Monday, November 29, 2010

Parade Means Christmas

We, and about half the population of this city, had a pretty good time at the St. John's Santa Claus Parade yesterday afternoon. Sean's cadet corp were again marching, wearing santa hats and carrying candy canes instead of rifles. Now if only all military around the world would learn from their example it would be a peaceful Christmas.

It was a warmer than average 7C (44F) but threatening rain. The floats were pretty much the same as last year...Shriners driving about in crazy little cars, a cowboy and cowgirl on horseback, wee Shetland ponies and a float representing the John Howard Society and Her Majesties Penitentiary with large boxes on top with children standing inside those boxes (honestly, I haven't figured that one out yet). There were various dog groups...the SPCA were there as was the Beagle group, the Greyhound rescue group and a bunch of wiener dogs with their sweater-clad bellies inches from the wet ground. All of this sets off alarms for me that the holiday season is finally here (not in September, as Costco or Walmart would have you believe) and I've got to start shopping for gifts and getting the place looking Christmassy.

Speaking of Christmassy things...I shall now link you to Listen to the Voices, the blog of Erin Cole who, along with Jodi MacArthur, are soon putting out a holiday catalogue for writers to pimp their wares promote their stories, novels, etc. Remember...Christmas is on the way and why fret about what to get for people. Give the gift of books...Despite the Nov. 28 deadline on her blog, I have heard rumour (via a little bird) that she will accept your story information (ie. photo, link, short written pimpage) for the next couple of days. So drop by her blog for information on how to get into the catalogue.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Wish I had a Turkey

I have heard tell of rumours saying that I had perished. All lies. I checked my pulse when I got up this morning and apparently my heart still beats. For a while, I hope. I have not fallen off the edge of the world either. If you subscribe to that train of thought. I have only arose from my premature hibernation state to wish my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving day. My concession to this was having stuffing foisted upon me enjoying a little Stovetop stuffing with my pork chop. You know, the kind you get from a box. Sawdust 'n Spice.

Why haven't I blogged lately? Well, I think that my humourous idea well has run dry. Or my funny bone is broken. Or something like that. I haven't run across many blog worthy topics of late and to be honest, I've been bogged down with work and a deadline for my current WIP (tomorrow) that I haven't had a lot of time to do much thinking. What am I saying? Not thinking...that's a good thing, isn't it?

We had something newsworthy happen here on 'The Rock'. Our premier Danny Williams tendered his resignation this morning (CBC story here). Apparently next Friday is his last day on the job and he plans to get out of the game while he's on top...he quoted the great Orson Welles on this...

"Orson Welles once said that if you want a happy ending, you need to know when to end your story. So I've called you here today to announce the end of my story as a ninth premier of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Danny Williams has plenty of friends in these parts and probably equally as many enemies. Love him or hate him, one has to admit that he may have been our most productive and controversial leader since our first premier, Joseph Smallwood, who brought Newfoundland into Confederation with Canada in 1949.

I think it's time for me to crawl back into my lair now. I return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

* Photo Credit: LaCour Photographer

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cuffer II, Now Launched

It was about three weeks ago I received an email inviting me to a book launch for an anthology of Newfoundland stories. These stories were a by-product of a contest run by the local newspaper, The Telegram, about 16 months ago. Yes, July of 2009. There were apparently over 200 entries and last November the top three winners were announced, the cheques were presented and that was the last I heard of the matter.

Anyhow, the email invited me to last night's launch as my story 'The Inscription' had been selected from the losers non-winners to be part of the Cuffer Anthology II. This was fantastic news as I had pretty much written off the story and was considering where else it could be submitted. The story was originally written for one of my night school classes at the university and was submitted elsewhere a couple of times. Those of you who have followed my blog since its messy beginnings may recall this post from June of 2009 where I talk about the birth and rebirth of this story and of another I ended up posting as my first #fridayflash.

For a long time I pondered who to wear what to wear to the book launch as I have never attended such a function before. I don't own a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows, but did, for a moment consider black pants and black shirt for their slimming effect. I ultimately decided against this ensemble as I didn't want to appear to be ripping off Johnny Cash's style.

The event was really for two reasons. First, to launch this anthology of stories with a Newfoundland flavour and second, to announce the winners from the short list for next year's anthology (which, regretfully, I did not enter). I received my complimentary copy which I will, of course, give to my mother...and I purchased another copy and a copy of last years anthology for myself.


I have now started a 'collection' (shades of that Cabbage Patch fiasco from years ago) and I will have to continue to purchase one every year and place them all next to the 21 movie James Bond DVD collection on the family room bookshelf.

If anyone wants a sampling of Newfoundland Flash fiction, you can purchase a copy of the Cuffer Anthology, volume II from Creative Book Publishing or from (though when I last looked they did not have any in stock). There are 34 short stories (1200 word limit) in the book: literary fiction, science fiction, humour and horror. This anthology has it all. The winning entry was 'Holes to China' by Chad Pelley of Salty Ink. His story is about a boy who spends a week digging a hole in his backyard as a means of coping with the fact his father is dying of cancer.

And if that's not enough to pique your curiosity, then perhaps the fact that a wonderful tale called 'Fledgling' by our own #fridayflash regular Laurita Miller of Brain Droppings also made the cut and is included in this anthology. Needless to say we are both quite chuffed to have made the ToC. Our stories were submitted before either of us knew of the other's existence.

A word of warning, though...both Laurita and I strayed from our horror comfort zones and got literary with our small-town tales. The Cuffer prize has proven a great way to promote writing within our province and some of the proceeds from the sale of the anthology goes to Literacy Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Loathsome, Dark and Deep

As writers, we spend a lot of time reading other people's stories and attending their blogs. There is a lot of talent floating about out in cyberspace, but every so often you run across someone who stands out from the masses. A person who writes at such a level, about such subject matter, that you have to read everything they produce. I have long thought that Aaron Polson falls into this category. I obviously wasn't the only one...the talented Cate Gardner started the Aaron Polson fan club about the same time.

It was about a year ago that Aaron Polson started to post excerpts from his novel Loathsome, Dark & Deep at his blog as part of his regular WIP Wednesday feature. He described Loathsome as "...a weird, steampunkish romp through the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s, haunted by selfish men and monsters." It was those story snippets that won me over and I knew I would buy this book when it was eventually published. That day is coming soon...check out this trailer for Loathsome, Dark & Deep--Aaron Polson's first novel...

Still unconvinced? Drop by Belfire Press to read an excerpt from the novel. You can also pre-order a copy of the book from there.

Take a moment to drop by Aaron Polson's blog where he is currently running a contest to help promote Loathsome, Dark & Deep.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guy Things and Remembrance

My wife is away in Montreal on a work conference for 3 days. I drove her to the airport at 4:45am yesterday morning. Luckily it was a day off for Remembrance Day so I could be relatively dozy for the rest of the day and not worry about work. My dad has been visiting for a couple of days while my mother has been out in British Columbia. As Cathy Webster stated in an email to me, "Guy Paradise!...eating greasy food, not putting the toilet seat down, just guys sitting about in their underwear...scratching stuff." Well said, Mrs. Webster. It's as if you were peeking through our window.

I should clarify...I was supposed to be working yesterday but booked it off. Remembrance Day is not a national holiday here in Canada and many people have to work. Many employers in Newfoundland give the day off as the roots of folk here run deep with military service in the First and Second Great wars. Many Newfoundlanders were lost.

As usual, Sean's sea cadet corp gathered in the village of Torbay just outside St. John's to help remember those lost in service of this great country. Sean was especially thrilled to be asked by his commanding officer to be one of two cenotaph guards during the ceremony. I'm sure you all recall seeing the men and women who would stand at the 4 corners of the monument in a solemn pose--hands resting on the stalk of the rifle with the end of the barrel balancing on the toe of the left boot. In the case of the Torbay cenotaph it's only two guards as the monument is very small with a hill behind it. Sean donning his spats and white belt with brass buckle managed to keep the pose for the 50 minute ceremony. His attention span is normally very short and I'm very proud of him for keeping focus and maintaining the solemn pose. I managed to take three photos of him with his camera before the battery died. Since V is away, and I am a technological moron, I made do with a pirated image from the web (see above) of an unknown cadet standing guard at a cenotaph. It's a fairly accurate representation of what Sean was doing.

The cadets were then treated to a hot dog lunch and many of them will be taken to the 4 Nations Cup women's hockey bronze medal game tomorrow afternoon. How Canadian is that! Well, it's very Canadian aside from the fact that it's Finland vs. Sweden. But it will still be a good game to be sure.

I hope you all had a fine Remembrance/Veterans Day yesterday and gave thought to the men and women who have given their lives in service of their countries. I did not have any relatives die in the wars. My grandfather was a career army man and served with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (2nd battalion) and served for many years in Jamaica, China, India, Palestine, and north Africa. His son, my uncle John, was a tail gunner on Lancaster bombers and was fortunate to have survived the war.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yays & Boos for Newfoundland

I had intended on posting about the recent CBC story about the Canada Reads competition but Laurita Miller beat me to the punch at Brain Droppings. She even had some good information about the upcoming Giller Prize. The Canada Reads long list of 40 has been voted on by the public and the top 10 results will be revealed tomorrow. Interestingly, the linked story notes that although Newfoundland and Labrador has only 1/60th of Canada's population it had 4 books in the top 40 or 1/10th.

  • Galore by Michael Crummey

  • Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

  • Inside by Kenneth J. Harvey

  • February by Lisa Moore

Also in the 'Yay for Newfoundland' category...National Geographic Traveler magazine recently posted their annual scorecard for 99 Coastal Destinations around the world. And guess who came out on top...yep, Newfoundland and Labrador. Specifically right here on the Avalon Peninsula. It managed to edge out the Pembroke Coast of Wales and Tutukaka Coast of New Zealand. So everyone mark the lovely Newfoundland and Labrador coast on your calendars for future holiday destinations (I think I missed my calling as a travel agent).

OK that was the good. Now for the bad and ugly...I think that the warm temps we've had here the past few days has softened some peoples brains *Checks calendar to see if it was a full moon* The CBC has also run a number of stories of bizarre incidents in and around the St. John's area. Feel free to link to the stories for more information. Or not.

  • Within a week, three cars were stolen and set on fire in the same park. I'm not sure if it had anything to do with Friday's 'Guy Fawkes Night' --Note: if you don't know what that is, please refer to my #fridayflash story Burning the Guy posted last Friday.

  • A Royal Newfoundland constabulary officer pulled over for impaired driving.

  • Man arrested for emailing bomb threat to a Grand Falls-Windsor hotel.

  • Court case continues for man who bit off part of a bartenders ear in a pub.

  • Man sentenced to two years for Conception Bay home invasion.

  • Old woman drives car into front of St. John's coffee shop (photo below).

  • Young man pleads guilty in home-care beating...this one takes a bit of explanation as the 29 year old man beat and robbed an 89 year old man with the assistance of his 67 year old girlfriend who was the old man's home care worker. I'm sure that the young guy will be on the wrong side of a beating himself when he gets behind the big, grey walls of Her Majesties Penitentiary. Did I say...his 67 year old girlfriend already? It appears love is indeed blind. And perhaps a teensy bit desperate as well...

Umm...but you know, aside from all that insanity...the Avalon Peninsula is still a cool place to live.

Friday, November 5, 2010

#fridayflash~Burning the Guy

Burning the Guy

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The orange flames writhed like a beast trapped in a hellish dimension. The fiery wood pile shifted slightly, sending sparks upwards with the thick smoke.

Most of the villagers gathered near the waters edge to enjoy the annual Bonfire Night. It had been a community tradition along the bay for generations and Cassandra King couldn’t even remember what it was meant to celebrate.

Smaller children, their faces aglow, chased one another about the fire. The older youths clustered together in small groups at the perimeter of the gathering; their hoods were pulled up, leaning into one another occasionally for quiet conversation.

Cassandra zipped her jacket up to the neck and sipped her rum and Coke; its ice had long since melted but she enjoyed the drink just the same. She stared at the flames. Entranced. She didn’t feel very social and was content to sit on her plastic chair behind most of the revelers. Besides, she was fully aware that much of the swirling mist was caused by burning plastics, rubber and God-knows-what from items tossed on the pile the past few days.

“Penny for the guy?” asked young Lizzy Bishop, drawing Cassandra from her thoughts. She smiled and placed a quarter in the girl’s outstretched palm. “Thanks!” she said and ran towards the old man tending the fire.

Mr. Donovan was crouched down, his leathery face pinched in concentration, poking at the sand with a long stick. The old man unearthed the foil-wrapped potatoes that had been baking; he took the coins from the waiting youngsters and handed each a potato. The children ran off tossing the hot potato back and forth between their hands.

Old wood and sundry garbage items had been getting dumped at the site for a week. Building lumber, palates, crates, tables with chipped paint and broken chairs had been stacked in a pile that was now over 15 feet high. The hungry flames consumed the village discards. They danced in the darkness and licked at the night sky. The crowd began to chant:

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot…

Words the community had chanted for generations. Cassandra didn’t know the meaning of the words but she knew that they would never find Tom’s remains.

That treasonous bastard.

The entire operation had been devilishly simple. Her husband had emptied out their bank account and was at home packing his bags. Tom was going to drive to the city to pick up his mistress and then head to Vegas. At least that’s what the text messages she had read implied.

Cassandra had emerged from her hiding place in the closet and clubbed him over the head with his aluminum baseball bat. She removed the wad of cash from his pocket, stuffed him in his hockey bag and rolled him to the beach on a dolly in the wee hours. It was easy enough to drag the bag across the sand and remove the small pile of wood and place him in the shallow pit at the bottom. She restacked the wood and added a few bits of her own. She had reported him missing the next day but the police quickly concluded, due to his Blackberry messages and the missing money, that he had fled his marriage.

Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot…

The crowd shouted and cheered as Mr. Donovan held the straw-filled clothing aloft. It was an effigy to some long dead traitor in a faraway land. Cassandra’s poppy had told her the story when she was a little girl but she no longer remembered the reason for the bonfire. Mr. Donovan tossed the limp rags onto the orange flames. Cassandra jumped to her feet and cheered with the community as the fire raged on.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hello November

Happy November to all. We appear to have survived Halloween relatively unscathed. There was no toilet paper in the bushes out front, no eggs thrown at the house and not a single flaming bag of dog crap was left on the doorstep. I think that speaks volumes to my improving relationship with the neighbourhood kids.

Sean stayed home again this year to dole out candy at the door and frighten the wee ones. I might add that he wasn't wearing a costume. I took advantage of this and posed for a few photos in Sean's leprechaun hat and bow tie (see scary photos below).

The custome may be used again next St. Patrick's Day. For good luck. Speaking of luck..

(nice segue, heh) ...lots of luck to all that have started the NaNoWriMo insanity for this year. I decided some time ago that I just wasn't brave enough to try again this year. Last year I had an idea but it wasn't really plotted out. Between the working hours and the NaNo business I didn't see much of my family for the month and barely scraped through at the end. I did learn a few things, though, and would highly encourage anyone with a storyline in mind to jump to it and get writing. It's only day 2 of 30, after all.