How I became a writer
One day a radioactive baboon bit me.
It may have been a mandrill with telekinesis, I can’t be sure, because I was only seven years old at the time. In any case, the angry primate chomped on my finger at a sketchy petting zoo outside of Union, Ontario. And that is how I gained the power of storytelling!
Okay, your spider senses may be tingling. This isn’t the whole story. I was a storyteller from the time I could talk, which my parents inform me was at the time I was three. This was a huge relief at the time. You see, I didn’t burble the occasional word before that; I just silently and creepily observed the world around me. Frankly, my parents were starting to worry that I was developmentally challenged. But then I just started talking. In complete sentences. About some imagined encounters with pirates and talking animals. And, as I matured, and learned about the possible existence of ghosts, aliens, and philosophy professors with untrimmed toenails, I added them to my repertoire of characters.
Learning the craft
Time passed, and eventually, I started sharing these stories outside of the family. First with friends and bemused teachers. Then, our university arts newspaper published a series of short stories I wrote called “Time Bugs.” This series was about an undergraduate science student who was infected by a virus that caused him to move through time, learning history and solving the problems of the people he met. (This idea was later stolen by the producers of Quantum Leap.) I also wrote skits and plays, and one of these, The Spy Who Bugged Me, was produced by Queen’s Players. This show was a spoof of the James Bond films, and I’m pretty sure Mike Myers had a ticket to see the show, ‘cause, you know … The Spy Who Shagged Me.
After few years of work and travel, I decided to go to journalism school, because I was too middle-class to imagine being a starving artist my whole life. As it turned out, I was not psychologically made for journalism – I’m much more interested in “what if” than “what” – but I did learn how to write quickly in j-school. It also caused me to leave Canada and live in Prague for a year, as there were no journalism jobs to be had when I graduated. This led me to a fruitful year, working for the Czech National Radio English language Service doing a weekly column called “Observer.” My brief was to wander around the Golden City and “observe” things. So I did. I broadcast columns about pivnice (pub) etiquette, drunken plasterers, Prague’s baffling late-night transit system, and many of the oddities of a country switching from a Dictatorship of the Proletariat to a Capitalist Democracy.
I also had my first play, Duet for Killers, professionally produced. This was the event that convinced me that baboon had prophetic abilities as well as a red butt — or was it a red-faced mandrill with telepathic powers — because I discovered that I was actually pretty good at entertaining people with my words.
Since then, this has been my quest. I’ve written scores of short stories, two more plays (one produced) and a baker’s dozen of novels, five of which have been published. (And there is more on the way.)
I’m still hopelessly bourgeois – I enjoy owning a house that I can fill with books and dogs and cats — so I have a day job teaching at Western University, which is in London, Ontario, Canada. (Sometimes known as the “Other London”, but that seems unfair to London, Ohio; London, Arkansas; London, Kentucky, and the village of London, in France.) And no, I don’t teach writing, at least not as my main subject. As a front-line fighter in the Browser Wars of the 1990s, I became an early “expert” on the web, so I teach that — how to create information architectures that won’t become self-aware and destroy the universe. And so on.
I hope you enjoy all the stuff here on the website. If you liked this little autobiographical frippery, some of which is even true, you’ll probably get a kick out of my regular newsletter.
If you want to know more about me, then there’s lots to read in the blog, including my thoughts on how I learned to write by reading. Plus, there’s tons of free fiction, essays and commentary to read in my writing section. And hey, I forgot to mention you can get a free novel – your choice of either The Fridgularity or Marvellous Hairy – just for signing up for my newsletter.
- Alpha Max (Monkeyjoy Press, 2021)
- The Fatness (Monkeyjoy Press, 2017)
*Winner of an 2018 IPBA Benjamin Franklin award for Best Humor (silver) and a 2018 IndieReader Discovery award for Best Humor
- The Fridgularity (Monkeyjoy Press, 2012)
*Winner of a Best Humor IndieReader Discovery Award, 2013
- Marvellous Hairy 2/e (Monkeyjoy Press, 2010)
Marvellous Hairy 1/e (Enigmatic Ink, 2009)
- The Amadeus Net (ENC Press, 2005)
- Pirate Therapy and Other Cures (Monkeyjoy Press, 2012)
- The Meanderings of the Emily Chesley Reading Circle (Dancing Men Press, 2003)
with John Sloan, David B. Lurie, Malcolm Ruddock, Jeff Black
- Cordially Entertaining Emily Chesley. (Suitcase in Point: Toronto Fringe Festival, 2003)
with Cole Lewis & Company.
- Duet for Killers (Small & Dangerous Theatre, Prague, 1993)
- The Spy Who Bugged Me (Queen’s Players, 1989)
with Gary Wagner
Short Stories and Flash Fiction:
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