Retiring to Cyberspace. The road less traveled.

I am a retiree. At least that’s what I’m called now. I left my occupation as a sales agent seven years ago.

I was in fact, a face to face and on the phone kind of guy, that’s what I did. I’d call you, make an appointment and show you my wares. I traveled from my home in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Alaska, Houston, Texas, and Scotland.

All the time with my wares, my laptop, and my spiel. We salesmen always had a spiel, or what is called our story of what we are selling.

However, in 2011 I’d had enough of the road, enough of the whole thing. I no longer wanted to hit the road. I was done. What was next I asked myself? Who would believe that writing books would be the answer?

If we all search deep in ourselves, our true desire in life will come out. Perhaps, and I say this with all honesty, we have no way of achieving our dream of some greatness, but if we strive at what we desire, is that not achieving the dream?

So, in this vein, I began to write. I actually picked up a writing career I’d dropped back in 1988. I’d once fancied myself a freelance writer. I’d sent off several inquiries, been accepted and had written for large newspapers and magazines in Canada.

But, and this was a major but, there was little to no money in it. A travel article that was a full two-page spread with pictures would net me $120.00. A small two-column op-ed piece could get me $80.00.

I tried, I said to myself, I didn’t want to be broke my whole life, so I put away my IBM Selectric typewriter and went back into the world of sales, where I would happily make money until my retirement.

In retirement, what reared its head was the failure in 1988. Imagine that. My brain still had the memory of that day I folded up my writer’s tent and tail between my legs, said, “you’ll never be a writer…there’s no money in it.” What my brain had remembered was my writer self-cowering and the words, “chicken!”

The way of marketing writing had changed dramatically since I’d left it. Imagine that. Well, not too hard to imagine when my sales calls had changed from face to face meetings to internet communication. I’d been sending off PDF’s of products instead of having to appear with product samples, so why wouldn’t the world of writing change as well?

What changed the world of writing drastically was Amazon and eReaders. It took me some time to realize that. I had to learn about Search Engine Optimization, SEO, and keywords that make Amazon’s algorithms put my works in front of its readers and get purchased.

Was it hard? Absolutely. I started my writing journey in 2011, first by relearning how to write good fiction by taking a multitude of courses and reading books, then by writing numerous stories that my beta readers thought stunk like ripe cheese. I have great beta readers.

I was the old guy in the back of the class. There were numerous younger people, mostly female, writing vampire stories and things with people who were dead but somehow moved around and ate people with their blunt teeth. I stuck to my fiction.

I would come up with a book from that class. I wrote only the first chapter of it. It was about a Polar Bear finding a dead body in an oil camp, I called it Polar Bear Dawn. The young people in the class called my reading, gnarly.

I published that book on Amazon. It went nowhere. Well, it did go somewhere. It went to the very bottom of the Thriller and Mysteries category. It would take four more years, three more novels, two novellas, and a short story, none of them finding much success for me to finally throw up my hands in frustration and wonder what the hell was I doing?

I could have been playing more bad golf, learning to play bridge, I hate bridge, or learning to make pottery, I have the same feeling on pottery. I wondered why I was spending this time writing when I was getting nothing from it. No sales, no reviews, and I could hardly pay for my next book to be edited.

Then, in the mystery of Cyberspace, where I read about and took a course in marketing on this fascinating thing called the web, I found out something special.I put my first book for free on Amazon and every other book site I could find. Let the world find it. Let them try it, read it, see if they liked it.

It seemed simple. I tried it. I put Polar Bear Dawn for free everywhere. Yes, you could download it in England, Australian, America, Canada and all of Europe. There was no cost, just read it. I did, however, put the first three chapters of my next book, Pipeline Killers in there…well just in case they liked what they read.

What happened you ask? Well, Polar Bear Dawn got downloaded every day. It went from a lowly one million in the rankings to the upper one to two thousand. That’s actually a really good place to be on Amazon. Anywhere above 10,000 is kind of golden.

People liked the book. They left reviews, and they bought my other books. How about that? So, here I am, after only 4 years of publishing my first novel I actually make money as an author. Is it a lot of money? No, it isn’t. But it will pay for my next books to be published and for several bottles of good scotch per year. We retired people don’t need that much.

My days now are spent working in Cyberspace. I publish there, I market there, and I get paid there. Every day, I pull up my Amazon account and see how many books are purchased all over the world.Is it nice, yes, I could have tried to work for Walmart as a greeter…no scratch that, they would never have hired me.

If you want to read any of works and see how a retiree works in Cyberspace, you can look at my website at www.lylenicholson.com.
If you have comments or notes of your similar success in this strange field of writing, please contact me.

The night before Christmas, looking back on a writing year.

This has a been an amazing year for my journey in writing. I almost gave up writing. Not that I didn’t love to write, it was that I wasn’t getting any readers.

I hadn’t figured out the mystery of Amazon and its mighty search engine, therefore, readers couldn’t find me, buy my books and give me feedback.

That all changed several months ago. I put my first book, Polar Bear Dawn, permanently free on Amazon. To my amazement, people began downloading my book. They even read it! Then they posted reviews, and most of them liked what they read, and they bought my other books – and they liked those as well.

The result was, I’ve become an author who has an audience. That is a very nice feeling. For those who liked my Bernadette Callahan RCMP Detective series, there will be a short story, a prequel and another in the sequel to Pipeline Killers coming out in 2017.

I’ll also be publishing a narrative non-fiction of my journey of finding a half-brother I never knew about. The book will be called Half Brother Blues, Chasing my Mother’s Ghost and finding her secret son.

Next year I’ll be changing my website, offering another free short story and building a mailing list where readers can get notification of my new stories. Yes, this is a whole new world for me, and I thank the readers who got me here.

A writer without a reader is Turkey with no stuffing, eggnog without the nutmeg or…okay, I’ll stop, as I’m making myself hungry. Safe to say, that a  writer need readers and readers need writers. When we find each other, it’s a wonderful thing.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and happy reading to you wonderful voracious readers who make the world of writing possible, and happy writing to all you writers who live in your own heads and make the magic happen on paper.

 

 

 

Trump, Russians,Ballet Boxes and Twitter. This is a Fiction Writers Dilema.

As a Canadian fiction writer, I admit I’m getting a bit addicted to watching the American Presidential Election. Never, in all my years have I seen such wonderful elements for a fiction novel.

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump claimed that the Presidential election would be rigged, then a week later, a report comes out of a Russian Internet hack of an American Electoral Polling station.

I sit back home , drinking my Canadian beer, eating my nacho chips and almost choke as this news comes out on CNN. Really? Seriously? This is what a fiction writer would do, the perfect story arch, as the protagonist, (Trump) is either thwarted or helped by the (antagonist) the Russians.

Meanwhile, all of this is playing out in 144 characters as if this were news that we should all believe.

The Elevator Pitch I would have given 10  years ago (had I known)

There is something we authors do, it’s called an elevator pitch. You imagine yourself in an elevator with a publisher or movie producer and you have only so many floors to pitch your story before they get out.

So, here goes;

Me: Mr. Publisher; great to meet you…

Publisher -get to the point, you’ve got 5 floors.

Me,(audible gulp), okay, a presidential race in  the future in America.A dark horse candidate enters. He’s a businessman.

Publisher – a successful one?

Me. Well…sort of, he’s done all these casinos and hotels, some go bankrupt, but he’s done this great reality T.V show and a  Ms America Pagent.

Publisher. I’m not seeing it. How is this believable?

Me. He abuses everyone.

Publisher. He what now?

Me. He calls Mexican and Muslims out, gets down on them, tells everyone they’re rapist and terrorist.

Publisher. the Mexicans are terrorist?

Me. No, sorry, the Mexicans are the rapist, the Muslims are the terrorists.

Publisher. I’m finding this offensive, my wife is Mexican.

Me. Sorry…I, ah, well thats how the story goes.

Publisher. I don’s see anyone buying this.

Me. It’s fiction sir…it’s a futuristic novel.

Publisher. Nah, I don’t see the market in a novel like this. See yah.

The door opens. The publisher walks out and I’m left there mouthing…but what if I have him win?

To those of you Americans who are reading this and love Trump, my apologies, and to you who hate him, I offer the same.

The key element is, as a fictional character, Trump is a dream to any writer who wants someone who would galvanize the left and the right.

I have only the election movies, the Manchurian Candidate or the Ides of March to compare, and quite frankly, none of these come close to what’s going on.

I’m sure the non-fiction writers will have a field day trying to assess how all of this came about, and how a reality star Billionaire with multiple wives, and bankruptcies  could galvanize a nation.

None of that is for me to decide. I’m mostly a fiction writer, and I’ve never seen such great theatre playing out before me.

Again, my apologies to all those offended by this, however, if you found some humor in it, that’s what I write. You’ll find the first three chapters of my novels at www.lylenicholson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gift of a wave in Hawaii.

I was in Hawaii a few months back and as always I’m  impressed by the local Hawaiians. Most of us never see how the locals interact amongst each other, we’re too busy marveling at sunsets or checking when happy hour is for cheap MaiTais.

But there is a feeling of Aloha here, that isn’t in the greeting that the desk clerk gives you or the guy trying to sell you a time share on the beach in Ka’anapali, the real Aloha is much deeper than that, it’s often the gift of sharing or giving.

I witnessed this on Waikiki beach, on our second day in O’ahu. My wife had never been on an outrigger canoe to do a surf ride. These things are marvelous in the water. They can weigh over 2,000 pounds, but when an experienced Hawaiian oarsman is on the tiller, they   can be made to ride the surf almost to the shore.

We found a captain, Dennis, who took us out on a 6 man outrigger with his crewman. My wife and I took in instructions as we dug our paddles into the blue water out to the surf break.

Then we waited with other surfers for a wave. Captain Dennis watched each wave come, and when he saw the right one, he yelled “Nalu,” in Hawaiian which meant wave. We dug those paddles in as hard as we could and then we could feel the waves pick the big boat up. With paddles raised high, we road that massive outrigger towards the shore.

I didn’t notice the old man on his surf board until we came out the second time. I’d seen him walk by us on the beach sometime before. He was thin, his skin an almost ebony with long grey hair and gentle face. He wore a simple swim suit that did nothing to hide his bony frame. I couldn’t tell if he was Asian, Hawaiian, or a Caucasian who’d been out in the sun all his life and just baked a hard and brittle brown.

Our second time out, Dennis said, “here comes a really big wave, you’re going to love this one.” We both waited, paddles raised for the command to dig hard. It never came, the big wave passed under our boat.

The old man paddled hard and caught the big wave and we watched him ride it like a magician towards the beach. He was light and masterful, his feet moved on the board as if he was playing music.

We caught another wave. I have no idea how big it was, but it was sufficient to move our big boat. We had another great experience. My wife loved it.

When we came back out for our third surf with the boat, we paused in the line of surfers. The old man was there, he called out to Dennis, “I thought you were going to take that big wave.”

Dennis said, “No, I left it for you.”

The old man simply said, “Thank you.”

And that was it. I witnessed this spirit of Aloha, and giving that happens amongst Hawaiians. Many of them have lost their land, and had to fight to retain their heritage, but here on the ocean, one Hawaiian could give the gift of a wave to another.

I learned later from a local who was renting a kayak to me in Ka’anapali that the truest form of respect is to give. This is the sincerest form of what Aloha means to Hawaiians.

I thought about this on my return flight back to Canada. Hawaii has so much to offer in it’s shops and classy stores. On Waikiki Beach you can purchase a Rolex watch or a special handbag for thousands of dollars.

But to give the gift of respect to and old man, to allow him the feeling of joy as he takes a perfect wave towards the shore…that is priceless.

I hope you enjoyed my little story. On my website, www.lylenicholson.com I have left the first three chapters of all my four books for your review.  Thank you for reading my blog.

 

 

 

 

For 2016, how about forgetting goals, and resolve to push your boundaries.

I know every year, we all do the same thing. We make some goals. We are going to get richer, thinner, smarter or come up with a way to make our life better. All the books and all the pundits tell us that goal setting is the one thing that will help us.

Great. You set some goals, some pretty big ones, where you’re going to lose all that weight that has been magically appearing around your middle, you’ll take that course, and get around to decluttering your life – in essence, a magical new you.

The problem is, and we all see this. By this time next year, you’re writing  the same goals. Somehow, those pesky pounds fell off then jumped back on. You find you’re no wealthier, and the magical new you faded sometime in June.

So, what if you just resolved to make little changes. Things that would stick? The reason I’m putting this out there, in the past year I resolved to just make small changes. I wrote just a little more every day, and I submitted some of my work to a National Newspaper.

Strange thing was, I ended up finishing another novel, and getting an essay published in the Globe and Mail. I hardly felt like I did anything strenuous. I just added a bit more effort and pushed my own boundaries.

I heard this story of a man who was extremely overweight and unhappy with his life. One day he walked out his front door and walked around the block. It was a struggle. He continued the next day and the next until he was walking a mile every day. Then two miles. He lost all his weight and felt wonderful. But he’d done it in small steps. Not by trying to jog three miles a day.

For those who are  amazed at the world of writing. No writer completes a book in a day, a week or even in a month. They may do a short story in that time or they may pound out a first draft of a novel in a month, but then they go over it, painstakingly word by word and sentence by sentence until it’s finished.

They may have a goal of a short story or a novel, but to get there, they need to push their boundaries and personal limits each day.

I also participate in road bike racing. We have these 90 and 100-kilometer rides that we do with large groups. To get to a 100-kilometer bike ride you start with a 25, then you push it to 35 and then 50. All the time you’re pushing your limits of endurance on the bike.

There are some road bikers that call this pushing the pain. If you can’t take the pain that your body is going through after a solid three hours on the bike, you’ll never make the four hours it takes for the race.

This, indeed, is pushing boundaries. However, to get there, you make small steps and before long, there you are at the finish line.

So, if you’re like me, and you’re tired of writing those lofty goals and seeing them crumble and wonder what happened? Try small steps. See what your boundaries are, then push them out a bit. Walk a bit further if you want to get healthy, write a bit more and submit more if you want to be a writer.

We all know what our goals are. We just don’t know how far we can push our boundaries until we try. I wish all of you happy reading, writing, and a new boundary by the end of the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How a story of MisDiagnosis of Cancer became the idea for my new Novel.

I heard this story of a cancer misdiagnosis many years ago. A man, who lived in England was told he had inoperable cancer and given a short time to live. He sold everything he had, then wound up his affairs. He didn’t want his passing to be a burden on anyone.

Then he got a call. He was told, “sorry about this, but your records were mixed with someone else’s. You’re going to live.”

Now, the man was happy that he was going to live but distraught that he’d lost all his possessions. If he lived in America of course, there would be lawyers lined up at his door to help him sue the hospital.

The reason I chose this idea for my book is that we are so ready to accept what doctors tell us. The moment we are in their office we are putty in their hands.

I have a doctor friend in the town where I live, who does a few days a week at a walk in clinic. He tells me how people are just so glad to see him.  He stands there in his white coat, with their file in his hands. He told me he sometimes says, “very interesting, I’ve never seen anything like this!” Just to see their expression. Then he tells them he’s joking. He tells me it breaks the ice. I’m sure it does.

The strange thing is, medicine is a science. And they call it the practice of medicine. So why are we so ready to believe what doctors tell us? Scientist who deal with the physical earth tell us that if we don’t do anything to stop global warming that all those on the coast will be wearing hip waders in the near future.

It seems that a large percentage of the world’s population refuse to believe those scientist. But what if a doctor (who practices the science of medicine) told those same people they were about to die. What would those same people do? Get another opinion, or tell their loved ones they should’nt buy any green bananas, (sorry bad joke) but you get my meaning.

Do I have a problem with doctors? Absolutely not. I think it’s the way we think of them. That is what makes for a great story idea. That they are somehow infallible in our minds.

If my character, Carson Winfield, had got another opinion in my book, I wouldn’t have a story. So, I wish all of you good health, good reading, and yes, keep buying green bananas.

If you would like to read the first three chapters of my book, Misdiagnosis Murder, you can do so for free on my website at www.lylenicholson.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Stories from the Poverty (economics) of Passion for the Arts.

I was at this dinner party several weeks ago when this lady told me that she was once a dancer. Her life was filled with a passion for dancing, it was all she wanted to do.

“What happened?” I asked. I knew some of her history, and that she had retired from years in a high level marketing position.

“My mother wouldn’t allow it.” She said. And then with a wistful look, she told me how many of her friends went to Las Vegas and Radio City Music Hall in New York to become dancers. What I didn’t mention, and wanted to say, was that her friends, the ones who made it to the chorus lines and the bright lights wouldn’t have made the money she did.

The real truth is that the arts do not pay much. As in very little. The surest road to poverty is through the passion for the arts.

Every truthful writer, musician, artist, and sculptor will tell you that the passion for the arts, although it has it’s own true rewards, pays “squat,” as in very little.

Yes, there are stories of the artists who do well, but for every one of them, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, whose paintings adorn the walls of relatives, whose sculptures sit in rock gardens, and whose prose line the bottom of desk drawers.

Ernest Hemingway was rumored to have captured pigeons in a park in Paris for his lunch and dinner. He used his morning baguette as bait. I’d sat in that very park in Paris, and wondered if the Pigeons were the true inspiration for his book, “the moveable feast.”

Long before Stephen King became the celebrity of the ghoulish and macabre, he was a very broke school teacher. His mother had implored him to become a teacher, as she knew most writers made little money.

Stephen wrote sci-fi articles for men’s magazines, and worked as a janitor in the summer to make ends meet. His first book Carrie, came about while he was mopping floors in the women’s washroom. His vision for the book propelled him out of his poverty into stardom. But if it hadn’t? I think Stephen King would have been happy to have kept teaching English, and writing. Such is his passion.

I have high school friends, so passionate for their love of the arts, that they never took jobs more demanding than parking attendants or truck drivers. Their off hours were painting or playing music.

Years ago, on a flight to my home town on a business trip, I met one of my old high school friends. He was checking in cars at Hertz. He was still painting, playing a guitar and living his life like he’d always had. His own pace, his own rhythm. And my god, he looked so less stressed than I was.

There is this saying I’ve heard, that when someone enters the world of the arts, in either college or university, that program should have a course in being a “Barista,” as they will probably end up working for Starbucks or some other coffee house upon graduation to make ends meet.

There is a story from Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, how he lived in a trailer, and pounded on an old typewriter for years before he had any kind of a breakthrough in his writing. He followed harvests and picked fruit to survive, while he wrote another novel that didn’t sell.

Yes, he made it though his poverty. But how many are really willing to do so? It seems that I’m not one of them.

My own story, is that I began writing over 30 years ago. I was accepted into journalism school, but balked when I found how little money I’d make. Yes, money over passion for writing. How many other’s have gone down that road? I would only take up writing on retirement, when book sales didn’t mean livelihood. That was the safe route for me.

I met a young man at a writer’s seminar. He was a journalist. He’d graduated from the same school I’d contemplated studying at many years ago. Yes, he admitted he made almost next to nothing working for a small town newspaper, but at that seminar his children’s book was nominated for a prestigious award. I don’t know if he won that evening. But, my goodness, I’ve never had one of my books nominated for anything. My kudos to that brave young man.

At the end of this, yes, there is little money in the passion for the arts, but what of it? If not for those who make little return but the satisfaction of what they create, where would this civilization be?

If you wander into a museum in Amsterdam, Paris or London, you’ll view the paintings of El Greco, Rembrandt, Vermeer and Vincent Van Gough. What do they have in common? Most of them died impoverished. Their work was never appreciated in their lifetime.

To those, musicians, painters and writers out there, just keep at it. The desire you have, for the gift of passion for the arts you have…no one can take that away.

As for the lady at the party who said to me, “I could have been a dancer. I could have been in Las Vegas.” That said it all to me. The look in her eyes, as to what she missed.

I hope all of you who have a passion for the arts, that you won’t let the lack of financial renumeration get in the way. To create something in art is wonderful. Whether it be a chord of music, a brush stroke or a line of poetry, or some dialogue that stands out and rings out to the world, who knows, Shakespeare made very little from his works in his lifetime. But he left the world a legacy.

Maybe you will do the same, or maybe you’ll just enjoy the things that money just can’t buy. The passion of creation. Enjoy!

The power of vulnerability for writers and readers.

There’s something that writers don’t want to talk about, but invariably they can’t help themselves. It’s how vulnerable they feel when they give their work to finally be read by an actual reader.

That single most important person, is after all the reader, unless a writer assumes they will  leave all of their manuscripts to age like fine wine in a dark cellar – never to see the light of day. In that viewing there is the vulnerability, but also the magic.

That magic is where the reader gets to see how the writer has taken characters and revealed them. Hopefully the writer has taken a character through some kind of journey. It could be by space ship, cruise ship or time warp, or perhaps a journey of spirit.

What I’ve learned over the past few years of writing, is all readers love to see the vulnerability of a character revealed, then made into a strength, then solve some sort of problem or situation. Essentially, this is called the story arc.

In a writing class from James Scott Bell he had us watch a segment from Casablanca. He showed our class how Humphrey Bogart who is shown as this hard night club owner shows vulnerability in saving first a young lady from the commandment, then Ingrid Bergman and her husband. Yes, a classic love triangle, but we eat it up. There is vulnerability there…and we love it.

In another movie, James Scott Bell showed Harrison Ford in The Fugitive in a hospital scene. Here is Harrison trying to get out of the hospital, but he stops to help diagnose a sick kid, then he escapes. You can hear the audience melt in the room.

James Scott Bell had a term for this, it’s actually a writers or screen writers’ term called “pet the dog.” This is where a character shows vulnerability and endears themselves to the audience or reader.

Do readers fall for this, this obvious vulnerability scene? Well, yes it seems we do. As a reader who consumes two to three books a month, I love when I see an obvious “pet the dog,” scene. I know the writer is bringing forth another element of the character, one that will make the character seem vulnerable, but in revealing it, we see the real strength in the character.

Character strength is something that writers agonize over. Too much and you have a Cyborg in the Terminator, and too little and we’re talking Sponge Bob Square Pants.  I’m sorry for those of you who think Bob is a strong character.

The essence of the struggle a writer faces was laid out to me in an article in Writer’s Digest  by Grant Faulkner called NAKED (ON THE PAGE) AND AFRAID. His lead quote was;

Good writing requires courage – first to give voice to the truth at the heart of every             story, and then to share it with the world of readers.

Grant went on to write that it’s a common fear that one’s life will be confused with the text on the page. I couldn’t agree with him more. In every book I write, I wonder if someone will see some kind of vulnerability in a character in me, and yet, to be true to the work, I need to put that vulnerability out there.

That is what readers really demand. They demand real vulnerability. If they didn’t then the   multi-million dollar industry of true romance wouldn’t be what it is. Sorry I can’t write true romance, but if I could, I’d start with a vulnerable character and build them up until they consumed the world, but have them do with grace, charm and probably really good shoes…yep…I can’t write true romance.

The strange thing about vulnerability is no one wants to show vulnerability, yet we love to see it revealed in novels that have characters overcome their failings and prove their worth. Do all readers see themselves in this. Are we all the voyeurs that I think we are?

Someone who has totally nailed this topic is Professor Brene Brown, she did a TED talk several years back called The Power of Vulnerability. Did people like it? How about over twenty million views! I’d say people were interested.

I’d suggest, now this is just from my point of view, that you take the twenty minutes to hit Youtube, and check out this talk. That is if you aren’t one of the twenty million that have seen her already.

Dr. Brown gave a very refreshing look at what we see as vulnerable. To me, what she revealed is that when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we allow ourselves to be creative.

Perhaps that is because we come from behind our masks and shields to where creativity really lives. This is how it feels to me, that old adage is the “turtle only gets ahead when it sticks it neck out,” is perhaps the essence of what I’m getting at in vulnerability.

My goal, is to keep surfing the edges and then to dive into my own vulnerability as I write, perhaps it will access deeper creativity. Who knows, what lies ahead when I and everyone else sticks their necks out…perhaps we’ll all just move a few paces forward.

I wish everyone happy writing and happy reading.

Writing it down, then getting it right. A Criminal Lawyer helps with my Novel.

Some of you may know that I was able to write my latest novel, Circling the Drain, during the NaNoWriMo, NATIONAL WRITE A BOOK IN MONTH OF NOVEMBER competition. The prize is really that you wrote a novel of over 50,000 words in 30 days, and somewhere the gods of the Muse are happy.

I let my novel sit for a whole two months, then went into a serious editing, which I call getting down to basics, things like… “Does this even make sense?” The very thing that readers will ask when my book gets published.

The premise of the book, a successful real estate tycoon is diagnosed with cancer, gives all his money to charity, then finds his diagnosis was fake and his millions are gone and so is the doctor who gave him the diagnosis. Yes, it’s far fetched but all good stories need to start with a strange series of events.

I then have the police investigate my real estate tycoon, let’s call him Carson Winfield, because that’s his name.  You see, his wife also died of Cancer, the same doctor made the diagnosis. They think he may have planned to kill his own wife with the doctor’s help, wrap up his estate and flee the country. Without spoiling too much of the book, we have the epic  battle between the accused, the lawyer, and of course the police and detectives.

This was where I decided to send a draft copy to my good friend , who is a real criminal lawyer who deals with real criminals in court everyday, here in Canada. Although he calls all of them “clients.”

My wife once asked our lawyer friend if any of his “clients,” were actually innocent,  and he replied, “Some of them had good alibi’s.” He was joking of course, but the clients he worked with in his city were petty thieves who had his number on speed dial.

What I got from my lawyer friend in feedback was a remarkable look at the justice system in North America.  He basically told me that I had the premise of my story down, but was missing the fine points of how the lawyers and the police function, how they battle each other. He filled me in over several hours over the phone, and here are some of his nuggets.

The Police can lie to the accused, more-so in the USA than in Canada.

I wasn’t sure how to write this part in my story. Here I have my accused, Carson Winfield brought into the police station for questioning. The police have what they think is a case, but they can’t prove it without a confession.  Now, my story takes place in California, so I had to I had to do some research on the American legal system.

It was my lawyer friend who told me how to have my lawyer in the book instruct my character, Carson Winfield. He gave me so many tips that at one point I thought I should have him as my co-author on my next book.

What I did learn is how lawyers work in the two Countries of Canada and America. In Canada when a person is arrested, or about to be arrested, they call their lawyer, and here is where my lawyer friend coaches them to “not say anything.” He even gives them a ten to fifteen minute lecture in person or over the phone before they meet with the police.

In America, the accused or person of interest gets to show up with the lawyer, and the lawyer may even be in the interview. In Canada a witness is advised that they do not have to answer any questions if they don’t want to. In America, they get to take the 5th, as in the 5th amendment, and say nothing.

Which according to most American Lawyer’s would be the really smart thing to do. The accused who decides to “tell some of the truth,” or to “set the record straight,” it seems is the one who puts the noose around his or her neck.

Okay, I’m really paraphrasing on this, but from all the other information on the web regarding the American legal system, it’s evident that people should not talk to the police without having a lawyer present. I found this great video lecture on this from Professor James Duane , his lecture  is on youtube https://youtube.be/i8z7N5sgik

I did have a good time with this one, as my lawyer was constantly berating his client, Carson Winfield, to “quit handing the police evidence that would hang him.” I admit that was fun, because from my research, I could see that even “person’s of interest,” can get themselves into trouble. The video from Professor James Duane is quite adamant on this point.

The other subject I got into was the search warrant. I just had my detective character ask for one, and sure enough my lawyer friend instructed me further on the subject.

The Search Warrant. It really is a big deal for the police to get one.

This part in my research got interesting. I, like everyone else who watches television shows assume that all the police have to do is ask nicely for a search warrant, and there it is. Kind of like the drive through at MacDonald’s, where the police ask to “biggie size me,” and get a “search and seizure,” on the side.

It turns out it’s not that way. Again, there has to be some probable cause, because defense lawyers love getting evidence thrown out of court that was brought about by an improper warrant, or the improper exercise of the warrant.

Writers can have a good time with this one. I had my detective having to convince the Assistant District  Attorney he had enough for the warrant, and the ADA telling him it was on thin ice, “Like the spring ice in Minnesota.” Okay, I got a little caught up in my own words, but you see what I mean.

The search warrant really is a major hurdle for law enforcement, and we should be thankful we have this vehicle in North America, otherwise, there’d be someone at your door looking to investigate that strange tall plant in your window that you call catnip, or muscle relaxant…or whatever.

At the end to the day, will my novel be a break out similar to John Grisham? I doubt it. I don’t think I’m qualified to carry his briefcase. However, my little novel, which is a black humor of only 59K words has been looked over by a real criminal lawyer to ensure I got the main parts right.

The best part was, he couldn’t figure out the ending. He was almost late for court as he read the end to see who did it. Now that, was worth writing the book.

I wish all of you happy writing, reading, and to those who wish a life of crime, please watch professor Duane’s video, at least once.

My book, Circling The Drain, will be out in July. If you get a chance, I’d love to know what you think of it.

 

Everything is fine until you’re in water over your head! A swimming lesson that could be used in life.

A few weeks ago I watched my wife approach the deep end of the pool with her swimming instructor. She’d just learned to swim, finally after 55 years, and this was the test – the deep end.

She got as far as the yellow line in the pool where the depth changed from 1.4 metres to 2.8. My wife is about 1.93 metres tall. She had to make up the depth difference by treading water or swimming.

The previous week she’d learned the forward crawl with the proper breathing technique and to float on her back and even tread water. The swim coach taught her some drown proofing as well.

I was impressed. These were things I’d learned years ago, but as my wife was being taught, I started to practice them again. Like learning it for the first time.

But that day at the deep end was too much for my wife. Her face was set in a grimace of tension as she treaded water for a quick 30 seconds and swam back to the safety of the shallow end where her feet could touch the bottom.

What had happened I asked? She told me that the very fact of having  no pool to put her feet on panicked her. I understand that. Some 50% of North American’s do not know how to swim, and of those that do, a great percentage will stay in shallow water for fear of drowning.

Notice when you go to the pool, or the beach, just how many people are in deep end or swimming effortlessly out in the ocean. It’s actually very few. We as humans seem to have this fear of being in over our heads.

This strange notion came to me as I realized that 70 percent of our earth is made up of water, why are we not naturally taken to the water. Does our fear keep us out of the deep? Or is it our lack of knowledge of water?

SURPRISE – WE ALL FLOAT

I learned this from a site called relaxnswim.com , that the buoyancy of water reduces your body weight by 90%. Also, a full lungful of air acts like a ballon in your chest keeping you afloat.

Then I read further on this website, and had that “ah ha moment,” it said, “Feeling buoyancy in water is all about presence in one’s body – feeling while swimming – is most valuable when a swimmer is not distracted by the pool bottom.”

There it was, the reason we keep ourselves out of the pool. We’re worried about where the bottom is – or isn’t.

A CONVERSATION WITH A 74 YEAR OLD SWIM COACH.

One day, my wife an I were in the pool, and she was doing her laps to improve her swim stroke and work on that treading water technique – the one to get her over her fear of the deep end.

We met Jamie at our local pool. Turns out he’d been on a swim team at a major US University in his youth, then taught competitive swimming. Jamie was great, he went over the techniques of swimming with my wife, and talked about how we humans are all born to float. He said, “It’s just that we don’t know it.”

Jamie would teach people to swim by first telling them to try to stay underwater with a full lungful of air – none of them could. What he taught them was the law of the human body, water and psychics. If we have air in our bodies we’ll float.

“Then how do we drown?” I asked.

“Simple, we get excited  and take in water.” He said.

MY OWN SWIMMING LESSON BEGAN FROM ALMOST DROWNING

My wife asked me how I learned to swim, and I told her it was from almost drowning. I was about 5 years old, and wading in a lake, it had a serious drop off that I obviously did not know about, or forgot.

I still remember to this day, walking off that edge and my body plunging deep into the water. I could see the light on the surface growing dimmer as I went deeper. I even remember my life flashing before my eyes, fortunately for me , at 5 years old it was a short flash.

I started kicking and clawing my way back up to the surface. A lungful of air never felt so good. I ran back to my mother, probably cried my eyes out and my dad taught me to swim that afternoon. He held me while I kicked my legs and thrashed my arms – I was a swimmer.

DEVELOPING NEW TECHNIQUES TO GET OVER OUR FEARS

So, why am I talking about the deep end and the need to learn the techniques of floating to get over our fears? I know, I thought it strange myself how this fits in with my fiction writing, but this blog is really about learning things to overcome our fears.

If it’s true that all people float, but 50% of us won’t even try, then what does this tell us about so many other things in life that we never attempt because we think we can’t do it.

It could be the writer too afraid to show people their writing- that would be that fear of the deep end. Or that career or business you wanted to start but were afraid you’d fail – losing touch with the bottom of the pool is what that might be called.

Perhaps these are over simplifications of things, but in the sense of overcoming our fears, it really comes down to the basics, learning new techniques and trusting ourselves.

THE FINAL CHALLENGE

I’m happy to report that my wife did finally swim over that dreaded deep end. As a matter of fact she swam a few lengths. When she tired, she just flipped over onto her back and floated leisurely towards the shallow end.

“How did it feel?” I asked.

“Fantastic!” She answered. My wife now loves to swim, and is upset if we travel to some place that doesn’t have a pool.