5 STARS – A masterfully told tale, flawlessly written with authentic characters, brimming with drama and reality.

A masterfully told tale, flawlessly written with authentic characters, brimming with drama and reality.

A 21-year-old woman leaves a New Year’s Eve party after a spat with her boyfriend.

At about the same time and very inebriated man leaves another party to head home. The two of them meet on a dark street, she while walking in a crosswalk, he in a speeding luxury vehicle.

After the impact, he leaves the scene to make the necessary arrangements to keep his life intact while she lies dying on the roadside. He never even gets out of the vehicle.

In She Tumbled Down, author Lorraine Devon Wilke asks, “What kind of person could do such a thing…hit someone then just drive away?” and then she goes on to answer it.

Told from the point of view of the perpetrator, Wilke enters into his world of rationalization and justification. As the story unfolds and three years pass, the reader is brought to the brink of empathy, just as the woman who has fallen in love with him is when he confesses to her. He’s repentant, he helps others, he tries to be the best person he can be, admitting his crime now would do more harm than good.

What should she do? What would you do?

This is a masterfully told tale, flawlessly written with authentic characters and brimming with dramatic reality. A remarkable achievement in the difficult genre of the short story.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

5 STAR Review for Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths – From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation, by Joseph N. Abraham, MD

Remember in history class how we were taught that all the kings, conquerors, and subsequent rulers in ancient times were great men? How we focused on their limited positive achievements, disregarding the human carnage it took to accomplish them? 

In Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation, author Joseph N. Abraham makes the indisputable case that “Conquest is murder and theft; Conquerors are vicious criminals; Conquerors become kings; Kings designed civilization; And we are the products of civilization.” 

Despite what we were indoctrinated to believe, these iconic figures were not benign rulers or philosopher-kings. Instead, and the facts bear it out, they ascended to power because of personality traits that include a confluence of psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and sadism, or as Abraham refers to this malevolent mix, “the dark tetrad.” 

The reasons for the primacy of the “atrox,” the term the author uses for those individuals with these personality traits, are two-fold: genetic and conditioning. Abraham points out that humans are pack animals and that the characteristics of a successful alpha male very closely resemble that of the “dark tetrad.” Furthermore, the chances of flourishing or even surviving under such a leader necessitate blind obedience; ergo, civilization is designed by the atrox and we are products of his civilization. 

Considering that I read this book during Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it provided some disturbing revelations about this modern-day atrox’s motivation. According to Abraham, “when the conqueror invades, he robs civilians of their wealth, their freedom, and their lives. He may claim any number of reasons for his conquest, including protection, ideological conversion, liberation, trade preservation, or others. It does not matter. Those arguments are rationalizations, or at best secondary concerns, for a simple reason: without profit, conquest is impossible. Without obscene levels of profit, it is unattractive.” 

He also convincingly applies these traits to modern-day corporations, suggesting that “King and conqueror have morphed into modern business and political leaders, who continue to exploit us and expend our lives for power, wealth, and narcissism.” 

So compelling are Abraham’s arguments that it’s not an exaggeration to say Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation changed my world view. Despite being dense with facts and theories, the book is extremely readable, with countless historical revelations and profound insights throughout. The most discouraging of these is the idea that “Horror is our past. If we do not embrace that fact, it will also be our future, over and over, until we finally do learn to understand and to control it. Or until we disappear from the planet.”

Chick lit without the chick

Dan McDowell is a thirty-three-year-old commercial photographer three years into a comfortable relationship with Jane. They both are, if not ambitious, gainfully employed, well-mannered and appropriate. Dan seems quite content to continue to take pictures of school children, Jane to crunch numbers at a real estate firm, both seem satisfied with routine monogamous sex and enjoy Jane’s homemade pie afterwards. They neither have the will nor inclination to do anything about the boring middle-class trap that’s about to ensnare them.

Indeed, that very evening they’re discussing the inevitable – marriage – when Dan lets slip that three years ago, he had sex with his former girlfriend during the transitional period before he and Jane were “exclusive”.

Jane freaks and throws him out of their cozy two-bedroom bungalow where he conveniently crosses the lawn and becomes ensconced in the spare bedroom of his good friend and neighbour, Bob.

What’s with Jane, Dan wonders, and true to his even-tempered, considerate personality gives her some space and time until she accepts that his transgression is nothing compared to the mundane existence they can share moving forward.

Five weeks later Jane is still intransigent, and Dan is becoming a tad impatient. Surprisingly, so are his parents. His reply to their inquiries about his relationship provokes a grumpy response from his father, Big Jim, “You’re dealt a hand and you play it. End of story.”, which has enough subliminal meaning to upset his mother, Esther.

When Dan tells his sister, Lucy, she divulges that the subtext of that conversation has to do with a manuscript she and her mother discovered of a heartbreaking story Big Jim wrote about being dumped by his “soul mate” Barbara from Oakland right after he finished college and eight years before he married their mom.

Perhaps it’s the precarious state of Dan’s own relationship or maybe it’s just that he’s such a sensitive guy, but this romantic illusion resonates, and unimaginative Dan begins to imagine he and Jane maybe aren’t cosmically bonded and what does that mean for their future?

This flight of adolescent flakiness takes a dramatic turn when Big Jim suffers a stroke and in that interim period when brain synapses are scrambled, aand recovery is still in question he utters a strangled plea for someone to “caa…baaa…baaa”.

For some reason, Dan assumes his father, who’s been as happily married to Esther as one can reasonably hope to be after forty years, is calling out for Barbara from Oakland.

This sets the stage for Dan’s frantic week-long quest in the other city by the bay for his father’s enigmatic soul mate. What he hopes to achieve if he finds her is never clear, but he has “to do something that might actually have some impact”. The resulting impact of this misadventure is more bizarre than meaningful.

If you think this preamble into Hysterical Love, by Lorraine Devon Wilke, is complicated then you have some idea of how convoluted the story is. Though cohesive, the narrative is rambling and impeded by long passages of moralizing dialogue and redundant reflection most of which is self-evident to any mature adult.

Major plot points such as Jane’s reason for ejecting her fiancé from their relationship and their domicile, the discovery and significance that Big Jim had his young heart broken eight years before he married Esther, the motive behind the search for Barbara from Oakland, and the improbable hookup with a love goddess named Fiona, really stretched this reader’s suspension of disbelief.

Perhaps most unconvincing is the protagonist who is immature, hypersensitive, prone to histrionics, one would imagine, almost devoid of testosterone. At one point, when he is turning down a zipless encounter with the unimaginably attractive, sexy, and oh so willing Fiona, the virtuous Dan declares “…tonight, I want to be sure we’re honestly in synch with each other”, then doubles down by affirming “Yep, I’d become the girl. The girl who didn’t want to get down to it until she knew it “meant something.”

Was it the author’s intention to convey feminine sensibilities in a male character or is she just having a difficult time writing from a male perspective?

Considering a protagonist like Dan, you might think character growth and development would be easy and extensive. But no, he’s the same milquetoast at the end as he was at the beginning. It’s as if Wilke considered him fully formed with no need to change or improve.

Sometimes pushing the boundaries of genre works, like writing chick lit from a male perspective, but in this case of Hysterical Love, it’s still chick lit only without the chick.

New Release! The FLOCK, Mattie Saunders Series Book 5.

Family – the source of our greatest joy and our deepest pain.

Mattie thinks she needs one. Which will it be for her?

FREE! First 2 books in the series,

The Rocker and the Bird Girl and Cold-Blooded ‘til March 5. Available now at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU

“Compelling read with a complicated heroine and a rich, diverse narrative

 “…a powerful, exciting, well executed drama… I was thoroughly captivated by the interweaving of the various subplots, the interesting and well-developed characters introduced, and the diversity of both personalities and backgrounds that gave the story a depth I found unusual and appealing. A wonderful read I highly recommend.”

– Lorraine Devon Wilke, award-winning author of The Alchemy of Noise   

Rewilding her Blue and Gold Macaw, her companion for twenty years has left Mattie with a big hole in her life. She’s filling it with anger and cynicism and further alienating the few people she’s close to including her partner, Simon.

Being brought up in foster care, Mattie’s never had a family and isn’t even convinced it’s good or necessary, but there have been moments when she’d felt its power–and her need. Birds band together for safety, socialization–for a better chance of survival. It’s called a flock. Mattie wants to bring people together for the same reasons.

She’s getting little help from Simon, an Indigenous person and First Nations leader who is committed to justice and equality for his people and is on the other side of the country leading a protest that has made him a target for alt-right fanatics.

At the same time, she receives a call from the wife of Simon’s cousin who has died of an overdose. Can Mattie take care of their three-year-old son, Howie, while his mother tries to get herself straight? Knowing the alternative is the child goes into the system, Mattie rescues the toddler from the slum apartment.

Mattie knows nothing about looking after children and assumes she’ll play the role of caregiver until another more suitable family member steps up. No one does and despite herself, she falls in love with the little boy and with the help of her transgender housekeeper, Dana, they create a safe and happy environment.

Mattie’s role as a parent abruptly ends when she intervenes in stopping a hate crime by taking a baseball bat to a punk who is assaulting Dana.

She’s arrested, charged and social services take custody of the child. To get Howie back Mattie is faced with personal, legal and political challenges she’ll never overcome alone.

It’s going to take compromise and sacrifice, neither being Mattie’s strong suits, but she’s determined. She won’t have Howie endure what she did growing up.

Using whatever resources at hand, from humility to blackmail, she recruits the support she needs to have the courts grant her custody of the child. On the way, she gathers her flock, while learning that family is like everything else–the more you work at it, the better it gets.


The end of innocence in an innocent time

Opal Ethelred Rogers, Red for short, the only child of two geology professors, has been brought up on her mother’s stories, which use geological episodes as metaphors for life. According to her mother, “Life is nothing but an unending series of these glacial and interglacial periods. Remember that, Red.” When her mother commits suicide, Red relegates these “gilded sagas” to being “one more ugly indictment” of her family and “one more sign that my mother, my father and I were not, and would never be, normal.” 

Difficult years ensue until one day her father decides to uproot their lives in Buffalo and relocate to a small uninhabited island near Pointe au Baril Station on the east coast of Georgian Bay in southern Ontario, Canada. While packing for the move, the stories her mother told her as a child are rediscovered in a notebook and they become “the compass I would use to navigate through the most unforgettable and influential moments of my life – the summer of 1955.” 

Her father’s plan to rebuild an abandoned lodge at this isolated location is met with dismay and some resistance by his fifteen-year-old daughter. This reluctance gradually turns into cooperation and deeper bond is formed between father and daughter. Help with the restoration is recruited and includes a couple of young men, Isadore Whitefeather and Walter Mahoney, both about the same age as Red. Despite having disparate backgrounds, the teenagers become fast friends and support each other, including Walter’s ill-fated entry in the annual regatta and the catching of a mythic musky in the fishing derby, both sponsored by a nearby hotel/resort. 

It’s the same hotel where Red accepts a job as a nanny and is introduced to the “Richie Riches,” the pretentious guests who reside there in the summer. Ignoring warnings from her friends, Red decides to attend a secret, unchaperoned party in a remote location with the teen guests, gets drunk and only the timely intervention of Isadore and Walter saves her from being raped. Yes, the Richie Riches are a nasty lot and not all of them have come by their wealth honestly, as the trio of intrepid teens soon find out. 

Author Peter Bridgford has created an entertaining coming-of-age novel that depicts the end of innocence in an innocent time. Halfway to Schist has a realistic plot, believable characters, and flawless writing, including impressive imagery of the Canadian wilderness as well as authentic fishing and boating details. The geological metaphors are interesting if for no other reason than the science they’re derived from. The story flows naturally and, with the exception of a beginning burdened with backstory and an overlong denouement, is well structured with rising tension that has the reader turning pages quickly.

Terrain – a thriller that transcends genre

Deep in the jungle of Sierra Leone, a group of professional soldiers bolstered by some local regulars are quietly and efficiently facilitating a change of government at the request of their employers. Marek Hussar is ambivalent about the task at hand–not a good predisposition for someone who is hired to kill

Somewhat later, in the upper echelons of international finance shady foreign debt manipulations are coming unraveled. Freddie Oslo is in the middle of it and his boss thinks it might be a good time for him to take an unannounced holiday to an undisclosed destination rather than be deposed under oath in court.

 As considerations regarding Freddie’s culpability are being considered, a young actor has been hired and is being trained for a part in a mysterious reality production he’s not apprised of.

Freddie’s tour guide turns out to be the enigmatic Mr. Lanze, a.k.a. Marek Hussar, the somewhat rehabilitated Cambridge-educated mercenary who previously served the interests of similar corporate masters by perpetuating ongoing conflicts on the continent of Africa.

Freddie’s holiday involves a number of complicated and unexplained machinations including clandestine travel arrangements throughout Europe all the while being held incommunicado. Initially, the subterfuge is tolerated but Freddie’s unease builds as his questions go unanswered and his requests are ignored.

During an unguarded moment, he manages to slip away from his minder and in desperation contacts his wife and arranges a rendezvous. Her arrival accompanied by their young son infuriates Lanze, apparently complicating whatever agenda he has for his client and leaving the reader to wonder if Freddie’s disappearance is to be temporary or permanent–and what part will the actor play?

 Terrain is a good example of an international thriller in all aspects except the way it’s written. Instead of a plot-driven story with a focus on action, author Hesse Caplinger has chosen to present it in a literary style with plot permutations, complex characterizations and lavish descriptions. Motives are hinted at but not declared, dialogue is oblique rather than straightforward and much is left to the reader’s imagination.

 While the writing is crisp and evocative the style at times supersedes the narrative which may have some fans of this genre preferring a more blunt and uncomplicated telling. However, for the reader who wants a story that transcends the genre, Terrain is a good choice. Credit must also be given to Caplinger for taking the risk when he could have easily written to formula.

A compelling story about the resilience of the human spirit

If you want to know what contributes to a person becoming a violent criminal, Real Prison Real Freedom the story of Rickie Smith, by Rosser McDonald is a good place to start.

Born in 1954, Rickie was adopted as an infant by Selestia and Red Smith. As parents, his father was physically and emotionally abusive, while his mother was overindulgent and enabling. The one thing both parents had in common was that all disputes were resolved by violence, most often fueled by alcohol. In addition to a dysfunctional family, Rickie was dyslexic and stopped going to school in grade eight, though he likely didn’t achieve even that level of education.

His life of crime began with burglaries but soon escalated to drug trafficking. His relationships were short and misogynistic. The only trait resembling self-esteem was Rickie’s so-called personal code of honor, “These people are, for sure, gonna respect me.” These people referred to everyone, beginning with his criminal associates, fellow inmates, and particularly the guards and prison administration. Understandably, Rickie equated fear with respect.

By 1990, Rickie was serving three ninety-nine year sentences and fighting a war on three fronts, including one with the Aryan Brotherhood against competing gangs, especially the Mandingo Warriors, the dominant Black inmate gang. Another he was engaged in was within the Aryan Brotherhood over leadership and personal conflicts. The third was against the guards and the system. He had rightly earned the title of the most dangerous man in the Texas Department of Corrections.

Miserable, filled with hatred and anger, and without hope, he picked up a discarded Bible and read “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Rest was what Rickie longed for and so he asked Jesus for it, and it was granted. From that day forward, Rickie Smith became a Christian, living and preaching the gospel.

Included in this compelling story about the resilience of the human spirit is a detailed account of the changes the Texas Department of Corrections underwent during this period. Whether you attribute the transformation of Rickie Smith to accepting Jesus or realizing his life was unbearable and had to change is a matter of personal choice, but there is no denying the gospel was the roadmap to finding his way back to humanity. His implementation of Christian principles has affected a seismic shift in his life and, in doing so, influenced the faith of many others.



The TRIUMVIRATE – Love for Power, Love of Power, the Power of Love.


A story about love and loyalty, politics and power, sacrifice and survival

taken from tomorrow’s headlines.


Till Oct. 6 at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU



When terrorists kill Shyloh’s mother, he dedicates his life to making a better world. He recruits his childhood friends Aiya and Judith. With their intimate bond, exceptional talents and singular determination they become a formidable team.


He chose them, nurtured them, advised them, and, in no small way, is responsible for who and what they’ve become.


Judith, the warrior and pragmatist who believes in law and order, is the commander of the new country’s military.


Aiya, the theologian and advocate for justice and morality, is leader of the Cascadia’s largest faith-based organization.


In the past, when dissension, disagreement, and at times hostility threatened to destroy their triumvirate, Shyloh, the idealist and politician, was able to harness the heat and energy generated from this polarity and craft a consensus, identify a goal, and create a process to get there. Together they’ve been responsible for Cascadia’s survival amid the chaos and carnage that accompanied the collapse of civilization.


But now, negotiating this dichotomy of will and passion is like being between two powerful magnets, crushed when as opposite poles they collide, and at risk of disintegrating when as similar ones they repulse each other.


The unraveling of civilization caused by climate change has brought unique challenges. For  each of them the goal has begun to take on different meaning. In the end, there can only be one better world, but whose will be best?




    …a GREAT choice for a bookclub to read and discuss.

“This book traces Shyloh’s efforts to make a better world of our present social, economic, and environmental crisis through creating a team of three unbiased leaders (The Triumvirate). The problems they address are real and will be known to the reader. They are today’s headlines and, being unbiased, these three are revolutionaries in their own time. It is fast paced, a good story, and an easy read.
    – Clark Wilkins, Author of A Compelling Unknown Force


If you enjoy fiction/sci-fi, climate change and politics this could be a book for you.

I enjoyed the futuristic portrayals of Canada because of the connection with the many pressing social issues in our country’s politics.

Touches on many divisive social issues of today (immigration, virus, climatechange, federal/provincial strain) and provides a unique perspective. The take on the Canadian confederation was particularly interesting to me because of the current issues in Alberta.

– Tom Urac, Author of Spartan Revolt


    “…unflinchingly stares down some of today’s most contentious issues, whether they are of a socioeconomic, environmental, racial, or political nature.

“…sure to spark discussion amongst intellectuals and casual readers alike, … highly recommend it as a selection for a reading group.
— Jonathan Walter, Contributing author to THE DEVIL’S DOORBELL, GHOSTLIGHT, and DARK DOSSIER anthologies; and columnist for UXmatters Web magazine




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99¢ BOOK OF THE WEEK. Abandoned Dreams



‘til Sept. 21st at



Have you ever wondered what dreams you might have fulfilled

if life hadn’t got in the way?

What if you had an opportunity to try again?



At twenty-seven years-old, George Fairweather is “the voice of his generation”, a poet whose talent has garnered him accolades from the literary establishment and homage from the disenfranchised “hippie” youth of the late 1960’s.

George is the embodiment of the times with his long hair, rebellious attitude and regular use of mind-expanding psychedelic drugs.

Then the sudden and tragic death of Fallon, his friend, his muse and his lover shatters his world, his sanity and nearly ends his life.

Katherine is the one person who stands between George and destruction. A hanger-on, a groupie, a go-for, she’s a woman George never considered – for anything. Katherine idolizes George and makes it her personal mission to keep him alive, doing whatever it takes, twenty-four seven.

Because of Katherine’s sacrifice and devotion George slowly begins to mend his soul and rebuild a life. But guilt and gratitude make it a much different life then he’d previously led.

Thirty-seven years later, George Fairweather is a husband, father and grandfather and a successful copywriter at an advertising agency. Another death, his wife Katherine’s, is about to change his life again.

Can dreams be resurrected? Can a live abandoned be taken up again?

Will they let him?

Is it worth it?




“Literary and artistic matters including the drive for fame and creativity, as well as cutting citicism, are refreshingly realistic and provide illuminating insights into the minds of writers and artists.”

Judge Number 54, The 26th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards 


★★★★★ “A well told, fascinating and powerful story. Highly recommended.”


★★★★★  Lovely premise, well-delivered
 “…offers an unflinching look at how circumstance, both disastrous and mundane, can shove youthful ambitions aside…excellently insidious character development, where every individual springs from the page.”

– Mary Keefer, Amazon Verified Purchase



The Seeker of Abandoned Dreams


He is not now, nor has he ever been

the person you think you know.


What you see is a complex compromise

of demons, dreams, desires,

the blunted spear of passion,

the dull edge of intellect,

an over-talked argument, the last guest

at a weary gathering.


Extraneous stuff slips away,

the affairs of friends hold little interest

and the lack of things in common

make conversation the killer

to his preferred silence.


The focus has narrowed, the journey closes,

the lack of purpose becomes



He’s going out there now

to slough off conventions,

become what wind, sun and rain would have him be

beyond different.


He’s taking with him

something vague and inarticulate,

less than a memory, tinged with warning.


He’ll travel with no expectations

only to be

uncomplicated, uncompromised,






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The Message? – Well researched, structured, realistically portrayed, and entertaining.



Leah Warner has been in a serious car accident and is in a coma on life-support. Her multiple injuries include broken bones, brain trauma and face lacerations. When the cardiac arrest alarm sounds in the critical care unit two nurses rush to Leah’s room expecting the worst. Instead, they find her sitting on the side of the bed, “illuminated by the harsh shaft of light”. She is conscious, coherent and not experiencing any pain. It appears the patient has had a spontaneous recovery of all her injuries including the deep cuts on her face, but for Leah, a thirty-eight-year-old widow with two young sons what is even more amazing is “Of all the people in the world, God chose me to be a messenger”.


Leah declares she has been with God and the message he wants her to convey to mankind is “… a message of love. God loves us and wants us to love each other in the same way. God wants us to embrace humility and selflessness instead of acquisition and achievement.”


Subsequent medical examinations confirm Leah’s miraculous recovery and though Leah doesn’t believe she has been instilled with any kind of holiness or divinity she is committed to spreading God’s message.


Very quickly sides are drawn up between those who accept and embrace Leah’s message from God as new hope and direction for a troubled world and those who reject her and the message concerned it will spawn religious bigotry and undermine the status quo.


These opposing positions are represented by two powerful and competing organizations. Americans for Social Progress want “an end to discrimination of all kinds; economic parity; religious freedom; cultural freedom; and the protection of personal privacy.” Their concerned Leah’s message “…will be politicized. It will be abused by those who wish to make God, or their perception of God, the supreme leader of the land.” They’ll pay big bucks for her to muzzle God’s message.


Then there are Americans for the Advancement of Faith, an organization devoted to the promotion of faith who “…only wish to promote a faith-based society.” They’ll pay big bucks to help Leah deliver God’s message.


As the stakes increase and the country becomes more divided violence is inevitable.


The Message? A Thinking Thriller About Change and Choice by Avam Hale is a trope on the theme of how someone espousing fundamental tenets of Christianity would be received in modern society but despite being unoriginal it’s well researched, structured, realistically portrayed, and entertaining.


Hale cleverly has the main narrative supported by a parallel plotline of a twice-weekly class on the philosophical arguments for the existence of a monotheistic God and Creator delivered by a Professor of Philosophy. As Leah’s story advances so do the lectures converging with the question of the authenticity of Leah’s message from God.

The biggest problem I had with this book was a growing suspension of disbelief as the story unfolded. I couldn’t believe that God’s generic, unoriginal message, similar to lessons taught in Sunday school would get the push back Hale builds the tension in his story on. I kept waiting for some validation. A reason to believe. It never came.

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