Loyalist Memories Part 2

strolling the grounds 2010

I recently posted a collection of photos from various years of Rosemary Aubert’s writing worksop at the Loyalist College’s Summer Arts. I think I attended 5 years of them until she retired & Loyalist opted not to continue with writing workshops of any sort. Such is life. In fact each year the college was less inviting to the workshop. Starting with the reduction of lunch dining options until lunch was reduced to a Tim’s in the basement.

the air cadets were very obedient – I loved being saluted

Besides the other summer arts workshops for the first two years we shared the campus with air cadets who were billeted there while they went to Trenton airbase. It was fun to watch them lining up in uniform to catch their bus there. Also they added to the after class scenery shooting hoops, lining up for the pay phones. I guess to cut costs the cadets were eventually billeted in Trenton.

dining hall mural – eventually painted over 😦

Rosemary’s class had a core following of crime writers (who went on to form The Mesdames of Mayhem). Some were published already. There were always some newbies. Over the summers I developed friendships with a couple of the Mayhem. Each year there was a different approach to the writing process. Some years the participants were invited to do presentations. I did one on ‘how to give a reading’ as many writers have no idea of how to present their work to a live audience.

In the workshop critiques I learned how to listen to what was said about my work & not to defend my submissions. I was the only out queer male there so I did bring my unique voice to matters of gender & stereotyping. Some were good at copy editing – I would always get one of my submission back with every punctation or typo correction in red ink.

When Rosemary decided to retire from teaching Loyalist opted not to continue with the writers’ workshop module of their summer arts. They did offer one the following year but didn’t get enough registrants so run it. So that was that. Maybe we writers weren’t in the right age demographic for them to pursue 🙂

hands around the Tim’s table our last year there 2016 – some of the hands belong to people in the photo from 2010



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Jonesing For Mayhem

There was Mayhem at the Jones Ave. Library thanks to Mesdames Rosemary Aubert, M. H. Callway, Rosemary McCracken and D. J. McIntosh. It was an opportunity for me to see these familiar faces as working authors, not as lunch dates, follow work-shoppers or teachers. Besides discussing the challenges for women authors in today’s publishing world they each read from their recent work. Some were already familiar with the writers & asked questions that went beyond ‘where do you get your ideas from.’ moon

the moon was obscured by clouds

Each of the Mesdames brought a very different aspect of ‘mystery’ writing to the event. During q&a the difference between a thriller & a mystery was discussed, also what a ‘cozy’ is – was almost defined. Lost Girl was mentioned several times & it appears to have brought many new readers to the mystery fold. Rosemary Aubert, representing the mystery in mystery genre, read from her new book, Don’t Forget You Love Me, the long-awaited follow-up to her award-winning Ellis Portal mystery series. http://wp.me/p1RtxU-157. Set in Toronto, and spanning many decades, this series makes use of Toronto, its history and many neighbourhoods more effectively than many I’ve read. eggs

he was egged on to do it

Rosemary McCracken was next with a sample of  her popular Pat Tierney mysteries, which represent the domestic mystery with elements of thriller tossed in. If you thought investment counselling was all profit and loss, Pat Tierney will show you otherwise. D. J. McIntosh gave us a taste of her upcoming novel, The Angel of Eden, to be published by Penguin in May. She specializes in antiquity mysteries – similar to Dan Brown (but better written). A complex weaving of the past and present make her books an educating and, at the same time, fun read. mirror

the body in the wardrobe

Finally, facilitator M. H. Callway read from her newly published debut novel, Windigo Fire. http://wp.me/p1RtxU-Wi. Her novel is of the wild out-doors adventure mystery genre. Each of the readers were confident, practiced, and picked the right moments to represent their work – moments that had enough cliff-hanger to make you want to read their books, in M.H.’s case it was literally a cliffhanger. It’s been sometime since I’ve been to a reading event of this type and was happy to see it attracted a full house of clearly interested & invested mystery readers. Proof, to me, that the physical book is not becoming an antiquity. sample Locket “You know more about this than you are telling me.” Jack leaned back in his chair. “So, why don’t you stop playing around and tell me what you know.”

“I’ve told you everything I know about this. I hardly knew Steve. A remote cousin ‚I met once at a family picnic many, many years ago.” Dave didn’t know where to look in the room. Ceiling, floor, at the detective.

“Must have made some impression on you then. if you can recall him now after all these many, many years.”

“I only recall because you asked. There should be some photos of that picnic. Somewhere.”

“Photos?” Jack leaned forward. “Now we are getting some place. That’s the sort of something we need now. Where are these photos?”

“It’s been years. Could be at my mother’s place. Sis may have some in one of her albums.”

“We’ll get on that as soon as you’ve told me everything.”

“I’ve told you everything. What makes you think I’m holding out something?”

“Everybody has something to hide. I’ll find out. Have no worry about that. There isn’t much you can hide from me.”

“I am not hiding anything about this from you or anybody. I don’t know anything to hide.”

“Perhaps a a couple of nights behind bars will give you more time to think. It can be arranged.”

“What more do you think I can tell you? I didn’t know the man. Never really met him.”

“Did you know the victim?”


“Yes.” Jack slipped a photo across the table to Dave. “Not a pretty sight, but the face is recognizable.”

“No, I don’t know her.”

“Look closely.”

“It’s pointless. I don’t know her.”

“Perhaps you recognize this.” Jack took a pendant out of the desk. It was an intricate gold chain with a clumsy locket on the end. The locket was encrusted with red and green stones.


“Yes, murder is always ugly.” Jack opened the locket. “More pretty pictures for you.”

Inside the locket Dave saw photographs of his two children – Jen and Peter. “Those are my kids! How did …”

“How old are your children?”

“Five and eight.”

“Hmm. The lab tells me these photos were taken nearly a hundred years ago.”

“A hundred years ago?”

“You sure there isn’t something you haven’t told me?” soon

June 5-7 – attending – Capturing Fire – Washington DC



(I’ve registered already 🙂 )

June 21-26 – attending – Rosemary Aubert’s Workshop: The Novelist’s Selfie – Loyalist – Belleville https://www.facebook.com/events/965611026782246/ loyclass

register now while there is room at the table

page 23 for details next page down for registration info

https://www.loyalistbanner.com/ceweb/doc/LoyalistSummerArts2015.pdf June 27, Saturday – 7:00-  Feature: Hot Summer Nights at Hirut, Hirut Restaurant, 2050 Danforth Ave., Toronto summer15 September 3-6 – attending – Fan Expo Expo15 http://fanexpocanada.com October 18, Sunday – feature: Cabaret Noir: Inner Child Sacrifice partsnoir   purple

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Windigo Fire

Reading Windigo Fire by M. H. Callway is like running from an out of control forest fire while being shot at from an overhead plane. You want to stop the action to take a breather, or at least go the the washroom, but you can’t. Is that an overstatement? It isn’t when you realize that this is exactly what happens to one of the main characters in this fast-pace, heart-racing novel.

wmoon by the light of the Windego Moon

While the dodging of bullets is going on, the other main character – a young girl, is fleeing the clutches of a Santa clad drug-lord who wants her to accidentally fall off a cliff before she exposes his plans. No safe place she finds stays safe for long.

trench we’ll bury the body here

Windigo Fire took me to a northern Ontario I didn’t know existed, perhaps, in fact, it doesn’t, but the writing makes the surreal setting so real as to seem almost a documentary. Vivid, complex, characters that one never really likes but who draw out sympathy any way. Every victory leads disaster till the climax were plot threads are tied tight around the guilty.

tree is it safe in the trees

Violent without being gory, with characters who pay the price of their actions. Men and women get punched, stabbed, shot and feel the pain, it doesn’t mysterious vanish in the next chapter. At one point, one of our principles thinks “An hour whipped by in five minutes.” That is very true of this book as well. A great read and highly recommended. Available at either Amazon.com or Amazon.ca & http://www.thebookband.com/bookshop/fiction-2/windigo-fire.




we were laser Indians

who swam under the bridge

a lost tribe of space rangers

who had to start a fire with stick

children of another time

who fought to feel at home

in this time and place


we found safe places

but they didn’t stay that way

what we found

always brought us back

to the confusion of being

the witch-wound moon-brats

we tried to escape from being

we were TV chefs

stuck on radio shows


there wasn’t a we

it was just one

one child – male

and sometimes even that was a pretence

gender slipped away

as easy as the stars from the sky

as quick as the morning dew

left the garden of grey newspapers

in an empty lot


I pretend to be we

we play the reflection with no mirror

the title fight with no sport

the first cigarette with no one to rebel against

the peek around corners

to make sure there

is no one to make this I a we


I was told

no one wants to play with you

this I who didn’t give a shit

we didn’t care

we were a voiceless choir

singing to the happy congregation

we were tired of the we

we never found the I enough

the we enough

the pretence was never enough

to keep out some pair of eyes

to ask questions

what the fuck are you playing at

   get the hell home kid

   grow up won’t you

   no wonder the other kids won’t hang out with you

   just look at you stop being such a cry baby

after a while we didn’t hear

the voices were sound

from a distant fog

we’d say

thank you

   fuck you too asshole

   why not take a picture

and scamper to find another spot

to set up the empty box moon landing

the box an image on the wall

the wall too high to climb

the wall to the stars

we didn’t care



had our laser

light sabre wielding robot

to take care of we


moose blue windigo moose


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#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 TOpoet.ca. 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 http://www.fanexpocanada.com


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

pineoct https://www.facebook.com/events/1651892755035275/


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?


Mayhem at Loyalist

Loyalist hardcore work
Loyalist hardcore work

Starting to feel ‘recovered’ from the Writers’ workshop at Loyalist – recovered from early morning wake-ups, Tim Ho’s twice a day for 5 days in a row – is there much caloric & nutritional difference between a sun-dried tomato bagel & a maple-pecan danish? The flavor difference is minimal.

What Tim’s lacked in variety our workshop certainly made up for – we looked at pieces that went from falling through the ice to basking on rooftops in India, from women banished to Cape Breton purgatory to ‘scatter-brained’ ladies murdering their 2nd (that we know of) husbands.

Participants included some Mesdames of Mayhem – Madeline, Joan, Rosemary – each of who lead polished, perceptive discussions on the state of the publishing industry. Rosemary Aubert’s decision to farm out some of the course material to us students paid off well. Richard one day & Nancy another, give great presentations as well. Their’s were so great I invited myself into their writers’ group. Time for me to wade into those waters.

barefoot climber?
barefoot climber?

Campus life was comfortable. For less than $35 a night the rooms were luxury suites. This year I actually got some use out of the microwave. Also enjoyed suppers in our pad with Richard (he shared the pod with me) – and Nancy & Liza – these three are members of the writers group I’ve joined. Though after my first story they may regret it 🙂

As I’ve done in past years I bring suppers for three nights. Our last night there we dine out as a group. I had loaded up a special Loyalist playlist – lots of Chopin, Gabor Szabo – with a dash of retro pop from Sugar Loaf, Rare Earth, The Grassroots & Sal Mineo (yes he did have a recording career).

By Friday all of us were tired – using our brains this intensively can be exhausting but everyone was eager for another week of it as well – but this is all we get. Happily Rosemary A. is already planning next year’s workshop. If all goes well I’ll have Smashword-ed City of Valleys and can really jump in on marketing discussions.

City Of Valleys
low clouds