Welcome!

Welcome to my web page. I have separate pages about my novels and myself. For information on my freelance journalism work, book reviews, life events that impress me, suggestions for writers, attempts to improve my golf or my efforts to build scale models, then keep reading below!

 

Always glad to hear from a happy reader

Reader Grant (who didn’t want his last name used for national security reasons) sent me these comments about my first three novels. I had better get the two most recent ones in his hands.

The Circle Of The Chosen is the third science fiction / fantasy novel authored by Alex Binkley that I have read. As with Humanity’s Saving Grace and A Biot’s Odyssey, The Chosen takes the reader in new directions exploring interesting concepts and philosophies yet leaving questions on the table for the reader to mull over.

The Chosen is a mystical adventure story that starts off innocently enough but with each page, we delve deeper into the world the characters exist in, the history of the world & inhabitants and about the characters themselves. The plot takes unexpected turns while enticing the reader to ride along with the band of unwitting characters while they seek to understand what brought them together and their ultimate destiny. Alex paints a detailed picture of the various races, their interrelationships, the landscape and what brings their story to this point. Nothing is simple and straight forward so the reader is best advised to make note of the subtle details.

I can’t help thinking (and hoping for) the story line leaves an opening for a sequel!

I’ve really enjoyed Alex’s novels and look forward to future publications and the new concepts that they will no doubt bring to our attention.

Grant

The Bear Changed Everything

By Alex Binkley

Emily Beattie looked out of the window above her kitchen sink searching for wildlife in the tree-lined ravine that ran behind her apartment building. It was part of her routine as she prepared for work.

On a good morning, she might spot deer or wild turkeys drinking from the pond formed before the ravine flowed into a metal culvert carrying the water under Nixon Road. The animals usually turned around there rather than climbing the embankment to the road, then crossing it into downtown Bethany.

A recent veterinary college graduate, Emily was working in this rural area to gain experience with farm livestock and, when she could, with wild animals.

No large animals were in sight but plenty of birds flitted about. Suddenly a large black shape moving through the trees caught her attention. She studied it closely, then realized it was a black bear. Usually wildlife continually checked the buildings along the ravine for any humans. The bear did not glance about as it strode determinedly forward.

It’s going somewhere in a hurry!

Emily’s training had included companion and farm animals as well as wildlife. She had done a work term at a zoo. She had never seen an animal that moved as purposefully as the bear, except for a horse carrying an experienced rider.

Glancing at her watch, she had about ten minutes before she needed to leave for the vet clinic and another busy day, so she hurried to the living room window for a better view of the bear. Will it go into the village or turn back at the embankment?

The bear disappeared in all the foliage. There were thirteen buildings between hers and Nixon Road so it would take a few minutes for the animal to reach the embankment.

She imagined the excitement if it entered the village. She hoped the clinic would be called on to tranquilize it rather than the police just shooting it. She thought about how big a dose that would take.

Her thoughts were interrupted when the bear reappeared walking as briskly as before. Behind it scampered a man carrying a wooden ladder. She stared until she realized he was the chap who lived alone in the third house from Nixon Road. It looks like he’s jogging to keep up with the bear. She remembered his name was Stan and that the locals were always talking about him.

Well more about the strangers who came in limousines or fancy cars to see him. Others flew in private planes to the nearby airport. Some locals even claimed a few of his guests were accompanied by grim-faced bodyguards. Trucks regularly delivered large packages to his house. While he frequented the local coffee shops and restaurants, he kept mostly to himself checking his laptop or writing copious notes.

When the bear and man were out of sight, Emily finished dressing and preparing for the drive to work. I won’t say anything about what I saw because it’d just become part of the gossip.

However, she took a longer route to work to catch a couple more glimpses of the ravine and trail. At the second opening, she spotted Stan and the bear about to pass out of sight.

As she pulled out her phone and clicked a couple of photos of the scene, a feeling came to her that whatever Stan was up to, he was in no danger.

Waiting for her at the clinic was a couple and their dogs. The receptionist passed her paperwork for both.

“When you’re done,” she said, “there are two farm calls to make. One place has sheep that are off their feed, and the other a cow that has suddenly gone lame.”

One dog had to be put down while the other needed medicine, and the owners were given some education about proper feeding. The sheep had a low-grade virus and the cow’s left rear hoof was badly infected. She gave the cow a needle and told the farmer to come to the clinic for some supplementary medicine.

Her boss was on a holiday, which meant Emily had extra work, but she liked the variety of cases in a rural area and the experience of being on her own. She had yet to decide what field of veterinary medicine she wanted to specialize in.

She treated more dogs and cats at the clinic before heading home. She stopped at the local grocery store for a few items, and to her surprise Stan was there.

It was the first time she had seen him up close. He was at least in his late forties and plainly dressed. Hardly seems like a mystery man.

He approached her when she was alone in the produce section.

“I’d like to explain what happened this morning. It must’ve been a weird sight, but you’re a veterinarian and with your science background you might understand. I think the restaurant down the street is usually quiet on Tuesday evening. Could we could meet there?”

Emily tried not to agree too quickly. An hour later she entered the restaurant and spotted Stan sitting at a corner table.

“How did you know I saw you carrying the ladder, and that I’m a vet?”

He glanced about before responding. “I sense people’s thoughts. Part of it is discovering whoever is paying attention to me. However, in your case I could also sense your curiosity about the bear and knowledge of animals. From that it didn’t take long to learn you’re a vet at the local clinic.”

“Why were you following the bear and what was the ladder for?”

“Glad you asked because that’s the interesting part, and why I want to talk with you. You’ll know a lot more about animal behaviour than I do.”

He waited until she smiled. “About an hour before you saw us, I sensed an animal in great anguish. I guess she was several miles away at the time. It took a lot of effort to comprehend her thoughts but finally I could see her three cubs had fallen into a deep hole and couldn’t climb out. She would’ve crushed them if she jumped down after them.

“Her situation reminded me of a video about some workers backing up a pickup truck carrying a ladder to a metal garbage bin at a big park. The truck scared away a bear long enough for a man to jump out of the cab into the back, and slide the ladder into the bin. By then the bear was on her way back and he quickly returned to the cab, moving the truck far enough away to record what happened. Within a few minutes, three cubs crawled up the ladder and jumped down to their mother. The video didn’t show how they got in there in the first place.”

Emily nodded and Stan continued his explanation.

“I kept exploring the bear’s thoughts and somehow she came to understand I was aware of her situation. Then she made it clear she was coming to get my help. I would like to understand how she knew who I am and where I live. When the bear was probably a half mile away, I replayed the video again in mind followed by an image of my ladder. As soon as I saw her coming up the ravine, I sent her an image of me following her back to the cubs carrying the ladder. When she could see me, she nodded her head up and down several times so I grabbed the ladder and off we went. It was like she wanted to see me before she accepted my offer. After we reached the hole, I put the ladder in it and the cubs climbed out right away. The bear grunted and rubbed her head on my arm before they headed off. That must be ‘thank you’ in bear talk.”

“When I saw you following the bear and carrying the ladder,” Emily said, “I thought you must be crazy. But you had the biggest grin on your face. Now I understand why. I hate to think what would’ve happened if anyone else saw you. You do have a reputation as an eccentric around here.”

While his face remained blank, Stan fidgeted with his utensils and the salt and pepper shakers. She had never encountered someone who was as expressionless as him.

“The locals don’t know the half of it, which is just fine by me.”

“How did you… umm… communicate your plan with the bear?”

“You know what extrasensory perception and telepathy are?”

“What some people imagine them to be, yes.”

“Well there are a lot of high-powered and wealthy people who believe my telepathic skills are real, which means governments and corporations want to use my services for insights into the strategies of their competitors as well as public attitudes. They don’t understand how my ability works, and that it doesn’t always produce the results they want. Often I tell them only what they asked for rather than all I’ve learned pursuing their request. By the way, I can turn off my telepathy, which I have done for this conversation.”

“You read my concern this morning.”

“And your intention this afternoon to stop at the grocery store. Your thoughts are a lot more focused than most people around here. My primary concern today was the safety of the bears. It would be a real bonus if this incident leads me to comprehend how I read mother bear’s anguish and whether that would open the door to a wider understanding of wildlife thinking. I wish I could get them to look both ways before crossing a road. I’m always upset by the sight of the ones hit by vehicles.

“Today I’m trying to have a normal conversation with a person who has scientific training to see if I can explain myself in a rational way about something that is generally regarded as a blend of wishful thinking and pseudoscience. If I’m imposing on you too much, please say so.”

“Don’t worry; I’m driven by curiosity. In this case, how you convinced the bear you could save her cubs. As intriguing as that is, I’m even more curious about how she would know you could help her, and accept your idea of using the ladder.”

Stan grinned.

“I hope you can help me find answers to your questions. I became aware of sensing other people’s thoughts about thirty years ago when I was in high school. At first I could just get vague impressions of what a person was thinking. It helped if the thoughts involved me. When I was in the school cafeteria or anywhere people were gathered, I would try to pick up on what they were thinking. By the time I finished university I was quite adept at it. Telepathy doesn’t have many applications in chemical engineering so I guess it became my hobby.

“I can read a person’s thoughts regardless of their language because I sense the images of what they’re speaking or thinking about. When I realized that, I wondered whether it’d work on animals. It was difficult at first because animals don’t think in terms of reference like humans. I’ve focused on telepathy with humans and hoped someday to become better at it with animals.

“Understanding animal thoughts began in grad school. I was sitting on a park bench one day thinking about a problem I faced with recycling plastic waste into useful products. I found myself surrounded by pigeons and squirrels although I had no food in my hands. That didn’t discourage them. Then I remembered the sandwich and cookies in my backpacks. They must have smelled them. I pulled them out and shared them. While I was doing that, the solution came for my problem and I quickly scattered the rest of the sandwich and the cookies and headed for my lab.

“My solution worked better than expected and what it led to is the main reason I get so many visitors. I have a specialized chemistry lab in the house that I work in when I want. It’s highly automated so I don’t have to be in it all the time, and when I am I don’t have people’s thoughts intruding on mine.”

“If you’re into specialized engineering,” asked Emily, “why are you living in this out-of-the-way village?”

“Here I’m an oddball and mostly ignored so I accomplish a lot. At a major university, I’d be hounded all the time.”

“What would you have done if the cubs couldn’t climb up the ladder?”

“Put branches on it and they could’ve climbed them.”

“It sure would make my job easier if I could communicate with animals. It would’ve been far better for the cow with the infected foot today if she had just lain still while I was treating her.”

“At least you see the potential in what I can do and don’t think I’m a wacko.”

“Well you’d have to prove to me that your telepathy works beyond making educated guesses.”

“Fair enough, although you’ll have to experience it to really understand. I’ll think of a way to demonstrate it that doesn’t intrude on your privacy.” He smiled at her. “Is the food here acceptable to you?”

“I’ve eaten here a couple of times and the fare was always fine.”

“Good. Could we meet here two evenings from now? I hope by then to have figured out a way to demonstrate my telepathy is legitimate.”

“Certainly, and I’ll read up on the topic. There’s probably lots online about it.”

“Plenty, although the arguments for it aren’t very convincing.”

That evening and the next morning before she headed for the clinic, Emily scanned the internet for information on telepathy and ESP. While she read a lot, the information only made her more skeptical. What will it take to verify Stan’s claims?

She drove through Bethany later in the day and spotted several vehicles outside his house. While they could be discussing chemical engineering issues, she suspected they would be discussing his unusual abilities because their presence would not be noticed here.

Mostly she used her spare time to think about ways to test his claim. How could I do it without letting him read my mind? Her research suggested telepathy only worked if the people involved in the communication willingly participated. Did my curiosity about the bear and why Stan was following her open me to him knowing my thoughts?

Once they placed their orders the next evening, Emily told Stan the only way she could think of checking his claim was for him to tell her what she was thinking about now.

“The horse today. While the cut was deep, cleaning and wrapping it was all that was needed. You wished you could have convinced it that standing still so you could treat and bandage it would be a lot less painful than thrashing about. It obviously upset you a great deal because when I sensed you entering the restaurant, you were still projecting strong feelings about it.”

“What other thoughts can you read?”

“Well you’re curious about my visitors yesterday. It’s interesting that having received your thoughts when you first watched me following the bear, I can tell when you are nearby. You have a unique mental pattern. By the way I checked on the bear today. She and the cubs are fine. I told the township about the hole and they’ll arrange to fill it in. While that news makes you happy, you still want to know about the visitors. Well they actually came to discuss an engineering problem.”

“Nothing about telepathy?” she asked. Stan shook his head. “Guessed wrong there. Nothing I’ve read so far makes a plausible case for telepathy or ESP but its supporters are passionate like the flat-Earthers.”

“Please don’t compare telepathy to the charade of the flat-Earth advocates. My house is cloaked to prevent electronic spying, which also stops my telepathy from working on what’s going on around it. So I only engage it when I’m working on something important in my lab. It’s not on when I have visitors because it interferes with cell phones.”

“So there’s still the matter of convincing me telepathy works. While you correctly noted some of my thoughts, they could just be lucky guesses.”

“Can you think of any instances when you successfully deduced what someone was thinking?”

Emily thought for a spell. “I’m sure there have been occasions but I don’t remember any in detail. I would’ve attributed it to paying attention and thinking a bit.”

“Those are parts of the process for sure. Telepathy doesn’t deliver instant insights. Take the incident with the bear. I was sitting on my back deck enjoying the morning when I felt this anguish. I focused on it and discovered it was coming from the forest not the village. While I wondered if someone was lost, the thoughts coming to me made no sense.

“There are sounds with telepathic thoughts. Finally I realized they were coming from an animal, which I correctly deduced was mother bear. Then I could see the bear’s view of the cubs stuck in this hole. I was puzzling over this when I remembered the garbage box rescue. You know the rest of the story.

“As I was following the bear, I sensed someone was watching. I focused on it and could tell the person was in your apartment and wanted to understand what I was doing. You were curious, not alarmed. And I sensed you a bit later in your vehicle tracking us. By the way, I did some further checking on you. You already have a great reputation around here.”

Emily smiled. “I try to imagine what my patients are thinking, but barks and moos don’t help me much.”

“You should try projecting images of how you want to treat them. That’s what I did over and over with the bear, sending her an image of the ladder going into the hole and the cubs climbing out. I repeated it a lot as we were walking to the hole.”

They parted after dinner with both promising to keep working on understanding telepathy.

The next afternoon the vet clinic received an emergency call. A bull had slashed open its left front leg on a piece of farm machinery. The farmer had coaxed the beast into a pen but it was still bleeding and bellowing in agony.

Emily was on the road and reached the farm in about twenty minutes. The farmer led her to the barn where a couple of workers were watching the animal lying on a pile of straw. “I paid a lot for the bull.” He was still thrashing about.

“Would you fellows please go outside,” Emily said. “I want to try something.” When they were gone, she spoke softly to the bull while she projected an image of her entering the pen and cleaning and wrapping his wound. She repeated it several times and to her surprise the animal quieted.

She opened the door into the pen and stepped in carrying her vet satchel. The bull sniffed a lot so she put her hand in front of its head. The bull reached up to brush her hand with his nose, and then licked her fingers. Then he laid his head back on the straw.

For several minutes, Emily cleaned the wound, and then sprayed it with disinfectant. The bull groaned a couple of times but did not even twitch at her ministrations. Emily finished by wrapping the wound, all the while projecting an image of the bull remaining quiet, the healing occurring, and the bull soon back outside.

With her ministrations complete, she stepped back. The bull struggled slowly to its feet, and then gently moved toward her. He rubbed his head on her arm a couple of times and then stepped back.

She choked back a rush of emotions.

“I believe now Stan.”

Answering a good question

A good question was posed on one of my online writers’ groups this summer. “What would it take for you to become the most brilliant and prolific writer you’re capable of? What would have to change for you to achieve this potential?”

It came as I was getting my latest novel Consciousness Rising readied for publication and thinking about what I wanted to do next. I plan to participate in National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo.org) in November to flesh out what will be the third book in my series of space stories. For now I’m calling it The Gratitude Solution. More on it after I finish the NaNoWriMo version of it.

My answer to becoming the most prolific writer I could be is probably more time and fewer distractions. I do some freelance news writing for several Canadian publications, used to have American and British customers as well, but they’re mostly out of business. This takes two and sometimes three days a week but I don’t want to drop it as I enjoy the subjects I cover, but they take up time and energy.

The next issue probably is writing to suit readers’ tastes. I still basically write a story that I would want to read. My judgement might be suspect because I often enjoy books that get little attention and find bestsellers uninteresting. Science fiction (I do prefer the term speculative fiction) and fantasy aren’t big markets but that’s where my interest lies. I prefer science fiction that is more about the what-if of science and less about characters. 

I read a bit of fiction outside these genres mostly because the author is interesting. Terry Fallis is a wonderful story teller and I’m a longtime fan of Martin Cruz Smith.  Gorky Park is on my too read again list. I have plenty of other fiction books on my shelves.

Also I read a lot of non-fiction, mainly related to science especially the probability of aliens and the origin of Homo Sapiens. A Most Interesting Problem is a fascinating book if you have any interest in evolution and the work of Charles Darwin. Yuval Norah Hari will get you mind fired up. Margaret MacMillan’s War is near the top of my to-read pile.

I have written at least 10 short stories and got most of them published. I want to do a lot more starting with several unfinished ones in my laptop. That will be my post NaNoWriMo project. Then there are a lot of non-writing interests and activities that consume plenty of time.

My book for 2022 – By Intelligent Design– was almost done in March 2020 when I decided that a story involving a pandemic wasn’t going to draw a lot of readers.  All my stories have been written with at least one sequel in mind because I find once I get into them, I get all sorts of ideas.

Be well everyone.

First Novel Hazards

"Excellent advice from a seasoned author and writing coach" - Alex

By Barbara Florio Graham

Most of the authors I mentor come to me with their first book, often a novel they’ve wanted to write for a long time. In many cases the author has already written a first draft, and wants help to refine this, find a publisher, and prepare a professional book proposal.

I’ve noticed some common mistakes first novelists tend to make, comparing them to water hazards on the golf course. As is the case with golf, it’s often a matter of selecting the right club, the right stance, and keeping your eye on the ball!

To read the rest of her advice, you need to join Ottawa Independent Writers.

The group meets monthly except during the summer outside of pandemic times. You can meet a wide variety of writers and hear excellent presentations on the craft. And even meet Barbara, a most gregarious soul. You should check out her web site.

Being A Biographer

By Stephen Nelson

Biography is a genre perhaps some authors wouldn’t think about writing. A biography can be of someone who is or was famous, infamous or unknown to readers until they read about them. Not many people can identify the author(s) of biographies unless the readers follow the genre.

I’ve decided to try writing a biography for genealogical purposes. This project has made me think of many factors before even starting to write a biography.

Some factors for consideration are:

1. Be comfortable doing research, notetaking, doing interviews, being organized and  possibly travelling to places significant to the subject’s life. 

2. What is the subject’s appeal and if readers would be interested in them?

3. Have any biographies been written before on the person?

4. Too many published biographies can diminish interest in the biography you considering to write. On the other hand, if there hasn’t been a biography written about someone, is there enough interest in the person to warrant one being written?

There should be a reason about the subject to keep you interested in writing the biography. 

5. Know your target audience. An adult wouldn’t be as interested in a teenage singer and a young adult would not be as interested in an historical figure. Write the biography to the educational level of the target audience.

6. The information sources used in the biography being written should be compiled in a bibliography. Fans of the subject, biography genre readers and fact checkers will want to know where the facts and details are obtained.

7.  Keep a copyright authorization folder or file and backup to protect you as an author against any legal action. Written permission from the living subject or their estate and any source is required to use their photographs or documentation. Documentation requesting permission to use something in the biography and the authorization correspondence should be retained.

It’s better to be prepared before starting to write.

Editing Tip – Is It Logical?

by Stephen Nelson

I read the novel and jot down some details in each chapter about characters, location or something I think will be referred back to later in the novel.

I write down sentences that don’t make sense to me.

Some examples are:

He walked upstairs, put on his suit, showered and shaved.

To me, the sentence is not logical.

The way it’s written, he showered when he was wearing his suit. So… he’s wearing a soaking wet suit. Unless that’s the point, the word order should be changed.

Johnny printed his name in blue ink on the black puck.

The idea of printing his name on the puck so he wouldn’t lose it is perfect, but it’s not logical.

Blue ink can’t be seen clearly on a black object. I recommended the authour amend the colour of the ink to neon green. 

© Stephen Nelson 2020

The Art of Worldbuilding, Part II

by Stephen Nelson

A world for your characters to inhabit is a daunting task to build. Doing the research to make your world believable to your readers might take as much time as writing your novel.

You probably have compiled a Story Bible or electronic folders and files containing the aspects of geography, society, fashion, language, inventions, nature and weather. The collected information is important when writing the novel, especially if there are differences from the world we live in. 

If dragons, elves or aliens exist in the world of the novel, maybe their lifecycle and powers can be noted in the documentation for easy access when you write the novel. 

Cheat Sheets

Cheat sheets can be helpful for reference when you write. A double-sided page for each character, location, geography, weather conditions, flora and fauna (nature), inventions, society, language(s) and fashion.

Map and Illustrations

Some readers love seeing a map of the imaginary world in which the novel is set. A map and illustrations dispersed through the book can pique a prospective buyer’s interest when they take the book off a bookstore shelf and thumb through the pages. Illustrations can be simple or complex in nature.

List of Characters

I find it useful sometimes to read a list of characters in the back of a novel. Their name, relationship to others and maybe their occupation, if relevant can be written.

Glossary

Historical and any sub-genre, science fiction and fantasy novels can have terms or words which the reader might not know. Some names of creatures or the alien lifeforms for example can be described in a glossary at the end of the book.

Guide Book or Encyclopedia

Why let the hard work of research, developing and writing a new world go to waste? Something to consider is writing an encyclopedia which is the source material you used to build the world where your novel is set.

Anything you have written as source material for the novel can be incorporated in a guide book or an encyclopedia. Many readers love to know more about their favourite novels. An example is, J.K. Rowlings, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a guide book.

Conclusion

These ideas might trigger your own creativity to develop the material you were ready to purge. Remember that fabric scraps in the right hands can make a beautiful quilt. The same goes for scraps of information can be recycled and reused. After all, it is your material to use in another work in progress.

© Stephen Nelson 2020

The Art of Worldbuilding, Part I

by Stephen Nelson

Reading a short story or novel pulls the reader into the world which the authour has made for the characters. That is the beauty of imagination. To make a person believe they are in the world of the characters. Worldbuilding can be as small as a room or a boat on the ocean. Other stories and novels can be set in a fictional city or even on a planet.

Each genre has its aspects of worldbuilding. An historical novel regardless of its subgenre like mystery or romance has to have some accuracy in its description of society, fashion and events unless it is an alternative history novel or short story.

Whether a novel is a standalone, or one of many in a series, the novel’s world must be created. The set could be set in an existing town or city or an invented location using bits and pieces of a current place. An authour might create a complete world from their imagination, like J.K. Rowlings, Harry Potter and J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings.

I must confess. I am a Planner. I plan as much as possible before putting pen to paper or striking a computer keyboard to write a short story or novel.

I will do a second Worldbuilding post for science fiction and fantasy writing, but a novel can have locations and settings which are from the authour’s imagination. I like to think the following should be considered before writing any genre.

Geography

I like to call it, the “lay of the land”. Sending characters on a quest or trip to find a person or an object is affected by the geography they cross. Obstacles like mountains, volcanoes soon to erupt, raging rivers, oceans to cross provides drama and conflict in a novel or short story.

Society

A character’s social class, where they live in the community and income might influence how they react to an event. The late 1800s social norms are far different than present day. Research is necessary to write accurate details.

What a wealthy family does for a living, where they live and for entertainment wouldn’t be the same as a poor family.

Fashion

Fashions and fads change. Different countries have different fashions. A person wearing bell bottoms and platform shoes would stand out in a Regency romance novel. The fashion of the people has to be from the era which the novel is set.

Language

People speak differently, depending on where they are from. Idioms and slang words might identify the nationality or at least the region to which the character has connection. Two different words in English can mean the same object if one is from North America and the other is from the United Kingdom.

Inventions

When writing an historical novel or story, you have to make sure the inventions of the day are accurate. As examples, do not have a telephone or telegraph in a novel set before they were invented.

Weather

When a real event happens, research the actual weather that occurred to make the event more authentic.

Conclusion

You can develop and build your new world for your novel as detailed as you want. After all, it is your novel.

© Stephen Nelson 2020