Canadian

Life is Change – Writing Outside the Comfort Zone (Purgatorium Comes)

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The Jester’s Court Restaurant in Port Perry, Ontario, is housed in what is presumably one of Canada’s most haunted establishments. It was a fitting place to unveil the beautiful cover for the upcoming HORROR ANTHOLOGY —> PURGATORIUM!

Last night I had the extreme pleasure of being a part of a new and exciting creation. When you’re a member of one of the world’s most vibrant writing communities, these opportunities rise up often. They begin as a kernel of an idea, and then people jump on board and they blossom into real tangible things. When a group filled with creative vitality comes together, magic can happen. I witness that all the time as a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region WCDR.

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ID Press is comprised of 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse…er, um…I mean 4 members of ‘THE BAD TABLE’.

Last year, the idea of creating an anthology of stories rose up out of the din of what a group of WCDR members affectionately refer to themselves as THE BAD TABLE. It was Connie De Pietro who came up with the original kernel. With much excitement, the idea was tossed and bandied about until it was formed into an actual possibility. And then creativity happened.

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Pat Flewwelling, Connie Di Pietro, Dale Long, and, Tobin Elliott are ID PRESS.

From the first idea came the writing of and the submission of a collection of short horror stories. For some of us, it was an introduction to a genre we had not yet explored as writers. This was, in fact, a part of the original concept—STEP OUTSIDE YOUR ZONE OF COMFORT. As writers, we are constantly striving to better ourselves. One way to do this is to try something new. With a collection of dark storytellers at the helm, the horror concept was formed and it was eventually the premier genre that the group chose to run with.

Fast forward several months and ID PRESS (GO LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK) rose up from the gossamer darkness that encapsulated THE BAD TABLE of WCDR members who sit at the back of their monthly ROUNDTABLE MEETINGS causing chaos and upheaval in the otherwise well-behaved room. From the chaos comes a well-oiled fine-tuned machine. And you know, I wouldn’t want to sit anywhere else. We’re rambunctious and giddy and loud…but these things are often needed in the formation of creative endeavors. I’m proud to sit among my friends in writing.

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A Glimpse of the Cover for PURGATORIUM, an Anthology of dark stories…coming soon from ID PRESS.

What I loved most about the original idea was the forced capitulation from the comfort zone. All writers should try this occasionally. In fact, all creative people in any media should try it. It injects fresh blood into one’s creative process. One never knows until I tries. Growth can only happen with change.

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“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” ~ Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. The more things change, the more they stay the same. UNLESS you turn them on their heads. So cometh the horror!

To step into a genre you have never before written in is a terrifying thing. But we’re writers, right? It’s not like we are chemists working with a new element just recently discovered in the deep quagmire of a distant planet’s molten sea. Even if we do struggle and squirm in our attempts to explore the new genre, whatever the outcome, it most likely won’t result in our death. We will come out on the other end of the experience with new knowledge and new appreciation for the genre. Whatever that genre may be. As writers, it is important that we never disqualify or belittle a genre simply because we ourselves do not write in it. They are all important, they are all appreciated by the readers who love them.

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I just had to include a friend selfie here! Mel and I at last night’s PURGATORIUM cover reveal get-together at Jester’s Court in Port Perry. Writer friends are the awesome!

If you’re a writer reading this blog right now, do yourself a favour. Think about a genre you would never in a million years imagine yourself entering into. Go to your local library and pick up a book in that genre. Read it. Listen to the way the story is formed, take note of the genre’s quirks and nuances. And when you’re finished reading the book, or several books in that genre, sit down and write. Give the genre a go. You’d be surprised not only by how difficult it is, but also by how easy it is. The elements of writing are the same across genres…it’s the elements of the genre that make the experience one of growth and enlightenment. You’re a writer…you already know what goes into making a good story. You just have to manipulate the way of thinking you have in your genre of choice in order to make yourself fit into the genre of the experiment.

If you attempt this genre-swapping experiment, you may discover a whole new appreciation for a genre you previously largely ignored both as a writer and as a reader. You may even discover a new genre to devour as a reader. What could be better than that?! I have always found that if I try something new I’m usually not disappointed. This is true of slipping into the reading of a genre I usually don’t explore. Change is good. Life is change.

The folks at THE BAD TABLE had an idea. And we ran with it. I am extremely thankful for the engine behind this idea—the smaller group among us who stepped forward as captains of this vessel of creativity. Because of them a simple idea took off and became a wondrous thing that we will soon unleash upon the world. I will share more details of this upcoming anthology as they are released. For now, I would just like to personally thank the powerhouse behind making an idea a tangible thing that I will soon be able to hold in my hands. A thing with a breathtakingly gorgeous cover (soon to be revealed) that I am extremely proud to be a part of. Thank you Connie, Tobin, Dale, and Pat. You are deeply appreciated. Your efforts and talents and vision are deeply appreciated. You are all the fire that burns in the depths of our Purgatorium, as well as the phoenix that rises from the ashes of that creativity fire.

PURGATORIUM! It’s coming!

Ontario Writers’ Conference – A Legacy of Creativity and a Labour of Love…

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The Ontario Writers’ Conference Gang Through the Years! – LIsa Craveiro, Deborah Rankine, Barbara Hunt, Sherry Hinman, Rosalyn Cronin, Cynthia Rattey, Sylvia Chiang, Dorothea Helms, Cathy Minz, Collette Yvonne, Lana Cutrara, Sandra Clarke, Janet Kopp Boccone, Jessica Outram, Karen Cole, Kevin Craig, Naomi Mesbur, and, last but not least, Wayson Choy. (missing from the picture, and unable to attend last night, is Anne MacLachlan)

Last night the members of the various Ontario Writers’ Conference planning committees and Boards of Directors assembled in one place to celebrate the legacy that the organization has become. And, of course, we brought our Wayson along for the ride!

We met at the lovely Nice Bistro in Whitby, just north of the four corners. The din in that restaurant was quite staggering, considering it was a closed gathering comprised only of those you see in the swarming selfie animation above. All were excited to see one another and catch up on life in general as well as our various writing lives.

Missing from the collage of selfies above are the hundreds and hundreds of attendees who made the conference the success it was, as well as the amazing array of workshop presenters and speakers and readers the organization has amassed over the years of its existence. Each and every person who moved through the conference served to make it what it was—a thriving nurturing hotbed of creativity inspiration.

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When the opportunity for speeches arose, Wayson Choy was soon front and centre. He has always been mesmerized by the vitality of the OWC. Once again, he spoke to the passion involved in assembling such a space for the growth of creativity. He was all gratefulness and grace, as always.

As organic as the conference was, though, it was also a well-oiled machine run flawlessly and with a constant drive and desire of making it better. Attending the Ontario Writers’ Conference had become the must do event of every spring and the reason to leave the house after another long cold Canadian winter. Upon the arrival of the 2016 conference, it was announced that there would be no more conferences. And a collective sigh rose up against this sad news. An event that connected its participants year after year was no longer going to be an impetus to create, and impetus to meet, an impetus to discover an impetus.

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OWC – Friends!

Some of the patterns of attendance at the conference throughout the years spoke to its vitality and strength. What I affectionately referred to as the Ottawa Contingent seemed to pick up more writers along the way each year, perfectly demonstrating the they’ll-tell-two-friends-and-they’ll-tell-two-friends-and-so-on-and-so-on phenomenon first acted out in the old Faberge Organics Shampoo commercial. And we also saw workshop presenters become attendees as they looked around themselves at the conference and recognized the value in it.

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A Selfie with Wayson.

The jewel in the crown was always the Honorary Patron, our very own Wayson Choy…with the conference from beginning to end. Wayson always delivered inspiration in his talks…an inspiration that would lift attendees’ souls and give them motivation to continue, to accept themselves on their individual paths, and to reach for more. In his caring and nurturing Wayson way, he reached down into the hearts of each of us and said, “It’s okay to write, to be a writer…tell your story.” Everywhere I go, I hear stories of how Wayson touched people who had been present in the audience at an Ontario Writers’ Conference event. He gave himself freely to all those in attendance, with grace and wit and light.

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It will be sad not to have this annual meeting of like-minded creative people assembling in celebration of this thing we love. But from the ashes of the fire rises the phoenix. The OWC is not gone…it is merely changing. No, there won’t be a yearly conference like there was in the past. But keep an eye out for announcements. I’m sure they’ll come. The OWC promises more…

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Keep your eye on Naomi Mesbur – The Future of the OWC Organization is Coming!

 

 

My Books for FREE on Kobo!

You have until August’s End to pick up two of my books for FREE at KOBOBOOKS! Both my 2nd and my 3rd novels can be downloaded at no charge for the rest of the month.

SEBASTIAN’S POET

Synopsis:

Sebastian Nelson is a boy in search of a family. Abandoned by his mother, Sebastian is left with a broken father who doesn’t even seem present when he does show up. Forced to be the main caregiver of his younger brother, Renee, and lost in a sea of indifference, Sebastian only wants to experience the love a real, stable family could afford him.

One morning he discovers the famous folksinger, Teal Landen, asleep on the sofa. Teal’s nurturing nature brings an immediate sense of security into Sebastian’s tumultuous life. But a dark secret looms between Teal and Sebastian’s father of a hidden past. Sebastian is driven to discover their secret, but also he’s aware of how tenuous their hold on Teal really is. He doesn’t want to lose the feeling of home Teal’s presence has brought him.

If Sebastian pushes too hard, he could lose Teal forever. He could be destined to raise his younger brother alone, while witnessing the total decline of his emotionally devastated father. If Sebastian is abandoned by the only healthy influence in his otherwise shaky existence, he will also be forever in the dark about the secret that will reveal so much about his fractured family.

A LINK TO SEBASTIAN’S POET AT KOBO

Sebastian's Poet

THE REASONS

Synopsis:

With a mostly absent father, one sister deceased and the other on the verge of invisibility, and a certifiably insane mother, Tobias Reason is forced to grow up fast.

When his older sister Deja’s tragic death causes his mother to fall deeper into insanity, Tobias attempts to be a surrogate parent to his younger sister, Annabel. But broken mother Maggie takes up a lot of his time, causing Annabel to fall even further into the background of their chaotic existence.

When Maggie flippantly hands her mother’s house over to Tobias, he sees an opportunity to learn how and why his family has become so shattered. His world begins to collapse from the weight of the secrets he unburies, and he focuses in on a stranger from his parents’ past… a possible Ground Zero to Maggie’s fall into insanity.

If Tobias can somehow eliminate the past, he can make his family whole again.

A LINK TO THE REASONS ON KOBO

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Get both of these MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON Best Novel Award winning novels for free at Kobo until the end of August!

All 5 of my novels are available at AMAZON.

It Grew Into Something We Could No Longer Contain – The Tragically Canadian Thing

“I didn’t want this.” ~ The Hip (Pigeon Camera)

This morning-today-we are all saying the same thing. We don’t want this. Canada has just awoken from a weekend dedicated to one of its unofficial poet laureates and his iconically Canadian band. And we are feeling Hip Hangover. And we do not want the party to end.

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Defiant, Humourous, Courageous, Determined, Free – Gord Downie—Doing it his way.

Gord Downie sang his heart out Saturday evening in Kingston, Ontario, at the Tragically Hip’s last performance of their short whirlwind Man Machine Poem summer tour. But then, Gord always gives his all on stage. Perhaps for him, Saturday night in Canada was business as usual…maybe with a nudge and a wink to the huge elephant in the room that we all acknowledged in our tears and turned our backs on in our joy. The elephant being the Glioblastoma–an aggressive form of brain cancer that affects an estimated four to six in every 100,000 Canadians–that is slowly and inevitably taking our icon away from us. Acknowledge it or not, it is there. And Saturday was an opportunity for the nation to embrace our hero. And that is exactly what we did. We held our arms out high and proud and we hugged him like we would never let go.

With every song, we rocked, we sang, we wept, we felt its lastness, we applauded, we screamed, we sighed. And there were a lot of songs. The band treated the nation to 30 songs…and though it ended too soon for all of us, it also had an aura of neverending while we were in it.

Here’s the set-list for the August 20th concert:

“50 Mission Cap”

“Courage”

“Wheat Kings”

“At The Hundredth Meridian”

“In A World Possessed By The Human Mind”

“What Blue”

“Tired As Fuck”

“Machine”

“My Music At Work”

“Lake Fever”

“Toronto #4”

“Putting Down”

“Twist My Arm”

“Three Pistols”

“Fiddler’s Green”

“Little Bones”

“The Last Of The Unplucked Gems”

“Something On”

“Poets”

“Bobcaygeon”

“Fireworks”

Encore 1

“New Orleans Is Sinking”

“Boots Or Hearts”

“Blow At High Dough”

Encore 2

“Nautical Disaster”

“Scared”

“Grace, Too”

Encore 3

“Locked In The Trunk Of A Car”

“Gift Shop”

“Ahead By A Century”

It is fitting that their last show took place in Kingston, where they began their rock and roll journey. Not only did it take place in Kingston, but it took place in a venue said to have been built so the Hip would have a place to play whenever they came home. Not fitting enough for you? The venue’s address is The Tragically Hip Way.

Wherever you were on Saturday, you probably contemplated mortality, life, music, The Hip, and Canada. For me, it was Canada that I kept coming back to. From the perspective of being a Hip fan, though. And I was filled with appreciation. We are a nation that knows nothing of civic pride. We think of it and feel awkward and ashamed and we shy away from it…pride, after all, goeth before the fall. Maybe no other nation heeds those words more than ours. We are apologetically proud whenever we work up the gumption to feel pride.

But Gord and his band opened the door of our nation a crack and beckoned us to enter…every time they wrote a song. Our Canadian Poet wrote songs that were stories…but not just any old stories. They were OUR stories. Our history. He said to all of us—LOOK! THIS IS YOU! THIS IS ME! THIS IS US! He drags our zeitgeist out into the open and screams, “BEHOLD!” By definition, Gord IS our current zeitgeist (the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time). And he does it always with a mischievous wink and a nod. This is us, but don’t take it too seriously. What I love most about the Tragically Hip lyrics–especially those that reek of Canadiana–is that they give us permission to embrace ourselves. That might in fact be Gord’s greatest gift to us all. Sure, the lyrics are beautifully poetic and the music is solid and soulful and lasting…but the feeling we are left with after partaking of the band’s offerings—That is the thing. That bright shining nugget of pride we get in hearing our history sung back to us? It’s golden. “We all squeezed the stick and we all pulled the trigger.”

I’m extremely sad that it has to end this way. I can’t imagine not eagerly anticipating the next Hip album. Gord’s lyrics are so…so…SO! I look forward to unwrapping them with every new song that comes along. It’s a Canadian thing…a thing we will miss more than we know.

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Where did you watch the Hip concert? I joined my brother, sister-in-law, and dozens of others in their backyard party…complete with a large projector screen.

I’ll share my ode to Gord one more time here:

My previously published ode to Gord (Published in Raven Poetry Journal,©2006) :

An Open Letter of Adoration to Gordon Downie

Did you ever see a hypothetical sky, Gordo?
The kind that strips the greys away,
swallows clouds and shivers stars to focus?
Did you ever rest supine, dockside midnight hush,
or did you simply like the way
it fell from your iconic tongue,
beautiful, sublime and free,
filled with nostalgia and tears
of Bobcaygeon love?
Did you ever hypothetical, Gordo?
Twist your words to night
and black and white?
Or did you simply like the way
they fell, iconic from your tongue?
You fill your lungs with melancholy, Gordo,
and send it on its way,
bright the night with shivered sound,
delivering one star at a time.

 

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A shot of Gord I took a few years ago at a previous concert I attended.

“It’s like we burned our boots with no contingency plan.” ~ The Hip (Pigeon Camera)

If I were Gord Downie, I’d be wondering right now if it was enough…if I had arrived close enough to the vision in my head of what I wanted creatively. Creative people are always slagging themselves…I didn’t quite get there, just one more brushstroke would have made it better, just one more pass with the red pen. We are always wondering what we could have done to make it better. Well, Mr. Downie, you did it. “YOU DID WHAT YOU SET OUT TO DO.”

Thank you, Gord Downie. And thank you Tragically Hip…for giving us music, words, laughter, tears, and a sense of who we are as a nation in this world filled with nations. You are Canadian. You are Canada.

TO DONATE TO THE GORD DOWNIE FUND FOR BRAIN CANCER RESEARCH CLICK THIS LINK

Sending love and light to Gord, Gord, Paul, Rob, Johnny & Davis…and all of their families.