“Pursuit of the Golden Lily” is a new novel by R. Emery, inspired by her father's WWII POW diary. Initially documenting the author's journey to return the diary to Thailand where it was written, the Blog now follows her experiences as she self-publishes, launches the novel and reflects on topics woven into the narrative.

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Rise of Racism and Intolerance

When my father spoke of his time as a POW of the Japanese during WWII, he never once blamed the evils he witnessed on one race. 
He didn't say: "Japanese people are bad." He said: "War makes people do terrible things."
I did not know what racism was until I was in my twenties, when someone I was staying with in London used a racial slur to describe a neighbor. I was stunned and very disturbed. I had no concept of disliking someone based on their race or religion - though I do remember being called a "Roast Beef" as we drove through France on our way to holidays in Spain! (I'm pretty sure we yelled "Frogs" back, much to my parent's disdain!)
I was lucky and obviously very privileged. 
I'm not saying that I am perfect. I have caught myself being swept up in 'us' and 'them' situations - mostly towards my own race I might add. 
I know we have a long way to go before the human race understands and accepts that we all rise from the same seed. There are many conversations to be had and much listening to be done before we can even begin to truly understand the depth of hurt caused by bigotry.
 However, as we collectively face the greatest threat to human civilization in memory, namely climate change, I hope we will find a way to transcend the barriers that divide us and go beyond the rhetoric being bandied about by certain political figures and hate groups. 
We can be greater than that.
Researching Pursuit of the Golden Lily exposed me to the worst of human nature. Hatred is always there, simmering beneath the surface, waiting for a hint of an excuse to burst forth.
But so is love.
So is kindness, and compassion.
What do you choose?
What kind of a world do you envision?
Let us not forget that in nature, a monoculture is doomed to extinction.
Longterm, it is only in biodiversity that life flourishes and thrives.
Speak out against racism and intolerance.
Never forget...
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is when good men do nothing."
- Edmund Burke

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Mission Accomplished! Next....

Seventy-one years ago my father left Thailand, where he had endured three years as a prisoner of the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. He recorded his experiences of that terrible time in a small brown exercise book that served as his journal. It was not for the faint hearted, the perils of writing. Any POW found with written material gambled with the fate of dire punishment, torture and even death.
And yet, Capt. Edward J. Emery risked his life anyway. Now, that diary resides in the Thailand-Burma Railway Center in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. The inspiration and impetus for my journey has now come home.
I know my Dad would be content. Especially given that the names of fellow POWs listed in those pages, will help some families find closure on the unknown fate of loved ones. As a doctor, Daddy cared for, and comforted, countless men in the hospital wards he was assigned to.
My father taught me many things... however, my personal takeaway from this journey is the following...
Have the courage to write and speak out against injustice.
Do not allow fear to prevent you from exposing and sharing information that powerful entities would prefer to remain hidden. 
Seek the truth, even though it is always subjective.
Do not allow demagogues, bullies and fascist dictators to silence the media by tricking you into believing they are conspiring to dupe you. Yes, there are cases where the media is used as a propaganda tool, but in modern democracies there is enough information to allow populations to be discerning and fact-check the lies.
So what is next for me? I will continue to follow the sinister trail of the Golden Lily, and write the sequel to my first novel. In this way I feel I am honoring my father's legacy of writing, despite the risks involved. 

Sunday, 23 October 2016

To Vote Or Not To Vote?

When I asked a friend yesterday whether she was going to vote in the US Election, she said something to the effect of: "I don't feel in my heart that I should vote - from a 'higher' perspective it all seems too crazy and chaotic, not something I want to be a part of."
I didn't respond right away. I needed time to reflect on what she had said. I muttered something about it being a personal choice. In hindsight I see that I did not say: "I respect your choice", because I didn't.
I am Canadian - born British. I consider that to be an immense privilege in and of itself because of the rights I inherited as a citizen of those countries, such as the right to vote. I did not have to fight for that right, but my forbearers did, so I try not to forget that, no matter how disillusioned I am with political leaders.
Democracy is not perfect, but it's the system we currently have here in North America. Until a better system evolves it is one of the only ways a citizen's voice can affect change at both the local and national level (although I am sure some would dispute that). I understand people's disappointment in the political system, I really do. However, I feel that choosing to abstain from voting is not only an insult to all those who died fighting for the right to do so (both historically and still to this day in some places parts), but it is also an egregious abdication of responsibility toward the community of which one is a part.
As it happens, my friend is an ardent environmentalist who campaigns for issues like climate change, clean water, healthy food, protecting the environment and all living beings.
She is passionate about women's rights, cares about community and the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples.
She wants a world of peace where people live alongside one another in harmony. 
Her vote could help protect or destroy the provisions that have been put in place to protect every one of those issues.
What did I learn from history, as I researched for this book?
I learned that democracy is a fragile system that can be rocked to the core when political leaders are demagogues, hell bent on imposing their own narcissistic agendas.
I learned that people can be duped into believing anything, especially if the indoctrination is embedded in fear-based propaganda.
I learned that when people have nothing, they can easily be led to believe that there is nothing to lose. But there is.
I learned that by scorning intellectuals, artists, writers, philosophers and the educated, masterful dictators can convince the uneducated to rise up against them. Ironic, since in most cases those very people are in actual fact working to better the quality of life for all.
I learned that the unthinkable can happen - in a very short period of time.
I love my friend. But I have to say that I think her choice not to vote is a selfish one, and I will tell her, when the appropriate moment arises.
Let's not forget where our rights have come from.
Let's move forward, not backwards. There is so much that we can do if we learn from the past and embrace the incredible opportunities that exist when we collaborate, not alienate.
I vote for that!
And, I voted in the last Canadian election too!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Discipline & the Daily page...

I am eternally grateful to have a job, to have food on my table and a roof over my head. That being said, I must challenge myself to muster every ounce of discipline and strength to write a daily page for my new novel... if I want to see it materialize that is. As most of us know, there are plenty of distractions in this modern world - the constant beckoning of social media and news to mention a few. That's partly where the discipline comes in!
The smallest effort keeps the flame burning and the story alive in my heart. It does not matter how minimal the effort, the rewards are plentiful.
Many years ago, I read a wonderful book called the Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. One of the exercises contained therein, is to write five pages every day - unedited, unfettered. Simply write whatever comes into your mind. It was an inspirational experience, allowing my thoughts to unfold in a stream of consciousness. Bottom line, it got me writing SOMETHING every day!
As I begin my second novel, I remind myself that even the smallest step towards my goal is a worthy one. It may not be a page of narration; it may be some research, a contact or an idea. It doesn't matter. The point is, do something every day.
And that is what I'm going to do right now! Oh, and if you have a moment, please check out my first novel - Pursuit of the Golden Lily!
Have good one!

Friday, 7 October 2016

Diving back in... the wonder of words.

OK. First novel, Pursuit of the Golden Lily,  published... marketing steps begun, book signings here and there, back to work full time... what's missing? 
Writing the sequel! 
I didn't set out to write a series, but as the saying goes, the book writes you and now I'm hooked, intrigued by what my research uncovered; and, like my protagonist, Rose Jamieson, hungry to learn more.
Is it a spoiler to say you're writing a series? To be honest, I'm not sure at this point how many books are waiting in the wings, but there's most definitely one. 
I wrote the first page of Chapter One today, and it felt wonderful... like meeting an old friend, delighting in our shared history. Thrilling to the sensation of disappearing down the rabbit hole of my imagination, oblivious to the cacophony of sounds in the cafe around me; fingers tapping across the keyboard as if driven by some unknown force. Exhilarating!
Watching the sentences unravel before me, I was once again reminded of the wonder of words; the marvel of language and our ability to conjoin letters thereby giving voice and meaning to our thoughts and ideas.
And while I am not seeking to write a literary masterpiece, nor inject too many unfamiliar words into my work, I confess that the delight of hearing certain words in the English language, still thrills. 
Perhaps I am even more driven today to cherish words because they, like everything, are subject to the whims of change and technology. Abbreviations seem to rule. Staccato has become the norm. I'm sure there are many who still relish deepening their vocabulary, but I do wonder if our collective lexicon is being rapidly diminished. 
It will be what it will be. Personally, I shall continue to relish and gather these distinct elements of speech as I meander along life's path. I will thread them together like glittering jewels and weave them delicately into the fabric of my next story.
Reading the likes of Anne Michaels , Fugitive Pieces, and most recently Isabelle Allende's The Japanese Lover, has certainly inspired me as I seek out these treasured nuggets of literary construction, we call words.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Mapping out the plot....

When I began writing Pursuit of the Golden Lily, a veteran of the publishing world counseled me to write an Executive Summary. Knowing nothing of such things I trolled the internet for examples and set to work diligently following a set of helpful guidelines I found. Initially, it felt laborious - more in line with writing a grant proposal (a task familiar to my career path). However, the guidance I found was perfect for me.
1. Overview
2. About the Author
3. Competing Books
4. List of Chapters & Summaries
Obviously the 'Overview' was helpful - 'Competing Books' too, as it offered me a glimpse of what was available along similar lines (no pun intended). However, the clincher for me was the 'List of Chapters & Summaries. Wham! Right there, I had to map out the entire plot, which for me, was brilliant. Firstly, aside from a few crumbs of ideas, I really had no clue how my storyline was going to unfold. As I began to simultaneously research and navigate the adventure, it was truly amazing to watch how it all unfolded. As I've said before... the book writes itself. It did. Like a co-pilot, I observed and commented, jumping in here and there to tweak and polish.
Naturally, the Executive Summary is not for everyone, but if you have a complicated plot, as I did, it certainly helps iron out the creases, uncover missteps and catch omissions. 
If you enjoy a good mystery, check out Pursuit of the Golden Lily

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Undoing 'Writer's Block'

I know, the photo is ice-cream with chocolate sauce. That's because when I get writer's block, I turn to ice-cream. Yes, it's probably sexier to think of an author huddling with  bottle of Jack Daniels, or some such brew, but this gal opts for a sweeter kind of comfort. I'd have smoked a cigarette once upon a time, but I'm happy to say those days are long gone. Writer's block, on the other hand, still maintains a presence in my life and can manifest just about any day that I sit in front of my computer.
 So, what to do? 
Photo of Ethel Merman by Walter Albertin
When I was 21, I met an American author living in Edinburgh. She was everything I thought (at that time) a writer should be. She was well traveled, seemed to possess an abundance of knowledge, had a husky voice, drank, smoked and stayed up late. She gave me a piece of advice that I have carried with me to this day. She said...."Every day, I sit in front of my typewriter, for at least two hours. Sometimes, there's nothing; sometimes there's something; and sometimes the writing just flows."
Another writer buddy counsels: write something every day - even if it's just a page. Of course, everyone has their methods. However, I know that when I am disciplined enough to make time to sit and write, the results are rewarding. Hey, I'm here right now, writing. It doesn't matter what you write, just write.
Here's a couple of helpful Blogs about writing that I've come across lately: