Romance, action, mystery, magic and murder - four stand-alone contemporary novels that encompass multiple genres, each with a subplot that addresses important environmental issues. Saving Spirit Bear - What Price Success? Corporate Climber challenges Eco-Warrior to decide the fate of the rare and endangered Spirit Bear Loving the Terrorist - Risking It All How far would you go to save a wild place you love? Mad Maggie - And the Wisdom of the Ancients Two passionate opponents are about to clash over the future of a grove of Ancient Old Growth Trees on a secluded island. Magic, mystery and madness against logic, cause and effect. Can love find a middle ground? Forest - Love, Loss, Legend Lost gold, lost love and lost hope compels Matt to return home to a dying town on the edge of the Canadian wilderness. The forest is waiting.
Meet Mattie Saunders, a slightly eccentric loner who loves birds and has devoted her short life to the rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing of exotic ones people buy as pets and then abandon. In The Bird Whisperer, Mattie is recovering from the end of a relationship with a rock star, the death of a close friend, a #MeToo episode with her college professor and falling in love with Simon, an Indigenous person and activist for First Nations causes. As if that’s not enough while doing post-graduate fieldwork in The Rockies on the Rufus Hummingbird she confronts an Eagle poacher who sells the feathers and body parts on the black market. He’s Simon’s cousin. The Bird Whisperer is a story of a young woman dealing with contemporary issues including animal welfare, oil spills, opioid addiction crisis and truth and reconciliation with our Indigenous people. Throw in family, career, relationships and Mattie’s uncompromising attitude and you’ve got an intense story packed with emotion, action and insight.
The author and activist James Baldwin said, “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” Mattie’s tired of being defensive, of hurting before she gets hurt, of pretending she’s immune to feelings, of being hard, insensitive and sometimes (often?) downright nasty. But revealing her feelings, letting down her defenses has made her vulnerable and it’s bloody painful. And now look at her - a tearstained, mess, blubbering like an idiot, and for what? It’s like being kicked when you’re down - again and again. Are you going to lie there and take it? Well, are you?
Simon is going to a backwater town in rural Saskatchewan to try to get justice for a First Nations youth shot and killed by a white farmer. Mattie’s not even sure he’s on the right side, but she’s convinced it’s not going to make a difference. Emotions are running high in both communities and Mattie’s concerned for Simon’s safety. He’s more likely to get killed by a pickup full of rednecks than further the cause of First Nations people. But it’s what Simon believes in and his commitment isn’t negotiable. Mattie admires his integrity and courage. It’s an integral part of the person she loves. Does she really want to change him? Have you changed someone you loved only to find they aren't the same person anymore?
Simon is against the expansion of oil pipelines. He’s got a lot of reasons, none of which Mattie think are worth going to jail for. Can she love a person who holds different values than her? She’s not the type of person who doesn’t have an opinion, or is reluctant to express it. The problem is they come from different worlds, he’s Indigenous and she’s a colonizer. Despite their cultural and political differences they’re really good together. At least they are when they don’t discuss culture or politics. Can you love someone who holds different values than you?
Two freighters have collided in the harbour. One has a ruptured fuel tank and is spilling toxic oil onto the beach. Seabirds are mired in this toxic muck. The Saunders Exotic Bird Sanctuary is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of exotic birds. A seagull is hardly exotic, but it’s still a bird and Mattie loves birds. She’s never rehabilitated an oiled bird. It’s more involved than just giving them a bath in dish detergent–a lot more. She might as well learn how since there are likely to be more of them. The reporters want to do know if Mattie supports a ban against more oil pipelines? More pipelines means more oil that has to be shipped which amounts to an increase in oil tanker traffic in local waters. Mattie supports whatever is good for the birds. Does she have to take a stand on bigger issues to have any hope of resolving the smaller ones? Do you?
Simon hasn’t called Mattie in two weeks. Apparently he didn’t feel the connection she did. What did she expect, they’d only shared one kiss. Actually, she kissed him. Is that shared? See how crazy she’s getting. She could call him long distance, enquire about the family. But if he needs to be reminded she exists there can’t be much hope. Better she visit the residents of her bird sanctuary, have a heart to heart with Pickles, her Blue and Gold Macaw.
“Sometimes the energy is right, but the time is wrong. Sometimes the time is right but the energy’s wrong.” Simon’s grandmother thinks Mattie is a bad influence on her grandson. “You can’t fight this, Mattie. If you do you’ll be unhappy and you’ll make others unhappy as well.” Grandmother thinks Simon will be a great leader, but not with Mattie at his side. “You must wait until the energy and the time are aligned. Then there’s harmony and happiness.” If Grandmother has her was that time will never come. Would you listen to an elder in matters of the heart? Can you compete with your lover’s family? Should you try?
What crosses the line between flirting and sexual harassment? It depends a lot on the the position and status of those involved. Professor Larkin holds a position of power in Mattie’s life. Much of her advanced studies in ornithology are subjective. That applies to the grading of her exams as well. If she yields to her teacher’s advances she could end up with a scholarship. Mattie’s not even tempted, but she wonders about other students in her class? Can her nights in the library studying and her days in the field freezing compete with deep-vee t-shirts that don't quite cover a pierced navel, second-skin tights, lingering smiles, sultry glances and an enhanced bosom? Not everyone’s a victim.
When Mattie’s research partner bails on their fieldwork assignment, she has to decide if she wants to spend a month in a remote cabin in The Rockies with her Professor, Lawrence (the lech) Larkin. Though he’s never been called out by the #MeToo movement, Larkin’s reputation is well known on campus. With Angie’s death and her breakup with Bodine, Mattie desperately has been looking forward to this wilderness vacation and working with hummingbirds. She doesn’t identify with victims, and though she may be low on trust, she’s high on self-esteem. She can handle Larkin, after all, she’s been dealing with men like him all her adult life - what woman hasn’t?
Twice now, Mattie believed she only had seconds to live. The first time was when Liz, on orders from her drug-dealing boyfriend took her to an abandoned apartment at a gunpoint. The second time was when she was bathing a wilderness pool beneath a waterfall and a grizzly happened by. Each time, terror had been replaced by calm and clarity–a sense of the inevitable. Maybe death is not that bad after all though dying might be nasty.
Mattie doesn’t believe in love at first sight, she’s not sure if she believes in love at all, so what’s going on with this guy who has been hired to meet her at the airport in a small town in The Rockies? She’s putting it down to being on the rebound from Bodine and a new environment and situation. Regardless, Simon, the first Indigenous person she’s ever had a conversation with is igniting sparks without even trying. Is it just pheromones? But why him and why now? Love’s a cocktail of emotions. What mix of ingredients works for you?
You don’t. The best thing to come out of Mattie’s three years with Bodine was getting to know his mother. Tough, honest, smart, loving - especially loving, Angie never judged, never pried, but Mattie knew empathy and love was only a call a way. Why do wonderful people, people who make a contribution and enhance the lives of others die? Why do those who are burden on society, and leave a trail of broken hearts and damaged people survive? Why does Death take those who want so very much to live and spare those hell-bent of self-destruction? Mattie doesn’t have the answers. Do you?
Relationships. Like almost everything else, they end with a whimper, not a bang. Mattie began falling out of love with Bodine, her rock-star partner a year ago. Nothing specific, just a lot of little things; she’s sick of seeing her life portrayed on ET and in tabloids; she can’t stand his pretentious, self-absorbed friends; and except for Pickles and Manny, their two macaws they have nothing, zero, nada in common. He’ll be on tour for three months with his new protegé, Ellwyn, promoting her new album he produced and co-wrote. Mattie will be doing fieldwork on the Rufus Hummingbird in The Rockies. Maybe absence will make the heart grow fonder, but Mattie doubts it. It’s over, it just hasn’t ended.
East Vancouver in the '50s and '60s was a low income, blue-collar neighbourhood. Kids grew up with minimum supervision. They left home in the morning, showed up for dinner, and were gone again until "the gun" sounded at 9 p.m. During the time away adventures were undertaken, friendships were forged, and character was created. East Van Rules was not only meant as a challenge, but also a code to live by. These four short stories and novella highlight coming of age events; a ten-year-old playing for the elementary school softball championship, a teenage tough strutting his stuff at the local dance, a hippie youth hitchhiking across Canada during the Summer of Love. Watershed moments told from a perspective that explains why you can take the boy out of East Van, but you'll never take East Van out of the boy.
Are you a moral person? How do you know? Chris thought he was until he hit the road and ended up broke and thousand miles from anyone who cared about him. That’s the thing about judging people, you’ve got to do that walk a mile in their shoes thing. Chris has done some things he never thought he would and that puts him at risk. Nobody cares about the situation you find yourself in or your backstory. You’re a stranger and that makes you suspicious and undesirable. Hitchhike is a novella and part of the short story collection East Van Saturday Night.
They say if you remember the 60s you weren’t there. Chris was and he remembers - the Love-Ins, the Be-Ins, the free love, the feeling that he didn’t have to live his parent’s life. There was a different world out there, one that rejected materialism and embraced peace and brotherhood. “All across the nation, there’s a strange vibration” Chris could feel it, was a part of it. “People in motion” He was in motion. In a quest for a different and better way to live he embarks on a solo journey across Canada, hitting the road like Jack Kerouac. He’ll be free - the master of his fate, captain of his soul. Is that what freedom means to you or is it “just another word for nothing left to lose?” It aint't worth nothing, but it's free.
Remember when sex was your prime directive? When heart bounding, breath robbing passion was new, primal and uncomplicated? For Chris, the teen dances at the local community centre was where you looked cool, acted tough and hopefully got lucky. It began by choosing a partner to dance The Jerk, the Watusi, the Dog and ended in the back seat of someone’s car. There was lots of competition and like any mating ritual sometimes it got violent. East Van Saturday Night is a short story in the collection by the same name.
What makes a best friend? Common interests? Shared history? Circumstances? Empathy? All the above? Or is it some special connection, something intangible? The tilt of the head, the raising of eyebrows, a unique perspective? We’ve all had to find or make friends, but if we're lucky there’s been one friend who's always been there. That’s how it is with Chris and Billy. Their friendship has been forever and it’s as natural as breathing. When you’re this close “having their back” is instinctive and spontaneous. If they’re in danger then so are you. Unexpected in Common Hours is one of the short stories in the collection East Van Saturday Night - 4 Short Stories and a Novella
Where do dreams go when they’re abandoned by the dreamer? Do they die? Maybe the dreamer moved on, but their dreams stayed where they were born, eager to be taken up by someone else? Chris has dreams, what twelve year old doesn’t? They’re alive and growing everyday. Surely his parents had dreams when they were young. Why have they given up on them? Dreams need determination. They need inspiration and hope. Chris can’t imagine life without dreams. Can you? Unexpected in Common Hours is one of the short stories in the collection East Van Saturday Night - 4 Short Stories and a Novella
What is power except the ability to get your own way? How many times have you thought if you only had the power you’d change things? Or would you? Once you attain power, doesn’t it make sense to use it to maintain the status quo? Chris’s rise in status at the paper shack has been long and painful. Now, as one of the oldest and biggest kids, he’s controls the power that was used to bully and humiliate him. How will he use it, to make easier on the new carriers, or the same way his predecessors did? The Paper Shack is one of the short stories in the collection East Van Saturday Night - 4 Short Stories and a Novella
Role models. Parents or peers, who influences you more? At ten years old, Chris can’t think of one thing his parents can teach him. On the other hand, the teens at the paper shack have all the answers, at least to his most burning questions. He’d do anything to be accepted, to be one with the guys. The shack serves as a depot where the truck drops off bundles of the daily newspaper. The guys are the carriers who deliver the papers to subscribers on their routes. Chris is prepared to act as a go-for, be bullied and humiliated because that’s what it takes to eventually be accepted. But when some members of the shack use physical intimidation to get a newcomer to quit, Chris feels they’ve gone to far. Will he stand up and speak out knowing he’ll likely become subject to the same treatment, or will he keep his head down and go along? What would you do? Are you a moral person? How do you know until you’re tested? The Paper Shack is one of the short stories in the collection East Van Saturday Night - 4 Short Stories and a Novella available at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
Life is a series of transitions; baby to child, child to adolescent, adolescent to adult; adult to elder. During these times of transitions there are opportunities. Do we take the conventional path into this new phase of life, or do we challenge conformity and take a different route, maybe follow our heart rather than the herd? The problem is we’re transitioning into uncharted territory. At twelve years old, Chris knows what it’s like to be a child. It’s all rules, responsibilities and no freedom of choice. To be a child is to be powerless, at least that’s how his childhood has been. On the verge of becoming an adolescent, he’s begun searching for something that will make his life different so that when he becomes an adult he won’t become like his parents. Unexpected in Common Hours is a short story in the collection East Van Saturday Night, about a few days that changed the direction of his life. How did you deal with life’s transitions. Play it safe or go forth boldly into uncharted territory? How did it work out for you?
Ever notice how every one has had childhood trauma? Is it because events that happen to you when you're very young have no context? Obviously, some people's childhood is worse than others and yet is seems no one grows up without scars. Chris will remember this event and, no doubt, it will influence his life. He'll wonder how his parents got there, swear he'll never make the same mistakes, and then likely grow up to emulate them. This excerpt is from the short story "Squeeze Play" from East Van Saturday NIght - 4 short stories and a novella.
Life isn't fair, and when you're a kid there's nothing you can do about it. It's like raging at the machine. Toddlers can have a meltdown in a supermarket aisle, but when you're ten years old and nothing is going right in your life you can't throw yourself on the ground and scream. Chris's spontaneous rebellion against authority feels good, but only momentarily. Now he'll have to face the consequences and there is no way to explain his actions. What did you do when you were a kid and life wasn't fair, parents were stupid and the whole world sucked?
Freyja is a young. ambitious photographer. By chance she takes pictures of demonstration that turns deadly. Powerful people, try to to suppress her photos with threats and bribes but she perseveres. People close to her are compromised. Freyja is not. The pictures influence the outcome of an election but things don’t change. Freyja leaves the country on assignment to photograph the Mexican drug war. Her lover is murdered by the cartels. She discovers that the cartels have a connection back home. Freyja returns home to expose the corruption. Again her camera plays a significant role. She succeeds with the help of friends she’d previously written off. Freyja realizes not everything is black and white, and how you view the big picture depends entirely on your perspective.
Ever notice how doing the right thing often makes life harder? Should be just the opposite, right? There should be some reward for moral rectitude. Freyja' will go on searching for justice, but story is ending here. She's moving on but the narrative isn't. A good ending should seem inevitable. You might not have seen it coming but you're satisfied. Even I didn't see this one coming, but am I satisfied? No,I'm never satisfied with my stories, but I hope that doesn't mean you won't be.
Are we all inherently evil? We've all read about apparently ordindary people doing horrific things. Hannah Arendt raised the question of whether "evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction." What stops Freyja from doing the unspeakable are real world consequences. Take them away and she's likely to do what benefits her the most. How about you? Ever done anything evil? Ever wanted to? What stopped you?
Do you find it therapeutic to talk about what's bothering you? Freyja always thought it was a character flaw until now. She resented people who dumped their problems on others. Sure, maybe it made them feel better, but what about the recipient of all their emotional garbage? Now she needs to talk or go crazy. Do you keep your problems to yourself or are you into personal "drama"? Does it help?
Ever feel like you're right and everybody's wrong. That people just don't get it. I've felt that way. Actually, I still do and quite a bit, especially about this book, but that's another story. When I get this feeling I know one thing - I'm likely wrong. I'm the one that's not getting it. Admitting this gives you an entirely new perspective. Freyja's not ready to say she's wrong. She might never be. How about you? Ever admit your reality is skewed? Try it. It tilts your world
I'm a photographer as well as a writer. The challenge in both disciplines is to say something unique - in images or words. You not only have to "step outside the box", you have to stay there to be original. Photographing the Mexican drug war has presented new challenges for Freyja. She's come up with a technique I call "shock association" - taking everyday objects and linking them to horrific events. Can you think "outside the box"? How to you get there and why do you go?
Are you committed - to saving the environment, peace in our time, ending world hunger? How about your career, your family, your partner? Do you remember the moment when you went from sitting on the fence to taking sides? What motivated you - suffering, injustice, love? Freyja's motivated by love and she can't believe it. She feels like a cliché, but what can she do? What did you do when the time came to choose sides?
Do you believe in love at first sight? Too bad. It's happened to me and while it exhilarating it's also disconcerting. For Freyja, who's more than a bit of a control freak, it's intimidating. For someone to have this much control of her emotions and her body, especially her body, makes her feel vulnerable. How can she protect herself against being crazy in love? How do you protect yourself or do you just go with it? Better to have loved...
Do you ever think that the world would be better of without certain types of people; heads of drug cartels, pimps, serial killers, pedophiles? Freyja thinks so and wants her eldest brother's influence eliminated from her life. The only way she can imagine that happening is for him to die. But when given the opportunity she doesn't pull the trigger. What do you think stopped her from putting a bullet in his forehead? What would do under the same circumstances?
So what's the worst someone you (maybe) love can do short of throwing you over for another person? For Freyja, it's not living up to expectations, disappointing her, compromising. Actually, she'd rather be dumped than disappointed. She could still admire a guy for his principles while hating him for breaking her heart. Does love override everything for you? Have you gone along with the rationalizations of someone you love? How does it feel?
Do you think you're entitled, that you have an unalienable right to everything? Most of us do, least to a point, especially if we are privileged to live in a First World Country. That's why we're prepared to compromise for things that make life easier, nicer. It's our birthright, right? That's why we're so easily enticed and tempted - hooked, on quick fixes and instant gratification. Not Freyja. She doesn't compromise and has no time for those who do. It makes her life hard, it makes relationships difficult, sometimes she's lonely. Is it worth it? What do you think?
They say you're never more alive than when your threatened by death. Adrenaline junkies - skydivers, race car drivers, mountain climbers, war correspondents - they risk their lives for the rush. And then they go back for more. For Freyja everything before photographing death in the streets seems trite, everything after trivial. She's hooked and it only took one fix.
Does the media sensationalize horrific events? Does coverage of murder and mayhem encourage copycats? Does in-depth reporting of acts of terrorism promote extremist's agendas? Freyja's never given it much thought. She thought she was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. She took the pictures, then moved on.
Do you have a moral code? Who made it up - God, your parents, your peers, or do you make it up as you go along? Freyja isn't sure where her code of ethics came from its just always been there and it's rock solid. She's uncompromising about it and intolerant and unforgiving of those who do what she considers "the right thing" only when it suits them. Are you like Freyja? I wish I was.
Do you feel vulnerable when you begin to care for someone? Wonder if the feeling is mutual or if you're setting yourself up for a broken heart not to mention a huge load of humiliation? Does that make you defensive? Freyja's got a smart mouth to begin with so when she feels exposed she can get down right nasty. Funny way to show you care for someone.
So you watch your weight, don't smoke or or drink (excessively), and jog every other day. On the other hand, your neighbour is fifty pounds over weight and drives the three blocks for a case of beer and a package of cigarettes. How come you both pay the same Medical Services Plan premium? Shouldn't there be some financial incentive for maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Freyja thinks so. She thinks there should be consequences for bad choices. When she tells people that they call her judgmental and self-righteous. Is she? Are you? Or are you just jumping in the car, lighting up, and heading to the pub?
Do you subscribe to conspiracy theories? What's your favorite - 9-11 was and inside job, the government is billeting aliens in Roswell? How about the feds give tacit approval of the drug trade? Too far fetched? In Canada, 80% percent of people in prison are there on a drug related charge. Decriminalize illegal drugs and you put a lot of cops, prison guards, probation and parole officers, social workers, even lawyers out of work. Bullshit? Freyja thinks so. And so what if it's true? She's got enough on her plate and I bet you have too.
Cell phones - what would we do without them? Maybe have an uninterrupted conversation? If someone I'm talking to answers their cell phone I'm insulted. But then, maybe that was their intention. Freyja's not a Luddite but she hates cell phones and those self-important people that think the world could not function without being in constant contact with them. That's you? Oops.
Do you recognize your parents as people? Does that make you love them more or less? There were times when I thought my parents were incredible screw-ups. Now I see them as being human. They likely did the best they could. Most of us get to that point. Freyja isn't there yet.
Having siblings is a mixed blessing. They can back you up or bring you down. They can be a great asset or total liability, and yet you're supposed to love them because...why? Freyja thinks her siblings are an accident of biology and nothing else. The fact that she's related to them doesn't mean she has to love them, or for that matter even like them. What about you? Are your siblings "entitled" to your love? Are you a bad person if you hate your brother?
I don't want to get personal because, hey, I hardly know you but... ever notice how the prelude to sex is often better than the act? Not for you? Well, that's good, but that's the way it is for Freyja. So, moving on, I've often found that the best way to write a sex scene is not to write it. Write the the anticipation, the prelude and then leave the specifics to the reader's imagination. I mean, what can you write about having sex that isn't a cliché? Once it's over you can think of all kinds of things to write about - how it was, how your character(s) feel, and what their expectations are. But then erotica (porn with a plot, but not much of one) outsells my books a hundred to one. Maybe I should reconsider. Got any insights on new ways to write about sex?
We have a saying where I come from, "You can take the boy out of East Van, but you can't take East Van out of the boy". It's about how, at a young age, you're influenced by your environment - in this case, your peers and your neighbourhood. Some of us rise above it, some of us rise to meet it, some of us succumb to it. Freyja hopes to rise above East Van, but some people think it presumptuous of her to think her "reach should exceed her grasp". Do you want to "better your station" in life? And just how do you plan on doing it?
I've never had much success. The success that I've had I found disconcerting - like it wasn't deserved. I have an out of context moment where I don't know what people are talking about and then, it's, oh yeah, I wrote that, or, I took that picture, and, hey, it's not bad. I'm always surprised and not a little humbled. Freyja doesn't have that problem. She knows her stuff is good and is surprised with it doesn't get accolades. What about you? Are you an unrecognized superstar or are you like me, still working on your 10,000 hours?
I don't know about you, but I'm not impressed by people that divulge everything about themselves when you first meet them. It's like "going all the way" on the first date. What's left? I'm rather attracted to those who play hard to get. Information comes in bits in pieces, often from third parties. Gradually, you're able to complete the picture - one that isn't tainted with "spin" and self-aggrandizement. I think that's how characters should evolve in novels. Don't drop the backstory bomb, insert it subtly, minimally, only when necessary and, most importantly, without interrupting the narrative. Freyja's getting to know Marty slowly - and liking it. Hope you are too.
When assessing a situation I'm sure you've at some time thought "what's the worst that could happen?" never imagining it would. The worst has just happened for Freyja's career. Now, what should she do? What would you do?
Ever wonder how some stories get covered while others don't? Decisions on what goes in and what's left out range from content to length, and include politics as well as economics. I've been a journalist, editor and publisher of community newspapers for over four decades and believe me, I know. Freyja is about to learn this lesson. Her big break is about to get "spiked".
I've always maintained that people are amoral - neither moral or immoral until tested. It's easy to do the right thing when nothing's at stake, but what if it was going to cost you? How would you feel about it then? Would you let some rationalization creep in? Freya doesn't rationalize. She sees no need to justify her actions. She's all about self-interest. If it's good for Freyja, well, that's all that matters. Immoral? One thing she's not is a hypocrite. What about you, been tested lately?
Do you have someone with an addictive personality in your life? That's the PC way to describe a drunk, drug addict, a compulsive gambler even a religious zealot, though the later won't do nearly as much harm to his friends and family. It's estimated that 10 to 15 percent of the population "just don't know when to quit". Freyja's youngest brother is a drug addict. She's goes from pitying him to wanting to kill him, mostly she wishes he would just disappear. Freyja's not very compassionate, to her brother or to her mother who enables him. How compassionate are you to your friend or relative that's "got a problem"? Is it working?
What price integrity? I'm faced with this question almost everyday. Just how much am I prepared to compromise my integrity to sell my books? Reviews and ratings, we're told, sell books. Should I guilt friends and family into posting positive reviews on Amazon or pay a company to do the same? Should I feign interest in groups or individuals (like you, for example) so you'll be encouraged to buy my books. Do you expect me to? Should I click on social media sites without any intention of reading the content so they'll be encourage to "friend", or "follow" me? Do these numbers mean anything? In this excerpt you get Freyja's take on this issue. What's yours? Emerson said. "A little integrity is worth a lot of career."
Every person needs someone that gives you unconditional love. Someone who will be there for you whether it's to celebrate your success, encourage you when you fail, chastise you when you screw up. Someone you know has your best interest at heart even when you don't. Someone who believes in you. Someone you trust. Someone you can tell everything to - well, almost everything. Do you have someone in your life that gives you that unconditional love? I hope you do, or did. For Freyja it's her Poppa - her touchstone, her North Star.
Do you ever go back to the old neighbourhood? How does it look? Guess it all depends on why you left and how well you've done. At some point we grow up, at least most of us do, and we realize our parents were just people doing the best they could. Freyja isn't there yet, still has a chip on her shoulder like most young people, though the events of earlier that day went a ways to knock it off. Remember the "internal journey"? Well, it's begun.
Have you ever witnessed an event and known because of what you've seen, what you've experienced you'd never be the same? It's the realization that it could happen to you, not this time, but... It's knowing that there's something worse than the worse case scenario, that there's an evil out there just waiting to be unleashed. This knowledge robs you of something and replaces it with...fear? cynicism? hatred? Freyja's been emptied out, her innocence left on the pavement with those dying people. She's waiting to find out what will take its place.
What’s the best way to write dramatic action? Some writers don’t write it at all. They set it up, building the tension, hinting at possible outcomes and that’s it. The reader finds out what happened after the fact as those that were involved or witnessed it reflect upon the event and the outcome. In this scene, I chose a different technique. I wrote the action but not the reaction. The reader is in the scene with Freyja and sees what she sees. I think this is closer to the truth, less of a literary ploy. Maybe you’ve been in a situation where you didn’t think, you just acted. This is Freyja in this scene. Later on, you and her can process the event and compare notes.
The line between a peaceful demonstration and a violent one is one incident. A demonstrator throws a brick, a police officer goes down. A protestor falls beneath the hooves of a mounted officer. People get angry, others are afraid, some just want to get out of the way. One mistake, one over reaction. You see it building, you don't want it to happen, and then, chaos. The camera captures images every three and half seconds, the photographs go viral. People die, a career is launched.
As a photojournalist, you're always chasing the story, meaning it's ahead of you. Sometimes you get lucky and you just happen to be in the right place at the right moment - as the events are taking place. It's a hell of a rush. Experienced photojournalist develop a professional intuition, but for Freyja it's dumb luck. What to do when this happens? Keep your wits about you, check your settings, and keeping shooting.
Good fiction consists of two elements: The External Journey - the actual events of the story that your main character experiences, and The Internal Journey - how these events (the external journey) transform your main character from who she was to who she becomes or will become. This excerpt is Freyja at the beginning of The BIG PICTURE – brass, over-confident, self-serving, unrealistic and uncompromising. The conflicts I’ve presented in the narrative will test her and how she addresses them will advance the Internal Journey. The challenge is to have my heroine change by the end of the story in realistic and credible ways that are consistent with plot.
If you're an artist of any ilk, at some point someone will ask you to offer up a performance or one of your creations for free. In their mind the justification is it costs you little or nothing to create so what's the big deal. They might also suggest that the publicity will be good for you, after all, what good is your artwork doing in your studio. You may be chagrined but then you realize they're right. Besides, what have you got to lose?
If you're going to commit yourself to being an artist you'd better be resigned to being poor. I remember being as young and as naive as Freyja and thinking otherwise. There's likely little fame and less fortune so you better be able to take a great deal of personal satisfaction in what you create otherwise you'll have a frustrating time before you eventually abandon it.
Some people say you can tell more about an author by reading their fiction than by reading their memoir. Memoirs are basically a person's "spin" on their life. As Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person”. Fiction, however, is a mask the author wears and to complete the Wilde quote, “Give him a mask, and he will tell the truth." The character of Freyja feels the way most of us do, at least sometimes, about family, friends, lovers, society, authority, politicians. The difference is she tells them and always acts accordingly. After I created my heroine, I had pause to consider. "Is this how I really feel?"
Free Heroin? Free Crack? Where I live we've lost the war on drugs. It's time to surrender and negotiate a peace that benefits everyone - the users and the victims - average citizens. What's holding this common sense idea back? Maybe those people that make millions out of the illegal drug trade.
How do you make your villians real? I give them a wife, a career, a bad back and issues like forced retirement. I try to make them sympathetic. I want my reader to think "under the same circumstances I can understand someone making that decision, taking that action". Their motivation for doing something evil or corrupt has to be motivated and not in a clichéd way. Bob and Stephanie serve political masters that want results - not excuses. By whatever means necessary is implied if not actually stated, just don't let it come back and bite them.
Cold-blooded (Adjective): without emotion or pity, deliberately cruel or callous. Mattie receives a call from Liz, an old friend from high school, asking if it's possible to temporarily board some reptiles at Saunders Bird Sanctuary. The Reptile Refuge where Liz volunteers has been closed by police while they investigate a suspicious death that took place on the premises. Mattie's not concerned with the circumstances and sees it as an opportunity to reconnect with Liz as well as help some animals in distress. Unwittingly, Mattie's drawn into a dark intrigue and soon discovers it's not just the displaced inhabitants of The Reptile Refuge that are cold blooded.
Are children hardwired to seek the approval of their parents? What if your mother is a drug-addicted prostitute and your father was one her faceless, nameless johns? Still want that approval? Mattie says nope, no way, not a chance. She's purged herself of all emotional ties with that woman. Then why is she cruising the Surrey Strip hoping to get a glimpse of her? Just curiosity?
Most people think they’re a good person, right? But sometimes circumstances ride roughshod over good intentions. For Liz, survival has always trumped integrity or at least that’s how she’s interpreted it. Compromising Mattie wasn’t her idea, but what could she do? That’s the thing about being a good person. How do you know you’re one until your tested.
Do you find it hard to make friends? Do you avoid meeting new people and feel uncomfortable in social situations? Mattie does. She justifies it by saying she’s too busy, not a people person - prefers birds, or doesn’t care. But she does care and so do you, don’t you? When Mattie reconnects with Liz, the one person who took the time n high school to get to know her, who really seemed interested, she was so happy she overlooked the warning signs. Insecurity. It can kill you.
When you're young, you're vulnerable, you have no power, money or rights. Good thing your parents love and care for you. What if they didn't? You're one sleep away from living on the streets. It's that easy, it's that hard. And still we judge.
Would you rat out a drug dealer? Would you rat out a drug dealer if she was your friend? Would you rat out a drug dealer if she was your friend and had entered into a life of crime through no fault of her own? The cops want Mattie to inform on Liz and they're not being too nice about it. But Liz needs help not jail time.
Ever fallen out of love? It doesn’t happen fast like falling in love does. Mattie’s falling out of love. Little things about Bodine are really getting under her skin. Things she never noticed before. Now she wonders how she didn’t. It’s always over long before it actually ends. It’s sad, but you have to admit, in the end it's a relief.
When you think of the past do you only remember the good times? Most people do. So when Mattie gets a call from Liz, a friend she hasn’t seen since for six years she remembers her fondly. She forgets the bad crowd she hung with and and the behavior that went along with them. Do you do that? Only want to see the good in people, despite your misgivings?
Mattie has zero tolerance for junkies, substance abusers, addicts - whatever you want to call them. She’s experienced their collateral damage and wants no part of them in her life. But what if they’re “a recovering” addict, staying clean, trying to make amends? Should you give them a chance, knowing that eighty percent relapse, become that train wreck of a person all over again? What do you think? Do you have someone in your life who’s self-destructing and bringing family and friends down with them? Will you take the chance - at more heartbreak, more frustration? Or say goodbye and good riddance?
Is all life sacred? What about if it has scales, lidless eyes, and a forked tongue? Just because it's not cute, soft and cuddly does that mean it's not as important as creatures that are? The illegal trafficking of reptiles as exotic pets causes the animals great suffering and is putting several species at risk of extinction. Liz loves herps, maybe more than herself, especially Iggy, her three pound iguana. She's volunteered at The Reptile Refuge for two years every since the refuge owner, Lee, rescued her off the street and helped her kick her addiction to crack. Does love justify everything? How far would you go for something or someone you loved?
Working Title: Forest
This Book Is In Development
Matthew and Raminder are young, idealistic and in love. As soon as they can they plan to leave behind the small town and small minds of Pitt Landing. They will embrace life and experience the world, maybe even change it. Man plans, God laughs. Raminder’s father has a stroke and her commitment to her family means she must postpone her plans and stay in Pitt Lake. It’s just the opposite for Matt. A family tragedy leaves irreconcilable differences between him and his father and forces him to leave. They promise to reunite, but life happens. Twelve years later, Matt is an acclaimed war correspondent. He’s seen it all and it’s left him with post-traumatic stress, a gastric ulcer, and an enlarged liver. He’s never been back to Pitt Landing though it’s been the memory of Raminder and their love that has more than once kept him sane. He’s at his desk in the newsroom, recuperating from his last assignment and current hangover and reading a letter from his father, the first contact they’ve had in over a decade. It talks about a legendary lost gold mine, a map leading to it, and proof in a safety deposit box back in Pitt Lake. He’s sent it to Matt in case something happens to him and cautions his son to keep it a secret. Matt is about to dismiss the letter when the telephone rings. It’s Raminder telling him his father has disappeared somewhere in the wilderness that surrounds Pitt Lake. Lost gold, lost love and lost hope compels Matt to return home. Will he find any of these or does something else await him?
There's a bunch of reasons people go to funerals, some even to pay respect to the deceased. Most go because it's "the right thing to do". Others go to see and be seen. The curiosity factor is significant - who came, what did they wear, how did they act? Matt's going to try to understand why these people cared more about his father than he did.
Is there anything more terrifying than having your young child go missing? You go from calm to crisis in less than a minute. With each passing second you're aware that time is running out and the situation is escalating. You positively hate yourself and swear you will never, ever, take your eyes of the little monster again. And then...
How goes the battle? A good review? That's great. Did they buy your book? Sure, I know the "experts" say giving away books is effective marketing, but aren't you getting tired of working for a year and getting nothing for it? Two years? And you paid a discount book site $25 to give it away for you? Well, I guess it's better than paying $119 to do it with Goodreads. I look tired? Well, I was up late proofing my novel. No, I don’t have $2500 to hire an editor. They’ll take my credit card? That’s understanding of them. Let me ask you, don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth the effort? Yes, I still love to write, but I want that reader connection. I need some sort of validation. What about you? You're always so optimistic. Meds? Really?
Do things just happen? Without warning, without motive, without even the slightest inkling or premonition? As a reporter, I'd say no. Do a little investigating and you can see the backstory that lead to an event. Problem is, no one's interested in backstory - in life or fiction.
Ever wonder why funerals are now being called "Celebrations of Life"? When someone you care about dies what's to celebrate? Matt can understand celebrating the death of someone you dislike - if you're honest. Funerals are to make those left behind feel better. What if you'd feel better not going to a funeral? Would that be considered disrespectful? Is that better than being hypocritical? What do you think?
How do you know? What do you do? You think you're being paid with laundered money, do you take it and turn a blind eye, or do you take the moral high road and refuse the business and be out of pocket? Hey, if you don't take it someone else will, right? Is that a rationalization or just getting by in the real world? How did it get this way? I mean the real world.
Ever rode a bike? Know any bikers? Would you like to know any bikers? When my biker relations ride up to a family gathering on their Harley's all conversation stops and is replaced by the low throaty rumble of the exhaust. There's a mystique about men who ride motorcycles - their posture astride so much power, the leather and denim jackets, the boots. Everyone is having their own motorcycle fantasy. What's yours?
Why do people get married - for love, to conform, to rebel, to escape, for security, for money, because they're told to, because of family obligations? All or none of the above? Raminder's family had a married arranged for her as is their custom. Raminder married someone else instead - from a different culture and a different faith and was disowned by her parents. Why? No, it's more complicated than that. Why did you get married? Okay, but what about this last time?
Ever have a nightmare when you're wide awake? That's kind of what post traumatic stress disorder is like. Something triggers a memory and you're right back in the war zone - you smell it, you see it, but worst of all you feel it. Doesn't have to be a war. Maybe it was an accident, an illness, an abusive relationship. Okay, now that you know what's wrong with you, what can you do about it? Not much.
For some father's it's not enough their son emulate them. They must be all those things their father wanted to be, but never was. Sometimes the kid is just the opposite, either because of his nature or out of perversity. Did you live up to your old man's expectations? Do you care?
There's always a map, there's always a letter. The map's usually a myth, the letter a lie. A lot of people have died looking for Slumach's lost gold in the wilderness north of Pitt Lake, the home of the mythical Sasquatch. They're never seen again, swallowed up by forest, or what lives there. But what if you had proof - five large nuggets worth. Would you risk it?
Ever pan for gold? I have and despite the back breaking work, it's addictive. With every shovel full as you swirl away the gravel you hope that among black sand at the bottom of you pan you'll see a fleck of colour - and your life will change. Hours just slip away. A day becomes a week, becomes a month... It's a lottery with very, very long odds, but just imagine if... Matt has the proof and a map. It's there, he just has to get to it. Are you a gambler? What about a dreamer?
Ever been fired? There's just nothing good about it is there - even if you hated the job. What makes it worse? How about being broke, sick, depressed and homeless? That's kind of where Matt is at. Now he's thinking it wasn't such a good idea to sleep with his boss and move in with her. What's that you're saying? Something about "...where you eat?"
What's the best part of being in love? Okay, but after that? For Matt it, was being loved. Being the most special person in the universe to someone is empowering. Is unrequited love really love? Can you actually be in love without it being reciprocated? What was, or is, the best part of being in love for you?
Ever been disappointed by your parents? Ever not been? Do you still see your parents as icons or have you got to the point in your life where you accept them as human - flawed like all the rest of us? Matt has issues that he's trying to work through. He's done with blaming others for the mess he's made of his life. What about you?
Adult child of an alcoholic? How did you cope as a kid? Matt had a number system from one to ten. Between five and seven his father was self-righteous and condescending. This was usually when Matt was called in for the father and son talk. Anyone got any insights on this? Don't want to talk about it? Hey, I understand.
When you were a kid did you have nightmares? Do you have them now - the same ones? Matt does and he's just seen a picture of it drawn by a little boy. How would you react if someone could draw your nightmare? Does Matt need therapy? Do you?
A character must change over the course of a novel. That's why you read it. You want to see how the events of the story impact and change the hero or heroine. I begin with a not a very likeable character and hopefully he'll change for the better over the next 200 pages or so. But is he too much? I mean if you can't stand him after the first three chapters how likely are you to care about what happens to him and continue reading? If anyone's out, let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org
When you drink too much how do you act? Do you get maudlin and sentimental, aggressive and violent or do you just fall asleep? Matt, the hero in FOREST gets sarcastic and nasty. What about you? Ever say things you regretted? You haven't? Or are you just too embarrassed to admit it - even to yourself.
Is there a villain that stands out in your mind from a book or movie you've seen? What makes him or her different from all the other bad guys you've encountered in film or literature? In the accompanying excerpt I introduce, Ivan, one of my antagonists in my new novel FOREST. What do you think? Is he sinister enough? What can I do to make him better, or should I say worse?
Matt Bennett has returned to his home-town after twelve years. As much as things have changed, they’ve stayed the same. Can you ever go home again? Ever tried? What did you find?
The beginning of your story is perhaps the most important part. If readers don’t become engaged at the very start how likely are they to continue? How often do you abandon a book after just the first few pages? There’s so much to read and so little time, so why waste it, right? So what goes into a good beginning? Here’s what the experts say: - Start with the triggering incident. It’s just another day for your character until something happens that kick starts the story. - The opening should have a distinctive voice, a point of view, a rudimentary plot and introduce the main character. By the end of the first couple of pages the reader should also know the setting and conflict. This is the first couple of pages of my novel entitled FOREST. Are you engaged?
Loving the terrorist. Risking it all. Miriam is forty and frustrated. In an attempt to enhance her living-just-to-breathe life, she joins some neighbours protesting a highway bypass that will destroy Eagleridge Bluffs. Not only are the Bluffs her special sanctuary, they’re also the beautiful home of rare and endangered plants and animals. The protest gains the support of environmental organizations including the attention of a group of eco-radicals lead by an enigmatic young man named Zaahir. Miriam is mesmerized by this charismatic leader and sees him as someone that can save her as well as the Bluffs. But is Zaahir just using Miriam to help him further his radical political agenda? As legal channels fail and civil disobedience falters, Miriam is seduced into the murky world of eco-terrorism.
If you don't want your narrative to be didactic and your characters one dimensional, you need to tell the your story from the point of the antagonist - honestly.
Broken, dreams, broken promises, broken beliefs, broken heart. Everything's in pieces. What can Miriam do but begin to pick them up.
While we fiddle. Injunctions, court cases, civil disobedience, marches, letters to the editor, outrage, indignation...and all the while forests are decimated, species annihilated, what took millions of years to create is obliterated by giant machines fueled by ignorance and greed.You lose, lose, and lose again... until finally you retaliate.
Goal, motivation and conflict, conflict, conflict and more conflict. That's what you need for a "page turner". Miriam's life certainly has conflicts - moral, legal and emotional. Is it right to break the law to save a wild place she loves? Will she go to jail if she gets caught? Does Zaahir love her or is he just using her to fulfill his political agenda?
What motivates Zaahir? Frustration at, and injustice within the system. The greed and corruption of corporations and governments? The apathy and ignorance of the citizenry? Or is it something else, something more personal? ECO-WARRIOR SERIES - 3 books now only $8.99 devinedestinies.com
What would you be prepared to sacrifice to save a wild place you love? For Miriam, just about everything. In this excerpt I tried to explain why from my own experiences with wild things and wild places.
What kind of person becomes eco-terrorist? A zealot? The marginalized? The frustrated? The dispossessed? A young person hoping to belong like the girl Miriam meets in this scene. An eco-terrorist could also be lonely person looking for purpose?
Your a naive, middle aged woman and you've just performed a sexual act on an almost absolute stranger much younger than yourself. How do you feel? Remorseful? Ecstatic? Depressed? Hopeful? All or none of the above? I hope I got this right, being a male and all. The 3 book ECO-WARRIOR SERIES is now available for $8.99 - 50% OFF. Go to https://www. devinedestinies.com
"The way of war is a way of deception." How do you recruit the locals in the fight to save the environment? Use the same tactics as the government bent on destroying it. Heroes and villains must be three dimensional - even nice guys have to be nasty - occasionally.
When you write about politics the challenge is not to sound didactic. For your protagonist to be real he must have doubts and misgivings and yet be strong and committed to the cause. In Eagleridge Bluffs tried to understand what the life of an eco-terrorist must be like, even a privileged one like Zaahir.
Zaahir – an exotic species dropped into a foreign environment. For Miriam it's lust at first sight.
Nothing, really, except everything.
The plan was to destroy equipment, not humans.
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