Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Packed House at Hamilton's Lit Live Reading

Thank you, Hamilton's Lit Live Reading Series and everyone who packed the room on a rainy Sunday evening  in the astonishing Staircase Theatre cafe. The engaging host, poet Chris Pannell, guided the room, which held a lively and reverent tone, through the eclectic mix of writers.

The roster of talent I also found daunting. 
Anita Dolman opened the show, excerpting from her short fiction collection Lost Enoughdescribing a young girl's rapport with a sentient house in the stunning piece, "Overgrowth". Kateri Lanthier vividly conveyed her entrancing poetry from memory and shared some pieces from SirenKaren Smyth dazzled with nuanced selections from her novel This Side of SadAdam Dickinson read from Anatomic, his poetry about microbe experimentation and his feces (whom I last saw when I ran the Tree Reading Series in 2000-2006- Adam, not his feces, to be clear...). Award-winning journalist and novelist Trevor Cole closed the evening, but not before delighting the crowd with his wry (Or should I say rye? - the editor) description of Rocco Perri, an infamous Italian bootlegger in Hamilton in 1918, in Cole's excerpt from The Whisky King. 

For my contribution, in slot number five on the docket, I read a poem, "Pitched", about my grandfather, who was a denizen of Hamilton for a time, and rode the rails. He informed my character Henry Tanner who, in my literary horror novel Town & Train, recounts his experience riding the rails during the Great Depression.  I also shared chapter one of Train, about 17-year-old John Daniel waking by the railroad tracks in the summer of 1990, not knowing how he got there.

A highlight for us was having supper with Hamilton novelist Nairne Holtz and her friend Claudia beforehand. I hadn't seen Nairne since she read at Tree over a decade ago. I am happy to report that she is as engaging and fun as ever. 

I am also happy to report that Hamilton's reading series is alive and kicking, even on a Sunday night. Our thanks again to the organizers. We met some amazing people, reached potentially new readers, and sold a few few books, all in a fantastic venue. This made our trip well worth it. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Great Cornwall & Area Pop Event this Past Weekend

Photo courtesy of author Benoit Chartier.
My heartfelt thanks go to organizers Carol Sauve and Randy Sauve for last weekend's fourth annual Cornwall & Area Pop Event (CAPE). Anita Dolman and met familiar faces and many new ones. We drove home Sunday with one less box of books (my horror novel Town & Train from Lethe Press and her Lost Enough from Morning Rain Publishing). Having my giant face opposite fellow author Benoit Chartier's was a blast (He also snapped this early Sunday morning photo of my booth) and seeing writer Liam Gibbs was also fun. 
Make mine Marvel!
Photo of the author and Miles Morales
courtesy of Benoit Chartier.

Because Anita and I tell stories, we are inspired and by other people’s stories. An awe-filled young woman asked our son "What is it like to grow up with writers as your parents?" "Meh," said the kid. “It's so-so...” Cheers also to the high school guys (Dawson and the tall fellow) who told me what DC Comics they’re reading and about the comeback of vinyl records.

Of course, getting feedback from readers about our books was fabulous. My return customers from the 2016 CAPE did wonders for my spirits. I traded puns with my favourite volunteer and rubbed shoulders with all manner of creature, hero and character. Didja’ see Lobo? Amazing. My personal favourite, Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man (thanks, cosplayer Gary Raiche, for the photo), also swung by my booth.

All in all, the two-day event was another fun and successful CAPE.
Thwipp! Photo courtesy of Benoit Chartier.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ready for April 21-22 CAPE, the Cornwall & Area Pop Event

Photo with the author and
Lord Vader, CAPE 2016.
The Dark Side is calling me once more to the April 21-22 Cornwall & Area Pop Event (CAPE), a comic-book and pop-culture geek haven, where I'll be with my literary horror book Town & Train and Anita Dolman's stellar short story collection, Lost Enough (Morning Rain Publishing). I anticipate dueling with Benoit Chartier and trading Jedi gossip with Liam Gibbs.

Many thanks, Carol Sauve and Randy Sauve, for organizing the saga. I've been going to Randy's Fantasy Realm since '85. In Town & Train, in fact, seventeen-year-old John Daniel visits a fictionalized version of the Realm. The store may merit an appearance in the two follow-up books that I toil on.

Shout-outs also to Matt Bright of Inkspiral Book & CoverDesign for my brand, spanking-new promo posters and Steve Berman (aka the Duke) of Lethe Press. Steve's short story edits can cut like a Sith Lord's lightsaber, sometimes striking down but only making the work stronger in the end.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Break from Social Media

Effective now, I am taking a break from social media because I have too much to do and I'm uncertain if I am reaching anyone effectively via social media platforms. My efforts might be better focused in other arenas and not a spectrum of overloading and over-stimulating media.

I need to withdraw, retreat, and question just how useful my whole writing shtick is, whether I have anything relevant to say, whether there are too many voices already out there, whether other voices might be better suited to telling stories than me, whether my voice enriches the world or merely adds to the cacophonous white noise of everything already out there, either in print or online.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Take an Arc Walk for World Poetry Day in Ottawa

Why not celebrate World Poetry Day with Arc Poetry Magazine's first Arc Walk in Ottawa, lovingly guided by rob mclennan, who has done so much for Ottawa's, and Canada's, poetry community? The walk will begin at 4:30PM in front of 248 Bank Street, and will continue to sites in Centretown. During the hour-long walk, participants will visit five locations where they will hear about some of Ottawa’s contemporary poetry history, and hear from a special guest poet (Jennifer Baker!).

This walk will be an introduction to Ottawa’s literary history, visiting sites significant to poets of the National Capital Region such as John Newlove, William Hawkins, Judith Fitzgerald, Thomas D’arcy McGee, Michael Dennis and jwcurry, among others.

Come prepared for rain or snow or shine!

For more details, go here.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Return to the Tree Reading Series, as Audience Member

Thanks to literary event organizer Pearl Pirie, here's a pic of me reading at last night's Feb.27 Tree Reading Series at Black Squirrel Books & Espresso Bar. My voice was rough, and I have been having some rough times, having lost a friend recently. Still, l wanted to attend a series I once ran from 2000 to 2005 - but this time as an audience member. 

On that note, MC Chris Johnson did an admirable and affable job hosting. Jennifer LoveGrove, whose novel Watch How We Walk (ECW Press) I admittedly champion, delivered moving poems from Beautiful Children With Pet Foxes (BookThug, now Book*Hug) about supporting someone close to you who has mental illness. Nigerian poet and performer Segun Akinlolu involved the good-sized audience in his charming, folksy and roots musicality. 

I was heartened to see familiar writerly faces, including Grant Wilkins, Sandra Ridley, Michelle Desbarats, and Brian Pirie. And, of course, I got to meet Jennifer LoveGrove for the first time (and shamelessly comp her my book Town & Train after I bought another copy of Watch How We Walk for her to sign).

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Constantine: The Hellblazer: Volume 2: The Art of the Deal: Great Ideas, But A Disappointing Mixed Bag of Art

Ming Doyle’s and James Tynion IV's Constantine: The Hellblazer: Volume 2: The Art of the Deal has great ideas and a portrayal of street mage John Constantine as openly bi, but title is enduring a harsh identity crisis that takes readers along for the confusion. And the confusion isn't about John liking men or women, it's about how John looks like a different guy in each issue.

The revolving door of artists on the book is a big part of the problem. The roster, including Riley Rossmo, Eryk Donovan, Brian Level, Joseph Silver and Travel Foreman, portrays the protagonist in vastly different styles. This is a jarring medley that isn’t working. Constantine appears, in turns, as a grizzled middle-aged man, a Nancy Boy in skinny pants and short leather coat, a spunky twenty-something, and a kid who is perhaps in his late teens. Rossmo’s lush covers feature the emaciated Nancy Boy version. Foreman has the dubious distinction, in his splash-page shots, of drawing blank-faced figures that resemble mannequins instead of people. The drawing appears unfinished. Where’s George Perez when you need him? Donovan’s Constantine looks adolescent, with stark musculature and boyish features. and very cartoonish. Cartoonish is admittedly an odd critique to make about a comic book/graphic novel, but the style is cartoonish and whimsical and disproportionate in a children’s book style or Saturday morning cartoon style, and not at all suited for a tale about  hardened rogue Constantine.

One wonders why DC Comics is making such an effort to make Constantine appear so young. He is the only DC character who has the noteworthy distinction of aging in real time and getting into his sixties by the end of Hellblazer volume one.

These art complaints and character depiction complaints aside, Doyle’s and Tynion IV's writing is close to the mark for a Hellblazer story. Constantine: Hellblazer brims with great ideas, if at time they get a little convoluted. The great ones include New York being an epicentre for magic that average civilians search out. The antagonist, Hell lord, Neron, is getting the souls of those people desperate enough to trade their souls for a taste of the real thing. He impinges on turf in the Big Apple, evicting all other magic users.

Doyle and Tynion IV also get bonus points for portraying Constantine as openly bi, desperately trying to make a seemingly doomed love affair with a fellow named Oliver work out. It is unfortunate then, that Doyle treats hunky Oliver as a man-sel in distress and little more. Their arguments about whether or not to stay together come across as contrived at times. Oliver is Constantine's Lois Lane, but with muscles, and children. Doyle and Tynion IV also get points for bringing Deadman, Zatanna and Swamp Thing into the mix and showing how Constantine wheels and deals, always at others’ expense. 

John Constantine being cute.There's the Oliver in question.
The writers do, though, reduce Constantine to kid saying “RULES ARE *$%ING STUPID” while he is doing serious spell-work. This seems a laughably petulant and teenage attitude for the streetwise street mage. And it doesn’t help that  Constantine looks all of 15 when he utters/thinks the statement.

In short, DC Comics is making headway, rescuing the Constantine character from the watered-down, milquetoast New 52 version. Yes, he’s an incorrigible, chain-smoking, booze-swilling cad again (although I thought he did not stray from his beloved pints), and he's dating men and women. However, the artistic portrayal in Constantine: Hellblazer: Volume 2: The Art of the Deal is wildly inconsistent, sometimes hard to look at, distracting, and makes his actual age impossible to guess.