Kindle Garden

Before I get to the Kindle here the ‘real’ books I’m currently reading: brother to brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men ed Essex Hemphill (1988). I bought this re-issue as it is the only Hemphill in print. I did attempt to get his out-of-print poetry collection but it got lost in the mail & I had no way to prove that & so lost the $ I paid for it 😦 Anyway this is an excellent collection. Sadly some of the racism that black gay men experienced then is still happening. The chapters on HIV are heartbreaking & brought back memories of may work in palliative care.

I’m working this the box in Brick Books 50 books for $30.00 offer. I alternate one of those with the Whitman on my Kindle. I now reading monkey ranch – Julie Bruck. Excellent contemporary poetry. I loved this deal but at the same time it reveals the financial rewards of being a published poet. 

My kindle presently has Escape From Baghdad! – Saad Z. Hassain Set in Baghdad during the US invasion. It feature religious fanatics, mercenaries, occultists, soldiers & an ancient watch that doesn’t tell time. Gritty, no one can be trusted. The ‘science’ around the watch is more compelling than the ‘war’ elements. I enjoy the setting but so many shifting characters, shifting allegiances it gets a bit confusing.

Looming Low Vol. 1 – ed Justin Steele & Sam Cowan. This is an amazing collection of eerie short stories. Atmosphere over gore can’t be beat. Simple off-kilter setups lead through multilayered stories. The old Twilight Zone influence only adds to the power of these stories. Highly recommend. 

Complete Poems – Walt Whitman. Who knew Walt wrote so much! I was somewhat familiar with Leaves of Grass – but that about 10% of what he produced. I try to read a certain % of it then alternate it with something else. 

I also am working though: 12 Books – Steven Leacock; Complete Fiction – H.P. Lovecraft & 120 Bonus Poe stories; Slavery: Not Forgiven, Never Forgotten; Complete Works: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Works of Hall Caine; Complete Works: Emile Zola; The Ultimate Collection: novels & essays Mary Shelly; 51 Classic Works: Mark Twain; The Complete Works of Bram Stoker.

The Leacock & Twain are delight. Lovecraft good in limited doses. Slavery is a massive set of writing by early Black writers: poetry, novels, biographies. Doyle gets a bit dry with his historic romances. I read about Hall Caine in a biography of Bram Stoker. Hall was, at one time, the best selling novelist in the British Isles & a known homosexual, so I had to read him – very much of the period. As is Stoker’s fiction which gets a bit dry one the blood sucking stops. Zola is a writing God & one of my inspirations. Mary Shelly is interesting enough but is also caught up by literary styles conventions of her time.

Collections from Story Bundle one of World SciFi novels & anthologies & one of horror/ghost novels & anthologies. Seeing the future by non-North Americanized eyes is worth the effort. Some of these are the closest I get to reading contemporary fiction, as well, other than the occasional novel I’ve downloaded written by friends.


Your Eyes

what color are your eyes


you know that’s my favorite color


well not really

I guess my favorite color is 

a sort of cerise


you know the red of sherry 

when you spill it on an off white rug

just as it soaks in a little

I love that red

can’t get enough of it


though I do really like the contrast 

of a suddenly spurt of blood 

on newly fallen snow

blood warm enough to melt sink

clotted crimson in a thin gleam of ice

that is a sweet color too


or the tinge of a bruise after the third day

when the blue black is ebbing out

to that green blush along the edges

till finally it becomes as faint 

as a finger print on a knife hilt

or a the kiss of a rose 

trodden underfoot in a muddy field

after the police have searched for days

looking for clues

the dark deep brown of fresh dug earth

or ground recently patted down

to a sort of smooth quality

like skin untouched for a year or so

dried in the corner of a basement

who knew Aunt Sally was down there

we thought she had gone back to Florida]


I love the color of her eyes

what was left of them anyway

a beige blackened

with whites jellied dried pink rose petals


so I love the color of your eyes

yes that has to be nearly 

my favorite color in the whole wide world

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee – sweet,eh? 

#Loyalist Farewell & “God smiles on grooms”

Another fine workshop with Rosemary Aubert at Loyalist. Time flies too fast when I’m so focused and productive. Even though the class was smaller than usual, some drop outs at the last minute due to illness, we never seemed to have enough time to get around to everything – in fact we barely scratched the eBook surface (next year).

loyset sunset reflections

After the first day there isn’t really much time, or energy, for my own writing beyond morning pages & getting the blog up. Not complaining though. The workshop options of the day were excellent & even they weren’t discussing my piece, nearly everything said applied to every piece submitted.

loychaps why, yes, I sold lots of chapbooks

My Thursday presentation in revising the Plot went very well. I used both Lazarus Kiss & Coal Dusters as examples. In Kiss I realized that I needed to make the magic system clearer which called for cuts & additions. Dusters got tinkered with to suit the history & also the cultural context. People lived with dirt much more thoughtlessly than we do.

loybench lonely birdhouse

The residence apartments were perfect. Simple, almost austere with excellent campus wide wifi access. This year I was in the McFarlane building for first time. Over the years I’ve been in nearly every building. I was lucky to get one of the accessibility suites, which have their entrance which avoids the stairs – sweet for my suitcase. Close to the main buildings so I took more of a loop around the the Tim Ho’s on the furthest end to get some exercise.

loybags bags packed for sad departure

Ate off campus a couple nights. Montana’s is one of those faux rustic spots – saws on the walk. 50’s car suspended from the ceiling. large meals, well prepared; nice ribs & salads. The class meal was at Boston Pizza – food was fine but one long table made conversation with anyone more than two away from you impossible. Even that was shouted over the noise of other diners around us.

The drive there & back was smooth sailing, no major traffic ties ups, not even much of a slow down – going against the flow does speed things up. But I’m always glad to get home to my own bed, even if I have endless loads of laundry to do before hitting it. I’ll be back next year.


August 28-31 – attending – FanExpo Canada


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



Here’s another sliver of Coal Dusters – this wasn’t looked in the workshop but I was so pulled back into it myself I can’t to start the big revisions.


“Lillian it won’t matter what trousers I’m wearing down into the mine. The overalls will cover all I’m wearing.” Steven tried to joke.

“They will be taking your picture before you get into the mining gear. You have to keep in mind that people’s eyes will now be on you.”

“I want them to see that I am one of them not some … shop display manikin of …”

“You want to look like what they want to look like themselves someday.” She interrupted him. “These clothes are simple enough at the same time. Now that things are getting back to normal, they will be ready to look to improve themselves.”

“I do wish you would be coming with me.”

“A woman in the mines!” Lillian laughed. “Worse than a woman on board a ship. No!”

“At least come with me. Be there when I go down with them. I’m sure the other wives will be there to celebrate their men returning to work.”

“Looking like this!” Lillian pointed out her housecoat and slippers. “By the time I’m prepared to go anywhere, they’d have hauled up the first ton of coal.”

A car horn tooted outside the house.

“There’s Gus now to take you along. Be sure to send him back with the motor directly, so me and Clara can go to Sydney.”


“That’s right. To the store there. They have some new wedding dresses for …”

“Wedding dresses.” Steven broke into a wider smile. “You mean …”

“That’s right you can tell everyone the date is two weeks from today.”

The car horn tooted again.

Lillian went to the porch with him. As he got into the car she leaned in to remind Gus to bring the motor back.

She took Steven’s breakfast plate to use herself and was eating toast when Clara come down to breakfast.

“You’ve seen Steven off?”

“Yes. He’s looking forward to the re-opening of the mines more than the miner’s are.”

“No doubt. He only has to go down once. They have to go down everyday.”

Lillian dabbed a piece of her toast in the egg yolk on the plate.

“I see you’ve eaten as well.”

“Only some toast.” she glanced down. “Oh goodness I’ve used Steven’s plate! Uncle Pat lived so simply he only had one plate, one cup for his breakfast. I’d wait till he was finished before having my own. It did mean less washing up. Strange how a habit starts and sticks with you.”

The road to Sydney was fairly smooth though Lillian did have to hold to her hat a few times. Even though Sydney wasn’t as large as Boston after spending so much time in New Castleton it seemed huge. There were more cars than she’s seen.

McDowell’s was a three-floor department store on Charlotte Street. Even though it was several years old it still had the feeling of newness to it. First floor was housewares. Lillian admired the gleaming stove and refrigerators.

“Eyeing possible wedding presents?” Clara asked.

“I was thinking this was the type of gift my family would never give. Too practical. They’d be more inclined to send something like this.” Lillian walked over to the fine china department. “A large fancy floral set of chinaware that could only be used once or twice a year, if that often.”

At the back of the first floor was a Toys and Children’s Furnishings department.

Lillian looking longingly at the line of dolls standing on a shelf on one wall. I wondered what had become of hers. She’d left so much behind when she came to Cape Breton. Being in McDowell’s reminded her painfully of the many things she’d lost.

They took the lift up to the second floor. It was Men’s and Women’s Wear. When she stepped off the lift the first thing she was was a mannequin in a short one-piece dress. The skirt was pleated and the top had a loose beaded fringe around the neck.

“Oh.” Lillian sighed. “That is so pretty.”

“Perhaps.” Clara touched the hem. “Too short to be practical.”

“But it’s not meant to be practical Clara. It is meant to be pretty.”

Clara lead her to the back of the store to the bridal area.

“Miss McDowell.” A small woman with a strange accent scurried out from a side room. “What a great pleasure it is to see you.
“Thank you Karina.”

“Ah, and this must be Miss McTavish. Let me look at you.” she stepped back to gaze at Lillian. “Such a waist. In old country girls like you would be fattened up before being wed. Here, ach, they want them skinny as boys.”

“So you have something to show us.” Clara asked.

“Yah. Yah. You wait here. I get.” She went into the side room and came back out with two boxes. “Now the lace isn’t as good as we’d make back in Koniakow but I haven’t forgotten how.

“This first one is very traditional.” Karina took out a full bodied, white dress with a neck high top, long lacy white sleeves and full wide bottom. “Some crinolines will make you look like a queen. The veiling is quite simple though.”

She held it up against Lillian. Lillian pressed the shoulders to her and stepped back. It was so much like ball gowns of her mother’s she had envied. The bodice had seed pearls in an arc across the breast bone. She kicked out the bottom so it bounced lightly in the sun. She did a twirl so that it wrapped around her legs before falling away as she stood in front of the mirror.

“Lovely.” Clara said wiping a tear away from her eye. “The sort of dress I would have loved to have been married in.”

“Oh yes. The young lady looks radiant even holding such a dress. It’s been so long since anyone has wanted such a gown. Things being as they have been.” Karina shook her head. “But perhaps that will change now.”

“It is more than words can say.” Lillian stared at herself in the mirror. Could this be the same girl who was cowering in fear as he uncle struck out at her?

“This other is much … plainer. Miss McTavish insisted we order it as it is more … modern.”

“You make modern sound like a disappointment.” Lillian replied, reluctantly handing the gown back to Karina.

The other dress was a simple sheath with a similar high neck but shorter sleeves. The white satin had a green and gold sheen to it as it caught the light. It had a small hat of the same fabric with a simple veil attached to it.

“It is lovely.” Lillian knew this was the one for her. She held it up to herself and stood in front of the mirror. The color complimented the red of her hair while the length would allowed some of her calves to show. “I’ll try this on, if you don’t mind.”

She saw Clara’s look of disappointment.

“How long would alterations take, of either?” she asked.

“This one a few days. The good one a week or more.”

Lillian stood in front of the mirror in the sheath dress.

“This one won’t need alterations at all.” She said with a smile. “I do think it sends the right message as well. The other one is too …”

“Opulent.” Clara said.


Lillian came out of the dressing room and handed the dress back to Karina. “But perhaps a more elaborate veil would be in order.”

“Yes.” Karina’s face lit up. “I can have something. How soon.”

“Two … ?” Lillian said.

She was interrupted by the alarm bells.

“What can that mean?” she asked.

“Something at the mine.” Karina said. “Steel plant uses its whistle.”

“But how can we hear it here.”

“They relay a distress signal.” Clara explained.

“Can you tell where it’s from?” Her heart was racing. She knew were it was from without being told.

“Not always.” Clara hesitated.

“It’s from New Castleton, isn’t it?” She grabbed her purse and headed to the stairs. “There’s been an an accident.” she raced down the stairs, Clara following close after.

The drive back to New Castleton was tortuous for Lillian.

“Please, Lillian it is nothing. It has to be nothing.” Clara tired to calm her.

“No. Tt isn’t nothing.” Lillian exploded. “I can feel it. Don’t ask me how, but I can just feel it.”

The car pulled up outside the Colliery gate and she pushed in past the guard who tried to stop her.

“Where is he?” she shouted at the guard. “Where is Mr McDowell?”

The General Manager came over to her and Clara.

“We don’t know Miss. But rest assured we’re doing everything we can to find him and the others.”

“I don’t care about the others.” Lillian saw all her new hopes and dreams turning to coal dust before her eyes. “This can’t be happening. It can’t.”

“There. There.” Clara tried to calm her. “You must be strong.”

“I’m tried of being strong.” Lillian sank to a bench outside the infirmary.

“We’re doing everything we can. The first five levels have been cleared and all the men are safe.” The manager explained.

“What about the others?” she said.

“The cage has been jammed in the shaft. We can’t go lower till we are sure it’s safe to go down.”

“Cage?” Lillian didn’t understand.

“A sort of elevator that brings the men and col up and down.” Clara said.

“Then why don’t they just pull it UP.” Lillian said.

“The cable broke.” The manager said. “It had been tampered with.”

“What! Who would do such a thing.”

“Radicals, miss.” The manger dropped his voice. “There’s labour elements amongst the men who’d stop at nothing to …”

“To what! Kill each other in pursuit of some ideal even they don’t understand!” she yelled.

“We are working at replacing the cable now. We don’t want to send men down in case the cage can’t hold their weight.”

“Then I’ll go down.” she pushed him aside. “I’m not that heavy.”

“Now Miss McTavish.” The manager restrained her.

“We have to let them look after this.” Clara said. “Everything will be okay.”

“There’s someone coming up.” a miner came over to tell the manager.

“I have to go ladies. Trust me we are doing everything we can.”

Lillian watched him run over the the mine entrance.

“It’s Birk Mc!” someone shouted.

“Level seven.” someone else shouted. “He was down at level seven.”

A stretcher with Birk on it was brought past her. Clara held her back from jumping up to ask him about Steven.

“I have to find out.”

“Let them tend to him first.”

“Climbed up all by his self.” one of the miners came over to them “Shoulda seen his hands. Bloody pulps they were.”

“Did he say anything?” Lillian asked as calmly as she could.

“There’s some alive but he can’t say as who ‘cept those around him on his level.”

“See Lillian,” Clara said. “There’s hope. Let’s go to the …”

“I’m not going anywhere. If St,even’s hurt these men will pay the price. After all he’s done on their behalf.”

“Lillian!” Clara said. “We have no idea if anyone did anything. A cable that hasn’t been used in months could break easily.”

“So now you’re a mining engineer!” Lillian raged then caught her breath. “I’m sorry Clara. I know you’re trying to make me see sense.”

“Don’t forget Steven is my brother. You’ve only know him the past few months. I’ve known him all my life. All his life.”

“Of course Clara. I got so caught up in my own fears that forgot you may have your own. But there must be something we can do?”

“Perhaps we can be of assistance in the infirmary.”

“No! No! I don’t think I could bear to go in there.”

More miners were being brought up from the lower levels.

“We’ve managed to stabilize the cage.” The general manager came to explain to them. “It can’t be pulled up or down the way it is caught in the shaft but we have secured cables to it so that if it should come loose it won’t fall any further. That boy did a monumental deed clambering up the shaft the way he did. In the dark with nothing but a belt to hold him from plunging down.”

“Was it him that did the monumental deed of sabotage?” Lillian asked. “Saving his own neck at the loss of others.”

“Miss! There’s no call to make an accusation of that sort about anyone.” The general manager stepped away from her.

“They were to be married.” Clara said quietly. “You must know that. …”

“Christ, it clean went out of m’head. Mr. McDowell announced before he went down. I know he’ll be alright Miss. God smiles on grooms.”

Loy03the writer’s w/edge at Loyalist

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

Our Demands

The past few weeks have been productive – the cold weather keeping me in nights has helped some – plus reducing the amount of time I put into reading. Those books, ebooks will get read eventually – what’s the hurry. Reading is a sly way of avoidance as I’m doing research into facets queerdom, identity as well some fiction & even a few literary journals. I have to confess that I’ve let nearly all my lit journal subscriptions expire. They aren’t my market & often don’t speak to my interests – unless someone starts a Ginger Pubes Quarterly.

sweaternice green but needs some ginger

I’ve been clearing the blogged City of Valleys off WordPress – to publish there needs to be no ‘free’ versions of available. While I was doing that I also edited out those lists of my upcoming events – stale is stale. If you missed the show that boat ain’t coming back.

toquegingery rust

I’ve been getting material ready for three upcoming shows, as well. Winter Snow Ball (winter’s no ball); my guest spot at the Dildettes show, and my February feature at Racket at the Rocket. For the Racket show I also designed a flyer – one of my favourite things to do, plus created a Facebook invite for people to rsvp then ignore 🙂

baghairy (not ginger) bag

Our Demands is the last in this current little flurry of list poems. In editing it, I did change the time sensitive cultural references to something more recent. I enjoyed the idea of these cold-blooded killers also being sort of whiney cry-babies at the same time; while the authorities are silent and mostly unresponsive.


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.

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


Our Demands

1 p.m.

Here is a list of our demands.

You have exactly three hours to fulfill them

two large pepperoni pizza – thin crust

four 2 litre bottles of classic coke

an escort to the airport

where a plane will be waiting

the plane will take us to St Nities

no police will follow

there will be no charges laid against any of our family

we will be given political asylum at St Nities

there will be no reward placed on our heads

if these demands are not met we will start to kill the hostages

after each killing there will be further demands

4 p.m.

your three hours are up

we have killed the first of the hostages

here are are our new demands:

no punishment for killing the first of our hostages

freedom for two of our compadres currently incarcerated

two large pepperoni pizza

four 2 litre bottles of classic coke

bring our families to the Larry King show

send interviewers from CNN to us

give us more press and TV coverage

stop the helicopter’s flying overhead

re-run the Phoebe gives birth episode of Friends at 9

failure to comply will result in the death more of the the hostages

8 p.m.

thank you for the

two large pepperoni pizza

four 2 litre bottles of classic coke

the Larry King show was a lousy Princess Di repeat

you have another hour to comply

we will not speak with Joan Rivers

send credible press & tv representatives

have Obama sign the Kyoto accord

bring back Square Pegs

bring us the latest P Daddy CD & a sound system

stop blaring sirens

don’t think we won’t kill again

take this body

bring us fresh water

how much longer before the plane to St Nities is ready for us

1:00 a.m.

we are running out of patience people

how many of you have to die

before you capitulate to our simple demands

an escort to the airport

where a plane will be waiting

the plane will take us to St Nities

no police will follow

there will be no charges laid against any of our family

we will be given political asylum at St Nities

they will be no reward placed on our heads

a chance to bid farewell to our families on the Ellen Show

a direct phone line to the white house

more will die.

6 a.m.

okay so we’ve killed the last of the forty hostages

the bodies are beginning to stink

if you don’t give us

an escort to the airport

where a plane will be waiting

the plane will take us to St Nities

no police will follow

there will be no charges laid against any of our family

we will be given political asylum at St Nities

there will be no reward placed on our heads

if you don’t comply completely

we will go on a hunger strike

we will kill one another

we are willing to resort

to what it takes

to get the world to listen

we want an Oprah town hall meeting

we want this to be over as much as you do

so please please

give in to our demands

or our blood will be on your hands

 mannthe good went shopping


When I set out to upload my novel, City of Valleys, I didn’t realize it would take 70 excerpts and seven months to do the job. It certainly filled up my blogs pages and the number of ‘actual’ hits I got has steadily increased, even some new followers, and subscribers. Some get email copy of each post which only count as hits if they click through the blog (as opposed to just reading the email).


The next step will be a proof-read edit. Then I’ll contract it out for the final preparation for smashwords. I’ve read the style guide and could probably do it myself but I’m lazy. If it were as simple as uploading my present Pages version I’d do it, but it has to be formatting in some non-Mac program with all the Mac coding stripped out – too much work for me

Special Delivery
Special Delivery

Plan is to get it ready for October. I’ll have to delete all the excerpt first though because Amazon price point always equals the cheapest on line – so if I have it free here they’ll automatically price it free as well.

Last Friday I got out to my first writer’s group meeting – most of whom are writers I know from Loyalist. Felt good to be with such an attentive, tough bunch of fiction writers. I’ve tried to get into a couple of groups before only be told there’s waiting list in such a way that it was  clear they didn’t think I was worth their effort – ditto for some of the poetry workshops around – by invite only apparently & no one thinks I’m worth inviting. Such is life 🙂

Tim's Tanked
Tim’s Tanked

The writing sample, rough draft, is first part of the piece ‘Compound’ I submitted to the writer’s group. Part 2 Monday.

writing sample
writing sample

The Compound

The hostages were unhappy. Even I could see that but what was I to do? Overseeing captives was new to me, a promotion in fact. It had come quite unexpectedly. I’d been in the security branch of the service corps for several years. Kept my nose clean. Did my job, did what was asked without question.

I was proud of this advancement, more responsibility meant more respect, more money. The day I got notified I was Overseer, I couldn’t wait to tell my lover. He merely nodded. He never really approved of the corps, even though he found the uniform erotic. It was dark red with blue piping in the pants – blue stripes on the arms for each small advancement, then gold florets that equaled five stripes. I had five stripes but wouldn’t get my first floret till I had a sixth.

I flourished my arm with the the five stripes. Good things were bound to follow. That finally I was a son any father could be proud of.

My lover, as I said, wasn’t as pleased as I was. He said only war could follow. Did I want war, people to die, so I could get gold florets.

When we made love that night he was distant and mechanical.  I didn’t tell him he’d regret this coldness if I died in war. Guilt never leads to passion.

The hostages were sullen. Grim faced they walked the perimeter of the exercise field, scowling up at the cameras as they passed them.

My second-in-command suggested we try talking with them again. The hostages refused speak our language and acted as if they did not to understand us. Each time I had tried to talk with them had ended up with them slouching into the dark corners. Even when our linguistics experts spoke to them in their language they acted as if they didn’t understand. There was no way to reason with them.

There were nearly two hundred captives in our compound. Each bore a random number. No names were to be used.  I had a troop of twenty-four under my command plus my second-in-command. All good men and women. None of whom could communicate with the hostages. We had tried everything – mime, writing in the ground, pictographs, hieroglyphics.

Each attempt made the hostages more fearful. Blame was clear in their eyes, as if it was our fault for not trying hard enough. As if communicating with them was our job but it wasn’t nor was it our job to make them happy or comfortable.

We merely had to keep them alive till their nation met our demands.

My lover snickered at my frustrations. The fact that the war wasn’t my idea didn’t soften his attitude. Not that I cared, in fact, his indifference challenged me when we made love. I strove with a new found passion that left him limp and gasping when I was satisfied.

The hostages were restless. They paced their compound fast for a few laps, then slow, then they would stand huddled in groups of two or three in each of the corners. One of them in each group looking sullen at the cameras that followed their every move. We used sound sensors to pick up their conversations, to find out what, if anything they were plotting but I didn’t feel any threat. Well, I did sense a threat but knew that anything they tried to do would be an exercise in futility. But they never spoke, not even to each other. Even though my orders were to confine and protect them – to see that no harm came to them I wouldn’t hesitate to kill to one keep the others in line. Besides, after two weeks, they still hadn’t spoken.

We had had no word from Capital City for several days now. Communications lines were staticy and even when they worked would stop in mid-transmission. Our enemy had damaged our communications system with their bombs and their ultra high frequency jamming devices. Some days even the Internet wasn’t working.

I would go home after my day at the compound and look for some sympathy from my lover. He would snort and tell me that I shouldn’t act so dismayed, this is what life with captives is like. Both keepers and captives pay a price. My price was to be drained. I asked him why he was so bitter, told him it wasn’t my fault we were at war, that we had to do what was necessary to protect our fragile economy. After making sweet love he rolled away from me in the bed with barely hidden disdain because they hadn’t drained me of everything.

I lay in the bed beside him looking at the moonlight on the wall as it moved, dimmed and brought in the morning while I counted his breaths, my ears snuggled into his quiet sighs as he rolled unaware that I was wanting his touch once more. A touch that would make this war all worth while. What difference did it make to me if it didn’t make any difference to the ones I loved. The ones we were supposedly protecting yet who felt only a sense of discomfort when we tried to tell them what this war was like.

There had been no supplies from Capital City for over a week now. We were running short on water and food for the hostages. We had taken to rationing. I could tell they were unhappy. They stood in doleful clumps in view of the security cameras. Their eyes wide and glaring up at the lenses, through the lenses at us, pleading for something but unable to tell us what it was.

Perhaps they are thirsty my second-in-command suggested. I cursed at her that there was nothing I could do. We had barely enough water for the troops. I was taking water home to my lover to keep him happy too. The village’s water supply had been tainted in the last uprising and this war had come so fast on its heels we hadn’t had time to set it right. It wasn’t my fault. It had happened before we were stationed here. I explained this to my second-in-command who was no more understanding and sympathetic than my lover.

My second-in-command had children to worry about. Her babies, she told me. I knew this but chose to ignore it. I told her that she shouldn’t act so dismayed, that is what life of captives is like. Both keeper and captives pay a price. She toyed with the handle of her pistol and glared at the monitors as the hostages loomed at the security cameras.

Some of the hostages began to hover in front of the security cameras blocking our view of the compound. The operator was forced to swivel the cameras gently which caused the images to break up, smear across the monitors. We knew they were up to something.

I stationed guards along the perimeter of the chain-link fence to keep human eyes on them. The hostages would gather and stare. Hatred and frustration glinted from their dusty, dirty faces. This was the first time we had come face-to-face for several weeks. Even when food and water was delivered we merely put it in the eating room of their compound while they were in the open air yard.

The smell was so unpleasant when we did this that our sympathy for them was diminished. Who could  feel compassion for people who didn’t wash themselves. Even with limited water it was possible for them to keep clean.

Once again I attempted to communicate with them. I stood at the gate and called out a solemn hello. At first they paid little heed to me. Then two of them walked warily over to the gate.

With crusted eyes and dry voices they made noises at me. I explained slowly that there was a problem with the supply route, that even my own men were suffering from the same lack as they were. That I had to decide between water for them and and water for my men. It was unfair to all.

They looked at me blankly. They didn’t understand. Or they refused to understand. One of them spat at me and turned away. The other stepped closer with an apologetic shrug. He was unshaved. Unwashed. There was something familiar about his eyes.

He smiled weakly. Blood ringed his teeth. He fell to his knees with with a sob. One hand reaching out to me palm up for something. What could I give him when I didn’t understand what he wanted.

I had the gate opened and two of my men picked him up and brought him out. His eyes were rimmed with red.

The hostages shuffled quickly to the gate as it was locked shut again. Fear and dread in their eyes. I assured them that we wouldn’t hurt this man. But perhaps I was lying. I didn’t know. They wandered off.



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Grindstone Days

I want to put my nose to the grindstone but I have to decide which grindstone to start with, & which nose to put on it. The How To  workshop is less than a month away & I have yet to decide what to bring for workshopping – another section of Lazarus Kiss (my NaNo 2011 novel)? something from The Priest’s Niece – my NaNo 2012 novel. Or a short story? Which nose?

bye bye jodi
bye bye jodi

I’ve been continuing my research for Niece. The more I find out the more I wonder how historically accurate I want this book to be. Can I get away with a sort of mash up of what suits my story or should I stick to strict ‘this is how it was’ – not that I want have my 1925 coal miners using cell phones. The story is culturally true to the time era I’m working in but I don’t want readers griping that my Dragermen equipment wasn’t that developed by 1925 – unless I say it was prototype? hmm.

under water
under water

Last year at the workshop I gave a presentation on e.publishing that was based on my minimal experience, podcasts & the Bloody Words panel. This year I’m going to do a presentation on something I’m more equipped to talk about: how to give a reading.  The participants are all fiction writers – several published so I’m not going to pull my punches.

broken record
broken record

Even more than poets novelist feel compelled to set-up a section endlessly. My theory is if it takes ten minutes of set up you’ve picked the wrong passage. Avoid scenes with more than three characters – it just confuses the listeners. Maybe we don’t need very word of the detailed description of period shoes, stockings and accessories. Yeah, this going to be fun (for me).


Ancient Evolutionary Programming

2012 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium

I enjoyed being totally immersed in the SpecFic Colloquium at the Gladstone. The toughest part was getting there (or for me, anywhere) that early in the day. For once the TTC didn’t let me down. Left home at 9 – where I accidentally met up with Mike Bryant for the trek there. Arrived by 9:40.  A good house of attentive listeners for the event added to my immersion. Although the event organizers did jam in as many rows as possible – meaning it was set for people with no legs but I made my space and stuck to it.

The Rapunzel Trap

Things started promptly at 10 a.m. with Robert Runte : “Canadian Speculative Fiction in the 21st Century” – a fascinating overview of the history of Canadian SciFi and the ways in which it differs from the US and even British genres. He observed that thanks to current global marketing and consumption ‘cultural’ identity is become less important. His time ran out and it was clear he had a lot more to say. Particularly about how marketing dept. trumps editorial input.

With a pause merely for introductions he was followed by Helen Marshall “‘The Book is Dead; Long Live the Book!’: Some Thoughts on the Coming of eBooks” – which I expected to be how ePub is changing the market but instead what how eBook have effected the form and content of writing. She had a great historical quote/complaint about the use of paper being a passing fad as only parchment had lasting value. Due to the need for flowability – poetry doesn’t make the transition to e readily. Alas ee cummings.

this year’s cast offs on Queen W

After a short break things resumed with Robert Shearman (Guest of Honour): “Writing, And Attempts to Justify It” – a great keynote talk – well organized and very funny – he suspects writer’s block can sometimes be getting caught up in the fact that the words we write now aren’t the same as the ones we’d use if we wrote half-an-hour later & those later words would be so much better . His writing partially sprung from being a stutterer – having to find alternatives to words he couldn’t say with ones he could.  His approach is to write weird things that become normal.

A welcome lunch break that took me to a nearby Starbucks – to get out of the hotel and into the damp cool of the afternoon. It was time for caffeine to get me through the rest of the day.

The afternoon kicked off with Peter Watts: “Hive Minds, Mind Hives”. The instinct to survive may not know the difference between metamorphosis and suicide – in order to become posthuman we may need to develop an awareness to the nerve network level – or something like that – but at the nerve net work level there is no awareness. I loved his presentation, slides and even the scientific syntax that he used. I’m sure I understood every word on a subconscious neural level – so my subjective awareness got to enjoy some of the sweet SpecFic nerds who were digging his every word.

Next up was  Karin  Lowachee: “Ender’s End? The Modern Reality of Children in War” Another solid, and this time, for me, very understandable presentation – she started with a slide show of child soldiers – some fussing over getting the music for it but it was much more compelling without the music. She talked about finding the science of science fiction much more attentive to details and realism than the psychology of the characters. As a result most people think of SciFi as space opera, a la Star Wars – not as something with emotional complexities. She did delve into Ender’s Game but her conclusions apply to any well written book.

The day ended with Scott Bakker: “Less Human than Human: The Cyborg Fantasy versus the Neuroscientific Real” I was expecting a medical/engineering approach to how a Borg would work but instead it was a fascinating talk about transhumanism and the singularity. Much like Peter Watts’s presentation I found this fascinating as opposed to instructive. I’m not sure how it will apply to what I write but I’m glad my subconscious was immersed. By this point in the day I wasn’t even trying to absorb that much and the tech heavy syntax was putting me to sleep. Though once again my subjective awareness got to enjoy some of the sweet SpecFic nerds who were digging his every word. I was just a meat bag following my ancient evolutionary programming.

Sandra Kasturi was an excellent host who kept things moving well. The Gladstone was an excellent space for the day. The room was well lit, the chairs were not designed for long sitting – washrooms within easy reach – the men’s room looked good but that urine smell sure didn’t make me want to try the deli there.

writing sample
writing sample

in which I fulfill my dream of a reality show:

Life of An Unknown Poet

I was handing my credit card

to the Winners clerk

when my camera crew got into shoving match

with her camera crew


I didn’t see how out of hand things were

till I watched a podcast of

The Making of The Life of An Unknown Poet

by the crew following my camera crew


my head camera man was asked

‘how did the poet feel

when he was accosted’

he pointed his camera at me

as I walked out of the store

I looked back

glad I was still the one on camera


I was tempted to go back

but didn’t want to interrupt

the entertainment food chain

I had my own life to lead

and what he thought I thought

about the shoving match

wasn’t all that vital to me

the world knew how shallow I was

for a poet


except for this show

I remained unknown

even after six seasons

my books sales hadn’t increased

I wasn’t getting reviews

and this pissed me off

in fact my viewers

would like to see me pissing too

but I had to draw the line somewhere

they could watch me flush

but couldn’t see me take a leak

I have some pride


later there was a news report

of the shoving match

someone was injured

not one of my crew or my crew’s crew

it struck me how futile it was

that no matter what one did

someone was bound to suffer

that even allowing my personal angst

to be the fodder of millions

it didn’t stop the circle of suffering


the camera crew applauded me

as I wrote those lines about suffering

which made it all worth while once again

I can go living giving all to my life

even if there is no bump in book sales

or any chance of sex


unless that camera man

from the clerk’s camera crew is available

he looked kind of hot

in the podcast of the shoving match

needs a shave

his bloody nose gave this unknown poet

a spark of known reality


 shaky escape shadow

Getting the ‘L’ Out Of Loyalist

Recovering from the Aubert Workshop at Loyalist. A productive & relaxing 5 days almost away from distractions – no TV – though I did watch an episode of the Almighty Jonsons on line. The morning sessions were thought provoking: to prologue or not; to self-publish or not; pros & cons of ePub & eBooks. For some reason I was asked to give a presentation on ePub – most of my knowledge is based on a Bloody Words workshop & various podcasts.

The afternoon workshops were good – lots of strong material was presented – often problems were with clarity & continuity as opposed to story telling. Pieces ranged from thrill-a-minute car chases, to amusing police encounters, to Hemingway in Toronto, to life with an mentally challenged child. I think the only piece that garnered much negative comment was mine, the excerpt from The Lazarus Kiss (my Nano novel): too much swearing, violence that made some of readers want to look away (I count that as a success, mind you).

Got off campus on Thursday night with some of my classmates for a dinner at the Waring House. Drove through a wild rain storm to get there. Arrived at 6 – didn’t get served till 7 – the food was fine but the service left a lot to be desired. Leaks in the roof over our table and the window beside it were distracting. Good conversation made the wait bearable (but not acceptable). Joining us was Vicki Delany – a well established a mystery writer whom I pumped for her eBook experiences – getting her back list in e format has increased sales considerably.

Speaking of backlists, Amazon has recently bought the Avalon line to reissue as eBooks resulting in unexpected royalty checks for authors in that back catalogue including or inspired leader Rosemary Aubert.

getting the L out of Loyalist

The drive back to Toronto Friday was trouble free – enough cloud cover so there was no setting sun to deal with. Unpacked & sorted laundry – the domestic backbone of creativity. I’ll go over the notes on my piece in a couple of weeks, maybe. I have my Plasticine set to prepare, and one for the Damned in October, then NaNo in November – so maybe by the new year I’ll have time. Plus I’m keen to get at my coal mine romance after three years of research.

writing sample
writing sample

here’s an oldish piece:

My Drug Of Choice

scotch grass cocaine

sex video games

been there done that

through it all

self-pity was my drug of choice

first time    every time


before I picked up a substance

I indulged in self-pity

wallowed in it

justified everything with it

‘woe is me

why was I born

what am I living for

no one loves me

that guy didn’t want to see me again

I’m not paid what I worth

you didn’t return my call


being told to get to get off the pity pot

get off the cross we need the wood

proved not that you care

but that you didn’t really care

no one understands

and when they understood

they didn’t show enough sympathy

enough compassion

they were stuck on their own pity pots

reaching for substances

to make the pity less stifling


all the substances I tried

never satisfied

the way my drug of choice self-pity did

they numbed me to it for a moment or two

made me not care about myself

woe is me I don’t even love me

what’s the point of it all

why go on living

when even the escape

made me long for the cage

feeling nothing locked me back into

my drug of choice self-pity


I can’t do that

my writing is crappy

no one buys my chap books

no one wants to sleep with me

not even myself

who’d want to have sex

with a self-pity junkie

unless it was to divert themselves

from their own self-pity

for a few pathetic moments

of orgasmic relief

that has to be cleaned up


I hope I don’t get some disease

I hope they call me tomorrow

or next week

or soon

I’ll have no choice but

to pick up my drug of choice.

The Killer Dappled by Sun

view of my window

The Loyalist campus remains unchanged from last year – small ripples but nothing major – getting decent lunch food still remains a challenge unless one really loves bread  – Tim Ho’s is fine in the morning but Subway for lunch 5 days in a row could lead to me skipping lunches & losing nano-grams of weight.

This year, for the first time, I’m in residence “D” – the one residence building with no name. It’s very cold – I like a bit of a/c but its too cool here for kicking around, indoors, in shorts & a tee-shirt – sweat pants & hoodie are musts.

view from my window

First day of workshop was meeting others. Of the 12 in the class 8 of us have taken workshops with Rosemary a few times before. 2 men, 10 women . In the mornings we’ll be looking a the “whys” of being a novelist & also at marketing. To warm us up to each other we did a couple of writing exercises in the afternoon – one of which was to write a great opening line. Here’s mine:

My sister, Misty, who hasn’t spoken to me in years, leaned over my father’s coffin to whisper in my good ear, “Which of us kills mother?”

Real workshopping began Tuesday. I signed on to be one of the first in the hot seat with the section of Lazarus Kiss I posted here last week

Day two sort of over – I’m out of out the classroom but still have pieces to read over for workshopping tomorrow. Even by this second day it is very clear that ePub is changing the nature of the industry so that what we are learning about marketing & paper publishing is altering as it gets said –

Mine was the first piece workshopped – a good kick off – because it moves so fast some were a bit confused, some were lost because the excerpt comes from the 3/4 point in the manuscript – but overall they were impressed, challenged & in some cases laughed out loud when they first read it.

I tried to set the example of listening till everyone had commented before responding to a few things – I assured them that the violence of the scene wasn’t typical of the story but that the humor was. I’ll look at the written comments in couple of months when I do the next round of revisions.


here’s the one of the ‘Killer’ series that I used as my workshop one-sheet biz card:

The Killer Dappled by Sun

the killer flexed his hands

warm playful sunshine

wrapped around his fingers

he squeezed

but couldnʼt grasp the light

couldnʼt hold it   stop it   control it   harm it

the light was safe from him


he found comfort that something

was safe from him

he couldnʼt murder the light

there was a limit to his power

he was human    he had frailty


he looked around

shadows light danced on faces

chattering mindless

anyone of whom he could kill

one of whom he would kill soon

with hands that basked

in the gentle caress of the sun

they would find a throat

they would take the light out of those eyes

of people who were slaves to a system

of comfort for comfortʼs sake


well heʼd put an end to someoneʼs comfort

the killer was a liberator

and he would liberate one by one

until he was free

it would be good to be free

free of the need to liberate

the need to kill


once he had quenched that thirst

he would be free to enjoy this life

this world

this moment in the sun

Suspicious Curtains at the Art Bar

Lauren Carter opened the Art Bar show with new pieces about ‘a family uprooted’ more than once, full of details from her family tree research and strong visuals “buds like tight white purses” – “a wing written into the rock” – she read from her new book ‘Lichen Bright.’ Her work has a strong sense of family, history and rural life. I especially liked “their smiles spread like suspicious curtains” – from Witches.

I miss the miracle

I was up second and the feature went very well, if I do say so myself, though people were a little disappointed that it wasn’t a set of my funny, over-sexed pieces – but every now and then it’s good to change things up. As I always do for a feature, I put together a set with a sense of flow – one that covers a bit of history as well – in this case east-coast life from moving there, local industry in motion, some growing up stuff, touch down in high school, early 70’s sexual fumblings, a quick trip underground & finally an echo of the first piece. Sold lots of chapette books & even a few PDF’s.

During the break I was approached by one local small press to get in touch. Another small press asked if I was ready to do a full length book of poetry. Plus one of my Bloody Words pals talked about a consortium of several writers pooling to create an ePub venture. On top of which I did a little pitch to do a feature in the new year at one of the shows I haven’t performed at for some year. So a better experience for publishing opportunities than Bloody Words & I even got  paid quite well for being there.

floating alley art

Final feature was Ian Hanna whom I met Hot-Sauced a few years ago during the pre-show writing. He almost had to be forced to read a bit of what he had written but now look at him! His set was funny, tender, comfortable and even romantic. Many of his pieces were short, almost punch line – “in the past they used antiques for everything.” “I wandered forth days and nights and came home lost”

Alana Cook hosted with warmth and efficiently so the evening moved along pretty quickly. The open stagers were a great mix – with as many woman as men. Pauper’s  a/c was working a bit too well – if I had know I would have worn a sweater and not just a t-shirt. So I hope those you took notice of my perky nips realized it was the chill and nothing else.

I do have a few chapette books left – $3.00. Also a PDF version suitable for eReaders for a buck. For Pride I’ll be doing a couple of dance pieces. My Plasticine set will be totally different from my Art Bar set – possibly giving the people what they want – hot, sexy & funny.

a place to see delight
a place to see delight

Here’s one of the pieces from my set –

Dad’s Pockets

as a kid

I would go through the pockets

of my Dad’s suit coats sport jackets

as they hung in the closet

I would find quarters which I’d take

sometimes fifty-cent pieces which I’d leave


I’d slip the over-sized jackets

off their hangers

wear them in the dark of the closet

in the smell of his things

his shoes miles too big for me

trying to steal into adulthood


I’d skulk out

from my secret foray

a little daring thief

sneaky   guilty

fearful of being found out


when he’d miss the pocket change

I’d be confronted

say too quick I don’t know what he meant

blurt out I didn’t do that

which he never believed


if only I’d hung those coats back the right way

he’d let me go with warning

that I never heeded

I’d be back there in a week or so

go through those pockets

try on those sport jackets


grow much too slow into adulthood

much too quick into guilt