Tom's Writing Workshop

Advice, exercises and thoughts on the craft of writing fiction.

Taking a Year to Read The Lord of the Rings

    This year I’ve embarked on the project of reading JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings by way of his own calendar of dates, as laid out in the novel’s Appendix B, “The Tale of Years.” Each day I read as much of the story as takes place on that date. (I like […]

The Rat Hole

    A piece I wrote about Edmonton’s legendary, long lost “rat hole” is now up on yegstoryhood.  

Kiss of Death

Even the wrapper they came in was unappealing. Orange and yellow and black. Who made them? Where did they come from? No kid on the planet liked them. When we hauled home our sacks of goodies at the end of Halloween night and dumped them out on the floor to see just what we’d gotten, […]

Imagining Darwin: The Ghost of the Beagle

    The sailors on board the Beagle told young Charles Darwin the chilling tale of their first captain, Pringle Stokes. After two harrowing years helming the ship safely through the hazards, desolation, and foul weather of the Straits of Magellan, Stokes fell into a deep depression. He wrote in his journal in June 1828: […]

Imagining Darwin: Bringing Home the Tortoise

Darwin took several tortoises on board the Beagle during its time in the Galapagos. I like to imagine him having them on board as companions during the long sea voyages in between the Beagle’s ports of call. One of these tortoises was always thought (or wished) to be the famously long-lived Harriet of the Australia […]

Imagining Darwin, pt. 7 “The Most Helpless Animal”

Darwin abominated slavery. He was appalled at the cruelty and injustice he witnessed while traveling in South America. Once when crossing a river with a black ferryman, Darwin found it difficult to communicate with the man. “In endeavouring to make him understand, I talked loud, and made signs, in doing which I passed my hand […]

Imagining Darwin 6: “It Was Snowing Butterflies”

  From The Voyage of the Beagle, Chapter VIII: “One evening, when we were about ten miles from the Bay of San Blas, vast numbers of butterflies, in bands or flocks of countless myriads, extended as far as the eye could range. Even with the aid of a telescope it was not possible to see a […]

Fifty Shades of Ink, Part 5: The Epic Conclusion

Fifty Shades of Ink. Episode 5: The Epic Conclusion  And so, dear reader, this was my hellish life for the next three weeks. I would wake groggily from nightmares of hostile commas and semi-colons, and plod to the editing chamber, and sit down in front of my poor tattered manuscript and attempt to struggle my […]

Fifty Shades of Ink. Episode 4: A Plot Universally Acknowledged

Episode 4: A Plot Universally Acknowledged   “You … hate my novel?” I queried unbelievingly. “But … why did you bring me here?” Noel shrugged and picked at one of his fingernails without looking at me. “Let’s say I was intrigued that anyone could spawn such sense-shattering drivel and not know how catastrophically bad it […]

Imagining Darwin 5: The Luminous Ocean

    From Darwin’s Beagle Diary: October 24, 1832 The night was pitch dark, with a fresh breeze.— The sea from its extreme luminousness presented a wonderful & most beautiful appearance; every part of the water, which by day is seen as foam, glowed with a pale light. The vessel drove before her bows two […]