I started travelling to the high Arctic in 1995, and by high Arctic, I mean this place called Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. I got there by flying directly south of my home in Calgary Canada, to Seattle, and then a four hour trip to Anchorage.
There was then a direct flight to a place called Dead Horse Airport, and yes that’s what they called it. I still have no idea to this day why they called it Dead Horse, but that is the name.
The airport isn’t much at all, a Quonset hut with buildings attached, with a steady stream of smoke curling out of it. On my first visit there, it was minus 40 below.
I went there to do business, back then I sold specialized work wear, stuff that would keep you warm in minus 70 Below. Yes that’s a minus, and it gets down to minus 100 hundred up there. Hard to believe.
What’s the point of my story? I learned to love fiction again. I admit I lost it sometime after 1988 when I started my business. I think I read ever book on selling, and business organizational behavior, and investing until at one point…I think my brain might have been drying out.
But there in the high Arctic, in work camps that were our only sleeping quarters, as there were no hotels close, I found fiction books, and piles of them. They were everywhere. Back in 1995 before Kindle, or stuff streaming on your laptop, there was the printed page.
To pass the time, which seemed endless up there, I’d pick up a book, and read it in the lounge (that’s dry lounge – no liquor in the camps.) Or I read in my small bunk quarters. They consisted of a single bunk bed with drawers, and a desk, and you shared the shower with your neighbor. Remembering to unlock their side of the door when done – otherwise a large oil worker appears in your room at around midnight to remind you.
In between the reading, there were one or two sales calls, as we’d have to wait until the person we were there to meet came back from some oilfield, then we’d make our presentation, and then, yes then back to reading.
There was of course food up there, tons of it, more food than you’ve seen on a dozen cruise ships, and it was nonstop. At midnight you could make yourself a Ice Cream Sundae if you wished, or heat up some Lasagna, or make yourself an espresso or Latte.
I still remember being introduced to Chicken Fried steak, and wondering why bother to make this? I tried some, and I think my stomach has still not forgiven me for it.
But back to the fiction, there alone in the long Arctic nights with Tom Wolfe, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Michael Ondaatje, Douglas Adams even some Isaac Asimov thrown in, I was never alone, never bored, and always entertained.
From the dark and cold nights of Alaska, I’d venture back home, and pick up paperbacks on my way home, the flights were over three hours, and there was always a long layover in Seattle. I consumed Detective novels, and Grisham Novels, and just about everything I could find.
The beauty of it was, when I retired, I could think of nothing more I wanted to do than write Fiction. My wife was amazed, she thought I might write books about sales, or business.
I told her no, I would write fiction in my retirement, I wanted to add to all those amazing books I read in my travels, and maybe one of my books will end up in a library in one of the oil camps in the high Arctic. Now wouldn’t that be a treat!
My book Polar Bear Dawn, is set in the High Arctic, and can be found on Amazon. Perhaps you’ll read it, and get a sense of what I saw up there.
My stories of Alaskan style Justice come from my travels to Alaska, and the first story came from the back of a taxi cab from the Anchorage airport to my hotel in downtown Anchorage.
It was somewhere in 1995, and probably in winter, because I did most of my business in cold weather apparel, and of course, that’s when it was coldest, and when clients wanted to see me.
My cab driver was a native lady, somewhere in her mid forties, long black hair, dark skinned, and wearing the usual fleece jacket and jeans that was the uniform of most cabbies in Anchorage.
I have no idea how the conversation started, but it was about justice, and the lady said, “Hell, there’s no justice in this world – let me tell you about real justice,” She had a wide smiling face, and she told the story to me while looking into the rearview mirror.
“So we had this kid in our village who was stealing all the time, and no matter how many times we called the cops, he just kept at it, robbing all the houses,” she said.
I realized by “village,” she meant reservation, but I didn’t want to stop the flow of the story, so I just asked, “So what did you do?”
She laughed, it was a lovely laugh that spoke of long Alaskan winter nights and longer summer evenings, “Well, you know a bunch of us grabbed that kid and took him out to the woods. It was the middle of summer, and we tied him to a tree, buck naked, yep we stripped his clothes off and left him there.”
“All night naked?” I asked in disbelieve.
“Oh yeah,” She replied, the chuckle now making her slightly large body shake in the drivers seat of the cab. “Yeah the mosquitos, black flies, and who knows what kind of animals bite on him, did a little taste – no what I mean?” Her eyes flashed knowingly in the rearview mirror.
I sat in the back of the cab thinking of this poor teenage kid alone in the Alaskan summer night, which would not be night, but mostly daylight, with bugs feasting on his flesh and curious animals dropping by to check the strange scent of this human flesh “lollipop,” attached to a tree.
“What happened after that?” I asked.
“Ha, that kid never stole again, hell no, and that’s Justice Alaskan style!” she said with a broad grin.
I’ve thought of that story for years, and before I wrote this I called up a person I’d become friends with in Alaska. I asked him about this thing called Alaskan style justice.
He said, “Hell yeah, we practiced that in my village too.” My friend is native American, and he meant the reservation he lived on.
“What was your experience,” I asked.
“My old man would tell me that the man next door had beat his wife, and he’d tell me to go next door a lay a beating on the guy.”
“Why didn’t your Dad go?”
“I was seventeen, the Alaskan State Troopers couldn’t touch me.”
“But at seventeen…you were that tough?” I knew my friend was tough, but I was amazed at this.
“Hell yeah, remember my dad was part white and part Indian, so I was different, and my cousins used to beat the crap out of me all the time. Called me baked potato, which meant white on the inside and brown on the outside.”
“No one stopped your beatings?”
“Nah,” my friend said, there was only the slightest hesitation on the phone, “My dad told me I had to toughen up, and learn how to fight – to strike first.” He laughed, “Yeah, I guess I learned how to give out my own measure of Alaskan Justice! I knocked on that guys door, and BAM, he went down like a sack of meat when he came to the door – and he’d never beat his wife again.”
And those are my stories of Alaskan style justice. You won’t find these on National Geographic, where the Alaskan State Troopers chase down a host of Alaskan’s behaving badly, no these are behind the scenes – let’s say off camera. I cannot say I agree with this style of justice, but the story just had to written.
I’ve written a book of fiction called Polar Bear Dawn, where I’ve incorporated a scene of Justice Alaskan style. You will find it on Amazon, Kindle and Kobo.
Perhaps you’ll read it, and if not, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Blog about the strange tales of Justice Alaskan style, because these…well they are real…although they seem so strange…you wonder why someone hasn’t put them into a book. Perhaps I will.
When I sent my book Polar Bear Dawn to an editor for a manuscript evaluation, I was told the book was too long and too many characters. I cut out 20,000 words, and in some of those words were the strange love stories from Alaska. Well, some of them were too good to pass up, so here they are.
The first story I heard was from an Anchorage cab driver. I was heading from my hotel in Anchorage to the airport.
“Where are you headed?” The cab driver asked. He was native Alaskan, small in stature, high cheek bones and wispy beard – I thought he might be a Inupiaq from the Alaskan Arctic.
“Prudhoe Bay,” I answered.
“I used to work there,” the cabbie said with a smile – he glanced back at me in his rearview mirror.
“So, why did you come back to Anchorage?” I was curios. Prudhoe bay is the home of Alaskan oil. A person cleaning rooms made 60K a year, an oil worker made 90K and above. But they worked two weeks in and one out.
The cabbie laughed, “I called back home, and my cousin answered the phone. I asked my wife – hey why’s my cousin there – and sitting on my couch? And my wife said…well…your not here!”
“In Alaska – easy to find a job – hard to find a wife!” The cabbie said laughing hysterically at his own punch line.
That was my initiation into the strange stories of love life in Alaska. That trip to Prudhoe Bay gave me another story. I was there to do a trade show in safety work wear, and I was told of man who’d been mauled by a Bear that summer.
The man dropped by my trade show booth, and I had to ask him about his experience. He said he’d been out with this wife hunting Deer. They’d shot one and were cutting it up when Bear attacked him from out of the woods.
“How’d you get away from the bear?” I asked.
“My wife shot it,” He answered calmly. “But she didn’t get him right away…so the Bear bit on me a little bit.” He showed me an arm with healed indents of Bear teeth.
“Your a lucky man,” I said.
The big man in a set of big blue overalls grinned, “Hell, yeah, a man needs a wife who’s a good shot – she’s a real keeper.”
The following summer, I was in Anchorage on business, and one of my customers, an Alaskan resident, told me how he’d fallen in love with his second wife.
“We went out to my camp at the lake,” he said, “And that was the day I knew I was in love with her.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“Well,” my customer said, taking another pull of his beer and chewing on some Halibut cheeks,” She cut half a cord of firewood while I went fishing…my god a real Alaskan woman!”
I remember just shaking my head and smiling. I knew I’d never understand Alaskan’s.
My last strange Alaskan love story was in March in Anchorage. We’d finished a trade show, and we ended up at Chilkoot Charlies.
This is probably the strangest bar in Anchorage. Or the ten strangest bars as they’re linked together by some sort of weird system of hallways and stairs. Rock and roll, blues, and Karoke all flow somehow from room to room. The motto of the establishment is “We Cheat the other guy, and pass the savings onto you!
And that night, as we drank Alaskan Amber Ale and listened to really bad karaoke being belted out by alcohol induced singers – we witnessed a couples wedding bliss.
A young couple, he dressed in top hat and tails over a tee shirt, cargo shorts and hiking boots, and her in a tight fitting red velour evening dress that showed her ample curves with matching hiking boots, were dinning on chicken wings and beer at a table in the corner.
“They actually booked that table a week ago,” the bartender said. They came out of the bush yesterday…their wedding night,” He added with a shrug.
The bar full of Alaskan’s and visitors serenaded them with karaoke songs, and sent beer to their table. They were in wedding bliss.
My customer turned to me, “Yeah, it’s Alaska and it’s love.”
And those are some of my stories that I wanted to put into Polar Bear Dawn. It was fun to share them with you.
You’ll find more of my stories, the fiction kind, in my books Dolphin Dreams and Polar Bear Dawn on Amazon, Kindle and Kobo.
Someone asked me how I came up with the idea for my first full length Novel, Polar Bear Dawn. It was easy I said. I had a fear of being eaten by Polar Bears.
I visited Alaska’s Arctic from 1995 until 2009, and in that time I flew to the far north of the Arctic Ocean some 15 times. My trips were always in the dead of winter. And I mean a winter that looked like death could creep up on you.
I’d get off the plane and it would be minus 45F with a 20 mile an hour wind chill. They talk about frost bite up there – well this stuff felt like teeth marks on your skin.
The Arctic is flat. No trees. The sky is a leaden grey in the winter for the few hours the sun almost comes up, and for a few months, the sun doesn’t show at all. Total darkness.
In all of this, the Polar Bear roams. This magnificent animal has adapted to the presence of man. He’s figured out that he can hide out under stairs – because all the buildings are raised off the ground – he has a natural hiding place. A natural hunting place. His prey is humans.
The oil camps I visited on my sales calls had Polar Bear alerts on their TV Screens. Just like you’d see a warning of a shark off a beach, you’d get the warning of the Polar Bear lurking around the camp. He could be anywhere in the dark Arctic night. This was his domain, not ours.
There were signs posted at doors to the outside LOOK UNDER THS STEPS BEFORE GOING DOWN THE STARIS!!! Sometimes a person would draw big teeth to get the message across.
You see, a Polar Bear was accustomed to waiting by a seal hole for hours or days for seal to surface. Waiting under stairs for a human wasn’t much trouble for them at all. If the reward was warm meat. Sorry if that sounds crass – but the conditions are harsh, and we are in their territory. To a Polar Bear, it’s not personal, it’s just survival.
So, after all these trips up to the Arctic, I had this vision one cold Arctic night. A body lying at the base of the stairs, with a Polar Bear feasting on it.
A scene that looks like an accident. An accident of a human having an unfortunate meeting with a Polar Bear. But then I thought – what if the Polar bear didn’t do it. What if this was a murder?
And that was how I came upon the start of my first Novel. If you get a chance to read it, I would love to hear you comments. You’ll find the book POLAR BEAR DAWN on Amazon, Kindle and KOBO.
My wife and I arrived on a United Airlines flight from Canada at 10:45 AM into Los Angeles Airport on Nov. 1st. Our flight to Palm Springs wasn’t until 3:05, and we had to clear customs, and go back through security.
We were looking forward to lunch somewhere, and I planned to find a corner, and hunker down with my computer, and do some editing on my next Novel, a thriller with numerous victims.
The first time we noticed something was wrong, was when the captain came on the intercom to tell us, “There would be a slight delay in getting us off the plane.” We were to be bussed to the airport, and not use the jetway.
The slight delay turned into two hours. The airport was strangely quiet. Few planes were landing. Police helicopters hovered overhead.
A cabin full of I Phones turned to MSN, CNN and Twitter. In minutes a hushed conversation had broken out amongst the passengers, “A shooting at the airport. Someone shot a TSA Agent.”
Someone asked, “Is it a terrorist attack?”
That was a good question I thought. Since the attacks of September 11th, one attack can lead to another. The attack on the TSA Agent, could have been a decoy, for a major strike somewhere else.
Buses arrived and we were taken to the Customs hall. The Customs Agents looked calm. They processed our small flight, and sent us into the airport.
I’ve been to Los Angeles Airport many times, and the quiet calm in the airport was unusual. I’m used to seeing harried travelers in long lines at Security. There was none of that. People sat quietly on the floor in front of security. Security wasn’t open. Nothing was open, and nothing was moving. This was called Lock Down.
My wife looked at me as we stood in line waiting for a flight that may or may not take off, “This lock down is like the one in your book.”
I’d used the term for a lock down after a murder in the high Arctic, in my new book Polar Bear Dawn. Did I ever expect to experience one…no, not really.
Outside the usually busy road not a car moved. Police cars raced by, their sirens blaring. Then an emergency medical van, then a fire truck. And then…the eerie silence.
Passengers talked quietly about where they were headed and what flight they were about to miss, or if they might make their connection. I thought it strange to be caught up in your destination, when something so tragic as a man has been shot. Someone’s life has ended by violence, and you wonder if it’s going to affect your vacation.
Our journey was altered that day, by the mental imbalance of one man. One man with a gun, and with rage against his government. I learned latter he’d called himself a “pissed off patriot.”
He, Paul Ciancia, a 23 year old with an automatic weapon, calmly shot Gerardo Hernandez, a 39 year old TSA employee, who was just doing his job, protecting passengers from violence in the air. Who knew the violence would begin in the airport?
We ended up picking up our bags and with thousands of other passengers, we walked away from the airport. The Hertz Rental was 2 and 1/2 miles away, and numerous passengers helped us put the bags back on the carts after they fell off when going over curbs and uneven pavement.
I heard one lady on her phone as she walked beside me, “Yeah, I walked out of New York during 9/11, and I’m now walking out of LAX airport.”
The police waved us passed, weary and shocked passengers, looking for hotels, taxis and car rental agencies. News cameras filmed us we walked. I commented to my wife how strange it was to part of the news rather than watching it on T.V.
We listened to the news on the radio as we drove in our car to Palm Spring. A sea of red lights in slow moving bumper to bumper traffic that made a mockery of the term “rush hour.” The radio commented on how the airport was still in lock down. Someone got a hold of a relative of Hernandez, the victim, he was about to turn 40. No one knew the state of the other victims.
We met our friends for dinner on Saturday night. We told them of our experience, and one of them commented how this experience would do well in my next book.
I said nothing, but I realized now that this shooting would never do well in a book. Why? Because this was a random act of violence. As a mystery writer, I know my readers need to see things connected. They want to see that things make sense.
The one thing that does make a connection is the amount of random acts of violence committed in the United States. According to a CBS News report on Wednesday, there were 85 victims of mass shootings in just over 1 year.
The Attorney General of America commented on Oct. 21st of this year, that mass shootings in America had tripled. Maybe that’s the story, the story of the Brain Behind the Gun. What has happened that people want to kill and be killed by violence.
I didn’t read his entire book, but checked out some quotes. He stated that most of the shooters were young, many just boys, and that after the initial coverage, the world went back to watching other things.
I doubt my experience of this shooting will go into any of my books, as I want my readers to see order, even if it’s order in killing. Here there was none.
My heart goes out goes out to Mr. Hernandez and his family, and to those injured and traumatized by the deranged Mr. Ciancia.
As I started writing this Blog, the news came on, another shooting took place in a Mall in New Jersey. A man shot at people, then killed himself. And so it goes, the random acts of crazy violence.
I wish you all safe travels, and to keep your loved ones close.
I heard this story several weeks ago at a wine tasting event here, where I live in the Okanagan Valley in Western Canada. A young lady from Spierling Wineries in the valley was leading us through her wines, and then she told us a story about her great, great Grandmother.
Her great,great Grandfather arrived in this valley from Italy in the 1890′s and was convinced by the missionaries that he should start a farm in this valley. He agreed, and sent for his wife.
His wife who lived in Italy, had no idea where this place was in Canada, but she boarded a steam ship that was going to San Francisco, with hopes of finding her husband in this place called Okanagan. She paid her passage by cooking for a group of Italian Missionaries on board.
In 1890, there was no Panama Canal, the steam ship went around Cape Horn of South America and up to San Francisco. A long and arduous journey.
They arrived in San Francisco, and all this woman knew was to ask for a place called the Okanagan. She spoke little English. One of the Italian missionaries turned to her, and told her, “You see that Mission Bell that is just being loaded onto the dock. That bell is going to place you are going, and so are these missionaries.”
So this little Italian woman, made another journey, from San Francisco, following that bell, to the port of Vancouver Canada. That was over 900 miles overland, and then on horse back from Vancouver some 300 miles inland to meet her husband.
She raised eight children in this valley, and her sons and daughters became farmers and business people here in this valley. And her Great Great Granddaughter was there that night to showcase their award-winning wines.
What did I see from this story? I saw that we can have all kinds of faith in ourselves, our god, or our goals, but it is the determination that will see it through.
That little lady showed that she had the faith to get on the boat, but also the determination to see her journey through to the end. Now, about the bell being on the same boat she was on? Well, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
As a writer, I love stories like this. I hear so many people talk about faith, whether it be in religion or in themselves, but when you hear stories about someone who persevered, that’s when the story really matters to me.
That lady followed a bell, that led her to her husband. We each follow something in our lives that leads us to our destiny, fulfillment or just to the end of the day.
I don’t care if you don’t believe me, but really, some people follow reality TV shows, some sports, but they do follow something. It is wonderful, when I hear a story of someone who followed their heart.
If you have any stories like this one, like this little lady who followed the bell, I would love to read them, you could post them here. Meanwhile, I’ll look for other stories of determination, and when I find them, then you’ll find them right here.
I’m a writer who lives in Kelowna, Canada. I have another strange addiction besides writing, and it’s riding my road bike. Riding clears my head. It lets me sort out stories, or see things that have been hiding in my own confusion.
The other day I put on my bike gear, yes I wear the Spandex, with what I call the padding or “Depends,” in the seat and headed down the hill. To start my ride I descend 500 feet towards the valley floor.
The start of the ride is a rush. Wind blows, trees rush by, and I’m doing 40KM (25MPH) down the hill. The beauty of speed on a bike, is you have to control it. If you don’t, you can lose control and crash.
That sounds like my writing to me. I sometimes write so fast, with the words hitting the page, and my ideas bouncing around that what comes out isn’t recognizable. I need to slow down, and find a speed that lets me enjoy what I’m doing, yet gets me to my goal.
My ride takes me through these fantastic orchards and vineyards. The peaches are ripe. They’re falling off the trees now their so heavy. The apples are starting to hit perfection. They are shades of green, yellow and red as they get ready. The wine grapes are getting heavy, and purple, and full. Every day the farmers are amongst the vines testing them, to see when they’ll hit perfection.
But the thing about the wine growers is they’ve been in those vineyards since February. They were pruning, they were making sure their vines would be ready. So much work they’ve put in, just to get these grapes off in September, and ready for the crush in October.
To me, this is so much like writing. The final book or manuscript you see has taken a writer months if not years to prepare. You see the final product. You haven’t seen what never made it to print. Some writing and books never make it at all. Kind of what falls to the ground in the orchards as I ride by.
I’m working on too many things these days. A new thriller book finished, and sitting in the hard drive needing a final review. A memoir is almost finished and needs two final chapters to then sit before final polish, and my second Novel is with a formatting company getting all shined up and ready to be uploaded to Amazon.
I find like most people, to do one thing at a time, and just do it well it best, but then I get bored with doing just that one thing. The ADD in me? Perhaps it is, but sometimes multiple projects works well. Getting fresh insights as you move from one thing to another can be good as well.
My bike rides always end with me climbing back up the hill I came down. The road winds up, and seems unrelenting. I have to gear down on my bike, take it slow, and just find a speed that works and go with it. Not to fast that it will tire me out, and not too slow that I lose balance.
Now that is truly like writing. Have you every found yourself in between a rock and hard place in your writing? You have no idea how you wrote yourself into that space, and not sure how to get yourself out. Here is my advice for what it’s worth. Just take it slow, but move forward. Just one word at a time.
Your muse, your creativity will find your way forward. You just need to let it find it’s way for you. You have to let it help you. I guess like the old cliché “it’s just like riding bike!” You know it as soon as you get on.
I wish everyone a wonderful day, great writing, and a great life.
I’m a bit of research junkie. Yes, sometimes I get so bogged down with researching things, I forget to write. I spent time researching Dolphins and Mayan’s for my book Dolphin Dreams, and then hours of time researching oil futures for my upcoming book Polar Bear Dawn.
Researching is fun. Hours on the web, shifting and sorting with a coffee or tea, and sometimes getting lost in the process.
Some time ago, however, I decided on some personal research. I wanted to know about my Ancestry. My brother had run into some Nicholson’s on the web some time ago, and he found out my family originated in Tennessee. I knew my Grandfather had crossed the border into Canada in 1890 or so, and my Dad was born in Canada in 1910.
I joked with my wife that, “The Nicholson’s had left Tennessee because the Fed’s had found their moonshine stills.” The real reason was they were looking for land. They headed north to Canada, as Canada had land, and was offering it cheaply to new settlers. My Grandfather was one of them.
My Ancestors the Nicholson’s had originally come from Scotland, a small island called the Isle of Skye. I was lucky enough to visit there some years ago. Skye is beautiful. It holds a rugged beauty with mountains, streams and a blanket of purple heather that appears and then disappears into the mist and rain.
Skye had about 10,000 residents, and 80,000 sheep. You’ll step in sheep droppings long before you run into anyone as you walk through the moors, and valleys. It’s just the odds.
Did I feel at home there? Absolutely I did. Every time I introduced myself to a local, I heard the familiar refrain, “Ach aye, you be from the clan of Scorry Breac,” and they’d motion or point out a small hill just off of the harbor of Portree.
I finally ventured onto my Clan lands. Fortunately a wealthy Nicholson purchased the ancient lands, and put them into a trust. I walked the lands with my wife and our friends. I loved it, especially for the view, and the added bonus there were no sheep! Walking any pathway in Scotland with no sheep poop is a tremendous bonus.
After this wonderful experience of Clan Nicholson and my homeland I did some further digging. To my surprise I found out we were actually descendants of Vikings. The Isle of Skye, like many other Scottish Islands were overrun by Norwegians in the 9th Century.
My name Nicholson came from Nicolas and son, as was the Norwegian custom. So, there it was, I was part Norwegian. Now I like Norwegians. I’ve been to Norway twice on business. They have a wonderful country, decent beer, and other than their love of strange fish dishes they’re nice people.
I was about to go much deeper into my ancestry. I thought I might research something about the Norwegians, maybe I had a relative in Bergen? That is when I came upon some research on Ancestry from a Dr.Johanson.and his discussion of someone called “Lucy.”
Lucy it seems is our great (to the max) grandmother, well according to the good Doctor who is a Paleoanthropologist, and spent years scouring the desert of Ethiopia, and found her bones there. In a remarkable speech that you can access on YouTube (enter Lucy and Africa) you will get a complete one hour lecture from the good doctor on his findings.
Lucy, or AL2881, called Australopithecus, died 3.2 million years ago. The remarkable thing is, if you check your DNA, you will be traced back to her. Yes, a little lady with a mix between ape and humanoid is our great grandmother. According to Dr. Johanson, we should all take a trip back to our homeland, back to Africa.
Now wouldn’t that be one hell of a homecoming! I’m sure the Ethiopians would be amazed at my wife and I walking into their village, and telling everyone we’re their long lost relatives!
So, what have I done about my Ancestry search now? I think I’ll give it a rest. Going back 3.2 million years is far enough. But then who knows, perhaps someday, in an exploration probe of the Galaxy, or on the planet Mars, we’ll find a match for Lucy’s DNA.
Perhaps she was dropped off here on someone’s’ journey through the Universe. You never know what will they’ll find next. I’m waiting to see who I’m related to on the planet Zargon!
About a month ago, I boarded a flight from Kelowna, British Columbia to fly to San Francisco to attend a writers workshop with James Scott Bell.
The young looking man who sat beside me on the plane for the first leg of the flight to Vancouver, turned out to be a Movie Producer. His name was Daniel Stewart. His company 144 Productions did commercials, and Independent Films. It turned out we had a lot in common. We’d both been to Israel. He’d spent almost two years there working with a production company in the past several years.
I had been there in 1971, and been an extra in Johnny Cash’s movie, called Gospel Road. We shared stories of our adventures, his in working in the film industry, and mine in my new vocation of writing, and we enjoyed a pleasant one hour flight to Vancouver.
The plane landed in Vancouver, and that’s when Daniel asked me the question, “Is there anything you’d have done differently in your life?”
Well, my life isn’t over, it is in the late innings (to use a baseball term) but I got what he meant. Daniel was 30 years old. I am 60, perhaps the Movie Director/Producer in Daniel was looking for the story in the story. I have no problem with that, and I think many of us should ask ourselves that question. Perhaps we should ask it when we’re 30.
Here is the answer I gave. I had told Daniel I developed this passion for writing in my 30′s, but I put it aside to start a business. The business did well, and from the business profits, I developed a second business in purchasing real estate, and that did well. I did retire early with a decent income from my profits – but here was the thing that always bothered me – I should have kept writing.
It was the thing I missed. I gave myself over to my business ventures, and for that 22 year period from 1988 to 2010, I was immersed in business and commerce. Did I have fun? Sure I did, making business deals and making money can be great fun. Just ask Warren Buffet, he can’t think of anything else to do…well maybe playing Bridge…he thinks that’s fun.
Before I started my business, I was enrolled in a University course to complete my degree in English, I gave it up to do my business. I was writing and getting published in magazines. I gave it up to do my business. I was working on my first fiction Novel, and yes, I gave that up to do my business ventures.
My final answer to Daniel Stewart? I’d wished that in the 22 years of working hard to make the money, that I’d kept up my love of writing. I did do some writing – I wrote business letters, proposals, and ad campaigns, but no fiction.
I am now a late blooming writer, one who is going through the learning curve, again, of writing, editing and publishing. I admit, I’m having more fun than I ever did in my business. This requires the imagination to take flight, the Muse to drop by and give the imagination a lift at times, and it’s a wonderful process.
I can only suggest to all those with a passion for something in their lives, that they do not give it up solely to make money. We all need money, it is a force that makes things easier for us in our lives, but it will never replace our inspiration, or our passion.
To all of you, who toil by day at your jobs, and work by night at your passion, whether it be writing, painting, acting or photography – don’t give up. At least keep the wheels turning, the well full of your passion as you make your money.
Who knows, one day, you’ll find yourself retired and living out your life saying, “I’d wished I just kept motived at my real passion.” Who knows what could happen.
I’m a late blooming writer, who waited 22 years for it happen to me. It is a long time to wake up again.
Now here’s the other thing that let me know I’m addicted to writing, the workshop wasn’t even in San Francisco! It was in Newark, California. Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t, it’s a one hour shuttle van ride from San Francisco. I think I saw a outline of San Francisco in the distance as we crossed a bridge some many miles away to get to Newark.
So, at a Marriott Courtyard Hotel, with about 35 other would be, and some published writers, I was given the best course in writing I’ve ever attended. Now, I have attended some other workshops, one day mostly, and with some accomplished writers, such as Gail Bowen, here in Canada, an accomplished Mystery writer, but with James Scott Bell there was a difference.
The difference was in the presentation. In three days, from 9AM until 4PM, there was a complete presentation of plot, structure, character, dialogue, and writers voice. I felt like I was taking a compressed University semester in one weekend. But this was even better – because James Scott Bell loves film, and he used it to demonstrate each of the subjects he taught.
Now, I confess, I am slightly ADD, that’s Attention Deficit Disorder, or as my wife says, “selective hearing, and selectively present.” James Scott Bell was able to keep my interest, my focus, and my fascination with the process of writing for three full days with his variation of film and lecture.
He showed examples of how characters interact, and how plots unfold in pictures as varied as Moonstruck, The Fugitive, Lethal Weapon, and On The Waterfront. I don’t think anyone has ever been able to put all of the elements together for me like that before. It opened my eyes to how Novelists and Screenwriters play with Plot and Structure, and keep us involved.
This workshop was put together in part by Susanne Lakin, a writer, editor and writing coach. Susanne was also a wonderful resource at the workshop. She not only ensured the workshop ran smoothly, but also gave freely of her time in the evening to discuss with writers the various ins and outs of working with publishers or going the self published route.
At the end of 3 days, what did I learn? I learned that there’s a definite process and structure to writing. Perhaps I knew some of this before, but never have I had this put into such a structured format. I am a bit of a seat of my pants writer – James Scott Bell calls that a Pantser! Okay, that’s me, sometimes I like an outline, but it’s nice to flow, and see were it takes you.
Will this workshop make me, or you a better writer? I’ve always believed that good quality education, combined with effort, makes for success. The rest is up to us – one word after another – that make the stories come to life.
You can find information on workshop I just attended at www.writingforlifeworkshopscom
I wish you all happy writing, many downloads, and great reviews.