Monday, August 30, 2010

The Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel

Is the Great Canadian Crime Novel tucked carefully away in a drawer or even languishing under your bed?

Well, here's your chance to pull out that manuscript and enter it in the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel (the Unhanged Arthur).

Sponsored by The Crime Writers of Canada, the Unhanged Arthur contest is open to Canadian citizens, no matter where they are living, and to writers, regardless of nationality, who have Permanent Resident status in Canada, and who have never had a novel of any kind published commercially.

Contestants should have a completed manuscript and should submit the opening chapter(s) – no more than 5000 words – plus a 500-word synopsis of the rest of the novel. "Crime novel" is defined as crime, detective, espionage, mystery, suspense, or thriller, and can be set in any time period and crime-related sub-genre.

From these initial submissions, up to ten authors will be asked by the judges to submit their completed manuscripts. A short list will be selected from these completed manuscripts. The winner will receive a special Arthur Ellis Award along with cash from McArthur and Company. In addition, the winner’s completed manuscript will be read and critiqued by publisher Kim McArthur, who will have the right of first refusal to publish the novel.

All shortlisted authors will received a summary of the judges’ comments about their work. All judges are professionals working in the Canadian publishing industry.

Deadline: October 15, 2010.
More here. And submission rules here.

Update. April 30, 2011: The Crime Writers haven't yet updated the contest rules for the 2012 contest, but you can assume the deadline for this year will again be in October, which gives you just five and a half months from today to get your manuscript in shape. Good luck!

See Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Toronto, Etobicoke, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton, Kitchener, Woodstock, London, Orangeville, Barrie, Gravenhurst, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"Seventeen Crows," an award-winning short story by Gloria Nye

Seventeen crows stood waiting at the end of the lane. Yesterday, it was sixteen and the day before that, fifteen. She never believed that crows could count but . . . And were they the same birds each day – plus one, or did new ones fly in just to take turns tormenting her?

They weren’t even lined up on the split rail fence like respectable crows, but had planted themselves on the hard packed dirt of the driveway among the scattered gravel that Brad had used to fill in the potholes.

Grandma Stokes always said that crows meant death. Christy never believed that. Why with the number of crows around that would mean people would be dying every day. She took another step toward the line of black birds.

When the first crow arrived seventeen days ago, Christy didn’t make much of it, except to wonder why it just stood there on the ground staring at her. It wasn’t pecking on road kill or insects or whatever else crows eat, and when she walked past it – only about two feet away – it didn’t move.

The next day, at half past nine when she went to collect the mail, there were two crows – standing neatly side-by-side . . . watching her as she walked by. On day three, one more companion had joined them. There they stood . . . all in a line with marble eyes aimed at her. Maybe they weren’t crows. Maybe they were some shape-shifting demon come to harass her. On the fourth day, she rushed the quartet, shooing with her hands and yelling, “Get off now, you black buzzards!” Eight flapping wings lifted the creatures into the air.

When she and Brad moved in two years ago, Brad had put up a brand new post box well back from the road so the snow plough wouldn’t knock it over. He also attached a long skinny pole to it with a Canadian Flag on top, so that they could find it when it got plowed under. Christy folded the flyer around the Bell bill and turned to go back to the house. Those four damn crows had not flown off. They had lined themselves up again . . . and calmly continued to stare at her. With a quick step, she strode past them. All the way to the front porch, she never once looked back.

It wasn’t her idea to live in the country. She had come from Halifax to Toronto to be an actress. How could she pursue a career living on 100 acres of farm . . . miles from nowhere? The small town of Palmerston, ten kilometers away, didn’t offer any chance for her to be seen on TV or to get a movie part, but Brad had made his mind up. It was all right for him. As a pharmaceutical salesman,  he could live anywhere.

She dumped the mail on the coffee table and sidled over to the front window where she pulled the curtain aside an inch and peeked around it. Still there, at the far end of the driveway – seventeen black blobs, forming a dark mass. She yanked the curtain shut, rattling the wooden rings against each other. When would this end? Why were they there? Did Brad hire a crow tamer to drive her crazy? But he couldn't. He was dead, and it wasn’t her fault he was killed – not really. She was glad he was gone . . . but that secret would die with her.

Everyone thought they were the perfect couple. Perfect being the defining word. “The roast is undercooked.” “You drive too fast.” “How many times do I have to tell you to line my socks up from dark to light.”

He would be proud of those damn crows. They came like clockwork and their silence was unnatural. Don’t crows squawk a lot? She straightened the calendar knocked askew from the swaying curtain. October 17, six months to the day since the accident. You’d think by now, the letter would have come. Every morning – not counting weekends – she’d walk down to the mailbox, praying that it had arrived. But instead of a letter, for the last seventeen days she was met with yet another one of those black creatures waiting for her.

Well, she’d had enough. She didn’t need eighteen dumb crows staring at her! She spun around and darted to the back kitchen where Brad kept his shotgun. Handy for killing groundhogs and rabbits, he’d said. He’d fancied himself a marksman, but he never hit anything. She picked up the heavy shotgun and slid the shells in the way Brad had taught her.

“I’ll give those smug black devils something to think about.” She marched out the side door and started down the lane toward the waiting audience.

She had never shot anything before, besides Brad . . . but then that was an accident, wasn’t it? He’d said he wouldn’t be back for five days, and he always followed his well-made plans with razor precision. The legal proceedings had taken weeks before she had been declared innocent. Now she only needed the final paperwork so she could sell this place and get back to Toronto to be an actress. No more time to waste. Soon she’d be twenty-five and too old to do anything.

She’d met Brad at the Blue Ginger where she’d been waitressing between auditions. He looked so crisp and clean and neat, not like the rough Nova Scotian boys. And so what if he was eleven years older than she was? He was established in business and would take good care of her while she was waiting to be discovered.

Those first few months were idyllic. Christy loved being looked after and having Brad teach her his sophisticated ways. But he didn’t like it when she cut her hair and became a blonde. Then he had the nerve to stop her from taking that movie part. She shouldn’t have told him it meant taking off her top. It wasn’t long after that when he decided to be a gentleman farmer. Did he think she was stupid? He just wanted her out of the city and away from that man who was going to give her a start in an art film. She had a good figure, why not show it off?

Cradling the rifle across her front, she continued down the drive. It had been forever since her last visit to her Toronto hairdresser and an inch of black roots pushed into her blond curls. The group of crows hadn’t moved. It was peculiar how they arranged themselves each morning. You would swear they were giving a Math lesson to a bunch of nine year olds. Always in neat groups of two’s or three’s and then four’s. A new addition would patiently stand apart and wait for the next day to be evened up. Just like Brad. Everything had to be in order.

“By whose rules,” she had asked him once.

He looked at her as if she were in kindergarten and said, “Mine.”

That night, she rearranged the spices out of alphabetical order, mixed tins of corn and peas in with the peaches and mandarin oranges, and tapped each picture frame – in the whole house – crooked.

So when Brad announced he wouldn’t be back for five days, that meant he wouldn’t be back for five days. And on Saturday, when they were in town, he told Margie at the L & M Food Market, and Joe at the Esso Station, that he was going to North Bay . . . for five days. So what could a poor girl do, when – on the fourth day – she heard someone coming into the house? She had to protect herself. That morning she had loaded the gun and, by 8:30 that night, was sitting on the bed . . . waiting. When the figure appeared in the doorway, what could she do but shoot? The recoil of the gun knocked her back on the pillow and the dark figure lay in a bloody heap.

At the trial she explained that she always took the rifle upstairs when Brad was away, and everyone knew that her husband never changed his plans. She didn’t mention that she’d received a voice mail saying he was coming home a day early . . . or that she had erased the message. But she almost lost it when that good-looking lawyer asked about the call from Brad’s cell phone.

“What time did you receive his call?” he asked, glancing down at the phone records . . . indicating the exact time.

Christy, the distraught widow, shot her eyes skyward, recalling his voice. She had to think fast. Damn those phone records.

“Your husband did call the day before he came home . . . unexpectedly?”

“Oh, yes . . . well no . . . I’m not sure,” Christy answered. “I had just started watching TV when the phone rang.” That was true. Brad had called on his lunch hour at precisely 1:09, just when The Bold and the Beautiful had started after commercials. She looked straight at the cute lawyer, “I didn’t answer it and . . . whoever it was didn’t leave a message.”

It was only a small lie and she'd been acquitted.

With a firm grasp of the rifle, she continued down the lane, but when she looked up at the congregation ahead, something had changed. Those ornery birds weren’t in their neat little rows, columns, or groups. As she got closer, she saw they had formed a semicircle with the opening toward her . . . as if inviting her in. She took two steps, and stopped. The group moved as one, closing her into the middle of a perfect circle.

The largest bird stretched his neck up and screeched a loud “caw” at her. The one beside it followed with a piercing cry, and the next and the next joined the raucous chorus until seventeen scolding voices had swelled into a maddening choir. A huge bird opposite her – beak hinged wide – spread his wings and lifted off.

Christy swung the rifle up in a frantic attempt to aim it. Frenzied shrieks tore the air. Flapping, fluttering wings stormed around her . . . hitting her face . . . pulling her hair out by the roots. She shot wildly into the melee, raising a shower of dust and spitting gravel. The rifle slammed back, kicking against her shoulder. She staggered off balance and seventeen screeching black monsters descended.

Old Ted Saunders, on his regular mail delivery, found her the next morning and called 911 from his new cellular telephone. While he was waiting for the O.P.P. to arrive, he put her

mail into the box. That morning he delivered the Sears Fall Catalogue, a flyer for a steel roof that would last a lifetime, and a business envelope from the Ontario Provincial Court with the official announcement of her freedom.

Later that day he was overheard talking to Margie at the L & M Food Market. “She musta been bleedin’ out of near to twenty holes, that woman.” He shook his head. “Prob’ly all night long.”

Gloria Nye has won several writing awards for her short stories.  At Eden Mills Writers' Festival, she won an honourable mention; at Words Alive in Sharon, she won 3rd prize for Pillow Talk, a story she started in one of Brian's workshops; and at the Elora Writers’ Festival, she won first prize for "Seventeen Crows," a story started as an exercise in another one of Brians workshops.

She has also completed two novels and is researching the third in her Dragonfly series. Through Spiral Press w ww.spiralpress.cashe’s edited and published the Dream Quest Dictionary, Stories of Prayers & Faith – a collection of inspiring stories from 26 authors, and is presently editing and publishing an Anthology of Prose and Poems for the Orangeville Headwaters Writers' Guild.

Mother of one, grandmother of three, she lives on a 12-acre wooded retreat centre by the Eramosa River a perfect place to write.

For information about Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

“One bloody thing after another” by Joey Comeau, reviewed by J. Monica Murphy

I finished this book, sitting on the deck in the morning sun, with a fresh brewed coffee. If that's not a perfect situation, I don't know what is.

First of all, I love the cover of the book. The picture on the front is unsettling, a wee bit creepy, and definitely intriguing. The title of the book is written in shiny letters, and the cover itself is a matte picture. It's really cool; you kind of have to move the book around to read it. Joey Comeau, the author, is also the creator of a web comic called A Softer World, which is one of my favourites.

This book had me from the prologue, which is titled "Ann's mother isn't feeling so good today." We find out that Ann and Margaret's mother went for a job interview, which didn't go so well, because Ann's mother coughed up something bloody. Ewww... Really? Seriously?

This introduction, written so matter-of-factly that you might have to read it twice to see if you really read what you thought you read, reminds me a bit of Stephen King. You know how he just drops in these gross bits of horror so casually into the conversation  that its not until you've shaken his hand and said “see ya later” that you realize how gross it truly was.

The book follows Ann, Jackie and Charlie, and their families through a short period of their lives. A period during which Ann finds out how far she'll go to support her mom and sister, Jackie finds out how her mom's death affects her, and Charlie loses and reunites with his dog.

This book has more layers than I expected. It’s about love and commitment – the way Ann sticks by her family and goes way out of her comfort zone to protect and care for them. It's rare that you feel sympathetic for someone who does the kinds of things she does, but I did. I empathize with Ann, and I think many people who will find an aspect of themselves in Ann. (But hopefully not a piece of themselves in her mom...)

Jackie is a young girl discovering that she's different from her peers, not least in her emerging sexuality. Charlie is a man who loves his dog and is charged with helping a neighbour find out about her daughter's demise. This aspect of the book really reminds me of the way Robert Wiersema writes. There's such a sense of family and connectedness in this book, you really feel like these are people that you might know and might care for.

The other aspect of the book is the abject horror. Live animals being fed to ravenous beasts chained up in the basement. A young girl with the ability to call up the ghost of her dead mother to help her escape from police custody. A headless ghost with a message for a loved one. I absolutely recommend this book. It’s a quick and horrifying read, something to make you shiver in the middle of a sunny day.
Monica Murphy is a mother of two girls who are in the process of leaving the nest. Words are her thing. She loves reading, writing, and playing with words. Most of her writing is professional; she’s a nurse, specializing in forensic psychiatry and writes a lot about mentally disordered offenders. Monica blogs at

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Friday, August 27, 2010

New magazine seeks Jewish stories, not necessarily by Jews

Jewish Stories is a quarterly print magazine published in Greensboro, North Carolina, and devoted to publishing short fiction with Jewish themes and content. We will release our first issue in spring 2011 and are currently accepting submissions.

Judaism does not need to be the central focus of the story. We welcome submissions from Jews and non-Jews. We are most interested in stories under 7,500 words, but we will consider stories up to 15,000 words. There is no minimum length requirement.

We pay one cent per word but do not provide contributor copies.

Email your submission to
Attach your story to the email in any standard file format. We reply to submissions as quickly as possible. Please contact us if you have not received a reply within three months.


For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adam Friedstein joins Anderson Literary, seeks debut authors

Anderson Literary Management
12 West 19th Street, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10011
Website here

Adam Friedstein has joined Anderson Literary Management as an agent primarily representing debut literary fiction, literary thrillers and suspense, young adult fiction, and narrative and serious nonfiction (politics, education, biographies and more). Just to be clear: "debut authors" means "first time authors."  In other words, he's looking for you. 

What Adam has to say  for himself:
"What draws me to literary writing is a certain reverence for and inventiveness with language that's on par in resonance with the attention to the novel's arc and structure. There's a creative, artistic intent you could say, and great literary fiction can transmit truths no other writing can.

Concerning young adult fiction: "I have never been a big sci-fi or fantasy guy. I do go for YA on the historical side. I like YA on the darker, older side as well—quirky stories that remind me of the pathos of adolescence in a creative way."

Concerning nonfiction: "What I consider to be serious nonfiction are biographies, histories, extrapolated critical essays, travel books, etc. Books researched and written by authors with appropriate qualifications, sure. While I'm not that interested in celebrity memoirs or prescriptive dating and weight loss books, I am interested in pop science writing, idea books in technology, politics, education. Memoir, and pop culture books as well."

Other stuff he'd like to see: "I love the sport of pool, and hustler lore. I'd love to see a novel centered on that. I'd also love to see a narrative nonfiction book about the pool tables, bars, and halls of New York City. I'd also like to see a humorous novel about the transition from college to the workplace."

Adam was previously at Trident Media Group.  He's a trained jazz percussionist.

For fiction, creative nonfiction, and memoir, please submit a query letter, a brief (1-3 page) synopsis, up to the first 50 pages, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a response.
For nonfiction: Please submit a query letter, a proposal, up to the first three chapters, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a response.
Other agents at Anderson insist that you query by mail, but Adam prefers email queries, to:

Note: Brian Henry has a "How to Get Published" workshop coming up in Mississauga on December 4, with guest Martha Magor Webb of the Anne McDermid literary agency. (Details here).
For information about all of Brian's upcoming writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"How to Get Published," Saturday, December 4, Mississauga

Girl Crazy by one of Martha's clients
An editor & an agent tell all
Saturday, December 4
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Chartwell Baptist Church
1880 Lakeshore Road West, Mississauga (Map here.)

If you've ever dreamed of becoming a published author, this workshop is for you. We’ll cover everything from getting started to getting an agent, from getting your short pieces published to finding a book publisher, from writing a query letter to writing what the publishers want. Bring your questions. Come and get ready to be published!

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing teacher for more than 25 years. He has helped many of his students get their first book published and launch their careers as authors.

Guest speaker, Martha Magor Webb, is a literary agent with Anne McDermid and Associates. The McDermid agency represents literary novelists and commercial novelists of high quality and writers of non-fiction in the areas of memoir, biography, history, literary travel, narrative science, investigative journalism and true crime. The agency also represents a certain number of children's and YA writers and writers in the fields of science fiction and fantasy.

The McDermid agency's clients include distinguished literary authors such as Michael Crummey, Camilla Gibb, Greg Hollingshead, Andrew Pyper, Nino Ricci, David Adams Richards, Michael Winter and Vincent Lam, who won the Giller Prize in 2006. The agency also represents writers of narrative non-fiction, such as Charles Montgomery and James MacKinnon, both of whom won the Charles Taylor prize for literary non-
fiction in their years of publication. More recently, the agency has been branching out to represent upmarket commercial fiction writers, such as Leah McLaren from the Globe and Mail, Robert Wiersema, and Peter Darbyshire. (More on the McDermid Agency here.)

Martha & son Tobias
Martha represents a growing list of writers, focusing on literary fiction, narrative non-fiction (including memoir and true crime) and ideas-driven non-fiction. Her clients include Pasha Malla (long-listed for the Giller, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, winner of the Danuta Gleed and the Trillium awards), Damian Tarnopolsky (shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the award) Russell Smith, Jessica Grant, (winner of the First Novel and the Winterset Awards) Nicholas Ruddock, and Andrew Westoll.

In 2009, Martha was named to the Quill and Quire’s “12 to Watch: The Faces of Publishing’s Future,” which the trade magazine puts out every five years.

Special Option: Participants are invited to bring a draft of a query letter you might use to interest an agent or publisher in your book. You don’t need to bring anything, but if you do, 3 copies could be helpful.

Fee: $38.94 plus hst = $44 paid in advance
or $42.48 plus hst = $48 if you wait to pay at the door

To reserve your spot, email

For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

“Two for dinner, please,” a short story by Chuck Waldron

“I read somewhere that death was a tailor who measured people for their final suit, invisibly, and in silence.” - The Return of the Dancing Master by Henning Mankell

The Tailor took Eva Cassidy’s measure much too soon. This is dedicated to her memory.
Excellent moments often spring from unexpected events. My own death, not foreseen by me, falls in that category. I recollect being in the middle of doing something, something hard to pin down. My memory is murky on that point, but when the haze clears, I get a glimpse, an inkling, of chopping onions for a salad.

That aside, I was most certainly dead, yet saw my surroundings in this waiting room with remarkable clarity. I saw no fluffy white clouds floating about, we can dispel with that myth. Everything looked normal, business-like, and earthly.

I had always imagined it would be ghostly, otherworldly.

Nonetheless, there I sat, looking at a digital readout hanging overhead, red numbers against a black background blinking 37. I looked down at the slip in my hands, 39. There you have the first hint of afterlife, not unlike a waiting in a room at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The man holding ticket number 37 looked up and whooped a loud shout, racing towards the doorway. It closed behind him before I could see what was on the other side.

I turned to the woman holding number 38, smiled and suggested she must be happy to be next.

Judging by her glare and sour disposition, I wondered if her recent passing left relatives and friends behind, preparing a celebration instead of mourning. Given the current circumstances, I decided it unwise to be too judgmental until I had my turn on the other side.

Her number blinked and she, surprisingly, threw up her hands, tossed her cane to the side, and skipped through the door, cackling a raucous laugh.

I had misjudged her after all.

It would be my turn next. I waited for what seemed an eternity when the significance of that word hit me square in the forehead like the smack of a ball-peen hammer. That instance between death and eternity, I discovered, can be nebulous.

My turn arrived when the digital readout finally clicked to 39. I looked at the ticket I was holding and had that briefest of moments when I wondered if I should pass on my turn, giving it to the next person in line, and remain in the waiting room. After all, what was an extra eternity or two?

I didn’t let out a whoop at my turn. Instead of skipping, I walked to the door with indecisive steps and cautiously pushed it open, unsure of what to expect.

The first thing demanding attention was a large painting behind the desk in front of me. The canvas dominated the room and distracted from the woman sitting at the desk. My eyes were drawn to the scene of a battlefield, littered with corpses, a depiction of warriors in Roman uniforms, drooling saliva and holding severed arms, legs and heads up in the air.

The woman behind the desk was small, by anyone’s measure. Her hair flashed silvery and framed skin that was translucent. She grinned and said, “Everybody has the same damned reaction to that picture. The person who had this job before me put it there and I’m too freakin’ busy to replace it.”

I liked her immediately.

“What happens now?” I stammered.

She looked at her watch. “It’s late. You’re the last one for today.”

I felt sorry for people in the waiting room, but not too sorry.

“Orientation will start tomorrow,” she said.

I waited, expecting more.

“Things are running a bit behind and I had to rearrange your schedule. Instead of waiting until after orientation, I have arranged for you to have your dinner first, then you can go to orientation on the established timetable tomorrow.”

I had no idea what she was talking about and it must have showed, judging by the look on her face.

“What dinner?” I asked.

“Oh dear, didn’t they tell you? It should be in your brochure.”

“What brochure?” I yelled.

“Don’t tell me they ran out again. So many people are dying to get here these day,” amused at what she had just said.

“No matter, I can tell you. Everyone gets a final meal for the first stage of their transition between death and eternity.” I looked at her like she was an apparition, which she may well have been.

“You get to enjoy a feast, fully catered, of course. The choice of menu is yours, as is the choice of beverage.” She opened a drawer, pulled out a menu, and handed it to me.

I was shocked at the menu, containing items that were all extinct, or near extinction. I looked at it as she continued.

“The transition team came up with an outstanding idea. To compensate you for the disappointments in your life we have arranged it for you to invite two people to share your banquet. It’s your choice, free and clear. It can be anyone you would like to invite; a chance for an evening of freewheeling conversation, or get to know someone you admire. You have an opportunity to take part, if you wish, or simply watch the evening unfold as an observer.”

I held up a hand, certain that I was in a hell, and I was going to spend it in this room, interviewed by a person whose sanity was more questionable than mine was.

To complete the surprise, she reached in a pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. Who smoked anymore? They were Marlins, my favorite. I watched with envy as she struck a match, the old wooden kind, and a flame flared before settling into a steady yellow glow. She touched the fire to the end of the cigarette, drew in smoke, and exhaled. I watched the smoke as it curled above her head, like a restless cat.

“Who would you like to invite? Oh, did I tell you they also have to be dead, no living people at your banquet,” laughing.

What the hell, I thought.

She blew smoke out of the side of her mouth, “I don’t have all day. Wait, maybe I do,” laughing again.

I looked at the menu and made a quick, by eternity standards, decision.

“I will start with a salad of chilled endangered salamanders on a bed of lettuce with goat cheese dressing, made with milk from Tibetan mountain goats. For the main course I will have steaks of almost-extinct snow leopard, grilled over charcoal from the Brazilian rainforest, of course.”

I paused and then added with as much insouciance as I could muster, “please have the chef to pick the dessert. Following the meal I would like a bottle of rare Napoleon Brandy along with a box of Cuban cigars. Yes, that should be all. That’s what I would like.”

She nodded, “It will be arranged.”

I could tell she was waiting for something. “What,” I asked?

“Who are you going to invite as your guests?”

My mind raced at this point, I can tell you.

Without much further ado I made a decision. “I would like to invite Winston Churchill and Eva Cassidy,” as she made a note in her little book.

“I almost forgot,” and remembered, “this is a bonus night; you may request a third guest.”

The name Martin Luther came to me and, to this day, I can’t tell you why.

There you have it. I would be having dinner with Winston, Eva and Martin.

Eva was the first to arrive, carrying a guitar and smiling. Her smile reminded me of the mysterious gaze of the Mona Lisa.

“It broke my heart when you died,” I managed to say.

“That’s sweet of you. What is your favorite?” she asked.

Without hesitation, “Had I a Golden Thread,” and she strummed a chord on the guitar and started singing. My heart was filled with bliss at the incredible ease of her playing and singing.

As the last notes faded into nothingness, the door burst open, and a pudgy man, in his celebrated smoking jacket, shoved his way into the room.

“Who does that angelic voice belong to?” grinning widely, cigar firmly clenched between his fingers.

“It certainly doesn’t belong to me,” said a somber looking man in a long, black robe coming behind Winston.

The three had never met, even in the afterlife. What followed was an evening beyond anything I could imagine.

I realized each of them embodied one of three traits I admired most, traits I only aspired to in my living days. The first was beauty, the second determination, and, lastly, the ability to stand up for one’s beliefs.

Eva possessed beauty, the beauty of her voice; Winston bulldogged determination, combined with a marvelous, spontaneous wit; and Martin embodied what it meant to take a stand, to do what he thought was right, regardless of the cost.

Eva sang her songs throughout the night, her interpretations of jazz, blues, folk songs, and gospel. Winston harrumphed and told some wickedly funny stories. Martin completed the trifecta, we all listened to him explain nailing his historic treatise to the cathedral door one eventful day.

I was happy that I ignored a curiosity about the evil and deranged characters from history. The three companions I selected were perfect.

There was much more to our time together, but it would take an eternity to tell the rest.

Eva ended the evening with a heartbreaking song, giving me one final time to relish in the purity of a voice now silenced forever.

We bid our good-byes with the usual promises to get together again sometime, but we knew it would never be, something said in parting, without meaning it, but suggested anyway.

Each of them left through different exits and the woman from the desk returned, smoke curling around her head.

“No one lectures you here that smoking is bad for you,” and she broke into paroxysms of laughter at her intentional joke.

She placed a hand gently on my arm and guided me.

“It’s time,” she said with an exquisite simplicity.

“What’s your name,” I asked?

“No one ever asked me before,” she said. “I get treated like a clerk, invisible to those awaiting their final destiny.”

She blew smoke out of the side of her mouth again. “Selma,” she said.

I was pleased that I had asked, turned, and stepped through the door to my eternity

Chuck Waldron grew up listening to his grandfather, an Ozark Mountain story teller, spinning tales of the caves on his farm, describing hiding places once used by the Jesse & Frank James gang. It didn’t matter if the stories were true or not. Those legends set fire to Chuck’s imagination, creating images that emerged slowly over the years, finally igniting as his short stories and novels. On June 17, Chuck gave a reading of “Two for dinner, please” at CJ’s Café.

Our next reading night at CJ’s is Monday, Sept 13. Join us there (2416 Lakeshore Rd W in Oakville) at 6:30 to hear some great pieces of writing!

For information about Brian Henry’s writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TOPS Glosa poetry contest

As with many things, an example best explains glosa poetry. Here’s “Neglect Creates Holes,” a glosa by Bob Shank on “Cat's in the Cradle” a song by Harry Chapin.

From “Cat's in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin:

A child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.

Neglect Creates Holes

opening the newspaper
much to my dismay
I glanced over the story
with the words child and slay
a tear trickled into my coffee
my sugar for today
too busy to read anymore
for my eyes grew sore
the hospital only a moment away
"A child arrived just the other day"

born with a hole is his heart
yet a huge grin upon his face
knowing life was going to be a struggle
he handled it with grace
putting joy within his parents eyes
though many nights they did pray
for him to pull through
that fate would be ever so kind
to allow their son to live and play
"He came to the world in the usual way"

with a pricetag from many medical bills
worthy of later hopes and dreams
becoming a reflection of parental bliss
their joy an ongoing theme
just when he grew strong from so much love
it slowly began to decay
parents have a way of becoming far too busy
they forget their responsibility
to nourish, educate, and even pray
"But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay"

surely a child should understand
what it takes to survive
for a family must work together
so that they may all stay alive
but the cost created a loss
as his heart started to betray
the joys instilled within his soul
when loneliness ruptured the hole
the tear faced father was heard to say
"He learned to walk while I was away".......

- Bob Shank

Note: You can hear "Cats in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin here.  You'll also find links to the Cat Stevens cover of the song, etc.

The Glosa Poem Competition

First Prize: $100, Second Prize: $50, Third Prize: $25, Plus 8 Honourable Mention Awards
All winning entries to receive a fancy certificate, plus all winning entries to be published in a chapbook and will receive 1 free chapbook for every poem included.

All poems must be written in the glosa style.
The glosa is a Spanish form invented by court poets in the 14th and 15th centuries.  It comprises two parts.  The first part – called the texte or cabeza consists of a stanza chosen from a poem by a well-known poet. The poet can be dead or living.
The second part – the glosa proper – is a gloss or elaboration of the texte. Each stanza of the glosa ends with a repetition of a consecutive line of the texte. Both rhyme and free verse glosas accepted.  See another example here.

Entries are not to exceed 40 lines.  This excludes the spaces between the stanzas and this excludes the texte. Poems must be inspired by 3 - 5 lines of a famous poet. {Song writers like Harry Chapin don't qualify.}

Contest fee: 1 poem for $5 or 3 poems for $10
Deadline: September 30, 2010
Complete rules here.  Home page for The Ontario Poetry Society here.

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

LiT LiVe begins a new season of readings, Sunday, Sept 5

A new season of Hamilton’s premier Reading Series begins with the following writers reading from their most recently published books: Lilly Barnes (Mara), Johanna Skibsrud (I Do Not Think I Could Love A Human Being), Paul Tyler (A Short History of Forgetting), David Laing Dawson (Don’t Look Down), Steve Pitt (My Life and Other Lies), Karen Lewis (What I Would Not Unravel).

LiT LiVe is held at Bread & Roses Café, Sky Dragon Centre, 27 King William Street, Hamilton. No admission charge. Starts at 7:30 pm. For information, see

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Canadian children's author Helaine Becker organizes book drive for LA school

Shocked by the empty library bookshelves during an author visit to a Los Angeles-area elementary school, children’s book author Helaine Becker is taking action. She’s started a campaign to put books in the hands of disadvantaged children in LA, and, just as important, is bringing attention to the alarming state of Canadian school libraries.

Becker, an award-winning Toronto area author, has written over 40 books for children, including Science on the Loose and What's the Big Idea and is known for her wacky, off beat humour for the younger set.

In a recent trip to California, Becker collected over 650 books (most were discards from more affluent schools) for Barton Elementary School, located in an inner city area of Long Beach.

Books not up to library standards were given directly to the children and for most of these children, it was the first time they had ever owned a book or even read for pleasure. Now back in Canada, Helaine is spearheading a campaign — Airlift to LA — to stock the shelves of another Los Angeles-area elementary school in the Compton district.

“The real problem we are trying to address is the systemic problems we face on both sides of the border. Almost none of the school libraries [in Canada or the US] I visit are up to standards set by the Canadian Library Association,” says Becker who authored a document that allows the public to determine how their school libraries stack up.

Becker has partnered with Sandra Tsing-Loh, columnist and local celebrity in the LA-area and an advocate for public education, and Rebecca Constantino, founder of Access Books — a non-profit organization which organizes book drives and funding for underserviced school libraries. Last week, Becker shipped approximately 1200 books from over a hundred Canadian authors, publishers and the public to LA. in advance of the book presentation event at Ralph Bunche Elementary School, October 2, 2010.

The event will include author presentations by several Canadian writers including Becker, Wendy Kitts, Rob Weston and Kari-Lynn Winters who will also help refurbish the Bunche school library by sorting and cataloguing books and painting wall murals with the students.

For more information on Airlift to LA go here.
If you want to contribute a book, please contact Helaine a: for details of how and where to send it.

To see how your school library “stacks up,” download the Canadian Coalition for School Libraries and Canadian Association for School Libraries Library/Media Assessment Questionnaire here.

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"The Wrath of Bob," an excerpt from a long narrative by Ken Vaughan

Bob’s eyes never left the fishing boat, but his mind wandered. He had tried to find a name more suitable to his position, but it appeared many of them were already used. Being the Devil had its drawbacks.

Recently he’d come across Jaacobah, a name from the Bible.  It meant deceiver, supplanter, and it seemed perfect. Bob had supplanted the previous devil and deceived the Vampire Anton into believing he was its victim; this new name would announce that to the world.

Back on the boat, the boy was now in action. His parents had tied him to a running rail, but he’d seen a rope that needed attention, and had run to help. Jaacobah couldn’t understand why; the boy had received little love from his father, quite the opposite. Contempt would be the kindest word for his father’s feelings.

Frank was a brute, pure and simple. He had virtually bought his wife Meg from her parents, though more threats were passed than money. It was not uncommon, the fishing village was poor, barely harvesting enough to live on, let alone sell. Frank was the top man in his trade; at least Meg wouldn’t starve. It was the best they could do.

Once married, Meg wasn’t much more than a slave. She cooked and cleaned, and Frank forced her to crew for him. She didn't know whether he was too cheap to pay for crew, or too suspicious to leave her alone while he worked. Either way, she actually enjoyed working the boat, though she would never tell him that. The learning had been horrific; Frank reinforced instructions with the back of his hand, and rewarded mistakes with his fist. It was extremely efficient, before long Meg worked the boat as well as he.

"Matthew, get back to the rail and tie yourself off!” Meg yelled, she didn’t need to be keeping an eye on him right now.

The storm had come from nowhere. The afternoon had been grey, but not unpleasant, they’d managed a fair catch and were headed home. The wind suddenly veered, coming from the North, it caught them by surprise nearly capsizing the boat. The waves swelled from a gentle two feet to a howling fifteen feet within seconds. Rain soaked their heavy coats before they could button them for protection.

Meg quickly lowered the small sail they used to save on gas, while Frank started the ancient inboard motor. Their best bet was to turn the boat into the wind and power forward trying to avoid side-swiping waves that could roll them to their deaths.

Watching Matthew as he tied himself off to the rail, Meg flashed him a re-assuring smile, if there was anything good from this marriage it was him. She loved him more than her life, and would die without question to save him from harm. She’d suffered many a beating on his behalf, shielding him from his father.

Jaacobah was pleased with his plan; he’d caused the storm of course. Frank’s soul he knew was his, he could feel his grip on it, tight and dry. However, he intended to take Meg’s soul as well, and he meant to use the boy to do it.

Matthew was everything to Meg though he was conceived in horrible circumstances. Frank had never tried to please Meg as a lover, it’s doubtful he would have known how. He just took his pleasure and walked away. There were occasions that were worse however, and Matthew’s conception was one of them.

Returning drunk from the tavern, he grabbed Meg as he walked through the door, ignoring her gestures toward his supper on the table. He literally threw her at the bed, which she hit hard, cracking a rib as she glanced off the bedpost. Frank didn’t notice or didn’t care. Pushing her down, there was no removal of clothes; he just ripped aside her underwear and proceeded. Meg felt as though she was being stabbed in the side again and again.

When he was done Frank downed his supper, not noticing Meg stagger to the back door to quietly throw up. Married or not it was simply rape, for which he would never be punished… in this life.

For nearly an hour Frank and Meg fought the storm; they were nearing exhaustion. Matthew realized the situation - he’d spent most of his life on this boat - he couldn’t just stay tied and watch his parents fight for life. He released his rope and ran towards the bow, not sure what he would do to help, but determined to try. The wave caught him clean, sweeping him off his feet.

“Oh my God! Matthew!” Meg screamed

Frank turned just in time to see the boy disappear. Without thinking, he tied off the wheel and was over the side in the water looking for the boy.

“What the Hell is he doing?” Frank screamed at himself. “The stupid fucking kid deserves to die!”

In the water barely seconds, Frank saw the boy in front of him. He felt like smacking him under with the back of his hand, but the boy was easy to reach and a good deck hand. He grabbed Matthew by his collar dragging him toward the boat. He caught the rope that Meg lowered, and held the boy high so she could reach him.

As Matthew’s feet disappeared onto the boat, Frank realized he couldn’t get back on board without help. He wasn’t sure it would come. His strength was failing and he could barely hold the rope let alone climb it. Meg’s face appeared above him, calm and cold, and as she leaned forward he could see the long handled ice axe in her hands.

Jaacobah felt his mouth twist into a grin though there was no joy in it.

Frank stared into Meg’s eyes; there was no emotion there. She raised the ice axe in both hands, holding it high above her head, and stared back at him, directly into his eyes; a thing she would never normally dare. Frank knew he was dead.

Slowly Meg let the handle of the axe slide through her hands; when she reached the blade she held it with one hand either side of the shaft, pushing the handle toward Frank. Together they managed to get him back on board.

Jaacobah screamed at the foolish woman, and pounded the boat with more fearsome waves. As one, Frank and Meg fought to survive.

Since his plan had failed, Jaacobah soon became bored; he let the storm fade, though he continued to watch the boat.

Meg prepared for a beating; it was very obvious what she had planned, and she knew that only the storm had prevented retribution until now. Frank walked towards her his face blank.

“I thought you were going to kill me!” he said gruffly

She looked at his face though not into his eyes.

“I was!”

“Then why didn’t you?” His voice was strangely calm.

“You saved the boy, I will always be grateful to you for that. Thank you.”

Frank was silent, he knew in his heart that she deserved the back of his hand, but there was something in the way she said thank you that touched him. He knew she was sincere. No-one had ever thanked him for anything, but then he’d never done anything worth a thank you. He didn’t recognize the feeling inside him. It was soft, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Then something very unexpected happened.

“Thank you Papa!” Matthew said quietly from his mother’s arms.

Again, the feeling, and before he could stop himself he reached out and touched the boy’s cheek. It was an awkward gesture, almost devoid of love, but it was an acknowledgment that the boy existed. Matthew’s face shone with a bright smile, maybe his father had forgiven him for whatever it was he’d done.

By now Jaacobah was screaming. Not only had the stupid woman ignored the opportunity he’d given her, but also Frank’s soul - that he had gripped so tightly - now felt slippery. He couldn’t describe it exactly but he felt it could slip away if he wasn’t careful.

“Another spectacular failure Bob?” came a voice from behind him.

“Don’t call me Bob!” he screamed, turning on Alberonwyn with death in his eyes.

“What then?” the dual voice asked.

“I have chosen to be called Jaacobah, the deceiver, the supplanter!” Bob replied in triumph.

“Oh, Jake then?”

Bob said nothing, but if he could have killed Alberonwyn with his eyes he would have. He turned and moved away, throwing one huge peel of thunder and a bolt of lightning that split the fishing boat’s mast in two.

“He still doesn’t get it does he?” said Bronwyn.

“No, he still hasn’t realized he’s playing our game. I hope he never does!”

On the boat Meg held Matthew, her precious boy, and gave thanks to God. She wasn’t to know that God had nothing to do with any of this. Frank glanced over his shoulder, and frowned seeing the two of them. He knew something had changed, but what?

Ken Vaughan's life has divided into three sections. In the first section, small dog syndrome forced him to play rugby for thirteen years, join British Airborne Forces, compete in Gymnastics, Judo, Swimming, Show jumping, Ballroom dancing, and earn his Private Pilot's License. Then he wasted 21 years working for Bell Canada. After Bell, to stay employed, he learned every Windows product from PowerPoint to Visual Basic Programming and, to save money, taught himself auto-mechanics, plastering, tiling, plumbing, and carpentry.

He's not sure if he writes because he's insane or to prevent himself going insane. His two greatest achievements are raising two kids who don't hate him … yet and being married to the same woman for 36 years without her trying to kill him … yet. On June 17, he gave a reading of "The Wrath of Bob” at CJ’s Café.

Our next reading night at CJ’s is Monday, Sept 13. Join us there (2416 Lakeshore Rd W in Oakville) at 6:30 to hear some great pieces of writing!

For information about Brian Henry’s writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Poetry, micro-fiction, flash fiction, and short stories wanted

The Short Story Library is a free on-line magazine that publishes short stories, flash fiction, micro fiction and poetry. Editor Casey Quinn says: Our goal is to get more first time authors published and to provide an easy to read free online magazine for our readers. We accept any of the following!

- Poetry – Please between 3 and 4 poems
- Micro Fiction – Less than 500 words
- Flash Fiction – Less than 1000 words
- Short Stories – Less than 5000 words
- Art Work – We plan to do some print publications and always in need of art work
- Writing Articles – Always looking to help pass on a good tip. If you have one send it on in
- Random Articles for Offbeat Writing – Written on any topic you want as long as it is interesting

You as author retain rights to your story at all times. We ask for electronic publishing rights and the right to include your work (if selected) for the yearly print anthology. If your writing is selected for the yearly anthology we will contact you and give you a window to opt out of the print anthology if you wish to.

Full guidelines:

Read Me Publishing seeks stories for horror collection
Casey Quinn is also the publisher of Read Me, a small independent publisher dedicated to short form fiction.  Currently Casey is gathering stories for a horror anthology:

Everyone knows the saying that real life is stranger than fiction. We believe this should be taken even further, that in fact real life is scarier and more horrifying than fiction. We are putting together a collection of short stories inspired by horrific events ripped from the headlines of local or national news. The short stories should be fictitious, however should be based around real events that have splashed the headlines over the last few decades. Think Manson, Think Dahmer, Think back to some horrible article you read and tell us in your mind what really happened!

- Short stories ranging between 4,000 and 6,000 words
- Pays $5 per story due on publication
- Payment will be made via paypal only
- Stories should be attached to the email, Subject: Ripped from the Headlines – LAST NAME
- Include a brief 50 word bio with your submission
- No deadline, the book will be published when a sufficient number of stories have been accepted
- Submission address:

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Michelle Andelman joins Regal Literary, seeks children's lit

Regal Literary is a full-service agency with offices in New York and London, founded in 2002. Regal represents literary fiction, thrillers and crime fiction, serious narrative non-fiction, and now represents children's literature, too. Regal Literary is also a partner in The Culinary Cooperative, which represents chefs, restaurants, and food writers.

Michelle Andelman previously advised foreign publishers as a book scout at Franklin & Siegal, where she also agented with Lynn C. Franklin Associates. Prior to that, she got her start as an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, where she worked for three years with debut talent such as Lauren Strasnick, Dia Reeves, and Emily Horner.

Michelle handles all categories of children's books, representing authors of middle-grade and Young Adult fiction, and author-illustrators of picture books and graphic novels. Her magnets are elegant, quirky voices, emotionally driven plots, and settings richly evoked or imagined.

Submissions to Regal should consist of a one-page query letter detailing the book in question as well as the qualifications of the author. For fiction, submissions may also include the first ten pages of the novel or one short story from a collection.  Writers based in North America please mail submissions to:

Regal Literary Inc.
The Capitol Building
236 West 26th St., #801
New York, NY 10001

About Regal Literary:
Full submission guidelines:

Note: Brian Henry has "How to Get Published" workshops coming up in Sarnia on August 22 (see here) and in Mississauga on December 4 (details to come).
For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Always There,"a true story by Ted Wolfe

“C’mon, we’re ready to go.” There was excitement in my Dad’s voice.

At the end of March 1956, we were moving out of a small, two bedroom apartment, at the rear of a three story apartment block on Victoria Avenue South in Hamilton.

“Wait a minute. I’m not finished cleaning up,” said my mother.

The truck was loaded and Dad and Uncle Jack were getting antsy.

My mother never thought of herself as a meticulous housekeeper but like most women leaving a house clean was a matter of pride and she is determined that no one will say she left the now empty apartment dirty. She relentlessly chased dust bunnies that seemed to appear out of nowhere no matter how thoroughly she swept and vacuumed.

The move began several years earlier with quiet conversations my parents had in their living room after my brother and I were tucked into our bunk bed, believing we were asleep. The light from the setting sun was filtered through the bedroom window by the two big trees next door. The soft wafting of sound from their voices and drifting murmurs became indelibly etched in my memory. And although I was too young to register it as such, I felt the worry, the anxiety, and the frustration of living on a small income and, at times, the seeming futility of trying to build a better life.

“We’ve got to get out of this apartment? The kids are getting big.”

“Where will we get the down payment for a house?”

“Should we borrow?”

“…..Probably take us about two or three years to raise a thou….”

They sat at a flimsy, green card table used for week night meals. Later in the evening, I would hear the roll of strings of pearls across the table top. They put fasteners on them for a local factory to earn extra money.

My father’s fears included a possible lay off and the setback that would represent.

In time they joined a cooperative housing group organized through the Church. Through study, a pooling of resources and hard work they built their houses under the direction of contractors. After a full day’s work, my father drove to Grimsby, fifteen miles east of the city and worked on the houses with other men like himself, night after night until midnight. This went on for three years.

Now, the houses were ready to become homes. It was an important journey, from a tiny apartment to a house they would eventually own; a journey from one life to another, from a narrow, cramped outlook to expanding horizons.

“C’mon kids let’s go.” Dad was getting impatient.

My father had looked tired and gaunt for months but today he was full of energy, full of happiness that something he and my mother had set out to do was accomplished.

Looking back, I remember how he looked and how he was with particular poignancy. On that day no one could have known how little time he had left.

My mother and brother finally made their way to the front door.

“Come on, Ted. Time to go! Where is he? He’s probably off day dreaming somewhere.”

But I wasn’t daydreaming. I was taking one long, last look around.

Some people say that it’s a good thing to move on with life and never look back. But I did look back and still do. My earliest memories came from this small patch of earth. A gray clapboard garage with a sloping, flat, tar paper roof was the western boundary of the back yard that was grass and hollyhocks, peonies and at least a dozen children’s birthday parties most of them recorded with my mother’s Brownie Box Camera.

Next door was an architectural treasure, one of the first houses in Hamilton. It was a particular style called a “Tweed Cottage,” a one-floor plan with a slate roof built in 1833.

At the back of the Cottage property were two Chestnut trees that hung out over our back yard. Looking upwards, I saw the trees the way I always had, two leafy giants that formed a protective canopy over my childhood.

The trees are male and female, like two gargantuan parents, planted side by side, growing with their branches intertwined eighty feet over my head; their two root systems having long since become one, living to advanced old age. And everything beneath them thrived. It seemed the two of them had always been there; in my memory they will always be there, forever the boundary of earth and sky. Through them I first looked up at the stars. They were the solid, immovable hub of my universe.

In each season they took on an unforgettable beauty. In late May, clusters of white, candelabra-like blossoms soon gave rise to tiny yellowish green burrs among leaves spread like the palm of a hand.

In the dog days of summer they held great, green oases of coolness as a refuge from a day that was a furnace and on cool nights kept great caverns of warmth up under their branches.

Burgeoning ripeness and the changing winds of August and early September loosened prickly burs and sent them plummeting to the earth where the impact split the case in two, revealing in the white, pulpy, green smelling freshness, a shiny, brown treasure - a horse chestnut.

Soon the great palmate leaves turned golden and russet and then, in the wind and small, cold rains of approaching winter they fell, brittle and parchment-like, becoming part of the earth.

I heard my mother’s voice from behind. Tears were running down my cheeks and she bent over, kissed my wet face, put her arm around my shoulders and said softy,

“Come on Honey. Daddy’s waiting. It’s time to go.”

Years later, I walked the alley behind the old apartment building to see what time had done. The old garage was gone. The Tweed Cottage had been demolished. The back yard had become an asphalt parking lot searing their root system on the south, covering the hollyhock garden, the boardwalk, and the rich earth of my childhood. One of the trees was gone but the one that blossomed grew on, still drawing life from its dead partner’s root system.

No one took photos of them but I still see the trees of my life, stark against the leaden skies of winter, the bare and black, snow dusted network of what look like dead branches as they reached to the sky with spear shaped buds at their tips, each held a promise within, each declared – life will begin again.

Ted Wolfe is an emerging writer who is currently writing a novel called “Class Action.” which is a legal action thriller and more. Ted lives in Brampton, Ontario with his wife, Sandra. They have two children. On June 17, Ted gave a reading of “Such Stuff as Dreams” at CJ’s Café. You can read a book review by Ted here.

Our next reading night at CJ’s is Monday, Sept 13. Join us there (2416 Lakeshore Rd W in Oakville) at 6:30 to hear some great pieces of writing.

For information about Brian Henry’s writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Canadian Tales of the Fantastic Short Story Competition

Writers of short fiction are encouraged to enter the Red Tuque Books Short Story Competition. First place pays $500. Second place pays $150 and the third pays $100. Ten Honourable mention prizes of $25.00 will also be awarded. All winning entries will be published by Red Tuque Books in the upcoming anthology, Canadian Tales Of The Fantastic. Winners will receive a complementary copy of the anthology in addition to the prize money.
The final deadline is December 31st, 2010. Those received before October 31st, 2010, will have at least two opportunities to make the short list. Depending on the volume of entries, entries received after this date may only get one reading.
The entry fee is $15 for one manuscript, $25 for two, or $30 for three.
Submission details here:

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing coruses, see here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

“Getting Rid of Rosie” by Lynda Simmons, reviewed by Sherry Isaac

As a Canadian writer with novels and shorts set in the GTA, Winnipeg and the rural farming communities of Manitoba, it was cool to come across an author who has successfully sold stories set in Toronto, and in the case of Getting Rid of Rosie, in the heart of the Danforth with a side trip to Huntsville. And sold it to an American publisher, no less.

Lynda Simmons writing is fresh, her settings vivid, her characterizations full of life, complexity and even a little contradiction. Throw in a ghost with unresolved issues and I was hooked.

Samantha Marcello lost the love of her life to her best friend, Rosie. Nearly a decade later Sam has followed her dream to own an Irish pub when Michael Hughes walks back into her life. He’s free again, a widower with a daughter, and apparently keen to pick up where they had left off. The hitch? Rosie is still around, influencing and manipulating Michael and their daughter Julie, but only Sam can see her.

The plot could have been predictable: Hold Grandmother’s séance at bay while pulling out the big guns on a full-out exorcism in Huntsville where Rosie lived with Michael and is strongest. Let Sam eliminate Rosie as competition once and for all and take her rightful place at Michael’s side, righting the wrongs of the past.

Instead Ms. Simmons treats us to twists and turns, changes of heart and conflicting emotions. Sam is not the girl Michael left behind.

Getting Rid of Rosie is light and fun, a romp ripe for summer picking, a great read for an afternoon on the deck, a day at the beach, or a long weekend in Muskoka.

Sherry Isaac has published several pieces in Quick Brown Fox. You can read one of her short stories here and other book reviews by Sherry here, here and here. She’s also been published in The New Mystery Reader and in Canadian Voices, Volume One. Her short story, “The Forgetting,” placed first in the Alice Munro Contest in 2009. She is also co-host of Prana Presents, a venue featuring the work of Toronto’s hottest new authors and poets.

Lynda Simmons was the guest speaker at a workshop Sherry attended in London. “I was so impressed by her that I had to pick up a copy of Getting Rid of Rosie,” says Sherry. “And I enjoyed the book so much I had to write a review.” Visit Sherry on the web at

Note: Lynda Simmons will be the guest speaker at the upcoming “How to Build Your Story” workshop on Saturday, Oct 29, in Toronto (details here) and on Saturday, Jan 28, in Newmarket (details here). 

For information about all of Brian’s writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

You're invited to a book launch for "Awakened by a Kiss" by Lila DiPasqua

Hi Brian,
I hope this email finds you well. As promised, I'm passing along the details of my book launch for my debut novel, Awakened by a Kiss. The launch will be:

Sat. Aug. 14;  1 p.m. - 4 p.m.
at Indigo Bookstore in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre
1 Yorkdale Road, Toronto

And get this: New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt describes my book as "Lushly erotic writing... Sophisticated, sensuous, and deeply romantic." And that’s just the first in the series. Awakened by a Kiss will be followed up in November by The Princess in his bed.

Plus I wanted to share more great news with you: I sold another book to Berkley! The Fiery Tales series will continue into 2011! This new book will be slightly different than the first two. It won't be a collection of fairy (fiery) tales but one classic fairy tale retold. Tentative pub date is Oct. 2011!

I hope to see lots of people at my launch, especially you. Many thanks for everything!

All best,
Lila DiPasqua

For information about Brian Henry's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Leslie H. Stobbe Agency

300 Doubleday Road
Tryon, NC 28782

Les Stobbe is a prominent literary agent specializing in the Christian book market. He’s been in the book business for 55 years doing everything from selling books to ghost-writing books (for Dale Evans, wife of Roy Rogers, among others). For the past 16 years, he’s devoted himself to agenting Christian books.

Les accepts submissions from unpublished authors but he notes that most of his publishable proposals are coming via recommendations from clients, well-known authors and editors, often at Christian writers’ conferences. He highly recommends attending such conferences, where authors can make personal contact with agents, published authors and editors (Write!Canada, for example, held every June in Guelph).

Les is looking for writers with fresh voices in both adult fiction and nonfiction who, above all, know how to tell a story with truth embedded in it – and in nonfiction who already have a significant platform.

Submissions: For both fiction and nonfiction, Les wants a full proposal including a 35-word selling hook, a synopsis, marketing segment, and the first three chapters attached to an email in a single document. See his submissions page for the exact details:

Note: Brian Henry has "How to Get Published" workshops coming up in Sarnia on August 22 (see here) and in Mississauga on December 4 (details to come).
For information about all of Brian's writing workshops and creative writing courses, see here.

"Do I Look Dead to You?" an excerpt from a novel by Kathy Milne

Chapter 4
Do I Look Dead to You?
an excerpt from Fire's First Breath
a young adult novel by Kathy Milne

Thudding hooves echoed in Ryan’s head while a never-ending blur of trees and hills and rocks and dirt flew by. He had no idea how long they’d been riding or where the horse was taking him, not that he had any choice in the matter. The stallion hadn’t slowed down at all, ignoring all of Ryan’s attempts to rein him in. Finally, he’d given up and just let himself flow into the stallion’s rhythm.

A horse length behind now, the strange boy clung desperately to the mare’s saddle, as if he’d never ridden a horse before in his life. Ryan wouldn’t have been surprised if he fell off.

He couldn’t believe what was happening. Like all boys, he’d dreamed of adventure, had wished for an escape from his boring life. But this wasn’t quite what he’d had in mind. Maybe that old saying –– be careful what you wish for –– was true after all.

Off to his right, menacing black clouds eclipsed the sun, which had already started its descent towards the horizon. Within minutes, sheets of water slanted down into their faces. It rained so hard Ryan could barely see the road in front of him and the stallion slowed to a walk. Rivers of white water swirled across the dirt road, turning it into a sea of mud. As his horse lurched off the trail, down onto a field, Ryan squinted ahead.

For an instant, he thought he’d seen a huge green umbrella, shimmering behind the curtain of rain. As they got closer, he saw it wasn’t an umbrella at all but a bunch of trees with enormous flat leaves. The water cascaded down, streaming onto the ground in circles around the trees.

Ryan ducked as the stallion passed under the edge of the tree, then slid to the ground with a groan. He glanced up into the tree, but not one drop made it through the huge leaves. At least they’d found somewhere to wait out the rain, Ryan thought with relief, as Revio rode up.

Revio’s tufted hair was in pointy spikes, making him look like a drowned porcupine. He untied a pack from the back of the saddle and dropped it to the ground, then climbed awkwardly off his horse. He brushed past Ryan as if he was invisible.

“Hey, wait a minute, you’ve got some explaining to do.” Ryan grabbed Revio’s arm and pulled him around. “Where am I? Is this some sort of hell dimension?”

Revio’s eyes were huge and glassy in the dim light. “We are in Northern Khaleiria, of course. Where else would we be?”

Ryan rolled his eyes. Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer.

How could he explain his situation to Revio without sounding like a total whack job?

“Do I look dead to you?” Nothing like getting right to the point, Ryan thought.

Revio took a step back. His face eased slowly into a smile, the kind used for calming lunatics and drunks. “You do not appear to be dead,” he said finally.

“But I must be dead. Why else would I be here? I don’t know where I am or who you are and what were those creatures, I think they were going to eat us…” Ryan gulped in a breath. Did he sound hysterical?

Revio reached out and pinched Ryan’s arm hard.

“Ow! Wha’d’ya do that for?”

“My friend is dead!” Revio yelled at him. “You look to be quite alive to me.” He pulled a blanket out of his pack, dropped his wet robe on the ground and wrapped himself in the blanket. Lying down, he closed his eyes.

“Oh, come on.” Ryan prodded Revio with his foot. “Your name’s Revio, right?”

Revio yanked the blanket up over his head and curled into a ball.

Seething with frustration, Ryan paced back and forth. The boy’s name was Rev-io? What kind of dumbass name was that? He felt like giving Revio a swift kick, throwing his stupid blanket out in the rain and forcing him to answer some questions. What did Revio expect him to do now –– talk to the horses? Ryan’s shoulders slumped. He had an awful feeling that this scared looking boy was his only lifeline.

“Look, I don’t know what’s going on here. If I’m not dead, then I need to get home.”

Revio didn’t even twitch.

While he paced, Ryan took the remaining packs off the horses, then loosened the mare’s saddle and tossed it to the ground. Had his father found out what had happened to him yet? What was he going to do? This was a total nightmare––

He stopped abruptly, almost tripping over his feet.

Of course! It was so obvious! The whole day was just a dream. He’d known all along this couldn’t be real. He would go to sleep – in his dream – and when he woke up he’d be home and everything would be back to normal.


Well, better than this anyway.

By now it was dark and Ryan fumbled with the stallion’s saddle. His hand bumped some sort of metal handle and he grasped it, pulling it free of the saddle. It was awfully heavy. He could hardly see a thing. Sliding his fingers along its edge, it felt like––

He yelped and dropped the sword on his foot. Hopping up and down, he sucked on his cut finger. The stallion and the sword must have belonged to the man who’d been fighting, he thought, the guy the creatures had ripped apart. With a shiver, he started to slide the sword back where he’d found it. On second thought, he felt better with a weapon in his hands, even though he’d probably stab himself. He thrust the sword point first into the earth then heaved the heavy saddle off the stallion’s back and propped it up against the trunk of the tree.

The rain had stopped, just dripping now and then from the trees. There was a flash of light and it wasn’t completely dark anymore. Grasping the sword, he peered out from under the tree then shrugged. It was only the light of the moons.


He stared. There were two moons, high in opposite corners of the sky, just peeking out of the clouds. One glowed a chilly silvery-blue; the other shone yellow, in a weak imitation of the sun. The moons slid out from behind the clouds, round and full, and in their combined light––

Ryan blinked.

There was a girl.

She stood in the field between him and the road. She looked straight at him, but didn’t seem to see him there under the tree. He wanted to walk out to her, but he couldn’t move, he was stunned, the sword fell from his senseless fingers…

She dazzled him.

The moonlight painted her in shimmers of silver and gold. Narrow straps held up a flowing white dress, which clung to her, just skimming her bare ankles. Her hair was spun gold and her eyes glimmered like the depths of the sea, from the most astonishing face he’d ever seen. Sabrina the librarian was plain compared to this girl.

The rain poured down again and the girl laughed, raising her face to the sky. She spun around and around, hands held up to catch the rain, wet hair flying out like burnished ropes. Translucent drops flew off her, twinkling like tiny stars.

The girl turned towards him then a small frown puckered the middle of her forehead. She twirled and the light flashed oddly as the clouds extinguished the moonlight. The rain pelted into his eyes. Ryan jumped as a loud clap of thunder rolled right overhead.

She was gone!

Ryan dashed out from under the tree, not realizing he’d done it until he was completely drenched. A gust of hot wind slammed into him and he slipped uncontrollably in the mud. He rushed blindly forward, skidding to a stop on the spot where she’d been standing.

There was no one there.

He spun around, but he was alone. She’d been right there, he was sure of it, right in front of him, all light and magic and wonder. Exactly the girl he’d always dreamt of meeting.

Except he hadn’t actually met her.

All Ryan could hear was his own ragged breathing. He wrapped his arms around his chest as the rain ran in cold rivulets under his shirt and down his legs. He trudged back to the tree, the muck sucking his shoes off with each step. He was even more soaked now than he’d been before.

For the first time, he wasn’t so sure he wanted the day to end.

He dug around in one of the packs then yanked out a blanket. His pants were stuck to his legs, so he took them off, dropping them on the ground. The way his luck was going today, he’d turn around and the girl would be there again, giggling and pointing at his underwear. He got under the blanket and pulled the sword in beside him, the hilt clutched in one hand, and closed his eyes.

But no matter how hard he tried to concentrate on going home, all he could see was the girl, glistening gold and white in her dress and smiling at him with those eyes.
Kathy Milne has always been a voracious reader but it never occurred to her to write anything herself until she saw an article in the Oakville Beaver entitled “How to Get Published,” about a workshop being led by Brian Henry. It took 10 months (and several more notices in the paper) before she finally got up the nerve to attend one of Brian's Saturday classes. That was 6 years and several workshops and Intensive Writing courses ago. In the meanwhile, Kathy has completed the draft of a young adult novel called Fire’s First Breath. On June 17, she read this excerpt from her novel at CJ’s Café.

If you'd like to read to an audience, join us for our next reading night at CJ's on September 13.  Details hereFor information about Brian Henry's writng workshops and creative writing courses, see here.