General blog

Ontario II – Jack and Bonfire head to the big screen…

First two weeks of May were a whirlwind of Ontario book signings, talks and LOTS of riding. 🙂 (I’ve never made one of those smiley things before!) I had shipped my bike to Mississauga after agonizing about riding it out from Black Diamond, back and forth, back and forth until we had a heavy snowfall warning in southern Alberta which made the decision for me. After being wonderfully hosted in Mississauga by a friend’s sister, (Syrian people feed you middle eastern delights until you almost explode! No thanks, is not recognized.) I took off on my bike for Tillsonburg to begin with.

basking by Lake Ontario

basking by Lake Ontario

The weather was brilliantly sunny and about 25 degrees. Perfect. I took one of the two monster freeways to start with, the 403 west, but then peeled off at Brantford south onto Hwy 24 and then west on Highway 3 to Tillsonburg. Hwy 3 was a delight; nice poky road through farm country and forest and no traffic. I was on my way to my amazing friend, Robin Barker-James’s place; an old tobacco farm that he has transformed into a treasured historical park with trenches, field hospital, medieval fort and museum/theatre. Robin won the Order of Canada and Queen’s Jubilee medal for his high school history teaching. Where was he when I was in school?!! and my history teachers were “dead from the arse up,” to use a rude but useful Irish expression. THEY were bored and so were we. I stayed at Robin’s for a couple of nights and talked history and then set off for book events in Waterloo, Guelph and Ottawa.

Robin Barker-James and Ceilidh outside his fort

Robin Barker-James and Ceilidh outside his fort

trench 2WWI trench recreation on the Barker-James farm[/caption]

In the quaint city of Guelph I spoke at the Guelph Rotary to about 80 people. A man in the audience asked if I’d mind doing a reading from the book so I obliged with a few pages. After a delicious Italian lunch they bought every book I had with me. Of course native son, John McCrae is near and dear to the people of Guelph. The next day I gave a talk and signed books at McCrae House Museum, the modest little granite bungalow where he was born. They also own the beautiful, adjoining yard which has a monument to McCrae and In Flanders Fields.

the Beast outside McCrae House

the Beast outside McCrae House

signing Bonfire for a customer in McCrae House

signing Bonfire for a customer in McCrae House

the Monument at McCrae House and part of the gardens

the Monument at McCrae House and part of the gardens

Then I rode to Ottawa and stayed with my friend, MGen (ret’d) Ivan Fenton and his wife, Sue. Ivan is a producing partner with me and John Kerr of Crowsnest Films on a documentary about the Girouard family, For Country, which we hope to complete soon. New developments with the Girouards will make it a complete story that began in 2008, shortly after CWO/RSM Bob Girouard’s death in Afghanistan. It’s an inspiring story about a fascinating family of soldiers and most importantly, about healing.

So now I’m at another friend’s apartment in Toronto which I have use of as a base for the next year, if I need it, which is awesome. I am here to meet with two broadcasters and pitch the movie adaptation, Bonfire, from the book, Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman. As we come to the hundredth anniversary of WWI with all its events, I KNOW this story would be loved on film and probably re-run for decades to come.

On June 12th I head back down to Tillsonburg to Robin’s place to watch him in action with a large group as we goes over the finer details of the War of 1812. He has busloads of student and cadets come through to learn about our history and he brings it to life like no one else. After that, I head up toward Algonquin Park and then make my way back across Canada to Black Diamond. Hopefully the sun will come out.

Waterloo book signing

Waterloo book signing

Fort Henry in Kingston beside the St. Lawrence River

Fort Henry in Kingston beside the St. Lawrence River

On the way to my friend’s place here in Toronto I got totally messed up trying to take his exit off the 401 and of course it was absolutely bucketing down. The classic 401 NIGHTMARE. First I missed his exit going east, turned around and then missed it again going west. So I got the hell off the !@#$% 401 and phoned him. He directed me in on nice streets with names and I finally made it about 2 hours after leaving Mississauga where my bike had been stored! Oh, a lot of that time was like oh, 45 or 50 minutes in first gear on the “freeway” not only creeping in first gear but riding the clutch as well! So I arrived late, dripping rainwater at my friend’s apartment. But all was made well by a warm welcome, beer and a delicious moose meat dinner. Important note: my new BMW jacket actually IS waterproof 🙂 unlike my old Alpinestars which has done its time.

Stay tuned for notes from the road…

Spring? news

Here we are on April 7th with freezing drizzle, ice pellets, annoyed and half-frozen migratory birds, and the usual crazy southwestern Alberta spring weather. I did get out on my bike for a couple of burns last week and the week before but no hope right now. I’m still recovering from last week anyway, 2 funerals – my friend Garfield, and my 20 year old Andalusian mare, (I’d had her since she was three) so I’m hibernating nicely with good books and videos for awhile.

April what?! The view from my back steps. Waaa.

April what?! The view from my back steps. Waaa.

This morning I watched two videos with Drs Rudy Tanzi and Deepak Chopra from the Super Brain series. Inspiring stuff. We have more power over our own lives than most of us really REALIZE. It’s all about being mindful and paying attention to our bodies; breath, feelings and thoughts…without judgement, criticism or analysis. Being self-aware would have been considered a waste of time when I was a kid, even a conceit. Thinking about it now though, the most unhappy, emotionally crippled people I know have little or no self-awareness or insight.

The doctors suggested an exercise; imagining or remembering events that have given you pleasure in the past and those memories actually release healthy chemicals, enzymes, endorphins, etc. in the brain. I started doing that and after the first things I recalled, which were about my love for certain people in my life; family and friends, then I remembered stuff like singing in a choir two summers ago, inside Chartres Cathedral in France, and sitting on a beach without human company, for several hours in 1981, surrounded by sea lions in the Galapagos. My next thought was, What an amazing life I’ve had and continue to have!
Gratitude Gratitude Gratitude

I’ve been honoured to be entrusted with the finer details of Garfield’s WWII stories. He held them inside for over sixty years. After we went to Belgium and Holland in 2010, he was noticeably “lighter.” Upon hearing about my healing journey back to Viet Nam in 2009 with 8 VN veterans, my family doctor said he had a WWII veteran patient who was fixated on his experiences during the war and wanted to talk to him about them. As a busy family physician he just couldn’t accommodate him. I said, “I don’t suppose you could tell me who he is could you?” But of course he couldn’t for confidentiality reasons. I’m pretty sure now it was Garfield. We became friends at just the right time.

Looking for Toby's grave in the Adegem Canadian Military Cemetery  in Belgium.

Looking for Toby’s grave in the Adegem Canadian Military Cemetery in Belgium.

A stoic Garfield sheds a cathartic tear after finding the grave of his brother after 66 years.

A stoic Garfield sheds a cathartic tear after finding the grave of his brother after 66 years.

Diez in Hays, Alberta. Her last summer - 2012 She would have been 20 this May.

Diez in Hay, Alberta. Her last summer – 2012 She would have been 20 this May.

So, it’s just that kind of Sunday. I have started the Bonfire screenplay and will get back to it when my inspiration for writing returns. I never stay down for long!

Bonfire – a reading, news and reviews

reading poster

Please come out to the Bonfire Book Event at the Museum of the Highwood in High River, Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The Canadian Military Tribute Truck will be there, too.
Cdn Trib Truck

I will also be at Chapters/Signal Hill Friday, Feb. 1 from 1 – 5 for a signing. Please come by and say hello!

Now that Christmas is over I’m turning my attention to schools and libraries. I had a great stroke of luck in that and old friend of mine has written two Lesson Plans for teachers to go with the book. He is Order of Canada and Queen’s Jubilee medal winning history teacher, Robin Barker-James! So I’m excited about that. The two plans are comprehensive; one for Literacy/English and the other for History.

Bonfire is still selling in stores and I’m signing up with a distributor within the next week.

Three parts of new reviews:
“Your epilogue produced tears in me as you wrote straight from the heart. Something to really be proud of. We are soldiers and artists of Remembrance.” – Robin Barker-James, award winning Ontario history teacher

“Enjoyed thoroughly. Page turner. Just loved the narrative being told from the perspective of the horse. And shining through the narrative were the greatest virtues that living beings possess; friendship, loyalty, devotion. No Canadian can read this without being inspired. Thanks for writing a superlative book about a great Canadian.” – Charles Adler, radio and television journalist.

“You have created a beautiful book – a keeper, and the amount of research and love you have put into this project just oozes from it! I know so much more about our ancestor and teacher, John McCrae, than ever before.Thank you and congratulations!” – Ed Tick, psychologist, founder of Soldier’s Heart and author, War and the Soul (2005), Warrior’s Journey Home, (coming soon).

On the eve of 2013…we’re still here!!

Well we didn’t blow up, and who knows why the Mayan calendar ended? Maybe the maker simply ran out of space. Maybe it starts again from its beginning. I personally think it signals the beginning of a new era. It feels like that to me.
Critters 3

What a year this has been! Incredibly great things, and unbelievably challenging and difficult things, at the same freakin’ time. I’ve been having great dreams about elephants this year, and Ganesh is one of my favourite deities. I’ll take that as a sign that obstacles are being removed as is Ganesh’s wont.

I am grateful for all my “teachers” in whatever form they came into my life. I learned a lot about boundaries this year. Coming from a childhood where boundaries were blurred and often violated, this has been a long slog but I think I finally get it. This year I learned what I’m responsible for, and what I have no control over, where I end and others begin, what I “own” and what I don’t, and even what is true and what it not. It’s not that these are new ideas to me, but what we know and what we really KNOW, are two different things. My most oft picked tarot card all year was The Wheel, which to me is about following my destiny, and just as important, knowing that all others around me are, too. (I firmly believe I was born to tell this story of John McCrae and Bonfire.) As for some of the people around me, sometimes it’s hard to watch the choices people make but I really “got” that this is not only out of my hands, but none of my business!

Every January 1st I pick a few oracles for the year. January 1st, 2012, they could not have been more significant or appropriate. One of them was the Gateway rune. You are standing in a gateway on the threshold of a new life, but you cannot pass through if you’re going to drag along any old shit; judgement and blame, resentment, anger, etc. That has been one of my biggest challenges this year, to truly dump that stuff once and for all. The one tarot card I picked for the 2012 new year was Justice, which is all about cause and effect, legal matters, karma. Hoo boy, was that one timely.

launch-7615

In the summer I walked over grounds in England where the subject of my book, John McCrae walked and rode his horse, Bonfire. It was powerful to walk the windswept Salisbury Plain where the Canadian soldiers, and especially their horses, suffered such hardship in the worst winter in memory. It was beautiful, but there was no mistaking what it must have been like in the freezing winds and lashing rains from October to February of 1914/1915, without any shelter most of that time. I felt it was a perfect wrapping up of my tracking John McCrae’s footsteps before finishing the book.

On Salisbury Plain, near the camp of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in 1914/1915

On Salisbury Plain, near the camp of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in 1914/1915

I got lots of great bike riding in in 2012; no long ones this year but some nice day trips and some great riding down in L.A. with my buddy and new rider, Grace. She called me today actually, to tell me she’d ridden for 2 and a half hours, all by herself. She kept thinking she should get home but just couldn’t stop! Hmmm, sounds familiar. One of the best rides around here was down to visit a friend on his farm near Hays in southeastern Alberta. Just a beautiful day; badlands, canola fields, coulees, great sweeping curves along the rivers.

Ride to Hays, Alberta

Ride to Hays, Alberta

All in all, despite the difficulties, it was just an amazing and unforgettable year…in a good way. Our farm is still for sale. I think the delay in selling it was meant to be, too. If I’d had to move suddenly, in the middle of getting the book finished and launched, it would have been a disaster.

At this moment I’m the “go to” person for Soldier’s Heart while the bosses, Ed Tick and Kate Dahlstedt are in Viet Nam for 3 weeks. I have to field their phone calls and answer emails. It’s exciting to me that people of their stature trust me enough to put me in this position! I am honoured.

My next project is to begin a screenplay from Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman, and find a team that wants to see this story debut on May 3rd, 2015, the 100th anniversary of the poem, In Flanders Fields. Go big or go home, eh?

So…this is my end of the year/New Year’s blog. Last year I spoke of surrounding myself with like-minded people and I’ve made important strides with that. Yes, I’ve burned a couple of bridges this year, but that was not accidental. I go forward in peace and with the best of intentions. Gateway into 2013, here I come!

I wish you all a fantastic, joyful and inspired 2013!

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