A long climb up a steep hill in Ladysmith

A description of  the ‘inspiration’ and process for my  work in progress, Uphill From Here

For the most part we learn by experience. Events are analyzed, compared and absorbed as they happen, life’s meaning effervescing like the tantalizing flavours of a simmering stew.

But as a novelist that sequence, the acclimatizing passages of growing up and growing old, is frequently reversed, or inverted. In an ‘inspired flash’ I have been given Devlin Smith’s life-story in my current novel in progress, Uphill From Here. Now I have to examine the events in that skeletal outline, giving them breath, life, meaning, all the while asking: ‘ Why have I been given this responsibility?’

At the beginning of that process for this novel, I’m reaching into my communities to discover experiences and perspectives  that will make an inspiring story compelling, or what I like to call ‘real fiction’.

Join me on Devlin’s long, hard climb up a short, steep hill in Ladysmith. Let’s find out more about how he got to the foot of Symonds Street and his struggle to get to the top of that challenging grade. I’m looking for: ‘adopters’, ‘enactors’, ‘beta readers’… anyone interested in helping me tell Devlin’s story.

Read the outline to Uphill From Here, and find out how you can get into the story as it’s written.

FPTP – Our Political Soap Box Derby

1948 Soap box derby – Wikipedia

I have been reading up on a voting process called Local PR, one of the stakeholder submissions to BC’s electoral referendum process.

As a proponent of electoral reform, I have to confess it’s not easy to understand how the counting works under this model, and further, that I’m not sure how it works in any of the other models that have been considered since B.C. first started looking into PR in 2005.

But this time round, I am determined to work through the math, so I read the written Local PR submission. Result: It hasn’t been easy, but with due-diligence and a smidgen of determination, you can understand these systems, and even appreciate the elegance they would bring, when it comes to nuanced, fair representation in the B.C. Legislature.

I can feel the hair on PR opponents’ necks rising. “How many people are going to slog through the technical details of a complex voting system to gain an understanding of how their votes count?” they demand – which is another way of saying, “Keep it simple, stupid.”

A couple of things in response. One, voting simplistically isn’t the way to go in a world where democracies are confronted with complex issues – there are many of us voters out here, who want more flexible options when it comes to casting our ballots. Two, as citizens, if we want to understand the implications of any electoral system, we must take resonsibility, and study it thoroughly – and there’s nothing simple about the adverse implications of First Past The Post.

The argument used by those opposed to PR (and it’s used in the most perjorative sense of the word by some political hardheads) is that people will not understand or trust a voting system that has a more complex front end in the voters booth than FPTP. We have to stay locked in an electoral stone age because voter confidence, and perhaps even fair elections, won’t be possible under any less thuggish system. That, and the old saw about hung parliaments, as if government can’t keep functoning day-to-day while the vital process of determining who’s going to negotiate and implement change and leadership is worked out.

All this despite the fact that most progressive democracies in the 21st Century use some form of proportional representation to elect their governments. Are B.C. and Canadian voters not up to the mark; are we somehow less sophisticated or intelligent that voters elsewhere in the world?

By that reasoning, shouldn’t we all have our drivers’ licences revoked? After all, how can anyone get into the family car and drive to work, or shopping, or to drop the kids off at school with any degree of confidence, when they don’t really understand how the machine that’s getting them there functions? The modern automobile is a sophisticated piece of engineering most drivers know nothing more about than how to turn the key in the ignition and put into gear. Yet we drive them every day to destinations we could never get to any other way.

If complexity was the issue, electoral luddites should all be driving machines that are simple to operate and easily understood at a glance, like soap box cars.

Here’s the thing, though: Sure, soap box cars are simple and easy to figure out; they provide predictable and manipulable results; but they can only race in the direction gravity works, that is, downhill to the bottom. If we want to go uphill, and create a democracy best able to make nuanced, fair decisions, we need something with an engine in it, something that can take us as a real majority through eras of complex political change.

The engine should be popular will, and that can only be determined by a fair electoral system.


Freighters anchored in Stuart Channel.

So, today the latest Alberta oil patch bully to take to the podium started issuing threats about what he’s going to do to B.C. citizens who want to protect their coast from the unmitigated disasters that will ensue if we allow diluted bitumen to be exported in unsustainable quantities through Vancouver and the Strait of Juan de Fuca via a twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline.

In a CBC report, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney says if he becomes premier, and B.C. doesn’t back down, he’ll stop permits for the shipment of Alberta oil to B.C. through the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and he’ll slap a toll on B.C.’s natural gas shipments through Alberta.

In an effort to outdo Alberta’s NDP Premier Rachel Notley in the tough-guy posturing, he gets down and personal in his threats to B.C.’s NDP Premier John Horgan, wrapping himself in the mantle of 80’s Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, who went to war with Pierre Trudeau over the National Energy Program, and is a hero in the estimation of many Alberta fossil fuelists. (While we’re harkening back to that era, we may want to recall it was in 1989 the Exxon Valdez spilled 10 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound… imagine a disaster of that magnitude with diluted bitumen.)

Threatened Kenney, “My message to John Horgan is: I may very well be sitting across the table from you in 14 months. And if you’re unable to come to an understanding with your fellow New Democrat Rachel Notley, just wait until you’re sitting across the table from me,”

A base-player, in no uncertain terms, who must have read the Trump handbook on bare knuckle-headed politics, Kenney thinks a threat to cut off distribution of oil through the Trans-Mountain pipeline and a tax on fracked natural gas are threats that will play well in B.C. He’s right! Thousands of British Columbians, who understand the risk both sources of power pose to our environment, will be cheering him on. “Do it! Do it! Do it!” I can hear them chanting.

In case Horgan is thinking of blinking in the face of Kenney’s locker-room bluster, here’s a bit of advice from one B.C. voter: Allow diluted bitumen to be pumped through our mountains and down to our coast in the volumes demanded by Alberta and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and you’ll earn my unending opposition. Acceding to their shortsightedness and mongering will be a betrayal of British Columbian and global citizens of every species.

Provincial politicians are careful to stick to issues within their own jurisdiction; ordinary citizens don’t compartmentalize their concerns quite so neatly. Nor do we normal citizens need to know every arcane detail of political posturing to understand the fundamental truth. So let’s take a look at this standoff from the position of an ordinary citizen, who has children and grandchildren, whose lives are what he really cares about most – and cares holistically.

Kenney, Notley and Trudeau need to understand my resolve, and why I’m not prepared to budge when it comes to Alberta’s tar sands. Most of the oil that’s locked up in the third largest reserve in the world has to stay in the ground. Full stop. Alberta has to transition away from oil as the basis of its future economic growth, and start building a sustainable future. Twinning Kinder Morgan does not fit into that picture; it perpetuates and accelerates the environmental disaster that’s unfolding as we speak.

The sanctity of B.C.’s coastline and the urgency of preventing climate change trump Kenney’s threats. I’m more concerned we not risk the certain disasters posed by both those issues than I am with anything Kenney, Notley or Trudeau can advance as a provincial or national interest. Alberta has to come up with a Climate Leadership Plan that’s better than the ruse they’ve concocted. It’s that simple.


100 Sleeping Dandelions – by Diana Durrand

Did and interview and video for Diana Durrand, artist and life-partner. Her show, 100 Sleeping Dandelions, will be on at the Gage Gallery in Victoria from April 10 to 21. She’s been working on it for a year, through many trials and tribulations. It’s a great body of work that discovers the spectacular in a plant that’s not only considered common, but is ruthlessly rooted out as a weed! Artists and authors looking for coverage and trailers, get in touch. I offer special rates for creators in the arts.

The Notley-Trudeau Dystopia – it makes for real fiction

On the plus-side, as a writer interested in dystopian fiction, I don’t have to make it up anymore. We as a species are repeating the pattern that has been part of the evolutionary cycle from the very beginnings of life on earth. We are overtaxing and despoiling our environment to the point where there will be a catastrophic collapse. Millions might die and the nasty, brutish, short realities of survival will reassert themselves in parts of the world where they have not been experienced by the majority of people in living memory.

On the downside, if you are among those who care about such things, it will be our children and grandchildren that pay the price of our profligacy, of our inability to rise to the occasion and break the grim reaper’s hold, of our greed and collective stupidity. Anyone in my age-bracket is likely to escape the awful fate we’re concocting; what we get to suffer instead is a cancerous tumor of guilt growing in our hearts.

Continue reading “The Notley-Trudeau Dystopia – it makes for real fiction”

The Experiment

A friend recently shared her thoughts about the deeper meanings of life, which provoked a round of ontological speculation on my own part. Here’s what I discovered, and an adaptation of my reply, which was really a status report on my resolute adherence to the spiritual-existentialist way…

All my life, even during childhood, questions like this have fascinated, amazed and disturbed me. Religion, I think, is in part a response to our yearning for an answer to one resounding question: Why? The intolerance of organized religions is humanity’s desperate attempt to solidify and impose a resolution, which inevitably gets coopted by oppressors in their eternal quest to rule the world – i.e. usurp the role of the very god they profess.

I call myself a spiritual-existentialist. Spiritual because I cannot conceive of consciousness as anything but a universal, life-force manifesting in the material world. We are, in my view, an aspect of the universe becoming aware of itself, and that awareness is as much a part of nature as the laws of physics and biology. When we isolate that phantom energy, and vest it in an external being we call ‘god’, we distance ourselves from our own magical realm. I suppose, for me, the wonder of life is in the search for meaning, not so much in any kind of final answer.

As for the existentialist part of my philosophy, I believe each and every one of us has to create a world form the materials given. My world-view is mine alone, and I have to decide, as a responsible human being, what the rules of my world are: the unalterable rules of nature, and the adopted rules of morality and ethics. In modern societies the biggest influence on my emerging reality is other humans, and the ‘artificial’ environments we build and inhabit. To sum up another way, part of the work of existence is harmonizing my world-view with the beliefs and actions of others whose motives I can only guess at. The only way I can overcome the uncertainty and fear of this uncomfortable isolation is through trust, faith, love and courage. Inevitably, there will be betrayals in my search for commonalities; and triumphs.

Thanks for sharing. I never tire, thinking thoughts like these, because they are our reason for being.

Welcome Inside the Box

Reports are rife about the waning interest in literary fiction, its last generation of snoozing readers cruising over the horizon, their novels left opened, face-down on their laps. There’s no disputing the evidence, which leaves writers like myself two choices: accept the dreary plot-line, or introduce a shift.

I’m opting for the latter. It’s time for me to recalibrate both the scope and intent of what it means to be an author, and more precisely, an author whose chosen mode is LitFic. I have to renew and expand my creative cycle.

Continue reading “Welcome Inside the Box”

Literary Fiction: Why does it matter?

Literary Fiction: Post 2 of 3

I recently came across a Facebook post in one of the writers’ groups I have joined in which a fellow member lamented the frustrations of a ‘wannabe’ writer.

I responded, “Writing is not about writing. That’s the paradox of our vocation – a quirk of soul that keeps writers at it for decades, whole lifetimes, sometimes without ever being published or making money at it.

“There’s no such thing as a ‘wannabe writer’, only a ‘hafftabe’. Yes, the craft is important; true, we must pay attention to promoting and selling books if we want society to provide an income that allows us to write more; of course we want our stories to resonate beyond the closet shelf, into the greater consciousness, to be reimagined in the minds of readers.

Continue reading “Literary Fiction: Why does it matter?”

The morning of I Am

It dawned on me this morning that I could never imagine out of context the infinite subtlety of a typical sunrise. I am. It is. We are the light. And yet, there is no god.