E.A. Briginshaw's Blog

April 19, 2018

This is part six of my new novel "The Third Option" which should be released in May.

David scanned the lobby looking for Bronx, but didn’t see her. He pulled out his cell phone to check the time and saw he was a few minutes early. He hadn’t received a text from her, so he decided to wait in one of the huge chairs in the lobby.

After about twenty minutes, he found himself feeling impatient and uncomfortable. Several of the staff had eyed him suspiciously as he sat holding his backpack. He did not fit the profile of their typical guest. He decided to head out the gold revolving doors to wait outside.

“No thanks”, David said to the bellboy who offered to get him a cab. “I’m just meeting someone here.”

David stood outside the glass doors, periodically glancing back inside to make sure Bronx hadn’t entered the hotel through another entrance.

His eyes lit up when he saw her about half a block away heading toward the hotel. Her blonde hair was a little longer than when he had last seen her, but it would still be considered short. He noticed she had a cute little bounce when she walked, seemingly trying not to step on the cracks in the sidewalk. When she looked up and saw him, her pace quickened.

“David, I’m so glad you came to visit,” she said as she threw her arms around him.

David was a little over six feet tall and Bronx was almost a foot shorter, but their bodies seemed to fit perfectly as they both held the embrace. David felt a little self-conscious when he noticed the bellboy watching them.

“So you’re going to show me Central Park?” David asked.

“New plan. That asshole president of ours is in town and we’re going over to join the protest.” Bronx grabbed his hand. “Come on. It’s only a five minute walk from here.”

The crowds grew as they got closer to where the president was staying. The police had blocked off the street in front of the building so the crowds were kept at a distance.

“What exactly are we protesting?” David asked.


David looked at the numerous signs being held by the protestors. Bronx was right. People were protesting his plan to build a wall along the Mexican border, his immigration policies, his sexist views of women, his bashing of the press – even his denial of the global warming problem. The crowd started to chant as several police cars, a bunch of big black SUVs, and even more limousines pulled up in front of the building.

David was tall enough to see over most of the crowd, but Bronx wasn’t as fortunate.

“I can’t see – I can’t see,” she said. “Lift me up on your shoulders.”

David quickly dropped to one knee and Bronx climbed onto his shoulders. He stood up just as the limousines drove by in front of them.

David was a little shocked at the profanities shouted by the people in the crowd. Several held signs saying the president should resign or be impeached. A few even threatened his life.

A few seconds later, the president emerged from the limousine, gave a quick wave to the crowd, and headed into the towering building. He was completely surrounded by a team of secret service agents. There were several other limousines in front of the building as well, but no one emerged from them. David wondered who was inside.

The crowd started to disperse after the president had entered the building.

“Holy shit,” Bronx said. “Quick – get me down!”

David dropped to one knee and Bronx climbed off his shoulders.

“What’s the matter?” he asked.

“It’s my Dad. He’s one of the cops doing crowd control.” They continued to crouch behind the people in front of them. “My Dad told me to stay away from this area and I told him we wouldn’t be anywhere close – that we were going to Central Park. So, if he asks anything about it tonight, we were never here – got it?”

“Yeah, okay,” David said.

Bronx grabbed his hand and led him back through the crowd, continuing to crouch as they made their exit. Hopefully, no one saw them.

* * *

Inside one of the remaining limousines, FBI agent Charles Dent watched the NYPD move to break up the crowd.

“Show’s over – time to move along,” he heard one of the officers yell.

However, Dent stayed in the limo and scanned the crowd looking for any potential threats. Although the Secret Service was responsible for protecting the president and his immediate family, Dent was on special assignment by the FBI to provide protection for his extended family. Agent Dent had been on this assignment ever since the presidential campaign started and he had grown quite close to them. The family called him Charles and treated him like their favorite uncle. Charles had grown particularly fond of the president’s grandson and affectionately called him D3.

“Why does everyone hate Grandpa so much?” D3 asked.

“They don’t hate him – most people love him,” his mother answered. “There’s just a few people who don’t like what he’s trying to do.”

But the kid was not stupid. Although he was only ten years old, Charles knew D3 could read the signs and see the anger on the people’s faces. D3 looked at his mother who gave him a reassuring smile and then at Charles. Charles quickly looked away and continued his scan of the crowd.

“POTUS is secured,” Charles heard in his earpiece. “Proceed with securing the family.”

“Copy that,” Charles said into his microphone. “Preparing to move Everest and his family.”

The family had been around the Secret Service long enough to know that Everest was the codename for the president’s son. They all got ready to leave the limo.

“What’s my codename?” D3 asked Charles.

Charles knew the kid didn’t have one. They were only assigned to the president and his immediate family, plus some other key people in the government. The names weren’t assigned by the Secret Service; they were actually assigned by the White House Communications Agency.

“How about we call you D3,” Charles said with a smile. He didn’t reveal that some of the secret service agents referred to him as Pinocchio because of his habit of lying when he was in trouble, a trait he seemed to have picked up from his grandfather. Charles didn’t like that nickname because he liked the kid. D3 just panicked when he was caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, but he always came clean and told the truth in the end.

Charles exited the limo and stood in front of the door for a few seconds doing a final scan of the crowd. Finally, he gave the signal for Everest and his family to exit the limo and they escorted them into the building.

Everything was secure.
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Published on April 19, 2018 09:22 • 68 views

April 12, 2018

This is part five of my new novel "The Third Option" which is expected to be released in May.

The frequency of Henry Shaw’s trips to New York picked up after the new year. He shoved his briefcase under the seat in front of him as he and David prepared to land in New York. David gazed in amazement at the Manhattan skyline as their plane descended. Henry remembered being amazed the first time he had flown into New York, but the novelty had worn off with the number of trips he’d made over the last few months.

“How long do you think it will take us to get through Customs?” David asked his father.

“We cleared that back in Toronto.”

“Really? I thought the president said they were going to step up security at the borders. That was easier than I thought.”

“They didn’t let him do everything he said he would,” Henry said. “It turns out some of the things he wanted to do were illegal.”

Despite that, Henry knew that getting across the border was a hit and miss thing, somewhat dependent on the mood of the particular customs and security agent you encountered. Because he travelled so much, Henry had a Nexus card that helped reduce the wait times. But he thought having David accompany him on this trip would slow things down. He smiled as he recalled the interaction between David and the agent.

“What is the purpose of your visit to the United States?” the agent had asked.

“A girl,” David had said matter-of-factly. “I’m here to find out if I have any hope with her.”

The agent had tried unsuccessfully to stifle a laugh at the response. “Good luck with that,” he said as he waved them through.

They quickly made their way out of the airport as they both just had their carry-on luggage. David had everything he needed for their 3-day trip in his backpack.

“Thirteen-forty-five sixth avenue,” Henry said to the driver when they got into the taxi. “How’s traffic looking this morning?”

“Should be about forty minutes,” the driver said. “Maybe a bit longer. They’ve closed some roads cuz the president is in town.”

Henry knew the president liked to come back to New York whenever he could. However, the cost of securing the president and his family while in New York was growing in magnitude and the press had been hammering him on it.

“Are you sure you’ve got a place to stay?” Henry asked David as the taxi drove toward Manhattan.

“Yeah, Bronx said I could crash on her couch. She’s going to meet me at the Park Lane Hotel this morning, give me a quick tour of Central Park, and then we’ll take the subway out to her place.”

Henry tapped the partition between the front and back seats of the taxi. “We’ll be dropping my son off at the Park Lane Hotel on the way,” he said to the driver.

“No problem,” the driver said.

“She still lives with her father, doesn’t she?” Henry asked his son.

David nodded.

“So what does he think about you coming to visit?”

Henry could tell by the look on David’s face that he hadn’t factored her father into his plans.

“I think he’s cool with it,” David said.

“Well I’m staying at the Hyatt on 57th street if things don’t work out. I’ll be in meetings all day, but you can text me if you need anything.”

“I thought Laura was coming to New York,” David said.

“She’s not arriving until tomorrow. She’s coming in to do some research on a story about the president’s business dealings and then we’re going to see a play tomorrow night. She flies back to Chicago on Wednesday, around the same time we fly back to Toronto.”

David had gotten to know Laura fairly well and seemed to approve of his father’s relationship with her. But for some reason, Henry still felt nervous – or was it guilt – for having a relationship with someone other than his boys’ mother.

As they got closer to their destination, the traffic got heavier and heavier until it came to a complete stop. The police had blocked off the road as a group of protestors marched by. Many of the protestors were carrying signs with statements like “We don’t need a wall” and “Racism and Bigotry is not the answer”.

The taxi driver rolled down his window, waved to one of the taxis going the other way, and did a U-turn in behind him. “Just goin’ to screw a U-ball to get us out of this shit”, he said in explanation.

It worked. A few more quick turns and they found themselves in front of the Park Lane Hotel.

“This is my stop,” David said as he got out of the cab.

“Be careful,” Henry said, “and call or text me if you need anything.”

David smiled and gave a wave as he headed into the hotel.
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Published on April 12, 2018 12:36 • 39 views

March 25, 2018

This is part four of my new novel titled "The Third Option" which is expected to be released in May.

As David ran, he thought about his Uncle Alan and the time he had run laps with him at his high school track. That’s when his uncle had told him about the secret society he was involved with. Although David didn’t fully understand what he was getting into, that’s also when he had promised his uncle that he’d carry on with his work if anything happened to him. And it did, when his uncle died in a plane crash along with Edward Bronson, the media magnate who had founded the group.

David also found himself thinking about what his grandmother had said – if you want something to happen, sometimes you have to make it happen. He found the pace of his running increasing.

It was a beautiful autumn morning. Most people were still home in bed, but he’d encountered a few other joggers out pounding the pavement. These were people who made things happen and David wanted to be one of them.

When he turned down the street that ran along the river, he became aware of a car that seemed to be following him. The sun wasn’t fully up and the car headlights lit up the road ahead, but it was staying about twenty paces behind him.

Suddenly, the car sped up and drove by him. It was a big, black, Lincoln Town Car and it stopped about two hundred yards ahead of David, alongside some trees. The headlights were turned off, but the engine continued to run. David slowed his pace as he approached the car. He heard the window on the passenger side of the car being lowered.

“Nice morning for a run,” the driver of the car said as David came alongside the vehicle.

David recognized the voice, but still peered into the vehicle to confirm who it was. “Mr. Westbrook. What brings you out to my neighborhood?”

Simon Westbrook was the new head of the secret society that David belonged to.

“It’s been quite a few months since we last spoke,” Mr. Westbrook said. “I just wanted to check in to see how you’re doing.”

“I’m doing okay,” David said through the open window.

“Get in,” Mr. Westbrook said. “Let’s go for a drive.”

David looked around to make sure no one else was watching and then climbed into the passenger seat.

“How’s the head?” Mr. Westbrook asked as he pulled away from the curb.

“Good. The headaches have stopped. I’m starting to feel more like myself again.”

They drove in silence for another minute before the next question was asked.

“I was wondering if you still wanted to be part of our little club. You’ve been through a lot. I’d understand completely if you just wanted to walk away.”

David took a few seconds to think. “Actually, I was wondering if I could become more involved.”

“More involved? I think you’re plenty involved. You got shot on our last project. You can’t get much more involved than that.”

“I mean being more than just a courier. I want to be someone who helps solve the problems, not just pass messages on to the people who do.”

“Everyone’s role is important.”

“Yeah, I know, but lately I’m feeling like I’m just standing on the sidelines. It seems like the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and all I’m doing is watching it happen. I can do more.”

Mr. Westbrook studied David’s face. “I’m sure you can – but it could be dangerous. Are you sure you’re willing to take that risk?”

David looked directly at him. “Absolutely. The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. And I’m not going to stand by and do nothing.”
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Published on March 25, 2018 11:01 • 77 views

March 17, 2018

This is the third part of my new novel titled "The Third Option" which is expected to be released in May.

David woke up early the next morning and laid in bed staring at the ceiling. He felt anxious and couldn’t sleep. After an hour of tossing and turning, he decided to get up and go for a run.

When he stepped out the back door of their house, he was surprised to see his grandmother already out in the yard raking leaves. He headed over to say good morning.

His grandmother was startled by his arrival and she appeared somewhat disoriented. “Oh, for a second there, I thought you were…”

She didn’t finish her thought, but David knew what had happened. Ever since he was a kid, people had told him he looked like, sounded like, and even moved like his Uncle Alan. His uncle had died in a mysterious plane crash a few years earlier.

“Sorry, Grandma. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He noticed the far-away look in her eyes. “You still think about Uncle Alan?”

She averted her eyes but David could see them tearing up. “Every day,” she said. She picked up a bunch of leaves and stuffed them into a huge bag.

“What are you doing up so early?” David asked.

“I’m always up this early. I didn’t want to wake anybody so I came out to work in the yard.” She stuffed a few more leaves into the bag. “Why are you up? Have you got a practice this morning?”

David was a world-class soccer player, or more correctly, some people used to think he was going to become a world-class soccer player. They didn’t think that anymore. He was technically still a member of the Canadian National team, but was listed as being on the injury reserve list, out indefinitely.

“No, the coaches still won’t let me attend regular practices. They’re worried about concussions.”

His grandmother winced as she stood up and straightened her back to look at him. “I thought the doctor cleared you to play.”

“He did, but they won’t let me practice until the team physicians review everything.”

He knew they referred to him as the kid who got shot in the head in a bizarre incident almost a year earlier. Technically, the bullet had entered his chest just below the collarbone, exited out of his shoulder and then lodged in the base of his skull. The surgeons had put him into a coma before tackling the risky operation to remove the bullet. Everything had gone well, but he was now considered damaged goods.

“So what are you going to do?” she asked.

“There’s not much I can do – except wait.” David picked up the bag of leaves his grandmother had filled and carried it over and placed it beside two others. “I feel like someone pressed the pause button on my life and there’s nothing I can do until they hit the play button again. I can’t play soccer until the doctors give their okay. I can’t go back to university until next term because the courses I want aren’t offered until then. And my love life is in the toilet.”

David felt his face flush. He hadn’t planned on sharing his frustrations about his love life with his grandmother.

“What about Heather? You know, that girl from New York? I thought you two were sweet on each other.”

His grandmother had always referred to her by her given name. But David called her Bronx. He had met her at university. She was short, brassy and spoke with the Bronx accent of a dockworker. It was true – David was infatuated with her – and he thought she felt the same way about him – but that had all ended when her father had taken her back to New York after the shooting. He felt it was too dangerous for his daughter to hang around someone who snipers were using for target practice. He was probably right.

“I don’t think her father wants me to see her anymore,” David said. “Besides, I’m here and she’s in New York.”

“No one’s life should be stuck on pause,” his grandmother said. “If you want something to happen, sometimes you have to make it happen. It’s a small world. New York is only an hour away by plane.” She came over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “But you do whatever you think is best. You don’t want to end up as old as I am and be thinking about what you could have done, or should have done.”
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Published on March 17, 2018 11:08 • 89 views

March 9, 2018

This is the second part of my new novel titled "The Third Option" which is expected to be released in May, 2018.

Eleven months earlier…

Henry Shaw entered the kitchen of his middle class home in southwestern Ontario dragging his carry-on bag behind him. He was exhausted, as his regular business trips to New York City were beginning to take a toll on his fifty-six year old body. The “Freedom 55” plan for him and his wife had called for them to be retired and living the good life by now, but her unexpected death due to cancer over eight years earlier had changed everything.

Henry had adapted, and adapted quite well. He had raised two sons and they were now launched out into the real world – sort of.

Robert, his oldest son, was twenty-four and would be graduating from the University of Waterloo next spring. Henry thought back to his own graduation from the same university many years earlier. It had led to a successful career in information technology and he was now the IT Manager for one of Canada’s largest law firms, a firm that was opening a new office in New York.

It wasn’t the firm’s first expansion into the U.S. They had merged with a Chicago-based firm a few years ago that had proven quite successful. Successful in two ways. One was that the firm had greatly expanded their practice in international law. And two, from a personal perspective, it had resulted in Henry starting a relationship with Laura Walsh, an investigative journalist with the Chicago Tribune.

Henry could hear the TV on in the living room.

“Hey, Dad,” his youngest son yelled. “You’re not going to believe what’s happening.”

Henry poked his head out of the kitchen and saw his son’s eyes glued to the television. David was now twenty-one years old and had started his first term at Wilfrid Laurier University the previous year. He had dropped out, but he had a good excuse for doing so. He’d been shot, but that was a whole other story.

“What’s going on?” Henry asked.

David pointed to the TV screen. “You’re not going to believe who’s going to win the election.”

Henry walked into the living room to see for himself. The polls hadn’t closed before his flight from New York had taken off, but most people on the flight had assumed the U.S. was about to elect their first female president.

“How could they be so stupid?” David asked. “It was like the guy was trying to lose the election. Every day he’d say something even more stupid and outlandish than the day before, but his popularity just kept going up.”

Henry didn’t understand it either. At the start of the campaign, everyone was following the campaign because it was like watching the Gong Show. What would he say or do next?

But this wasn’t funny anymore. The guy was about to become the President of the United States.

“I guess a lot of people were voting against the political status-quo,” Henry said.

David looked at him in disbelief.

“Look, I didn’t say I agree with them,” Henry continued. “I think some people felt like they were being forced to pick between two bad choices and they chose the lesser of two evils. Or they didn’t vote at all.”

“Then why didn’t someone else step forward to run?”

“The U.S. is basically a two-party country,” Henry said. “There are really only two options.”

“That’s stupid. There should always be a third option. Here, if we don’t like what the Conservatives or the Liberals are proposing, we can vote for the NDP, or even the Green Party.”

“Canada’s quite a bit different than the U.S.,” Henry said. “They really only have the Republicans or the Democrats to choose from. They make it very difficult for an independent.”

“But a lot of the Republicans didn’t really want him as president either.”

“Yeah, but they probably just held their noses and voted for him anyway. They’d rather have an incompetent Republican than a Democrat in the White House.”

David muted the television because he couldn’t stand to hear any more. “The whole system is f**ked,” he whispered to himself. “I’m going to bed.” He trudged down the hallway to his room.

Henry tried to offer some encouragement. “I’m sure it won’t be as bad as you think.” But even he didn’t believe it.
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Published on March 09, 2018 09:06 • 109 views

March 1, 2018

My new novel titled "The Third Option" is in the editing stage and I expect it to be released in May, 2018. Over the next few weeks, I'm planning to post portions of the book to wet your appetite. Here's part one:

When David Shaw opened his eyes, it took a few seconds for him to focus. The fluorescent light above his head buzzed like a drowning bumble bee and the light from it seemed to pulse in pain. Pain, that’s what he felt. He looked down at his right leg and saw it was heavily bandaged. It throbbed in time with the light pulses. His chest and arms were covered in bruises and abrasions. Where am I?

A quick look at his left arm gave him the answer. An IV needle was stuck into the back of his hand and the tubing from it stretched up to a bottle hanging from a stainless steel pole. The bottle was empty.

“Nurse, nurse,” he yelled.

He got no response. He looked for a button to push to call for help, but didn’t see one.

There was a window on the far side of the room and he could see the dim outline of trees outside. It was either just before sunrise or just after sunset – he didn’t know which.

“Nurse,” he yelled again.

The room he was in was large, large enough to hold a couple of hospital beds, but his was the only one in the room. The walls were a dull bluish-grey and looked like they hadn’t been painted or washed in decades. What kind of hospital is this?

He yelled again for a nurse, but didn’t bother to wait for a reply this time. He rolled onto his left side and sat on the edge of the bed. He pushed himself up from the bed and slowly put some weight on his right leg. It held. It wasn’t broken, but the searing pain told him there was some severe damage underneath all those bandages.

When he tried to take his first step, he suddenly felt woozy and held onto the stainless steel IV pole for balance. Fortunately, the pole had wheels because it would have to come along as he made his journey to find a nurse. He felt like an eighty year old man with a walker rather than the twenty-one year old athlete that he was. He slowly shuffled his way toward the door of his room. When he opened it, he was surprised to see the corridor was almost in complete darkness. Where the hell is everybody?

He looked left and saw nothing but a dark hallway. He looked right and saw the same thing, but he could make out a dimly-lit red exit sign above the door at the end of the hallway. He shuffled toward it.

As he made his way down the corridor, he passed an abandoned nurse’s station. When he reached the end of the hallway, he peered out through the glass doors. It was a stairwell. He didn’t think he could handle going down stairs in his current condition so he turned around and headed back the other way. He had only taken a dozen steps when he heard the door open behind him. He quickly turned.

“You’re finally awake,” the girl said.

He knew the voice, but she looked different. “Bronx! Is that you? Where am I? What’s going on?”

“You’re in the hospital. You were injured in the explosion.”

He noticed she was carrying a brown paper bag. When the aroma reached his nose, he realized the bag contained food.

He watched as Bronx reached inside the bag and pulled something out. It wasn’t food. It was a gun, and it was pointed directly at him.
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Published on March 01, 2018 16:29 • 102 views

January 24, 2018

My pace has slowed a bit now, my hair has turned grey,
I’d rather sit and write, instead of going out to play,
My time is all my own now, so don’t shed me any tears,
I’ve simply reached the age of life, the so-called golden years.

My muscles tell me things, I shouldn’t have done,
I refuse to give in, that’s no way to have fun,
I’ve already beaten cancer, the sum of all my fears,
Hope it don’t come back and get me, in my golden years.

Guess I should head down south, to get out of the cold,
They say that’s what people do, when they start to grow old,
They play golf, and bridge, and drink lots of beer,
I’m hoping there’s much more to life, in my golden years.

Time is flying by, I don’t know my fate,
But I know I’m surely past, my best before date,
I can’t get out of second, I’ve lost the higher gears,
Guess I’ll just keep going downhill, in my golden years.

I’ve been a lucky man, got two boys and a wife,
It’s much easier growing old, with the love of your life,
We’re forever young at heart, we don’t look in the mirrors,
We’re still living the dream, in our golden years.
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Published on January 24, 2018 15:53 • 90 views

January 1, 2018

From this author’s perspective, 2017 was a year when I tried several new things.

After attending a seminar at our local Writers’ Nook group, I tried my hand at writing poetry. I’ve posted a few of them in Facebook and in my blog. Some were fun and about the amount of snow we had last year (Enough Already), some were dark (Road’s End), and some were surprisingly deep (The Key). But the poem I received the most positive feedback on was one I wrote to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday titled "The Canadian Way". (Link: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...).

In March, I released Women 101: A Father's Humorous Guide To His Son. I normally write mysteries so writing a romantic comedy was a new experience for me. I’m also adapting it into a stage play, another new type of writing for me. It’s fun (and challenging) stepping outside your normal comfort zone.

I was a member of the organizing committee of the Word on the Lake Writers’ Festival, which was held in May. It was a great experience as I met a lot of interesting people and a lot of great writers. It’s a wonderful conference and I encourage you to attend. (http://wordonthelakewritersfestival.com/)

In May, I also created a Facebook Author’s page, which is a way to separate my postings as an author from personal postings about me and my family. It also gives me the capability to use paid advertising to boost postings about my books. I tried several such postings, but I think the only one who made any money on that venture was Facebook.

I also gave away a few of my books through Goodreads Giveaway promotions. It’s a good way to let people know about my books for the cost of sending a copy of my books to the lucky winners. However, since Goodreads has now announced that they are going to charge a few hundred dollars to run those promotions in 2018, I doubt I’ll be doing them anymore.

My 2016 novel The Back Nine continues to sell well and I was pleased to see in September that it cracked the top 1,000 in the sports genre, #822 to be exact. (The book is about golf, but it's mostly about life after fifty). It has since fallen out of the top 1,000 but it was nice while it lasted.

There was some renewed interest in my 2015 novel The Second Shooter as the October 26th deadline of the release of the remaining classified records approached. At the last minute, President Trump still withheld the release of about 300 of those documents.

In November, I conducted a seminar for our local writer’s group titled “Tips on Starting a Book”. It went quite well and if you’re interested, I’ve posted the notes from the seminar on my blog. (https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog...)

In November, I was also asked to be the guest speaker at the Shuswap Writer’s Group Coffee House, another new and great experience.

I’ve just looked at the financials for the year and ended up about $70 in the red, so I’m still not getting rich or famous.

I’m just about finished my next novel titled “The Third Option”, which will be the third in the “Goliath” series of books. I expect it to be released around May, 2018.

Thank you for your interest and support.
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Published on January 01, 2018 12:33 • 142 views

December 1, 2017

Showing versus Telling:

One of the first things they teach you in any writing course is to “Show, don’t tell”. What that means is that instead of just saying something like “Jerry felt sad”, you write a scene that will put the reader into Jerry’s head and make the reader feel the same emotions that Jerry is feeling. The following is a snippet from my novel The Back Nine.

Jerry ran the chamois over the camper-van one last time before backing it out of the garage. Shirley’s funeral had been held just over a week ago and it was time to take her ashes back home to Saskatchewan. Jerry had decided to drive rather than fly. This was the trip they had always talked about taking when Jerry retired, something that he’d continually delayed, trying to work a few extra years to top up his pension. He now realized the time they’d lost was worth much more than the extra money. By the time he finally retired, her health had already started to go downhill.

Showing, rather than telling, is a much more powerful way to write. However, sometimes you can overdo it. If you “show” every scene in your book, it will quickly become too long and probably too boring. The key is deciding which scenes should be “show” scenes and which should be “tell” scenes.

I’m currently working on the third book in the Goliath series and yesterday I wrote several pages describing my main character travelling from Washington to New York. There were several “showing” scenes. But when I read it again this morning, I realized nothing important really happened on that journey, so I changed those several pages of “showing” into a couple of paragraphs of “telling”.

Tip: “Show” the important scenes in your book and “tell” the transitional scenes.

This now brings us to the subject of revising and editing. I suggest you try to write the first draft entirely before you get bogged down in editing. I know several writers who say they’ve been working on their book for years but have barely made any progress. That’s because they spend most of their time trying to make the first few chapters perfect rather than writing the rest of the book.

When I write, I will typically read and edit the stuff I wrote the day before and then move on to write the next new scene. This gets my head back into the story rather than starting cold every day. But I try not to go back and edit stuff I wrote before that.

Tip: Try to write the entire story before getting bogged down in editing.

Once I’ve written the complete first draft, I try to take a break for a couple of weeks before I start working on the second draft. This gives enough time for me to clear my head.

I also use beta readers. Beta readers are people who you know and trust enough to give you honest feedback and won’t just give you general feedback like “it was pretty good”. I will normally only give the first draft to one beta reader and I will ask them to concentrate on the story, not on things like typos, grammar or punctuation. I will normally ask them questions like:

Did you like the story?
What parts (or characters) did you like the best?
Which parts did you like the least?
What parts did you find confusing or (worst of all) boring?
And, since I mostly write mysteries, when did you figure out the plot twists?

I hate reading books or watching movies where I know what’s going to happen half-way into it. The ideal situation is that your reader doesn’t see the plot twist coming until it happens, but then realizes it makes perfect sense and they wonder why they didn’t see it sooner. Since I’m the author and know what’s coming, the plot twist always seems obvious to me.

When I sent out the first draft of my novel Goliath, the first beta reader didn’t see the plot twist coming until the end of the book, which I thought was a good thing. However, it didn’t really make sense to them until I explained it to them in more detail. Obviously, I don’t want the readers to be confused by the ending, so I added in more clues and foreshadowing in the second draft.

Then I sent it out to a different beta reader. There was no point sending it to the same beta reader because he already knew the plot twist.

Tip: Send each draft of your novel out to different beta readers.

I also suggest sending it to different types of readers. Male/female, older/younger, etc. For example, some of the beta readers of my novel The Back Nine were golfers, and some weren’t. I wanted the book to be interesting and readable to both groups.

For some reason, six drafts seems to be my magic number. When reviewing the first draft, whole chapters and characters can be added or dropped in the second draft. Revisions to the early drafts are mostly about the story. Revisions in the later drafts concentrate more on changing specific words or phrases.

My wife is the last editor of my books. She doesn’t get to see or know anything about the early drafts. She only gets to see it when I’ve got a printed physical proof copy in my possession. Despite that, she always seems to find errors in the book that no one else caught.

I don’t show my wife early drafts of my books because I think she may try to influence the story. For other beta readers, I can decide whether to accept or reject their suggestions, but it’s tougher when it’s your spouse.

The only book she significantly affected was my romantic comedy called Women 101: A Father's Humorous Guide To His Son. She didn’t want me to write that book in the first place. She told me several parts of my book would be offensive to women. I thought those parts were funny. In the end, I decided to “tone things down” a bit and I’m still not sure if I made the right decision or not. I found writing humour quite difficult because what one person finds funny, another will find offensive.

In the end, it is up to you to tell the story you want to tell. If you’re writing your memoir and afraid that some of your family members might not like what you’ve written, then you’ve got a difficult decision to make. Maybe that’s why the creative non-fiction genre was created in the first place. Only you’ll know what parts are real, and what parts are fiction.

Tip: Tell your own story.

When I first told my family that I was writing a book, my wife was quite nervous about it. She is a very private person and was afraid that I’d reveal too much in my book. I solved that problem by making the main character a widow, which also gave me the opportunity to give him a really hot lover in the book. Win-win.

I hope you find some of the tips I’ve given in this series useful. If you do, then use them. If you don’t, ignore them.

I’d suggest taking a creative writing course if one is offered in your area. I took such a course through the University of Western Ontario in London and it helped me greatly. Join a local group of writers. It will help your writing as well.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. When I lived in London, we were fortunate enough to have Gary Barwin as the Writer-in-Residence at the university and the London Public Library. He is an accomplished writer and poet and a winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for his book Yiddish for Pirates. I got to pick his brain for free at three separate sessions as he helped me with my book The Second Shooter.

There are three resources I’d recommend for those interested in writing. The first is Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules by Steven James. It is probably the book that has had the most influence on me. The second is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and the third is Captivate Your Readers: An Editor's Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction by Jodie Renner.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little series on “Tips on Starting a Book”.

Thanks for reading.
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Published on December 01, 2017 12:42 • 227 views

November 29, 2017

Dialogue: Making Your Characters Come Alive

For me, dialogue is the most important part of the book because it’s where the characters really come alive. It’s also the most difficult part to write.

When I lived in London, Ontario, I was fortunate enough to be in a critique group with Pat Brown (AKA P.A. Brown AKA G.K. Parker). Pat has written quite a few books and I think the strength of her writing is in the dialogue. Whenever I would present something to our group, Pat would literally stroke out half the words I’d written. She told me that people don’t speak in full, properly structured sentences. They speak in short bursts with a lot of give and take. To this day, I have to remind myself to get rid of the unnecessary words from my dialogue.
Pat would also remind me to make sure that my characters sounded different. Below are a couple of lines from her book Ashes & Ice which is about Irish immigrants coming to America in 1887.

“Here now, whut ya doin’ up here?” The oldest crewman, his face seamed from decades at sea, snapped, “Get below.”

Johnny stood his ground. “Soon as I do my duty to the bairn. Sure’n she didna deserve to die like this. I’m fetching the priest to say Mass.”

“That auld sod-knocker be in his cups by now. He ain’t likely to have God’s ear tonight.”

Tip: Make your dialogue sound real, with a lot of give and take. People speak in short bursts, not in properly structured sentences.

When you write the first draft of your dialogue, I’m sure you will be stunned by the number of times you use “he said” or “she said”. Don’t worry about it. Just get the dialogue out while it’s flowing and then go back and fix it in the editing stage.

You’ll probably be tempted to change the word “said” to other words like “exclaimed” just to break the repetition. Don’t do it.

One thing you can do to break the repetition of “said” in your dialogue is to use beats. Beats are also used to slow down the pace of the dialogue to match the scene you’re writing.

The following is a brief example of some dialogue I wrote in the first draft of my novel “The Second Shooter”. It’s a scene between Laura and her best friend Sam (Samantha).

Sam pulled two wine glasses from the cabinet, pulled a half-full bottle of white wine from the fridge, and filled their glasses almost to the rims.

“There’s not much to tell,” Laura said.

“Bullshit”, Sam said.

Laura explained how David was in some trouble and had come by her place looking for his father. Henry had told her to take care of him until he arrived, but then Todd had shown up to arrest him.

“How did Todd know he was here?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know,” Laura said. “Henry asked the same question. I think he might be a bit jealous of Todd.”

“Well, duh,” Sam said.

“What do you mean?” Laura asked.

“How could he not be jealous of Todd?” Sam said. “He’s your old boyfriend and he hangs around you all the time. And he’s got a body that any woman with a pulse would want to do in an instant.”

“He’s not around that much,” Laura said. “We’re just friends and he’s helping me with some research for a story.”

“He always seems to be helping you with one thing or another,” Sam said. “Face it – the guy has still got a thing for you. The big question is whether you’ve still got a thing for him.”

“Absolutely not,” Laura said. “And when you said any woman with a pulse would want to do Todd, does that include you?”

“Because we’re friends, I’m not going to answer that,” Sam said.

Pretty awful, right? It’s got way too many “saids”. The following is the same scene from the final version of the book. I’ve eliminated a lot of the “saids” simply because they weren’t necessary. In a two-person conversation, it’s usually pretty obvious who is speaking. In the following, I’ve bolded the parts to illustrate where I’ve added beats.

Sam pulled two wine glasses from the cabinet, grabbed a half-full bottle of white wine from the fridge, and filled their glasses almost to the rims.

“There’s not much to tell,” Laura said as she took a healthy sip from her wine glass.

Sam looked unconvinced.

Laura explained how David was in some kind of trouble and had come by her place looking for his father. Henry had told her to take care of him until he arrived, but then Todd had shown up to arrest him.

“How did Todd know he was here?”

“I don’t know,” Laura said. “Henry asked the same question.” She took another sip of wine. “I think he might be a bit jealous of Todd.”

“Well, duh.”

“What do you mean?”

“How could he not be jealous of Todd? He’s your old boyfriend and he hangs around you all the time. And he’s got a body that any woman with a pulse would want to do in an instant.”

“He’s not around that much,” Laura protested. “We’re just friends and he’s helping me with some research for a story.”

Sam shook her head in disbelief. “He always seems to be helping you with something. Face it – the guy’s still got a thing for you. The big question is whether you’ve still got a thing for him.”

“Absolutely not,” Laura said. She was tired of playing defense and decided a little offence was called for. “And when you said any woman with a pulse would want to do Todd, does that include you?”

“Because we’re friends, I’m not going to answer that.”

One thing that Stephen King recommends in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is to avoid the use of adverbs and I agree with that advice. That’s where you add adverbs like jokingly, angrily or menacingly after the word said. (e.g. “Put it down!” Todd said angrily).

Tip: If you really want to improve your dialogue, take a scriptwriting course.

When writing a stage play or a screenplay, the quality of the dialogue you’ve written is totally exposed. It can be a bit painful to see it sliced and diced, but your writing will improve because of it.

Watch for part 5 of this series where the topics are:

Showing versus Telling
Revising and Editing
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Published on November 29, 2017 16:55 • 175 views