Book signing and art

I’ll be signing my books Finding Dermot and Tide Cracks and Sastrugi at the Midtown Mosaic art and book show. This is a diverse exhibition of local talented artisans in a neat venue we’ve participated in the past few years. Renovations to remove the pews and update the lighting will make this a very pleasant place. Lois will have some new work to exhibit, including small framed colour pencil originals in her Beach Studies series.  It’s a very interesting collection.

Mosaic 2014


Pathway advice

Showy asters brighten the pathway

Showy asters brighten the pathway.

I was out walking in the rain along my favourite pathway yesterday beside the reservoir and quietly figured I’d make a radical change to the novel-in-progress. How about  I go with the first person voice? Sure, it would mean changing the chapters already laid down in draft. Back at the keyboard I tried it out with the chapter I’m working on. It was a delight.

Later, in the wee dark hours of the morning, I had time to reflect a little deeper on several other factors in what I wanted to achieve with Wildflowers (working title). Today I checked on a few references relating to the first person voice versus the third person narrative and now believe I should stick to how the story has evolved to date. After all, it is coming together, my characters are talking to me and such a change might take me away from my outline. In other words I see this sudden leap as a distraction.

That said, I’m will continue to nurture the idea as having experimented, albeit briefly, I sense merit. I’ll see how the story progresses, how the tension rises and falls and above all how the reader will be engaged.

Maybe when I head out on my walk along the path today, something else will ambush my brain. I did not have these flights of fancy with either Blossom or Dermot in Finding Dermot as they were firmly in control of the story. I have to allow my new characters the same freedom!


A foster robin

We have a new resident at our place — a baby robin!

Lois first found him on Friday safely semi submerged under the portulaca plant in a pot near the front door. She heard a peeping noise and he looked out at her. Lois captured that on her camera and we thought little more of him.

In the flower pot under a portulaca

In the flower pot under a portulaca

Saturday we found him under the onions in the back garden.

Shelter in the onion patch

Shelter in the onion patch

But now we wonder how he got there as the back garden is surrounded by a six foot high white vinyl fence. Well, we’re glad he’s in the back yard as he’s quite safe there as no cats are present or visiting.  For a bit he sheltered under the raspberries but the noisy sparrows must have been too much for him and he hopped/fluttered to the wood pile.

The poor little guy...where is his underside covering?

The poor little guy…where is his underside covering?

He’s been there ever since with Mom and or Dad dropping in every now and then to give him a feed.

Roosting on the trellis at the wood pile.

Roosting on the trellis at the wood pile.

He certainly does not seem to be under any sort of stress but we keep our distance.

My pictures were captured with a 500mm telephone lens.

A parent watches from the overhead aspen, a beak full of grubs.

A parent watches from the overhead aspen, a beak full of grubs.

Going postal!

I sent a copy of Finding Dermot to Toronto earlier this week and continue in my amazement as to how Canada Post seems to have shot itself in the foot.

Slow post (within six business days) cost me  a princely $15.86 , made up of  $12.37 for the book, 0.93 for fuel surcharge ??, and $1.80 G/S (claims to be an oversized charge, but from what?). Ok so that’s $15.10 but tucked further down the 15-inch long receipt  I see  GST at 0.76 .

The way my mind works if the book sells for $25 it is not very economic for an author to use Canada Post to distribute books.  For who in their right mind will meet the mailing cost as the cost of the book immediately balloons to $40 or so (The standard bookstore margin for a book is 40%. Dice out cost to print, editors, designers etc and yep, you are so right, the author writes and creates a story just for the love of it. And that’s why I write!)

From Calgary, a few weeks back sending the book in exactly the same packaging and weight to Vancouver and  US destinations  at the same postal outlet cost $10 and change. Sending to the UK the price was $18.75 and to Olds,  Alberta, (just 95 km and one hour north of Calgary) $11.87.

And while I’m on to Mr Post I thought I read somewhere a while back that to improve Canada Post profitability, mail carriers would be equipped with small vans to deliver both mail and small parcels in a more efficient manner. Sounded good. Though in my small suburban enclave I’ve counted three or four different little postal vans. Doesn’t sound efficient to me.

What worries me more than anything is that postal services will continue to erode and an essential service in the grip of a total monopoly will fade into history.


Aha, a new path!

Pathways are an attraction. We hit one the other day Wasa pathwhile camping at the Wasa Lake Provincial campground in British Columbia. To us it was definitely in the never-seen-before-I-wonder-where-it-goes type of trail. No map to guide us, only the safety of knowing we were in a provincial park and confident that in these places pathways usually travel around a forested perimeter. Besides we’d already seen good keen walkers survive the trail and return unscathed. And we’d watched the youngsters on their bicycles zoom by.
Five minutes on to the path this is what we found. Well, that’s just what I need. A good walk and bit of an upper as well plus a view at the top. The trail wound its way round and up the hill. Lots of climbing in the shelter of the pine trees, lots of quiet thoughts about the new novel I’m writing and what my main characters might think of a place like this. Around every turn there was something new, whether IMG_6109a flower in its final stages of summer bloom, the way pine cones IMG_6112had cascaded into piles around the unidentified and thoroughly dried plants. Perhaps I’d think in terms of a large lily leaf. HoneysuckleHoneysuckle berries have turned their yellow and red alongside the dry and dusty pathway. New growth pines are flourishing  in the tinder dry clutter. A gentle breeze keeps our temperatures moderate and benches here and there provided a thankful rest at strategic viewpoints of the lake. We meet others doing the up and over  three kilometre path. Our ears pick up on Canada’s diversity, Spanish, French, Asian, European languages but the universal smile and “hi, great day” is acknowledged by all.  At the top we can look down on the lake and the colour of all who enjoy the hot sunny day. Boats, water skiers, tubers, wake boarders, swimmers young and old playing at the shore.  Denny, one of the characters in my novel Finding Dermot, finds beauty and peace in the pathways he’s created in his own private kiwi conservation project in a remote part of New Zealand.

IMG_6111A pathway, always leading somewhere and showing something, like this tree clearer’s artistic stumps at a fallen pines. Neat eh!




Trumpeting the Trumpeter

Swan2The recent news that the Trumpeter swan is off the endangered list came as bright spot on our horizon. Let’s not forget though that this largest swan in the world remains on Canada’s take-care-of-me list. This magnificent bird has rebounded from near extinction in the early 1900s. It has been a long slow recovery but all good news.

The Trumpeter is kinda special to Lois and I. We’d never heard of it until we immigrated in 1970 and settled in the Alberta Peace Country City of Grande Prairie. The County of Grande Prairie has many lakes and sloughs which attract the Trumpeter for the nesting season. The county has spent a great deal of effort over the years to protect the bird and preserve these breeding lakes. The community unofficially adopted the bird in the 1930s and when the town gained city status (1958) the trumpeter was soon chosen as the city crest in 1960 and remains in use today.

Swan3So when we arrived in the Swan City we were fascinated and my work has a photo-journalist at the Daily Herald Tribune (DHT) spurred my interest. I befriended Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) conservation staff and as a newspaper we did what we could to keep awareness of the swan at the forefront. Our family interest was well beyond occupation. It was personal. Grande Prairie’s focus.

My old boss and former DHT editor, Bill Scott, recently wrote in his newspaper column Pot Pourri  that the swan sculpture that became the city emblem celebrated its 50th anniversary this past June.  The iconic bird continues to reside happily in Jubilee Park, 10ft high, a model of a young bird stretching its wings. The swan was everywhere in the city and I recall interviewing aspiring Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed at the White Swan Motel. The statue graced collector teaspoons and other souvenirs and the city was in the habit of giving out statuettes to visiting dignitaries.

TrumpetLois created this beautiful painting of Trumpeter cygnets which I captured on a lake out in the county. The CWS confided their location to me and a friend loaned me a Folboat (a collapsible kayak) to float  through the reeds into the lake and get the following pictures which appeared in the DHT.

















These black and white shots were taken during a banding trip with the CWS in the mid 70s. Using an airboat, the CWS guys would come up alongside a cygnet scoop it up and head to the shore to weigh, measure and band. The day I was out with them was cool and raining.  This was in the pre computer and digital picture age. I processed and printed my film at the DHT darkroom.

Lois worked as an artist at the Department of Education regional office and used  her drawing for the cover of a reading manual.booster2

The Chamber of Commerce developed a trade coin promotion: local artist Robert Guest created the front side Trumpeter and Lois’ historical drawing was among those by Robert to grace the reverse.

Brian Wilson and Bob McFarlane hired me on as editor of their weekly newspaper Grande Prairie Booster while I recovered from a nervous breakdown and we had Lois design the masthead. I wrote a column in that paper Roamin’ Round and a paragraph of the June 30, 1976 edition read:

Testing Eggs:

“Called in at the Canadian Wildlife Service office in Edmonton during a visit last week and found biologist Bryan Kemper and his team cutting up Trumpeter swan eggs collected during a survey week in Grande Prairie this summer. About eight eggs had been collected and were taken from nests last month, well after the hatching period. Kemper said eggs had never been taken or examined so the abandoned, unhatched eggs provided a good opportunity for analysis. The CWS will have the contents of the eggs and shells examined for several points including mercury levels and such things as pesticides. The researchers also want to try and find out why the eggs did not mature for of the eight collected only one produced a fully developed embryo.”

Habitat protection, reintroduction programs, sanctuaries, greater awareness and a ban on hunting have helped bring the Trumpeter back from near extinction to a healthier population of around 16,000. An adult bird can be around 25lb, five feet or so long and with a wingspan of six to eight feet.



Fresh Front

August 1 and we have a nice new entry to our house.  The gaillardias are showing signs of Front doorwear out in the fields and gardens but they are now alive, well  and permanent at our place.

Sunshine and rain, ice and snow, heat and cold took their toll on the painted panels we had gracing the  front door for the past few years. We were faced with the challenge of sanding to bare wood with Lois creating new art in situ or we could just get some new plywood and build on. So that’s the course we took and Lois had the flexibility of painting whenever and wherever over New Panelthe past couple of weeks. The weather has been just great so much of her effort was spent outside in the garden surroundings. Rather appropriate for what she was creating, brushstroke by brushstroke.

Each panel is approx 18 inch by 83 inches. And of course with the new artwork we just had to have a new mailbox  so I put one together from the pieces left over from the sheet of plywood. It is very simple, great artwork but there is a nice surprise on the inside lid for our mail person, newspaper delivery and anyone else who drops something off.Mailbox