Friday, 30 May 2014

4Q Interview with Christian Brun - World Traveller, Poet, Artist,and a super nice guy!

Christian Brun is the Executive Director of the Maritime Fisherman’s Union. He has travelled extensively throughout the world, lived in Mozambique, Africa. He lives in Shediac, NB. He is an exceptional artist and author of several books of poetry. A man of many talents (pardon the cliché but it fits). His website is below.

4Q: Before we talk about your writing and painting, tell us about your desire to travel as much as you have and how did you end up in Africa?

CB: Travels fuel my great curiosity. I have a never ending almost obsessive need to generate new information through observation. I can only go so far with a book and with local travel and have discovered the great wealth of geographical displacement. The movement and grace of difference through people, contact, communication, architecture, food, weather and nature have provided an energy that is hard to describe. While the pizzazz might have somewhat phased with age, I yet feel like an adolescent going through puberty when I leave the country. When I am in a foreign area, I prefer walking, so I can slowly grasp the nuances and the beauty. In 1994, in France, I walked from Spain (San Sebastian) to Biarritz for example. My own little “Randonnée de compostelle” of sorts. After that experience, I understood how travels were not only exploration of sight, touch, sound and smell, but were also experienced from within: all of these new found observations were having a profound effect on my thoughts and perceptions of life. A relatively short travel experience had changed who I was almost immediately; imagine if this was to happen for a longer period…

A few years later, I was confused about what I wanted to do with my life, quite frankly. I was completing my articling with a small Law Firm in Ottawa and was disappointed as to the realities of the practice. Pushing paper was not very fulfilling. Just as I was to pass my bar exams, I was offered a job. I had applied with many Canadian NGOs a year previous as I had a great interest in more long-term travels – so I could get immersed into culture and language.
Mozambique was a perfect opportunity: 1- the project was about civil disarmament and turning weapons into art, 2- Maputo, the Capital where I would be working, was a coastal town, 3- Portuguese was the language spoken, a Latin language, therefore accessible through French basics, another cousin Latin language, and finally, 4- the field of international development seemed much more real and substance oriented than what I had survived in the urban legal world. I took a week to think about it, confirmed and was off a month later in November of 1997.  

4Q: You have three books of poetry published at present. What is it about poetry that that you enjoy and what inspires you.

CB: I like to say things in a snapshot. I like to also play with words. Mostly, I am in love with the metaphor, always have been. The metaphor lets you be true to yourself and not always reveal absolutely all of who you are. I have learned earlier in life that one must protect oneself to be free. Life is not all roses and blue skies and there are some people and circumstances that can hurt and damage. I have always been myself, I believe, with others, but often, I only share what I feel I should. I have created an invisible filter coming in and going out. That is why poetry is so powerful. It enables you to divulge who you are, but not completely.

I am inspired by nothing and everything. I have written about the most mundane act of human stupidity (the fact that one needs to go to the washroom once in a while, hopefully throughout his/her whole life - lol). I have also written of the most typically exciting and cliché moments of love, despair and drama. I have found that some of the blandest past photography can become incredibly strong 30 years later – have a look at Dennis Hopper’s photos as an example. Therefore, the mundane of today could very well enlighten the future. I was also amazed in my twenties at how French poets like Rimbaud, Prévert, Apolinaire and Éluard could speak of everyday events and make them so interesting… or how Verlaine, Beaudelaire and Neruda could make the cheese disappear when thinking of love, death and depression.

What finally really clicked the switch was when I began reading our own Acadian literature, how real it was and how it was part of our conflicted collective soul. In some ways, our Acadian identity was somewhat like I was: for many years, it could not, and preferred not to reveal all of what it was. Poetry in l’Acadie, is a code and an extremely important one at that.  

I am getting off subject aren’t I? Back to your next question. 

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

CB: Well… hmmm… I will share one that has shaped who I am. I had built a very badly strewn tree house near our home in Cormier-Village with leftover wood, planks, tar paper and rusted nails. I remember sitting there in the doorway looking at the water flowing in a nearby brook and the nature that surrounded me. It was the first time I really had a different perspective of the world, I guess, from a different height in something I had built with my bare two hands. Moral of the story is that my creation had enabled a new perspective of the same things I looked at everyday… I realized much later that the creative process was synonymous to youth and renewal.

 4Q: You have many fine paintings to your credit. How did you get into painting and where can your work be seen other than your website?

CB: The visual arts came naturally as a complement to writing… I am mostly visual in my concepts, but more literary in my communication… so I decided to use both as a survival guide to procrastination! When I find one creative process less motivating, I refer to the other… and they both meet rather often. For example, I am attempting to write a text for every painting I have produced (good or bad – lol). I’m hoping this will be a lifelong project.  

I have one exhibition per year at Galerie 12 in the Aberdeen Cultural Centre in downtown Moncton. This keeps my blood flowing...


Thank you Christian for sharing your thoughts with us. We look forward to more of your creativity in the future. Christian’s website is
*An interesting note: Christian's sister Nathalie is the cover model for the novel Dark Side of a Promise.
Next week I will be telling you a bit about myself; who I am, what are my passions, who is my family and why I write.
I lived in an orphanage for the first ten months of my life......


Friday, 23 May 2014

Guest writer Lockie Young. The Lone Shepard.

This is Lockie Young's third visit to the Scribbler. You will be hearing more from this talented writer as he wraps up the sequel to his YA novel, Ryan's Legend. Watch for it at Morning Rain Publishing. His website is posted below.
The Lone Shepard
A long, long time ago in a far away land there lived a young shepherd boy named Ewan. Now Ewan was a good boy, who lived with his grandparents in the hills just east of the Stone Wood. He tended his sheep and was very diligent, as there were many wolves in the hills. The wolves lived in the Stone Wood, which was rumored to be haunted. The wolves would venture into the hills and kill the sheep, if not for the very brave boy who protected them. Now you may ask, how can a mere boy defend against a pack of wolves? The answer may astound you. You see even though Ewan was just a boy, he had in his possession a very strange weapon indeed. It had saved his life many times, and the lives of the flock he protected.

One day, one of the sheep wandered away from the hill, where the flock was grazing. Ewan, who kept a very keen eye on his precious flock, noticed the number of sheep was down by one, and as he gazed off in the distance, toward the meadow that gently sloped toward the Stone Wood, he saw his quarry.  He noticed the faintest of white disappear into the haunted forest. Gathering all his courage, Ewan rushed to save the poor woolly creature from a certain death, should the animal venture too deep into the place where only Devils and Trolls dared to go.

At the edge of the great forest, Ewan stopped to gather his breath, and his courage, before venturing forth into the unknown, for neither he nor any of his kin had ever set foot into the Stone Wood. Oh he knew full well the possible consequences of such a foolhardy quest, for it was told and retold many times around the open fire pits late at night, when the shadows were long and fear was ripe. No one ever returned from that unholy place.

Ewan gulped down his fear, and tramped it deep into his soul, as he ventured into the dark, dank foliage. The leaves were so thick; the sunlight did not penetrate such gloom. There was even a bitter stench, that left its acid mark on the poor shepherd’s tongue. With eyes big and round as saucers the brave little boy headed further into the wood. All at once, off to his left, he heard the scared bleating of a sheep. He followed the sound and soon he saw the poor trapped animal. It had wandered into a bramble so thick, it could neither go forward nor backward. It was so scared, and so pitiful, that the boy ran instinctually to its rescue. Without a thought for his own safety, Ewan carefully and skillfully removed the thorny sticks and twigs that stuck fast to the thick woolen coat. Soon he had freed the desperate young sheep from its trap and in shepherd fashion, slung the young lamp around his shoulders, and carried on his trek out of the forest. Before too long he saw sunlight shinning through the leaves and knew he had finally, once again, reached the edge of the Stone Wood. With jubilant heart the young boy ran the rest of the way, and once well into the meadow, he set his rescued lamb back down to earth. But before he let the creature go, he noticed a rather stout stick sticking out of the thick wool. He wiggled and pulled the stick free, and upon closer inspection, he saw that it was a very strange looking stick indeed. It wasn’t exactly crocked as it was curved. The wood was rock hard and hollow. What a fine whistle this stick will make he thought, as he stashed his prize into the pocket of his frock.

The sun rose high in the noon day sky, and the hill side was quiet, as the lazy sheep grazed on the rich grasses there. Ewan took the strange curved stick from his pocket and began to look at it more closely. He blew into one end and a low tone emitted from the other end and he knew at once it was as he expected. The stick was indeed hollow. He decided to try and make a hole in the strange, almost polished wood, so he took out his knife and began doing just that. His sturdy blade easily cut into the wood, and after each hole he made, he would try his whistle. Soon he discovered that he could make musical notes, and he decided his whistle was not a whistle at all, but was turning into a beautiful flute. As he played he noticed the sheep laying down as if to bed, and the more he played the quieter it got until the only sound was the magical notes from the flute. Soon everything around him was fast asleep. Even the birds were nestled in the trees with their heads tucked neatly under wing.

It was then, on a hill side long, long ago that a young shepherd knew he had an enchanted flute. Oh this was indeed a glorious day, for the young boy realized that he could also use his magical flute as weapon against the many animals that threatened his flock. He would never have to worry again if his sturdy staff would be enough against the hungry snarls of the wolf pack. He would never again fear anything, as long as he could play his magical flute.

Ewan played his flute for hours, practicing different songs, and different tones. And the gentle breezes carried the magical tunes past the meadow and into the town. It carried the tunes into the Stone Forest and beyond, into the city, and long before the sun set that day, not a soul was awake, but for one lonely shepherd, one brave and very lonely shepherd.

Thanks for the story Lockie.You can keep up with Lockie at

Next week, join me for the monthly 4Q Interview when we have 4 questions for Christian Brun, a poet, artist and seasoned traveler. An interesting guy!

Friday, 16 May 2014

Guest writer Susan Toy - 50 Ways to Lose Your Liver

Susan Toy is an author and publisher that lives in Bequia, a tiny island in the Caribbean. She is a tremendous supporter of her fellow writers as well as an exceptional story teller. Her award winning short story below was originally published in The White Wall Review #33. You can read more about Susan and her novel - Island in the Clouds - at

50 Ways to Lose Your Liver

The night Grandma died was a liver night, and we were all so engrossed in getting the damn meal finished and over with that, when it actually happened, we didn’t believe at first that Grandma had really left the table – in the permanent sense. 
 Grandma was a lifelong professional hypochondriac. I believe that, as a young girl, she may have aspired to become a doctor; so constantly proclaiming sickness at least got her into the company of doctors. 
And she knew her medicine! This was long before anyone could look up symptoms online, imagining they were dying from any variety of serious 
ailments. We were so used to Grandma’s constant histrionics over her health, always self-diagnosing she was about to pass away…at any moment now…that when it finally did happen, how were we to know she was actually up and dying – for real?  
 A few years before, when Grandpa—God rest his hen-pecked soul—died, my mother felt obliged to move the four of us—her, Dad, my younger sister, and me—into her parents’ much-larger house. Our older siblings, a sister and brother, had already moved away from home, so they were spared those years of “living with Grandma.” They still came to visit, for family dinners, birthdays, holidays, all occasions, but they didn’t have to suffer, day-to-day, listening to Grandma’s complaints about her bones, her gall bladder, her acid indigestion, her eyes, her sick headaches… My younger sister, Sally, and I would place bets with each other as to which would be the malady du jour when joining Grandma every morning at the breakfast table.
 “Oh, Gotta,” she’d greet us. (She was Belgian and still spoke an accented-English sprinkled with Flemish, even after nearly sixty years of living in Canada.) “Oh, Gotta, kinder. I didn’t sleep a wink last night. It was the vater galla.” 
Sally would turn to me and whisper, “Pay up!” 
We never did find out exactly what the problem was with Grandma’s vater galla, or even which part of her body she was referring to, but that seemed to be the most common physical complaint she suffered from. So it was a no-brainer on my sister’s part that she usually won the bet; Sally always picked vater galla. 
Grandma insisted on kissing us both before we went to school, as though that day would definitely be her last on earth. “Say goodbye to me now,” she would moan, a tear in her eye. “I might die before you come home this afternoon.” She’d spent a lifetime expecting her own demise, and as it still hadn’t happened, Sally and I would leave the house, pretty sure we’d be seeing Grandma again at the end of the school day. 
Our brother was the only one who effectively put an end to her bidding him goodbye in the same manner. “Don’t worry, Grandma,” he laughed. “I just bought a new dark suit. If you do die, I have something nice to wear to your funeral.” As the only male heir, who could also escape to his downtown apartment, he got away with being disrespectful.
Mom suffered her remaining parent silently, although Sally and I could see it was wearing thin most of the time. She had been genuinely ill much of her own life, had had several operations, and a brush with cancer. But none of that ever came close to any of Grandma’s imagined problems – at least as far as Grandma was concerned. 
Dad worked in an office on weekdays. Whenever he was home, he’d hide behind the newspaper, rustling its pages every once in a while, clearing his throat, denoting that, while he could hear Grandma’s complaints, he wasn’t going to pay her any attention, no sir!
So Sally, at six-years-old, and me, being ten at the time, the two youngest of the family, were still under the impression we had to at least listen to our eldest member, sympathizing with all her aches and pains.
Besides, she was so happy having an audience that she actually paid us in cold, hard cash. We quickly calculated that, for just a little bit of commiseration on our part, we would eventually become rich!
Now Mom, and Grandma, were of generations that grew up believing eating liver once a week was necessary for everyone, not only for growing children. That was a time when liver was the main guaranteed source of iron in a diet. Sally and I didn’t know enough to realize we were probably already taking in enough of the mineral from what was added to milk and boxed cereals. If we’d had any idea that was the case, we might have made more of a protest against our predictable Wednesday night meal of liver, mashed potatoes, and salad. Dad would eat anything, so there was never any point in asking for his support in our efforts to ban liver from the dinner table.

And the liver itself might not have been so bad, had Mom known how to cook it properly. She didn’t. It always had the consistency of cheap shoe leather and the taste of…well, that was the problem – it didn’t taste like anything at all that Sally and I could recognize. Since those days, I’ve heard liver referred to as a “toilet sponge,” which goes a long way to explaining that indescribable flavour. 
We tried, on those dreaded Wednesday-liver-nights, to: claim we weren’t hungry; that we were too sick to eat; had already filled up on after-school snacks; or were thinking of joining a new religion that forbad the eating of liver. But excuses never worked. Mom would give us “that look,” point at our chairs and, without a single word, force us to sit and partake – quietly!
One evening, searching for a laugh, I clutched my abdomen and cried out, “I think I’m getting liver disease!” 
But all that garnered was a slap across the back of my head, and Mother’s snarl of, “Quit fooling around and eat!” 
Sally, her body jiggling the entire time while I suffered, tried so hard not to visibly react. At six, she had already managed to master a near-perfect poker face. 
I devised a method of eating the foul meat that worked for me. Cutting off the tiniest piece possible, I’d completely coat it in mashed potatoes, then stick my fork into the white ball and shove the whole mess as far back into my mouth as I could, way past the taste buds, swallowing immediately so I didn’t need to chew.

That was okay, until Mom caught on and decided to change the vegetable portion on our plates to frozen mixed peas and carrots.
Sally had her own avoidance technique. She ate everything else on her plate first, then quickly gobbled up all the liver at once, washing it down at the end with a full glass of milk. In great satisfaction, she’d turn to me, flash a liver-eating-grin and, holding her palms up and out, would mouth “Finished,” while I still struggled with swallowing the rest of mine. But, then, being the younger of the two, she always got a much smaller portion than I did, anyway, which wasn’t fair at all.
But, thanks to my ingenious sister, after the night Grandma died, we never had to eat liver again.

Grandma was often in the habit, during dinner, of placing her cutlery on the plate and sitting back, patting her chest with one hand, while saying to no one in 
particular, “Oh, Gotta!” Now that could have meant “Oh, Gotta, the food is good,” or “Oh, Gotta, my indigestion is acting up,” or “Oh, Gotta, the vater galla.” That evening though, I seem to remember her saying, “Oh, Gotta, it’s the liver,” before her head fell to one side, her eyes still open. We all kept eating.
Mom looked over at Grandma first. “Ma, what’s the matter?” She reached out and put a hand on Grandma’s arm, which made Grandma slump over immediately, her face falling forward to rest in the plate of unfinished liver on the table in front of her. 
Slapping a hand across my mouth, I stifled an involuntary laugh. Mom began screaming, which started Sally crying, and Dad tried to calm everyone down. I pushed my own plate away and jumped up from the chair, not sure what to do next. 
Dad checked for a pulse and, yep, sure enough, Grandma had kicked the bucket. All those years of expecting it would happen at any moment, then when it did so—and suddenly, as predicted—we hadn’t had enough time to properly say goodbye. 
Dad phoned for an ambulance. Mom, after pulling a used tissue out of her sweater sleeve, tried to spit-clean the grease and food residue from her mother’s face. Sally was still sitting at the table, next to our now-deceased Grandma, crying. 
“Joanie, look after your sister, will you?” Mom said, while silent tears streamed down her own face.
I helped Sally up from her chair and led her into the living room. “Let’s go upstairs,” I whispered. 

But she shook her head in a defiant No! sitting down on the couch where she had an unobstructed view of the dining room, and of Mom and Grandma.

Within ten minutes we heard the siren. Dad opened the front door and ushered the paramedics into the dining room where they quickly confirmed that Grandma was indeed dead. They set out the stretcher and loaded her body on it, covering her face with a sheet. As they lifted, and were about to carry the woman out of her own house for the very last time, Sally jumped up from the couch and cried out, “Mommy killed Grandma! It was the liver!” 
The attendants exchanged a look and rested Grandma back on the floor again. The older of the two said to my parents, “We need to call the police. If there’s any suggestion of wrong-doing in a death, the police need to investigate.” He radioed dispatch and requested police assistance as Mom and Dad flashed each other worried glances.
In the meantime, Dad attempted to console Sally, who was wailing by that time. Mom stood beside the dining room table, silent in her grief, but also glaring in disbelief at her youngest baby who had fingered her for the murder of her own mother.
Once the police arrived, they quickly straightened out the facts of what had happened. 
Dad tried smoothing things over. “Out of the mouths of babes… heh, heh,” he nervously declared.
The policewoman said, “I’m sorry, sir, but there will likely need to be an inquest. That is, unless the cause of death can immediately be determined by a doctor.
 We’ll accompany you to the hospital, ma’am.” She held a hand out to guide Mom towards the front door, but waited while Mom took her coat out of the front hall closet, and grabbed her purse, along with Grandma’s, from the kitchen table.
“I’ll call you when we get to the hospital,” Mom said to Dad, walking out the front door, accompanied by the policewoman, and following behind the paramedics who carried Grandma on the stretcher.
In the end, it was decided that Mom’s cooked liver hadn’t killed Grandma after all; Grandma’s heart had just finally given out. Sally and I claimed her heart probably couldn’t take any more of those weekly feedings of liver, and we were surprised the rest of us hadn’t succumbed to heart attacks long before that night. 
We knew enough, though, not to say anything of the like out loud to our mother; after that night, it was understood – the entire subject of liver was forbidden in our family. 
The following week, once Grandma’s funeral service and burial were over and done with (our brother looking very handsome in his new suit, by the way), Sally and I were overjoyed to discover that pork chops would replace liver on the Wednesday menu from that night forward. 
We smiled across the table at each other that first night as Mom placed the plates in front of us. I gave Sally a two-thumbs-up, just above the edge of the table, and out of Mom and Dad’s sight.
Sally winked at me while mouthing the words Pay up! before tucking into her food.

Please join me next week when  one of my regular guests, Lockie Young, shares another of his entertaining short stories, always a treat.

I am publishing a series of short stories which will be dedicated to my three wonderful grandchildren.

SHORTS Vol.1 is for the oldest, Matthieu Isaac Young.

Available at

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Wall of War - The beginning!


 June 21st                                                                                                       The Andes, Peru 

Father Suetonius Graft is no ordinary priest. At present he has his left fist jammed vertically in a horizontal crack that splits the granite face he is ascending. The open seam stretches upward for fifty feet or more tapering to a sliver that is still two hundred feet away from the top of the mountain. His toes nip a two inch ledge, left over from a stone slab that split from the heaving rock millennia ago. His calves, like the rest of his lean body are chiseled muscle, strain from holding the weight of his body on his toes. He has to reach up with his right hand where he needs to find another hand hold; there is nothing he can see.  He has to find a position where he can rest soon. He’s been climbing since early morning, stopping only when he absolutely has to.

His fingers search for a grip as he brushes his hand across the flat surface. A familiar feeling of unease touches him, as has since he was a boy. He closes his eyes for several seconds and asks God where his hand should go, he thanks Him for His guidance and if there is no hand-hold to be had then he thanks Him for his life. It has never failed him yet, in the thirty two years since he scrambled up a rock pile when he was five. He had gotten stuck then. A boyish prayer to his guardian angel had given him confidence to find a way back down. He feels the same aura of the presence that rescued him then. He waves his hand over the hard face once more. This time his fingers sweep away ancient debris from an indent in the rock with enough room for four fingers up to the second knuckle. He latches onto the hold just as his lower legs begin to quiver from exertion. He takes most of his weight on his hands and arms relaxing his legs. Semi relief is instantaneous and he hangs there motionless for five minutes, his sweaty forehead pressed against the warm rock thanking the Lord for His benevolence, delivering him one more time.

As he clings to the sheer plate that rises over eight hundred feet from the forest floor, the afternoon sun ricochets off his ebony skin defining the taut musculature of his lengthy frame. His upper body is clad in perspiration that makes thin rills down his back, his chest and under his arms. He wears tattered climbing shorts that cover his dominant thighs to the knees, all four pockets bulging. At his waist along his back, attached to a thin leather belt is a pouch for climbing chalk, its half empty. His legs end in thin wool socks, all tucked into custom, rubber-toed climbing shoes he designed. No other gear is attached to him, no pitons, no hammer, no clips, just his trust in God. Around his neck hangs a polished, golden, curb link chain; a quarter inch wide, an eighth of an inch thick. Between his chest and the stone is a 24kt gold cross that his father gave him when he had been ordained.  He never, ever takes it off.

As his arms began to grow weary he looks up trying to see a more appropriate spot where he can rest. The descending sun plays with the shadows creating ever-changing dark graffiti. Suetonius spies an opening about thirty feet above him to his right. A section of the plates that formed these mighty mounds have created a crevice in the face. He hadn’t been able to see it from below, too deep in shadow. From where he hangs it looks like it would be wide enough for him to sit in. He sighs with relief. He concentrates on his next moves sighting an approach to the cavity. Once he is clear of his route he pulls up with his hands, his arms straining until he can reach his foot into the same crack he has a taped fist in. He jams his toes in sideways, pushing up to test its grip. As his body slowly rises he wiggles the wedged hand out and forces it in the same position as high as he can reach.

With deft manoeuvres, risky placement and death defying movement he is sitting on the ledge forty five minutes later. He can stand upright in the cleft, it being wider with more head room than he originally thought. He leans back against the rock that is refreshingly cool. The lip of the outer slab covers him from the sun. He studies the grain of the granite to his left, glancing overhead at the slab at his back, marvelling that the two faces have identical marks and slices. It’s obvious they were one piece sometime in the past. He is in awe at the massive force that would have pushed these imposing mountains from the earth’s crust, cleaving solid rock as easily as if it were wood.  He crosses himself in respect for God’s ways, impressed by His majesty, for His designs.

Leaning out over the rough ledge, his feet hang over the edge with his back against the giant slab. The Peruvian landscape poses before him. Mountains, many gigantic, many shorter and greener fill the horizon in every direction. The smaller mountain he is perched upon, east of Ollantaytambo, not many miles from Machu Picchu, is over a thousand feet from the valley floor but was still over nine thousand feet above sea level. The rock face he discovered was obscure, its access hindered by dense forest and abundant ancient scree. He felt led to this particular dome and he relishes the difficult work he's accomplished over the past month to finally get where he is at this moment. 

As his body rests his thoughts sweep back to the rocks of his youth, the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Appalachians that puncture the southeast states. He climbed for the sheer joy of contact with the stone. It was at those moments when he felt closest to God, when he felt his calling into the priesthood, when it opened his heart to possibilities, to humbleness, to mightiness, to sharing and giving. When he clung perilously to a sheer stone wall, there was never any fear of falling, only a pure sensation of rising above the bounds imposed by gravity, above the bounds of our personal limitations. To this very day, his best sermons are those that come from his moments with the open sky, the silent crags, and the peace that comes from times alone with God. His days off are always spent climbing or scouting for climbs. He grins as he thinks how far away he has come from a dormant village in Tennessee to the mountains of Peru.

Remembering the mountains back home reminds him of his parents; both dead for the last three years, his father went first, at ninety-one from cancer, his mother last, two years younger, same terrible disease. How he had loved them. He was so proud of them, his father the first black fireman on the town of Raven Hollow’s pay roll. He recalled the marvellous sight of his ‘Pap’ in his new black uniform, buttons and brass as polished as his pure black skin.

His Spanish speaking mother was Cuban. She was originally a domestic, had shown a natural dexterity for numbers, working for the same employer all her life. First as his wife’s personal maid when she was only fifteen, but when she was twenty she moved into the owner’s offices to learn bookkeeping where she retired forty five years later as office manager. They’d taught him and his five siblings to persevere, never give up on your goals. He misses them so much.

With that last thought, he rises from his seat thinking to scale the final stretch to the top, not too worried about time. He still has five or six more hours of sunlight. He wants to check the rock overhead looking for his best route up and backs into the crevice so he can see past a jutting scrawny branch that is trying to grow in a narrow, dirt covered ledge just above him. He didn’t look behind him because the inner slab looked to be still part of the outer slab that formed the walls around him but when he steps back he feels a weak breeze stirring behind him. Looking several feet in where it tapers past the back wall he discovers an opening that rises the thirty feet of the split but is only ten inches wide. He isn’t a caver, a spelunker, so openings in the rock face hold little fascination for him. As he attempts to ignore it, a shiver that prickles his skin tells him to take a look.

He turns back to the opening, removing a small flashlight from his pocket, clicking the button to expose a sharp, straight beam. He pokes the ray of light into the darkness where it is swallowed twenty feet away. The walls appear to open, moving apart from each other. The ceiling is nowhere in sight, too high and too dark for the penetrating glare. The floor is littered with rocks small and large,  the rocks with cobwebs and guano. The spooky emptiness is oddly inviting, like an entity that calls to him. An aroma of cold dust and aged memories wafts through the black passage. Suetonius tries to ignore his inner prodding, about to give up on the cave when his sweeping light falls upon something familiar, the skeleton of a human hand.

The bones are projecting from the base of a large boulder the size of a small car, as if still reaching for freedom. The curled finger bones are still intact, tarsal and meta-tarsal pointed to the roof. Suetonius stares at the dreadful sight for many moments never having considered that perhaps he’d not been the first to climb this face. His curiosity urges him deeper. Behind the boulder, the skeleton continues, two sets of tibia and fibula with feet attached complete the scene. The man or woman had been crushed by a falling rock. Who it was would never be answered. What the person may have possibly been doing here would soon become evident. 

Father Graft sweeps his light in a pendulating arc across the floor. The cavern is widening out, narrow cracks punctuate the floor that he realizes is too smooth and level to be natural. He watches carefully where he walks.  Stones of every size litter the passage, a reminder that the mountain’s insides are unstable, probably not safe. Shortly the ingress takes a sudden turn to the right opening into a wider grotto. He continues several feet where the point of his torch touches upon something recognizable on the floor to his right, a crude hammer. Its stone head is attached to a wooden handle, with curling strips of dried leather binding the two. He holds the light directly on the hammer as he stares at it for several moments; its obvious antiquity stuns him.

He finally lifts the light up the right wall close to the hammer discovering a stone shelf that runs along the wall disappearing into the pitch. It is about three feet high. The width varies with the roughness of the stone it has been carved out of. It’s cluttered with many more hammers of different sizes, with metal chisels clothed in a greenish patina. Odd implements he doesn’t recognize and loose rock fill the space. The spider’s traps are abundant. As he scans the collection he tries to estimate the historical significance of what he has uncovered, he can see they are very old. How long have the tools been here, are they Incan, Quechan, Chanca?   Why here? What were they building? The discovery provokes so many questions. He checks his watch seeing he has only been in here for fifteen minutes; he decides he will look around another half hour before leaving.

He directs the beam across the floor checking for cracks when off to the far left a stone berm is revealed. The delicate and precise crafting could only have been made by the most skilled of artisans. It is obviously Incan stone work. He has been in Peru for almost three years; Inca history has always fascinated him. He visited the ruins, listened to the lore and devoted much reading time to their history. Their skills with chisels and wet sand are impressive.  As he thinks of that, he detects this is the same work that he saw at Machu Picchu, it may be over six hundred years old. He directs the sliver of light upward.

There is a stone pedestal on the berm that holds what appears to be a tremendous slab almost like a wall rising into the bleakness above, ten or twelve feet high, he estimates. He flashes his light briefly inside the cavern ahead of himself to see berm, pedestal and slab continue unbelievingly beyond the reach of his hand light. Returning the light back to the wall in front of him as he slowly steps through the debris to move closer, he lifts his light up four or five feet. The shock at what he sees forces him back several steps.  Even through the dust of ages, through the fine patina that masks the surface, he can detect, carved ornately into the façade of the flat wall, a huge warrior with battle axe raised above his head. Fine detail riddles the fitted helmet upon his head. The figure stands with a fractured shield, armor dressing his lower limbs.  One leg is raised with the sandaled foot resting on a fallen foe. The body of the fighter’s enemy lies at his feet, the severed head a foot away.  Father Graft wheezes into the gloom, "Oh my goodness, it’s a wall of war.”

Than you for visiting. This novel is 90% complete and will be ready for several beta readers in the near future. Anyone interested in being one? All comments welcome.

Please stop by next week to read an award winning short story by new contributor and distinguished author, Susan Toy.

Friday, 2 May 2014

My Five Favorite Books

I like big thick books. There are so many great authors. It is difficult to pick just five from the hundreds of enjoyable books I’ve read over my lifetime but these five are the ones I’ve read several times. I own more than one copy of some to be sure I’ll never be without. I’m sure you’re familiar with that situation when you start reading something and you CANNOT stop. It’s what you think of during the day; when can you get back to the book? The lawn doesn’t get mowed, the dishes stay in the dishwasher, the bed is unmade… you know what I mean? Sometimes you don’t want it to finish because you’re enjoying it so much. That’s what these five are like to me.

Because a certain book is not on this list doesn’t mean that most of the books I’ve read are not good, it’s just that they didn’t affect me the way these have. This is only my opinion of course, but if you like reading, try picking up at least one from the list. I’d be interested in what you think.


1. This one will always be first on my list - Shibumi by Trevanian.

Shibumi is a Japanese word which refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty.

Nicolai Hell was born in the turbulent China of the First World War, of an aristocratic mother and a mysterious German father, and educated in the spiritual gardens of a Japanese Go master. Surviving the destruction of Hiroshima he appears as the world's most consummate and artistic lover - though better paid as an assassin. He is trained in the martial art of Naked/Kill. Genius, mystic, master of cultures and languages, Hel's secret is his determination to reach that rare personal purity and state of perfection known as Shibumi. Living in an isolated mountain stronghold with a beautiful Asian companion, he meets his most sinister enemy, a vast monolithic spy organisation. The battle lines are drawn: merciless power and corruption on one side, and on the other...

Nicholas spends his free time spelunking with his best friend and the risks they take will send shivers up your back.


Trevanian is the pen name for Rodney William Whittaker. He wrote many major novels of which five became million sellers. The Eiger Sanction was made into a movie starring a young Clint Eastwood. He wrote under multiple pseudonyms. There is a philosophical side to his writing but I am not one to read between the lines on any novel. I’ve read all his books and have never been disappointed.


2. My all-time favorite author – Matthew Flinders’ Cat by Bryce Courtenay.

Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) was the first person to circumnavigate Australia.

This is a tale of the relationship between a once promising barrister, Billy O’Shannessy, who is a homeless alcoholic and a young boy with a troubled past. Billy spends his nights on the park benches under the statue of Trim, the cat that sailed with Flinders. Ryan is ten and probably destined for trouble. After a chance meeting they begin to seek each other out. Over time they develop a bond from Billy’s tales of Matthew Flinders, as seen through the cat’s eyes.


Like all Courtenay’s novels, there’s a lot more events and side trips that makes this an exceptionally entertaining book. It’s witty, it’s heartwarming. There are passages that you’ll want to read over and over.  He explains the Sydney underground, the difficulties of the homeless and the possibility of rehabilitation in his own captivating and unique way.  A satisfying read.

Mr Courtenay published 20 best sellers in 23 years. He began writing in his mid fifties. He passed away in November 2012.




3. An all-nighter. The Sea Captain’s Wife by Beth Powning.

This novel tells us of a young woman left at home as her husband sails off, captain of his own ship, only to return two, perhaps three years from then. She longs to be with him. Due to unfortunate circumstances, and much to her satisfaction, Azuba Galloway leaves with her husband on his next voyage. The oceans they sail on are vast, sometimes cruel, often quite beautiful. Azuba lives in a world of men, the uncertainty of the seas. She often wonders if she made the right choice. They sail from foreign ports, encounter hardships and joys, returning home to Whalen’s’ Cove several year later.


Beth Powning puts you right on the ship, she shows you everything. It has all the right emotions; you want to know her characters, share their dreams. Her novel is well researched, delightfully told by an author that seems to do everything right. This is a book that you will want to read more than once.  

Beth lives in Sussex NB. Her web site is



4. The Egyptian Series will make you want more. River God by Wilbur Smith

City of Thebes. The Festival of Osiris. Loyal subjects of the Pharaoh gather to pay homage to their leader, but Taita – a wise and formidably gifted eunuch slave – sees him only as a symbol of a kingdom's fading glory. Beside Taita stand his protégés: Lostris, daughter of Lord Intef, beautiful beyond her fourteen years; and Tanus, proud young army officer, whose father was betrayed by Lord Intef, Chief Vizier of Egypt whose power is second in wealth only to the Pharaoh.

Tanus and Lostris are deeply in love, but unbeknown to them, their union is an impossibility. Taita is the slave of Lord Intef. It was Intef who had Taita gelded as a young boy after he found that he had slept with a young slave girl. Together Taita, Lostris and Tanus share a dream – to restore the majesty of the Pharaoh of Pharaohs on the glittering banks of the Nile.

Through the voice of the incomparable Taita, Wilbur Smith draws the reader irresistibly into the daily lives of his characters: their hopes, their fears, their passions. Mr. Smith is the author of 35 best sellers with each of his novels selling an average of 3 million copies.


5. Totally entertaining. Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay.

The Maloneys are at the very bottom of the pecking order. Tommy the father, is broken by the war and never talks about it. It is up to the strong mother Nancy to properly raise their five children. They collect the town garbage in an old war surplus truck. Circumstances change and Nancy is determined to provide a better life for her children, Sarah, Bozo, Mole, Michael and Colleen will change the fortune of the family.  Sarah wants to be a doctor, Bozo a boxer, Mole has the skills of his father for fighting bush fires, and Michael has a passion for clothing design. Like Courtenay’s novels, this is a story of the triumph of the human spirit.

The four fires in this novel are passion, religion, warfare and fire itself. 

This is a big novel and the cast of characters are unforgettable. You’ll laugh out loud, shed a few tears and you won’t want to put this novel down.


I highly recommend these exceptional authors as well.

Cara Brookins -

Jason Lawson -

Lockie Young -

Susan Toy -

 And of course, Dark Side of a Promise

Thanks for visiting. If you have a favorite book, let me know in the comments box below.
Next week, read Chapter 1 from my soon to be finished novel - The Wall of War