Tales from Space 3 Excerpt

Here is a excerpt from We’ll Meet Again, the tale of how Anore Wrought managed to not only steal the cure for the weaponized plague that was killing her husband Victor, but rescued long-time friend and ally Nick Goodfrey from his captivity with rival Sindo Corporation.

You can find the whole story in Tales from Space: The Great Corporation War, available in 2018 from StarkLight Press.

This excerpt copyright 2017 Anthony Stark.

 

He came at her out of the darkness in the wide hallway, emerging from blackness like a wraith from out of the realm of the dead. Beside him emerged four other Sindo Corporation assassin-guards, all armed. They were unsurprising- he shocked her to her core. Anore was prepared for a fight, knew that the Sindo knew she was about to attack one of their three flagships for the files Wrought Industries needed so desperately. Sindo was, of course, expecting her to try to get the files- they contained the cure for the deadly engineered disease Sindo had given to Victor Wrought.

Anore Wrought was an exemplary fighter, with fast instincts and deadly accuracy; she had been ready for up to ten assailants trained in Japanese martial arts. Four attackers was dealable, but as she eyed their leader with his almost nonchalant stride and the small, cruel smile that played on the corners of his mouth, Anore was unsure if she could beat this fifth foe.

“Nick,” she addressed their leader, watching his face for some sign of recognition.

He held up a hand, and the assailants stopped. Cocking his head to one side slightly, he grew still, regarding Anore Wrought, the second in command of the single greatest foe to the Sindo Corporation.

He gazed at his opponent with even eyes. “I am not called Nick anymore,” he informed her. “I am now Raine.”

“You are Nick Goodfrey,” Anore looked at him, her eyes willing the android to break with his Sindo programming and remember her. His face was implacable, as she had seen it before, yet there was something wild, almost mad there now that sent a shiver through her, along with a sour spray of shame. He looked the same, yet the drawing of the artificial flesh around his eyes made him seem at once vicious and terrified. The way he had taken to holding his mouth contributed to this effect, with that small, mocking smile held there like a mask. His jaw had grown somehow, giving him a more imposing aspect, making Nick look as though he had gone from a wistful teenager to a hardened adult during his tenure with Sindo. It also added to the sense he was now more dangerous. Sindo had either dyed his hair or replaced it, from its original pale blond to a dark chestnut, almost black. The new color made him seem larger and augmented the sense of menace about him. His blue eyes stood out like topazes, framed by the dark crown he now wore.

Sindo had given him standard assassin’s garb- a dark, slim-fitting long coat with pants and a high collared shirt. Nick’s was deep blood red, the color of Sindo Corp; it signified him as the leader of his group. He wore highly flexible assassin’s gloves that Anore knew would allow him to increase his already formidable grip. He carried on his belt, only part hidden by the coat, a pair of long knives and a garrot wire.

“Nick,” she repeated.

Ignoring this assertion, he took a step toward her; his assassins obligingly stayed in their spots.

“You have come for the files encoding the antidote to the weaponized illness plaguing Victor Wrought,” Nick declared. He tilted his head to one side, his blue eyes glinting in the dim light of the hall. “Did you find what you sought?”

“He’s dying, Nick,” Anore explained earnestly, dropping her stance and holding her hands wide. “I have to try to save him.”

Nick’s jaw worked at this and his eyes flared vicious, horrible light. Anore froze, lifting her guard once more, swallowing hard. What had she said- was Nick so angry at Victor still?

Slowly, his mouth cracked from side to side, until he started to silently laugh with a broad, open-mouthed smile that alarmed her to her core. She had never seen him maniacal before, not in all their years together. After a few moments of silent paroxysms, he started to laugh out loud, wracked by a terrible mirth that made him bend forward slightly, his eyebrows raised. He laughed in her face, his eyes wide, his eyebrows high. Behind him, his henchmen laughed as well.

After an interval that held Anore galvanized in place, Nick regained his composure, straightening to his full height and running his hands down the hem of his coat to settle himself. Still smiling broadly, he inclined his head; the first gesture that she recognized as his own.

“Of course,” he said maganimously. “You couldn’t leave him for dead, could you?”

So it was hatred for Victor, Anore thought to herself. Forgetting her outnumbered state in hostile territory, she looked, exasperated, at Nick. “It’s not like I want to save his life,” she said. “It’s just- not fair.”

Uttering a sharp bark of the same laughter that had chilled her to her core, his eyes flashed again. “No,” he agreed. “Terribly unfair, what we did to him… and how could you let something unfair stand? You, champion of right and good.”

Anore squinted at this, unsure of what Nick was implying. “I don’t think I’m champion of anything, Nick,” she replied quietly, watching her android closely.

“But you are… good,” he said. “Most assuredly. The Wrought Corporation fights on the side of the angels, isn’t that so.” The corner of his mouth curled up into a crueler smile. “Victor certainly believes this- and you are quite convinced of your own moral authority.”

“I- we,” Anore stumbled, wounded by the spite dripping from his words. “We are good people, Nick- we are trying.”

“Well,” Nick said glibly, that same brutal smile playing at the corner of his lips, “If you are the good ones, then, that would make me… the Enemy,” he pulled up his gloves. “Wouldn’t it? You must return to Victor and save his precious life, to combat the unfairness of it all… and I must stop you.” He cocked his head to one side and raised his hands. Beside him, his henchmen took up their guards once more.

“Because, my sweet heart, you see- I am a villain.”

He twitched his fingers, and all four assassins set upon her. It was a desperate flurry of a battle, and Anore, shocked by the viciousness in Nick’s voice, the sheer wrath in it, lost precious seconds recovering. His assassins had her pinned up against the wall, having pummeled Anore despite her blocking of nine out of every ten blows with expert reflex. Their weapons were strong and relentlessly aimed, however, and she found herself sliding up the bulkhead of the ship, her limbs pinned. She watched, helpless to move, as Nick approached her.

“Let’s see,” he mused, eying her up and down, “where would I be, if I were a crystal drive?” He began to search her. Anore gasped at the strength in his hands, so determined compared to the old, gentle, subtle touch Nick had once possessed. Her eyes widened, shocked, at the unabashed sexuality of his touch as he searched her. He kept his eyes locked on hers as he ran his hands over every inch of her body.Nick had either learned that sexual domination was an effective tactic to use on prisoners, or had developed in extremely predatory ways for his time at Sindo Corporation. Either way, Anore had never been handled by Nick Goodfrey so roughly before, and it stunned her.

He ran his hand up her legs, feeling expertly and brusquely either on side of her thighs, then gripped her with fingers like iron, just hard enough to hurt, between them. He smiled thinly.

“We’ve searched everywhere else,” he remarked. “You’ve hid it in one of your holes- which would you like me to search first?” He ran his finger back and forth between her legs idly as he asked.

Anore crashed her head into Nick’s; one of the assassins lost their grip on her shoulder and she started to wrestle her left arm free. The thrashing destabilized the other three, and she started to slide down the wall.

It might have worked as an escape tactic, had Nick not hardly reacted to the blow to his head. Raising upright almost immediately, he saw Anore begin to slide down the bulkhead and, moving in, grabbed her with one hand and lifted her again to her position slightly above him. His hand was immutable around her neck and she started to choke. She stilled her thrashing- his hand could pop her head right off her spine, if it so desired.

“Nick!” she gasped around the purple spots rising in her vision. “Please-”

Smiling viciously, Nick graciously lowered her to the ground, his grip loosening just enough to let her breathe. He pumped his fingers into her carotid arteries, however, twice to show that he could not just suffocate her, but cut off her blood flow as well. Her eyes tearing, she looked up at him.

Pressing himself up against her, pinning her against the bulkhead with his weight most effectively, Nick raised his other hand to her mouth. His eyes never leaving hers, he pinched her jaw with his fingers until her mouth opened. Inserting his index finger, he swept her mouth. He even searched the back of her throat, which he did with a lingering gusto.

Gagging, Anore clamped her jaws down around the android’s finger. One of her molars chipped on the assassin’s glove that covered the digit. Nick laughed at her, his finger still in her mouth, tickling the back of her throat in vomitous circles.

“You don’t think I would be stupid enough to put my finger in your mouth unprotected, do you?” he chided. “How very little you think of me.”

Anore glared at him, trying not to gag. He paused, his smile fading slightly. He drove a second finger into her mouth and, after a moment and a near miss with vomit, pulled a small crystal out of the back of Anore’s throat.

“How disappointing,” Nick remarked, dropping Anore as the assassins grabbed her and re-pinned her to the bulkhead. He tossed the drive up in the air and caught it, winking at his prisoner. “I was so looking forward to searching the other two.”

He turned away from her, pocketing the crystal drive. Without looking around, he gave his final order to the assassins.

“Kill her.”

Anore’s eyes widened. She spat out a mouthful of blood from her tooth; it tasted like composite from the glove.

“Nick!” she cried. “Goddamn you!”

He stopped, and turned, looking at her with a face that was now more pinched than she had yet seen it. His huge blue eyes gazed at her, glistening.

“Already done,” he replied.

A rush of panic ran through her, and she hit out blindly with all four limbs at once. She found the grip on her loosened, and Anore grabbed a stick from one of the assassins and started swinging madly. Nick watched from a polite distance, his head cocked to one side. The assailants struck her again and again; her ankle was possibly broken, her ribs bruised or fractured, her cheek and skull cut and bleeding. Yet, in the end, Anore walked out of a pile of four bodies and took a staggering step toward Nick Goodfrey.

He raised an eyebrow. “Excellent work,” he commented.

“Thank you,” she spat out another mouthful of blood. Wearily, she sighed, wincing as her ribs pinched her for it. Beleaguered, Anore took a guard stance. “Come on, then, let’s do it.”

She was surprised to see Nick’s brow furrow with concern. For a moment, his face softened, and the fell light left his eyes.

“I don’t think this is a fight you can win, Anore,” he advised her softly.

“I have to try,” she replied, coughing slightly.

His face grew cold again, and his jaw clenched.

“Why? Why try for him? Why is it him you save?” His voice cracked. He looked her up and down. “You yourself are in imminent danger.”

“Because,” she said slowly, thinking about it, really thinking about why she was doing all this for Victor. It wasn’t love, that was laughable. It wasn’t a paladin-esque sense of justice, no matter what Nick thought. It was… it was…

“Hope,” she said at last. “Hope.” She looked up at him from her hunched half-guard and smiled around her bruises. “Nick, do you remember the last thing you did as you were getting ready to leave- when Victor sold you to Sinclair?”

Nick had been walking slowly toward Anore, ready to initiate the fight at her slightest motion. He stopped now, looked at her sidelong, eyes narrowed.

“I waited at the airlock,” he said, unsure.

Anore, her eyes alight, grinned. “No, not just that,” she wagged a finger at him. “You started to sing. I was trying not to cry, and I couldn’t find a way to get Victor to take it back… and I was starting to cry, and you sang me a song.”

Her voice faltering, her breath coming in gasps, she began to sing:

“Let’s say goodbye with a smile dear,

Just for a while, dear, we must part.

Don’t let this parting upset you,

I’ll not forget you, sweetheart,”

She had to pause between lines, and closed her eyes once with pain and memory, not caring that Nick could use those brief moments to strike.
As she started to sing, Nick’s face gave a great twitch, and he paused in his slow advance. His hands lowered slightly, and as Anore watched, they started to tremble.

“Hope, Nick,” she said. “You gave me hope…you sang it over the radio. I think you must have kept singing it even after we got out of range, because the signal faded in and out, and I could hear it.”

His eyes were shining preternaturally, and he smiled slightly, genuinely. “I sang it until your ion drive signature faded,” he said. “I can’t- I can’t remember the words of it, though.” He looked in Anore’s eyes, unsure, confused, heedless of their mortal situation. “What was the song?”

Anore’s brow furrowed in sorrow. Nick had always had such a memory for songs. What had happened to him here? She wondered.

Slowly, gingerly, she started to sing, her arms moving from a guard to an embrace.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when,

But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

Nick’s brow worked, and tears spilled down over his cheeks. Shocked at the sight of tears on the android’s face, Anore watched them trail down his face in wonder. When he had left her, Nick was unable to cry. Yet here he was, weeping, quivering all over as though slowly freezing. She started to smile, nodding, and beckoned him to her, still singing. He began to stumble toward her, his head bobbing slowly in time to the words as though trying to understand or remember them.

“Keep smiling through, just like you always do,

Till the blue skies chase those dark clouds far away.”

His eyes were locked on hers, his mouth quivering. As though fighting through some great curtain of Shadow, he started to sing. His voice was wan, and sorrowful, but sounded more like Nick Goodfrey than anything he had yet uttered.

“And won’t you please say hello to the folks that I know,

Tell them I won’t be long,” he said, stepping to Anore further, raising a hand gently toward her face.

“They’ll be happy to know that as you saw me go, I was singing this song,” Nick continued, starting to recall the words more strongly. As he did, he started to smile in a way that filled Anore’s heart with a poignant happiness that made her throat clench.

“We’ll meet again,” she continued, and this time Nick sang the rest of it with her. His hand touched her cheek, and he looked at her in wonder, as though seeing her for the first time. His brow furrowed, and he faltered in the singing, as though he wanted to ask why she was injured.

Anore sang louder, more earnestly. She only had him by the slimmest thread of this song, and if he shook that loose, she might not get another chance to escape. She took him in her arms, and held him tight. To her surprise, Nick melted effortlessly into her embrace, resting his head in the crook of her neck like a small, exhausted child. His breath puffed coolly on her sore skin as he sang with her. His arms wrapped themselves around her; behind her, Anore could feel Nick pull off the assassin’s gloves one at a time and drop them on the floor. His bare fingers pressed against her shoulder blades with a fervent but gentle pressure.

She finished the stanza as she grabbed what she needed out of her pocket.

“Elle,” he said, using the name she had used when they had said goodbye. His voice was soft, and sad, and wistful.

“Nick,” she said kindly, raising the EM stun wand to his neck. She stroked his dark hair and kissed his ear. “My Nick Goodfrey.”

He lifted his head to look at her, a small, kind smile on his face. Anore caught just a glimpse of soft, sad eyes before they widened in shock and betrayal at the sight of the wand. She might have been wounded, but her reflexes were still good; she jammed the wand into the port at the base of Nick’s skull. Even though the port was closed, the jolt of stimulus sent Nick into a system crash. Uttering a pathetic cry that was clenched off by the seizure that overtook his vocal chords, Nick stiffened for a moment, then crumpled to the floor, lifeless.

After something like a wand to the neck, Nick would have to be restarted and given a complete diagnostic. It would take days, possibly weeks, for any random system to degauss itself inside Nick and begin the reboot sequencing on its own. He would not have days, even, before Sindo people came and packed him off to be rebooted and reprogrammed, this time with even less chance of failure to kill.

But she wasn’t going to leave him in this hallway; no one was restarting Nick Goodfrey but Anore. She grabbed the crystal drive out of his pocket so it wouldn’t fall out as she drug him to the airlock. She hadn’t come all this way to lose the antidote now. Stooping like an old woman, Anore took Nick by the wrist and began to pull him the fifty feet to the airlock where her shuttle was lurking. Limping, listing, panting and pausing frequently to catch her ragged breath, Anore pulled Nick’s corpse straight, then tugged it down the hallway and into the airlock. With a whoosh, the spare air expelled itself into space as her shuttle broke away. It was soon lost against the gulf of stars, headed back to the Wrought Industries war cruiser, and home.

Virginia Carraway Stark Talks Hallowe’en

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1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

So many people are ‘into’ magic and it’s always at Halloween that I ‘discover’ that I have several dozen friends that are witches that I had no idea about the rest of the year. I have no objection to the practice of Wicca or to witches, but what I do object to is dabblers. This story was more or less inspired by the idea of dabbling gone completely overboard. Dee is that crazy girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing and takes things way too far. I pretty much climbed into that girl’s head and ran with the idea.

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

Costumes are one of my favorite parts of Halloween. I don’t understand why we can’t go around in costume every day of the year if we want to. No one has ever been able to give me a good answer to that question and I insist that if we were socially uninhibited enough to wear costumes whenever and wherever we wanted that most of our social ills would fade in the freedom to express ourselves in the multiplicity of ways. People have these expectations of sameness from the people they work with and major changes are met with fear and trepidation. Isn’t that odd?

Imagine if we could dress how we feel, or even dress the opposite of how we feel. Feeling glum? Get the glitter and the glam out! Or wear your emo on the outside for the day and dress goth if you feel sad. Feeling happy? Why not wear that unicorn horn? Put in your rainbow hair extensions and strut it! Oh yeah, and there’s candy. Can’t forget candy.

I like the autumn weather, the leaves, the moodiness. The feel of mist and a little bit of eerie creepiness… but not too much. There’s a poignant feel as the year lets go with a sigh and the ground freezes, Halloween spells the last of sunlight warming my shoulders and the start of snowflakes and warm sweaters. Pumpkins and apple flavored everything for the rest of the year until fruits start are harvested again and on and on the wheel of the year turns with cinnamon to warm my veins and hot chocolate to warm my hands. It’s quite the tradeoff for losing the sun. I’m glad I don’t have to make the choice, fortunately it’s been made for me and Halloween makes me not responsible for what’s to follow.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

I have to think back to the past to parties of the past and what I liked best for this because I’m not feeling in a party place right now. The funny thing is, the most fun I ever had at a Halloween party was probably one of the ones I had as a Girl Guide! I’ve been to some crazy parties since then and experienced some wild fun, but there’s something so classic about bobbing for apples, having mask put over your eyes (These were her BRAINS… And these were her EYES cue peeled grapes and cold spaghetti).

There’s something so rewarding in the pretend fear and the sheer innocence of those little games that puts those nostalgic parties at the top of my list. Maybe that is the most boring answer that anyone has ever given for one of these, but all the other parties I’ve gone to for Halloween, no matter how much effort has gone into them, no matter how sophisticated and realistic they are, no matter how good the cocktails, has something that is somehow cheap about it compared to the joy of those parties. Besides, is there anything really more scary than carving jack-o-lanterns in a group and having pumpkin innards fight? Try getting that out of your hair! Truly the things nightmares are made of!

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

More than anyone else I’d have to say my husband and my mother. It seems like there reaches a certain point in your writing career where there isn’t anything that ‘enough’ to tell you how you’re doing as a writer. I’ve won awards, I started off making a substantial amount of money on screenplays with names in them that most people would recognize. That’s something that most writers don’t get, let alone start with. It makes it hard, especially when there are people who just sit there like turds (ICBC, yeah, I see you!) saying that you aren’t a writer, or other people who get so jealous that they drive you out of the arts community rather than admit that you’ve had a few wins (Dawson Creek, tipping my hat to the artists there).

Things get complicated.

Friends act weird when you get some wins under your belt that aren’t going to make you world famous but are enviable nevertheless.

There are the people in writing who say absolutely nothing about what you’re doing and ignore your writing as though you’ve done something gauche like farting in front of the queen mother. There are friends who make snide remarks about how far you haven’t come and ignore everything you have done.

There comes a time when you look around yourself and realize that you have fewer friends than you thought you had because of your success and more people wishing you ill because of them.

It’s heartrending to any artist to be torn down and that’s why cruel people who don’t feel like they’re achieving their own goals in life do it: it’s easy money to kick an artist/writer etc when they’re down. We’re baring our hearts and souls on the page and making ourselves vulnerable. My mother wrote her whole life, she kept journals. Keeping a journal isn’t easy and keeping a truthful journal is even more hard. I can’t tell express to a non-writer how hard it is to turn off the inner critic except through analogy: imagine never once questioning the way you look in any outfit ever again… or naked. Do your thighs jiggle? Is your makeup okay? Suck in that gut… Nope, none of that. Let it all hang out. Cellulite flopping in the breeze, not a care in the world about whether or not looking down like that gives you a double chin… Do you get the idea? Could you ever do that?

Now imagine that isn’t your body, it’s your essence. It’s your soul. It’s your most secret thoughts. It’s thoughts that aren’t even yours but things that are, ‘what ifs’ that you wonder in the dark as you try to imagine why someone else did something. Let all that flab in your mind, all those bits jiggle around and let anyone who happens to pick up your writing make of it what they will. No one is ever going to really understand what you have to say on the page. Everyone is going to misjudge you. If you know the people reading what you wrote; it’s going to be an exponential number worse. Every little bit of guilt is going to tell them that any negative thing you put on the page is surely about them. Every character who is a villain is surely a thinly veiled version of them… they just know it! How they’ve caught you out!

While you go blithely writing your world, crafting your characters as you would a child there are people turning each tap on the keyboard into a diabolical scheme of paranoia against them. They try to dig into your psychology. They try to ‘figure you out’. They try to find you in the page.

You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you?

That was my mom’s favorite song when she was alive. One of the last communications we had was a card where she congratulated me on my writing and told me how excited she was to see where my writing would take me. She wrote that she had never been able to write except when her soul ached, that was why she only wrote journals.

After her death, during the divorce from my father, at other pivotal moments in her life, her journals were plucked from her hands and used against her. After her death my family poured over each pen stroke and internalized every word that could be interpreted as harsh to cut their souls with. They hated her because of those journals. I only read a few of them, but the ones I did read made me love her so much more. I understood our differences and our sames so much better. I cried because she had never said the words on the page to me out loud and even if she had, I don’t know if I would have been in a place where I would have understood what she was saying to me. But she wrote. She wrote without an inner critic telling her that she was writing ugly things, or beautiful things, she wrote because her soul was screaming and now I understand her more than I ever did before.

I know that my writing has made me no end of enemies and will likely make me many more, but I also know that my writing has been there for people when they needed to hear the words I spoke. I know that I have helped people in my lifetime with my words and as my mother gave me the gift of understanding after her death to inspire me to keep writing, I understand what the ability to speak the words needed when I cannot physically be there to say them means to people. That is how my mother has encouraged me in life and death to keep writing.

My husband has had a much more intensive role to play in my writing life. He is the guardian of the very soul of my writing. When people are cruel I know that there is one person who will always be kind. He won’t lie to me, he’ll tell me the truth about my writing, but he will talk to me. He won’t seal up like a clam the way people do to writers when they feel withholding. People stop talking or acknowledging writing, or deliberately push buttons to try to stop up writing, as though every word I personally write is somehow an affront to them.

But Tony Stark isn’t like that. He’s there with me. He WANTS to hear the words I write. We share back and forth and through our symbiotic encouragement and enthusiasm he puts my hands gently back on the keys after they’ve been squished flat by the stomping brutality that is relentless as soon as those pages leave the drawer and are shared with the world. It’s a strange thing that writers are repaid with little or no money, cruel words as often as kind, and yet they write the words that need to be there for those people who need to hear them most. Like my mother. Even after her death more people hated and reviled her for her writing than ever thanked her for her courage, but her words changed the world for me. They gave me a mother where I had none, or at least, when I thought I had none.

These people who will be there for you and who understand the subtle rays of goodness that writers put into the world are few and far between and my husband is the strongest and most steadfast of all the people.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

Google me. Seriously, I don’t mind, I kinda like it 😉
I’m all over the internet. You can find me on my author page www.virginiastark.wordpress.com

@tweetsbvc

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/

www.starklightpress.com

www.gafmainframe.com

Amazon, and a variety of other blogs, radio guest spots, interviews as well as brick and mortar stores in Canada, Texas, New York, Iceland, Argentina and Australia.

Alaska Highway Book Update!

Thanks to all those who recently ordered a copy of The Alaska Highway: 75th Anniversary Edition, making this our fourth run of the book!

Books will be delivered to StarkLight Press warehouse by July 15th, and will be available for pickup after 4 pm that day. For our customers in North America, your books will arrive by post by July 27th.

For international customers, orders will be arriving by August 15th.

 

Thanks again to everyone who has helped make the 75th Anniversary of the Alaska Highway into such a huge success!

 

 

Tony Stark,

Publisher and CEO,

StarkLight Press.

StarkLight 5 Winners!

We are pleased to announce that the winners of our latest, StarkLight  contest have been chosen!

This well-known anthology features an array of speculative fiction from authors around the world- including first time authors with special merit.

The winners are:

Chris Scott

Sergio Palumbo

Jason Pere

Neri Kemraj

Will Norton

Van Fleming

L.E. Caine

Tara O’Neill

Maude Welles

Alfie Elkins

Nicholas Vincenzi

Delaney Murdock

The Irregulars Have Arrived

 

The Irregulars is now available!

This collaborative novel is the second such project by StarkLight Press. Featuring the talents of several international authors, The Irregulars traces the adventures of a group of eight children with supernatural abilities. Lost and homeless, these children find themselves hunted by a pharmaceutical CEO who wants them to add to her collection of gifted children…

This novel was written in segments, with each author given the responsibility of narrating one of the character’s perspectives. Authors include:

Virginia Carraway Stark

Tony Stark

Kaylee Kosakowski

Jason Pere

Alex Benitez

Kat Hutson

Leanne Caine

Alfie Elkins

Maude Welles

Look for the second installment of the adventures of The Irregulars, coming in 2018!

– Tony Stark,

President and CEO,

StarkLight Press.

 

 

The Alaska Highway: 75th Anniversary

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Announcing the arrival of the full-color coffee table book The Alaska Highway: 75th Anniversary Celebration.

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This hundred page book features full color photos and archival images of the Alaska Highway, along with thought-provoking essays on the historical background of this amazing roadway. Also included is a little-known collection of mile-by-mile history and achievement.

Written by Tony Stark, Virginia Carraway Stark, Krista Michelle, L.E. Caine, Will Norton, Van Fleming, Jonny Wakefield and Doris Ray, The Alaska Highway is an anniversary celebration book you won’t want to miss!

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Out in Schools- An Excellent Resource for Finding Community Allies

Report on Bullying, Discrimination and the LGBT2Q+ Community

by

Virginia Carraway Stark

** Please Note: A list of helpful websites is available at the bottom of this page**

I went to ‘Out in Schools’ on behalf of the South Peace Community Arts Council and StarkLight Press. Myself and Tony Stark with StarkLight Press were contacted by SPCAC as last minute attendees, because all other members of the SPCAC were unable to attend this afternoon seminar.

Out in Schools focuses on raising awareness against discrimination in all forms, particularly the LGBT2Q+ community. It was well attended by people who are extremely concerned by the situation of bias, discrimination and hate crimes against anyone perceived as not being part of the mainstream community.

The major focuses of the meeting were

  1. Resources
  2. Connecting with allies
  3. Self-advocacy
  4. Protecting vulnerable persons from discrimination and hate crimes.

The conclusions on these points were that Resources in the Peace River Region are sorely lacking as is a sense of community. Dawson Creek has been identified as a place in the province of British Columbia that is particularly prone to bigotry and discrimination. People leave the area rather than trying to deal with the storm of hatred in this area. This has caused province-wide concern.

SPCRS is one of the only groups that has any programs to assist the LGBT+ community. They are dealing with children and teenagers who are being kicked out of their homes by families that lack education and understanding. There was concern expressed about the lack of doctors for the LGBT+ community in particulary the Trans-gendered community.

Most resources eventually end up being routed through Vancouver. This and the extreme lack of understanding and compassion have caused most of this community to leave or to stay hidden. There are few community events and these events tend to be segregated from the community at large. This further isolates the LGBT+ population.

Both at the meeting and afterward, I connected with several people who said they were planning on leaving the area because of the unwelcoming environment. It was pointed out to me that there is little or no involvement of the LGBT+ community, People of Colour and Aboriginal population and the disabled community inside the arts community as a whole.

This has been noticed by provincial bodies as well and may affect future funding if diversity isn’t embraced.

The meeting served to connect allies with the LGBT+ community and the atmosphere at the meeting itself was warm and welcoming to all. Terms were gone over. It was discussed that a dictionary with terms should be made and the advocate from SPCRS discussed this matter with me and it was agreed that StarkLight Press would volunteer our services to make a dictionary based off of current terminology with a bold note in the front to let people know that these terms are highly changeable. Future editions of the LGBT+ dictionary will be an on-going project and something that is worked on in newer editions.

A side note to bring to your attention was discrimination in other fields not as yet legally recognized. These areas touched on the topics of those who look different having similar discrimination issues against them. This is particularly true for people with piercings, tattoos and alternative hairstyles including in some cases individuals with shaved heads. Freedom to express yourself should not limit your lifestyle or job options in an open society. These are things to keep in mind for the future and to be aware of in our daily conduct.

Support groups for men who are dealing with the subject of ‘toxic masculinity’ was breached. Many communities have started support groups to help men dealing with the suppressive atmosphere of emotion and sensitivity, essentially providing a ‘safe place’ for men to express their feelings. For many men this also includes emotional education and learning how to safely express their feelings after being taught in life and in the workplace that such things were not permissible.

It was generally agreed upon that this was something that Dawson wasn’t ready for but something to keep in mind for the future. If men should express a desire to start a group it is important that resources be made available for them to do so and that most of all community receptiveness is present. Toxic masculinity is a topic that isn’t addressed enough and many people aren’t even aware that it is a problem. Nevertheless, it induces feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and has resulted in many suicides and other acts of violence that could be prevented by opening this dialogue.

In addition, Self Advocacy was discussed at great length. It has been observed that abusers, bullies and those used to practicing discrimination rely on a regular course of attack on their victims to attempt to undermine and isolate them from the rest of the community at large. A Self-Advocacy booklet will go over the steps to reporting hate crimes, hate incidents and how to file claims with the various Human Rights Tribunals, the RCMP (as well as special Hate Crime division numbers to avoid any local problems from people attempting to go to the police who fear for their safety). Most of all this booklet will focus on how to speak up for yourself.

As a recent victim of discrimination myself, I have had the dubious distinction of learning more about how to file Human Rights Complaints and both how to speak up on my behalf and how the narrow-minded abuser will attempt to ‘mind rape’ people into being silent.

These tactics involve:

1 Calling the victim a trouble maker.

2 Calling the victim a liar.

3 Rallying around the central abuser. This is why Hate Crimes are often referred to as ‘a cancer in the community’ or a ‘community virus’. Justifying for the abuser and demonizing the victim brings more and more people into the conspiracy of discrimination in an effort to maintain the status quo.

4 Shunning the victim. Showing preference for the abuser.

These tactics were portrayed in a short film about a young trans-gendered boy in Prince George who nearly ended up committing suicide. He was not only expelled from school for speaking out about the abuse after being admonished by school administration to be silent, he was also chided in front of the boys who had assaulted him for daring to speak up and, ‘cause trouble’.

This pattern is one I witnessed after being called, ‘retarded’ by the president of the Pottery Guild of Dawson Creek and subsequently denied membership and access to the guild. I was admonished for speaking up about the abuse and discrimination on Facebook, to my husband and to friends. I was told that I had brought ‘bad press’ to the potter’s guild so now I would definitely not be given membership. This was after I was made to feel sub-human from Dori Braun’s characterizations of me as being mentally and physically too handicapped to be a potter. Even describing me as being, ‘unable to comprehend even the most basic of skills’ and as, ‘suffering from retardation’.

After continuing to speak out I was told in strong terms that I wouldn’t be welcome to perform at a public poetry event arranged by Donna Kane on behalf of the Peace Liard Arts Council because Dori was distressed that I was speaking about how she had treated me. Dori had now changed her story entirely, following the standard model of calling me a troublemaker, then a liar and finally gathering first the Potter’s Guild and then Donna Kane and other members of the arts community around her to validate her discrimination.

The result of this was that Dori performed and I was forced out of the community.

This is key to speak out about because anyone, regardless of the type of discrimination will see the same pattern. This can culminate quickly into violence or suicide and it is important to file a police report. It is also integral to intercede on behalf of the victim. One should never assume that a victim is not a victim because you have ‘known someone forever’. Every member of the community should have the same rights regardless of how long they have been in the community or what perceived or actual discrimination is being shown against them.

There is little to be gained in the material sphere for making claims against bullies. You are at once pressured by the abuser and their circle who try to vilify you and twist the situation around to the abuser’s advantage. It takes great strength to stand up against discrimination and speak out. There are few rewards and much pain and suffering.

If someone speaks out about abuse you need to listen. This is not ever a case of, ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Discrimination, bullying and hate crimes are often difficult to prove and it is the responsibility of every good-hearted person to improve society by intervening in this sort of behavior before more harm is done.

Protecting vulnerable people from hate crimes and discrimination is something that must be done as a community. Dawson Creek has received failing marks on this on all counts.  Help for local victims of discrimination and abuse is almost always sought out from outside the community as the people of Dawson Creek fail again and again to fight these crimes.

Every Guild and Society must make it clear that it is open to all members. This is supposed to be clearly laid out in the charter of each group and when you sign for government funding that is one of the pre-requisites on nearly every form that the activity/guild/society be freely made available to all people. Rules of conduct and admission must be written up and clearly posted on your groups website and physical location if there is one.

This isn’t being done and is a violation of the reception of government grant money and loans.

In addition, a method of mediation for problems within societies should be clearly laid out. Communication should be transparent and the Arts Council as the one who holds the purse strings is responsible for ensuring that these steps are taken to ensure a friendly and inclusive environment for everyone. None of this is currently apparent.

I propose that someone be made responsible for this oversight and enacting the necessary changes to start making moves in the right direction. I also propose that a deadline be put on this activity to ensure that Dawson Creek doesn’t humiliate itself on the 75th anniversary of the Mile Zero celebrations by showing itself to be letting down its vulnerable population. Looking to the past and how the black population and the native population has been routinely ignored and abused I think it’s important that the current council not repeat the mistakes of Dawson Creek over the past 75 years.

  • Virginia Carraway Stark is an award-winning author, whose short stories have appeared internationally. You can find her work at StarkLight Press, and on Amazon.com.

You can find more information about the Out in Schools program here:

http://outinschools.com/

More Resources:

South Peace Community Resources Society

http://www.spcrs.ca

http://www.heretohelp.bc.ca/visions/lgbt-vol6/lgbt-resources

http://www.qmunity.ca

https://crisiscentre.bc.ca/contact-us/