Tag Archives: novels

Sarnia Writers James Deahl and Norma West Linder Launch Three New Books

So much of our journey occurs/between two great silences./We must either walk the path/of the blood-red moon/or go down to the river/and welcome whatever rises/from its black depth – James Deahl*

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Toronto Launch – October 18, 2016                                      Sarnia Launch – October 23, 2016

Summer’s heat lingers-clings to the windshield, to the steering wheel, to the green autumn leaves dipped in brilliant yellow paint and crimson red stain. Prolific Sarnia writer James Deahl tugs the knot in his tie and opens the power windows as he drives his car along Highway 402 towards London, Ontario.

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James Deahl chats about love and death during the Toronto launch of To Be With A Woman (LUMMOX Press, 2016)

His tour schedule includes the launch of three new books at the Toronto Public Library’s Parliament Street Branch and, for the next three hours of his trip, he speaks (almost non-stop) about Ontario’s landscapes, love and death. His passion for both poetry and his partner the prolific Canadian writer Norma West Linder rises with each breath as perspiration beads like liquid pebbles along his forehead.

“When Gilda died very shortly after her fifty-third birthday, I thought I would also die,” he says. He emphasizes this at the Toronto book launch and again in the introduction of his book To Be With A Woman: A Journey of Love & Death, Poems, 2007-2010. Gilda Mekler was Deahl’s second wife and his business partner for the now defunct small press Mekler and Deahl. After his long mourning period, he developed a close friendship and fell in love with Linder. “I love and honour my Norma and strive to be the man she deserves.”

His new 134-page poetry collection, published by LUMMOX Press, focuses on these two women. As stated in the Toronto Public Library flyer: the book “begins with the death of his second wife, Gilda Mekler, in early 2007 and ends with his engagement to Norma during the summer of 2010.”

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Guest reader and poet Pat Connors reads from his second Lyricalmyrical chapbook during the October 18, 2016 launch at the Toronto Public Library’s Parliament Street Branch.

Toronto launch’s guest reader Pat Connors, author of Part Time Contemplative (Lyricalmyrical), wrote that “James Deahl’s newest release is philosophical and ironic. It tells of love lost, and then of new love found, all leading to a great appreciation of an even more foundational relationship. He writes about the events which have marked his life with such clarity and honestly that it speaks to all of us.” Connors’ full review appears in the Volume 19, Number 111, October-November 2016 issue of Canadian Stories. 

Linder’s new and 26th book and 6th novel Tall Stuff (Hidden Brook Press, 2016) also focuses on love and has been described as “a romantic novel based on ‘little theatre’” or as the back cover states: Tall Stuff is “Singing in the Rain” meets “Love Story”.  Additional information about Linder’s book appears in this Lambton Shield article written by Sarnia writer Sharon Berg and posted on October 10, 2016.

The third book launched in Toronto is Landscapes: Poems from the seasons of Ontario’s soul published by Israel’s Cyclamens and Swords Publishing. The 74-page collection includes the poetry of both Katherine L. Gordon and James Deahl. According to Ottawa writer Ronnie R. Brown, “In Landscapes, two well-respected poets join forces to present a stunning display of places and ideas, “giving a tongue to the world around them”…”To read Landscapes, is to experience Canada from the comforts of your armchair.”

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Norma West Linder shares her work October 19, 2016 during CADENCE, Sarnia’s newest reading series with a little music.

Brantford’s Poet Laureate John B. Lee in his review published in the August/September 2016 issue of Canadian Stories concludes: “Like Anteus who takes his strength from the earth – they seem to be writing –I am here – in Ontario – standing on worthy ground –ground as good as any – inspired and inspiring – a place on which to stand from when you might move the earth with the fulcrum and lever of these fine poems.”

The Sarnia launch of all three books will be held this Sunday, October 23 from 1 to 2 p.m. at The Book Keeper, 500 Exmouth Street. Stop by and meet these prolific writers in person!

An earlier blog post about James Deahl and his poetry book Unbroken Lines (LUMMOX Press, 2015) appears here.

An earlier blog post about Norma West Linder and her novel The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015) appears here.

An earlier blog featuring their joint poetry collection Two Paths Through the Seasons (Cyclamen and Swords Publishing, Israel, 2014) appears here.

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Canadian writers James Deahl and Norma West Linder will be reading in Sarnia on Sunday, October 23, 2016.

*epigraph is from the poem “Our Travail” published in To Be With A Woman: A Journey Of Love and Death, Poems, 2007-2010 (LUMMOX Press, 2016) Copyright © James Deahl 2016

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Introducing “Lifelines” and Albertan Novelist Eleanor Bertin

Already he was wishing he hadn’t accepted Anna’s invitation to this last evening gathering of the season. A pod of neighbours was huddled around the crackling blaze by the time he got there. The circle widened affably to receive them and they settled into their lawn chairs, stretching feet to the fire. – Eleanor Bertin*

If you’re closed-minded, too close to the light or the line of fire, or even haunted by John Milton’s Paradise Lost, expect to feel uncomfortable but not necessarily in a negative way. Eleanor Bertin’s first novel Lifelines (Word Alive Press, 2016) nudges the reader to look inward, to dust off the brain cells, plus think about mortality and his/her purpose on Earth.

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Eleanor Bertin is a new novelist based in central Alberta. Photo by Alyssa Krahn, Alyssa Raeanne Photography.

On the surface, it’s a home-spun heart-warming yarn threaded with Anna Fawcett’s unflinching morals and the scent of freshly baked cinnamon buns. Reach deeper and it’s an intellectual debate peppered with such hot topics as religion, an unexpected pregnancy, abortion, special needs care, ageing, evolution, and the environment. If you’re prone to tears, expect to cry. If you prefer laughter, you’ll find humour too.

Each chapter begins with an epigraph which foreshadows the scene and/or launches the reader into a new arena of thought. For example in Chapter Nine, Bertin quotes the title of a 1988 book by Jamie Buckingham: “The truth will set you free but first it will make you miserable.”

Many of Bertin’s characters are miserable. The protagonist Dr. Q. M. Robert Fielding is a pompous biologist struggling with recent losses. In the first chapter, in the first line, he “is vexed –with the prickly branch of overgrown rose bush that had just scraped his face…He blew pent-up air out of tight lips, pffpllpff.”

Other struggling characters are Amelia who is facing a recent pregnancy on her own; and Joan, the neighbourhood cat-lady who felt “it was downright miserable out there and some people should wake up to the fact.”

Add the ordinary and more positive character Anna Fawcett plus her Down syndrome son Jesse to the storyline and the plot unfurls in surprising but believable ways.

The dialogue is strong indicative of each character’s personality. The well-researched viewpoints are balanced. Sometimes the chatter is superfluous reflecting the mundane and lonely life of a character. Sometimes the bantering of scholarly facts may bog down the uneducated but it adds depth to those looking for deeper discussions and meanings.

To state anything more about the plot would ruin the natural and gentle unfolding of character development and the reader’s experience.

However, Bertin’s premise that people can be “touched by the power of even those with obscure and ordinary lives” reminds me of Mitch Albom’s bestselling novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven and how each individual is special and vital to the well-being and learning experiences of those around them.

Beautifully written, thought-provoking, Lifelines “puts things into perspective” and offers readers “a lifeline of stability.”  Bravo! Quite an achievement for a first time novelist!

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Lifelines by Eleanor Bertin was shortlisted in the 2015 World Alive Press Free Publishing Contest.

Congratulations Eleanor on your first novel Lifelines published by Word Alive Press. I’ve admired your work from a distance ever since I read one of your short stories back in the early-80s and was pleased to hear that your first completed novel was shortlisted in the 2015 Word Alive Press Free Publishing Contest. First of all, describe in a couple of sentences, what you feel your book is about and second, what inspired you to write about these characters and their situations?

“Biologist meets widow with Down syndrome son. Worldview clash ensues.” That’s a bare bones description of my novel. But there’s a secondary, underlying exploration of the theme of influence. My primary inspiration has been my mother’s character and life. Her quiet, unassuming nature and genuine love for an astonishing and divergent assortment of folks over the years amazes me. It was contemplating the impact she’s had on so many people that brought me to wonder the “what if” of this book. Of course, it’s me, not her who has a son with Down syndrome, but I thought it fitting to confront a character who held strong views on “survival of the fittest” with the logical extension of that philosophy. There’s a human reality to what many might view as someone “unfit” to survive. Almost all of the comments and situations about my character with Down syndrome are actual events or conversations with my son or other DS people I’ve met. (It was super fun to write those scenes!)

If I’m allowed to politically say this, you have a strong-faith that guides you on a daily-basis and you are not shy when it comes to sharing scriptures as well as quotes by such famous and scholarly writers such as Lord Byron, C. S. Lewis, Anne Frank, Dr. Seuss, John Milton and more. What genre would you classify your writing and how does it differ from others writing in the same discipline?

It’s kind of sad, isn’t it, that it seems politically-incorrect to talk about faith or scripture? Yes, trust in God is foundational to my life. I would have nothing of value to write about without it. As to classification by genre, the library slotted Lifelines into the Christian fiction category. I’m OK with that, though their sub-classification was “man-woman relationships” possibly leading one to think it’s a romance, which might disappoint. There’s only an oblique hint of romance.

I’ve been told my novel makes people think. I hope so. My intention is not merely to entertain. I don’t really know if that makes it different from other Christian fiction or not. It’s not “bonnet fiction.”

 On the surface, your character Anna Fawcett appears to be an unlikely hero, one of those ordinary people who many people ignore. Dig deeper and both her compassion and intelligence rises. Can anyone be a mentor? Why or why not? What characteristics do you look for in a mentor? Who were your mentors?

I’m so pleased you noticed this about her! Compassion and intelligence were my goal for her. My mother (the real Anna) would be the first to say she is not qualified to be anyone’s mentor. But perhaps humility is the prerequisite. Humility and genuine love. Handing out unsolicited advice or authoritarian pronouncements attracts no one. Mentorship, I believe, is earned by a life lived sacrificially for the benefit of others – a piece of truth heartily denounced by our culture’s obsession with self-esteem and self-actualization.

I don’t look for perfection in a mentor. I look for a person who has a deep recognition of their own flawed nature, but who has received God’s forgiveness and points people to Him. In this, my mother and my older sister qualify. There have been many ordinary but faithful women, and on a less personal level, men, who have been mentors to me over the years. Elisabeth Elliot, Edith Schaeffer and Corrie ten Boom are three well-known authors who have been mentors-at-a-distance.

Describe your writing process. (For example, how, when, and where do you write? Do you outline or do you just allow the words to flow?)

Do I have to? I’m not sure I do it right! I’ll confess that when I began Lifelines six years ago, I wrote long-hand! My computer skills were nearly nonexistent. I try to get to my computer (in our living room) at least three times a week. I’d be far more productive if I would designate a set amount of time and word-count per day. I have good intentions to do so, but the rest of life tends to intrude…

For Lifelines I drew a very simple arc and slotted a few scenes building to a climax, upon it. I soon found I needed to keep account of timelines and characters’ background and habits as well. So yes, I guess I outline. I’d never be able to keep track of everything if I didn’t. 

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Eleanor Bertin feels ordinary folks can positively impact other people’s lives. Photo by Alyssa Krahn, Alyssa Raeanne Photography.

What are you currently working on?

My current works in progress are an historical novel about Vikings (!) and a memoir (non-fiction) about the death of our 18-year-old son Paul in October 2012. I’m almost finished the memoir and it has been emotionally grueling to write it, yet at the same time, a process helpful in grieving.

Eleanor, I am so sorry for your loss. So many parents are coping with the death of a child and/or children with medical conditions. You have experiences with both. Those who are outside those stressful and emotional circles don’t have a clue what it may be like. If this memoir is anything like your novel Lifelives, it will make readers think. Education and communication enhance our understanding of this confusing world. What are your future plans?

In the immediate future, I hope to find a publisher for my memoir. Then I want to get down to business and make real progress on my Vikings (I only have 15,000 words so far.) In addition, readers of Lifelines have been asking for a sequel. I have the beginning of a novel stashed away, that I’d like to rework to become a companion novel, not exactly a sequel but some of the characters might overlap and references to the Lifelines folks could satisfy readers’ questions.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers?

A writer always longs for feedback, and the more specific the comments, the better! So reviews are welcome, as are questions and opinions on my Facebook page or blog.

Thanks Eleanor for the interview. It’s so nice to have such a heart-to-heart after all these years.

Reprinted from Lifelines’ back cover:

Eleanor holds a college diploma in Communication and worked in agricultural journalism until the birth of her first child. The family eventually grew to include one daughter and six sons (the youngest with Down syndrome) whom she home-educated for twenty-five years.

Eleanor and her husband live amidst the ongoing renovation of a century home in central Alberta where she blogs about sometimes-elusive contentment at www.jewelofcontentment.wordpress.com .

Bertin’s official website: www.eleanorbertinauthor.com

Bertin’s Facebook page here.

*from the book Lifelines (World Alive Press, 2016) Chapter Nine, page 40. Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2016 by Eleanor Bertin

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Squirreled Away With More Books: Preparing for the End of Summer

And then I turn to the piles of books. – Bob Armstrong*

Last week, I finished reading Dadolescence, a humourous novel about a stay-at-home dad written by Winnipeg playwright Bob Armstrong and published by Turnstone Press in 2011. (Yes, I took a welcome break from reading poetry.) In one of the chapters, the main character (Bill Angus) decided it was time to de-clutter his office and he was faced with piles of unread books, magazines, papers, and restaurant take-out menus.

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My 2016 summer reading pile. I still have a long way to go.

I laughed aloud. It reminded me of my own summer goal to de-clutter my living space without much success. Yes, the yard looks less like a jungle and I can see (well almost see) the top of my desk but my reading pile appears to have grown.

I’m convinced, books are like autumn leaves. As soon as the weather cools, new novels and poetry collections fall from publisher-heaven and swirl into “must read” piles. The stacks grow higher and higher, the lists stretch longer and longer, and my eyes open wider and wider. I want to rake them into my mind and read them all.

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 MC Fran Figge

Fran Figge, President, The Ontario Poetry Society, introduced the poets at The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering in London, Ontario, Canada.

Yikes, I wonder if all writers have this problem: the love of books and the lack of time to read or review then all! Maybe if I stopped writing and attending literary events (which I tried almost successfully this summer), I would have that extra time to catch up. Maybe if I gave up watching all 10plus seasons of the TV series Bones on Netflex, my mind would be more poetic and less inclined to wander into some fictional mystery genre. Dream on….I’m afraid, I’m a bit like Bill, the stay-at-home dad, except I’m female, and have no interest in writing a PhD thesis called ‘participatory anthropological research’ nor being the next Kathy Reichs, the famous crime fiction author and brains behind the long-running TV series.

One event I refused to miss was The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering organized by The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and the London Open Mic Poetry group. Held last Sunday, August 21 in London, Ontario, Canada, this poetry friendly event welcomed all levels of poets from the experienced to the first time reader. Many were London residents but over half of the attendees drove in from out-of-town: Sarnia, Toronto, Windsor and more. Everyone and anyone who wanted to share their work could do so which made for a long but enjoyable afternoon.

Congratulations to all the poets who launched and/or showcased new books!

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 mini-launches

A record number of TOPS members received spotlight launches/readings for their new books. The next TOPS event will be held in Oakville on Sunday, October 30, 2016.

They included in alphabetical order according to the author’s last name: Moving Waters: Poems and Stories (In Our Words Inc. (IOWI), 2016) by John Ambury; A Hundred Poems About Flowers – the first twenty-five (Boularderie Island Press) and A Hundred Poems About Flowers – the next twenty-five (Boularderie Island Press) by Robyn Marie Butt; Landscapes: Poems from the seasons of Ontario’s soul (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, 2016) by Katherine Gordon and James Deahl; Zapped by Design, Zithered by Wit, The Artisan’s Well (2011) by R. Patrick James; Two Paths Through the Seasons (Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, 2014) by Norma West Linder and James Deahl; On Wings of Time: Poems Selected & New (Beret Days Books, 2016) by Kamal Parmar; Poems From An Eclectic Mind (Trafford Publishing, 2016) by David D Plain; and Look at Her (Black Moss Press, 2016) by Vanessa Shields.

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 members in attendance

A warm, dreamy day…close to 20 members of The Ontario Poetry Society shared their poems during the August 21st event at Mykonos Restaurant. Four non-members also read their work during the open mic.

Wow, more books to consider! What a great way to hear a sample from each collection and to learn more about some of the Ontario poets who are contributing to our rich Canadian culture. Rather than gush forth with all the details, I encourage you to check out additional photos on Facebook here and/or stop by some of the future readings held in your area.

TOPS London event August 24, 2016 Host Stan Burfield

Stan Burfield, London branch manager for TOPS and co-host of London Open Mic Poetry held the first Wednesday of the month at Mykonos Restaurant.

As for what happened to the fictional character Bill Angus and his pile of books, you’ll have to read Bill Armstrong’s book to find out. Or wait for my official review which may be posted at a later date. That’s my Canadian author’s plug and cliffhanger for today.

Times up! Supper break! See me escaping my chores, diving into another book, before the sun sets on this last week of summer reading.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) as well as their future readings can be found on their website. Or check out previous blog posts on this site.

Additional information about London Open Mic Poetry and their upcoming readings can be found on their website.

Information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found here on my website.

The League of Canadian Poets has an excellent blog post about how to start a new reading series. An event listing is also posted on their site.

COMING SOON: Information about CADENCE, a new reading series being planned for the Sarnia, Ontario, Canada area will be posted on this blog at a later date.  I can’t wait to hear what Sharon Berg and her committee have planned.

*quote is from the book Dadolescence (Turnstone Press, 2011) Copyright © Bob Armstrong, page 84.