Sunday, 28 June 2020

Moccasin Square Gardens: Short Stories by Richard Van Camp

Today I finished a collections of short stories by Richard Van Camp in his book, Moccasin Square Gardens.

The characters of Moccasin Square Gardens inhabit Denendeh, the land of the people north of the sixtieth parallel. These stories are filled with in-laws, outlaws and common-laws. Get ready for illegal wrestling moves (“The Camel Clutch”), pinky promises, a doctored casino, extraterrestrials or “Sky People,” love, lust and prayers for peace.

While this is Van Camp’s most hilarious short story collection, it’s also haunted by the lurking presence of the Wheetago, human-devouring monsters of legend that have returned due to global warming and the greed of humanity. The stories in Moccasin Square Gardens show that medicine power always comes with a price.

To counteract this darkness, Van Camp weaves a funny and loving portrayal of the Tłı̨chǫ Dene and other communities of the North, drawing from oral history techniques to perfectly capture the character and texture of everyday small-town life. “Moccasin Square Gardens” is the nickname of a dance hall in the town of Fort Smith that serves as a meeting place for a small but diverse community. In the same way, the collection functions as a meeting place for an assortment of characters, from shamans and time-travelling goddess warriors to pop-culture-obsessed pencil pushers, to con artists, archivists and men who just need to grow up, all seeking some form of connection.

I really enjoyed the style in which all the stories were told. Done in first person, it's told as if I was sitting around a campfire at night with a group of people while the author told his stories to us. An unusual approach done excellently.

After I read this book, I saw this quote from him which explains his style. "I need oral storytelling in my life as a listener because I’m always filtering the pauses, the slang, the rockabilly of pacing, the delivery. When I listen to a master storyteller or someone just sharing a story, I’m studying how they’re talking and how they’re standing, and what the pitch is in their voice. I can sometimes take their techniques and put them into a story."

As with most collections of short stories, some are much better than others, but I thoroughly enjoyed most in this book.

There are many other novels and short story collections which Mr. Van Camp has written which I look forward to reading.

Richard Van Camp is a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, NWT, Canada from Fort Smith, NWT. He is a graduate of the En'owkin International School of Writing, the University of Victoria's Creative Writing BFA Program, and the Master's Degree in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.

He is an internationally renowned storyteller and best-selling author. His novel, The Lesser Blessed, is now a movie with First Generation Films and premiered in September of 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival. He is the author of four collections of short stories, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, The Moon of Letting Go, Godless but Loyal to Heaven and Night Moves, as well as two children’s books with Cree artist, George Littlechild: A Man Called Raven and What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?

His first baby book, Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, was the official selection of the Books for BC Babies program and was given to every newborn baby in British Columbia in 2008. Richard followed this up with another board book: Nighty-Night: A Bedtime Song for Babies. His third book for babies, Little You, is now out with Orca Book Publishers. The amazing Julie Flett is the artist. Little You is published in Bush Cree, Dene and South Slavey, courtesy of the South Slave Divisional Board of Education. His new book for babies with Julie Flett is called “We Sang You Home” and it is gorgeous!

All of Richard Van Camp’s children’s books are available in Braille for free, anywhere in the world, courtesy of the Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI) and Accessible Resource Centre-British Columbia (ARC-BC)

Richard has six graphic novels and comic books out: his first comic book on deterring youth away from gangs, Path of the Warrior, is published with Cree artist, Steve Sanderson, through the Healthy Aboriginal Network. His second comic book on sexual health is Kiss Me Deadly, with Haida artist Chris Auchter. His four graphic novels are Three Feathers (published in Bush Cree, Dene, South Slavey and English, illustrated by Krystal Mateus, on restorative justice; The Eisner Award Nominated A Blanket of Butterflies, on the theme of peace making, illustrated by Scott Henderson, The Blue Raven, illustrated by Steve Sanderson on mental health, and Spirit, a suicide prevention comic book illustrated by Emily Brown (which is also published in Bush Cree, Dene, and South Slavey and English).

Richard has published a second novel, “Whistle”, which is part two of The Lesser Blessed, and it’s a story exploring mental health through the eyes of Darcy, the bully in The Lesser Blessed, played by Adam Butcher in the movie.

Richard wrote for CBC's North of 60 television show for two months under their Writer Internship Program and was a script and cultural consultant with them for four seasons. He taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia, worked as a Creative Writing and Storytelling instructor with the Emily Carr Institute and was the Writer in Residence at the University of Alberta for 2011 and 2012 and at MacEwan University in 2013 and 2014.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

An Author's Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores by Mark Leslie Lefebvre

Back in May I tuned into a webinar put on by the Canadian Authors Association of which I am a professional member of, called Leveraging Your IP and Maximizing Income in a Digital World, with Mark Leslie Lefebvre as the speaker. I was quite impressed, so I went of and bought his book, An Author's Guide to Working with Libraries and Bookstores.

An Author's Guide to Working with Bookstores and Libraries is a no-BS overview of the publishing industry, bookstores and libraries. It outlines the basics of what authors need to know when navigating their way through the complex print, eBook and distribution options available to authors. Whether you are traditionally published or self-published, this book provides guidance and insights to help you maximize your sales, your earnings, and your author brand.

As with the webinar, I learned a lot and gained quite a few ideas on how to promote my upcoming book, Saving Tiberius, (Bookland Press Publisher) through bookstores and with the Toronto Public Library. Many ideas at the moment would be on hold due to the current Covid-19 situation, but can be put into practice later.

This is a valuable guide to the industry for both traditionally published and indie authors alike.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre has been writing since he was thirteen years old and discovered his mother’s Underwood typewriter collecting dust in a closet. He started submitting his work for publication at the age of fifteen and had his first story published in 1992, the same year he graduated from university.

Under the name Mark Leslie, he has published more than a dozen full length books. He pens a series of non-fiction paranormal explorations for Dundurn, Canada’s largest independent publisher. He also writes fiction (typically thrillers and horror) and edits fiction anthologies, most recently as a regular editor for the WMG Publishing Fiction River anthology series. The very same year, Mark saw his first short story in print he started working in the book industry as a part-time bookseller, and was bitten by the book-selling bug.

He has worked in virtually every type of bookstore (independent, chain, large-format, online, academic and digital). He has thrived on innovation, particularly related to digital publishing, and enjoys interacting with the various people who make the book industry so dynamic.

Between 2011 and 2017, Mark worked at the Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Kobo where he was the driving force behind the creation of Kobo Writing Life, a free and easy to use author/small-publisher friendly platform designed to publish directly to Kobo’s global catalog in 190 countries. By the end of 2016, Kobo Writing Life established itself as the #1 single source of weekly global unit sales for Kobo and, in primarily English language territories, responsible for 1 in every 4 eBooks sold.

Mark has spoken professionally in the United States and Canada, in the UK and across Europe, specializing in advances in digital publishing and the vast and incredible opportunities that exist for writers and publishers.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Past Presence by Nicole Bross

Today I finished Past Presence, the debut novel from author Nicole Bross.

Audrey Eames is happy living the wanderer's life. After a near-death experience in her teens, Audrey can see people's past lives whenever her skin touches theirs, and afraid of being labeled delusional, she's never stayed in one place too long or made any deep connections.

So when Audrey's estranged aunt dies and leaves her the historic Soberly Inn and Public House on the scenic Oregon coast, Audrey wants nothing to do with it. She's determined to sell the inn and leave town before someone discovers the power she's been hiding from the world, but clauses in her aunt's will seem to block her at every turn.

Yet once ensconced in Soberly's small town life, the people-particularly the inn's bartender, Kellen Greene-start to grow on her, and she begins to feel that maybe she's finally found a place of her own. As accepting as the townspeople seem, Audrey fears their reactions-and Kellen's rejection-and decides to keep her visions a secret. But all is not well in Soberly. Soon after Audrey arrives, people in town start dying in the same manner as in their past lives-but in this lifetime it's murder. Audrey vows to use her gift to find the murderer and protect the people she loves-before it's too late.

Wow, it's such an interesting concept. Time travel but only in the mind of the Audrey who sees peoples past lives but only in short snippets. The story is well woven and descriptive. Audrey is very easy to like, as is Kellen. It's not only told in first person but done in present tense, which is so hard to do successfully. Bross did an excellent job in doing so.

It's not hard to see why it was a finalist for the 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards Best First Crime Novel!

Nicole Bross is an author from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with her husband, two children and one very large orange cat. When she’s not writing or working as the editor of a magazine, she can be found curled up with a book, messing around with her ever-expanding collection of manual typewriters or in the departures lounge of the airport at the beginning of another adventure. Past Presence is her debut novel.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Watershed by Doreen Vanderstoop

There is a new genre in writing now. Actually, it's probably been around for a few years but I heard it for the first time when I started reading  Watershed by Canadian author Doreen Vanderstoop. It's called Cli-Fi, short for climate fiction with stories set in the future with the world devastated from climate change.

In Watershed, water is now the most precious resource in Alberta. With the glaciers gone, the province's oil and gas pipelines are being converted to water pipelines. Tensions are high as "water terrorists" threaten to violently cut off the water supply. Against this precarious backdrop, Willa desperately tries to keep her family's failing goat farm afloat.

But when her son, Daniel, goes to work for the water corporation whose high-priced commodity is putting the farm out of business, Willa is stunned. A string of betrayals fractures the family, potentially beyond repair. Willa feels herself losing everything that she values most - her farm, her son, her past, even her very grip on reality. Is there any way to put the pieces back together?

I really enjoyed this book which had different story lines running through it. Although it currently is fiction, with the way the world is going, could in the books time frame, thirty years from now, could come true. An interesting story which makes you think of our future.

About Doreen Vanderstoop 

Doreen's short fiction has appeared in Prairie Fire Magazine and online at Montreal Serai,,, and Alexandra Writers' Centre, among others. Doreen's first novel, Watershed, was published by Freehand Books and released on May 1, 2020. Doreen is a member of Alexandra Writers Centre Society, Writers' Guild of Alberta and the Canadian Authors Association.

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Montreal Expo's Dennis Martinez 1991 Perfect Game

This week, TSN showed Montreal Expos Dennis Martinez's prefect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 28, 1991. I recorded it and watched it this afternoon. It was interesting to say the least.

Dennis Martinez, know as El Presidente,  struck out 5 and although I wasn't counting, gave up only a few fly balls to the outfield. One Dodger, Juan Samuel, attempted to bunt for a single but Martinez dove to the ground, bare-handed the ball and threw him out. Afterwards when he was being interviewed, he was asked if there was a moment he was worried and it was the last out, a long fly ball which hung up. Martinez also was 1-3 at the plate with a single in the 8th. The announcer, Dave Van Horn, was worried the extra running might tire him out.

During that same, 2 team records were ready to be broken, one good and one bad. For the Expo's they could've set a record for longest team non scoring inning streak. It started sometime during Thursday nights game, then they were shut out in 10 innings Friday night, more on that in a minute, and again on Saturday. Sunday they scored 2 runs in the 7th.

The other streak was for the Dodgers. They were one inning away from matching their longest inning streak for shutting out the other team. 
Martinez was pitching against Mike Morgan. Morgan had a tough day taking the loss. He only gave up 3 hits and NO earned runs. The 7th inning started with Alfredo Griffin booting the ball. Then Larry Walker drove him in with a triple. With Walker standing on third, Griffin again gave up an error to bring him in. Morgan took the loss, never giving up an earned run.

Now about Friday nights game. Mark Gardner for the Expos threw a 9 inning no hitter. The only problem was, the Expos never scored. Morgan then pitched in the 10th gave up a hit and was pulled. The next pitcher gave up the run, giving Gardner the loss. Later in the year there was a 8 man committee set up to determine if Roger Maris should be given the home run title over the Babe. They then were asked to rule on Gardner's game. The rulings? Maris gets the HR record. Gardner denied the no-hitter.

One final interesting item. Going into Friday nights game, the Dodgers had not given up a 9 inning no-hitter to any team since 1938. That weekend, they gave up two

Thursday, 28 May 2020

Saving Tiberius Due For Release in July 2020

I am excited to announce that my publisher, Bookland Press, will be releasing my new crime thriller, Saving Tiberius, in July of 2020.

Morgan Watson has a problem. When word leaked that his cat, Tiberius, miraculously cured itself of diabetes and may hold the key to a cure, he is attacked in his home and almost killed in a bloody fight. 

Paula Rogers, a strong-willed dedicated police officer, has put herself in the line of fire protecting them, and for the first time is stretching the rules and hiding facts from her superiors. 

The two fiercely independent people find their romantic feelings for each other grow as they search to find who is behind the brutal attempts to get Tiberius before they find themselves intertwined with the growing list of dead bodies.

Saving Tiberius can be preordered through Amazon or Chapters Indigo or better bookstores near you. More updates to follow.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Chasing Painted Horses by Drew Hayden Taylor

Today I finished Drew Hayden Taylor's latest novel, Chasing Painted Horses.

Chasing Painted Horses has a magical, fable-like quality. It is the story of four unlikely friends who live in Otter Lake, a reserve north of Toronto. Ralph and his sister, Shelley, live with their parents. On the cusp of becoming teenagers, they and their friend William befriend an odd little girl, from a dysfunctional family. Danielle, a timid 10 year old girl, draws an amazing, arresting image of a horse that draws her loose group of friends into her fantasy world. But those friends are not ready for what that horse may mean or represent. It represents everything that’s wrong in the girl’s life and everything she wished it could be. And the trio who meet her and witness the creation of the horse, are left trying to figure out what the horse means to the girl, and later to them. And how to help the shy little girl.

In the past I've read some of his short stories and heard him speak at author events but it didn't prepare for this fabulous work.

The story kept me completely involved and engrossed. Usually I'm a slow reader but I became so caught up this, I couldn't put it down and as a result, finished it quickly. The story bounces back and forth between the present and the past, with the past dominating the tale.

Chasing Painted Horses is so well written, I'm not surprised it made the CBC's Top books of 2019, and was shortlisted for 2019's Governor-General's, Writers' Trust and Giller awards.

During the last thirty years of his career, Drew Hayden Taylor has done many things, most of which he is proud of. An Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario, he has worn many hats in his literary career, from performing stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., to being Artistic Director of Canada’s premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts. 

He has been an award-winning playwright, a journalist/columnist (appearing regularly in several Canadian newspapers and magazines), short-story writer, novelist, television scriptwriter, and has worked on numerous documentaries exploring the Native experience. Most notably as a filmmaker, he wrote and directed REDSKINS, TRICKSTERS AND PUPPY STEW, a documentary on Native humour for the National Film Board of Canada, and for CBC, co-created SEARCHING FOR WINNITOU, an exploration of Germany’s fascination with North American Indigenous culture.

As a playwright, Drew has proudly been a part of what he refers to as the contemporary Native Literary Renascence. An author of more than 20 plays (resulting in almost a hundred productions), his popular plays such as TORONTO AT DREAMER’S ROCK, ONLY DRUNKS AND CHILDREN TELL THE TRUTH, THE BERLIN BLUES, and COTTAGERS AND INDIANS have left their mark on the Canadian theatre scene.

In the world of prose, he enjoys spreading the boundaries of what is considered Indigenous literature. In 2007, Annick Press published his first Novel, THE NIGHT WANDERER: A Native Gothic Novel, a teen novel about an Ojibway vampire. 2010 saw the publication of his novel MOTORCYCLES & SWEETGRASS (Finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction). More recently, Douglas & McIntyre published a collection of his Native themed science fiction short stories, titled TAKE US TO YOUR CHIEF AND OTHER STORIES. This fall, a new novel titled CHASING PAINTED HORSES, published by Cormorant Press, will brings his publication total to 33 books.

His success as a writer has allowed him the opportunity to travel the world, spreading the gospel of Native literature. Through many of his non-fiction books, from the four volume set titled FUNNY, YOU DON’T LOOK LIKE ONE, to the ME FUNNY, ME SEXY, ME ARTSY series, he has tried to educate and inform the world about issues that reflect, celebrate, and interfere in the lives of Canada’s First Nations.

Self-described as a contemporary story teller, his exploration of the storytelling tradition has explored many boundaries. For example, he co-created and was the head writer for MIXED BLESSINGS, a television comedy series as well as contributed scripts to four other popular Canadian television series including BEACHCOMBERS and NORTH OF 60. In 2007, a made-for-tv movie he wrote, IN A WORLD CREATED BY A DRUNKEN GOD (based on his play which was a finalist for the Governor General Award for Drama) was nominated for three Gemini Awards, including Best Movie. In 2011 and 2012, he wrote the script for the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, now known as the INDSPIRE AWARDS.

Drew Hayden TaylorThe last few years has seen him proudly serve as the Writer-In-Residence at the Berton House in Dawson City Yukon, the University of Michigan, the University of Western Ontario, University of Luneburg (Germany), Ryerson University, Wilfrid Laurier, as well as a host of Canadian theatre companies i.e. Cahoots theatre, Blyth Theatre etc.

The years of writing have brought him many accolades by his peers, including the Floyd S. Chalmers Award, Dora Mavor Moore Award and the Canadian Author’s Literary Award, He has also been the recipient of many other varied honours; an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Mount Allison University, a Plaque of Honour on the Peterborough Walk of Fame, the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Award, Ontario Premier’s Award for Creative Arts and Design, and Victoria Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement in Theatre, to name a few.

Oddly enough, the thing his mother was most proud of was his ability to make spaghetti from scratch.