A Canadian of Indian origin living in Bahrain, Rohini Sunderam dabbles in all kinds of verse, satirical, funny, and contemplative as well as prose if the mood so grabs her. She has contributed to several anthologies by Robin Barratt.
Rohini is a semi-retired advertising copywriter. She has written two books as commissioned assignments, had articles published in The Statesman, Calcutta, India, The Globe & Mail, Canada, and The Halifax Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Her poems have been selected in international competitions for publication in Poetry Rivals (Remus House, UK) 2012; Dilliwali (Bushra Alvi Razzak, India) and Quesadilla & Other Adventures (2019 Somrita U Ganguly).
Her books Corpoetry, Desert Flower and Five Lives – One Day in Bahrain are published by Ex-L-Ence UK. Her poem Birth Pangs and her entry in a Rhyming Riddle contest (7th place) are featured in The Society of Classical Poets Journal VII (May 2019) & VIII. Her story: Your rebirth, My death short-listed in The Atlantis Short Story Contest 2013 was published by Expanded Horizons (September 2018). Winner: Oapschat, U.K (2014). Participant in the Colours of Life annual poetry festival in Bahrain since 2012. She is a founding member and recently retired director of the Bahrain Writers’ Circle.
Even though we share Canadian nationality, I have only met Rohini Sunderam online through her fellow-Bahrainian author, Seumas Gallacher, who has previously been promoted in the Authors-Readers International series. I promoted Rohini’s books on my blog Reading Recommendations (see links below) and then she honoured me by asking if I would judge the entries for one of the writing challenges held by the Bahrain Writers’ Circle. Here’s the blog post I published about the experience that includes a link to the BWC challenge results.
Five Lives – On Day in Bahrain
Five Lives – One day in Bahrain is set in the year 2007, but it’s a story that could apply to almost any time. It traces the lives of five very different people, a housemaid from Sri Lanka; a municipal garbage truck driver from India; a Filipina hairdresser and beauty salon manager; a British banker, and a young Bahraini man.
The five prayer times that Muslims observe are used to punctuate the different periods in the day and the story’s action. Through the course of the day, we learn of the individuals’ lives and hopes until a point when they are all brought together and their lives intertwine.
Who connects with whom? Discover unsung heroes. This is an uplifting story that celebrates ordinary people in extraordinary ways.
Desert Flower by Zohra Saeed
A Short Story – Love blooms in 1930s Bahrain…
“His deep voice was soft as the waters in the bay on a summer night and his words were the most magical I had ever heard. They sent a thrill racing through my body like a hundred tiny Arab horses galloping down my spine.
I closed my eyes with an effort to shut out his face, then opened them again, the tension of his loving words made me want to touch his lips and trace the soft bow of his mouth…”
1930s Bahrain, oil has just been discovered in the Middle East and Andrew MacInnis from Canada has come to work there.
Andrew visits a Bahraini carpet merchant, who does not speak English. The merchant calls for his daughter, Noor, to act as interpreter.
Noor is a devout Muslim and as such must not expose her face to men outside of her immediate family.
She acts as translator for her father and although he never leaves the two alone, under his very nose, Andrew and Noor get to know each other and fall desperately in love. The lovers secretly plot to run away but the risks are terrible. Noor’s father may send members of the family to hunt them down and kill them.
Do they escape? Will Noor have the nerve to follow Andrew’s plan or will centuries of a formidable culture and Noor’s upbringing prevent these two young lovers from following their hearts?
And here’s a video of Rohini reading her poem Perfect Ice Cream at the Bahrain Writers’ Circle conference in 2018.
Rohini Sunderam is currently working on: Finishing my longtime work in progress (in search of an agent!) a full-length novel set in Bahrain during the Second World War, as well as ghost-writing a book for a prominent Bahrain-based businessman.
Rohini Sunderam has twice been a guest on Reading Recommendations: in Nov. 2015 and Jan. 2017.
Blaine Greenwood, born in Viking Alberta 1951, is an educator by profession – with a career spanning from classroom teacher to museum educator and event planner. It is from this foundation that Blaine’s poetry has come to reflect his interest in psychology, history and spirituality. His verse has been described as “dark, homespun, sensual, rich with images
Blaine was one of the Coordinators of MOST VOCAL Poets Society. He was until very recently one of the artistic directors of Lotos Land spoken word / poetry venue at Fort Macleod Alberta’s South Country Fair and a past main stage performer. He is currently the DJ for CKXU’s Not Your Mother’s Poetry and as that show’s host, participated in 100 Thousands Poets for Change event 2013 – 2015.
The title of Blaine’s first chapbook Walking Naked Down the Street describes the experience of a writer baring his soul to the public as well as some of Blaine’s earliest attempts at poetry. Blaine’s first book was Black Cat in the Shadows. Second to be published by Ekstasis EditionsThe False Mirror is Blaine’s collection of prose poems about Matisse, Magritte and Dali. There are at least fou more manuscripts in various stages of writing and editing.
Blaine holds a B.Ed. and Diploma in Educational Media from the University of Alberta and lives in Lethbridge, Alberta with his wife, Dee.
Imagine three artists sitting at their easels about to represent the world around them. Take a subject as common as the human eye. Matisse just suggested the eye with two or three strokes of bold color and often hid his initials within those strokes. Magritte took the eye and turned it into a gigantic advertising poster – with clouds floating in the iris. And then there was Dali … the eye appears, suspended in mid-air over a sky, like a bruise glassy and weeping.
The title The False Mirror is taken from the painting by Magritte. Magritte’s work takes ordinary objects and turns them into thought provoking mysteries. Dali, an ultra-surrealist. is an artist of dreamscapes that seem to scream for psychoanalysis. Matisse, who appears to be more serene of the three, is an artist that uses flat patches of intense color and tends towards an economy of line and shape.
These three artists –Matisse, Magritte and Dali – having experienced many common life experiences, represent their views of reality in radically different ways. Hopefully what this collection of poetry will cause you to do is see reality not just with your eyes but your mind and your imagination as well.
Lisa Bowes has been recognized across Canada for her work as a sports reporter, live host, anchor, play-by-play announcer and producer. While working for CBC, she was nominated for a Gemini Award for best writing in an information program or series.
She began her career as an editorial assistant at TSN in 1989. She later became a reporter for TSN in Winnipeg and Calgary. From 1997-1999 she was a commentator for TSN SportsDesk. She then joined The Score as weekend anchor & host/producer of Sports Axxess.
A graduate of the University of Western Ontario, she made Canadian broadcasting history in 2000 when she became the play-by-play voice for the National Women’s Hockey League. She later called basketball games for The Score, WTN & TSN2.
At the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, Lisa was CTV’s host/reporter for women’s hockey.
She worked as an anchor/reporter at CTV Calgary from 2004–2017.
I think I may have originally met Lisa Bowes through the Calgary publicist who set up media for publishers I represented, and who knew all the media personalities in the city. In any case, Lisa contacted me for advice when she had the idea of writing a series of children’s books about Olympic sports. She has gone on since then to successfully write and publish five books in the series, and has plans to write more! I did promote Lisa on Reading Recommendations several times, as well. Recently though, during this current pandemic, Lisa Bowes has found a unique and brilliant way to reach out to her readers and promote books to children and their families – safely! – by offering what she is calling “curbside readings” held in driveways around Calgary! Masks and social distancing required, of course! (See below for video link.)
Lucy Tries Sports
Created by veteran sports journalist Lisa Bowes, the Lucy Tries Sports series aims to promote inclusive physical literacy and encourage young readers to get involved in sports. Endorsed by elite athletes, the series focuses on participation and the importance of play. The books follow Lucy and her friends as they learn introductory skills in a variety of exciting sports, guided by coaches and teachers. Lucy’s eagerness to try new things will inspire all children to get outside and play.
Bowes points out that the Lucy books can be resources to encourage kids and families to try a variety of activities and live healthy lifestyles. A recent report in Canada indicates that many kids do not spend enough time doing physical activities. Only 39 per cent of children (aged five to 11) and youths (12 to 17) met the national physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, according to ParticipACTION, a non-profit group that promotes healthy living.
“Physical literacy is as important as math and reading,” Bowes said. “Being active means you can have a healthy life. Have kids try many different sports as opposed to specialization. Build a love of activity into your life.”
Lucy and Friends
Even though some kids cannot access ice rinks or sports fields, Bowes says introducing children to sports in any form is crucial to their physical, social, and emotional well-being.
“It breaks my heart when kids do not have access to sports and athletic opportunities. Because an active start equals an active life. But you can still teach children fundamental movement skills from the beginning, like catching and throwing. This can help give kids the confidence to try sports as opportunities arise.”
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, exercise is even more limited. However, Bowes stresses that being active with family members can build good habits later. “If people are walking and playing together more with their families, that’s something that will carry over once we’ve passed this.”
And when kids can join group activities again, Bowes emphasizes that enrolling in programs with friends means more opportunities for fun, socializing, and growth.
“Sign them up with friends. Make it easy for them to want to participate. Focus on the importance of having fun. No one needs to win at all costs.”
What Lisa Bowes is working on now:
In addition, Bowes is collaborating on a dance book with First Nations communities that teaches indigenous dances.
“This is a chance for Lucy and Friends to learn about the power of dance and culture in First Nations communities. I see this as an opportunity to participate in the reconciliation efforts with First Nations communities in Canada.”
Bowes leads writing residency programs for school-age children, and gives them a chance to write their own Lucy stories. They have contributed self-made books featuring a variety of “Lucy Tries” activities, from surfing to archery to yoga. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Bowes has led curbside readings of her books, sharing the Lucy stories from a safe social distance.
I write paranormal mystery and urban fantasy in many different forms — novels, novellas, short stories and flash fiction. Sometimes I play around in crime fiction and dystopian fiction (and I wrote a couple of really strange magic realism stories a while back) but I keep coming back to the paranormal, because ghosts are a laugh riot. Right?
I have two grown children, two dogs, and one husband. (I live with the dogs and the husband. The children I let loose on the world quite a few years ago.)
The two dogs are both rescues. Buddy is a 3 legged border collie, and Millie is a Shih Tzu with very few teeth and a bad attitude when it comes to Buddy. (Which is too bad, because we got Millie as a buddy for Buddy.)
I live in a round house that is in a perpetual state of renovation. Sometimes I would dearly love a straight wall or two, because I do have some nice paintings and photos I’d love to hang — but beyond that I quite like the place. The renovations I put up with, because my husband seems to LOVE doing same. Who am I to stop him?
This year we had to renovate because the house got hit by lightning. Really. (And yes, it’s just as scary as it seems on TV.)
Most years I am an Edmonton Oilers fan. This year we are back to sadness and sorrow, but that’s all right. October is just around the corner, and I can again feel hope.
Do I play sports myself? Not so much. I tried to learn darts — is it even a sport? — but it didn’t go well. The only sport I partake of is “walking the dog,” which can get a bit more energetic than I like when a rabbit hops by. (That happens more than you’d think.) Even a 3 legged dog can run like a bat out of hell when he sees a rabbit.
But mostly, I write, which makes my life one of coolest on the planet.
My debut paranormal mystery, Seeing the Light(2014) won the BPAA Award for Best Speculative Fiction Book of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Bony Blithe Award for Light Mystery. The fourth in the series, Dying on Second (2017) won the Bony Blithe Award for Light Mystery, and was shortlisted for the Book Publishers Association of Alberta award for Best Speculative Fiction. Book 5, Hearing Voices, was released into to wild in October 2018. Book 6, Haunting the Haunted, was published in October, 2019. (I sense a trend here!)
When I’m not writing, I’m living a fine life in my round house with my husband and our two dogs.
I believe I likely met Eileen Bell at one of the first When Words Collide conferences held in Calgary. She had collaborated on a book with three other Alberta authors, and they collectively called themselves The Apocalyptic Four. I posted a promotion of the book to my Reading Recommendations blog. Then later, I promoted Eileen and her own books three more times on that blog. (See links below.) When I was back in Alberta for a visit and heading up to Edmonton to visit family there, I put out a call on social media to meet up with authors who I’d promoted and get-together over coffee. Eileen Bell was the only author to show up for that, so we had a good private chat about writing, books, and promotion. I’m so happy to see that Eileen has continued to write and publish her own series of books, has just finished writing #7, and is working on #8!
Haunting the Haunted
A Marie Jenner Mystery #6
Marie Jenner just wants things to stay the same.
Life is finally starting to look up for Marie. Her brand-new business—moving on ghosts for actual money—is taking off. Her relationship with James Lavall is rock solid. All she has to do is find the last two poltergeists from the ball diamond and move them on to the next plane of existence and, as far as she’s concerned, everything will be perfect.
The problem is, life has a way of kicking Marie in the teeth. Patrick Whitecroft, professional psychic debunker, shows up at the Jimmy Lavall Detective agency, out to prove that she’s a fake—live, on TV—and he doesn’t care who he hurts to do it. Even worse, he has over a hundred desperate spirits bound to him, and they want something completely different. They want to be saved.
As Marie tries to help the spirits and keep Patrick from dismantling her life, she finally finds the poltergeists. But they’re not interested in moving on. They want Patrick Whitecroft’s spirits for themselves. If Marie can’t figure out a way to move all the spirits on to the next plane of existence, the poltergeists will happily take them, so they can create an army bent on revenge.
Looks like Marie’s life is going to get interesting. Again.
What E.C. Bell is working on now: I just finished Book 7 in the series. I don’t have a title for it yet—or should I say I have too many titles, so my publisher gets to pick! In this one, Marie goes on a holiday. She ends up in Las Vegas, to move on James Lavall’s Uncle Jimmy, and it doesn’t go well. (As usual.) This one will be out at the beginning of 2021.
Usually the new books come out in October every year, but we put back the publishing date for this one so that the rest of the books could be relaunched with new ebook covers. It was all very exciting, but I’m ready for the new book to be out!
Right now I’m working on Book 8, (working title Saving the Girl,) the last book in the series. I’m feeling some feelings about the whole thing, because I’ve lived with Marie Jenner and her crew for a long time now. It’s hard to say good-bye!
This book will be out in 2022, and I have no idea what I’ll do after that!
Alison Wearing is a Canadian writer and performer.
Her celebrated Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is both a bestselling memoir and a multiple award-winning solo play. The memoir was shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction, nominated for the RBC/Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction, and was selected as an Indigo Books Top 50 Pick. The solo play has been featured in international theatre and literary festivals. Its numerous awards include Best Dramatic Script at New York City’s United Solo, the largest festival of solo theatre in the world.
Her most recent memoir, Moments of Glad Grace, has been heralded as “a wise, funny, and tender book, beautifully written and perfectly executed from first to last sentence” by Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi. She is also the author of the internationally acclaimed travel memoir Honeymoon in Purdah: an Iranian Journey.
I met Alison Wearing through Bequia-friend Anna Landry, who knew Alison because they were both living in Statford the summer I visited Anna there. Anna told me about Alison’s books, both of which I subsequently read and enjoyed, and I invited Alison to be promoted on Reading Recommendations. A week after that post was published, I wrote another post about my trip to The Bayfield Writers’ Festival. I mainly went to see, again, Marina Endicott (already promoted on this Authors-Readers International series) who I knew from my other life as a sales rep back in Alberta. Alison Wearing was also in the audience, so we finally met in person in Bayfield! Here’s a link to the blog post I wrote about that Festival.
Moments of Glad Grace: A Memoir
published by ECW Press
Moments of Glad Grace is a moving and witty memoir of aging, familial love, and the hunt for roots and belonging. The story begins as a trip from Canada to Ireland in search of genealogical data and documents. Being 80 and in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, Joe invites his daughter Alison to come along as his research assistant, which might have worked very well had she any interest — any at all — in genealogy.
Very quickly, the father-daughter pilgrimage becomes more comical than fruitful, more of a bittersweet adventure than a studious mission. And rather than rigorous genealogy, their explorations move into the realm of family and forgiveness, the primal search for identity and belonging, and questions about responsibility to our ancestors and the extent to which we are shaped by the people who came before us.
Though continually bursting with humor, Moments of Glad Grace ultimately becomes a song of appreciation for the precious and limited time we have with our parents, the small moments we share, and the gifts of transcendence we might find there.
“This is a wise, funny, and tender book, beautifully written and perfectly executed from first to last sentence. It’s about a daughter and her ageing father, it’s about genealogy and identity, it’s about Ireland, but actually it’s about how we love the ones we love.
Moments of Glad Grace is a travelogue of the heart.
It’s a road you’ll want to travel.”
~ Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi
What Alison Waring is working on now: Alison’s current project is Memoir Writing, ink., a 12-week online writing program, which guides people through the process of transforming personal stories into memoir.
For more information on Alison Wearing, her writing and books, performances, and writing program, please see her website.
Alison Wearing was a guest on Reading Recommendations in July 2015.
Bill Engleson is a Canadian author and retired child protection social worker. He was born in Powell River, BC, raised in Nanaimo, and spent his first year of life trapped aboard his parents leaky fishboat. He resided in New Westminster for most of his adult years, retiring to Denman Island in 2004.
He writes long fiction, flash fiction, essays, poetry, letters to the editor, and, of late, the occasional book reviews for the Ormsby Review, a new online journal about B.C history and literature.
He has been writing most of his life. His first couple of efforts, poetic in nature, were printed in his mid-teens (quite a long time ago) in the, now, sadly defunct Nanaimo Daily Free Press.
He self-published his first novel, Like a Child to Home in 2013. Silver Bow Publishing released his second book, a collection of humorous literary essays titled Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul, in October, 2016.
Additionally, he has had flash stories published in a few modest publications including two Centum Press anthologies, One Hundred Voices Volumes One and Two.
As a side note, he appeared in a locally produced music video two years ago as a portly, slightly balding, suspendered, card playing (cribbage) human prop. Thus far, the five minutes and change Conrad Campbell video of his song, Big Electric Jesus, has had over 100,000 views. Nothing to do with Bill’s appearance, however. Half of our island (a slight exaggeration) also appeared.
Here is the link for the rock and roll curious.
I first “met” Bill Engleson through an introduction from JP McLean, an A-RI Author who also lives on Denman Island. When I asked Bill for his updated information for this post he added the following: Incidentally, Jo-Anne McLean and another local writer/videographer, have been filming a few of us to be a part of a virtual Denman Island Readers Writers Festival. A very energetic, community-minded author is Jo-Anne.
I promoted Bill’s books on Reading Recommendations and quite enjoyed his writing. When he was about to publish his second book, a collection of essays, he asked if I’d like to read an advance copy with an eye to reviewing it for him to coincide with publication. As the book was about life on an island, I said yes! My review was eventually published in the Denman Island newspaper, which was kind of cool for me! (Review is below.)
Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul
Published by Silver Bow Publishing
When I moved permanently to a small Caribbean island, there was a saying within the long-term expat community: Why would we want to change what brought us here in the first place? Unfortunately, those outsiders who arrived during the decades following me didn’t get this same memo. So I approached Bill Engleson’s new collection of essays with complete understanding and empathy.
Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul is writing with a glint in its eye and an upwards curve to the lips. Yes, these are rants about the inevitable changes that come to any small place once it’s discovered, but through these rants Engleson manages to also preserve the memory of that which brought him to Denman Island in the first place. With this collection, we have a unique opportunity to see what life was like before those other gentrifying souls moved into “Ruraltania” and changed it into something that closer resembled their way of life they left behind back in the big cities.
Peppered with relevant quotes from famous authors, comedians, and other thinkers, these essays (both previously published and new) on island and small-town life, cover subjects as diverse as: libraries, librarians and unusual objects found inside borrowed books; the usefulness (or not) of committees; censorship; tradition; the generation of ideas; local characters and curmudgeons; movies and old episodes of Leave It To Beaver.
So even though you have never lived on an island or in a small place, there’s still a great deal of insight into life in general to be gained from reading Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul. Engleson’s writing is comfortable, and very much like chatting over coffee while sitting in mismatched upholstered chairs in front of a wood fire. In fact, the entire book is like reminiscing with an old friend.
What Bill Engleson is working on now: At the moment, Bill is working furiously, in between moments of sloth, on several new projects, including a prequel to his first novel entitled Drawn Towards the Sun, a mystery, A Short Rope on a Nasty Night, and, a bit of a longshot, a collection of home-grown, satirically tinged essays, DIRA Diary: Tall Tales of Democracy in Traction.
The unusually bookish JoAnn McCaig writes, edits, teaches, reviews, talks about, publishes, and sells books.
Over the course of her working life, JoAnn McCaig has become an established literary authority in Western Canada. She began her writing career as an ad copywriter, and eventually earned three degrees in English literature. In her 20 years of teaching English at the University of Calgary, JoAnn ensured that hundreds of students not only overcame their fear of poetry, but also learned how to use the semicolon correctly. JoAnn published her first novel in 2000, and in 2007 became a founding board member of Calgary literary press Freehand Books. In 2010 she realized a lifelong dream by opening Shelf Life Books, an independent bookstore in Calgary’s inner city Beltline area, thereby making the circle of bookishness complete.
“I like to involve the reader in the making of meaning, rather than handing the reader a story in a neat little package.”
I’ve been a book nerd all my life, from my earliest memories of snuggling with my mom and brother to hear the latest adventures of The Bobbsey Twins. In elementary school, I loved to find library books about historical figures like Lady Jane Grey and Spain’s Little Infanta, and I started high school in the late 60s with a copy of a Hemingway biography under my arm. In grade 11 psych class, I chose to read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment for an essay assignment on conscience.
My university years were devoted to the study and teaching of English literature. I taught English as a sessional lecturer for twenty years, and the course I enjoyed most was the historical survey class for honours and majors students, affectionately known as ‘From Beowulf to Virginia Woolf.’ When my kids were young, it was not unusual to have their viewing of the Simpsons interrupted by me yelling over the kitchen counter, “Did you catch that reference to King Lear?”
For me, having a role in introducing students to the wondrous language of Shakespeare and Keats, to the power and drama of the Brontes and Faulkner, to the visionary genius of Blake and Atwood, is a joy and a privilege. In my own work, I tend to create the kind of complex, layered structures I enjoy reading – like Swann: A Mystery by Carol Shields, or Joshua Then and Now by Mordecai Richler, or Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.
While I was a sales rep for Calgary-based Freehand Books in 2008 when they first began publishing, I didn’t actually meet JoAnn McCaig, the founder of the press, until a few years later, and that was through mutual friends, Audrey and Doug Andrews. JoAnn was beginning to set up Shelf Life Books by that point, and I was no longer a sales rep, but was promoting authors directly through Alberta Books Canada. I attended a number of events at Shelf Life, including their grand opening – always a lot of fun, and the store has continued to do a great job of supporting local authors and publishing.
An Honest Woman
Stories nest inside stories in An Honest Woman, JoAnn McCaig’s very bookish novel about the writerly process and about the places where literary ambition collides with erotic desire.
If there ever was a time and place to explore the territory of mature women and their journeys this would be the time. The subjects of sex, passion, confidence in JoAnn McCaig’s An Honest Woman are beautifully played out against society’s stereotypes of women as they age and as they confront the truths of themselves outside the societal frameworks in which they have been boxed. There are metafictional elements turned loose in this novel. First, there is an intensely self-conscious narrator and second, there are characters who live inside fictional worlds and travel outside those worlds for intense real-life encounters. Their storytelling draws attention to themselves as both living, breathing people but also fleshed-out fictional world characters. The structure of the novel is complex, layered, and interwoven. There are several narrators, stories within stories, and writers making things up and fantasizing while living real (albeit fictional) lives. There are literary allusions galore and cameo appearances by thinly disguised famous authors. It can all get a little crazy, so McCaig has provided a few support materials: an infographic that maps out the different characters, and relationships and authorships, a fairly detailed table of contents, a few postscripts, and a couple of appendices. Watch for symbols that indicate that the narrator has lapsed into fantasy and for when she returns to her “real” life, such as it is. That said, An Honest Woman has enough grounded familiar plot lines to keep a general reader interested and layered ambiguities to keep the well-read interested. While there is some undermining of traditional literary conventions, there is nothing lost in McCaig’s exploration of the relationship between literature and life. The novel is humorous, and sometimes really funny; it is also a smart and warm and moving read.
“An immensely gutsy novel that works to both undermine and expand its own story through an entertaining and teasing literary puzzle\u2026. This is an intelligent and, especially, a brilliantly written novel.”
— Sharon Butala (an Authors-Readers International series author)
What JoAnn McCaig is working on now: A forthcoming publication is an essay called “Mastery of the Instrument” which will appear next year in a University of Alberta Press anthology called You Look Good For Your Age. The novel I’m working on now is called The Venus Hum. It’s a trio of linked novellas that follow the life of a woman named Seren.
For more information about JoAnn McCaig, her writing, books, publishing, and bookselling, please see her website.
Antony Millen is a Nova Scotian living and writing in New Zealand.
Originally from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Canada, he moved to New Zealand with his wife and two children in 1997. He has lived in Taumarunui since then, working at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School and, more recently, as the head of the English department at Taumarunui High School.
During his early years in New Zealand, he wrote sporadically, but with a dream to write novels as a major part of his life-style if not as a career. In 2013, he launched his first novel, Redeeming Brother Murrihy. He followed this in 2014 with Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s). The Chain is his first novel for young adults.
He has since seen several short stories and articles published in literary journals. He is currently stalled, but chipping away on the draft of his 4th novel.
I first “met” Antony Millen online when he was featured on the site Canadian Writers Abroad, curated by Canadian Debra Martens. An excellent website, Debra features interviews, reviews and information about Canadian authors who live and work outside of their native country. My first novel was reviewed on the site in 2013, and Antony Millen came to my attention when he first appeared on the site in 2017. A Canadian living and writing in New Zealand! I read his novel The Chain and really enjoyed it. We began corresponding and I promoted Antony on my Reading Recommendations blog. (Link below.) More recently, both Antony and I were included in a post Debra wrote titled, Where Are They Now? in which she finds out what we who were living abroad at the beginning of the pandemic would do – whether we would heed the call to repatriate to our home and native land, or stay put. Darlene Foster, a Canadian writer who lives in Spain and has been promoted on Authors-Readers International, was also mentioned in this CWA post.
Two brothers. One mission: Restore privacy to the world.
The year is 2043. Empowered by the anti-encryption program, ICALL, and the world-wide wireless Blanket, the Global Domain reigns over all colocation centres with its Connectivist ideology, enforcing mandatory online activity for every eartizen and disabling attempts to secure privacy. The Domain’s slogans are: “Secrecy Threatens Security” and “Privacy Prevents Prosperity and Peace.”
From his death-bed in New Zealand, Fenton Ouvert commissions his sons, Topia and Lukan, to locate a flash drive containing the files of Jeremy Winterton, files stolen thirty years earlier from international surveillance agencies. A former investigative journalist, Ouvert hid the flash drive at the end of a chain of clue-bearers around the world. Contacted by the resistance movement known as Arachne, Ouvert believes the drive contains original plans for the ICALL program and thus, hope for a free world.
Travelling the globe, the Ouvert boys locate the links, but what will their journey reveal about their father and the effects of the Global Domain’s dominance? And what will their quest mean for the world when they reach the end of the chain?
Antony Millen has also been writing poetry … This too
For more information about Antony Millen’s writing, his books, and life in New Zealand, please see his website.
Antony Millen was a guest previously on my blog Reading Recommendations in Apr. 2017.
I never gave much thought about becoming a professional musician. I always loved music and admired my older brother Skip and his bands, and playing at beach parties and with the Kingsmen was totally cool. Once I found out I was 4F and ineligible for military service though I did not know what would come next!
In December 1964, Peter Davey and I had just come home from spending 4 months riding around Europe on motorcycles. We had a blast of a time, met some great new friends and went places most tourists never go!
Starting in January 1965 I was enrolled in the Spring semester at the new Southampton College in the hills overlooking Shinnecock Bay on the south fork of Long Island. In our trip around Europe, Peter and I came across an incredible adventure where we got to see up close and personal the race cars in action that would soon put the Ford Motor Company at the pinnacle of auto racing success. That event sort of cemented in my mind the decision to go back to school and get my engineering degree in Automobile Design. That would not mean I had to give up playing in a band but the thought of joining up with other musicians to start a band with the sole goal of getting a hit record became further and further from my plans for the future. My brother Skip and Joe Butler my bandmates from the Kingsmen had started a new band and moved into New York City and were playing in Greenwich Village. I would not be able to join them and go to college at the same time. I had a great steady girlfriend Lynn Bishop who lived in Westhampton Beach and some local friends that I could join up with on occasion to play some local gigs out in the East End and I could still go to college. So that was my plan as I headed into New York City to pick up my motorcycle that had been shipped back from Spain just before Christmas 1964. I got to New York on a cold rainy day and didn’t go back out to Westhampton for 3 years. Oh I went back to collect my belongings and tell the college that I wouldn’t be attending that spring but in the space of about 3 or 4 days my whole world changed and it would never again be the same. It would be the summer of 1967 before I could take the time to rent a little beach house in E. Quogue, LI and spend more than a weekend there, and a designer of race cars I would never be!
While a major portion of my life has been my involvement in The Lovin’ Spoonful, I have gone on many adventures, before, during and ….well so far there is no after the band’s life yet. Finally I have, with the help and co-operation of one terrific person, Tony Moss, completed a book that encompasses much of what I have seen since my arrival at Jacksonville Naval Hospital, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina on September 23, 1943. So if you dare come on in and look around. It is just getting started, so expect changes.
IN 1970 I bought a 56′ sailboat and headed out for who knows where. After nearly 4 incredible years sailing the eastern Caribbean I returned to the States and resumed my life in the music business. I took over operation of a fabulous recording studio in Hunt Valley, MD and eventually moved it to a customized houseboat in Baltimore’s historic Inner Harbor. I began playing in a band again and as I adjusted to a life once more on shore a voice kept whispering in my ear “you need to write a book about all of this”. And so began the collection of notes and pictures and conversations with friends and associates that up to that point in time, 1977, comprised a full life by any standard. The Lovin’ Spoonful had effectively ceased to exist as a touring band and I thought I had found a comfortable niche wherein I could stay in music and make a living in Baltimore. Then came Christmas 1977 and everything changed. It was like I had started a new life very different from my old one but in many ways the same. What happens after Christmas 1977 until I make contact with my co-writer Tony Moss in 2009 could make an exciting book on its own. Essentially there are two life stories in one book. Writing it proved to be the very catharsis that I needed and I am very proud of it.
Thanks to Tim Baker, himself an Authors-Readers International Author and longtime online pal, I “met” Steve Boone when Tim interviewed him on his Surf 97.3 FM Friday evening radio program, making it possible for me to connect with Steve. Steve was promoting his new book at the time and talking about his life after the Spoonful. When he mentioned he had sailed for a number of years in the eastern Caribbean. I sent Tim a question to ask and Steve confirmed he had been to Bequia! After that interview, Steve sent me a signed copy of his book, which I loved reading … After all, Steve was one of the founding members of a musical group that was very important to many of us who grew up during the 60s – The Lovin! Spoonful! But the rest of Steve’s story itself was a real page-turner! I promoted Steve and his book on my Reading Recommendations blog, and have followed his career since the book’s story ended, as he’s continued to tour with the band, including gigs on cruise ships, his recording and performing with The Cherry Drops, hosting a Monday evening radio show on Surf 97.3 called “A Spoonful of Hits” and participating in a sold-out reunion concert in Feb. 2020 with original band mates from The Lovin’ Spoonful, Joe Butler and John Sebastian. (Links and information for all of this below.)
Hotter Than A Match Head: Life on the Run with The Lovin’ Spoonful Steve Boone with Tony Moss
Steve Boone’s memoir comprises two nearly separate lives in one book with his role as a founding member of the Rock Hall of Fame band The Lovin” Spoonful as he charts it’s way from conception to now 50 years later, and his other life as a high seas pot smuggler with the drama of sinking boats and eluding Coast Guard interceptors.
For more information about Steve Boone, his music, and how to get a copy of his book, see his website.
Steve Boone’s radio show on Surf 97.3: “I plan on using a timeline of my life from the early 1950’s to today to show how popular music has evolved including of course my time in the Lovin’ Spoonful and beyond. You can tune in locally at 97.3 fm or streaming online. So tune in and comment or call me up at the station when I’m on live. I look forward to being on the airwaves each Monday night from 6 PM to 7 PM E.S.T.”
Here’s some information from Steve’s blog about life touring more recently with The Lovin’ Spoonful.
On Feb. 29, 2020, a benefit concert was organized that brought together the three remaining members of the original band of The Lovin’ Spoonful. The evening was a great success!
As well, Steve Boone has been playing bass and performing with the band The Cherry Drops. I promoted Vern Shank, the owner of radio station Surf 97.3, and his band on Listening Recommendations in Sept. 2014. Here’s their video of a recent recording of one of Steve Boone’s songs, “You Didn’t Have to be so Nice”:
Steve Boone was a guest previously on Reading Recommendations in Nov. 2014.
I arrived in Calgary in 1994 when I began a ten year residency at Alberta Theatre Projects, establishing a reputation as one of western Canada’s most prominent playwrights. All in all, I have written twenty plays, some of which have been produced many times across North America and beyond. My play Queen Lear, for example, had a two year run in Istanbul in Turkish translation and is currently running in Russia in Russian translation. While still at ATP, I began writing a feature column for the Calgary Herald’s Saturday Entertainment Section which allowed me to write about theatre and any other arts-related topics I chose for a potential weekly audience of up to half a million people. At the same time, I have always had a strong commitment to teaching and mentoring the next generation. I have taught or held residencies at a number of institutions and situations, including the National Theatre School of Canada, the University of Lethbridge, Mount Royal University, York University and the University of Regina. I was for ten years writer in residence at St. Mary’s University in Calgary where I taught creative writing, both drama and prose. For a number of years I was the Canadian delegate to the World Interplay Festival in Australia and in that capacity worked with and mentored young playwrights from around the world. In 2015 I published my first novel, The Piano Teacher, which was awarded the 2016 W. O. Mitchell Award. I am currently writing a new book titled In My Time of Dying and a play about Saskatchewan-born American artist Agnes Martin, titled Agnes.
2018 – 2020 – Last year I worked with the Stardale Woman’s Group to oversee the writing of The Make Believer Project that was produced numerous times throughout Calgary in May and June of 2018. This involved encouraging and guiding some twenty First Nations adolescent girls to share their experience of growing up in Calgary, and then creating a script from their writings. This year I am working on a new project with them titled The Road.
2020 – Overseeing publication of my play First and Last by St Mary’s University Press. It was to have been launched in April, 2020, although now this is going to be more virtual than actual.
2019 – I am finishing a new novel, In My Time of Dying, which I expect will be published in the fall of 2020.
2016 -2019 – Collaborated with Calgary musician Morag Northey to help her create and perform her theatre piece titled 17, which we performed in BC, around Calgary and in Taos, New Mexico. We will be consolidating and publishing the script this fall.
2017, 2019 — Appeared as the ghostly presence of Gordon Lightfoot in Alberta Ballet’s Our Canada. This season, I made an appearance in Alberta Ballet’s Frankenstein, October, 2019.
2009 – 2018. Instructor of creative writing and Writer in Residence at St. Mary’s University College, Calgary, AB.
2009 – Present. Instructor of English and Canadian Culture at Alberta Business & Educational Services. I teach a class of Internationally Trained Professionals, mostly doctors, to help them integrate into the Canadian medical system. In this capacity I have taught students from some forty countries and learned much about the experience of immigrants in Calgary.
2008 – Present. Founding Editor of B House Publications, a boutique publishing house based in Calgary with a mandate to publish plays, poetry, spoken word compilations and other work we feel is deserving of publication. Our first book was my play Writer’s Block, published in April, 2009. Our most recent publication was my novel The Piano Teacher, which was awarded the 2016 W.O. Mitchell Award.
2003 – 2009. Featured Guest Columnist for The Calgary Herald “City Scene” Column. I have also written features for various magazines in Calgary such as Alberta Views and Avenue Magazine.
I didn’t meet Eugene Stickland in person until I was back in Calgary, around 2010 or so, and was promoting Authors and their books directly through Alberta Books Canada. As I remember, that meeting was made possible through a mutual friend at Caffe Beano, Eugene’s coffee spot of choice … where I like to think of him as the Artist-in-Residence. Eugene was founding editor of an independent company called B House Publications and I remember attending a “street” launch outside Beano‘s celebrating all the books they had published to date. I promoted Eugene on Reading Recommendations after he published his novel The Piano Teacher, which went on to win the W.O. Mitchell Award in 2016. Come to think of it, I have only ever met with Eugene at Caffee Beano over coffee. That’s the book business for you, in a nutshell!
First and Last
First and Last was commissioned for St. Mary’s University, and premiered in 2017. The successful run was followed by a performance by Company of Rogues Theatre in Calgary that same year.
“First and Last” is a new comedy by highly acclaimed Calgary-based playwright and novelist Eugene Stickland. At the heart of “First and Last” is displacement, loss, the search for sanctuary and the nature of belonging.
Recording artist Lenny returns from a West Coast tour to find his apartment empty of both furniture and his girlfriend. He’s heartbroken. While trying to write his next album people begin to show up at his door with lease in hand. A young couple, a hipster, a synchronized swim team and 2 refugees all lay claim to the same sanctuary – Lenny’s apartment. Hilarious and touching , “First and Last” is a welcome return of Eugene’s Stickland’s warm and human world to the stage. Almost a world premiere!
The first-ever Eugene-A-Thon was held on Wordfest‘s Facebook page June 18th, a 6-hour fundraiser, featuring Eugene Stickland at Caffee Beano, in support of teen literacy and arts education. And to promote the publication of his new book! You may watch some of the video here.