Real Writers


From February 22nd, 2015, the 4th most read of Best of 10 Minutes

10 Minutes of Words

I was so happy today to discover that I’m not really a writer. Despite having sold four novels (and written five others) and more than twenty five short stories, I am not a ‘real writer.’ Never mind the half dozen plays I’ve had produced — I definitely do not fall into the category of ‘true author.’

For one thing I don’t let real life get in my way. I like real life. I enjoy my day job. I like hanging around with friends. I look forward to grocery shopping and even a clean house. I often find real inspiration for stories in the mundane tasks and ordinary people I meet.

However, I don’t really worry about inspiration. Most of my stories don’t come from those ‘out of the blue ideas’ or thoughts at all hours of the day and night. Generally my stories are generated through a fairly organized…

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Alternative Medicine


This stirred a few people up on December 9, 2014; Best of 10 Minutes #5

10 Minutes of Words

The other day I heard the head of the alternative medicine foundation or some such on CBC radio describing alternative and traditional medicine in very large words. They are a range of ‘alternative modalities of treatment’ etc. His language was so highfalutin that the host threatened to fine him 25 cents every time he used the word ‘modalities’. She was probably going for better communication but actually she was on to something bigger. When people have little to say they say it with the biggest words possible.

In any case, our expert went on to say that you can’t really define alternative medicine because it encompassed so much from ‘healing touches‘ (oh my god just rattle those chicken bones over me) to things like herbal therapies and physiotherapy.

Now, when you get to a certain age, spending time in the physiotherapist’s office is kind of part of…

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From October 24, 2015, #6 in the Best of 10 Minutes.

10 Minutes of Words

Yesterday, I spent much of the day giving interviews or writing about what I saw at the War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday morning. Today, I am at the ragged edge of my emotions. I cannot, right now, say any more than I already have. But if you want to read my account, you can read this article I wrote for the Ottawa Citizen or listen to me in interviews on CBC North radio and Northbeat. (starts at 3:44)

This, I guess, is how trauma works. I go back and forth between normal and surreal. I get on with my life, doing all the things I always do. Then a random thought or an image pulls me up short and I see it all again, a flash like a photograph or else a slow motion film. And I can’t stop thinking about it. But that passes and I catch…

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Originally published on January 22, 2015, The Best of Ten Minutes #7

10 Minutes of Words

It is three months ago today that I witnessed the senseless murder of Nathan Cirillo at The Ottawa War Memorial by a putative terrorist (or as I prefer to think of him, a madman with a gun). Since then we’ve had attacks in a café in Australia, at school a Pakistan, in Paris and in the north of Nigeria. We’ve also had various acts of equally meaningless violence carried out by all sorts of individuals who have persuaded themselves they have a reason to kill. Some of it is inspired by ideology, some inspired by nothing but voices in their head.

You cannot witness such a thing without being changed. At first, in deference to my British heritage, I practiced the stiff upper lip, vowing to keep calm and carry on. All well and good. But gradually the horror began to seep into my bones. Eventually I relented and went…

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First appearing on November 16, 2014, this was # 8 in the Best of Ten Minutes.

10 Minutes of Words

There is nothing special about virginity. Everyone was a virgin once. Some people, apparently, more than once. Rob Anders, the doltish soon-to-be former MP, always claimed he was saving himself for marriage. Frankly, looking at Mr. Anders, he should have made wiser investments.

Still, some people seem to put inordinate value in the state of virginity. Suicide bombers and other terrorist martyrs are promised a specified number of virgins when they get to heaven. 72 seems like a lot but really a young vigorous fellow could go through those in a month or two. And then what do you have? Frankly I’d rather be promised a half dozen experienced older women who might appreciate an eager young man romping around paradise. An argument for quality over quantity, perhaps, though I might make a stronger argument for skipping it altogether. Particularly since I don’t think forcing women to do anything…

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Casual Racism


The second of The Best of Ten Minutes, the 9th most read post first appeared on May 10th, 2015.

10 Minutes of Words

I have a black friend who is constantly being asked the question: where are you from? Ron (not his real name) always answers Toronto, where he has lived for twenty years. The questioner will often say: Yes, but I mean, before that? At which point, Ron will say: Oh, you noticed the remnants of my accent. While they are nodding, he will say, Yeah, I grew up in Nova Scotia.

I, too, am from Nova Scotia, but nobody ever asks me where I ‘really’ came from. Well, unless I say the word ‘aunt.’ Then they know I’m from down east. Ron’s family came to Canada as United Empire Loyalists so I guess his proper answer should be: I grew up in Nova Scotia, but my family came from….<pause> …the United States. His family came to Nova Scotia only a few years after mine (from Yorkshire in England).

This is one…

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I Am Spock


The first of the Best of 10 Minutes — originally posted on February 28th, 2015, it was the 10th most read of 365 posts.

10 Minutes of Words

The death yesterday of Leonard Nimoy, best known for his role as Mr. Spock in Star Trek, created — to mix my SF metaphors — a great disturbance in the Force. Mr. Nimoy was eulogized across mainstream media and on social media, a constant stream of accolades and tributes filled the news feeds. Well, at least it filled mine, but I am a SF writer with a lot of friends in fandom.

Still, Nimoy was a significant figure in the pantheon of pop culture but I think that he was more.  The role that he created, assembling it from bits and pieces provided by writers and directors and from his own deeply held beliefs and abilities, transported him beyond mere ‘star’ status so he could say something profound about America and its hugely divided soul.

Spock (like Nimoy himself, the child of immigrant Ukrainian Orthodox Jews) was an American in…

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