People Are Strange – a new anthology

Maria Savva, Ben Ditmars and Maria Haskins have all previously been promoted on Reading Recommendations. These three authors are now included in a recently published anthology of stories and poetry inspired by nineteen photographs.


People Are Strange
edited by Robert Helle
Genre: Anthology
part of the Mind’s Eye Series

12 Stories and 7 poems, inspired by 19 photographs.

We are more than what we say
And less than what we wish

Living together, separately,
United by division

Connected, disconnected
Oh, People Are Strange


Robert Helle is a free-lance editor who honed his skills at various newspapers, including The Daily Times in Ottawa, Illinois. As a Daily Times reporter, Bob earned a prestigious news-reporting award for his 1989 series on the plight of Viet Nam-era prisoners of war who were never found. Bob went on to serve other newspapers as a columnist and editor before turning to free-lance work. He is currently working on his own novel.

Martin David Porter is a third generation (at least!) artist hailing from Saffron Walden, Essex in the United Kingdom. Born in 1972, he has always had an interest in natural history, art, and music. All these subjects provide inspiration for his photography. Martin still lives in Saffron Walden with his partner Ruth and his daughter Rosie. Martin has worked with many big names in the music business, but is equally at home alone in the woods and fields as he is in front of screaming crowds and amplifiers.

Helle Gade lives in Denmark with her little diva dog. She is a poet, hobby photographer, nocturnal creature and chocolate addict. She has been writing poetry since 2011 and published four poetry collections since then.

Kim Stapf – Photography is my love, nature mostly. Reading rocks my world.

Helle Gade

Ben Ditmars is an author of gnomes, plays, poetry and more. He was first published in his college publications the Cornfield Review and KAPOW and has since been featured in several online literary journals. Currently, he lives in Marion, Ohio where he works in education.

Short story writers:
Darcia Helle writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Only then are the voices free to haunt someone else.

Maria Haskins is a Swedish-Canadian writer and translator. She was born and grew up in Sweden, but moved to Canada in the early 1990s and now lives just outside Vancouver on Canada’s west coast with a husband, two kids, and a large black dog. She debuted as a writer in Sweden in 1989. Her first books in English are Odin’s Eye, a collection of science fiction short stories, and Cuts & Collected Poems 1989-2015.

Maria Savva lives in London. She’s a lawyer, and in her spare time writes novels and short stories in various genres, including drama, psychological thriller, and family saga. Maria is also a music blogger for Rock And Roll and Soundwaves Review.

J. Michael Radcliffe published his first novel in 2010, and has since gone on to write three other novels in the Beyond the Veil series. He has also written multiple short stories and collaborated with other writers. He lives in rural Kentucky with his family and their ever-growing cadre of cats.

Julie Elizabeth Powell cannot ignore her dreams, so many of them, with names and places and ideas that spark her imagination and compel her to write; to create stories, whether fantasy or horror, or mystery or psychological thriller or murder or even humour and adventure. So, her garden is sown, flourishing, with all manner of growth, and still the dreams come.

Thomma Lyn Grindstaff gets some of her best ideas when hiking in the mountains. She’s both a novelist and a musician: a classically trained pianist and composer. Other passions include studying philosophy, science,and spirituality. Last but never least, she’s a cat wrangler and shares her home with three Ballicai (cats). If you could sum Thomma Lyn up in three words, they would be Artist, Seeker, and Adventurer.

Purchase copies from:



Agnes Mae Graham

Christopher Graham, aka Chris The Story Reading Ape*, has done a wonderful thing! He’s gathered together poetry written by his late mother, Mae Graham, and published it as an eBook, available worldwide! Here’s “Mae” to tell us about “her” new book!

Mum B&W Agnes Mae Graham (Mae)

What is your latest release and what genre is it? My Vibrating Vertabrae: and other poems

Quick description: We all have dreams, loves and hopes; but what if you are a girl growing up in 20th century Northern Ireland before, during and after the ‘Troubles’?

From the poetic thoughts of our Mother, we get a sense of what it was like, ranging from humour, sadness, wistful thinking and sometimes just downright nonsensical, these are the words of one such girl.

Each poem tells a story.


Brief biography:
I was born into a poor-in-money, rich-in-spirit-and-determination, proud, hard-working family on 2nd July, 1926.

Both my parents strongly believed that education and hard work combined were the way to success, luck playing a small part, but not to be relied on too much.

Although they both worked hard to provide a good education for all their girls, reading was our main way of learning and we devoured books.

Needless to say, I passed the work ethic and love of reading on to my own children and they have both had rich and varied lives because of it.

My father loved telling stories and reading poetry, often combining the two, so I probably got that habit from him.

My life on earth was full and varied, as you might guess from my poems.

I died on 27th December 2000, but I’m glad to say, I’ve not been forgotten.

Links to buy Mae’s book:

Mae’s promo links:
My son has a blog and decided to call himself ‘The Story Reading Ape’ (he always was a cheeky monkey although knowing him, he’d remind me that apes do not have tails) and you can see the announcement he made HERE

Mae’s reading recommendation:
I read everything and everyone, but I must confess that my favourite genre was Murder/Mysteries.

*Chris The Story Reading Ape is known far and wide or his blog and the steadfast support he offers to many self-published authors around the world – including me! I’m only too happy now to return the favour and promote this new book he’s published of his mother’s poetry.

Bruce Hunter

10845948_10152493277392374_1214699005903604796_nAuthor’s full name

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Poetry: Two O’Clock Creek – Poems New and Selected (Oolichan Books, 2010). Novel: In the Bear’s House (Oolichan Books, 2009).


Quick description: Winner – 2011 Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry. Two O’Clock Creek brings together the best of Bruce Hunter’s previous books of poetry as well as exciting new work of a life-long poet.

Winner – 2009 Banff Mountain Book Festival’s Canadian Rockies Award. In the Bear’s House is the story of a young mother who sends her deaf son to live with relatives in the wilderness of Alberta’s Kootenay Plains where he undergoes a profound change.


Brief biography:
Bruce Hunter is the author of seven books: a novel, a short story collection, Country Music Country (Thistledown Press, 1996) and five books of poetry including Two O’Clock Creek. Deafened as an infant, Bruce taught for 25 years at Seneca College in Toronto and is now active in organizing events for writers and persons with disabilities.

Links to buy Bruce’s book:
Oolichan Books – Free shipping!
Amazon – In the Bear’s House and Two O’Clock Creek

Bruce’s promo links:
brucehunter55 (at)

Interviews: With Joan Shillington for Freefall Magazine
With Adam Pottle at Brick Books

What are you working on now?
My current projects are a new volume of poetry, working title The Recipe for Water, and a sequel to my novel In the Bear’s House (Oolichan Books, 2009).

Bruce’s reading recommendation:
Moments of Joy by Cecilia Frey and Yes. by Rosemary Griebel.

Hendrik Slegtenhorst Recommends Robert Melançon


Le paradis des apparences (2004)
For as Far as the Eye Can See (Biblioasis, 2013)
by Robert Melançon, tr. Judith Cowan

Genre: Poetry & poetry translation.

Robert Melançon

Robert Melançon

Quick description:
The book consists of 144 12-line sonnets, intricately based upon the truncated form, the sonnets lacking a concluding couplet, but the book’s overarching structure of 12×12 invigorating.
Melançon’s explains this in sonnet 36:

Tout doit tenir en douze vers – un sonnet allégé …
Je m’en tiens au paradis des apparences :
Je trace un rectangle de douze lignes;
C’est une fenêtre par laquelle je regarde
Tout ce qui apparaît, qui n’a lieu qu’une fois.

Judith Cowan

Judith Cowan

Which Judith Cowan translates as:
It all has to fit into twelve lines—a lesser sonnet …
So I shall settle for the paradise of what I see:
I trace this rectangle of twelve lines and
make of it a window through which to observe
all that appears, and that happens only once.

Why I recommend this book:
Poetry with magnificent control of content, allusion, thematic integrations, form, metre, and of the sound of language; the fine interplay of sound, elevated further, because unbound, by the coherence of form. I first came to Melançon’s work through Donald McGrath’s prize-winning translation of Elégie écrite dans le parc Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in The Malahat Review 188 (2014). It had an immediate impact on me, for I lived two blocks from the park for many years, and the poem spoke to me with the reality of the place and the effect of its actuality on one’s thought when there.

Links for people to buy the book:
Chapters/Indigo – paperback
KOBO – eBook

Profile 3 130825 Headshots 018 Gloria SteelGuest reviewer’s latest title or project:
Covenant, my second book of poetry, was completed in March 2015. My third book of poetry, Constellations of Desire, is in progress.

Hendrik Slegtenhorst has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

Kirk Miles

Kirk Miles-Francis A WilleyKirk Miles

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Moving Dust – Poetry

Quick description: An uncompromising book of poetry about the Holocaust

MD Cover 2015-11-19

Brief biography:
In June of 2009 Kirk Miles won the Writers Guild of Alberta Screenwriters Award for a screenplay entitled Shadow Maker. Author of three books of poetry, the most recent, Hotel on the Cliffs on the Heart, was published in May of 2013. In 2011 Kirk won the Golden Beret Award, a lifetime achievement award in poetry presented by the Calgary International Spoken Word Festival. Moving Dust, a collection of poems about the Holocaust was published in the summer of 2015. Kirk has been nominated twice for the Calgary Poet Laureate position and last year he was short-listed.

Links to buy Kirk’s book:
Hamlet Enterprises

Kirk’s promo links:
Hamlet the Clown website
Midnight for Alcoholics

What are you working on now? with midnight yoga for alcoholics
2 trying to get an agent for my YA fantasy book called The Pentacle of Pan
3. book of poems about joy called window opening to sky

Kirk’s reading recommendation:
The Collected Works of Patrick Lane (that I bought with a Xmas gift certificate I received for Shelf Life Books).

Blaine Greenwood

Blaine GreenWood--2yesBlaine Greenwood

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Black Cat in the Shadows – poetry ; movie short script

Quick description: The cafe of the Black Cat, the famous Le Chat Noir of fin de siecle Paris, was the gathering place of bohemians, royalty and everyone in between – aristocrat to street walker. As well, the Black Cat was noted for its entertainment, innovation, and absinthe. It is the author’s hope that some of that essence of the Black Cat can be found within these pages.

Black Cat cover

Brief biography:
Blaine Greenwood, born in Viking Alberta 1951, is an educator by profession – with a career spanning from classroom teacher to museum educator and event planner. It is from this foundation that Blaine’s poetry has come to reflect his interest in psychology, history and spirituality. His verse has been described as “dark, homespun, sensual, rich with images.”

A selection of his poems have been published in the Interpscan Journal (Canada), in Our Journey (Oregon, USA), and in Mudlark Press’ Rags: Journal of Creative Writing 2003 2004 and on websites Astropoetica 2004, Vincent Van Gallery 2003. Blaine has presented his poetry in Calgary at the Poetry Orgy 2009 hosted by the Single Onion, at Waterton National Park’s Bear Grass Days, Lethbridge’s Peace through Poetry campaign (2002) and StreetFest (2002 / 2003) as well as the Fort Macleod’s South Country Fair (2002 / 2003) with him being a featured main stage performer at South Country Fair 2003, He was one of the local writers at Lethbridge, Alberta’s Word on the Street 2012 and read in Philadelphia PA at Robyn’s Bookstore. Blaine was one of the Coordinators of MOST VOCAL Poets Society.

He is currently one of the artistic directors of Lotos Land spoken word / poetry venue at Fort Macleod Alberta’s South Country Fair and a past main stage performer. He is currently the DJ for CKXU’s Not Your Mother’s Poetry and has participated in 100 Thousands Poets for Change event 2013 – 2015.

Blaine holds a B.Ed. and Diploma in Educational Media from the University of Alberta and lives in Lethbridge, Alberta with his wife, Dee

Links to buy Blaine’s book:
Ekstasis Editions

Blaine’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
I am working on several different manuscripts.

Maria Savva and Ben Ditmars – update on a new anthology

Maria Savva was originally featured on Reading Recommendations in Dec. 2013, and Ben Ditmars was featured on the site in Feb. 2014. Both authors have contributed to this new anthology recently published.


Tales From The Cacao Tree (Book 4 in The Mind’s Eye Series)
with contributions by Maria Saava and Ben Ditmars
Genre: Mixed – poetry, short stories, photography; an anthology

From a review by Maria Haskins on Amazon:
Tales From The Cacao Tree is the latest installment in the Mind’s Eye Series, a series of anthologies containing poetry and short stories inspired by, and accompanied by, photographs. This fourth book in the series, as you may gather from the title and the delectable cover, is all about chocolate.

Just like the other Mind’s Eye books, Tales From The Cacao Tree is an eclectic and enjoyable blend of different genres and writing styles, and as a reader you get to experience chocolate in every imaginable (and unimaginable!) way. There really is a bit of everything here: beautiful and evocative (and sometimes playful) poetry by Ben Ditmars, Helle Gade, and Richard Weatherly, and short stories by Darcia Helle, Maria Savva, Julie Elizabeth Powell, and J. Michael Radcliffe.

Many of the stories inspired by the accompanying chocolaty pictures involve nefarious and violent crimes: so, obviously, chocolate has a dark side…

The fantastic photos in the anthology were taken by Helle Gade, Kim Stapf, and Martin David Porter. And reader beware, you will probably end up craving chocolate while you’re reading!

Purchase this book from:

Jason Lee Norman

Jason 11Jason Lee Norman

What is your latest release and what genre is it? 40 Below Volume 2. It is an anthology of poetry, prose, and non-fiction inspired by Alberta Winters

Quick description: The aim of the project was to collect words, poems, stories, and artwork about and inspired by the province of Alberta in winter. The idea is that while winter can be harsh at times, our experience with it is also something quite unique. It can also be a time of year that inspires art and people coming together. (One contributor, Lori Hahnel, has previously been featured on Reading Recommendations.)


Book Launch in Edmonton on Nov. 8!
Meet some of the anthology’s authors, hear their stories and poems, eat a slice of cake at 40 Below‘s launch at Audreys Books.

Brief biography:
I’m a writer and publisher from Edmonton, Alberta. My first short fiction collection entitled Americas was published in 2012. I created Wufniks Press shortly after that and edited and published the first 40 Below anthology in 2013.

Links to buy Jason’s book:
40 Below Project

Jason’s promo links:

What are you working on now?
Right now my focus is on the promotion of 40 Below Volume 2. Next year I have a couple projects that I’ll be working on as well as continuing my #yegwords project that publishes stories and poetry on coffee sleeves distributed at coffee shops across Edmonton.

Jason’s reading recommendation:
Shane Jones is my favourite author right now who is not featured in 40 Below.

Alice Major

DSC_5968 2Alice Major

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Standard Candles – poetry

Quick description: A “standard candle” is a tool we use to measure distance, and this is a book about the distances we try to come to terms with – to the stars, to other people, to society. It’s inspired by what scientists are discovering about the birth and unfolding of the universe, but also by the cosmologies that poets have engaged with throughout literary history. This book of poetry is published as part of University of Alberta Press’s Robert Kroetsch Series.

Standard candles2

Brief biography:
Alice Major has published nine previous collections of poetry, as well as a book of essays, Intersecting Sets: A poet looks at science. She has won many awards, including the Pat Lowther and the Stephan G. Stephanson awards for poetry, the Wilfrid Eggleston award for non-fiction and a National Magazine Award gold medal.

Links to buy Alice’s book:
Standard Candles is available through the University of Alberta Press website

Alice’s promo links:
More about this book

What are you working on now?
I’m always working on poems, hoping they’ll pile up into something that holds together as a manuscript. I’m also working on more essays. One of them – “Under the Wide and Starry Sky” – appears in the current issue of The New Quarterly.

Alice’s reading recommendation:
Outside the Box: The Life and Legacy of Writer Mona Gould is a fascinating story of the woman who wrote “This was my brother at Dieppe,” the poem recited in so many Canadian Remembrance Day ceremonies. The biography is by her granddaughter Maria Meindl, who inherited 38 boxes of disorganized paper after Mona’s death. In telling the story of sorting this bewildering archive, Meindl explores her own complicated relationship with this exasperating, wildly talented grandmother who forged an unusual career-woman’s path as a freelance writer in the decades after World War Two.

Frank Beltrano – an update on his Square Foot Poems

Frank Beltrano has previously been featured on Reading Recommendations twice, here and here, spotlighting his unique blending of “poetry as visual art” that he has been developing for some time. He’s back now to tell us of the recent art show in which he took part.

Right on the heels of a week spent in Bayfield (read cottage country/Lake Huron eastern shore) with several poet friends writing and relaxing, we came back to London, Ontario, scrubbed off the forest and dressed for an art show opening at the Westland Gallery in Wortley Village.

123 It was a well-attended opening. The gallery is hosting its Square Foot Show (possible link) when artists are invited to submit up to three pieces each that measure exactly one foot by one foot in diameter. From now until August 15th the gallery walls will be lined with approximately 420 pieces from more than one hundred artists.


I am humbled to be a part of such an outpouring of diverse talent, creativity and skill. I attended the opening with my wife, Marie-Claire Roussel, and Susan M Toy. The works I submitted are similar to my Coffee Shop Mystery shadow boxes which were chronicled in an earlier blog post published by Susan.

4 The poems in the new pieces are part of a series of 64 poems inspired by the 64 hexagrams of the I-Ching. For the past few years I have been reading about the I-Ching, enjoying the ancient myths, coming to terms with its use as a divination tool but mostly being inspired by the shape of the hexagrams that accompany the texts… inspired to write a series of poems with solid lines and broken lines, six lines per poem thus resembling the I-Ching hexagrams. There are 64 combinations of solid and broken lines possible resulting in a 64 poem series. The poems sometimes refer to I-Ching legends (#39 picture) and often are just snippets of life (#59 picture). 7

They often have rhyme, alliteration, repetition and other poetic devices. I have found the form easier to write than shorter more esoteric haiku, and a refreshing break from writing longer more intense or complex forms.

So far I have written 20 of the poems; the three pieces in the show are the first of the visual presentations, but the plan is to write and mount all 64 over the next year or two, show them in a gallery then publish a book of all 64 I-Ching hexagram poems…stay tuned.


Frank Beltrano Artist Statement
I-Ching Hexagram Poems

The three pieces I am submitting to this exhibition are a sampling of a much larger series of 64 poems on which I am currently working. The verse form is my own creation inspired by the look of the Chinese I-Ching Hexagrams…six lines, either solid or broken. There are 64 possible combinations when working with six lines of two types, hence 64 poems. I have been reading about the I-Ching in three commentaries and sometimes have drawn inspiration when writing my poems from these ancient texts. However many of my poems have just come out of events observed daily in 2015.

The use of materials, coffee stir sticks, burlap from coffee bean bags and wooden hoops is a development of earlier work I did making visual art out of my award winning Coffee Shop Author poems.

It is my hope that you will find the form to be intriguing, the poetry entertaining and the art original.