Category: Family (Page 1 of 10)

Parting Gifts

Me and Peter Chin in Radio MCR circa 1989

“How else you gonna be?”

That was Peter Chin a few days before he left us. We were talking on the phone. He wasn’t in great shape. They’d taken him to the hospital a couple of weeks earlier because he’d woken up with no feeling in his legs. He couldn’t walk anymore. I may have the details wrong. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that he’d been cheerful during our call though he must have known the prognosis wasn’t good.

“I have to say, Peter, you sound pretty positive despite everything,” I’d told him.

“How else you gonna be?” he said.

It was a gift. Peter had been good to me right from the beginning, ever since we’d met thirty-four years earlier serving the nation’s broadcaster in Radio Master Control. He’d mentored me, and I was awfully fond of him, and now here he was in the last week of his life and he had to have known it and he wasn’t anywhere near old enough to be in the last week of his life and he was cheerful. It kills me to think of it. But it was a gift he was giving me, it wasn’t an act, I’m sure of it, it was really Peter showing me that you could face that sort of thing, the end of your own life, with courage and grace and I will remember it to the end of mine.

Then there’s Gus. Gus was my next door neighbour, had been since 2001. He passed away a couple of months ago. You may think this is sad, me writing about good people dying, and of course it is, it is definitely sad, but it’s a part of life (“the last part,” a friend’s father once said) and we arguably don’t talk, don’t think about it enough. But bear with me, please, I promise you it’s not all doom and gloom.

The last thing Gus ever said to me was a joke. He’d had surgery and it hadn’t gone well. In fact, it had signaled the beginning of the end. He never got better. And he was sitting on his porch in his eighty-fifth year with the woman he loved, who loved him back more than anyone I’ve ever known has ever loved anyone, and who was there with him right til the end, and he was watching my wife and I move a ridiculously heavy couch from our basement to our living room through the front door.

“Good for you, Joe,” he told me, in his soft Scottish lilt. “Making your wife lift the heavy end.”

Gus knew the end was near but he faced it with good humour, joking to friends, family, and nurses alike right to the end. We lost him a few weeks after he poked fun at me.

My father-in-law Dave spoke to me via video from the hospital bed from which he would never rise.

“How are you, Joe?” he asked with genuine interest, my well-being somehow, impossibly, important to him during these last few hours of his life. “You look good,” he added, his attention firmly directed on those around him rather than on his own predicament.

I am not at all sure that I will be able to muster anywhere near the same courage and dignity when my time comes, but having seen it done now I shall certainly try.

Bill Lane. (Boy, I really feel like we’ve lost a lot of fine people in a short span of time this past year. I think about them often.)

Bill’s family reached out in his last few days, soliciting memories from those in his life. I shared one on Christmas Eve, honoured to have been included. So did many others. There’s a picture of Bill on Facebook taken on Christmas Day after having received those memories. He appreciated us celebrating his life. He’s lying in bed smiling. Smiling, though he would be gone a few short days later.

You see, don’t you? It’s possible to smile at the end. To joke, even. To be positive in the face of certain calamity. I am sad, thinking of my friends. I wish I’d gotten to know each of them better, spent more time with them.

But I am also braver courtesy of their parting gifts.

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.  

Quid Novi?

The latest in Joe Mahoney news…

Some of you many have observed that I’ve removed most if not all posts relating to CBC Radio, including my memoir in progress “Adventures in the Radio Trade” (previously called Something Technical).

Sorry ’bout that.

My apologies in particular to those who’ve written to me lately expressing appreciation for said posts, or who have posted links to the material in question on other blogs (including Wikipedia, for which I plan to restore some of the material).

Don’t worry, I didn’t delete everything. I’ve just moved the status of those posts to “private.”

I’ve done this because I intend to release Adventures in the Radio Trade as a book, and I can’t have the material posted publicly on a blog and in a book. Well, I could, I suppose, but nobody would publish the book. For example, if Amazon detected material from the book on a website, they would decline to include the book among their wares. (They threatened to do this with my short story collection Other Times and Places after detecting one of the stories online, which I had forgotten to remove.)

I’d also begun to notice excerpts from my online version of Adventures in the Radio Trade on other websites, which, although somewhat flattering, made me afraid I’d never get it entirely offline when the need arose.

I did like the online version, which included many links and photos which I’ll not be able to include in the book version. But alas. The online version could never be permanent, whereas the book version can.

I’ve submitted Adventures in the Radio Trade to a handful of agents and publishers, but I don’t really care if it’s traditionally published. I’m perfectly happy to publish it myself, under my own imprint Donovan Street Press. I’ve also discussed publishing it as a joint venture with my sister Susan Rodgers, under her production company, Blue Mountain Entertainment. We shall see.

In the meantime, the manuscript, which includes a fair amount of material I’ve never posted before, is being edited by one of my two favourite editors (and good friend), Arleane Ralph. And I’ve already secured most of the permissions I require from the CBC to publish the book, just a few more “t”s to cross there.

Yours Truly and members of my family at Twin Shores, PEI August 2021

I’ve just returned from a highly restorative trip to Prince Edward Island where I saw several members of my family, many of whom I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. I would call PEI “the land Covid forgot” except I don’t want to jinx the place. But it was almost possible to forget about the pandemic there, where masks are not mandatory (we frequently wore them anyway). I loved it. I never want another summer to go by where I don’t visit PEI, which is where I grew up, and where much of my family still lives.

While there, I collected everything my dad, Tom Mahoney, ever wrote. One of my projects this fall will be to assemble it into a book, and publish it before Christmas, also under Donovan Street Press, in association with Blue Mountain Entertainment. His writing is almost entirely of growing up on top of a mountain near Johnville, New Brunswick in the thirties and forties. There are stories of ghosts, log drives, backwoods bullies, acrobatic dogs, and more. (One story was featured on CBC Radio’s The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean).

Not only do I think it will be an entertaining collection, I think it’s of historical value, evoking a way of being largely lost to us now. Dad grew up with no running water and electricity. His father, my grandfather, wore his long johns all winter long to stay warm working mostly outdoors on their farm. There are crazy, memorable characters like Bob Tucker, a family friend and fellow mountain man who once crashed a locomotive, dynamited rocks in rivers to make life easier for himself, jumped off a train to avoid the first world war, got trapped in snow up to his neck, and whose first hot bath was in a hospital at the end of his life. I look forward to getting this collection out.

I’m three quarters of the way through a companion novel to A Time and a Place, called Captain’s Away, a straight up space opera set one thousand years in the future. It’s about the Doucette’s (descendants of Ridley Doucette) who are separated when their space station is blown out from beneath them at the onset of an intergalactic war. They have their own adventures while trying to find their way back to one another, each contributing to the war effort in their own way. It’s got spaceships and robots and evil emperors and princesses (or the like) and it’s a lot of fun to write.

Finally, while in PEI I had an idea for a mystery series that’s a bit of a departure for me, but that I also think could be a lot of fun to write. All I need is an extra twenty-four hours per day and maybe I can get all this stuff done (there’s still a day job, family, and de facto zoo to look after as well!)

That’s where I’m at these days.

How ’bout you?

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