Saturday, 31 August 2013

Visit beautiful Bangladesh with me..........

In my novel, The Dark Side of a Promise, much of the action takes place in one of the youngest countries in the world, Bangladesh, particularly in its capital of Dhaka and the District of Bhola.

Why, you might ask?

As you will discover in my story, the man that Drake Alexander seeks, the man that has senselessly taken the life of his best friend’s sister has eluded them and the law for three years. He surfaces in Asia. Bartolommeo Rizzato is a ruthless criminal that does other men’s dirty deeds, a gangster for hire. His employer is blinded by revenge. Bangladesh is home to the second largest population of people that practise Islam, it is perfect for his plans.

In my opinion, Bangladesh is one of the most intriguing countries in the world. I’ll tell you why I feel that way.

We Canadians are far removed from this country halfway around the world knowing little of its people, its geography, its history and its past struggle for independence. We’ve been shocked by the recent deaths in the thriving garment industry which provides three quarters of its export industry. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building claimed 1100 lives. The Tarzeen Factory fire took another 117 souls. There are over 14,000 garment factories, not all are regulated by the government which has neither the money nor the staff to impose stricter laws. While these unfortunate events have claimed the news and our imagination, the country is much more than that.

In 1947 when the British Empire withdrew from India, the state of Bengal was divided. The west was claimed by the newly partitioned India, the east by the new country of Pakistan.

A nine month war in 1971 created an independent country call the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. In the Bengali language the name means “Country of Bengal”. Estimates of those massacred during the short war range from 30,000 to 3 million, we will never know the real number. It has endured many military coups, famine, poverty and political unrest until democracy was restored in 1991.  Although the political parties to this day remain bitterly opposed, the country has experienced relative calm and economic progress.


Bangladesh is in the low lying Ganges Delta, bordered to the south by the Bay of Bengal. It straddles the Tropic of Cancer. Unfortunately it is vulnerable to climate change which contributes many natural calamities like tropical cyclones, floods, tornadoes and tidal bores happen almost every year. Most of its land is less than twelve meters above sea level. If the waters would rise by as little as one meter it is estimated that 10% of the country would be flooded. There are claims that the water laced country has over 700 rivers. Boats are not only a necessity but a way of live for many of its inhabitants.

The most extreme flooding the world has ever seen occurred in 1998. Three of their mightiest rivers, the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and the Meghna overflowed destroying 300,000 homes, 2700 kms of embankment, 11000 kms of roads, thousands of cattle were killed. Over 1000 people died and 30 million were made homeless.

In addition the country is prone to cyclones. In 1970, a major storm claimed a half a million lives. In 1919 another took 140,000 more. Hardships we can only imagine.


However, not all is doom and gloom.

Bangladesh is a developing country. The poverty rate has declined by 25% since 1991.

The largest deep sea port in Southeast Asia is being established at a cost of 500 billion taka.

It is home to one of the largest river ports in the world, Sadarghat Port on the Buriganga River in the city of Dhaka. According to officials, over 50,000 people on average come and go every day.

It is the fourth largest producer of rice in the world, second largest producer of jute.

The largest shopping mall in Southeast Asia, the thirteenth in the world, is located in Dhaka.

The country hosts the world’s second largest gathering of Muslims during the Bishwa Ijtema, where millions gather to pray for peace and supplication.

Weavers from a guild in Dhaka are renowned for saris produced from exquisite Jamdani muslin.

It has a rich literary culture with many famous writers such as Tahmima Anam,  Shamsur Rahman, Haripada Datta, and Shahed Ali  to name only a few.

The national cricket team won gold at the first cricket tournament ever held at the 2010 Asian Games, defeating Afghanistan.

It is home to the largest mangrove forest in the world as well as a diverse selection of flora and fauna, including the Royal Bengal Tiger.

The national bird is the Magpie Robin known as Doyal and it appears on currency notes. The national flower is the Shapla, a white-flowering water lily. The national tree is the Mango. The national fruit is the Jackfruit.

There is much hope in this small country, people dream of better things, foreign investment brings better lives. The land is one of a rare beauty. I am indebted to an incredible photographer, Ihtisham Kabir for exposing me to the splendour of the countryside, to the vibrant colors and the people. You can find his photos at

I have recently discovered an exceptional writer from Bangladesh who now resides in Sweden, Dilruba Z. Ara, whose works have been acclaimed universally and are studied at different universities across the world. Here is her website:

Please visit their sites for a journey of discovery, you won`t be disappointed.
Next week, 4Q will be interviewing Yves Chiasson,
musician, songwriter, founding member of the popular Acadian rock group, Zero Celsius.

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Forest Guardian by Taylor Mcinnis Hicks


Taylor is a student at Crandall University in Moncton, NB. This is her first published story.

The long flames licked at the brittle pines and cedars like the forked

tongue of a serpent. The fire had become a relentless blaze that devoured the 

heart of the forest with a persistent hunger. It moved along swiftly, greedily 

consuming everything in its path; the leaves cried out as they withered, the bark  

peeled in the heat and the animals fled as their homes were reduced to ash. In  

the aftermath a morbid rain of ash fluttered to the ground in lifeless woe, 

marking the destruction of the woodland. 

In the rubble of the blackened ruins lay a wolf, charred and burnt along  

with husks of trees fallen in the wake of the flame. Grime and soot covered the 

alpha’s once glossy and magnificent pelt, the fur now sparse and frail. Ash was  

combed through his thick ruff, and caked onto his broad chest. Along his  

muzzle the fur was singed, revealing raw, blistered skin. The wolf’s form  

appeared lifeless, yet a faint rise and fall of its chest signified life. A moment 

passed and an eye flickered open; a glassy gaze that gasped in wakefulness. A 

shuddering exhale emitted from his core, stirring up pale dust on the forest  

floor. His mind began to work, rekindling the past events in a vivid display of  

illustrations projected in his mind in an attempt to retrieve an explanation for  

his current state. He struggled to clear his mind, his body laced in pain, his  

mind hazy. Exhaustion grasped his weakened body, dragging him closer to 

infinite slumber. He shut two round eyes and released another shallow,  

quivering breath. He felt a presence nearby. At that moment, self-preservation 

drew him upward and urged him forward, sparking his veins with a new  

inferno. Pushing with feeble legs, straining torn muscles, the old wolf  

attempted to rise to greet his fate. His legs shook like a new-born fawn, 

threatening to give out, but still he bunched his powerful haunches and raised  

his body ever so slightly. However, gravity won out, and he slipped on the loose  

dirt and fell with a padded thud. Once again, struggling to regain his posture,  

he raised his scorched figure, tongue lolling out of his mouth in effort. But  

again, he slipped back down to the ashen ground. The alpha tried once more,  

draining his depleted energy. He pushed off the ground, faltering and  

stumbling, he managed to raise his head, but only to look directly into the eyes 

of his pursuer. And for the last time he fell.  

In the ashen clearing stood a broad-shouldered, dark-haired man in a

charred plaid shirt who restlessly rolled his shoulders. His hair and beard had  

been singed by the heat of the flames, and his face was besmeared by soot and  

grit. He observed the wolf with the patient eyes and rigid form of a hunter  

closing in on its kill. When the wolf slumped back to the ground for the final  

time, he lowered his gun and gazed ahead hungrily, clenching and un-clenching  

his jaw in anticipation. Stalking forward silently, he raised his rifle once more,  

letting his shaking fingers hover over the trigger. As he neared the wolf it  

fixated a single yellow eye on the man, its lip quivering as it weakly bared its  

curved canines. The man pointed the barrel of the gun at the wolf’s head, veins  

and tendons bulging in his neck and temples as his heart pounded on his  

ribcage like a trapped animal. All the while the wolf still stared and snarled,  

paralyzed by his wounds. The man pressed his fingers lightly over the trigger as  

the wolf’s unfaltering gaze bored into him. His eyes were as round and yellow  

as a harvest moon. This animal was a flawless reflection of nature; 

unpredictable, wild and steadfast. The man exhaled slowly and lowered his gun,  

his hands slick with sweat. He walked away a few paces with his hands on his  

hips he kneeled onto the powdery ash, gathering his thoughts. He looked over 

his shoulder at the fallen creature; a once mighty, elusive hunter, now helpless  

and vulnerable to the wrath of a broken man. A pang of sympathy shot  

through him. He would gain no satisfaction in killing this wolf. All along, this is  

not what he wanted. He wanted the creature to fight back. To show blood-lust,  

hostility and rage. Instead it fled from him like a guilty child. Now, lying on the  

ground with a snarl upon its lips, the wolf seemed equivalent to a warrior with a 

blunt sword or broken spear. He had no chance of survival against his  

opponent, yet he will face death undaunted, because it is ingrained in his  


The man in the plaid shirt rose to his feet, slung his rifle over his shoulder and gazed at the wolf once more. Still the alpha snarled fiercely, still his gaze burned into him with the intensity of a red-hot poker, but then  something unexpected happened. The wolf blinked, long and slow, the snarl fading from his muzzle, and when he opened his eyes, they glimmered and  swam with an awareness that was nearly human.  

So it seems you do have mercy after all, spoke a strange, echoing voice, tinged with  

notes of pain.  

The man’s eyes widened in astonishment, he whirled around to look behind  

him, but no one was there save for the ash that swirled across the ground in a  

subtle wind. He turned to face every corner of the clearing to the same result.  

“Who’s there?” he called frantically, the corded muscles in his arms flexing as  

he gripped his rifle. 

A low rumbling that sounded oddly like a strained chuckle resonated behind  

him. He turned to look at the fallen wolf, and to his amazement the creature’s  

scorched chest shook with shallow laughter and his eyes gleamed in  


Admittedly, you are not the keenest, but you have the mind of a true warrior; noble, constant,  

and willing to protect that which he loves.  

The man stared at the wolf, his chest heaving as he sucked in deep draughts of  

air to calm himself. “How is this—” 


“But you’re j-just a m-mindless animal...” stuttered the man as he began to back 

away, “A beast!” 

Ah yes, the wolf whispered almost inaudibly, a deep-dwelling sadness creeping  

into his voice.  

But of course, you are plagued by the same narrow mindset as the rest of them.  

“What are you?” the man asked. 

I am an old friend and enemy, I am the wind in the trees and the soil that feeds the roots. I  

am the elusive one, and the protector.  

“But you killed him,” the man accused, pointing a shaking finger at the alpha,  

his voice choked with emotion. “And you knew, you knew what you were  

doing, whatever you are, you’re a murderer, you’re inhuman, you’re a  

monster!” The man shouted, his finger still extended and his eyes bulging in  


I do not hunt your people for sport. I do not kill your offspring out of fear. I do not punish  

those who have committed no wrong.  

“But you killed him, my brother….” the man whimpered, streams of  

tears cleared the stains from his muddied face. He covered his face with a large,  

veined hand as a heaving sob emanating from his chest. 

Your brother lives. 

The man remained silent for a long moment before uncovering his face, “how?  

We found his clothes in shreds, his blood, we searched for a body, the wolves,  


To kill him would not be punishment enough for massacring my kin. We have as much a  

right to live as you, as he has learned.  

“What have you done to him?...” he asked solemnly, his eyes averted, fists  


Nothing to harm him. I have given him a chance to atone for his mistakes. His journey is not 

an easy one. But still, he has changed. Just as you will. 

He raised his deep set eyes and fixated the wolf with a piercing stare. 

 “What do you mean by that?” he questioned, fear and uncertainty marking his  


It means you are worthy of the responsibility that I will bestow upon you. You sought 

vengeance on me for years because you blamed me for the death of your brother. You  

drove me from my home with fire and destruction, and now you will be the death of me.  But  

in the end, your hate dwindled and you saw a glimpse of truth. That this is not what you  


The man released a pent up sigh, “No, it wasn’t what I wanted…but how am I  

worthy in your eyes? I have done wrong and that is responsibility enough.” 

You have morality. You are not as corrupt as some. Either way, you are the one I have 

Chosen. See it a curse or a gift, you will receive what I will give you.  

And with those words, the wolf went stiff and his eyes became unfocused and 

glassy, and from underneath him a thick carpet of viridian grass speckled with 

wildflowers flowed outward like a ripple in the sea. The man barely had time to 

blink in disbelief before a gust of hot air washed over him and he faded from  

Next week, visit Bangladesh with me. A young, low lying country with over 400 rivers where if the sea level rose by 1 meter, 10% of the country would be flooded. A peaceful nation with over 142 million inhabitants. Home of the Bishwa Ijtema, the 2nd largest congregation of Muslims in the world, in 2010, five million men gathered to pray for peace.


Monday, 12 August 2013

4Q Interview with Mark Andrew Young- Visual Artist

4Q Interview with Mark Andrew Young, visual artist, owner of Manchu Mark Young Designs, father of Damien and partner with Nathalie Brun. Mark has created works of art in creative CD covers and promotional material for a varied group of artists such as Roland Gauvin, Dominique Dupuis, John Jerome, 1755, to name a few. He has created distinctive posters for numerous cultural events. His work can be seen at

4Q: It’s always interesting how we choose our careers. Your grandfather Ernest was an artist and professional sign painter, perhaps his creative genes have been passed on to you. What made you want to be a graphic artist?

MAY: There are things in life that just happen. When I was a boy, I would watch my grandfather paint, and I was too young to realise I would follow in his footsteps.
Even though I started drawing on the floor as a baby, who would have guessed I would be doing this for a living.
I can proudly say his love for drawing was passed down to me, and lives on, just in a different time.
He would use lead-based ’’one-shot paint’’ on mostly vehicles and board. I regret not learning that lost art. Now the vinyl decals and modern printing technics have become mainstream.
It’s kind of like discovering the electric guitar after years of acoustic play; you rock with it, but have to remember the roots. There was a lot more honour then. Everything was made by hand with no room for error. Nowadays, graphic design is simply a technique that facilitates communication in various mediums. But it’s still very much, and more than ever a cool way to get your point across whether it is by means of an art exhibit, a poster, a comic strip, anything you want really.
I had travelled a bit, did various jobs here and there, but when I came to peace with myself, it just happened naturally.

4Q: Some of my favourite posters you have done is both the 2012 Franco fete and the same for 2013. Another favourite is the new one for 2013 AcadieRock which is a huge event coming to Moncton in August. The poster was featured in a Times Transcript article. How does a design like this begin? Where do your ideas come from?

MAY: It is a designer’s responsibility to visually deliver the message or feeling of the subject, that being an event, identity branding or album artwork etc….Like any industry, it is very complex and detailed, but research is always an integral part of the process. You want to make sure your ideas are current and have not been portrayed in a similar way. Not to say that styles and eras are not a big influence in my work, but the key is to make it your own.

Inspiration often comes from Music, daydreaming, and ultimately vision. It comes down to letting your imagination explode into the moment. And like anything, working it, re-thinking it, polishing to your’s and client’s satisfaction. But like a fine painting, your canvas is never finished. One could work on an image for years….but at a point and time you have to say; Yes, love it, next! Stay fresh and keep creating. 

4Q: Tell us a pleasant memory or anecdote from your childhood.
MAY: I personally made my childhood complicated when in fact it was the simplest and easiest thing ever!
I am blessed as you know of being very spoiled and constantly surrounded by love.
I remember a lot of camping, street hockey, hanging out in trees, cousins in full camo (with war-paint) in the marshes of what is now Wheeler Boulevard.
There are many great memories. I can say that my Guardian Angels worked over-time watching over me as I rebelled against a dead era, and survived thanks to family and friends.
And some stories are better set around a campfire.

4Q: One of the major projects you’ve undertaken is the huge mural in the new Arts & Cultural Centre for the City of Dieppe. You did a fantastic job with this and must be quite proud to have your work displayed publicly for everyone to see. How did this contract come about and how did you ever get your ideas on the wall in such a large scale?

MAY:I was asked to do it. To be given an opportunity like that was overwhelming as first, but I approached it the same way I would a blank piece of paper; with full concentration and ultimate honesty. The creative process is like an all-inclusive adventure; with sleepless nights, constant daydreaming and finally discovering your confidence.
The project was a collaboration of 8 or 9 members; Professional artists & technicians, architects, projectionists, painters, general contractors. My design couldn’t have taken on this expanse without their combined skills. I’m not the best at driving a scissor-lift. :)
You really have to think WAY out of the box,  get as far as possible out of the that so-called ’box’’. Keep it fresh and stay true to yourself.


Thank you Mark for taking the time to share your insight with us. Please visit Mark’s web site.

Stay in touch for the upcoming 4Q Interview when we will feature Yves Chiasson, former founder and lead guitarist of the dynamic Acadian rock group Zero Degrees Celsius. He records and performs as Luther Chase with a cache of catchy tunes. His website is