With the cancellation of the Kindle Worlds program, many authors are working hard to revise and republish their Kindle World novellas and stories themselves. 

I’m one of them, and I’m making good progress on my new four-book Hawaiian Storm series. This weekend, enjoy this taste of the first: the new Torn Roots.

Chapter 5: Chase

Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.

“They’re after me.”

Sam rubbed his eyes and looked again. No, I’m not dreaming. “Rowan?”

The tall woman pushed past him and shut the door. “Geez, will you ever clue in. What do you think it means when someone says ‘They’re after me’? Think they want to stand on your doorstep?”

“Who’s after you?”

“I didn’t see their ID, but obviously, the government or the corporation. What difference does it make?”

“What are you talking about?”

Instead of answering, she went into Sam’s kitchen, where his dinner, just prepared, sat on the table. She picked up his big glass of ice water and drained it in one long drink. “So thirsty. I’ve been running all day. Do you have any wine?”

“Not since you left, no. Do you want a beer?”

Rowan made a face, but when Sam handed her a bottle from the refrigerator, she cracked the cap and downed half the bottle in three fast swallows. Then, still standing, she picked up Sam’s fork and began eating the vegetables on his plate.

“Hungry?” Sam asked.

“I haven’t eaten all day. I’ve been running for hours. It makes a girl hungry. You got anything else to eat? What am I saying, of course you do. You’re a foodie.” She looked in the fridge and pulled out a plastic container. “What’s in here?”

“Leftover kalua pig from last week. It’s still good, but maybe a little dry.”

Sam smiled as he anticipated pushing Rowan’s buttons. “Pigs are an invasive species and a bit of a problem here. I killed, butchered and cooked that one myself. Go ahead, eat it up. I’ve got plenty more in the freezer.”

“You know I don’t eat meat.” She practically threw the container back into the refrigerator and brought out a head of lettuce and a mango. She put the mango on a cutting board on the counter, rummaged in a drawer until she found a knife, cut the mango in two and then cut a slice. She popped it into her mouth. “Oh, that’s good. Fresh, fresh mango,” she said, chewing. Juice ran down her chin and onto her shirt. “Damn. Do you have a clean shirt I could borrow? My clothes are soaked with sweat.”

“They might be kind of big for you. But hang on a sec.” He went to his bedroom and returned with a folded forest service shirt.

Rowan had already dropped her t-shirt shirt and shorts onto the floor. Unabashedly bare-breasted, she reached for the shirt. “Thanks, dude.”

“No worries.” Sam reluctantly pulled his eyes from Rowan’s nipples. “So, why—”

“Hey, you got a spare pair of shorts? Mine are dirty,” She gestured vaguely toward the clothes on Sam’s floor. “And torn. And I lost the button a couple of weeks ago, anyway.”

Sam sighed and went back to the bedroom for a pair of gym shorts. “Okay, tell me—”

“This place is nice,” she interrupted, looking around Sam’s home, still topless. “Hardwood floors, open concept. I even like the rattan sofa. Very Hawaiian.” Tugging the shirt down, she stepped closer to the bookshelf that covered nearly a whole wall. “Lots of geology and scicence books. No poetry, though.” She paused her inspection to tie the shorts as tight as she could.

“What are you doing here, Rowan? I mean, it’s nice to see you again, but …”

“What were you doing at the marina construction site this morning?” she interrupted again as she pulled Sam’s forest service shirt on. She did up only three buttons on the shirt and rolled up the sleeves.

“I came to complain about their workers joy-riding in the national park yesterday. They started a forest fire. What are you even doing on Maui? I thought you went home months ago.”

Rowan shrugged and took another bite of mango. “There’s important work to do here, protecting the environment for the Hawaiian people.”

“I thought your group was out of money. You told me they couldn’t pay your rent anymore, and that’s why you had to go back to Vancouver. Plus, you said you wanted to go back to university.”

“We got a donation.”

Sam didn’t know which of the hundred questions swirling in his head he should ask next, but then he heard a clattering, chopping roar accompanied by rapid clicking. A sudden wind blew dust and stones against the windows and walls of his house. “What’s going on?”

Outside the window, a small, black helicopter settled onto his front lawn.

Subscribe to Forewords, my email newsletter, to stay up to date on the progress of the Hawaiian Storm and get a free gift.

Find out about all my books.

http://writtenword.ca/2018/07/4446/

Coming soon: the first Hawaiian Storm, Torn Roots



With the end of the Kindle Worlds program, I am revising all seven of my Kindle World titles. First up is the first KW title, Torn Roots: A Hawaiian Storm, featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm in Hawaii. Get a taste of what’s coming up.

Chapter 1: Special Agent

Thursday, 4:55 a.m.

Vanessa groped in empty space. The phone rang again.

New apartment. The phone is on the right side of the bed.

She rolled over and found the handset. I should be used to this apartment by now. It’s been a month.

She lifted the handset to her ear. “Storm here,” she said to a dial tone.

The phone rang again. Cell phone. Damn. That means it’s work.

She pushed the covers off and bounded to the bureau where her cell phone sat, plugged into the charger. She hoped she could answer before it rang again and sent the caller to voice-mail.

Success, she thought as she touched the screen. “Storm here.”

“Good morning, Special Agent Storm. Al King here. Early enough for you?”

God, there’s nothing more annoying than a cheerful morning person. She squinted at the clock radio: 4:55 a.m. Vanessa sipped water from the glass she always kept on the night stand and hoped her voice did not sound frog-like. “It’s early, Mr. King, but not too early. How can I help you?”

“Ha!” King laughed. “You put on a good show, Special Agent Storm. ‘A’ for effort. Sorry to wake you, but we have an emerging and sensitive case for you on Maui. A chopper is waiting for you. Be at the heliport in forty minutes, and bring your Bureau laptop. I’ll bring a full dossier. You can read it on the flight.”

“All right.” What kind of case was so important to get her out of bed before five in the morning, yet warranted only Hawaii’s most junior FBI agent? “Can you tell me about it?” she asked as she opened her closet and pulled out her travel case.

“Arson and homicide, in a town called Hana. Have you heard of it?” King answered.

“I’ve heard of the ‘highway to Hana.’ Is that it?” She pulled out her navy-blue silk jacket, a pair of dark-blue pants and a light blue blouse, laying them smoothly on the bed.

“That’s one way to get there. It’s great if you like a two-lane highway usually blocked by falling rocks and daily rain. Tourists love to drive it, but I’ll be a minah bird’s auntie if I can figure out why. Maybe you’ll like it, you being from the east coast and all. Anyway, flying time by chopper is under an hour from Honolulu. See you at the heliport at oh-five-twenty.”

“Yes, sir,” she replied, but King had already hung up.

Ohe'o Gulch, Maui

Maui’s shore. Photo copyright by Scott Bury

She turned on her tablet computer to look up Hana, Hawaii: a speck of a town in the rain forest. Population: 2,400. A hotel, a few holiday rental properties, two little stores. Few restaurants. From Google Maps, the police station there looked like a one-room schoolhouse.

As the newest FBI agent in Hawaii, Vanessa knew she would get the least interesting cases until she proved herself. And the least convenient locations.

She washed and dressed efficiently. She indulged in restoring her expensive hairdo after a broken night’s sleep, knowing it would soon be destroyed. Then she turned to packing.

She put two pairs of dark blue pants, a spare silk jacket and three blouses into her travel garment bag, stuffed underwear and socks into the pockets and strapped her shoulder holster on. She checked the safety and held her Walther PPK for a comforting moment in her hand. Not just for British movie spies: lighter and easier to conceal than the Bureau-standard Sig Sauer. She put it in the holster and pulled her jacket on, made sure she had spare ammo clips and left.

The dashboard clock flared to life as she started the engine of her car: 5:14. Less than twenty minutes to get ready. Not bad for a chick. Even an FBI chick.

Then she drove into the predawn darkness of Honolulu, bound for the FBI’s heliport at the Kalaeloa Airport. When she flashed her badge at the sentry, the gate opened wide and she drove onto the wide tarmac. Orange and yellow sky threw the peaks of the Ko’olau Range into silhouette.

Sitting in the middle of the H-marked circle was a black helicopter, its blades already rotating slowly. And to one side was one of the Bureau’s iconic black Ford Expeditions. As she beeped her car locked, the SUV’s passenger door opened and a figure emerged.

Special Agent in Charge Al King was a large, heavyset man dressed, as all FBI officers, in a conservative navy suit. He had a round face, prominent nose and a full mouth, but his most noticeable features were his piercing blue eyes. The down-draft from the helicopter whipped up the thin hair on top of his head. Damn. That’s going to seriously destroy my hairdo. The hairdo I just spent eighty bucks on in Honolulu.

King’s full mouth spread into a smile as Vanessa approached. “You’re early! I like that.” Vanessa shook his proffered hand. “I hope you got enough sleep last night.”

“I’ll live,” she said, then decided to soften the taciturn response with a smile. “How are you?”

King waved off her concern. “Don’t worry about me, Vanessa. I’m just glad I have a case for you personally on your second day in our humble field office. Plus, you get to take a helicopter ride to the Valley Isle of Maui.” His smile got even wider.

“Great.” I hate flying in helicopters. Couldn’t they have arranged a small island-hopping airplane? I can already feel the draft messing up my hair.

King’s smile faded. “Really, though, there are two reasons I’m assigning this case to you. It requires a delicate touch. The arson in question, and the possible homicide, took place on a construction site owned by foreign investors. Chinese, to be specific. There’s some tension between them and the locals, as well. Environmental protection with a dash of Hawaiian sovereigntists. From what I’ve read and heard about you, I think you have the required diplomacy to investigate without sparking an international crisis.”

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate the confidence.”

King started to get back into the SUV, but Vanessa put her hand on the door frame. “If you don’t mind my asking, what was the second reason you gave me this assignment?”

King’s smile returned. “You’re the only one in the detachment without too much on your plate already.” The door smiled.

That’s what I thought.

Farewell, Kindle Worlds



This is the Farewell Tour for my Kindle World novels and novellas, and for the many other talented and skillful writers who have contributed to them.

In another three days, Amazon says, they will disappear from the virtual shelves in the U.S. (They were never available on the Amazon sites outside the U.S.A.)

In other words, this is your last chance to get these books onto your Kindle.

I have published books in three different Kindle Worlds: Lei Crime, Sydney Rye and JET.

The Lei Crime Kindle World

Lei Crime Kindle World books featuring FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm

I am honoured to say that Toby herself invited me to be one of the initial contributors to the Lei Crime Kindle World, based on her Lei Crime series. My four books all feature FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm, as well as some characters created by Toby Neal.

Some of the other Lei Crime Kindle World authors included Shawn McGuire, Janet Oakley, Ron Logan, Mary Doyle, Corinne O’Flynn, Donna McNicol, Mary Doyle, Meg Amor, Julie Gilbert, Kim Hornsby, Eden Baylee, Lynda Filler, Kayla Dawn Thomas and Lucas Kana, to name a few. Many of them ended up as characters in my books.

Jet Kindle World

Russell Blake’s Jet series was the next Kindle World I was invited to contribute to. I joined authors like Kim Cano, Steve Konkoly, Linda Filler—and Toby Neal and Emily Kimelman.

Notice something there? Toby Neal, with a number of successful series of her own and her own Kindle World, wrote a Jet book, Nightbird. Emily Kimelman, who wrote Warrior Dog  for the Lei Crime Kindle World, also wrote It Takes Two for the Jet Kindle World. In fact, a number of authors wrote in several Kindle Worlds, including Lynda Filler and Malcolm Aylward.

 

Jet: Stealth - a JET Kindle World novella featuring Van and LeBrunI wrote just one book for it, but Jet: Stealth was the debut of my characters Van Freeman and Earl LeBrun, who would go on to the third Kindle World to invite me to join:

Sydney Rye Kindle World

The Sydney Rye Kindle WorldEmily Kimelman invited me to join the launch of the World based on her compelling characters, Sydney Rye and her giant dog, Blue. My first book was The Wife Line, where Van and LeBrun help Sydney and Blue in their detective mode—or more accurately, poke their noses into a sensitive case.

Last year, I added a second novella to the Sydney Rye Kindle World, The Three-Way.The Three-Way: A Sydney Rye Kindle World thriller featuring Van and LeBrun

Julie Gilbert, who has written at least six novellas featuring Marcella Scott, one of the characters from the Lei Crime series, also wrote Fatal Interest featuring Sydney Rye and Blue.

And in the spirit of closing the circle, Toby Neal brought Lei herself to meet Sydney in Rough Road.

New horizons beckon

I had a lot of fun writing these books. I learned a lot about writing in different genres, and I met some wonderful writers and readers.

Now, the Kindle Worlds are coming to an end. But not necessarily the stories that so many readers loved. I’m not the only author of Kindle Worlds titles who’s going to make some changes to the stories and publish them as independent books. I am working on revised and expanded versions of the stories in my Kindle World books (in between writing stints on The Triumph of the Sky), and some new covers, as well.

First, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm will return in the Hawai`ian Storm series. Then you can see Van and LeBrun in their own series.

It’ll take a while, but I’m excited that, finally, these characters and stories will be available beyond the U.S., and in paperback as well as e-book formats.

I hope to be able to announce publication dates for my books in the next few months, along with announcements of other authors, as well. Stay tuned!

A Canada Day Sunday sample: How a great Canadian came back home



Happy Canada Day, readers! As our country’s 151st birthday falls on Sampleday—I mean, Sunday—this year, here’s a sample from a story about a great Canadian returning home after a decade, and a world war being away.

This excerpt from Walking Out of War (Book 3 of the Eastern Front Trilogy) describes Maurice Bury’s first attempt at repatriation, in the shattered city of Berlin in late May, 1945.

Rejection

May 1945

No gardens bloomed. No window boxes proved the homeowner’s gardening skill in May. The sunshine was warm, but there wasn’t a living tree on the Unter den Linden, the street named for the trees that once lined its length.

Maurice picked his way through the shattered city, climbing over pieces of buildings and statues, dodging the trucks and jeeps that zipped officiously along the few streets where tanks and construction machines had cleared paths through the rubble. Water dribbled from broken hydrants and from the ends of pipes where bombs had blasted the streets into craters. Few windows contained any glass. No streetlights worked, but aside from official jeeps, Land Rovers and trucks, and the occasional tank, there was no traffic.

Gradually, he made his way to the Charlottenburg section of the former Nazi capital, the British-occupied zone. He found the British headquarters, in a once-white, five-storey office building with a concave-curving front.

Official and army vehicles made a barrier across the front. British soldiers stood guard beside the broad main doors, through which streamed men in uniform in both directions.

Long lines of people in civilian clothes stood along walls in various places on the main floor. Non-commissioned British soldiers bustled along the corridors, bearing messages. Occasionally, he saw French or American officers. He stood up straighter when he saw a brown uniform with maple leaves on the sleeves, but the tall man disappeared around a corner before Maurice could catch his eye.

Two Soviet officers strode down the hall. Maurice tried to fade into the wall until they passed him.

He stopped a friendly-looking sergeant, who directed him to an office on the second floor. He got in a lineup and finally stood in front of a young, blond lieutenant behind a small wooden desk. He summoned his best English to explain his case.


Maurice thanked the lieutenant and strode out of the building as quickly as he could without drawing attention to himself. Frustration burned behind his ears. I should be used to waiting by now. One thing that unites all armies in every country in the world is the way they make you wait.
“I’m sorry, Private,” said the lieutenant. “Majah Owens cannot see you without an appointment. Can you come tomorrow at—” he looked down at an appointment book placed precisely in the centre of the desk—“ten o’clock?”

He made his way back to the centre of Berlin, occupied by the Soviet Red Army. The city looked unreal, a living nightmare of blasted buildings, cratered streets and military vehicles. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from around the world jammed the streets. Maurice dodged as an American jeep roared down the centre of a cleared street, swerving drunkenly from one side to the other, narrowly missing twisted lampposts. He saw grinning GIs and two desperate-looking young women, their blouses blowing open. The men held bottles of wine.

 

He passed groups of soldiers drinking beer. Along one less-damaged street, more GIs smoked at open-air cafés and bars, chatting up pretty young girls with haunted eyes.

Two weeks had passed since Hitler had committed suicide and the Germans had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, after the Red Army had conquered half the city and killed most of its defenders.

Fighting continued after the formal surrender. Fanatics continued to fight from isolated bunkers or defended positions. Stubborn German occupiers continued to fight the Canadians in the Netherlands until May 5, and even a day later opened fire on celebrations in Amsterdam. In Czechoslovakia, resistance fighters rose up against the German occupiers as the Red Army began the Prague Offensive. Colonel-General Carl Hilpert only surrendered to the Soviets in the Courland Pocket, near Memel, Lithuania on V-E Day, May 8.

The war was over, and the occupation began. The Red Army set about burying the 18,000 men it had lost in the Battle for Berlin.

Walking back to his unit in eastern Berlin, Maurice remembered how his commanders had given their men almost completely free rein in Berlin. The commissar— Maurice still hadn’t learned his name—had said, “We were strict about respect for civilians in Lithuania and Poland. But now, we have defeated the German pigs.” He held up a poster depicting a proud Red soldier. The caption read “The hour of our revenge has struck!”

“Take what you need from the Berliners. Take what you want.”

The consequences of irrational decisions



I’m dreading the irrational news that I think will come out over the next few weeks.

I live in Ontario, where we recently elected a new provincial government. From everything I can tell, the voting decision was made in the absence of facts. In other words, non-rationally. And if you make your decisions in the absence of reason, you can’t predict the effects.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative party ran on a platform that had plenty of promises, but was remarkably light on facts.

“The party on the taxpayer’s dollar is over.”

“We’re for the little guy.”

“Ford for the people.”

“We’re going to find efficiencies.”

“Get rid of the six-million dollar man.”

Ford promised he would:

  • reduce personal income taxes
  • eliminate the carbon cap-and-trade system, which brings in billions of dollars of revenue to the province in a deal with Quebec and California
  • reduce the tax on gasoline by 10 cents a litre
  • all while reduce and eventually eliminate the deficit and balance the provincial budget
  • not eliminate any public-sector jobs.

Reduce revenue and balance the books without cutting any spending. Interesting. But whenever asked “How can you do that?” Conservatives refused to answer.

And we elected them.

It’s not rational. Rational means something that follows clear rules of reason. Where anyone can observe the link between statements and reality.

Where have we seen this before?

While Doug Ford and Donald Trump are very different people, and Ontario and the U.S. very different places, they used similar election tactics. Both appealed used bumper-sticker slogans that sound appealing on a mean level, but don’t stand up to analysis.

We see this playing out in the U.S. right now. Trump campaigned on (partly) “America first,” and keeps saying that other countries are “taking advantage” of the U.S. in trade. In particular, Canada’s wheat and dairy systems are hurting U.S. farmers, and our steel and aluminum industries are hurting U.S. businesses and consumers.

In fact, even a cursory look at the facts pops those statements. The U.S. has a trade surplus with Canada, particularly in dairy. The steel and aluminum industries are tightly integrated, which means punishing one is punishing companies on both sides of the border.

American manufacturers are suing the government because the tariffs are driving their costs up.

The European Union imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products, prompting Harley Davidson—a manufacturer that Trump had recently lauded as an American icon—to move some manufacturing to Europe. This prompted threats from Trump.

Unintended consequences. They’re playing out all over the place.

Non-rational arguments internationally

The fact-free decisions about migrants has led to decisions that the U.S. administration had to reverse. In Europe, stable governments are threatened by fact-free arguments about migrants. Angela Merkel of Germany is being warned to “get tough on migrants.” What does that mean? What is the problem? And don’t just say “There are too many.” How many are too many? What are the consequences of so many migrants? What problems are they causing in Germany and elsewhere?

And when it comes to “getting tough,” what does that mean? Keeping migrants out? Punishing them somehow?

I love specifics.

What we can expect in Ontario

Even though the new government hasn’t formally taken over yet, we are getting an indication of what we’re going to get from them.

  • Freezing on new hires in the public service—except for police and jail guards. But there will be no new personnel in areas that have been crying for more resources for years, such as personal support workers for seniors and disabled people, mental health services, or teachers for our overcrowded public classrooms.
  • Scrapping the carbon cap-and-trade system, which not only addresses our carbon emissions problem, but also funded other programs.
  • Cancelling the GreenON program, which subsidized citizens who installed solar panels or other alternative energy generation, installation of better insulation and windows, and otherwise helped people save on energy costs.
  • Cancelling or at least blocking supervised injection sites for drug users.

That’s just the beginning.

These are not going to have the results their proponents say they will. They’re just going to exacerbate the problems we have now.

Don’t believe me? I like empirical evidence. Let’s look at what’s happening in a year and in two years. Let’s see what’s happening with the number of jobs in Ontario. With affordability. With the profitability of small businesses. With public health. With the opioid crisis.

Then maybe let’s get back to talking rationally.

Trump’s anti-Canada tweets: The consequence of fact-free politics



“Canada has been unfair to the United States.”

“Canada charges a 295% tariff on American dairy imports.”

“NAFTA has been bad for American workers.”

“Canada has a trade surplus with the United States.”

“Tax cuts for the rich create jobs.”

“I am the best deal maker.”

Image source: RuthlessEditor.com

 

Every time I think Trump has reached his nadir, he says something worse.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been falsely critical of Canada for quite a while now, but his threats against the people of Canada following the Charlevoix G7 conference have reached a new low in juvenile, petulant mendacity.

Americans are embarrassed. Most of the Americans I know, and a lot of strangers who comment in the media and on social media, have apologized.

Gotta love DeNiro.

DeNiro apologizes for Trump

Source: DML News

But that’s one of the consequences of making political decisions in the absence of facts—or in many cases, in defiance of facts. They don’t achieve their stated goals.

Americans elected Trump to “Make America Great Again.” So far, epic fail.

People against facts

The Trump presidency has been characterized as “post-fact.” Trump’s supporters continue to support him even when he says things that are patently untrue.

His description of huge crowds for his inauguration are the most obvious example, but there are many more. The latest are his tweets about the U.S.–Canada trading relationship.

Remember when he admitted to lying about the U.S. trade deficit to Prime Minister Trudeau’s face? “Here comes this good-looking guy … and he says, ‘Mr. President, Canada does not have a trade surplus with the U.S.’ And I said, ‘Actually, Justin, you do.’ I had no idea!”

A trend being emulated

Naturally, other dishonest politicians are noticing and adopting the fact-free strategy. Doug Ford of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives is the closest example to me. He won the election nicely with a fact-free platform:

“Tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs.”

“High hydroelectricity costs are the result of high salaries for the CEO and Board of Hydro One.”

“An $800 tax cut for people on minimum wage is worth more than a $2,000 increase in earnings.”

“A $2,000 tax credit for child care is better than universal child care,” which costs around $20,000 a year per child.

Image source: iPolitics.ca

Of course, Ford’s not the only one. It’s not like Trump invented this. It was called the “Big Lie,” and used effectively by the Nazis in Germany.

The wealthy backers of the Republican Party and Ronald Reagan used the Big Lie in the 80s to push tax and spending cuts, claiming wealth would “trickle down.”

The corporate class used this same reasoning to push for banking deregulation from the 90s to 2008. They claimed that Keynesian economics don’t work. Then when they caused an economic meltdown that affected billionaires a lot more than it did ordinary working people. They called for governments to bail out private corporations, on the argument that economic stimulus would end the slump.

Keynesian economics in a nutshell.

And now, bankers are calling for dismantling the regulations put in place to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 crisis.

What difference it makes

What’s the result of fact-free decision making? Simply put, you don’t achieve the results that you want.

Facts don’t care whether you believe in them or not. You can deny climate change and claim it’s a hoax. That’s not going to make the oceans cooler. It’s not going to convince cod not to migrate north to cooler waters, and it’s not going to convince the squid to go back from British waters to Portugal.

You can deny gravity, but unless you’re Bugs Bunny, you’re going to fall off the cliff.

Doug Ford and his conservative cronies can give all the tax money to their millionaire and billionaire friends, but that’s not going to create jobs. It’s just going to make it easier for them to indulge themselves at taxpayers’ expense.

But that was the real goal all along, wasn’t it?

But what about proof, Scott?

Creative Commons

I hear what you’re saying, and I agree. We need empirical evidence to verify these ideas.

I love empirical evidence. Call me crazy that way.

So let’s check back in six months, and then in a year.

Let’s see what the results are in North Korea. On trade between the U.S. and its closest trading partners. On the jobs situation in the industries that Trump favours.

Let’s see whether the corporations that got the biggest tax cuts in Ontario hired a bunch more people.

Let’s see whether the people on minimum wage are using their $800 (maximum) tax savings to find affordable housing or become food secure.

Let’s see how well the environment in Ontario is doing—although, to be fair, a year is not long enough to notice a change in the environment. Still, let’s see what ditching carbon emission controls does for our atmosphere.

And let’s see what getting rid of the cap-and-trade system, tax cuts for the wealthy, cutting the tax on gasoline and subsidizing hydroelectricity prices does for the Ontario debt.

Because facts really do matter.

Ontario politics versus reality



Guess which political platform is closest to reality?

Source: TVO

The Ontario provincial election is only a couple of days away, so if I want to make a statement about it, now is the time.

Few will be surprised to read that, politically speaking, I lean to the left. Actually, I probably stand a few steps left of centre. There are two main reasons why:

  • People are more important than money.
  • The right’s arguments today are not based on rationality or even reality. In fact, they fly in the face of empirical evidence.

Maybe I’m too literal minded. I’m a writer. (Hah! See what I did there?) But I like politicians to base decisions and positions on observable facts.

It’s like the old joke about the professor who said “It may work very well in practice, but does it work in theory?”

Reality-free politics

This morning, I heard an interview with a group of voters from a town east of Ottawa. There were supporters of each of the major parties. The one who supported the Progressive Conservatives listed his reasons, which just repeated the tropes pushed by the party’s elite. None of them bear up to scrutiny.

  • “Doug Ford is a regular guy.” No, he’s the millionaire son of a millionaire. He’s part of the “Toronto elite” he decries. He has never had to live paycheque to paycheque, never had to make the decision between paying for rent and buying groceries.
  • “Conservatives run government like a business.” Two objections here. First, governments should not be run like a business. They’re two very different things with different goals. A business’s goal is to make money. That’s it. Government in a democracy, on the other hand, has to balance the legitimate needs and desires of many different groups and people, to make the best possible life for all. Yes, we should be concerned about waste, about running it efficiently, but let’s drop this whole idea about government-as-a-business. That approach will only lead to further concentration of wealth in fewer hands—which is the goal of a business.
  • “Higher minimum wages lead to job losses.” This argument sounds logical. This is something that works in theory, but not in practice. The evidence doesn’t support it. Do the research. You’ll see there is an initial period where some minimum wage earners get laid off or replaced by machines. But overall, consumer spending tends to increase, leading to more jobs and higher profits for employers.

That’s the message of the conservatives, and none of it is true. I’m not saying the Cons are lying. From all I hear, they believe that.

I don’t, so I cannot support them.

Reality is out of fashion

I know we live in the post-truth era of politics, but I will continue to make my decisions based on reality.

There are a lot of Conservative messages that don’t bear the weight of analysis. Beyond them, though, some of the other reasons I cannot support them are:

  • They refuse to talk to the media. Time and time again, I listen to broadcasts that bring together local candidates to debate issues, and the Progressive Conservative candidate declines. If you refuse to explain your platform to me, how can you expect to convince me?
  • The lack of costing. The Conservatives have made a lot of spending promises: lower electricity rates, tax cuts, buck a beer. But how will they pay for them?
  • Their insistence that Conservatives know how to balance the budget. They never have. Harper didn’t. Harris pretended to, but only by passing costs down to municipal governments, which raised property taxes and let infrastructure crumble.
  • Their general condescension. Conservatives always portray themselves as being the only ones who can balance a chequebook. They snicker at policy proposals that they refuse to think through. And Doug Ford radiates all the integrity of a drug dealer.

I’m not asking you to agree with me. I’m just stating publicly how I’m making my decision.

Rant over.

Sunday sampler: Wildfire—Evacuation



On this beautiful Sunday morning, I’m sharing another taste of California Wine Country mystery. Here is part of the evacuation chapter from Wildfire.

Tara stuffed her laptop into her duffel bag and grabbed a couple of other personal items. As she followed Greg and Alex to the winery, she hit her parents’ speed-dial on her phone.

Her phone issued a strange tone. She glanced at the screen. Damn—cell service is out.

The big Ford F-150 pickup stood outside the winery. Roberto looked up as he put a cardboard box into the back, while the other two winery employees, Mark and Amy, each carried something else.

Alan was on the landline’s cordless handset, pacing between the winery and the gate to the vineyard, Charlie following. “Just get them here,” Tara heard him say. “We’ll all leave together. We’re not leaving anyone behind.” He shoved the phone back in his pocket as he strode to the garage.

A minute later he drove a smaller Toyota pickup truck out, stopping in front of the winery. “The wait and kitchen staff can go with Veronica—Miguel, Antonio, Tara, Greg … and Alex.”

“Wait a minute, Alan,” Roberto interrupted. “Will they all fit in her SUV?”

“Okay, whoever doesn’t can go with you and the winery staff. The pickers will go with Rosa, and I’ll take whoever’s left.” As if on cue, a big old flatbed truck with wooden railings around the bed pulled up, emerged from the smoke roiling in the vineyard. “There’s Rosa and the picking crew.”

The truck halted behind Alan’s Toyota. The pickers, men and women that Tara had seen once or twice over the past week, sat in the beds, looking grim but not frightened.

Two winery staff who were carrying items out to the trucks. “Never mind any more stuff,” Alan growled at Mark and Amy, who were headed back to the winery. “Just people.”

“I have 21 people, including you, me and Veronica,” Roberto said.

“There are still two of my people to come,” said Rosa, stepping out of her truck. “Gabriela and Toby. They were heading to the south end of the vineyard, last I saw them.”

“I’ll pick them up,” said Alan. “Every vehicle have an FRS radio? Tune to channel 7-12.” Roberto adjusted dials on his hand-held radio, and Rosa held hers up to indicate she was ready.

Veronica’s red SUV pulled into the lot. Alan strode to it and opened the back door. “Shoes? Really?”

“Just two pairs. Along with the laptop, the backup hard drive and the photo albums. Irreplaceable stuff.”

Alan sighed. “You’re right. Fine, you take Charlie.” He pointed at the SUV and bent toward his dog. “Go with Veronica, he said.”

Charlie sat on his haunches, tail swishing on the dirt. He sneezed. “No, get into Veronica’s car,” Alan insisted.

Charlie yipped and rolled onto his back.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Alan groaned. He took Charlie by the collar and pulled him to the SUV. “All right, I think that’s everything. You guys get moving. Head to Monte Rio on the Russian River.”

“I turned on the water in the irrigation system,” said Mark, one of the winery employees. He was short and stout with thick black hair and a neat beard. “There’s not much pressure, and it’s just coming in a trickle, but it should help a little.”

“That’s fine, Mark. Thanks,” Alan answered, coughing as he got back into his small truck.

“One last sweep,” said Roberto. “Greg, check the mansion. Mark, the garage. I’ll look in the winery.”

Three men ran in three different directions. Mark returned first. “No one in the garage.” He coughed.

Is that snow falling? Impossible. Wait—it’s ash.

Wildfire

Wildfires swept across California wine country in 2017, destroying thousands of homes and businesses, and killing dozens of people. Law school grad and single mother Tara Rezeck finds herself in the middle of the catastrophe. When she returns to her job at the most award-winning vineyard in Sonoma County, she finds her employer’s body in the ashes.

The question that challenges her brains and her legal training is: was it an accident? Or was his body burned to hide evidence of murder?

Now available on Amazon (for Kindle e-readers), iTunesBarnes & NobleKobo and Smashwords.

You can read the first two chapters for free on Wattpad.

Indonesia family bombings: Books never reach this level of evil



Real evil reaches depths that most writers who want to appear credible would never dream of—not if they wanted to be taken seriously.

Evil finds a new low: parents send children as suicide bombers to a church

Firefighters fight the blaze at the Surabaya Centre Pentacostal Church, Indonesia.
Photo: Reuters

Last weekend, families carried out two terrorist bombings in Indonesia. Parents and children. On Saturday, May 12, a family of six suicide-bombed three churches in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. Dad drove a car loaded with explosive and detonated it in front of a church. Two sons, aged 18 and 16, rode a motorcycle into the yard of another church and detonated the bombs they carried.

Their mother took her two daughters, aged 12 and 8, to a third church, forced her way inside, embraced a congregant and detonated.

The next day, a family of five attacked the police headquarters in the same city, blowing themselves up. A seven-year-old girl survived, but was injured.

On Sunday afternoon, more bombs went off in an apartment building in a city south of Surabaya, killing three more.

In addition to themselves, the bombers killed 18 people and injured 50.

Investigators said the father of the family in the first bombing was associated with an Indonesian extremist group tied to Daesh, the “Islamic State.”

Good or evil?

The parents, were apparently radicalized. Presumably, they thought they were advancing some cause.

Then they brought their children into the suicidal scheme.

The idea of killing your children for a cause makes most people recoil. Protecting your children from harm is a basic instinct in the human animal. Most other animals, too. So to not only put them in harm’s way, but to kill them yourself strikes me as the most evil act imaginable.

What do you think? Can you describe a more evil act? Leave a comment.

We don’t let children under 18 (or older in some places) vote, consume alcohol or use other substances, partly because we reason that they’re not yet able to do the kind of analysis and make the informed decisions those acts require.

Evil thinks it’s good

Photo of girls kidnapped by the evil Boko Haram

Schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram years ago in Nigeria: the terrorist group claimed it was not doing evil—the girls would be converted to Islam and married to faithful men.

But as I wrote in my Written Words blog, evil doesn’t think it’s evil. Suicide bombers think they’re going to change the world, to bring about a greater good.

We’ve read that Daesh suicide bombers believe they’ll go to Paradise for killing the enemies of their religion.

The weekend’s events in Indonesia have reached a new depth. And officials there are warning that this may be the first signs of a new trend of family suicide bombings.

Murdering your children is something that I just can’t get over:.

I once thought that airport security doesn’t have to worry about a mother with a child, because what mother would bring a bomb onto a plane with her child on board? So much for that idea.

I know, parents have killed their children before. Sons have accompanied fathers to war. Fathers have murdered their whole families, or abused children until they died. A few years ago, a mother drowned her two boys, causing an international reaction.

But those are usually acts of rage, linked to mental illness. The deliberate nature of planning an attack like those in Indonesia, enlisting your children in it, strapping bombs to their bodies and sending them to murder and die, is chilling.

Literature: a weak mirror

The adage “truth is stranger than fiction” comes to mind. That’s not quite the case, however. I have never read any fiction with events like this. (Although it could be out there. I haven’t read everything.)

Do you know of a novel or story about a parent who murders their children as part of a political or religious plot?

Writers, especially those of thriller fiction, try to craft believable stories. Who would believe a story about a woman who blows up herself and her young children in defence of a religion or any other idea?

Welcome to a new era of terror.

Seb Kirby, master of the unreliable narrator: An independent novel review



Here the Truth Lies review

independent review of Here the Truth LiesSeb Kirby has once again hit it out of the park.

Seb Kirby has proven he’s a master of the unreliable narrator. In his 2016 novel, Sugar for Sugar, Kirby presented Issy Cunningham, a woman who wakes up with no memory, but is implicated in a murder. Kirby managed a difficult literary trick, in teasing out the true story bit by bit in a way that compelled readers to keep turning the page (or swiping the screen). His previous novel, Each Day I Wake, is about a man who has no memory other than nightmares of young women dying gruesome deaths. (Read my review.)

With his new novel, Here the Truth Lies, Kirby returns to the theme of the unreliable narrator in journalist Emma Chamberlain. At the beginning of the book, she sees a ghost in her bedroom late at night. We soon learn she’s drinking way too much whiskey, and she’s obsessed with chasing down an 18-year-old story that her boss doesn’t want her to.

While those details make readers doubt whether they’d ever hire Emma Chamberlain for any job, Emma soon finds an old photograph that makes her wonder: is she really Emma Chamberlain, or has she taken over someone else’s identity? More clues compound her self-doubt, but without giving the story away before the plot demands.

Kirby brings back his London detectives, Detective Sergeant June Lesley and Detective Inspector Stephen Ives, the investigators from Sugar for Sugar. They’re not typical of the mystery genre. Ives is a crusty, gruff and easily irritated middle-aged detective. Lesley is cool, smart, younger, and more comfortable with the changes in the culture. But while they work together effectively, they don’t necessarily like each other. It’s a refreshing change from the typical cop-buddy style.

The author also introduces a chilling villain in multiple killer Evan Cargill. Former military, former mercenary, he’s a hulking, driven and terrifying character.

The review

Bestselling author Seb KirbySeb Kirby has a easy-reading, fast paced style that puts the reader exactly in the situation with the characters. I loved reading about real places in London, and I felt what his characters felt. He is skilled at letting readers see through his characters’ eyes. And he knows how to keep the tension high.

This is Kirby’s strength: originality. His stories are not derivative, and while he respects the forms of the mystery-thriller genre, you cannot predict where the story is going. He gives the reader plenty of clues, and crafts seamless plots without glaring coincidences.

And as if that’s not challenging enough, Kirby also decided to publish Here the Truth Lies first in paperback, and in e-book form after a couple of months. It’s a marketing tactic, not a literary one, but it does add to the workload. It will be interesting to see the results.

Well done, Mr. Kirby. Another excellent novel.

5*

Get it exclusively on Amazon.

Visit Seb Kirby’s website and blog.