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Blackwater Crossing

I recently had the privilege of interviewing David Griffith—an author and  long-time resident of Vanderhoof. David (writing under the pen name David Griffin) has recently had the first three books of The Border Crossing Series published. Read on to find out the story behind the story and what makes this author write.

 

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the pen. Years ago, I started writing for small publications, then dabbled with cowboy poetry, and finally decided that the stories that kept bubbling to the surface had to get onto paper.

When did the idea for the Border Series come to you and what is the story behind the books?

Rodeo and ranch life is what I know best, so it was natural for me to write about horses and the land. However, several real estate ventures forced me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about drugs and the resulting degradation to property and lives. Those negative experiences created a curiosity that has engendered hundreds of hours of research and driven me to poke around some of the less touristy areas of Mexico and Central America. Ultimately, Mexican drug cartels bear much of the responsibility for the property crime and drug related deaths that plague our country. Los Zetas, La Familia, the Sinaloa cartel, all use increasingly sophisticated means to evade detection as they move their product around the world. So the protagonist in the Border Series is a cowboy, but he’s also a drug agent for an elite security firm.

What was the journey like to publication?

Early in the process, I committed to the same tortuous journey all serious writers have trod. First—get a U.S. agent. They’re the established gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry. Publishers have one file for unsolicited manuscripts. The round file. After many months of sending out book proposals, I finally landed an agent. I had it made. It was only a matter of time before my new agent hooked me up with Thomas Nelson, or maybe even Bantam books. After all, I’d just written the best western romance since Louis L’Amour. Hadn’t I? The publishers said: Ahh . . . it’s good, but to sell in this market, you really need a female protagonist. We’ll pass. I hunkered over the keyboard for another year and wrote a novel with a female protagonist. Fired it off to my agent. Surely, this would be my ticket to the hallowed halls of traditional book publishing. Wrong. This time it was “not quite what we’re looking for.” Plan C? I had no other plan. Any other publishing option was unthinkable. Then my agent called. “We’re starting a new e-book publishing company. We think that’s the future in publishing. We want Blackwater Crossing.” It’s probably still too early to tell whether that was the right decision, but it’s been a great journey.

 I was amazed at the vivid details in your settings. You really brought me to those areas. How did you bring all those places to life? Have you visited all the cities, towns, and areas in your books?

Before I write a story, I visit every location, whether it’s out on the Blackwater River or deep in the Sierra Madre of Mexico. It’s important to me that when I write about places, the reader can know that whether it’s a creek with good water, or a restaurant with bad food, they can count on it being true. Sure, it’s fiction, but I think truth interwoven with the storyline makes for a better read.

You included Vanderhoof and the local area in your books. What was behind that decision?

There’s no place I know that has such a wealth of local authors telling real edge-of-your-seat stories from the past. For a fiction writer, there is an absolutely huge background of material to draw from. I think of writers like Jack Boudreau, R.M. Patterson, and our own Rich Hobson, June Wood, and Diana Phillips. The list is endless. They all wrote stories that are for the most part, true. Their stories, and the rich history of the area we live in are a wonderful resource for any fiction writer.

Lonnie, the main character in your books, is a prize-winning rodeo rider. Do you have personal experience in that area?

Lonnie Bowers is a bronc rider. I did that. For a lot of years. Once again, it’s what I know, and I think that for any writer, that’s important. Write from your strengths.

In Blackwater Crossing you deal with some heavy subjects like adultery, murder, and drug smuggling. You’ve also packed your book with a lot of action. Did you know that you were going to write such an intense book? Was this challenging?

Some writers can do a comprehensive outline. They know from the first sentence where they’re going with the plot. I wish I could do that—be that organized. I don’t know where the next paragraph is going—or at least until the characters tell me where it’s going. When I start a novel, I know the opening scene, and perhaps have a vague idea of the ending. Another writer said it this way, and I thought it was good advice. “Chase your protagonist up a tree, and then throw rocks at him.” I try to have a good supply of rocks.

How has your own faith affected the direction of your books? Would you call The Border Series Christian fiction?

Tough question. To write anything worth reading, you have to write from the heart, which means you’re going to leave some of your soul on the page—at least you’d better. So yes, my experiences with horses and cattle, drug dealers and Mexican cartels are part of my books. So is my worldview and faith. Does that mean they are Christian fiction? Probably not. They’re a little edgy to fit comfortably in that category. That said, does the Border Series have a message? Absolutely! But neither is it in your face. I want readers to be carried away by the story. If it challenges where you’re at in life—great.

Where can we buy the books? Are there plans for the series to be printed?

The Border Series can be bought through any e-Reader. Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo—pretty much any e-reader platform. Zeal Publishing, who put out the series is currently pursuing other print publishing options.

Are you currently working on another book? If so, can you give us a preview?

I’m currently editing the second book in the Winds of Passion series. The first book follows Dina Rodriguez, a Mexican girl who dreams of being a top barrel racer. But when she arrives in Miles City Montana, she soon realizes she hasn’t escaped her father’s criminal connections. And her love of barrel racing wasn’t supposed to collide with international terrorists or an enigmatic stranger who is determined to be more than her protector.

Where can we learn more about your books and get updates on your future projects?

I occasionally blog about updates and share cowboy poetry at www.davidgriffinsite.com. Writing is a contract of trust. When a reader purchases a novel, they expect it to be to a certain standard. I take that charge seriously, and I’m grateful to all those who have read and enjoyed the Border Series. I hope they will enjoy the Winds of Passion books as well. Some have asked whether there is going to be another book in the Border Series. Absolutely!

Check out Blackwater Crossing at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca.

David Griffin Photo

 

Loving the Birds

Photo credit: BrandyCorc

Photo credit: BrandyCorc

It’s been a joy to watch my oldest daughter’s love of birds blossom over the years. Every day, she counts the minutes until she can get outside.

In the fall and winter, Myra stands by her feeder holding birdseed, and the little chickadees swoop down and eat from her outstretched hands. It took amazing perseverance and patience to earn their trust—but she did. One sweet little bird would recognize her away from the feeder and land on her shoulder as she walked through the forest.

In the spring and summer, Myra scours the forest for nests. She checks on them daily and quietly observes the chicks’ growth. One day, as I was walking on the driveway, Myra waved me over. “Do you see the baby?” she asked with glowing eyes. A puffed up, nearly mature chick, bumbled around while the mother watched from a nearby tree. “There are three chicks, and their mother calls to them so she knows where they are.”

As much as Myra rejoiced over the chicks that matured and flew away, she mourned over the ones that didn’t. We learned that a third of wild birds die within their first year, and most of those die within the first few weeks.

Sometimes she was able to give a little help. One evening, our cat caught a young, new-to-flying bird. Myra was able to rescue it unharmed, but the little guy was in shock, so she kept it in a dark box overnight and then set it free in the morning.

Later that day, Myra found a robin chick that had fallen from its nest. We talked about putting it back in the nest, but the nest was too high, and the tree too narrow for us to put a ladder against it. Myra and Melanie watched the bird for several hours to see if the parents would care for it on the ground. But the parents didn’t, and the bird was getting weak.

She brought the bird in and then began the work of keeping it warm and fed. The little guy needed to be fed every couple of hours throughout the day. We’ve raised chicks successfully in the past, but this little one died after two days.

“Myra,” I said as I held her, “I’m sorry that it died, but I’m proud of you for all the hard work you’ve done to care for this chick. It definitely would have died if you had left it on the ground, and you gave it a chance. It just wasn’t meant to be, honey.”

I realized that I could learn for Myra’s perseverance. It takes strength  and courage to keep on loving and being vulnerable after experiencing hurt. But love…is always worth it.

 Myra

Planting Seeds

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I saw this quote on my box of granola one morning as I was eating breakfast. It made me smile. The granola makers had a sense of humour to pair their seedy cereal with these words.

It also made me think.

Many of us are moms with small children. There are many frustrations that we face every day. We toil. We struggle. We laugh. We cry.

I won’t tell you this job is easy. I never have. We are planting seeds—seeds of love, joy, faith, hope, perseverance, laughter, and tears into the lives of eternal souls. Is it worth the pain and the heartache? Definitely.

 

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season

we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

~Galatians 6:9

Photo Credit: Linder

Photo Credit: Linder

I had a request for a third chapter in this bizarre little series, and it just so happens that we had another crisis.

I was just drifting into sleep on Friday night when my phone rang. It was the camp where my daughters were at. This was not a good sign at 12:30 at night. I was informed that Melanie was having a asthma attack and was being taken into the hospital.

The weird thing about this was that Melanie doesn’t have asthma. I threw on my clothes and rushed to the hospital.

My stomach tightened when I saw a van—with the sliding door still opened—sitting in front of the hospital entrance. They must have been frightened for her to leave the door wide opened. Stay calm, I told myself.

The hospital had been recently renovated and it felt like I was dreaming as I rushed down unfamiliar corridors looking for my daughter.

I was led into emergency where I found Melanie grabbing her chest and gasping for air. Her wide eyes were filled with panic.

A mask was placed over Melanie’s face, and as she sucked in the steam and medication I felt her body begin to relax.

After the mask was removed Melanie’s eyes filled with tears, “I really missed you, Mom.”

“I missed you too, Sweety.” I held her close to me, and felt the tears spill onto my own cheeks.

Melanie was soon released from the hospital and decided that she wanted to come home instead of going back to camp that night. The asthma attack remains a bit of a mystery but seems to have been triggered from extreme excitement and exertion as well as smoke in the air from forest fires. The panic made things worse.

I’m so thankful for the camp director who drove Melanie to the hospital and to the camp nurse (my dear friend Miriam) who stayed with Melanie and offered her comfort and love. Most of all, I’m thankful that Melanie is fine now.

The truth is, things can always get worse. My lesson in all of these trials is to count my blessings—to realize that in spite of the difficulties, embarrassments, disappointments, and fears . . . my cup overflows.

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In my last post, I shared about our restaurant incident where Joel threw up—over and over again. (How long will it be before I feel safe in a restaurant again?) But that . . . was just the beginning of the story.

We drove across the road to our hotel and I went into the lobby to check-in. The receptionist handed me the key cards and told me where our room was. Just as I was headed out the door, I turned back. “Oh, can you tell me where the pool is?”

“I’m sorry, but the pool is closed for maintenance.”

Only 10 minutes earlier, our lovey dinner had turned into a nightmare and now the pool was closed too. “But we came here to go swimming,” I said. I was trying not to whine.

“I’m sorry, but the Four Seasons Pool is open until 9:00.”

I went back to the van and broke the news to the family. We contemplated going to the public pool, but there was only an hour before closing and it just wasn’t possible to get ourselves and six kids dressed and in and out of the pool in that time.

“What about going to another hotel?” Kevin asked.

“None of the other hotels will let us stay with six kids. Remember they told us not to come back to Esther’s Inn unless we get two rooms. That would cost a fortune and I don’t really want some of the kids in a separate room—do you?”

Kevin shook his head, “Let’s just go to the park.”

This whole scenario felt very familiar to me as we dove out of the parking lot. One year ago we’d taken our kids on a trip through the Rocky Mountains. I had told the kids, “We’re going to go to Fort Steele, and they have a real steam engine train that you can ride in!” But the train wasn’t running at the time so we skipped Fort Steele. Everyone was disappointed. “I’m so sorry you guys, but when we get to Jasper we’re going to ride in an air tram to the top of the mountain!”

But when we got to Jasper, we learned that there were no vacancies in any of the hotels. We went to the information centre and got a list of Bed and Breakfast accommodations and started calling. Nothing.

I rarely cry, but that did it. We’d missed the last air tram. There was nothing to do but keep on driving and arrive home in the middle of the night. I must have cried for two hours! It just hurt me so much that I’d broken my word to my kids.

Here I was again. I’d told the kids that we were going to Prince George to go swimming. During the whole 100 kilometre drive, the kids chattered excitedly about showing Daddy how they could swim and then I’d let them down—broken my word. It’s not your fault, I told myself. You can sit here and cry, or you can choose joy and go have fun with your kids. I chose joy.

The kids ran around, climbed on the monkey bars, pretended to drive the fire truck, flew down the slides, and played tag. “You’re it!” shouted Owen as he tapped me on the shoulder and gave me an impish grin.

I laughed and started chasing kids. We sprinted around the playground, tagging each other back and forth. I stopped when an elderly woman shot me a dirty look for nearly colliding with her.

We walked around the beautiful park and had a lovely evening. I snuck up to Kevin and whispered in his ear. “Can we go swimming at the public pool in the morning?”

“But we don’t have any towels.”

“Maybe I could borrow some from the hotel, or we could use Joel’s blankets.”

“Blankets?” Kevin raised his eyebrows at me and then smiled. “If it’s open in the morning we can go.”

I felt all warm and fuzzy inside. I had learned my lesson on not giving into disappointment and we would still get to go swimming!

I checked the pool’s schedule on my phone and it said they would be open at 9:00, so we told the kids we would get to go swimming after all and headed to the pool after breakfast.

The parking lot looked suspiciously empty as we pulled up to the pool. I ran to the door and gave it a pull, but it didn’t budge. I looked up at the schedule on the door. Closed.

“Sorry kids, but the pool is closed.” I can’t believe this! God, please help me to hold it together, I prayed. Joel started bawling as we drove out of the parking lot. I think everyone else felt like crying too.

We had some tension as we discussed going to the other pool in town. Kevin was just ready to go home. He’d had it. Besides we really didn’t like the other pool. I wanted to go, but not if he was going to be miserable.

We ended up driving across town to the other pool. We sat in the parking lot and waited for it to open. The tension was thick.

It turns out we did go swimming and we did have fun. The kids got to show their dad how they could swim, we floated in the “river,” and the kids scared me by jumping off of the diving board without a life jacket. (They actually can swim!)

At home later that day, Kevin gave me a hug. “Wow, that was a terrible trip,” he said while hanging his head on my shoulder. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. We did. :)

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Photo credit: spider

“Let’s get all our Saturday chores done today because we won’t be here tomorrow, kids.” I laughed as the children stormed me with questions.

“Are we going to stay in a hotel?” asked one.

“Are we going to go swimming?” shouted another.

“Yes. We didn’t tell you before because we didn’t want to disappoint you if it didn’t work out, but we’re going to stay in a hotel that has a pool and you guys can show Daddy how you can swim.”

The five oldest children had been taking swimming lessons and four had just learned to swim. They were bouncing with excitement and it was impossible to keep everyone calm, but we finally were able to get all our chores done and the van packed up.

We left soon after Kevin got home from work. It was a beautiful day. We were going to have a wonderful time. What could go wrong?

The children could probably count on one hand the times we’ve been away from home over night. Money has always been tight and travelling with six kids is never cheap. I’d found a hotel with a 2 bedroom family suite that was really quite affordable, though, and what was even better was that it had a pool and free breakfast. I was as excited as they were.

Our first stop was the White Spot for dinner. The kids all got pirate packs and we all laughed at Joel as he downed a huge cup of apple juice and even managed to get his brother to give him some of his pop. My kids drink water, so juice and pop are pretty exciting to this two-year-old.

Joel ate a pile of grapes and several chicken nuggets in the shapes of anchors and fish. He ate a couple of bites of his ice cream too.

“Look at his belly,” I said while giving it a little poke. It was looking pretty round. “Can Mama have your ice cream?” I rarely order dessert—watching those calories—but I’m not above eating what my kids don’t finish.

“No, my ice cream,” Joel said while pulling the dish towards himself.

“Okay, well eat it up.” I spooned some of the strawberry goo into his mouth.

He made a face and then a sound came from deep inside his throat. I watched in horror as he threw up into his pirate pack. The mess was contained so I wiped up his mouth and prayed that nobody saw that. I moved away the boat—too soon. He threw up again, this time all over his clothes. I snatched up all the napkins and mopped him up as quickly as I could.

My only thought at this point was to get this kid out of the restaurant. I unbuckled the seat and helped him stand. It happened again. And it was even worse because he was standing. Time stood still and it became dream like. No, nightmare like.

I turned to Kevin, “Get him out of here—now!”

I kid you not, the little guy puked at least five times! I trembled as I wandered around snatching unused napkins off of empty tables. A waitress brought me a cloth and I washed everything down, paid, and escaped.

Shame. Horror. Embarrassment. Guilt. Queasy. Yes, I was experiencing all of those feelings. Did I say embarrassment?

This story doesn’t really have a point except that sometimes parenting can be very, very humbling.

By the way, Joel wasn’t fazed. He was perfectly happy and energetic. It was his mother that took about an hour to stop shaking.

 

To be continued . . .

 

P.S. – This picture was taken about 30 minutes after “the incident.” I can’t even guess how many times he ran up the stairs and careened down that side. Definitely not suffering. :)IMG_2472[1]

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Photo credit: Grafiker

Yesterday, I went to the store to get milk and walked out with a 40 pound box of bananas. My husband tells me that I can’t just run into a store to get something. He’s right—I’m always scanning for a good deal.

I gave each of my boys a bowl and a utensil for mashing bananas and started peeling. (The girls were away for the day.) The perfect bananas went onto a pan to be frozen for later. The not-so-perfect ones got their bruises cut out and got mashed by the exuberant boys.

I got busy baking, and Joel (2 years old) “helped” by pouring baking soda into my muffin cups and all over the floor. What would I do without toddler help? ;)

My all-time favourite banana recipe is the “Banana Chocolate Chip Cake.” Actually this is my all-time favourite recipe—period. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve baked this easy, moist, yummy cake.

So here it is. Enjoy!

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Cake

 

½ cup butter

1½ cups sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup mashed bananas

1/3 cup sour milk

1 cup chocolate chips (my recipe says these are optional, but, no—they’re not.)

 

Cream together butter and sugar, and stir in eggs and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Add bananas, sour milk and chocolate chips, and stir until mixed. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes.

 

Many thanks to my good friend Abby for sharing this recipe with me many years ago.  :)

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