NEWS! BOULD Anthology Now on Amazon

Happy to announce that my flash story , “Incompetence Kills”, is reprinted in the 2021 BOULD Anthology.  which also includes “Family Values” by my friend and fellow Mme, Sylvia Warsh. BOULD is an acronym for Bizarre, Outrageous, Unfettered, Limitless and Daring.

The BOULD Contest was created in 2018 by thriller author, Jake Devlin who loves the off-beat. He encourages authors to send him that story they were unpleasantly surprised to find within themselves and too embarrassed to place anywhere. Winners get a small cash prize. (Spoiler – you won’t get rich!)

Jake only asks that  stories be short, usually under 1500 words. Reprints are OK. Submissions open Jan 1, 2022. Check out the guidelines here.

BOULD has taken off. When Jake published his first anthology, he had roughly 20 stories. He aimed to find 100 acceptable tales this year – and succeeded.

Surprisingly the winning stories of the contest aren’t lurid. They stray more into the realm of SF or fantasy and offer a complete story in fewer words.  One winning story I especially enjoyed was by fellow Canadian Steve Shrott.  His story featured a gorilla NOT as the murderer in Rue Morgue (spoiler alert) but as the detective’s smarter assistant. Love to see more of those!

SURREAL TRAPDOOR: Attack of the Mushroom People – Part One

Our cottage, like nature itself, suffers waves of infestations. At one time, a neon-green grass thrived under the pine trees. We called it “glow grass”. It was the only plant I’ve encountered that grew unrestrained in soil rendered acidic by pine needles. This fascinating weed inspired my thriller, Glow Grass, a finalist for the CWC Best Novella award.

Our glow grass has vanished in recent years. The tall trees and thick bush plus the wet summer created a dark moist environment conducive to…mushrooms!

Looking out our bedroom window I spotted orange dots all over the grass. What a pretty autumn flower, I thought. Venturing outside I found a fairy ring of strange yellow mushrooms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ee-yuck! I am not a mushroom fan. As a child, I was warned over and over that all mushrooms were deadly poisonous. These yellow guys did not look at all like the benign grocery kind.

Thanks to the Fount-of-all-Knowledge, i.e. the internet, our daughter identified them as most likely  Amanita flavoconia or “yellow dust” mushrooms, which are common in the northeast American states. And yes, they are TOXIC. Great.

Amanita…why did that name sound familiar? Because it sounded like the biological name for the  Destroying Angel, or Amanita bisporigera, one of the deadliest mushrooms around! These nasty little buggers can mimic the benign and tasty puffball in their early stage before they blossom out into the parasol shape in the picture.

two beige mushrooms
Avenging angel, nasty piece of work

They contain a poison called amatoxin, which interferes with messenger-RNA and causes irreversible liver and kidney damage within hours. As little as half a mushroom cap is fatal.  Victims have been saved by intensive medical intervention which included hemodialysis, swallowing activated charcoal and IV penicillin. Some medical evidence suggests that extracts from the milk thistle may work as an antidote because they destroy liver toxins.

Better to know and avoid! But let’s not stop there.

At the age of 8, I lived with my grandmother in Sweden for nearly 18 months. My uncle, Robert Syk, a polymath, who had successful careers as a architect, musician and literary author, had a passion for mushroom picking. (A popular pastime in Scandinavia, Poland and the Baltic countries.) On walks through the woods on Muskön (Musk Island), he taught my cousins and me which ones were safe to bring home and eat – and more importantly – which were not. The most dangerous mushrooms he showed us was the deadly toadstool, otherwise known as Amanita muscaria or the fly agaric.

macro photography of red mushroom
The deadly toadstool!

Swedes have a thing for toadstools which show up in pictures, design images even as Christmas decorations – no doubt due to their beautiful red and white polka dot motif. Many years later I read that Russians actually EAT toadstools. Boiling them twice weakens their toxicity and removes their psychoactive properties. I guess those long winters are pretty harsh and when you’re looking at starvation but …holy ergot!

Yes, readers, it turns out that the fly agaric has hallucinogenic properties, much prized as an entheogen by the indigenous people of Siberia and the Sami, the Arctic people of Scandinavia. In other words, to open Huxley’s spiritual doors of perception.

Argh! Do not eat! 

The orange mushroom infestation exploded over the weekend, sprouting up all over our grass made swampy by the heavy September rains. Fortunately by Thanksgiving, they were gone. What next, I wonder.

 

 

 

Ride #4 – Victory Lap! The Beaches, The Lake and Downtown

The 2021 Virtual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place over two days, the August 28-29th weekend. For Ride #4, my final pledge ride, I picked Saturday, August 28th, mostly because my parents got married on that date in 1943, nearly 80 years ago!

 

 

Ed snapped this pic of me as I headed out, wearing my yellow Ambassador’s jersey. The weather looked cloudy and unsettled so I skipped the opening speeches on YouTube to beat the heat.

I rode east to Bayview and turned south, treating myself to a 1 km downhill zoom to the Don Valley bike trail that runs parallel to the Bayview Extension – an easy ride past the Brickworks and Rosedale Valley Road to River Street.

Thanks to COVID, the City has made the tail end of Bayview Extension one way and carved off half a lane for a new bike path.  That deposited me squarely into the Canary District and the corporate art therein.

Where is Fight Club?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment of nostalgia for the super-techs at Gears Bike Store: they fixed my flat in 15 minutes during the 2020 virtual Ride. They’ve now relocated north to King St.  The Canary District looked deserted: not the eastern twin of overbuilt Liberty Village…yet.

I decided to take the lakeshore trail to stay out of traffic and use the headwind to ward off the promised heat.

Passing under the Gardiner Expressway, I took in the gallery of street art.

Murals worth a special visit
Fav detail: not exactly Ru Paul though

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skater park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, it was a fast ride with the west wind behind me.  The lake looked spectacular though the rain clouds did look ominous.

Beaches turnaround
Storm warning

 

 

 

 

 

Few people were out this morning. I passed the occasional dog walker and happily connected and chatted with a fellow Rider who was doing her third Ride.  By the time I reached the Distillery District for my usual Balzac’s break, I was almost exactly halfway done.  Waiting for Ed to drive down to join me, I found some neat things: the original shoreline of Lake Ontario memorialized and the LOVE sculpture.

Beyond this line, trash and infill from building Toronto!
Love spelled in padlocks

Pledging eternal love by using a padlock originated in Europe in the early 2000s even though the origin is sad. During WWI a young Serbian woman fell in love with a soldier and they put a padlock on the Bridge of Love. He left her for another and she died of heartbreak.

 

Not a great recommendation but since 2000,  lovers have placed locks on bridges and fences throughout the world. In Paris, the Pont des Arts was so overloaded that in 2014 part of its parapet collapsed. Cities now routinely remove these padlocks. Some, taking a more positive route, invite people to create sculptures like LOVE above. Read more about love locks here.

Halfway there!
Welcome break!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After coffee, I cycled out along the Lakeshore bike path to my usual turnaround point at the Humber Bridge and Palace Pier.

On the bridge, I met and chatted with a team of fellow riders, all wearing yellow jerseys. They all work for the same software company and were riding for the father of the young woman with them.  A heartfelt moment and reminder of why we ride.

On the way back, I began to feel the heat, but luckily I was nearing the end of the journey. I turned up Bay Street and kept to the lane reserved for bikes, cabs and buses. I played chicken with three buses all the way up to Belmont Street. With relief,  I turned right and from there went north onto Yonge St.

Summerhill LCBO clock tower
50 km done!

Once again, thanks to COVID, the City has installed a bike lane up Yonge St. starting at Bloor  St. It was the fastest way home for me though it did mean two thigh-burning climbs between Summerhill and St. Clair Ave.

Happily when I passed the Summerhill clock tower, I hit the 50 km mark! After I reached St. Clair, I had a quick pedal through the calm of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, said hello to the boys and arrived home in time for lunch.  Total distance: 53.422 km!!

The Boys
Home and done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was my 14th Ride. Did I sign up for next year? Of course, I did. Who could say no to a pair of stylish socks like these?

Apparently only 64 riders have done the Toronto Ride every single year since the inaugural one in 2008. I’m one of them!

On to training for 2022 and big hugs and many, many thanks for your wonderful support of cancer research at Princess Margaret Hospital.

 

 

RIDE #3 – Beltline – Traffic- The Humber Trail

Hello again Donors and Readers!

Here at last is my blog on Ride #3. (Spoiler alert: I did successfully complete my four pledged rides for a total of  200 km!)  

Tuesday, August 24th I headed west to the Humber River one of my favorite trails.  Getting there from mid-town Toronto unfortunately requires a hair-raising pedal through traffic.  I started out early to beat the  promised scorching heat.  The first few kilometers were along the cool shade of the Beltline trail.

Tout est possible – a fav landmark!

The Beltline trail follows the path of a commuter railway that opened in 1892.  It never turned a profit and only lasted two years. For almost a century afterwards Torontonians wrangled over how to use the land until David Crombie, Toronto’s tiny perfect mayor, turned it into a bike path. (If you’re having a sleepless night, you can read the detailed history of bureaucracy and indecision here. )

Hidden western entrance to York Beltline Trail
Pylons and not much else – York Trail

As a runner, I was familiar with the Kay Gardner section that runs from Mt. Pleasant Cemetery to the Allen Expressway. There my buddies and I would literally “hit the wall” before looping back, 11 km roundtrip from the Pearly  Gates on Bayview. I ran across the York section west of Allen Road purely by accident, actually coming east from the Humber. The access from the west is well hidden down a narrow sidewalk past an auto bodyshop and as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy would say behind the sign saying “Beware of the leopard”.

The York Trail is belied by the overgrown entrance. It’s actually quite exposed and bland, running as many rec trails do, under a set of hydro wires and pylons. But behind a set of industrial buildings, there’s some neat street art.

The Leopard??
Optimistic name I think

 At the end of the Beltline, I pedal back along Bowie to Montgomery and cut through Prospect Cemetery, which bears a striking resemblance to Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, which is hardly surprising since they were designed by the same people. Prospect is bigger than Mt. Pleasant, consisting of three pleasantly green sections to ride through despite a steep climb midway. 

You might think that Prospect provides a lengthy stretch in which to contemplate one’s own mortality, but death is far more imminent on the next part of my route which follows St. Clair Avenue west until it ends at Scarlett Street.

There are no – and I mean NO – accommodations for cyclists along busy St. Clair. Stay alert, stay alive. I watch for car doors opening, street car tracks and open air patios that have narrowed the thoroughfare to one lane. In some sections, I beat a retreat to the sidewalk.  Better to be humbled into walking with pedestrians than blending in with the traffic in a grisly way.

The misnamed Peter Pan minimart is sadly no more
Good street art though

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At last, the Humber River

I’m much relieved to turn onto Scarlett Street and its bike path. It’s a speedy downhill ride for the most part to the quiet refuge of the Humber River trails.

Cool painted curbstones along Scarlett

 

 

The northern parts of the trail are wilder and susceptible to flooding. One spring, a cycling team mate and I watched an enormous snapping turtle swim across our path. 

 

In 1954, Hurricane Hazel struck Toronto with winds of 115 km/hr. The Humber, Don and Rouge Rivers overflowed and killed 81 people, destroying nearly 2000 homes. After this disaster, Toronto no longer builds on floodplains and developed an early warning weather system.  Today though the trail is dry. I say hello to the few hikers and wave to the kids at a bike camp.

The Humber Trail has a general downgrade interspersed with some short steep hills.  Long sections are being rebuilt in the section north of Old Mill Road. I’m glad that my trusty bike is a hybrid and that Ed pumped up my tires as I negotiate the gravel and mud. 

Old Mill TTC station and street art

 South of Old Mill, the trail gets challenging with two heart thumper climbs out of the valley. There’s a short section that detours through city streets before I reach my midway point and the last part of the Humber trail.

It’s now a downhill zoom through a wood and field flowers. One of my fav features along the trail is the Oculus, a UFO-inspired 1950s pavilion designed by British architect, Alan Crossley, and engineer, Laurence Cazaly.  Over the years, Oculus had been defaced by tag graffiti and the City considered demolishing it. Happily, in 2019, it was saved. It’s now an art installation complete with alien graphics. (See pics below.)

 

Happily cleaned up Oculus
Space adventure explanation

 

 

 

 

 

At the pedestrian bridge by Palace Pier, I turn east for the 15 km journey along the lake shore.  I pass a kid-friendly dinosaur playground. Along the way I pass one of Toronto’s saddest ghost bicycles, a memorial to a 5 year old boy killed when he fell into Lake Shore traffic.   

Sad memorial
I still love dinosaurs

 

 

It’s full sun by now and 30+ degrees. Too hot even for biking. No free Perrier today at Ontario Place. At Balzacs in the Distillery District,  I treat myself to an iced coffee before taking my usual route home: up Sherbourne through Summerhill and Mt. Pleasant cemetery.

Home at last and my third  pledged 50 km ride is done

 

 

RIDE #2 – Virtual Ride to Conquer Cancer – Don Valley and The Lake

Greetings Donors and Readers!

Ride #2  completed! Today Ed persuaded me to put on my 2021 Ambassador’s jersey ahead of the official virtual ride date. One way to tell the world about The Ride to Conquer Cancer, so I did.

Ready to go!

Because of the weather forecast for August 20th  –  full sun and soaring temperatures of 30+ degrees – I opted for the shadiest and coolest bike routes through the Don Valley and along the lake.

Slippery metal grid

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I headed down early into Sunnybrook. This morning I chose the Serena Gundy entrance just east of Laird Avenue, a narrow steep hill that swings down through some pretty parkland that’s a favorite of day camps. A scary metal grid bridge crosses the West Don before dumping cyclists out between two huge boulders into a parking lot.

Serena Gundy, late wife of founder of Wood Gundy stock brokerage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cool day camp artwork

The park was donated by James Gundy, one of the founders of Wood Gundy, in memory of his late wife, Serena. WG used to be one of Canada’s biggest stock brokerage firms before CIBC absorbed it in 1988. When I first entered the finance biz, the principle of “The Four Pillars” was sacrosanct. Banks, stock brokerages, insurance and, I believe, credit unions operated in separate silos to protect customers. However, the Four Pillars vanished in 1980s. Now banks sell you stocks and insurance.  Thirty years later our financial world, fingers crossed, has not collapsed.

Hope you’ll never this!
black and white skunk
Generic pic – didn’t want to stop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At The Teeth and Tout Est Possible, I turned right and headed onto the North Don Valley trail for 5 km. This is one of my favorite trails, sheltered, well-paved and mostly downgrade. The Don River seems tame, but it can get wild in spring to the delight of kayakers.  it’s also burst its bank and flooded roads many times.

I’ve encountered plenty of small wild life here – even a deer once!  Today I noticed a group of people gathered around… a skunk! Luckily it wasn’t mad.

I crossed over Pottery Road onto the South Don Valley trail, which has lots of neat artwork along the way. Sadly during COVID, many of the official Toronto Street Art murals have been obliterated by tags. See below:

Not an empty canvas anymore
Today even Garfield is gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halfway along, I encountered several trucks, workmen and assorted equipment blocking the route. They were obliterating the graffiti tags with a smooth cement coating. This doesn’t work. The punks love it. The cement leaves an empty canvas for, you guessed it, more tags.

The gargoyle garden is happily not damaged, but at the end of the trail, several of my favorites are.

Another favorite
Not doing well

I met Ed at the Distillery District for a coffee at Balzac’s. Life feels almost normal on summer day.

Now that craft beers taken over, artisans are taking up custom spirits, too. We spotted this interesting entrance. Wouldn’t it make a great location for Noir at the Bar?

Very cool!

Temperatures stayed manageable by the lake. I headed west along Queen’s Quay and the Martin Goodman trail, marking my midway point at the Windmill by Exhibition Place.

 

 

Green energy demo
Halfway!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a 30 km loop along the lakeshore trail from the Distillery District to the Humber River and back. I passed several landmarks: Sunnyside Beach, the Ex and Marilyn Bell park.

Marilyn Bell, swimmer
Marilyn Bell

On September 9, 1954, Marilyn Bell, at only 16 years of age, became the first person to swim Lake Ontario.  Entering the water at Youngstown, New York, she fought through lamprey eels, hypothermia, oil spills and high waves to land close to Sunnyside 21 hours later. Winds and currents blew her off course so that she actually swam 72 km instead of the planned 51.5 km.  She’s a true hero who inspired many marathon swimmers, including Vicki Keith, the lady of all five Great Lakes.

Marilyn Bell

To learn more about these remarkable women and the unusual sport of marathon swimming, I recommend my friend, Laura E. Young’s book, Solo Yet Never Alone. Marilyn Bell retired at only 18 after swimming the Straits of Juan de Fuca. She chose to lead her own life, married and became a teacher, mother and grandmother. Now 83, she lives in a retirement home in New York State. Despite a spinal injury, she still swims!

On my way back from Palace Pier, I stopped to look at the lake. Lots of sailing boats out with both blue and white sails. As a child, learning to sail with my dad, my dream was to own a wood-hulled Dragon with blue sails. It’s now a vintage sail boat with its own fans and niche regattas.

Perfect day to be out on the water
See the source image
The Dragon – lots of maintenance with a wood boat!

When I passed by the inukshuk, I got lucky.  Perrier had set up a pop-up / guerilla marketing booth handing out ice-cold cans of a new product to cyclists: Perrier water flavored with fruit and laced with Yerba Mate.  Free caffeine! Just what I needed.

Inukshuk icon
A miracle!
Redpath  in 2008 – no condos!

It’s remarkable how much the waterfront has changed in the past 10 years. In 2008, the Redpath sugar refinery was easily the largest of the few buildings along the eastern part of Queen’s Quay.

Dusty forgotten sign

Today I had a hard time finding it, dwarfed  and hemmed in by several monolithic condo towers. Even the sign to the Redpath museum looked dusty. It’s no longer Redpath and no longer a Canadian company. The caramel tang of melting sugar is overwhelmingly strong. Wonder what the condo dwellers make of it?

 

Home!

I pedaled over to lower Sherbourne and took the bike lane for the fastest way home: up through Rosedale, Moore Park and Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. I was happy that my calculations were correct as it was getting too hot even to bike.

Home at exactly 50 km!

RIDE #1 – Virtual Ride to Conquer Cancer 2021 – Beaches and Lake Front!

Greetings everyone!

The 2021 Ride to Conquer Cancer is – sigh – virtual once again on August 28-29th. But cancer doesn’t sleep so I’m embarking on  my 14th Ride to raise money for research at Princess Margaret Hospital, one of the top 5 cancer hospitals in the world!

Once again I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of my supporters.  As pledged, I’ll be doing four 50 km rides, the 200 km distance from Toronto to Niagara Falls. This year, I’m riding for three friends who are blood cancer survivors: L, M and T, this ride is for you!

On Aug 16th, at 8 am I set out on my first 50 km ride, wearing last year’s jersey, We Ride, for inspiration.

Mile zero!
Memories of 2020!

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect; a clear sky with a soft breeze to ward off the heat of the sun.

I headed down into Sunnybrook park via the steep hill at Lyndhurst, passing the  dog park (no customers yet) and gliding past the picture-perfect creek and  Sunnybrook stables which, judging by the COVID warnings on their website,  appear to be back in operation.

On May 21, 2018, 3 am, a two-alarm fire broke out, destroying one barn and damaging the other. Firefighters spent long hours battling the blaze, but tragically only could save 13 horses, fewer than half on site.  The Fire Marshall’s Office says that since the damage was so extensive, the cause of the fire may never be found.

The beautiful West Don River in Sunnybrook Park
Sunnybrook Stables

My ride through the park felt blissfully cool.  At The Teeth, I turned left, passing my favorite icon, Tout Est Possible and headed up Taylor Creek trail.

The Teeth
Famous recurring Toronto graffiti

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hill  out of Taylor Creek to Victoria Park remains a challenge.  I might have made it all the way up in “granny gear” (hey, I am a grandmother), but I opted for the better form of valor and walked up at the halfway mark.  I zoomed down Victoria Park to Gerrard then followed Scarborough Road all the way down to the lake, passing two favorite icons: Hydro Cat and the student posters at Adam Beck Public School.

Scarborough Road ends in a nail-biter of a hill down to Queen Street West. Good thing my old Trek bike has disc brakes!

Hydro Cat
Student poster for the environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lake was especially lovely this early Monday morning. I rode a short distance along the boardwalk before catching the designated bike trail.  Last week, my friend, TO Poet and I strolled the length of the boardwalk and discovered a neat art installation: a row of painted stones lining the sand for hundreds meters. For the great pics, check out TO Poet’s blog here.

The lake!

 

 

 

 

Neat painted rocks

I said hello to the resident flock of Canada geese breakfasting on the lawn (no, that is NOT cores of aerated lawn!) and leave the Beaches, swinging by the skate board park and fresh street art before turning south at the big Canadian Tire store.

Canada geese
Cool street art

 

 

 

 

 

The city has made huge improvements to the bike path that leads to the Leslie Street spit (aka Tommy Thompson Park).  So who was Tommy Thompson? According to Wikipedia his father was the head gardener at Casa Loma – better known as Henry Pelham’s folly – and Tommy was actually born on its grounds.  A botanist, horticulturist and RCAF veteran, he became Toronto’s first Parks Commissioner. His most notable and somewhat controversial achievement was transforming Toronto Island into a public park. That meant flattening a lot of houses and kicking out the people who lived there. To this day, a conflict waxes and wanes between the city government and the remaining residents on Ward’s Island.

Wild chicory
Glimpse of allotment gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new improved trail passes by some allotment gardens where urbanites can grow fruit and vegetables. The wild flowers are out, even chicory, a sky-blue flower that only opens in the shade. The peaceful trail ends abruptly at Cherry Street and dumps you out into a condo building apocalypse.

The massive building and excavations mean that the bike trail is now crisscrossed by entrances for trucks and equipment. Chanting the cyclist’s mantra, Stay Alert, Stay Alive, I crossed over the ancient Cherry Street lift bridge. A sign warned me to walk my bikes. Good thing, too, because a huge chunk of the pedestrian walkway is missing and only covered by plywood boards!

In 2019 the lift bridge got stuck open for four weeks. Here’s the video. I paused for a moment to take in the view of Keating Channel.

Keating Channel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trail along Queen’s Quay is pretty chopped up, too, with several detours around more condo construction and the never ending Gardiner repair. I jockeyed with other cyclists and dodged texting pedestrians as well as a new stealth hazard: the ubiquitous electric scooter. These PEVs (personal electric vehicles) are all the rage now. Owners stage weekly rallies at Queen’s Park. There’s even an electric unicycle! Here’s the scoop.

The bureaucracy is stymied about how regulate these PEV’s. For now they rocket down the city bike lanes at speeds of 30 kilometres  – in total silence.

Pickle ball…I think not
Happy motto!

At the CNE’s Princes Gate, I turned north on Straughn and after braving some heavy Toronto traffic,  entered the shelter of Trinity Bellwoods Park.

On the way, I had my first view of pickle ball which has taken the world of seniors by storm. To me it looked like ping pong played on a tennis court with a wiffle ball. A good friend has joined the cult – argh!

North to Harbord where I spotted some terrific street art.

Sad bear
Cool tiger
Power to women!
Croc dressed to kill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pedalled north up St. George through U of T campus then up to Dupont, east along Marlborough and its hidden quaint houses before hitting Yonge Street. I saluted the happily restored Summerhill Station then cut through Pricefield Park to dive into Rosedale and the hush of money.

Summerhill LCBO
Ghost car

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was sad to see that the home of my old boss at the mining company has been sold and is now being gutted. Sic transit gloria mundi.  I took my usual route north via Glen Road and the Summerhill pedestrian overpass. Glad to see that the street art painting of the 1950s car was still visible on the concrete wall bracing Whitney Public School.

From here it was a quick ride through Moore Park, a short loop in Mt. Pleasant cemetery and home. First 50 km done!

 

 

 

NEWS! NEWS! NEWS! Meet me at When Words Collide!

Greetings Readers!

I’m at When Words Collide this weekend, sitting on panels, connecting with reader and author friends, learning new sh*t!  Sadly not in person, but consider the vegetative alternative.

Attendance at the conference is free but you must register through EventBrite and have Zoom on your computer. The conference is held on Zoom. Here is the registration link: www.whenwordscollide.org/Registration/

Here’s where I’ll be. Hope to see you!

Friday, August 13, 2 p.m. MDT/ 4 p.m. EDT
Writing Groups and How to Run Them

Saturday, August 14, 2.pm. MDT/ 4 p.m. EDT
Short Stories as Stepping Stones

Sunday, August 15, 11 a.m. MDT/ 1 p.m. EDT
Crime Fiction in 2021: Trends and Evolution

Sunday, August 15, 4 p.m. MDT/ 6 p.m. EDT
Mystery: Big Crimes, Small Towns

Reviews of Moonlight and Misadventure!

Greetings Readers!

Delighted to report that Judy Penz Sheluk’s latest anthology, Moonlight and Misadventure, is getting great reviews.

Kevin Tipple author, reviewer and long-time executive of the Short Mystery Fiction Society writes:

From the complicated and powerful opening tale to the twist ending in the last one, the twenty stories in the book are all good ones. Moonlight as well as misadventure in a variety of ways plays a major role in all of them. So does more than a hint of madness in many of the tales. In some cases, things happened as they always would because of the nature of the folks involved. In others, the plan failed sometimes in surprising ways…Every tale selected is a good one and well worth your time.

Moonlight earns 5 orbs out of 5 at King’s River Life Magazine.  Reviewer Kathleen Costa calls the collection of stories “fascinating and clever”. And about my story, “The Moon God of Broadmoor”, she wrote: Endearing story but don’t forget a box of tissues.

Moon God also has a shout-out from reviewer, Victoria Weisfeld:

Of considerable charm was MH Callway’s “The Moon God of Broadmoor.” A public health inspector engaged in a clean-up campaign allies with a resident of the Broadmoor apartments who styles himself Thoth, God of the Moon. A chubby, middle-aged man, he routinely dresses in a powder blue tunic, shiny mauve tights, and gauzy iridescent cape. “I see that I have struck awe in your heart,” he says to the inspector when she first spots him. As the two become more acquainted, she finds that, although he’s certainly eccentric, he makes a substantial contribution to his community too. He’s unhinged, unforgettable, and more than a little help in her campaign.

Author and reviewer, Vanessa Westermann, gave Moonlight a warm review and Moon God a special mention. Vanessa writes:

Spanning the sub-genres of crime fiction, Moonlight & Misadventure illuminates the darker side of human nature that comes out at night. The moonbeams these authors cast on nefarious deeds are sure to dazzle readers of short stories.

And from Coast Reporter, who found the anthology ” a lively read – without the worst of gore and graphic violence”.

And no book would be complete without a reference to Thoth, the moon god, (aka Stanley) in M.H. Callway’s story, “The Moon God of Broadmoor.”

Fellow authors, I believe we have a hit!

 

Moonlight and Misadventure now available!!

Greetings Readers!

Today is the day:  Moonlight and Misadventure, the latest anthology edited by Judy Penz Sheluk (Superior Shores Press) is available on Amazon in ebook and print! Get it here: link.

I’m delighted to have my dark tale, “The Moon God of Broadmoor”, included with the works of  20+ amazing writers.

We’ve been getting  great reviews, including a 4.7 star rating on Goodreads. Read American writer/editor Kevin Tipple’s review on his blog, Kevin’s Corner, here. And Canadian writer/reviewer, Vanessa Westermann’s take, here.

Earlier in June, I had the privilege of being featured on Art Taylor’s blog, The First Two Pages, where I revealed the craft behind the opening of “Moon God”. Also the challenges I faced moving from scientific and bureaucratic writing to creating crime fiction! Here’s the link.

Here’s  an excerpt from my story,  “The Moon God of Broadmoor”!

Liz, a young public health inspector, visits the Broadmoor Apartments to investigate a complaint about poop on the lawn.

I parked illegally in front of the building. From where I sat in the driver’s seat, I could see that Mrs. Jack had ample cause to complain.  The grass was befouled.

Step one, find Mrs. Jack. I climbed out of the van, but couldn’t spot the entrance to the building. Now what?

My answer came in the form of an apparition: a chubby, middle-aged man wearing a powder blue tunic, shiny mauve tights and gauzy, iridescent cape.

He emerged from a doorway located in the bend of the “U” on my right and sauntered down the fractured cement path that bisected the lawn. He stopped just in front of me.

“I see that I have struck awe in your heart. Don’t be afraid,” he said.

“Excuse me?”

“I am Thoth, God of the Moon. How may I help you?”

A large brooch, in the shape of a pink rhinestone flamingo, pinned the ends of his cape to the front of his tunic. His stringy black hair badly needed a wash, but his broad face looked friendly.

          Best to play along.  “Nice to meet you, um, Thoth. I seek Mrs. Jack.”

 “Ah, yes, the keeper of my earthly home. And what is your business with her?”

          “I’m with the health department. Mrs. Jack made a complaint.”

 “Sad.” Thoth shook his head. “So young and already ensnared in the satanic coils of bureaucracy. You will find Mrs. Jack through there.”

 

 

CYBER CAFE: Meet Bethany Maines, Fellow Author in Moonlight and Misadventure

Bethany Maines

Greetings Readers!

Only one more week till the  publication of Moonlight and Misadventure on June 18th! Today it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow author, Bethany Maines to Cyber Cafe.  We both share a love for and write noir crime fiction and readers will really enjoy her dark tale, Tammy Loves Derek.

Bethany is an award-winning author of romantic action-adventure and mystery novels that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind-end. She has published several independent novels, two novels with Atria, and numerous short stories in Frolic, Shotgun Honey, and Switchblade Magazine. When she’s not traveling to exotic lands, or kicking some serious butt with her black belt in karate, she can be found chasing her daughter or glued to the computer working on her next novel.

Tammy Loves Derek is a wonderfully dark and scary tale. What inspired you to write it?

I participate in the Seattle Noir at the Bar a few times a year. Noir at the Bar is a live reading event focusing on crime fiction and every time I attend I’m inspired to up my game. Every writer’s take on noir is a little different, but at our January 2020 event, someone made a crack about femme fatales. That got me thinking about writing a crime story from the “bad girl’s’” point of view.

I set out to write such a story planning to read it at our next Noir at the Bar event.  Unfortunately, COVID hit, and in-person events were canceled. I had to start looking for a new home for it. I was thrilled when I saw the announcement for Moonlight and Misadventure – I was certain my story would fit in.

And it certainly does! Tell us more about Tammy Loves Derek.

Tammy Loves Derek centers on Tammy Lee Swanley. She has a stable job at a med spa, but she also has a cheating boyfriend and dwindling prospects for getting the gold-plated life she was hoping for. So Tammy comes up with five-step plan for wealth and happiness. Hint: that plan might not include her boyfriend, Derek!

What do you especially enjoy about being part of the Moonlight and Misadventure anthology?

I love the team effort of being part of anthology. It’s nice to work with other authors and I can’t wait to read all of the stories.

Tell us more about your writing. Do you write short fiction or novels or both?

I write both novels and short fiction. Of the two, I find short fiction to be the harder one!  Short fiction has to contain so much within such tight parameters. Every word starts to matter!

You love to explore sub-genres in crime fiction. Tell us more!

I have one crime series – The Shark Santoyo Crime Series – which is a bit of a mobster mash-up and my homage to those fast moving pulp reads of old.  But I usually write mysteries and what I would call “women’s action-adventure”. My novels are fast-paced, funny, female-driven yarns that keep the reader turning pages. I delve a bit in Romantic Suspense (Oooh! Naked kissing parts!), but we’re not hanging around to stare dreamily into each other’s eyes – there are more people who need to be punched in the face!

My short fiction, however, tends to be straight crime. I don’t know why, but my stories all involve murder, robbery, and/or mayhem. That may say something about my personality, but I’m choosing not to speculate!

How did you become a writer? 

I always wrote when I was a kid, but a high-school English teacher told me that I wasn’t very creative. I thought that meant that I probably wasn’t a very good writer, but Simon & Schuster disagreed with her, so she can pretty much suck it. (No kidding!) But I guess my point is that I didn’t think writing was something I could do until after college. That’s when I really started to attack it as something more than a hobby or something I did for my own entertainment.

That’s really inspiring, Bethany! Be sure to visit Bethany on her website:  https://bethanymaines.com

Follow her on: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBethanyMaines Instagram: @AuthorBethanyMaines ; Twitter: @BethanyMaines

 

About Moonlight & Misadventure: Whether it’s vintage Hollywood, the Florida everglades, the Atlantic City boardwalk, or a farmhouse in Western Canada, the twenty authors represented in this collection of mystery and suspense interpret the overarching theme of “moonlight and misadventure” in their own inimitable style where only one thing is assured: Waxing, waning, gibbous, or full, the moon is always there, illuminating things better left in the dark.

Release date: June 18, 2021 in all e-book formats and trade paperback on Amazon and at all the usual suspects.