As a Canadian, I know about the weather. It’s a gateway to a conversation, and everyone has something to say. Opinion is divided. Sometimes it sucks; sometimes it’s absolutely glorious.
While I think about the snowstorms I’ve survived, I wonder how a Mexican, a Panamanian, an African who has never experienced the winter of my discontent feels about the blizzards I’ve shoveled my way out of. It must be not unlike how I feel when I watch the footage of a hurricane or monsoon race toward a population that can’t possibly survive the onslaught yet most miraculously do.
I’m waiting. I hear the sound of pitter-patter. Rain has been falling off and on. It’s not as loud here as it is in Panama during the rainy season. Humidity is no longer a feeling of moisture. It’s become an extension of who I am. Hurricane Olaf is jockeying on the southern tip of the Mexican Baja and getting ready to blow.
Shortlist Winner published in Adelaide Literary Award 2020 Anthology
In light of the travesty unfolding in Canada, where authorities are unearthing hundreds of Indigenous children buried in unmarked graves, I thought I’d share this scandalous story with you. Several months ago, I came across the story of Catherine Corless, an Irish woman who exposed the sickening truth behind the Mother and Baby Home in Tuam, Ireland. The similarities between what the church inflicted upon the children and their unwed mothers and the Indigenous are a breathtaking reality. This revelation is not to diminish the travesty inflicted on the Indigenous community; it is to highlight and support their cause for justice and reiterate that what happened to them is criminal.
I can honestly say I’ve never recovered from discovering these facts of what the Irish government and church officials sanctioned as appropriate. What is alarming to me is that we allow the real culprits an escape when we hide them behind the terms: government and church. Government and church are the names applied to people in charge of organizations. It isn’t a building or conglomerate–it’s people.
In Ireland, as many as 35,000 unwed women entered into the care of these horrific institutions. As many as 6000 babies are assumed buried without records across the beautiful Irish countryside. And at best guess, as many as 15,000 children were sold in an adoption ring without consent (or forged consent) from their mothers by the nuns in charge of these institutions.
Just as devastating is that these women and children were abused to such an extent until 1996. Even now, the government of Ireland can’t face the horror and no matter how you say it, Sorry, is simply not enough.
And there is yet another layer that needs to be brought to the surface. Just where were the fathers of these children? The families of these girls who were subjected to such inhumanity?
Thank you for devoting so much effort to promoting The Lucky Man-An Act of Malice with your rather unconventional methods and for no payment/ransom fee. Just saw a nice spike in my book sales, thanks to your action. Maybe there is something to reverse psychology. You might be interested to know that someone who read my book mentioned me in the same sentence as Hemingway. (I think that was so nice of them, don’t you?)
Have a fantastic day!
Sorry for calling you names, but with all your aliasses, Gavin, Joseph, Kenneth, perhaps something foreign, or Clarissa, it’s hard to decide what to call you. I’m sure your situation is dire. Why else would someone resort to such tactics? Extortion is a crime. But have you ever considered getting into marketing? You’d have to drastically change your business model, but with some hard work, who knows? Look where it’s gotten me. I was published. The Lucky Man-An Act of Malice
(In response to a threat I received this weekend.)
(Shitty People is the name Joseph applied to his partners and they pride themselves as being a team of shitty people.)
Part One: The Ransom Note
Thank you for your last email. It is endearing how you called me a penny-pinching bitch and threatened to destroy my career before it even began—really heartwarming on your part. I’m not going to lie and say your note didn’t affect me. And I’d like to share with you the reason behind that initial emotional bruising, and that you are completely wrong about me. But thanks for choosing me as your target. I’m many things, but I’m not a bitch.
My novel is the catcher and keeper of my dreams. I didn’t just fire it off. Unlike you, I work for what I have and don’t feast off the efforts of other people like vermin. For me to publish my novel, it’s taken roughly ten years to become even remotely good enough. During those ten years, I have dedicated my life to writing, to taking classes when I could, and never giving up. So you want to fuck up my dream? Well, here’s the truth. Go ahead. I obviously can’t stop you and your team of shitty people. Now why anyone would associate themselves with shitty people is beyond me. My approach has been slightly different, and I reach out and commit myself to partner and support amazing people. Just a suggestion, but try it sometime.
It’s also interesting how you are so kind in the opening of your email and are offering to provide me a service (completely illegal by the way) to work and promote my book and I quote, ‘we want to strike a deal with you’. And whether you meant to imply it or not, I take it that you see the huge potential in my novel The Lucky Man-An Act of Malice, otherwise you wouldn’t bother.
You are suggesting that I am doing something immoral or illegal by using a sanctioned Goodreads platform designed for authors to reach authors and reviewers to exchange ARCs and swap reviews. You must be getting your information from fake news because it’s a practice that has been ongoing and Amazon, who owns Goodreads, is aware. Please read up on the subject. Amazon does have a policy and I follow their guidelines.
About ruining my career. Thanks for that. Not that there’s much to destroy at this time because I just got going, and, without a doubt, it would be devastating nonetheless. But remember how I mentioned that it’s taken me ten relentless years of trying to get here? Well, if you decide to fuck with me, I promise that whatever shit you throw at me, I’m simply and creatively going to spin it to my advantage. Authors are used to taking ‘shit’ and making something from it.
And here’s a tip. By going after those of us just starting out you are targeting some very tender egos, but I can guarantee that we are fighters. What you fail to understand is that budding authors don’t have a budget to hire marketing teams, publicists, agents, tour managers, and the what-nots, or extortionists scumbags like you, to become rich and famous. Here you might also do the math: count the names of the very famous authors alive making huge money (I’m sure math is hard for you) and then subtract the thousands of authors who don’t make a dime from their efforts but continue to write simply for the love of writing. I’m on that team with thousands of others.
So you and your crew of shitty people, go ahead, make my life miserable. I already learned from the thousands of rejections that I am a survivor. Should you happen to live in a country where life is the shits and this is the only way you can see a way to get out, I suggest you come up with a better, hopefully, more honest attempt. Try hard work, it always pays off.
Wishing you and the shitty people you’re in cahoots with a lovely day. May those be raisins in your cereal.
Getting book reviews is not the only uncomfortable request authors have to master, but when another reviewer emails you this comment, the hours you devoted to your book are all worth it.
I’ve finished with The Lucky Man, and was quite impressed. It’s definitely a page-turner and delves into the deep end of the plight of our planet while keeping the reader in a state of suspense that only a well-conceived well-written who-done-it can do.
I was kept on the edge of my seat The Who way, and the … of the Spencer’s completely took me by surprise. Well done. Nothing will change my mind about giving this a strong FIVE stars.
Nowadays, we are often led to believe that the world is a terrible place. That there is crime everywhere, that we shouldn’t trust anyone.
While there is crime and everyone is out to make a dollar, the world is also full of unique, kind-hearted, generous people. Think of our healthcare workers who have been fighting for a year now to keep us alive. Despite being physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, they forge through the fire: For Us!
Take a moment. Close your eyes and think of that person who reached out to you when you needed someone. Or the stranger who smiled and held the door open for you. Or those individuals who rescued a dog and are giving it a good home or those who donated to this or that cause. Those are kind people. And yes, people’ fuck-up’. That’s who we are. All we can hope for is that we learn from our mistakes, develop a growth mindset, and move forward, even apologize if the occasion warrants it.
This week, I also want to thank one of those individuals I have never met in person. I met Sir Peter through WordPress, and he gifted me with a wonderful gift. He took the time and read my manuscript and gave it such a glowing review that I cried. So thank you, Peter. It means so much.
This is the book cover for my novel, with emphasis on my. It’s been in the making for a year and, at times, frazzled my nerves. Publishing is slow-moving.
Now that I’m so close, I feel a bout of stage-fright coming on.
If you’ve never written a book but love to read them, please do so with the perspective that the person behind the words put their soul into their effort and to bring a story that you may (or may not) enjoy.
Writing takes hardtack, perseverance, dedication, and grit. While I love writing and could do it for hours and hours, this self-promotion is another species altogether. To write a novel, I had to learn so many new skills, mostly self-taught, and sometimes it felt an awful lot like a fish out of water, knowing I had to return to the water to survive but not always knowing how to get there. But promoting myself is the opposite: I feel like I’m drowning in so much information and advice that it becomes impossible to know what is what.
Writing has taught me that those who commit, whether self-publishing, indie, or house publishing, take on a tremendous amount of effort. There are many days when the question, “Why am I doing this?” begs for an answer.
Because we love it, or a voice tells us to. Some might even take it on as a challenge to explore our most inner selves. There are countless reasons for writing, just as there are for not choosing to write.
So in the next few weeks, I will be seeking out individuals who would like to read a copy of my novel and post a review on amazon.com. It would be so awesome if you could.
If you want to make anyone uncomfortable, simply tell them that you own nothing. In a second, their eyes roll slightly inward as they compute the idea of what nothing could mean and that you must be joking: they’re waiting for the punchline that what you’re saying can’t imply the same nothing that means nothing.
Others may nonchalantly glance over their shoulder to see their belongings and that your nothing has nothing to with their everything. After all, what is life for if not for gathering stuff?
When we are born, people already bring us stuff. Baby clothing, toys, food. As we grow up, more stuff comes our way. We receive a collection of items to make us happy, to make us fit in, to help us live comfortable lives, and to shape us into unique individuals. Those articles are often given out of love.
There is also a constant trade and evolution, perhaps. Pink bikes are exchanged for ice skates, blue bikes are exchanged for balls, dolls are replaced with sweaters and lipgloss, real cars and trucks replace the Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars taking up space attic or basement. Of course, some of us collect those items forever because they are too precious to part with.
As writers, we sometimes take our work and effort much too seriously. Sometimes you just have to have some fun and allow your mind to do what it will. It’s part of the creative process. So here is me having fun with words.
Ménage à Trois
There’s something about a sunshine-filled day that brings out the best in people, but I still always wonder, ‘where do they all go?’
From my apartment window, I have a good view— a snapshot perhaps of the world. As it stands, I’m not inconvenienced or affected by what occurs beyond the thin pane of glass, the lock and key, the apartment complex within a complex.
If anything, I am spoiled. My home is warm, I am loved and eat nothing but the best, although I work very hard to earn both of those life-sustaining elements.
The woman I love is one of those people out on the sidewalk. Every morning, I watch as she heads east to catch the bus that shuttles her to the tube. And farther, to the fabulous place that employs her and pays all of our bills. I know all about bills and contributing. Sheila, the woman who adores every nuance within me, reminds me daily of how hard she works, how no one else works any harder, so that we can live in comfort and style. Of course, I appreciate her effort and let it show.
When Sheila arrives home, the first thing I do is show her how glad I am that she is back and that I missed her. I heard someplace, probably on a talk show or news radio station, that one of the key elements in any successful relationship is appreciating your partner and all the little things they do to contribute to the relationship and your well-being. Sheila and I share such a bond, and I value her contributions.
Off to the west, I see a grey cap of clouds rolling in. A summer shower is in the forecast; I can feel it in my bones. But a minor storm is always welcome. It brings out the birds I enjoy watching as they peck and bob their heads on the soft lawn in the park across the street. I have a keen eye for such things and can identify many species of birds, chickadees being my favourite because they are entirely comical to watch. I’d dare say they are parrots of the north.
Sheila, of course, affectionately encourages my hobbies. She bought us books on bird watching, and we have a magazine subscription that the mailman brings monthly. Sheila recently read that there has been a shift in the migratory and behaviour patterns in birds, which are highly influenced by an insect invasion in the city. Most people don’t know this, but in many countries, insects are thriving on city landscapes and are sadly vanishing in rural areas because of chemical pesticide toxins. That’s the thing about Sheila, she reads such fascinating facts all the time.
There’s no point in denying that consistently blogging is not my thing. Not that I don’t enjoy reaching people and receiving their kind comments and replies, but I’m really torn between focusing on my creative writing skills and committing to a blog. For the past few months, I’ve been knee-deep into the writing courses I registered for and am looking forward to the next set starting in March. Writing, it seems, is a never-ending learning curve that is mostly uphill. But the truth is that I love it.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve also thought much about a continual trend I see in the television and movie industry: Remakes, Spin-offs, Sequels, Copy-Cats.
There are twelve Superman movies listed on Wikipedia, and to me, it feels like there are hundreds. The same can be said for Spiderman, Jedis, Karate Kids, Witches, and über-cops, (who like witches, don’t exist anywhere on the planet). While I understand that some of those concepts are sequels or reinventions, I have to ask: Are we that boring that we can’t come up with something new?
In this house, Friday night is movie night, and there are a few shows that really deserve a shout-out. While book or movie reviews aren’t generally my thing, as we head into lockdown in Alberta, Canada, watching a film that has depth and meaning might make the next four weeks more bearable.
Lion is a breathtaking and emotional journey best enjoyed with good friends, and a box of tissues. I give this movie a solid 10/10. It’s a cultural excursion loaded with sensory overloading imagery and thought-provoking scenes. (Same calibre as Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire)
This title and book belong to the author and leadership guru Jayson Krause, and I feel so privileged to have been given an advanced copy to review. It’s a great companion book to Carol Dweck’s Mindset and I can’t wait to put the lessons into practice. It also explains my absence from this website, these books involve a true commitment to self-development.
While Jayson is a well-respected leadership strategist and founder of Level 52, and a former team bobsled pilot on the Canadian national team, he shares his experiences and growth mentality generously. The lessons harvested in his book speak to all aspects of life and help individuals fine-tune their growth mindset, the power of their influence, the culture they thrive in (or not), and personal development.
Every week, Grammarly https://app.grammarly.com/ sends me a progress report and encourages me to keep on writing. My current status is ‘Philosopher” and in October I managed to write 48,000 words. That’s the reason I’m not always active on WordPress, on any Social Media platform. I am, however, always touched when my followers like my posts or comments. Thank you for that.
As a writer, I’m familiar with the rejection process. When I submit I float on that cloud that maybe, just maybe, this is the submission that will be recognized. That glimmer of hope floats until that email arrives that holds the power to change everything.
The Spanish Flu was tragically given an erroneous name. Spain wasn’t the origin of the devastating influenza strain, but Spanish newspapers acted as the first messengers when the pandemic competed with the tragic events of WW1. Because of military censorship, countries involved in WW1 prohibited the release of vital information, which may have contributed to catapulting the flu to epic proportions. The flu crippled the entire world, ravaging bodies from 1918 to 1920 and decades to come. No reliable data can determine the origin, yet some truths regarding this catastrophic pandemic remain relevant today.
In Canada, the H1N1 influenza A, or Spanish Flu, strain took the lives of 55,000 people who competed for grave plots with the 60,000 soldiers who fell in WW1. This international pandemic also took 675,000 US citizens to their grave. In New York alone, 19,000 people died from complications associated with this lethal strain. In total, this flu claimed 40 – 50 million bodies. Some experts even suggest a number as high as 100 million. As records indicate, 500 million people became infected during four ferocious waves, making the Spanish Flu one of (if not the most) deadliest pandemic in human history.
Every writer needs validation. We may kid ourselves and say we write for our well-being, but the truth is, most of us write because something in our ‘soul’ propels us to do so. And it’s impossible to argue with our inner self; we are deeply biased.
I come to the writing process the hard way. When I was a kid, I dreamed of working in the cosmetic industry. I enjoyed a great career and still miss all those fabulous freebies. In college, I was introduced to some amazing ladies: Jane Austen, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, and Virginia Woolf. Meeting those ladies sent me on a journey to read just about every Penguin Classic novel ever written because my dear Jane’s collection is relatively meager. I chewed my way through: Tolstoy’s War and Peace (Twice, once for the characters and the second to really understand the war portion) Hardy, Thackeray, Dickens, Eliot, Hawthorne, Fielding, Cleland, Collins, Steinbeck, Twain, and Harper Lee all the way to Dostoyevsky among many others. Finally, I hit a roadblock when I tried to tackle Cervantes and failed. Although I didn’t know it at the time, reading the Classics prepared me for something despite not understanding the journey.
For most people, the prairies inspire feelings of boredom. The vast landscape of nothing, the images of flat land, and endless poker-straight roads are not appealing. Most people crave the scenic beauty of mountains, the sun glaring off the sand at some ocean resort in the tropics, or the hubbub of metropolitan flair.
But the Canadian Prairies are so much more than that, and seeing this landscape amidst the fall harvest puts it in a new light. Leaving Calgary on the new ring road takes us quickly away from the city, and we enter the countryside. Our destination is Mantario, Saskatchewan. A bleep on the radar, population (2011) is 5, yet it has its own Wikipedia page. We immediately taste the prairie landscape as we travel the lesser highways and appreciate the blue sky, populated with sheep-clouds as a reference point. Soon, we encounter massive farms, Hutterite operations with silver silos that twinkle in the sunshine. Before we reach our first stop, Drumheller, we pull over. With the window rolled down, I ask two farmers who are chatting, undoubtedly, about the best harvest in the history of mankind, in the middle of nowhere, leaning against their big trucks. “Is there a McDonald’s around here?” They laugh, and appreciate the joke and point us toward Drumheller, the last chance for gas, and the burly man jokes, “there’s a McDonald’s, a Tim Horton’s.”
Despite arguing against it, most of us are affected, afflicted, and impacted by the internet and its child prodigy: Social Media. Even those who sneer at Social Media with disdain and refuse to surf the gigantic internet waves championed by AI forces, must submit that technology is a revolutionary tool destined to stay and there is no escape. Refute technology and progress if you will, but humanity is attached to the sticky substance of the web and is entrapped in the process. Blindly, yet willfully, we are maneuvered like puppets, and our shallow lives are starting to resemble those of Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984.
On the other side of our device’s screen, be it an Apple, or Google, or Smartphone, or Microsoft, someone is commanding how we think, move, shop, vote, eat and even decide how we inform ourselves. And those conglomerates aren’t in it for the good of humanity. It’s a business, first and foremost, that wants a piece of our money and even our soul. Every contingent of our lives is ruled by the wide-reaching net called the World Wide Web (WWW).
Last summer, I had the pleasure of experiencing three wonderful months living in England, and, I adored every day and every minute experience with Britain’s friendly people. But there was one minor interaction that puzzled me. The question: You alright? (often followed with dear) insert favorite British accent here.
My first instinct was to check myself? Do I look ill? Is there something on my face? Am I covered in blood? But it turns out it is just their quaint phrasing of, How are you?
Frankly, it’s surprising. Since the beginning of time, some version of ‘people’ has been roaming this extraordinary planet. Estimate for human existence is at roughly 3.2 million years old, subject for an everchanging debate, yet, the question of what to eat, when to eat, or how to eat is still on the table—untouched. Is the answer lost in the fact that people have been roaming for so long that they misplaced the original instruction manual and became complacent? While eating is a complex issue, it doesn’t have to be.
What is fascinating is that as people, passion for food literally consumes them. They want to prepare it, share it, ‘you must eat something,’ and it ties them socially into a fabric; each culture weaves their own pattern. It’s the one common thread they can agree to, even if the question of what sort of culinary delight tangles the weaver.
For this article’s intent, let’s glimpse our North American and European eating habits. Many cultures exist which still consume a diet closely related to their ancestral roots. This is not about vegetarianism, veganism, keto, paleo, Atkins, or the many other so-called best diet regimes. This is speaking in terms of culture and ancestry. It’s no secret that people have conflicting theories on this continent about diet, exercising in correlation to health. If people ate what was suggested, …well, it explains the state of their health reflected in their bodies. Confusion is rampant. What should they put into their mouths?
Clasping his grandson’s small hand, Pierre led the way around the soft bend in the lane, around the outcropping of trees rustling in the breeze, and away from the Sunday church crowd, gathered on a picturesque Normandy landscape.
“There,” he pointed.
He watched his grandson strain on his tippy-toes to find the marker in the green field that had been embedded not in the soil, but Pierre’s memory. Pierre’s eyes glistened, as always, he had just stepped backward in time to July 13, 1944, a day tattooed with the ink of blood in his mind. He lifted the child in his arms, held him close, and inconspicuously wiped his tears. The boy didn’t need to see that.
“I was standing right about here,” Pierre spun them around, “when the airplane fell from the sky. A plume of black smoke spiraled across the sky. We’d been listening to the dogfight among the clouds. It was hot that day, and I hoped that any second the pilot would bring the nose up and land safely in the field.”
Jack Spencer made a fatal mistake. One that landed him in the Pacific, literally without a paddle. As he struggles to survive the elements that the perilous blue throws at him, Jack comes to terms with the truth. He’s guilty. The most prevalent mistake: an affair with the woman about to marry his best friend. But does the punishment of being set adrift on the ocean warrant the crime? Only he can answer, only one person can save him.
As soon as Myra Spencer reaches Hawaii, her senses shift into overdrive. Her son, Jack, is missing. But everyone downplays his vanishing act and evades the truth. Hints suggest too much of a good thing as rumors of a mysterious beauty surface followed by copious amounts of booze before a wedding that will never take place. But as his mother, Myra knows better. Jack’s in trouble. Only she has no way to prove it—other than the suspicions her heart dictates.
Dumbfounded, Kai Hale holds the paddle belonging to his missing canoe in hand. The canoe is his lifeline to make amends with mounting debt. Slowly Kai’s life collides with the Spencers, and the reality of Jack’s disappearance is tied to his canoe.
But why? That is the question everyone is desperate to answer.
What Jack can’t know is that he’s on course with destiny. A path that leads him to an island and people who await his arrival. An island not charted on anyone’s map. The truth changes everything.
( What Jack can’t know is that someone close to him is out for revenge.)
All too often, we get caught up in the big moments in life. Moments that define us and bring us joy or sadness. They are part of the circle that moves us on the journey of life. But I feel the true pleasure of the small things and experiences that are integral to who I am.
This morning, I took the dogs for a walk, and I was so grateful for the beautiful rain that showered the countryside during the night. The sound of rain is so soothing; it brings life and washes us clean.
The landscape on the Mexican Baja is mesmerizing. It’s breathtaking and heartbreaking all in one go. There are hills and mountain ranges that vanish at dusk and dawn and become silhouettes, portraits awash in shades of grey and mauve.