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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.

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                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.

Some time ago I inherited a house on acreage from my aging parents. They hadn’t passed on but were in their early eighties and unable to maintain the property. They had always planned to pass the legacy on so they stubbornly clung to the status quo until matters overwhelmed them. My mother, now deceased, fell victim to the ravages of dementia and spent her days multitasking Dad who as a dutiful husband ran himself ragged trying to keep up to her increasingly erratic demands. In the nick of time I sold my own house and assumed the property.

One of the things I attempted to settle early on was switching electrical services into my name. I completed the forms and was given assurance that things would switch in the next billing period. A day or so later I received a call from BC Hydro asking if I was aware that by switching the service contract to my name, the Electric-Plus program registered in my father’s name would expire and rates would go up. The electric company representative asked if my father was still around. When I said he was in a nursing home she suggested I keep the contract in his name and retain the Electric–Plus as long as he was alive.

“You would do that even though my Dad is in an old age home?”

No problem, so being spendthrifts my wife and I agreed. About two months later I received a letter from the Electric-Plus people asking me to swear that all the conditions of the original contract were still in effect. I asked what conditions and subsequently received a list which the original contract holder had signed for but I could no longer meet. The auxiliary heat, propane, had long since been removed.

With regret I responded that I couldn’t meet the conditions and offered to cancel the Electric-plus. The procedures were repeated and contract switched to my name.  Two billing cycles passed and still the account was in my Dad’s name. I phoned them and waited for half an hour to talk with a live person.

“Sorry sir but the account has already been switched, your dad no longer exists on our records.” Hmm why is he still being billed and the house serviced at Electric-plus rates? I asked them to look into it fearing a massive retro billing nightmare. Nothing changed and I kept paying Dad’s bill, comfortable with the efforts I’d made to give them their just due.

Eighteen months later I received a notice in the mail addressed to the owner or occupant that said I was about to be disconnected unless I called an 800 number immediately.

This was a heartwarming welcome to Thanksgiving. I called and quoted the file number on the notice. There was no record of the account now about to be terminated but dear old Dad, was still responsible for services at my residence… I was convinced that someone was about to go dark.

After an hour, and two ascending levels of supervisors, I was assured that ‘those idiots in billing’ had been straightened out. The lights stayed on and I was happy. Three billing cycles later things finally switched to my name. Unfortunately the bi-monthly charges went from $98 to just under $400. I should have kept my mouth shut.

P.S. They say my Dad has a balance of $110 and change credit on his account. This promises to be a long fight.

chocofigbee

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Kristen Lamb

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