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2013 in review

Faithful followers, Below is a summary of my Blog stats for the year.

I was gobsmacked to learn that readers in twenty eight countries have viewed my posts. One of the largest sources of hits came from India. Given the mass of population I suppose this is understandable, but just how  I managed to reach into the subcontinent is a mystery. It certainly seems strange that a small blog, originating of the West Coast of Canada, would find such a large and diverse audience.  I see that I had two visitors from Iraq. Could these be former intelligence types from my days of monitoring Saddam Hussein and his Baathist intelligence arm thirty seven years ago? I somehow doubt I held that significant a profile to warrant such attention after all these years. Perhaps they stumbled upon my E Book, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail  available through Amazon or Smashwords.com, and decided to peek into my blog.

Around the peninsula things are quiet. We had our ‘week’ of winter with freezing temperatures and a skiff of snow. It was nice to watch shinny hockey on the frozen fields, as geese surrendered the slough for a while. It reminded me of our time in Ottawa when the winter terrain offered crisp, clean scenes. My wife and I would bundle up our toddler and head out onto the Rideau canal for skating or the Gatineau hills and local golf courses for cross country ski expeditions. I’m not a real fan of cold and ice, but these were pleasant memories.

I took down the fence around my lower orchard. It was originally set up to protect  fledgling cider apple trees from marauding deer. I have decided to re-establish it across the bottom of our property just on the high side of a ditch which hosts a seasonal stream. My four legged nuisances can stand in icy cold water, on their side of the barrier, and stare wistfully at my blueberry bushes and apple trees. Speaking of apple trees, I have four more trees awaiting ‘hair cuts’. When I first took pruning sheers to hand, it was a tenuous procedure, with a snip snip here and there, deathly afraid I would kill the trees. Experience and my neighbor have taught me to have a good go at it now. The trees look bare, but they thrive and roar back to full regalia in the spring.

Enough of my chatter for now. All the best of the Season, with grand wishes for the New Year to my readers…and to those people in the middle east… Salim alikoom.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 650 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 11 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Today I am going to introduce you to a new friend I recently met in the Blogosphere. Mike is a Canadian writer, originally from the far East Coast, now located in Ottawa. He is the author of a series of mystery novels I have enjoyed reading, and well worth your time to peek at his material. We have exchanged guest spots this week.

Take it away Mike…

About Me

I am from St. John’s, Nfld but moved to Ottawa for work in the mid-1980’s and stayed ever since. I still go back to visit but Ottawa is my home now. I have been everything from a bonded messenger to a postal worker to a clerk to a life insurance salesman. I have visited every province and territory in Canada more than twice and I have traveledto Africa, Europe and Australia.

I have been a freelance writer for what seems like forever. My articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. I am the author of a self-help book: “Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People” and I have written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

Now I write fiction, the Windflower Mystery Series. It is a traditional mystery series, close to but not really a cozy mystery, and almost a police procedural, except that I do not know enough about policing to write that way. So I write about Windflower’s adventures in discovering and enjoying the food and culture of small town Newfoundland.

The Walker on the Cape was the premiere of the series. It was published by Baico Publishing of Ottawa in 2012. The second book in the series, The Body on the T was released on May 1, 2013. Both are available from Chapters/Indigo and e-books are available on Chapters.ca and Amazon.com And a new book in the series will be coming out next spring.

Why and How I write

I grew up with three older sisters, two of whom were teachers, so I learned to read, a lot, early on. I always had an active imagination. That didn’t help me a lot in the structured family and school days. In fact it regularly contributed to my being in trouble. Nothing too serious. That would come later. I wasn’t encouraged to write. I wasn’t really encouraged to do much of anything, except to stay out of the way and to stay out of trouble. Reading was my kind of refuge from what I saw as the storm around me. I liked it and stayed with it all of my life. Writing didn’t come easy or naturally to me. I had it inside of me. I just couldn’t get it out. In high school I was a bit of a loner and felt really out of place. Drugs and alcohol changed that in university but then I was just a drunk and stoned loner. It wasn’t until the drugs faded in my late 20’s that my creativity started to pop out and I began writing a few little ditties and stories for parties. Somehow I found myself in a series of jobs where people actually thought I could write. I kept hoping that they wouldn’t find out the truth and fire me. I liked writing, a lot and soon it became my new refuge from the world.

I went through various phases as a part-time writer, policy writer, speech writer into finally taking the leap in my forties to primarily a freelance social policy writer. That didn’t pay a lot so I ended up selling my creative soul to a series of marketers, search engine optimizers and keyword racketeers. Fortunately my soul stayed intact long enough for me to finally get to fiction writing. Thank God!!

Fiction writing is where I wanted to be all along. I just never had the guts to get here. I am and have always been a story teller. The stuff that I got beaten for and beaten up more for as a kid has now become my passion and driver for living. The big difference is that today people tell me that they like my stories. Back then, not so much. Do I wish I had gotten into this fiction racket earlier? You bet! But mostly I am just grateful to be here now.

You know the best thing about being a writer. It’s better than having someone tell you that they like your story. It’s even better than someone paying money out of their pocket to buy your book, although that’s pretty freakin’ good too. It’s when someone comes up to you at a book signing with their kid and says I want my kid to meet a real writer. I look around to see where the writer is. And the kid is just looking at me. I try and get a few minutes alone with the kid to talk to them about writing and to encourage them to keep writing if they’ve already started, which most of them have. Just keep writing and good things will happen.

Thanks to Brock for the opportunity to meet all of you here in cyberspace and if you want to chat, drop me an e-line at mike54martin@sympatico.ca

Mike Martin is the author of the Windflower Mystery Series, set in small communities in Newfoundland, on the east coast of Canada. His latest book, The Body on the T, is now available in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com

http://www.bodyonthet.com

Renovations

The past few weeks we have been undergoing renovations at my house. The building , constructed in 1966 is solid. I helped build some of it myself, the unskilled labor parts. I knew everything was sound and therefore a good risk for spending money that will be recouped when I sell. The project is to complete a totally unfinished basement and then put in a set of stairs from the upstairs so that we no longer have to go outside to enter the nether regions of the house.

Permit acquisition was the first hurdle. I discovered that I am currently living in an illegal dwelling, well at least as far as the health authorities are concerned. Being a rural property we do not have municipal water or sewer.  Our septic facilities consist of a tank and field buried out back. I know they are there because I dug the hole and laid the tiles by hand. At 15, I had a strong back and a weak mind… Dad took advantage of this to save a few dollars. Unfortunately, the health people had no record of my achievements, so as far as they were concerned for the last 47 years the crap has been flowing unrestricted around here. So, what’s another few thousand dollars between me and the government? A new system will be installed in the spring and I won’t be digging it this time.

Otherwise things have been going smoothly, if you don’t count the minor mishap on the back step leading into the basement. This step is a two stair affair which leads into a patio area surrounding the rear entrance. I constructed it to ease the approach rather than shuffling down a steep incline as we had before. I put in a concrete retaining wall and fastened metal risers to the wall with five-eights inch stainless steel lag bolts. My contractor is a very robust young fellow, six foot nine with a physique like Thor. One or two of his trips down this stair and one of the bolts sheered off! Can you imagine how much torque is involved to accomplish that? He fixed it up by doubling the amount and strength of steel; now I can drive a backhoe onto that step.

The noise around here has been astounding to say the least. The other day a jack hammer was digging a trench for new drains to the bathroom. My old dog joined me at the bottom of the property about a hundred yards away. The pained look on his face was priceless as we hunkered down, while Thor wielded the eighty pound machine like an electric weed eater.

Dust dust everywhere, I went out and bought a gross of cheap furnace filters to weather the storm before reinstalling my ‘approved’ imported model which would have gone under in the first day. The upstairs looks like Mount St. Helens erupted in the basement. Even the old dog, a black lab, turned a couple of shades of grey.

Needless to say, my writing has suffered during the onslaught. It wasn’t just the no heat except for a couple of space heaters during the coldest week of the year, or the no water because electricity was cut off for an afternoon while circuits were restrung. My creative muse fled with the chaos emanating below my writing chair. Thankfully I have the weekends without construction and nothing overly pressing on the agenda at the moment.

Memo to self… thank God I didn’t commit to the novel in a month competition.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Priorities

PRIORITIES …That is a big word and one worthy of capitol lettering. We all have to face them, and those who do so appropriately, excel.

I have been busy the last few weeks, so much so that my writing, never mind blogging, has suffered. The quince had to be picked then the crab apples and the pears. These were sold to a jam producer and have been converted into product for fall fairs and Christmas sales. Check out Rozy’s Jams if you are at any of the Victoria area craft fairs this season. Then of course came the grapes. Picking is just the beginning. For sometime the vineyard will be active as I wait for the leaves to fall before I take cuttings for new vines.

That pall of smoke over the Peninsula came from me. I had a massive bonfire cleanup yesterday… took me from ten till almost four to dispose of diseased cane, leaves, and the clean up of a couple of trees I fell in the lower field. I shed my clothing in the laundry room rather than come into the main house smelling like a smoked ham.

I, tired of dodging apples on the driveway, decided it was again time to harvest the crop. Fortunately the guy who planted my orchard had the foresight to select varieties which ripen at different times, thanks Dad…

Turkey soup in the pot. How many people can relate to that? Well my Canadian audience will recognize this is a function of Thanksgiving which has just passed for us. I managed two turkey dinners this year. One was cooked by my daughter and the following day it was our turn to celebrate with the son. The creative side is challenged to come up with imaginative ways to serve turkey left overs. This time of abundance makes it easy to forget those who have so little… may I never fall into the trap. And this is where PRIORITIES comes in. How often do we pause to think of how we have been blessed. Business and leisure  aside, what other things should concern us?  If you can’t think of others, then you are much the poorer than they who have little. I have the acquaintance of a family, with numerous children and very little income, who always managed a thanksgiving feast for the ‘poor’ people of the community.

On the radio recently I heard reference to a study. It indicated that the more people accumulate, the less likely they are to share with those who have not.

Isn’t this a dreadful indictment of our consumer driven society?

 

The next King

I have just finished a remarkable debut novel by a young man, well in relation to me he ‘s young, named Tyner Gillies. His book The Watch Is one of the few that I have had great difficulty in putting down once begun. Gillies,an active member of the RCMP, has written an extra ordinary tale of supernatural malfeasance, set in a small  town  on the coast of British Columbia.  I was hooked from  beginning to last page. The characters came alive. There were no dead spots, only a gradual ratcheting of tension and suspense. Anyone who has policed a small town might just reach  the uncomfortable conclusion that perhaps the story holds more than a few grains of fact.

Check out tynergillies.com, follow the links, buy the book and hold on for the ride.

 

                As I sit working on today’s article, my neighbor across the way is cutting hay. The rhythmic thump of his bailer fills the valley, as does the scent of fresh cut hay. It is quite the pastoral scene and some would consider it romantic. Those plagued by hay fever, might think this a curse from darkest hell, but for others it is a mental stimulation from a simpler agricultural past. A flash back in time to when a good portion of the population was intimately linked with the land, close to nature, drawing life from the soil, feeding the hungry of the nation. He waxes on into a semi catatonic state prompted by heat and fatigue…

Actually, haying is darn hard work. I speak from personal experience. Towards the end of the day those sixty odd pound bales feel like lead and straw dust itches in places I hesitate to write about. The romance of hard work, sweat, and a sense of accomplishment dims somewhat when put into practice.

Writing can be much like farming. Coaxing a story from the recesses of one’s imagination, culling an overgrowth of adverbs and placing metaphoric genius to produce a fetching tale can be both frustrating and rewarding. Riveting plot and characterization takes time and effort. Just as farmers are at the mercy of the weather so writers dodge the ravages of dreaded writers block and cliché. There are days during which I can barely write my wife a legible note reminding her to pick up something from the store. Patience, discipline, and persistence, are the watch words of both farmers and wordsmiths.

For those of you who are new to this blog, my writing experience is quite limited. My first published work, Pacific Flyways, is an e book available from Amazon or Smashwords. It is a thriller set on northern Vancouver Island and draws upon my background as a counterterrorist investigator for the RCMP. This initial foray into publishing will soon be followed by a historical thriller set in Victoria B.C. at the outbreak of the Great War. I’ve always been fascinated with the history of the First World War and I draw from some of the obscure facts of this eventful period to weave a tale of suspense, romance, and action. This book will be available in both E format and traditional paperback. The editor for my publisher is dissecting it as I wait with anticipation. I hope he doesn’t find too many weeds. In the meantime the thump of my neighbor’s bailer is calling …

A reblogged post from one of my favorite bloggers Kristen Lamb. This is one example of where haste does not make waste. Now if I could only overcome my tendencies to check over my shoulder and revise…

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Many new authors slog out that first book, editing every word to perfection, revising, reworking, redoing. When I used to be a part of critique groups, it was not at all uncommon to find writers who’d been working on the same book two, five, eight and even ten years. Still see them at conferences, shopping the same book, getting rejected, then rewriting, rewriting…..

Sigh.

Great, maybe Kathryn Stockett, the author of The Help took five years and 62 revisions to get her story published. Awesome for her. And yes, her book was a runaway success, but this isn’t the norm. It’s playing Literary Lottery with our careers.

For most writers, it will be hard to have a long-term successful career if our pace is a book or two a decade.

Most authors who’ve made legend status were all talented, yes. But many were (are) also prolific. 

Does Writing Quickly Produce…

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Fruits of labor

I have just bottled the production of last autumn from my vineyard. We had an exceptional extended season with glorious sunshine and equally pleasant temperatures to match. The sugar content of my wine was in a thoroughly acceptable range. For those neophytes of wine making this usually means a darn good product.My entire production arrived care of the hybrid variety I mentioned in a previous blog, the one I am grafting on to all of my remaining vines. In a few years my small vineyard should be a resounding success. I am open to suggestions concerning my bottle label. The ones illustrated came from a friend as I had none ready. The name of my humble enterprise is Mountain Muse Vineyard.

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My writing has also moved closer to producing more fruit. My second E novel Chasing the Dragon’s tail is presently undergoing peer review and hopefully after some constructive amendments, I’ll be able to send it for editing and formatting to fit the E Publishing venue.  It is not a sequel to my first book Pacific Flyways, which continues to sell at a steady rate, but is a historical thriller set in 1914 at the opening of the great war. It features spies, romance and action from the bricked and wooden enclaves of Chinatown , Victoria B.C. to the warm waters of the Mexican Baja.

Watch for it this summer.

As some of my followers are aware I maintain a small vineyard. This vineyard is a eclectic mixture of ninety plants of mixed lineage. It was one of the first planted in the area by my father who himself is an eclectic mix of various talents and interests. He is prone to experimentation and exploration, always seeking new and better ways of doing things. Some of his experiments thrived and produced early crops but were prone to disease and the fruit often failed to reach maturity. Others proved to be late setting fruit and their production could be likened to hardened dried peas by season’s end. He did however, through grafting and selective pollination, produce a vine ideal for the local soil and growing season.

I assumed ownership of this vineyard when my Dad was too old to properly care for it. Like most of the acreage surrounding the vines the area was overgrown and terribly neglected. Deer had eaten large tracks of vine, almost to oblivion, and it took the best part of three years to rejuvenate the plants. This spring I have set out to replace all of the experimental non productive vines with the hybrids Dad created. This can be achieved in two ways. The primary method is rooting shoots from the productive vines. The second, grafting onto existing root stock. The primary method requires new plants establish a substantial root system before they bear fruit. The advantage of grafting is that you have an existing root system. Newly planted grapes will take three to five years to establish a substantial root system before they offer any substantial crops. Grafts produce fruit after one year.

You are probably wondering what this ramble in the vineyard is leading to. Well, writing is somewhat similar to grape propagation. You have to set your roots before anything substantial is produced. My friend Meagan Beaumont (see her blog Thrillers and Killers) is a fine example. She labored long and hard, setting her roots which have finally produced fruit in the form of her first book Carved in Darkness. http://www.amazon.com/Carved-Darkness-Maegan-Beaumont/dp/0738736899/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360078173&sr=1-1&keywords=carved+in+darkness. Warning this book is not for the faint of heart.

Another friend of mine is presently setting her roots. Shelly Arnfield  a former colleague in policing, and a darn good writer, has just wracked up another contest recognition as she builds her platform. Check out WORDSWITHJAM. co.uk for the online publication. Download it free of charge and mosey over to page 35 to view her short story. I think you’ll like it… Watch for her name in the future.

I’ll let you know how my grafting went in a couple of months….

Municipal politics in my area can be interesting. It was revealed recently that taxpayers had been honoring  the salary of a council member who had apparently moved to the Cayman Islands. Six months of salary for basically no services rendered. This anomaly came to light when the press noted the absence of said Councillor for numerous consecutive council meetings.  Once the fifth estate latched onto this tidbit  it was revealed that the mayor and council had been aware of his absence and indeed had voted in-camera ( read in private) to grant the absent council member six months of grace with full salary( approximately $6000).  Eventually, numerous attempts by journalists to locate and interview the southernmost politician prompted his resignation.

The absent seat  must be filled in a timely manner through by-election. The wheels are in motion to hold this exercise in the spring. Just before Christmas, in a move dear to the heart of Scrooge, a majority of council voted to nix the mail ballot for upcoming spring elections. The move expected to save tax dollars( around $1400) would effectively disenfranchise potential house bound/bedridden voters. Geriatric indignation was swift and vocal. As most potential disenfranchised voters come from this demographic, a threatened march to council chambers by the walker brigade was gleefully speculated upon by the press and media.

In a special council meeting a few days later, the amendment to regulations for the up coming by-election was rescinded.

And they say things in a sleepy  rural community aren’t interesting…Can’t wait to see public disclosure relating to our new proposed $16 million dollar municipal hall.

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