Tag Archives: Canada

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What Mythological Animal You’d Want as a Pet

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

My first response to this prompt was, “none at all!”

I think I’ve read too many speculative stories about people who try to capture faeries or other magical creatures only to discover just how dangerous and foolish it is to mess with forces you don’t understand. For the sake of playing along, though, I’ll assume that any animal or creature I choose would be docile enough to make a half-decent companion, could look after itself, and wouldn’t mind if a human wanted to be near it sometimes.

An Ogopogo statue in British Columbia. It is green and grey and has parts of its body poking up from a blue stream.
An Ogopogo statue in British Columbia. Photo credit: Hamedog at the English-language Wikipedia

An Ogopogo (which is something like Canada’s version of the Loch Ness Monster) seems like a good match for these criteria.

Yes, I’d need to move to Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, but I can only assume that the Powers That Be ™ would somehow ensure that all of the details for that move would taken care of and that my new magical friend would be made aware of it. (Calling it my pet somehow doesn’t seem quite right).

Ogopogos generally leave humans alone, especially in contemporary stories about them. Mostly, they just swim around and occasionally startle tourists who weren’t expecting to see such an enormous and ancient creature calmly existing near them.

The only exception to this rule involves people who intend to harm the Ogopogo and/or the valley it protects. I would post signs warning visitors about the possibility of an Ogopogo attack if they had dishonourable intentions, but anyone who simply wanted to have a picnic or something by the lake with me shouldn’t have any trouble at all with them.

Honestly, I like the idea of a protective entity.

That’s something that many lakes and other natural places need nowadays, so I’d leave my Ogopogo do it’s sacred duty without any interruptions. If it wanted to swim up and say hello while I was enjoying the shore, so be it.

A Review of This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story 

This Time Around - A Canadian Werewolf Story by Mark Leslie book cover. Image on cover shows a city skyline at night. Superimposed on that photo is a photo of a wolf's head that's superimposed on a maple leaf in front of a full moon.Title: This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story

Author: Mark Leslie

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 16, 2013

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 70 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author 

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

Caught Between the Moon and New York City 

Being a werewolf isn’t all about howling at the moon.

Or running carelessly through boundless fields feeling the wind in your fur.

Not when you live in the most populous city in the US.

For Michael Andrews, a Canadian living in Manhattan and afflicted with lycanthropy, there are odd side effects to being a werewolf in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

Such as waking up naked in Battery Park with absolutely no memory of the night before as a wolf and trying to figure out why there is a bullet hole in his leg.

Just another day in the life of a man living with the odd side effect of his werewolf affliction.

(This 10,000 word short story is the original short story written by Mark Leslie that eventually inspired the full length Mark Leslie Novel: A Canadian Werewolf in New York)

Review:

Content warning: blood and brief violence. I will briefly mention the former in my review.

If you think you know what it’s like to be a werewolf, think again. 

Humour wasn’t necessarily something I was expecting to find when I began reading about Michael’s adventures here, but it was exactly what he and I both needed. Some of the scenes were subtly humorous in ways that nodded at Canadian culture. While they certainly had universal appeal as well, it was nice to see the author acknowledge his character’s background like that. 

The only thing that held this story back from a much higher rating were the typos in it. I can ignore the occasional grammatical or punctuation error, but they happened so often here that I felt compelled to mention them. With another round of editing, this would have easily been a five-star read for me. I loved everything else about it. 

This was such a unique take on werewolves. The plot showed how Michael coped after waking up naked and covered in blood in a park after spending his night in his wolf form. Obviously, that’s not the ideal way to start anyone’s day, and somehow things only became more complicated for him from that point. I was immediately sucked into his quest for clothing and, eventually, answers about what happened to him the night before. The author went into the perfect amount of detail about what this sort of experience is like for a shifter and how many different things they must consider as soon as they revert to their human form. 

If you enjoy lycanthropy fiction, definitely do check out This Time Around – A Canadian Werewolf Story.

A Photo Essay Update on Damaged Toronto Trees

Last year I shared photos from one of the parks in Toronto once a month to show my readers what our landscape looks like throughout the year. This is an update to two trees in that series that were badly damaged in a winter storm in early 2020.

Click on February, MarchAprilMayJune, July, August, September, October, November, and December, and January to read the earlier posts and see what the park is like throughout the year.

Welcome back to this photo essay series! This post will be shorter than previous instalments in it since I’m only focusing on the two damaged trees that some readers requested an update on after the winter of 2020-2021 ended.

Photo of a damaged tree whose branches are curving downward.

Let’s begin with the tree that lost a third of its leaves in that storm last year.

Look at how nearly all of its branches continue to bend down. You rarely see anything like that here.

 

A large branch that has fallen off of a sick tree.

A week or two ago, I noticed a branch that was taller than me lying on the ground next to it. I suspect that it fell off during a recent storm due to the lack of cut marks on it and the way the bark was peeled off, but I can’t say for certain.

A large bare tree branch lying on the ground.

On a more recent visit, I saw this. I thought it was the same branch but also couldn’t confirm it.

A possibly rotting trunk of a tree.

The trunk looks like it’s beginning to split open, and something appears to be growing inside of it. Maybe it’s mould or a fungus of some sort?

I worry about the survival of this tree as well as the possibility of someone getting hurt if a large branch falls on them while they’re standing near it.

Closeup of a tree that lost half of it's branches.

In happier news, the tree that originally lost half of its branches and a good chunk of its trunk is not showing any signs of mould (or whatever that stringy stuff was) growing in it. The wound on its drunk appears to be dry. There are no deep cracks in the wood, and all of it’s branches are as straight as the branches on healthy trees nearby. Landscape shot of a tree that lost half of it's branches in a storm in 2020. It's just beginning to bud again.

And to think I originally assumed this tree had been killed in that storm! Nature is full of surprises.

Side view of tree that lost half of it's branches in a 2020 storm. The branches that still remain are just beginning to sprout many new leaves.

 

May it stick around for many years to come.

I’ll continue to keep an eye on these trees and will provide another update in this series if either one of them experiences a dramatic change in health for the better or the worse. My hope is that any future update in this series will only contain good news, but we’ll have to see what happens.

If you’ve ever seen trees in your area go through similar injuries, I’d love to hear about your experiences there.

My reduction in blogging time will continue on for now. As much as I miss interacting with all of you more often, I’m enjoying the quieter schedule and using that writing time to focus on my speculative fiction.

What Bears Do in the Woods: A Review of The Ursus Verses

The Ursus Versus by Nathan Waddell book cover. Image on cover is of a cartoon bear standing behind a tree stump, peeking out, and waving. Title: The Ursus Versus

Author: Nathan Waddell

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 29, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Length: 66 pages

Source: I purchased it.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking for something to do? Because that’s what I like and this is my chapbook which captures that spirit of fun and terror and the comfort of a good fun book.
This is the first in a series of chapbooks containing poetry and flash fiction and short stories with themes ranging from those mentioned above to deeper explorations of humanity. But honestly the themes mentioned already are all about that too.

Review:

Now is the perfect time for lighthearted science fiction.

Ordinarily, I’ll pick out a few short stories, poems, or essays from collections like these and share my thoughts about them. There were so many funny themes covered here that I thought it was best to allow other readers to discover them for yourselves without spoilers, especially since the later entries often referenced earlier ones.  All you need to know is that this is heavily based on science, science fiction, fantasy, and mythology. Start at the beginning, relax, and enjoy.

This is the sort of young adult science fiction that easily crosses over into adult audiences. The humour in it is tongue-in-cheek and does rely on a certain amount of understanding of the types of scientific concepts generally taught in high school, but it explains most of them well enough to appeal to preteens who haven’t taken Biology yet or older adults who might have last thought about the Paleozoic era half a century ago. In other words, don’t spend too much time thinking about whether you’re “Young Adult” enough for this collection. If you’re interested, there will almost certainly be something here that appeals to you.

Some of my favourite sections were the ones that relied on puns and jokes. Yes, there were the usual quips about what bears do in the woods, but that was the only the beginning of the many reasons to laugh while reading this collection. Honestly, what could be better than finding the humour in speculative fiction no matter which branch of it the narrator happens to be visiting at the moment? I sure can’t think of many things.

Be sure to read the author’s explanations of why he wrote select pieces of this collection. The explanations are all located at the very end, and it was really interesting to read their backstories.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Everything published here was first written about twenty years ago, and Mr. Waddell’s writing style has evolved quite a bit since then. If you want to follow along as he shares that journey, The Ursus Versus the perfect place to start.

6 Toronto Urban Legends for Halloween

Since most of the people who read this site don’t live in Toronto and Halloween is my favourite holiday of the year by far, this seemed like the perfect time to share some of our spooky local urban legends.

Blurry photo taken of a moving subway trainThe Lady in Red

Lower Bay subway station was built in 1966 and shut down six months later because the Toronto Transit Commission realized that any delays at that stop would shut down our entire subway system.

A new subway station was built on top of it, and the original one is only rarely available for public viewing.

Legend has it that a woman wearing a red dress wanders around Lower Bay station, but no one knows who she is

. There are no records of accidents that might explain why this spirit spooks TTC employees and the occasional film crew that wander around down there.

We do know that this patch of land was once a Potter’s Field whose coffins were partially cleared out when the city wanted space for public transit, so she might be the ghost of someone who either had no next of kin when she died or who was abandoned by them.

The Underwater UFO Base in Lake Ontario

Multiple people have reported seeing lights shimmering over, plunging into, or leaping out of Lake Ontario. These sightings have given rise to the legend that there is an underwater UFO base located in the bottom of this lake.

Perhaps the aliens come from an aquatic planet and wouldn’t do well out here on dry land?

Nessie Lives in Lake Ontario

You’ve heard of the Loch Ness monster, right?

The Seneca First Nations tribe were the first people to record sightings of our own sea monster. As early as the 1850s, white settlers claimed to see something much bigger than the average fish swimming around in Lake Ontario as well. They described it as a blue-grey serpent that was about 50 feet long.

A Haunting at Old Finch Road

There are many different versions of this tale. They all tend agree that a girl was murdered on Old Finch Road, possibly near a bridge.

Many versions say she died on her birthday and will appear to you if you sing Happy Birthday to her because the person who murdered her wrote “Happy Birthday, Susie” on a nearby rock after killing her. (Although the victim’s name changes quite a bit depending on which version of the story you hear).

Some people have also claimed to hear screams and moans when travelling along this road.

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island

gibraltar point lighthouse on Toronto Island in Toronto, Ontario
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

Mr. John Paul Rademuller was the first lighthouse keeper on this little island back when it was still a peninsula. In order to make some extra money, he was a brewer and bootlegger as well.

Legend has it that two drunken sailors came to visit him one day to buy some of his beer. When Rademuller refused to sell it to them, they killed him, dismembered his body, and buried pieces of it around the island.

In some versions of this tale, it is said that parts of him were eventually found but that his head was never recovered at all. Other versions say his ghost still continues to wander the island because his killers were never punished for their crime and not because parts of his skeleton might still be waiting to be found.

Allegedly, there were some bones found near the lighthouse in 1893, but investigators didn’t yet have the scientific tools to tell if they belonged to Mr. Rademuller or not.

Mrs. Jemima Howard’s Last Days

The unique thing about Mrs. Howard is that we have many historical records that document her life. She was the wife of John G. Howard, and they both gave the land that would later become High Park to the city of Toronto after their deaths.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard lived happily in Colborne Lodge for many years. They never had children, but they doted on their nieces and nephews who temporarily came to live with them while  finishing their educations.

Sadly, Jemima Howard was diagnosed with breast cancer long before we had any treatments for it other than morphine and laudanum for her pain. She died at home in her own bed surrounded by loved ones. If she looked out her window, she could see the spot where she (and later her husband) would be buried.

Their headstone is the only one allowed in High Park, and it’s a beautiful, peaceful spot a short distance from their home.

Some visitors to Colborne Lodge have reported seeing a woman peering out of the second story bedroom where Jemima spent her last days. Others have reported cold spots and poltergeist activity.

Maybe Jemima never left home after all.

What is your favourite urban legend from your city, town, or community?

A Summer Without Tourists

There are a few things about Canadian and, more specifically, Torontonian culture that I should explain here for anyone who isn’t already familiar with them before diving into the meat of this post. I am speaking in broad generalities here and this is a large, diverse country, so please make friendly allowances for that if… Read More

Hopeful Science Fiction: Skin City

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter. Earlier this year I discovered… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books Set in Ontario

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. Most people immediately think of Toronto when they hear the word Ontario. I love my city, but today I wanted to highlight the province as a whole.… Read More