All subjective. This is soup. All becomes soup, in the end.


Adapted from RecipeTin Eats

Inspired by Neighbours, The Proper Way to Prepare for an Adventure, Welcome to Hauntd… because every apology, adventure and housewarming can be improved with cookies.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup white sugar

150 g butter

4 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350℉ and line two trays with parchment paper or Silpats.

2. Combine in a large bowl flour, oats, coconut, sugar and salt.

3. In a saucepan over medium heat, place butter and honey. Stir until the butter has melted.

4. Remove from heat, add baking soda and stir to combine. The mixture will start fizzing and foaming. It’s fine.

5. Pour mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

6. Distribute by 1 tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet and flatten into patties, keeping edges about 1 inch apart.

7. Bake for about 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through, for chewy cookies; crispier ones stay in an couple extra minutes.

8. Leave on trays about 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire rack to completely cool.

If you’re feeling extra fancy you can try using different varietals of honey and get some real subtly different flavour notes.


From The Woks of Life

Inspired by Her Mother’s Recipes. While compiling recipes for this post, it turns out that none of us who make dumplings actually has a recipe written down. This recipe is the one that the mom of one of our editors uses.

3 lbs green leafy vegetables (napa cabbage, baby bok choy, shepherd’s purse, etc.)

1 ½ lbs ground pork

2/3 cup shaoxing wine

½ cup neutral oil

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons soy sauce

¼ teaspoon white pepper

2/3 cups water (plus more for assembling)

3 packages dumpling wrappers

1. Wash vegetables thoroughly and blanch in a pot of boiling water. Transfer to an ice bath. Wring out all the water from the vegetables and chop very finely.

2. In a large bowl, add the vegetables, meat, wine, oil, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce, white pepper and 2/3 cups water. Snap on some disposable gloves and start squishing stuff together until it is one glorious homogenous mass.

3. To fill the dumplings, take off those gloves and get yourself a little assembly-line station set up: dumpling wrappers, small bowl of water, dumpling filling. Moisten a paper towel with water, wring it out, and place it over the dumpling wrappers to keep them from drying out during assembly.

4. Now, place a dumpling wrapper in your non-dominant hand and wet the edges with some water. Put a little less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper. Fold the circle in half and pinch the wrapper together at the top. Then make two folds in each side, until the dumpling looks like a fan. Repeat until all the filling is gone, placing the dumplings on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Don’t let the dumplings stick together. They aren’t union.


Boil them via the application of boiling water and let them suffer until they float to the surface and the wrappers have cooked through, or pan-fry.

To pan-fry, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Place the dumplings in a single layer in the pan and fry for 2 minutes. Pour a thin layer of water into the pan, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow dumplings to steam until the water has evaporated. Remove the cover, increase heat to medium-high and fry a few more minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown and crisp and they release easily from the pan.

            TO FREEZE:

It’s easiest to use large clear garbage bags rather than fussing with plastic wrap. Cover, place in a freezer (remember, don’t let them touch or they’ll end up sticking and freezing together) overnight, and once they are well frozen they can be transferred en masse into Ziploc bags and kept in the freezer until needed.


Christopher Muscato, contributing author

Woolly Bugger: One Decent Cast and the Perfect Superstition.

A trout

Seasonings (butter or lemon slices; sage, rosemary, thyme, mint; wild onion, American plum, chokecherry, wild currants, grouseberries, wild sagebrush)

1. Start a campfire and burn down to coals.

2. Clean and butterfly trout.

3. Along inside of trout, place seasonings.

4. Close fish and wrap tightly in aluminum foil )you can add a little butter or olive oil to the inside of the foil, but this is not necessary). Place foil-wrapped fish in coals. Cook 15-20 minutes or until meat is opaque and flakes easily and skin peels off easily.


Becca Gomez Farrell, contributing author

Fresh Catch of the Day.

1.5 ounces brandy

1 teaspoon St. Germaine

dash of orange bitters

semi-sweet (demi-sec) Champagne or Prosecco

In a flute glass, add the brandy, St. Germaine and orange bitters. Top up to the brim with the sparkling wine.

Toronto After Dark Film Fest Reviews, Part II: Inner Demons, Outer Demons, and Human Demons

Demons all the way down.

Before I forget, check out Toronto After Dark‘s homepage to sign up for their updates and keep abreast of after darkingness.

King Knight (USA) – Okay so this director also did Trash Fire and Suburban Gothic, which I enjoyed, so I was very keen to see this one AND IT IS GOOD, HOWEVER, it was also the film that gave me the most trouble watching it because of the sound mixing. Maybe it would have been hella good in theatres! However, on my TV at home, it’s… pretty bad. Usually my TV needs to be set around 5-15 to hear dialogue but not have my ears blown off when a musical sting happens. King Knight had to be cranked to 50 for dialogue. And then de-cranked in a rush. Having the option for subtitles rules, people. Subtitles fucking rule.

That being said, I would love to watch this one again with friends (once subtitles are A Thing), because this movie really is very funny and the actors have great physical comedy presence and knowing what the word-jokes are would make it even better!

King Knight has a pagan leader-man with a dark past: he used to be a normie. Pearl-clutchingly normie! The natural enemy of the weirdo is the normie who was popular at school and won prom awards

[SIDE NOTE: I won a prom award, for Best Dressed, because I wore a chainmail bodice I made myself and at the time Lord of the Rings had recently come out and chainmail started its shameful decline from nerd couture to mainstream accessory.]

and how dare such a person be fit to run a counterculture coven. Also there are animated sequences and a delightful conversation between a rock and a pinecone (Team Rock vs Team Pinecone). Anyway the movie is very very funny and nerds will delight in it.

Nightshooters (UK) – A guerilla film crew shooting a zombie action flick in a soon-to-be demolished building of unknown quality witness a mob doing a murder and unfortunately the mob also witnesses the film crew doing a witness. Action film ensues! This ended up being one of my favourite films, which I was not expecting, as action flicks I generally consider fine but not something I tend to remember fondly. It’s a very fun cast, all of whom you care about, and was surprisingly touching, which I also was not expecting from an action movie. (Even more delightful hearing a bit about it from the director pre-show about how the knife fight scene had to be practiced with the actors in separate locations because of timing issues. Dang!) With villains you love to hate and heroes you love to love, plus some very fun action sequences, this is one that would be super to throw on for a group of friends. It’s lovable.

Ditched (Canada) – I… wanted to like this movie more than I did. I really wanted to like it! It has an Inuit actress (Marika Sila) as the lead, and being Inuit has nothing to do with anything plot-related, and rape has nothing to do with her character, and that is amazing! It is fucking amazing! I am very into that! This was just a genre of horror that I am not super into (survivalist siege slasher type) and that is on me, not the film. I don’t dig the villain doing an exposition while the survivors take advantage of the monologue to prepare their next offense. It just doesn’t hold my interest. If, however, you are into claustrophobic siege conditions with shock-style slasher murder, by all means support Canadian cinema (and giving Indigenous people top billing) and give Ditched a go.

Seobok (South Korea) – South Korea has brought fantastic films to After Dark for years (The Odd Family: Zombie on Sale, Train to Busan, to name just a couple), and in case you haven’t noticed but South Korea tends to deliver phenomenal cinema and TV in general (Squid Games, anyone?), so Seobok is… fine. It’s fine! It just doesn’t blow my skirts up the way Odd Family or Train did. Which is fine! Can’t all be bangers. It’s perfectly acceptable as a film. A young man is vat-grown at an astonishing rate and he has super powers which evil people want to abuse and it’s up to a heart-of-gold (but tumour-of-brain) ex-company man to keep him safe. I think my main quibble is that I didn’t quite buy the developing relationship between the two leads. The plot felt fairly rote. It was a safe film. Sometimes you just want popcorn and safety. It’s fine.

The Free Fall (USA) – I haven’t the faintest idea how the title ties into the movie.

I felt a major dissonance throughout the entire film. The two supporting characters (The Maid and the Mystery Man) and the interior shots seem to exist in a different movie from the two leads (Husband and Amnesiac Woman) and the exterior shots. They just don’t gel together. Maid and Mystery Man would be perfect in a gothic slow burn from the 70’s (Messiah of Evil, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, Burnt Offerings), whereas Husband and Amnesiac Woman seem to be a couple decades removed. Likewise, the interior of the mansion is properly foreboding and dingy and suggests it’s far removed from society, but the exterior seems to place it in a posh suburban neighbourhood – large lawns, certainly, but you could wave through the windows at the neighbours and not need binoculars to spy. I spent the movie wishing Amnesiac Woman was played by Man of La Mancha-era Sofia Loren, smoking pensively as she stares out a window to a distant dot of light signifying the nearest neighbour, with Husband played by Raul Julia (circa pretty much any era) smouldering at his typewriter. I don’t think the twist is terribly shocking – I spent most of the movie figuratively pounding my fists on the counter while (literally) chanting “demon demon demon demon” – I just wish everyone smoked and smoldered while the movie ran its course, firmly seated in the 70’s with gratuitous moaning, a never-ending chain of cigarettes, and half-lidded stares across a lawn that is never watered and left to die.

Super Z (France) – I made it 10 minutes before leaving my better half to watch by himself. This movie absolutely knows what it’s doing and what it’s aiming to achieve and it careens headlong into doing so, and good on it, you do you, freaky zombie movie. Like Ditched, it’s just not a genre that I enjoy. But! Would you like to see nasty dirty foul-mouthed dicks-ahoy chomp chew Theatre of Cruelty-esque clowntype zombies do… well, all of the above? Oh man is Super Z going to make you happy.

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break (UK) – Who among us has never had a day where everything goes poorly and destroys your only hope of future happiness? Who among us has never wished vengeance on those who wronged us while buoyed by a sea of condoning acolytes wishing you the very best? Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break, while set in the now of influencer stardom, feels like you’re watching a hazy recollection through a smudged lens as our anti/hero bumbles through his attempts to Get Seen and become a star. I was worried he’d become a 2019 Joker type whose probable victory would turn the movie to ashes in my mouth, but in truth Deadly Lunch Break is a much softer movie than that. Do people die? Well, yes. But not quite as deliberately as intended. It’s a pleasant watch with a wonderful ensemble cast.

Ta-da! Movies reviewed (to a greater or lesser extent). As with every After Dark, it’s a mixed bag for me, and thank goodness for that. Any movie, feature length or short, is a stunning thing to pull off, more so to even get an audience, and the odds of everything pleasing everyone is a laughably foolish pursuit. I’ve no doubt that anything that left me lukewarm means it’s going to leave someone else frothing at the mouth about how brilliant it is and what an utter boob I am to think elsewise. So if you have a different opinion: don’t tell me, tell the people who made the thing you love how much you loved it. (And don’t tell them to read about how much I personally didn’t like their thing, this is not beef that needs seasoning.) I do not have a cool ending catchphrase like TADFF’s “See you after dark,” so. Ta-da. Movies reviewed!

Toronto After Dark Film Fest Reviews, Part 1 – Shorts, Sweeties, Aliens and Ghosts

I forgot to do my usual reviews for my friends on fb, so I may as well plonk them all down here. Content! Stellar introduction! Reviews ahoy!


Shiny New World (Netherlands, 9 mins) – Easily the slickest, surest and most stylish of the international shorts. A training video for the good people (and otherworldly denizens) of the cleaning company Shiny New World. Rowdy teenagers summon a demon and get themselves messily killed? Sounds like you need Shiny New World to clean up the mess! Not only is it a fun recruitment/training video but it manages to cheekily sneak a wee plot into it as well. Very fun.

Toc-Toc (France, 4 mins) – Such a weird little number. Knocking on doors in an empty house is one of those things that gets me. This tight little short goes in a truly weird direction with some delightfully bizarre creature effects.

The Tenant (Spain, 10 mins) – I adored the mood in this one. The acting was beautiful, the atmosphere was impeccable, and I am a sucker for horror films that say, very clearly, “This is the premise. Deal with it.” A woman wakes up with an odd pain in her leg that makes her drag her foot. Another woman sees her on the street and tells her, “There’s an old woman on your leg.” THAT IS YOUR LOT, FUCKING DEAL WITH IT. A great little scare.

Henchmen (Singapore, 6 mins) – Two low-ranking henchmen would rather not deal with the obviously overpowered force of nature action hero who is coming to kill their boss and anyone standing in his way. This was my favourite short, easy. It’s a student project and it shows and I do not care. It’s not a terrifically complicated or deep story and I don’t care. It is charming as fuck and very funny.

Mashed Potato Face (USA, 13 mins) – Honestly a big disappointment. The title is great but this short overstayed its welcome. My husband’s take was that it was a riff on giallo films “where you’re being shown a gross thing over and over and thanks, I hate it.” A 50’s-seeming family is getting ready for dinner and then a dude with mashed potatoes smeared on his face comes by and forces them to eat giant mounds of mashed potatoes and uses a potato masher on the dad’s brains and then the wife has to eat them and the daughter eventually kills and becomes the next Mashed Potato Face. If you want 13 minutes of that, it’s there.

Meat (Spain, 6 mins) – Another atmospheric piece from Spain, this one’s major selling point is the one-shot take in the child’s bedroom (I think it was one shot?) as the horror settles in and shit goes down. A mom is alerted to Something Spooky happening in her daughter’s bedroom and goes to investigate. Small child is creepy, atmosphere happens, and the Horror is revealed. While the short holds up as is in a tidy 6 minutes, I feel like the story could have benefited from a touch more context.

Visitors (Japan, 16 mins) – Three teens, concerned about a friend’s noncommunication, go to his house to check on him and then AW SHIT Y’ALL LET THE EVIL GHOSTIES OUT YA DINGUSES. Goopy gory goofy absurdist fun. Also is that a wig on the housebound teen, because it was a truly magnificent anime mop.

Seek (USA, 6 mins) – Two sisters are on a grumpy roadtrip and one needs to use the exceptionally decrepit loo at a pit stop. Please do not use exceptionally decrepit loos at pit stops. Just practice your squats. This one was fine.

Hiama (Aotearoa, 13 mins) – I would say this was the most complete movie of the bunch, truly feeling more like a condensed full-length movie than a short. A Solomon Islands teen gets bullied by the other girls at her school and gets a lil ancestral revenge on their microaggressive asses. Some wonderful performances and a deeply satisfying (and creepy-crawly) ending.

Slurp (France, 3 mins) – Oof. OOF. This short packs a fucking suckerpunch, not least because it’s a scenario that likely happens way more often than you think. Very raw and real. (My husband’s take was that obvs the villain was the villain because “who MICROWAVES cup of noodles instead of pouring hot water into it.”)

I, Adonis (Netherlands, 15 mins) – I am still a little unsure about this one. It’s about a man who is obsessed with his own physical perfection and rates himself against the other bros at the gym but maybe it is also about being secretly trans? Or growing up treated as a girl and wanting to become a man but maybe the mom was just a giant arse and dressed him as girl but maybe that’s what he desires and I really am not sure? Real body horror shit here though, raw chicken meat makes an appearence.


Morbus (10 mins) – Nothing good ever comes from investigating cars stopped in the middle of the road on a bleak night. Do not put your relationship to the test. Also, cordyceps? It was fine.

Le Reflet (The Reflection) (6 mins) – Tied for favourite of the Canadian shorts, it’s another short that gives you a premise and it’s up to you to FUCKING DEAL. “Don’t leave the house. I’ll come and get you. And don’t look into anything with a reflection.” THERE YOU GO, THAT’S YOUR LOT. Love the creature design and the satisfying yelp of the end.

Maybe You Should Be Careful (9 mins) – Tied for favourite because this was a dysfunctional couple I could just keep watching. Great naturalistic dialogue, great humour. We’re watching a couple whose girlfriend is trying to keep things spicy and her boyfriend won’t stop looking at his goddamn phone and updating her about the mysterious serial killer in their neighbourhood. Oh shit… is SHE the killer?! Dang!

Family (11 mins) – A gay couple is having a pleasant gay road trip until one of them sees a kid and gets sad because babies and then he goes and accidentally runs over a different kid on a bleak night road. DON’T HAVE ARGUMENTS IN THE CAR, FUCK. Then that kid’s parents come and they’re rightfully pissed and tie up the couple and toss them into the back of their flatbed truck and all I could hear was Jack Baker from RE7 yowling, “Welcome to the family, son!” I’m not 100% sure what the endgame was here. Were the guys going to be kept tied up in the basement and mistreated as ‘family’? Was the kid they hit trying to get away from the parents and the guys just done fucked that up? As they say in the publishing world, “This feels like it’s part of a much longer story” (this is what the publishing world calls a ‘rejection’ fyi.)

Kwêskosîw (She Whistles) (12 mins) – A two spirit nêhiyaw woman (I am quoting from the blurb on the TADFF page because I would not have known that) is assaulted and gets revenge and like. YES, I want more Indigenous creators and actors and presence BUT. I want them to be able to tell more stories than just rape and revenge YET. This is a very real, very current, very raw atrocity and it’s good to tell stories where some form is justice is served, however late, and empowerment is good and all that, but. I just don’t care for rape stories. And I would prefer to see Indigenous people in stories where that’s not even a piece of the plot and they can just get caught up in a haunted house or a Ouija board misfiring or whatnot. (Or the Northern Lights embodying some kind of cosmic terror? If that’s not appropriative in some way? It sounds pretty cosmic terror tho.)

Sang Juane (Yellow Blood) (6 mins) – OH COOL ANOTHER RAPE STORY BUT WITH ALIENS. Not my cuppa is all. Also from a writing standpoint not super impressed. The bit with the coworkers at the beginning could have been cut without detriment to the story (is it important that we know our protagonist is boring and her only hobby is, she buys old cars? it is not). I guess it shows that her life is so boring that after puking and pissing yellow she anyways smiles at seeing the alien symbol appear because it means she’s pregnant with alienspawn and therefore her life is no longer boring and consists of office job and buying old cars? I guess? Meh.

The Silent Lay Steady (15 mins) – First of all the title BOTHERS me. Is it quoting a passage? Surely “the silence lay steady” is the preferred nomenclature. The Silent implies there is more than one Silent laying steady. Anyway I am irked. This is another film that vastly overstays its welcome. There feels like some anachronism as well (it takes place in the 1800’s with period set and dress but the people sound current-day, which is jarring) and it seems like there were two stories trying to be told as one and they just did not gel for me. It seemed more like they had access to a period set and costumes and just kind of ad-libbed until they had enough footage to call it a day. We start with a small boy telling his dad “she’s back again” and dad drinks an alcohol and gets his gun and then we see a gal coming to in a hallway and wandering around with a candle while occasionally something thuds and I guess it’s a casket thudding and we do this for awhile. Then she sees a ghostie in the mirror. The ghostie is her? But evil? Then it loops back to the scene with the small boy and the dad drinking and alcohol avec gun. Now that I’m describing it, I’m wondering if the beginning scene was meant to be there at all? It feels kinda like it shouldn’t have been, as it rather gives away that she is the ghostie. Meh again.

10-33 (10 mins) – Fuck’s sake. I just wanted to overhear the two gals at the start gossiping away the entire time. Instead we get a rather harrowing claustrophobic short about a gal trapped in a bathroom stall with a a gun-toting incel outside the door. I find it real hard to believe this was not based on an actual 911 call. It was scary, yes, and tense and stressful, and like Kwêskosîw it hits way too close to home and it is not fun escapist entertainment.

[“Yet you enjoyed Slurp. Curious! I am very intelligent.” Slurp was incredibly short and gave you just enough time to go “…oh shit… OHHHH FUCK” with its clever cinematography. It made its point and then ended. Kwêskosîw made you watch the assault and then after the revenge gave you another reason to feel sick. 10-33 spent at least 80% of the time making you listen to pieceofshit trauma-wanking and I have no desire to “listen to both sides”. If Art is making people feel feels, Kwêskosîw and 10-33 are Art. But so is Slurp, and it is my preference.]

Crawl Space (7 mins) – OH-KAY so after a rather dismal run we get a fun creature feature and I liked it. A dude is doing some welding and then OH SHIT SPIDER PUPPET ATTACK! A stunning victory! And then, AW DANG, TROMBONE NOISE! It was a good capper, even if my husband got Het Up in the first few seconds because of improper tool usage. Or something. (“He was grinding a rod? Or doing the equivalent of banging two hammers together? Basically they gave the actor a couple tools and told him to do something to make sparks.” His memory is certifiably bad, but anyway. I didn’t care. Spider puppets!)


Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (Kazakhstan) – From Kazakhstan?! I do not know what to expect! I am excited!

It was a fun ride! A hen-pecked husband gets a couple friends together for a fishing trip as a break from his very pregnant, very expecting wife, and then our sweet boys witness a big ol’ murder and boy is this fishing trip no longer relaxing! There is a mysterious murdery man out for vengeance after his dog is run over because the car swerved when hit by a bottle full of piss!

Don’t piss in cars, either!

(Are cars a form of haunted house? I do not drive so have never considered making a car the setting for a horror story. Somebody write a haunted car story for me.)

It’s a romp! And it’s funny! Man, sure wish I had more to complain about, ’cause that gets words on paper! But no! It’s just a good fun ride! With violence! Watch it!

Alien on Stage (UK) – Husband voted this as Scariest Movie because he has social anxiety and found this movie the most stressful. It’s excellent! A couple can-do film makers learn about Alien being presented on stage by an amateur theatrical company composed of bus drivers and decide it’s the bee’s knees, get them funded to perform in a swank theatre in London, and film the process! It’s super fun! My god I would have loved to see it live! Ever wanted to Do A Thing even if you weren’t very good at it? Do it anyway! Sometimes you get the exact right dang audience! Definitely a movie I would share with friends whenever it’s more widely available!

Post Mortem (Hungary) – I really liked this one. Possibly favourite? Alien on Stage might also have been favourite, but feels like cheating since it was a documentary. Post Mortem I would say was the one true horror movie in this year’s line-up.

[SIDE NOTE: While I would absolutely love TADFF to do both online and in person screenings, I figure this was prolly the only year online streaming would be a thing. I’m guessing that a lot of more straight-horror-type movies would have been shy about releasing their babies online during October, the spookiest month of the year and the month most likely to get them better earnings in physical theatres, so maybe that’s why this year felt a bit light on the horror? There was plenty of dark comedy, which seems entirely reasonable. But not as much what I would in my personal feels call horror. End side note.]

Like Sweetie, I had no idea what to expect from a Hungarian film, much less one with ghosts. As with The Tenant and Le Reflet, this one gives you a premise – here there be ghosts – and expects you to DEAL. WITH. IT. There have always been ghosts and everyone knows there have always been ghosts, but now ghosts are horrifically murdering people and that’s just not on, is it?

What is up with these ghosts? I don’t really know! They seem pretty pissed, though! Tomás, who has had a near-death experience during World War I and now makes his living taking portraits of the recently deceased as keepsakes for the living, does not seem sure, either! But by gosh he is willing to risk his life because a young gal asks him to and she is the same young gal he saw in near death and it’s a little weird? It’s a little weird! I am unsure about this relationship! I think they’re both a little unsure! (It’s not romantic. Not like kissy mwah-mwah romantic. But maybe like a romantic platonic view of soul mate romantic?)

So these ghosts are pissed because they don’t seem able to move on from their current limbo to wherever after. My viewpoint is that they are fussy baby children throwing tantrums because they are TRYING to get the living to understand and the living ARE. NOT. GETTING. IT. And so they throw fussy hissy baby tantrums, except since they’re ghosts that means people get tossed about like plastic bags in the wind and smeared messily along the ground. It sucks! Tomás is going around with his camera (do no get Husband started on the mechanics of this camera, okay fine so that style of camera uses glass plates and it’s a very long and exact process and Tomás is treating it like a dang Polaroid but I. Don’t. Care! GHOSTS ARE A THING and I am willing to suspend my disbelief for ghosts just being a fact of life and if this tintype camera ((I do not know if it’s a tintype, see: I. Don’t. Care!)) wants to function like a magic Polaroid that needs to develop photos in a proper darkroom, more power to it sez I) and capturing photos of spookums shadow ghosts amongst the living and there’s corpses flailing and flopping and all sorts of yikes. Small Gal is game for staying up late with complicated arrays of bells/pans/jangly dingle dangles and a floor fluffed with flour to catch ghosts being ghosty in the act. That’s cool! The lady renting a room to Tomás gets an eyeful of his hinder as he washes up with a basin of probably real chilly water. Fine! I’m down for some gratuitous male butt!

[SIDE NOTE: Because of my mild face blindness, I kept thinking Tomás (played by Viktor Klem) looked kind of like Ewan McGregor, who has featured in many a TADFF movie, until I looked it up and it turns out I was thinking of Ethan Hawke (who has actually featured in many a TADFF movie), which is a similar spelling to Ewan if you mush the letters together. I was very proud of myself for watching Squid Game and recognising Wi Ha-Joon from Romance is a Bonus Book ((and also the horror movie Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum)). There is not a point to this. It is a Side Note.]

Anyway Tomás has to go get himself almost dead again so’s he can guide the fussy baby grumpy souls to the next world, and the young gal brings him back again and they decide to team up as a ghost-resting duo. The movie ends with them on a wooded hill overlooking another town that’s clearly got a ghost problem and them going, basically, “Hell to the yeah.” (Husband: “No! That is such a bad idea! You had to ALMOST DIE! That’s not a great way to live!” I, of course, am for it. For them anyway.)

Thus ends the first chunk of reviews. No wonder I did this one at a time the previous years. My eyeballs are not pleased. Seven more features to go, updated… I dunno, tomorrow? Friday? Whatevs.

(edit: aw beans I shoulda put a link to TADFF somewhere, so here: Toronto After Dark Film Festival.)

Problem Solved, For Now

Having spent 2 hours updating the Read My Stuff?! lists, all I can say is… I have written (and sold) more weird Western than I realised. Also, looks like a bunch of my stories have disappeared into the publishing ether, so I guess it’s time to-

write more new things? hahahahaha silly child, no, it is time to SELL SOME REPRINTS WOOOOOO GET READY FOR THAT REPRINT SUBMISSION GRIND BABY WOOP WOOP WOOP

Oughtn’t Be Shocking, And Yet

I guess it’s good practice to go through all the links of places to find my stories and make sure the links actually go where they ought. Hum. Well. That will be next week’s project. Since this site has been around for oh god since 2016 it makes sense that some things change. Future Laura’s problem.

Oh Whoops Here’s Some More

Turns out Tales to Terrify had uploaded the audio for another of my stories last month and I am just… not good at noticing things! Shocking! Enjoy When You Love Someone as narrated by Dan Gurzynski, won’t you? Thank you.

Also I am spending part of today recipe testing (which my brain insists on referring to as ‘stress testing’) for a fun promo project for A Quiet Afternoon 2. Last week I attempted to make scaled-down anzac cookies because I had bought various strains of honey and wanted to see if the different flavours would come through in baking (answer: like maybe a tiny wee bit, but not enough to make a habit out of it) and did you know that 4 tablespoons do not a cup make? They were not so much ‘cookies’ as ‘grim mockeries of cookies’, but they did make decent granola. Today’s attempts will be carrot halwa and spice cake (also featuring carrots). Thoughts and prayers appreciated.

(Laura, why are you, the one who once famously greeted her boyfriend with a bowl of sad cookie batter and said “I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS” and made him not only patch up the cookie batter but also bake the cookies because you had rejected cookie in all its forms by that point, the one who eagerly volunteered to lead the recipe charge? That is a Very Good Question!)

Yes, Now You Can Read Everything

Everything is live and ready for your consumption: A Quiet Afternoon 2 is live on Payhip, Unburied is available at a variety of places, and now Issue 40 of The Colored Lens is ready for consumption here. (And bonus: Looks like my story ((starring an enby protagonist who uses limericks as magic spells)) is first on the docket, so you can even read it for free as the sample chapter!)

That is all the news I have, I am tapped dry. Besides still living in a pandemic, it’s just been a rough few months (I am personally okay, but the state of the world/my particular city is pretty shit) so it’s been difficult to get motivated to work on new projects. That being said, I’m currently picking away at another Sterling Acton (werewolf cowboy/reluctant hero) story involving a carnival, so. There’s that.