Feeds:
Posts
Comments

My Grand father survived the first World War. Swept up in patriotic fever he joined his fellow classmates, first year med school, and marched into the nearest recruiting office. When they arrived in Europe, allegedly as stretcher bearers, wise heads prevailed and the class was returned to complete their studies in time to join the fight as medical doctors. He did his duty and eventually went on to serve once again as a surgeon in the second war. He was deeply affected by the trenches. Apparently he returned home to Vancouver Island with a stutter which eventually disappeared, but he rarely spoke about what he had endured. However, I can remember sitting on his knee on one of those rare occasions as he fixed me with an unflinching stare and said,

“It was never the same, I was never the same.”

I was eight when he died, old enough to know that something significant had transformed his generation and have respectfully participated in Remembrance Day ceremonies for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t until I entered University as a history major that I began to pull together threads which enabled me to grasp how significant the guns of August, one hundred years ago, would be. The tottering empires of imperial Europe were swept away and rigid division between social classes blurred, eventually to all but vanish. Women in the Western world made significant gains towards equality with men. Communism took root and fomented a revolution of social economic struggle destined to shake the world for three more generations. Science, ignited by the specter of military slaughter, surged forward at an unprecedented rate in areas both deadly and beneficial to humanity.

Chasing the Dragon’s Tail unwinds during this momentous period and is a fictional story based upon historical facts. Set on the West Coast of North America, it is a yarn of what might have been and what did happen. Next week I will begin posting a series of preview chapters. Sit back and enjoy the ride…

Thank you for reading my blog.

BWB CLAYARDS

I spent the better part of this weekend helping my neighbor prune grapes. I have a small hobby vineyard, about 90 plants. My friend Jack has a small commercial operation 1100 plants. In comparison my plot is miniscule and yet it takes me a good deal of time to maintain discipline in my vineyard. Being so small I can afford the luxury of slacking off when it comes to allowing vines to spread out and become friendly with their neighbors. Jack does not share this privilege. Eleven hundred plants intertwining and running amok can be disastrous. If allowed to go, grapes will form an impenetrable hedge.

We were removing secondary shoots. Each vine initially produces a set of leaves every four inches or so. Once established, the plant seeks to extend its domain by producing an additional shoot at the vortex of where the first twin leaves sprout. Given the opportunity, this shoot will result in a new vine with its own set of leaves and sprouting secondaries, until the plant becomes jungle like, covering the ground in all directions. Secondary pruning is critical in a large vineyard. Jack’s grapes stand at rigid attention in neat rows. Mine slouch about in a more or less organized cluster daring me to do something about it.

So there crouched I, picking meticulously at tiny shoots, alternatively getting baked by the sun or soaked in rain. Each plant takes from two to four minutes to properly remove secondaries. Eleven hundred plants…you do the math. Believe me there is little romance in taking care of vineyards. Forget the image of bronzed Anthony Quinn shading his brow against the sun with muscular forearm  while a mariachi band tinkles in the background and Sophia Loren swoons on the medieval balcony of a Tuscan villa. Romance comes after the grapes have been fermented and consumed.

While thus enslaved engaged I began to muse about writing and how we as authors prune our manuscripts before secondary story line creates literary jungle out of our work. My editor must have labored in a vineyard because he was ruthless very effective in getting me to prune and cut in a way I could never have imagined. My next book CHASING THE DRAGON’S TAIL lost twelve thousand words before he considered it manageable. He was of course correct, and I now view all my material with the sharp eye of a pruner.

Faithful readers,

I have been very negligent in keeping up with a timely correspondence. There are numerous excuses I might offer, but I won’t bore you patient readers, other than to say I’m sorry. Very soon I will begin posting the first few chapters of my up and coming book. Of course this is a bait and hook exercise and only a teasing amount will arrive prior to publication. But then you rarely get something for nothing. 

As always thanks for reading.

The loss of an Icon

On January 16 Russell Johnson died. Many of you will remember him as the professor on Gilligan’s Island. This was the guy who could whip up just about anything from a few bits of flotsam and jetsam, the original McGuiver. Yet, for all his genius he couldn’t seem to find a way to rescue the castaways from their tropical desert Isle. Gilligan’s Island, a classic from the sixties, is still available on syndication for anyone who spends a little effort to look for it. There is something about that thirty minute program that grabs the attention of multiple generations. Grandpas and grandsons can sit enthralled by the castaways antics  as they make the most of their fate.

Perhaps we root for the perennial underdog Gilligan, as he bumbles from one misadventure to another because each of us has been there at one time or another. Is there not something inspirational in how, over the hill, skipper manages to rally the troops each time they fall just short? The millionaire and his wife may have endless amounts of wealth and social prestige, but on this island everyone is equal.  Isolation and interdependence are great equalizers, perhaps we find comfort in how the mighty have fallen. Then of course amongst guys… is it Ginger or Mary Ann?

Gilligan’s Island is successful because people can relate to the castaways. Even though each character is a study in cliche, they are appealing. In a way, the island is a microcosm of North American society. We laugh at them,and with them, riding their weekly roller coaster. Can the things that make this sitcom work also explain why certain stories are better reads than others? If you analyze the most endearing relics from TV seasons gone by, l believe you’ll find they have  common threads. Disadvantage struggles against a common threat to get resolution, or at least uniting bonds, in shared adversity. Toss in human frailties, and a bit of sex, and there you have it… an interesting tale.

Russell Johnson was one of the last members of the cast still alive. Only Mary Ann and Ginger are left, and they are 75 and 79 respectively. Now, anyone who remembers them is thinking, boy does that ever date me.

R.I.P Russell …you made us laugh and escape, if for just a little while.

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?

 

chocofigbee

vignettes and commentaries on day-to-day Life

My Blog

A fine WordPress.com site

Bob Mayer

Write on the River

Tyner Gillies - Storyteller

A collection of ridiculous musings.

apartmentlogs

Just another WordPress.com site

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi