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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.

As we enter the final day of 2012 I wish to apologize to my readers for not being more prolific, I have been away from writing for a couple of months. Periodically I need a break and literally vegetate, doing nothing while recharging mental and physical energy banks. I’m back and will try to blog more consistently this year.

As a final post for 2012 I feel compelled to tackle the contentious issue of firearms. I carried a gun for twenty-seven years in the defense of others. I have been threatened with firearms, shot at and stared down mental patients carrying guns. I am well acquainted with the recoil of a firearm. My body has carried the smell of cordite reeking from heated weapons chambers, and sensed the adrenalin rush of rapid fire aftermath. I have friends who have shot felons in the line of duty and  seen how the experience permanently changed their personal and family lives for the worst. For years I  experienced nightmares about being shot or shooting others. Thank God neither of these recurring dreams came true.

In short, I have a leg to stand on when I voicing my opinion.

There is a purpose and a place for firearms. I willingly carried one and currently own a couple of sporting weapons. However I gladly support their restriction and control . I cannot stomach  civilian ownership of any form or semi automatic assault weapon. This includes machine pistols as well as AK47 like long guns.  I would be delighted if handguns had never been invented. In my opinion they were designed for one purpose only, to kill humans. Hand guns are useless  at any respectable range, hunting targets rarely appear within ten paces of the muzzle.

The chance of the average North American being attacked by wild animals is insignificant unless they so choose to pursue daily activities in the wild. Even then, most animals flee the scent of humans. The argument for self-defense is therefore directed against other humans. Wouldn’t it be grand if we didn’t have to worry about the other guy being armed with a Colt 45?  I live in Canada and carried out my peacekeeping duties within its dominion. When I first joined I was issued with a Smith and Wesson six-shooter and 6 extra rounds of ammunition. I was forbidden from carrying any other weapon and wasn’t even allowed to have a speed loader in my possession. In those distant days that was sufficient to maintiens le droit. My Canadian readers will recognize the motto of the RCMP, it is french for maintain the right. No my friends to the south, it isn’t we always get our man. I can remember the controversy in Canada when we went to open holsters and the public could actually catch a glimpse of the naked gun butt. Unfortunately the bad guys soon armed themselves with pistols which had nine and ten shot clips. For a variety of reasons,including in order to be competitive, police forces in Canada adopted pistols with fifteen shot clips. Well, bad guys responded with machine pistols and assault rifles.

Need I point out the pattern …

Unfortunately I’ve misplaced my magic wand. I can’t wave away that which I dislike and the bad guys are still armed to the teeth. Even if it were possible, no government is going to confiscate all firearms. But there must be a better way. We have got to stop this ridiculous arms race. Why do we need weapons with increasingly obscene capability for death and destruction? What kind of society have we created  in which we have to debate the merits of arming ourselves so we can conduct everyday social interaction safely?

World War l, the war to end all wars, led to WW II and countless spin-off disasters. One of the stupidities which caused this initial conflict was a global race to build the biggest navy with the most deadly battleships. The cold war and its flexing of megaton muscle almost brought mutual destruction. Is North American society working on a domestic repeat of this international folly?

Getting going again

I will write again…These were the words I said to myself as I hit the send button on the final draft of my E publication Pacific Flyways. I spent an intensive couple of weeks getting my e publication off the ground and when it was done I sat back with a satisfied self-congratulation. Little did I know that the process of resuming fresh material would be so difficult.

After a couple of days of rest I sat down to take up my third novel, a nano-tech thriller, and sequel to Pacific Flyways. This book, tentatively titled Small Details was about 20K words in but I suddenly found myself floundering. The plot line petered out and notes I’d written seemed vague and aimless. I had stumbled into an immense writers block.

I’ve been told that when word crafting grinds to a gumbo of literary mush, one should read, read, and read. I retreated to one of my favorite authors, Lee Child. I got a hold of one of his titles, 61 Hours. After the first evenings read, I was awakened by a 4 AM epiphany. I made a few notes and with fresh vigor, the story has taken off again.

I wonder how many other authors have suffered the same dilemma after throwing their first book into the public market?

 

I am frequently asked how I get my ideas for writing, where do the plots come from. Well it is said that generally you write what you know. The story behind Pacific Flyways evolved in this manner.

I live in one of the most spectacular region’s of the earth. At least in my humble opinion, you can’t beat Vancouver Island for it’s geography, bio-diversity or climate. The natural setting inspired me to try and capture a background that a reader might enjoy, even if they can’t relate to it. Every story setting impacts upon readers. My story seeks to employ the surrounding environment as the tale unfolds. Whether it be a chilling Pacific fog, or a sun baked outcrop of rock warming the hypothermia ravaged body of my protagonist, the background plays a role in making the tale come alive in the readers mind.

The characters in Pacific Flyways are composites of various individuals I have met, worked with, or observed. Some are close to reality and the real persons reading about them might recognize themselves. Having said this, I did not befriend terrorists or psychotic masterminds. I encountered a few in my career but none intimately enough to delve deeply into their inner beings. Before the more carnally driven members of my reader following  have a collective ah ha, intimate scenes are fictional, not based on personal experience.

H5 N1 is a reality and as recently as February 24, 2012 there have been articles written in scientific journals warning about the militarization of the virus.

http://ojs.st-andrews.ac.uk/index.php/jtr/article/view/417/378  Ihttp://www.naturalnews.com/035056_avian_flu_bioweapon_science_journals.html

I pray that the beast is never unleashed.

Animal rights activists have been a reality for many years. The Animal Protection Brigade does not exist but is modeled after the Animal Liberation Front. ALF has never, to my knowledge, wilfully targeted human life as a means of promoting their agenda.

The manipulation of one activist group by another is not a figment of my imagination. During the early 1970s the First Nations and American Indian movements were infiltrated and manipulated my elements of the Marxist Leninist movement. Through cash infusion and otherwise , ML extremists perverted a legitimate struggle for rights and recognition into their own agenda. In Canada this culminated in a riot on the grounds of the Canadian Parliament buildings.

The town of Pasquin Cove does not appear on any map although many from the northern end of Vancouver Island will recognize it is existing next door. A certain cafe might actually be found in Port Alberni.

I hope all of my followers will enjoy the read. They can look forward to my next thriller Chasing the Dragon’s Tail  which should be along in a few months. 

 

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/237420

After a lengthy road, with many twists and hills, I have finally reached the milestone of publishing my first book. Pacific Flyways is now available via Amazon.com and Smashwords.com for electronic download. It has been quite the journey with many individuals assisting and influencing along the way. A journey of growth and reinvention, but one well worth the effort. Writing is a joy for me. It enables escape into worlds and adventures otherwise unattainable, while at the same time, sharing the experience with others. I can reveal some of the weird travels my mind flits off to from time to time.

In Pacific Flyways I invite you to join me as I pull back the curtain on the world of rookie RCMP constable Grayden Swift as he confronts terrorist threats, and romantic entanglements, in the rugged beauty of the Broughton Archipelago, on the northern end of Vancouver Island. Sometimes the smallest events can have a ripple effect on the world, far beyond your wildest imagination.

So take a few moments, read some sample chapters, and see if you want to risk $4.99 on a good read. Here are the links:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/237420

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009DQSJDW

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I am throughly enjoying a read of Stephen Kings’s time travel thriller relating to the Kennedy Assassination, 11/22/63.  For me it is a journey back in time as I was around then. Damn , giving away my age, but it is true to life capturing the essence of some of the southern states, circa early sixties. I was a tadpole in Key West from 62 to 64. The craft of genius that King displays makes me relive some adventures, good and bad. He is indeed one of the Masters of our literary scene.  I haven’t finished the book yet but I bet it will have a unique ending. It just has to considering the premise upon which King started the story, going back in time to thwart Lee Harvey.

Another writer I would like to give a shout out to is a good friend of mine, Shelly Arnfield. She has just hit the physical press with a couple of stories in an anthology being released on Amazon.  http://www.amazon.ca/Canadian-Tales-Mysterious-Various/dp/1927049016/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346882946&sr=8-1 I encourage you to take the time and coin to seek this out and introduce yourself to this up and coming star.

Autumn is upon those of us in the northern hemisphere. As an artist I appreciate the soft light and deepened shadows that nature affords this time of year. I also find encouragement that with the return of winter schedules I will have more time for writing… Let the third novel take off!

Getting Old

Today I sprained my ankle. It wasn’t a bad sprain and I managed to do it in a most unconventional manner, shoveling dirt.

We recently created a pond out of a seasonal slough in the back yard. With the assistance of an excavator and expertise from Mike James at wildwoodwaterscapes.com we created an oasis of tranquility in what would ordinarily be a drought stricken dust bowl. This morning, while digging a trench to bury electrical cable from my house to the pumps at the water feature, I sprained my right ankle by pushing too hard on the shovel. It seems that below my layer of topsoil is a clay-hardpan mix that can be compared to concrete… or is it that my old body isn’t what it used to be?

As a youngster of 16 I dug numerous trenches through this same terrain without a whimper. It was a release for excess energy caused partially by hormones run amok. In those days the neighbourhood was sparsely populated, suffice to say that my realm of social contacts was limited. Mindless physical labor was a way of distracting the brain. Today while flailing a pick and scooping dirt my mind was not wandering. Indeed, it was focused upon my flagging energy level and the dismally long stretch of trench yet to be dug.

Getting old.

This summer on the West Coast has been a little late in starting. For the rest of you, especially those in drought stricken areas, or zones of extreme heat and forest fire, I know this sounds trite, but summer has finally arrived in my neighbourhood. My location, the southern end of Vancouver Island, has a unique climactic zone. Rain forest in the winter and drought in the summer. It is called the Gary Oak temperate zone. The photo on my header is of the valley where I live. The main feature is a Gary Oak tree, I took the photo in late May.

Usually, the rain stops in April and May, then June is  progressively more pleasant leading up to scorcher in July, August and September. The last few years the pattern’s changed. This year heat and drought didn’t arrive until mid July.  Those smokey the bear warning signs of fire danger ratings stayed low until last week. In view of what is going on elsewhere I shouldn’t complain, but the trend causes me to think about what my grand-daughter might experience by the time she reaches my age.

I have a small vineyard and orchard. Neither is large enough to be of commercial concern but they occupy a fair segment of my time. The apples are just beginning to ripen and with any luck I’ll have a fine cider crop this fall. The grapes have been problematic. My neighbours and I have experienced miserable crop production for the last three years running. Not enough sun at the end of September to bring the sugar content up or too much powdery mildew brought on by early damp days. I have my fingers crossed that I’ll be complaining about too much work to pick and press the fruit this October.

In the meantime. I sent off the final attachments for my first E novel, Pacific Flyways this morning. I hope to be able to provide links for its acquisition in the near future.

I have just finished an article in New Yorker July 23,2012 concerning forensic analysis of writing as a potential tool for crime investigation. The article by Jack Hitt immediately struck a chord, being that I’m an old gum shoe/terrorist hunter. The article extolls possible virtues and dangers of embracing forensic linguistics when trying to identify criminals and terrorists who leave manifesto doggrel, or taunting script, to media and police agencies. Apparently each of us writes in unique style leaving clues much like literary fingerprints. I’ve been told that I have a very distinctive voice, the audible type, thus I’ve refrained from making threatening anonymous phone calls to annoying people. Perhaps I should consider contracting ghost writers for similar notes left on door steps?

On the lighter side, this opens the possibility of new material for thrillers.  Do I foresee the Dangling Participle Killer as a future super-villan? 

After several years and numerous disappointments I have decided to seize control of my own writing career and self publish. This has been a tough decision. Traditionalists might claim that self publishing is a route of lesser prominence and esteeme. Well each to their own opinion. I’m prepared to test my product in the market place… if readers don’t like my work so be it, at least they’ll have the oportunity to view it.

Electronic media will be my choice. Paper bound production is too expensive for the humble quantity of books I expect to sell.  E Book format provides the means of reasonable return for an affordable product.  Preparation is underway, a cover has been created by talented graphic artist Tania Craan, and the formating will be completed by 52Books.com.

I look forward to announcing the launch of my thriller Pacific Flyways in September.

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