The story continues ... elsewhere

I am sad to say that I am discontinuing this blog on stories and storytelling and moving my web presence to another location. 

I will still be posting on stories, fantasy and writing from time to time on my new author website, at

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read my posts and to comment on them and support what I've been doing. May you have a lifetime of wonderful journeys into the lands of Story.


Eleven things you didn't know about dragons

Ten Eleven Things You Didn’t Know about Dragons
 (a revised version of a popular post from the past)

1. Dragons guard hoards of treasure not out of greed, but because of the healing and rejuvenating properties of gold. Dragons lying on hoards have been overheard purring. How else do you think they manage to live for hundreds of years?

2. That’s right, some dragons purr, like cats. This should not, however, be taken as a sign that the dragon is well-disposed toward you. As with domestic felines, deep contented purring often precedes a particularly vicious attack.

3. The average dragon’s pulse beats once per minute. A dragon’s heartbeat may be audible from a mile away, or felt as a tremor in the ground from an even greater distance. That is why many professional dragonslayers go barefoot, to get as much advance warning of the presence and location of their enemy as possible.

4. Dragon bone is the hardest substance known to be produced by animal bodies. On the Mohs scale of hardness (in which diamond rates at 10), human tooth enamel is rated at 5, and dragon bone comes in at 9, the same hardness as sapphires and rubies, and far harder than quartz, iron and steel.

5. The longest-lived dragon is reputed to be Tau Lung, who was born before the formation of the Earth and inhabits the Sun (he may be responsible for sunspots and solar flares).
The shortest-lived dragons are the “offspring” of Motherworms, immense sack-like black dragons capable of vomiting hundreds of small fiery “drakelets” at their enemies. The drakelets can briefly fly on their own power but in a matter of moments they fall apart into gobbets of flame or burn to ash. Since the drakelets do not last long enough to reach maturity, it is not known how Motherworms actually reproduce.

6. There are seventeen officially recognized classes of dragon, including the well-known Firedrakes, as well as ice dragons, riverdrakes, celestial dragons, bookworms, etc. The classification of certain dragon-like creatures is currently in dispute, most notably in the case of the scaly flatwyrm, a parasitic organism that infests the digestive system of dragons and can grow to be over one hundred feet long. The scaly flatwyrm most often infests fire-breathers, and its irritating presence in the dragon’s bowels is said to be the real reason these dragons so often go on destructive rampages.

7. Dragonflesh contains no fat. It is the healthiest and most vitamin-rich meat available, if you can get it. One has to be careful cooking dragon, however, since it can spontaneously combust, sending gobbets of fiery nastiness in every direction.

8. The most intelligent dragon ever known, Auuggg the Venerable, held a Chair in astronomy and synchronicity studies at Hypatian University in New Alexandria. She taught there for seventy-nine years before taking a well-earned retirement, though she still continued to give lectures as a Professor Emeritus for a long time, lectures that well-attended even though it was said they did tend to "drag on." Auuggg's office was a cavern deep underground said to be lined with the bones of hapless graduate students who never finished their dissertations.

9. The vulnerable spot on a dragon’s hide is not always on its underbelly. Dragons have been known to have what professional dragonslayers call “sweet spots” on other parts of their bodies, including the head, limbs, and tail. There have been legendary dragons whose hides were said to be completely impenetrable, but these creatures apparently all died of boredom after several centuries and thousands of failed attempts on their lives.

10. According to most enigmatists, a dragon is an event, not a thing. A fire-breather like the legendary Smaug, for example, is what happens when heat, oxygen, and combustible material combine with story.

11. There are some who attribute the global warming trend to the increased activity of fire-drakes. This is, of course, simply more evasion of human responsibility. Fire-breathers and all other kinds of dragons are in decline as a result of pollution, human population growth, and the rise of extreme weather events. It seems that not even our oldest and most powerful myths are invulnerable to the kinds of sudden, unprecedented change our species is bringing to this world.

Kids these days

From my writing notebook:

Pulled up behind a schoolbus yesterday afternoon, at a fourway stop. Bus full of kids, grade one or two probably, bouncing around, chattering, playfighting. The usual mayhem. Poor bus driver.

As the bus pulled away from the stop, a little boy in the back seat turned and looked out the window at me. His face lit up with the biggest, sweetest smile ... as he gave me the finger.

This is one of those moments for which it pays to have a notebook handy.


A writer's journey

I wanted to see mountains again, and find somewhere quiet where I could finish my book. So I got on a train.

I had never ridden on a passenger train before. Walking the narrow corridors, trying to keep my balance as the train shook and rocked, all I could think of were old movies about spies and femmes fatale.

I discovered that other travellers had ridden this train and left their words behind.

"Destroy all former timetables."
This seemed like pertinent advice.

 And I saw mountains.

There were mountains.

 And then, more mountains.

There were so few people on board I sometimes had the feeling I was alone on this train.

Where was everybody? Could there be anything more eerie than a deserted bar car?

At night, in the empty dome car, I almost convinced myself that I was dreaming this entire journey.

At sunset on the second day we came to a wide river. On our right hand, waterfalls plunged from the rock, mere inches from the train windows. We went around a headland, then another, and another. The river kept widening.

 The river went on widening until it became the sea, and it seemed we had come to the very end of the world.

We stopped at a town on an island, the terminus of the railway. The next morning, ships anchored in the harbour seemed to float in the fog. I sat by the docks and made notes for the last pages of my book, struggling to tied up a few loose strands of plot. The fog slowly lifted. This was supposed to be one of the rainiest places in North America, but the whole time I was there it was sunny, except for the occasional morning fog.

Unlikely reminders of writing were to be found here. I wondered if the people who built and named this inn had ever actually read the book and knew how it ended?

 There were many reminders of the power of the sea...

... and the power of the spirit.


The isle was full of noises, sounds and sweet airs...

Actually, in the forest there was a pervading scent very reminiscent of cannabis. I knew that the good folk of this far western land were quite indulgent about such things, but had they indulged enough to perfume an entire forest? Eventually I traced the aroma to this plant, skunk cabbage.

 In the mornings I would write, and then go out and explore the town. It had seen some hard times in the past...

But in places there were new coats of paint and the local people I spoke with were sure that better times were on the way.

The last strands of the novel began to weave together, and I felt that a little of the sea, forest and mountains were woven in with them.

It was time to go home. The train set off through the morning mist.

It really was a dream train. At one point we somehow ended up far south of the border.

Another half-deserted train! When the service manager (no longer called the conductor, alas) wasn't looking, I opened the back door and got some fresh air.

We passed the wreck of a freight that had gone off the rails a few days before. Reminded me of the state my novel had been in more than once.

We stopped briefly at a place called Penny (pop. 2), the last post office in Canada to be serviced only by train. Soon, like the Canadian penny itself, this place may be a thing of the past.

The train came to a tourist town in the mountains where I'd lived as a teenager. I disembarked to spend a couple of days here and found some accommodation.

Memories of the past were everywhere.

I was sad to discover that my old school friend had sold his family's gift shop/bookstore. Now it was being refurbished to be ready for peak tourist season. I'd worked here for a while when I was in high school, selling books (probably reading more than I sold). Years later the store kept my books in stock.

On a trail I met a young woman who was worried about bears, so we agreed to walk together (I didn't mention that I was a little concerned about bears, too). The young woman was traveling across the country by herself. At the end of our walk together I told her that if she wanted to know more about the region she should check out a novel called Icefields by this guy named Thomas Wharton.

At the local watering hole I had a beer to toast the memory of friends who'd passed on.

Then it was time for the last leg. The dream train left the mountains and picked up speed as it came to the prairies. We rolled on through the night. I met a young man making his way home from Alberta to Ontario. The job he'd come west for hadn't worked out and he was going home in the hope of finding a job there.  He was going to be on this train for two more days and nights, and he was looking forward to having a shower when he finally got home. "Even if Megan Fox wanted to get with me," he chuckled, "I'd tell her sorry Megan, you gotta give me ten minutes to shower."

The young guy went to have a look at the dining car (where he couldn't afford to eat) and came back clutching something under his arm: one of those travel-sized boxes of cereal. He'd snatched it from the dining car when no one was looking. 
"Got my breakfast for tomorrow," he told me with a gleeful grin.

I put him in my notebook, of course.

Going places

A day of writing. A whole day of writing. That doesn't happen often enough.

But what is there to blog about a day of writing when it’s gone well?

If I'd taken a trip somewhere, I could tell you about all the interesting people I'd met and the places I'd seen. But sitting here all day at my desk, where have I gone? I feel I've gone somewhere. There’s a strong sense of having left my familiar domestic surroundings behind. I wasn't really "here" most of the day. I was in the made-up world of the story, but I was also in that strange, insubstantial, shifting half-world of language itself.

Transferring from one bus to another in the city of sentences, kayaking the currents and eddies of prose rhythm, picking my way through the thorny thicket of punctuation. And all the choices to be made at every turn, dead ends to be backed out of, new routes to be found, or excavated through
the seemingly solid rock of a stubborn paragraph. 
Constantly checking the map of my Planned Route against where I've written to, and sometimes changing the map when it no longer corresponds to an exciting new possibility that the writing itself has uncovered.

The book is a train. I'm on a train of many cars. Each chapter is a car. But there are cars being added on as I go. And some I'm not quite allowed into yet, because they're only ghost cars as yet. 

It's a slow train. So slow. Even slower and more often held up by unscheduled circumstance than a Via passenger train pulling over at every siding to let the more important freights rocket past. 

The track is being laid down even as we go.

And sometimes, every so often, on rare occasions, the writing is a bobsled. A vehicle fitting its groove perfectly and racing along without friction to the end of the sentence, the end of the paragraph, the end of the chapter.

By mid-afternoon the vehicle I've been sitting in all day usually starts to run out of gas, and I'm forced to pull over. 

I unbuckle myself from the desk and stand up to stretch and see where I've gotten to, and I'm back where I started. I haven't gone anywhere at all.