Traffic Cone Quarterly – Canada’s Newest Literary Magazine

TC Cover

Our readers know we’re fiction fans and we especially like indie magazines. So this is great news – Canada has a new literary magazine and it’s fabulous!

Traffic Cone Quarterly is the brainchild (or lovechild, one or the other or maybe both) of Ottawa-native, Connor McCarthy. While we don’t know Connor personally, we do know some of the contributors.

The cover design is the work of Connor Beck. Connor is a ridiculously talented artist, and equally modest. The man simply has NO idea how good he is. Neither of us can draw a stick person (or more accurately a stick buffalo – it was late, there had been a few pops, we were playing Pictionary – we’ll save that for another post), and look at the dirty old man on the cover of Traffic Cone Quarterly – brilliant! Well done Connor B.

And our friend Cameron Rufelds is finally in print. You might remember Cam from our original Stroked Ego post – well he’s a wonderful actor and as you’ll see when you read his story, a remarkable writer.

Here’s the opening from Cam’s story, Dogs in Glass Houses Sink Ships

“So I’m sitting at a bus stop, watching the fucking pavement age, when I hear this noise from across the street. I look up, and standing, looking at me attentively from the other side of a quaint little fence, is this Dog. Now, I’m not sure  of the breed or anything, but this fucking Dog looked smart as all hell, I mean, I was half expecting the fucking thing to start talking to me it looked so smart… Which is probably the only reason I didn’t shit myself when it did. Obviously, at first, I thought it was just a really odd bark, but the Dog was very persistent, it was saying “Hey”… Now, after about the third time – and after making sure nobody was close enough to hear me – I finally said “Hey” back to the fucking thing, almost laughing at myself when I did. Then the Dog said,

“Watch this.”

Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic opening paragraph, Cam!

The magazine also has poetry, and not the kind no one understands. Not the rhyming kind either, but – well have a peek. Here’s an excerpt from The More Philosophical of Them, by Taylor Congdon.

Sitting,
sunken in the steps of a church – asking god what he find hurts worse.
asking him what really came first –
because the egg just wouldn’t make sense.

And here’s an excerpt from Connor McCarthy’s Larry & Lori

Larry spat. “It’s a fucking hellhole,” he said. I realized he was quite drunk. Lori sat across from me, still smiling. She had been pretty not long ago, but cigarettes and booze and uninspired conversation had made her tired and old. She wore an American-style blouse and makeup and hadn’t yet touched her beer. She leaned over and quietly said something to Miranda, who smiled and looked at me and said something back and they were in their own quiet conversation. Larry put a hand on my shoulder.

Canada needs a magazine like this. So check out (and like) the Traffic Cone Quarterly Facebook page, read the magazine, and if you’re a writer, submit some writing.

I’m so excited about this magazine. I can hardly wait for the next issue.
It’s absolutely brilliant – I now know what poetry is. It’s not ‘Mary had a little lamb’.
Poetry’s tricky, but this is the first time I’ve read poetry I liked.
We should mention that we’ve seen Cameron in action in Ottawa’s theatre district.
We have, and at one of the après-play get-togethers, he read one of his stories for us.
I feel like we’re in New York when we go to the theatre…
Really? I feel like we’re in the Glebe.
Glebe or New York. It’s all about the entertainment.
You have a remarkable imagination. But back to the entertainment – Traffic Cone Quarterly is great entertainment.
What do writer’s say to each other for luck? I’d like to say ‘break a leg’.
Writers don’t always talk to each other.
Ok then.

Theatre district collage

Moya Foley Art Ecuador

Costa Flip Flops

We have long been waiting to do this post about our favourite artist, Moya Foley, and we’re doing it now because last week Moya launched her website – Moya Foley Art Ecuador. We are speechless every time we see one of Moy’s pieces and are absolutely thrilled we can share her talent with our readers. That picture of the flipflops above is not a photograph – it’s one of Moy’s paintings. #ridiculoustalent

Map to Moy's (782x1024)

 

Moy is a Canadian living in Ecuador where she paints and teaches art. Yes, you can take a trip to Ecuador and take art classes with Moy – what a great idea if you’re planning to get away from winter.

Moy’s lives in Canoa – which is right on the Pacific coast – with her dog Martini (and no, that’s not why she’s our favourite artist.)

 

Moy’s art speaks for itself (and we have a few pieces to share that aren’t on her website because they’re in our houses), so have a look below and check out Moya Foley Art Ecuador. You can buy and/or commission art from Moy through her site by clicking on the blue link, or her homepage below.

Moy's home page

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll see on Moy’s site.

Marley

Marley (Irene’s dog)

The Pier at Tonchigue (1024x678)

Infinty Mortality Collage

Gladiola

Below is some of the art we own.

Front ring

Circle of life (728x1024)

Napa 1

So we got to take an art class with Moy when she was in Canada this summer. I think we were complete rubbish.
And that’s saying it nicely. Moy has such skill and a unique talent. She’s also a bit of a recluse. Didn’t she live alone on an island for 5 years?
The recluse gene runs in her family – she has some crazy stories about living on that island.
So what did she do in emergencies? Did she have electricity? Was there a corner store?
No electricity, no corner store, no Starbucks even! She hung a sheet out on a tree trunk when she needed someone on the mainland to come to the island. Like the morning she woke up to find a great big boa in her kitchen.
And she stayed there for five years. Remarkable. How did she keep the beer cold?
I think living like that is clearly beyond anything you or I could do. We’d be hanging out that sheet morning and night.
We’d have an a.m. flag and a p.m. flag.
And you would somehow manage to convince people they needed to drop everything and come to our aid whenever they saw the flag. Maybe we could make a go of it afterall.
I don’t know about that. Maybe for a day or two.
You’re probably right. But I came up with the flags just in case we ever find ourselves in that situation.
Brilliant idea. I feel much better now.
We’ll have to start carrying them everywhere we go now – one never knows these days…
Back to Moy – she is truly remarkable. As an artist, she should be world-renowned. Maybe she will be now that we’ve blogged about her.
Yes, that should do the trick! You can thank us later Moy.

Art class

An art class with Moy

Special Sydney & Irene flags in case of emergencies…
white flags

Hot Music for Summer Fun…

Sydney, you know how I like to set the bar low, so as not to be disappointed?
It’s a good motto to live by Irene.
Well, I think we should let our readers know that we are making the most of our hot summer by spending a lot of time on patios with beer and wine…
…and listening to hot music…
…and that may affect the frequency and depth of our posts. Or not, because sometimes I just can’t stop talking.
So today we have 3 distinct playlists for our readers to enjoy while they’re on the patio.
And you’re introducing us to a new group with a bizarre name. Have to say Sydney, I’m having a hard time getting past the name.
I think it was kind of clever of them. It really gets your attention.
You do go in for the dark stuff. It’s clever if you know what it means – I didn’t.
I didn’t either but Tom Power on Radio 2 ‘splained it to everyone. I’m sure people were emailing him saying ‘what the hell?’
So my selection is really simple. Old music and dance music. Nothing dark or deep – just like me!
I got nothin’ after that.
Because you’re dark and deep…you’re thinking about it.
Shall we just move onto the music?
We shall.

The Technical Crap

We’re using Spotify to bring you our summer playlists. If you’re new to Spotify, you have to download it, open an account (its free) and launch it to be able to listen to the playlists. If that sounds like a pain in the ass, it really isn’t, it just takes a few minutes.

Spotify Playlist

 

You can scroll up and down on the playlist by putting your cursor on the slider on the far left-hand side of the list.

The Music

First up is our ‘Retro Summer Playlist’ – music from the 60’s and 70’s. Way before we were born, but we dig it.
It’s really groovy.
Yeah man, rock on.

My playlist starts with the group we were talking about – The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer. ‘Harpoonist’ refers to the harmonica and ‘Axe’ refers to the guitar.
Not surprised Tom had to explain that to a few people. And such an uplifting, positive name.
Yes it is, isn’t it. And all their songs are totally danceable.
Totally?

Just to prove you wrong, I’m adding the video to ‘Shake It’. It’s a great video.

And now onto a real summertime dance playlist.
Love your upbeat songs, ‘Broken for Good’ and ‘White Flag’.
They are totally danceable.
If you say so.
You know that ‘Four Five Second’song by Kanye and Rhianna – it took like 23 people to write that song and it says nothing. Makes so no sense at all. But I love it.

If you’d like to hear more of the music we like, check out our posts called 10 Great Songs We Shazamed and 6 Pieces of Music You Need to Listen to Right Now.

You know how they say that opposites attract? Our taste in music is completely different but at least we introduce each other to different things.
And normally I LOVE all your music choices. Except for today…
Right back at you.

 

10 Great Songs We Shazamed

So Sydney, how many Shazam tags on your phone and have you ever actually bought any of the songs?
Just a second…I’m checking…I’ve got 500 and I’ve bought none. I’ve got tags from four years ago when we stayed in that lovely Travelodge in downtown Montreal.
Oh the one without the concierge? And what they called European style rooms, with two beds that were each about 12 inches wide?
Yeah, that one. Hopefully there’s not more than one.
We should get back to the music.
Probably one of the reasons I don’t buy anything is because I don’t know how much it costs –
– it costs 99¢. At most $1.29. It’s the same for every song.
In that case I have $500 burning a hole in my pocket for all those songs.
And the other reason?
The other reason is I don’t know how I’d play them, but now that I have my new Blackberry-
You don’t have a Blackberry – you have a Bluetooth speaker.
Right – that thing.
So now there’s no excuse and we’re going share some of our favourite ‘Shazamed’ discoveries in today’s post.
So how many do you have?
A lot! But I also buy lots of them. I usually check them out on iTunes on my laptop to see if I really like them and then I buy them. I have so many single songs sometimes I have to Shazam my own music to see what I’m listening to.
You’re crazy.
We both are a bit crazy.
So we’re going to talk about each of our favourite five songs.
And we’ll have a technical brief before we get to the music in case people aren’t familiar with Shazam or Spotify.
Yes, you do your technical stuff –
– and then we’ll get to the music. Maybe you’ll actually want to buy some of it – for 99¢ each.
And now that I know how to use my Blackberry, I’m looking forward to listening to them all!

The Technical Brief

First of all, if you already know all this stuff, skip over it and go right to the music below.

Shazam – Shazam Entertainment Ltd.

Shazam may be our favourite app. When you hear a song you like, just ‘shazam’ it, and you’ll immediately find out the name of the song and the artist and you’ll be given a direct link to it on iTunes. Every time you ‘Shazam’ a song, a tag is created, so if two weeks (or four years) later you suddenly remember you meant to download that song, you’ll find it listed in your tags. Incredibly handy when you’re out shopping (read ‘Sydney’ here) or lying in bed listening to the CBC (read ‘Irene’ here).

Spotify

As we mentioned in our last two music posts, Spotify became available in Canada in 2014. You can download Spotify here for free, register, log in, and stream lots of music. Spotify needs to be open on your computer in order to listen to the music below.

In listening to Spotify we’ve discovered they have ads – guess that’s how they generate some moolah for the artists, since the streaming is free. So if you’ve had a glass of wine (or two or three) don’t think you’re hearing things – it’s just advertising.

One other thing we’ve discovered – if you listen to Spotify on your iPhone, it automatically puts everything on shuffle. So if you are reading our blog on your iPhone and press ‘Play’ to listen to one of our song selections, Spotify will shuffle the album and you may end up listening to a different track. This won’t happen if you read/listen on your tablet or PC, and you can turn the shuffle function off if you have the premium version of Spotify.

It is FREE music, so it can’t be absolutely perfect…

The Music

Irene’s List

Sydney’s List

Bonus Track

As our readers know, we love the duo Whitehorse. Luc and Melissa are without question THE coolest couple in Canada. So here’s an amazing video from their latest CD, Leave No Bridge Unburned – how can you not love these two people?!

I love that song by Raign, but I especially love how she spells her name. I want to start putting a ‘g’ in my name.
You mean like this, Girene? I should add a ‘g’ too.
No – not Girene! It’s going to be Iregne – the ‘g’ is silent. Got that Sygdney?
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone laughed as much as we did at our posts, Girene?

 

10 Christmas (and Winter) Songs You Need Every Year

So Sydney, I want to start off by letting everyone know this post was your idea. I think in the last month you’ve told me half a dozen times, ‘we need to do a Christmas music post’. And I think it’s a great idea.
It is a great idea, Irene.’Tis the season and all that.
So bossypants here was doing what she was told to do, picking out her Christmas music, looking for everything on Spotify, and now you tell me, you got nothin’?
I’m as surprised as you are. As it turns out I don’t have any special Christmas songs except John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas” which Spotify doesn’t have listed unless you want the Karaoke version.
Or an exceptionally ghastly instrumental version.
Found the 5th song! Diana Krall’s Jingle Bells. Everyone loves Jingle Bells and more so when Diana sings her version of it.
Jingle Bells. Seriously? You dug deep for that one, didn’t you? Even if it is Diana Krall, it’s still Jingle Bells.
Hang on… Jingle Bells is a fine Christmas song. As I said before, everyone loves Jingles Bells.
Especially those born or raised in 1920’s.
Bah Hum Bug. That’s what I say to that.
Jingle Bells aside, I think we’ve come up with a good variety of winter music.
We have and I think our readers will agree.
Winter officially arrived in Canada this week, so light up the fireplace, pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy!

Spotify

As we mentioned in our music post in November, Spotify recently became available in Canada. You can download Spotify here for free (yes, another media service on your computer, but it’s worth it), register, log in, and stream lots of music. Spotify needs to be open in order to listen to the music below.

In listening to Spotify we’ve discovered they have ads – guess that’s how they generate some moolah for the artists, since the streaming is free. So if you’ve had a glass of wine (or two or three) don’t think you’re hearing things, or wonder what the heck Sydney and Irene have included with their music. It’s just good old advertising.

One other thing we’ve discovered – if you listen to Spotify on your iPhone, it automatically puts everything on shuffle. So if you are reading our blog on your iPhone and press ‘Play’ to listen to one of our song selections, Spotify will shuffle the album and you may end up listening to a different track. We agree, that’s more than a wee bit annoying. This won’t happen if you read/listen on your tablet or PC, and you can turn the shuffle function off if you have the premium version of Spotify.

Sydney’s Song (and story) Selections

Love the cover of the Diana Krall CD. Except for the hair, the beautiful dress and high heels, that’s exactly what I look like over the holidays.
It looks to me like Elvis has left the building.
Elvis has definitely left the building – he’s on his way home to put the kids to bed.
Here’s our first song, the one everyone is waiting for – Jingle Bells.

Jingle Bells, Diana Krall

Whatever happened to Dido? I loved her music.
She seems to come and go. I love her music too but it all kinda sounds the same.
Except the song that made her famous. What was that?
I don’t know – something about an apartment, it was raining, there were bills to pay, she had a hangover…
Right. That’s the one – loved it. As I do Dido’s Christmas Day song.

Christmas Day, Dido

My next Christmas song is by Sarah McLachlan who is a Canadian icon.
And that’s it?
What do you expect, I’m in a hospital bed.
You are not. And you’re not supposed to lie at Christmas.
You’re right I shouldn’t lie. This song is what Christmas means to me.

Song for a Winter’s Night, Sarah McLachlan

So the next song is by Michael Bublé – not to be confused with the ever popular rendition by ‘Michael Bubble’…
…which is the one I found originally, but luckily your keen eyes and ears caught my mistake.
I know. Imagine our readers wondering what the hell happened to Michael’s voice.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Michael Bublé

And for your next selection, you’re cheating. You know how I like things organized and we said 10 ‘songs’ and you’re adding a story.
Well, bossypants I couldn’t come up with 5 Christmas songs and I even asked my son Dorian and he had nothing. It’s probably because we’re Jewish.
You’re lying again. We’re not Jewish. We wouldn’t be doing a Christmas post if we were.
You’re right. I just happen to enjoy this Dave and Morley Christmas story. I listen to it every year.

Polly Anderson’s Christmas Party, Stuart McLean

Irene’s Song Selections

Nothing says Christmas like Charlie Brown. It’s one of those shows you could never get tired of watching.
I love the Charlie Brown Christmas too.
I become Snoopy when I hear this song. That’s the magic of Vince and his crew.
Ok…I can see that.
I can dance like Snoopy – Vodka told me so.

Linus and Lucy from A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

My next 3 songs are ‘winter’ songs, not really ‘Christmas’ songs. Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year. There’s a point somewhere between Christmas and New Years where I am always struck by the unforgiving desolate loneliness of the holidays and winter.
It can be a lonely time a year and it can be magical too.
As a writer, it’s one of my favourite times of the year, and the next 3 songs are perfect for that incredible feeling that you may in fact be the only person on the planet.
I know what you mean when, for just a moment, everything is quiet.
I come from a family of solitaires – we all love being alone. Don’t know if that’s part of coming from a big family, but it’s in our DNA.
I really enjoy this time of year. Time away from work, skiing, visiting friends. If only this were true…
Lying again… My first ‘lonely’ winter song is River, written by Joni Mitchell and sung by Sarah McLachlan – two great Canadian artists.

River sung by Sarah McLachlan

My next 2 songs are both from The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs, with various artists. It’s an amazing CD, and one you didn’t know about. Which is kinda crazy since I thought we knew everything about each other, including what music we each have.
That is weird. I actually Googled the CD today. I like it.
It is a great CD – here’s just a taste, but everyone will want to whole CD after listening to these 2 songs. First up is a song by Brandi Carlile.

The Heartache Can Wait, Brandi Carlile

Next up is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard – in any season – by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson.
What song is that?
It’s called Winter Song. I heard it on the CBC of course, and bought the CD just for this song.
Can’t wait hear it.

Winter Song, Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson

My last choice is not lonely at all – it’s the opposite of lonely and has nothing to do with Christmas or winter. But it comes from a CD I first heard in winter, and listened to over and over in winter, so I think of it as a winter song.
Sly and Robbie are great! Everyone is going to like this one.
This is a very sexy song. This is a smokin’ hot song. If you have someone to curl up with in front of a fireplace with a glass of wine and candlelight, while winter rages outside, this is the song you want playing.
Absolutely.
And a little reggae in winter is just what a Canadian soul needs.

Night Nurse by Sly & Robbie

You’re going to try to say something in a Jamaican accent right now, aren’t you?
You mean something like, hey mon pass me those rolling papers?
Yes, something like that. Let’s stop now before we end up offending people.

 

Christmas 2014 Book Reviews – Part 2

So it was back to work for us this week, and we discovered something interesting – we’re no good when we try to work on the blog in the morning.
Yeah, happy hour is when we come up with the gold.
So much for being industrious over a cup of coffee. How’s your beer?
It’s a relief. More inspiring than coffee.
I have to admit something, I have to be completely honest here…Netflix is definitely cutting into my reading time. Well that and my iPhone.
Me too. I’ve been watching too many BBC programs instead of reading.
At least you’re watching BBC. I just watch crap.
Yes, that true.
It’s because you have better taste in everything than I do. I love crap.
What kind of chips do you eat?
I eat Lays deep fried heavily salted plain chips dripping with grease. Not those crinkled baked pieces of cardboard without salt. They hurt your teeth when you eat them.
So onto the post. Just let me wipe the grease off my hands. We were under a lot of pressure because our guest bloggers did such a great job with their book reviews.
So I’m reviewing one of my favourite authors, Michael Crummy, and a writer new to the fiction world, Rene Denfield.
And I’m reviewing a writer who is new to me, Jonas Jonasson, and another writer debuting her first novel, Elizabeth Renzetti.
Elizabeth may be new to fiction, but not to writing – she’s a columnist for the Globe and Mail and we’re big fans of hers.
We got to meet her at this year’s Writers Festival – the highlight of the evening for sure.
So if you’re still looking for some gift ideas, here are our thoughts on some new books.

If you missed our guest bloggers’ book reviews from last week, you can read them here – Christmas 2014 Book Reviews – Part 1.

Irene’s Book Reviews

Sweetland by Michael Crummy

You know that feeling you get when one of your favourite authors has a new book out? I get that feeling in spades when it’s a Michael Crummy book, and I’m going to talk about his latest book, Sweetland.

Michael Crummy hails from Newfoundland (I think that’s how they talk there). A poet and novelist, he has lots of books, his novels being River Thieves, The Wreckage, Galore, and Sweetland, and I’ve read them all. Michael writes my very favourite type of book – books full of real life characters whose everyday, real life experiences make them extraordinary + a bit of magic.

Sweetland is about a man named Sweetland, living in a place called Sweetland. It’s a small Newfoundland fishing town that is on the verge of being shut down. The government is going to move everyone out and this place will exist no more, all because of the collapse of the fishing industry. Of course this is a problem for some people, especially some people who have never been anywhere else all their lives. Sweetland has been outside of Newfoundland but he doesn’t want to leave and devises a plan to stay behind. Here’s the opening of the book –

SweetlandHe heard them before he saw them. Voices in the fog, so indistinct he thought they might be imaginary. An auditory hallucination, the mind trying to compensate for a sensory lack. The way a solitary man will start talking to furniture, left along long enough.

Anyway, voices out there.

This is how Michael Crummy writes – beautifully, simply, magically.

All the descriptions of the book I read said this book is about Sweetland staying behind and meeting the ghosts that still live on in Sweetland. That’s not what this book is about and I kept reading, looking for the ghosts. They don’t show up until three quarters of the way through the book and they don’t actually play a huge role in the novel.

The novel is all about Sweetland, the tragedies in his life, his life unlived, good and bad decisions he’s made. Like all of Michael Crummy’s book, it is beautifully written and full of magic.

That being said, it’s not my favourite Crummy novel. It’s a slow read and I felt it did drag on a bit – unlike his other novels where there seems to be impossible things happening on every page. And it absolutely kills me to say that because I love Michael Crummy’s writing and I can almost not bare to ever criticize another writer’s efforts. And what do I know…I’ll tell you what I know – Michael Crummy is a brilliant writer.

So, if you’re a Michael Crummy fan, or you have one on your Christmas list, this book is a must have. If you haven’t read him before, I would suggest starting with Galore or River Thieves.

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld

This book jumped off the shelf and chose me. I was walking through Chapters on my way to catch a bus and picked this book up. I read the jacket and the first page and wasn’t at all sure what kind of book it was – fantasy, young adult? It’s called Enchanted and the cover has golden horses racing through bars. I went on my way to catch my bus and then turned around and went and got the book. And I’m so glad I did.

In real life, when she’s not writing, Rene Denfeld investigates death row criminals in an effort to have their sentences changed to life in prison, and that’s what this novel is about.

It is dark, mysterious, frightening – did I say dark? It is one of the darkest books I’ve ever read and also one of the most beautiful. Here’s the opening –

This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it but I do. 

I see every cinder block, every hallway and doorway. I see the doorways that lead to the secret stairs and the stairs that take you into stone towers and the towers that take you to Enchantedwindows and the windows that open to wide clear air. I see the chamber where the cloudy medical vines snake across the floor, empty and waiting for the warden’s finger to press the red buttons. I see the secret basement warrens where rusted cans hide the urns of the dead and the urns spill their ashes across the floor until the floods come off the river to wash the ashes outside to feed the soil under the grasses, which wave to the sky. I see the soft-tufted night birds as they drop from the heavens. I see the golden horses as they run deep under the earth, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs. I see where the small men hide with their tiny hammers, and how the flibber-gibbets dance while the oven slowly ticks.

The main characters in the story are all unnamed, including the narrator above. The story is about the woman – the investigator – the priest who also works at the prison, and a man on death row for whom the lady has been hired. Very hard to put this book down, but it is absolutely not for the feint of heart. There are atrocities going on in the world that most of us could never imagine.

I don’t know if such a book belongs under a Christmas tree, but Enchanted is an excellent read.

Sydney’s Book Reviews

Based on a True Story by Elizabeth Renzetti

It was at the Illuminating Writers Festival where Irene and I listened to Elizabeth Renzetti read from her debut book Based on a True Story.  

You most likely know Elizabeth from her column in the Globe and Mail. She has wicked wit and great sense of humour.

Based on a True Story takes place in London, England. It’s about a down on her luck based on a true storyactress, Augusta Price, who has a wee bit of a drinking and drug problem. She is estranged from her son who lives in California with his father. Or is he the father?  Augusta is never really sure.The next fascinating character is Frances Bleeker, a former Californian living in London and working for a pitiful tabloid as a journalist. Frances is shy, insecure and wears too much beige. At the beginning of the story Frances is interviewing Augusta about the memoir she wrote the previous year and surprisingly became a hit.

Here’s an excerpt from Based on a True Story – 

She was almost at her seat when, over the roar and bump of the plane’s engines, she heard the curtain of the business-class cabin sliding back. Augusta stood framed in the doorway, two spots of colour high on her cheeks, with the flight attendant behind her like a farmer intent on an escaped bull.

“Holy crap,” Frances whispered and scrambled over the refrigerator, elbows and heels sinking into tender places. She buckled herself into her seat as Augusta staggered down the aisle. There was a red-wine stain, almost the shape of Africa, on the front of her blouse.

“Frances!” she barked. “There, Frances!” My things, please!”

The flight attendant was right behind her, and had the advantage of sobriety. “Sit down now, please ma’am.” “I just need,” said Augusta, forming her words with care, “to get something from my friend. A medication, if you must know. For an ailment. Which I have.”

“Now, ma’am. For your own safety.”

“I would have collected my things earlier,” said Augusta, “but I seem to have drifted off.” The airplane lurched sideways and Augusta, with a screech, clutched the flight attendant’s arm. “I’m taking you back to your seat ma’am,” said the flight attendant, and began tugging Augusta toward the front of the cabin. Now the other passengers were craning to look, whispering and reaching for their camera phones.

“Ma’am” the flight attendant said in a voice perfected through several Dealing With Difficult Passengers seminars, “I will only ask you once more. You are posing a hazard to yourself and to the security of this flight. Resume your seat”. Her colleagues scurried to her aid, surrounding Augusta like a ring of sheepdogs around an angry bull. One of them carried a handful of plastic restraints. Augusta reached down to autograph a man’s arm, although from his terrified expression it seemed he hadn’t requested the service. As the plane lurched once again, she fell, laughing onto his lap. “Christ’s sake, darling!” Frances heard her screech. “You’re well upholstered.”

“That’s It,” the flight attendant said, and reached down to take Augusta’s arm. “Hands off, you mad bitch!” Augusta’s voice was muffled by the man’s lap, her pointed toes kicking out at anyone within reach. “I know my rights! I am a British citizen! You just want to fondle my…” The words were lost as the other flight attendants descended to form a protective circle. “Get your hands off…sue you…Sober as a judge, I tell you. As a judge!”

This is a very entertaining book. I must admit it took me a few chapters to warm to the characters but when I did, it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The character, Augusta, is like a train wreck you just can’t turn away from. And you know she’s going to fall sooner or later but want to be there to catch her. This book would make a good movie – a middle aged Elizabeth TayIor would be perfect as Augusta and someone mousy to play Frances… who could it be…

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
by Jonas Jonasson

It was with hesitation that I picked this book up only because the title threw me. What kind of an adventure could a 100 year old man have, I wondered. As it turns out a pretty amazing one!

This is a story about Allan Karlsson who lives in an old age home in a small village in 100 year old manSweden. On his 100th birthday he decides he doesn’t want to attend the party the residents and staff of the home have planned for him. So he decides to climb out the window. He doesn’t have a plan. And as we find out he has never had a plan his entire life. Everything that happens to him is purely circumstance. ‘But Allan Karlsson was never one to ponder things too long.’ He has witnessed some of the most important events of the twentieth century, and has actually played an important role in many of them.

I highly recommend this book for yourself and as a gift under the Christmas tree for friends and family. Here’s an excerpt –

– I’ll order the food, so you can choose the drinks, said Harry Truman jovially and handed the wine list to Allan.

Truman turned to the head waiter who bowed as he received the large order for tacos, enchiladas, corn tortillas, and salsa.

– And to drink, sir?

– Two bottles of tequila, Allan answered.

Harry Turman laughed and asked if Allan wanted to drink him under the table. Allan answered that the last year had taught him that the Mexicans could make spirits with as much oomph as akvavit, but that the vice president could of course drink milk if he considered that more suitable.

-No, I’ve given my word, said the Vice President Truman, and he made sure the order included lime and salt.

Three hours later the two men were calling each other Harry and Allan, which goes to show what a couple of bottles of tequila can do for international relations. Allan told Truman how the local bigwig had been blown to bits and how he saved the life of General Franco. The vice president, for his part, amused Allan by imitating President Roosevelt’s attempts to get up out of his wheelchair.

When the two men were on the most jovial of terms, the head of the security staff discreetly approached the vice president.

-Could I have a word please,sir?

-Go ahead, said the vice president in a slurred voice.

-Preferably in private, sir.

-I’ll be damned if you don’t look just like Humphrey Bogart! Have you seen him Allan?

-Sir …, said the increasingly troubled security man.

-Yes, what the hell do you want? the vice president hissed.

-Sir, it is about President Roosevelt.

-What about the old goat? The vice president guffawed.

-He’s dead,sir.

It’s a fabulous book. And more good news, a movie is in the works as we speak.

So that 100 year old man movie was playing at the Mayfair last month.
Aaarggg. I need a better source of information. I have to stop relying on hearsay.
Nailing the facts once again. It’s almost like our signature now.

Christmas 2014 Book Reviews – Part 1

So we’ve been very smart – we got other people do our work for us.
Brilliant! I would like to get people to do my work at the office too.
You need to be a little more like bossy pants here and people will do work for you.
Wait a minute we’re already off topic…
Right…back to work. We’re so excited to have four guest writers in our post today.
And each of these guests have appeared in our blog before.
And they’ve all written great reviews about a wide range of books.
Let’s start with Silkworm. I read the first book Cuckoos Calling, by Robert Galbraith aka what’s her face, and really enjoyed it. Not so much this second one. Bridget is very honest in her review.
And I can hardly wait to read The Dinner and Beatrice and Virgil.
The Dinner is one of my favourites. And now I’m intrigued by Jim’s book review of The Pole Shift that Sank Atlantis. I’ll skip over the math.
Many thanks to all our guest reviewers! You can re-visit their previous posts by clicking on the blue links.
Expect to be called upon again and again.
Because we like it when other people do our work 🙂

Our Guest Book Reviews

Our first guest post is by Bridget (Irene’s sis) who spent a couple of weeks with us in Ottawa last summer. Our posts with Bridget from Lac-Ste-Marie are here and hereI think she likes us.

Silkwood by Robert Galbraith

After a great visit with Sydney and Irene last summer I was excited to be asked to write a book review for their hilarious and informative blog.

My favourite genre is mysteries and some of my favourite authors are Ian Rankin, Elizabeth George and Louise Penny. I am a big fan of series books where you get to know the characters as they age and grow and are changed by their experiences. When I start a novel by one of these authors I know I will be immersed into reality of their created world. To me the sign of a great book is a sense of sadness when it is finished. If you haven’t read any of these authors I strongly encourage you to but today I am going to talk about The Silkworm, written by J.K. Rowlings under the pen name of Robert Galbraith published by Mulholland Books/Little, Brown and company.

The Silkworm is the second novel featuring private investigator Cormoran Strike. Strike is a huge character, in both physique and personality. Before I say anything more I think I should admit that I haven’t read the Harry Potter series (gasp!) so when I started to read Galbraith’s first novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling I had no expectations. I enjoyed the book, the character and the writing and I was happy to start The Silkworm and to pick up where the first novel left off.

Overall I enjoyed this book, especially the interactions between Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. I appreciate their tentative working relationship and how the realities of day to day issues, like cancelled meetings and simple insecurities affect their opinions and 585feelings for each other. The story begins with a missing husband, who is eventually found brutally murdered in a manner that mimics a horrendous scene from his latest, and yet unpublished, novel. Being an avid mystery reader I am fine with gore, but I found this crime and the murderer, discovered by Strike, to lack believability. I had to struggle to make sense of what had happened and why, and although I love being challenged to solve the mystery before the hero, I do want it to make sense. By the end of the book I felt manipulated by the plot and then realized I was also annoyed that Strike, pardon the pun, has so many strikes against him it is hard to find him believable. He has a prosthetic leg, suffers from PTSD, has a rock star father who didn’t acknowledge hiim until a DNA test was done, and is recovering from the breakup of a long and tumultuous relationship with his stunningly beautiful girlfriend.

Galbraith is an excellent writer and I plan to read the next Cormoran Strike novel but I realize I prefer characters who are remarkable because of their thoughts and actions. Characters like Rankin’s Rebus and George’s Lynley stay with me like old friends and I look forward to each new novel to discover what is going on in their lives. Strike, in comparison, is like a casual acquaintance and while Galbraith’s novels provide a good read, for me her characters do not live on after the last page.

Our second guest post is from our friend Sue, foodie extraordinaire, who has also been a guest cook on our blog. You can read about Sue’s skills in the kitchen here.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Set in Amsterdam on a summer’s evening. Two couples meet at a bourgeoisie establishment for dinner. Over polite conversation, between mouthfuls of food, the Dinner (182x276)discussion lingers on the banality of work, politics and the triviality of the holidays. But as we read on, the empty words lead to terrible things that need to be said. The children of each couple, their fifteen year old sons, have participated in one single horrific act. The police are involved and the investigation that follows shatters their very protected lives.

As the dinner continues, pleasant conversation gives way, and the friendships disintegrate. We come to see just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

The novel reveals the dark side of a genteel society and forces the reader to ask ourselves just what we would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.

My thoughts –

I got caught up in the wonderful, comedic details concerning dinner (all five courses) – of course. From everything regarding the “Aperitif’ to “The Tip”, and with a few long-winded disdainful thoughts regarding the staff and their uniforms, I was committed for the ride. The snarky humour throughout this book and the hilarious scene in the men’s room is played out with perfect timing.

As more information comes to light regarding Paul and his family, you begin to realize with chilling confirmation that not all is as it seems. The beginning chapters are a bit droll as they outline the upper middle class in early 21st century. But, I laughed out loud at the descriptions of the pretentious self-important maître d (and his pinky). The humour truly keeps you from seeing the cliff!

I think the pacing of the novel was excellent. In keeping with food as a metaphor, the unfolding of each layer of the onion brings out new facts, new understandings and therefore, new questions. A perfect amount of insight, introduced course by course.

As the action begins to heat up, the comedy is replaced by a chilling look behind the scenes of these “normal” lives. Societal issues including racism, homelessness, parenting, violence and morality are presented as I have rarely encountered them before in a relatively short novel.

The ending is similar to when the coyote realizes the cliff has dropped out from under!

Koch has complete dedication to the darkness of these characters and does not allow you empathy as they try to validate the violation of accountability and truth.

The Dinner is a book you’ll remember.

Next up is a review by another family member, Jess, who was one of our models for our fall fashion at the Clothes Secret post. When I read Jess’ review it sounded a bit ‘out there’, but then the book is by Yann Martel. That would be Life of Pi, Yann Martel, so it’s not surprising it sounds like the book stretches the imagination.

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel

Beatrice and Virgil is a heart-wrenching, captivating story that leaves you breathless, panicking, and thinking, “oh my god that can’t be how it ends!” It’s witty, emotional, hurtful, and manipulative – although I think that’s what makes it so great. It’s not what you’re bandvexpecting.

You meet Henry, a successful novelist ready to pitch his next story; a flip-book on the Holocaust. One side would be an essay, the other side a fictional representation. His publishers turn him down –

Where do you see the book being displayed?” asked the bookseller, as he chewed on his food with an open mouth. “In the fiction section or the nonfiction?”

“Ideally both,” Henry replied.

“Not going to happen. Too confusing. Do you know how much stock a bookstore handles? And if we have to worry about turning the book every which way so the right cover is facing out, we’ll never see the end of it. And where are you going to put the bar code? It always goes on the back cover. Where do you put a bar code on a book with two front covers?”

“I don’t know,” said Henry. “On the spine.”

“Too narrow.”

“On the inside flap.”

“Cashiers can’t be opening the book up, looking for it everywhere. And what if the book is plastic-wrapped?”

“On a little wraparound band.”

“They tear and fall off. And then you don’t have a bar code at all – a nightmare.”

“I don’t know then. I wrote my book on the Holocaust without worrying about where the fucking bar code would go.”

Obviously shaken by this, Henry and his wife move to an unnamed city so he can take a break from writing. While there, he receives a mysterious package from a “fan” containing a few pages of a play and asking for Henry’s help with it. It’s here that we’re introduced to Beatrice and Virgil, a taxidermist donkey and howler monkey. They’re the two main characters of the play that takes place on a shirt – which sounds insane, until you come to learn the shirt is a striped pajama shirt like the ones worn by concentration camp prisoners. You come to love Beatrice and Virgil, and they completely draw you in. They’re hilarious, charming, curious and deep.

Once you pick this book up, you won’t be able to put it down. It’s a quick read, but it’s not one that you’ll quickly forget.

Last but not least, we have a non-fiction review by Irene’s son, Jim (partner of Jess) who was one of our models for our Stroked Ego post in the summer. 

The Pole Shift That Sank Atlantis by Derek Cromie and John Gagnon

Do you know exactly what wiped out the dinosaurs thousands of years ago? Or what precipitated the latest Ice Age in recent history? Various theories have been put forward to explain some of the extraordinary evidence we’ve uncovered about our ancient ancestors and the Earth they lived on, but the reality is we may still be far from the truth. Authors Pole shift that sank AtlantisDerek Cromie and John Gagnon examine evidence that supports several alternate theories regarding some of these pre-historic events we’ve come to think we understand in The Pole Shift That Sank Atlantis.

The fact that the Earth has undergone several cataclysmic shifts is a commonly accepted truth, however, the extent of these shifts may have been far more severe than previously theorized. An inversion of the poles may have led to incredible movement of some of the land masses we recognize as continents today. This would explain the discovery of whale bones found 600 feet above sea level, or the finding of ancient creatures that were entombed in ice thousands of years ago, an event that occurred so quickly that their preservation was nearly perfect. These, among a long list of other unexplained findings, beg the question – what really happened?

Is it possible that a highly advanced human civilization existed in antiquity? Did the Altanteans really exist? Evidence of the extreme precision with which any structures in Egypt were built, the most recognizable being the Great Pyramid of Giza, is also examined in connection with this catastrophic pole shift and re-orientation of the Earth, as well as the existence of the legendary Atlantis and its people, a continent and society immortalized in present-day myth.

By the end of the book, you will be wishing you were a fly on the wall of prehistoric Earth, simply to know exactly what transpired. If ancient history, climate change and geology are your cup of tea, The Pole Shift That Sank Atlantis deserves a place on your bookshelf.

Check back next week for Christmas 2014 Book Reviews – Part 2, by some familiar voices.

You know what this means. We have to get to work on our book reviews for next week. And no, I’m not doing yours.
My reviews are done sister!
Stick to the British accent. If anyone’s from the south it’s me. Y’all.

 

6 Pieces of music you need to listen to right now

I really like the title of our post. We’ve got six great pieces of music.
And the whole post was inspired by our first choice – First Aid Kit. And then we realized we hadn’t done a music post in a while.
Yeah, it’s been a while. I don’t think we’ve been so excited about music until we heard First Aid Kit on the CBC.
It’s such an amazing CD. We haven’t listened to much else since we got the CD. So Sydney, tell me about their connection to Patti Smith…again.
As the story goes, Patti Smith was listening to them sing at a concert and the Waitress song made her cry.
That’s how your story goes. That’s not actually the real story, is it Sydney?
You’re right – it’s not. But that’s what I heard…
Sometimes we get our facts mixed up.
So in fact, it wasn’t the Waitress song, it was Patti’s song, ‘Dancing Barefoot’, and the concert was the 2011 Polaris Awards.
It’s good you have me to google everything.
And be bossy…
That too. All the music in the post is courtesy of Spotify, and if you don’t already have it, you’ll need to download it, to listen to the music.
We’re going to talk about each piece of music between each playlist. Irene spent a lot of time getting our text bubbles sprinkled throughout, so don’t skip them.
I made her say that. 🙂
Whatever.
Onto the music!

Spotify

Spotify recently became available in Canada. You can download Spotify here for free (yes, another media service on your computer, but it’s worth it), register, log in, and stream lots of music. Spotify needs to be open in order to listen to the music below.

If you hover your cursor over the right-hand side of the playlists, a slider appears, and you can move it down to see the whole playlist.

Send us a Tweet or add a comment to let us how you like our Spotify post, and if you have any recommendations for us!

CDs

First Aid Kit is a Swedish duo of two sisters named Johanna and Klara Söderberg.
They are only in their early 20’s, but they sing like they have centuries of experience.
It’s a truly amazing album.
My favourite line is from Master Pretender – ‘shit gets f–cked up and people just disappear’, and ain’t that the truth.
I like the Waitress song. I talked to Patti – she likes it too.
See – can’t really believe a thing we say.

First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Now we’re going talk about a tribute album for JJ Cale.
So even though it’s not technically an Eric Clapton CD, he arranged for all the artists to sing on it. We think…
And we could be right this time.
You have more confidence in us than I do.
To me, it’s the quintessential road trip CD. I listened to it over and over while driving Highway 1 in California this summer.
I don’t have road trip music – not necessary when you’re on the road to nowhere. Or the Greyhound on the #7.
You could make your own bus trip CD.
I’ll just listen to Fist Aid Kit.

Eric Clapton – They Call Me The Breeze

Next up is Foy Vance (not a group but one guy, born in Northern Ireland…those Irish dudes…too much talent). Foy relocated to the Southern States with his father-preacher when he was a kid.
How did you find him?
A side benefit of not being able to sleep at night, is you get to listen to the BBC and they have a great music program on around 2 a.m., via the CBC.
I don’t usually wake up until 4 a.m. and I read.
By 4 a.m. I’m listening to Connect Asia.
Let’s listen to Foy now. Do you think ‘Foy’ is short for something?
‘Foyer’?

Foy Vance – Closed Hand, Full of Friends

Singles

Our first single is from Culture Club. Yes, we’re talkin’ Boy George here, and this is their first song since 1999.
So, when did he get out?
I had totally forgotten about that. But yes, I think he’s been out for some time and he looks and sounds very edgy. I’ll be dancing to this song for a long time.
I’m excited to listen to it.
Get the wine ready – there’s some kitchen dancing about to happen.

Culture Club – More Than Silence

On to Bryan Ferry. I just love this song.
Did you know that my horse was named ‘Roxy’ after Roxy Music? It was just a way to get Dan to go along with the whole ‘I need a horse’ thing, but it totally suited her. She was ‘Roxy’ in her heart and soul.
We heard people really loved his band back in the day.
We’re too young to know about that though.
You named your dog after a musician too.
Don’t tell anyone this, but Marley was named Marley long before I convinced Dan we needed a dog. And that worked too.
You’re brilliant.
If only I could take that to the bank.

Bryan Ferry – Loop De Li

For our Canadian readers, our next recommendation – Adam Cohen – is mandatory listening.
Adam’s dad, who is of course, Leonard, was a constant crush for the women in my family. Still is.
Adam’s touring Canada right now and on November 22nd, he’ll be playing here in Ottawa at Algonquin College.
He’s been singing for a while, but this CD is really something special. Probably his best to date.
I agree.

Adam Cohen – Love Is

So just to clear up some of our previous confusion, Bruce Cockburn was never married to a man.
And Bryan Ferry was never married to Iman.
David Bowie is married to a woman, named ‘Iman’. It’s no wonder we get things mixed up.

Ottawa International Writers Festival

WF flyer

To start with, we’re a week late with this post because of the sad events that took place in Ottawa last week.
And given the response from our readers, we made the right decision.
So the Writers Festival is over but we still want to talk about one of their events.
And when we say the Writers Festival is ‘over’, that’s a qualified ‘over’ because they have events that run all year.
We need talk about who we met. We were so excited.
We met Liz Renzetti and she was even funnier and cooler and more laid back than she is on paper.
Perhaps we can mention here that the only reason you know about Liz is because I introduced you to the Globe and Mail, where is she has her awesome weekly column.
And I thought I was so sophisticated reading the G&M but then I had to give it up because I spent my entire Satuarday morning in bed reading the newspaper.
I remember – you wouldn’t even respond to my repeated text messages.
That’s why I gave it up.
One of the many funny things Liz said was when she compared her book to Thelma and Louise as “more drinking, less dying”.
I thought she said more drinking less driving – but then I was drinking when she said that.
I think it’s great that they served wine at the event.
And apparently they were handing out Chiclets at the door but we seemed to have missed them.
They were talking about ‘chicklit’ not Chiclets.
I think we follow the road less travelled. I’ve never heard that expression before. I thought it was interesting to find out that women buy 70% of books.
I was kinda surprised too. Because the men in our families are ferocious readers.
We should look into that for our next book post.
Good idea. I think we can wrap this up.
So here’s a post about our great evening at the Writers Festival.

We Met Liz Renzetti!

You can find out all about the Ottawa International Writers Festival on their website. You can also follow them on Twitter (@Writersfest) or join their mailing list. They have festivals twice a year, but they also have additional events running all year long, and they have a lot of ‘post-festival’ events through the month of November. In one of their last tweets last week, they said they’d be back in the spring and when we hear more about that, we’ll pass it along.

We’re sure their slate of writers would appeal to all tastes and these are not expensive events. The tickets for the event we went to were $15, which is such a steal. Less than going apple picking!

Like we said, we went to see Globe and Mail columnist and author Liz Renzetti (@lizrenzetti), but heard from two other authors, Joan Thomas, author of Reading by Lightening, Curiosity, and The Opening Sky, and Eliza Robertson, author of Wallflowers, a collection of short stories.

blurb

based

 

 

Of course we bought a copy of Liz’s book, Based on a True Story – so look for it when we do our Christmas Book Recommendations post (probably sometime in November).

 

 

 

 

 

The authors all read a selection from their books and if money grew on trees, we would have bought all three. Actually, if money grew on trees we probably would have walked out of there with a truck load of books. That’s the beauty of the Writers Festival – there are so many books to choose from these days, and how do you know what to read? The Writers Festival takes a lot of the guess work out of that question for you and looking through the books of the authors they bring in, is so much more interesting than looking through a table of shiny-covered best sellers or a stack of books in a large, big box, chain book store (we won’t name names…they sell books and that’s a good thing…)

After the readings, there was a discussion led by CBC’s Lucy van Oldenbarneveld (we love her too) and time for questions from the audience. It was a perfect way to spend a Friday evening, and as we mentioned, all while enjoying a glass of wine.

There are writers festivals in all the major cities in Canada, and we’re sure they take place all through the States as well, so find out about the festival in your city and take a couple of hours to sit and listen to some great writers.

If you can’t make it to all the events, the Festival tweeted out a lot during the discussions and that was another way to hear what the authors had to say about their books and about writing.

And if you’re new to our blog and not sure you can trust our book recommendations, check out our previous book posts – Procrastination and Motivation, Books!, Non-fiction Part 1, Non-fiction Part 2Summer ReadingThe Loose Canon 4. We have to do that because all the ‘how-to-blog’ stuff says to include links to your own material. So that’s what we do. And we have some very good stuff on our blog.

Isn’t that Bryan Ferry’s new song we’re listening to?
Yes, it is. Hasn’t he been married to Iman forever?
He was never married to a man. You’re thinking of Bruce Cockburn.

 

The Loose Canon 4

Well it looks like it’s just me this week
Irene is out of town, which is quite remarkable
considering she doesn’t like to leave the comfort of a city bus
but she did…for a shinny Greyhound – she’s speeding down some 2nd rate highway as I write this.
Speaking of writing, most of you know by now that we read a lot books.
So this week I thought I’d talk about four short stories from the most recent publication of The Loose Canon which is an on-line magazine featuring short stories by outstanding authors.
Irene says hi by the way.

The Loose Canon 4

The Loose Canon is published by Siren Song Publishing from Montreal, and is put togetherLoose Canon page by father and son team, Zsolt and Zachary Alapi. In our post about summer reading, Irene recommended Zsolt Alapi’s collection of short stories, The Dance of the Seven Dwarfs.

I’ve included some excerpts but you can read the full stories here – The Loose Canon 4.

Secrets Untold by Lisa Foley

Great title isn’t it.  The story is about a couple who meet while standing in line at liquor store and what happens after they leave.  Both characters are looking for something other than beer.  Sometimes it’s under the simplest of circumstances that a life can change.

As I read this story I could see it unfolding as a movie. Below is an excerpt from Secrets Untold.

That’s how men deal with loss – they get busy. They don’t sit around crying, drinking and listening to sad music like women do.  By then I was wondering if he had someone to help him get over that grief in any other way.  I couldn’t tell you what we talked about in those twenty minutes, but when we got to the cash I had my answer.

Lisa Foley has also been published in Front & Centre, Storyteller and Pottersefield Portfolio.  Lisa lives and works in Ottawa.

Derry Daring Rides by Julie McArthur

I really liked this one too.  It’s funny but there’s an underlying current of unease in the main character’s life. A sense that she’s trying to hang onto a happier place in her life.

I walk to my bedroom, not feeling my legs or the floor. The room I enter has become a storage closet. I open my black and gold trunk and lift its top interior. My hands shake as I unravel a blanket wrapped around the Derry Daring box. I also grab the Ideal toy catalogue. Muzak plays through the phone as I return to the couch, my preferred nesting ground. I wait, concentrating on my breath.

Julie McArthur was born and raised in Ottawa. Her stories have appeared in Broken Pencil, The Dalhousie Review, EcholocationFront & Centre, JoylandLittle Fiction, and PANK. She works as a freelance editor in Toronto.

Spencer by Darryl Joel Berger

This story is about Spencer who has been living in his parent’s basement far too long. Picture a comic book fanatic or video game addict. The writing style quickly propels the reader through to the end of the story.

Not a natural with the language, our Spencer. More of an image/idea guy. More of a thinker. More of a brooder. More of a not-talking-to-his-friends anymore, not since he got let go, not-really-leaving-the-house-anymore, just the firing range the gym the video store, maybe some all-night supermarket at three in the morning for a gallon of milk.

Darryl Joel Berger is the author of two collections of short stories – Punishing Ugly Children, published Fall 2010 by Killick Press, and Dark All Day, published Winter 2013 by John Gosslee Books. 

The Beard by Timothy Dugdale

Another exceptional writer.  This issue of Loose Cannon has really put together a great collection of short stories by wonderful writers.

Marty started dealing coke, right from behind the bar at this dive up on Jefferson Avenue that used to have a black crowd before the hipsters infiltrated it. For awhile there were plenty of nights I came home to find a replenished snow drift on the cracked mirror atop the dining room table. I soon got tired, however, of going to bed with a freight-train roaring through my chest and then waking up in a minor key funk. I couldn’t hack it. Reggie swore off the blow not long after I did but that might have been because he was dating some kook who preferred shooting up. You haven’t lived until you’ve been rousted out of bed by the din of an enraged junkie coming back from the dead in a cold shower.

Timothy Dugdale is a veteran copywriter, brand manager, and freelance cultural writer. He also composes electronic music and you can find a link to his music in his bio, or right here

Irene will be back next week…we haven’t seen each other for a month!
I was on the road for most of my time away and have amazing photos from Northern California to share.
And Irene may share some of her photos from the bus.