Category: Art (Page 1 of 11)

Northern Exposure

I just finished watching all six seasons of Northern Exposure, a television series that first aired in 1991 about a young doctor forced to work in a small town in Alaska.

Northern Exposure was prestige television before there was such a thing as prestige television. I remember considering it a cut above when I first got into it, though not right away. I’d seen part of an episode when it first aired and dismissed it. My friend Trish insisted I give it a second look. She loaned me several VHS tapes jam packed with Northern Exposure episodes. I watched them with my roommates and we were soon hooked. I watched the first two seasons and thoroughly enjoyed each episode. I continued watching on network television once Trish’s episodes ran out. Then life intervened and I left the country for a while and fell off the Northern Exposure bandwagon.

But I always remembered the spell the show wove, its sensibility, its slightly off kilter humour. When the pandemic hit and I found myself working from (and mostly trapped) at home, I thought maybe some Northern Exposure magic might be just the thing to help get me through. My wife gave me all six seasons as a Christmas present (on DVD; it’s not available on any streaming platforms, as near as I can tell), and I’ve spent just over a year gradually watching them all.

I was surprised to discover how few episodes I’d actually seen. Maybe Trish missed taping a few. Or perhaps I’d completely forgotten some. Turns out I’d never seen any episode beyond the first two seasons. At first I was thrown by the 4:3 (or 1.33:1) aspect ratio, having become accustomed to 16:9 these last twenty years or so, which only became standard after 1996, once Northern Exposure was off the air. 4:3 doesn’t entirely fill a modern television’s entire screen. But after an episode or two the 4:3 aspect ratio stopped bothering me.

I loved re-watching the episodes I’d seen and happily ventured into new territory. The ones I’d seen took me back to a time when I was younger than two of the main characters in the ensemble cast, Joel and Maggie. I was twenty-six when I started watching Northern Exposure the first time around; they were about twenty-nine. Watching the episodes now I found I was closer in age to ex-astronaut turned entrepreneur Maurice Minnifield. So, that was weird. Where has the time gone? (Still younger than the character of Holling Vincoeur, though.)

The first two seasons held up nicely. Much of the magic, I realized, lay in the show’s magical realist elements. The show is at its absolute best when it marries magical realism to bold storytelling (such as briefly breaking the third wall in season two’s War and Peace, or going back in time for a period piece in season three’s finale Cicely). This is not a show with car chases and murders and drama (though death does figure occasionally). It’s a pleasant show, often delightful, shot brightly for the most part, about agreeable, gently flawed people. The music choices are varied, eccentric and entrancing (at least for the first few seasons), featuring artists such as Daniel Lanois, Etta James, Magazine 60, Nat King Cole, Miriam Makeba, Brian Eno and more. It was fun seeing actors like Jack Black, Graham Greene and James Marsters pop up at random. Stars Rob Morrow and Janine Turner are note perfect throughout.

I found the show the perfect anodyne to the increasingly mad world we find ourselves in now. I couldn’t completely escape, though. Unsettinglingly, I heard Trump’s name invoked not once but three times during the course of the series, each instance jarring.

Does it hold up for the entire six seasons? I had read that it doesn’t, but was curious to see for myself. In the middle of the show’s run creators Josh Brand and John Falsey handed the reins over to showrunner David Chase. Chase is famous as the showrunner for The Sopranos, a gritty show about a mob boss, considered one of television’s greatest series. I found this fascinating. Chase admitted not really understanding the premise of Northern Exposure. So this guy, who professed not to understand the premise of Northern Exposure, but who obviously knows a thing or two about making television, wound up running the show. He had other writers (such as Diana Frolov and Jeff Melvoin) to help him, writers who did mostly get the show, so I’m happy to report that the show does indeed hold up. Sort of. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It’s get a bit dodgy around the end of the fourth season and into the fifth, but does eventually find its stride again until near the end of the sixth season.

The sixth season is hit and miss. The season premiere, Dinner at Seven Thirty, is strong, and I thoroughly enjoyed a storyline featuring Joel giving up his medical practice to head north and immerse himself in native culture. Halfway through the season Joel is replaced by another doctor and his wife. The actors, Paul Provenza and Teri Polo, are fine, though little of note is done with them. There’s an episode near the end of the run featuring Ed Chigliak (called Balls) that in my opinion is among the strongest in the entire series (well, one of the episode’s story lines, at least). It provides actor Darren Burrows (Ed) with a material he could sink his teeth into for a change. Another enjoyable episode from season six, Little Italy, curiously presages The Sopranos.

There appeared to be a lack of understanding of some of the characters in season six. Apart from the aforementioned episode Balls, and half-hearted attempts to make him a filmmaker and a shaman, the character of Ed Chigliak gets entirely too goofy over time. It’s a shame; the writers could have done so much more with him. Elsewhere Brian Doan has written (in an essay about Northern Exposure that far surpasses this one in depth) about Chris Steven’s incipient toxic masculinity, and dammit Chris actually does become that a bit. It is painful to watch and a betrayal of the way Chris was presented earlier in the series, when he lived with a self-awareness of his darker side.

Sadly, none of the characters ever live up to their potential. In the first episode of the sixth season (Dinner at Seven Thirty) we see Cynthia Geary as a completely different character. I didn’t even recognize her for half the episode. It was a glimpse of what could have been done with Geary’s character Shelly had the writers allowed the character to grow. And in the final episode of the entire series, Tranquillity Base, which, sadly, bordered on the ridiculous (no, actually was ridiculous), we see Holling Vincoeur as a caricature of himself, more bloodhound than man, while Chris Stevens is ludicrous as opposed to insightful. Still, I like the montage music in the final moments of that episode (Our Town, by Iris Dement), perhaps the only saving grace (one final, parting gift from the series) in an episode that otherwise seemed deliberately designed to make fans repeatedly facepalm themselves.

Although the series ended on a less than stellar note, it was still entirely worth watching. It did not betray my memories of it. And although I will never watch it in its entirety again (unless I somehow become immortal between now and eternity) I fully expect to cherry pick episodes here and there when I feel the need to return to the state of mind that is Northern Exposure at its best.

Retired Summerside teacher’s book of short stories was 40 years in the making

This is a reprint of an article by Saltwire

I’m taking a bit of a liberty by reprinting an article by Saltwire on my father’s first foray into publishing here, mainly for posterity (as these articles tend to disappear after a while, and I don’t want to lose this one).

Thanks so much to journalist Kristin Gardiner for taking the time to interview my father.

You can find the original article here.

Should someone from Saltwire stumble upon this and take exception to me posting it here, simply let me know and I will remove it asap. Of course, I am hoping you will look the other way. See how heavily I’m promoting your site in return? 🙂

Tom Mahoney’s The Deer Yard inspired by childhood in Bath, New Brunswick Kristin Gardiner · Journalist | Posted: Jan. 12, 2022, 9:29 a.m. | Updated: Jan. 12, 2022, 9:29 a.m. | 7 Min Read

When Tom Mahoney first sat down at his new typewriter and began writing a story, he never imagined his work would be published. Now, 40 years later, he has a physical copy of his 29 stories, and can't help but feel proud of his accomplishment.
When Tom Mahoney first sat down at his new typewriter and began writing a story, he never imagined his work would be published. Now, 40 years later, he has a physical copy of his 29 stories, and can’t help but feel proud of his accomplishment. – Kristin Gardiner

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — When 87-year-old Tom Mahoney picks up the paperback placed on his coffee table, his name in large font on the front cover, he can’t help but feel proud.

“To see the book there,” he said, “it’s just unreal.”

Publication had never been Mahoney’s end goal when he first sat down at his new typewriter 40 years ago. He never imagined his stories would ever be read by anyone.

Instead, the retired Summerside teacher had merely wanted to practise his typing; stories inspired by his father and his own childhood in Bath, N.B., were a good place to start.

“All the old stories I’d written out in pencil, I had to type them all out,” he said. “What great fun, learning how to type and telling stories at the same time.”

Although Mahoney moved his family to Summerside in 1966 after being offered a teaching job at Summerside High School, the years he lived on the mainland always stayed in his mind.

“When I was a kid, my dad used to sit and tell stories,” said Mahoney. “Then, when I got older, I used to sit and tell stories.”

Some of those tales would have taken place in the recent past – others, 100 years prior. A few were more fictionalized than others, but each one drew from the rural New Brunswick experience Mahoney and his father had lived.

When he thinks back to those days, he remembers his childhood home, a farm without electricity.

He remembers when he and his family would spend much of the day in the forest near the house collecting firewood for the stove. They would pack a lunch while they were out in the woods, telling stories while they ate.


“I had no intention of ever making a book out of them … But my son came home this summer, gathered up all the stories that he could find that I’d written, and he spent the summer putting them into a book.”

– Tom Mahoney


It’s memories like that that Mahoney cemented on the pages that were eventually tucked away in a folder, all but forgotten.

His children knew about them, had even read a few. For the last few years, Mahoney’s son, Joe – who has written a book of his own – was determined to compile them all into a collection for others to enjoy.

“I had no intention of ever making a book out of them,” said Mahoney. “But my son came home this summer, gathered up all the stories that he could find that I’d written, and he spent the summer putting them into a book.”

When getting the book ready, Tom Mahoney, left, had help from his children, including fellow writer Susan Rodgers. For Rodgers, it was neat to have found more common ground with her father, and even better to get a glimpse into what life in New Brunswick was like for him as a child. - Kristin Gardiner
When getting the book ready, Tom Mahoney, left, had help from his children, including fellow writer Susan Rodgers. For Rodgers, it was neat to have found more common ground with her father, and even better to get a glimpse into what life in New Brunswick was like for him as a child. – Kristin Gardiner

While he knew what his son was doing, Mahoney pictured the anthology would be more akin to a small pamphlet than the 250-page paperback the 29 stories ended up being.

“It’s unbelievable,” laughed Mahoney.

Connecting through creating

Although it was Mahoney who wrote the stories and his son who got the ball rolling, the whole self-publishing effort quickly turned into a family collaboration.

The cover art – a picture of a deer – was drawn by Mahoney’s granddaughter.

His daughters, as well, each took a turn at copy editing all the stories – including his daughter Susan Rodgers, a writer herself.


“It made me want to just set the computer aside and go spend a lot more time in the woods, you know? … The stories were that real, that you felt like you could just almost walk outside and walk into that life.”

– Susan Rodgers


Although storytelling runs in the family, Rodgers said she hadn’t even known her father was a writer until she began writing in her 40s.

“I don’t think I saw one of (his) stories until maybe around the time I first published,” she said. “So it wasn’t something we grew up with. To us, our dad was always a science teacher … so I think I was surprised when I first discovered that my dad was also a short story writer.”

For Rodgers, she loves being able to share a common interest with her relatives. She and her father have always found common ground in literature – previously more reading than writing – and now, it’s “cool” to know that she can connect with her father over storytelling, as well.

“First of all, we’re just really proud of Dad,” she said. “Second of all … I think I was really amazed (by) how good of a writer my dad actually is.”

As much as she’s excited to have all her father’s tales in one place, what Rodgers loves most is how it gives her a glimpse into what her father’s life was like as a child, teen and young adult.

“It really intrigues me that all those people would want to read it,” said Mahoney. “And then I hear the comments from them. It’s unreal.”

Although the book was completed and ready for self-publishing in the fall, it wasn’t until the tail end of December that Mahoney got to hold a physical copy in his hands.

Now that his work is out there, he loves having something to show for his efforts.

“It feels terrific,” said Mahoney. “I never thought it would happen.”


Kristin Gardiner is a rural reporter with the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island.

The Deer Yard Status Three Weeks In

My sister Susan Rodgers and I published the Kindle edition of my father’s collection of short stories, The Deer Yard and Other Stories, on Dec 9th 2021, less than a month ago. The paperback edition came out the following day. We also distributed an ebook edition via Draft2Digital to a whole range of other distributors such as KoboBarnes & Noble, and so on. A couple of weeks later another we published another softcover edition via IngramSpark.

We published it using my own imprint, Donovan Street Press, in association with my sister Susan Rodger’s company, Bluemountain Entertainment. Because Dad is an author from Prince Edward Island, and Susan’s company is also based in PEI, we are hoping to use grant money from PEI for this purpose, though that has yet to be confirmed. If that doesn’t pan out, the entire enterprise will be financed by me, which is perfectly fine, and the least I can for Dad, who has certainly done much more for me during my life.

Dad is eighty-seven years old and has been writing stories like those included in The Deer Yard his entire adult life. He’s had lots of time to perfect the tales. Editing them was mostly a question of correcting grammar and punctuation (as he put it, he spent his career teaching physics, not English grammar). He did have a penchant for writing in the passive tense that I took the liberty to address. Beyond that my ethos was just to make the stories shine, and change as little as possible. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere it felt very much like mining precious gems. I just needed to wipe the soil off and polish them up a bit.

We didn’t have a launch, virtual or otherwise. Dad wasn’t really interested in that. He just wanted to get the stories out there. We got the word out via Facebook to family and friends. There might have been a few texts, a few phone calls. An email to a writing group or two.

When you’re publishing a book you need to choose which categories it belongs to. Generally you start with a couple, though there are ways to get it into more categories. For The Deer Yard and Other Stories, I chose Short Stories and Family Life. Amazon determined it belonged to Canadian Short Stories. Niche categories like that are important because it’s easier to rank higher when there isn’t much competition. If you search Google for Hot New Canadian Fiction right now you’ll see that The Deer Yard ranks #38 and #39 for the Kindle and print versions. If you narrow it down to Hot New Releases in Canadian Short Stories you’ll see that it ranks #2 and #3, after sitting comfortably in the #1 and #2 positions for the last couple of weeks, beating out collections by such luminaries as Stuart McLean and Margaret Atwood. It is #8 in the Most Gifted category, having once or twice soared as high as #6.

You might think, gee, it must be selling thousands of copies to be ranked so high, and perhaps I should leave it at that. Smoke and mirrors. But that is not the reality of publishing, certainly not Indie publishing. The Deer Yard and Other Stories has achieved those ranks having sold fourteen ebooks and sixteen physical copies on Amazon, and an additional six ebooks on Kobo, for a total of thirty-six books and earning approximately $158 for Dad and a third of that for Amazon and Kobo. Still, that’s not bad for a book by an unknown author by an Indie publisher launched with zero fanfare and out less than a month.

Interestingly, Publisher Rocket (software that helps you analyze the competition and pick categories and keywords for your indie books) tells me that The Deer Yard and Other Stories has 15 competitors in its categories and is on track to earn $2602.00 this month. The former is probably close to the truth, but we are a long way off from earning the latter, I can tell you.   

In fact, the book will no doubt take a while to earn back the investment we put into it, even if the PEI government does come through with their grant. The Deer Yard and Other Stories cost just over $800 to put together. Here’s the breakdown:

Cover Design (all formats): $401.16

Cover Illustration: $100

Vellum (Publishing software, one time expense): $361.59

Total = $862.75

My daughter Erin drew the deer. I believe in paying people for their work which is why she got the $100, though she would have done it for free. The cover itself was designed by a professional, Valerie Bellamy, using Erin’s illustration. The publishing software, Vellum, went on sale days after I purchased it (d’oh!) so I could have saved some money there had I been smarter and more patient. Beyond that, it doesn’t cost anything to upload your book to Amazon and Draft2Digital. IngramSpark does charge a small fee, but I belong to The Alliance of Independent Authors who provide a promo code waiving that fee. 

So, just another $2444 in Royalties between now and end of day tomorrow and we’ll have lived up to Publisher Rocket’s rather optimistic projection. Something tells me we won’t quite make that. But I’m perfectly happy with where we’re at. The important thing was getting the book out there and a physical copy in Dad’s hands so he could hold his first book.

Everything else is gravy.  

The Deer Yard and Other Stories

About The Deer Yard and Other Stories:


Illustration by Erin Mahoney
Cover Design by Valerie Bellamy

For as long as I can remember my father has been writing stories, mainly about growing up on a farm in Johnville New Brunswick. I would say that my sister Susan Rodgers and I got the writing bug from him except that my mother told me recently she’s always wanted to be a writer too. I think the bug bit the whole darned family.

I’ve long wanted to collect my father’s stories up in single package. For years I’ve had versions on my laptops and computers and hard copies laying about. But I was never sure I had them all.

I managed to get home to Prince Edward Island this past summer. While there, Dad and I talked about his stories. He’s eighty-seven years old now. He showed me stories of his I’d never seen before. Before I knew it, I was gathering all the stories up, making sure I had them all. Some were already in electronic form. Others were on paper, having been typewritten decades earlier. (Dad told me that purchasing a typewriter was the original impetus for starting to write.) Others were parts of amateur collections that had been put together over the years by writers groups my father had been part of. One story was actually a letter written to Dad by his brother Bill back in the fifties, a letter possessing a singular charm, and that eventually became a part of this collection.

After I thought I’d collected every word Dad had ever written, or at least that he could remember writing, one of my cousins, Ann Cassidy McCambley, sent me three stories he’d forgotten he’d written, that his sister Marion had absconded with after a visit to Dad’s house years ago. (One of those stories, “Fishing,” is a part of this collection. )

Left to Right Front:
Some of Dad’s family growing up: Leo Charles Mahoney, Marion Theresa Mahoney Cassidy, “Joan” Clara Joan Mahoney Jones, “Bill” William Joseph Mahoney, Ambrose Joseph Mahoney, “Tom” Thomas Aquinas Mahoney (my father)
Back:
Helen Elizabeth Kilfoil Mahoney, “Joe” Joseph Thomas Mahoney (my grandfather)
(photo courtesy of Ann Cassidy McCambley)

I started editing. I already knew the stories possessed their own allure, imparted in part by a striking authenticity. The voice, the vocabulary, the terminology, is straight out of Dad’s youth growing up in Northern New Brunswick in the forties and fifties. It’s a whole other world, one Dad brings vividly to life. Editing the tales consisted mainly of cleaning up the grammar and punctuation. As much as possible I hewed to Dad’s original prose, changing only what was necessary. It felt like polishing gemstones; I was not chipping away rock and detritus only to unearth coal. These were emeralds, rubies, diamonds. And I don’t believe I’m saying that just because the man is my father. My father knows how to tell uniquely compelling tales.

Or, truth be told, re-tell some of them. Many of the tales in this collection were told to him by his father, for whom I am named: the original Joseph Thomas Mahoney, or Joe… the exact same name as me. That Joe Mahoney was born in 1900 and died tragically young in 1954, younger than I am now. He was a teamster and a farmer, worked his own farm all his life with his burgeoning family. And while doing so told a lot of stories, many of which my father remembered, and some of which are in this collection, two of which are entertainingly told in part in that man’s own voice. Here’s a photo of the man in his prime, with my grandmother, Helen Kilfoil, and an aunt and an uncle:

Helen Mahoney holding Alice Marie Mahoney Whelton & Joe Mahoney holding “Johnny” John Francis Mahoney
1929 (photo courtesy of Ann Cassidy McCambley)

The Deer Yard and Other Stories is being published by my own imprint, Donovan Street Press, in association with my sister Susan Rodger‘s company Bluemountain Entertainment, subsidized in part by a grant by the government of Prince Edward Island. One of my daughters, Erin, illustrated the deer on the cover. Valerie Bellamy, a graphic and book designer from Halifax, designed the superb cover. All three of my sisters, Susan, Shawna and Kathy helped proofread the collection (there are zero typos, or had better not be!) It’s available in ebook now; a softcover version (featuring large print) will be available shortly.

Here’s the back jacket blurb:

Tom Mahoney grew up on a small family farm in Johnville, New Brunswick. Despite a lack of modern conveniences such as running water and electricity, he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Tom’s was a world of natural beauty; of soft and lonely quiet. Life was never dull. His active imagination was nourished by ghosts and demons, intrepid priests, drunken neighbours, redneck bullies, frightened deer, angry bears, wannabe circus dogs, and plenty of shenanigans. From these seeds great stories grew. Drawing on his own experiences and those of his family — his father was also a gifted storyteller — Tom’s humorous and touching tales, spanning decades, brim with colour and authenticity.

The Deer yard and Other Stories

The Deer Yard and Other Stories is available at the following online retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Vivlio

Goodreads

A recent photo of Dad with his sisters: Alice Mahoney Whelton, Marion Mahoney Cassidy, Tom Mahoney, Joan Mahoney Jones (photo courtesy of Ann Cassidy McCambley)

“Frankenreview” (Part Two)

Here’s a slightly more positive “frankenreview” (hey, fair’s fair…)

Photo by Dad Grass from Pexels

Once again, this “frankenreview” is comprised of direct quotes from existing reviews found on Goodreads, Amazon, Librarything and elsewhere. I did not change a single word, though I did omit some words (as indicated by ellipsis) and added others (indicated by parentheses) in the interest of readability.

I encourage you to visit any of the sites mentioned above and post your own reviews. Not just for my book(s), but for any you’ve read. Whether the reviews you leave are positive or negative (or somewhere in between) you’ll be doing your favourite writer(s) a huge favour.

Et voila… A Time and a Place “Frankenreview” Part Two:

(Click here for Frankenreview Part One)

What a story! Unlike any other sci-fi you’ve ever read. Non-stop action. It… had me hooked from the beginning. I really enjoyed this novel and recommend it for those who like their science fiction stories to be quirky, human and compelling. I loved this book!

Mahoney relates a pretty rollicking Fantasy-Science Fiction adventure story with a lively, imaginative degree of world building. There is a veritable smorgasbord of funky ideas at play in the novel and passages of sneaky thoughtfulness cheek by jowl with subversive goofiness. With wry, tongue-in-cheek similes and metaphors at his disposal, Mahoney seems to be both winking at the tropes of the genres he is engaged in while encouraging us as readers to give them another look with a fresh set of eyes.

This book was both comic and tragic, sad and funny, with a hero who tries to do the right thing but always seems to stumble. The protagonist is an endearing sad sack. I… found the characters to be sympathetic and memorable. Mahoney… deserves credit for taking a passel of relatively archetypical supporting characters and either spinning them off in unexpected ways or giving them much more nuance and depth than expected. Beings of all stripes enter the field of battle, the most charming being Jacques, a one-eyed tentacled Necronian who will engulf you unless you have something he wants. I greatly enjoyed the chapters in which our time and dimension travelling hero finds himself in the body of an alien, purple-furred cat with opposable thumbs and then a seagull. The T’Klee were my favorite bit. I love the idea of large cats with opposable thumbs, their own language & culture, and having to fight the technologically advanced Necronians.

The magic of A TIME AND A PLACE resides in its rich description of places we’ll never see—not even in dreams. The author has a great imagination. His ability to evoke imaginative worlds and alien creatures is what makes reading this book such a pleasure. The vivid descriptions and wit kept me hooked from beginning to end. A Sci-Fi Fantasy with literary notes, there is so much to love about this book. 

The writing is so polished that if it were my hardwood floor, I would be able to see my face in it. Quintessentially Canadian, beautifully written, displaying the dry humour that made Stephen Leacock a national treasure. By turns droll and exuberant, this novel reels you into its strange world with as much pull as the portal that sends Barnabus through time and space. This book sprawls, wildly (I didn’t mention the shapeshifting demon Iugurtha or the sentient artificial intelligence Sebastian or the warrior cats), yet it all fits together. Through its unflinching depiction of conflict, this book packs a surprising emotional punch. But – mark my words – this doesn’t disqualify Joe Mahoney from being the next Terry Pratchett… the author has a decided knack for humorous word play which brings some levity to otherwise serious situations. Mahoney writes with a practised wit. In A Time and a Place, the humour sneaks up on you and results in under-your-breath chuckles. This all interweaves into Joe’s style, which is actually quite pronounced for a first novel.

This is the first time—in this lifetime—I’ve read anything by Joe Mahoney, and it won’t be the last. I enjoyed the book tremendously and appreciated how the background story unfolded in stages. (It) was so well written and intriguing, I did not want to put it down. A page turner. I stayed glued to it until late into the night. With questionable allies hiding in every closet, layered characters and a plot that kept the pages turning, you won’t regret adding A Time and a Place to your shelf. By the time you reach the end, you’ll be sad to leave this crazy universe behind.

Joe Mahoney was also a fine narrator. I have to say with a voice like that I would listen to anything he narrated. I loved this mesmerising audiobook with its non-stop action and adventure. Can’t wait for Mr. Mahoney’s next book.

CULLED FROM VARIOUS SOURCES SUCH AS GOODREADS, LIBRARYTHING, AND AMAZON

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