Book Tour Diary: Week Eight

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7.

Sorry for the delay before writing this.  I’ve been fairly busy since I got home; catching up with the life I put on hold during the tour.  I’ve been home for about two weeks now.

For the three days between getting home from Alberta and going off to Vancouver Island, we pretty much spent the lion’s share of the time sleeping.  It’s amazing how badly you can sleep with strange noises all around you and other people shifting and moving in the room.  As a matter of fact, all three of us specifically slept apart for three days if that tells you something!

We left late on the 23rd; late enough that we were afraid that we wouldn’t make the ferry.  I even called my cousins in Burnaby to ask if they might have a spot for me to crash if we didn’t, and then we could head over in the morning and go right to the book signing.  This time we had our friend (my bestie) Jennica with us, and the plan was that we would stay with my father and my stepmom while we were in Victoria, then Jennica’s sister Tanya’s place (also our friend) in Nanaimo, then head home.  But we had to drop Jennica off in Nanaimo first.

To people who live on Vancouver Island, this is an insane amount of driving.  For some reason the north island never goes south, and the south island never goes north, and they don’t tend to have much respect for each other either (I was amazed at how many otherwise reasonable people were making snide commentary about the other side of the island while we were there; very interesting).  Apparently Duncan is the borderline.  We tried to line up a date in Duncan as well but were unable to connect with the major bookstore there.  But weirdly, a grand total driving time of a little over an hour’s driving time separates Victoria from Nanaimo.  Not sure what the source of the division is but there you are.

We made the ferry, but we got out late enough that it was already past midnight by the time we made Nanaimo, so we determined we would spend the night at Tanya’s place, head to the signing in Victoria the following day, spend the night there and leave in the morning so my parents could pack for their trip to Hawaii (they go every couple of years for a few days and my timing was lousy,) and then head back to Nanaimo that night to do the signing there on Sunday.  I am sure they were disappointed when I texted them about the delay, and I was too.

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Tanya is an eclectic Wiccan who is raising her two beautiful toddlers with her partner and a roommate in a little basement suite, so quarters were cozy and she was especially generous, I think, for allowing us to stay.  She even cooked healthy gluten and lactose free meals for us, and I have to say, the food was amazing!  She’s talking about opening up a specialty restaurant; I think she’s got a future in it.  But the whole family had a horrific cold.  I knew to smell trouble; and I was right.

Tanya’s not really involved in the local Pagan scene, largely due to political issues.  The CWA has made a big splash in Nanaimo, but they have also strongly polarized the community.  I have, myself, butted heads with the leaders of that group, who have largely been running our board for the last several years; but we are friends and have been allies as well in the past, so as much as there have been personal disagreements there have been good things going on as well.  There was a large Aquarian Tabernacle Church faction in the area that recently disintegrated also.  The rest of the local Pagans either hang out the Heathen Freehold on Salt Spring Island, or they conglomerate around the major metaphysical store in the area, Lobelia’s Lair.  Since that’s the place I did the Nanaimo book signing at, I will discuss that more at length later in the article.

We drove to Victoria as soon as we woke up, with a brief detour past Nanaimo’s lovely harbour, after a questionable night’s sleep in the back of Tanya’s house, which was on a sharp angle (because she was worried about people walking off with our extension cord if we parked at the front of the house on the street).  I was less concerned; Dodie’s neighbourhood in Winnipeg is one of the city’s least reputable and we’re pretty sure someone opened up our door in Regina while we were sleeping.  But we respected her wishes.  The drive to Victoria was beautiful with all the fall colours on display.

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We headed right to our destination in Victoria; Triple Spiral Metaphysical on Victoria’s legendary Fan-Tan Alley, which is in the heart of Victoria’s historic Chinatown.

Fan-Tan Alley is the narrowest street in Canada.  It is a little roughly paved alley with barely enough people to walk past each other; and yet it’s an official street.  There’s a small labyrinth of these interesting streets in Chinatown, which of course stem from when Chinatown was a slum.  To a modern mindset, however, it’s very charming.  Surrounded by old brick buildings, bright red neon displaying Chinese characters, and a walkway bridge painted red and gold and adorned with dragons rising overhead, Victoria’s Chinatown looked to me like walking onto the set of Big Trouble in Little China (hey, I live a sheltered life, I’ve never seen a real Chinatown before.)  I fell in love with it immediately.  Jamie, having seen it many years ago, was disheartened by how much of the true Chinatown was left.  I do hope they don’t have plans to get rid of any more of it.  As you might expect for an area that used to be a slum for migrant workers limited by racist policies, it was located right at the shore of the old working docks, so the British Columbia Legislature was clearly visible from any street corner; especially at night, because they light it up with thousands of lights all year round as if it were Christmas.  I noticed a large cigar shop on the corner, which gave Erin something to work on for reviews for his magazine also (and it turned out to be a great store too, called Goodfellas Cigars, and I’m sure he’ll be posting the review at Smoking Jacket Magazine any day now.)

You step under the dragon arch and you see a little sign that says “Fan Tan Alley.”  Walking in, you find yourself in a little narrow space of brick and cobblestone, and then all of a sudden, you’re in this magical alley full of doors and neat specialty shops, lit by lantern lights overhead.  It’s gotta be the closest thing there is to Diagon Alley in the real world.  In the Alley was a store that sold an amazing variety of hats, a hipster clothing store, a gluten and lactose free chocolate shop, an imported gifts shop, a yoga studio, and an amazing classic Chinese junk shop of the type that just might have a Mogwai for sale.

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Triple Spiral Metaphysical is nestled about halfway in between all of these.  It has been in business for more than twenty years, and Phyllis, the formidable woman at the helm, is part of the 13th Moon Mystery School, which might just be the longest-running witches’ collective in Canada.  It is strongly connected to Alison Skelton, daughter of the famous and influential Canadian Pagan author Robin Skelton, so she is perhaps one of our first second-generation witches.  Alison has not been content to dwell in her father’s shadow, however, and she, Phyllis, and the other members of the collective have done a very lot of work to build a strong Pagan community and support Pagan endeavours on Vancouver Island for many years; though they are often seen as being aloof and insular (and that might not be unfair).  Triple Spiral is just a little store-space; they have a larger upstairs space designated for classes, and unlike most of the other Pagan stores I’m familiar with, classes are their bread and butter.  They just started a new run of a Wicca 101 course that has been successful for twenty years.

There were quite a lot of very cool things crammed in that little space.  Her somewhat reduced book selection included mostly the classics; but the very best of the classics, nothing I would consider a waste of your time to read.  She had an amazing besom selection, a section specifically for shamanic supplies, handmade drums and herbs. And her prices, compared to other places I have been, were amazingly reasonable.

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I slid in there on the buzzer and Phyllis and her friendly staff already had a table set up for me at the front with a display of books.  I sold a few but mostly had a good time chatting away with Phyllis.  I liked her a lot.  She’s an intense sort of person, the kind who will interrupt you to ask a question and study you with such focus that it demands a reply.  She’s clever and opinionated and savvy.  I imagine she makes enemies just as easily as she makes friends, and doesn’t give two hoots one way or the other.  She showed me a great article in Beautiful British Columbia Magazine about the Victoria Pagan community that was very informative about some background information I didn’t know; when I expressed an interest and said it would be valuable for my work with my column at Witches & Pagans, she gave me a copy of the magazine.  Also Alison Skelton’s contact info, which I’ve been looking for, for many of the same reasons.

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In between the signing and the workshop we explored the area a little more.  This is how I found the labyrinth (which is across the major street from Fan-Tan Alley; Jamie showed me,) which hid artisan’s shops, private apartments, a coffee shop, a pottery studio, and the most beautiful little community garden.  We took the time to do a little driving around, checking out the spectacular Chinese vintage neon lights and the BC Legislature lit up for the evening.  It was amazing.

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We had a small class for the workshop but it was one of the most fun workshops I did, because they were so knowledgeable that I was answering questions about the most advanced material my book presents.  Well worth my time and a lot of fun!  I hope I get to come back sometime.  Perhaps I’ll plan workshops specifically on those subjects (entheogens, the Scourge, the Great Rite) because those had such a positive reception.

Feeling good, we headed to my parents’ place.  Turns out they were not in Victoria proper, but Colwood, a middle-class bedroom community.  They were in a nice house in a middle-class cul-de-sac development.  My dad was blue collar and that’s how I was raised, so I guess he’s moving up the world now that he and Janet, my stepmother, have pooled their resources, and I’m happy for him.  He worked hard his whole life to support us and he deserves it.

I like Janet a lot.  Not that I have any say in the matter of course, but a lot of people have odd relationships with their stepparents and I’m glad I don’t.  My parents separated after I had left home and I was in my late twenties when Dad remarried.  They have a good thing and they make each other very happy.  Janet is a smart, stylish, creative and musical woman who likes to travel and do things.  She brings out my father’s best.

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This was the first time I had seen him since I published the book, and since it was my first book, I was very excited.  He encouraged me to pursue writing and I believe it meant as much to him as it did to me to see the actual paperback copy of my book for the first time.  We had a really great, if short, visit.  We chatted into the night about personal things, and then walked their cute little dogs together in the morning after a fabulous breakfast while Janet started packing; which I think was a very diplomatic way of handling allowing a time for us, who don’t see each other very often, to visit, while still getting all the work they needed to do done.

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We spent the day sightseeing, since we had some time to kill.  We went back to Victoria, saw the cigar shop and visited Beacon Hill Park and the BC Legislature building.  Jamie told me all about Lt. Gov. James Douglas, a man with Creole ancestry who managed to run a legendary bluff about his powers and authority that kept Victoria a British colony (not an American outpost) and thus paved the way for Canada to be what it is today.  I think I’m going to write a novel about this guy sometimes!

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We also visited the War Memorial; which was draped with wreaths, flowers, and an outpouring of grief for the soldiers killed recently at the National War Memorial.  I thought about the recent connection to the War Memorial that I had in meeting Zazo in Sherwood Park.  Six degrees of separation I guess . . .

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Weather on the Island while we were there mostly proved why it’s a rain forest; it was warm and very, very wet.  I had a better idea about why people don’t want to drive from one side of the Island to the other; the rain was coming down in blinding sheets and people did not seem inclined to drive to the conditions.  After an hour of it, Jamie asked me to drive so he could have a stress break.  Nerve-wracking stuff.

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We made it back to Nanaimo in time to visit a tobacconist in Nanaimo whom Erin wanted to see and review, and then we bummed around downtown Nanaimo a little; rain or no rain.  We found ourselves at a pretty seashore park and the Nanaimo War Memorial, which was also draped with outpourings of sympathy.

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Back to Tanya’s for dinner, which was again, amazing, and a quiet evening trying to get caught up on some writing.  I also sent a copy of some of the pictures I took to CBC.

In the morning we had a quick breakfast and headed off to Lobelia’s Lair, which has been around for at least fifteen years and is located in the heart of Nanaimo’s Old Quarter (cobblestone streets; how cool is that?)  Liberty Harakas, the owner, started by reading Tarot several years ago and expanded her store slowly into selling metaphysical items and antiques.  They have an amazing selection of handmade artisan’s items, crystals, and items to make your own potpourris and incense, and probably one of the best book selections of any store I’ve been to, especially if you include their library.  It’s nothing compared to Banyan Books in Vancouver, mind; but since most of Banyan is now devoted to New Age material, if you’re a Pagan, you might be better off making a trip to Nanaimo.

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Not a lot of people showed up for the signing; though more did for the workshop, which took place in Lobelia’s Lair’s reading room, and they were a lot of fun to teach, including my friend Sally from the CWA.  I met some neat people and I had a great time!  Unfortunately I did not get to meet Liberty, as she was staying home after a metaphysical fair event the previous day.

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From the store we grabbed Jennica from Tanya’s place and after another detour through the park to get pictures of it in the sunlight, hopped immediately onto the ferry, and had a really great trip over the channel as the sun set behind us; I took a ridiculous amount of pictures.  On the way home we were able to visit briefly with Jennica’s mom Sue and her husband Steve, who are also good friends of mine whom I hadn’t seen in far too long.  I was glad of the opportunity because she is on oxygen for COPD, and they know it’s only a matter of time before she passes.

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We were exhausted when we got home at last and fell into bed.  Taking advantage of our exhaustion that horrible cold hit, and the family was sick for several days.  We had time to get better before Expressions of Time‘s anniversary and customer appreciation day, during which I did some more signings along with some readings (tea leaves & Tarot,) then our local Samhain gathering, which I had promised to do quite a few things at, and then we caught the local horrible cold and were sick again.  Fortunately we’re better now.

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I had a fabulous time on the tour, and I am delighted by all the great people I had a chance to connect with!  We are talking about doing something similar in Central/Eastern Canada next year, hitting the major Pagan festivals as stopping points.  But I’ve been too tired to do any serious research on it yet, and I think that will have to wait until December.

In the meantime, I’ve started my new blog at Patheos (and they pay me for this one guys, so if you like my work, take the time to click and share!) and I have thrown myself into National Novel Writing Month; which this year I have devoted to working on the next book on witchcraft; one on my tradition.  So, who knows?  Maybe I’ll have another book to promote in a year or two!

Thank you to all the fine stores who hosted me: Triple Spiral Metaphysical (Victoria, BC,) Lobelia’s Lair (Nanaimo, BC,) Gaia Rising (Nelson, BC,) Expressions of Time (Vernon, BC,) the Gypsy Bazaar (Enderby, BC,) Mosaic Books (Kelowna, BC,) White Lioness Metaphysics (Penticton, BC,) Magical Elements (Red Deer, AB,) Where Faeries Live (Edmonton, AB,) Nevaeh Concepts (Sherwood Park, AB,) Divine Goddess (Saskatoon, SK,) The Broom Closet Witchcraft Supply Shop (Regina, SK,) and Elemental Book and Curiosities Shop (Winnipeg, MB).  Thank you to my friends Leaticia Mitchell in Castlegar, BC, and Dodie Graham McKay in Winnipeg, MB, who hosted our house concerts; and thank you especially to all the good friends and family who put us up and took care of us.  We had a great time and I really appreciate it!

Blessed be,

Sable

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~ by Sable Aradia on November 14, 2014.

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