Category: Name Dropping (Page 1 of 13)

Self-Publishing Colloquium

Photo by Saliha from Pexels

I’ve been invited to participate in a Twitter self-publishing colloquium by fellow writers Paula Johanson and Celu Amberstone.

Honoured to have been asked, I readily agreed, and then promptly went to the dictionary to figure out what a “colloquium” is, and whether Paula had spelled it correctly. I mean, what the heck kind of word has “uiu” in the middle of it? I should not have doubted her. She spelled it correctly. I cannot spell it correctly without saying the letters “uiu” out loud as I’m writing it.

And what is it? “An academic conference or seminar.” I guess you can have those sorts of things on Twitter, especially now that Elon Musk is running the joint. (With him there apparently you can have, do or say anything you like, world order and democracy be damned.)

It may sound like I’m being a bit flip about the whole thing. (That’s cause I am. ) But the flippedness ends now. (Not really, but a little bit.) Cuz I am in fact pleased to have been asked to participate and have every intention of taking it seriously, or as seriously as I’m able, which is every bit as serious as is required without being one iota more serious than that.

And what exactly are Paula and Celu asking of me? Initially, a series of ten tweets accompanied by a brief blog post (you’re reading that part right now) about the whole (hang on while I recite the letters out loud) “colloquium” (it didn’t work; I had to scroll back up in this post to get the order of the letters right).

But wait! I haven’t even really explained what it’s about.

According to Paula (who should know as she’s the one putting this whole thing together) it’s about “self-publishing your own fiction, and things you have learned.” And for me specifically: “What was it like preparing your father’s book and publishing it? What kind of reaction and feedback are you getting? What skills that you learned working for the CBC are you bringing to your self-publishing?”

So that is what I will be tweeting about tomorrow, Saturday April 30th around noon EST with Paula and Celu.

Paula adds: “I’m sure there’s lots you have in mind to say.”

Perhaps… but not right now. It’s Friday afternoon! And I have to walk the dog, after which I’m going out for wings and a movie with the guys. As you can imagine, there hasn’t been a whole lot of that sort of thing the last couple of years. Now that the damnpenic (sic) is over (hey, I can pretend just as well as the rest of our dumb elected officials) I can do that sort of thing again.

And tomorrow?

Our Twitter Colloquium on Self-publishing, hashtag  #SelfPubCol. I hope you’ll join us!

Review of Alpha Max by Mark A. Rayner

Available on Amazon and other online retailers


Great cover design by Xavier Comas

As I sat down to write the initial version of this review on Amazon, it prompted me by asking, “What did you like or dislike? What did you use this product for?”

I’ll answer the last question first. Oddly enough, I used this product for reading. I believe that’s what it’s best suited for. That can’t be said for all books; happily it’s the case with this one. Alpha Max is a book for people who like to read funny, thoughtful novels written in an engaging style.

Alpha Max is about a man, Max Tundra, who is recruited to help save the multiverse. Doing so he visits many different versions of Earth and meets many (sometimes unusual) iterations of himself. The story moves at a brisk pace with not a single dull passage toward an engaging conclusion as Max gradually figures out what’s really going on.

Mark Rayner has many strengths as a writer, among them charm, humour, and inventiveness, all of which serve a higher purpose, to explore ideas in a fun way. It’s all on display in Alpha Max as Rayner fires on all cylinders with perhaps his finest work to date.

What did I like? I liked it all, including the softcover copy, which looks and feels good. I love the cover design and the interior layout was a pleasure to read.

What didn’t I like? Struggling to come up with something here. Maybe the ISBN number could have been better. A few more 7s would have been nice. But hey, nothing’s perfect, at least not in this version of the universe.

Five out of Five for Alpha Max by Mark A. Rayner.

Lorina Stephens Launches Dreams of the Moon

Recently I had the pleasure of helping my former publisher Lorina Stephens launch one of her own books, the latest of ten so far, this one a collection of short fiction entitled Dreams of the Moon.

The launch, which was conducted virtually (as so many necessarily are these days) was hosted by Richard Graeme Cameron, editor and publisher of the Aurora Award winning Canadian SF fiction magazine Polar Borealis.

As well as having run Five Rivers Publishing, Lorina has worked as an editor, a freelance journalist for national and regional print media, and (as mentioned) she is the author of ten books. She’s had several short fiction pieces published in well regarded venues such as Polar Borealis, On Spec, Neo-opsis, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X.

Graeme recorded the launch, which included an interview with Lorina during which she expressed herself quite eloquently (certainly well enough for someone to invite her on, say, a national radio show about books, just saying) as well as a couple of short readings from Dreams of the Moon.

And here it is, in its entirety:

Other work by Lorina Stephens includes: And the Angels Sang; Caliban; Dreams of the Moon; From Mountains of Ice; Memories, Mother and a Christmas Addiction; The Rose Guardian; Shadow Song; co-editor Tesseracts 22: Alchemy and Artifacts; co-author The Giant’s Rib: Touring the Niagara Escarpment; Credit River Valley; Stonehouse Cooks

CJRW 1240 Radio in Summerside, PEI

An excerpt from an memoir about working in radio called Adventures in the Radio Trade, anticipated publication date sometime in 2022:


This is similar to the console at CJRW. At CJRW the turntables were situated on our left (photo from Jim Zimmerlin)

In July, 1988, CBC Radio acquired a twenty-three year old with a lot of growing up yet to do. I wasn’t completely green, though. I’d been in broadcasting since the age of fourteen. At that age I’d begun volunteering at the local cable affiliate, Cable 5, in Summerside, PEI.

I loved working at Cable 5. I learned to operate the cameras and the big clunky Video Tape Recorders (VTRs) and I was especially fond of “switching” the shows on the cool looking switcher. My friends and I produced our own shows and worked on other peoples’ shows, often about music. At the same time I also worked at Three Oaks High School’s brand new and exceptionally well-run radio station under the leadership of teacher Ralph Carruthers, who launched at least two careers in broadcasting that I know of, and probably more.

That was all volunteer, though. I needed a part time job that actually paid money. So I got a job at MacDonald’s. I hated it there. The managers, only a little older than me, were always yelling and screaming at the rest of us, especially me, it seemed. I’d curse them angrily under my breath. Luckily, after one month they fired me.   

“It’s not for everyone,” the franchise manager told me, not unkindly.

She meant that it wasn’t for immature fifteen-year olds who couldn’t be bothered to memorize what went on a Big Mac.

Getting fired from MacDonald’s was one of the happiest days of my life.

Had I not been fired from MacDonald’s I might never have got my first real job in radio.  One cold November afternoon I cruised down Water Street in an Oldsmobile with my friend Justin Hickey at the wheels and two other pals, the four of us probably listening to classic Genesis. We passed Summerside’s local radio station, a 250 watt day-timer with the call letters CJRW, located at 1240 AM on the dial. I’d grown up listening to CJRW.

“Stop the car!” I shouted to Justin.

He stopped.

I jumped out, crossed the street, and entered CJRW’s front door. I climbed up a flight of stairs to CJRW’s reception area, walls festooned with plaques attesting to the station’s long history of community activity. Elton John was playing on a set of speakers: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” the first time I’d ever heard that song. I’ve loved it ever since.

A lady greeted me at the reception desk (possibly Rose Anne Gaudet), super friendly (maybe she knew my mother).    

“I’d like to apply for a job,” I told her.

She furnished me with an application. I filled it out as best I could. A man took me to a studio booth and gave me several sheets of thin yellow paper with dot matrix type. News, weather and sports. I recorded an audition tape on the spot. A month later, at home, the phone rang.    

“Joe, this is Lowell Huestis, calling from CJRW radio.”

I recognized Lowell’s voice immediately. He was the first famous person I’d ever spoken to. Famous on PEI, anyway. “I’d like to offer you a job as a disc jockey. When can you start?”   

I could barely believe my good fortune. Lowell and CJRW hired me to host two shifts each week. I had a six-hour long country music show on Friday nights and a rock show on Saturday nights. I hated country music. I grew to like it in time. Well, some of it. I worked at CJRW all through High School. I would have done it for free. I almost did do it for free: I earned $3.35 per hour, minimum wage at the time.

I darned near didn’t show up for my first shift (I was still the same kid who couldn’t memorize hamburger ingredients). I got confused about which week I was supposed to start. One of my fellow disc jockeys was Peter Arsenault (he went by Peter Scott on air). Peter happened to drive down High Street—my street—in his gold Pontiac Firebird Trans Am shortly before the start of my shift. Spotting me, he pulled up beside me and rolled down the window.

“You do realize you start tonight, don’t you?”

“I do?”

“Get in the damned car!”

He drove me to the station and put me on the air before a big silver console with rotary pots and two huge turntables. I learned how to cue up 7” 45 single records so they’d start an instant after introducing them (about one quarter turn back from where the needle hit the first sound). We played IDs and promos on cartridges (called “carts”). There was a quarter inch tape machine that looked rather daunting. For my first few shifts I got the guy who worked before me to cue it up. His name was Jim Murray and like me he’d go on to work for the CBC (they’d call him James Murray there).   

I got nervous before every shift, but I was never nervous on air. I loved every second of it. I got to choose my own music. I played other peoples’ requests. Once, I sneezed on air. I learned not to do that. Once, introducing a record, I choked on a potato chip. I learned not to do that. I had two laughing fits on air—I never learned not to do that (I was a giddy teen-ager).

With a mere 250 watts, CJRW didn’t have a very strong signal, but it seemed to reach a lot of people. I grew close to my audience. I got calls from all over western PEI as well as Cap Pele, in New Brunswick, across the Northumberland Strait. They’d call to make requests. They’d call to say hi. They’d call week after week. They’d tell me I knew them but wouldn’t tell me who they were. Once, calling a friend during a show, I accidentally called the wrong number. A girl answered the phone. “Hey, you’re the guy on the radio!”

We had a good chat.

The name of the Friday night country show was The Ranch Party. I always opened it with Bobbie Nelson’s Down Yonder from Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. The station didn’t own that record; my father did. I always brought in a lot of my own stuff. I mixed the country up with folk music from time to time. Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers were favourites. I used to play this one song by them. One night after I played it a Ranch Party regular called up, an older Acadian woman.

“That song you just played?” she said. “You must never play it again.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too sad.”

She wasn’t wrong:

Isn’t it grand, boys, to be bloody well dead?
Let’s not have a sniffle, let’s have a bloody good cry
And always remember the longer you live
The sooner you’ll bloody well die.

I had always gotten a kick out of it. Young and fully alive, it didn’t apply to me. I could see how it might be considered a little morbid, though. I respected my listeners. I never played it again.  

Another night, during the Saturday night rock show, a girl called up, not someone I knew.

“I love you!” she said, before hanging up.  

I laughed. I was always getting calls like that. It was just some kid in town having fun, probably hanging out with a bunch of other kids. For a few short years me and my fellow disc jockeys John Burke and Peter Scott and Mike Surette and all the rest of them supplied the soundtrack of these kids lives, and we all had fun together, so much more fun than grilling hamburgers.

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