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May 19, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord Chapter Seven

People have a lot of misconceptions about detective work. You hear private investigator and you normally think of tough talking guys, beautiful dames etc. Well the first might be true in my case – I tend to talk tough – some would say to make up for the deep-seated insecurities I have about myself, but since I don't tend to hang out with people who talk like that it doesn't matter what they say.

Besides if you can't have the pleasure of talking out the side of your mouth now and then what's the point of doing this type of work? Nine times out of ten you're doing just what that asshole flatfoot said: gathering evidence of infidelity for one or other parties in a marriage. People say we cause divorces, but what a client chooses to do with pictures of her husband playing spank the monkey with a young woman in maid's outfit is up to her not me: P.I.'s don't cause divorces, people do.

On occasion we do run across some genuinely beautiful women but in most cases I only get to see them through the telephoto lens on my camera or in the developing tray in my darkroom. I don't even keep copies of the prints. Once you start and word gets around, and don't kid yourself it will, you'll find yourself one day with more trouble then you can handle as certain parties might be tempted to try to get rid of incriminating evidence.

Oh I've been tempted on occasion, but a few seconds contemplating my body with extra holes in it, or foreign objects sticking out of it laid out on a slab cures me of the thought. I don't like contemplating mortality at the best of times, and my own just isn't something I'm prepared to mess around with no matter how tempting. Dying for an 8"X10" photograph just seems like such a waste.

The one that really gets me, and I blame the Goddamn Brits for this with their drawing room murder investigations is the great public revelation of the killer. It's really that crazy old bigoted bat Hagatha whose to blame for it you know. Even her pansy Belgium hero is treated like dirt and made out to be an object of ridicule in spite of being the one to always put "the cads" in jail.

Anyway all her books end with the whole cast of characters gathered together in the drawing room where the detective reveals who did, where, and with what motive. I've had people come to me for divorce case investigation and they look almost devastated when I hand them the envelope with the photos, videotape, and nicely written report. They want some of that drama that they see in the b- movies, like I'm going to pull aside a curtain revealing their soon to be ex busy humping away with their paramour or something.

If only, my life would be a lot more fun if I had opportunities for a little bit of that action – I mean the drawing room mystery revelation action not the soon to be ex humping her paramour in my office. Although I'm not saying a live sex show wouldn't liven the place up now and then – I've never been really one for taking my work home with me.

But as I was thinking about all that had gone in the previous weeks with Dr. Magneson being killed, right behind my eyes so to speak, my conversations with various interested and interesting parties, and knowing that I had solved both the problem of who murdered the good Doctor and the disappearance of the Kyoto Accord, I saw this could be the perfect opportunity for me to act out my own drawing room revelation. I had the requisite parties: a mysterious femme fatale, a couple of rough customers, and a pretty ingénue. With the four of them and my two buddies from the cop shop it would be a tight fit in here, I wasn't even sure I had enough chairs or coffee cups to go around, but it could still work.

It would also be a good way of ensuring the murderous one didn't get the opportunity to have me alone and perform open-heart surgery through my spine like what had happened to the good Doc. The two cops were my security against being folded, mutilated and spindled after I'd confronted the killer. I've never understood the idiots in the B movies who go alone to the killer's house and expect him to surrender meekly when confronted with the truth of his perfidy. They always seem so surprised when he or she pulls a gun on them or puts the knife through their heart. What did they expect anyway, that confronted with the truth a cold-blooded murderer would give themselves up out of remorse? Sheesh, what idiots.

Nope I was going to make damn sure that I had heavily armed and dangerous people in the same room who were on my side. If things started to get ugly I wanted to make sure that the ugliest people in the room were with me, and I couldn't think of two uglier guys then McIntosh and Gates. Anyway they seem to enjoy their work and I'm sure the opportunity to arrest someone in such public circumstances would tickle their fancies – if a cop has a fancy to be tickled.

They were my first call and although I can't say that they were happy to hear from me, at least they didn't ask me to come over and play with their rubber hoses and phone books. Taking that as a sign that our relationship was improving I ran my idea by them and in spite of a lot of grumbling and swearing on their part they said they'd be there.

I think part of it was that under those gruff exteriors beat the heart of sadists who got their jollies out of arresting people in as public and humiliating a manner as possible. Since this had the potential of it being me, at least in their eyes, being the one publicly humiliated and arrested – if I fell on my face they guaranteed I'd get something in return for wasting their time – that was enough incentive for them to assure me of their cooperation on the day.

Then it was a matter of me persuading four out of five of the other interested parties to show up. I knew the fifth, being Dr. Magneson, had a previous engagement with a six foot hole if he wasn't still spending time in a one size fits all bag slotted away in the oversized filing cabinets they stowed the bodies in down at the city morgue. That left my three friends from the Health Food emporium and Dr. Magneson jr.

It was my pretty friend who answered the phone on three rings and I have to say her voice brightened considerably when she heard my dulcet tones on the other end of the line. When I mentioned that I also wanted her too bring along the two others her voice registered disappointment, but I convinced her of the necessity of their presence by saying I needed to go over out conversations together again because I think that I'd managed to figure out who our culprit was.

She sounded a bit cheerier after that, and I felt even cheerier when she suggested she and I could maybe have a more private discussion afterwards. She said something about making it up to me for having been the cause of my headache that day. Maybe, she said she could work the kinks out of my shoulders. I could almost hear her blush down the phone line when I said I had several kinks that I bet she didn't even know existed, but I'd love for her to help me work them out.

That's the type of conversation that always warms the cockles of my heart, not to mention certain unmentionable, in polite conversation, body parts. Anyway I'd have to quell thoughts like those if I wanted to prevent the blood rushing from my head leaving me incapable of thinking along any lines but one. I was dealing with a cold-blooded murderer and needed to have whatever limited resources I possessed at my disposal.

The final call I had to make was going to be the toughest – it wasn't that I didn't think la Morgenstern wanted to find out who killed her papa, but I just wasn't too sure how well she'd react when I told her the threesome from her dad's clandestine meetings would be showing up. Surprisingly enough that didn't turn out to be much of a problem, what did was her trying to convince me to tell her in advance who the killer was.

After all, she pointed out very reasonably, it was her dad someone had tried to open with a single bladed can-opener. The only way I could forestall her was to ask if she thought she'd be able to sit in the same room as the person she knew to be her father's murderer without giving the game away. She had the good grace to realize the sense in that and promised she would see me at the appointed time: High Noon on that coming Monday.

That had been McIntosh's idea, and I could hear Gates cackling in the room behind him. I didn't mind the image, me facing down the lone murderer, but I was kinda of hoping to avoid the fireworks of the original. I'm not really cut out for the Gary Cooper type rolls – Groucho Marx maybe – by not Gary Cooper. Still the fate was acomplis as the French liked to say, and in just two days the clock would strike and somebody would be going home in a pumpkin for murder.

When the day of the great revelation dawned, it seemed only fitting that the weather in Ottawa was positively apocalyptical, with intermittent showers being relieved by sleet and hail. As I stood at the window staring, and trying to figure out if any of the bizarreness in weather had to do with climate changes, someone tried the handle to the office door.

When whoever it was realized they weren't going to get any satisfaction that way, a gentle knock on the door followed.

"Were not open! If you're having troubles with reading the sign it says office hours 11:00 am until 5:00 pm. Go away until a clock reads somewhere between those two numbers."

"It's me" said a very familiar and sultry voice of the Nordic persuasion.

"You"? I replied

"Me"! She said.

Sure enough when I opened the door it was her; The beautiful, ash blonde, Scandinavian who started me on this search when she showed up in the office all those months ago; Morgenstern. Although she was just as stunningly beautiful now as she had been the first time she crossed my threshold, something was going on inside that perfectly shaped head that was causing her enough distraction that she was marring the smoothness of her temples with unsightly creases.

She brushed by in a waft of fancy shower gels and other exotic feminine scents guaranteed to beguile and bewitch the male olfactory glands, and proceeded into the office. She didn't stop until she was perched on the edge of my desk looking back at me still standing there with the door waiting to be closed behind her. She held my gaze for a second before letting her eyes break the contact to look down at the floor. From another person I would have taken that as an apology, but in her case...Let's just say I'd never figured her for the humble type.

I'd never be able to prove it, but I'd swear during the moment of breaking contact she was able to do a quick scan of the room, ascertaining if she was truly the first arrival. She visibly relaxed when she released that nobody else was here – whatever it was she wanted to say obviously was meant for my ears only.

I'd say it didn't take me longer then a second to close the door, which meant my head must have been turned away from her for a little less then that, so I can only figure her purse had been open and she had this all planed out in advance - the only other explanation for the gun appearing in her hand as quickly as it did implied magic that I don't believe in - so I'll settle for the pre-planned approach.

I guess I'd find out soon enough what she was gonna settle for.

May 11, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord: Chapter 6

The bump on the top of my head was starting to make me wish for bed and a cold compress, and the last thing I wanted to be doing right now was sitting in a dank cellar chatting with the two folks, no matter how good their intentions had been, who'd made me feel like this. Still there was something compelling about the way her lower lip trembled when she was emotionally distraught that made me want to investigate how she reacted to other stimuli.

But those were idle thoughts suited to other occasions, and even contemplating them made me wince with pain. Anyway, they looked like a couple of nice earnest, concerned types who wanted to save the world, and from previous experience I knew that was one road better left un travelled. They weren’t casual about anything, and politicized sex was always on the low end of the enjoyment scale for me, especially when working on a migraine.

I suggested that we keep in touch and if they thought of anything more, or if anything happened, that might lead me to an answer about who croaked the professor and what happened to the Kyoto accord. I told them if I ever did get any answers that I would make sure they were filled in, if for no other reason so they could stop bashing people over the head that came into the store asking about the Kyoto accord.

Couldn't be good for business if you kept hauling concerned environmentalists down into a cellar and giving them the third degree. Unless they had a sideline in headache remedies: "Hey does that store of yours have anything for a wicked headache, induced by a minor head trauma?" I asked her pointing at the point on the noggin he had tried to stave in.

He had the good grace to look embarrassed and mumble another apology, while the smile she bestowed made me start reconsidering my earlier resolution and thinking a little tender loving care administered by her capable mouth might not be such a bad thing after all. But when my eyes made contact with daylight, it was still only mid afternoon, when we reached the street all thoughts of anything but lying alone in bed with the blinds drawn and me out cold quickly vanished.

Even her bashful, eye's down looking up at me through her eyelashes, "Is there anything else that I can do for you…" only elicited a request for a cab. Her suggestion as she shepherded me into the cab that she'd call tomorrow to see how I was doing, was laden with meanings, but all I could do was smile weakly and mumble my address to the cabbie.

His initial reluctance on driving me was quickly overcome by my suggestion that the quicker he got me home the less chance there was of me puking on the back of his head. Mentioning the names of a couple of gentlemen I knew in the people cartage business who were known for their efficiency in dealing with those who upset their friends helped to overcome the last of his doubts.

It also ensured I was spared the usual commentary on the state of the world that cabbies seem to believe is their prerogative to deliver. By the time we pulled up to the office whatever placebo she had given me was slowing me down sufficiently that I tipped the cabbie a twenty, which led to the unprecedented site in Ottawa of a passenger having his door opened for him by the driver of his hack. He also did me the favour of pointing me in the right direction of my buildings door, so I didn't wander dazed into traffic.

Harry the day doorman had seen me in quite a number of states before this, but even his eyes showed some concern as he clocked the state of my pupils and the discreet swelling on the back of my head.

"You want me to check on you every couple of hours or so Mr. Steve, to make sure you haven't slipped into a coma?"

"Actually", I told Harry, "a coma sounds pretty attractive right about now. Just get me on the elevator and hit the button for the right floor and I should be able to take it from there." The last thing I needed right now was to be mother-henned by six foot–seven-inch, 300lb, ex linebacker with one eyebrow, a shaved head, and a gold loop earring the size of a hoola-hoop. Nope I just needed my bed and a lot of pitch dark.

Which I almost didn't get until I remembered how a key and lock mechanism worked, after surviving that challenge, navigating through the clutter of the office to the private room in behind was nothing. The only distraction was the flashing red of the answering machine light, which caused a momentary fixation, quickly overwhelmed by the intense pain its pulsation produced in my skull.

I let the back of my knees hit the side of my bed that allowed it to welcome me into the comfortable bosom of its embrace. I wish I could say I slept like a log and didn't feel anything until I woke the next morning, but I was disturbed all night by wild dreams that featured Ms. Magnesen and the environmentalist cutie literally tearing me in half; Professor Magnesen lecturing both of my parts on separate occasions on how to control emissions; and in amongst it all was the sound of people pounding at my door and yelling for me to wake up as they were the police and it was long past time that decent people were awake and at work.

Unfortunately that last part turned out to be true, (I don't want to think about the implications of the other parts thank you very much) and I eventually had to stagger to the door so as to prevent the noise from continuing. It was only as I turned to lead my old buddies from the crime scene back into the apartment that I realized the ten o'clock I had read on the dial of my bedside clock meant the next morning, not later that same evening.

"I didn't even know you drank tea, let alone took sugar in it" was followed by harsh laughter from behind as the assholes chortled at my misfortune. "Was that one lump or two?" That ain't the kind of shit you deal with before coffee on the morning after the day I had had yesterday. I couldn't even muster the energy to give them a baleful stare, let along a snappy retort.

I didn't know what I had done to deserve the honour of a home visit, but I figured I'd better be slightly somnambulant before trying to cope with the excitement of it all. I pointed in the general direction of where I remembered my bathroom as being, and received a leering grin and a sweeping, be my guest, arm gesture in return.

It was only after I had held my head under the cold tap for five minutes that I began to realize the potential for trouble that a visit from two cops, who were being overtly genial, could forebode. For two guys like McIntosh and Gates to show up at my door without kicking it down first meant they had either come to gloat or…I couldn't think of any other reason.

If they were going to arrest me they would have kicked the door down and hauled me away, that would seem more their modus apprehenda- so to speak- over this polite routine. Of course this all could just be an elaborate game of good cop bad cop, as I noticed Gates hadn't done anything except show his teeth at McIntosh's jokes. Like with any mad dog that could mean he's laughing or readying himself to go for your throat.

When I could look in the mirror and only see one of me looking back I figured I could just about cope with the boys in bad suits and headed back out to the office area. Still studiously avoiding any sort of contact with them I headed to where the coffee pot that was my morning cup awaited. From the damage inflicted upon my kitchen and the depreciation in the level of the pot, I could see my guests hadn't hesitated in making themselves at home.

"You must have finished the lumps off last night" Gates called through " We couldn't find anything but these packets of "nude" sugar. Oh and your out of cream." It's a good thing I like black coffee cause 25 years with no chance of parole is a long time to spend behind bars, and guards inside don't like cop killers.

After gulping a first cup, burning the roof of my mouth and finishing the process of returning to consciousness simultaneously, I poured a second cup and headed out to meet my early birds, hoping I wasn't the worm awaiting eating. From the way Gates was looking at me like a side of beef I couldn't help feeling that prospect was pretty good.

"Who gave you the love tap?" McIntosh asked pointing his chin at the lump on my head.

"Someone who wasn't as genteel in looking for information as the police officers of our nations capital. Now what can I do for you boys, I wouldn't want to think I'm holding you up from serving and protecting the good people of Ottawa" I tried to look at them with as much innocence as I could muster with my eyes still slightly crossed and the knowledge that the last time I had seen them a dead body with a machete in its back was laid out like a – well like a corpse since that what he was – at my feet.

"It's what we can do for you chum" Gates was licking his lips, hopefully licking off lingering drops of coffee but it was hard to tell what was going on behind those beady little eyes. "We thought you might like to know the identity of the stiff who fell at your feet the other night. We thought hearing his name might jar your memory, although I see others have tried less subtle means. Which reminds me do you need to report a crime, we're police officers you know and we're here to protect the public." He laughed a horrible little laugh that sounded like a cross between a growl and the wind blowing over a grave on a cold November night.

"That was just a misunderstanding, and why should hearing the dead guy's name jar my memory?" I was trying to think if I had given beautiful anything like my card which she could have given her dad which would take some explaining if it were found on his corpse.

"The crime scene boys found this", he reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic baggie of the type you use for sandwiches, pot, and evidence. This one held a piece of yellow paper torn on two edges so it had obviously ripped from the bottom corner of a larger page. "Your ad in the yellow pages was found in Mr., I should say Dr./Professor Magnesen's jacket pocket with the name of the bar scrawled on it, and the words "last brass pole on the barkeep's side" written in the same hand."

He paused and looked at me, and just in case I hadn't caught the implications of what he was suggesting, spelt it out for me." We think you were arranging to meet him there, and you've holding out on us for some reason and we want to know why?"

I took a sip of my coffee and looked up at him. "Well that's better then your usual average, batting .500 could almost make a person think you know what you're doing. Yes I was supposed to be meeting him at the bar, but I wasn't holding out on you because until you just told me I had no idea that the corpse at my feet was Dr. Morgensen.

We had only talked on the phone up till that point, which is probably why he had the directions on where to find my scrawled on my ad in the yellow pages. I just figured he had shown up after the murder and found the bar locked up and him not able to get into seeing me. I've been hoping to hear from him again since, but now it looks like that hope is a pretty vain one…"

It's always good to leave a thought or sentence hanging when talking to cops, they don't like to think you know everything, and it gives them the illusion that they have some room to manoeuvre with you even though you've built a pretty thick brick wall up for them to run into. And if they do have something in reserve, you can always hold on to I hadn't finished as an excuse.

I wasn't going to have to worry about that this time, because although it was obvious they didn't like it, they didn't seem to have anything more than that piece of paper connecting me to the dead doc. If they thought otherwise, obstructing a murder investigation would be the least of my worries. I'd have to start worrying about my name finding its way to the attention of individuals I don't want knowing it.

They had finished their coffees by then and knew their chances of refills were non-existent, so they'd have to head over to Tim Horton's and have an official coffee break if they wanted any more. Gates was out the door and McIntosh was close behind him, when he turned and looked back.

"This is more than just a divorce case gone bad, peeper, it's even more than just a homicide. There's a lot of pressure on us to get results, but results that end it without it going far. There's talk of not letting it go further than this room, unless something else shows up soon.

Everybody's called the chief today from the horsemen, to the spy guys, and somebody from Parliament Hill to ask that we keep them posted. Everybody's walking around the station house right now so uptight that they're scared to fart. Whoever worked you over last night was an amateur compared to these boys from up high. I've heard that they can make it so you get to the point that you want to tell them what they want to hear just so the pain will stop."

He nodded at me then and closed the door behind him. Have a nice fucking day. It looked like my time on this case was running out fast no matter what I wanted, so the option of another day in bed, however tempting was a no go. The problem was that unless something fell in my lap pretty soon this case was no go as well.

I had to hope that someone was having more success than me or I could be looking forward to a long time away from home.

April 30, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord Chapter Six

Whether or not I fell like the proverbial ton of bricks, it sure felt like I had been hit over the head with them. When I came to it was with feelings I'd normally associate with the morning after the night before washing over me. The pain cutting through my head made it feel like I was ready to be outfitted for a Frankenstein stitch job, or at the least some sort of zipper assembly that would keep the top part of my head from separating from the bottom.

But there were some noticeable differences, most obviously being the fact that it seemed my legs were bound to the chair I was plopped into and my hands in lap were first tied to themselves than connected to my feet's bonds via yet another cord. For vegetarians they certainly knew their way around trussing the main course for roasting and basting at 375 degrees for a couple of hours until done.

Whoever was responsible was either brilliant or blind lucky and it didn't matter which as the result was still the same. Any time I tried to fidget with my feet in the hopes of loosing their bounds the ropes around my hands seemed to tighten and vice versa. I figured by the time I had loosened anything significantly either my hands or feet would have fallen off due to lack of circulation..

What with my head still feeling like the axe was still sticking out of the back at a jaunty angle, and my limbs trussed like a pork roast, I was quite content to sit quietly and await what was ever coming. It could explain why the next thing I knew was that I heard the sound of voices whispering in front of me. Dozing off had the unexpected payoff of reducing my head pain substantially, as well as allowing some free eavesdropping time as the voices were obviously under the impression I was still out.

"I thought you said you didn't hit him that hard? He looks like he's got brain damage," said the first voice. It sounded like a woman's, deeper than most but still a woman and I suspected it was the one who I had followed into the dead end.

"Hey you were the one who was all panicky about being followed. Anyway what does it matter, he's just another Fed. We'll give him a shot, find out what he knows then let him go. If he shows up back at headquarters sounding like he's a few bricks short of a load whose going to notice over there? Most of them talk like they've seen recent contact with the flat edge of a 2 X 4 anyway."

They thought I was a fed, while it was slightly insulting; it was also understandable given their circumstances. It also made life both a little easier and a little more precarious at the same time. If I was able to convince them of the fact that I was working the same side of the street as they were and not a fed they might not look on me with such suspicion. Of course if I wasn't able to do that I could end up being injected with some sort of truth drug that also seemed to remove a good chunk of a person's reasoning skills.

"Well the horsemen are going be happy if you keep making their job easier by knocking out everyone whose sneaking around behind their backs trying to figure who offed the professor, and who is trying to stuff the Kyoto accord so far up a chimney at the same time, that it will just be so many more toxic emissions if it can't be found soon." I had decided to try and brazen it out with the truth, cause sometimes you never know people might believe you.

It was kind of hard for me to decipher their reactions as I was seated in the centre of the pool of light cast by a naked bulb hanging over my head like that Greek dude's sword, and they were lurking in the shadows. I could tell that I had startled them, but that could just as easily be put down to them not knowing I was among the conscious more than anything else.

Whatever other effects my little speech might have had on them, at least it got them to come into my circle of light. I was right about the woman's voice, it belonged to the one who I'd followed from the store. She was your typical granola number down to her lack of make up, thick socks and expensive German made sandals. It didn't stop her from being attractive, but in an earnest political sort of way that I knew from experience could fast become tedious.

The guy was cut from the same cloth; only he had a slightly harder edge to him. He was that new breed of political activist who the cops hadn't figured out yet, computer and tech savvy, with no worries about employing violence if attacked. Cops hadn't managed to upgrade their thinking from the days of passive resistance and when they ran into people who picked up their tear gas canisters and calmly lobbed them back at them it still confused them.

The demonstrators had their own version of shock troops now who would stand up to the first wave of a baton flailing riot cop charge to give their more passive brethren and sisters a chance to escape. The guy in front of me was a prime example of the type, tall, leanly muscled and tough as whip cord. I had no trouble believing that he'd been the one to administer the love tap that left me counting teeth with the tip of my tongue.

After, I don't know maybe thirty seconds – maybe an hour – of them staring at me and me trying to stare back at them without staring because it seemed to hurt just a little too much to use my eyes that much, and without anybody saying anything. I was just about to try again when she spoke up.

"What do you know about Professor Magnesen?" she asked

"Now that's an interesting first question to ask, not why were your following me, or what do you want, but about a person who I haven't said I even know. What I do know is that you know him, which I didn't know before; thanks" I said brightly.

She certainly turned a very pretty shade of red when she flushed, whether it was with anger or embarrassment didn't make much of a difference in my book. He on the other hand didn't have the same redeeming qualities when he flushed. If he was pissed at her for giving something away, or pissed at me for being a wiseass was irrelevant as he was bound to take his displeasure out on me not her.

"Okay smart ass we you've proved that you aren't just another pretty face, but why should we believe that you're not a cop and you still didn't answer her question about what you know about the professor. So why don't you be a good guy and answer the lady's questions and maybe I'll forget what a rude bastard you were to her." He reached behind him and pulled one of the largest hunting knives I've ever seen out of belt sheath and began cleaning his nails with it. He saw me staring at it, and nodded his head once as encouragement that I shouldn't be shy about speaking my piece for much longer.

"Well first of all I know he was working on a project for the government that would have reduced green house gasses substantially while actually improving the economy instead of harming it, until the government changed and his program funding was yanked. I know that he started meeting with some environmentalists about something or other and that some government department was starting to get very interested in his files at home."

I paused for breath here and tried to gauge their reactions, but neither of them was giving anything away. They both were just staring at me waiting to hear what I had to say next. So far anything I had told them didn't tell them what they really wanted to know; who I was. The feds would have known all that I had said up till now so they still didn't have any reason to believe me when I said I wasn't working for the government. I was going to have to lay as many cards as possible on the table.

"A short while I was contacted by a client to investigate the disappearance of the Kyoto accord. I got a call at the office one night and I was supposed to meet someone over at a strip club in Hull. He showed up alright, but he arrived to see me with one of the biggest hunting knives I've ever seen sticking out of his back." I said this last bit being very careful not to look at the blade whose point the guy was now digging into the wooden tabletop in front of me.

"Since then I've been trying to trace backward through his life in an attempt to figure out who killed him and what he'd been working on that has people so scared that even after he's dead they're still trying to shut him up." I followed you", pointing with my chin at the woman" because I hoped you'd be able to help me find some answers. Given my reception I can only hope that we might be of some assistance to each other."

The guy and the woman exchanged glances, she raised an eyebrow and he nodded his head in return. He kept the knife in his hand and came at me with point pointed directly at my chest. He flipped it over in his hand so that the cutting edge was pointing up and swung the knife up and through the ropes binding my wrists. He then bent down and sliced through the cords around my feet.

He stepped back and took up his position beside the table again as I shook my hands and feet in an attempt to restore some of the circulation that I'd lost while I'd been strapped in. More and more I'm convinced that I would never be cut out for bondage. I just don't like mixing work with pleasure that much.

I was still busy rubbing at my wrists and ankles when the woman spoke up. "Look", she said, "we're really sorry about all this", waving her hand as if taking in the basement, my skull and being tied to a chair, "but ever since the professor was killed we've been really scared about what's going on. Why would they want to kill him just because he had good ideas about how we could reach our commitment to the Kyoto accord and be able to help other countries do the same."

"Yeah", said the guy," I hope I didn't do too much damage, but our nerves are stretched pretty raw right about now. Not only can't we figure out why anyone would have wanted the professor dead, we don't have much idea as to who could have done it. When you showed up nosing around…well we though we might be able to crack you open about who you were working for and get some answers."

He sighed, and shook his head. "But we're still no further ahead and there aren't even any clues to go on. It doesn't sound like you know that much more than we do." He sucked in a big breath of air." Damn this is frustrating. He was so close to answers, in fact we believe he might have even had them already, but was playing it close to the vest as he could see the departments he had built for research and development slowly being dismantled due to budget cut backs and funding not being renewed. He had contacted us late in the summer before the Election, knowing that even a potential Stephen Harper victory would destroy his life's work"

"When they couldn't do that, they destroyed him instead" her voice was choked as if close to tears, and I looked at her closely. "The reason he approached us was that I had been a student to his at the University. One day, accidentally he said, by coincidence he said he came in here and we got to chatting. He wanted to know what I was up to, If I had kept up being active in environmental groups after leaving school. He also wanted to know if I had been following the discussions about global warming in the papers and was as worried as he was by what he called the irresponsible science issuing from some world capitals"

She paused as if to gather her thoughts, or to just take the deep breath that would see her through the rest of her story. "After a while he asked me if I knew a couple of other people who were active in environmental groups who might like to learn some information that they could put to good use. So we began to go over to his house at odd hours to try and shake off any potential tails. Judging by the outcome to date we haven't succeeded in doing much except getting our patron killed"

The silence that followed her little speech was exceptionally empty as we all sat with our own thoughts for a minute or two. Finally she broke it and in a rather choked voice looked at me, then over at her erstwhile companion, and asked the question whose answer I had come looking for. "What do we do now?"

April 24, 2008

An Earth Day Interview With Mother Earth

Well another Earth Day has come and gone presenting us with an ideal time to check in with Mother Earth and see how she's doing these days as compared to last year at this time. (Does anybody know when Earth Day was this year - I thought it was supposed to be every April 23rd, but it looks like people were getting all Green on the 22nd this year) It's harder and harder to get in touch with Mother Earth these days as she has so much on her plate, but I was finally able to track her down and ask her a few questions.

When you think about it, we really don't know that much about the Mother do we, heck I bet none of us even know when she was born! Of course everybody has their own theory as to a date, but from the religious to the scientific we're all just guessing. One thing I do know for sure, whatever her age may be, she's really starting to show it. There are deep lines on her face which weren't even there a year ago, she's become even more stooped over then ever, and she's developed a really nasty cough.

When I finally caught up to her she didn't seem to be in the best of moods considering it was Earth Day, with people all over the world celebrating how much they cared about her. I thought she was being somewhat ungracious and decided to call her on it.

I'm surprised that you're so put out, given the fact that people all over the world have been making a big fuss about you. Don't you think you could be acting a little more grateful

Mother Earth: Oh, and I've got so much to be grateful for. Three hundred and sixty four day a year they don't think twice about spitting on me, and I'm supposed to feel grateful for them for taking one day to pick up some garbage? I'm still going to have to figure out what to do with all the crap they pick up today aren't I? No don't answer, it was a rhetorical question idiot.

What do you think is going to happen with all the garbage that gets picked up today? It's going to go where garbage always goes; into landfill, onto a garbage scow in New Jersey, or burnt in an incinerator. It means that I'm still going to have to figure out how to bio-degrade shit, pray to whoever that the damned scow doesn't sink dumping its load in the river, and trying to absorb another load of CO2 from it being burned. Not much different from any other day of the year as far as I'm concerned.

But doesn't it make you feel like people at least care about what's happening to you?

Mother Earth: Care? Care! If they god damned cared they wouldn't have dumped the garbage they're picking up in the first place. Don't talk to me about caring asshole. For the last, I don't know how many billions of years, I've worked at creating this really incredibly, delicate, balance called the natural order of things where all of life is beautifully interconnected. It's a god damned work of art if you ask me, but what do you philistines do?

Ever since you climbed out of the trees there's been somebody among you who thinks that they can do this creation thing better than I can and proceeds to rip great big holes in the web that ties everything together. I'm left scurrying to try and patch it up somehow and mitigate the damage.

Of all the animals on this planet humans were the only ones given the ability to reason, but you couldn't tell that by your actions. You people should know better. But you still shit and piss in the water you plan on drinking the next day, dump poison into the air that you need to breath in order to survive, and cut down the trees, that if given half a chance might be able to clean the air for you, to build another strip mall. Those aren't the actions of a caring and responsible people, let along rationale or reasonable.

If you were dumb like pigs or cows, while it would be understandable, but humans are supposedly intelligent and rational. Therefore, the only explanation I'm left with for your behaviour is you don't care. What else I'm supposed to think?

Well, but that was in the past. Don't you think we're getting better - look at all the things we're doing to try and fix what we've done wrong

Mother Earth: Recycling, car-pooling, florescent light bulbs, and composting your kitchen wastes are known where I come from as both, too little to late and useless as tits on a bull. Oh don't look so shocked you little putz, it's the truth. Look, those are all really nice things, and I do appreciate that the people doing them are genuine in their desire to make changes in their lives to help me. That only makes it doubly sad that it's not really doing any good.

The reality is that no matter what the government and the corporations who own them say, it's not the fault of individuals that the world is in the trouble its in. For the last couple of hundred years a small minority of humans have been making huge amounts of money off the the labour of the majority and at the expense of the planet's health. Mass production of anything leads to massive generation of waste directly and indirectly.

Not only does a manufacturer have the potential to create waste products through the direct operation of his business, but there's also the demands he makes upon other sectors of the system. First of all he needs power in order for his equipment to work so that means electricity has to be generated for his use. Then there are the raw materials he is going to be making use of in his manufacturing process. If he uses metal, that means a steel mill is involved, and there's all the waste and pollution they generate, and all the electricity they're going to need to make their equipment work.

Sooner or later you'll figure out that I don't have an endless supply of anything and I'm going to start running out of the stuff you need to feed the beast you've created. As the supply decreases and the demand increases what do you see being the end result? One day you're going to go to the cupboard and it's going to bare and then what's going to happen? Oh the corporations and their pet politicians will reassure you that it can never happen, that there's always new sources of oil laying untapped beneath the sea or under the perma-frost just waiting to feed us all. Even if you do find a way to get at that oil, it's only a stop-gap. It will run dry eventually.

You can already hear the wheels grinding to a stop. In their desperation to find more fuel for the beast's insatiable appetite they're causing famine by using land that once grew food for humans to try and find a way to sustain the unsustainable by growing plants they can turn into fuel. They're also stealing the water that we all need to drink to stay alive by diverting rivers with dams to create hydroelectric power. The world is experiencing food shortages to such an extent already that riots have started to break out because people are starving.

The more water they steal, and the more land they take, the less food there will be and people will starve. A starving population is a desperate population and they will make the food riots of today look like a day at the beach. The question is not whether the system will fail or not, it's how will the system fail? Will it grind to a stop because you've run out of fuel or will it explode into a million pieces as you run out of food for all the mouths in the world.

Now go away - you bother me.

Well you can see Mother Earth was in quite the mood. Can you believe some of the stuff she was coming up with? Talk about not understanding the big picture - what does she expect us to do? Shut down all the factories? As if that's going to ever happen. Mother Earth might know all about growing things but she's really out of touch with what it means to be human.

March 15, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord Chapter Five

So I admit it, I'm a sucker for a woman in distress. It doesn't hurt that when she says my name it sound like a caress or that four foot nine of her five feet seven are legs. Those are just what we call fringe benefits in this line of work. Sort of like free drinks at a bar, or a discount on a sandwich for work done in the past.

So it was pretty much a no-brainer that when that husky voice, made even huskier by tears, washed over my ear I'd be saying yes to doing anything Ms. Magnesen wanted. If it means ferreting around in the muck of the quagmire that we call politics in Canada then that's what I'll be doing.

Lucy's voice sounded a bit calmer, less full of tears when she called me as agreed the next morning. If we were going to get to the bottom of this whole mess there was no time like the present to begin. I was hopping that she would be able to give me some clues, names of any of the Greenpeace and granola types that had been hanging out with her dad in those last days, would be a good place to start.

Unfortunately she couldn't remember any more details about them that morning then in our previous conversation. It looked I'd be getting on a lot closer terms with soy burgers, herbal teas and hemp shirts than what I'd consider good for a man's soul. But those are the sacrifices you have to be prepared to make for the job.

I'm sure you've noticed how groups tend to congregate into a geographical centre of activities, and the granola rollers are no different. In Ottawa they have taken over a couple of square blocks of what used to be the red light district until the girls got wise and moved out to where all the Embassies are and can now get work as escorts and blackmail material. (usually one and the same thing in the Embassy district)

In the end it meant another nice seedy neighbourhood falling victim to the let's improve the downtown core so people from the suburbs want to come here mentality. It's that type of thinking that has ruined more areas in this city then you can shake a by-law exemption on zoning laws at. The first signs of trouble are when the adventurous ones in their S.U.V.'s and Dockers start showing up in your favourite greasy spoon.

Then it's only a matter of time before they're telling their friends about this "place". The next thing you know there's a Starbucks on one corner, a health food store on another, a new age book store on the third and one of those shops that don't really sell anything in particular but whatever it is they do sell it's for quite a bit of money.

The people I wanted to talk to weren't going to be among that crowd; none of them would be caught dead driving anything powered by anything other than their own leg muscles, eating in a greasy spoon, or, if they drank coffee at all, sitting in a Starbucks. They'd be the ones you see working in the health food stores, or the whole earth type eateries that spring up like boils in these new neighbourhoods

You know the type; never smiling, with a pasty grey complexion from not eating enough protein who drift around filling the bulk bins at the health food stores. Or being your surly wait staff at the new eatery that displaced the greasy spoon within weeks of gentrification. They seem to take some sort of grim satisfaction in watching people pretending to enjoy their tasteless lentil and ground nut burgers or making bulk purchases of certified organic brown basmati rice.

The only time they're known to smile is when some pathetic soul tries to order something that gives them an excuse to for the "lecture". It comes in four standard forms; the evils of globalization, the evils of eating meat, the evils of trans-fats and other unhealthy by-products of processed foods, and the evils found in tap water and the air we breath.

The latter they seem to take special delight in listing while people are trying to eat lunch. Nothing like a graphic description of the effects of P.C.B.'s on a person's liver to turn you off your lentil and beetroot tofu omelette. Lucy had wanted to come with me on the grounds that she might be able to recognize one of the people who was visiting her father, but I told her that it wasn't necessary for the two of us to suffer, and besides I didn't know what danger we could be walking into.

So far all that I had risked was doing some sort of permanent damage to both my intestinal tract and any goodwill I might have towards my fellow humans. I remember reading about the Puritans back in history class somewhere and how they were dour folk who didn't believe in frivolity or fun of any kind. But compared to these environmental martyrs those guys would have been a laugh riot.

For all that I still was no further ahead before I walked into this ring of hell that Dante seems to have forgotten to describe. There was only one store that I hadn't been in yet and I didn't hold out much hope of finding anything there. Factual information and New Age bookstores aren't normally to be found within the same orbit, but as the saying goes no turn un-stoned. I've learned never to discard anything as a potential source of information.

Compared to the rest of the places I'd been in my tour through the pits of despair this was a fountain joy. Bright light, and no smell of rotting vegetation made an immediate improvement in my mood, which was only augmented by the smile and plunging neckline behind the counter. As they were accompanied by a pretty face and a cheery voice asking me if there was anything she could do for me, it almost made the day's efforts worthwhile.

Leaning casually on the counter, trying not to be distracted by what happened whenever she inhaled, I quickly spun the tale I had come up with to cover my real intent. My daughter was doing a school project on global warming and needed to find out more information about the Kyoto Accord. Did she happen to know anyone or could she recommend any good books that a single dad could get for his pride and joy to help her fulfill her dream of becoming an environmental scientist?

As soon as I mentioned the words Kyoto Accord I couldn't help notice an increased agitation in her breathing, how her smile had become a little more fixed, and a look had entered into her eyes that could only be fear. Pressing home what seemed to be an advantage I said surely amongst some of these books there must be something about global warming and the Kyoto Accord.

She was a lousy liar, that pretty little New-Ager, and she knew it. But she bite her lip and said no, that wasn’t the type of book they sold here. She then made a show of catching site of the time, and making her excuses about needing to see a doctor she hustled me from the store so she could close up for her appointment.

I quickly took up station in the doorway of a store a half block down; there was no way I was going to let my little bird fly without following her. If my guess was right she was the lead I had suffered lentil burgers for and all I would have to do was follow her to where I needed to be led.

Sure enough she came out of the store a minute later. After locking the door she gave the street the quick once over and began to walk briskly away from the store and me. I let her get a half block away from the store before I began to follow her. She was wearing a very distinctly coloured poncho with some sort of bird on it's back that made her easy to follow so I wasn't worried about losing contact with her.

At one point she dashed into a store for a couple of moments and when she came back out she had added a headscarf to her ensemble. If that were meant to fool anyone who was possibly trailing her she was in for a surprise. Not even the R.C.M.P. would be thrown by such a simple deception. I was being careful to keep well back from her so there was no chance of her catching a glimpse of my face or recognizing me by some other means, so I almost missed it when she turned off the main road.

When I got to where she exited stage right it turned out to be a dead-end alleyway with nobody in sight. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom I noticed a couple of doors in each wall. They were made of identical plain materials, banded with metal; obviously fire doors from the old days when the buildings were first constructed.

It was probably that momentary feeling of being nonplussed that distracted me enough that I didn't notice anyone behind me until I felt the first touch on the back of my head of whatever it was they used to knock me out. I can only assume that I fell like a ton of bricks because that's what you normally do under the circumstances.

March 10, 2008

The Case Of Missing Kyoto Accord: Chapter Four

Well it looked like I had run into a dead end. I should have known better than to think any of the bar's phones or their accoutrements, which is a fancy way of saying the shit that goes with something, would have survived the types of drunks, junkies, and liars that habituate a strip bar. Probably the first drunk husband whose wife had told him not to come home from wherever he was had performed the Charles Atlas trick on the "Let My Fingers Do the Walking" tome at the first booth.

The second looked like it had been used to mop up something that I didn't want to have a better acquaintance with and the third, like someone had used it as practice before they perforated the late, lamented Doctor Magneson. Sighing a curse or two at the perfidy of my fellow men I headed for the office where I was certain I could find a phone book in somewhat better shape than any of these relics.

After two hours of questioning my sanity and a half bottle of whiskey later I came across the phone book for the National Capital Region (Ottawa, Hull, and anywhere else in the vicinity that uncivil servants might hang their coats and hats) propping up a window. It had sustained a little damage from water and the neighbouring pigeons, and the mice had absconded with the zeds (poor as synagogue mice as they were making they're way through the book backwards) for comfort, but at least the section where gorgeous Scandinavian blondes kept their phone numbers looked to be intact.

That is if they kept their phone number in phone books at all. Two hours of scouring the phone book only confirmed the fact that there was no Magnesons to be found with a listed phone number anywhere within the confines of this sorry excuse for a city. There are 600 Martins, and four different ways that people seem to spell MacDonald, Mcdonald, MaCdonald, and Macdonald, but no damn Magnesons.

Some items when they cause you frustration don't have the decency to give you any means of release. A phone book on the other hand has a nice bit of heft to it so when you decide to chuck it across the room it will make a resounding thud. Indeed if you throw it hard enough not only will it make a satisfying noise, it will rip through cheap drywall like an elephant's fart through tissue paper.

It took my a few seconds to realize that the ringing sound I was hearing in my ears was unrelated to the minor bit of renovation I had begun seconds ago, and had more to do with the phone sitting on my desk than anything else. I was using less then the usual requisite number of brain cells required to carry on a phone conversation when I picked up the receiver; half of them being awash in the best part of a fifth of Canadian Club, another chunk trying to visualize how the filing cabinet would look on the other side of the door, and the remainder trying to figure out how long it would take the mice to work there way backwards through the whole alphabet now that they had ready access to the source.

So it took me a second or two to remember what I was supposed to do with the piece of cheap plastic in my hand out of which a sultry voice was calling hello with increasing amounts of urgency. I tried to shake off thoughts of mice in knit yarmulkes and me wearing a truss, the way a dog shakes off water, and was rewarded with the office attempting to spin me into orbit. It was only by catching the desk with my chin that I was able to prevent myself from hitting the floor.

Pain has the remarkable ability to clear your brain and let you focus on the events at hand. After the sparks that had appeared out of nowhere in front of my eyes had vanished I noticed that I was holding on to the phone. I was just about to hang it up when I heard a vaguely familiar sounding voice saying, "Oh my God what's going on, is there anybody there? Hello, hello?"

"Lady could you keep your voice down I've got quite the headache all of a sudden and you're not helping any by yelling away like this" There was now a much appreciated silence at the other end of the line which allowed me to regain a little bit of my composure so that I could go about this the right way. After all she had just lost the man who I assumed to be her father in a rather grisly fashion and that called for a certain amount of delicacy. (Who else did you think it was going to be on the phone at this time of night in this kind of story – sheesh)

"Why did you do it? Why did you kill your father tonight Ms. Magnesen? I saw you running away from the bar just as he keeled over at my feet so don't deny you were there and that you fled. Any normal girl would have stayed, you see your father drop to the floor like a ton of bricks and you're heading for the proverbial hills – something ain't right with that picture Ms. Magnesen and your gonna have to help me bring it into focus."

There was a pause from the other end of the phone line, followed by the unmistakeable sounds of someone taking a large drag off a cigarette followed by a long slow exhale. Visualizing in my head just how those actions would affect her lips and the thoughts that sprang to mind with those images left me a little light headed again. I barely recovered in time to hear what she had to say next.

"I guess I'm not what you'd call a normal girl Mr?" her voicing trailing away in a suggestive question mark led me to quickly interject in a still somewhat shaky voice "just call me Steve, Ms. Magnesen" to which she replied "there's no need for you to be formal either, Steve; call me Gertrude" Immediately destroying any of the earlier mental images that I had envisioned. Gertrude is just one of those names where even knowing the person in question would look good in a potato sack makes me think of particularly hairy great aunts.

Another cigarette inhalation pause followed this exchange of names, this time bereft of any accompanying imagery, until she continued with, " But then again my dad and I hadn't been having what you would call a normal existence for the past while"

I made appreciative, and what I hoped were encouraging noises, and made myself comfortable on the floor, noticing with contentment that the remainder of the fifth was within easy reach having rolled onto the floor in the confusion. I hooked the bottle over to me with my foot and was carefully unscrewing the cap as she began her story.

"My dad and I had moved up to Ottawa a few years ago, my mother had died from cancer and neither of us could bear to be around places that reminded us of her. He felt especially guilty because his work had kept him from home during a great deal of her last months with us and he knew that he wished that he could have spent more time with her.

I had ended up being her primary care giver, having to bathe her, change her diapers when she could no longer get up to go to the bathroom on her own, and eventually feed her. While he was off at conferences on climate change and global warming I'd be at home making broth and rolling her over in bed to prevent bed sores. He told me later that he was sorry that he had left so much of the burden on my shoulders but he couldn't stand to see her like what she was becoming.

That broken collection of bones and skin with no intellect or brain wasn't the person he had married. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't feel anything but revulsion for her when he was around her, and that ate at him like termites in a clapboard house. He had worshiped the ground she had walked on until the moment she had gotten sick, treating her like she was royalty, and then all of a sudden he found he couldn't go near her."

I was fighting back tears by this time, although that could have been residual pain and medicinal whiskey, so I wasn't all that surprised that she made a slight choking sound as if overcome with emotion and had to pause for a second. As there was nothing really that could be said, I said nothing and let her take all the time she needed to compose herself before she continued.

"Anyway when the previous government was working out ways to try and ensure that Canada was going to meet its Kyoto accord commitments a position became available requiring someone of dad's expertise and skills. I decided to go back to school and finish the thesis work I had begun when Mom had gotten sick and we began the process of putting our live back together.

Those couple of years were great; everyone dad was working with were excited about coming up with solutions that would not only see Canada meet its obligations, but actually exceed them. It was so great to see dad taking an interest in life again. There had been a time just after mom died that I was worried for him, and that I thought he might be going off the deep end into depression, but this new project had revitalized him.

Of course it was too good to be true, and all those other damn clichés about good stuff coming to an end, and last fall when it began to look like the Conservative Party Of Canada had a good chance of forming the next government, dad started asking questions about the accord's future if the change were to happen and it didn't look good.

The word he got was that even if they were able to cut emissions by fifty per cent and improve the economy at the same time by an equal amount, the Conservatives were going to pull the plug on the deal no matter what. When words like 'setting a dangerous precedent for government regulatory powers and interference in the market place' start being bandied about, you could have discovered the cure for cancer and AIDS and you knew your funding would be killed and your program shut down.

Dad became like a figure obsessed; he began working all hours of the day and night in an effort to come up with a devise that could be used to convert carbon dioxide and other dangerous emissions into harmless substances when released into the atmosphere. He knew that even if the government had no intention of ever making use of this technology that there were others who would and could.

It was just before Christmas and after the election had been called that he let me in on a little of what he was planning, albeit it indirectly. He told me that I shouldn't be surprised if he started to receive visitors at home at all hours of the day and night, and that I shouldn't make a big deal out of it. He also said it would be a good idea if I didn't tell anybody about them either."

She stopped to light another cigarette and gather her thoughts for what I assumed was the crux of the matter. I had a good idea where this was going and beginning to see how it ended as badly as it did. I had long since abandoned the bottle of whiskey and was sitting propped up against the desk with my legs splayed out in front of me. Looking out the office window I could see the sky was beginning to change colour; the clouds of the previous night had dispersed and there was a faint blush appearing along the eastern horizon line. It looked like it was going to be a nice day for somebody, somebody who probably wasn't named Gertrude Magneson.

"Maybe I should have said something to him, asked him more about what he was doing, but he looked like he had hope for the first time since the beginning of the fall when we started to hear the rumours of our demise. After all we'd been through there was no way I was going to be the one to pull the rug out from under him.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, up to Christmas and then twice more before New Years, the visits took place. They would usually happen between midnight and four in the morning and the person would arrive on bicycle or foot. Most of the time they'd only come one at a time, but on the last couple of occasions all three of them came together and these visits were also in daytime. It was as if they either believed they were completely safe or they no longer cared whether they were being observed.

The two men and a woman all dressed and looked pretty much the same. Long hair, bulky sweaters, fancy sandals with thick socks on no matter what the weather, and the same zealous fire in their eyes at all times. They were all sort of pale, like they didn't eat enough and never had anything to drink except water and herbal tea. The woman looked at me like I was some sort of evil monster and the two men would sneak looks at me when they didn't think I could see and they knew she wasn't looking.

Obviously they weren’t supposed to approve of me, the way I dressed or looked or something, but that didn't stop them from drooling just like any other straight male does the first time he sees me. I thought they were judgemental little hypocrites for judging me by my appearance, they were probably the types who protested against just that sort of thing, but I didn't say anything because my dad assured me their visits were temporary and they were helping him out in some way or another. Sure enough after those last couple of meetings before New Year's Eve we never saw them again.

After Christmas vacation my dad went back to work and waited for the inevitable to happen. After the elections rumours were flying fast and furious, but dad remained calm and when I asked him about it he just smiled and shrugged. But everything changed again a week after the oily bastards announced they were reneging on the Kyoto accord in order to 'seek a Canadian solution'.

I was at home working on my thesis and two men came to the door. They should have been wearing badges that said undercover R.C.M.P. officer or at least kept their stupid hats on they were so obvious. They said they were colleagues of dad's from work and that he had sent them by the house for some files he needed that he kept at home, and would I mind letting them come in to get them. I told them I would have to check with him first, and pretended to walk back into the house to use the phone, but in reality just slipped around the corner and observed them in the reflection from the hall mirror.

Not much of a surprise that they didn't wait for me to come back from making my 'phone call'. They left the door open when they left, so I did a full production for them of coming out on the step and looking puzzled as to what had just happened. I also used the time to spot where they had parked their Crown Victoria and watched as they pretended to be gay lovers necking in the front seat.

When I told dad about it he asked if I were okay and when I assured him I was, he laughed a little. But it wasn't as if it were at anything funny. He said they had searched the lab as well but they weren't going to find anything because, and he pointed to his head, it's all up here.

It was a week ago that he started to get worried about things again, but he didn't want to say anything to me about it. I had been seeing the same two cops who had come to the door around town, just happening to be where I was every so often. They made no effort to hide themselves, like they wanted to let me know they were keeping an eye on me for whatever reason.

I think it was the fact that they were bothering me that finally convinced him that we needed to find somebody to help us. Somebody we could trust in a situation that looked like it was getting further out of hand then he had expected. I think he had hoped that when they didn't find any files they could use they would leave him alone, but that didn't look like it was happening.

I was to follow him to the bar where the two of you were meeting last night to try and see if anybody had followed him, but it was so crowded that I couldn't even see either of you for a while. The next thing I knew was that he was dead. I was so scared that his killer was standing somewhere near me that all I could think of was getting out of there as quickly as possible. My father's dead Steve, and all I know is that it has something to do with the Kyoto accord and the Canadian government. Can you help me?"

February 25, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord Chapter Three

It took what seemed forever and a day for the boys in blue to get finished with me that night. I guess I was lucky it was only the local boys and the R.C.M.P. didn't think it worth getting down off their high horses for a simple bar knifing. Probably if they had known what was behind it all they would have pried their saddles loose from their butts, but I'd been playing it close to the vest so far. As far as anybody could tell I was only another witness to a senseless act of random violence.

Well that's what I thought it looked like, but Ottawa's finest must have had other thoughts. The obligatory uniform had shown up twenty minutes after the first screams and in the meantime the bar had emptied quicker then a tourist's bowel in Mexico. By the time the boys from Homicide made it to the scene it was only me, the peelers, the girls who served the drinks and the bartender.

The bartender hadn't looked at all happy when I suggested we call the cops, but even he couldn't think of a way of disposing of this problem. While I had been phoning 911, he had been on the other line to his boss. The type of guy who owns these bars likes to know when the police are going to be visiting his premises just as a matter of principle. Usually it's to check whether the paperwork for the Eastern European girls' will be needed or not.

Sometimes the owners will give these girls an incentive for working by "holding" on to their documents for them – to keep both the girls and the documents from getting lost. Those girls usually have had someone do them the great favour of buying them a ticket out of their shit hole village in the Balkans and offering them a job in the "Entertainment and Hospitality" business. If they were lucky it only meant stripping.

But they didn't have to worry, the homicide dicks took one look at the seven inches of steel (it only looked like three to me, but the guys who write up the reports think the bigger the better, although I've always thought it's not the size that matters; dead after all is dead) sticking out of the guy's back and are immediately on to bigger fish to fry. Me.

McIntosh and Gates might have been nice people off the job, hell they probably were kind to widows and orphans and all that other good stuff too, but being homicide cops for twenty years can make you pretty jaded when it comes to the job. Thankfully they didn't dislike me personally, only on principle. Detective work should be left to the cops and private dicks should stick to ruining people's marriages was how Gates had summed it up the first time he met me. (I don't think he ever found out about the manila envelope full of prints of him and the little Russian stripper that his ex – wife had paid me two thousand dollars for)

"Look who it is Mac, the big time private detective holding up a bar with a corpse leaning on his size elevens. That's a sight to warm the cockles of a person's heart, providing of course they have one." He was a skinny little guy who looked like he should have a cigarette dangling out his mouth as he was always talking out of the other side.

"One what? A heart or a cockles?" was McIntosh's humorous reply. He was a regular laugh riot that guy. He was an average build sort of type; the kind whose clothes hang around them to see if anything interesting was going to happen to the body and gradually lose what ever shape they might have had as they give into the inevitability of gravity.

They were both eyeing me in that appreciative manner that lions have for fresh meat, and Mac mimed flipping a coin. Nodding in an unspoken agreement Gates moved off to talk to the girls and the bartender while Mac figured he'd keep me company in case the body started to scare me.

It was one of those awkward moments between two men in a bar ever since they had banned smoking in public places. When you don't have the action of lighting a cigarette to use as cover for starting a conversation you can feel mighty exposed. To cover he fished in his jacket pocket and brought out his little flip-top note book and cheap chewed pen and began scanning the notes he had taken down from the preliminary results given him by the scene of the crime boys and the uniforms who had got here first.

After that little show he looked over at me, nodding his head imperceptibly to give me permission to talk. He knew that it as a matter of course I would be telling him as little as possible about any case I was working on and the only information he was going to get from me was stuff he already had. This was just their way of letting me know what was what.

So I told him I'd come to the bar to meet a contact who had called me over the phone, and that while waiting for him to show up this guy had fallen down dead at my feet after trying to swallow a sword with his sternum. McIntosh obviously had something up his sleeve that he was waiting to drop on me like an Acme anvil taking out the Coyote. He was just letting me play out some line so that he could see if I'd let slip with anything he was going to be able to use to string me up with.

When he played his trump card it wasn't anything that I wasn't prepared for, it was all just part of the game we played. The corpse was my contact it turns out, or the fact that he had my business card, with the time of our meeting and the bar's address scribbled on the back of it would have to rank up there with one of the largest coincidences on record.

Mac stood there waving the familiar card with the unfamiliar writing on the back in it's little evidence bag, as if dangling it in front of my face would make me all of a sudden break down to confessing the killing of all my clients. But I was made of harder stuff than that and came right back with my own question.

"Since you seem to think this guy must have been a client, why not give me his name. I hate it when they die on you before they've introduced themselves. It really puts a damper on future relationship possibilities and collecting from their next of kin"

I could see him mulling it over, wondering how much it damage it would cause his reputation if he were just to give me the name. At the same time I could let something slip that might just tie me a little bit tighter to the corpse. Finally he cleared his throat and recited what little information they did have. "His name was Dr. Samuel Magnesun, but he's not the sort of doctor you go to when you have a sore throat. He works, well worked for I guess you'd say now, the National Research Council here in Ottawa. We haven't been able to find out what he'd been working on yet; we're still waiting to hear back from his section head at the Council. I hadn't said more then dead in a bar, when the words National Security came whistling down the line, which than went deader than a dodo."

He eyed me even more expectedly now, to see if I could add to anything to the sketch of information that he had gathered. Even if I could give him something more, I think we both had the feeling of inevitability that strikes you when something is going to be swept under the carpet. National Security could explain away everything from not accepting tenders for military equipment so you could award the contracts to your buddies or those whose support you, to explaining the paperclip shortage at the Revenue Canada offices.

Truth be told I was thinking of a particular Nordic looking blonde and wondering what her relationship was with this middle aged chap laid out on the floor with a rib separator jammed into the area of his heart from the back and whether or not she'd require some consoling, when a loud throat clearing brought me back to reality.

Reality in the shape of Gates glowering at me from McIntosh's shoulder and saying, "Dick head are you listening to me? Unless you got something important to say, you've got to clear out. I've just got the word that the men in the grey suits are on their way to check out the body before we can take it down to the morgue. I only hope they hurry it up as this guy is starting to stiffen in that shape. Families hate it when they have to bury the corpse in pieces cause we had to break it to fit it into the bags."

I don't need to be told twice to vamoose when the feds are going to be making an appearance, but their appearance started to change the whole completion of this little exercise. What did my friend the corpse, the late Mr. Magnesun have to do with the Kyoto accord? Had he made some sort of breakthrough that certain bodies wanted silenced? Or was it just he had knowledge that ran contrary to what the government and its supporters wanted the public to believe about the accord's necessity?

Stopping on my way out of the bar, I checked the least vandalised pay phone for a directory and as I suspected there was only one listing for a Magnesun in the phone book. It wasn't that late yet, so I figured I'd swing by the address listed on my way home and see if a certain ash blond head was around to talk to.

I could offer my condolences, maybe some comfort, and hopefully pick up a few answers about the good Doctor's work and how or if it related to the Kyoto accord and what it was she was doing in the bar earlier that evening. With the feds swooping down on Magnesun's corpse like so many vultures, it would only be a matter of time before they had everything about him and the Kyoto accord under lock and key where they would never see the light again.

I still had far more questions then answers, but at least I was beginning to know which questions to ask. Like why were the feds so keen to keep the information about the Kyoto accord quiet? One way or another I was going to find me some answers, and I didn't care who I had to walk over or sleep with to get them. Although as far as the latter is concerned my preference would be for a certain ash blond.

January 27, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord: Chapter One

It only took me until noon to decide that I wasn't going to like Monday that week, which usually meant that the rest of the week lay stretched out in front of me as invitingly as a three day old corpse in July on the slab. August in Ottawa was so putrid with humidity that even the politicians have fled the luxury of their expense account lives and mistresses to return to the loving arms of family and constituents.

Obviously that meant a drastic improvement in the air quality for those of us still here. Talk about global warming and the release of dangerous emissions all you want, there's nothing that can compete with the Canadian House of Commons for being a source of C02 and, dependent on what was on the menu at the Commons Cafeteria, other noxious fumes.

I was sitting by the one window in the office that could open with a fan blowing, hoping to capture something cooling from the oozing fetidness that passes for a breeze at this time of year. Damn it, I thought, this is ridiculous. We're in the capital city with coldest mean temperature of any country's seat of power. Moscow may have slightly longer winters, and may even get days colder than Ottawa's coldest, but on average we take the cake.

I had entered into that pre heat stroke daze of semi consciences when the sounds of the phone ringing and someone rapping at the door nearly stopped my heart for good. Un-peeling myself from the back of the chair was a matter moments and allowed me to reach the phone within ten rings and yell to the door "Hold your horses". If I had hoped that standing at the phone would give me time to get what felt like a yard of cotton out of my butt cleavage, I was sorely disappointed.

The voice on the other end of the phone was succinct and to the point. "Where has all the water gone?" was followed by a renewal of the dial tone. Swearing under my breath at phone pranksters abusing old song lyrics I really wasn't prepared for what was waiting behind the door. Considering the circumstances I think my reaction was within reason.

She had to be about 5'9" and her three-inch heels only added to the illusion that her legs went up to her chin. Which should have been physically impossible given what lay between the waist and the long swan-like neck, but go figure. Human anatomy has never been my strong suit, but I could see that she would be a wonderful textbook if I ever decided to broaden my horizons and open my mind to new areas of learning.

I could tell any hopes that I may have had of leafing her pages were minimized by the "Holy Fuck' that had slipped out of my mouth on opening the door. The part of my brain that still functioned realized the longer I stayed there gaping like some slack jawed inbred was reducing the chances of me even getting a peek inside the cover. Even so it took a loud throat clearing on her part to get me to come around

Still not trusting myself to speak I stood aside and bowed her ever so slightly into the room indicating the chair directly across my desk from my own. Following her back across the room I was reminded of why I had put the desk at the point in the room furthest from the door. Of course it didn't do my equilibrium any good, so by the time we sat facing each other across a span of pine veneer, I was quite ready to jump out the window if she demanded.

She looked at me and shook her head slightly, which had the effect of making her ash brown hair float halo like around her face. "All you guys are the same aren't you," she said piercing me with the ice chips that were her steel grey eyes. I all of sudden felt pinned to the back of my chair like a butterfly under glass.

After three false tries I managed to get my voice to squeak out " What brings you here today, Miss, what can I do for you?" Instead of the hoped for steady and reassuring voice that was normally at my disposal, I sounded like I had small cricket in my throat.

She looked at me with a grim little smile that implied she didn't think there was much of anything that I'd be able to help her with, but her options were limited. "First of all it's Mrs. not Miss, Ms. or anything implying availability of any kind what so ever." She paused to see what kind of effect that might have on me. Since I was still too numb to do anything but sit and nod blanked faced, there was nothing to indicate how much or little impact her being married might have affected me.

With a purse of her lips, which could have expressed some mild disappointment in reaction to my seemingly nonchalant attitude about her place on the open market she began to talk again. It turns out this drop dead gorgeous woman is in fact a professor of Marine Biology specializing in ecosystems and other words that just were too many syllables for a day like this.

She talked about a lot of things that didn't make any sense but a picture started to evolve of something terrible happening. The average mean temperature was rising around the world by a degree or so a year, and had been for the last ten year or so. Sure it meant warmer winters, but that meant less snow, which meant less spring melt.

When the spring melt is reduced, the water table is reduced and the level in the rivers and lakes drops. The less ground water there is the lower the likelihood of rain which in turn depletes the water table and the lakes and rivers and so on. She stopped than and I looked at her in horror.

"If it's allowed to continue the climate will continue to change and we'll be living in a desert but worse. A dessert has its own natural ecosystem, but here if there is an enforced desert the first things to go will be the trees, followed by the shrubbery and then finally the smaller plants

Farm crops will be devastated and we will no longer be able to produce basics like corn and wheat in amounts sufficient for feeding ourselves. The animal life won't be able to adapt quickly enough as there won't be time for successful mutations to increase the gene pool and allow evolution to occur."

For the second time that day she had stunned me and left me sitting with my jaw agape. This couldn't be possible was my first thought, but it was of course, even during the ice break-up during the spring the Ottawa River failed to rise to the level it had achieved last year let alone any of the previous ones.

She watched me come to these realizations on my own before she continued, " What I need you to do is find out what happened to the Kyoto accord. Parliament had ratified it in the last administration, but now Steven Harper and his Conservative Party Of Canada have said they are going to renege on our country's commitments to meeting certain reductions in toxic emissions.

We think somebody got to him and is putting pressure on him to do this. There can be no other reason whatsoever to go back on a promise to the world. No one could be that inconsiderate or stupid without having a good reason."

She stopped again and looked straight into my eyes, those grey chips of ice had melted into something sad and scared. "Please find the Kyoto accord and bring it back. It wasn't the best solution in the world but it was the only one we had"

How could I say no to that?

October 12, 2007

A Late Night Walk

It was late, but that was okay, he'd walked home by himself plenty of times and never had any problems. He was always amazed when people asked him if he felt safe. What was there to feel unsafe about? He had confidence in his abilities to look after himself even if no one else did?

Anyway, he liked it when the streets were empty, there was something almost romantic about a small city late at night when there's no traffic or people. Looking down the long expanse of two lane cracked asphalt that disappeared into a horizon line he felt like he could be in any small city in North America. There was something about the scrawny trees that littered the edge of the sidewalk in front of ubiquitous concrete block low rises that said small town like nothing else could.

From the abandoned bank across the street from the 7-11 to the row of pizza joints taking up the next block, he was certain this stretch of road existed in cities across the continent. Even the glimpses of tree lined side streets offered when stopping at intersections was probably an echo of the same scene on another street in another town.

So, no, he wasn't worried about being out late at night. Even when he caught a glimpse of her out of his peripheral vision standing on the sidewalk across the street he wasn't concerned. Just another person out for a walk after all...it was a nice night for it and he couldn't be the only person in town who didn't like the noise and bustle of the street during the day.

So, he was startled when her voice sounded only steps away from him on the sidewalk. Somehow, she had crossed the street and come up behind him without him even noticing.

"Hey, what you doing?"

The smell of booze on her breath was so strong that he could feel his eyes starting to smart. If he wasn't careful they could start to water, and she might think they were tears and take it as a sign of weakness. He was used to being accosted by drunks, but normally it was when he was with a crowd of other guys and the girl was being egged on by her buddies to go and pick one of them up.

"I'm walking" he said and kept suiting the action to the words.

"Hey, whaz' you hurry" she said. The slight slurring of the words might have made them sound more belligerent then was intended, but there was no mistaking the aggressive attitude behind them. "Maybe ya wan' some company?"

"No, I like to walk by myself thanks" he said keeping walking but also being careful not to pick up speed no matter how much he wanted to. She sounded the type who would take that as an invitation – an invitation to what he didn't know, but not one that he was prepared to offer.

"Well, okay... "Her voice trailed away, and for a moment she stopped and he thought she had taken the hint to bugger off and leave him alone. But then she was right beside him, and her smell; booze, sweat, and cigarettes was almost overpowering. He was sure he was going to retch if he wasn't careful.

"Lissen, ya wanna come back ta my place for a drink. I don't live too far, ya know, stay for a drink and then finish walkin' alone". She was trying to angle her body to make him stop walking but he was able to keep moving without running into her by moving over on the sidewalk slightly and walking on a bit of a diagonal.

"I don't drink," he said in what he hoped was as neutral a tone as possible. He was starting to feel more then a little nervous now. She seemed drunk enough that if he out and out rejected her for no what looked like no reason she just might get violent.

"What d'ya mean, a good lookin' guy like ya not drinkin'? She reached out and grabbed his arm to try and turn him around so that he was facing her. The touch of her fingers on his arm triggered the anger he needed for the strength to deal with her.

"Don't you dare touch me" he yelled turning on her with his eyes flashing. He stared at her for a second longer and then spun away and began walking briskly up the street. Still restraining himself from obviously hurrying, he still set a good pace. He kept his ears open for any sound of pursuit and at first he heard nothing, but then he heard her start walking.

She followed him all the way up town to the all night coffee shop he was headed for; he was getting a biscuit to snack on when he got home. When he got to the shop, she stayed out in the parking lot wandering around while he went in. The woman behind the counter knew him well enough to know something was wrong, and he told her about being followed and the drunk outside. The last thing she wanted was to have her follow him home and know where he lived.

He was still chatting with them when she burst in through the front door and walked up to the counter. She looked at him and then at the woman behind the counter and said, " Is there a problem here?"

He looked at her for a second, and then with steel in his voice said "If you try to follow me from this store I'm going to kill you. I will beat you senseless and leave you lying in a puddle of your own blood and guts for the street cleaners to pick up with all the other fucking garbage in the morning. So if you know what's good for you, you'll fuck off right now".

The woman looked at her for a second, and then swearing under her breath she headed for the doors, as she got to them she looked back and snapped, "frigid bastard".

He stood at the counter shaking; he was so angry and upset. The woman who had been behind the counter grabbed a broom and pretended to be sweeping the store by the plate glass windows facing out into the parking lot. She was making sure that the drunk had vanished. She turned back and said, "She's gone, I see her crossing the street and heading back downtown again...yeah, she's out of sight".

He quickly paid for his biscuit and thanked the woman for her help, and she smiled.

"Honey, I wouldn't have messed with you if you had yelled at me like that. You didn't need anyone to protect you from scum like that."

"Thanks"

"Have a good night"

"You too"

Of course that would never happen to a man, but incidents like that and far worse happen to women all the time. Shouldn't the quite times of the night belong to everyone?

September 11, 2007

The Night Visitor

The bellows effect of a wind gust caught the small fire, flaring it briefly, sending a shower of sparks up in the air. The illumination it caused offered a brief silhouette view of a sharply featured face. Shadows that lived beneath his brow, in the lee of his nose, and in the hollows scooped out beneath his cheekbones were thrown into even sharper relief, until his face was a patchwork of light and dark.

There had been drought again this year and it was second nature to check and see if a spark had ignited any of the brown grass. Fires seeded as easily as weeds, taking root at the slightest provocation they quickly spread to the horizon. Fields of fire didn't sink deep roots, but reaped a deadly harvest all the same.

One moment you could be riding through what remained of the prairie grass, seeing what scant signs of life there were to see, and the next you were ankle deep in ash. Like before and after pictures of a smoker's lungs burnt and un burnt lay side by side. It had to be pure chance why one piece was spared while the adjacent burnt to a cinder. He had given up looking for clues in the surrounding geography, as there were never any clues on offer.

In spite of all attempts to kill her, the land would always hold on to her secrets,. Strip mining caused soil erosion; sulphuric acid used to clean pumice for people's stoned washed, acid jeans had taken care of the water table; at least what had been left of it after they had damned the river for their artificial lakes, fountains and hydro electric.

All that power and beauty diverted because humans were afraid of the dark and its accompanying quiet. What other reason could they have for spending so much money on destroying the beauty of night to make huge pockets of light and noise in the middle of the desert?

On nights like this one, when the moon hung full and ripe in the sky, why anyone would need any more light was beyond him. Even on the nights when she stayed under wraps, or hid herself in the earth's shadow, you didn't need extra light to sleep by. Those who needed to be out and about at night had the ability to either see in the dark or were guided by arcane means known only to themselves.

Even now the darkness began to grow deeper as the night lengthened and the moon eased through her apex. There were nights when he wouldn't leave the fire to climb into his bedroll; when he would feel compelled to bear witness to the darkness and give it the recognition he felt it deserved. Other nights just saw him sitting up keeping his thoughts company so they wouldn't complain the next day that he was ignoring them.

Neglected, they could easily turn vindictive and resentful and make stupid demands on his time during the course of the day. It was better to lose a little sleep now then to have to put up with the abuse that was the certain result of denying their existence. Tonight, though, he was pretty sure he wasn't going to be alone tonight if he sat up.

Sure enough, only a short while later, the flames picked out a pair of amber eyes glowing at him out of the dark. They had first shown up a few years back when the drought had started, and had been showing up on a regular basis ever since. The first time they appeared at his fire he wasn't sure what to make of it. He did know that being scared wasn't going to help, so he stayed as calm as possible and left it to his guest to decide about the proper etiquette for the visit. It wasn't everyday that a God showed up at his campfire after all and he figured that it was only polite to let him set the tone.

It hadn't been too difficult to figure out that his guest wasn't your ordinary coyote. There were a couple of reasons, not the least being that he talked. While bold creatures, the normal wild coyote wasn't just going to up and plunk itself down at a human's campfire. The closest they would usually come is to skirt around the edges of a camp site, seeing if there was any food let out for an easy steall.

Aside from that, the last coyote in the district had been killed off long ago. In fact, it wouldn't surprise him if he found out the last coyote had been killed off in the wild period. Man had never had much use for them for some reason, even though like the wolf their primary prey were the pests like mice and rats that when left unchecked could and did destroy crops. All farmers saw was the potential coyotes represented to their precious sheep and chickens.

Even though payment of an occasional chicken or sheep should have been a fair exchange for preserving grain supplies, farmers refused to see it that way and began a systematic campaign that ended with the eradication of both wolf and coyote and a huge upsurge in the varmint population. With mice and rats out of control, ranchers and farmers both had to resort to poison to take on the rodent populations. A funny thing happened though, the poison they used to try and get rid of the rats, and mice poisoned the feed for the livestock, any livestock that ate it, and the seed for next years crop. Sort of makes the occasional sheep and chicken look inexpensive after all.

Of course they didn't find our about the crop until the following year when they planted and nothing came up. Even going out and buying all brand new seed didn't help much. It turned out that planting the poisoned seed, burying the carcasses of the poisoned rodents, chickens, sheep, and cattle, on top of burying the spoiled grain, was the last straw for the land in this part of the world. Dropping a nuclear bomb wouldn't have done a better job of rendering it fallow for generations to come.

So on that first night when Coyote turned up, there was no one else it could have been. He didn't say anything, those first few times, just sat and stared into the fire. For a trickster god he was pretty morose, but all things considered you couldn't really be expecting him to be jumping for joy. If you believed, like some people do, that he had created the world, it's not surprising he'd be feeling a little down considering the shape things are in.

It was about the fourth time he'd dropped by that he said something. He'd been sitting with his head resting on his front paws staring into the fire like always, when all of a sudden he let out a deep sigh. It sounded like it started at the base of his tail and worked its way on up to the tip of his ears before finally slipping out of his mouth.

"I just don't get it", he said "Things were just fine for the longest time. Everybody understood what they needed to do for things to work smothly. If you were going to try and grow stuff, or raise critters, you made damn sure that you set some aside or sacrificed one in order to keep who ever needed to be, kept happy. All over the world, you human beings used to be quite content with that arrangement. Showing yourselves to be grateful for what you've been given, by giving some of it back. Is that so difficult a concept to get your head around?

When did you folk become so greedy? It's not just the farmers or the ranchers refusing to give away – it's everywhere. You take all the water and you don't even drink it. What do you do with it instead? You use it to power places of self-indulgence that stop you from being aware of how badly you've treated the world

What other species do you know that is so rude that they build an artificial boat safari through a delicate ecosystem like the Florida Everglades? Who else would damn one of the most beautiful rivers in the world in order to make an artificial city in the middle of a desert that uses more hydroelectric power then some countries do? How about creating a plant seed that is specially designed so that it can be safely poisoned without considering what the effects of the poison are going to be long term for themselves or other life forms?"

He stopped then and began scratching behind his ear with his hind leg and then continued his toilet by washing himself in a manner that left no doubt about his opinion of the human race. He raised his head again and looked across the fire, he went to say something more, then shook his head and left. He'd been back to the fire a number of times since, but hadn't had much more to say. When you think about what else is there to say?

So now, most of the time Coyote comes and sits by the fire and looks into it to see if he can find his memories of a better time. Once in a while he'll ask for a cup of tea, just for old times sake, but it sure don't look like his heart is really into it. Sometimes they'll sit there and let the fire burn out until the two of them are left in the dark with their thoughts and the stars shining down on them. They can almost pretend when the dark is at it's purest and most deep that maybe its the beginning and they're waiting for everything to be born.

But that thought doesn't stand up to the harsh light of day any more than any other illusion. Usually just before dawn has fully broken Coyote will pick up his tail and leave, although not before saying goodbye to his one true love as she sinks behind the horizon; another impossible dream that he won't give up on.

July 31, 2007

Nobody Listens To Coyote Anymore

It was one of those really fine afternoons where you can sit on the front porch and no matter which way you looked there wasn't much in the way of cloud or haze to stop your eye. Off to the West the line of the mountain was held in place by the sky at the top and the ground at the bottom.

To the East and North all you could see was flat prairie stretching away into the distance with the only interruption being the occasional scrub brush or the dips in the ground where a sinkhole had formed some time in the past. They'd filled in long ago, leaving just a slight crater scraped out of the surface. If He was in a good mood He'd call them acne scars. Catch Him in a bad mood and He'd start muttering about pox infested blankets that left scars even on Her face.

The good thing about living out here and being able to see as far as the mountains in one direction, or as far as your eyes let you in the two other directions He could come from, (there's no way you'd ever be catching Him coming along the South road), is that you get plenty of warning as to what His mood is going to be like.

If He was just trotting along with his tongue lolling out the way that it can, than you know things will go as well as can be hopped. But if there's any deviation from that than you can be sure there could be some trouble. If you weren't able to distract Him quickly enough you could wind up with anything from a bad trick being played on someone to war on your front porch.

So this afternoon when I spotted Old Coyote approaching out of the North, He was still some five miles away. But oh boy could you see that He was more then a little pissed about something. Fore warned is fore armed they say, so by the time Old Coyote arrived at my porch that looks out over the prairie in three directions, I had pulled up His favourite chair, made a pot of tea, and had His favourite cup filled with sweet tea. (Four lumps no milk)

"Hey" I said to that one" Sit and have some tea, sit and have some tea before it gets cold. Have some fry bread, I just made it, or one of those microwave pizzas – you want one of those – those microwave pizzas?"

But Coyote just continued to pace in front of my porch with His tail dragging in the dust behind Him. Boy He was one steamed Coyote. I'm wondering what I'm going to do about that, because there's nothing worse than steamed Coyote (although I've heard that Coyote pot roast is pretty bad too) and if He keeps pacing like that I'm going to have me a trench dug in my front yard.

"Hey" I said to that one again "You want to go inside and watch television on the Satellite dish –We can sit here at look at the T.V. Guide and find out we should be watching" I had put up the Satellite dish for Coyote because He wanted to watch Oprah and Jerry, and all the other funny shows they play during the daytime. He liked to talk to them and see if He could get them to talk back – sometimes He did and sometimes He didn't- get them to talk back that is.
But that one must be really steamed because He continues to pace back and forth –even the thought of back to back Jerry and Oprah doesn't seem to be penetrating His mood.. There being nothing else that I could think of suggesting to distract, I gave in and did what He wanted.

"Hey Coyote why don't you come over here and sit down; drink some tea, eat some special fry bread, and tell me what put the burr up your butt?"

You know what it's like to watch a friend get carried away sometimes and talk while they're drinking and eating? Well you haven't seen anything until you've seen Old Man Coyote try to drink tea, eat fry bread and talk all at the same time. He only slowed down after that first coughing fit almost made Him lose more than just what was in His mouth.

When He finally stopped spluttering and sneezing, and was no longer in any imminent danger of swallowing His tongue, He started again to try and tell me what had happened to make Him so upset on such a beautiful day.

"Nobody wants me" that one said "Okay, so I eat some sheep here and there, maybe the odd chicken or duck, but com'on you leave them lying around like that what do you expect from me I'm only Coyote? But it's not even the farmers and ranchers who've got me so angry and upset – they just playing their part. I try to trick them and they try to stop me from tricking them. That's good – I feel more alive on the days that I'm dodging shotgun pellets than I have in hundreds of years.'

He stopped talking this time to drink some tea, and eat some fry bread; He asked for and I got Him one of those microwave pizzas He like so much. "Don't burn your tongue on the cheese" I said. "Yeah, yeah, I never burn my tongue on cheese" He said.

After He had stopped moaning and crying about His poor burnt tongue for what seemed like forever but wasn't more then fifteen minutes, half-hour tops, I got Him to sit down again to try and tell me what was wrong. " Nobody wants me" He started off again, and I told Him he'd done that bit already, cause He can do the same bit over and over again and a story will go nowhere and you could sit there all week waiting for it to move.

"People used to tell stories about me, the tricky me, and all the smart things I'd do. How I made the world and all the great things everybody needs, and all the adventures that I had along the way. They learned how to be brave, honest, and true because of the things that I'd do. I was a great hero too many different people of many different faces all over the world"

Now wasn't the time to be telling Him, I'm thinking, that most of the stories most of us told about Coyote were as examples of what you shouldn't do. But He was right, in His contrary way, people did used to learn from Him how to be brave, honest and true – by doing the opposite of what He did in his stories. Coyote thinks something is a good idea, you'd usually be better off doing the complete opposite.

"But now people, they're just like sheep you know. They have people who tell them how they should think, what they should feel, and who they should believe. How they gonna' learn anything acting like that? Nobody wants to hear tricky tales of wise, brave Coyote when it reminds them of how they could be and not how they are.

They just want things easy now – give me this I deserve it they say. Nobody tries to figure out how they going to go out and get it and make it happen. If I had acted like that where would the world be today? There would be no world is where it would be today and how would they like that if they was just standing around on nothing with nothing to do? They wouldn't like it all I'm betting."

He stopped talking then, did Old Coyote. He picked up a piece of that microwave pizza and tested it with the tip of His tongue to see how hot it was. He remembered this time, and began to eat it all down.

Me I sat and stared at the sky as the light moved away to make room for the dark and thought about what He said. I thought about all the foolish things that Coyote had done in His time, all the trouble He had created for Himself and others, and all the tricks He used to try and get away with – how some worked and some didn't.

Whether my good friend Coyote knew it or not He was all of our worst characteristics rolled up into one four legged, drop tailed, long tongued, sneaky eyed, bundle of fur. He never learned from His mistakes, it was always someone else who was at fault when His tricks failed. He was always looking for the easy route and it nearly always backfired on Him.

If He figured out a way to make lots of kills at once it either ended spoiling before He could eat it, or Him not being able to get at it after it was dead. Everything was always about how to make Coyote's life better for Coyote. He never thought about anyone else. He was like a small, petulant, spoiled child who needed to always get His own way.

As we sat there the mountains disappeared off in the west as they turned the same colour as the sky andthe prairie stretching out flat in front of us gradually got smaller and smaller as the night sky came down to lay on top of it. Somewhere off in the distance one of Coyote's cousins started to sing his or her lonely song of love for the star who had stolen Old Coyote's heart all those years ago. He had been so foolish in love, and so beautiful. Sad and beautiful just like the song.

I could hear Coyote sitting in the dark breathing beside me, and we listened together to the night. I thought for a minute and then, "Do you want some more tea?" I asked the night beside me. I heard it sigh quietly and say with Coyote's voice, 'Thank-you"

More than ever the world needs Coyote, but we seem to be killing Him as fast as we can. Are we ever going to stop chasing our own tails and shooting ourselves in the foot?

June 30, 2007

Epic India At Three Months Welcomes Author Vinod Joseph

It was pretty much six full months ago that my buddy Ashok asked me if I would consider turning his personal web site, Epic India into an online magazine, and just about three months since we opened the doors. I think, in spite of my great admiration and respect for my old friend, if I had know what it was going to be like I might have mentioned some fairly unmentionable ideas to him and hoped the next time I talked to him his head wouldn't be filled with such foolishness.

Well okay that's not true, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into just from observing what the editors at Blogcritics and Desicritics have to go through on a regular basis. On top of that I'd also be doing a lot of the page and site design (although Banwari La did all the real work and still continues to this day to be the man we all run crying to when we can't get the toys to do what we want them to do).

There was also all the administrative work involved setting things in motion as well, and you'd be amazed how many little things you don't think of crop up – where do the contributors sign in for the first time for instance. That might sound silly, but we had never had to sign into the live site, because we were always working on the test site. When it came time to send out permissions to people I could only pray that the system would automatically send them a link to somewhere they could sign in

All things considered though it went pretty smoothly with only minimal bugs and nothing too serious. We've even been able to solve our spam problem and turn our comments back on after having to close them for a couple of weeks because of a deluge we started to receive. (Yea Banwari) But we ran into a problem that I guess has sort of taken me by surprise and left me feeling blindsided.

The contributors didn't want to contribute. On opening day we had about twenty people registered as contributors. I thought, that wasn't so bad because if everyone chipped in an article a week, plus me on a daily basis, it worked out to three new posts a day. A bit thin, but we were a new site with zero budget to advertise and no one with the time to do much about publicity.

But you know the old saying of you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink – while it seems to apply to a lot of writers out there too.Not only couldn't I get a number of my original writers to contribute at all, I'd get people writing all excited and asking me please could they be a writer at Epic India, and nothing, not a word, nada.

After a month of this I sent out a letter en masse with words of encouragement. After two months I sent out a letter saying those who had not published at all and didn't within two days would have their permissions yanked.

At least that time people made the effort to respond to my email and postings increased sporadically, and the number of writers decreased by the number who had never contributed. Even Ashok sponsoring a contest for the best stories about Indian Culture did nothing to increase contributions.

Then last week one of those things you dream of happening when you run an arts and culture site happened. Vinod Joseph, author of the novel Hitchhiker wrote me out of the blue and asked if I would consider publishing his new series of ten short stories for him at the site.

Let me see, would I consider publishing the work of an author whose name I could at least trumpet up and down the breadth of India, if not to the Indian population abroad as well, as being a contributor at the site? Oh heck, why not, I was sure we could squeeze him in somewhere once a week for ten weeks.

With Vinod's help I've been able to, hopefully, generate more interest in the site over the past week then in our previous three months. Not only did he offer his work, he gave me a huge list of email addresses for online and print press to properly publicize his participation.

Of course it also means we will be coming under a bit of a microscope for the next little while so I'm going to have be extra careful with my proof reading and editing skills. (Stop laughing out there, I'm getting better) I also hope that this will encourage some of my more reticent contributors to start writing more frequently, mainly because I know they can all do good work and they have a great opportunity now for a larger audience to take notice of them.

Of course I'm hopeful of a spin off effect from this and that we will attract more writers to the site who want to either contribute short stories or non-fiction articles of their own on a regular basis. But I'm also realistic enough to know that it will still take more then just one very special event to stabilize us. But it's a start and I can't ask for more then that.

Starting Saturday July 7th /07 Vinod Joseph, author of the novel Hitchhiker will be serializing his new collection of short fiction, A Taste Of Kerala – Stories From Simhapara at Epic India.com on a weekly basis for ten weeks.

Set in the fictional village of Simhapara the stories are slices of life far removed from the hustle and bustle of the big centres of Delhi and Mumbai. A Taste Of Kerala will offer readers a view of life that is a few steps removed from sacred "Economic Miracle" so beloved of the press and political leaders.

In his novel Hitchhiker Vinod Joseph proved he had the ability to depict the lives of people in rural communities without sentimentalizing or belittling them. Once more he will offer readers an opportunity to see a different view of India than often offered. Ordinary people getting on with the business of living their lives as best they can in a world that is changing faster then they might be able to handle.

Join Epic India as we welcome Vinod Joseph and his latest work A Taste Of Kerala – Stories From Simhapara to our pages. You won't be disappointed.

June 17, 2007

"In The Dark Of The Night" A Father's Day Poem

In the dark of the night,
when I'm alone in my room
I remember you Father of mine.

When I'm alone in my head,
and the fear comes along
I remember you Father of mine.

The hand that should
have brought comfort,
the touch that should
have been love,

The voice that should
have been gentle,
the words that should
have been kind.

The face that should
have brought calming,
the eyes that should
have been gentle.

You came and you took
what didn't belong,
You left behind
fear, shame and hate.

Fathers and sons,
play games by the light
of the day, but yours
were in the blackness of night.

Our love, it was special,
it had to hide,
under covers and
behind blinds.

I wasn't to tell,
not a word, not a sound
not even to mom,
was it allowed.

So for years I was silent
even to me,
but now that is over,
I will say it out loud.

In the dark of the night,
when I'm alone in my room,
I remember you Father of mine.

June 8, 2007

And The Winner Is...

The audience that's assembled in the plush auditorium are all a buzz. Who will be this year's is the question on everyone's mind and even some people's lips. Throughout the build-up to this evening, in the weeks proceeding, press agents and media representatives have been hard at work promoting those who they represent, resulting in one of those glorious atmospheres of artificially created anticipation.

But even the most cynical of observers admits to being hard pressed to finding an event within the past week which has generated this much excitement. It's obvious that it has struck a chord with people; people who care and people who matter. Not just the normal star gazing hoi-polloi who turn out in the hopes of catching site of anybody who they think they recognise, but the stars themselves.

Why if the rumours were true humanitarians like Celine, Leonardo, Bono, and maybe even Mel, were tuning in their televisions right now wherever they were in the world to watch the proceedings unfold. Even the politically mighty were said to be interested and would be viewing the results with anticipation. Hadn't George Bush said that he thought events like these were the future for fostering understanding and communication between nations?

Well since the event was sponsored by the State Department it was natural for the American President to throw his weight behind it, but Canadian Prime Minister Harper has also gone on record as being eagerly awaiting this "unique and innovative development in the field of international co-operation and bridge building". "Events like these", he said, "are the future for building foundations of understanding and fostering awareness between nations."

Of course those negative thinkers at Amnesty International and The United Nations have come out with the usual hand wringing. But their mutterings about trivialization and lack of sensitivity were dismissed as sour grapes for not being able to hang out with the celebrities and be in the limelight.

But none of that matters now; as the lights in the auditorium begin to dim the babble of voices from the excited crowd recedes like ebb tide and the music composed specifically for the event by Hollywood's greatest composer swells up underneath the last quiet murmurings. At this moment across the nation and around the world televisions are being turned on and a global community is formed.

The night's host swans to centre stage and his smile catches the spotlights as he approaches the microphone that rises like a cobra to a snake charmer's flute from the stage to greet him. Music and applause intermingle for just long enough for him to wave with studied casualness as he searches out the teleprompter and brings it into focus so he can read his welcoming speech.

"Thank-you, (pause for applause) Thank-you. I'd like to welcome all of you who are here in person, and also extend a welcome to the many I know who have tuned in around the world in anticipation of taking part in what can only be described as an historic undertaking" (pause for applause – smile in appreciation) Knowing that so many eyes from so many places are watching makes you really believe in the words of the song "It's A Small World After All". It also reminds us that we are not alone on this planet; no matter where we live we are only the touch of a button on a remote control away from the rest of humanity. Television is truly the great unifying bond that brings humanity together like the big family we are." (Pause for more applause and beam at audience and into the cameras)

"It's because of our human family of course that we have been brought together tonight. Like all families we sometimes have our disagreements and don't get along as well as we should. The unfortunate result of these fallings out can be seen today in many countries not blessed with the grace of democracy like we in this room. In those countries people are deprived of a voice in how their government works and some are even persecuted by the powers that are supposed to looking out for their best interests."

"Our purpose for gathering here tonight is to show them, those who are right now suffering persecution, that we in care; that we he have a HEART. (Turn to accept statuette from model who is crossing from stage left slightly behind, turn to face audience with statuette held up in both hands to left hand side at shoulder height)

"Ladies and gentlemen and citizens of the world I give you the HEART Award. (Pause for sustained applause and begin to speak before it ends) to be presented annually as a symbol of our compassion to the people who have suffered the most in the year just gone by. Each year countless people suffer the agonies of starvation, dispossession, and even watching loved ones being killed without any recognition given to their pain"

"Now no longer will you go unnoticed, no longer will you suffer and think nobody cares about what happens to you. Each year our select panel of judges will establish just who has suffered the most and they will be commemorated and immortalized forever in our minds and HEARTS by the recognition offered by this beautiful heart shaped statuette. It is our way of saying you're not alone" (pause for what should be sustained applause – use time to pull envelope out of inside jacket pocket)

"For this, the inaugural presentation of the HEART award there have been many deserving people's through out the world making our judges job especially difficult (joke) You'd think people knew there was going to be an award this year there was so much suffering, ha, ha. But our judges sifted through all the available materials and they believe they've come up with a winner who is most deserving of our pity; and the answer is right here in this envelope (hold up envelope so all can see the seal on the back)

" I never thought I'd ever get to say these words, probably four of the most famous in television history: and the winner is…

May 1, 2007

Rama,Writing, And Me

Sometimes two events become so irrevocably linked that it's hard to remember which came first and what the connection was in the first place. That is the case for me when I started to blog. I've recently celebrated the third anniversary of writing an article a day for my home space, which made me start thinking about what it was that got me started, or gave me the idea in the first place.

I don’t believe in coincidences, everything that happens does so for a reason, even the fact that I'm writing this article on May 1st, the turning of the year, a time for new beginnings in some of the older traditions, is not without portent. It's also no coincidence that I happened to receive in the mail about five weeks ago a complete set of the Indian edition of Ashok Banker's Ramayana, or that I've been reading it almost non-top since.
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Three years ago I was wandering through a book store when I came across book one of Ashok's modern version of The Ramayana. I knew nothing about him or the poem but the name Valmiki was familiar to me. A friend of some friends of mine had opened a teahouse in the city where I live for a short while called Valmiki's. I knew that the friends were Hindu, so I knew Valmiki was important.

Seeing a series of books based on a tale he had originally told, told over three thousand years ago by the way, piqued my interest. At that time books one through three, Prince of Ayodhya, Siege of Mithila, and Demons of Chitrakut were published, so I immediately scooped up all three of them and read them back to back.

To say I was inspired would be an understatement; I thought they were some of the most amazing books I had read in a long time and wanted to tell the world about them. I had been writing in sort of a desultory fashion at the time; pecking away at a story that was rapidly stalling, writing a couple of articles, and some poetry. I was selling them at Lulu.com in the hopes that people would find them and buy the.

But I had nowhere to post things on a regular basis. I discovered Ashok's web site at that time and went and read through it and learned more about the man who wrote these books and what Rama meant to India. I was fascinated. When I discovered he had an area for readers to write him and to mail in reviews, I quickly wrote him a long letter about the whole Valmiki thing and sent him a review I wrote of all three books. (I had previously published it at MouthShut.com, ironically enough an Indian based review site being the only one I had been able to find easily)
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When Armies of Hanuman came out in Canada in 2005 I immediately wrote a review of it and sent it off to Ashok's web site along with a letter reminding him of the story I had related about the teahouse named Valmiki's. I had assumed he had not, for some reason, read the first one. When he wrote back and asked it I knew myself because somebody had already written him about a teahouse in Kingston called Valmiki's I had to laugh. (When I told him to check the return addresses of the two emails he must have found it funny as well, judging by the humour of his reply)

By this time Ashok had opened his first blog through Google's Blogspot network. There was a link on his site, as there are on all Blogspot blogs, inviting you to get your own blog. Well I followed that link and started my own blog and the rest as they say is history.

Would I have discovered Blogspot without Ashok? Probably yes, but who knows how long it would have taken. Picking up that original Orbit copy of Prince of Ayodhya was the first step in me being exactly where I am today in terms of my writing. It was because of my love for Ashok's books that I began to write reviews; he was the first person I interviewed because I liked his books so much, and now three years later I'm editing his website/literary magazine.
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I feel in some ways that Rama and his story have a lot to do with me being here where I am today. It was important for me to find his story as told by Ashok aside for more reasons then the ones I've already given. In the final book of the series, King Of Ayodhya Rama is referred to as Maryada Pushottam – He Who Fulfils His Vow by his followers. At one point his brother Lakshman adds to that title the words…Against All Odds.

In spite of many obstacles and temptations thrown in his path Rama lives his life according to the simple precept of doing exactly what he says he will do and what is expected of him according to who he is. He is a son, a King in waiting, a husband, the disciple of a guru, a brother, and eventually the leader of an army. He is also gifted with various celestial weapons and powers that he can draw on under certain conditions, and only those certain conditions.

Each role he plays has it's own conditions that must be followed. If at anytime there appears to be a conflict between fulfilling his duty as a son and as a King, he has to figure out how he can resolve the conflict and do what is the right thing. But in spite of that he is always able to do the right thing even if it turns out to be the most difficult and the most fraught with danger.
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It was in this manner that The Ramayana as told by Ashok Banker introduced me to the concept of dharma. I had of course heard the word many times before but had never really understood the concept. Simply put dharma is the fulfillment of your duty to yourself in spite of whatever obstacles you might face.

At the time when I read the story of Rama I was just beginning to start writing in earnest. But I also suffer from a chronic, acute, pain condition, which means I'm in constant agony. That was my obstacle to overcome; it is what could prevent me from being one who fulfills his vows as a writer, a husband, a son, and a brother.
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Sometimes I have failed, given into self-pity, resentment, and all the other traps that we set for ourselves so that we won't succeed. I have a perfectly legitimate excuse for failure and inexcusable behaviour at my fingertips. But every time I hear myself, even in my own head, using it, I'm ashamed and it sounds like an excuse. There are people in the world with far worse problems that get out of bed every day and are simply grateful for being given that gift.

So for three year I've done pretty well, but life can play tricks on you. It rewards you for being diligent and hard working by giving you recognition, in my case editing Epic India, and you use that responsibility along with what ever other excuses you may have at hand, to stop doing what you're supposed to be doing.

Oh I still produce an article or two a day for the various sites I write at, whether a review of a book or a CD, or and opinion piece on some aspect of the world today. But they feel like excuses for not working on what I'm supposed to be working on. My novel sits abandoned and neglected. Not only haven't I done the revisions I want to do on book one but I have not done any work on book two in almost a year.

It doesn't matter what other things I'm achieving, what praise that I'm winning, or anything else. What matters is that I don't feel like I'm doing what I should be doing, or all that I should be doing. It's very easy to make excuses, but they still ring false in my ears so I've got to make a change and stop the excuses. It's not even like I have too much work otherwise, I'm usually finished with the blogs by ten o'clock in the morning at the latest.
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Today is May 1st the turning of the year and I have just finished reading all six books of Ashok Banker's Ramayana again, and this time in their original Indian editions, as the author intended them to be read. It is never too late to start fulfilling your dharma or to do what you are supposed to do.

Jai Shri Rama.

April 22, 2007

Earth Day: A Poem

The flowers are wilting on the mantelpiece, collecting dust and displaying an occasional cobweb.
Gesture of a supposed affection, but more likely an affectation given who and what she has come to.
If faded were a design motif then the room is well decorated from top to bottom, including its inhabitant.
Unwisely the blinds have been allowed to stand open from the night just past, as morning sun does nothing any favours.
Left more naked then if x-rayed, pity would surely war with disgust if there were any around to observe the cruel play of warm light in a place it has no business.
A lamp, made superfluous, sits on a bedside table, dripping with shawls camouflaging light for a measure of deceitful concealment.
In the depression on the mattress, formed by repeated pounding and abuse, tired buttocks are cradled familiarly; this is their home and resting place, where they belong.
Elbows, hands, the flat of a heel, long ago staked out individual claims to space where they could shelter during and after.
Use and age have been as hard on the bed as they have on its occupant down the years, as appetites grew more rapacious, less of her was left behind at the end of the night.
Never satiated, demands compounding, night in and night out, in and out, on and on, here in this room, on this bed.
Mumbled phrases that pass for appreciations have changed on occasion, but remain nothing more than excuses and justifications and nothing of love.
How long will she be here at the top of the stairs, at the end of the path in the carpet at their beck and call?
Would they change if they saw her exposed in the light instead of being blind in the night?
But how can they not feel her wasting away under them each night? As they take what they want and leave nothing behind?
Soon their night will have to turn to day. They'll come to her door and she won't answer their knock.
They'll beg and they'll weep, moan and complain, but she can't fill their needs anymore, now that they've killed her.
You'll think it's their mother, the way they'll carry on, someone they cared for, they loved and admired.
Not just some tired out old whore at the top of the stairs.

March 8, 2007

Satire: New Attempt At Peace: United Nations Resolution 929

In what has to be the closest vote on record at the United Nations, resolution 929 was finally passed. In another, among the many, unique qualities of this vote was the fact that when the final tally was recorded, there were no abstentions. Long time observers of the U. N. were left scrambling to find out if on any other occasion opinions had run so high that no one abstained.

One grey haired gentleman was so visibly moved by the show of actual opinions on the floor of the august chamber that he wept. Friends could be seen gathering around him to lead him out of the press gallery later, and it was said that all he was capable of saying over and over again was "incredible".

He wasn't the only one affected by the sudden show of decidedness from a membership so known for its refusal to commit that ordering take out has been known to take days. Ambassadors sat around in small groups or singularly talking in subdued voices, almost as if they were taken aback at their own temerity.

Most of them had been selected by their respective countries for their abilities to procrastinate and prevaricate and had never dreamed the day would come when they would actually see themselves saying either yea or nay. There were members whose country's leadership and name changed with greater frequency than a drag queens' wardrobe, who had kept their position by exercising the right to abstain like an art form.

But even they had been caught up in the emotion of the moment and deviated from their entrenched position of fence sitting to cast a vote in favour or against the motion. It was of course these wild card votes that had left the outcome up in the air. Not only did nobody know how these individuals would vote, they had been non-entities for so long nobody even knew what bribes or blackmail they might be susceptible to.

Of all the unique attributes that history may ascribe to this vote in the future, the one that most observers are still stunned by was the inability of anyone to be able to predict the vote's outcome. Not only did the issue cut across cultural and political lines, it threw old alliances out the window. It was every man and woman for themselves out on the floor and you could almost believe in the idea of sovereign states voting for the interests of their people not out of political necessity.

At the press conference where the official announcement of the result was released to the world's population, United Nations Special Envoy Kiska White of The Extra Special Team Examining Elections (or TESTEES as they are now known) alluded to that fact in her opening comments before preceding on with a detailed explanation as to the significance of the resolution's passage. What follows is an expurgated version of that announcement. (For full details check out the TESTEES web site at a location other than the link provided here) It should also be made clear at this time, that like all members of TESTEES Ms White's nationality has not been made public and all efforts were made to make the members as anonymous to each other as possible to prevent any country from having an undue influence on the proceedings.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the press and my fellow citizens of planet earth, it is with great pleasure that I'm here with you today to announce officially the results of what I consider the most important vote ever taken in humanity's existence. I don't think I would be far off the mark in saying that from today onward the world will be a vastly different place, and hopefully a better one for it.

Judging by the response of the membership of the General Assembly to Resolution 929, they obviously agreed with me on the import of its impact on the shape of things to come. Whether or not they supported the resolution is another matter, but it managed to get them all to actually vote for a change, so right there we accomplished something that nobody else has done in the history of the U. N

This resolution was a long time in the making and to see it brought to fruition today is culmination of the dreams of many people, some unfortunately are no longer with us as it has passed to us second generation TESTEEs to ensure its passage. You are all aware of the history behind this resolution; of earlier version requiring all male politicians to be sterilized before seeking office in the hopes of curtailing testosterone in positions of power and thus eliminating belligerent behaviour.

What first started as a voluntary program; who can forget the "Get Fixed" buttons that became popular for a while, later became mandatory when it became obvious that some men were too attached to the notion that the ability to breed affected their leadership abilities. Unfortunately the "Spay" your politician campaign did not meet our expectations.

Although all male politicians were eventually in compliance the world over, it did not seem to have the desired effect upon their bellicosity. Unlike their brethren among canines and felines "fixing" humans did not seem to cause a reduction in the production of testosterone and a resulting calming of behaviour.

I must admit to you that at this point quite a number of us were ready to give up. We had been so sure we had found the means through which war would eventually be made obsolete. It was at this nadir in the proceedings that our Turkish representative made an almost casual reference to his country's former habit of creating eunuchs for positions requiring calmness and zero production of hormones.

Thus was the first step taken on the long road whose end we have finally reached today: with the successful passage of United Nations resolution 929: All men from this point onward will be castrated prior to seeking political office, and all men currently holding such office will be castrated forthwith.

March 5, 2007

Art For Sale

"Psst, hey buddy. Yeah you…do you see me looking at anyone else…hey don't get pissed, it's just my way, don't take it personal or nothin'. Well get over here already…you want me yelling this across the street so just any yahoo can hear what I got to say. If I wanted the world to hear I'd have take out an ad or hired a blimp.

Hey, I warned you, I'm a bit rough around the edges, but you know what they say about whores with hearts of gold, well I may not spread my legs that way, literally as it were, but on occasion I've been known to sell bits and pieces of myself.

Hey don't look like that, you'd think I just threatened you ending up in a cheap motel in a tub full of ice and finding out that you've donated your liver. That's not what I mean by bits and pieces of myself – do I look like that type – heck you wouldn't recognize them anyways. You're thinking I'm the type of scruffy guy you' expect to be taking part in the illegal traffic of body parts.

Which is a joke and a half because those folk walk around in the latest designer togs that cost more then I make lurking in this alley for a month. You need a lot of money to be involved in that racket to begin with, and then you're also going have to dress well enough to look like you've got a real business behind you.

Not me boss, I'm at the lower end of the scale, nothing quite that glamorous for folk like me. Nope the bits and pieces of myself I dispose of are far less exciting, but to me are as precious as any bits and piece of the physical form. I sell bits and pieces of the soul.

Oh grow up, I'm not a Satanist or something silly like that, I'm an Art Dealer. I represent some of the finest creative minds in the country, maybe even the continent. They pour out their heart and soul and turn it into paintings, sculptures, photographs, and video. Then I try and turn that into money for them.
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Of course I don't just represent artists, a person has to eat after all and the chances of making any money off living artists is pretty thin. You can't even kill them either to increase the value of their work, because you need them alive so they can continue to produce product that you can sell after they die when it's actually worth something…If there was someway around that problem, believe you me Charlie I would have figured it out ages ago…

Anyway that's neither here nor there, idle dreams and such for days when you laze around thinking of the ideal world…. Where the money for me is at the other end of the equation; working for those types who want Art to hang on the walls (hey that reminds me of an old joke: What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs who hangs on walls? Art…kills me every time) of their corporate offices that goes with the décor, but doesn't look like it's been chosen to go with the décor.

Now that's a trick, son, because you've got to make sure it blends nicely with their carpets, the window treatments, and the paint job, but at the same time be distinctive enough to show that they have taste. The higher up the corporate ladder the trickier it gets I tell you.

Your junior executive just wants something to cover the blank spaces on his walls; he or she can't afford to be too ostentatious or adventurous either financially or in terms of style. They don’t' want to stand out as being daring or anything like that, cause they need to blend in and give the appearance at least of being just like everyone else.

With those types you usually do a brisk trade in the standard, safe abstractions from the past century or so. Nothing too outrageous like a Warhol or a Pollack for them – maybe a Chagall or Matisse reproduction. The more daring might go for something a little more modern like a Harold Town print from the fifties, but that's going to be it.

By the time you've reached up to the top of the corporate world and instead of blending in they feel the need to distinguish themselves – show that they have character and individuality, you might be able to sell something new. They love to be able to say things like, "Oh this is a painter I discovered – quite unusual I agree, but I like the challenge of the piece."

Or some equally meaningless self-satisfying words that show off how perceptive and artistic they are. My job is really sort of like a pimp. Instead of finding them a whore to flatter their egos, I find them paintings that do the equivalent to their intellect. I give them the appearance of having a sense of the aesthetic, even if they have the soul made out of stocks and bonds.

You'd think after all that; the effort I put in for the artists in finding people who might actually be interested in their pieces of post-modern modern abstractions – or what ever they feel like calling their feeble attempts these days – and the energy I expand on my corporate clients to make sure that paintings I obtain for them fits into their niche properly that some sort of gratitude would be forthcoming. But no; at best I'm looked on as a necessary evil by the artists, and some sort of minor functionary who doesn't rank much higher than an interior designer by my clients.

So I'm forced to skulk around in alleyways searching out commissions because nobody wants to be seen in my company or pay me what I'm worth. But I'm good at what I do, and enjoy it too. I'm just wanting my ten percent like every one else in the world – heck I don't even ask for the fifteen or twenty that actor's management and agents get. Does that make me a bad person?

You look like a decent soul, with a kind heart. You wouldn't deny a many an honest living would you? I didn't think so. Look sorry to have bothered you like this, I didn't mean to unload on you, but one thing about being a sales person and an agent like I am is that you soon learn how to judge character. I didn't think you'd mind lending an ear for a few moments, not with sensitive eyes like those.

Forgive me for being so bold, we've just met and all, but you wouldn't by any chance be a poet or something of that type. It's just that something about you says sensitive and feeling in a way that I only get from people who have poetry in their soul. If you don't mind me saying you look like the type of person who would appreciate art on a scale far more advanced then the cretins I usually have to deal with.

Can I interest you in a piece of art…?

The author has just come into possession of an original, one of a kind Harold Town lithograph from 1957 that he has just put on the market, marking his first foray into the world of art sales and deals.

December 11, 2006

Making Magic With Words

When I first started to write fiction I set out with the idea in mind that I would write stories that I liked to read. Of course there were a couple of obstacles in the way, technical and otherwise, but funnily enough the hardest the hardest one to figure out was something that you would have thought to be the easiest. What exactly do the stories I like have in common that makes them stories I like?

Obviously I had some sort of notion of what it was that appealed to me, but I didn't seem to be able to put my finger on it. It didn't deter from writing my first novel and sending it off to a publisher, but I have to admit that I still felt a faint feeling of dissatisfaction with my finished product for reasons I wasn't able to put my finger on.

Since I completed that piece I had begun work on something else that was going to be based on incidences in my own life. I had been utilizing some of that information in articles I had been writing for blog posts to help make points on various topics that interested me. This had led me into believing that I was comfortable with the idea of talking about these situations in more detail, and making them the main focus of a story.

In the past I had had what I considered valid reservations about making use of the material. Primarily it was my repulsion with what I considered an overabundance of people "sharing" their life stories on television at the drop of the hat. It seemed almost impossible to tune into one or another of the daytime talks shows and not find someone milking an audience with their particular tale of woe.

Perhaps it was because of the apparent superficiality of the shows and the people hosting them. Or maybe it was the way in which the audiences were eating the stories up like emotional vampires. Sucking whatever life they could out of the subjects and their stories so they could be "moved" and "inspired" by the heroic victims.

Of course those feelings of contempt were only accentuated by the whole circus surrounding James Frey and his false autobiographical book A Million Little Pieces. That people could be so hungry for details about people's troubles that they would make a hero out of someone because he had lived a dissolute lifestyle and recovered was beyond my understanding.

It seems to have escaped their notice that thousands of people have made the same journey without feeling the need to trumpet their accomplishments to the sky like they were some sort of superhero. That it turned out to be lies made the insult to people in recovery even greater. Even scarier was that Frey had been held up as an example of how one could go about recovering without professional help.

Putting those feelings aside I also had questions about my own ability to deal with the subject matter honestly. Some wounds are still more open than others and chances are that I wouldn't want or be prepared to deal with them properly. But I also remembered how much I appreciated some of the stories that I had read of other people's real and non-sensationalized accounts of their recovery when I was beginning my own process and thought I should at least try in case I could offer the same help to someone else.

For a while all seemed to be going well but then became dissatisfied with what I was writing. At first I thought it was because I was being too intellectual and not letting enough emotion show through, but I began to realize there was more to it then that. I would read over what I had written and while it was pretty good, I wasn't really that interested in reading it.

The story I was writing had nothing in common with any of the works I liked to read. There was something missing and I couldn't put my finger on it, in the same way that I hadn't been able to put my finger on the element of the stories I read that made them appeal to me.

Then yesterday afternoon I was just sitting thinking of nothing in particular when with a jolt I realized the obvious. The stories I really like are ones that have an element of magic in them. Not that they have wizards or magicians in them, although some of them do, but reading them is a magical experience somehow.

The author has created something that is able to carry you beyond the mundane and lift you out of reality. This has nothing to do with the subject matter of the story, but the author's ability to imbue his or her work with an element that isn't of this world. When you read their books it is with awe and wonder.

For me it's like the feeling I get when I walk in a particularly beautiful piece of forest and the sun is shining. Solitary beams are playing among the trees while the whole seems to glow with a yellowish/greenish light. I know I'm still right here on this planet living my life, but it's also a moment out of time that allows a brief respite from whatever cares or stress that I might have.

Even the stresses and the worries of characters in books like this take on that otherworldly glow that lets us know they aren't things we need to ever worry about. While it's true that the fantasy or science fiction genre lent themselves to this better than most, I've read detective and mystery stories that are able to light up from inside just like my forest clearing.

There's no way I can see myself writing about the subjects of childhood sexual abuse and chronic pain and be able to create that sort of atmosphere. I need to become a lot better a writer first. I think I was trying to achieve that while I was writing my attempt at autobiographical fiction, but it just wasn't working.

Last night I began working on chapter two of the sequel to my first book and I felt much happier. There is magic there just waiting to be created and I feel far better for it.

November 20, 2006

Why I'm Glad To Fail At NaNoWriMo This Year

I'm not going to be making the 50,000 word count this year at the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) contest and it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. I should have known after the first week I wasn't going to make it. I was struggling to keep up the pace, but was deluded enough to think that after I caught up by day nine everything was going to be okay.

Heck the signs were there for me to read if I had wanted before the contest even started that I wasn't going to make it, but I didn't want to accept the fact that I wasn't physically, emotionally or mentally up to the challenge this year. Writing may look like a sedentary occupation, but it still requires you to be in good shape physically, or else you will get mentally exhausted from the struggles with your body.

I have talked about my physical problems elsewhere so I won't go into the messy details save to say that I have a chronic pain condition. In mid-October I had to have some minor surgery, a hernia repair, and had not considered how much that would actually take out of me. I had conveniently forgotten the fact that once you have a pain condition not only will surgery aggravate the pre-existing problem; healing from the surgery will take far longer then normal.

There is also the fact that the chances of post-operative complications due to pain are radically increased. Starting from the moment the freezing wore off after the surgery when I was at home and had to be rushed into emergency unable to move because of pain. To my current circumstances of being unable to spend more then a few hours at a time upright, I was no exception to any of those rules.

Since I have a laptop I figured I would just prop myself up in bed and write away merrily and much like last year be well over the 50,000 mark by the end of the third week. Well that time is fast approaching, Tuesday is the 21st of November, and I've not yet even topped 30,000 words.

There's still a chance that I could come up with over 20,000 words in the next ten days, it's only about 2,000 words a day after all, but if I do it will be strictly by accident. I'm no longer shooting for any particular word count on the project I'm working on, instead my goal is to finishing the novel.

I was feeling really depressed this past weekend about the fact that I wasn't able to produce the numbers of words a day that I had last year while taking part in NaNoWriMo. I had even written a long whiney letter to a friend of mine complaining about it. I was afraid that because I couldn't do what I'd done before that I might be losing my ability to write.

At one point in the letter I had written about how aggravating it was that it had taken me four hours to write a simple book review. My friend had very patiently obviously read the whole letter and wrote me back to me remind of something that I'd forgotten. It doesn't matter how much you write or how long it takes; what matters is that you write.

As I was mulling this and some other thoughts over in my head I happened to spot a chunk of rock crystal my wife had picked up for me a few weeks ago. Its a really neat specimen in that you can see the striations that have gone into the rock's making. Literally hundreds of individual points of crystal have grown together to form one shape with a perfect point of clear crystal.

I'm sure you see where I'm going with this. Writing can develop with the same sort of structure as that rock; one layer of crystal building on top of another to form a final perfect shape. It doesn't have to be done all at once like a volcano forming an island, although that does happen on occasion.

Each piece of work you do is a unique individual the same as anything else. If you try to force it to be something it doesn't want to be it ends up rebelling and turning out opposite of what you hoped. So you have to take what it gives you.

Last year when I wrote so much during November it took me three more months to finish. At the time I was inclined to put my inability to finish down to not having a deadline to shoot for. But now, in thinking about past attempts at writing I came to a realization about myself and a bad habit I had developed with my writing.

In the past I have been so concerned with finishing that I would try and write the whole story as quickly as possible. Invariably I would run out of energy or my initial impetuous would dissolve and the project would languish neglected and forgotten in my hard drive. In fact it wasn't until last year that I was able to complete a project of that size.

Although that approach was appropriate for something like NaNoWriMo, it is not conducive to me achieving my own goals as a writer. I need to break the habit of trying to rush through and finish a novel all in one breath and learn to pace myself so that I don't burn out my inspiration.

According to some beliefs there is a reason for everything that happens to you but whether you pick up on it or not is your problem. When it became obvious I would have to take a disability pension for an extended period of time I saw that as my opportunity to write on a full time basis.

So if I follow that logic along it means that the reason I've been given this extra dose of pain is to teach me how to slow down when I write. Although I appreciate the thought behind the lesson, I can honestly say I wish the Universe could have thought of some other way of letting me know.

While I may not finish the NaNoWriMo contest this year, I've learned a valuable lesson that's only going to improve my writing. To me that's even more of an accomplishment then putting up winning numbers.


October 2, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes #34: Reading And Writing

There's a sub- folder in the My Documents folder of my hard drive that's simply called Richard's Words. There are slightly more than 570 items in that folder; the majority of which are articles that I've written for publication on the web either for my own blog or for other sites. If you count the documents that are scattered throughout the computer that have been moved into other folders for other projects the number becomes more then 600.

Sitting by itself is another document that's around 340 pages long written during the same period as everything else but for another purpose. That file is my attempt at telling a story for other people to take pleasure in, the same way I've taken pleasure in the writings of other people. In fact each time I sit down to write I set out to either entertain, inform, or perhaps amuse, so that I can give people some of the same experience I get when I read the people I particularly enjoy.

I used to joke about the fact that if I wanted to read something I liked I would have to write it myself, which if you think about it, is conceit beyond belief. What I hadn't realized was what a tough audience I can be, try writing a story that you want to read some day and you'll see what I mean

In theory you'd suppose it would be easy right. You know what you like to read, what kind of characters you like, what kind of writing you appreciate most and what you look for in a novel. Well they're be plenty of slip twixt mouth and pen – or something like that anyway.

First off there is a huge difference between reading a story and enjoying it and sitting down and writing one. Can I hear a round of Duh from the peanut gallery about now? How about not stating the obvious for a change? But the obvious is sometimes so obvious that we miss it in the flurry of excitement of believing we've found a solution to a problem.

In order to sit down and write the story you would like to read, learning how to write well enough to be able to tell it in the manner you like a story being told can turn into a horrendous obstacle. Most of us can't just sit down at a laptop or whatever we use for writing and produce something that's suitable for more then birdcage lining or fish wrapping at our first go.

Non-fiction, which is what I primarily write on a daily basis (although some might say otherwise about my politics, but that's another thing altogether) is quite a bit easier to write than fiction as long as your goal is to simply inform and analysis. Have an opening paragraph that introduces your story, and then tell your story in the subsequent paragraphs, citing examples and source material as needed.

If you are arguing a point, introduce your hypothesis in the opening paragraph and then prove it over the remainder of the article by finding information from credible sources that substantiates your claims. Your credibility in both cases is increased when you pay proper attention to the rules of whatever language you happen to be writing in. It also helps if you are able to make your point as neatly and succinctly as possible.

With blogging the personal essay has begun to make a comeback. Authors like E. B. White, who aside from having written Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan for children was considered the foremost essayist of his day, would write about experiences in their lives and use them as examples or expressions of a philosophy of life.

You start to realize the difficulties involved in writing when you begin to understand that there are very few E. B. Whites or William .F. Buckleys (to give the right their voice too) on the web and the results aren't usually up to their level. This type of non -fiction is a prelude to fiction writing in that it requires the author to have a far better command of language as a prerequisite, and the ability to imbue their writing with personality, wit, and style.

But even this is still a quantum leap removed from the ability to write even the simplest of stories. Successful essayists have had difficulty making that transition: although E. B. White didn't seem to have a problem, Will Buckley's attempts at fiction were far less successful. There's a quality to fiction writing and story telling that calls for more than just the technical ability to organize thoughts and ideas on the page in a coherent fashion, although that is an essential prerequisite.

Creative inspiration, the muse, passion; whatever you want to call the it that provides the impetus for people writing something that is inspiring and enjoyable for others to read is a part of the formula, but not the whole picture. Anybody can have a good idea or be inspired; it's what you do with it afterwards that separates the creative person from others. Do you have the vision to take a flash of thought and turn it into something bigger?

When I had the idea for my series of novels I immediately saw the characters' story laid out for me like a road map. I could see almost everything I needed to know, even down to the tiniest of details like how they would be sitting around a fire in book two, and I hadn't even begun to write book one yet.

That is not to imply that the book wrote itself, because it didn't and it still isn't but unlike previous attempts where I've worked from only a vague notion of what I wanted, I know pretty much exactly what's going to happen all the way across hundreds of years and generations to come. Whether or not I tell that whole story is another matter, the fact that I know the information is what's important.

It's like the actor who creates a history for the character he's playing on stage, probably no one in the audience is going to know what that information is directly, but it will make his performance all the more assured and complete because he knows it. A fiction writer can only benefit from that kind of assurance and confidence. It goes a long way to making what your writing believable if you can believe in it.

Soon after I came to the startling revelation that there was the world of difference between writing and reading, I had a further epiphany: if you're going to write, write about something you want to read about. I had joked earlier about the only way I was going to read a story I liked was writing it, but that's a lot closer to the truth than you'd think. There is no point in sitting down and putting all that effort into something if you're not interested in it. It's going to be crap for starters and you're going to hate every minute of doing it that sort of defeats the purpose of being creative.

Taking on working in the arts as a way of making your living is as close to taking a vow of poverty as you can get these days. Which means like the those friars and nuns of old who took vows of poverty, you're going to have to make damn sure that yours is a true vocation not just a phase you're going through. Unless you're really lucky and happen to be like Steven King and John Grisham in that what you like writing about also happens to be what's extremely popular, you're not looking at making oodles of money.

You have to get your fulfillment in areas other than monetary most of the time, which means you better be writing for the sheer pleasure that writing a story that brings you pleasure brings because that may be your only reward. If you're very lucky maybe you'll get to see other people read and enjoy your work as well, which even if you don't receive a penny for it is an amazing experience.

In my time writing over the past few years my total sales at Lulu.com my print on demand publisher has been about $30.00. But that doesn't seem to have slowed down my productivity. Everyday I get up and sit down at my laptop and begin to write something to post on the web. Some days it is a even a short piece of fiction, but more often than not it is a review of somebody else's work; music, book, or movie.

I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate in that every day this last while I've been able to do what I want to do, and by doing improve little by little. I've already received one rejection from a publisher for my first novel, and the completed manuscript is even now winging its way into another's waiting arms. I've had a quote from one of my book reviews appear on the dust jacket of a book I'd reviewed and I'm on first name basis with people whose work I respect and admire as writers and treated as a fellow writer which always sort of surprises me, but makes me feel proud as well.

I've always been a voracious reader and it now seems like I've become a writer as well: truly the best of all possible worlds.

September 25, 2006

Canadian Politics: The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord #8

No news is good news only if you're not desperate to hear something that will ensure that you stay out of jail for the rest of your unnatural life or waiting for a stay of execution. I was pretty firm in my belief that for me they were one and the same right now, and unless circumstances changed quickly…

Well some things just aren't any fun to think about and are guaranteed to take the fun out of a day so I tried to do something constructive about my circumstances, like figuring out who had a vested interest in the Kyoto accord going the way of the Dodo. There were the obvious answers of the guys who owned all the big smokestacks pumping shit into the air on a routing basis that wouldn't want to have their profit margin cut, or their value reduced on the open market.

Inco, and Falconbridge the two big mining companies were selling themselves off to the highest bidders – While Stelco and Dofasco the big two of Canadian steel have recently being sold to a variety of foreign investors.

But that's petty ante stuff once you head West of Ontario where Alberta is having a fire sale on anything to do with oil and natural gas production. With the newly independent countries of the old Soviet Bloc discovering they have economies, and China and India flexing their muscles as economic powers, they all want to have a semblance of self-sufficiency down the road when it comes to cheap fuel.

When you're on a selling spree like Alberta is, and to a lesser extent the rest of natural resource economy the last thing you want to be hindered with is some silly environmental regulations dictating smoke stack emissions. Especially when dealing with countries whose environmental regulations are slightly laxer than the ones needed to ensure compliance with the Kyoto accord.

Hell if the entire population of China were to exhale simultaneously the amount of Co2 released in the atmosphere could be enough to expand the hole in the Ozone layer another inch. Combine that with an economy based on slave labour mass-producing cheap manufactured goods with little or no care for anything but the present and compliance with the Kyoto accord is going to well down on the Politburo's list of things to do first thing of a morning.

Not going to be able to fit that in a day already full of convincing the West to ignore human rights atrocities in the name of business and potential markets, figuring out ways to keep over a billion people from spontaneously combusting under a horribly totalitarian regime, pretending that Tiananmen square is just a nice open space in Beijing, and getting ready for the Olympic games.

Well the rest of us didn't worry about the future either when we were starting our industrial revolutions – we thought there was an unlimited supply of everything (people to work for dirt included) and that the world could take anything we dished out. Hell there are still those among us who believe that, refusing to see what's in front of their eyes or claiming that it's God's will that they squeeze everything they can out of the planet until its an empty husk.

They'll have their gated communities guarded from the rest of the masses, so what does it matter what ends up happening. Anyway, they've done the work of God so they will receive their final reward in Heaven and sit on the right hand side of Jesus after the Last Judgement.

Now I 'm sure there is only a minority among them who are doing this so they can sit below the salt at dinner with Jesus – (wasn't he the guy who said something about the only way of entering the Kingdom of Heaven was to give up your worldly possessions? How does that jibe with strip mining so you can squeeze that extra little penny into your pocket?) But even those with less holy aspirations could still wreck havoc among the natural world if allowed to.

Being a detective you come in contact with all sorts of people who never believe that they are going to get caught, and who never consider anything but today. The future is for somebody else to worry about and the past was where others made mistakes because of stupidity and has nothing to tell them.

These have been the voices most loudly raised against the Kyoto accord since the day it was signed by all the participating countries. "We won't be able to compete against those countries that haven't signed the accord," bleated the captains of industry and their hand picked toadies in houses of parliaments around the world.

In Canada we followed much that scenario; they sounded so genuine in their concerns about Canadian jobs and the economy one was almost tempted to believe them. That is until the first of those captains put his business up for sale to the first person with big enough pockets to come along and relieve him of the tedium of actually having to pretend he worked for a living.

Some of them had the chutzpah to keep that up as they were already entering into negotiations to sell up to foreign nationals who weren't going to give two shits about Canada's economy or Canadian jobs. Now as all those deals are being finalised they don't want anything queering the pitch.

The previous Liberal governments of Jean Chretian and Paul Martin were not what one would call anti business by any stretch of the imagination. That didn't stop them from seeing Kyoto as a step in a direction the world needed to take if it was going to survive as a reasonable facsimile of what it looks like today.

Whether Steven Harper's Conservative Party of Canada was against it just because the Liberals were for it originally is irrelevant now. They made themselves out as the champions of business and the protector of the rights of CEOs everywhere while in opposition and continue to do so now that they have obtained power. So as Dr. Magensen found out they were bound to cut the heart out of any projects that were working on emission control no matter what they had achieved.

The words emission control can't be said in the same sentence, save with curses attached, as corporate political donation, to Mr. Harper's supporters if you're expecting any of the latter to make it into your pockets. So now instead of standing up in the Oppositions benches on Parliament Hill condemning the Kyoto accord, they stand up on the government side of the house and talk about finding "a Canadian alternative for emissions control"

Like Canada's scientific community has all of a sudden developed into something that can come up with a plan that works better than Kyoto could have, while not putting any pressure on corporations to comply with any new regulations. Then again they had, but the one man who had accomplished the matter was now still very dead, and after almost two pages of reviewing the facts, I'm no further ahead then I was before.

Everyone knows that the government and big business are against the accord. If they had wanted to, corporate Canada could have just arranged for Dr Magnesen to fall of the edge of the earth with no one being the wiser. Even the Canadian government's security forces aren't so incompetent that they'd leave his corpse lying around a bar frequented by government employees

Maybe I had been looking in all the wrong places for the answers? Something had been nagging at the back of my brain since I had taken a cudgel to the head. I had just assumed it was part of concussion syndrome, but now began to wonder more. It was something Officer McIntosh had said about what a dick's job should be, and something else.

It only took a couple of quick phone calls, one to Ottawa City Hall, and one other. When I got off the phone for the second time, I had a pretty good idea of who had killed Dr. Magnesen and why. But now I needed another nights sleep, even if it was only Noon. You take your nights where you can get them in my line of business, whether it's midnight or noon. Any way tomorrow would be my own version of high noon

September 18, 2006

Canadian Politics: The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord Part Seven

The bump on the top of my head was starting to make me wish for bed and a cold compress, and the last thing I wanted to be doing right now was sitting in a dank cellar chatting with the two folks, no matter how good their intentions had been, who'd made me feel like this. Still there was something compelling about the way her lower lip trembled when she was emotionally distraught that made me want to investigate how she reacted to other stimuli.

But those were idle thoughts suited to other occasions, and even contemplating them made me wince with pain. Anyway, they looked like a couple of nice earnest, concerned types who wanted to save the world, and from previous experience I knew that was one road better left un travelled. They weren’t casual about anything, and politicized sex was always on the low end of the enjoyment scale for me, especially when working on a migraine.

I suggested that we keep in touch and if they thought of anything more, or if anything happened, that might lead me to an answer about who croaked the professor and what happened to the Kyoto accord. I told them if I ever did get any answers that I would make sure they were filled in, if for no other reason so they could stop bashing people over the head that came into the store asking about the Kyoto accord.

Couldn't be good for business if you kept hauling concerned environmentalists down into a cellar and giving them the third degree. Unless they had a sideline in headache remedies: "Hey does that store of yours have anything for a wicked headache, induced by a minor head trauma?" I asked her pointing at the point on the noggin he had tried to stave in.

He had the good grace to look embarrassed and mumble another apology, while the smile she bestowed made me start reconsidering my earlier resolution and thinking a little tender loving care administered by her capable mouth might not be such a bad thing after all. But when my eyes made contact with daylight, it was still only mid afternoon, when we reached the street all thoughts of anything but lying alone in bed with the blinds drawn and me out cold quickly vanished.

Even her bashful, eye's down looking up at me through her eyelashes, "Is there anything else that I can do for you…" only elicited a request for a cab. Her suggestion as she shepherded me into the cab that she'd call tomorrow to see how I was doing, was laden with meanings, but all I could do was smile weakly and mumble my address to the cabbie.

His initial reluctance on driving me was quickly overcome by my suggestion that the quicker he got me home the less chance there was of me puking on the back of his head. Mentioning the names of a couple of gentlemen I knew in the people cartage business who were known for their efficiency in dealing with those who upset their friends helped to overcome the last of his doubts.

It also ensured I was spared the usual commentary on the state of the world that cabbies seem to believe is their prerogative to deliver. By the time we pulled up to the office whatever placebo she had given me was slowing me down sufficiently that I tipped the cabbie a twenty, which led to the unprecedented site in Ottawa of a passenger having his door opened for him by the driver of his hack. He also did me the favour of pointing me in the right direction of my buildings door, so I didn't wander dazed into traffic.

Harry the day doorman had seen me in quite a number of states before this, but even his eyes showed some concern as he clocked the state of my pupils and the discreet swelling on the back of my head.

"You want me to check on you every couple of hours or so Mr. Steve, to make sure you haven't slipped into a coma?"

"Actually", I told Harry, "a coma sounds pretty attractive right about now. Just get me on the elevator and hit the button for the right floor and I should be able to take it from there." The last thing I needed right now was to be mother-henned by six foot–seven-inch, 300lb, ex linebacker with one eyebrow, a shaved head, and a gold loop earring the size of a hoola-hoop. Nope I just needed my bed and a lot of pitch dark.

Which I almost didn't get until I remembered how a key and lock mechanism worked, after surviving that challenge, navigating through the clutter of the office to the private room in behind was nothing. The only distraction was the flashing red of the answering machine light, which caused a momentary fixation, quickly overwhelmed by the intense pain its pulsation produced in my skull.

I let the back of my knees hit the side of my bed that allowed it to welcome me into the comfortable bosom of its embrace. I wish I could say I slept like a log and didn't feel anything until I woke the next morning, but I was disturbed all night by wild dreams that featured Ms. Magnesen and the environmentalist cutie literally tearing me in half; Professor Magnesen lecturing both of my parts on separate occasions on how to control emissions; and in amongst it all was the sound of people pounding at my door and yelling for me to wake up as they were the police and it was long past time that decent people were awake and at work.

Unfortunately that last part turned out to be true, (I don't want to think about the implications of the other parts thank you very much) and I eventually had to stagger to the door so as to prevent the noise from continuing. It was only as I turned to lead my old buddies from the crime scene back into the apartment that I realized the ten o'clock I had read on the dial of my bedside clock meant the next morning, not later that same evening.

"I didn't even know you drank tea, let alone took sugar in it" was followed by harsh laughter from behind as the assholes chortled at my misfortune. "Was that one lump or two?" That ain't the kind of shit you deal with before coffee on the morning after the day I had had yesterday. I couldn't even muster the energy to give them a baleful stare, let along a snappy retort.

I didn't know what I had done to deserve the honour of a home visit, but I figured I'd better be slightly somnambulant before trying to cope with the excitement of it all. I pointed in the general direction of where I remembered my bathroom as being, and received a leering grin and a sweeping, be my guest, arm gesture in return.

It was only after I had held my head under the cold tap for five minutes that I began to realize the potential for trouble that a visit from two cops, who were being overtly genial, could forebode. For two guys like McIntosh and Gates to show up at my door without kicking it down first meant they had either come to gloat or…I couldn't think of any other reason.

If they were going to arrest me they would have kicked the door down and hauled me away, that would seem more their modus apprehenda- so to speak- over this polite routine. Of course this all could just be an elaborate game of good cop bad cop, as I noticed Gates hadn't done anything except show his teeth at McIntosh's jokes. Like with any wolf that could mean he's laughing or readying himself to go for your throat.

When I could look in the mirror and only see one of me looking back I figured I could just about cope with the boys in bad suits and headed back out to the office area. Still studiously avoiding any sort of contact with them I headed to where the coffee pot that was my morning cup awaited. From the damage inflicted upon my kitchen and the depreciation in the level of the pot, I could see my guests hadn't hesitated on making themselves at home.

"You must have finished the lumps off last night" Gates called through " We couldn't find anything but these packets of "nude" sugar. Oh and your out of cream." It's a good thing I like black coffee cause 25 years with no chance of parole is a long time to spend behind bars, and guards inside don't like cop killers.

After gulping a first cup, burning the roof of my mouth and finishing the process of returning to consciousness simultaneously, I poured a second cup and headed out to meet my early birds, hoping I wasn't the worm awaiting eating. From the way Gates was looking at me like a side of beef I couldn't help feeling that prospect was pretty good.

"Who gave you the love tap?" McIntosh asked pointing his chin at the lump on my head.

"Someone who wasn't as genteel in looking for information as the police officers of our nations capital. Now what can I do for you boys, I wouldn't want to think I'm holding you up from serving and protecting the good people of Ottawa" I tried to look at them with as much innocence as I could muster with my eyes still slightly crossed and the knowledge that the last time I had seen them a dead body with a machete in its back had plopped at my feet weighing heavily on my mind.

"It's what we can for you chum" Gates was licking his lips, hopefully licking off lingering drops of coffee but it was hard to tell what was going on behind those beady little eyes. "We thought you might like to know the identity of the stiff who fell at your feet the other night. We thought hearing his name might jar your memory, although I see others have tried less subtle means. Which reminds me do you need to report a crime, we're police officers you know and we're here to protect the public." He laughed a horrible little laugh that sounded like a cross between a growl and the wind blowing over a grave on a cold November night.

"That was just a misunderstanding, and why should hearing the dead guy's name jar my memory?" I was trying to think if I had given beautiful anything like my card which she could have given her dad which would take some explaining if it were found on his corpse.

"The crime scene boys found this", he reached into his pocket and pulled out a plastic baggie of the type you use for sandwiches, pot, and evidence. This one held a piece of yellow paper torn on two edges so it had obviously ripped from the bottom corner of a larger page. "Your ad in the yellow pages was found in Mr., I should say Dr./Professor Magnesen's jacket pocket with the name of the bar scrawled on it, and the words "last brass pole on the barkeep's side" written in the same hand."

He paused and looked at me, and just in case I hadn't caught the implications of what he was suggesting, spelt it out for me." We think you were arranging to meet him there, and you've holding out on us for some reason and we want to know why?"

I took a sip of my coffee and looked up at him. "Well that's better then your usual average, batting .500 could almost make a person think you know what you're doing. Yes I was supposed to be meeting him at the bar, but I wasn't holding out on you because until you just told me I had no idea that the corpse at my feet was Dr. Morgensen.

We had only talked on the phone up till that point, which is probably why he had the directions on where to find my scrawled on my ad in the yellow pages. I just figured he had shown up after the murder and found the bar locked up and him not able to get into seeing me. I've been hoping to hear from him again since, but now it looks like that hope is a pretty vain one…"

It's always good to leave a thought or sentence hanging when talking to cops, they don't like to think you know everything, and it gives them the illusion that they have some room to manoeuvre with you even though you've built a pretty thick brick wall up for them to run into. And if they do have something in reserve, you can always hold on to I hadn't finished.

I wasn't going to have to worry about that this time, because although it was obvious they didn't like it, they didn't seem to have anything more than that piece of paper connecting me to the dead doc. If they thought otherwise, obstructing a murder investigation would be the least of my worries. I'd have to start worrying about my name finding its way to the attention of individuals I don't want knowing it.

They had finished their coffees by then and knew their chances of refills were non-existent, so they'd have to head over to Tim Horton's and have an official coffee break if they wanted any more. Gates was out the door and McIntosh was close behind him, when he turned and looked back.

"This is more than just a divorce case gone bad, peeper, it's even more than just a homicide. There's a lot of pressure on us to get results, but results that end it without it going far. There's talk of not letting it go further than this room, unless something else shows up soon.

Everybody's called the chief today from the horsemen, to the spy guys, and somebody from Parliament Hill to ask that we keep them posted. Everybody's walking around the station house right now so uptight that they're scared to fart. Whoever worked you over last night was an amateur compared to these boys from up high. I've heard that they can make it so you get to the point that you want to tell them what they want to hear just so the pain will stop."

He nodded at me then and closed the door behind him. Have a nice fucking day. It looked like my time on this case was running out fast no matter what I wanted, so the option of another day in bed, however tempting was a no go. The problem was that unless something fell in my lap pretty soon this case was no go as well.

I had to hope that someone was having more success than me or I could be looking forward to a long time away from home.

September 10, 2006

Canadian Politics: The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord Part Six

Whether or not I fell like the proverbial ton of bricks, it sure felt like I had been hit over the head with them. When I came to it was with feelings I'd normally associate with the morning after the night before washing over me. The pain cutting through my head made it feel like I was ready to be outfitted for a Frankenstein stitch job, or at the least some sort of zipper assembly that would keep the top part of my head from separating from the bottom.

But there were some noticeable differences, most obviously being the fact that it seemed my legs were bound to the chair I was plopped into and my hands in lap were first tied to themselves than connected to my feet's bonds via yet another cord. For vegetarians they certainly knew their way around trussing the main course for roasting and basting at 375 degrees for a couple of hours until done.

Whoever was responsible was either brilliant or blind lucky and it didn't matter which as the result was still the same. Any time I tried to fidget with my feet in the hopes of loosing their bounds the ropes around my hands seemed to tighten and vice versa. I figured by the time I had loosened anything significantly either my hands or feet would have fallen off due to lack of circulation..

What with my head still feeling like the axe was still sticking out of the back at a jaunty angle, and my limbs trussed like a pork roast, I was quite content to sit quietly and await what was ever coming. It could explain why the next thing I knew was that I heard the sound of voices whispering in front of me. Dozing off had the unexpected payoff of reducing my head pain substantially, as well as allowing some free eavesdropping time as the voices were obviously under the impression I was still out.

"I thought you said you didn't hit him that hard? He looks like he's got brain damage," said the first voice. It sounded like a woman's, deeper than most but still a woman and I suspected it was the one who I had followed into the dead end.

"Hey you were the one who was all panicky about being followed. Anyway what does it matter, he's just another Fed. We'll give him a shot, find out what he knows then let him go. If he shows up back at headquarters sounding like he's a few bricks short of a load whose going to notice over there? Most of them talk like they've seen recent contact with the flat edge of a 2 X 4 anyway."

They thought I was a fed, while it was slightly insulting; it was also understandable given their circumstances. It also made life both a little easier and a little more precarious at the same time. If I was able to convince them of the fact that I was working the same side of the street as they were and not a fed they might not look on me with such suspicion. Of course if I wasn't able to do that I could end up being injected with some sort of truth drug that also seemed to remove a good chunk of a person's reasoning skills.

"Well the horsemen are going be happy if you keep making their job easier by knocking out everyone whose sneaking around behind their backs trying to figure who offed the professor, and who is trying to stuff the Kyoto accord so far up a chimney at the same time, that it will just be so many more toxic emissions if it can't be found soon." I had decided to try and brazen it out with the truth, cause sometimes you never know people might believe you.

It was kind of hard for me to decipher their reactions as I was seated in the centre of the pool of light cast by a naked bulb hanging over my head like that Greek dude's sword, and they were lurking in the shadows. I could tell that I had startled them, but that could just as easily be put down to them not knowing I was among the conscious more than anything else.

Whatever other effects my little speech might have had on them, at least it got them to come into my circle of light. I was right about the woman's voice, it belonged to the one who I'd followed from the store. She was your typical granola number down to her lack of make up, thick socks and expensive German made sandals. It didn't stop her from being attractive, but in an earnest political sort of way that I knew from experience could fast become tedious.

The guy was cut from the same cloth; only he had a slightly harder edge to him. He was that new breed of political activist who the cops hadn't figured out yet, computer and tech savvy, with no worries about employing violence if attacked. Cops hadn't managed to upgrade their thinking from the days of passive resistance and when they ran into people who picked up their tear gas canisters and calmly lobbed them back at them it still confused them.

The demonstrators had their own version of shock troops now who would stand up to the first wave of a baton flailing riot cop charge to give their more passive brethren and sisters a chance to escape. The guy in front of me was a prime example of the type, tall, leanly muscled and tough as whip cord. I had no trouble believing that he'd been the one to administer the love tap that left me counting teeth with the tip of my tongue.

After, I don't know maybe thirty seconds – maybe an hour – of them staring at me and me trying to stare back at them without staring because it seemed to hurt just a little too much to use my eyes that much, and without anybody saying anything. I was just about to try again when she spoke up.

"What do you know about Professor Magnesen?" she asked

"Now that's an interesting first question to ask, not why were your following me, or what do you want, but about a person who I haven't said I even know. What I do know is that you know him, which I didn't know before; thanks" I said brightly.

She certainly turned a very pretty shade of red when she flushed, whether it was with anger or embarrassment didn't make much of a difference in my book. He on the other hand didn't have the same redeeming qualities when he flushed. If he was pissed at her for giving something away, or pissed at me for being a wiseass was irrelevant as he was bound to take his displeasure out on me not her.

"Okay smart ass we you've proved that you aren't just another pretty face, but why should we believe that you're not a cop and you still didn't answer her question about what you know about the professor. So why don't you be a good guy and answer the lady's questions and maybe I'll forget what a rude bastard you were to her." He reached behind him and pulled one of the largest hunting knives I've ever seen out of belt sheath and began cleaning his nails with it. He saw me staring at it, and nodded his head once as encouragement that I shouldn't be shy about speaking my piece for much longer.

"Well first of all I know he was working on a project for the government that would have reduced green house gasses substantially while actually improving the economy instead of harming it, until the government changed and his program funding was yanked. I know that he started meeting with some environmentalists about something or other and that some government department was starting to get very interested in his files at home."

I paused for breath here and tried to gauge their reactions, but neither of them was giving anything away. They both were just staring at me waiting to hear what I had to say next. So far anything I had told them didn't tell them what they really wanted to know; who I was. The feds would have known all that I had said up till now so they still didn't have any reason to believe me when I said I wasn't working for the government. I was going to have to lay as many cards as possible on the table.

"A short while I was contacted by a client to investigate the disappearance of the Kyoto accord. I got a call at the office one night and I was supposed to meet someone over at a strip club in Hull. He showed up alright, but he arrived to see me with one of the biggest hunting knives I've ever seen sticking out of his back." I said this last bit being very careful not to look at the blade whose point the guy was now digging into the wooden tabletop in front of me.

"Since then I've been trying to trace backward through his life in an attempt to figure out who killed him and what he'd been working on that has people so scared that even after he's dead they're still trying to shut him up." I followed you", pointing with my chin at the woman" because I hoped you'd be able to help me find some answers. Given my reception I can only hope that we might be of some assistance to each other."

The guy and the woman exchanged glances, she raised an eyebrow and he nodded his head in return. He kept the knife in his hand and came at me with point pointed directly at my chest. He flipped it over in his hand so that the cutting edge was pointing up and swung the knife up and through the ropes binding my wrists. He then bent down and sliced through the cords around my feet.

He stepped back and took up his position beside the table again as I shook my hands and feet in an attempt to restore some of the circulation that I'd lost while I'd been strapped in. More and more I'm convinced that I would never be cut out for bondage. I just don't like mixing work with pleasure that much.

I was still busy rubbing at my wrists and ankles when the woman spoke up. "Look", she said, "we're really sorry about all this", waving her hand as if taking in the basement, my skull and being tied to a chair, "but ever since the professor was killed we've been really scared about what's going on. Why would they want to kill him just because he had good ideas about how we could reach our commitment to the Kyoto accord and be able to help other countries do the same."

"Yeah", said the guy," I hope I didn't do too much damage, but our nerves are stretched pretty raw right about now. Not only can't we figure out why anyone would have wanted the professor dead, we don't have much idea as to who could have done it. When you showed up nosing around…well we though we might be able to crack you open about who you were working for and get some answers."

He sighed, and shook his head. "But we're still no further ahead and there aren't even any clues to go on. It doesn't sound like you know that much more than we do." He sucked in a big breath of air." Damn this is frustrating. He was so close to answers, in fact we believe he might have even had them already, but was playing it close to the vest as he could see the departments he had built for research and development slowly being dismantled due to budget cut backs and funding not being renewed. He had contacted us late in the summer before the Election, knowing that even a potential Stephen Harper victory would destroy his life's work"

"When they couldn't do that, they destroyed him instead" her voice was choked as if close to tears, and I looked at her closely. "The reason he approached us was that I had been a student to his at the University. One day, accidentally he said, by coincidence he said he came in here and we got to chatting. He wanted to know what I was up to, If I had kept up being active in environmental groups after leaving school. He also wanted to know if I had been following the discussions about global warming in the papers and was as worried as he was by what he called the irresponsible science issuing from some world capitals"

She paused as if to gather her thoughts, or to just take the deep breath that would see her through the rest of her story. "After a while he asked me if I knew a couple of other people who were active in environmental groups who might like to learn some information that they could put to good use. So we began to go over to his house at odd hours to try and shake off any potential tails. Judging by the outcome to date we haven't succeeded in doing much except getting our patron killed"

The silence that followed her little speech was exceptionally empty as we all sat with our own thoughts for a minute or two. Finally she broke it and in a rather choked voice looked at me, then over at her erstwhile companion, and asked the question whose answer I had come looking for. "What do we do now?"

September 9, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes #31: The Return Of NaNoWriMo

It's September 9th today and the nights have been starting to get cold for the last little while. The daylight hours are getting less and less with it staying dark until six am and the sun setting before eight at night now. When the air starts smelling crisp and the leaves begin to turn, men and women brave of heart and weak of mind begin to think of NaNoWriMo.

There are only fifty-two days left before you set pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and begin the slow ascent towards the goal of writing 50,000 words within the month of November. There's the thrill of the first day that you easily surpass your daily word requirement, the agony of the days where you struggle to make the bare minimum needed to ensure you'll scrape in under the wire, and of course the greatest feeling of them all passing the finishing line as your word count clicks over the magic threshold to equal 50,001.

Labour Day weekend has been and gone, so the "Three Day Novel" writing contest has passed you by yet again. The only literary competition left which has nothing to do with merit, or lack there of, left is the National Novel Writing Month. (Or NaNoWriMo as it's more familiarly known)

Let us face it, what else are you going to do in November anyway? Talk about a depressing month; it's not winter yet so it doesn't have the redeeming qualities of snow to alleviate its greyness. It's not fall anymore so the trees are just naked sticks shivering in the dank wetness with no colours to brighten your day.

Sure you can go for walks in the freezing rain and look at the Christmas displays that the stores put up the moment Halloween ended or there's always the fun of … well I'm sure if you thought hard enough you could think of things to do in November. But why bother when someone has saved you the effort of figuring out how to stave off Seasonal Depression by driving yourself crazy with an attempt at achieving a goal that's difficult but not impossible.

Perhaps NaNoWriMo is a little too much like the old Chinese curse of "May you live in interesting times" for some of you in terms of the demands it will make on you emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually and psychologically. But I would think it's a fair trade off for avoiding depression. Instead of being like all the other grey spectres around you, bummed out by the weather and the very Novemberness of it all, you'll be frazzled, anxious, inspired, and ecstatic.

You ever see the movie Sean Of The Dead? It has these wonderful opening shots of people walking around like zombies going about their daily routines; cashiers at a supermarket scanning items and putting them in bags, people walking down a street in headphones all listening to the same music shuffling and jerking. All before anybody becomes a zombie; in fact some of them seem to have a little more purpose after they become undead – a focus is a marvellous thing.

That will be the difference between you and the November zombies that surround you. You'll have a focus. Something that will give you a purpose outside of your normal existence, something that will break you out of any rut that you may have fallen into with or without knowing it.

It might drive you crazy at times, but at least you'll be alive. Every morning you'll wake up and have something to do that matters to you, something that you've decided you want to do, not that someone has made you do or is demanded of you by what you do for money. The fact that it is something creative is almost a bonus.

But what a bonus; how often in your everyday life to do you get to express yourself creatively? When was the last time you took on a project of this magnitude that would force you to stir your creative juices on a regular basis? I know that's probably where a lot of your anxiety is coming from, but don't worry about it, it's part of the process.

In fact if you want to deal with that anxiety the best thing to do is to start planning your assault on the 50,000-word plateau in advance. Start thinking about your story now; the characters, what they are going to be doing, how they are going to be doing it, where they are going to be when they are doing things, and who they are going to be doing what things with.

Oh and you'd better come up with a plot as well. They usually help to give your characters a sense of direction, a focus for all that who, what, where, how, and why stuff that I started to mention in the previous paragraph. If you are so inclined you can make up big charts that show how each character is going to interact with other characters and hang them on the walls around where you will be working. It will give you a feeling of accomplishment before you even get started.

But if you use them for the actual project, think of them as guidelines not rules. The last thing you want to do is have something that's going to stifle your creative juices. If you get an idea from something you've just written don't ignore it because it's not on your list, go with it and see where it takes you and it will make for much more interesting writing and maybe even reading.

The real reason for doing any planning is to reassure yourself that you're not in over your head. Once you lay stuff out like that on paper or in chart form you'll realize how few 50,000 – words actually are. Once you understand that, you'll be amazed how what at first seemed insurmountable begins to look eminently doable.

The National Novel Writing Month is a wonderful way to spend November and who knows it may even be the beginning of your great novel, the one you always knew you could write if you ever had the opportunity. If you want to make a stab at it then you can go on over to the NaNoWriMo site and sign up. They don't usually open for registration until October so you still have time.

Enjoy.


September 4, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes #31: Singularity Of Purpose

Through out the ages wise people from many cultures have espoused the philosophy of simplicity as the path to follow to achieve harmony and lead as contented a life as possible. Needless to say that instruction has been as open to interpretation as any other edict passed down on how one should lead your life.

Everyone claims to have discovered the path to simplicity and seems more than willing to share their secrets with you for only the price of their book and maybe a course or two. Not only that, but there also seems to appear a multitude of reasons for living the simple life. Enlightenment, peace, personal wealth, spiritual wealth, closeness to the God of your choice; in fact you seem to be able to obtain what ever it is your heart desires simply by following the instructions in which one of the books you've chosen to pick up.

What always astounds me about so many of these books, is not only how there can be so many different ways of living simply, but how complicated so many people make it to obtain simplicity. Doesn't anyone else find it sort of self-defeating that it could take as many as fifteen steps before you can obtain simplicity? What's so simple about that?

Perhaps part of the problem is that they are trying to take a path that was designed to eliminate distractions between those who prayed and their god. It was a matter of divesting yourself of worldly concerns and material wealth and narrowing your focus so all your actions and thought were aimed at service to whoever worshipped.

Almost every faith has those who adhere to something akin to those circumstances, and usually they live their lives isolated from the rest of the world either through physical removal or the taking of vows that restrict their participation in society. There are traditions among all the faiths that are geared to train the mind to assist in the development of that singularity of focus requiring years of study and commitment, if not many lifetimes. (Yes that's a plural – get over yourself, it's their belief let them enjoy it)

To obtain that type of simplicity you have to have something you are prepared to commit yourself to as totally as monks or yogis commit to their faiths. You need a focus that commands the attention of as much of your mind, body, and spirit as is possible for you to surrender or you don't stand a chance.

Of course it can also work in reverse. Instead of searching for something that you can use as a focal point to coalesce your energies around; you have something that you want to become the centre of your attention. You want your life to simplify to eliminate all the unnecessary distractions that you see as getting in the way of achieving that goal or fulfilling that purpose.

For me that focal point has been my writing, and I now realise that I have developed that singularity of purpose and not even noticed. Without much conscience effort on my part my life has gradually evolved into two compartments: things that are part of my writing and things that don't have anything to do with it. As time has passed in the last fifteen months the items in column number two have gradually been reduced.
The only thing that comes ahead of my writing is the well being of my wife and our relationship. Without that place of core strength I wouldn't be able to write anyway; anymore than if my hands were cut off. I'd as soon consider breathing, as her and what we have together, as being separate from my writing.

Everything else either falls into the category of being related to writing or not related to writing. I've been doing a lot of reviews recently; books, music and movies and I was beginning to resent them after a while because I felt like they were taking me away from my writing. But then I began to think about it and realised that was stupid.

First of all anything that I read is beneficial because it exposes me to new ways of expressing ideas and different writer's styles. I don't even have to necessarily like what I've read or how the author's written it for me to get something out of it. (At the very least optimism for my own work being published – boy I'm better than this, someone, somewhere is going to publish me) Then there is the whole process of writing the reviews.

No matter what it is that I'm reviewing I need to be able to write about it in an intelligent enough manner to interest the reader, while at the same time be able to communicate an intelligent opinion. There is also the challenge of coming up with a way of making the actual writing of the review more interesting for myself. All of those things contribute to my skill as a writer.

When it comes right down to it, any time that I sit down at my keyboard to write anything, be it a response to a comment left at one of my posts, a comment at someone else's post, or an email to a friend, is an opportunity to improve some aspect of my writing. It could be a simple matter of ensuring my spelling and grammar are perfect so that it becomes second nature to write with that in mind.

It could even involve taking that extra minute to proof read a casual email for typos and extraneous words. That way I get into the habit of doing it all the time. The more that you care; the more care you take, and the more you'll take care of what is truly important to you. I suppose that's what they mean by being mindful but when I worked in theatre we called it attention to detail.

But no matter how hard I try there are always going to be items in the not related to writing column. Some people will probably consider me luckier than most because I don't have to go out and work everyday as I'm on a disability pension. The downside to that is that I'm disabled which limits the amount of writing I can do in any given day.

Some days I'm lucky and can put in a couple of three-hour stints at the keyboard in a day. Other days I'm lucky to haul my sorry ass upright enough to write long enough to post. So I'd say those two pretty much cancel each other out, the job and the disability.

Of course there are also the mundane details of daily living that can't be ignored, laundry, shopping, and housework all have to be done eventually. When the dust bunnies become dust buffalos and start migrating from room to room even the most distracted individual is going to feel compelled to sweep.

You can't just ignore that stuff or in good conscience dump it on someone else when half the responsibility is yours. No matter what there are always going to be things on the not related to writing side of the ledger that have to be dealt with.

If you are like me and have only limited reserves of energy to expend on anything, or if your limitations are time related, the best thing you can do in either instance is learn how to best utilize the time you have at your disposal. For me it’s a matter of not doing too many of the things in the non-related column that I have no energy left to accomplish what I want to do.

In our world, living simply means being able to keep in mind at all times what is important to you, and applying as much energy as possible towards that goal at all times. It means narrowing your focus to the point where everything is thought of in terms of how it relates to that goal.

Unlike monks who have removed themselves from the world I can only minimize the world's impact on my attempts to serve my purpose. Keep It Simple Stupid, commonly known as the KISS rule, serves as a reminder not to overly complicate matters or you find yourself overwhelmed and unable to do anything at all. I have this feeling that many of those ancient wise men would have appreciated the sentiment behind that thought.

August 25, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes #30: I'm Just Getting Started

Dear Richard Thank you for submitting the sample chapters of your novel The Paths Life Takes. I apologize for the lengthy response time but because we accept unagented submissions by email we are inundated and I do read them all. I'm sorry to tell you that we don't feel we can add your novel to our list. We can only accept a small fraction of the works that come to us and we must be completely committed to any work we take on. Your writing is extremely good and I'm confident that you will find the right home for this work if you persevere. With all best wishes for your writing endeavours, James McKinnon

Well there it is my first rejection letter. It was delivered straight to my inbox yesterday with all the suspense that accompanies the arrival of a piece of Spam. There's just something so unsatisfying about opening a letter like this by email. You want to be able to hold onto things like this with fingers trembling in anticipation as you work up the courage to first rip open the envelope and then unfold the letter.

Just pointing and clicking took all of the drama out of the moment. These are supposed to be important way stations in your career as a writer; rejection letters piling one on top of the other until you're almost ready to give up when at the last moment you receive the long hoped for letter of acceptance. It's just hard to build up anything akin to that sort of importance when the letter comes electronically.

First of all it doesn't have any identification that it is from a publisher. There's just a name in the address line. It took me a couple of seconds to even remember who James McKinnon was, let along that he held a little piece of my soul in his computer. It would have been far nicer to receive it in some nice envelope with the publisher's crest or name embossed on the back. Then I could have some good anxious moments to spend before even opening it.

Letterhead would have been nice too. You know some fancy looking logo along the top of the paper with a heraldic type quote in Latin that looks literary even if it means something stupid like "Keep your nibs clean" I bet that would look pretty impressive in Latin. At the very least it would have been nice to have a return address across the top that proves this person was really from the publisher all along.

I only have his word for it that he is an editor at the house. What if he's the janitor and been breaking into their computer systems periodically and stealing files? How do I know he's not just going to use my idea to write his own book along the same lines? (Well probably because I did receive another email under separate cover from one the publishers assuring me that James was indeed on their staff, and his first letter did come from the publisher's address and contained identification marks) But still, you never know.

Well I guess you do, because who else is going to write as polite a "go away" letter as that if not a publishing professional. Talk about your Dear John letters; they never want to hear from me again do they? "I'm confident you will find the right home for this work if you persevere" really means "We don't like your kind so don't darken our door again and peddle your wares elsewhere"

To be honest though it's a nice change to even hear anything back from somebody at all. I've sent articles off to magazines months ago and not heard a thing back from them. I'm still waiting to hear anything at all back from the publisher in India that I had sent off a chapter and a query letter to somewhere back in February.

Of course that's nothing compared to what it was like when I was acting. You never heard back from anybody except if you got the part. It could be down to you and one other person for a role in a film or a play and you'd only find out you weren't cast when the play opened or the film was in the theatres.

Supposedly having an agent made a difference but I never noticed. I've had casting directors rave over me and say I was perfect for the part, never hear anything back from them and then when I'd see the actor that had ended up being cast in the role he was as opposite from me as possible without being another species.

So all in all as rejections go this wasn't so bad, in fact it doesn't even feel like a rejection in some ways. I didn't have much hope of this publisher signing me to a book contract. I'm a new author with no real publishing record, and they are a new publisher. They are going to want to play it somewhat safe in regards to who they take on as a client I would think.

Aside from the fact that I wasn't previously published another strike against me was the fact that my book's genre is so nebulous. There is nowhere near enough magic or other fantastical elements for it to be considered fantasy, but neither can it be considered straight historical fiction. I didn't have any sex or nude scenes either, mainly for the reason that only two characters fit that bill and it wasn't culturally appropriate for them or their situation.

The subject matter itself might have been problematic: how well is a book dealing with events based on the re conquest of Spain where the Muslims, Jews, and Gypsies who live in the territories are painted as victims of Christian aggression going to go over on the mass market these days? The words lead and balloon may have been floating through their brains, as well as large zeros in terms of sales in the all-important American market.

The only reason I even held out an iota of hope for this company taking a flyer on the book was the fact that they had requested more chapters. I had sent them the usual first chapter plus query letter and was preparing to wait a few months before I heard anything back from them. So when Jamie the janitor (or maybe editor as he claimed) wrote back a week later asking for chapters two, three, and penultimate, I had a brief vision of one of those fluky first shot hitting the bulls eye type experiences that only happen to other people.

I had images of my pages being passed around from editor to editor, being discussed in publishing meetings, and eventually my editor (I was thinking of him as my editor in those fantasy moments) taking them to the publisher and arguing the case for printing my book. Thankfully I know some saner heads who were able to bring me down to earth by telling stories of publishers asking for the whole manuscript and then never getting back to them. Or others discussing potential edits and revisions, and afterwards express amazement that the author had gone to all that trouble when they weren't interested in the work.

So what do I do now? Why keep writing of course, and start sending out more letters and chapters. I still believe my work is far superior to a good chunk of what's on the shelves these days, and that I've got a good story to tell. A friend of mine is going to help me with getting my foot in a couple of doors he can open, but it's still up to me to wow them with my work.

I'll take another look at the early chapters and see if I can polish them up even more, I haven't looked at them since April so I might catch something that I missed the first time. Aside from that, I've got book two still to write, other projects I'm working on, and a blog to maintain. I'm not about to let a little thing like a rejection letter stop me now. I've only just started.

August 23, 2006

Canadian Politics: The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord #4

Well it looked like I had run into a dead end. I should have known better than to think any of the bar's phones or their accoutrements, which is a fancy way of saying the shit that goes with something, would have survived the types of drunks, junkies, and liars that habituate a strip bar. Probably the first drunk husband whose wife had told him not to come home from wherever he was had performed the Charles Atlas trick on the "Let My Fingers Do the Walking" tome at the first booth.

The second looked like it had been used to mop up something that I didn't want to have a better acquaintance with and the third, like someone had used it as practice before they perforated the late, lamented Doctor Magneson. Sighing a curse or two at the perfidy of my fellow men I headed for the office where I was certain I could find a phone book in somewhat better shape than any of these relics.

After two hours of questioning my sanity and a half bottle of whiskey later I came across the phone book for the National Capital Region (Ottawa, Hull, and anywhere else in the vicinity that uncivil servants might hang their coats and hats) propping up a window. It had sustained a little damage from water and the neighbouring pigeons, and the mice had absconded with the zeds (poor as synagogue mice as they were making they're way through the book backwards) for comfort, but at least the section where gorgeous Scandinavian blondes kept their phone numbers looked to be intact.

That is if they kept their phone number in phone books at all. Two hours of scouring the phone book only confirmed the fact that there was no Magnesons to be found with a listed phone number anywhere within the confines of this sorry excuse for a city. There are 600 Martins, and four different ways that people seem to spell MacDonald, Mcdonald, MaCdonald, and Macdonald, but no damn Magnesons.

Some items when they cause you frustration don't have the decency to give you any means of release. A phone book on the other hand has a nice bit of heft to it so when you decide to chuck it across the room it will make a resounding thud. Indeed if you throw it hard enough not only will it make a satisfying noise, it will rip through cheap drywall like an elephant's fart through tissue paper.

It took my a few seconds to realize that the ringing sound I was hearing in my ears was unrelated to the minor bit of renovation I had begun seconds ago, and had more to do with the phone sitting on my desk than anything else. I was using less then the usual requisite number of brain cells required to carry on a phone conversation when I picked up the receiver; half of them being awash in the best part of a fifth of Canadian Club, another chunk trying to visualize how the filing cabinet would look on the other side of the door, and the remainder trying to figure out how long it would take the mice to work there way backwards through the whole alphabet now that they had ready access to the source.

So it took me a second or two to remember what I was supposed to do with the piece of cheap plastic in my hand out of which a sultry voice was calling hello with increasing amounts of urgency. I tried to shake off thoughts of mice in knit yarmulkes and me wearing a truss, the way a dog shakes off water, and was rewarded with the office attempting to spin me into orbit. It was only by catching the desk with my chin that I was able to prevent myself from hitting the floor.

Pain has the remarkable ability to clear your brain and let you focus on the events at hand. After the sparks that had appeared out of nowhere in front of my eyes had vanished I noticed that I was holding on to the phone. I was just about to hang it up when I heard a vaguely familiar sounding voice saying, "Oh my God what's going on, is there anybody there? Hello, hello?"

"Lady could you keep your voice down I've got quite the headache all of a sudden and you're not helping any by yelling away like this" There was now a much appreciated silence at the other end of the line which allowed me to regain a little bit of my composure so that I could go about this the right way. After all she had just lost the man who I assumed to be her father in a rather grisly fashion and that called for a certain amount of delicacy. (Who else did you think it was going to be on the phone at this time of night in this kind of story – sheesh)

"Why did you do it? Why did you kill your father tonight Ms. Magnesen? I saw you running away from the bar just as he keeled over at my feet so don't deny you were there and that you fled. Any normal girl would have stayed, you see your father drop to the floor like a ton of bricks and you're heading for the proverbial hills – something ain't right with that picture Ms. Magnesen and your gonna have to help me bring it into focus."

There was a pause from the other end of the phone line, followed by the unmistakeable sounds of someone taking a large drag off a cigarette followed by a long slow exhale. Visualizing in my head just how those actions would affect her lips and the thoughts that sprang to mind with those images left me a little light headed again. I barely recovered in time to hear what she had to say next.

"I guess I'm not what you'd call a normal girl Mr?" her voicing trailing away in a suggestive question mark led me to quickly interject in a still somewhat shaky voice "just call me Steve, Ms. Magnesen" to which she replied "there's no need for you to be formal either, Steve; call me Gertrude" Immediately destroying any of the earlier mental images that I had envisioned. Gertrude is just one of those names where even knowing the person in question would look good in a potato sack makes me think of particularly hairy great aunts.

Another cigarette inhalation pause followed this exchange of names, this time bereft of any accompanying imagery, until she continued with, " But then again my dad and I hadn't been having what you would call a normal existence for the past while"

I made appreciative, and what I hoped were encouraging noises, and made myself comfortable on the floor, noticing with contentment that the remainder of the fifth was within easy reach having rolled onto the floor in the confusion. I hooked the bottle over to me with my foot and was carefully unscrewing the cap as she began her story.

"My dad and I had moved up to Ottawa a few years ago, my mother had died from cancer and neither of us could bear to be around places that reminded us of her. He felt especially guilty because his work had kept him from home during a great deal of her last months with us and he knew that he wished that he could have spent more time with her.

I had ended up being her primary care giver, having to bathe her, change her diapers when she could no longer get up to go to the bathroom on her own, and eventually feed her. While he was off at conferences on climate change and global warming I'd be at home making broth and rolling her over in bed to prevent bed sores. He told me later that he was sorry that he had left so much of the burden on my shoulders but he couldn't stand to see her like what she was becoming.

That broken collection of bones and skin with no intellect or brain wasn't the person he had married. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't feel anything but revulsion for her when he was around her, and that ate at him like termites in a clapboard house. He had worshiped the ground she had walked on until the moment she had gotten sick, treating her like she was royalty, and then all of a sudden he found he couldn't go near her."

I was fighting back tears by this time, although that could have been residual pain and medicinal whiskey, so I wasn't all that surprised that she made a slight choking sound as if overcome with emotion and had to pause for a second. As there was nothing really that could be said, I said nothing and let her take all the time she needed to compose herself before she continued.

"Anyway when the previous government was working out ways to try and ensure that Canada was going to meet its Kyoto accord commitments a position became available requiring someone of dad's expertise and skills. I decided to go back to school and finish the thesis work I had begun when Mom had gotten sick and we began the process of putting our live back together.

Those couple of years were great; everyone dad was working with were excited about coming up with solutions that would not only see Canada meet its obligations, but actually exceed them. It was so great to see dad taking an interest in life again. There had been a time just after mom died that I was worried for him, and that I thought he might be going off the deep end into depression, but this new project had revitalized him.

Of course it was too good to be true, and all those other damn clichés about good stuff coming to an end, and last fall when it began to look like the Conservative Party Of Canada had a good chance of forming the next government, dad started asking questions about the accord's future if the change were to happen and it didn't look good.

The word he got was that even if they were able to cut emissions by fifty per cent and improve the economy at the same time by an equal amount, the Conservatives were going to pull the plug on the deal no matter what. When words like 'setting a dangerous precedent for government regulatory powers and interference in the market place' start being bandied about, you could have discovered the cure for cancer and AIDS and you knew your funding would be killed and your program shut down.

Dad became like a figure obsessed; he began working all hours of the day and night in an effort to come up with a devise that could be used to convert carbon dioxide and other dangerous emissions into harmless substances when released into the atmosphere. He knew that even if the government had no intention of ever making use of this technology that there were others who would and could.

It was just before Christmas and after the election had been called that he let me in on a little of what he was planning, albeit it indirectly. He told me that I shouldn't be surprised if he started to receive visitors at home at all hours of the day and night, and that I shouldn't make a big deal out of it. He also said it would be a good idea if I didn't tell anybody about them either."

She stopped to light another cigarette and gather her thoughts for what I assumed was the crux of the matter. I had a good idea where this was going and beginning to see how it ended as badly as it did. I had long since abandoned the bottle of whiskey and was sitting propped up against the desk with my legs splayed out in front of me. Looking out the office window I could see the sky was beginning to change colour; the clouds of the previous night had dispersed and there was a faint blush appearing along the eastern horizon line. It looked like it was going to be a nice day for somebody, somebody who probably wasn't named Gertrude Magneson.

"Maybe I should have said something to him, asked him more about what he was doing, but he looked like he had hope for the first time since the beginning of the fall when we started to hear the rumours of our demise. After all we'd been through there was no way I was going to be the one to pull the rug out from under him.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, up to Christmas and then twice more before New Years, the visits took place. They would usually happen between midnight and four in the morning and the person would arrive on bicycle or foot. Most of the time they'd only come one at a time, but on the last couple of occasions all three of them came together and these visits were also in daytime. It was as if they either believed they were completely safe or they no longer cared whether they were being observed.

The two men and a woman all dressed and looked pretty much the same. Long hair, bulky sweaters, fancy sandals with thick socks on no matter what the weather, and the same zealous fire in their eyes at all times. They were all sort of pale, like they didn't eat enough and never had anything to drink except water and herbal tea. The woman looked at me like I was some sort of evil monster and the two men would sneak looks at me when they didn't think I could see and they knew she wasn't looking.

Obviously they weren’t supposed to approve of me, the way I dressed or looked or something, but that didn't stop them from drooling just like any other straight male does the first time he sees me. I thought they were judgemental little hypocrites for judging me by my appearance, they were probably the types who protested against just that sort of thing, but I didn't say anything because my dad assured me their visits were temporary and they were helping him out in some way or another. Sure enough after those last couple of meetings before New Year's Eve we never saw them again.

After Christmas vacation my dad went back to work and waited for the inevitable to happen. After the elections rumours were flying fast and furious, but dad remained calm and when I asked him about it he just smiled and shrugged. But everything changed again a week after the oily bastards announced they were reneging on the Kyoto accord in order to 'seek a Canadian solution'.

I was at home working on my thesis and two men came to the door. They should have been wearing badges that said undercover R.C.M.P. officer or at least kept their stupid hats on they were so obvious. They said they were colleagues of dad's from work and that he had sent them by the house for some files he needed that he kept at home, and would I mind letting them come in to get them. I told them I would have to check with him first, and pretended to walk back into the house to use the phone, but in reality just slipped around the corner and observed them in the reflection from the hall mirror.

Not much of a surprise that they didn't wait for me to come back from making my 'phone call'. They left the door open when they left, so I did a full production for them of coming out on the step and looking puzzled as to what had just happened. I also used the time to spot where they had parked their Crown Victoria and watched as they pretended to be gay lovers necking in the front seat.

When I told dad about it he asked if I were okay and when I assured him I was, he laughed a little. But it wasn't as if it were at anything funny. He said they had searched the lab as well but they weren't going to find anything because, and he pointed to his head, it's all up here.

It was a week ago that he started to get worried about things again, but he didn't want to say anything to me about it. I had been seeing the same two cops who had come to the door around town, just happening to be where I was every so often. They made no effort to hide themselves, like they wanted to let me know they were keeping an eye on me for whatever reason.

I think it was the fact that they were bothering me that finally convinced him that we needed to find somebody to help us. Somebody we could trust in a situation that looked like it was getting further out of hand then he had expected. I think he had hoped that when they didn't find any files they could use they would leave him alone, but that didn't look like it was happening.

I was to follow him to the bar where the two of you were meeting last night to try and see if anybody had followed him, but it was so crowded that I couldn't even see either of you for a while. The next thing I knew was that he was dead. I was so scared that his killer was standing somewhere near me that all I could think of was getting out of there as quickly as possible. My father's dead Steve, and all I know is that it has something to do with the Kyoto accord and the Canadian government. Can you help me?"

August 13, 2006

Canadian Politics: The Case Of The Missing Kyoto Accord part 3

It took what seemed forever and a day for the boys in blue to get finished with me that night. I guess I was lucky it was only the local boys and the R.C.M.P. didn't think it worth getting down off their high horses for a simple bar knifing. Probably if they had known what was behind it all they would have pried their saddles loose from their butts, but I'd been playing it close to the vest so far. As far as anybody could tell I was only another witness to a senseless act of random violence.

Well that's what I thought it looked like, but Ottawa's finest must have had other thoughts. The obligatory uniform had shown up twenty minutes after the first screams and in the meantime the bar had emptied quicker then a tourist's bowel in Mexico. By the time the boys from Homicide made it to the scene it was only me, the peelers, the girls who served the drinks and the bartender.

The bartender hadn't looked at all happy when I suggested we call the cops, but even he couldn't think of a way of disposing of this problem. While I had been phoning 911, he had been on the other line to his boss. The type of guy who owns these bars likes to know when the police are going to be visiting his premises just as a matter of principle. Usually it's to check whether the paperwork for the Eastern European girls' will be needed or not.

Sometimes the owners will give these girls an incentive for working by "holding" on to their documents for them – to keep both the girls and the documents from getting lost. Those girls usually have had someone do them the great favour of buying them a ticket out of their shit hole village in the Balkans and offering them a job in the "Entertainment and Hospitality" business. If they were lucky it only meant stripping.

But they didn't have to worry, the homicide dicks took one look at the seven inches of steel (it only looked like three to me, but the guys who write up the reports think the bigger the better, although I've always thought it's not the size that matters; dead after all is dead) sticking out of the guy's back and are immediately on to bigger fish to fry. Me.

McIntosh and Gates might have been nice people off the job, hell they probably were kind to widows and orphans and all that other good stuff too, but being homicide cops for twenty years can make you pretty jaded when it comes to the job. Thankfully they didn't dislike me personally, only on principle. Detective work should be left to the cops and private dicks should stick to ruining people's marriages was how Gates had summed it up the first time he met me. (I don't think he ever found out about the manila envelope full of prints of him and the little Russian stripper that his ex – wife had paid me two thousand dollars for)

"Look who it is Mac, the big time private detective holding up a bar with a corpse leaning on his size elevens. That's a sight to warm the cockles of a person's heart, providing of course they have one." He was a skinny little guy who looked like he should have a cigarette dangling out his mouth as he was always talking out of the other side.

"One what? A heart or a cockles?" was McIntosh's humorous reply. He was a regular laugh riot that guy. He was an average build sort of type; the kind whose clothes hang around them to see if anything interesting was going to happen to the body and gradually lose what ever shape they might have had as they give into the inevitability of gravity.

They were both eyeing me in that appreciative manner that lions have for fresh meat, and Mac mimed flipping a coin. Nodding in an unspoken agreement Gates moved off to talk to the girls and the bartender while Mac figured he'd keep me company in case the body started to scare me.

It was one of those awkward moments between two men in a bar ever since they had banned smoking in public places. When you don't have the action of lighting a cigarette to use as cover for starting a conversation you can feel mighty exposed. To cover he fished in his jacket pocket and brought out his little flip-top note book and cheap chewed pen and began scanning the notes he had taken down from the preliminary results given him by the scene of the crime boys and the uniforms who had got here first.

After that little show he looked over at me, nodding his head imperceptibly to give me permission to talk. He knew that it as a matter of course I would be telling him as little as possible about any case I was working on and the only information he was going to get from me was stuff he already had. This was just their way of letting me know what was what.

So I told him I'd come to the bar to meet a contact who had called me over the phone, and that while waiting for him to show up this guy had fallen down dead at my feet after trying to swallow a sword with his sternum. McIntosh obviously had something up his sleeve that he was waiting to drop on me like an Acme anvil taking out the Coyote. He was just letting me play out some line so that he could see if I'd let slip with anything he was going to be able to use to string me up with.

When he played his trump card it wasn't anything that I wasn't prepared for, it was all just part of the game we played. The corpse was my contact it turns out, or the fact that he had my business card, with the time of our meeting and the bar's address scribbled on the back of it would have to rank up there with one of the largest coincidences on record.

Mac stood there waving the familiar card with the unfamiliar writing on the back in it's little evidence bag, as if dangling it in front of my face would make me all of a sudden break down to confessing the killing of all my clients. But I was made of harder stuff then that and came right back with my own question.

"Since you seem to think this guy must have been a client, why not give me his name. I hate it when they die on you before they've introduced themselves. It really puts a damper on future relationship possibilities and collecting from their next of kin"

I could see him mulling it over, wondering how much it damage it would cause his reputation if he were just to give me the name. At the same time I could let something slip that might just tie me a little bit tighter to the corpse. Finally he cleared his throat and recited what little information they did have. "His name was Dr. Samuel Magnesun, but he's not the sort of doctor you go to when you have a sore throat. He works, well worked for I guess you'd say now, the National Research Council here in Ottawa. We haven't been able to find out what he'd been working on yet; we're still waiting to hear back from his section head at the Council. I hadn't said more then dead in a bar, when the words National Security came whistling down the line, which than went deader than a dodo."

He eyed me even more expectedly now, to see if I could add to anything to the sketch of information that he had gathered. Even if I could give him something more, I think we both had the feeling of inevitability that strikes you when something is going to be swept under the carpet. National Security could explain away everything from not accepting tenders for military equipment so you could award the contracts to your buddies or those whose support you, to explaining the paperclip shortage at the Revenue Canada offices.

Truth be told I was thinking of a particular Nordic looking blonde and wondering what her relationship was with this middle aged chap laid out on the floor with a rib separator jammed into the area of his heart from the back and whether or not she'd require some consoling, when a loud throat clearing brought me back to reality.

Reality in the shape of Gates glowering at me from McIntosh's shoulder and saying, "Dick head are you listening to me? Unless you got something important to say, you've got to clear out. I've just got the word that the men in the grey suits are on their way to check out the body before we can take it down to the morgue. I only hope they hurry it up as this guy is starting to stiffen in that shape. Families hate it when they have to bury the corpse in pieces cause we had to break it to fit it into the bags."

I don't need to be told twice to vamoose when the feds are going to be making an appearance, but their appearance started to change the whole completion of this little exercise. What did my friend the corpse, the late Mr. Magnesun have to do with the Kyoto accord? Had he made some sort of breakthrough that certain bodies wanted silenced? Or was it just he had knowledge that ran contrary to what the government and its supporters wanted the public to believe about the accord's necessity?

Stopping on my way out of the bar, I checked the least vandalised pay phone for a directory and as I suspected there was only one listing for a Magnesun in the phone book. It wasn't that late yet, so I figured I'd swing by the address listed on my way home and see if a certain ash blond head was around to talk to.

I could offer my condolences, maybe some comfort, and hopefully pick up a few answers about the good Doctor's work and how or if it related to the Kyoto accord and what it was she was doing in the bar earlier that evening. With the feds swooping down on Magnesun's corpse like so many vultures, it would only be a matter of time before they had everything about him and the Kyoto accord under lock and key where they would never see the light again.

I still had far more questions then answers, but at least I was beginning to know which questions to ask. Like why were the feds so keen to keep the information about the Kyoto accord quiet? One way or another I was going to find me some answers, and I didn't care who I had to walk over or sleep with to get them. Although as far as the latter is concerned my preference would be for a certain ash blond.


July 16, 2006

Canadian Politics: The Case Of The Missing Opposition: Part Two

I was at my usual ringside seat watching one of the girls have her way with a brass pole, drinking my beer and trying to figure things out. It just didn't make sense; where could the opposition parties have vanished to since that day in January when Steven Harper and his boys took power?

Maybe the Liberals have the excuse of trying to keep a low profile, they've just lost power for the first time in thirteen years, their leader resigned, and they need time to regroup. But what about Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party (N.D.P.) He's no shrinking violet to back down from a fight or to go turtle when the times get tough. Anyway he'd just led his party to their best result in over twenty years so he's got to be feeling good; but there's barely been a peep out of him.

I know people think that Harper has worked out some sort of deal with the Bloc Quebecois, but I can't see them under normal circumstances letting any Federal Leader jump on a provincial jurisdiction like Harper did with Day Care and let them get away with it. Normally Gilles Duceppe would be all over that like a guy's hands on a lap dancer's assets, but now he's acting like a Puritan; pursing his lips and keeping his eyes closed.

It's one of those cases you sometimes wish you'd never taken on. Where do you go looking for opposition parties that seem to have vanished? None of them have been heard from up on Parliament Hill in months so checking the House of Commons is out of the question. The last time I can remember everybody being up there was when the Liberals agreed with the Tories implementing their policy of extending the and expanding the tour of duty of Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

The Voice of Concerned Canada has mentioned that's when the first questions started to come up about the opposition's whereabouts. Public opinion polls were showing that a solid majority of Canadians were opposed to any such arrangement; nobody wanted to start seeing young Canadians coming home in boxes from a country halfway around the world.

You'd have thought the opposition would have made some noise about remarks that oozed out of Harper's people saying Canadians "didn't understand" the importance of what was being done over there in Afghanistan. Nothing, not even a tiny little squeak like a mouse would make when trod on by an elephant.

I let my eye trail around the room, watching the girls going up and down the posts like pistons in a steam engine can be pretty relaxing in a mesmerizing sort of way. Civil servants trying to look nonchalant fondled their mobile phones and pagers as they watched the amazing muscle control required to climb a brass poll using only the inner thighs.

It used to be everybody would be smoking a cigarette or something, but ever since the day of infamy when smoking was banned in bars both sides of the border, mobile phones have replaced packs of smokes on bars as the toy of choice. Even I had one of the damn things in front of me on the bar. You felt naked without at least something square to put beside your keys on the bar. (There's a mystery for you, why do men always put their car keys on the bar in front of them? Half of them aren't going to be driving home from there that night anyway)

Half of the phones were in use right now, but who they were phoning at this time of night on a Friday in Ottawa is anyone's guess, unless of course it was to make excuses to their wives about work keeping them late. There was no one else they could be phoning without getting one of them damn voice mails with their insistent instructions on how to get in touch with whoever it is you're trying to get in touch with.

A fleeting though chased its tail in my head for a second then turned around and came back for a second look. Well why not, I had nothing else to go on and I might just get some lead or another. I opened the cell's top with a flip of the wrist and punched in the first series of numbers.

"Hello, bonjour. You have reached Liberal Party Headquarters" I immediately pressed one to get service in English and the voice continued "There's nobody here to answer your call right now, our normal office hours are Monday to Friday 9:00 – 5:00, but currently I wouldn't count on finding anyone in the office at they are all busy with sharpening knives in preparation for the leadership convention.

If this is an emergency situation and you need to talk to a liberal party member the janitor will be occasionally checking messages. Speak slowly and clearly and spell any words of more than one syllable if you desire any accuracy, as his English isn't the best.

Hopefully somebody will back in the office after the leadership convention next December and will attempt to get back to you at that time. Until then thank you for calling the National Headquarters of the Liberal Party of Canada, your thoughts and opinion are important to us."

I disengaged that call and took another kick at the can. "Bonjour, Vous avez atteint le bureau du Bloc Quebecois, pour le service en anglais, partez" Well that was as nice a "piss off" as I've received in a long time. Well I guess if you don't expect anyone from outside Quebec to vote for you, you're not going to provide service in English.

I was getting nowhere fast with this, but I figured I might as well give it one more shot and call the N.D.P. "Hi there you have reached national party headquarters for the New Democratic Party of Canada, the home of Social Democracy in Canada. We're the folk you never vote for but whom the Liberals steal all their ideas from and take the credit. We try not to get bitter about that but it really hurts our feelings you know that you never vote for us. Don't you like us? We gave you Medicare you ungrateful bastards yet you never give us more then a few measly seats.

We are not a tool of the unions or other special interest groups. Most union members have a higher annual income than us now for God's sake and vote for the damn Conservatives. What's with you guys anyway, you keep voting in these right wing bastards who promise to cut social spending and when they do you all whine about it. We warned you, but you wouldn't listen to us, oh no we're just fear mongers out of touch with the new economic reality of globalization. Well you voted for them so stop bitching at us about it.

Have a nice day and thank you for phoning N.D.P. national headquarters"

I closed the phone and laid it back on the bar in front of me, it might as well have been a pack of smokes for all the good it did me making those calls. The only call that went as I expected was the Bloc Quebecois, telling people to go away if they want service in English is about right for them, but even so they used to at least do it in English.

The other two sounded like petty little children who weren’t getting their way. The N.D.P.'s "nobody like's me everybody hates me" line, and the Liberals not giving a shit attitude ranked right up there in maturity with teenagers and …politicians. It hit me like the sidewalk hitting the face of anyone stupid enough to grab a boob in a place like this without paying extra, our politicians were actually becoming politicians.

It used to be in Canada people had a career, like doctors, lawyers, loan sharks, whatever, and they became a member of parliament on the side, or did it for a bit and then went back to being what they had been before they had decided to run in an election. Unlike other countries we didn’t' have people who wanted to be a politician when they grew up, or it wasn't a career goal in school.

If they wanted to serve the people they became social workers if the were liberals, or cops if the were conservative, but you didn't become a politician. You either did corporate law or worked as a defence attorney handling Legal Aid cases only and that's how you expressed your philosophy, through work not by becoming a politician.

If you really want to see the difference look at the leaders of the parties. In the past the N.D.P. have had civil rights lawyers, ministers and academics as leaders, but now in Jack Layton, they have a guy who's been a politician for most of his adult life. Starting off as an alderman in Toronto and working his way up the ladder until he's leader of the federal N.D.P. In fact both he and his wife are professional politicians, having both been at City Council together in Toronto before moving on up the social scale.

I was getting excited; this had to be the answer. Paul Martin, the last Liberal leader and former Prime Minister, may have owned a steam ship company, but he was the son of a politician. Paul Martin Sr. had been a minister in the cabinets of both Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, and his kid had been grooming himself for Prime Minister since the day he reached adulthood I'm willing to bet.

Bob Rae, the guy who appears to be the front-runner in the Liberal campaign went to work in the government straight from completing his schooling, as a member of Pierre Trudeau's Privy Council. He then became a federal member of parliament for the N.D.P. and went on to become the first socialist premier of Ontario. After that he served on various advisory boards and wrote studies for governments on things like the cost of post secondary education. He's enough of a politician that he's been able to switch parties three times now and not realize how strange that might look to other people.

Gilles Duceppe and all the others over at the Bloc have been political animals all their lives, breathing and bleeding sovereignty for Quebec since they were in University. None of them are high-school teachers or former football players who decided to run for public office.

Everything fit together as snug and tight as that g-string in front of me. The opposition parties had turned into politicians, and as politicians the only thing they cared about was getting re-elected in the next election. Who cared about what the country expected from them, they needed to be able guarantee they would be around after the next election was called.

They know if they push the Conservative government too hard they could end up having an election on their hands, and the voters could end up blaming their party for the fall of the government. In spite of Bob Rae's brave words about changing the date of the leadership convention if an election was necessary, there's no way in hell they'd want one called before the New Year.

The N.D.P. know that without the Liberal party they can't do anything to affect the vote in the House of Commons, even if they wanted to risk an election being called they're stuck, and they're royally pissed about it. They also have learnt from bitter experience that they are the ones most likely to be blamed if an election is called for something that the majority of Canadians don't care about – like softwood lumber.

The opposition parties of Canada haven’t been kidnapped or gone missing; something far worse has happened. They've become parties of politicians that may give lip service to the idea of speaking for Canadians, but were really only interested in one thing – their own political hides.

It seemed I did have one more phone call to make. The voice of Concerned Canada wasn't going to be too happy with my report, but there wasn't anything I could do about that. Flipping open my phone with one hand, I caught the eye of the girl on the post opposite me and she gave me a big smile. It looked like it might be a pretty good evening after all.


June 27, 2006

Hunting The Muse

The body hanging from the ceiling, with it's feet just brushing the back of the tipped over chair, looked like a pendulum ready to start keeping time. As the two cops gathered it up in their arms, prior to cutting it down to determine cause of death (neck stretched beyond capabilities of bones to withstand maybe?), watching from the doorway I realized that I wasn't even that surprised.

There are some cases you take on that you know will either end in a room like this one; with its chipped paint, iron bed and cheap mattress; sink in the corner that spews out rusty water, and a tipped over chair; or a back alley. They have the stink of futility rising from them in much the same way the beach smells these days at low tide.

There aren't many private dicks that search for missing muses anymore, it was always pretty much a specialty niche anyway, and for someone to show up at my door they're going to have be pretty desperate. The guy dancing the corpse Congo with the cops right now hadn't been any sort of exception. The look in his beady little eyes, as they swivelled behind his glasses checking out the room, spoke of too many hours staring at blank pages.

It had been one of those days in July where the world has stopped breathing, and no matter how high you have the fan going the air remained stagnant. Smoke from cigarettes smoked hours ago gathered at the ceiling and hung over my desk like a storm cloud. Even if I could have opened the window in the office (some bright spark had painted it shut) the smell of exhaust fumes would have just compounded the issue further.

The rap on the door had been as close to inaudible as possible while still staying on this side of existence. In reply to my calling out "Enter" the door was eased open a crack and he slid into the room. From across the office he was an unremarkable looking in the fact that he nothing really distinguished him from the next guy. His clothes were okay, but they had that rumpled look that only sleeping in them for three days and not changing anything could cause.

It wasn't until he had sat down in the chair opposite me that I noticed his eyes. Aside from them being in constant motion as mentioned before, they had the haunted look of someone who had suffered a great loss. I took a cigarette out of my case and began tapping it's end prior to lighting up and increasing the chances of a nicotine shower descending from overhead.

"What can I do for you pal?" Not very original but effective none the less in getting the client to answer – the more hard-boiled they think you are the better. Two years of method acting classes had taught me enough to carry it off. To complete the picture for him I grabbed a wooden match from it's container on the desk and struck it off the sole of the foot that crossed over the left leg.

"Do your really look for lost muses like your add says" He obviously wasn't used to talking to people, as it took him three attempts to force out the words, accompanied by much throat clearing. Taking a second closer look at him I saw that although his face was ashen with worry, it was obvious that it wasn't much paler than normal. This guy didn't see the light of day or consort with his fellow humans all that much.

I uncrossed my legs and turned in my chair so that we were facing each other directly across the desk. The clients always like a little eye contact when they're just starting out with you; it makes them fell that little bit less of a stranger.

"I've been known to track down missing muses on occasion. I take it yours has gone missing?

"Gone missing? Gone missing? More like deserted me at the worst possible time" There was an edge of something akin to hysteria in his voice as he answered. That should have set off alarm bells but I'd seen so many almost identical types come through the door that it wasn't until after the fact that I picked up the clues to his desperation.

He had obviously thought she had been his only companion and with her gone not only was his work down the toilet, but he was alone. I don't know if things would have ended differently if somebody had begun this investigation earlier but without her his life was obviously a living hell.

"Two weeks ago, I sat down to begin a sequel to my first book and I ended up just sitting for three hours. I didn't write down a thing. I sat and sat and nothing, do you understand nothing, came. Not a thought, not an idea, not even a picture of where it was all supposed to be taking place would come to me."

He leaned over the desk, and quickly; making sure that we were really alone he continued. "It's been the same every day since, I don't know how much longer I can keep going. My agent and my publisher are phoning on alternate days and they're really putting the screws to me. I was supposed to have the first three chapters finished today, and I have nothing."

He was trembling so bad I though he was going to cry. If we didn't get down to particulars soon he was going to be useless. "Alright, I know what happens when a muse leaves you dried up and shrivelled like a prune, you're not the only author that's wandered through that door you know. A little piece of free advice though, don't ever think you're agent is on your side cause he ain't. He's out to get whatever he can out of you for himself. When he or she signs you with a publisher, he gets his cut up front off the top of what you're getting but than he has to deliver a book from you that's as good as he said it was going to be."

"What I'm saying here is, don't trust your agent to have your best interest at heart once you've signed up. He's now working for the publisher. You have to learn to tell them it will be ready when it's ready"

"But I don't know if I'll ever finish unless you can help me. Can you help me find her, my muse I mean?"

"That's what I do. Now I'll need to know what the project is that your working on, and of course who your muse is and what she looks like. Or at the very least I need you to think real hard about what she looks like so that I can get a good idea of who or what it is I'm looking for"

He sat opposite the desk from me staring open mouthed for a second. Then very slowly he stood up and began to back away from me. "Why do you want to know what I'm working on – huh tell me that? What's that got to do with anything? What are you going to do with this information?"

"Don't think I don't know who you are just because you hide here in this office pretending to be an investigator when you're really a writer too. I've seen your face on enough dust jackets to remember now. If I told you what my novel is about the next thing I'd know is you'd have published it."

He was almost at the door by the time he finished, and he was reaching out for the door handle when I stopped him with one more question. "Why do you think I opened this detective agency?"

He looked back at me, still angry, and said " So you try and milk people for their ideas and not have to come up with any on your own."

"That's the problem when you make accusations without knowing the facts. The facts are that I lost my muse ten years ago and I opened this place as a means to try and find her. I haven't had any luck yet but I'm still looking. I figured since I was looking for mine, the least I can do is do the same for others and make a little money as well."

He stood staring at me with one hand on the door handle during the time I was speaking. When I finished he just stared at me in horror, mouthed "ten years", then he pulled the door open and was gone.

I sighed as I ground out my cigarette and wondered how long it would be before I got the phone call about this one. So many take it real hard when they find out that what they thought was a muse wasn't and on top of that how long it takes to hunt for a muse. You see they've mistaken a spurt of inspiration that carried them through a book, maybe two, as a muse, stupid fools. That's like mistaking a chippie who rents a room by the hour with a call girl who comes to a permanent arrangement.

Of course you can't secure a muse for any amount of cash, and panicked searching is just going to scare her away. First it's gotta be a long respectful courtship – no wham bam thank you mam for her. Hey she's not gonna' invest a lot of time and money in just any yahoo, yer gonna' have to earn it.

Which means work, sitting behind a typewriter or at a computer terminal and click clicking away at them keys until you're fingers bleed and you get calluses on the blisters; and you've gone through that carpal tunnel and back again so many times your wrists are permanent puff balls. You start showing that kind of dedication to what you do, and she might just decide to cast an eye in your direction. Once you got her attention you're pretty much set as long as you show yourself willing to keep working. Unless of course you happen to piss her off some how, and the less said about that the better. Cause you never know when her eye is going to turn your way and you don't want to be talking about her in a negative light just at the moment she's looking over.

Hunting a muse isn't like hunting anything else, cause you don't go out after her. Running around like a hophead is only going to bore her and keep the eye averted. Your best bet for luring and enticing her is to sit still and focus just on what you're supposed to be doing.

When the phone rang about a half hour after the last fella had left I knew what it was going to be except for the means and the address. After all my years in the business you get a feeling about this. I've ended up standing in this and many other doorways and alley mouths watching the demise of another poor sod who thought there was someone out there just waiting to feed him so he could grow fat off art.

I turned my back as they finished cutting him down, struck a match off the door jam, carefully pocketing the match so I wouldn't pollute the scene of the crime, and after nodding to the sergeant on duty, left. It was time to go sit at my typewriter and see who else might show up today.

April 29, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes 18: Originality Above All

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060427.wauthor0427/BNStory/Entertainment/home">Kaavya Viswanathan has been forced to remove her books from bookstores and rewrite passages to eliminate the similarities that her book bears to another written by Megan McCafferty. An as yet unknown number of paragraphs in Miss. Viswanathan's book were either lifted straight from the other books, or are considered similar enough to be copies and not original material.

“When I sat down to write my novel, my only intention was to tell the story of Opal.”… “I was so surprised and horrified when I found these similarities.” Kaavya Viswantathan

Well that's all any of us do when we sit down to write a story, tell the story of our characters, their circumstances and anything of interest that happens to them along the way. So that's easy enough to accept as her motivation for writing the book. In fact it sounds like there are striking similarities between the author's life and the life of her heroine.

They are both young woman who are of ethnic background who have pushed themselves to succeed no matter what the cost. In Miss. Viswanathan's novel her character stumbles because she has forgotten to have a life outside of her academic ambitions, while Miss Viswanathan herself has stumbled for trying to take shortcuts in the road to success.

The second part of her statement on the other hand; how possible is it that another author's work will turn up verbatim in one's own book unintentionally? Especially when the books are about circumstances that bear a striking thematic resemblance. It's one thing to write a book that covers the same territory as another, but an author is expected to write their own version, offer a new perspective on familiar circumstances.

I haven't been following the story too closely because, to be honest about it, sometimes this type of story strikes to close to the bone. Thoughts about originality and copying another's work have lurked in my brain since I started writing my novel. It's not that I've sat down and either copied out someone else's words, or even taken their ideas and retooled them, but the fact remains that other people have written stories set during the same time period and locale as me.

The very strange and great French writer Jean Cocteau once compared originality to a new suit, stiff and uncomfortable and difficult to wear. But this was more along the lines of an admonishment directed at young artists who were trying to invent brand new means of expression while completely discarding what came before them, and not about content.

Stylistically, he was saying, everything must build on what has come before, even if it is just to reject what your fore bearers have done. Something that is new, only for the sake of being new, will not have the substance of something that has roots to the past.

I have always been a voracious reader, devouring books since I was five, and there is no doubt that along the way bits and pieces of different writer's styles have rubbed off on me. Denying their influence would be like denying that I haven't drawn breath for the past 45 years. Some voices have of course been louder than others, everyone has their favourite authors, and there is no doubt that on occasion I've written something and thought, wow that sounds like so and so could have written it.

"Hell he only stole from me, I steal from everybody" has been widely attributed to the American folk singer Woody Guthrie. But folk music has always had a mysterious convention that has allowed the same tune to be used over and over again, only with different lyrics attached to it. Maybe it's the word "folk", meaning the music is for all of us that has given people that licence. Or perhaps they realize there are only so many songs that can be written within the framework of the chord available.

Either way no one seems to raise much a fuss when it happens. But the key there is that the lyrics are always different. How often have you heard a song where the lyrics and the tune bear similarities to another? Maybe folk musicians feel that you can't punish someone from using the same tune any more than you can punish writers for using paper to write a story on.

In writing there is no situation really similar to that of folk music, where tunes are interchangeable with the lyrics or the story, except when people approach the same topic. In those circumstances the subject matter could be said to be the "music" of the story, and what the author's job is to do is come up with new "lyrics"; a different approach, or a new way of telling the same old story.

West Side Story and Romeo And Juliet are often cited as an example of the same story line being used but the circumstances changed. But I would call the former merely an adaptation of the latter, not a different approach at all. There are far too many structural similarities between the two pieces for it to be otherwise.

If Leonard Bernstein had only taken the theme of two lovers from different backgrounds, and changed everything else, than West Side Story could have been considered a new telling of the same old story. But he stuck far too closely to Shakespeare's plot outline for it to be considered "original" in that manner.

The challenge faced by me, or any author when entering into territory that somebody else has already covered, whether it is an historical period, or the theme of star crossed lovers, is to find your own way of telling the story. In my case I extrapolated a story from an incident that took place in an historical period.

By removing the story from the actual circumstances and only using history as my basis I have been able to give myself miles of room for the creation of an original story. I know that there are other authors that have done the same thing with this period, but I have focused on such a specific event that I'm hopeful no one has attempted it before.

So why then do I worry about copying another's work? It sounds like I've covered all the bases doesn't it. Maybe I have no cause for worry, but still the thought nags at the back of my head about whether my work sounds like someone else's. Will you pick up my book, and say to yourself, oh this reads just like this person's or that person's work?

Maybe in comparison to plagiarizing another's work it sounds like a trivial concern to you, and that I should be happy if someone just publishes my work and it sells. But that's not why I've written this story. If I'd only wanted to get published there are lots of other more accessible topics that I could have tackled that would find a market more readily.

Perhaps it's ego, but I don't want the work to be tainted by people thinking it derivative of somebody else's attempts. I feel it would cheapen my effort and the story itself if there were any implication or hint of it having been created through any means other than my own creativity.

Of course others have influenced me, one can't help that, but it is still my work and I have enough self-pride that the idea of copying someone else in any form would never occur to me. Perhaps that is why I haven't wanted to read about Kaavya Viswanathan, I don't understand the circumstances that would drive anyone to doing what she did.

I'm no saint but there are certain things that I consider to be sacred. One of those things is artistic creation. As part of one of my email signatures I have this quote from e.e.cummings: "every artists strictly illimitable country is himself, and the artist who plays that country false has committed suicide." If I can't stay true to that, I don't see any point in writing.

April 23, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes 17: To Cut Or Not To Cut...?

This is all a new experience for me, editing and rewriting a whole novel. It's one thing to check over a couple of pages of an article and feel pretty confident about your final result, it's another thing altogether to try and have an objective opinion on something you've put so much sweat into.

I'm a couple of chapters past the halfway point of my second draft, and while sometimes that means nothing more than fixing typos and reformatting (I wrote it all single space, double space separating paragraphs only to find that publishers want double space, and indents for paragraphs) at other times I find chunks that are just too clumsy and need to be retooled.

But even that's easy, change a word here, change a word there and it's done. It's content that I wonder about. Naturally I think everything that I've written is pertinent to the story. It either gives you important background information about the circumstances the characters, or advances the plot.

When your first exposure to art professionally is having worked in theatre one of your primary concerns is always motivation. You've heard the joke about the method actor standing in front of a door spending an hour trying to figure out his motivation for going through, and the director finally yells "to get into the other room", well sometimes I wonder whether or not I've turned into that actor.

Am I straying from the point when I go into details about a character's past in attempting to explain his or her actions in the present? Do people care why he or she does what they do? I feel that it's important information because I like these people and want to know as much about them as possible, and so I gave them histories so I could understand them.

But is that information that can be left offstage. Like the actor who creates a whole history for a the character he's going to play, but it's never mentioned in the script, I have written oodles about the activities of the past for some of the characters which may or may not be warranted for inclusion in the story as a whole.

In theatre we used to call it the actor's subtext, the information that he or she created to run under the spoken words as an underlying meaning that the audience will never be aware of save through the actor's performance. As an author do I need to spell out that subtext for my audience because they're not going to create it, or should I leave the character's background to the reader's imagination?

Is it better to allow the reader to create a story to fit his or her perception of why the character does things, or to go the naturalist route and examine each one of them like a sample under a microscope? I've tried to find a middle ground between the two extremes of minimalist flat undeveloped characters and huge tracts of page after page of boring history. But does a compromise ever really work?

Let me rephrase that, because of course a compromise can work, but can I make this compromise work without it sounding forced and awkward. Right now I think things run nicely. I move backwards and forwards through time using a variety of approaches. If you're going to rely on the past to tell the story of the present you have to be able to find a way of merging the two without it always being the same style of trips down memory land by the characters.

One of the things I've tried to do whenever I delve into the past is make it the present whenever possible. Was that confusing enough for you? In other words tell flashbacks as if they are happening not as if they are remembered. It makes them a little bit less tedious if you can have some third party narration in telling instead of having it all be a memory recounted by the character.

Remember you're the creator of this world, so you can do what you want with linear time with one proviso; never confuse the reader as to when something is happening. If the action is taking place before the activities of the novel, you'd better make damn sure it's obvious. I have read too many books where it hasn't been and have been forced to keep flipping pages back and forth in an effort to decipher what exactly the writer is doing, and when the characters are now.

Now that can work if it's deliberate, for instance a story where time is falling apart and all the moments in a life start occurring all at the same time. Past, present, and future colliding in a collage of insanity is alright when it is a deliberate stylistic effect, but when occurs through sloppy writing, it only winds up being a confusing mess.

Where it gets confusing for the writer, or at least for this writer, is how to best express the tenses in terms of word endings and modifications. I find it really difficult when I have a character that is talking about instances in the past in reference to things that are happening in the present and how it all will affect the future. Or if a character is in the past talking about he future aren't they in fact talking about the present? Do you even need to worry about that?

As I'm working my way through chapter after chapter I'm dealing with issues like this, and others, which I can only do so much with. But the more I'm doing the more I realize how much I need an outsider to tell me what works and what doesn't work.

I've managed to get each chapter that I've worked on to a place where I think it reads well and blends in with what came before and what comes after. However, I'm not naïve enough to think that if it gets into the hands of a professional editor in a publishing house that they will have things they want changed. But, since it's getting to a point where I don't know if there are any more changes that I can make without a professional pair of eyes.

It comes down to what constitutes a final draft for submission when they ask for chapters? Do publishers naturally assume that their editors are going to have to make changes and that rewrites are the norm? Or do they expect the author to have something that's written that's ready to go to press?

Obviously I'm going to have the best manuscript possible to hand in to anyone who wants it, but I have no idea if what I think is good enough is what they consider good enough. There will have to come a time when I stop re-writing and just be happy with what I have. Which means I'll have to stop reading it. I think it's just human nature to believe that you can always improve on anything you've done no matter what.

With any luck somebody will accept it and he or she can tell what to do with it. As an actor I was always good at following direction, so maybe I'm still waiting for my director's approval on the characters I've created.



April 18, 2006

Partition: A New Solution For Iraq

(The following information was found in Washington D.C. by unknown people and distributed to various other unknown people on the Internet. Given the location where it was found its provenance is obviously good even if it has no basis in fact or bearing on reality.

It appears to be the transcription of a secret meeting of the National Security Council, with people obviously aware they were being recorded because of their use of code names. We can only guess at the identities of some of those involved, but it seems fair to assume that "Sure Shot"(S.S) refers to Vice President Chenny, Red Hot Momma, (R.H.M.) to Secretary Rice, and Top Hat (T.H.) to President Bush. We have no clue as to the others involved, but since their contributions are usually ignored and largely insignificant they don't really matter.

Below is a faithful reproduction of the transcription, just as I received it. I'm telling the truth, so you can believe me)

S.S. "Gentlemen, we need to (sound of a throat being cleared) oh sorry, and lady… geez I just can't help thinking of you as one of the boys… (Sound of general laughter gradually tails off into embarrassed silence)…Well, ahem, anyway, as I was starting to say we need to take a serious look at the situation in Iraq and the whole government issue. The stalemate over their parliament is just not ending …"

T.H "Geez Dick…what…Oh yeah, sorry. Sure Shot, I thought you said your people we're handling this. You and Rumsfield…what, oh crap he ain't here what does it matter if I call him by name, were supposed to have calmed the rag heads down by now. How I'm I going to be able to invade Iran if we can't get these dummies to behave? You told me to say the war was over, so that I could start a new one. I want a new war to wage Dick. This one's boring…What? oh damn Sure Shot."

S.S. "Well, Top Hat, we all admire your enthusiasm, and your eagerness to continue the agenda (murmurs of agreement) but sometimes you can't expect the unexpected…"

T.H. "Well thanks for stating the fucking obvious, Sure Shot, you can't expect the unexpected…I'm not the press, can you please talk something close to English when you talk to me. Goddamn it I need some bourbon, is this going to take a while, the Rangers are playing and I'd like to catch a couple of innings. Hey Connie, can we get the Secret Service boys to tune in the Ranger's game on their earpieces? One of you boys can give me the score as we go okay… thanks. Oh all right Dick just keep your shirt on, (sound of bottle and glass being placed on table) oh hey thanks, I guess I can cope with what you got to say now. (Sound of liquid being poured) Go on now, you look you might hurt yourself if you keep frowning like that. Don't know if I can round up yet another heart for you so soon."

S.S. " Well as I was saying, we all admire your eagerness to get on with our agenda in the Mid East, but we really can't afford to leave Iraq and go after Iran until things settle down a lot more. We need the government there to be in place. The problem is that the three major groups can't agree on anything important. We also need to keep all three of them happy too or we end up with even worse problems than we have now. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be any obvious or easy solution to the situation. We can't take over governing the country again, that will tie up far too many troops and lose us what allies we have there already."

T.H. " Well, so what is their problem anyway. We got rid of Saddam; we gave them the vote, what more do they want. Some people just aren't very grateful are they? They should just be happy with the fact that we're letting them have their own country, it's not like they 're civilized or anything, good God half of them don't even drink."

R.H.M. "If I may T.H., Sure Shot, thank you. The problem is sir, I don't think they're ungrateful it's just that we're talking about two separate sects, and one group who are a different race altogether. While the Sunni's and the Shites are both Muslim, they practice different types and follow different leaders…

T.H. "Like Catholics and Protestants you mean…"

R.H.M. "Very astute sir, quite similar. Plus the Kurds are a different people completely and have wanted independence from Iraq for ages. Even though there is one group in the majority, there are enough of the other two to create problems. On top of that, each group has experienced discrimination at the hands of the other."

"Saddam was a Sunni, so even though they are a minority they got all the favourable jobs and treatment. Now they are frightened that the Shites will want revenge. The Kurds, on the other hand, have been hunted and killed by the other two groups, and really don't trust either of them…"

T.H. "You could say they are like a Muslim Jew, than couldn't you. Catholics and Protestants may not get along, but we all hate Jews, ha, ha, ha, ha."

R.H.M. "Yes sir, very similar again. So you can understand the depth of the mistrust between the three main political parties, and why Sure Shot and I are having such a hard time solving this situation. It's generations of mistrust that can't be overcome overnight, and might even take years if not a generation or two passing before they begin to trust each other again. The best we can hope for is to find some compromise candidate for Prime Minister that will be acceptable to all parties. Which means we will have to ensure that the current Prime Minister "agrees" to step down."

T.H. "Damn right he'll agree, or he might just get to visit Cuba for a few months, and not with Fidel. (Sound of liquid being poured into a glass) What I don't understand is why with all our damned intelligence are we so surprised by these turn of events. How come no one saw this coming? That's why I gave you this job Sure Shot; you said you knew all about how we could best handle it."

"I didn't think that meant so your boys could line their pockets. By the way you better warn them to start covering their tracks a little better, the auditor general is cracking down. They're not just stealing form the Iraqis now but they're skimming off the top of U.S. money too. Nah don't worry about it too much, we got worse problems than a few hundred million vanishing."

" I think we need to be rethinking the way we're going about this. Trying to make one country outta three people just ain't looking like it's working. Why can't we partition up the country into three parts, and give each of them a chunk for their own, which they can rule autonomously."

"That way they won't be arguing over who gets to be in charge, cause they all get to be in charge of their own little piece of the pie. Each of them can get a chunk of the oil fields, so they don't squabble about that, and than they can govern their own people. Give everybody a couple of months to move into their new neighbourhoods and bingo bango three new countries and everyone's happy"

"We can set a deadline of the fourth of July, so they know who they have to thank for it every year. Our troops pull out, my approval rating goes through the roof, just in time to invade Iran, and quash those mullah jerks once and for all. I don't know why you guys didn't think of that? It sure seems like the easy answer to me. I bet you no one's ever even thought of it before."

"But that's all these situations need is common sense, which I gotta say seems like it sure is short supply around here on some days. I wish you guys would come to me sooner with your little problems; it would sure save us all a lot of trouble."

"I want you guys to get to work with this with Rumsfield right away, and I want to see a logistics report about it on my desk in a week or so. If there's nothing else, me and my buddy Jack here are going to catch the last of the Rangers game. All right class dismissed."

That's where the transcript ended, with T.H. leaving the room. There was no date on the paper, so there's no indication as to what stage these plans are at. But I'd think we should all be prepared for some sort of startling announcement from the White House about Iraq in the near future

April 14, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes 16: Waiting For Replies

All good intentions aside, there is realistically only so much editing one can do in a day. Hell, there's only so much one can do in a week, but that would be pushing it back to being far too sporadic to count as a concentrated effort. Since I'm trying to made such an exertion, so I'm not let scrambling when the happy event of manuscript acceptance occurs, I've been trying to find something to do besides editing and posting to my blog each day to keep me focused.

A couple of months back I received the advice from a couple of sourses to try submitting some of my work to magazines. This is something that has crossed my mind from time to time in the past. I have all these articles that I've already written on a variety of subjects after all, so why not put them to use.

Now the first thing I had to do was to find out what was out there and what sort of potential market for my work existed. I pretty much figured I could discount most of my reviews, as most magazines have in house people to do reviews. I also realised that the majority of my op-ed would only be of interest to a limited market, for much the same reason as reviews.

Even before I had begun looking for magazines I began to realize the paucity of my marketable material. The whole experience was beginning to sound a little less like fun, and a little much like work. Oh well I had said I wanted to be distracted from editing and this looked it would be quite the distraction.

I decided to focus on a couple of specific articles and see if I could sell them to genre magazines. They weren’t actually articles, they were interviews, and I thought that might make them easier to sell. One was with an established author, Ashok Banker author of a modern retelling of the Indian epic tale The Ramayana, and the other Robert Scott whose Eldarn Sequence had just had its first of three books, The Hickory Staff, published.

My next step was one that seemingly thousands if not millions of people do each day, Google. It's amazing how many science fiction/fantasy magazines are in existence. I don't know what I expected, but the numbers were staggering. I decided to refine my search slightly and augmented it with the word submissions.

It may not have reduced the number of returns, but it at least meant I wouldn't have to search every site for their submissions page. I picked three for each author and set about fulfilling the requirements requested of the individual publications. Each submission would consist of a query letter, a word document I've prepared containing quotes about how wonderful I am, and most important of all, either an excerpt or the whole manuscript depending on their requirements.

One thing that most people offering you advice about making submissions tell you is to always make sure that the query letter you send is distinct for each publisher. The last thing they are going to be impressed with is a dear sir form letter. They will be much more interested if you can tell them why your article will sell them more magazines then they did last month without you.

Usually magazines will offer you the alternative of submitting by e-mail, especially if it's only a query letter, but most of them will even accept your story as well. One thing I did notice, and this is something that you have to be really careful of, is that some them accept items as attachments to their emails, while others want them included in the body. It really felt odd pasting seven or eight pages of text into a letter as a postscript to the signature.

I had figured on making those two interviews my trial balloons. I'd see how they went over and make a decision based on that whether or not to keep trying to sell existing pieces or to start writing for specific targets. I was still keeping my eyes open for other magazines to submit to as well.

Somehow or other, I can't remember how, I came across the submission guidelines to Addbusters so I sent them off some of my snarkier satire pieces, because that would be along the lines of what they'd like. I also came across a magazine based out of Oakland call Color Lines which publishes all manner of articles that deal with issues of race.

As I have written quite extensively on the subject or race, I thought it would be worth a shot to try and get one or two of my pieces included in their magazine. What was promising about Color Line was that they will hold on to submissions if they think they have merit and publish them in an appropriately themed issue. So if an article doesn't work right away, it could work three months from now.

I have since heard back from three of the magazines, one was an outright rejection, one was a we can't use this article, but please keep us in mind for the future, and the third was from Color Lines saying your article is in the hands of the appropriate editor for possible use in a future issue.

You know what they say about not encouraging people sometimes, because they won't shut up. Well that's me, give me an opening and I'll blasting away at with everything I've got. I immediately sent them off four more articles which they could hopefully make use of for some upcoming issue.

What's also nice about Color Lines (aside from the fact they don't spell the name of their magazine properly) is that they pay. Not just a pittance either but $250.00 (in American dollars which would be close to $300 in Canada) per article. Even one of those a month would make a huge difference in our lives let me tell you.

I have a nice fantasy that involves getting picked up as a stringer by a few magazines and starting to make enough money that way to be able to augment my disability checks through my work as a writer. Being paid and being able to make enough money a month to put a dent in our horrific debt load would be an astounding thing.

The only drawback is my slightly astringent tone. Not many popular magazines, the ones with money enough to pay real amounts, want stuff that's a little bit nasty, or even outspoken. They want stuff that a housewife will feel comfortable reading while she's waiting in a doctor's office.

Since one of my stated goals with my writing is to be a little unsettling, I don't think Good Housekeeping and Redbook are my ideal target market. But it seems there are enough magazines out there that are willing to look at work that isn't completely main stream so I can always hold out hope of earning a partial living from what I love doing, while awaiting the fame and fortune that will come my way when I'm a published novelist.

Speaking of which, the novel that is, I have finished editing up to the end of Chapter Eleven, and have surprised myself twice by laughing out loud at own my prose. (Not at typos, but in genuine amusement, thank you very much) I've also submitted it to another publisher, this one a little closer to home than the last one as it's based out of Toronto.

Kunati Inc. is a brand new publishing house that's looking for what it calls "Fresh Voices". I guess that means they are looking for different approaches and new ideas. Well I'm different, so I figured they were worth a shot.

They wanted a query letter, and a chapter pasted into the body of the email. So that went out a day or so ago, and we shall see what we shall see. It hasn't even been a month since I sent out the query and three chapters to the folk in India, so I don't suppose I'll be hearing from them for a while yet.

That's okay as I still have a ways to go to finish editing the rest of the book, and also have to figure out a way of breaking it to them that it's in two parts. Of course if they happen to be checking up on my web presence and me they might just end up reading this, and find out anyway.

Well so there you are, an interlude post as we await with baited breath anything exciting happening in a writer's life.

March 30, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes 15: A Writer's Born

On a previous occasion I was writing about all the various ways in which I was avoiding doing the editing on my novel. Two conclusions you, gentle readers, helped me come to were; I needed to set deadlines, and I really was doing everything possible to avoid editing seeing how I was even willing to write about avoiding editing instead of editing.

Now, while I know the second comment was made in jest, and understanding, it was also true. I really needed to get over myself and get to work. What I needed was a deadline of some sort that would give me something to shoot for.

I'm not very good with arbitrary deadlines, ones that have no real meaning, because I know that nothing is going to happen if I miss it. With nothing dependent on me finishing I can always find an excuse not to get something done. Hell I've even got a built in excuse that I can use anytime I want; an acute chronic pain condition.

What I needed was some sort of real target to shoot for. I was able to write the damn thing in the first place, so I don't see why I shouldn't be able to edit it. No matter what my body or my health dictates, I can and will get this done. It may just take a little more morphine.

I decided the time had come for drastic action. Thanks to a writer over at Desicrtics I discovered a publisher in India that has just started publishing fiction, and who has a distributor in Canada and the United States.

Well I've had a query letter on standby for about a month, so I finished that off, and inserted the necessary names and salutations in the proper spots. Conveniently enough I've had the first three chapters ready to go for ages, the motivation was there as that's what most people want to see to start with, so it was just a matter of one last check for typos (found three) and away we go.

After checking their web site carefully for anything pertaining to submissions I decided to go ahead and submit it electronically. The letter got transferred into my private email account and chapters one through three were added as attachments.

After a quick once over, again, to make sure that nothing sprang to my eye as an obvious mistake, the mouse arrow hesitated at "Send" for only a second. Than a click of the button and the die was cast.

Now of course, this means I have a deadline. It could be tomorrow, next week, six months from now, or even never, I don't know. But whatever it is I have to have the manuscript ready for when they do respond. Which means I have to get cracking.

It's amazing what a little fear will do for you. I've gone through three more chapters since I wrote that letter. So instead of about a chapter a month for editing I'm doing about a chapter per day. I find it hard to do more than that at a time without losing focus and being tempted to skim read after a while.

I have a very simple method of editing; I read the chapter out loud to myself. If something sounds wrong to my ear, I try and re write it until it sounds better. I'm also keeping an eye out for continuity.

Two thirds of this first draft was written within one month, so there were some places where as I wrote I expanded on the story and put in details that were left out of earlier chapters. For example, in the first chapter it sounds like one of the characters has living brothers and sisters, but they ended up being dead long before the events in this story took place in chapter three. Therefore any references to them in earlier chapters had to modified or cut.

Than of course there are character names. I was pretty good at keeping most of them the same, but there was one poor character who was renamed almost every time she made an appearance. The problem was that I wasn't sure how often she'd be appearing in the story, so every time she poked her nose in I'd forgotten her name

Thankfully she seams to have been the only one whose name I wasn't able to keep track of. Four letter names have got to be the worst. But when I was a kid I used to forget how to spell of and some things just don't change. The good thing is that because I know I'm susceptible to doing that sort of thing, I keep an eye out and am able to usually catch all of them.

The nicest thing that's come out of this is I've made a discovery. I've discovered that I've written a really good book that deserves to be published. I don't know what I expected when I started to re read it the first time, but it was weird. I felt like I was reading someone else's work.

As long as I can keep feeling like this, that my work is good, I will have no problem in getting this done. Even if there is a letter sitting in my inbox from an editor this very second I have every confidence that I could send off a complete manuscript by Monday.

Of course everything is subject to change, dependent on my mood and the quality of what I'm editing that day. Tomorrow I may think it’s a worthless piece of crap that should never see the light of day, but I'm not going to worry about that. Today I will enjoy feeling like an author, and edit as many chapters as I can before my eyeballs fall out.

March 26, 2006

Hostage Crises

On March 23rd/ 2006, three western kidnap victims were rescued from their captors by a joint British, American, and Canadian special operations task force. Unlike the majority of people kidnapped in Iraq, these men were active in work protesting the American occupation of Iraq.

The organization the three gentleman (originally four, but an American, Tom Fox had been found murdered a month ago) work with, Christian Peacemaker Team, primary focus since 2003 has been working to protect and guarantee the human rights of the detainees of what they call the illegal occupation of Iraq.

The three released gentlemen were accused of giving aid and comfort to those opposed to the occupation forces by the new President of Iraq, although his seems to be a minority opinion among Iraqi as religious groups on either side of the Sunni/Shite conflict had pressed for the release and led prayers for the safety of the hostages. They have also been criticized in the Western press for not expressing gratitude to the soldiers who rescued them. Their reply was that they wouldn't have been taken hostage if the soldiers hadn't been there in the first place.

Closely involved with this rescue operation were members of Canada's JTF2, Canada's Secretive anti-Terrorist squad, and officers of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police. No details are being released about raid itself, or the Canadian squads participation, except to say that it was a British led action. When asked to comment on the raid Department of National Defence spokespeople merely said that giving out any information would be too dangerous.

There is a nondescript building in downtown Ottawa that people walk by everyday without giving it a second glance. Why should they, it looks just like any other boring government office building. But behind that boring façade lurks the home of the notorious JTF2 squad whose identity is so well guarded that squad members don't even know they are members.

They are Canada's elite anti-terrorist squad; the beadiest eyed Canadians you'll find from sea to shining sea. As a counter terrorist organization its job is to keep track of all those who pose a direct threat to the citizen of our country. Those guards on parliament hill are not just for decoration purposes. They're in place to make sure that the members of parliament stay locked up in the House of Commons and don't escape to threaten and bother innocent Canadians.

Of course Canadian face other threats to the internal security of their country and the JTF2 must be ever vigilant in making sure that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (C.S.I.S.) do something else aside from spying on each other, or resorting to old pastimes. There's nothing like a barn burning on a winter's night to keep you warm, and it does look pretty against the a cold night sky. (In the late 1970's it was revealed that the R.C.M.P. had set a series of fires, including a barn, and blamed the Front de Liberation de Quebec (F.L.Q.) for them.)

But today there is a more serious task at hand, Captain "X" (real names are presumably never used because it's doubtful that's the gentleman's genuine appellant) has been called to his superior's office to be debriefed from his last mission: the rescue of two Canadian and one British hostages from their kidnappers in Iraq.

Captain "X" entered the office of his superior officer where he was immediately blindfolded so as not to be able see the face of the man across the desk from him. He wasn't worried about the two men who had blindfolded him revealing his identity; they would have their eyes and tongues removed by the end of the day. Such prices had to be paid for the security of the country.

He was guided to a seat and the microphone/vocal disguiser was placed in front of him to talk into. When he spoke he would sound like Minne Mouse crossed with Elmer Fudd and no one would understand a word he was saying. Which was as it should be; these debriefings were so top secret that it had been decided that no one should be able to understand them, including the officer conducting the review.

Initially it had been debated as to what purpose a debriefing had if no one listening. It was decided that it would be good for the one being debriefed for the opportunity they had to go over the operation again in the cold light of day to analyse it for mistakes before he or she had their brains wiped of the information.

Captain "X" described how he and his squad members had met up with members of the British elite Special Armed Services (S.A.S.) squad who were in charge of the mission. They had already been able to secure one member of the kidnap team for questioning and had found out the location where the victims were being held

"We planned to go in at night, taking advantage of their night vision goggles, which would allow us to travel without light. As the one American hostage taken with the two Canadian and single British hostage had already been killed, we had no idea how long we had before they just killed the rest of them.

The raid and the release went off without a hitch, except for the disappointment expressed by some members of the unit at not being able to make us of any of their new toys. They had all wanted to see what the effect of a plague bullet would be on a human. Chimps had succumbed within a minute of being shot.

The hostages had not seemed particularly thrilled to see their rescuers, and there was quite a bit of muttering from the squad members that maybe their duty still needed to be carried out, and how the plague bullets needed to be tested. It didn't go much beyond that level of idle threats at that point.

But then the former hostages started to espouse their unchristian ideas of pacifism and became almost indignant about being rescued. Unfortunately we were not able to take any action against them at the time as medical personnel and press almost always accompanied them.

If worse comes to worst action can always be taken against them on their return to Canada. Accidents have been known to happen to people before, especially people who have just been through a very extended period of trauma. Stumbles down stairs, walking out into traffic are all common enough occurrences for someone whose mind will be having trouble focusing. We are currently evaluating the feasibilities of such activities.

Our assessment of the organization, Christian Peacemakers Team, is that they are a highly dangerous and subversive group that has been continually giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Their attitude towards war is dangerous, and if it spreads among the general population, could lead to severe outbreaks of peace.

Many of my men are good Christians and are highly affronted at seeing their religion being taken in vain in the name of peace. To say that Christ would have supported them over us is proof enough that they are a threat to order and good government in Canada, and must not be allowed to communicate these subversive tendencies to the rest of their citizens.

I recommend that this threat be eliminated in as discreet and expedient means as possible."

March 17, 2006

Writer's Notes: Fear Of Finishing

I'm now finding out how big a coward I really am. How long ago did I post that I was starting editing and rewrites on my first draft? Feels like months, but it's probably only been about a week or two at most.

As of last night, I've done a grand total of three chapters. Yep, that's all three chapters. I finally started chapter four last night after procrastinating for a week. Everyday for the past week I've sat down at trusty old laptop with the best of intentions; I'm going to start rewrites today. But somehow, everyday, I've found something else that I've just had to do that prevents me from doing the necessary.

They've all been legitimate excuses, but every one of them could have been avoided by the simple expedient of not going on line. Instead of just simply opening my Word program and getting to work, I'll tell myself that I'll just check my emails first. Before I know it I've gone through three Blogcritic digests, answered a couple of letters, responded to a few comments and three hours have whizzed by.

If it's not email, it's something else of course. I've recently moved my blog and am still trying to iron out the kinks in my site. As code and I are not the best of friends this involves a lot of hit and miss work to make something reasonably presentable. Of course, there is also regular blog maintenance that has to be taken care of, updating links, adding new buttons, and renaming my archive. (When my archive was moved over from Blogger to the new site all of the titles vanished, so I now have close to three hundred posts that have their first lines as titles.)

Under the title of putting the cart before the horse, closing the gate after the horse has escaped, or just generally doing things backwards, instead of working on the novel, I decided to start researching agents and publishers. Seeing as most agents are going to want to see a completed manuscript, and, if you're lucky, even publishers may at some time want to read the entire novel, it was a real case of getting ahead of myself.

I justified it to myself by saying you're going to have to do it sometime, why not now. Anyway shouldn't you take a little time before starting to edit and rewrite. By walking away from a manuscript for a while you're supposed to be able to come back with a more objective eye.

I wonder what's said about running away from a manuscript? Is that even more objective or is it cowardly? It's not being afraid of the material being crap anymore. Having read over and edited the first three chapters now, I've managed to overcome that worry. I was able to read it, not recognize anything about myself in it, and actually enjoy what's been written.

Up to this point, I seem to have accomplished my goal of writing a book that I enjoy. If that's the case, than what is it that has me shying away from continuing on with the process of finishing the book? Is it fear of rejection, of criticism, or that no one will be interested in the story itself?

I'm pretty sure it's none of those, although I could be wrong, but they don't feel right. If those were my concerns I think I would have been obsessing over every line and word of the draft I've read in order to make it letter perfect. Not that I wasn't meticulous in my editing and rewriting, but it was done out of a desire to improve the story for myself, not to impress someone.

There comes a point that no matter what I do with the editing, it will come down to whether the publisher or agent likes my idea and my style. If they don't, there won't be any amount of edits and rewrites that will change their minds.

So what does that leave? What happens when I finish this project including my proposed second volume? What will I do then? What happens if this was the only novel in me and I can never think of anything else to write?

I've spent the past year in school, so to speak, writing on a daily basis, refining, and honing my sills just so I could write fiction. What if I don’t have any more stories in me? I don't want these to be my first and last works of fiction. I want to keep enjoying the feeling of being a novelist, a creator of tales for others to read, enjoy, and perhaps learn a little from.

When I was younger I used to dream of being the next James Joyce, a great intellectual novelist. Thankfully, I outgrew that and decided to find my own voice. I like what that voice sounds like, and want to hear it and write with it for a long time.

So many times in my life, things have been taken away from me because of my health and my circumstances that I now fear that happening on a regular basis. Will my health worsen to the point that I'm no longer able to write? Will some external force take away this opportunity before I even get a chance to discover how much I'm truly capable of?

I guess that all sounds sort of silly huh? But I can't help my thoughts. I can do my best to argue against them, but still they keep on creeping up on me. Each of them on their own isn't really enough to worry about, but when all of them start pressing in on me, they make me feel that once I've done this project there will be nothing left to do.

I try not to think about those things; inevitably, they come out and haunt me. Slowly but surely I'm working my way through the process of actually finishing my final draft. Not only will it mark the successful completion of my first novel, hopefully it will see the conquering of some old fears.

March 12, 2006

Coffee Shop Artists

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"It's a conspiracy. Well maybe not a conspiracy, but definitely an agreement. They're all in cahoots together so that people like me" here he paused and looked round the table, and nodded as if making some great concession, before continuing. "People like us, can't get published" He leaned back in his chair now, and picked up his coffee with a flourish, would have light a cigarette if you could still smoke in these places, leaving the floor open for anybody else who wished speak.

The young woman next to him leaned forward, carefully holding one of the many scarves wrapped around her body parts away from the pools of spilt coffee that were rapidly making an archipelago of their table top, as if to comment, then shrugged her shoulders and obviously decided against it.

She sighed the deep world-weary sigh that can only be managed by those in coffee shops of a certain age and temperament, and let a delicate frown line crease her forehead. She knew that it gave her the appearance of being pensive without marring her delicate features, as she had noticed the result in the mirror only just last week as she was rehearsing.

She had tried it out in public for only the first time last week to great success, at least judging by the reactions of the males at the table. They had given that hairbreadth's of a marring, the attention and normally accorded to the relics of a saint; if not actually physically prostrating themselves before it, at least genuflecting in spirit before her altar.

This time, there was something about the look that made one think there might actually be something going on behind those eyes for a change. Not that very many of them cared what was happening in her brain if they were being truthful about he situation.

She had shown up three weeks ago on Tom's arm, and it had to be admitted they made a striking pair. His permanently affixed look of brooding rage offset by her delicate Dickensonian match girl/waif appearance contrasted wonderfully. They looked the perfect pair of young artistic types.

Tom had confided to Sam that they had met a party thrown by some mutual acquaintances, and had immediately gravitated towards each other. Tom was sure she was going to be the one: his muse. Sam had nodded wisely, knowing better than to say anything about her being the sixth of seventh muse in the past year.

Far be it for him to tell Tom his business, Sam was still just grateful to be welcomed at the table. The Table: he remembered the first time he came into the café and seen Tom holding court. His muse of the moment to the left, and Jeff, Andy, Sue, and Eileen sitting semi circled in front of him.

Sam had picked up his coffee at the bar and made his way to a back corner table that allowed him the full view of the shop. Tom was in full flight that day talking about art, politics, law, and art. He always came back to art and more specifically writing. It was all very intimidating to Sam., because he knew he wasn't at all like that.

What kind of writer was he? Quiet and introspective he liked to sit in the corner and watch the world go by. Sure, he had a couple of short stories published in magazines, but that didn't mean anything, not compared to what that guy has published he mused


Wanting to get out of the house after being chained to the computer for months, he had printed out a draft copy of the novel he had just finished so he could at least get a change of scenery while doing his edits. Feeling rather self-conscious, he had carefully pulled out his manuscript from the case that first day and begun editing.

At one point, he had looked up and noticed Tom staring over at him in his corner. He had quickly looked down, but not before, he saw Tom lean forward to the others, whisper something, and seen all their heads swivel in his direction, and back again.

He had been slightly intimidated and had made a mental note to just deal with working at home, but life had other plans. After years of neglect, his landlord decided to grow a conscience and renovate his apartment. Since this meant everything from redoing floors to painting walls, Sam had to vacate the apartment for most of the daylight hours.

As his landlord had only deemed it fit to tell him the morning that work was supposed to begin he had had no chance to make any alternative arrangements for writing. He had grabbed his laptop, the printout of the manuscript and stuffed them both in his case, and walked out of the apartment not knowing what to do.

When he saw the café just as his arm was going numb from the carrying case's strap cutting his blood flow off at the shoulder, he took it as a sign. He made arrangements with the owner for use of an electrical outlet, and promised to buy at least a coffee every hour, and one meal a day while he was there.

Rent dealt with he was able to concentrate on working. It was just a little after he had eaten lunch when he felt like he was being watched; he looked up to see Tom staring over in the direction of his table again. Perhaps because there was no woman on his left hand side that day, or some other territorial reason, his face looked a lot stormier this time when he called his disciples down into a huddle.

Deciding that his place was a lot more secure now that he had made an arrangement with the owner, Sam choose to simply return to his work. It wasn't long before he felt the, not unexpected, arrival of somebody, to stand besides his table.

"So, are you a writer, or something?" Tom's voice was coolly arrogant, as if he wasn't really interested in the answer, but had only dropped by out of sympathy for a stranger and was making conversation out of the goodness of his heart.

Sam looked up at the turned up nose, and the eyes staring down it towards him from under a wide brimmed Fedora: "Of some sort? Yes, I suppose I am a writer of some sort." Sam replied with perfect honesty.

"I'm a poet" the other's voice took on a resonance that had been missing earlier, as he proclaimed these words. As Sam got to know Tom, he began to recognise the voice he used when talking about the craft. Some witches of course, will object to the use of the word craft in these circumstances, thinking they have sole proprietorship of self-righteously fuelled pretensions pronouncements utilizing that word. But they weren't the only ones capable of diminishing a word's meaning through appropriation.

After that announcement, he had sat down with Sam and proceeded to regale him with tales of the trials and tribulations of being a writer. This had been the first time he heard about he great conspiracy to deprive Tom of the opportunity to even have has work looked over by a publisher and agent. It would not be the last.

In spite of his writing, Sam must have seemed safe enough for Tom to invite to the table, because the next day as he entered the café, a chair was proffered and room was made for him on Tom's right hand side. Sam had been sitting here, long after his apartment had been finished, day after day, week after week, and month after month in the hopes that what was about to happen might just be possible.

He'd stopped bringing his laptop months ago, much to Tom's approval, but today he had not come empty handed. He had a business-sized envelope made out in his handwriting, addressed to himself, in his pocket, which he hadn't mailed. It contained an offer to publish the novel he'd been writing.

He'd been carrying it for a week now, in the hopes of Tom making his speech. As the new muse had yet to hear of the foul plot to deprive the world of Tom's poetic musings, Sam knew that the moment would not be delayed much longer. Although three weeks was a long time for Tom not to make it, Sam had faith that he would not be able to resist his new audience for much longer. What other excuse could he offer for never bothering to actually set pen to paper.

Casually, Sam reached into his pocket, placed the slim envelope on the table, and slid it over to lie in front of Tom. It sat there, a bright white rectangle marred only by the blocks of Sam's neat black writing in its centre. For a second, as it became the focal point for all eyes on the table, it seemed to glow with an internal light, instead of just catching the spill from the overhead track lights.

Tom dropped his glance down at it, and looked up quizzically. Sam just shook his head and indicated that he should open it and read it aloud to the table. Picking it up and removing the letter from the envelope, Tom made a presentation of snapping open the letter with a flick of the wrist.

As his eyes quickly scanned the text of the letter, Sam saw them get bigger and bigger, until they almost seemed to be bulging out of his head. Finally, he threw the letter down in disgust, into a puddle of coffee. He looked at Sam and drew himself up to his full height in his chair, stretched out a trembling hand, and hissed:

"Do you know what this traitor has gone and done? He's gone and got himself published." Tom was livid, he was shaking so bad Sam feared he might start crying. Instead, he simply looked at Sam one last time and said. "This table is for artists only, not for published authors. Please leave, you are no longer welcome here." He then fell back in his chair in a dramatic gesture speaking volumes of the perfidy of friends and the cruelness of the fates.

With that Sam stood up, leaned over and picked up the letter from the table, carefully placed it into the envelope, pushed his chair back into the table, and walked out, not looking back and never to return.

March 6, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes 12: What Every Writer Needs

The biggest obstacle facing a first time writer is writing the damn novel. What did you think I was going to say? Getting it published. That's sort of like putting the cart before the horse don't you think? You got to have something written before a publisher is going to look at you. (Well, maybe if you're Steven King you can walk into someone's office and say "I have an idea for a story" and they'll open the vault and ask how much do you want?)

But we're talking about you and me, the person contemplating their first novel. I've been dicking around with writing for the last twenty or so years, maybe longer. Like most people, I started with poetry, and after writing a few poems, I decided that I was ready to write a novel.

Why is it that so many of us novices all figure that we are capable of writing a novel right from the get go? We never even consider the short story, like its some sort of inferior creation that is obviously beneath our abilities and us. Well whatever the reason I've got three or four beginnings of novels stashed around my apartment that have never gone beyond the opening chapters.

Probably a good thing too, I doubt whether any of them deserved to see the light of day. It's hard to fathom my conceit at the time to believe that I had any stories to tell or anything of significance to say at that young age. Some people age faster than others, but me I was slow in ripening and it wasn't until I reached my forties that I was evolved enough for thoughts to formulate into story form.

Getting beyond oneself is a key to fiction writing. Sure, you may draw upon life experiences for character development and verisimilitude, but when you write only about yourself, you limit your horizons to the known and stifle the potential of your imagination.

Writing is like any other creative art. It takes a combination of things to actually make something worth reading: imagination, talent, and dedication are all essential ingredients any potential novelist should possess. To my mind, the reasons behind each of those are obvious, but one thing I've learnt is that audiences can't be expected to be mind readers so you need to tell them what you're thinking.

Imagination, inspiration, the muse; whatever you want to call it, is the place your ideas come from. It could be anything from the classic What if… scenario to the fictionalization of historic events. You might even have an idea for a character around which you can plot a series of adventures, out of which other characters will appear.

But if you don't have an idea, that spark that makes you want to sit down at your keyboard, you'll find it pretty difficult to create anything that anyone would want to publish or read. If you don't have imagination, chances are what you will write is only an imitation of something that has been done before.

Even with imagination that's a problem first time writers will face on a regular basis. What you think is an original idea stands a good chance of having been done before. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to usually find a new way of telling an older idea. Look how many damn books have been written about King Arthur in recent years, they all wouldn't have been published if they weren't taking a different tack. Not that I'm recommending that as subject matter, probably the only thing left that hasn't been written is the story from the point of view of his horse.

It may seem like pointing out the obvious to some people, but you're not going to get very far in writing a novel if you don't have a talent for it. A couple of clues to look for to see if you have the aptitude for creative writing are whether you like to read and what's the state of your vocabulary.

Chances are if you watch more television then you read you are not going to have the skill to write a good novel. Your brain is not going to be thinking in the right way. Novels don't work in short bursts of information that get neatly tied up at the end of two episodes or even a half hour. Novels are messy and vague with loose ends that have to be picked up five chapters latter and woven back into the main thread of the story seamlessly.

Anyway, if you don't like to read what the hell make you want to write a book in the first place. No offence, but I don't want to read a novel by someone who doesn't like to read them. That's sort of like asking a vegetarian to prepare your next cow barbecuing festivities.

Under the heading of talent, I suppose we have to bring up the nasty subject of grammar and spelling. I know it's true most word processing software programs come with some sort of grammar and spell check, but do you really want your novel to be written by Microsoft?

Anyway, that's not the point; grammar checks can only point out what's wrong with a sentence when it comes to word order and sentence structure. If you don't have the skill to make yourself understood with paper and pen, how are you going to write a novel?

Digression Alert If you want you can skip ahead a couple of paragraphs and I'll pick up where I left off, but I need to vent about something in which talent and skill play a large part. I'm sure you've read in other posts about the difficulties involved with getting a publisher's attention let alone getting them to publish your work.

Not overly long ago, within my recent memory even, the majority of publishers would accept unsolicited manuscripts from authors. If they didn't accept a whole manuscript right off the hop, they would at least accept a query letter and some sample chapters. The letter would introduce you, provide a brief synopsis of your proposal, and let them know what else you may have done.

But now it's almost impossible to get a publisher in the United States to even accept a letter unless it comes via an agent. Why? Internet Web blogs. Now before I start receiving death threats for that statement let me explain what I mean.

There's nothing wrong with blogs; to quote Ford Prefect, they're mostly harmless. People create their own little space on the Internet where they can publish their thoughts on whatever they like and talk about anything under the sun. Some of them are wonderful, a lot of them are silly, and a very few are dangerous.

In of themselves web blogs aren't the problem, it's the illusion it has created that is the problem. I can't find the exact quote anymore, but one publisher said something along the lines of, if he had to read one more "what I had for breakfast " manuscript he was going to scream.

All of a sudden, everybody thinks they are a writer and their lives are important enough to write about. It's part of what I call the Oprah syndrome, (so maybe the blame shouldn't all be put on blogs), the overwhelming compulsion to "share" your life with the world. Everybody has some tale of woe or other that they figure no one else can live without, and it's their ticket to renown.

A heart-warming tale of a housewife in Birmingham that overcame her addiction to cream puffs. Read about the agony of her withdrawal etc. etc. ad nausea. Just because one person leaves a comment on your blog telling you that you should write more about your experiences does not mean you need to write a book about them.

Note to the world: not everyone is creative or talented enough to write something that can sustain people's interest over 80-100,000 words. But, unfortunately, far too many people started to believe that and publishers in the United States could no longer deal with the volume of submissions they were receiving.

With no other way of screening mail before it came to their offices, they had to resort to utilizing agents. Even agents are staring to feel overwhelmed. You go to some agent's sites now and they not only tell you what genre's they accept, but are really blunt about not wanting "thinly disguised personal stories".

There are a number of sites on the Internet where people who are serious about writing polish and publish their work. There are also personal blogs that have very good, thoughtful, and well-articulated articles on them. But to write a novel takes a lot more than being able to write a couple of pages a day on one topic.

Blogging is far more akin to journalism than novel writing, and while some journalists have made the transition to novel writing, their numbers aren't as high as people would like to believe. What journalists have going for them is name recognition that gets them through a publisher's door, but that doesn't translate into having the skills to write a novel.

Well now that I've beaten that point into the ground lets get back to the post. The final qualification I had listed was dedication. Can you sit down and write a hundred thousand words? Then sit down and rewrite them, follow that up with editing them, and finally doing it all over again just to make sure.

After doing all that, can you then write individual letters to each of the publishers/agents that you would like to look at your work. Are you willing to research agents and publishers to find out which ones are appropriate for you?

In order to be a novelist you at least have to agree to all of the above and most likely more. I didn't even mention the tedium of sitting staring at a blank laptop monitor praying for words to appear on the screen, because you can't think of any. Or the fact that you have to sit by yourself without talking to anybody for huge chunks of time and that your social life will gradually disappear the more involved you get with your project.

Unless you are willing to let your writing become the thing your world revolves around, whether you are sitting at your keyboard or not, and make sacrifices to accomplish the work, it won't get done. If you're trying to write and have a full time job, like raising kids or going to work, it means getting up before the kids make demands on you, or the boss yells at you for daydreaming.

The end of the day when you're exhausted and brain dead is not the best of times to try writing, at least that's been my experience. Maybe you're a night person and will work better at the end of the day, it's up to you to figure out when you can grab the time you need.

I'm sure other people will be able to think of other things you'll need in order to succeed in writing your novel (a certain level of obsessive compulsiveness doesn't hurt) but for me imagination, talent, and dedication are the holy trinity. Not everyone has the right mixture of all three to make a go of it, I don't know if I do and I may not know for quite a while.

Just like not all of us are born to be doctors, or chefs, not all of us are born with the right mixture of things that will make a writer. There's a myth still making the rounds that has people saying that everyone's an artist. That's not true. Everyone may be creative, but to be any type of artist requires a certain mixture of characteristics that not everybody possesses. That just might be your hardest job, figuring out if you have that mixture.

March 5, 2006

Looking For Enlightenment: A Coyote Story

At first, it had only been colours, veering in and out of unformed shapes behind his closed eyelids. More like the formless blobs left behind when your eyes have been momentarily blinded by a camera's flash attachment than anything else, he thought. But those were just the opening salvos to main event.

He had climbed up to this cave in the hills two days ago, and started the fast yesterday morning. He wasn't sure what he was expecting to happen, all he knew was that he was hoping to find some sort of enlightenment; a revelation that could help him make a new beginning.

Over twenty-four hours without food and water had left him dry mouthed and light headed. Perhaps he shouldn't have had MacDonald's as his last meal before going on a spiritual quest, but this had been a spur of the moment decision which had found him pointing his car our of the city towards the wilderness on the day his world fell apart.

He had gone to work as usual in the morning, only to find padlocks on the front doors of his employer's building. It turned out all their assets had been seized during the night pending an investigation into their bookkeeping practices. After a few phone calls on his cell phone assured him that the situation was completely unredeemable, he decided to head for home.

He probably would have found out soon enough, one way or another, but walking in on her with someone else between her legs wasn't the best way to find out she wasn't happy with their situation anymore. Not wanting to disturb them, he left the apartment without doing more than ensuring the windows were sealed, the gas stove was on, and a candle was burning in the kitchen.

He was rewarded by hearing a very satisfyingly loud boom from two blocks away as he drove off in her Hummer. She couldn't complain about him not making the earth move for her anymore, now could she?

All in all, though, things hadn't boded well for the future at that moment. He was out of work, single, and homeless all in less then half a day's time. If things didn't change soon, this downward spiral could continue and who knows where he'd end up.

He needed to make some changes in his life, that much was obvious. The first thing to do was to change his perspective of his situation. That's what the self – help guru they had gone to see a few months back had said: "Look on every loss as a new beginning, and it becomes a positive instead of a negative" In fact he'd used a scenario similar to Steven's own that very night.

Steven allowed himself a slight smirk at the thought of wondering what Mr. Self-Help would make of starting over from a couple of pounds of ground round. It had only taken a moment to recognise whose jacket had been tossed carelessly on the floor of what had been their bedroom. Look on that as a new beginning asshole.

But the fresh start thing was good thinking. The thing was how to go about it. You could always go out and get a new job and a new woman; they were all a dime a dozen these days. But that didn't sound like it would be enough this time.

This was the not the first time his embezzling had caused problems for his employers, or that he'd lost a woman to another man. However, the situations were getting out of hand in the ways in which they were resolved this time. He needed more of a solution than just moving on to a variation of the same old thing.

There had been this book she had been trying to get him to read, just after they had been to see the self-himself to my woman guy. It was all about shaman and dusty old guys like that who had gone into different states of consciousness to help them gain insight into themselves and understanding.

He had picked up the book, if only to keep her happy, and skimmed it quickly. It was all about how most of humanity's religions and belief systems were born out of people entering trance like states either through drugs or fasting. Some shit about obtaining a higher state of awareness allowing them to travel to different spiritual planes of existence and making discoveries.

Well, he knew some guys who had obtained higher states of "awareness" some years back, and they weren't about to see the outside of the psych ward for the rest of their lives. Anyways, he had said, there are enough religions in the world now screwing things up, as it is, why would we want anymore of them.

She had given him a look, like he was being an especially large asshole or something, and said that wasn't the point. The point was that people weren't willing to look in side themselves anymore and discover their own personal truths. The ones that could free them from the ruts they were in and allow them to discover what they were meant to be doing.

Well there was no denying he was in a rut right now. Seeing as the only copy of the book he knew of was probably in no condition to be read again, and he wasn't quite sure what was recommended to help induce a trance like state except fasting and drugs, (Stupid book hadn't even mentioned anything some tea you could only get in Brazil of all places) he figured he shouldn't take any chances.

He stopped by a local spot he had been able to score at before, and picked up a bag of weed, a gram of coke, some M.D.A., and a couple of grams of magic mushrooms. After smoking a fat one with the dealer and getting incurable munchies, hence, the stop at Macdonald's on the way out of town.

He figured he'd hold off on the coke until he needed the extra spurt of energy to get back into town after the fasting, keep the M.D.A. in reserve (he had no idea how clean it was after all) and just focus on chewing up some mushrooms after a day of fasting. He had remembered the cave from a previous trip to the mountains when he had been younger and he and a couple of buddies had sheltered there from a nasty rainstorm that had surprised them.

It had actually been kind of cool sitting there in the cave mouth, watching the lighting, and listening to the muffled sound of thunder from inside the mountain. It had been pitch black in the cave, and the dim light of the storm hadn't offered much illumination. He could still see how odd their faces had looked when light by the occasional flashes of lightning. Disembodied pale balloons floating in darkness was how he had thought of them at the time.

So now here he was, sitting in pretty much the same space, and bored out of his mind. He had taken the mushrooms over an hour ago and all he was getting still were the colours. Damn if things didn't pick up soon he'd snort half the coke, which should be enough to get him back to a hotel where he could order room service and sleep this off.

"What were you expecting, visions or something", said a voice in his head. "You've only been out here a day that doesn't count for anything in these matters. You've usually got to give it three, maybe four days before anything happens, and then its usually so obscure that it won't make any sense for years anyway"

Steven snapped his eyes wide open and looked around the cave. His pupils were dilated enough that even in the dim light he was able to make out shapes that he hadn't on his last trip here, but that didn't help him locate the source of the voice. He shook his head and was about to close his eyes again when the voice said:

"Oh I'm for real alright shithead, but I don’t feel like letting you see me just yet. I've been watching you for the last day, and wondering what you've been doing in my cave. Most people only stop in for a few hours at most, a quick shag, or for shelter from rain, and that's about it."

"But you've been here more than a day already and so naturally my curiosity is sparked. What you doing in my cave asshole? If you're meeting someone you can probably assume they've stood you up by now" There was a slight pause in which Steven had the distinct impression the voice was taking a closer look at him.

"Holly crap, what are you on? Look at the size of your eyeballs; they're like black boulders. You look like someone who's never seen the light of day." There was another pause. "Oh crap, you really are here on some sort of quest for eternal meaning, or some such shit aren't you?"

The voice sounded really pissed off now, as if that compounded some crime that Steven was unaware of even committing in the first place. For some reason Steven felt a little embarrassed, it could have been the scepticism that underlay the anger, but that didn't stop him form admitting that's what he was doing.

"Well I hope you don't think you're going to come up with some new religion or something stupid like that. Everybody seems to think that wandering around in the dessert or climbing a mountain to sit in a cave gives them the right to be a spiritual leader of some sort or another."

"I've got a cousin in the Middle East and he said a few years back, oh a couple a thousand or so, you couldn't go for a walk in the dessert without running into some fool idiot wandering around babbling to himself. Heat crazed and dehydrated. After a while he got so sick of them he began to mess with them."

"There was this one guy, it makes me laugh every time I think about it, really emaciated, must have been out there for close to thirty days, judging by how skinny and flat out bug-eyed crazy he was. Anyway, this guy was muttering about some Satan dude under his breath. Was getting himself into quite a state over how he was the root of all evil and had to be resisted at all costs."

"Now, my cousin had never heard of any Satan character before, but decided it would be a hoot to pretend he was him. So keeping himself invisible he sidles up to this guy and says howdy. Did he jump, must have been almost ten feet straight up in the air."

"The next thing you know he's flailing all about him with this staff he's carrying, damned near brained my cousin with it, and frothing at the mouth. Than he's standing there, rocking back and forth, praying is what my cousin figured he was doing, with his eyes closed. Every so often he open his eyes a crack and peaks around to see if anybody's there, and he'll shout out things like "Get thee behind me Satan" or some such shit."

"Now my cousin is genuinely worried about the guy, thinks he might be going off the deep end from no water and lack of food. So he figures the least he can do is offer him something cold to drink, and maybe a bite to eat; make up for the fright he gave him and all. But he figures the guy must have been really toasted by the sun, because he kept screaming out about temptation and evil, flailing about with that damned staff of his all over the place. Invisibility doesn't prevent you from getting your skull split open by a deranged loony if he manages to connect."

Than there was also another guy who thought, he was talking to his god because of a brush fire that my niece caused one day on a mountaintop. She always was a little careless with fire, bit of a pyromaniac if you ask me, but she's my sisters daughter, so what are you going to do? She ended up covering by telling the guy to chill, made up some nice things for him to believe in, and he went away happy."

"So I've got to wonder about anybody who parks themselves out in the middle of nowhere, are they in it for fame, fortune and fanaticism, or are they just plain nuts. That of course brings us back to you again, and the question of why you are here. If I remember correctly, the answer was "enlightenment". Is that right?

Steven could only nod his head yes in agreement. He wasn't sure if an invisible voice could see nods, but he was also pretty sure he couldn't talk right now even if he wanted to. He hadn't really known what to expect, but he was sure this sort of experience wasn't what everybody had in mind when they when they talked about finding a new level of personal awareness. All he had wanted was a few hints about how to get his life back on track and to figure out a way of things not always ending up always starting over.

"Well you could start by not being such a self-centred, selfish prick. Ditch the paranoia as well; if you didn't think everybody is out to get you than maybe you wouldn't be out to get them first. I'd also not get addicted to bumping off people you have personal issues with, it ends up getting messy, and you might get caught. You'll probably get away with it this time, but next time you might not be so lucky."

"Oh what are you acting so surprised about? If I'm a hallucination of some sort or another than I'm coming from your brain and sub conscience, and deep down you know what a piece of shit you are, even if you're not willing to admit it out loud. If I'm really the voice of some otherworldly presence than I'm going to be able to read your thoughts anyway. So, actually, it's immaterial whether I'm real or not, because either way it's all true."

"Quite frankly if I were you I'd just take a running jump out of this cave and hope to splatter myself all over the mountain side, but since I'm not, that decision is up to you. In fact, here's my big piece of advice for you asshole; you might want to write this down it's important. No, all right than."

" Everything is your decision and you always have a choice no matter what the circumstances. Take responsibility for your choices and you will live a good and happy life. Blame everybody else for your problems and you become the messed up dipstick that you are today."

Steven had been staring open mouthed into space the whole time the voice was speaking. When it got to the point of jumping off the cliff he started to get himself ready to leave. He'd snort some lines off the dashboard of the Hummer, and find that hotel room. Than he'd hunt down the jerk that sold him the mushrooms, and give him shit for this bum trip they had caused.

He was so busy thinking about that, he barely noticed the voice was done. He had completely missed the last few words said to him, but he figured they made as little sense as everything else that had happened since he got here. Saying goodbye loudly to the voice, he bolted for the cave entrance where he tripped over a bump in the floor he hadn't noticed before.

His balance was off from not eating and drugs and that probably explained why he couldn't regain his footing before he tumbled over the side of the cliff that the cave faced out onto. The lump in the floor stood up on its four legs and padded to the cave entrance and to the edge. A familiar voice, at least to Steven's ears if he was still listening, came out of the very canine shaped muzzle.

"Stupid humans never listen, haven't in thousands of year, and aren't about to start now I guess. Oh well not my problem"
(Anthropologists now believe that most major human belief systems came about when people have been in a trance like state, most likely induced by the hallucinogenic psilocybin.)

February 22, 2006

What Genre Am I?

What genre am I? No, that's not the latest pickup line in singles bars, like what's your sign used to be, it's the question authors have to ask themselves when they are preparing a manuscript to send off to either a publisher of agent. It sounds like a simple question doesn't it? One that any author should be able to answer about their own work.

Well either I'm really so simple that even simple questions defeat me, or this is a whole lot trickier a proposition than I thought it would be. I had just assumed because I had elements of magic and mysticism in the novel I've written that it would fit into the Fantasy category.

Sure, it's based on a reality that actually happened, but I've taken huge liberties with historical fact, in that I've just made it up as I went along with no reference to what actually happened. To me that's Fantasy; according to the publishing world however, it's not.

It seems a Fantasy novel has to be right out there; in a reality that has no discernible relation to ours. No matter how fantastical elements of my story might be, it's still set on earth in a context that is familiar to most people. All along I thought I was writing a Fantasy novel and I was writing something else.

What that something else is remains a bit of a mystery to me now. I guess you could call it historical fiction because it's based on an actual event that happened in our world's past, but doesn't that usually involve real places and accurate recreations of happenings? It's also probably not normal for historical fiction to incorporate magic, astral projection, and divination into the story line.

How many genres and sub genres now exist in the world of fiction writing anyway? Off the top of my head I come up with the following list: Mystery, murder mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, espionage, science fiction, fantasy, sword & sorcery, historical fiction, romantic historical fiction, romance, hard science - science fiction, and we haven't even begun serious cross pollination yet. I'm sure you could have something called a romantic sword & sorcery historical fiction novel without even trying that hard.

That's not even beginning to consider all the different sub categories for Non-fiction, which is a different kettle of fish all together. (That would be under cookbooks, fish stews) The thing is you have to be able to answer that question if you want anyone to even consider taking your manuscript seriously.

It's all about marketing the product. Which bookshelf will it end up on in the bookstore, where will it blend in the best with the rest of the product? I know it sounds naﶥ to complain about things like this, but it feels like the blood, sweat and tears that have been shed by authors into making their work unique is a waste of time.

You don't want to be so unique that you can't fit into a nice safe category now do you. Try and stay within the parameters we've set like a good little author and we might even try and promote your work.

Just like everywhere else in the world now, nobody likes it if you deviate too far from expected norms. But what does that say about the creative process. If all of a sudden, you're writing along and you have to start worrying about whether or not you fit into one of the ready to wear categories?

To me it says that your freedom to create is being co-opted by the necessity of having to make a piece fit. Maybe there are some authors who can sit down and say I'm going to write a hard science ? science fiction novel. But what about those who have an idea for a story and just want to write it?

Why should it matter so much which bookshelf it's going to end up on? Shouldn't what matters be the quality of the story? I would think that publishers would be more concerned about characters, plot and style than genre. If it's a good piece of writing can't they market it even if there is an ambiguity about its genre?

It's all fiction after all. It's all telling a story about something no matter if you have a secret agent hurrying to prevent an atomic bomb from blowing New York off the face of the earth, or werewolves discussing dinner plans.

Here I was thinking, foolish me that what would matter most to a publisher or an agent was the quality of the work they were being sent. But certain agents only deal with certain genres, and if your peg doesn't fit into their slot, then you're out of luck.

Thankfully, publishers have a little more latitude than agents initially, and with the exception of a few imprints will accept almost any genre. But even than you need to be able to tell them in your query letter which category you fit into.

Maybe I'm making a bigger deal out of this than it deserves, but it just came as such a shock to me to discover that definitions were so important and so exact. More and more, I'm beginning to realize that writing the books is the easy part of being a novelist. It's what comes after you're finished that's difficult.

It's like a friend said to me the other day in an email, enjoy this time (the writing and editing) for all it's worth, because it will never be this good again.


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February 19, 2006

The Great Cull

It is obvious that something has to be done. Things have been going from bad to worse, Loss of habitat and increasing over population has been putting a strain on the species' ability to maintain sustainable healthy levels.

Behaviour patterns that could initially be overlooked have now become so predominant that the tranquility and harmony necessary for continued existence has been threatened. Overcrowding, inbreeding, and pockets of isolationist behaviour, have combined to cause all sorts of anti-social tendencies to manifest themselves.

Incest, violence between mates, offspring being abused, abandoned and left to fend for themselves, show that breeding patterns have been adversely affected by these trends. But it doesn't stop there. Interrelationships outside of that dynamic have become untenable as well.

Simple interactions between male of the species, and even females, have become fraught with tension. Foraging behaviours have become more aggressive as more are competing for less. Instead of the previously seen willingness towards compassion, the elderly, lame, and others unable to fend for themselves, are being left to the mercy of predators and the elements.

Worse yet, is an increase of clashes that are not based on survival. There appears to be a continual struggle to assert dominance over each other at a personal and species level. Dominant males have become far more belligerent, utilizing their strength not just to secure better forage and favour among females, but to impose their will on lesser elements within the species.

This in turn has given rise to resentment among those less developed, and has caused an increase in bellicose behaviour. Respect for standards of social norms, regarding the resolution of disagreements, have fallen by the wayside. Instead of direct confrontations between individuals to solve disputes, there has been a steady increase in attacks on secondary individuals.

Another disturbing trend that has been noticed due to the alarming increase in population, is the continual degradation of the species' natural habitat. Not only have normal sources of food become depleted from the effects of over foraging, but also their supply of fresh water has rapidly diminished.

The major culprit for this is that with increased numbers comes an increased amount of refuse. Not only does that foul surface water supplies, but it also contaminates the water table. As fresh water becomes scarcer, the chance of disease spreading increases, and the overall hopes of species survival diminishes.

As they are forced to co-habit less and less territory, the incidence of disease increases dramatically. Aside from the fear of water borne, waste generated, bacterial illnesses that can debilitate thousands, (and increase the waste disposal situation substantially) a sizeable increase in viral type infections and ailments has been noted.

Given the chance of continual incubation due to overcrowding, these viruses mutate too rapidly for immune systems to develop defences. Individuals may be able to resist an initial strain, but a second or even third generation mutation could easily overcome their defences.

Obviously, the situation is fast approaching a critical stage for the species. Unless some type of drastic action is taken in the near future, there is the very real possibility that they could face extinction. While on the one hand this may be seen as a desirable result by some, that takes a rather shortsighted view of the situation.

All species, even ones like this that seem to have no redeeming qualities in terms of what they give back to the planet, have a roll to play. They would not have developed and evolved otherwise. No matter how tempting it might be to let Humanity die out because of their own stupidity, we owe it to the world to attempt to keep them alive.

It's obvious that the normal means of keeping their population in check, mortality and susceptibility to death from injury and illness, have not been sufficient. It has become necessary for us to intervene before it becomes too late. The obvious solution is to begin a cull.

But this cannot be just a cull of the sick and the lame, because that won't solve any of the problems. No, we must have a systematic cull that eliminates individuals from all strata of what they call society. Only then will be there a chance of them finding a balance in the future.

Leaving just the avaricious and powerful alive would only allow similar conditions, that caused the problem in the first place, to be reproduced. We will also have to reduce their numbers significantly enough to allow their habitat to recover, and disease to die out.

Therefore it is this council's recommendation that seventy-five per cent of the existing human population be eliminated post haste. We see it as their best chance of survival.


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February 17, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes 11: The Doubting Game

Well its done. Yesterday afternoon I finished the first draft of Volume one. Yes, that's right volume one. I had come to the realization about three weeks ago that I wasn't going to be able to fit the whole story into one volume. So, I had to start readjusting my thinking.

I hadn't even reached what I was considering the halfway point of the story and it was already over the number of words that was a suggested length for a first novel. I've been writing single spaced pages the whole time, and saving each chapter as a separate file, so didn't have any concept of the sucker's actual size.

I saved it all into a plain text file to make one long document and converted it to the standard manuscript format requested by publishers and agents alike: double spaced, inch around margins, and twelve point type. Sat back to let my poor little laptop make the changes, and presto: I had 325 pages of something or other.

But in the last two weeks, I ran into a bizarre block. I couldn't bring myself to finish. The closer I got to the end of volume one the more I wanted to put it off. On top of that, I couldn't figure out the best way or place to end it. Eventually I realized what the problem was, I didn't want to finish.

I had two pretty good reasons for not wanting to finish. The first was that I'd have to start re-reading the sucker and making corrections and edits to the best of my limited abilities. The second, and I know it sounds a lot like the first but it is different, was that I'd have to actually read what I'd written.

Reading for editing is one thing, it's dispassionate and purposeful. Your looking for typos, mistakes in grammar, and listening to the words to see if they're saying what you wanted them to say. I find the best way to do that is not read for content; in fact, when I'm proofing something I usually start at the end and work back to the beginning just to avoid that trap in the initial scan. That way typos and stand out.

Even on the second read, I'm still just checking it sentence-by-sentence, and paragraph-by-paragraph. Does each sentence sound right, and does each paragraph express the idea I was trying to put across. On the third read through, I check to make sure that there is a proper flow to what I've written, a beginning, middle, and an end.

Does my opening paragraphs introduce the subject matter, does the body of my piece cover the right territory, and does it all lead to a conclusion? For a short article like a blog piece, if it does all that, I'm reasonably content. All I want from this type of piece is for people to have an opinion about what I'm saying. Whether they agree with it or disagree with it doesn't matter so much, as long as it's interesting enough for them to have an opinion.

But a novel or a story is a different kettle of moose meat. I want people to be captivated; not able to put the book down at night because they need to see how things turn out. In order for that to work a book has to have the tonal quality, the right pitch. When I was writing I had an idea in my head of how I wanted my book to sound. People talk about seeing is believing, for me, with a story, hearing is believing.

It's hard to describe, but when I'm writing fiction, I've an objective in mind above and beyond the writing of the story and transmitting the information about plot and character. I'm searching to capture a certain quality that shows my love of language and respect for the power of words.

As much as I enjoy a good story, I enjoy the employment of words as building blocks for creating art. Does that sound pretentious? I hope not because I don't mean it to be. It's just that I want to take advantage of the gifts the English language offers a writer that enables him or her to go beyond the prosaic.

The trouble is, that more often than not, it feels like my ambition exceeds my reach. I feel like I don't have the skill set yet to balance the two needs I see inherent in a novel; the story and the manner in which it is told. Sometimes, I'm sure I get carried away with trying to be too fancy with words and end up digressing miles off course.

Faced with the prospect of the first read through of the story once I finished my first draft, I became more and more nervous? What happens if it's just a whole pile of self-indulgent crap and I've ignored the story? How about the opposite, if its just another boring adventure novel?

Part of me is very proud of myself for having completed this task, but another part of me is terrified that its all been a waste of time and that I'll have to start over again from scratch. People can talk all they want about the experience being good for me, but that just doesn't feel like it will cut it. I'm not even talking about it getting it published, although that would be lovely. I just want to have written something that I'd enjoy reading.

Sure we are our own harshest critics, and we will always be able to find things that could have been done better, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to enjoy reading our own work if its any good. I mean, if I don't like reading how can I expect anyone else to.

"Here, I wrote this novel which I think is a piece of crap, you want to read it." I can see that going over really well in terms of publicity and even just getting a friend to read it.

Anyway, all these types of insecurities have been floating around in the back of my head for the last two weeks as I've tried to finish the book off. Finally, I just said the hell with it. There's nothing I can do about it now, so I may as well finish and see what I have. Lower my expectations somewhat and be prepared for masses of rewrites now and forever until it is published. (Or not)

When I first started out on this project back in November, I figured my biggest obstacle to overcome regarding finishing the book, was my willingness to actually exert the effort required. This feeling was intensified when I went a good three weeks without so much as writing a single word of the story. But that was more due to exhaustion born out of writing close to 70,000 words in the space of a month. I simply needed a break.

Once I was able to recover and start heading towards finishing volume one, I found I was able to pick up where I left off. But when it became evident that I was going to be able to finish, that's when I began to question its quality. As is so often the case in these incidences, I discovered new ways of becoming my own worst enemy.

Yet, in spite of that, I've been able to finish, and I do feel a certain sense of accomplishment. Last night I took a quick glance through the opening of chapter one, and discovered, to my delight it wasn't half bad. I'm hoping that's a sign of things to come.


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February 7, 2006

NaNoWriMo Notes #10: The Last Mile

It's only been three months plus a week since I started work on the "novel". It just feels like an eternity, but I've finally reached the point where I can say with confidence that the end is nigh: of volume one.

I had taken some time off from the writing of the thing for a chunk of December and January. Oh I didn't ignore it totally or anything, just kept it on the backburner stewing away while I wrote blog after blog. After churning out the first 70,000 words during the frenetic frenzy of National Novel Writing Month 2005 last November I needed to distance myself from the process to see if I still cared enough to finish.

I've had many initial impulses in my life for novels and stories that have just petered out from either lack of interest on my part, or because they obviously weren't going anywhere. It took me a long time to learn that a storyline for the characters to follow was not just conventional, but extremely helpful from an author's standpoint.

Having goal in mind does give you something to focus on in the long run; a place for your characters that you've forced marched since the first page to end their journey. If nothing else it's only common courtesy. Otherwise they could find themselves wandering around in circles and never going anywhere. At least this way if they're wandering around in circles they have a destination that you're working them towards.

Anyway, having left everyone stranded in Chapter twenty-five for a while, only checking in periodically to write a hundred words or so to see how they were doing. I decided I needed to make some decisions. First I had to figure out where the hell in the story I was and how much longer I figured it was going to take them to get to "the end".

I was standing at 89,000 words and not even half way through. My choices were to compress the rest of the book to fit into another 50,000 words, or make it two volumes. If I chose to do one volume it would involve a radical change in the style I had developed to that point in order to speed the pace up.

It would also mean leaving out some interesting character development and sub plots that I still wanted to play with. I like the relationship that was starting to develop between two of my characters and it would have to be ruthlessly cut from the story if I went the one volume route.

There's no two volume DVD author's version when it comes to novels. What doesn't stay in the hard drive is never recovered for purchase by a few extra dollars next year at Christmas. If I were going to make this a one-volume affair I would have to go back to the beginning and ruthlessly cut out things I had loved writing in the first place.

In the end there really wasn't that much of decision to be made. It was going to be a two-volume set. Once I had reached that conclusion everything started to flow again. Three chapters were banged out in a matter of a week, and what looks to be the final chapter of this book has been started, so the end is most definitely nigh.
Of course the temptation exists to just keep writing. It's a far nicer prospect than the one I'm actually facing in the coming weeks of having to now go back and proof read this sucker and edit it into some sort of shape to send off to a publisher.

I've barely looked at any of the stuff I've written since it went down on paper in November so have no idea what shape it is in. I'm not suffering from any illusions though, so I'm sure that I've a good chunk of rewriting to do before I would even consider letting a publisher glance at page one.

It's been one thing to offer people the chance to read the first draft online (that offer still stands for those interested, just let me know and I'll e-mail you the link) if they so desire; they know that it's only a first draft full of all sorts of weird spellings and inconsistencies. (At one point I had called one character by three separate names and had renamed one of the races of people without noticing) But it is another thing altogether to send something off to a publisher.

I'd be lying if I said that I would be disappointed if I couldn't at least get someone to read the whole manuscript, I'd also be lying if I didn't admit that I write for the purposes of publication. I want to see my work between the covers of a book on the shelves of a bookstore.

Sure I write because I love to and have not much choice in the matter. Any day when I can't write anything is a disaster and I feel less than complete. It's a compulsion and an obsession as far as I am concerned so I'm going to write no matter what.

This does not mean I wouldn't mind making some money off it. It's damn hard work for me sometimes and it would be great if I got some return on that labour. Of course in my writer's pride I also think it's better than "most of the crap out there" so if they can get published there's no reason in the world my book can't.

I know very little about the publishing industry except for all the negative stuff that everybody hears all the time: inbred, conservative, and so on. But that doesn't seem to put a dent in my optimism (or naivety take your pick) that one-way or another this sucker will get published.

I don't mean self published either. I have nothing against the idea of self-publishing, I already make use of Lulu.com for a bunch of materials, but I want this book to stand on bookshelves in bookstores, rubbing shoulders with the authors I've reviewed. She deserves to be happy and get a little piece of the spotlight.

Once I have her all nicely edited and prepared for submission I'll start sending out the query letters requesting an audience for her with powers that be at a variety of publishing houses. I'd rather not play the game of trying to get an agent at first, because to me that's just another person who will try and figure out if they can make money from me. One of those is enough for now.

Perhaps it sounds a little like I'm cheating turning the book into two volumes, and believe me I'm wondering that myself. But you know what I'm finding out, is that those thoughts haven't done anything to diminish my sense of accomplishment. I've started and finished the first draft of a book.

So what if it doesn't mean I'm done with the story, now that I know I can finish one I know I can finish the second part without a problem. Maybe they will never get published except through my own means, that won't take anything away from the face that I created a world, populated it with people I like, and told a part of the story of their lives.

That makes me feel pretty damn good about myself.


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April 25, 2005

Defending Disney

He's going too far this time, this long haired iconoclast (whatever that means, sounds like anarchist and antichrist tho' so you know it can't be good) Besmirching the good name of that great American institution Walt Disney. I mean how could you not find anything more wholesome and family oriented then that. The wife and I took the kids down a couple years ago and we had a great time. The kids really liked the animal safari thing; we heard people who had been on a real trip to Africa say it was really better then going, what with not having to put up with the poor hotels and roads over there and all the beggars; the animals looked so real.

Disney, no matter which one you go to, is a great place and I think only a real negative person could get all up in arms about the things this guy goes on about. First he say it's ironic (have you ever noticed how all these cynical types call everything ironic, it makes them sound intelligent or something) that Disney has built a safari ride preaching conservation when they've built the whole complex in the delicate eco-system of the Florida Everglades, destroying valuable habitat and upsetting the water table. Goodness it's just swamp land, what could live there aside from some alligators and such that no one is going to miss, and Disney has its own water supply and disposal anyway, so I don't see how they're doing anything to the water table, whatever he means by that.

Then he has the nerve to say that the Epoct centre is a symbol of increased American isolationism because, get this, he says"it prepackges culture into bite size pieces of stereotypical servings" I don't know what the hell that is supposed to mean, maybe he's talking about the food. But like I said before it was a good education for the kids, and us I might add, to see all those people dressed in their natural clothing doing their normal day to day stuff. It shows you just how different everyone in the world really is, but after seeing some of the things other guys were forced to wear(I didn't know all Arab men wore some sort of dress)I'm not about to change in my jeans, no matter how quaint the wife thinks it.(I almost slapped the youngest upside the head for making comments about my legs and those skirts the Scottish guys had on, the kids got quite the lip on him)

But he's not satisfied with just attacking Disney World, now he's going after their movies too. Now I didn't think much of that Hidalgo thing, what with having that foreign guy Viggo something staring in it and all the nasty things he's had to say about our government, and I didn't think that subject matter was exactly family oriented(showing our army in a bad light for doing something that had to be done to preserve our country)but to here him ridiculing it as nothing but the"made up fantasies of a wannabe western hero" is just downright degrading to the memory of Tom Hopkins, one of the last real living cowboys upon whose autobiography they based the movie. The nerve of him implying that the race in the movie never even took place. He bases that on the testimony of a few Arabs who claim to be from families who have bred horses for generations and have never heard of The Ocean of Fire, and the fact that he says in order to travel that amount of distance in Africa you'd have to go down as far as the country of South Africa. He doesn't have to get all literal minded, I'm sure the course had a few twists and turns in it to make up any differences he thinks there were.

But it gets worse. Now's he's turned his sights on the Pirate movies. You remember the first one a couple of years ago: The Curse of The Black Pearl(a great ride at the park too, my youngest lost his lunch on it though: never give a kid a hot dog, fires, and shake before going on a ride) That Johnny Depp is a little suspect, living in France and all, and I thought they should have done something about making him a little less fruity(the wife wondered how long it took him to put on his face every morning, I said it couldn't be anywhere near as long a time as it took her) But aside from that it was great fun for all of us. How many live movies are there for the whole family to see these days?

Anyhow, Mr. Iconoclast has got himself all hot under the collar about the way in which some locals are begin portrayed in the upcoming parts two and three being shot in the Dominican Republic. It seems over the years they got the reputation as being cannibals(I say where there's smoke there's fire) which they deny(would you admit that your grandfather ate someone)and they are objecting to the fact that Disney is going to have them trying to eat the main characters. Well geez what does it matter anyway, its just a movie, can't you folk lighten up. Haven't they heard the saying: Any publicity is good publicity.

He goes on and on; infringing upon freedom of speech by refusing to distribute that unpatriotic garbage by Michael Moore(you couldn't pay me to see that), that the truly heartwarming Polar Express invalidates other beliefs by preaching only by believing in Santa Claus can you be happy, and perpetrating stereotypes with movies like Aladdin.

Mr. Iconoclast is so typical of these doom sayers today, raining on everyone's parade and trying to ruin things for the rest of us. I think a lot of the worlds troubles could be eased if people like him just stopped mouthing off and stopped trying to upset people. All that it does is make people have doubts about those things they should just accept as facts of life. I'm sure the situation in Iraq would be over by now if more people just supported our troops and our government and stopped asking questions, it sure would make things a lot easier anyway.


cheers
gypsyman


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April 21, 2005

Two Poems: "On A Winter's Day" & "If I"

Well I thought any and all of you out there in radio land could use just a little change of pace. I seem to have been spewing a lot lately, backed by anger, and a strict diet of that is not good for anyone, reader or writer. So for your amusement I thought I'd offer up some poetry. Enjoy. (Of course this could also be seen as a cynical ploy to get you to check out my store and maybe buy some of my work, so be it.)

On a winter's day

On a winter's day
when the crows were migrating
an icicle dripped onto
the roof of a bird feeder.
sunlight illuminated each
precious drop and
cast long fingered tree
shadows across snow
covered ground.

At times like these
its not hard to believe
in the impermanence of man.

Sitting quiet by a window
to the world,
recalling primordial time,
and felling like an honoured observer
of how thins should be.

There is always something to be
thankful for.


If I

If I breathe
the same air
as you,

if I see
the same moon
as you,

if I hear
the same bird
as you,

if I smell
the same flower
as you,

are we lovers?

If,
when you touch me
we share a breath,
a sight,
a sound,
a scent,

are we joined?

If the tide
of your pulse
ebbs and flows
to my
gravity's pull

and if
your heart puts
forth roots to my rain

and if
I bring
forth shoots form your soil,

are we not one.

Well I hope you enjoyed them. Have a good night

cheers
gypsyman


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April 12, 2005

The Trees Were Singing An Excerpt

The following is an excerpt from the book I'm writing(untitled now save for the opening line title Microsoft gave it The Trees Were Singing) The Vatican in its wisdom allowed cardinal Law of Boston to read one of the Masses for the Pope. Cardinal Law is best known for simply moving priests who sexually abused children to new parishes instead of punishing them, thus exposing more innocents to their evil. To bestow such an honour on a man who was complicate in those horrendous crimes is equal in my mind to implicitly condoning his behavior. Shame on them.

In this excerpt the character is reliving her first recollection of her abuse. As someone who suppressed my own memories of abuse for twenty years, mainly through drug and alcohol abuse, I have little truck with those people who claim that repressed memories are hokum. No one planted those memories in my mind, it wasn't until well after they started that I sought help, and then only to deal with trauma of remembering, not to figure out what was wrong with me.

Anyway, here it is, an excerpt from The Trees Were Singing, "Chapter 2".

No one was there, as there hadn't been so many times before, upon waking in the middle of the night. But now there was a nagging at the back of her head, a glimpse of a being. The darkness was heavy on her, and the shadows were too deep, but lighting the bedside lamp only created more places for fear to hide. Nooks and crannies created by objects negating light opened too many passage ways, entrances from which there was no hiding.

Who was trying to break into her safety? She wrapped her arms around her knees under the sheet and blankets, debating whether or not to get up and turn on the overhead light. Flood the room with brightness and chase whatever it is back to where it belongs. Just what she used to do as a child when the horrors came on her. Too scared to call out for her parents in case something else would answer (they could have been turned into monsters for all she knew) she would brave the cold floor to wash the room in safety.

In the nights that followed the fear kept on returning. Faceless it would stalk her sleep, teasing at the edge of conciseness, until it would spring upon her, sending her reeling out of sleep panic stricken. It became harder and harder to convince herself to sleep. Even the tranquilizer she managed to wheedle out of her doctor were not sufficient to keep it at bay. If anything they seemed give encouragement to the invasions. Instead of numbing her, they relaxed her defenses, providing more breeches in the already leaky fortifications.

There came a point when the last reserves were spent, too tired to fight any more, she accepted defeat and let the fear in. It swelled into an immensity, a giant figure straddling the domain of her mind. She cowered at its feet, head bowed, staring at the shoes her nose almost touched. Tan suede loafers. "Daddy" a little girls voice said in her head.

Well that's just a short bit, but I think it gives the idea of how it feels when things are coming apart. I still find I go through the same experience whenever a new incident is remembered, It starts with a general feeling of unease and builds to a fever pitch with its culmination being the memory. To those of you out there beginning this process, hang on, your worth it and remember it wasn't your fault. You were only a child and that person was supposed to be protecting you whoever he or she was. Find someone you can trust to help you, if the first person isn't right, find another, this is too important to leave in the hands of someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Find a copy of A Courage To Heal and its sequel The Workbook. Guys just change the pronouns and it works.

The flashbacks are not real they are the past, and if you can find someone who does EMDR therapy and you respond to it, because not everyone does, use it. I have found it really helpful for processing my most recent bout of flashbacks. It's a long process, I started eleven years ago, and you'll find that your mind will give you the breaks you need so it never completely overwhelms you. Be good to yourself and remember these three simple things.

  • I'm Lovable.
  • I'm Loving
  • I'm Loved