Archives for category: Cape Breton

Here’s the piece I wrote when misunderstanding one of the Viral prompts, which I had assumed was about packing, where as it as really about travel. There is travel element in this mind you but not strong enough to count.

I do move from Cape Breton to Toronto in it and my thoughts do move through my the history of my growing up queer to a willingness to let go of the tangible remains of those memories.

tear ragged bottom

This is how I like to deal with those coming out years, with more nostalgia than anger. In fact I’m glad that I was never offered much adult guidance – too often gay teens where forced into aversion therapy, shock treatment or prayed for under the healing hands of their church till Satan was driven out. I suppose that would make for a more dramatic poem.

cherry cherry chair

There are elements of truth in this piece – moving here, the feelings about my dad’s disappointment, making yogurt, even having an unopened box but that box was of cup and saucers packed away when we moved to this house & stuck on a basement shelf. It was finally opened & donated to Goodwill.

As for papers in my old desk – some that has been tossed but I still have notebooks of poetry, even novels, I wrote in high-school, college and before my move to Toronto.

shovel chair tossed

I revisit some of it every four or five years just to remind myself what handwriting looks like. It’s aways a bit of shock to see my drunken scrawl as I struggle to write myself out the truth I was trapped by. That handwriting is better than aversion therapy for keeping me honest to who I am.


April 21, Monday – featuring – Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic at The Amsterdam Bicycle Club – 7:30 – doors and open mic sign up, 8:00 – start – 54 The Esplanade, Toronto

amflyerjpg copy

April 27, Sunday – attending – Julie Czerndea Workshop 

judy Julie Czerndea

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words


June 23-27 – attending – Manuscript to Book – Loyalist Summer Arts – Belleville, Ont

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


Basement Boxx


I came across this cardboard box

sitting on a basement shelf

my handwriting on the side

‘desk papers’

the box had been there for so long

I don’t remember putting it there

when we moved into the house

over thirty years ago

I wiped the collected dust off the top

‘what desk’ I wondered

the box had once held a yogurt maker

I recognized the illustration of it

on the side of the box

I’d gotten rid of that maker twenty years ago

it had been a gift from my dad

when I moved from the family home

to my first apartment

man I felt like my life was in motion then

my first place

a place where I could drink

without being observed by my parents

where I could entertain whenever I wanted


the booze helped me pack away

the stuff in my life

I didn’t know how to deal with

and at the same time

give me the courage to unpack it

to drop my pants

to hide my fear & uncertainty

the frustration of never being the son

I thought I was supposed to

a son who make the basketball team

not yogurt

a time when no parent

wanted their eldest

to become a queer

frustrations that lead me

to leave that Cape Breton town

for the bigger one of Toronto

this was one of those boxes

from that move

now I know what desk


I give it a little shake

I hear papers

loose paperclips, pens

I start to put it back

then decide to toss it


to recycle

finding it has unpacked

enough of my past

for one day

SAM_1218 brokeback snow bank


Cabaret Noir started the new year off in fine style with dynamic sets from Brock Hessel, David Bateman & music by Cap & Kev. Kevin, at the Central, with zydeco then French Pop 60’s playlists created a great mood for the show.

bowsnow bow doesn’t make the gift any more welcome

I’d seen Brock perform recently and was eager to hear what new material he had. His first piece about a bathhouse Betty introduced us to his relentlessly pointed observations of gay and pop culture, politics and the mental health system. ‘Someone called me an asshole – how can a part of me represent the whole?’ He closed with Joanne’s Hands or is Johanda’s Hands – a no-holds-bars milking of Canadian cultural icons from Layton to Lightfoot.

hedgelight boa constrictor

  Next up was David Bateman. I’ve heard David several times and each time he’s had strong new pieces, so I was looking forward to his latest observations, stories and maybe a haiku or two. No haiku’s but a fine long memory piece: ‘I kissed her husband ten times, deeply,’ ‘raised by wolves in a badly furnished den,’ ‘now that I’m too old to die young.’ The piece was rich with cultural references: KFC, Dairy Queen, trailer parks and assassinations.

brokencrushed balls

This is the first time I’ve heard musical feature Cap & Kev, as Cap & Kev – as members of I Hate Todd – I’ve heard them in various combinations with other circle of jerkers. A violin & acoustic guitar duo they treated us to a great set of mid-tempo, adult, folksy material. The violin added warm, Celtic accents that took me back to my coffee house days in Cape Breton. They mixed original material with some great covers of John Prine, The Pretenders (!!) & Death Cab. When they started Brass in The Pocket I was slightly dismayed but Cap seized that song & turned it into her own with a dynamic performance. Loved their hockey song as well – not sure what it was called but it scored.

A Noir full house made for a great start for 2014 (plus an all too brief lap dance for me from Nelson Sobral.)


(my coming attractions only list features or conferences but not reading events I’m merely attending)

January 22, Wednesday – featuring – Winter Snow Ball, 7 p.m. – urban gallery, 400 Queen East


January 30, Thursday – guest spot -The Dildettes, 8 p.m., Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander Street.

February 21, Friday – featuring – Racket at the Rocket: 7 p.m., Red Rocket Cafe, 1364 Danforth Ave.

March 1, Saturday – attending – Toronto SpecFic Colloquium

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

June 23-27 – attending – Manuscript to Book – Loyalist Summer Arts – Belleville

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada



Jess looked down at the knife. It was in her hand. She held it. Clutched it would be more accurate. It was embedded in her grip and the sight of the silver blade gripped her.

She held it at arm’s length to keep it as far from her face as possible.

“Is this a dagger before me?” She breathed the words into the cold air, her breath a cloud of frost before her. A cloud that for a brief moment hid the knife from her.

The moon reflected from the beads of her breath as they formed a frost pattern on the blade. Cold hard steel that would liberate her, free her people, if she wielded it properly.

“The Word will come to pass.” Jess held the blade over head, the tip of it grazing the low branch of the oak tree above her. Where it grazed a thin spark of blue appeared and vanished.

“The Tower of the east will no longer have the power to possess.” She turned to the east with the tip of the dagger aimed in that direction.

“The Fires of the south will no longer have the warmth to boil the life out of our souls.” She muttered as she moved the point of the dagger to the south.

“The Watch of the west will lose all grip on reality, on the word she thinks holds her intact.” The blade vibrated for a moment as it locked into true west. “You can resist but only for this moment.”

“The Desert of the north will blow across the land only one more time.” She brought the blade point to north. “We will allow it only one last time to cover all the land with the healing power of dryness. Then life will spring anew.”

She directed the blade at the rocky ground beneath her and with all her force drove the point into stone. The stone shattered and separated beneath her feet. The very planet shook for an instant.

“Earth has been moved for this moment. As has been written the Spirit of Life has been set free again. All elements will be bound together for ever.”

Jess tugged the dagger. It was solid in the stone. With all her might she pulled but it resisted. This was not the way it was to be. If all was done right the dagger would slide out easily from the stone to reach once more past the moon and to the sun as it rose.

If she did not raise the dagger high she didn’t know what the consequence might it. It would not be good.

She stopped tugging a moment and held the handle gently in her hand.

“You take what you need from the earth.” She wiped her brow and gently slid the dagger out. The silver blade was now black, with no reflection. She couldn’t tell where the blade ended and the night began.

frozenmy keyboard is frozen

I met this guy on line – which is where I meet guys these days. I wonder if there is actually a bar life anymore with online cruising so accessible? I never meet men, say, at readings – not that there aren’t attractive men there, but they are usually eager for the hot female poets – not the old gay guy.

westSan Francisco Bay

This on-line guy asked me: “What are you looking for?” I don’t think I’m looking for anything that most guys online (or in bars) are looking for – though my expectations aren’t as geared to fulfillment either – unlike the many guys who only want someone to slot into very defined qualifications: hairy & hung or young & hung or uncut & hung or into s&m & hung or or or. The number of men my age looking for only those under 30 dismays me.

avonAvon River, Stratford, Ontario

So I look for opportunity not definitions or solutions. I know what I like but that doesn’t keep me from being open to enjoying men who don’t ‘qualify.’ I suspect the guy who asked “What are you looking for?” is looking for something more serious – the one man who will be solution to his search for love – which isn’t me.

eastWreck Cove, Cape Breton

My ideal would live within walking distance (but I happily travel thirty minutes on TTC for some guys), have a life of his own, he’d be affectionate (not that I don’t enjoyed guys who refuse to kiss but … ), enjoy sex & not be looking for a solution to something that can’t be solved. Anything held together with come falls apart in the wash.



June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


Lake Pinebow 4

come boys

come boys

time to gather around the camp fire

and sing the songs of old

to join our voices together

to celebrate

the joys of being together

the joys surviving the weather

and the fun we’ve had

the past few weeks

here in the Fun in the Sun Adventure Camp

here are the song sheets

we’ll start with everyone’s favourite

joy joy joy

how sweet to be a boy

with the chance to learn and look

to enjoy the work of the cook

to see the trout in the brook

joy joy joy

how sweet to be a boy

to swim the lake

to have crafts to make

to take a canoe ride

with a trusty friend at my side

joy joy joy

how sweet to be a boy


you sound like a choir of angles

you know that don’t you

these weeks in the woods

have done you all the world of good

I’m happy to say

and am sad that in another day

you’ll all be heading home

so on the the next song

farewell to the woods

farewells to the goods and the bads

to the funs we hads

what silly words eh boys


to the lads we’ll never see again

lucky the ones

who escape the Denizen pain

the ones who have survived the cruel teeth

and haven’t been dragged beneath

the cold waves of the lake

we’ve got what it takes

to face the danger

and go on to live live live


to the ones we’ll never see again

we’re the ones who’ll grow up

to be men

and if those others ever show up

we’ll be friends again


to all the tumbles and rumbles

the tummy grumbles at night


to the woods


very good lads

you’ve started to sing in harmony

now that the ill toned voices have been removed

sweeter than angels

sweeter that maple syrup

now we’ll go on to The Sunset

we can see

the sun set 

over the crest of the lake

over the sky though the clouds

the sun drops down

to bring around

the the night

night that wraps us each

in a soft warm blanket

wraps and protects

those who stay in place

those who have no need

of dreams of schemes

and wanderings

by the lake at night

as along we stay wrapped

we are safe from whatever wanders

nothing lingers

nothing nibbles our fingers

as we sleep

thank you lord

who protects all children

we are the willing

we are the good and kind

keep us safe

from the fangs and talons

of whatever wanders the grass

that slurps and gnashes

that get any who wander

looking for death

we can see the sun set

through the clouds

and will be grateful

when we see it rise

in the splendour of morning

in the splendour of morning

very good boys

now sleep well tonight

and we’ll see

who remains to go home in the morning

to eager and happy parents

masts reflecting

Quinte Bay Reflections


I’ve been presented with online summaries of the highlights of my 2013 by Facebook and WordPress that have missed the mark completely. WordPress gave me statistics and my numbers are so overwhelming for me to even bother reblogging, as they suggested. But I am satisfied with the slowly steady spread of my posts around the world. Facebook splashed lots of pics but missed the big moments as well.

trunksbeware of Cathy Petch

Some of those moments weren’t captured on line but a couple of them where. I did great features at Secret Handshake and Cabaret Noir but my performance highlight has to be Boogie Inferno at Lizzie Violet’s open stage birthday – with Nelson Sobral backing me I tore the roof off the Central and made people see me in a different light as a poet. Sometimes pulling your clothes off is a good thing.

lanewaybeware of speed bump

Getting my day of the dead look on for Cabaret Noir’s Hallowe’en show as also a game changer. Another opportunity to force people to see me in a different way.

bakyardbeware of falling branches

I also heard/saw some great performers and saw them differently now that I am reviewing and really paying attention. I was happy to meet and enjoy Nelson Sobral in his many band personas; also fine things out of Myke Mazzei – plus both of them are easy on the eye. Too many good poets to start picking & choosing though – it was a delight to hear Vanessa McGowen often, Tomy Bewick, Koom Kankesan, Cathy Petch sawing her way into our hearts, and … better stop here or I’ll miss someone in my name-checking.

 soon02June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


Lake Pinebow 1

come gather around the fire

gather close and snuggle

come gather around the fire

for here we’ll be safe

from the flicker of things in the night

come gather around the fire

I’ll tell you a tale

that you may not believe

but you’ll never forget

perhaps you’ve heard

of the Denizen of Pinebow Lake

you haven’t

we’ll, guess you haven’t been

in these parts before

or if you have

maybe no one had the courage

to tell such a tale

to some as young as you

cause you know it isn’t fair

to place that sort fear

in someone whose

mind hasn’t grown enough

to listen and learn

to know

when the truth

grabs you by the throat

squeezes the very life out of you

so does everyone have their hot cocoa

any one else want another hot dog

the fire will last a little while longer

so I want to tell you the tale

before it goes out

while the warm embers

keep the chill of night

away from your tender young bones

so how many have been

to the shores of Pinebow Lake?

water wasn’t too cold was it

often is this time of year

it never seems to warm up

no matter how hot the summer

this has been a pretty warm one

even I have to admit that

but still the lake stays cool

gather round the fire

for the tale is about to be told

you want a tale don’t you

one that may cool you

as much as the fire warms you

it happened one summer

many years ago

when we became aware of

the Denizen of the lake

not that any have actually seen the Denizen

we sensed it

you know

the way you can

feel something in room

when there isn’t supposed to be anything there

or the way

a face is seen at the window

of an empty house

and is gone before

you can focus on it

that’s what the Denizen is like

we just have the sense

the feeling of it being there

sometimes there is powerful smell

like a log

pulled out from the bottom of  a deep well

that black brackish decay smell

that makes it hard

to smell anything else

for the next day or so

when that smell comes up

from the lake

we know

the Denizen is on the prowl

we’ll hear a gasp

in the middle of night

a calf bawling for its mother

but the calf is never seen

lost a few myself that way

bones sometime sound

on the shore

over by Pine Point

litter along the rocks there

a few small wee bones

bleached white

and we know

it was one of the feasts

of the Denizen

we know

grind the bones

scatter them in the field

to warn the cattle

of what happens

if they feel too safe

now the Denizen has never been seen

foot prints are sometimes found

small and dainty they seem

but with a smudge mark

deep and long

between them

like a long sharp tail

or maybe its the long sharp tooth

that is uses to takes its repasts

so if  you see that mark beware

skybeware Lake Pinebow

How rough is a rough draft? Here’s a tiny sample: “and the radio had to be attached to soemtiuhng metalk’ like a radiator to pull ins tations’ ” Typos galore, ’ happens a lot when I hit ’ aiming for return. This piece is intended for the Noir show – I want something new, nostalgic & a little bittersweet.

shoeDora done gone

What you have here is a rough draft with merely the typos cleaned up. No polish, so there are unfinished thoughts and even continuity slips – things that’ll be dealt with in the next round of edits.

lampzen lamp garden

In the days after first part I did some research into crystal radios. It was there that I discovered two things – they were very popular when my Dad was a boy which opened the memory wider for me to recall that it was because he’d had one that he got one for me. I do think though, that some school pals of mine had them, and when I told him about them he had the idea to get one for me.

The second discovery was about the sound quality, which was my major disappointment with the set. The closer I was to the radiator the better it was but I felt at fault.

anarchythe anarchists garbage

Next edits will pull it into the shape it wants me to take it; to hear that version come to Noir this Sunday. The Noir set will start with some winter pieces then move into more festive north pole dancing stuff. Something for everyone.


Crystal Radio

the crystal radio

was yellow plastic

that much I can remember

even though it was a christmas gift

I moaned & longer for

because some other kid I knew had one

I was so excited to unwrap it

and couldn’t wait to plug it in

but was sort of disappointed

that it was a kit

something I had to put  together

which my dad & I managed to do

none of which I recall at all

the cover showed a happy boy

with headphones

tuning in something

on his crystal radio

which wasn’t made of crystal at all

the headphones were too big for me

and the radio had to be attached

to something metal

like a radiator to pull in stations

and the tuning dial didn’t glow

it was made of paper

the sound quality was crap

the channels it brought in

were all talk chatter

I lost interest in it the new year

though I did give it a go

a few more times the following year

then it got lost

Sunday, December 1, 2013

my dad had one

when he was a boy

wanted to share his ten year old

with my ten year old

we put it together together

reading the instruction sheet

which made sense to him

but none to me

and once we had it done

we tied the wire to the big iron radiator

in my bedroom

this was my last Christmas as an only child

our first in the house we would

soon move from after my brother was born

and there was another on the way

it took the adult me

years to realize what my adult dad

was trying to share with the child me

then I was merely disappointed

in the crappy sound quality

always thinking it was my fault

for not putting it together better

I later find out that was the best

a crystal radio would ever sound

but because I was never

that happy boy on the box cover

I figured I was the disappointment

put aside

like a put the crystal radio aside

in favour of the new better brother


Host DM Moore’s great trivia questions brought Jane Johnston Schoolcraft to life to make us aware that there we have a rich history of Canadian poetry that pre-dates Atwood and Cohen at the November Damned.

moonmoon at noon

First feature Shawn Syms presented two finely-tuned pieces. His first ‘Deep Inside Rob Ford’ suggested that if Rob Ford would ‘spread his cheeks it might help him to spread his wings.’ Political commentary & no-holes-barred satire – ‘taking it up the asshole isn’t as bad as being an asshole.’ Reminding us all the ‘change starts from within.’ He also read from a short-story of the modern family: gay father, pansexual daughter & a basement boarder with a baby fetish. Delightful.

chairsopen air office

Next up was Mark Martyre. He falls into that unnamable style that is acoustic but not pop, blues, folk or jazz. Sharp lyrics ‘away from the sound of photocopied music,’ ‘all that’s left of my heart in this song.’ Vocally he reminded me of Leon Redbone, Tom Waits & even, if your memory goes that far back, Barry McGuire. His was accompanied on a few songs by the polished guitar playing of Myke Mazzie.

curbcurb appeal

Last up was Lillian Allen with a great set. She brings a great history of spoken word with her and remains as contemporary as any poet today.‘Billie’s lips give color and sound to my own,’ ‘the boy is broken on the sidewalk/ the side walk is broken.’ Her How To Become A Writer is funny, to the point and encouraging: ‘you take care of the quantity/ God takes care of the quality,’ ‘write for yourself/ edit for your reader.’



final NaNo rough draft sample for this year:

Birk hid in a shadow and his eyes adjusted to the dark. He saw Clancy stop to peer around for him. He skirted behind two houses till he was at his own. Peeking out from around the corner he gave a little whistle to let Clancy know where he was.

“Got you, my slippery one.” Clancy grabbed him from behind. “Two can duck around in the dark you know.”

Birk elbowed Clancy into letting loose his grip. He scrambled to the back of the house and out into the field behind it. He stopped by the tree where he did his thinking.

The sky was clear.

“You out here?” Clancy said quietly.

Birk gave another little whistle. Clancy made his way over to the tree.

“Nice view of things from here.” He sipped from his flask.

“Yeah.” Birk took the flask and took the last swallow it. “There’s that empty.”

They leaned against each other shoulder to shoulder.

“We should go fishin’ again soon.” Clancy slurred. He grabbed Birk in another headlock.


Birk grabbed Clancy around the waist to break free and they fell to the ground. Even when Birk broke free of the headlock neither was willing to let go their hold. They rolled in the grass attempting to get the other to submit.

“Say uncle.” Birk grunted as his pinned Clancy beneath him.

“Not until you do.” Clancy heaved and pushed till he was on top once again.

“You may not want to,” Birk wrapped his leg around Clancy and held him between them. “But it sure feels like your little fella is ready to give up the battle.”

“Yours too.” Clancy muttered.

“Not as much as yours by the feel of things.” Birk stopped squeezing with his legs.

He sagged limply on top of Clancy enjoying the closeness, the feel of their hardness trapped in their pants.

“Quick.” Clancy pushed him off, kicked off his shoes and yanked off his trousers. “Don’t want to muss these up anymore than need be!”

Birk did the same, tossing his overalls and shoes in opposite directions. “Ma’s got enough washing up to do with me adding these to the pile.”

Flesh to flesh. Face to face. Clancy spit on his hand and slicked their members as he pulled Birk to press on him.

In a few moments it was over.

They rolled away from each. Clancy’s hand rested on Birk’s hip.

“What do you think of?” Birk asked

“When? Now?”
“Yeah. When we were … rubbing?”

“Can’t say as I think of anything ‘cept what we’re doing. How good it feels and that I want it to last longer.”

“The … spark at the end you mean? I try to hold off but I just can’t.”

“Not just that but all of it. The wrestling, the holding, the …. the closeness of us. Even when you needs a good wash up I don’t mind.”

“You saying I stink?”

“When was the last time you were in the tubs at Mrs. Baxter’s?”

“Last time we was there.” Birk stared up at the stars. It was as if he could count them individually.

He dozed off till Clancy’s snores woke him. His back ached from where he had fallen asleep in the grass. It was still night. He wiped himself as clean as he could with a handful of grass and put his clothes back on while he watched Clancy sleep on the ground. Clancy’s shirt was open and his nearly naked body seemed to glow in the darkness.

“Clancy?” He whispered then repeated louder. “Clancy.” He gently toed him in the soft of his belly. “Clancy.”

Clancy woke with a start. “Wha!”

“It’s Birk, you drunken fool. Get yer pants on afore it rains and washes your little fella away.”

“You taking advantage of me in my sleep.” Clancy joked as he reached for his clothes.

“No more ‘an you do when I’m awake.”

“Were are m’boots?” Clancy pulled on his pants.

“I think I heard one of them hit the tree over there. Don’t know where t’other one ended up though.”

“You’r ma mind if I kip over tonight.” Clancy put on the shoe he had and hopped over to find the other one by the tree.

“Nah. She’ll be happy to see yer smiling face in the morning.”

The next day Birk and his father went to the poll to cast their ballot.

“You comin’ Ma?” Birk asked his mother.

“No. It’s not fittin’ a woman should cast her vote.”

“But it’s allowed. Mrs McD.” Clancy said.

“What’s allowed and what fitting are two different things Clancy Sinclair. I was not one of those who wants women to be able to do everything and anything a man can do. Politics is no place for a woman. No place.”

“Can’t say as I blame you.” Clancy said. “Sometimes it doesn’t seem to be a fitting place for men either.”

Outside the polling station miners were gathered, smoking and talking about who they were going to vote for.

“Even if I wasn’t going to vote for O’Dowell I sure wouldn’t say so in front of these guys,” Birk said to Clancy.

“You can read which one he is on the ballot?” Clancy joked. “Oh right, his soon-to-be missus must have taught you to read that much.”

Birk and Mac went in and came out ten minutes later.

“Pretty simple Clancy. There I was thinking I’d have to write me name down somewhere at least or even O’Dowell’s but all I had to do was mark an X and out it in the box.”

“Just hope that X makes a difference.” His dad said. “Sometimes out with the old doesn’t mean much if the new broom can’t sweep what the old broom couldn’t sweep.”

The next afternoon word was out that it had been a clean sweep of the old government. Birk hoped the new broom would do some good.

Four days later the new premiere was there, in their riding, facing off with Coal Co.

doorsfour doors down

I’ve put Coal Dusters, my NaNo novel, to rest till the new year. I know there are those who think December should be NaNoEdMo but the festive season takes over too much in my household to make the same time commitment to writing as I do in November – because, trust me, editing takes twice as long as writing that rough draft.


Green Bra

I know I’ll have my work cut out for me stitching together NaNo 12 and 13 to form a complete novel. I have over 100,000 words to work with – that’ll reduce to 90,000, I hope, but longer is fine by me. With self-pub there is no worry about length. With ebooks its often hard to know what page you are at anyway – is 10% 100 pages or 10 pages?


Boats Down Under

There are some minor issues for me to work out with the plot structure. One being the passage of time, which is some parts means I’ll need an hour by hour breakdown of a day to see if everything I have going on can happen in one day. In working on 13 some of 12 will be rewritten – that’s the sweetest part of discovery writing – things can change.


Caution: Sad plant in the rain


After his sister Sal’s passing Birk’s life fell into a new routine. With Clancy returned they spent more time foraging, as Clancy called it. Checking the rabbit traps more frequently and looking for bigger wild game.

“What we need is a trap for some of them deer over by Blue Lake.” Clancy said.

“Not a shotgun?” Birk knew Clancy’s dislike of firearms.

“You’re just trying to get me going. We could dig a pit.”

“With a sign to warn off any one else out in forest.”

“You have any better ideas? Rabbit is fine when we can get a couple.’

“Duck soon.”

“How we goin’ to catch them? Lasso? Sticks and stones as they fly over head?”

They been over these ways of getting game many times.

“You votin’ for Steven O’Dowell’s running for election.” Clancy said.

“For a mick he talks some sense. After all it is time for a change. A big change. Armstrong’ll never talk back to Coal Co. We need someone who will.”

“Going to his rally tonight?”

“I hear there’ll be lots of food.“ Birk said.

“Best way to a voters heart, right.”

“All the candidates have been doing that but …”

“The O’Dowell’s have better biscuits, right?”


The rally was at the New Waterford Arena. The place was three-quarters full when Birk and Clancy arrived.

“Guess not many going to show up for the other rallies tonight.”

They got some sandwiches and tea and sat as close as they could to the raised stage area in the middle of the arena.

The near by church tower rang the hour and at the last of the seven peals Steve O’Dowell came out from beneath the stands to rousing applause. He was followed by Gus McLelland, his campaign manager, his sister Clara and Lillian McTavish. As they walked through the crowd Steve or Lillian stopped to shake hands with various people.

When he got to the stage the audience stood and continued to applaud. Gus went to the microphone. “Thank you all for coming out. It’s been a short but hard fought campaign and from the turn out here tonight I’d say we’ve already elected our new MLA. Steven O’Dowell.”

Another roar of approval came from the crowd.

Steve stepped up to the microphone and motioned for the silence. “I don’t want to count my votes before they are cast. All I want to say is that we can stand the gaff. Once the Tories are in power we’ll see if Coal Co. can stand the gaff when we force them to listen to us, to listen to the people who live and die here, and not to their board members in Montreal and Toronto and Great Britain.”

The audience was back on its feet, stomping on the floor boards, whistling and yelling their approval.

Steve signalled for silence again. “I have to thank Gus for all he’s done, for my sister, Clara, whose faith in me has kept me going and my fiancee, Lillian McTavish, whose promise of marriage as given me anther goal to aim for.”

“When’s the date?” someone called from the audience.

“A week after the mine’s open again and you take home your first pay packs. Only then. Once you’ve had your just reward then I’ll deserve mine.”

“She sure looks fine up there.” Clancy said to Birk.

“More than she ever did before.” Birk hardly recognized the Lillian on the stage. He was used to seeing her in her plain shifts, her hair tucked away under a hat. Here she wore a form fitting dark dress, a hat that allowed her hair to fall to her shoulders.

“Sorry you didn’t fall for her.”

“No. Likes of me could never give her the things she deserves.”

“When Coal Co. said let ’em starve we won’t negotiate because the workers can’t stand the gaff. We proved them wrong. We’re going to take the gaff and shove into their faces. I’ve learned from the mistakes of my my worthy opponent. I’ve seen where he’s refused to change, to really listen to the people and do what has to be done.

“He’s done a valiant job but he’s trapped in a party that won’t listen. The Tories have listened and have already promised you to put an end to this strike. That is their first matter of business once they are elected. And mark my words we will be elected.”

Birk and Clancy sat on the railing on the ferry back to New Castleton.

“He sounds like he’ll get things done.” Birk said lightly tapping the deck with the heel of his boot.

“He has to m’son. He has to.” Clancy said. “If I could cast my ballot here I would vote for him.”

“I’ll cast one for you.” Birk laughed.

“Here take a tug of this.” Clancy pulled a flask out of his back pocket.

“Where you come by that?”

“While you was taking the piss behind the arena.” Clancy unscrewed the top and took a swing before passing it to Birk.

“Not sure if I ought to.” Birk took a small sip. It had a sour apple taste that burned as it went down. He shuddered and passed it back to Clancy.

“A bit strong for ya?” Clancy took another swallow and put back in his pocket.

The ferry docked and the passengers exited.

“Warming up.” Birk said as they walked up the short rise that lead to the main street.

“That happens in June.” Clancy said. He took another swing of his flask and passed it to Birk.

Birk glanced around to see if anyone was paying them any attention.

“Go on! No one cares. Birk, it’s as if your ma was always hovering around you somewhere.”

Birk moved into a shadow between two buildings and took a bigger swig. He coughed, choked as it went down. He took another one before handing it back to Clancy.

“You’re getting the hang of it.”

“Old enough to vote old enough to drink.”

“Old enough to fight and die for your country too, if you had to.”

“Dodging that machine gun fire was enough war for me.” Birk said. The moonshine made his head spin a little.

“Wish I was there for that.”

“Don’t wish that for yerself. I was never so scared in m’life.”

“Not even when the little nun first smiled on you.”

“Not even then.” He swung his fist playful at Clancy. “She got what she wanted and it sure weren’t me.”

“Sure weren’t me either.” He grabbed Birk in a headlock.

Birk slipped out of it and darted up the lane that lead to his house. Clancy followed. The street light didn’t go as far as Birk’s house at the end of the lane.

(scene finish in Friday’s blog)


Dream Boats


Passed the NaNo 50000 target by November 22. Averaged over 2200 words a day to do that. I hit my stride by the end of week two. I did push harder this year by making sure there were no under 2000 days that first week then poured it on. Final total for this year 53000.


The one thing I can say helped is music. Old. New. Things I didn’t expect got my fingers moving to have my characters do things I didn’t expect. Another blogger (hi Cassidy ) included what music they were using in their blogs posts, but mine would be too repetitious. I found myself going back to the same lps hen I got stuck. Prime being Archie Bell and The Drells: Tighten Up. One I never could have predicted. I relied on Question Mark & the Mysterians, Count Five, Coltrane & Mozart. I did add some brand new things as I went along: The Red Army Chorus; Gaga’s ArtPop, Capital Cities.


The sessions at the Red Rocket were productive for me, but, sadly, no one showed up after the first Friday, so I probably won’t be doing that next year. Maybe the Rocket was too busy or I was too focused on NaNo to make it more of a social event.


I can’t say conclusively if the binaural beats and inductions helped or not but I was more focused this year so I won’t dismiss them either. I’ll be happy to give them a rest though & get back to my usual iPod playlists. The peppermint therapy – again who knows, but I sure smelled good. Using the body wash before sitting down to write was a cleansing ritual that put my subconscious in the right frame for productivity, a good thing.

The various twitter feeds for NaNo were more distracting that inspiring so will give them a miss next year. Pep talks were diverting but were aimed more at first year NaNo-ers. Will I do NaNo next year? For sure. I already have an idea work on.

But first I have to be ready for  Festive Trash at Cabaret Noir.


November 1-30 – participating – NaNoWriMo


November 28 – Thursday – attending – The Beautiful & The Damned


December 8 – Sunday – Featuring – Festive Trash at Cabaret Noir

Dec 15 – Sunday – attending – The Bazaar Bizarre: Frost Bite 2013

June 6-8, 2014 – attending – Bloody Words


(continuation of scene posted friday)

Lillian didn’t trust his aspect of Steven. She instinctively knew the face he had shown her the first few times they had met was the real one. He had the quick mind and language of a politician. The sort her father taught her who would find what it took to appear he was being honest, when in fact he was waiting merely to get what he wanted. Whether that was your vote, your money or … she shuddered to think of giving her heart to him.

“Thank you, Mr. O’Dowell. Do you think there’ll be a break soon in this dead-lock between the miners and The BritCanada Coal Company?”

“No.The BritCanada Coal Company’s Foxing won’t even talk with the minister of labour. As far as they’re concerned there is nothing to discuss. Either miners accept their terms or find work else where. Why he even refused to discuss matters with the Federal Minster of Labour. Told the Prime Minister’s office, that as far as he was concerned the miners weren’t as bad off as they claimed. It was all just a play for public sympathy. Something those Bolshi agitators have conspired to do in their plot to take down the nation.”

“Take down the nation? These men? These people?”

“Sounds ludicrous but when Foxing wants to shut the government up that’s all he has to say. That and his bottom line.”

“Is there a solution?”

“Not one that’ll undo the damage done, I’m afraid. These miners don’t trust the government or even their union anymore. Can’t say as I blame them. Change is in the air though. Elections coming up. I’m pretty sure Armstrong won’t get back in.”

Lillian wasn’t interested in the political situation. She only kept this conversation going to keep Steven at arms length. As much as she felt pity for the miners she only wanted to find some way to get herself out of where she was, off this God-forsaken island and back to civilization.

“Thank you for walking me home Mr. O’Dowell.” They had come to the front walk of the O’Dowell home. “Thank you, also for taking me in when you did.”

“I was grateful that we had a way to atone to you for my ungentlemanly behaviour when we first met Miss McTavish. I know now that I was mistaken about the nature of your character. Even if what James Dunham said was true he was sorely mistaken about you.”

“Thank you again Mr. O’Dowell.” She went into the house and up to her room. As much as she had been resisting it, she was being to feel at home in New Castleton. The local’s had never failed to extend a hand of welcome to her, even though it was not always returned. She hadn’t expected to forge any bonds with with anyone while she was here because she wanted to believe she was only here temporarily.

If she could find a way to leave she would without a moment of regret. She couldn’t think of a soul she would miss or who she expected would miss her either.

She looked at herself in the mirror. Other than her hands she had maintained her looks. Perhaps she had been mistaken with Birk, perhaps she was better off trying for a man whom she knew found her attractive. Steven had made no secret of that, he had even apologized for expressing his interest.

He wasn’t unattractive and his glad-hand manners weren’t that disagreeable. Her mother had told her that everyman needs a woman to make man out of him. Steven certainly had potential and what he father might call ‘good prospects.’

She loosened her hair and let it down. The evening sun behind her made it look like a small blaze in the mirror. It was slightly snarled from being coiled in a braid for the day. She rarely wore it down outside of her room. She brushed it slowly. The curl would need her hot iron to flatten out but the curl suited her. She put a small dab of pomade in her hands and with her fingers brushed it through the curls. She shook it out. The pale green shawl would be ideal.

She washed her hands, put the shawl around her shoulders and made sure her hair lay on it perfectly. She went down to the living-room. Steven and Clara were sitting opposite each other deep in a conversation which ended when she came into the room.

“Lillian!” Clara smiled. “Your hair! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in it’s full glory.”

“I’ve always found it best to keep it protected, covered when I’m working in the kitchen or the garden or out of the house.” she glanced at Steven to see his reaction.

“A shame to hide it.” Steven’s eyes shone with appreciation.

“Thank you.” Why had she ever considered marrying one of the miners? That would only have discomforted her uncle for a short time but leave her anchored here in this miserable place forever. Steven travelled to Halifax, sometimes to Montreal and even to Boston.

“You’ve spend a pleasant day Lillian?’ Clara asked.

“In some ways. One of the miner’s children I’ve been teaching died.”

“It’s always sad when a child dies.” Clara shook her head.

“Yes. Sadder is how accustomed to it the families have become.” Lillian let her head droop a little so her hair would fall off her shoulders. Pushing it back she straighten up. “I don’t think I could ever bear to lose a child.”

She caught Steven’s eye and held it for a moment, then looked away as if shy. Her heart was racing.

“Hopefully you never will.” Clara stood and stepped between them.

Lillian stood and went to the door of the living room. She quickly coiled her hair, took a couple of hair pins out her pocket and pinned it up. “I’ll go and see if Aileen needs any help in the kitchen.”

She went part way down the passage to the kitchen and leaned against the wall. Her spirits soared. She was sure now that if she had found the solution to everything.

Steven came into the foyer. He saw her leaning against the wall.

“Miss McTavish!”

“Oh, Mr O’Dowell!” She leaned into his shoulder crying. “It has been a most difficult day. Most difficult. I don’t think I could have faced these past few weeks without the kindness you and your sister have shown me.”

The first thing she would have to do is have him stop wearing that over-powering bay rum scent he was so fond of.


that after NaNoWriMo feeling

This week I’ve been working on the major emotional climax of the my nano project. As much as I enjoyed the challenge of the big action scenes: protest marches, clashes with troops, mine explosions & collapses, and store burnings & lootings, it was the big emotional confrontation I was most looking forward to tackling.


That confrontation was simple enough to set up: female protagonist come across the guys, naked after swimming in the lake & displaying a moment of affection – not even a sex act but a caress. The confrontation is between her class, education, Catholic religion & grief and the guys lack of those – under-educated, dirt poor & Protestant. Neither side comes out unscathed but my sympathies are clearly with the guys.


My male protagonist loses some of his innocence as he sees his affection for his mate is more than buddy/buddy and that affection is returned. My female protagonist now antagonist – well I’m not sure what her lesson, if any, will be, because judgemental people only become firmer in their resolve when frustrated in their efforts to be proved right.


word count 47800 – expect to pass 50000 today :-)



Lillian was outside the church as Birk and his mother came out from the funeral service. Three pine box coffins preceded them. Each followed by its own grieving family.

“I was so sorry to hear about Sal.” She came over to hug his mother.

“One gets used to these things.” His mother gently pushed Lillian away. “Sad to say. Sad to say. We get used to these things.”

Lillian fell into step with them as they walked to the cemetery. She saw that none of the families were particularly tearful, more grim and sullen than caught up in sorrow.

She didn’t go in to the cemetery though. She knew that being so connected to the priest she wouldn’t be welcome there at such a time.

When she’d heard that Sal had died she couldn’t believe it. She had been with the girls earlier in the week. Both of them seemed well enough and eager to keep learning. Perhaps if she had done more, brought them food, more vegetables from the garden. But even the O’Dowell’s were stretching out what goods they had.

Shortly the families left the cemetery and walked around Lillian. None of them acknowledging her presence. Birk and his mother stopped a few yards along and spoke quietly. He came to her as the rest went on their way.

“Ma, thanks you for all you did for the girls but thinks it best you don’t put yourself out anymore on our account.”

“I understand. How’s Maddy? She’s no ailing too?”

“No. She was too busted up to be with us. The Malone’s is minding her.”

“I am sorry that …”

“Sorry won’t bring Sal or any of the other children back.”

“I know that, but Birk, this is none of my doing.”

“I know.” He turned and started back into the cemetery. “I have to finish things now.”

“Finish?” Lillian asked.

“We bury our own. I dug the grave this morning ‘fore the service. Same with the other families. Digging in the earth again. Joe says he hoped we didn’t find coal or the company would stop us from burying our dead. They would too if they thought they could.”

“They couldn’t do that.” Lillian said.

“They owns all the coal here abouts regardless of whose land it’s on. If you find coal digging your garden that coal belongs to the company not to you. So, if you don’t mind me Miss, I have a sister to bury.”

She watched him go in the graveyard.

She was deeply puzzled as to why her attempts to befriend Birk had been rebuffed. At least he no longer expressed open animosity towards her. Religion couldn’t be the only reason. He surely didn’t see her real motivation in trying to play a part in his life?

She went back to the main street. The few open shops were empty of people and goods. Many had had been shut down and even boarded up.

“Miss Lillian.” It was Mrs. Seldon, who used the manage the company store. “Fancy seeing you again so soon.”

“Yes Hannah, I hope it isn’t going to be as dramatic today though.”

“Wasn’t that some terrible. It’s a wonder so few were hurt bad. How’s Father Patrick?”

“Recovering well. His head is as hard you’d expect.” Lillian forced herself to smile. Part of her was glad to see her uncle get what she felt was coming to him. Especially now that her hopes of embarrassing him by consorting with the Protestant miners hadn’t gone as quickly, or as easily, as she had hoped,

“I’m surprised you haven’t returned to your family in Boston by now Miss.”

“One day perhaps.” She couldn’t see herself back there now after what she had experienced even if they hadn’t had announced her death. “I’d best be on my way.”

Was what had happened to her so dreadful? She racked her memory for other girls she had known in her Boston social circle. Surely she wasn’t the first and only one who had gotten caught up in that sort of misadventure.

“Good evening Miss McTavish.” It was Steven O’Dowell. “You seemed to be in another world.”

“Not exactly Mr. O’Dowell.”

“I’ve told you many times to call me Steven.” He offered her his arm.

Since she had come to reside at the O’Dowell’s house his actions towards her had changed. He’d become much more circumspect, as if his sister were always present with them.

“Not too long ago you mentioned a Mr. James Dunham?” She hadn’t forgotten how Steven had caught her off guard with his knowledge of what had happened in in Boston. Or at least of knowledge he implied he had.

“I regret those remarks Miss McTavish. He proved to be most untrustworthy in his business dealings. Quite distasteful in fact.”

“By business dealing you mean …”


Lillian wanted to laugh at his discomfort. She recognized in Steven the same recklessness her older brother had when it came to quick money.

“I hope I haven’t shocked you. But I realize we got off on the wrong foot and I intend to be as honest as I can with you.”

“Thank you, Mr O’Dowell. But your vices are of no concern to me.”

“I gather from Clara that you have been instructing some of the Mudder brats.”

“Yes. They don’t have a the good sisters that our children are lucky to have. If we want to lead them out of their ways they need to be taught.”

“Lead them!” He gave a half-laugh. “You think of yourself as a missionary.”

“Quite right. If we can make socks for the children of Africa, who as far as we know have no religion at all, in hopes of leading them to salvation why shouldn’t we do it here, when there are children right under our noses who need those socks just as badly.” She a bit taken aback at the vehemence of her own words.

“Well said. Clara was right that there was more to you than good pies and tidy needlepoint.”

(rest of scene in next post)

fountain of delight

fountain of delight

NaNoWriMo day 20 – at 42500 words the end is in sight. That is an end to the challenge of 50000 words, but not the the story arc. I am more than pleased with what I’ve written & where it’s taken me, as opposed to where I expected to take it. I quickly hit the point where events & characters moved the story in directions I wasn’t planning when I started.


Not that my sub-textural intentions weren’t met & fulfilled. They certainly were. Thought at times I did feel my female protagonist was suffering more than was necessary but that may make her a more complex & real character as a result.


The biggest challenge was the sex. I wanted to maintain a low level of explicitness to reflect how such things were handled in the literature of the times – mid 20’s. Also I have had it reflect the education & knowledge base of the those involved.  I also limited the sex acts that did happen between the guys so that they wouldn’t become too knowing. These were men drawn together by circumstance as opposed to sexual attraction. Yet at the same time I wanted the sex to be hot, fun and maybe a tad fetishy. But anything that is sexual that doesn’t involve penetration already has a fetishistic undercurrent going for it.


I did my research & was comfortable with my choices. As I’ve said before, I think, my theory is that it was the more educated people who judged the sexual interactions of others. It’s been fun to make my male protagonist such an innocent that he doesn’t even know the meaning of ‘buggery.’ After all it was an ‘unspeakable’ affront so why would he know of it?




(continuation of Monday’s excerpt)

With his right hand he undid the belt that was holding him back. That give is left arm just enough give that he could reach the catch and unscrew the bolt that held it. The nut bit into his fingers. His sweat made it slippery but he was able to turn it. He pushed the bolt up but the trap didn’t budge. He’d expected it to swing down as it opened. He paused and recollected that he had to slide the brace out of the way before the trap would open. His right hand ached holding so much of his weight. He jammed his right fingers into another of the drain holes, this one closer to the trap.

He wriggled his left hand free, wiggled his fingers to bring some feeling back into the hand. The reached up and the brace bar slid out with a loud squeal.

“God get me through this.” he whispered. “I’ve been as good as I can be. You know that. This isn’t the way any man wants to die.”

He got a fresh grip with his left hand and with a burst of speed swung his feet up at the trap. It popped up a couple of inches under the blow.

“Fuk,” he nearly laughed. “It’s goes up not down.”

With another kick he got to to open about a foot but something blocked it. Some debris fell through it.

He undid the other belt that was anchoring him to the cage. Fully free his right arm could reach the lip of the trap. Gripping it best as he could he he let go his left hand’s gip and grabbed with it at the lip, missed but on the second try got a solid grip. He inched along and with a hand on either side of the door pulled himself up and into the narrow opening he had managed to create.

There was lumber and more rock debris in the car. He got his shoulder and chest firmly on the floor and pushed at the debris as best he could. The cage shuddered and jolted down an inch or so sending the cage door down on his back.

He lay there a moment to catch his breath. He knew he wasn’t going to fall into the shaft and needed to breath while he figured out what to do next.

“Hello! Hello!” came from below him. “You okay. Birk hello!”

He recognized Sandy’s voice.

“Nearly there!” he called back as loudly as he could.


“Lost Red though.” He began to cry.

“Wasn’t sure if it was one or two of ya that fell.”

Birk heaved his shoulders, pushed up and got the trap back to the point where he’d opened it before. He reached out and grabbed the the grid and pulled himself through till he was entirely in the cage. The trap had been held down by a coil of the cable that was used to pull the cage up and down.

If that was broke it meant they weren’t able to use the cage for any sort rescue attempt. It would have to be replaced.

He sat for a minute his his knees pulled up. He shoulders ached like they never had bore. There was a sharp pain all along his right side. He ran his hands over his face and the fingers on his right hand stung with the salt. He licked at the fingers and tasted blood.

“Hello Birk MacDonnell! Hello!” These voices sounded more distant.

“Shel Malone is that you?” He called back.

“Right lad. We’re on the level below yours. How’s it looking?”

“Cage jammed tight. Cable broken.”


“Snapped like a boot lace.”

“Jeff Harney and Frankie are on their way up.” Shel called up from his level.

For moment he thought to tell them not to send Frankie. Frankie was the biggest of the lot. He wasn’t sure how much more weight the cage might hold. But it he didn’t have the strength to keep shouting. He stood slowly. His knees weak but held him. He pulled what he could off the trap door and propped a chunk of lumber under it in hopes that that would keep it open.

He fished in his pockets and found a chunk of the bread he’d been eating when the collapse started. He put that in his mouth wishing he’d stuck his tea bottle in there instead.

“I’m going to keep going up.” he shouted down.

Stepping on debris he was able to get to the top edge of the cage. The scaffold holds were easy to find. Hand over hand he pulled himself up till he feet found the rungs to support him as he worked his way up.

He wondered why no one had started down. The rescue teams were always pretty prompt in an emergency. Although he had no way to keep track of the time he was sure it had been a couple of hours since the collapse had happened. He also wondered why the shaft was still so dark. There was little to block the light. He swung onto the next level.

“Hello! Anyone here?” He peered into the dark. There was answer. He reached for the nearest pit wall and walked a few steps into the seams. “Hello! It’s Birk MacDonnell we were on level 8.”

No reply. These miners must have already been evacuated. His foot kicked something. He reached with his hand and found a lunch pail. He flipped open hoping there was a tea can in it. It was empty.

He turned around and made his back. Fingers brushing the wall to keep him moving in the right direction. The change in air told him he was back at the shaft leading up.

He quickly found the rungs leading up. He kept his mind focused on what his body was doing. Hand up, find hold up, up. There had to be a song in that for Clancy “This is the hand, this is the hold, this is the hand that finds the coal, this is the hand that finds the hold.”

no caged birds here

how the unpaged bird sings


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