Category Archives: True Stories

Anecdotes from my past and present.

What did you do with your Monday evening?

Posted on May 3, 2016 by

imageMonday night: I am parked on the bed, tip-tapping away, with both cats lounging beside me as Kelly writes in the next room. It was a cool and sometimes blustery day, but now the sky has cleared and the evening light is pleasantly mellow. Our birch trees are putting out teeny tiny leaves. I love the spotted crepe-y look of birch trunks; I missed them when we moved away from Northern Alberta when I was eleven or so. I associate the look of them, somehow, with contentment.

We were at Ad Astra all weekend, seeing people and talking books, so today I mostly worked through a logjam of teaching tasks, as well as figuring out out the plotty heart of one of the three novel concepts I’m incubating. I am calling these concepts the stork babies, since some species of stork hatch multiple offspring, who then duke it out in a rather grisly game of survivor, the stronger voting the weaker out of the nest, kersplat, until only one remains. If I ever wrote a book called Things I learned from David Attenborough, there would definitely be a bird chapter entitled “Nature’s Most Beautiful Assholes.”

The storks’ current working titles, in birth order, are Tom the Liar, Glory Days, and Magic Fairy Sparkle Princess. I expect all of these titles to change no matter who outwits, outlasts and outwrites.

I am also pleased because I’ve realized the Poldark series is finally available via my preferred media vendor. We’ve been waiting for this to happen for months! Now if only iTunes Canada would unlock Grantchester S2…

What do you love about where you live?

Posted on April 25, 2016 by

Toronto, Day 1074. I am sitting on a bench in Nathan Phillips Square, a few weeks shy of our third anniversary of moving here. I’m looking at old City Hall and the new Toronto sign that was installed for the Pan-American games. This vast public square is a five minute walk from my door, and if the rooftop garden was open I would be sitting there instead.

Instead, I am watching a couple hundred people futz around in the early evening sun, waving selfie sticks, chasing pigeons, practicing synchronized dance moves, and climbing on the Henry Moore statue, The Archer, in front of the main entrance. There’s a young guy going from person to person asking them to take pictures of him making a “two thumbs up” gesture.

In another week or two, they’ll refill the fountain. Right now it has been cleared of its winter layer of skating ice, and is a bare concrete surface. People are taking advantage of the opportunity to get their loved ones inside the sign from a closer angle. There are kids and dogs and cyclists and seniors, single pedestrians, couples, families, tourists and packs of friends. It is Saturday night, and nobody’s in a hurry, and from this distance everyone seems to be at play, in a good mood.

The Square has two moods as far as I have seen. One is this – tourists and Torontonians chilling out. The other is thronging with some kind of organized activity, whether it is a farmers market, Nuit Blanche, a political rally, a big art show, or a formal parade. It’s not a park or in anyway green space, but it’s right next toOsgoode Hall, which has a law library, beautiful grounds and all the squirrels you could throw a nut at.

So there you have it: I love City Hall.

London (not the Ontario Version) Camera Horror

Posted on March 29, 2016 by

image

I am newly back at work after a thoroughly fun-filled week in London, where Kelly and I devoured one incandescent play, seven museums, multiple castles, some exquisite cream tea and scone combos and Tube Stations beyond count. We posted highlights and selfies as we went, along with dance videos.

One of the social media things I’m incredibly enchanted by, with regard to my own photography, is watching my Instagram map fill up with little tags of the places I’ve been and seen. This is a snippet of my posting activity for the period when we were gone.

If I had nothing but time to spend on zooming in and out on this map, attempting to create the maximum density of Polaroid-shaped images that prove I Was So Totes There!, I would do little else. Dinner would burn and the children would starve. One Of the main reasons we walked through Covent Gardens was so I could fill a blank spot on the map.

One of the other geeky things I did was accept a Fitbit challenge from a friend who perhaps should have guessed I’d walk as much or more if I was on vacation. He did very well, though–I didn’t quite walk him into the ground. Still won, though. (This concludes the unattractive gloating portion of our post.)

I didn’t mention this online while we were travelling, but I killed my camera on the first night.

This wasn’t an entirely terrible thing. I have been engaged in low-grade waffling about my birdhunting camera for a fair number of months now. It was somewhat elderly, but not so frail it couldn’t have been donated to a good home. Like all of my cameras, it was a point and shoot, but for a P&S it has an enviable zoom for nature photography, and it let me get good candids and some appealing faraway details on architecture and other inaccessible pretty things. But I haven’t done much birding and wildlife shooting since moving to Toronto, and Birdhunter was heavy. I have wee, wimpy overused wrists, after all.  The thing was also always a bit of a lemon: glitchy in minor but irritating ways. I was trying to figure out what I wanted in my next camera. I did a lot of thinking and feeling and maundering and I won’t spell it all out here, lest someone mistake this as an invite to advise me.  I hadn’t reached any conclusions.

So I took it to London and, on the first night in a bathroom stall at the globe, hung it on a hook that did not support its weight. Smash! So all but the first hundred or so of the 1572 London pics in my Flickr Album were shot with the iPhone. I have a set of lenses for the phone, a gift from a friend, and I experimented with them for a couple of days–I’d been meaning to do that, so hurrah! Then I decided to just keep it simple.

Upshot: most of the pictures I got are ones I’m quite happy with. I grieve for the close-up I would have gotten of that fox in Kew Gardens. I got so close! (The reason: an old lady was chumming the lawns with bread.) I wish I’d had a shot at one of the parrots. But the phone worked decently well for tourist pics, and the next phone, with a better set of lenses… that may be the route I take until I’m ready to start seriously birding again.

Why, yes, I did say dance videos. Here’s Kelly performing at the Tower of London.

Every single thing I’m doing now…

Posted on March 9, 2016 by

San francisco mural

San francisco mural

Since getting home from the book tour I have been doing many things: preparing to talk at the Toronto Spec Fic Colloquium, for example, and thinking about novels I might want to write in the near, and grading lots and lots and lots of student stories. I have reread Tana French’s Broken Harbor and attended an undergraduate English Conference at UTSC–chaired one fiction panel there, actually–and finished a 12,000 word draft of a novelette that is the third attempt at a story that has died twice, previously, on the table. I am so relieved to have the narrative stapled together this time, even if I do eventually have to hack the midsection to bits.

I’ve been figuring out what I’m going to read at ChiSeries next week and and assembling the small piles of paper that will eventually be my income tax records and posting photographs and attempting to Navigate University Bureaucracies.

With Kelly I’ve watched two seasons–all there is!–of a BBC show called Twenty Ten, which is the prequel to W1A. The latter popped up on Canadian Flix of Net, and we fell absolutely in love with it, launching a rewatch almost as soon as we’d closed out the last episode. From that (though we have occasionally been catching up with Agent Carter and Brooklyn 99), we fell into Last Tango in Halifax, which I have to shamefacedly admit became far more interesting to me when I realized it was also BBC product and not (cough cough) local product.

And in between all that I have been squeeing with delight over Kelly’s Nebula Nomination for “Waters of Versailles.” All her dreams are coming true and it’s the best thing ever, and you should share the joy with her because it’s infectious.

Finally, I’m dreaming of London, because we are going there. Soon! To eat crumpets and look at paintings and walk along the Thames and ride the Tube and be giddy glittering tourists on the loose in the springtime.

What have you been doing?

Alan Cumming Sang Sappy Songs

Posted on February 8, 2016 by

And it was an endless cascade of unexpected delights.

Kelly and I went with a friend to see Alan Cumming’s cabaret show on Saturday night. It’s available as an album and I recommend looking at the set list, because his idea of a sappy song might match what you imagine. To give you an idea, there’s an original condom commercial, Billy Joel’s “And So It Goes,”–that one I knew he’d pick–a thing by Miley Cyrus, something called “Mother Glasgow” (which comes with an annotated version for those of us who aren’t Scottish) and “Complainte De La Butte.” The patter is included in its entirely too, and Cumming is hilarious.

It was the best concert I’ve had since the magical evening when I first saw Jonathan Coulton. He is a stunning performer: every cell of him is electrifying.

On a more teacherly note, my spring course at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, which bears the not very poetic name “Advanced Speculative Fiction Workshop” launches this April. If you might like to be part of the workshop, the link is here.