The Human Condition

So grateful to the amazing editors at Literally Stories for publishing another of my stories and the kind efforts they put into helping me make this story shine.

https://literallystories2014.com/category/all-stories/

https://literallystories2014.com/2021/06/04/the-human-condition-by-monika-r-martyn/

Run Don’t Walk

Shortlist Winner published in Adelaide Literary Award 2020 Anthology

The footprints we leave behind.

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?

The excuse, times were different, doesn’t fly.

It was never okay.

Run Don’t Walk by Monika R. Martyn. A Short List Nominee

Warning! You may find this content disturbing.

Julia took the lantern in one hand and rested the bundle swaddled in a plain cotton sheet close to her chest. She grumbled something only the walls could hear, but tonight she really resented the nuns for making her do this. The set of keys in her apron pocket jingled as she ascended the short flight of stairs to the dimly lit landing that split into two separate corridors. Julia took a quick left turn and rounded the corner, away from the infirmary. She couldn’t tolerate another whiff of the pungent disinfectant and the lingering odor of Augmentin Paediatric. And her feet ached because she was getting too old for this business of transporting parcels. At the heavy steel door that led to the dark basement and toward the tunnel, she inserted the key.

“Julia.”

Her name echoed in the stone corridor despite only being a harsh whisper.

“Let me go with you. Please.”

The shadow that had been in hiding emerged from behind the wall. It was Mary, the most troublesome of all the new wards under the nuns’ care. But Julia liked Mary. The girl worked hard and never treated her like a servant as the nuns and others did.

Despite being against the regulations, Julia handed Mary the lantern. And having company made the journey less daunting. Julia debated her list of excuses within herself. It wasn’t like the nuns ever asked if she was scared of the rats, of the ghosts that lingered within every eerie noises and flickers. Mary was genuinely interested.

(continue reading on page 2, click below)

“Shush. And don’t cha ever tell.”

The lock sprung open, and the door grumbled on its rusty hinges. A chilling darkness that had been waiting on the other side fell into the small landing.

“Is it Brigit’s?” Mary whispered.

Julia nodded. It was the second errand that day, and Sister Emanuel could have spared her at least one walk if they had called Doctor Barnett sooner. But it was all about penance and sins. And these wayward girls had to atone for their mistakes. It was also why she trusted Mary. 

Mary wasn’t like the other girls. Mary was in the home because she was an orphan like Julia had been, but too pretty to be trusted to roam the streets of Tuam. Which would surely lead her into wickedness.

Julia knew every brick in the snaking pathway. The corridor wound its way like an earthworm away from the H-shaped building and toward the corner beneath the orchard. It was a network of rotten sewage ways not in use since the home was hooked to the town’s municipal sewage system. However, Julia believed it had never seen so much waste and misery since she was abandoned at the home when the nuns took over years ago. Julia had been told to deliver these parcels and deposit them next to the others before she could even read.

“This is disgusting.” Mary hissed next to her. “Where does this go?”

“To the cemetery,” Julia answered. But it wasn’t really a cemetery at all. She just called it that to make sense of what she was told to do. What she had obediently done since she was ten years old. One of the sisters walked with her the first few times, but even as a child, Julia sensed that the nuns were afraid of the rats and the repercussions if anyone ever discovered the truth beyond the locked metal door.

“What? Where the nuns are buried?” Mary grabbed Julia’s elbow and heeled like a well-trained hound.

“No. Be quiet. Or you can wait here. Without the light.” Julia asserted herself.

Despite walking slowly and as silently as possible, their footfalls echoed. Mary’s hobnail boots thumped loudly on the path, and the lamp projected their elongated shadows. The shape of the sack-like uniforms made them look fatter than they were. Although Julia had walked this path often, she never got used to it. Something just wasn’t right about what the nuns asked of her when they handed her yet another deposit and ordered her to deal with it.

When they rounded the slight bend, Mary came face to face with the facts she’d been so curious about and now wished she hadn’t been. The enormity of the clothed mummies lining the stairwell leading toward the surface sealed by a cement closure made her gasp; the stench was something unearthly.

“Sweet Mother of Jesus.” Mary stopped in her tracks.

Julia took the lantern from Mary, who, despite being deathly afraid, refused to go any further. The beady eyes of a rat crawling over the swaddled corpses caught the light; it squeaked that it wasn’t pleased with their intrusion and scurried into the hallway of darkness.

Slowly stooping, and depositing her delivery carefully next to the most recent other bundles, Julia crossed herself and said a prayer, “O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon these children. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful…” 

Only Mary’s heaving retch ended her prayer.

Julia often suffered from nightmares. Seldom did sleep come soundly and prevent the nightmares. Most nights, she awoke drenched in sweat and disturbed by that anxious feeling that a thousand sets of eyes were staring at her and pleading for her help. It was worse when those dreams were orchestrated with sound. Of course, she had tried to talk to Mother Superior on the advice of Sister Emanuel, but the meeting hadn’t gone well. The advice still rang in Julia’s ears, “we all have a cross to bear, for the sins we’re born with.”

At ten years old, Julia couldn’t think of what that could be since she never knew her parents and what crimes they were guilty of. And then, one Sunday after church, when Julia was only twelve, Father O’Leary asked to see her. That was the uncomfortable last time she ever spent in his presence. Julia developed a cunning defense mechanism just to avoid being alone with him again, although he tried to single her out on several occasions. But he was a man of the cloth and had many sheep to herd to salvation. He quickly found other victims who required his healing hands in places where hands should never come to a rest. Julia still couldn’t make sense of that nauseating and overwhelming feeling of being so close to a man and what his gestures and words insinuated. The bigger question of how those girls and women ended up in the dreadful predicament they were in, Julia didn’t dare ask. A shudder always went through her when she thought of Father O’Leary panting heavily next to her ear. His hard body pressed against her, and his hand frantically hoisting up her dress and ransacking her coarse cotton knickers and his threatening words that he would have her sent to the Magdalenes. 

Thank God Sister Hortense happened to intrude on them. Julia had been so frightened by the unsightly appendage poking from Father O’Leary’s trousers, a small whimper escaped into the hand clamped over her mouth. Though Sister Hortense didn’t see them behind the pew, she took her time arranging fresh cut flowers on the altar for the Sunday evening service. When Father O’Leary rolled off her, Julia took the opportunity to wiggle away and slid beneath the legs of the altar of the Virgin Mary. She had never been so frightened; her heart thundered so loudly in her ear she thought there was no way Sister Hortense didn’t hear it too. Since then, walking the dark passageway was nothing in comparison.

But the memory of that afternoon in the church never faded. It was a constant battle in Julia’s head of what happened. The guilt of the dead eyes peering at her in her dreams made more sense to Julia than the sin of unmarried sex. Sex wasn’t something she could understand, even thinking the word made her uncomfortable. She found men disgusting and disturbing. And she’d seen several visiting males leer at Mary with a longing that revolted her. Mary really was too pretty to be trusted on the street.

Julia waited while Mary spat up the last of the vomit. She handed her a handkerchief and patiently rubbed her shoulder. She knew Mary would plague her with relentless questions.

“For the love of God, how many are there?” Mary clung to Julia’s arm.

“I’ve lost count. But, there are other chambers.” 

Julia regretted lying. She knew exactly how many trips she made down these corridors, sent on a hushed mission by the nuns.

“So all the stillborn babies come here without burial?”

“Yes, but it ain’t just stillborn babies.”

Mary brought them to a stop, she covered her mouth with the handkerchief, her fingers dug into Julia’s flesh. “No. Don’t tell me. Don’t you dare tell me all them sick babies are down here too?”

Julia didn’t bother answering. She bobbed her head and carried on walking. There was no way she’d take any of the blame and was about to say so.

“We have to tell someone. This isn’t right.” Mary pulled her to a stop again.

“Who? Just who are ya gonna tell? Father O’Leary? The milkman? Perhaps you can tell the Garda the next time the nuns let you out of their sight?” Julia wrenched her arm free.

“Julia. Listen. This isn’t right.”

“And what da ya think ya know ‘bout it? If ya tell anyone, the sisters will see ta it that ya end up in Ballinasloe madhouse, or they’ll ship you to Magdalene. Is that what cha want?”

Anger simmered on Julia’s lips. She should have never allowed Mary to accompany her.

Had she not been caught in a weak moment of self-pity, she would have said so. Before Mary trapped her, Julia had been deep in thought, rehashing the argument she had with Sister Martha and the harsh words that cut her like a dagger. 

You’re worse than a Home Baby. 

In the home, the children, the orphans, the women were treated based on an invisible scale that the nuns ruled with. It stung Julia that despite dedicating her life to serving the nuns, they still regarded her like dirt.

No mother ever shed a tear for you, I can tell you that. You were left like trash at our doorstep. If it hadn’t a been for the mercy and kindness of the sisters in Tuam, the rats or a pack of dogs would have had you for breakfast. 

Sister Martha was no one’s favorite nun. She was mean and didn’t allow anyone to forget that she was. She towered over Julia, and seething with fury, Sister Martha’s brought her face within inches of Julia’s. She loomed so large and close that Julia could count the hairs sprouting like a goat’s from her upper lip and nose. She stank of garlic, of copious amounts of black currant wine, mixed with last week’s sweat. If Julia had been younger, the angry nun would have smacked her, and all because Julia suggested that one of the new nuns take the dying baby to the sewer they called the crypt. 

Julia was exhausted from it all. When Mary caught up to her again, she knew better than to stop her in the middle of this chamber of horror. Inclining her head toward Julia, she whispered and wove her fingers into Julia’s hand.

“I’m sorry, Julia. I didn’t mean to imply you’ve done anything wrong. Never that. But this just isn’t right. Is there nothing you can think of to stop this, this madness?”

Julia exhaled her exasperation. She had to put an end to this. This strap of a girl had no business sticking her nose in a pile of rot that it didn’t belong in. If, and big if, the Garda or health ministry shut the Home down, just where would that leave her and those poor babies? She’d never known any other place but Tuam. And were the sisters, and those orphans who graduated to become servants, not doing the best they could under the circumstances for these girls, who had fallen from the grace of God, and these tainted unwanted babies? Was there ever anyone pounding on the front door claiming any of these women and making them into honest wives and demanding that the babies be released to them? Not once in her nearly forty years in servitude to God and the nuns was there a man who demanded to see his child. Once, in all her time at the home, there was an altercation. A burly cousin arrived and demanded that his younger cousin be released from the laundry. It surprised everyone that the sisters complied, but behind closed doors, the sisters quickly explained that the cousin wasn’t right in the head. That they were giving in only to protect the others.

This time, it was Julia who brought them to a stop.

“Mary. I warn ya. T’is the last you speak of this. To me, or anyone.”

“And what are ya gonna do? Yes, the sisters can threaten me with the Balli madhouse or have Sister Martha beat me. It can’t possibly be worse than this, this madness of hiding babies in a sewer chamber. And I know for a fact that Sister Hortense sold Eileen’s son Robert to some foster family without her consent.”

“I swear if ya breathe a word, I’ll have Sister Prue take you to the washhouse and scrub the hide off ya pretty face.”

“Well, I’m gonna tell all the girls upstairs as soon as I can. There’s nothing you can scare me with. This…” Mary gestured toward the dead infants stacked like freshly split wood on the stairs and overflowing, “this is the gateway to hell. And if there is a God, do you honestly think he’d support that?”

“These girls brought this sin on themselves. Ask the sisters. They’ll straighten out your moral compass. What them girls has done is a sin.”

“Julia? Do you even know how babies are made?”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s nowt to do with me. I ain’t the one who done wrong.”

“I know that. You and I are here at the mercy of the kindness the nuns and the church bestow on us. And Ireland is right in washing itself of British rule. But don’t you think it’s unfair that the men aren’t held accountable?”

“No, I don’t. The Archbishop decides what is best for the Irish people. End of story. And you should listen to what that is. Not the idle chatter of wayward women who are now paying the price for the immortal sin they committed.”

They stopped before the heavy metal door, and Julia jangled the keys, feeling more than looking for the largest key on the ring. Mary’s insinuations made Julia uncomfortable. How the conversation had switched from dead babies to sex, to accusing the sisters of something, and to the Archbishop, and back to the seedy subject of sex, was like a bad pair of shoes: painful. Julia had no idea what sex meant. She couldn’t picture participating, and she never wanted to be near a man as she had been to Father O’Leary. What some of the other girls indecently whispered about what he had done or tried to do in the confessional bordered on lurid facts that the nuns would whip from anyone’s hide.

“Julia. This isn’t right.” Mary followed Julia closely up the stairs and back to the dormitory. It was close to lights out, and even though Julia wasn’t a wardling any longer, she had her own set of rules to follow, and she was too tired to think.

“Go wash. Or Sister Evangeline will cuff ya behind the ear.”

She left Mary on the landing and headed toward the attic where her own room was beneath the eaves. Besides, Julia had a ritual to perform. She fingered the locket of hair in her pocket like a rosary on a broken chain. The last one was born with a shock of red curls, just like its mother. 

Outside, the wind was kicking up a fuss. Julia couldn’t ever remember hearing it howl so viciously in the forty years she’d been at Tuam. She stopped on the landing and looked out into the garden toward the orchard. The trees were bending sideways, trash flitted through the air in funnels, and rain hammered the window panes. She was afraid the storm would smash the glass to smithereens. 

Alone in her room, the wind howled through every crack; she pulled the quilt from the bed and wrapped herself in it. Down on her knees, Julia felt for the loose floorboards. With her deft fingers, she lifted the hatbox she had stolen from the trash. Nestled in tissue paper, her fingers played with the downy strands of hair. These were hers to keep for walking dead babies. Come what may, and she’d never allow anyone to take these precious silky locks from her. She was afraid of what Mary would do with the information; it could have grave consequences. But what was worse, at the moment, was the howling wind. She pulled the quilt closer and nestled the newest lock among the others. And then she heard the crash, the screams that followed, her door opened, and Sister Martha yelled above the noise of flying roof tiles.

“Get everyone downstairs.”

There wasn’t time to hide the evidence; Sister Martha had seen it. A small glare dictated that Julia would pay for the secret she harbored in the box— if they survived this storm.

“Into the cellar. It’s a hurricane.”

Although Julia wasn’t fast, she efficiently managed to get everyone into the basement for safety. When the storm ended, she was the first to climb over the rubble and survey the damage.

Her small attic room had been taken away by the wind; the fragile strands of hair were blown across Ireland. Over the years, she lost count of the number of babies notched into the rafters, but she would remember them—the dead babies.

*** 

I closed my laptop and took a drink of cold tea, and sat back. As a writer, I borrow and steal elements from real life to create fiction, leaving me with a responsibility I hadn’t bargained into the cost. This story is complicated to tell as it happened. Even Stephen King would have difficulty competing among these lines of horror. Not that I’ m competing with Stephen King.

I gather the notebooks, the almost unreadable scribbles that have both exhausted and consumed me for weeks. A cold cup of tea won’t rejuvenate me. Mostly, I’m so sad and also ashamed.

The Irish government is still grappling with the horrific fallout and trying to bury the truth for another 75 years, under the cloak of the Bill of Retention Act. Through exploring this incredible and cruel story, I tried to give life to the women, girls, and babies as they might have been. An orphan by the name of Julia, in the care of the nuns in the Tuam Home for Mothers and Babies, existed. Her name really was Julia, and for 40 years, she obeyed and walked many of the babies into the septic chamber where the babies still are today. It is incomprehensible to me how anyone survived; I assume none did so unscathed.

A hurricane ended the empire of abuse and neglect in the Tuam Home for Mothers and Babies. In my mind, I have walked the corridors, listened to the lament of the women whose babies either died or were stolen from them. I grieve with them. There are no words in the English dictionary that can ever give justice to the suffering these poor souls endured.

It wasn’t until Catherine Corless published her findings in 2014 that the roof blew off and revealed the devastating truth the nuns left behind and created. What is true is that the Bon Secours nuns orchestrated the shameful disposal of 795 babies without a proper burial. I will never be the same person because of this discovery.

Just as demeaning was the horrific treatment of these unwed and pregnant Irish girls and women who suffered a grave injustice under the hands of the nun’s iron-fisted reign, the dominating church who should have, under God’s love, cared for these victims. The willfully blind Irish society, the state’s ignorance, and the families who turned their backs on their daughters defy explanation. Children born out of wedlock were also, that is, if they survived the horrific levels of neglect and abuse, sold in a massive child trafficking ring, while others were used for vaccination experiments. 

These conditions were repeated throughout Ireland in eighteen institutions. From approximately 1922 to 1998, this was the state and church’s order. Their negligence and abuse are now under investigation by the Commission of Investigation of Mother and Baby Homes. 

The death toll is a breathtaking sample of abuse of the highest order; the injustice and cruelty a perfect match to pure evil. Image if they had instead been showered with kindness, love and compassion, as they deserved.

Run from the truth,

… but you can’t hide dead babies forever.

SpamMan Chronicles

(Backstory–see bottom)

This is my imagined image of SpamMan Photo by ROMAN ODINTSOV on Pexels.com

Dear SpamMan

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!

Proud Author, 

Monika R.

*****

Dear SpamMan

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 

Hope those are raisins in your cereal.

Proud Author,

Monika R.

*****

Dear Joseph and Your Shitty People

#writers #amwriting #authors #readingcommunity #writingcommunity

(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.)

Photo by furkanfdemir on Pexels.com

Part One: The Ransom Note

Dear Joseph:

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. 

Monika R.

Author of

This is it!

Start the car!

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Head to Amazon … by any means necessary.

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Read 5* review:

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Buy: https://www.amazon.com/Lucky-Man-Act-Malice/dp/1954351976/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

EBook coming soon!

Tell your friends!

Call Ron Howard and tell him he should make this book into a movie!

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Tell your friends again!

Move over Grisham, Patterson, Hannah, Owens, McConaughey, Obamas, it’s time for a new face on the list. (And that face is mine!)

And Thank you!

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Book Reviews:

My muse for The Lucky Man-An Act of Malice.

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.

Hi Monika,

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.

From Author Tobin Marks: https://www.amazon.com/Ark…/dp/1633372375/ref=sr_1_2…

Stay tuned for my book launch…

The Power of the People and an Invitation to Review

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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.

It’s Getting Closer To Lift-off

Hard to imagine, but it’s time.

The Lucky Man–An Act of Malice should be available for sale at the end of March 2021. I will post a link when it’s ready. (https://adelaidebooks.org/pages/publishing-calendar)

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.

Uncomfortable

Historic Grade 2 listed mansion in Swannington, UK.

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.

Ménage à Trois

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.

Charlie the cat.

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.

From Time to 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?

Farewell 2020, It’s Been …

The Gorge in Victoria, photo courtesy Bo Saj.
As the sun sets on 2020, I’m ready to say goodbye. It wasn’t all bad, but it’s time for a new beginning. Life goes on despite it, and that is really the most valuable key in my possession. 

I have no doubt that 2021 will be my year because I will make it my year. I know this for several reasons—and a feeling in my gut. And that I am in charge of my own destiny.

Also, because yesterday afternoon, I had a revelation. My husband complimented the latest piece I’m working on. While he is very supportive, he doesn’t flatter me if I didn’t earn the praise.

And The Award Goes To is a story I am writing for The Sun Literary Magazine. We all have goals and aspirations, The Sun is mine. This piece is complicated to write; the subject matter enrages me and yet inspires me. I took a fictional stand on a sensitive topic, it was the only way I could keep the tone from running away with my emotions.
It’s forced me to find my voice, to take a stand, and look truth in the eye, and accept what it stands for.

My husband is a harsh critic because he’s honest and his praise means everything to me. For this story, he left me with only a few suggestions to improve what is still the rough draft. I’m grappling with incorporating his ideas, good writing takes time. As writers, it’s also essential to deal with feedback, both good and negative. It’s about respecting our readers and understanding how our ideas and words translate. Last night, he said the previous two pieces I wrote read like I’m a writer who has arrived. I have fucking arrived!  Hallelujah!

For him to like something I wrote, is simply a huge achievement. While he supports my writing wholeheartedly, he doesn’t blow smoke up my ass either. He also reads more articles on political and controversial subjects (I’m a fiction person), he knows his stuff.

And this morning, I had another nice surprise. There was a note from Literally Fiction about a submission I sent, and Hugh, one of the editors said, “It’s great to see you back! That he acknowledged me, small step, big sign, pat on the shoulder. Thank you, I’ll take it.

I also managed to send off several submissions and have a few more waiting for the greenlight*. And as a writer, I’ve come to appreciate that submitting is like slinging mud; who knows what will stick? It is the bane of our existence and very time-consuming.


So look out world — I am ready for 2021.

Before saying farewell to 2020, I want to say thank you. 
I’ve learned so much in 2020. I learned to appreciate, write better, find my voice, learn so many more essential skills. I also signed a publishing contract. The release of The Lucky Man — An Act of Malice is scheduled for Spring 2021.

But what is the absolute truth: Health is everything. 

In 2020, I spent time in beautiful Victoria, Calgary, and finally moved on to Okotoks. I’m grateful to my sister and also to two friends for housing us and sharing such a fantastic friendship. The idea was to stay for a couple of weeks (we are housesitters so Covid has put a cramp in our style), and now after seven months, we’re ready to move on. If not physically, then at least mentally and spiritually. 

I have grown as a person; I’ve made new friends through my WordPress site, for which I am grateful. It’s such a beautiful thing when strangers reach out and support you.

I’ve come to terms with that to some people, I matter less than I thought I should. I’m okay with that, even if it hurts a little. I cannot be everything to all people all the time.

So, 2020, I’ll see you in the rearview mirror, and there’s no way I’m gonna forget you. I look forward to the day when I sit back and say, do you remember back in 2020 when…
(20/20 hindsight is everything.)

*About Greenlight. I’m sure you are familiar with the bestseller by Matthew McConaughey. While I don’t often read megastar propaganda, this is worth reading. Matthew is a lot more human than I gave him credit for. It’s surprising what you can learn from his approach, his success, and his failures.

Happy New Year, I’ll see you on the flip side of 2021.









Movies/Shows That will Change You:

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.

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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)

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Science Behind Success

I am revisiting this blog today because we can all use a little help along the way and this book available now might just make a difference to you. https://www.amazon.ca/Science-Behind-Success-influence-performance/dp/177742190X

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.

Note the “Not for Resale” banner on the picture, I can’t wait to discuss the book with Jayson.


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.

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A Million Reasons

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

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When History Repeats Itself

https://www.bellaonline.com/article.asp?id=24938

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.

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Coming Soon!

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.

Photo courtesy:
Dorothy Larson and Amber Langworthy, Las Lajas, Panama

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.

Coffee and sponge cake with Jane Austen in Chawton, UK
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An Autum Trip

Article written for https://www.bellaonline.com/article.asp?id=17211 Canadian Culture Channel

An Autumn Trip Through the Prairies

Near Drumheller, Alberta

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.”

Me, looking for you in the camera lens at the Rosebud River.
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Social Dilemma–A Reminder

Bales of prairie straw, though they look uniform, each is slightly different. Near Saskatchewan and Alberta border.

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). 

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How Are you? Really.

Raindrops and people: together we become an ocean Pexels.com

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?

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Let’s talk about the food thing

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Let’s Talk About That Food Thing

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? 

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The Sky is Falling

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.” 

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The Lucky Man–An Act of Malice Storyboard

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.)

The Incident with the Knife by Monika R Martyn

So grateful to Literally Stories!

literally stories

With time and reflection comes meaning, or so I’ve heard my therapist say many times. But what she doesn’t understand, even with all her schooling, is that despite all, a person can never go back in time to seize an opportunity, to rectify a wrong. At least within the luxury of these solid walls, and as is usual at this time of the night, when all is quiet, and neither breath nor movement intrudes, I can remember the facts as they suit me.

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