More About #Branding

If you expected this blog entry to be about cigar branding scarification, move on. That opening is an example of my creative brand: sexual, edgy and funny. A lot of my poetry about queer sex walks that line, & mostly successfully. It’s such a strong brand, in fact, that when I step put of it people are disappointed. Get over it.

This is the other level of branding – the product itself – a product that can sustain itself without the writer being there but which usually can have greater resonance with the writer in person.

fence03 over wrought

The one question I get asked most often about my writing is ‘What sort of things do you write about?’ I never know where to start or how to narrow the focus to a simple answer. Growing up gay, being a queer adult, family, childhood, media, music, aging, relationships, in your pants raunch – of course the moment one says queer they assume everything I write is about that, as opposed to coming to things from that perspective. There’s more to laugh than sex – there’s shirts, right.

fence02 that’s wrought

I also write short fiction: scary, queer – sometimes both at the same time. Three novels under my belt (soon to be Smashworded).

My blog shows more sides of me as a person. This year I set out to make it even more rounded by adding the Monday Music component; making Wednesday the day I write about writing by explaining the thoughts behind specific pieces; Friday I bather on about anything. Plus the occasional bonus review.

fence01 can’t make the wrought move

Not to forget the photographs – mostly taken by myself on my walks & travels. I also include up coming events such as conferences (Bloody Words), events (FanExpo) or plays I’m going to see. I used to include spokenword shows I was going to attend but sometimes I didn’t make it; besides I’m not Facebook). Always list my rare up coming features. Part of the brand is performance.


August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Welcome to Lake Pinebow


sample don’t let the sample scare you

Slap Unhappy


my masochist lover wants to leave

I’m not causing him enough pain

he’s tired of merely being ashamed

of being seen with me in public

he needs more domestic humiliation


I reminded him

it wasn’t my fault he needed an audience

in order to feel the depths of abasement

that got him off

besides I have rotator cuff tears from

spanking him every time

the dishes weren’t cleared away fast enough

testicular torture

aggravates my Carpel tunnel syndrome

tennis elbow from fisting

doesn’t get me off at all


the constant stream of abuse

I had to supply him with was so draining

I had no spite left

for people who really deserved it

like that asshole barista

who couldn’t make a latte

without a shake of cinnamon

I told him twice no cinnamon

and when it came with a dash

a sense of futility

flooded me with each sip

of that fucking latte

I had no choice but to go home

and take it out on my masochistic lover

but that wasn’t enough for him


now my masochistic lover wants

to leave

because I don’t make him suffer enough

he feels I don’t care when I hurt him

that I’m not into the brick-weighted nipple clamps

into the cigar branding scarification


He says I do those things

with too much detachment

I ask him why my not caring

doesn’t add to his sense of being abused

isn’t it worse when the abuser

does it out of boredom

and not out of passion


once he packed up his latex

I slapped him goodbye

then shut the door

gate what has rust wrought

#Branding 1

Branding – who do you want people to think you are & how to be memorable. Apparently in this day & age ‘branding’ has become more personal image than product placement. On America’s Next Top Model they spent ‘cycles’ stressing the importance of personal branding, but I cannot remember one model from any season.

sofa cozy up in the dark

Even at Bloody Words there was talk of the usefulness of personal branding – but all I remember are hats not web sites. One year Bloody Words did prompt me to set up my Word Press and Twitter accounts. It’s taken me a few years to figure out what to do with them.branch pink wall and branch

I established TOpoet as an online identity on these sites. But promoting the site was a drudge. Until I decided to go one step further and adopt TOpoet as a stage name, or rather When I perform that’s who I am, that’s what I ask to have listed in promotional materials. My last couple of chap books have been published with that as the author’s name.

tub wipe your bottom, please

At Loyalist this year, Joan O’Callaghan, a  Mesdame of Mayhem, did a presentation on their branding: web site, facebook, twitter, and how they promote this as an identity, not as a personality. Theirs is a consortium of several published authors, so if you contact Mesdames for an appearance you never know which of them will show up (regardless of who you will not be disappointed).

When you contact TOpoet you know who will show up. Part of my branding has also gone into how I present my physical self – I’m often remembered, not only for my writing, as the guy with the shirts/t-shirt. At Bloody Words my shirts started more than one conversation with strangers that lead to my handing out business cards.

More about branding next Friday.


August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Welcome to Lake Pinebow



age of compassion


I see as a sign of my age

that I am getting old

that on a crowded bus

the waft of perfume

from the pretty girls

on either side of me

makes me sneeze

triggers my sinuses

not my hormones

my eyes start to water

I choke sputter

I get up   leave

to see

a much younger man

takes my place

his face wide with grin

as he snuggles

between the two

who sullenly ignore him

he is in heaven

I am in heaves


the same happens

all around me these days

I see men   women

boys   girls

eye   ogle each other

I walk along the street

see men’s heads turn at every curl

rolling down car windows

to a closer look

peering over the edges of their newspaper

pausing as they sip a coffee

nod to each other

with that wow wow wow

look in their eyes

as if they stood a chance

as if they would

lay down their spoons to follow

if beckoned


men watch other men

I know I am one

but I am not triggered

as I once was

I see the handsome butt

yet I don’t have to

follow that butt

until it is out of vision

I don’t lose sight of street lights

of curbs  of puddles

perhaps my life is full

or I am just full of it

getting old

too old to worry about

where that spore will lead

I’ve followed it

once upon a time


the woman

the man

the spore

the lure

the lunge

a finger on my trigger

though even then

I was often tempted to get a wet face cloth

and scrub of the artificial scent

before my eyes watered so much

they thought I was crying for joy

or for forgiveness


odd thing is

I don’t envy them the pleasure

the compulsion

I sometimes feel the object deserves

more compassion than

is triggered by the hormones

that spill out

all over the street

all around the shop

as they enter

so taut

sweet smelling

eager and ready

looking for coffee

and less objectification

caddilac make and model anyone?


The End of Bloody Words

The end of Bloody Words was sad and fulfilling. There were hopes uttered by the organizers that someone would pick up the reins in the future. There was lots of buzz for Bouchercon XLVIII (2017). Wonder what sort of goodie bag they’ll have?

empty the nightmare: no one shows up not even the panel

The final workshop I sat in on was Sunday’s 10 a.m ‘Reality Check’ – there were two others to choose from. Each was about 3 hours long – a great way to end things, I think. A single presenter for this one. Most of the panels were 5 people – which was too many, for me, for a 50 minute time slot.

squat me: the old squat ignored by the sleek young things

Cheryl Freedman gave a great, informative, very interactive, talk about research on all areas of a novel – from getting the right name for the right things, to getting the cultural context correct. Never confuse American TV police procedurals for really happens in the USA & never think any of it applies to Canada.

The degree of knowledge your character would have, may not be the degree which the writer has. Just because one knows, say, detailed car mechanics, all your character may know is how to start the car, not overhaul the engine, unless that is needed for the plot itself.

seat my place at the table

Even at 3 hours there was more to this than we had time to delve into. One thing research did for my coal miners in love novel was change the how the other miners reacted to this ‘affair.’ I has assumed they would be enraged but it became clear that they were too busy to be really bothered at all. But that’s another blog post.



October 19 – feature – Cabaret Noir – Pinebow –


sprawl the best ending to a Bloody Words ever



Day Two of Bloody Words 2014

Fire alarm had me up just after midnight but I still got enough r.e.m to enjoy the morning panels, with a help from Starbucks. First one I hit was at 10 a.m. ‘You Are What You Write … or AreYou?’ A fireman writes about firemen but how much of himself is reflected in the characters – we write from our experience but often from what wish we had experienced. When good people do bad things it’s more compelling than when evil people do bad things.

bed the bed I was awoken from

I followed that at 11 a.m. ‘Reinventing History’ – how not to let historical accuracy stand in the way of a good story. Research needs are fine but I would have liked more on how not to impose today’s morals on the historical period one is writing in. There was some discussion of period use of language. Informative & encouraging.

dusty dusty reflections

Gout out of the hotel for lunch at Burger Bratz (or something like that). Ordinary done well at a good price. Back for 1:30 -‘Pssst, Wanna Be a Professional Author’ – a look at getting in front of an audience to present – something I have some experience in – I wanted to see how a professional coach approached this topic. He was focused and to the point. But missed a few key points, for me, mainly dress as if you mean to be there, pick material suitable for your audience, & be interested in what you read.

After that at 2:30 was ‘Old Sins Cast Long Shadows’ – who does the crime affect besides the ‘doer,’ the ‘victim’ & the ‘hero’ – i.e. what about the schoolmate of the child whose father went on a killing spree? How to tell backstory without an info dump, & other structural concerns were talked about.

dinner banquet bonanza

I opted to skip the 3:30 panels – two in a row is my limit & I might have opted out for the 4:30 panels as well just to really relax but I had signed on to be time keeper for: 4:30 ‘The Evil Men Do.’ I was expecting something like ‘how do you write about evil’ but it became a discussion about ‘what is evil’ as opposed to how do you use cultural ills – racism, poverty – to propel your story. In some ways it echoed the first panel: When good people do bad things it’s more compelling than when evil people do bad things.

The banquet was as expected – blandly good food, great table conversation & amusing speechifying & giving out of various prizes. A full day that left me both drained & invigorated.

dessert dessert deserted

Day One of Bloody Words 2014

Bloody Words is off to a an excellent start – thanks to no construction on the streets driving here – normal traffic was bad enough. Room check in was simple enough, room on 10th floor with a view of the CN Tower. At this price though I think $2 for a bottle of water is ridiculous.

regis registration looming

Did my stint on the registration desk – giving out loot bags & meeting people. in full force. Hard to judge the turn out but didn’t feel as busy as it has in past years. Maybe subway closure on the weekend has put people off.

bags bags full of books

Lots of panels to chose from on opening night. I opted for ‘Are Short Stories the New Black?’ at 8. Several familiar faces from Loyalist in the audience & on the panel made it a dry run for the workshop there at the end of the June. The consensus is that thanks to ePub short story has become very popular – easier to read one on your phone than Gone With The Wind. The growing genre is paranormal erotica. Time to finish my story about the guy with the haunted dick who meets the guy with the haunted ass.

programs so many panels so little coffee

I followed that at 9 with ‘Indie Publishing: We’re Here to Stay.’ This time no familiar faces on the panel. For some the Why Indie was more a time factor – not wanting to waste time getting agent, publisher etc. self-pub means a book can be finished & on the market within a year, not within a decade as it seems with traditional publishing. With even Traditional publishers expecting authors to do the bulk of self-promotion why not jump in & do it all yourself.

Technical considerations were talked about briefly – formatting, dealing with smashwords & Amazon. Making sure one had a ‘clean’ piece of work was stressed. By ‘clean’ they meant properly edited, no typos on every other page, consistent formatting for all versions too. If Amazon gets too many ‘quality’ control complaints that work gets pulled.

A great day one.

cn looming view from my room

Fiona Apple

In the mid-90’s Fiona Apple washed over the music world with Tidal – a critical darling, hot on Much Music and ready to be propelled into super-stardom and then sort of disappeared. Fame was too fast, she was too young, the same old story, and her follow up tanked.

boot02 boots at night

Tidal lives up to the hype. I bought it Jan 97 and played a dozen times in following month. Fiona has a strong, alto voice that gives her lyrics a strong emotional grounding. Her videos, as I remember, played up her bruised waif, Lolita image – sexually knowing but innocent at the same time.

boot01 booted off the curb

The music, to me, is adult pop – sometimes a bit over-arranged but with seductive jazz undertones that captivated me. The same resonance in her lyrics – romantic, teasing, verging on emo but the jazziness keeps it from going there.

boot03 free booting in daylight

She reminded me Laura Nyro in musical bravado, Janis Ian for the bare heart romanticism. I’ve had some of her other recordings but passed them on after a few listenings. Maybe it was the sound engineering but the sound quality didn’t grab my ears the way it did on that first release.


Quel Dommage


some teacher

over heard me singing

Dominique Dominique

which was all I could remember of that song

it was an endlessly played

hit song in the 60’s

a sweet nun singing her way

to the top of the charts

trouncing the beatles and the stones

I would add

Michelle ma belle

when I got bored of Dominique Dominique

not knowing more than those scraps

the teacher said

something to the effect

that I had an ear for French

so when I got to high-school

and French was taught

because it was an official language

I quickly discovered

that my spelling

ortografe   orthographe  in French

was as bad as it was in English

how was I going to learn another language

when I had a struggle with my own

when you talk

no one cares wether you

can spell what you say

you don’t need commas in conversation


the French teachers

would often go

from school to school

one we reduced to tears

nearly every class

by we I mean

some guys in the class

who took a delight in being rowdy

while they o-o-ogled her boobs

‘les tits’ they snickered

so I blame my limited French

on those guys

who made impossible for the teacher

to teach what I didn’t want to learn

in the first place

quel dommage

green growing up green

this marks my 301st blog post & my 80th for this year.

Antony and the Johnsons

Some voices have the fragility of a steel heart being broken – Antony possesses one of those aching voices that verge on satori. I have a couple of this groups cd’s: The Crying Light; I am a bird Now.

wettersocks too wet socks

This is emo notched to the nth degree. Slowly paced chamber pop that almost strays into leider with the tightly controlled placement of layered instruments, pauses and effects. Over-the-top and understated at the same time. Unlike, say, Florence & the Machine which is never understated.

greensock one wet sock

Emotionally resonant, uplifting and meditative at the same time. Intense and commanding, draining and compelling. I love these cd’s and this deliberate control of what we hear.

wetsock looking at the wet stars?

Back in December 2008 I saw a video for one of their songs and it captured me instantly. Now I can’t remember what song it was but early in 2009 I spotted the cd’s on sale at HMV and bought them. Antony also does the amazing Knockin’ on Heaven’s door in I’m Not There, Todd Haynes weird Dylan tribute movie.

Antony also sings with the techno/dance band ‘Hercules and Love Story’ – great stuff too but more about them when I get the ‘h’ shelf.


May 26 – attending – King John – 2 pm – Stratford


June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

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


Loyalist sky

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


The Reparation Room


he acted as if I owed him something

for the way he was treated as a child

by someone I didn’t know

in a city I’ve never been in

because I was old white guy

I was the one to blame

I was the one who had to dig down

to make it up to him

money wasn’t going to cut it

he wanted to see me hurt

as much as he had been hurt

there was no way to defuse this anger

to step back from the situation

no way was I capable of making him feel whole


was the trade off

the memory of his pain

in return for the memory

of the pain he might inflict upon me

how many times

would he have to seek this opportunity

how many times would he have to strike out

before he realized causing pain

never removes the pain one feels

making me hurt as much as he hurts

won’t change his hurt

might numb him to it for a moment

then he’ll have to live with what he’s done

what he feels compelled to keep on doing

hitting out spitting out taking it out

till it would finally consume him


I don’t know how to lead him out of this cage

can’t tell him he’s a slave

to a problem I didn’t cause

I refuse to be held responsible for it

yet cannot deny his right

to seek some sort of reparation

for his past

I’m not the one to apologize

not the one to pull out my wallet to pay him off

I have to witness his struggle

acknowledge it

know that I can’t undo

what has been done

try not to add to it in any way

but it seems no matter what I do

I add to it

just being present brings it all back to him

not being present

seems to him like I’m hiding out of guilt

neither of us can leave the room

 hall loyalist there’s a novel at the end of that tunnel

Past Tense Compilations

Next on my classical shelf are some Bits and Pieces cds I assembled when I did the big transfer of my lps’ to CDs a few years ago – that was a major task. The ‘new’ cds only held about 80 minutes of sound each so I could get about 2 lps on each – often I’d end up with with a track or two that didn’t fit. These ended up on ‘Bits and Pieces.’

onepillow pillow abandoned

I enjoy the randomness of these compilations. I made of note of most composers & pieces but none of sources or performers. They range from Rossini (string sonata 6 – these sonatas are amongst my favourites & I have, I think, 3 different recordings of them), to Ligeti, Bartok (music for strings & percussion) and more on one.

oneshelf shelf abandonment

Another includes Lalo (rhapsody norvegienne: lush romantic), Mozart (adagio for glass harmonica), and stuff I didn’t even make composer notes on 😦 – a saxophone rhapsody, March of the Devil. I could google more info but who really needs to know? I might know when I hear them.

oneshoesolo for shoe

Then one of piano music. Mozart (sonata piano four hands); Bach (chromatic fantasy), Haydn & Schubert. The sources are so diverse I have no recollection of the lp’s they came from except in a very general way. I kept some of these because I was unable to find any other versions of them, or they were versions I love so much none other I’ve heard lives up to them.


May 26 – attending – King John – 2 pm – Stratford


June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words

broken writing blocks broken at Loyalist

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

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


The Past Tense


I am holding your past

in my hands

because you have no future

least ways not with me

your life may go on

and I’ll certainly wail when you die

if you die before I do

I am holding your past

in my hands

wondering what to do with it

I’m not going to deny you access to it

but I don’t want it in my possession either

there seems to be nothing much to do with it

expect throw it away

as you have thrown away

so many things already

why should I show any more respect

than you do

or perhaps I’ll donate it

recycle it

there must someone in need of

a well used past

that still has some time left in it

some promise unfulfilled

that you will never fulfill now

kijiji has no list for it

‘needs a good home

one past

house and heart broken’

I’m holding your past

in my hands

it doesn’t want me to let go

as much as I try to release it

as much as I feel I’ve finally gotten rid of it

it’ll show up in the smell of night fall

or in the echo of a laugh

from an open window on a hot sunny afternoon

it sticks to me

the only way to get rid your past

is to give up mine too

but I’m not willing to do that

mine doesn’t shame me

the way yours does you

cd01 classical shelf #1


Everyday Viral

Roller Coaster is another of the Make Spoken Word Go Viral prompts – to write something inspired by a painting – as I was thinking ‘Everyday’ came up in my iPhoto screen saver program – random images come up every five or six minutes. How clear a sign do I need?

map you are here

During poetry month last year I was ‘triggered’ to go into my past & dug out a folio of several old paintings I had done in the mid-70’s. I wrote about some of them then (links at bottom of post). In 2013 I managed to do a poem & photo, a day – this year not so good. But good enough for me too.

I did dozens of these paintings – in very thin fast drying latex. Gave many of them away as gifts, one to Malcolm Ross at Dalhousie who helped get book of poetry published but later opined that coming out wasn’t suitable material for the market.

ufo lights in the sky

‘Everyday’ as a title is a reference to Buddy Holly’s song with the line ‘going faster than a roller coaster.’ The image has elements that I worked with often – the playful gods, the red guitar, the ocean, mountains & nods to real works of art (crows over cornfield).

cutdown sawed off

I mention my only real memory of working on the painting – creating the trellis – otherwise that’s it – my frame of mind, intent are in that paint brush. I did have a fascination with mystery, with making the viewer find a story within a surreal landscape.


May 26 – attending – King John – 2 pm – Stratford

June 6-8 – attending – Bloody Words


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

loy hard work at Loyalist

August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


Roller Coaster

careening though the air

it starts off side

continues to the other side

whips around up and down

past the mountains

the sea

the crows over corn field

the daily gods

cling  wave  as the cars

speed past my eyes

speed out of the paint brush

stopped for that moment

but never fully stopped

on this reckless wreckless

escape from reality

into a hyper lack of reality

a journey

the painter never could make

flat full colours

vivid after al these years

a slippery moment of my past

me being that painter

that man

with the need to careen through a life

wheels firmly attached

to the roller coaster track

yet fearful of flying into the

great big blue sky

I remember the effort

to construct that trellis

the deliberate nod to the crows

the red guitar

the gods odd symbols that

sprung from me

spoke to me of a mystery

I’m still trying to solve

of a ride I’m still on

no matter how still I seem


Links to April 2013 Viral prompts poetry posts


On The Animals’ Twain

Almost at the end of my extensive Animals collection – The Twain Shall Meet. Twain is one of those recordings in the wake of Sgt. Pepper – the Stones did “Satanic Majesties” – groups scrambling to show off mystical leanings along with sound engineering. The Animals didn’t have George Martin at the helm and it showed.

mirror broken reflections

This was one of my favourite Animals recordings, with its sometimes cheesy lyrics ‘orange & red beams’ and the forced philosophical depth garnered from the Maharishi. Sky Pilot is a staggering anti-war song even with it weird wash of effects – bagpipes, machine guns.

redcoat plum tuckered out

Side one opens with Monterey – about the pop festival & flower power pervades the rest of the side. Spinal Tap skewers this stuff mercilessly. Side two is a sort of suite of three longish cuts that flow seamlessly into each other and fades out in a haze of patchouli incense. Eric became disenchanted with the Maharishi by the time he recorded Year of The Guru.

My music pals at the time hated this Lp, felt it was a shallow sell out no better than something the Monkees would have recorded but it stuck to me. My Cd is a reissue by One Way Records – no bonus material plus they get the name of one of the cuts wrong – Orange & Red Beams becomes Orange & Red Beans.

plates picnic sans basket

The other Animals Cds on the shelf are hits collection: Best Of: (before LSD( & Greatest Hits, (after LSD). More about Eric in another post, because as I’ve written about about the band I’m understanding what appealed to me and why they still do. That’ll be my Friday post.





Lazy grey waltz

Show me the steps

Glide across the floor

A feather

In the fiddler’s sleeve.


Shadow creased vision

Hushed distance of recall

Layers webs flickering

Smokey images crumbling


How did I ever get this away

So far, far away

From the hoedown moon?


A sorrow tugs at my sleeve

Timid but persistence,

When the river flows

It’s easy top wash it away;

The sun dried me so quick

Here it is back again

A tear to keep me in check,


Why did I turn around

When I heard night

Sweep the webs away


Against my will to know

That it was time to rosin up the bow.




Languid hazel waltz

Watch my steps

Skip over the lawn

A thorn

In the fiddler’s shoe.


My life is the mist

Hovering around the moon

Cutting golden across the floor

Through the open windows

Of the haystack ballrooms

Where here comes that waltz


Slow and close, almost in tears

Slightly futile, music echoes

You are far away and I dance alone


Out into a starless night.


Smooth white waltz

Follow my steps

Carefree through harvest fields

A gleam

In the fiddler’s eye.


my Loyalist seat