What’s Up is basically what I’ve been up to, mostly writing-wise. I’ve always got something going onto paper.
November 2014 – Car wash Kitty has been published as Binkie’s Day Out in Mob Hit On My Grandmother’s Dog. I’ll be trying to get some local press for it. Saw it already n a Calgary bookstore. Ransom will be in paperback on Amazon by the end of November. Madhouse in the Firehouse has 16 chapters, 91 pages, and 32,700 words and will be an ongoing project. Voodoo Bully is looking for a home and sitting at five literary agencies. My typing has been slowed by a hand operation here in November. Booked for Mexico again to kill a chunk of winter. I’m trying to get away from firefighter novels this time and have three chapters written for Tequila and Coca-Cola set in Mexico with a Canuck firefighter, a Mexican State police commandant, and a cast of unsavory characters. I’d like it to be like a Cal Hiassen story with a few yucks in there, too. So far, so good, I’m having fun. My writers group has three new members who are all writing well. I may give up trying to publish using IngramSparks as their cover specs are baffling. With Amazon it’s 1-2-3 done, you got a cover. Spoke with the publisher at Bookkus and he says they may put Final Response out in Feb. 2015
October 2014 – Spent two weeks in Toronto with my son’s family and his two kids, Bronwyn and the new guy one year old Finley. Stayed overnight in the Falls and reconnected with my older sister and an old Welland buddy. It was fun.
June – 2014 My youngest son’s Korean wife caught her first fish in June up at Slave Lake. Great tasting fish and beautiful warm camping days.
May 2014 - Archie’s Gold and The Far Bank are both in paperback and should be available for ordering at Chapters Indigo and Amazon. So far I’ve written about 14 chapters of Madhouse in the Firehouse a collection of true short stories throughout my career from firefighter pranks to med calls and 620 pound men to the academy. My writer’s group has a new member and she is writing a romance. I’m awaiting a response from a small Calgary publisher regarding my juveniles. And awaiting Summit Studios check for Car Wash Kitty in their anthology coming out this year. I queried the Edmonton Journal regarding more travel articles and they will not accept articles from locals unless the destination has a direct link with Alberta. Too bad because the articles they’re gleaning from AP and QMI are mostly dialed in and boring.
Feb/March 2014 – Having a blast touring California in our 5th wheel
December 2013 – Archie’s Gold is now in paperback available at Borders/ Barnes & Noble in the USA, Amazon.ca on Dec. 19th Amazon.com, and soon Indigo Books in Canada. This is the story Tundra Books in Toronto loved but ultimately one cannot trust publishers as it was cut from their fiction list and the cowards wouldn’t admit it to me for over a year. YAHOO! Final Response received enough good reviews that Bookkus will take it on as well as my two other firefighter books. We’ll see what marketing can do to boost sales
November 2013 – Final Response is being discussed in a forum at Bookkus publishing and it’s getting 4-5 star reviews. Voodoo Bully is completed after shortened the ending from 5 pages to 2. As soon as FR is taken off, VB goes on for reviews, I’ve begun Madhouse at the Firehouse an anthology of humorous tales from my firefighter days. So far the writers group seems to like it, but we’ll see. I purged the water lines from our 5th wheel and we’re making plans to take it south sometime this winter.
October 2013 – Gloria and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary and are going to Las Vegas in November, I think. My son, William and his Korean wife Yeonsil are back in Canada, living with us for a time until they get settled.
August 2013 – Gloria and I are in Toronto to see our new grandson Finly. VooDoo Bully is in its final chapter being critiqued in the writers group and I’ll get it back at the Sept. meeting. Final Response is being discussed at Bookus Publishing’s open forum. I’ve been addressing every critique and making the changes. It seems I have to elaborate more on certain background stuff, making me believe the readers have read too fast. Binkie’s Day Out will be delayed in print until 2014 due to some co-publishing thing with Summit Studios. I don’t care as I’ll still get paid. I’m also putting together some ideas on my firefighter stories during my career, mostly humorous ones.
June 2013 Voodoo Bully is being critiqued (chapter six) in my writers group. The Blob…In My Shoes and Final Response are still being read by reviewers at Bookkus. Since the weather here in June has been up and down I dream of my month in Mexico and the perfect heat there. My wife and I hauled our 5th wheel trailer to Sask. for the May long weekend. While there we went to a drive-in theater and when we left the northern lights were aglow. I am slowly getting my head into an anthology, short stories of my career. I occasionally tell these stories to people and they keep telling me to write them down. That’ll be a winter project.
Mar. 2/2013 Doing a lot of reading and reviewing for Bookus Publishing as some of the samples I’ve read are now in 2nd stage and needing another review with a view to the full story. There’s a committment I’ve entered into and will see it through.
Jan. 29/2013 It’s a new year and The Far Bank is now available at almost all eBook sites. VooDoo Boy is now VooDoo Bully and has two chapters being critiqued in my writers group. I sold a short story Car Wash Kitty to Summit Studios for their anthology later this year. Thinking about some tropical time.
Dec. 18/2012 Diligently editing The Far Bank with a planned mid-January release. Check out my juvenile/children’s writing section for a taste.
Nov. 11/2012 Finished Voodoo Boy!!!! It’s through my 2nd draft and I loved writing it. Synopses will be posted under my juvenile stories
Oct.19/2012 So far on Bookkus I’ve garnered 2 – 3 star reviews and 1 – 4 star review for Final Response My Beaumont Writers Group has gained two new members lately, Emily and Michael! They are working on chapter 12 of The Blob…In My Shoes Only two more chapters to go (done by Xmas) and then they’ll start on VooDoo Boy. Check out my juvenile/children writing tab for the synopses. I’m going to submit 3 sample chapters of the Blob to Bookkus and see what happens. It made the top 250 at the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award two years ago and has since been reworked. I also submitted a travel article on the tiny town of Cabarete in the Dominican Republic where my wife and spent last February. It’s a great wind-surfing, kite-boarding, wave surfing place due to the constant tradewinds that blow almost every day. Sept. 15/2012 Submitted Final Response to Bookus Publishing hoping to get some readers to review it. It’ll be exciting to see how their new marketing process pans out.
July/2012 VooDoo Boy has 6 chapters now and I’m really liking it. I posted the 1st chapter below. It’s difficult to write when the weather is so good.
The Blob…In My Shoes has made it through 8 chapters in my writers group. May31/2012 Great weather is here and I’m busy doing yard work with Gloria since we returned from Toronto where we helped my son build a fancy fence. Every post hole was a killer as the property was a one-time brick yard. We’ve been extending our paving stone walk and have a few low spots to work out. Full moon is almost here and the fish await. I’ve really neglected my writing as of late. I only managed to get down one chapter of VooDoo Boy and do some editing on The Blob…In My Shoes for submission to my writer’s group. Still waiting for my busy son in Toronto to do the cover art for Final Response. My youngest son in Sth. Korea is starting up Bookkus Publishing a marketing company for eBook writers. Final Response will be my initial foray there in September.
March 28/2012 – My present project is finalizing Final Response, which was Fire and Ice then Too Late For Spring. I should have it finished by summer. Fire And Ice has truckload of books with that name, many of them romance and fantasy books. Too Late For Spring sounds liken a gardening book. I’m liking the story one more and more. VooDoo Boy, a juvenile, after 3 chapters is simmering in my brain waiting for more inspiration. Most days I’m sifting through my projects, tweaking, and readying them for specific formatting demanded by eBook retailers. Also working on VooDoo Boy (below) and seeking opinions. The Red Army Doc. Alex T. was a colleague I worked with a few times in Edmonton. My wish is for him to get it together and seriously consider writing his memoirs–a non-fiction project I can really sink my teeth into. Alex T. was a Red Army doctor in Afghanistan circa 1980’s. He signed up for a two year tour and claims he never got paid because the USSR was going down the drain at the time of his discharge. He’s got some killer tales waiting to be unleashed. I’ve almost got the intro written without the soldiers and Russians and Afghans (that’ll never sell). I think his story might garner huge interest as a print project, too. Maybe a monster advance. Then again, with eBook sales skyrocketing, hard copy books are taking a beating.
Jan. 29 2012 – Out On A Limb is here! The cover art is vibrant and I think, intriguing. est of all it’s .99 cents!
Jan. 2012 – Happy New Year. I’m awaiting some cover art for Out On A Limb a new juvenile adventure. When my son sends it to me I’ll put it on line for 2.99 and promote it by offering Ransom for 99 cents. Two of the characters are the same.
2011 updates June 2011 update – The Edmonton Journal travel section published a feature article (June 22/11) about Gloria’s and my recent trip, winging it through South-East Asia. Gloria and I visited Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Beijing, and Seoul, and in the process, cut a large chunk off last winter. On thew same day the Edmonton Sun did a feature, author profile on me and Old Flames.
July 2011 update – Alex isn’t ready to put anything down on paper regarding his Red Army memoirs. Too bad. He says “I don’t want to write about Afghanistan, because for Americans Russians are idiots and drunks. For Russians Afghanistan is still big pain, because almost 15 000 were killed, around 100 000 were wounded, way more with traumatic stress disorder, lots of drug users and psychs. To write truth, it is going to be very negative and depressing. I don’t want to ruin what is still sacred in the hearts of soldiers who were there.” Maybe some day he’ll come around and pick up a pen.
Dec. 2011 update – A Young Adult story is bubbling, demanding to get out of my head. Thomas, Your Friendly Neighborhood Terrorist sounds like a decent title to me. What do you think? My 1st page lead-off will go something like this:
*”Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.”
U.S. president b.1858 – d.1919
Planning to go up against the bully at school, who was also the biggest person in town, was actually terrifying just to think about. Actually putting my plan into action jacked up fears that had me bolting upright in bed in the middle of the night. I know my father would’ve been proud of me for my cleverness and problem-solving skills. Even though he was dead, in a way, I suppose he’s the reason I was doing this; somehow to prove myself to him. So why would I even dare to control the bully? Controlling the bully was the only way to avenge the death of my dog Scraps. You see, I know the man who poisoned him.
I returned home from fishing the river and noticed my dog partially hidden in the hedges, lying on his side, panting; not trotting over to greet me. Curious, I set my rod against the house and walked over to him. “What’re you doing over there, Evens?” said Uncle Alain, standing on the deck with a beer in his hand. “Something’s wrong with Scraps.” I knelt down beside Scraps. Scraps was my dog, a collie-cross, mostly mongrel, my parents had adopted from the animal pound three years ago just before they left Canada and were killed in Haiti by a marauding gang. Scraps was bleeding badly from the mouth and having a lot of trouble breathing. He tried to stand to greet me like he always did, but was too weak. His muscles twitched like an electric current zapped him. Uncle Alain came over. “Looks like rat poison to me,” he said, his big head bobbing like a toy. “Happens when you let him run free like you do. That dog’ll eat anything.” “Can we get him to the vet, or something?” I asked. “Yes, we can. All we get will be a big bill and the dog will still die. He’s too far gone.” I sat beside the hedge trying to comfort my pet. I wiped a tear from eye. “Wasn’t somethin’ on the street. No. Someone did this.” I know who did it. Can’t prove it, but there’s no doubt in my mind. You probably know someone like him. “Yeah, I know who you mean,” said Uncle Alain, and went inside. Scraps’ murderer lives three blocks away in a run down rented bungalow at the end of an unfinished street. Joseph ‘Joey’ Mendel is about 30 years old. Skinny runt with cheap tattoos on his arms, always wearing a Bud Light straw hat he got free for buying a truckload of beer for a party where six people showed up and the music was so loud the police had to pay him a visit. He drives an old 4×4 truck full of oil industry stickers pasted to his bumpers. In reality, he’s a drop-out with bad teeth and hygiene and works at the truck wash, power-spraying the real oil workers’ trucks. That’s a fact. One of my teachers keep telling my class to develop our own identity as we enter adulthood; find our way. I hope I don’t develop like Joey. Joey doesn’t like me, and I don’t like him. Neither do his neighbors. If I’m shooting hoops at the end of his street with my buds and the ball happens to roll into his yard, he keeps the ball. He’ll give it back in a few days but only when Jason’s dad or my Uncle Alain knock on his door. Or else he’ll just leave it in the middle of the street, hoping someone will walk off with it. “Come try to get it back and I’ll put a hole in you,” he says, in a pathetic imitation of a cowboy sheriff, pounding back a long-neck beer, making us think he’s got a gun. Scraps, my unfortunate pet, didn’t like Joey much either, and showed it by lifting a leg, leaving some liquid discontent on the chrome rims of Joey’s 4×4. Poor dog just couldn’t help himself. It was as if he knew what Joey was all about and the disrespect poured out of him. This would send Joe into outer space with rage. He’d grab the garden hose and stammer and holler and swear, as he hosed off his wheel. Me ands my buds would have a good laugh. Scraps would return with a bounce in his stride and petted by us approvingly. This infuriated Joey into: a) picking up a big stick and chasing Scraps down the street. b) threatening us as we shot baskets, until we left, or, c) throwing beer cans at us as we played, forcing us to move the hoop and backboard down the street where we had to play in amongst parked cars. d) listening to him crank up his shitty country rebel music to ear-splitting levels until we’d leave. Little Joey’s venom spewed far and wide, bringing out his neighbors for a quick look to see what all the fuss was about. The neighbors were big guys, putting up with the runt and his antics, and the Big Pussies actually told us to quit *inciting the man. My father told me that the police couldn’t be relied upon to look after everything. The community occasionally has to take responsibility. We’ll, I was in for some incitement myself. I sat with Scraps until he drew in his last breath. “You were a fine friend,” I uttered and cried. When it began to drizzle, I dug his grave under a poplar at the far end of the small garden. I went inside and joined my uncle at the table. While absently scanning the newspaper I noticed many of the movie listings were about zombies or werewolves or magic. No vampire would be biting Joey–reality would. Uncle Alain went to the fridge and cracked another beer. He moved in after my parents were killed returning to Haiti to visit relatives. Mom and dad were abducted, shot, and dumped in front of a police station in the middle of the night. Dad was a former detective on the island. He moved to Canada and became a private detective. Uncle Alain, his brother, rented an apartment at the time of their death and suggested he’d help me out by moving in and paying the bills and taxes. That way I didn’t lose the house because I was a minor. By default, Alain became my guardian. It worked out good so far with him minding his own business and not giving me any parental grief. When he drank at night he was real easy to get along with. Then again, I was a good student and busy with my newspaper delivery business. As I stared out the window at the freshly dug earth, I felt my anger simmering, my brain shifting into gear, hurtling recklessly around corners. “You got that look on your face. Where you goin’?” asked Uncle Alain. “Going to see the man who murdered my dog!” “Bad idea, Evens,” he said, trying to get out of the chair, but too many beers had increased the gravity. I stomped out of the yard, my head hot, vision clouded at the edges with red. I was almost the same size as Joey and unwisely figured my rage and adrenalin would give me an edge. I marched along the streets with one thing on my mind. I turned the corner of the street where Jason, my friend lived. The basketball stand stood against the curb. The dish of water Jason always put out for Scraps lay next to it, the sight picking up my pace. And there was Joey, wearing cut-off blue jeans, tinkering with his open truck door in the driveway, death metal cranking out from his truck radio. He spotted me and stopped, his mind working trying to analyze why I’d be stalking purposely toward him, his face twisted in rage. Then, he figured it out. A crooked smile broke across his face. It’s when *I knew that *he knew what happened. “Stay away from me, kid!” he yelled, picking up a garden hose. “You killed my dog! You’re a murderer!” He squeezed the nozzle trigger and kept it on high, blasting it in my face. I kept my hands out as a shield from the cold spray as I approached blindly. “You’ll pay for that! I’ll kill you for it!” Before I knew it I was on the sidewalk, the hose caught around my ankles and Joey on top of me hitting my face with the washing brush, again and again. My hands fended off most of them, but a few made it through against my forehead and cheek. “I’ll teach you, you skinny, punk-ass school boy!” “Stop it! You’re crazy!” “You blacks are all troublemakers!” “Hey! Hey!” Someone yelled. I felt Joey’s weight lifting off. My buddy Jason helped me up while his dad kept Joey at bay, both of them arguing, filling the air with curses. “Keep away from me, kid, or you’ll get more of where that came from!” I felt my face and came away with a bloody hand. “Dog killer! I know you killed Scraps! You’ll pay!” “You’re nuts, kid. Go home before I hurt you!” “C’mon,” said Jason, towing me away across the street to his house. “What the hell was that all about, Archie?” “I just buried Scraps. He gave him rat poison.” “Oh man, that’s awful. You sure?” asked Jason’s father. “Yeah, he’s dead. Buried him in my yard.” “No, I mean you figure Joey did it?” “Yeah,” I looked at Jason, “remember last time we were shootin’ baskets and Scraps pissed on his tire, again?” Jason nodded, examining my face. “Well, when I went over to get Scraps away from his truck he said ‘that mutt is as good as dead’.” “Yeah, I remember now. Didn’t think he was serious, though.” We went into Jason’s yard and he sat me on his back deck and went inside. He came out with a wet blue cloth. “You’re face is a mess,” he said, handing it to me. “I been worse. Thanks.” Jason, or Jay, was my best friend, my only friend, the first friend I’d had since I was a small boy. He had white hair cut short, almost bristly and was taller than me. When we stood together it was quite the contrast; his whiteness and my brown skin and red hair. I dabbed my aching face and watched Jay’s dad come over to us. “You should know better. He said you attacked him. That right?” asked Jay’s father. I nodded. “He killed my dog; did just what he said he’d do,” I replied. “Then you should let the cops handle it.” “I got no proof except Scraps was bleeding badly and shaking like a leaf before he died.” “At least report it,” he said. “Lucky he had his sandals on. He keeps a knife in his cowboy boot.” He wandered away to the front yard. Jay regarded my face carefully and sat down beside me. “That’s so sad, Scraps dying. He was pretty smart. It’s really cruel to kill a creature that way.” I felt my face begin to sting in several places and felt my eye begin to swell. Jay’s dad brought out a bucket of ice. I dumped a handful into my towel and pressed it against my eye. “I guess I didn’t get in any licks in, did I?” Jay and his father chuckled. “You were down for the count when we ran over,” said Jay. Jay’s dad left us alone. “I know you, Evens, I can see your mind working. You’re plotting something, aren’t you?” I shrugged. “Might be.” “Revenge is a dish best served cold,” he said. “Meaning?” “Well, meaning wait until you cool down and can make some clever plan to get even.” “Strike while the iron is hot,” I fired back. Jay chuckled. “That will not apply here because his iron is hot–not yours. You go over there now and you’ll get your ass kicked again.” “I’ll have to think of something then.” “Yeah, something better than a frontal assault.” I walked home, my face feeling like it was stung by a giant wasp. I went inside to the bathroom, passing Uncle Alain, and the four empty beer bottles on the kitchen table. He was a functioning alcoholic; never missed work and never drank on the job. At home he’d pound back the brews like they were pop. “Told you so, kid,” he said, shaking his head. The bedroom mirror nearly cracked. My eye was half-shut, black and purple, and my cheeks badly scratched from the bristly wood brush Joey throttled me with. My brown face looked darker. I picked out some grass bits from my wiry red hair, an affection from my French white mother. I cursed and searched around for my sunglasses. The lenses were too small to hide all the damage. I wondered if I should see the local eye doctor. I went to the fridge and pulled out the makings to build a baloney sandwich while Uncle Alain stared idly out the window, his heavy frame leaning against the counter for balance. There was always more beer he drank than appeared on the table as empties. He tried not to show how much he really did drink and placed the bottles in the recycle bin. “Won’t be fun at school for you tomorrow. Wear these,” he said to the window and slid over a pair of aviator sunglasses across the table. “You should call the cops,” he said. “Too late, he’s buried.” “No, I mean on the person you think poisoned him.” “Got no proof. Dad said you got to have proof, got to go look for proof. Said it’s all around, just got to dig for it. You want a sandwich?” He waved off my offer. “Your father would know, he was a fine policeman. I looked at the wall clock. Almost time to set up flyer deliveries, make sure the kids showed up. Half the routes in town were mine. I paid junior high kids to deliver. The distributor tried this but was too greedy and didn’t pay them enough. He was glad to hand off the routes to me and rid himself of hand-holding the whiney kids. I paid the delivery kids more money. Anytime a route came open, I’d snap it up. Soon, I’d control the flyer and newspaper business. I also had five routes for the big Edmonton newspaper. It was an early morning job and I usually only helped when a kid couldn’t do it for some reason. I took a chuck of change off each route and sorted out the problems. More importantly, my delivery jobs gave me access to people’s yards. I discovered people in town had a *lot of secrets. They weren’t all that clever about hiding them, either. Everyone believed most people were good until proven bad; innocent until proven guilty. I believed everyone had secrets and whether they were good or bad depended on who you were. Uncle Alain said I took after my father, inheriting his nosiness into other people’s business. I also inherited a good camera. Taking it everywhere was an invaluable tool. For example, Mr. Fredericks, my vice principal and occasional science teacher, was doing some odd stuff at the back of a paint shop owned by none other than Mr. Romanasky, Algernon’s father. Algernon was the school bully and had his own secret. I didn’t know what the stuff was, and probably wouldn’t ever know. All I had to know was two men were dumping the crap, some real noxious stuff, down the sewer drain. Someone reported some bluish stuff floating in the river and took a picture if it, but it was gone by the time an environment guy (they don’t work weekends) came down to check it out one Monday afternoon. Downstream several hundred fish died and they were ‘sent to the lab’. The color of the chemical they secretly dumped matched the color of the stuff I had on my digital camera–a nice sharp image I snapped from down the alley. My town had six councilors, one of them Councilor Mansur. He was no angel. Nasir Mansur, a Muslim, kept two wives. One, unofficially. How did I know? While delivering flyers I stumbled upon a ceremony in his backyard where they had a tent and a big feast set out on tables. Lots of people were there but no locals. His ‘nanny’ was the star of the show decked out in ceremonial splendor surrounded by women outside a smaller tent. I was chased out of the yard when someone spotted me with my camera. Under further investigation I did some research on the internet and discovered it was a traditional *marriage ceremony. Yeah, he was a polygamist. Illegal in most countries. A few days later, the ‘nanny’ forbade me to enter the yard ever again and ordered me to drop the paper in the mailbox–no poking around the yard. As I said, people did not protect their secrets enough. Unwittingly, she led me to the mailbox and all the proof I needed: two government welfare checks: one addressed to Mrs. Aini Mansur, and the other to Mrs. Ismat Mansur. The checks became another sharp image, pixelated into digital form. I figured then, if the government was too stupid not to catch such a blatantly fraudulent act with a simple look at their files, or a quick peek into Councillor Mansur’s mailbox, then they deserved every bit of criticism they got for being wasteful. I assumed they didn’t have the sharpest tools in the box working for them. Mr. Herman Foster, a contractor lived next door to the Romanaski’s in his big trailer parked in the driveway. Mr. Foster’s wife threw him out of the house a few weeks back. One morning, I passed his yard and saw his clothes being tossed out the door by his wife. I came upon him installing a gizmo beside his power meter. Somehow, it seemed suspicious, as no one else had it. He cleverly disguised it by setting a dummy mailbox over it. He left it open for a few days so I snapped a picture of it. Upon further investigation, I logged on to a special website my father had subscribed to, an underground site with links to everything weird and illegal. I discovered the unique apparatus was some sort of induction doo-dad that affected the digital power readings. What attracted my interest was his reaction when I carefully examined it one day. “Get away from that! It’s live current, you’ll get hurt!” he shouted and chased me off. I had the device on nice sharp images. I wasn’t about to tell anyone these secrets, but I was always rolling around how I could use them to my advantage. Now, I had another secret. Joseph ‘Joey’ Mendel killed dogs. So the vice principal, town councilor, paint shop owner, school bully, and a power thief were in my files. How to use them to get at Joey would require some deep thought and planning. I sat eating my sandwich looking out the patio door at, Scraps’ grave, fueling my anger. If I didn’t do something, Joey would get away with it completely. I thought about extortion and blackmail, but I had no leverage except for a dead animal under my tree. Both are crimes, so maybe I’ll forget about them for now. What Joey did was a crime. Some cultures ate dogs and considered them a delicacy. Killing man’s best friend in Western society is a distasteful act and could sometimes get more jail time than murdering a small child. There must be something I could do, some way to get revenge.