R.I.P. Anne Cameron (1938 – 2022)

The writing voice of Anne Cameron (left) will remain as unmistakable as the singing voice of Buffy Sainte-Marie or Joni Mitchell. See obituary here.FULL STORY



Who’s Who

Karen Autio

A is for Autio
In her eighth title, the picture book, I Can, Too! (Scholastic Canada $8.99) for ages 3 – 7, Karen Autio tells the story of new friendship between two children with diverse abilities. Piper and Kayla love to move. They ride bikes, glide on ice, swoosh down mountains and much more — each in her own way. While Piper pedals her tricycle with her feet, Kayla uses her hands to move her trike forward. While Kayla coasts across the ice on a sled, Piper sails along on skates. The inspiration for I Can, Too! comes from the author’s daughter, who was born with spina bifida. On a visit to the mall after her child received her first wheelchair, a young boy pointed, asking his mother, “Why is that girl in a wheelbarrow?” Karen Autio welcomed questions so the unknown could be named and understood and children could get to know her daughter. Illustrations by Laura Watson. 9781443190084

Ian Boothby

B is for Boothby
North Delta-raised Ian Boothby, an award-winning comedy writer best known for his work on The Simpsons comics (based on the American animated television series of the same name) as well as cartoons for The New Yorker and MAD magazine, co-created the graphic novel series Sparks! (Scholastic, 2018) with artist Nina Matsumoto. That book received the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Book Award in 2019 at the BC Book Prizes. Sparks, a super hero that saves lives is actually two cats, Charlie and August who dress up in a mechanical dog suit. In the third title in the series, Sparks! Future Purrfect: A Graphic Novel (Graphix/Scholastic $36.99), Charlie and August try to take a break on a tropical island. But when weird things start to happen and they discover that the island holds a surprising secret, they’re blasted off on another crazy adventure. This time they have to save themselves. 9781338339932

Sara Cassidy. Photo Katrina Rain.

C is for Cassidy
In a slim novel told in verse for young readers 12+, Sara Cassidy’s Union (Orca $14.95) is the story of a teenage boy dealing with sexual abuse trauma. Tuck’s abuser is his mother’s ex-boyfriend. When someone calls the boyfriend Tuck’s ‘father’ he blows up: “Not my dad, I snarl // Right/your mom’s fling/that stayed/do you miss him?” Tuck self-harms as a way to deal with his inner pain: “I pour hot tea/on my wrist // to feel // relief // that will leave/a scar.” Tuck’s courage is evident when he organizes employees to join a union to improve working conditions at the fast-food outlet where he works. He also starts a romance with a childhood friend although conflicted by the shame he secretly carries: “if she loves me/she has to know me/but if she knows me/how can she love me.” Without using direct language, Cassidy depicts the damage done by abusive adults but also the healing offered by others – from compassionate friends and work colleagues to professional caregivers. 9781459834477

Vince R. Ditrich

D is for Ditrich
Vince R. Ditrich’s first novel, The Liquor Vicar (Dundurn, 2021) introduced failed musician Tony Vicar who is suddenly rocketed to fame in the small town, Tyee Lagoon (said to be based on Nanoose Bay). But fame brought unwanted attention and dangers to Tony’s life and his love relationship. In the sequel, The Vicar’s Knickers (Dundurn $19.99) Tony Vicar is still famous. He still lives in Tyee Lagoon. His girlfriend Jacquie O is still with him. Only now, Tony has turned his attention to renovating an old hotel and converting the shabby beer parlour into a lavish pub he plans to name the Vicar’s Knickers. There are unforeseen challenges, like the gossip columnist, Richard X. Dick intent on undermining Vicars. And then a surprise is left on Vicar’s doorstep one night. Without spoiling the ending, publicity states that Tony “must tackle the greatest misadventure of his life: parenthood.” Ditrich is the semi-retired drummer and manager of the band Spirit of the West. He lives on Vancouver Island. 9781459747289

David Essig

E is for Essig
Known in Canada as an important roots musician and songwriter with an international following, four years ago David Essig began writing short stories based on the narratives of his songs. Now published in Fair Days (Peregrin Books, $20), the thirteen stories tell the personal histories of Canadians in areas from rural Ontario to small coastal villages in British Columbia and New Brunswick. His stories are full of despair, punctuated periodically by hope. Initially released as a signed and numbered edition of 200 copies including a CD of the music, the album is available online for streaming and downloading at soundcloud.com/David-essig. 9780992055714

S.M. Freedman

F is for Freedman
In S.M. Freedman’s psychological thriller, Blood Atonement (Dundurn $22.99) Grace DeRoche escapes the fundamentalist Mormon compound of Brigham and works to prosecute its leaders. But when loyalists, including her own family, commit mass suicide to avoid jail, Grace retreats into solitude. Racked with guilt and suffering from dissociative identity disorder brought on by childhood abuse, Grace’s life is fragmented and full of blind spots. Dissociative triggers are everywhere, and she never knows when an alter personality will take the reins. When other Brigham escapees die under suspicious circumstances, Grace’s tenuous hold on reality crumbles. Notes left at each scene quote scripture and accuse the deceased of committing sins so grievous that atonement can only be achieved through the spilling of blood. As evidence mounts against her and one of her alter personalities becomes the prime suspect, Grace must determine if she’s a murderer … or the next victim. 9781459750241

Stewart Goodings

G is for Goodings
Stewart Goodings, chairman of the Denman Island Writers Festival has released his debut novel, My Friend, My Enemy (FriesenPress $23) about two childhood friends reconnecting many years later. Nadezhda and Alla had spent their childhood summers together near the Caspian Sea, becoming ‘almost sisters.’ Fate re-united them twenty years later but by then Alla had lost family in the Russia-Chechnya war and had secretly been recruited for a revenge mission. In the beginning, Nadezhda did not know any of this even though she was sharing a Moscow apartment with her long-lost friend. As they find their lives entwined in unexpected ways, the question arises, can a friend also be an enemy? Through Nadezhda and Alla’s exposure to the limits and sacrifices of friendship, Goodings explores the impact of secrets, family losses and terrorist misadventures. 9781039153929

Paula Holdstock

H is for Holdstock
In Paula Holdstock’s ninth novel, Confessions with Keith: From the Journals of Vita Glass (Biblioasis $22.95) a mother and writer goes through a mid-life crisis at the same time as her husband, as told through her journal. The story has its roots in Holdstock’s life. “I did actually keep a journal through some of the rocky years of raising a family and this voice began to creep in,” says Holdstock. “It was Vita’s voice, this sort of pretense of being in control. Rather than sitting down at a desk to open a journal and bursting into tears, which I could have done at times, I had this persona of Vita who would look at things as if it was all perfectly manageable. And so, I got quite fond of Vita and used to make a point of writing in her voice and that would entertain me.” Years later, Holdstock re-read some of her journals and realized she had the framework for a novel. “Vita could have all sorts of adventures and misadventures within this framework. So, I started working on that.” 9781771964975

Roy Innes

I is for Innes
In his 5th title, the novella Elderville (World Castle $9.99) Roy Innes’ latest crime story is about a road-trip-turned-nightmare. David Radcliffe, an eye surgeon, and his wife, Kathy, returning from a medical convention in San Francisco bypass a highway accident by turning off onto a country road which winds through farm country near Eugene, Oregon. Totally lost when their car’s GPS fails from what appears to be a cyber black out, they come upon Elderville, a town nowhere noted on their highway map and with a population they soon discover is made up entirely of old people. What begins as relief turns to terror as the couple are entrapped by a bizarre scheme to prevent them from leaving. 978-1956788303

Megan Fennya Jones

J is for Jones
Vancouver-based Megan Fennya Jones’s poetry has appeared in publications across North America including Poetry Northwest, Room Magazine, and PRISM International, in the anthology The City Series Number One: Vancouver, and the chapbook Normal Women. In her debut book of poetry, The Program (Goose Lane $19.95), a young woman travels between Paris and New York to pursue a career in modelling. Alternating between the world of fashion, where “it’s no longer enough / that the sample size fits,” and the eponymous Program, a place to “discover / what’s underneath,” Jones’ collection digs into the realms of psychiatric care and romantic relationships and probes a long tradition of female suffering. She employs an unadorned and at times humorous narrative style that summons images from the worlds of fashion, art and therapy, and explores the allure of pain and of suffering. 9781773102528

Jack Knox. Photo Erin Glazier.

K is for Knox
Victoria’s funny man, Jack Knox has released his fourth collection of comedic stories about the absurdities of island living, Fortune Knox Once: More Musings from the Edge (Heritage House $22.95). His first two titles in the series, all based on the humour columns he wrote for the Times Colonist newspaper for more than 25 years, Hard Knox: Musings from the Edge of Canada (Heritage House, 2016) and Opportunity Knox: Twenty Years of Award Losing Humour Writing (Heritage House, 2017) were both longlisted for the prestigious Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. Clearly Knox can write laugh-out-loud stories. Fellow writer, Susan Lundy advises Knox readers to be prepared for sudden “spit-your-coffee-out” snorts of laughter. Knox’s new material covers such topics as: the sexiness of the Canadian accent, the lost art of handwriting, the Rogue Cow of Metchosin, ugly trucks, ugly people, a parody of end-of-school announcements, and a letter to Prince Harry. 9781772034172

Cathalynn Labonte-Smith

L is for Labonté-Smith
Whether adventuring in deserts or woods, mountains or swamps—whatever the locale—there’s likely a Search and Rescue team nearby, ready to help if called upon. What SAR units accomplish is often hair raising but so too is what survivors endure as told in Cathalynn Labonté-Smith’s collection of easy-to-read stories Rescue Me: Behind the Scenes of Search and Rescue (Caitlin $26) that, she says, “will leave you shaken and in awe of people’s will to survive.” Labonté-Smith takes readers behind the scenes of some of North America’s riskiest SAR operations. From rescuing avalanche victims in blinding snowstorms, to climbing into vehicles teetering on cliff edges to free passengers from mangled metal or crossing wafer-thin ice to save an injured cross-country skier, these thrilling first-hand accounts will forever change how you prepare for your next outdoor adventure. 9781773860947

Harold Macy

M is for Macy
Harold Macy has added a third title to his list of published works, All the Bears Sing (Harbour Publishing $24.95). The prairie-born forester based in the Comox Valley, captures the magic of the West Coast in this collection of short stories. His characters include everyday fishermen and loggers, gardeners and wildland firefighters, and rock blasters and island homesteaders. First-growth fallen trees on mossy mountain slopes and the brassy orchestra of trumpeter swans play just as big a role as people in Macy’s stories. His previous novel was the historical fiction title, San Josef (Tidewater Books, 2020) about settlers seeking new lives, solace and revenge in the far northwest corner of Vancouver Island in the late 1800s. Macy studied writing with the UBC Mentorship Program, Victoria (BC) School of Writing, Sage Hills (SK), and North Island College. His work has appeared in PRISM International, The Malahat Review, Orion, The Broken City, Rhubarb and others. 9781990776007

Ronald Niezen

N is for Niezen
The Memory Seeker (Black Rose $22.95) to be released in February, 2023 is Ronald Niezen’s first novel. When Dutch-Canadian Peter Dekker is hired as an investigator by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, he has no inkling of the war crimes that lie in his own family’s history. His work takes him to Timbuktu, where he collaborates with Malian colleagues to document war crimes from a recent and only partly-ended civil war. While he is on assignment, his live-in girlfriend, Nora, gets to know Peter’s estranged aunt living in The Hague and uncovers a dark history of murder, revenge and collaboration with the Nazi occupiers. As the stories of his family under Nazi rule unfold and the intrigues multiply, Peter is confronted with a war crime in which he finds himself next-of-kin rather than an investigator. The Memory Seeker takes on the experiences of war violence and its aftermath, the vagaries of memory, and the incompleteness of courtroom justice pitted against the temptations of revenge. A professor  at the University of San Diego, Niezen completed a doctoral degree in Social Anthropology at Cambridge for which he spent ten months living and travelling in northern Mali. He currently splits his time between San Diego and Victoria, BC where he has been a longtime resident. 9781685131401

Priscilla Omulo

O is for Omulo
Businesses are increasingly confronted by Canada’s complicated relationship with Indigenous peoples. Where some see challenges, others see opportunity and Priscilla Omulo of Tsartlip First Nation shows how to take positive action in her guide: Amplifying Indigenous Voices in Business: Indigenization, Reconciliation, And Entrepreneurship (Self-Counsel Press $26.95). Omulo explains how any organization can make plans to improve the way they do business by creating a more sustainable and inclusive place for all. Her steps include doing the right research, consulting the right people, and formulating a productive Indigenization strategy. Omulo has amassed more than a decade of experience advocating for, and working with Indigenous youth and families. She sits on a variety of anti-racism boards and task forces. In 2019, she was awarded the Indigenous Leadership Award by the Women’s Collaborative Hub. 9781770403406

Hilary Peach

P is for Peach
For more than two decades Hilary Peach worked as a welder and was one of the few women in the Boilermakers’ Union. She kept journals of her experiences and has now published Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood (Anvil $22) about working in this hard-driving field of industrial construction with its coded language and little-known subculture. Her jobs took her from BC’s shipyards and pulp mills to Alberta’s oil sands and Ontario’s rust belt. She even spent time in the huge power generating stations in northeastern US. Peach also took time to become a West Coast performance poet including performances at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. She founded the Poetry Gabriola Festival and was its artistic director for ten years. Her debut collection of poetry, Bolt (Anvil, 2018) references her time as a welder as well tackling topics like snakelore, songs of loss and longing, and those times when a body is overtaken with the impulse to run out of control. Peach continues to work as a welder for the Boilermakers’ Union while maintaining her interdisciplinary art practice on Gabriola Island. 9781772141955

Q is for Quintana
Christine Quintana has written Selfie (Playwrights Canada $17.95) about how sexual assault against minors can happen in any community. “The question I want to pose,” says Quintana, “is how can we talk about consent in a way that prevents this from happening in the first place?” Selfie had a German language premiere in Berlin in January, 2022. Quintana is a Siminovitch Prize Protege winner for playwriting and a founding member of the Canadian Latinx Theatre Artist Coalition. Born in Los Angeles to a Mexican American father and a Dutch British Canadian mother, Quintana holds a BFA in Acting from U.B.C. and is currently playwright-in-residence at Vancouver’s Tarragon Theatre. 9780369101259

Harold Rhenisch

R is for Rhenisch
Harold Rhenisch continues his love affair with Iceland (and his ongoing investigation of land and place) in his latest collection of poems, Landings: Poems from Iceland (Burton House $20) in which every poem springs from part of that elemental island and bears its name. For example, Urridafossar, which means Trout Falls, is a popular horse trekking destination in the country’s northern area. It is here, while on a writer’s residence trip that Rhenisch composed The Foal – Urridafossar, a paean to the scope of geological time in comparison to the minute span of a man’s life: “where water once carried off the ice / that ground mountains into sand … Am I, / the you I meet, the man who stepped into the sun, // or the mountain who walked back? / Fate plays these tricks with time // when time gets up on its four foal legs / and plays these tricks with fate.” 9780994866967

Diana Stevan

S is for Stevan
Author Diana Stevan began a trilogy about a family saga based on her Ukrainian grandmother’s tales of surviving war, epidemics and displacement circa 1915 with her title Sunflowers Under Fire (Island House Publishing, 2019). Somewhat fictionalized, the heroine’s name is not her grandmother’s; rather its Lukia Mazurets who takes what’s left of her family and emigrates from Polish-occupied Ukraine to Canada during the Great Depression in the second book, Lilacs in the Dustbowl (Peregrin Publishing, 2021). In her new country, Lukia is faced with the dilemma of choosing between a new romance or her children. Now the third book has been published, Paper Roses on Stony Mountain (Island House Publishing $21.95) covering the period during WW II when Lukia’s children threaten to abandon her and the farm. “Given the continuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, this story also illustrates how deep the divide has been for its citizens for well over a century,” said Diana Stevan after the publication of her first book in the series. “It should resonate with those who’ve undergone similar trials and then left their homeland for a better life elsewhere. No one leaves the land of their birth if it continues to serve them well.” As the latest book illustrates, life in a new country may not be a bed of roses either. 9781988180090

Tim Crich

T is for Tim Crich
Vancouver-based Tim Crich’s Assistant Engineers Handbook (Black ink Publishing) — required reading in audio schools across North America — was followed up with Recording Tips for Engineers (Focal Press) that has 1000 hints for recording engineers and musicians starting with a crash-course in physics — breaking down wavelength, amplitude and frequency into digestible explanations and illustrations. Advice ranges from eliminating guitar hum to charting frequency clusters. His latest title, Pendulums and Falling Bodies: A collection of technical illustrations – Volume One (Black ink Publishing, 2022), is an exquisite collection of illustrations culled from his previous books on sound recording. On average, each illustration took two weeks to complete. Crich finishes the book on a highlight: the last illustration on page 100, he started on in 1978. 9780969822349

U is for Umingmak
Umingmak is the Inuit word for muskox and a symbol of strength, authority and protectiveness. It was also the nickname the Inuit gave Stuart Hodgson, the first resident commissioner of the Northwest Territories who arrived in 1967. Commissioners and their council were appointed then and Ottawa gave Hodgson the mandate to establish a modern, self-elected government in NWT with Yellowknife as its capital. Hodgson succeeded and did so, as Indigenous leader, James Wah-Shee, chair of the Tlicho National assembly says, through recognizing the importance of governing by consensus, which is “the Aboriginal way – and this is part of his legacy.” The story is told by Jake Ootes in, Umingmak: Stuart Hodgson and the Birth of the Modern Arctic (Tidewater $29.95), due out in May. The book also tells how Hodgson co-founded the Arctic Winter Games, organized three royal visits to the NWT, and united the entire population of about 26,000 people in fifty isolated communities spread over 3,400,000 square kilometers.  9781777010102

Phillip, Autumn and April Vannini

V is for Vannini
After five years, 400 interviews and 250 ferry rides Phillip Vannini released Ferry Tales: Mobility, Place, and Time on Canada’s West Coast (Routledge, 2012) about ferry-dependence on island and coastal communities of the west coast. His upcoming release is co-authored with April and Autumn Vannini, In the Name of Wild: One Family, Five Years, Ten Countries, and a New Vision of Wildness (UBC On Point Press $24.95), due out in October. The Vanninis set out to find what the terms ‘wildness’ and ‘wilderness’ mean to people around the world. Hint: it’s not pristine, untouched nature. Together, the family visited twenty Natural World Heritage sites, including the Galápagos Islands, and discovered that the wilderness is a busy place as many people visit these areas for lots of different reasons. Phillip Vannini and April Vannini are ethnographers and filmmakers who also co-wrote Wilderness (Routledge, 2016) and Inhabited: Wildness and the Vitality of the Land (McGill-Queen’s, 2021) and the film directors of In the Name of Wild and Inhabited. 9780774890403

Calvin White

W is for White
Calvin White’s fourth collection of poetry, Facing the Sweating Horse (Now Or Never $19.95) embraces all life and matter – all humans, fellow species, rocks and water, the air and light … “all that graces our finite days,” his publisher writes. “Both lithe and wise, Facing the Sweating Horse is to face life in its most trembling, revealing form.” White has had essays published in all of Canada’s major newspapers. He lives in Salmon Arm. 9781989689424

Xiran Jay Zhao

X is for Xiran
They’ve got over 250,000 YouTube subscribers, 65,000 Twitter followers, 25,000 Instagram followers and a website that averages 5,000 unique visitors per month. Now, non-binary Xiran Jay Zhao of Vancouver is publishing their first sci-fi/fantasy novel Iron Widow (Penguin $21.99) for ages 14 and up. Using a blend of Chinese history and futuristic mecha (humanoid mobile robots) science fiction, the book features a heroine inspired by China’s only legitimate female sovereign, Wu Zetian (who is credited with reducing corruption and revitalizing the country’s culture and economy). Xiran is a first-generation Chinese immigrant who lives and works in Vancouver where they are training to become a biochemist. 9780735269934

Robin Yeatman. Photo by Vivian Doan.

Y is for Yeatman
Victoria is an unhappily married woman who buries her melancholy in books and daydreaming in Robin Yeatman’s debut novel, Bookworm (Harper Perennial $21), a darkly humorous story of obsession and deeply- rooted fantasy life. One day, in Victoria’s favorite café, she notices a handsome man with the same book she is reading. She daydreams that this stranger must be her soul mate. Then, remembering she is married, Victoria’s mind retreats to darker places and ways of getting rid of “dreaded husband” for “café man.” It’s harmless fantasy until one night, fiction and reality blur. Will Victoria get what she’s wished for? Vancouver-based Robin Yeatman describes herself as a bookworm who learned to read at the age of three. She composed her first novel at the age of twelve and kept up the writing habit. She took early drafts of Bookworm to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival before finishing it in her spare time. The novel will be released on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2023. 9780063273009

Karina Zhou

Z is for Zhou
Karina Zhou’s debut picture book, Kai’s Tea Eggs (Arsenal Pulp $21.95), due out April, 2023, is a celebration of Chinese culture and food. Growing up in Surrey, Zhou struggled with accepting her Chinese heritage. “I never knew how to navigate feeling ‘different’ from everyone else,” she says. “I felt embarrassed whenever I brought my Chinese food to school.” In Zhou’s story for ages 3 to 7, a girl named Kai is nervous about taking her mother’s special dishes to school for Multicultural Day and runs off on her own. She meets Ming the dragon who takes her on a special journey exploring Chinese culture – including all the delicious food. Ming teaches Kai about her family roots and shows how she is unique. At last, Kai appreciates who she is and embraces her heritage. Karina Zhou is currently studying animation at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. 9781551529097


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