Excerpt: The new Torn Roots



On Saturday, September 29, the first book in the new Hawaiian Storm series will launch. Some readers might remember a book titled Torn Roots. A version was published three years ago by Amazon in a program that has since been cancelled. I’ve revised and expanded it, with some new characters. I’d like you to meet Sophia Keahi.

Chapter 9: Wise woman

Thursday, 11:30 a.m.

Hana Cultural Center and Museum, Maui, HI. Photo: Clio.

The Hana Cultural Center Museum was a single-story, white building with a corrugated tin roof. A low porch was in front, with three wicker chairs and a low stone table to one side. On the table were four glasses and a pitcher of water with lemon slices in it. Twin, intricately carved doors stood wide open, inviting them into a dim interior. Vanessa hoped it would be cooler than the outside.

She made a brief detour to take a look at the building next to the museum. It was also made of wood painted white. It looked like a small clapboard house with a veranda that stretched across the width of the front. But the sign over the veranda burst that illusion.

“Oh, my god,” she could not help but say. “I cannot believe that this town, in the United States, used this building as a one-room police station and courthouse until 1978.”

Kaimi laughed. “That’s Hana for you.”

He led the way up the steps to the Hana Museum. Inside were glass display cases and shelves. Vanessa took in the t-shirts for sale and lingered over the display showing photos from the tsunami that struck Hana Bay in 1946.

Vanessa looked up when Kaimi said “Eh, Sophia.” A small, brown-skinned woman with grey hair that hung down to the small of her back was standing behind a counter. She wore thick horn-rimmed glasses and a bright floral blouse.

“Eh, Kaimi. Nice to see you again so soon. So, you have some questions about the protest yesterday?”

Kaimi turned to Vanessa and cocked an eyebrow. “I knew you’d know why I came before I got here,” he said, turning to the grey-haired woman again.

What is going on? Vanessa wondered. Is Kaimi trying to say she’s some kind of witch?

“Who’s your friend?” Sophia asked.

Kaimi became formal. “Ms. Sophia Keahi, please meet Special Agent Vanessa Storm. Special Agent Storm, Ms. Keahi of the Hana Cultural Center.”

Sophia beamed through her glasses at Vanessa. “So. What can I do for the Federal Bureau of Investigations?”

Vanessa could not help but smile back. “We just have some questions about the people at the protest.” Where is Kaimi going with this?

“What do you know about the woman who led it? Rowan … something,” Kaimi continued.

Sophia’s gaze was fixed on Kaimi. “Don’t pretend you don’t remember her name, ke keiki.” Nephew.

“All right, makuahine.” Auntie. “Rowan Fields. You told me she was going to give me a lot of trouble.”

Torn Roots: A Hawaiian Storm is now available for pre-order at a special price from Amazon.

“Was I wrong?”

Kaimi sighed. “No, you weren’t wrong, Sophia. But how did you know?”

“Would you like a cup of herbal tea, dear?” She came out from around the counter, adjusting a knickknack on a shelf as she passed.

“No, thank you,” Vanessa replied.

Sophia walked out onto the porch and sat gracefully on a wicker chair beside one of the doors. She poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher on the stone table.

Kaimi and Vanessa followed her out. Kaimi crouched, sitting on his heels, and Vanessa sat in another wicker chair.

Sophia took a long drink. “What do you want to know, Kaimi?”

“I want to know who Rowan Fields is and what she’s doing here.”

“She’s a haole who, like many who come to these islands, has fallen in love with them and wants the best for them. She wants to preserve their life and beauty.”

“So she organizes protests?” “Her heart is in the right place. But she doesn’t know as much as she thinks she does.”

Cover reveal: The new Torn Roots!



It’s here! The new cover for the new, revised and expanded Torn Roots.

Once again, David C. Cassidy has hit it out of the ballpark. This is based on a photograph taken in Maui, the setting of Torn Roots.

Pre-order now on Amazon.

Torn Roots is based on a book previously published in an Amazon program that has since been cancelled. But this version retains a reader favourite, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Storm. It also adds some new characters, new chapters and new details.

What it’s about

Vanessa Storm thought her first week on the job as an FBI Special Agent in beautiful Hawaii would be about settling in. But she’s immediately sent to Hana on Maui’s rain-soaked shore to find a kidnapped woman.

Throw in arson, strident environmentalists bent on stirring up strife between local rights activists and foreign property developers, a chill local police lieutenant, a taciturn geologist, and top it all off with a rogue, unpredictable Homeland Security agent.

The case becomes a labyrinth twisting through the jungles on Maui’s volcano. Vanessa knows this case will explode into an international incident and lives will be lost if she doesn’t find answers fast.

Torn Roots is wonderfully rich with plot and setting, but it was Mr. Bury’s command of the story’s pacing that impressed me most.”—Eden Baylee, author of Stranger at Sunset

“I made the mistake of picking up this book and could not stop reading.”—Frederick Lee Brooke, author of Doing Max Vinyl

“Made me feel like I was there in person!”—Sue Devers

“I have never been to Hawaii but reading the detailed descriptions of its beauty in this book has made me feel like I’ve actually been there.”—Joy A. Lorton

Torn Roots will be published on September 29, and it’s now available for pre-order on Amazon.

Run and Hide by Alan McDermott



An independent book review

Alan McDermott knows how to push all the right buttons for the action-thriller reader.

The author of the fantastically successful Tom Gray series has crossed the Atlantic for his new series focused on the new character of Eva Driscoll: brilliant, beautiful and highly effective special operative for the CIA who’s been forced to go rogue.

Add in a quick trip to London to recruit some favourites from McDermott’s Tom Gray series—Alan Harvey (my favourite), Sonny Baines, Len Smart and Tom Gray himself—and you’ve got a guaranteed thriller.

As we can expect from McDermott, the plot starts in high gear and doesn’t let up. We meet the protagonist, Eva Driscoll, waiting for a hit on someone we soon learn is her late brother’s old army buddy. Rees Colback, though, is not without resources of his own, and thrills readers with a powerful, daring escape from government-sponsored assassins.

Thus begins an adrenalin-fueled escape and a journey across the U.S.A. And in the inimitable Alan McDermott style, the stakes get as high as they could possibly be as Driscoll finds her opponent is not just the President of the U.S.A., but the power behind the throne.

This being an Alan McDermott thriller, Driscoll is not without her shortcomings and downright faults. That’s part of the thrill and the tension. It makes her more believable and, it must be admitted, likeable as she comes to terms with the darker aspects of her past.

But don’t worry about the ending: McDermott has left the door open for a lot more thrilling adventures with Eva Driscoll, Rees Colback, and I hope Sonny, Len and Tom.

5 *****

Find it exclusively on Amazon.

Visit Alan McDermott’s website and blog.

Everything the new Progressive Conservative government in Ontario does hurts Ontarians



Ford's cuts

Ford’s cuts from June to August

Every decision. Every announcement. Every move makes us worse off.

Doug Ford and his Con-servatives campaigned on lowering hydro rates, gas prices and taxes for Ontario people, but never told us how he planned to pay for them. At the same time, he said he’d reduce government spending without cutting programs or public-sector jobs.

Then the first thing he did was fire a bunch of public servants, such as Monique Smith, Ontario’s trade representative in Washington. During a high-stakes trade dispute with Gilead. I mean the United States.

Choking on Ford’s hot air

The next decision was to cancel the cap-and-trade system. They replaced that plan to reduce carbon emissions with … nothing.

Even if you deny it’s contributing to global warming (yes, I said it), the oceans absorb a quarter of atmospheric carbon emissions, where they become carbonic acid. According to Smithsonian Ocean, this is already eroding coral reefs and leading to massive die-offs. Unchecked, this could drastically affect the food supply. For all people.

Higher energy costs

Cancelling the cap-and-trade system meant that programs it paid for were also cancelled:

  • rebates and incentives for homeowners to install energy-efficient furnaces, windows, insulation and other upgrades
  • rebates for electric vehicles
  • money for repairs to school roofs.

Remember how Ford promised “no cuts”? But immediately on taking office, he cut a program that funds education. This is particularly stupid, because it will only increase costs in the long run, and make school buildings less healthy. But who cares, right? Children can’t vote.

Ford also cancelled more than 700 renewable energy projects for small and First Nations communities. These would have substantially reduced their energy costs improved their quality of life. But the Cons don’t care about First Nations. In addition, these cancellations could require the province to pay millions of dollars in penalties.

Tesla is also suing the Ontario government over the cancellation of the electric vehicle rebates. Even if Ontario successfully defends itself, the suit will cost millions.

Ford threatened to fire the CEO of Hydro One, Mayo Schmidt, along with the Board of Directors. Instead, they resigned. Schmidt, whom Ford called “the six million dollar man” (very original, Doug), now gets $9.4 million in various forms of severance payments. (Source: The Globe and Mail.)

To save $6 million, the Ford government is paying half again as much. Because more is less.

Reversing sex education

Ontario’s new Education Minister, Lisa Thompson, insists on calling the sex education curriculum developed in 1998 “the 2014 curriculum.” Photo courtesy CBC.

One promise Ford did keep was to scrap the 2015 sex education curriculum, announcing that teachers would go back to using the curriculum published in 1998. Then the Progressive Con-servatives started lying about it, calling it the “2014 curriculum.” People with clear heads and fewer sexual hangups immediately pointed out that curriculum is literally from a previous century. It does not deal with the realities facing school children today—including those in grade 3 and 4: sexting, online bullying, online pornography, same-sex marriage, homosexual parenting and recognition of gender complexity.

Cuts to the poorest

The Ford government of cons is saving tax dollars by cutting in half a planned increase in social assistance benefits. They’re punishing the poorest and most vulnerable people in our province.

When Toronto mayor John Tory asked the province for help in sheltering and resettling asylum seekers, Ford cancelled provincial support and blamed the federal government.

The cons are also cancelling the basic income pilot project. This was an experiment that guaranteed an income in three communities to test whether this would improve their quality of life and ability to find a higher-paying job. Cancelling it means the money spent already is wasted, with no data resulting.

But Conservatives don’t need information to make decisions. They decide based on what they believe.

That’s also apparent in the freezing of discretionary spending by Ontario public servants on things like newspaper subscriptions. Why bother being informed about what’s happening?

More police

Ford has frozen hiring in the provincial public service, as well—except for cops. He’s also rolling back civilian oversight of police. Sound like a familiar plan?

Money to punish

Punishing political opponents seems to be another priority for Doug Ford. Last month began his promised “line by line” audit of provincial spending over the past 15 years, when it was governed by the Liberals. This will cost $1 million, and won’t do anything to benefit anyone in the future. But it could be used to punish people.

Continuing on the punishment theme, the Conservatives have cut by nearly half the number of Toronto city councilors, two months before the next election. Ford also cancelled elections of regional chairs. Now those offices will be filled by people Ford appoints. The leading contender for the elected Chair of Peel region: the previous leader of the Progressive Conservatives and Ford opponent Patrick Brown.

Noticing a trend yet, Ontarians?

Withholding help is also punishment

Conservatives don’t believe in treating drug addicts (like Doug Ford’s late brother, Rob). So they’re cancelling any new safe injection sites. This effectively condemns hundreds of people, including children, to death by overdose, at a time when preventable overdose deaths are spiking in Ontario.

But who cares about drug users, anyway? Except for Rob Ford.

Speaking of drugs …

There will be no legal cannabis stores in Ontario until April 1, 2019. Recreational cannabis becomes legal across Canada on October 17, 2018. But Ontarians will have to wait six months before we can buy it at a local store.

The previous government would have opened government-controlled cannabis stores, operated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, along the same successful pattern.

But that doesn’t fit the Progressive Conservative philosophy, or at least the Doug Ford strain. He wants to see privately owned stores selling cannabis. Which will bring big business into it. Already, small businesses are expressing worry about being squeezed out of this nascent market, and the company that owns Corona beer is spending billions to acquire the largest cannabis producer in Canada.

We’ll be able to order weed online, legally as of October 17. How this approach will keep it out of the hands of children is a mystery.

But that doesn’t matter. As long as we follow Doug Ford’s philosophy, right?

Don’t forget a cut that’s coming

The Conservatives campaigned on not increasing the minimum wage by a dollar an hour in January. Then Ford actually had the gall to say it was better for minimum wage earners, because his government would not take any provincial income tax on minimum wage.

Here’s the reasoning: the provincial income tax on a dollar per hour, assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, is about $800.

The increase in annual income of $1 per hour for that job would be $2,080. At the minimum tax rate, that would be a net of $1,768.

Photo: Creative Commons

$800 in your pocket is better than $1,768.

Because worse is better in Conservative Ontario. Less is more. More is less.

Don’t ask questions. Don’t get informed, Ontario. Just believe your Progressive Conservative government.



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.

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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.