Archives for the month of: April, 2012

With this current round of novel edits winding down I’ve been getting back to poetry. First putting together sets for my two (so far) up coming summer features. I aim to make them both different and to have mini-chaps books to sell of the pieces  I do. For the Art Bar feature I’m focusing on down east/childhood material I’m calling Brown Betty.

April was poetry month. I didn’t try this year, as some did, to write and post a new piece every day. I wrote something nearly every day though. Some was work on Lazarus, some work on my novel about coal miners and even poetry.


My current poetry project, other than getting things ready for features & open stages, is to do a series based on the titles of the essays of Montaigne. I read the essays over the past couple of years – they do go on. I really enjoy working with prompts and as there over 100 of these essays I have prompts to keep me going for a couple of months. The pieces will be based on title only, not on the content of the essay.


Reading them once was enough. Here’s one of them:


Of Sorrow (2)


those moments when we glanced

across a subway track

opposite directions

that frequently converged

paths that will no longer cross

missing you

yet still seeing your wave

as you get in the subway car

or I get in mine

a frantic little dance

not caring who sees

or perhaps caring who saw

wanting them to see   to know

you were willing to look so silly

at your age

at my age

showing a world of strangers

that we care for each other

across a the subway tracks

different platforms

different directions

paths that will never

cross again



Took a break from my Lazarus Kiss edits to get out to Plasticine Poetry Sunday night. A full house with a dynamic features and equally open stagers.  I pulled out ‘Passing On’ another recent new piece to see if it actually works and it did. People identify with subway congestion. Gave ‘Working Out’ another recent piece, already read once at BuDa, another airing as well and it went over better than the first time. It’s all in the editing.


Cathy Petch sleep-deprived from her whirl-wind BC triumphs held her fractured sense of purpose together (just joking) to host a great line up.

First feature Lisa Richter, whose red beads & purple dresses gave her a sort of updated June Cleaver look, did a fun set of personal pieces. The material was rich with pop culture references from Bob Dylan to Nina Simon. Enjoyed sharing the memory of her grandmother as she ‘hula-hooped off to heaven.’


Next up was Marsha Barber – carrying on the purple with her top – she read from her book What is the Sound of Someone Unravelling which dealt with death and other domestic matters with sensitivity and humor. She writes about  personal loss without over-emotionalism in an understated way that touched us. The pieces had strong endings and fun, if long, titles ‘Reasons To Sleep With A Man: An Ode to the 1960’s” – the upside of death is that there are no more visits to the dentist.


During the pass-the-hat break I pushed myself to mingle and hand out Trek flyers to promo my hosting at BuDa and my two summer features. I find handing flyers with a bit of interaction makes it more likely people’ll take the flyer with them. Putting them on random tables usually turns the flyers into annoying debris or coasters.

Final feature was Martha Baillie who read sections from The Incident Report a novel structured as library incident reports. To continue the purple theme the first incident involved purple (or where they black) binders. The pieces were funny, affectionate and compelling. Some slipped from Dragnet style recounting of an event into unexpected lyric recollections of a life – one went effortlessly from a book on poisons to memories of sheep herding. A strong and delightful feature. I bought the book (I could only afford one or I would have bought all by the features.)

The evening ended with a rollicking open stage that I kicked off with sex on the subway and ended with Christian’s sex on the freeway. A good time was had by all.


here’s the sex on the subway piece I presented at Plasticine:

Passing On

people passing on the subway stairs

shoving in opposite directions

mobs of important people

with vital messages to deliver

struggle to get past each other

on stairs normally wide enough

but now suddenly congested

as more arrived who had to

get where they were needed to be

backpacks bag straps get caught

on arms shoulders elbows

push inch our bodies

in the right direction

if only we could get there

before it was too late

buttons become undone

coats were pulled open

shoes were lost

breasts where exposed

pants panties torn   bottoms bared

cocks brush other cocks

pussies momentairly entered

nothing can distract any of us

from the critical messages we have

from the goals we were required to fulfill

not even these glancing body contacts

we don’t have time to be responsive

to the tongues that lick us

to body parts that we lick

scarcely aware of genders

of brief squandered instants of penetration

as we work our way through the horde

some exit the stairs at the top

some at the bottom

pull together what remained of garments

and get on our way

to deliver important messages

Got out to my first poetry cabaret since I went to The Beautiful and the Damned (BuDa) last month. I’ve been so in the thick of The Lazarus Kiss edits I haven’t been able to focus properly on poetry edits. The last few open stages I hit I used old material, so it was time to break out some new pieces. I have to be careful not to use prose edit attitude for poetry – even though story line is important in both – in poetry I try keep the language flow a little more playful.

I’ve been using my Kindle for readings to cut down on the amount of paper I have to deal with. Is the Kindle any better for the environment? Anyway – it is certainly easier to handle than loose pages at the mic. I bump up the font size, save it as a PDF & load what I’m going to read onto the Kindle. It’s kinda cool to see my name as authors.

comes a dark rider

comes a dark rider

The April BuDa was hosted by Nik Beat of CIUT’s Howl. He gives good host. Nik has an up coming book signing/talk for his collection of poems The Tyranny of Love.

Lizzie Violet, the first feature, rocked the stage in leopard skin with a fun set that was a mix of horror, childhood memories & relationship ironies. A love poem to a ghost asked it to ‘make the writing on the wall clearer.’ Like her I once buried a baby sibling in stuffed animals – learning, the hard way, the difference between affection and attempted asphyxiation. The set was well-pace and heartfelt. She’ll be hosting the BuDa’s October’s Day Of The Dead themed show.

traces of hair were found at the scene

traces of hair were found at the scene

Helen Posno was the second feature. Her pieces were introspective with strong nature imagery. Her stage presence was ‘a boat pulling at its tether’ (from one her pieces) that longed to break free. Peter Lynch delivered one of her monologues and really broke free with a stunning and moving performance.

Final musical feature was Kat Leonard with a fun and emotion set. Her Depp song was sweet, sexy and rocking. Fuck Cancer gave anger, grief & loss a rare combination of humor and pain. This woman can sing too. Great theatrical sense of stage and excellent use of the stripper pole.

Open stagers were all excellent. I hit the mic in the first set – my new pieces worked well – two still need better endings but that’ll come. My third piece was a real audience pleaser. You’ll have to come to my June Art Bar feature to hear it.

crows over cornfield

crows over cornfield

I’ll be hosting BuDa next month. For those who like to plan ahead I’ll be featuring at the BuDa October show with some of the darker piece.

writing sample

writing sample

Here’s one of the new pieces – still in search of an ending:


my dad never gave me that talk

the one about the birds and the bees

about how the man sticks

his whowie into a woman’s wowie

I guess he expected me learn about sex

the way he did

from an older brother

too bad I didn’t have one

or maybe it was from his army buddies


I never had army buddies

never fought in a war

we never had that sex talk

about whowie’s and wowie’s

the basics came from school yard smutty talk

technical information from playboy penthouse

found a book hidden in a drawer

color plates as exciting as a terrain map

I don’t recall any man-to-man talks with dad

where he explained how life works

about getting a job  making a family

by the time I had the information needed to breed

I was more interest in whowie’s that wowie’s

my dad never talked to me about sex

what might he have known about queers

when I came out

there was no conversation beyond

am I happy

he had no tips on increasing sexual pleasure

we never spoke about the emotional dance

between men and women

let alone between men

all that I learned from the joy of gay sex

the timid porn of the time

yet I was a quick learner

given the chance to explore

it was easier than riding a bike

and didn’t hurt as much when I fell


May 10, Thursday – hosting: The Beautiful and The Damned with guests: Spencer Butt, Gemma Files, Carlin Belof

June 1-3 – attending: Bloody Words

June 12, Tuesday – feature: The Art Bar

July 22-27, Sunday-Friday – attending: Aubert Workshop

August 19, Sunday – feature: Plasticine Poetry

August 23-26 – attending: Fan Expo Canada



My edits of the NaNo novel are going very well. Lots of cuts to make space for what isn’t there yet. Changed a couple of character names with the help of Search/Replace – I found names with a resonance for what the character represent and offer a clue as to who they are in the curse mythos.


As I work on the edits I realize that I have made one of my main characters too smart. That’s one of the things I suspect that happens so easily, when we write we give every character the same knowledge base we have as writers. The result is a lack of difference between them. I have to go back and make that character stupid, less informed, less articulate and a bit of a thickie without making him less sympathetic or too sympathetic either.


Another thing that I realized is that my hero needs more conflict, particularly in his interactions with the character I have to dumb down. They are both too amiable about the circumstance they’ve been pulled into and I need them to react more to not wanting to be caught up. So a confrontation is brewing between. I’ve cut enough to allow for this to happen but I have to figure out where this happens in the time line of what I have written.

Anyone have any tips on how to dumb down a character?



In my initial draft I often don’t always name characters. They are X Y etc. Sometimes they are named from the very start too. In my current project ‘Harris’ came to me fairly quickly once I started. It took a while before I had a last name for him though. I follow standard naming advice – “keep names easy to pronounce when reading” “keep them fitting for the context” – Fantasy allows for more fun with names – ‘Oak Spirit’ would never work as a name for any of the characters in my story. As it is set in Toronto I use names as a way to reflect the multicultural nature of the city. To find names I often search soccer team leagues in other countries.

Scenes often happen in bars, cafes or near subway stops so I’ve been creating names for these that sound real without being site specific – Greendale Station, a Plaza Place is condo high-rise, Story is my hero’s favorite bar, Mug Thuggs – as it sounds, is a funky coffee shop.

My hero, Harris, works for a marketing firm that deals with online retail called dE.tail – I’ve had fun making names for the various companies and products he deals with.

The one name I’ve not finalized is the title of the novel – I’ve had, so far, three working titles: Curse of Love, Casanova Conundrum & the current one The Lazarus Kiss. The last arose as the origins of the curse/blessing became clearer in writing about it. I’m not attached to any one of these as I know editors often change titles to suit markets.

not a doorable either

not a doorable either

here’s another of the chopped scenes – Ellie is one of the women drawn to Harris as a result of the curse (what curse you might ask – we’ll you’ll have to buy the book when it gets published to find out) – In this early draft I was exploring how the curse changed the lives of the people who fell under it – Ellie’s backstory fascinated me but ultimately adds nothing to propel my plot & takes too much space & time away from the real story. The scene ends in a fulcrum of three people caught up in this curse with Harris – Alex who remembers, Kate/Frances who had been ‘forced’ to accept they have met even though she doesn’t remember, and Ellie who doesn’t remember meeting Harris a first time. I was hoping to create some sort of axis of resolution for Harris when all these ‘cursed’ were together – but that never jelled – so out this scene went. I still have one where Alex ‘rescues’ Harris from Dave and Kate.


“He’s here Gran.” Dina poked her head into her Gran’s room.

“How do I look.’ Ellie brushed her moire silk blouse. “Pink is age appropriate. Then again so would a coffin.”

“Gran you look great. Really. Younger everyday.”

Tracing Billy hadn’t been as difficult as Ellie expected. Not that it was easy but she found the kindness and politeness go a long way in getting things accomplished. She’d gone into the Native Centre on Spadina and asked there how she could find him. They had access to records of different tribes but those records weren’t accurate or complete. Many of the natives had more than one recorded name. The one given them at birth, the one given them when those births were recorded and finally ones given them by schools or families that took them in, if they were taken in at all.

There was a confusing array of possibilities for her search. A young woman at the centre helped get her started but she was then left on her own to sift through online records and the endless collection of information on microfiches.

After days of searching the one lead that helped was what she remembered of his boxing career. Not many natives had a title shot in their background. She narrowed it down to a William Hard Nose Sampson. There were a few photos but they were so dim she couldn’t be sure.  He was still alive and living in Toronto.

She asked the young woman if she would pass on her number to William. Ellie doubted if this was him, as Billy would have been only a few years younger than her. This William was about sixteen years younger. But she felt there was no harm in trying.

William had called Sunday and after a few tentative questions she was convinced this was her Billy. Now she was meeting him.

She followed Dina down the stairs.

He stood as she came into the room. Stood and bowed his head.

“You haven’t changed a bit Mrs. Macmillan.”

“Still a liar, eh, Billy.” he wasn’t as tall as her memory. The face was older, wrinkled but the eyes were the ones she knew.

“Turn around. Let me look at you.”

Ellie giggled as she turned a slow circle. “All original parts.”

“I’ll let you two get reacquainted.” Dina started to leave the room.

“That’s fine dear but I think we are going to take a walk.”

“Okay, Gran.”

Dina saw them to the door. William was smiling and silent.

“I’ll try to be home at decent hour.” Ellie joked.

“I shall take care of her.” William looked from Ellie to Dina. “I’ll get Mrs. Macmillan home before curfew.”

“My goodness,” Ellie laughed. “I haven’t thought about that curfew for years. And it’s Ellie. Mrs. Macmillan makes sound like an old, old lady.”

They got caught up as they walked. Ellie’s children, her husband’s war record, how Dina came to live with her while she studies at U. of T.

They sat on a park bench.

“Mrs. Macmillan …. Ellie …. it is wondrous to meet you again after all these years. But there are some things I must confess. It has been a great shame for me all these years.”

“What?” she took his hands in hers.

“I was not honest with you. I let you think what you wanted to think. You see I was no man when we met but a boy.”

“A boy?”
“Yes. When I came to your door at that big house I was just a boy. I was only fifteen playing at being much older. I let you think I was older so you won’t send me away. Send me back to the  school. But I was just a boy who had to be a man. You understand.”

“I guess I do. You were so mature. You didn’t have the body of a boy.”

“I matured early. I used that. You would be surprised how few people ask to see a native’s birth certificate. If they did it was easy to tell them the date was wrong.”

“Ah well at least the boxing was true.”

“Sort of. Hard-Nose was my dad. We looked a lot alike and well …. I pretended to be him. I’m William Jr. I figure they thought I was the Hard-Nose when the Centre passed your number on to me. I hope you aren’t too disappointed in me?”

They continued walking.

“The past is the past.”

William told her about his travels across Canada. getting in trouble here and there, cleaning up his life on the west coast, coming back to start a life in Toronto. He had married and his wife passed away two years ago, had four children, all boys. They kept him young and firm. He helped street kids like himself. he taught them boxing. Taught them to be themselves.

“It was easy to be untrue with you. We kids were told that because we were native we were liars and drunks. In school when I told the truth I wasn’t believed anyway so I tried to live their truth and that was what I acted out for years. It was simple to fit that than try to find out who we really were.”

They stopped to sit at a cafe patio by the Sherbourne subway station.

“I sometimes come here to watch the people.” William pulled a chair out for her. “Not as busy as Yonge but busy enough to feel the flow. What can I get you?”

“Something cold but not ice tea. It’s always too sweet.”

Ellie did as he suggested. Watched people come and go. She realized how isolated she had become in her life. Her granddaughter was often the only person she saw or spoke to for days on end. That was until last week when something had nudged her back to awareness. Got her out to the hairdressers for the first time in many years. When she shopped for new clothes she couldn’t figure out how she had fallen into such a drab vision of herself. Out with the browns and grays and in with the pinks and blues. It felt good to be back to life, resurrected, reborn.

“Here we are.” William put two tall drinks in front of her. One was a light green the other a milky-pink. “You choose.”

“What are they?”
“Choose one and find out. Go on. Take a chance.”

She choose the milky-pink because almost matched her blouse.

“That is the summer berry.’ William told her. “Mine is melon soother or something like that.”

As she sipped a van pulled up sharply in front of the subway station. The driver jumped out and grabbed at a chubby man who was exiting the station.

“So it is you.” the man tried to push the other one into the van.

William turned around to see what she was looking at. Horns were beeping. The men began to scuffle. Another one in shorts and a tank-top dashed across the street and pulled them a part.

“Let him go.” the tank-top guy shouted. “I said let him go.”

These two men faced off. The first guy was so much taller than the tank top guy she was afraid he’d get the worse of it even though the tank-top guy was quite muscular. In a blur one of the tank-top guy’s bare feet shot out and knocked the tell guy over. They continued to grapple but the shorter guy clearly had the upper hand.

“I’ll be right back.” William jumped the railing.

The first man that was being was pulling at the shoulders of the shorter guy.

“I’m fine Alex.”

“Yeah, listen to your boyfriend.” The tall guy punched the short guy in the stomach.

The short guy gabbed the tall guy by the front of his shirt and had his fist ready.

William grabbed the short guy by the biceps and yanked hard. Pulled him away.

“That’s not the way brother.” he was saying. “That’s not the way.”





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