Archive for the ‘Canadian politics’ Category

Writing update: nearly two-thirds in

Friday, August 21st, 2009


There’s been not much to report of late.  I’m quite busy at the office with lots of stuff on the go and less time to blog and/or write.  Thought I’d give you a very quick writing update on the sequel to TBLP, tentatively entitled The High Road.  It seems to go in fits and starts. But I’ve been on a bit of a roll of late (touch wood) and I hope it continues. Last weekend, I finished writing Chapter 12.  Only eight or perhaps nine more chapters to go.  So I’m past the halfway point, and that feels good.  Hallelujah.  When I wrote TBLP, the second half seemed to flow more smoothly.  Perhaps it’s just a matter of being energized when the finish line is in sight, or at least within the same postal code.

I seem to write better in my home library than anywhere else.  And my family have been extraordinarily patient as I’ve snuck up to the third floor for extended periods over the weekends. It’s peaceful up here surrounded by our books and a photograph of Robertson Davies presiding.

All in all, I’m pleased with the progress so far and with what I’ve actually written.  I’ve had a few struggles with Chapter one and have rewritten it or reworked it several times.  The challenge is common to most sequels.  How much of the first novel do you recount or highlight in setting up the sequel.  It’s a balancing act.  You don’t want to bore TBLP readers by covering old ground.  On the other hand, you have to give those who haven’t read TBLP enough insight and context so the sequel makes sense to them. I’m not certain I have yet it nailed, but I’m closer than I’ve been.

I just have to keep going and get the damn thing written.  Only time stands in the way, a commodity I seem to have in short supply.  I’ll keep you posted as I write…

TBLP in the news…

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

I’ve done a few interviews lately for broader stories about self-publishing, and the results are here.  The Globe story was apparently trimmed quite a bit to fit the space they had available.  But it’s always nice to be in the Globe.  I did the Financial Post interview while standing on a pier in Digby, Nova Scotia at the start of our family vacation back in the early part of the July.

globe and mail

Globe story #1

Globe story #2


Financial Post story

Winnipeg Sun audio interview

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Winnipeg Sun Interview graphic

Yesterday, I did a phone interview with the very funny Ian Shanley at the Winnipeg Sun.  It’s a good thing he’s funny, because he’s the paper’s celebrated  humour writer, and well worth reading.  Check out his columns and prepare to chortle and guffaw.  We talked about TBLP and you can have a listen here if you’re hard up for things to do.

Amazon update: TBLP hits #1 (for at least an hour anyway)

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Amazon #1 Politics Bestseller

I promise not to keep showboating but I really did have to record this.  Besides, this humble blog doesn’t have legions of readers so I really consider it a bit of an online scrapbook of my unexpected tour of the publishing world.  Anyway, now that I’ve discovered that I can track TBLP on Amazon’s Bestseller list in the “Political” genre where it’s been categorized, I happened to take another look tonight and discovered it had gone to number one.  I swear neither I, nor my family, placed any orders this afternoon to game the system.  I don’t even know how the rankings are established.  Amazon claims to update the list hourly and it seems they weren’t kidding.  I imagine TBLP could just as easily slip out of the top 100 if I wait long enough.  Hence the screen shot captured for posterity’s sake.  Thanks for your indulgence.

Update one hour later: I was right.  An hour or so after I published this post, TBLP fell to #2 behind The Kite Runner.  Glad I got the screen shot at the top of this post.

TBLP an Amazon ‘Political’ genre bestseller

Friday, August 7th, 2009

I’d never actually noticed that you can check sales rankings on based on the category in which the book has been placed.  TBLP is categorized as Literature and Fiction/Genre Fiction/Political.  When I realized this, I had a quick look at the Political genre Bestseller list and much to my amazement found TBLP at number seven, just ahead of Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress at number eight.  Who knows how Amazon determines the rankings, but it’s still neat to be anywhere near such a list. updates their bestseller lists hourly, so I took a quick screen shot in case I never crack the top ten again.

Amazon political bestsellers 090807

Now this was a thrill…

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009


Nearly 24 years ago, I left Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital to return to Toronto and Queen’s Park to join the political staff of Robert Nixon, who had just been named Treasurer (now known as Finance Minister) in the newly formed Liberal Ontario government of Premier David Peterson.  I was Mr. Nixon’s Legislative Assistant which entailed helping to prepare him for the daily theatre of Question Period in the Legislature.  Each day the House was in session, I would accompany him over to the “Leg” (pronounced ledge) as we called it.  He would take his place in the chamber, and I would sit in the staff seats located behind the Speaker’s throne and beneath the Press Gallery.  I spent many, many hours in the Leg absorbing the atmosphere and following the debate.  Other than the Legislative Clerks, Pages, and the Sergeant at Arms, only duly elected Members of Provincial Parliament are permitted to set foot on the floor of the Legislature beyond the Speaker’s Throne.  Not once in my nearly two and half years at Queen’s Park did I ever get to stand on the floor of the Leg.

Fast forward nearly a quarter of a century (though I hate the sound of that) and a phone call arrives from the office of the Speaker of the Ontario Legislature.  The Speaker presides over the Legislature.  Ontario was hosting a meeting of The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the Legislature, and I was invited to address the delegates and talk about my novel.  Nearly 100 elected parliamentarians from the federal government and all provinces would be in attendance along with Clerks from each jurisdiction and a few international VIPs.  I readily agreed and only then learned that the session would be held in the Legislature itself.

“Do you mean actually on the floor of the chamber?” I asked.


“Will I actually be speaking on the floor of the chamber?” I double-checked just to be sure.


Well, last week for the first time in 24 years, I returned to the Legislative Chamber, sat briefly in my old spot behind the Speaker’s Throne where I’d spent so many hours, so long ago, and then I simply walked out onto the floor.  For those of you with little interest in politics or our parliamentary traditions, this may prompt a hearty “yeah, so what.”  But for me, it was a real thrill.  The chamber itself has been completely refurbished since my earlier days at Queen’s Park and it looked stunning.

I spoke for about forty-five minutes, read a passage or two, handled some questions (not unlike in Question Period!), had some laughs, and then it was all over and I left the chamber through the main doors, something else I’d never done.  Since the publication of TBLP and the Leacock shock, I’ve had some amazing experiences and been granted wonderful opportunities that never would have otherwise come my way.  Speaking to a group of federal and provincial politicians and parliamentary clerks ranks right up there with the most memorable of them.  Luckily for me, perhaps less so for all of you, the Legislative photographer was on hand.


Writers I revere: John Irving

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

John Irving A Prayer for Owen Meany

After reading almost exclusively nonfiction until I was nearly 30, I switched to fiction around 1988 and haven’t looked back.  It was to my great fortune that one of the first novels I picked up, and then could not put down, was John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.  It was a revelation.

I’d been looking for a comic novel, but soon discovered that this was a hybrid.  In the same page, I could laugh out loud and then plunge into an emotional abyss.  The virtuoso juxtaposition of humour and pathos gave Irving’s words depth and heft.  This was no light beach read yet the stretches of melancholy were skillfully and beautifully offset by moments of unalloyed hilarity.  I was hooked.

I finished Owen Meany, reluctantly, and then rushed out to purchase every other Irving work I could find.  So I moved next to The World According to Garp, which I loved.  It had the same offbeat blend of humour and pathos that kept the pages turning well into the wee hours.  Then, Hotel New Hampshire. Another great read, though not quite as captivating as Garp and Owen Meany.  Then another hit – The Cider House Rules. Loved it.

It seems I’m a sucker for vulnerable, endearing characters on a quest.  And can Irving ever write.

But I must confess that the after Cider House Rules, Irving’s next few offerings didn’t quite do it for me.  I devoured The Son of the Circus, A Widow for One Year, and The Fourth Hand, but found that they didn’t have the same impact on me as did Garp, Meany, and Cider House.  I enjoyed them but wasn’t flattened as I had been by his earlier books. Perhaps I was becoming inured to this master’s writing.  No I don’t think so.

Last year, I read his most recent work, Until I Find You, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It felt like I was reading an early Irving novel again.  Irving has admitted that this is his most autobiographical novel.  Again, his familiar formula, brilliantly executed.  A young boy coming of age, on a journey replete with twists and turns, ups and downs, humour and emotional body blows, and all written with extraordinary power and subtlety.

Regrettably, there can be many years between Irving novels, which is a very long time for his fans to wait. But the good news is, his latest novel, Last Night in Twisted River, is due to hit bookstore shelves on October 20th.  It’s a date that’s marked in my calendar.

Last Night in Twisted River

Here’s a recent conversation John Irving had with the editor of the New York Times Book Review, Sam Tanenhaus on the NYTBR weekly podcast.

Words Worth Books and TBLP

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

Words Worth Books

There’s a wonderful bookstore in Waterloo, Ontario called Words Worth Books, that is well-known for its passionate and knowledgable staff, not to mention events that attract top-rank authors.  In fact, in May,  Anne Michaels and Wayson Choy visited.  I was delighted to see that TBLP has been recommended on the Words Worth website as one of their “Great Summer Reads.” (Note that on the website, the books are displayed down the left hand side.  I’ve changed the layout simply so that it fits better on this blog.  There are a couple of other great books also listed that aren’t shown in the graphic above.) It’s always nice to be noted on such lists, particularly when it’s alongside such accomplished writers as Lawrence Hill and Zoe Heller.  When this happens, the lyrics from that famous Sesame Street song always arrive in my mind: “One of these is not like the others.  One of these things just doesn’t belong…”

I don’t know about you, but I always look for the “Staff Picks” section of any bookstore.  I’ve seldom been disappointed with choices I’ve made from the “Staff Picks” table.  So digging a little deeper into the Words Worth Books website, it was a thrill to discover that the co-owner of the store has read and reviewed TBLP.  Thanks so much Tricia.

Words Worth owner review

Heading to Nova Scotia for two weeks

Thursday, June 25th, 2009


Tomorrow afternoon, we’re starting our family driving trip out to beautiful Nova Scotia to visit my wife’s family.  We make this trek every few years or so and it is always a great and restful time.  My older son may even lend a hand with the driving if the traffic is quiet.

I hope to make some more progress on the sequel to TBLP while I’m down east.  It will bring back some memories.  I wrote at least a couple of chapters of TBLP while in the stunning Irving Centre at Acadia University (photo below) while vacationing in Nova Scotia back in 2005.  I’ll try to give you all a more formal update on the status of The High Road (working title only) while I’m down in NS.  Time to pack…

IrvingGardenRoom Acadia

A great place to write.

Thanks McNally Robinson for a great event

Thursday, June 25th, 2009


Last night I gave a talk and reading at the wonderful new McNally Robinson Toronto bookstore in Don Mills.  Carla and her team at MR know how to put on an event.  There were amazing posters hanging throughout the store and public address announcements before the reading started.  They have an events area on the second floor and there were so many people that they kept having to add more rows of chairs.  There were some familiar faces in the crowd from my childhood neighbourhood who had seen ads in the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star for the event.  There were a couple of other writers in the audience including Tom Armstrong whose manuscript recently won second prize in the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Awards along with the $7,500 payday.  Better yet, Tom just inked a publishing deal with DC Books with publication of his novel slated for April 2010.

The talk and reading seemed to go well and the line-up for the signing was both humbling and gratifying.  Afterwards, Tom and I went for a drink and had a great talk about writing.

Thanks again to Carla and the good folks at McNally Robinson for a memorable evening.