Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Cashless society?

A New Premise is centered on a cashless society in the not too distant future.   Not just cashless but credit and debit cardless.  Can we envision that?   In the novel the change is forced upon the citizens of the United States and in particular the Pacific Northwest where the story is centered.   Abrupt change is often wrenching and difficult particularly when any  element of choice has been removed.

It wasn't that many years ago that many people paid by either cash or cheque.  Either was acceptable.  Then there came an interim period where cheques were still accepted but not preferred.  Many people had the experience of a waiting line-up behind them while the manager was called from the other end of the store to authorize a cheque.  Two kinds of identification had to be shown, including picture i.d.
The clerk had to write your drivers' license number on the back of the cheque.   The whole thing became an embarrassment.  It wasn't too many years later that some businesses began refusing to take cheques and by this time most people had switched to debit or credit cards.


A key factor in this transition seems to be the passage of time--years as opposed to weeks or months.
Another  is that people believed or convinced themselves that it was their choice to change.   Avoiding embarrassment or hassles can be a powerful motivator.   This might compare to the change in attitudes towards smoking.   Thirty years ago half the population smoked whenever and wherever they pleased and for a reasonable price.  Over the past ten years, restrictions have been placed on where an individual can smoke and government taxes have raised the price (and their profit) considerably.  Smokers huddle outside in the rain, not even allowed under the shelter of the roof overhang, but rather at least three meters away according to some municipal by-laws.   In this example, there has not just been the passage of time but also some cogent medical evidence.

In the novel the state also had price and wage controls as the Reconstitutionalist Government attempted to maintain control over the population and the economy for the benefit of the few, but that's another issue.   Today, the current economic situation, particularly in Europe, has led to rumblings of restrictions on the movement of currencies and capital.  Some people might feel almost as helpless as the characters in the novel.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cozy dogs

The Jaswinder Mystery Series (Operatory of Death and Death at Table 15) has a  Yorkshire Terrier named Herbie as one of the minor characters.  (I'd better say that quietly;  Herbie doesn't consider himself 'minor.')  Cozy mystery novels, which is the category these two books fall into, often feature dogs.    I thought it would be fun to spend a little time checking this out and sure enough there are dogs galore.

Now to the breeds:  Corgi, Malamute, Golden Retriever (2), Great Pyrenees, German Shepherd, Great Dane,  Terrier Mix, Yorkshire Terrier (yes, another one!), Collie, Chow, and a Silky Terrier.  I'm sure there are many more--I only spent fifteen minutes making this list.

Why do dogs predominate?  Let me hypothesize:   Cozy mysteries usually involve amateur sleuths who are by nature caring, compassionate and the type of people who love dogs.  (Yes, they are sometimes nosy, but we'll call that curious)

Herbie is not actually Jaswinder's dog although she is not above borrowing him for a good cause.  This intrepid Yorkie is owned by the elderly  Hortense Harrington, a patient in the dental clinic where Jaswinder works.   In addition to being potential sleuthing partners, dogs are also excellent companions and lots of fun.   Sounds like my two spoiled pooches!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dystopian Fiction

Two of my books, A New Premise and When Bees Die, would be characterized as fiction with a subset of dystopian fiction.  If you take a look at what Wikipedia has to say about a dystopia, it is characterized as (and I paraphrase) a society in a repressive and controlled state with various forms of active and passive coercion.  Works about dystopian societies often explore the concept of humans abusing technology and humans individually and collectively coping or not being able to cope with technology that has progressed far more rapidly than humanity's spiritual evolution.

The story usually centers on a protagonist who questions the society, often feeling intuitively that something is terribly wrong.  Something I find fascinating is the way that new technology is adopted to the extent that before long life without it seems almost intolerable to many and those most enamoured find it difficult to imagine how life existed without the new product.  A few examples are cellular telephones, video games and e-mail.  

Technological improvements are often more convenient than what existed previously.  Tasks can be done more quickly.  The benefit can sometimes seem to vanish with the passage of time as more is expected.   Where there once was a typing pool of ten individuals, now one office worker with a  fast computer loaded with programs does all the work in the same amount of  time.  Some people reading this may wonder what a 'typing pool' is.  People used to have to get up to change channels on television and everyone suffered through commercials. No more.

No doubt serious sociological papers have been written on these topics and the inexorable changes in psyche and society that technology brings about.   I suppose my fascination with this topic is what led to the two books mentioned above.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Character Names

Choosing characters' names can be a little like naming your baby.  It should be easier because your baby is an unknown in terms of personality and appearance whereas an author has at least a preliminary idea as to their character.    Sometimes it can be amusing to give an obnoxious character the name of the boy who humiliated you in high school.   Some thought is given to the age of the character.  I don't think too many baby girls these days are given the name 'Edna', the older principal in When Bees Die.  (I apologize in advance if that has been done by someone recently!  We all know that names go in and out of style.)

Jaswinder and her best friend, Manisha (in Operatory of Death and Death at Table 15)   are both part of the large East Indian community that lives in Surrey, Canada, and their names are reasonably common.  Characters names need to sound distinctive so Dick and Rick would tend to be confusing.   Even Marcia and Maureen could give some readers pause.

I chose the name 'Adele' initially for the character now called 'Faye' in When Bees Die.   Then I realized that a British singer had shot to stardom with the same name.   I don't want readers to have a mental picture of this singer (who looks nothing like I envision the character) every time her name comes up.   So I had to go back in my draft and change the name for several chapters.  If you use a family or friend's name, it's probably best to ask them first!


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dying Bees

In When Bees Die the demise of bees in the Pacific Northwest is caused by a terrorist introduced virus.  The end result is a life that is difficult to contemplate, at least in the environment the novel portrays.    But in reality bee populations have been declining from various manmade and environmental causes.
Here's an except from a recent article in the Province Newspaper in Vancouver:

Parasitic mites have turbo-charged the spread of a virus responsible for a rise in honeybee deaths around the world, scientists said Thursday.
Bee populations have been falling rapidly in many countries, fuelled by a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. Its cause is unclear but the Varroa mite is a prime suspect, since it spreads viruses while feeding on hemolymph or bee's "blood."

Other factors - including fungi, pesticides and decreased plant diversity - are thought to play a role in colony collapse, but Ian Jones of the University of Reading said the latest findings pointed to the virus and mite combination as being the main culprit.
"This data provides clear evidence that, of all the suggested mechanisms of honeybee loss, virus infection brought in by mite infestation is a major player in the decline," he said.
The threat to bee populations extends across much of Europe and North America to Asia, South America and the Middle East, experts say.
A 2011 UN report estimated that bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, beetles or birds do work worth $191 billion a year for the human economy.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Pleasant conversation

As I wrote earlier, I'm new to blogging so I'm still trying to figure out exactly what I should post.  Someone suggested that I write as though I am sitting down over a cup of coffee having a pleasant conversation with a friend who is interested in what I am doing.    That sounds possible.

So my imaginary friend who is interested to hear about what I am doing wants to hear about both the process of writing my books as well as what they are about.   Right now I am working on another cozy mystery in my Jaswinder Mystery Series.  This will be the third and the process has been  different from the other two in that I did the cover right near the beginning whereas with Operatory of Death  and Death at Table 15 the covers were designed after the book was substantially written.  The editing process can get a little tedious so the covers are fun:   choosing pictures and design templates seems to involve different thought processes.   But, as I said, this time was different and as I've discovered, writers need to be flexible.  

Here's the draft of the cover.   See if you can figure out where it takes place (without reading the back!)   Hint:   There's a clue in the last chapters of Death at Table 15.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A New Premise

This is my first dystopic novel set less than a decade in the future.    Imagine if the world money supply was compromised and rendered unusable.   How would anyone be paid?   How would anything be purchased?    Nine years after this event a system of sorts has been set up.     This novel follows the five main characters who live in the same town in the Pacific Northwest and who cross paths and make connections with each other.

Soon to be released in paperback and re-released with new cover in e-book format.


Welcome to my website/blog.   I'm a proud Indie writer and publisher and  I enjoy being part of the community of writers and readers.    I'm working my way up the learning curve in creating this space so there will be periodic changes as I increase my knowledge base.    My long term goal is to have my books available in different venues and formats but I would be remiss if I did not express thanks to Amazon which has made so much possible for independent writers.

At this time I have a number of projects on the go.    I am releasing my e-books, presently only available on Kindle through Amazon as softcover books with new covers.  I hope to have this process completed within the next few weeks.

I am also in the final editing stages of my new contemporary dystopic novel, When Bees Die and hope to have it ready for release in a few weeks.

Upcoming paperback release of Death at Table 15

Death at Table 15:   A Jaswinder Mystery

This is the second mystery novel in this series.   Jaswinder is a young woman in her twenties who works in a dental clinic.   In this book, she and her best friend, Manisha, take temporary jobs in a restaurant to earn some extra money.

When an obnoxious patron in her section drops dead, Jaswinder tries to uncover the perpetrator.    This is an amusing sequel with a return of some of the characters from Operatory of Death and the introduction of some new and quirky ones.   This book is also set in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Upcoming release: When Bees Die

I'm in the final editing stages of When Bees Die my new contemporary dystopic novel.   Here's the draft
of the front and back cover:

Any feedback?