Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Scotty: It's ... uh, green.

My site has just emerged from refit. New design by Kurt Moyst. New content to be added soon to the "Grab Bag" page -- some polished stuff, some rough drafts.

And yes, it's green.

(Post title taken from Star Trek: "By Any Other Name.")

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Basics. Duh.

So I'm drafting a play. Three characters -- a nice change after the ensemble cast of Sky Waves -- and man, I know two of them better than I know myself. They've opened up to me, told me who they are, shared it all ... and off I go, two-thirds cocked.

Forgetting the third, perhaps most pivotal character.

Sure, he's meant to be mysterious -- but I can't write him effectively -- or make him properly and usefully mysterious -- if I don't know him.

I never did well with character sketch exercises in school. I can't design puppets. I might be able to give you brown hair, blue eyes, five foot seven, thin and likes to cut wood, but beyond that, my characters need to show me who they are. Must talk to me. And I must be ready to listen.

Time to go listen.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Things not to be at while alone in the house

Dark night, by myself, savouring solitude. Catch up on The X-Files, season two on DVD, yeah, something I never got to watch regularly when it was broadcast. Take neuralgia meds and a tiny Ativan to aid sleep despite pain ... hmm, not falling asleep, just feeling, well, held ... mildly unpleasant ... the screen rattles against the big door, tap-tap-tapping -- but the damn raven's already tattooed onto my chest, so I control the visitation of memory, right? Right? Watch Duane Barry and get deliciously scared. Watch Ascension and get quite unsettled -- stakes and motives and what's held dear. Tap-tap-tap. Must doze -- come to, mouth dry and tasting bitter, as though my throat's just been numbed with that bitter, bitter spray that suppresses the gag reflex just before endoscopy or, even more interestingly, ERCP ... tap-tap-tap ... drugged to the hilt once for an ERCP, including Valium, Versed, the throat spray and perhaps something else to concot "milk of amnesia" so that the patient forgets the procedure; this particular exam hits a snag when the doctor in charge of shoving endoscopic cameras into my stomach, bile and pancreatic ducts observes: --I'm stuck. Just need to push ... I heard that. I remember that. I remember sitting upright, choking on that damn hose and some fluid to see only professional backs as they all studied the X-ray image of the endoscope and my ducts ... immense sympathy for alien abductees at that moment, for the terror they suffer, whatever its explanation ... a nurse notices I'm up and choking, someone hauls out the hose -- but I remember it all -- tap-tap-tap ...

One Breath, with comatose Scully voyaging back after mysterious visits from her dead father and a non-existent nurse -- soothing. (And comical from another point of view, as Gillian Anderson had just given birth; in some takes her breasts are enormous with milk.) But I'm still awake.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gab stutter lisp -- WAM

Angela Antle interviewed me this morning about Sky Waves for broadcast on Weekend Arts Magazine this weekend.

Sometimes, for my own good, I wish I were more afraid of a microphone. Gab gab gab ...

Under discussion: questions of the muddy boundaries between history and fiction.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Dream scraps

Teeth falling out, sockets black and deep .... cramming teeth back in ... teeth crumbling in my hands ...

Demented in public. Screaming. Water Street in the freezing rain; wearing only a thin black dress. Desperate for coherence. Cop on either arm. Struggling. Screaming. Thoughts clear, mouth possessed. Dragged to the lockup. Dark.

Locked in a corset -- that one's neuralgia.

Kneeling down to admire a wildflower -- becoming the wildflower -- pinched finger and thumb blocking the sun --

Finding a friend waiting for me in a diner booth -- packets of jam on the table in little piles -- long since fallen alseep because I'm hours late -- delighted he's still there -- reach out to wake him but am dragged away --

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page

The former 1950s pinup queen and bondage model -- the Dark Angel -- died earlier today at age 85.

What fascinates me most about Page: at what point in her photos is she being exploited, and at what point is she in control?

She had a rough go. Unhappy marriages, divorce stigma that kept her from working as a missionary, something she really wanted to do -- yes, missionary, not missionary position -- diagnosis of schizophrenia and subsequent hospitalizations, cheated out of royalties ... but there's strength in those photos. And beauty. More than just a bad girl. More than just a prop.

Post what?

Imagine this:

your skin has just been scalded ... and someone is slashing that skin with the metal edge of an old wooden ruler.

Shingles complication -- post herpetic neuralgia.

Like something out of Poe. Remember the pedulum?

Chanting: it's all material, I can use this; it's all material, I can use this ...

Sweet, hot, pungent:

I dare you to visit Full disclosure: it's owned by a friend of mine from high school, great guy named Cyril Butler, so yeah, I'm biased -- but I'm also impressed. stocks an almost evil range of hot sauces, mustards, spices, rubs, flavoured salts and Cowgirl Chocolate ... that is, good chocolate with cayenne and other delicious stuff in it. Lots of salt-free spice mixes, too. Come on, ya know ya want to ...

Heard it on the radio

Earlier this evening, while I was signing copies of Sky Waves at Coles in the Avalon Mall -- much of Sky Waves being set at the fictional VOIC Radio in St. John's -- VOCM's Claudette Barnes mentioned the book during one of her Happy Tree remote cut-ins -- and mentioned how how the novel draws on my time at VOCM.

Not sure if you can call that irony. I do call it wicked. Big toothy grin wicked.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008



St. John’s, 1946

Sure it was all gyroscopes, guns and salt.

Never expected to get out intact and dry.

Even a Royal Navy seaman likes to be dry.

Burnt my legs the second wreck.

Oil, flames and water.

Talk about something else.

Married? Yes, little tiny thing from North Shields,

Up past Newcastle. Thought I lost her twice.

First time was a blitz.

Visiting her and her mother,

Two of them just after giving me two boiled eggs,

Me frigging half starved and dying for something

That tasted like home and not a tin bowl.

Found out later, ration cards and that, they

Missed two meals each so I could have eggs and toast.

And didn’t I ask for more?
Can’t forgive that one.

The shelter was under a lemonade factory,

Machines, glass, fizzy gas.

All that fell on top of us.

Daylight before they dug me out,

Shattered glass, dust and sugar in my eyes and throat.

Navy took me, arm broken, deaf in one ear,

Funny in the head for a while.

Months before she found me on a list.

Then she got news my ship went down.

Another two years before I saw her.

Engaged to another fellow. Can’t blame her.

Twice now I was after dying on her.

She all big-eyed and slack-jawed when she saw me,

Even thinner, God, there was nothing to her.

And I said, “You sill love me?”

She dropped the hand of buddy she was with.

I said, “Because by the Jesus, I still love you.”

She’s crossing now with the other brides,

Halifax first, Cunard White Star SS Scythia.

Got the postcard.

But here’s what galls me.

Navy promised us all full time work

When we got home. Even the Newfoundlanders.

Full time work.

And I promised her a house.

Cutting wood, clearing rocks.

When I came back through the Narrows,

All St. John’s was dun black in coalsmoke,

And I could have cried. Me, dry as a rock in the sun

The whole frigging war. Could have cried,

Bringing her to this Newfoundland,

Nothing to shelter her but my tattooed arms.

Originally published in CV2 vol 29 issue no. 4.
(C) Copyright 2007 Michelle Butler Hallett

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sky Waves released

After a few delays, Sky Waves is out there. Not everyone's got it shelved yet, as some places have it on backorder, but that demented "aural" culture novel is out there. Tune in and read like you mean it. On the air in three, two, one ...

Polyglot in bed

--Hey, you listening?
-- William Gaddis, JR.

Every leaf -- even the way a sodden bare tree seems to scrape at the wind -- contains a message. I just don't have the language yet. Or I don't have the ears.

A friend, struggling with sudden health issues, asked me yesterday: --How do people with chronic illness just, you know, get on?

I sighed a bit, as if I'm some weary expert, and muttered. --We learn patience. We have no choice. It's hard.

Various religions teach, or at least suggest, some purpose in pain, that physical suffering is an inescapable facet of being human. Ideas continue here, reaching like branches for a hidden sun: suffering strengthens one's compassion and capacity for empathy, draws one closer to what matters -- God, if you will, or better love --

I hear this. But do I understand it?


So, last night and this morning: gut pain hard enough to make me cry out, make me cry; futile nausea; low fever and chills --

Do I understand it?

Not yet.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Puncture wounds

Hospitalized briefly about a year ago -- gut pain, what a surprise.

Getting an IV hurts a bit -- that first poke through the skin. I don't have skin so much as hide: thick as leather, I'm told. Audible "pop" when the needle penetrates.

Dreamt last night of IVs. Lots of them. While I was trying to catch up on a neglected university course load. IVs not just syringe and tubing but eyeless snakes, biting biting biting, each pierce enough to make me cry out, each shot of venom firey ...

Healing venom. Blind snakes burrowing into my limbs.

Puzzled dread before sunrise. Trust the snakes? Trust pain?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sweat some more

Old gut pain smolders ... tendrils of smoke, glimmers of flame? Ash or fog obscures. Sweat, roll over, dream some more -- rabid dog. A mutt, terrier-size: suffering ruins its face and saliva hangs. I am the water. I am what it most desires and most hates. Head down -- growling, demented with pain -- foam spatters --

Roll over. Sweat. Dream some more.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wisdom from my younger daughter

CBC-Kids plays in the background, running a PSA from musician Kim Stockwood about a program called Positive Parenting. Kim goes on to say the first five years of a child's life are the miracle years, when so much of foundation is laid. I'm agreeing quietly when my seven-year-old turns around in the big comfy chair and sets her brilliant blue eyes on me:

--Mom, you don't need to worry about that.

I'm thinking, Cool, does she feel like she had a good first five years? Is this turning into a You're a good Mom moment?

My daughter continues.

--Unless you get pregnant in the next five minutes. Which you won't.

Pleased, she turns back to CBC-Kids.

Monday, October 13, 2008

True original (ha!)

So I'm sketching characters and setting for a new play, and I recognize that I'm playing with ideas Virginia Woolf's already batted about quite tidily in Orlando. No worries, I figure. The whole inhabiting another sex's body thing is at least as old as Teirisias, and in my play it's a vehicle, not the main idea. Archetypal, yeah, that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. Then a snatch of a Leonard Cohen song floats in, as sung by Tim Baker on the last Feast of Cohen CD -- "You who wish to conquer pain, you must learn, learn to serve me well." Anchor -- hang onto that, scratch it on a file card, memorize it -- search the lyrics. It's from "Avalanche," also known on paper as "Parasites of Heaven." The song describes what my play is trying to do. Fabulous, now I can plagiarize Cohen. Fuck! Might as well cut the play's throat and abandon it balls-up in the fog. But ... Cohen, Woolf and Homer don't have my particular characters, my setting, my fucked-up world view ... and in my deepest dreams I'll never be half the writers they are ...

Cocky, yes. Crazy -- goes without saying.

Three conflicts, when you get down to it. And every story's a quest.

Shred of something original, one feather's worth?

Only way to find out is to write the thing.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Conversation with my older daughter, who is learning the bass

SFX: Eurythmics live playing in background as I dance around half-dressed -- tank top and panties -- getting ready for work.

CHILD: Cool bass line.

ME: 80s music is very bass-driven. The good stuff was, at least.


CHILD: Gee, Mom, you dance pretty good. For a grownup.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Conversation with my younger daughter

CHILD: Mom, do you know where my DS might be?

MOM: No, darling. I don't keep track of it. Toys and games are your responsibility.


MOM: Have you looked in your room?

CHILD: (exasperated) Mo-om, I checked there two weeks ago.

MOM: Do you think you might check again?

CHILD: No. I checked it two weeks ago.

How do ya argue with logic like that?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cover for Sky Waves

Sky Waves -- due for release on Octover 24, 2008.

Cover design by that genius, Paddy Moore. Cover photography by Missus with Three Names.

Sunburst Award update

Congrats to Nalo Hopkinson and Joanne Proulx!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"How's the proofreading going, Michelle?"

rotten stinkin why the hell did I ever think I could do this of course you can
do this just a matter of getting your arse in gear and where the hell did that
comma splice go line 4 or 14 oh for the love of all that's good and pure

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hot water

Think a hot bath is a good idea when you're getting over shingles?

It's not.

Seems I woke up some angry nerve endings. Seems I'm painfucked as well as storyfucked today.

Getting a bit frustrated here -- hammer through a wall kind of frustrated.

Like my muse cares. Like any of this actually matters when there's a book to finish.

"Fixing a hole where the rain gets in..."

Despite all my oh-so-intricate and precious work on Sky Waves, my husband, reading through, discovers this problem, days before I'm supposed to return the proofs:

--Uh, honey, if Robert crashes around noon, but Thomas doesn't get out there 'til dusk on a July day, and the lost girl doesn't come out of the woods 'til after dusk, then what the hell is everyone doing in those six or seven hours?

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

I woke up to that question this morning, groggy with meds for shingles and a long, wickedly dreamy sleep -- including dreaming I was struggling to wake up.

It's only the central event of the novel, ya know, the inciting incident, that rock in the water of every character's life ... only a plot-hole you could drive an eighteen-wheeler through ...

Beat head off wall. Rinse. Repeat.

A few sentences will fix this. Five, tops. But that's not the point. The point is I never should have missed such a sloppy lapse. Outlines, charts, timelines, several readings, several readers ... and still, I missed the phantom six hours.

Perhaps this post will feed a bad review later, some clever critic who loathes Sky Waves will Google me and find this and say: -- Yes, her worst fears are true: Butler Hallett's a fraud. Pity she thinks she can write. So much time ...


Time. Time to fix it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Should have thought of this before (conversation with da muse)

Proofing Sky Waves ...

Holy fuck, I can't publish this.

Got to now, girl.

Incompent, meandering, meaningless --

No, not meaningless. Plan at work.

A mess! I have fucked it up, totally fucked it up, and everyone's waiting on me to deliver the corrected proofs --

Fucked it up? Probably. Definition of novel: a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it.

What are people going to think?

Got no control over that, girl.

I'm a fraud. Total fucking fraud. I read from it last night, and I lost every scrap of confidence I had in this book.

You felt the same way about Double-blind.

This is worse. Way worse. Questions this time of history, autobiography, blurry lines of fiction --

You're tired. Go lie down.

I can't do this.

Already did. "Kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" and all the rest of it. Just go lie down. Can't stifle a story about the importance of communication now, can you?

I'm scared.

Might keep you honest.

Really scared.


Devil's whip

The nerve starts in the spine, slopes down a bit over the ribs, wraps around the front. The nerve sizzles with dull fire -- herpes zoster virus, awake after a long nap -- then it snaps, almost knocks me to one side -- gasp -- a whispered knotted string of profanity -- tears -- that scowl again, that bitter scowl, spine throbbing, pain meds so damn slow ... reason, still reason here? Beyond random infection? Old name for shingles: the devil's whip. More accurate. I'm tired now, tired out with pain ... one's night sleep, pray, literally, for one night's good sleep ... reason ...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Burnt, steel wool

Shingles: wouldn't mind learning how to put them on a roof. Dermatome: name of a nudist new wave band, surely, perhaps expiring in the shadow of Duran Duran. Sensation: first-degree burn over a bruise, the touch of clothing like steel wool. Thank God the Sky Waves galleys came in, so I've got some serious distraction.

So it's stoned topless proofreading today at Michelle's house. Sounds like some act as a secret strip joint hidden in the bowels of a university. For added academic exitement, I'll put on my hornrims and call out "Derrida, Foucault, Marx -- you're all pathetic self-blinded wanking losers!" in wails of ecstasy as I smack the air with Beckett in one hand and Marlowe in the other. Yeah. That's it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pustulent symmetry (viral dreaming)

I caught chickenpox when I was seven or eight. Nothing unusual there, except the fever dreams just before the rash broke: semi-transparent demons drifting down from a black and red sky ripped out of the background washes for those Rocket Robin Hood and SpiderMan episodes NTV inflicted on us over lunch hour in the 1970s. (You can still catch both on Teletoon Retro.) Years later, reading HP Lovecraft and his Cthulhu demons floating down from the sky, I thought: Cool. Just like those fever dreams when I got chickenpox.

I've dreamt about Cthulhu the odd time since, including a particularly wretched dream where I watched a Cthulhu rape me. (I wove this into Sky Waves.)

I ran fevers over the weekend -- or they ran me. That semi-conscious languish that mocks sleep -- no real rest, just lost time, minutes evaporating like sweat. And yeah, Cthulhu dreams. Maggotty with Cthulhu, worse than any other time since I had chickenpox.

Found a rash on my trunk today. Saw a doctor. Shingles -- Return of Chickenpox, in a bent way.

The same virus caused the same dreams?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cured in one easy step

So this chronic pain crap, this heap of saltstinking rancid guts too corrupted for seagulls to nibble, dainty little songbirds of delicate taste that they are -- I've got it. I've got the cure. Years of pain and a stoned head could have been avoided, yep, if only, if only I knew this before:

Don't eat. And the pain lessens.

Pass the jaysus Kafka now, 'til we flips open to "The Hunger Artist."

Monday, September 1, 2008


Some years ago, I miscarried. Statistically normal. Lots of us do. Early enough, and you mightn't even notice it.

Early. But I noticed. I got pregnant with almost wicked ease.

My Mom smiled. --Hang your drawers on the bedpost, and you're knocked up.

And I knew -- morning-after knew. Not sick -- yet -- but different: second soul tethered to my body.

I conceived that lost child a few months before starting my second daughter. Hung my drawers up, and next morning those suddenly fat veins in my chest pumped indigo. Went up a cup size in a week, just like the first time. Felt a funny almost-tickle on my mind, like a feather -- queasy within a few weeks -- period date passed -- faintest blue line on the preg stick --


Woke up alone.

Alone in my body, I mean.

Checked with my doctor. He ordered bloodwork.

That night, bleeding ... heavier than the late period should be ... futile trip to the Grace ... very young doctor left to stand in the doorway and watch while nurses kept taking away little blue pans from under me to "analyze tissue" ... so many clots ... the doctor's face made me cry harder as he faced his helplessness. No shiny stethoscope, no young doc's stamina for night rounds, no amount of care and gentle manner could stop this.



Sunday, August 31, 2008

Could we have the translation, please?

Sneaking back, like gulls and fog near sunrise, the pain polluted my dreams.

Suddenly unemployed, because I was too busy writing to go to a job interview. Well done. Only the family breadwinner, only got two youngsters depending on me as my husband struggles with crumb-contract work. Find myself back in radio, but I'm politely escorted out of there, old boss telling me in his deep voice I'm better suited to bureacracy. Heading to the long-delayed interview for the bureacracy job, I end up at a competing radio station, trying to get the GM's attention for just a moment -- except I haven't got a CV with me. And the recent double mastectomy causes trouble as I take my breast forms out and lay the wobbly things on the table for all to see. Meantime the GM reminds me so much of a departed friend that I just want to hug him, welcome him back to the land of the living, but something's wrong, gnawing-spitting-cussing wrong ... another friend wears a knife and details just how and why he's so pissed off with me, all these comments taken out of context, only the worst possible meanings understood. He's quiet, calm, cold as that Jesus knife -- can I possibly get it from him, no he can't want to use that ... recognition that part of me is glad I hurt him -- shame, shame -- and the dead friend laughs in the background, much too far down the hall now to catch ... gnaw spit cuss ... gasp and wake up ... time for a painkiller.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Faith (petty believer)

I pray: --Purify me.

Blunt pain cleaves out my back. Double over - no thought but escape. Teeth grind. Scowl petrifies.

I pray: --Heal me.

Brick? Slate. One of those crumbling rocks, ancient layers, pathetic broken edges comical 'til bloody.

I pray: --Purify me.

Pain steals my knees.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Little lights

CT scan last month – mercifully clear results. Mysteriously clear, too, as my doctor could palpate some strange little alien in my belly a few months before, but I’ll grab the mercy. I sneezed when injected for a CT scan in 2006 – radioactive contrast dye shoots into your veins, floods your body, cooks you slightly with a piss-warmth in the groin – just a sneeze.

I smile at the needle-nurse. --Now, is this the stuff that makes me warm all over and sneeze?

Timing, right? I ask this while lying on the table.

Concerned faces. Syringe suddenly held away.

We go ahead with the test, with nurse and attendants cautioning me to speak up if I feel the slightest bit strange.

These people worry too much, I figure, watching the nurse pierce my elephant –hide skin and lose the vein. Always a tedious process. Stab hard, dig, dig, pull out. Stab, dig, dig ...

Prick. Shoot. Flood. Heat. Humming wheel of lasers, instructions: --Don’t breathe. Breathe.

Nausea. Guts wants to explode out my nose. Sweat. Sneezing. Lots of sneezing.

Scan’s finished. Sit up, sneeze some more, wheeze a bit, start to explain I think I’m okay – sudden lisp. Tongue wider than it should be. Lips numb? Surely not. Got to be imagining this. Now I’ve got to hang around this little anteroom, sit right in front of a camera ... lips numb. Definitely. Tongue thick. Head foggy. See a doctor – she’s a lovely woman I went to school with. We chat, I wheeze slightly, she listens to my chest, then she goes away, says she’ll check on me shortly. Meantime I should call out or wave at the camera if anything else goes –

Shots of light. Gold and blue. About nine feet in the air. Drawing me towards them. Perhaps I should wave at the camera now, but those lights, don’t want to lose the lights ...

Whack. Sudden shove back into the hard plastic chair. Lips tingle, sensation returning. Tongue shrinks from jamming my teeth. Twenty minutes later, I’m allowed to leave, with a warning: --You shouldn’t have any more CT scans.

I see different lights when stoned on painkillers. Little flames of blue or pink, usually. No desire to follow them.

Swollen brick

That squatter of shrivelled brick -- pain infestation -- bladder squealing -- brick swells to hot acid balloon -- cold draught -- roll onto my side, try to reason with the pain: Okay, I've gotten up and pissed, I've moved around, so why don't you settle down the once? Reason with pain -- bargain with some demented card dealer, or claw the mattress with short-bitten nails. Reason. Philosophy and detachment -- reaching -- a wee bit more difficult around three in the morning. I know others suffer far worse -- seen some of it. I know this. No one's torturing me for the sake skin colour, faith or moral dementia. No one's stolen my children. Just me and this brick ... swallow the pill, keep quiet, don't wake up the family ... Brick and keyboard. Hunched, scowling, typing this -- kicking.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tar Paper Shack -- Joel Thomas Hynes

Dare ya.

Galley slave

The copy-edited manuscript for my next novel, Sky Waves, is with my publisher, getting paginated, typefaced and then spit back at me in proofs. I do not enjoy reading proofs. By the time you get the proofs, you're not supposed to make any changes, any further revisions -- just spot typos.

It's a bit like looking in the mirror after a shower -- wet hair, saggy tits, stretch marks ... I dunno, hips and waist are all right, not hopeless, tattoos interesting... yeah but that flabby belly, those beady eyes -- workaday nakedness a fleshy equivalent of my sense of exposure. Sky Waves, never really in my control to start with -- the craft, perhaps, but not the guts and scream of it -- feels like a a scabby wound. But I can't wait for you to see it.


Behind my stomach lies a shrivelled brick of pain. Sometimes my body tries to sweat the brick out. Sometimes my biliary tree tries to push it out. Sometimes, in a spasm of independence, the brick tries to slice its own way through my back. Of course then it would have to haul the rest of my guts with it. Chronic. Argues with me when I eat -- anything. Tires me out. Wakes me up. Doubles me over. Stop me in mid-sentence. Draws my face into this scowl so sour you'd think murder rotted out my mind. And makes me sweat. Until I'm waxy. Smothered. Face and forehead moist. Little rivers in the cleavage, damp bra. Not sexy. Not easy. Seeded with purpose?

Watching the Road, by Lee Stringer

New writer: Lee Stringer has just released his short-story collection Watching the Road with Killick Press. Stringer is one of those lucky guys who's from Newfoundland but gets to take that little commute to Fort McMurray. Recommend you pick this up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How to go grey in one day, brought to you by Windows Vista

So I've been working a little hard to finish Sky Waves, having lost so much time to illness over the spring. I've promised delivery of the ms July 26th. I revised 59 (short-short) chapters over last Saturday and Sunday. Now, I haven't slept well since June, and I'm getting just a teensy bit edgy. Monday night I taped open my eyelids and fired up my new Windows Vista-powered laptop to sketch in a new chapter ... but Windows Vista can't find the latest Sky Waves document. Check again -- nope. "Search" can't find it. Restart. Search. Nothing. Restart. Search -- got it ... registering at 32 pages.

When last I looked it was at 168 pages.

Now it registered just 32 pages.

I almost puked. Yes, I'd backed the file up, but not correctly, as I discovered, using my portable drive earlier in the day. For a few moments I thought I'd replaced the version with the 59 of 98 chapters with an older version of just 16 of 98 chapters.

Sweating now, I hit Ctrl End to see where this document ended.

Okay, all my work was there. But Windows Vista still told me the file measured 32 pages, despite me being on page 168. Finally, Windows read the file length correctly.

At least, I'm quite content to blame Windows Vista for this little bit of confusion. Yeah, that's it, evil Windows Vista, out to get me, out to get us all ...

Not sure what I need first: chocolate, Valium, or a new colour job at the salon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Salt (through my Water Street office window)

Downtown smells like salt. Not that rancid-scallop smell Halifax gets, but hard-biting salt water, the stuff that'd scrape the features off your face as soon as freeze you to death. Fog's coming in, so it's too chilly for short sleeves and skirts. That lady with white hair who often wears high platform boots and asks you for change in a very professional voice (was she once a receptionist?) stands across the street, breasts down to her navel in a thin old exercise bra. People ignore her. She shakes all over for a moment, picks a few times at her crotch, then moves on, dragging a wheeled suitcase and a cooler behind her.

Cursing and swearing

I love profanity. I love the rhythm and flavour it can add to a sentence. I want to poke the hornet's nest of profanity and blogging -- should I maintain a corporate tone here? Will the occasional expletive make someone decide not to buy my books? make them decide to buy my books? Is this also a gender and cultural issue, whereby I act like "one of da b'ys" by using profanity? Whoever said cussing was solely the province and privilege of da b'ys? Am I still a good mother if I don't use profanity around my kids? But then can I use it at a reading they're attending? Is it okay for my characters to use it, but not my narrators? Who's in charge here?

Fuck this.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

(I found this at Nadine also has a few words to say on the subject.)

Reading Saturday, July 26th

As part of the NL Publishers event on Saturday, July 26th at Chapters on Kenmount Road, St. John’s, I’ll be reading from my upcoming novel, Sky Waves. The whole event runs 1-5 Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th.


My site,, is down. I’ve paid all the fees, but I remain site-less. I want to change it up anyway. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


Webcomic Girl Genius has been around for years, but it's new to me. Maybe to you? Treat youself:

While you're at it, serial web-movie Wormtooth Nation. I'm holding back from describing it, because the discoveries are too much fun and should not be spoiled.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sunburst Award 2008 Shortlist


Contact person: Rebecca Simkin


TORONTO, ONTARIO (May 26, 2008) - The short-listed works in the adult category for the 2008 Sunburst Award are:


- Michelle Butler Hallett
Darkness of the God - Amber Hayward
The New Moon's Arms - Nalo Hopkinson
Wonderfull - William Neil Scott
Axis - Robert Charles Wilson

The short-listed works in the young adult category for the 2008 Sunburst Award are:


- Deborah Lynn Jacobs
Retribution - Carrie Mac
Darkwing - Kenneth Oppel
Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet - Joanne Proulx
The Night Wanderer - Drew Hayden Taylor

The Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is a prized and juried award that is presented annually. Named after the debut novel by Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction, the award consists of a cash prize of $1,000 and a hand-crafted medallion, which incorporates the "Sunburst" logo, designed by Marcel Gagné. It is based on excellence of writing; the jury selects five short-listed works and one winner, representing the finest of Canadian fantastic literature published during the 2007 calendar year. The requirements of the young adult award are the same as for the adult award except for the age of the audience to which the work is addressed. The winner of the annual young adult award will also receive a medallion and prize of $1,000.

The jurors for the 2008 award are: Timothy Anderson, Kelley Armstrong, Barbara Haworth-Attard, Dena Bain Taylor, and Robert J. Wiersema.

The Sunburst jury says about:


- Michelle Butler Hallett

"Sanity, madness, torture in the name of science--Double-blind is wonderfully original while chillingly based in history. It really shook us up. Through the chronically self-deceived mind of the narrator, the novel delves into profound questions of ethics in a morally ambiguous world, and comes up with tragically ironic answers. The writing is incredibly layered, with metaphor and symbol perfectly balanced against the hard neutrality of scientific language."

Darkness of the God

- Amber Hayward

"With Darkness of the God, the second book in the Children of the Panther series, Hayward really finds her footing. Melding old mythology with contemporary society, she creates a different kind of urban fantasy for readers tired of the old supernatural tropes."

The New Moon's Arms

- Nalo Hopkinson

"Nalo Hopkinson crafts an engrossing story featuring an unforgettable character. With generous doses of mystery, humour, magical fantasy and insight, The New Moon's Arms is a entrancing read."


- William Neil Scott

"Scott follows the tradition of Canadian magic realism in a first novel brimming with quirky writing that would seem forced in less capable hands. The novel has huge scope--bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside and covering the entire lifecycle of a magical town--without ever sacrificing intimacy or detail. Scott has said he was inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the ghosts conjured by his own family's stories."


- Robert Charles Wilson

"Original and creative, with strikingly lyrical prose, Wilson shows insight into the human need to dominate every landscape he or she sets foot upon, be it the West in 'olden' times or a new planet in the future--and the mistakes and pitfalls that occur while rushing to do so. He also shows the determination and fortitude our ancestors possessed and passed on, and the ability to learn from our errors and go forward."


- Deborah Lynn Jacobs

"Jacobs' second novel is original and fast-paced, with characters we'd love to know. Kathleen, Kay, Kate, Kathy--Jacobs juggles realities with dazzling confidence. The resolution satisfies but keeps you thinking--about love and loss, and the choices we make."


- Carrie Mac

"A timely novel, given the current rise of child armies in parts of the world. Strong writing pulls the reader through this sequel to The Droughtlanders. The sibling characters Eli, Sabine and Seth continue to grow as an exciting, action-packed yet thoughtful story unwinds."


- Kenneth Oppel

"Kenneth Oppel always spins wonderful fantasies about worlds hidden within our own, and in Darkwing he imagines one of those sub-worlds before our own. Darkwing takes the reader back to the earliest evolutionary form of bats and gives them a well-crafted, fast-paced adventure sure to please both grade schoolers and young teens."
Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet - Joanne Proulx

"Proulx doesn't shy away from showing the tumultuous mix of beauty and ugliness at work in the mind of a teen stoner. Her debut novel tackles ESP, drug use, teen sexuality and the mores of small town conservative Michigan all foregrounded against the soundscape of Luke Hunter's life. There is no doubt teens will recognize many of the characters in this uncomfortable novel. The book, like the protagonist, is not without flaws; Proulx's huge accomplishment here is writing a character whose rage, frustration and love are palpable through the disaffected teen voice."

The Night Wanderer

- Drew Hayden Taylor

"Taylor crafts a fast-paced tale of old magic meeting the modern world in this coming-of-age novel set in an Ontario reserve. With a spare, effective narrative style, he draws compelling portraits of teenage Tiffany, her struggling father, and a grandmother who carries the old world and the old Anishinabe language in her head. The mysterious Pierre brings a darkly gothic element to the prosaic setting, settling in the Hunters' basement room while he looks for a cure for his cravings. Taylor is an accomplished storyteller tackling themes of alienation and compromise with an accessible and engaging voice."

For further information about the Sunburst Award, including information about past nominees, winners, and jurors, please visit:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"Jagged Glass and Feathers," by Susan Rendell

Short story writer andjournalist Susan Rendell recently interviwed me for an aticle in The Independent. Here's a link:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Emerging Artisits

I've got the honour to be shortlisted for the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Emerging Artist of the Year Award -- and the added honour to be on the same list with visual artisits Mary Ann Penashue and Michael Pittman.

I caught some of Michael Pittman's work at the Leyton Gallery in St. John's last November. You must see it. Here's a link to his site:

And to see some of Mary Ann Penashue's vital and striking work, and read an artist's statement, go here:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Tuning -- can you hear the sky waves?

Sky Waves will soon bounce back to Earth ... the novel is due out in September.

"Critically acclaimed novelist Michelle Butler Hallett rolls out her raucous brand of satire in this tender exploration of the human need for communication, communion, and love. Sky Waves is set against the development of radio in Newfoundland and Labrador, and told in 98 non-linear but interconnected chapters. It crackles with comedy, modulates through history, and toys with a new signal-to-noise ratio. Sky Waves is definitely a lively and sometimes demented aural culture novel. Butler Hallett worked in radio for several years and has long been haunted by the story of a cousin who crashed his plane while looking for a lost child."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

CBC Poetry Face Off, St. John's

Maybe I’m not competitive enough, but I can’t be sure that poetry is a blood sport. Perhaps it should be. Still, I asked to be considered for this year’s CBC Poetry Face Off in St. John’s. Made the roster, as did Anthony Brenton, Andreae Prozesky, Gerard Van Hirk and Lesley Vryenhoek. Forgot the little detail that the poem has to be three minutes long. Also forgot I’d be up there with, you know, real poets.

So nervous now I’m sweating on the inside.

Three minutes, sure, but can I do three good minutes?

Face-Off details are here:

Riddle Fence

Call for submissions to Riddle Fence

Deadline: March 31, 2008.

Riddle Fence, a St. John's-based journal of arts and culture, is looking to fill its second issue with nothing short of literary genius – though we'll settle for the merely exemplary. Payment? How mercenary of you to ask. We pay $30 a page for prose and poetry.

We are currently considering submissions of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Send us your best and keep the rest for yourselves. Please send no more than 3-4 poems or one piece of prose, maximum 5,000 words in length.

What are we looking for? What is anyone looking for: brilliance, innovation, that certain je ne sais quoi de sage-like insight that will blow away the doldrums and give our lives greater meaning.

We accept submissions by snail mail (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope): Riddle Fence, P.O. Box 7092, St. John's, NL, A1E 3Y3. Or, send your submission by e-mail (as an attachment in MS Word or Rich Text Format) to


Arguments with your guts are rarely fun. My guts and I bicker a fair bit, like some old couple who realized shortly after the engagement they’d made a mistake but never admitted it. I call my guts “rancid.” They knock me flat. Mutual loathing, barely concealed. A demented little war.

You wouldn’t think so to look at me, five foot eight and zaftig, shoulders like a linebacker’s. My BMI threatens “obese” but usually hovers within “overweight.” I’ve hardly wasted away like someone with active Crohn’s, a condition that keeps an old and dear friend housebound.

Pain is harder than you expect. Even when it’s familiar and old. Each time I’d be admitted to hospital, I coddle a little hope that someone will diagnose me, give me an answer. ---Yes, Ms Butler Hallett, your intractable pain and nausea that’s broken through morphine and sometimes presents with elevated liver functions is caused by ...

Demerol is useless. Just makes me lie still.

Two weeks ago, I went to bed on a Saturday night and couldn’t get up on Sunday morning. Lay there till Sunday afternoon, until it was time for bile. Grey, dark green, copious and thick, from all available orifices. Burns. Scalds, really, carves its own paths through the other pain. Sweats and chills and spins. It settled, but another week passed before I felt safe to drive.

Between bouts, the pain feels like a rumour or some fever dream. Between bouts, all I care about the pain is that it’s gone.

Nineteen days of four to ten on the irritating pain scale docs ask you to use.

Familiar and old. Harder than I expect.

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett

Spark-gap transmission / Michelle Butler Hallett
in progress

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