Short Story

Today one of my tweeps/Twitter friends suggested a preview of the novel (out in Fall 2015, it was confirmed this morning).

I think it’s a ways away from releasing excerpts, if that even becomes part of the marketing plan. But as a compromise I offered this, previously unpublished, short story.

(For those writer friends about to warn me against publishing it online first, rather than a lit journal, I know, I know. But I’m doing it anyway).

If I had to sum this story up in a few words, I’d say it’s about death and horses. Nice light summer read.

So here’s the PDF. Enjoy!

 

Process

I was recently asked to participate in a blog hop by Laureen Marchand of Val Marie, Sask.

Laureen Marchand is an artist, the owner of Grasslands Gallery in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, Canada and an artist mentor who helps artists navigate through all kinds of stuckness and find the next direction in their artistic careers. From her home near Grasslands National Park in one of Canada’s most remote and beautiful regions, Laureen brings over 25 years and the experience of dozens of exhibitions to her practice. Laureen can be found at www.grasslandsgallery.com and www.laureenmarchand.com .

Usually blog hops set out specific questions, but I decided to focus on the writing process.

I spent the first week of June at Spring Valley Guest Ranch, a B&B tucked away in a coulee north-west (I think) of Ravenscrag, Saskatchewan.

Continue reading Process

Poetry

I tweeted one of my poems earlier this week and I had a brain-wave. Why not post it on my blog, I thought?

So here is the first of several. This one makes me think of spring, so it seems appropriate.

Sustenance

Sustenance feels like a night-time drive
through the prairies, a thermos of coffee
and AM radio for company.

Brown earth ground into skin, clinging
to fingernails.
New grass struggling through dry soil,
dandelions pushing apart cracked pavement.

Jazz band swinging dancers
up, up
into euphoria.

Headlights pushing back the night.

Good News

My novel is going to be published. Wooo-hoooo!

NeWest Press, a literary publisher based in Edmonton, has picked up my book. We’re looking at a 2016 release. Between now and then there’s still work to be done, including:

  • more editing.
  • cover design, layout, etc…
  • marketing plans.
  • clearing copyright for song lyrics (although I’ve already started that process and I don’t think it will be too tedious).

But I wasn’t really thinking about all that when I got off the phone with Paul Matwychuk, NeWest’s general manager. I was thinking, “Woo-hoo!” And “I should phone my mom.”

Continue reading Good News

Fences of Shame

Everyone has dirty little fencing secrets. – Mary MacArthur, agricultural reporter

Each winter my parents go somewhere warm, which means I cow-sit for 12 days or so.

Every year there is some emergency fencing to be done. Cattle will occasionally knock down gates or snap barbed wire like a piece of thread.

When it comes to emergency fencing, my motto is “it only has to last long enough for Dad to fix it permanently.” This leads to some pretty sloppy stuff.

This year, despite having plenty of good-quality hay, the cows decided the few bales in the adjoining pen were more appetizing (even though they didn’t look appetizing to me). So they busted the top strand of wire.

Continue reading Fences of Shame

Review: Waiting for Joe

Waiting for JoeWaiting for Joe by Sandra Birdsell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started to read this novel to break up my slog through Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn. But ultimately this novel was way more interesting, so I got hooked and powered right through it.

Joe and Laurie are facing bankruptcy. Neither is entirely honest with the other – both have had affairs, and both hide other things (Laurie her spending, Joe the direness of their financial situation). You really get the sense that that lack of communication has made their situation much worse.

There is also a sense of fate, or destiny, almost, in this novel. Joe’s mother drowns trying to save Laurie’s mother, and so they seem like star-crossed lovers. And there is an accident scene on the Trans-Canada highway, between Calgary and Brooks, that had me contemplating the idea of destiny.

Despite their flaws, I found myself rooting for Joe and Laurie. They were good people who just didn’t seem able to work through their own complex histories.And Joe’s father, Albert, is a really fine character. You’ll love him.

View all my reviews

Review: Sweet Jesus

Sweet JesusSweet Jesus by Christine Pountney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually finished this book several weeks ago, and procrastinated about writing a review. But the characters and story have really stuck with me.

The story follows two sisters and their adopted brother as they journey together to a mega church in Kansas. Connie, the oldest sister, is facing financial ruin, and is hoping to renew her faith. Hannah, a writer, is faced with a difficult dilemma – she wants a child, but her boyfriend, whom she loves, does not. Their brother, Jesus, has just suffered a wrenching loss, and is hoping to reconnect with his biological family.

I’m not a religious person, but one thing I appreciated was how Pountney presented this rather fundamentalist church. The church members weren’t portrayed as riducolous caricatures. But Poutney does, through her characters, point out how damaging some of their beliefs are.

Other things I loved about this book: the landscapes of the different regions and cities, the complex relationships between the characters, the way Poutney weaved the events of the day into the story. And the writing is beautiful.

Loved it.

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The OrendaThe Orenda by Joseph Boyden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a big fan of Joseph Boyden’s previous work, and this novel didn’t disappoint. If you’ve been following the Bird clan, I think you’ll find the latest installment satisfying as well.

Boyden takes us further back in this novel, to early colonization of North America. The story follows three characters: a Jesuit missionary (Christophe), a young Iroquois woman (Snow Falls) and Bird, a Huron leader, and ancestor of the Bird clan in Boyden’s other novels.

I think what I appreciated most about this book was that Boyden isn’t afraid to dive into the complexity of the characters and the societies they lived in. At points I was totally revolted by the Jesuit’s efforts to convert the Huron, but they believed, or at least hoped, they were doing the right thing.

We are with Snow Falls as she grows from a troubled girl into a much more confident, capable young woman. And we watch Bird try to shoulder leadership responsibilities in a time of volatile change.

Overall a complex, thoughtful book.

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Good Read: Practical Jean

Practical JeanPractical Jean by Trevor Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jean has a bit of a breakdown after caring for her dying mother over several months. She decides the kindest thing she can do for her friends is spare them the misery of growing old by murdering them, one by one. But before killing each one, she will create a beautiful experience for that friend, to usher her over the threshold in the kindest way possible.

Though this seems kind of unbelievable, Trevor is such a skilled writer that I swallowed the plot and characters hook, line and sinker. At some points, I was begging Jean to get some counselling, for God’s sake, and stop killing her friends. And then, a few pages later, I was worried the police were going to catch her before she could finish (what is wrong with me, I wondered).

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes their humour a little dark.

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Author, farm journalist, Saskatchewanian