An ideal to live by


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Age must be making me more philosophical – or perhaps it’s the writing I do with the focus it brings on characters’ emotions, motivations, joys, and disappointments. A number of years ago, I clipped a portion of an article from the Globe and Mail written by Gordon Pitts. Mr. Pitts had interviewed Marilyn Carson Nelson who was then Chair of Carlson Cos. Inc. a hospitality-travel business that included Radisson hotels and Carlson Wagonlit Travel. (One of her daughters has subsequently taken on that position.)

The question that captured my attention was Ms. Nelson’s quote:

Every day should be a day I can sign my name to. We should live as a kind of artist because that may be the last day.

Mr. Pitts asked Ms. Nelson to explain and included her response in the interview.

“Our third child was a daughter, Juliet. She was beautiful, vivacious with that wonderful free spirit that comes from being a middle child. She was the one who would call in the morning and say, ‘Have you seen the sun rise?’

She had gone off to college and she was in an automobile accident. She was in the back seat, didn’t have a seatbelt on, and was thrown out of the car.

It’s impossible to put words around the loss of a child. My husband and I tried to make sense of it – and of course, you can’t. But you decide every day, ‘Are you going to get up, or are you going to put the pillow over your head? Of course there are many reasons to get up, but it is so hard to try, in any way, to force yourself to go on. Then we began to realize it was, in part, about time.

We spend our lives thinking about when – when our children grow up, when they graduate, when they’re married. And it is wonderful – we are preparing.

But this wonderful gift is today. She didn’t know she would not come back from college. I don’t know whether I’ll get home tonight. But I know I have this moment – and the time we have is the time being.

So my husband and I decided on a philosophy that if today were the last day of my life, would I be able to sign my name to it? Would I say I lived up to my own expectations of myself? Did I live with integrity? Did I apply my talents? Did I love my neighbour? Did I forgive?

Those are the things that each of us really wants to do, but we don’t always take stock at the end of the day and start again tomorrow. We should make a bit of a work of art of the time we are given.”

I’m glad I found this piece again and can share it with you. Hopefully, I can bring this philosophy into my day-to-day living.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

If by Rudyard Kipling


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Long ago my father wrote out this well-known poem by Rudyard Kipling. My father died quite young at 58. I don’t have many things written in his hand, nor can I ask him why the poem was so important. But I can repeat it here – offering it up as inspiration for any in need of such and in memory of my beloved father.

I wonder if the poem helped him through a particular time in his life. One analysis suggests it offers “various ways in which the reader can rise above adversity that will almost certainly be thrown one’s way” at some point in one’s life.

My father’s name was John Kendal Bingham – Ken to everyone he knew except his mother who insisted on calling him Kendal. He was tall, good looking, and had the proverbial temper ascribed to those with red hair. As an only child, he was indulged by his mother – a woman who should have lived in Victorian times – and no doubt bewildered his mild-mannered father. He was smart, studied engineering at university and graduated in 1943 in the midst of World War Two.

Throughout university he trained in the ROTC – Royal Officer Training Corps – and afterwards served two years as a lieutenant training soldiers in signals work. Dad was scheduled to go to the Asian theatre of war and married my mother just before leaving for special training in the US. He never did go overseas and later had a successful career in the Canadian telephone and telecommunications industry.

Dad was a man of integrity. He worked and played with gusto, had a great sense of humour, loved his family, supported his friends, and was a dedicated man of faith. I miss him every day and often think of how intrigued he would have been with the way technology permeates every aspect of our life. In the mid-sixties he managed a research team that was looking at the concept of ‘picture-phones’ where instead of just hearing someone speak, you could also see the person. And now we have tools like FaceTime.

In today’s climate, we might take exception to the maleness of the poem, however, I believe we can take Kipling’s thoughts and interpret them to suit us all.

Dad – this one’s for you, with love.

PS – the word ‘loose’ should be ‘lose’.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website



Perspectives on writing with author Bob Rich


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Bob Rich is a professional grandfather. His main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which his grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. He’s worked as a research scientist, a builder’s labourer, a nurse, a psychotherapist and always as a storyteller. For eighteen years, he’s written a newsletter – a collection of thoughts and insights on a wide range of topics – called Bobbing Around. I think you’ll find his perspective refreshing.

Why do you write historical fiction?

Mary, it’s not like that for me. Writing is the chocolate icing on the cake of life, and research is the yeast in the cake mix.

I started with nonfiction, and without meaning to, built up a wide following in Australia, where I live. As a kid, one of my favorite activities was to read anything that taught me something new. I used to read encyclopedias, and could get lost in them for hours. This gave me an understanding of our world, and how it can be improved.

For years, I had a concept in my mind: a small group of forest-dwelling teenagers, facing an invading patrol of nomads who kill the boys and abduct the girls. When I felt confident enough, I started writing, and this resulted in a series: The stories of the Ehvelen. The Ehvelen are the REAL little people, the base of the many myths. I know, because I visited them in 700 BC. They became the protectors of the wild places, the Mother’s sword against cruelty, slavery, exploitation.

My writing skills have greatly improved during the past 20-odd years, and I should rewrite the books, because the content is great. Only, I’ve grown since, and now I am less interested in opposing evil as in changing it into good. For example, my award-winning novel, Sleeper, Awake, has plenty of tension, but no villains at all. It’s also historical, but the time is 1500 years into the future.

Another historical project was set between 1939 and 2000. It’s the story of a woman who did the impossible and survived the unsurvivable, more than once. She used intelligence, creativity and ruthlessness to survive the Nazi occupation of Hungary, then built a million-dollar business behind the iron curtain. Only, this is nonfiction: my mother’s biography. After she died, I had a suitcase-full of research materials, but couldn’t even look at them for two years. The resulting book has the highest number of awards among my 17 titles. It’s Anikó: The stranger who loved me.

In 2013, I had book published that’s mostly historical fiction: early Viking times in Ireland, the period surrounding the Irish rebellion of 1798 and its sequel of Irish people being deported to what became Australia, then the Victorian era, and finally our times. Why did I write this one? Because it is my life story, though fictionalized to protect the guilty. It’s the story of my life, and five of my past lives I recalled in 2007, but the hero is not me. Rather, he is the person I’d like to be. This is Ascending Spiral.

Finally, one of my recent books is historical fiction, set in Australia in the mid-19th century. The inspiration for it was my work as a counselor in an (Australian) Aboriginal health service. I came to love and admire these people, who are the survivors of genocide, and terribly traumatized from what the invaders did to people of an amazingly wise culture. So, Guardian Angel is a tribute to them.

Do you have a particular approach to research and writing?

Typically, I invent a few characters, and put them into a situation. They then take over, and tell me what to write. Often, they tell me what I need to find out before I can make it happen. For example, Maraglindi, my Aboriginal heroine, told me that her life began near Newcastle, in New South Wales, so then I researched the area, contacted local Aboriginal associations, consulted with experts on various aspects of life in the area during the 1850s, and suchlike fun activities.

What advantages do you think come from concentrating on a period of time?  Any disadvantages?

I think I’d get bored with sticking to just one time-and-place. Life is too short for the seriousness it deserves. (A young fellow told me this in 700 BC.) If I get a concept for a particular time, or location, then I have the joy of researching it.

What techniques do you employ to write productively?

I’m not fussed about speed, or deadlines, and have several projects going at the same time, all very different from each other. I had a historical novel published in 2017, a contemporary one earlier this year, I am almost ready to send a nonfiction book (From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide) to my publisher, and am working on a science fiction series set in the present time. I started the depression book about 10 years ago, and worked on it only when the more fun fiction projects dried up.

Writing for me is not distinct from life. Ideas bubble up all the time. Some I let go, others I grab hold of, and they take me over.

What strategies guide your writing career?

Get a piece of work as perfect as I can make it. Then I seek beta readers, and improve further. I’m always open to suggestions for improvement, and there is no such thing as a mistake, only learning opportunities.

Do you have any advice for writers of historical fiction?

Enjoy. Do enough research that you could move into that time and place and be indistinguishable from the locals. Listen to your characters. They know better than you do.

Is there a question you would like to answer that I haven’t asked?

What sets literature apart from the forgettable?

You can have a perfectly enjoyable book, which will merge into the great crowd of other memories within a few weeks, or at the most months. Other books stay with you. Real life events will bring something from the story to mind, and you feel a better person for having read it.

I think the difference is the message. Every book has a set of messages, which is the belief system of the author. When the subterranean messages are bland, the book is forgettable. When they challenge you, take you out of the ordinary and get you to question what others take to be common sense, then you have literature.

Many thanks, Bob, for sharing your views on writing. What an eclectic mix of stories. You mother’s life story sounds fascinating.

Guardian Angel by Bob Rich

1850, a small town in Australia: Glindi, an Aboriginal woman, gives birth to a daughter, the result of a rape by a white man. She names her Maraglindi, meaning “Glindi’s sorrow,” but the girl is a joy to all those around her. She has the gift of love. During her short life, she encounters everything intolerant, cruel Victorian society can throw at people it considers to be animals. She surmounts the savagery of the white invader by conquering hate with love. Even beyond death, she spreads compassion, then she returns a second time, with an ending that will touch your heart. Maraglindi: child of the land, fruit of an evil deed, and instrument of love.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website