Archives for category: NaNoWriMo

One of the pieces I read on Monday night I first included in a blog post here: Brain Rental It has been edited several times as I’ve performed it a few times. Someone asked me how my editing process works. So I’ll try to explain some of it here. The most recent version is after My Coming Attractions.

two Practicality to be supreme. Choices to be made.

Bradbury – (this was working title, taken from what I thought the Viral prompt was. When I first wrote it, by hand, I made a note to add some Spanish & when I did that the new title presented itself)


he held

the palm of my hand open

traced a line

with his untattooed index finger (untattooed gives a sense that the rest of the body may be tattooed. This is a reference to Bradbury’s ‘Illustrated Man’ – in which each tattoo tells a story to the people looking at them.)

his touch light


my fingers began to curl

as did my toes

the hair stood up on the back of neck

as if he had caressed me there (‘there’ cut as we know where)


he pushed my fingers back

looked me in the eye

you have a wet life line

wet is good

you live in a world of rain (a reference to one of the stories in The Illustrated Man)

puedes verlo

he slipped into his native tongue

can you see it (no Spanish in the very first draft – picked some very simple phrases – Why Spanish? Ask mi tesoro if you ever get to meet him :-) )


his eyes held mine

they were the blue of a seaside sky

over a lawn being mowed (changed these lines to make them more surreal, romanic & also truer to mi tesoro – who had told me how much he enjoyed swimming at sunset as a child)

he leaned closer

his lips brushing mine

he smelled of

a freshly sanded maple toy box

and New year’s Day (tweaked these some from written version to add a more surreal dream feeling)

I like this wetness I witness

quieres saber más

do you want to know more (thanks to Google translate for my okay Spanish)


he leaned back

raised the palm of my hand

to his mouth  his lips (changed to logical sequence)

he bit the flesh below my thumb

then looked to me

what do you see

joker the spirit in search of experience

I see rain

I walk naked in its warmth

the ground is rough

the grass is green (changes here for consistency – brought the image back to the sunset beach)


yes yes he said

I want to be in you

in your wet

he folded my hand

and let rest on the table (fixed grammar here)

you like your future

Le gusta su futuro


seems to me

you read your own future

in the palm of my hand


he smiled wide

then showered me

with his happy laughter

five sexo en grupo

The poem is a mix of many moments – some from a dream – some from actual things mi tesoro has said to me – he has never read my palm, nor, as far as I know, reads the future either. The Spanish is also a nod to one of my dead muses – Lorca.


April 27, Sunday – attending – Julie Czerneda Workshop 

judy Julie Czerneda

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words


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

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


Native Tongue


he held

the palm of my hand open

traced a line

with his untattooed index finger

his touch light


my fingers began to curl

as did my toes

the hair stood up on the back of neck

as if he had caressed me


he pushed my fingers back

looked me in the eye

you have a wet life line

wet is good

you live in a world of rain

puedes verlo

he slipped into his native tongue

can you see it


his eyes held mine

they were the shadow brown

of a seaside sunset

he leaned closer

his lips brushing mine

he smelled of

a freshly sanded maple toy box

and New Year’s Day

I like this wetness I witness

quieres saber más

do you want to know more


he leaned back

raised the palm of my hand

to his lips  his mouth

bit the flesh below my thumb

then looked to me

what do you see


  I see rain

  I walk naked in its warmth

  the sand is smooth


yes yes he said

I want to be in you

in your wet

he folded my hand

and let it rest on the table

you like your future

Le gusta su futuro


  seems to me

  you read your own future

  in the palm of my hand


he smiled wide

then showered me

with his happy laughter

3501211-mirror-ball Le gusta su futuro

I should be editing my last year’s NaNo novel but my mind keeps wandering on to what to work on for NaNo 2014. As much as I know it’s a day at a time I find it hard to not plan plot a little for future writing. I have some juicy ideas kicking around: gender doesn’t become clear till puberty – a bit fascinating idea but do I want to really jump into speculative fiction. Much of my longer fiction deals with the natural of sexual identity so this ‘idea’ would be a challenging way to explore that.


Or I could go back to two pre-NaNo outlines I have kicking around. Both essentially mystery-suspense novels that already have a sort of built in structure to work with. Both are pretty developed & even have some scenes written & major character development done.


bare branches

One, ‘Snake Island,’ centres on a semi-closeted teacher, ending a long-term, long-distant relationship, meeting a mysterious stranger (are there any other kind), falling in love only to have the stranger vanish without a trace, and his long-distant ex being murdered. He is led to a West Indies island, St. Noir, and a Santaria-esque snake worship cult. Terror slithers in.

tree03winter sun

The other, ‘Picture Perfect,’ starts with a guy watching an unsolved crimes show about disappearing children and seeing a picture of himself as one of these children. His Dad was a roving photographer (going to schools etc to take class pictures)  in the area & at the time of these disappearances. Terror develops.

I’m trying to keep it simple here as I sort things out without going back to my original notes. I’ll do that soon enough.


March 1, Saturday – attending – Toronto SpecFic Colloquium

Email_Header_Image_2014.1aa1067 June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words


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

the power of attaction

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada

samples Male – White – 27

Charge – Public Urination

my plan was to enjoy this last draft

when one of my buds mocked

the country-western song just ending

my laugh jarred the glass

on its way to my eager lips

the jerking jolt flung sweet amber suds

over my shoulder

the sweat slippery glass darted

from my loose grip

Oh for a photo of that glorious

go-for-the-gold momentum

beer escaping with glass chasing after it

me turning in my seat

eyes agog   mouth agape

stunned at the slow motion ballet

the beer splattered on the table behind us

splashed on food    faces

there was a dismayed shriek

anger   fucking assholes

the glass came tumbling after

hitting someone on the shoulder

bouncing  smashing on the floor

I was no longer laughing

no one was laughing

my chair tipped as I stood

it fell in the path of

the bearded biker guy whose girlfriend

got the beer in her food

his furious fists punched empty air

as he stumbled over the chair

next thing I knew

my buds and I were outside

in a bitter ten-below-zero wind

I was pissing a steaming amber arc

on a car door handle

while one of my buds was up chucking

a police cruiser pulled over

I turned to get out of the way

slipped in vomit

spun  tumbled ass-over-tea-kettle

landed on my back

in a snow bank under a street lamp

fly down

limp dick chillin’

boys in blue hauled me to my feet

which is why I’m no longer

a social blackout drinker


ruglet me in

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

Took a NaNo breather to perform at the Queer Ontario  Fundraiser & Milestone Birthday Bash for Chairperson Nick Mulé. Not a total breather as I did manage to push my NaNo count to 51000. Sadly I couldn’t resist talking about NaNo to one of my fellow poets at the event. Sadder, I think, is the total lack of interest my fellow writers there took in my progress.


The Vic Public house was a good location for the event, though that second floor room was chilly. Great drinks and snacks helped warm things up, a bit.

Hosted by Alana Boltwood the birthday event included raffles, silent auction (one item was a dinner date with Nick – I was easily outbid), & a trailer for their upcoming documentary ‘Queer Edge.’ Plus some fine eye-candy made it a nice night out.


The spoken line up was a fine selection of Damned  performers. David Bateman started off with a Tampex recollection; DM Moore with her emotionally charged AIDS piece; a great non-spoken turn by drag star Serenity; then Philip Cairns with a bitter cold piece about the snow and David Bowie; followed by Vanessa McGowan’s heartfelt piece about her dad & one about being a lesbian. All rounded out by my brand of in-your-pants raunch that puts the sex back in homosexual.


A fun night and it was great to be included in a queer event that wasn’t Pride :-) It often feels like I’m the token queer poet at many readings I get to, so it was good to be one amongst many.

writing sample

writing sample


whisps of chin hair

glasses a la skater punk nerd

he laughed about starbuck’s coffee

even tossed out a latin phrase

which wasn’t what I wanted

tripping from his tongue

a frisky feel in the dark corner of the bar

made it clear he was packing more

than his uber baggy jeans reveled

when we got back to his place

he dropped his pants to release

the creature from the porn lagoon

thicker than the accents

of an entire Brazilian water polo team


emu eggs in the palms of my hands


was cozy tattooed flannel

his tongue

a whispering clock

tasted of unripe apples

his teeth

warm endlessly round ice crystals

melted drooling draining

each step of the ten thousand to the temple

his nipples

express train rush pressure

immersion into the gutteral swamp of gasps

arm pits

salt seasoned

licorice tampura teasing

stomach muscle


sahara but not parched for long

as we shifted camel humps

burdened with a growing growling treasure

an oasis of pubic eden cillia

savory basil black fresh crushed rushed

the creature from the porn lagoon

an already oozing fountain

watermelon baby power

his trembling tip lip touch

tumble choices chances escaping grasps

pushing back for more torrent torment

his laugh now clinking unfinished

coffee cups of memory

crows over cornfield

crows over cornfield

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

Travel was on the menu at the November Plasticine Poetry. Features took us  from PEI, to Brazil, then Cuba, and back to Toronto with Cathy Petch, our attentive stewardess and Michael Fraser, the navigator who plotted our course.


First up was Rod Weatherbie who opened his set with Invitation to ‘let the dog shit on this poem’ from his new book Chain of Islands (launch: Hot-Sauced, Thursday, 7 pm, Nov 21, the Black Swan on the Danforth). His pieces have a strong sense of place, family and unforced humour. Full of strong images: ‘this northern waste at the edge of everything,’ ‘tar like warm bread dough,’ ‘blacken stains of thieves on the wall.’


Next up was Susie Berg with a set of sharply funny pieces – speed-daters who move from chair to chair ‘with even lower exceptions of what love is.’ Her pieces about family where emotionally accessible, and her cancer poem touched many of us, ‘the word relapse is like collapse,’ ‘you can’t beg too many blessings.’

After the break Heather Birrell hit the stage with two well chosen scenes from a novel in progress. Both, set in a poetry workshop, had a fine sense of the individual participants, their motives and their separate voices, even thought it was not told from their pov. She captured the syntax of creative writing teachers and the feel of that sort of class. I enjoyed the ex-pat Cuban protagonist on the TTC, feeling his aloneness ‘the blank rocking is like love.’


Last up was Priscila Uppal who took us from Brazil in her search for her mother and to London for sports poems. ‘my poetry comes form my father’s chest’ led me to think of my own father & how his life view effected my writing. I loved the observation about men ‘all they need is something to carry to feel they have a place in this universe.’ Who can resist a pentathlon pantoum.

Brazilian water polo team

Brazilian water polo team

Next Plasticine Poetry is December 15 with Shane Nelson, Elana Wolff and the Christmas stylings of David Clink.


November 1-30 – participating – NaNoWriMo

November 23 – Saturday – featuring – Queer Celebration!


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


Birk climbs up the blocked mine shaft.

The miners pulled back from the sudden fall of dust and scree. Moments later Red and Sandy Smit stumbled out of the shaft and onto the floor.

“Cage is jammed between two floors.” Red said. “Can’t squeeze past it.”

“What about the trap in the floor?” one of the miners asked.

“Twisted and we I couldn’t get a good enough grip on it with m’hands. We need some sort of way to pry at it and hold our grip to the wall at the same time. Someone light enough so as I can give hold to him in place long enough.”

“He’s talking about you Birk!” Clancy whispered.

Birk nodded but wasn’t sure he’d have the strength to do what was expected.

“Who’s the smallest here.” Sandy asked.

“That’ll be me.” Birk stepped forward.

“So y’are Birk MacDonnell, so you are. You’re dad’ll ner forgive me if anything happens to you.”

“He’ll never forgive me if I don’t do what I can now either. So what’s the plan.”

“Anyone got a pick or a better yet a crow bar. Small enough to carry up a few hundred of feet.”

A couple of the miner’s dropped to their knees to feel through the rubble.

“All’s we have is these couple of shovels Red.” Sandy said handing him one of them.

Birk took the shovel and struck it hard against the floor. The blade bent. “We’ll need something stronger than that. But if it’s best we got it’ll have to do.”

“Give me your belts boys.” Red said. “We can use them to strap on to the cage floor for safety.”

Birk strapped a couple of belts around his chest and the shovel with the head at his back so his hands would be free for the climb up. He hadn’t clambered up the cage shaft since he was a kid. Once he Geo had snuck in to the pit and without thinking began to climb down the side of what they thought was the empty shaft. When they heard the creak of the car being hauled up they panicked and didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know if they could get up before it reached them.

He found a shallow recess barely big enough for him yet he and Geo were able to press themselves into while the cage rattled past.

He took a deep breath and reached up for the first of the hand holds in the framework and pulled himself up. He could hear the drip of water from below. Once he had pulled himself up far enough for his feet to find the holds he moved faster. Red was right behind him.

Some of the holds were loose in the rock, others were tight to the frame. His eyes peered for the next one. Once he reached for one and that wasn’t there and lost his footing. “Oh God!” he gasped as he pulled himself hard to the wall with the hand that was clutching the scaffolding.

“You okay, Birk.”

“Yeh Red. Hope I didn’t piss in yer face.” He was cold and sweating at the same time. His undershirt was sticking to him and he longed to scratch his balls. “Got an itch that I can’t scratch.” he laughed and the laughing calmed him down.

“That’s the story of every man who gets married.” Red laughed a little.

They came to where the cage was jammed. The trap was on the bottom of the cage on the side furthest from them. Little light filtered from above. Birk could see where the slide catch was but could also see that there was rubble on top of it as well.

Red looped a couple of the belts and rope he had brought around the openings in the cage floor.

“Hold on to these as best you can.” He helped Birk slip his arms through them. “If I lose grip of ya these’ll hold you.”

“Like that guy in the circus.” Birk was trembling.

“It’s alright to be scared, lad.” He kept an arm around Birk’s waist as Birk leaned as far forward as he could and tried to pry at the catch.

Birk locked his gaze on the underside of the cage. Even though it was pitch dark beneath him he also knew it was a far drop with nothing between him the the four levels beneath.

He tested his weight on the belts that Red had wound around his shoulder and slotted through the bottom of the cage. They held firm enough but didn’t leave Birk much head room either. He angled himself as best he could and pushed at the catch with the blade of the shovel. It didn’t give.

“How’s it lookin’ lad?” Red asked.

“Doesn’t feel’s if it’s been opened in some time. Maybe if I can reach with m’fingers I can grasp it.” He leaned a bit further. One of the belts slid and his heart raced as he abruptly lurched out of Red’s hold.

“My God!” Red shouted. Red pitched forward off his perch on the scaffolding.

Birk felt Red’s hands grab at his coveralls but not hold on. Birk twisted to see if he could see what what happened. Red was gone. A few moments later he heard a dull thud as Red’s body hit the bottom of the shaft.

Birk was dangling, held by the belts, to the bottom cage. His whole weight thrown on it. The cage groaned and shuddered but held where it was.

Birk tried to get a foot hold on either wall but he couldn’t reach. The seam in his coveralls cut into the flesh between his legs. He looked again to the trap. Each motion caused him to sway a little in the dark. He smelled his sweat. His fear. He swung the blade of the shovel at the metal grid of the trap and the sound echoed in the shaft.

He wiped the sweat from his face and peered at the underside of the floor. There were some holds in the grid work, drains to keep the cage clear of water. He worked his fingers of his left hand into the furthest ones he could reach and pulled himself forward toward the catch. The belts held him so that he couldn’t quite reach. His neck was twisted as he was pulled tighter to the cage.

red in white

Day 15 – the midway point for this year’s NaNoWriMo. My winner tee has already arrived! Not that I’m so cocksure of myself but it is the sort of carrot that helps spur me on. I folded it up and put it away, for now, to debut it at the Damned on November 28.


I am essentially a pantser – I have an idea, a loose set of events I think I’ll need to propel my story arc and then I start in – characters and other events present themselves as needed and develop as the story progresses. As I go along I make notes about their backstory, appearance that I sometimes refer to.

One of the good things about NaNo is that there is less time to make a decision – should I kill so-and-so – what if – then just go with it to see where it goes. I get less invested in scenes & often have a false start or merely a start that I’ll develop later. Sometimes an element I introduced gets repurposed to a better purpose in a later scene.


I also ignore the time sequences of the plot arc. So I’ve also written new scenes for the first half of the book even though I’m in the last half. I found that to account for what I wanted I needed some reference for it much sooner. For example my hero needs to be very agile to do some rather dangerous arial work suspended from the bottom of an elevator cage. So I tossed off a couple of scenes to go earlier in the book for him to show off his innate tumbler talent.


So far lots of things I hadn’t planned have happened – death of a child, marriage proposal, death of a major/minor player, political campaign. All of which are adding up rapidly – 30700 words so far :-)


November 1-30 – participating – NaNoWriMo


November 17 – Sunday – attending – Plasticine Poetry

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


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

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


June 6-8, 2014 – attending – Bloody Words


[a continuation of the scene I posted Wednesday]

“You must reap what you sew my child.” he said gently. “Her father said she was a willful, spiteful, conniving child and she had grown up to be even more so. Do you think I would let you ruin yet another family just to satisfy your need for depraved comfort. Why when I drove this … this …. harlot from my home months ago I was stunned to see her be taken into your bosom Miss McD. I feared she would be an asp. A snake in the grass.”

Lillian stood slowly. “Have you had your say uncle? Have you done your worse?”

“Lillian I mean no harm. Forgive me.”

“Forgiveness is not mine to give.” She looked him in the eyes. “If this is the consequence of my not bending to your depraved carnal desires then I am willing to suffer this consequence for keeping my honour intact.”

She opened the door to leave the study. “If you’ll excuse me Clara I will pack my things and see about moserviceving to a new abode.”

“No one will have you.” her uncle said. “No one.”

“Father Patrick.” Clara stopped Lillian. “You have said more than enough. You have perhaps revealed more about yourself than you have about Lillian.”

“How can you remain so … indifferent to this hussy’s actions.”

“Whatever her actions may have been, and I assure you, I realize she is no innocent babe, she has not displayed such a evil devious mind as you have. To revenge yourself is this way leaves me speechless.”

Lillian breathed a sigh of relief. To lie so boldly about her uncle had came to her without compunction. If he was going to go to such lengths to prevent her happiness with his deceptions why shouldn’t she resort to hers.

“This marriage will happen.” Clara said sternly. “Her family will be informed of your callous actions.”

“You think they banished her here on a whim?”

“They banished em because their reputation was more important to them than their child. Oh! Tt was alright for my brothers to get caught up in gambling, drunken galavanting behaviour.” Lillian found herself shouting. “But let their precious daughter show a bit of spirit and out she goes. When they thought I had lost any value as a marriage pawn to enhance their precious social standing they disposed of me like … like … a tea service that had gone out of fashion.” She turned to Clara. “If I am a calculating harlot looking for the best possible marriage then I learned it from them. It runs in the family apparently. Doesn’t uncle?” she wanted to slap the stunned look on his face. “Falsifying my death to suit your ends is no better. Runs in the family.”

She pushed Clara aside nearly knocking over Aileen who had been hovering near the door listening. She stood in the foyer resisting the temptation to run up to her room, slam the door and throw herself on her bed to cry. That’s what the woman in books did. Cry till some man came up the stairs to make things better for them.

“Aileen.” she said.

“Yes Miss?”

“If anyone wants me, I’ll be out in the garden. Those climbing roses need to be cut back.”

On her way through the kitchen she grabbed the gardening sheers and headed directly to the climbing roses. She’d been intending to remove the dead branches for weeks now and she attacked them with a vengeance.

She lost track of time as her anger dissipated. Why was every path she took caught in these unforeseen and unforeseeable brambles. Mr First Beau turning out to be unsuitable because of a Jewish great-grandmother, Mr Bad egg a trifler, Birk Mc being a protestant and so fearful of displeasing his mother and now this. If only she could cut these brambles as cleanly away from her path as the ones from the climbing bush.

With each clip she thought to herself ‘what can I do.’ ‘what can I do next.’


She felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Clara.

“Lillian I have been calling you for a few minutes.”

Lillian stood and wiped the sweat off her brow. “I couldn’t hear you over these.” She snipped at the air in front of her with the sheers.

“Then perhaps we’ll get them oiled properly so they won’t be so nosey in the future.” Clara smiled. “You uncle is certainly a man of actions and opinions.”

“Another of the McT bad traits.”

“Do you love my brother?”

“Love? I don’t know. If you mean that flood of blinding adoration, then, no, I don’t.” If that put the final touch on the end of this path she was ready to face it.

“That’s what I was hoping to hear. I’ve seen how you’ve dealt with him this past month. You know I wasn’t happy of this match but Steve would brook no argument with me. I didn’t want to distract him from his ambitions anyway and I figured you would fall by the wayside.”

“Sorry to disappoint you.”

“Oh I wasn’t disappointed. He was willing to listen to you on matters of appearance and even of how to present himself to the public that he would never had heeded from me.If anyone won the seat it was you just being by his side making sure he said the right things at the right time. Someone who was flooded with adoration couldn’t have been so … objective.”

“Thank you, Clara. This is the last thing I expected to hear you say.”

“Perhaps you’ve wondered why I never married?”

“Yes, but you did have your father to look after.”

“We had money and could have afforded to hire help but my father, much like yours I suspect, wanted to keep a protective eye on me. I never had the opportunity to meet a Mr Bad egg. Oh, a few men courted me but none ever found the approval of my father. Those that did were deemed suitable because of their social status, their financial potential and for no other reason.”

“I had never thought we might have that in common.”

‘But you have more determination that I ever had.”

“So does Father Pat.”

“It’s not you he’s striking out but your family. He told me about your father’s reaction to the death certificate. He may not have realized it but you’re father’s grief brought the good Father great …  I want to say pleasure but that’s not it at all. It gave him an opportunity to castigate your father for being such a Godless parent. For being indulgent and permissive.”


“Oh yes, allowing you opportunities to enjoy life that he himself had not had. Your family’s wealth and social position become more important to them than their faith and as a result you were their downfall and punishment.”

ice crystals


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