People have expressed surprise to learn that I write literary books and poetry alongside my Lambda-winning mystery series. To me, all writing is genre in one form or another, just as all gender is a form of drag. ;-)

Here are some recently-released poetry videos from a session at City Park Library. Cheers to Jeff Kirby and Don Pyle on these!




The festival was a huge success. Even I was impressed with the offerings from so many brilliant writers and creators. Now it's time to move on to other things. This fall has brought a plethora of rewards, including After the Horses, fourth in the Dan Sharp mystery series. When I interviewed Shyam Selvadurai at the Naked Heart festival last month, he asked how I enjoyed writing mysteries, both of us having come from purely literary backgrounds. "I love it," I answered truthfully. "Because I can say things I can't say in other types of writing." I mean that in all sincerity. I can write in a way that enables me to be free of the weight and oppressiveness of academia and considerations such as canon and concern for the literary landscape. It's my way of keeping it real.


Please join me and 120 fabulous writers in Toronto for a history-making event from October 15 through 18, 2015.



Unless I've missed some obscure part of his oeuvre, I would hazard the guess that no one will ever accuse Neil Simon of creating fully-dimensional, true-to-life characters. Most of them are half-people who exist largely as comic outlines.
Yet in those one- and two-dimensional creations he touches again and again on universal themes that resonate with all of us: the need to belong, the need to be loved, and of course relationship issues. Never for a moment should we assume that his characters do not deal with reality, even if we’re usually laughing at them.
In the opening scene, Charity Hope Valentine meets her "boyfriend" Charlie in Central Park. When he gets his chance, Charlie pushes her in the lake and runs off with her dowry. Some boyfriend.

… the dance and song numbers keep the story moving merrily along without too much technical razzle dazzle.
1297702887994_ORIGINALAt the dance hall where she works as a hostess, the other girls tell Charity to face reality. She refuses. He’ll come back, she claims. How does she even know Charlie loves her? Because when she tells him she loves him, he replies "Ditto." Hopeless, unrealistic, and yet how many of us have been one half of that couple we find so funny on stage, starving for love?
Director Morris Panych brings out these sweetly comic moments with ample flair. More than a month after its opening, the comedy is tight and effective. (I had heard otherwise.) The dancing is mostly in equally good shape, though a tush or two always seemed to be off the beat in the major ensemble opener, Big Spender. (Maybe it's hard to choreograph bottoms, but that's not a good thing.) What is right is very right indeed, however, and the dance and song numbers keep the story moving merrily along without too much technical razzle dazzle. Just like in an old-fashioned musical.
Simon leads us to that emotionally-fraught moment where truth is revealed.
The cast of Sweet Charity.
The cast of Sweet Charity.
As the self-seeking Charity, Julie Martell delivers a highly capable performance, nicely supported by co-stars Mark Uhre as playboy Vittorio Vidal, and Kyle Blair as Oscar, her fussy, purity-obsessed suitor. Their comic conundrums seem comfortingly real.
True to form, after an array of comic silliness, Simon leads us to that emotionally-fraught moment where truth is revealed. Charity fears telling her new boyfriend, Oscar, that she has hoodwinked him and cannot stand it any longer. She must confess. Little does she realize he already knows the truth: she doesn't work in a bank. She works in a dance hall.
For a time, at least, Oscar says it doesn't matter because Charity makes him feel alive. It's what love's all about. For all the characters' lack of dimension, these are moving moments and we're right up there with them sharing in their triumph over petty human foibles. While it may not last, Sweet Charity has her moment of truth, and so do we.
Sweet Charity runs at the Shaw Festival until Saturday, October 31, 2015.
Performances at the Festival Theatre, Niagara on-the-Lake.
Directed by Morris Panych, with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields.
Based on the book by Neil Simon.
Starring Julie Martell, Mark Uhre, Kyle Blair.


First produced twenty-two years ago, Robert LePage's production of two one-act operas, Bela Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle and Arnold Schonberg's Erwartung, makes a glorious return to the COC. For those who haven't seen it, suffice to say there are plenty of visual surprises. For those who have, what's immediately obvious is that the stage presentation now takes its rightful place alongside the music it once unintentionally upstaged. Bartok's richly layered score glows under the baton of maestro Johannes Debus. Bass Dan Relyea gives a superb Bluebeard, fearsome and compelling, as he unveils the horrors of his castle to his determined new bride, Judith, in a glowing portrayal by mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova. Strange to think that performances of Schonberg operas were once almost as rare as they were overly earnest. Thankfully, our twentieth-century ears no longer treat modern works as a strange and difficult adjunct to classical music, but as an extended tonal range on a very full palette. With a new generation of performers and singers like mezzo Krisztina Szabó, who sings the role of the psychologically unbalanced Woman in Erwartung with stunning beauty and agility, these works are now a great pleasure to hear as well as to see. Kudos to the Canadian Opera Company.


To affirm that Lambda-Award winner Jeffrey Round writes quick-paced gay pulp fiction is not to denigrate either the genre or this talented writer. It is merely to recognize the character of his writing in which the central figures are gay detectives or private investigators, where some of the other fictional characters are also gay, and where some of the themes advanced by the fiction pertain to gay issues. However, it is necessary to point out that the gay quotient, while a central component, is not necessarily the driving force. In the Bradford Fairfax novels (such as The P-Town Murders, Death in Key West, or Vanished in Vallarta), the fact that Fairfax is a handsome gay secret agent, upholder of justice, and sexy hunk is crucial to some of the dramatic and satiric allure of the tales—as are the gay ambience of Provincetown (Massachusetts), Key West, or Puerto Vallarta, for instance, where the reader is apt to meet such camp characters as a transvestite ghost; fluttery, a flamboyant female-impersonator named Cinder Lindquist; lesbian café owner Big Ruby; cosmetically and surgically enhanced Jarod Scythes; half-blood Cherokee Little Wing; blue-haired “twink” Zach; the exotic Aztec Drag Queen Esmeralda; and various raunchy, romping characters in gay resorts where pheromones permeate the settings and where sex can be a thing of great acrobatic agility and virtuosity. Camp wit is writ large in these tales, and though the permutations of plot can sometimes seem inordinately high, the exaggerations can be put aside because of the compelling ambience and dialogue. Moreover, the principal themes are always connected to contemporary reality:  sexual identity, drug use, desire, relationships, love, generation gaps, political chicanery, and existential authenticity.
            The Dan Sharp mysteries are less flamboyant and less camp in characterization, though the sense of place and wit as large as ever. In The Jade Butterfly, that begins with the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest and massacre and moves swiftly to Toronto and more briefly to Hamilton, Round creates a firm sense of place with his quick evocation of the Forbidden City and the Square, Toronto’s gay district, Leslieville, and the Bridle Path, and Hamilton (with its “smoke-belching chimneys and flame-throwing up-thrust”). But what’s a setting without a plot and interesting characters? In what is his third Dan Sharp mystery (following Lake on the Mountain and Pumpkin Eater), the gay private investigator (father of a teenage son out of a one-night stand) finds himself hired by a mysterious but strikingly handsome young Chinese man named Ren (who represents himself as a cultural ambassador for trade and tourism) to find his long-lost sister, Ling, whom he believes survived the Tiananmen massacre and is somewhere in Canada. Ren and Dan are sexually attracted to each other, and this is where the personal and the political, the sexual and the criminal get entangled. If Ling is alive, Ren would like her to return the jade butterfly, a family heirloom. But before you can remember the plot of The Maltese Falcon, Round raises the ante, showing how Dan’s certitude of certain things gets shaken to the core. The closer Dan gets to finding Ling, the more confused he becomes about the brother, sister, politics, and his own self. Warned by his friend Donny that relationships can be dangerous, Dan is forced to agree by a concatenation of intense plot complications.
            The way Round evokes Dan Sharp in this page-turner is admirable in its psychological tremors, representing the man’s self-doubt about his ability to be an effective parent to a son going through his own issues of adolescence, as well as the man’s painful acknowledgement that he may not know how to love another man. Blending the private man with the single gay dad reality, the strong detective with the emotionally vulnerable sufferer of chronic PTSD, Round creates a very credible character, who is not simply a puppet on a writer’s strings. Dan is, of course, is a sober character who is only occasionally reckless; flamboyant ambiguity enters through Ren and Ling. And mystery suspense builds and holds till the inevitable denouement where the reader discovers how Dan has been unwittingly exploited by CSIS, the real relationship between Ren and Ling, and the real significance of the jade butterfly.


Introducing volume three in my Lambda-Award winning Dan Sharp mysteries, from Dundurn Books. I hope you pick up a copy or four from your fave independent bookstore. Please ask for it whenever you are in your local library, as well. Every little bit helps promote a starving writer. (Not too proud to ask!)


Everyday life can make it hard enough to maintain your balance without the violence that obliterates the silence and solitude. Despite the way-below-freezing temperatures Wednesday, I found it impossible to stay inside after hearing of the Charlie Hebdo murders. My mind felt like a boom box in an echo chamber, replaying the news events over and over till I had to escape. To me, it wasn't much different than if I or another LBGT author had been targeted for the contents of our books. To shake off the thoughts, I knew it would be better to be surrounded by people, even if I didn't know them. What better choice, then, than to go to a public place that celebrates freedom of expression, freedom of choice and freedom of ideas? As luck would have it, the Art Gallery of Ontario was presenting a show called Art As Therapy. It was made to measure.

Stage One: leaving the house at minus-18 celsius and dropping.

Stage Two: discovering Art As Therapy. And how!
Stage Three: choosing your favourite artists. Van Gogh always tops my list (A woman with a spade, seen from behind.)
I also love Lawren S Harris (Old Houses, Toronto, Winter)
Claude Monet (Charing Cross Bridge, Fog)
More Lawren S Harris (Autumn Forest with Glaciated Bedrock, Georgian Bay)
And Paul-Emile Borduas (3+3+2)

I hope it's not for our wars that we'll be remembered, but for our art.


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