Parca is the Roman Goddess of Childbirth and Destiny and after you get to know me, you will see why I believe she has, without doubt, made me her Poster Child. I deal with the odd serious issue but for the most part, my posts are just some cheeky fun. You'll find satire with the odd parody tossed in....and most definitely a generous helping of hyperbole, with a dollop of facetiousness.

I am Canadian so expect a bit of politeness too. Sorry.

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5) My old monthly column: The Lighter Side of Self Publishing

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"Oh man...I lost to a DEAD guy!": An ABNA Tale of Woe


The 2013 ABNA contest is over for me. My excerpt didn't get past the second stage and the two tiny 'reviews' I got, based on my pitch and 3000-5000 word excerpt were both good and not too good. One reviewer was excited and loved the premise and wanted to read more...and the only criticism was that she/he wished they could have read not the first 5000 words (as is in the rules) but the excerpt where the climax of the book is. I`m no expert (and neither were the reviewers ...just volunteer/gift card-paid book readers that comment on Amazon a lot; not a slam, just a fact), but I am pretty sure the climax of a book shouldn't be in the first 3 chapters. I wanted to introduce my main character and have people like him so they actually CARED what happens to him.

The second reviewer was the most interesting.

He/she saw the word Hitler in my pitch and took on a preconceived notion that my book was a biography of him, so even though they loved the first chapter and the writing, it fell apart for him/her in the second chapter, where I begin the introduction to the life of my main character...Hitler's SON. It is a fiction. Not a biography. But the reviewer wrote: "I’m reminded of Norman Mailer who wrote books about a young Hitler and a biography of Picasso, but all I can think of is how much better Mailer handled his subject matter." 

Really? A two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author writes better than  me? I didn't even KNOW I was competing against Mailer! Oh man...I lost to a DEAD guy.

How depressing. Well...not really. In reality, that made me feel better because the reviewer got it so wrong, I can't feel bad about the review. He doesn't compare my writing to Mailer...but the SUBJECT MATTER! So, yes, if my story was a bio on Hitler's son, perhaps it sucks...but it isn't, so maybe it doesn't. I don't mind criticism that helps me tighten my story or offers real advice that I can chew on constructively, but this contest was a real eye opener. No sour grapes here...I wish the winner in June all the best, truly! I am now looking for an agent or publisher to make my book, The Saving of NATION, a hold-in-your-hander.  :)

But here...you can judge for yourself. First is my 300 word pitch, as per the rules of the 2013 ABNA contest...then the FIRST 3000-5000 word excerpt as per the rules as well. 

Please feel free to comment...I appreciate any and all feedback! It can only help. CHEERS and write on!!


Anton Theril thought he was going to turn 18 on his birthday. Instead, he turned into a stranger whose entire life had been a lie.

His parents and uncle were not related to him and they, as well as the elderly neighbors he considered his surrogate grandparents, were actually Chosen Guardians that had been entrusted to raise him as a good German. One fit to rule The Fatherland in the place his real father: Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun were married a mere thirty-six hours before committing joint suicide at the end of WWII. This seems a fruitless gesture unless one sees how this action would legalize their union and legitimize their child, a child kept as secret as their sixteen year relationship was to all of Germany, solidifying his role as Heir Apparent to the Third Reich.

Three and a half years after his surreptitious birth in 1941, Anton Alois Hitler I (anagram code name ‘Anton I’: NATION) was spirited away from Germany then raised in the one place the Führer felt his enemies would never think to look should his son’s existence be discovered: Canada

Hitler admired Canada’s vast territories and its anti-Semitic tendencies (Canada denied Jews sanctuary from the war until three years after its end) making it an ideal temporary home.

The Saving of Nation is a story played out in retrospectives, allowing the reader to follow the psychological and moral growth of a young man predestined to become the New Hitler, but guided instead by people who raise him to become a man bent on righting the sins of a father whose sins can never be righted.

The authentic, 376 word message found hidden in Hitler’s Last Will that announces Anton’s existence is a stunning anchor that makes this story intriguingly feasible.



July 1 1944

Despite the generosity of the sun the rough stone wall was cool to the touch;  earthy, petrified veins flowing in every direction, too sturdy a barrier at the moment to be appreciated as a fine piece of Masonic workmanship and too difficult an obstacle for a child approaching his third year to appreciate at all.

Papa always forbade him to climb over it, but today nobody was going to get in his way.

Having momentarily escaped the eagle eye of his vigilant nanny, Anton desperately tried one more time to scale his private mountain.  His heart raced with excitement and just as the peak was within his tiny grasp, he felt himself rise high above the wall and settle into the soft folds of his mother's bosom.

"And where do you think you are going, my little man?"

"Mein Lieber Gott!"  A voice, shrill with distress wailed close by, “This child is impossible!  He goes where he pleases.  I swear that he is as stubborn as a mountain goat!"

Anton's mother turned him over in her arms to cradle him against her chest and lifted up the back of his shirt, slipping her hand inside and over his smooth, taunt skin.  "It is alright Frau Boden, I have him now.”  Casting a kind glance over to her only child’s nurse, she lowered her voice to confide, "He is his father's son, is he not?  What more can we expect besides an iron will and the stubbornness of a goat?"

At this, Frau Boden visibly relaxed, allowing the makings of a smile to soften her stern features. Her Mistress was a charming woman, a pleasure to work for and with her slim, lithe figure she was also a perpetual inspiration to try and cut back on the strudel that was baked fresh daily. Frau Boden automatically sucked in her stomach and straightened her back. She was a competent looking woman, short and round and looking very much the Bavarian matron in her moss green dirndl and white laced cap.  She was stocky but much faster on her feet than her appearance suggested and usually quick enough to keep up to a rambunctious toddler.  Bowing her head with reverence, she gave her ward an affectionate tweak on the cheek and turned to leave him in his mother's safe hands.  At the door to the sprawling villa, she bent down with a grunt to pick up a carelessly discarded toy and glancing backwards she secretly crossed herself and whispered under her breath,

"May The Master be strong enough to keep them both safe."

Suddenly aware of the silence, Anton began to wonder if he should break free from his captor and try his luck at the wall again, but as his mother slowly started to rub his back and sway to the gentle rhythm of her song, he turned his head to the side and laid it to rest, deciding to settle into their routine and enjoy the spectacle before him, after all, this was the treasure he had been climbing for: the view over the wall.

And before them lay a panorama of utter grandeur, a valley so vast, so spectacular as to defy adequate description.  Cottages the size of matchboxes dotted the landscape with people and sheep so small that they looked like floating miniatures. Brooding historic mountains of epic proportion loomed before them, richly draped in every possible shade of green with deep cavernous shadows that hid the ancient monsters and creatures of Anton's ancestors.  It was such, that even the limited recognition and imagination of a small child was overwhelmed.

"Mama, did Siegfried kill bad dragons here?"

Bending to kiss the soft blond curls that so resembled her own, she explained, once again, that it was the Drachenfels Mountains along the mighty River Rhein that held the caves of the dragon in their slopes and where Siegfried slew this monster many, many years ago.

"Are monsters here Mama?"

She heard the note of uncertainty that had crept into her child’s voice and smiled at the sweetness of innocence.  But before she could answer, a dark shadow fell next to theirs and a clean, manicured hand reached over to briskly move a wayward curl from the child’s forehead.

"Do not worry, my son, there are no monsters here."

Upon hearing these words, Anton pushed up to see where they came from, feeling the breeze pass cool across his body where it had been so warm against his mother.

"Papa!” he cried, "Papa’s home!"

Crossing over to his father’s embrace, the faint aroma of starch and cologne was a familiar welcome, and Anton knew, as he pressed his cheek against the stiff white collar and fingered the ever present silk tie, that he had nothing to be afraid of.


July 1 1959

What difference is there between a memory and a dream?

Yes, one was reality and the other fantasy, but perhaps it is only the ability to distinguish them that makes them so, and at the moment, Anton was unable to do that. Propping himself up firmly on his elbow, he reached over to remove a carelessly strewn magazine from the face of his clock. The room was still quite dark but a hazy trickle of pale yellow seeped between the slats of his window and his eyes slowly adjusted to the murky shades of his bedroom. If he squinted, he could just make out the time.

It was 5:30 a.m.


Could a number be considered a nemesis?  It felt as if it had been glaring back at him like this every morning since he could tell time.

The previous night’s celebration began to take its toll and a dull pounding in his head reminded him of his overindulgence.  He was lucky.  At least he didn't feel nauseous.

Falling with a soft thud back onto his pillow, he covered his scratchy eyes with the crook of his arm and pondered anew, why his body insisted on betraying him. Waking up at such an ungodly hour, Anton knew that he’d be alone for a while. His friends would be comatose in their own beds until noon, at least. He should probably drive over and help out his father, who left ridiculously early to open up ‘the garage’, but chances were too high that he would get roped into scrubbing down the toilets (the bathrooms at his father’s gas station were cleaner than most peoples kitchens) or pumping gas for the day, so he thought better of it and decided to stay put until he got called down for breakfast.

It wasn’t that he didn’t like working at the garage, but he’d been doing it since he was eight years old and after nine years, it had lost its thrill a long time ago.   His father had put up a new sign with bold red letters over the shop entrance when Anton turned ten years old that read ‘THERIL and SON ESSO SERVICE’ (Abe had always wanted ‘sons’ but that wasn’t how things turned out) and this had made Anton feel very proud, if not somewhat responsible for his half of the business. Their little hometown of Camden, Manitoba didn’t have many gas stations to compete with, but they always kept up a competitive pace.

Abelard ‘Abe’ Theril had his loyal customers and he worked the two repair bays himself, changing oil, fixing tires and doing all sorts of basic mechanic`s work.  Anton loved riding the hydraulic lift, his father raising him as far as it would go, the sharp hiss of air on the rise up and then the deafening rush of air during its descent. Anton would beg his father to do this over and over again but once was always the limit. He would say he didn’t have time to play children’s games all day and then he’d break out into a speech about how useless this generation was and how he had worked fifteen hour days on the farm ploughing fields when he was Anton’s age. Then after listing all the jobs he had been responsible for and showing the scars he got from doing them, he’d give Anton something to clean or an odd job to do to ‘make him a man’; he was much too pampered and needed to be toughened up.

One attempt to do just that almost cost Anton his life. Despite his well-known nervousness about heights, his father had forced him to climb up a high ladder to the open-attic storage area to bring down some tires. Anton lost his balance and fell, but fortunately, he landed on a stack of tires near the base of the ladder. Unfortunately he bounced on them and then over them, landing on his knees with a loud crunch.

He couldn’t walk very well for a few days but only the bruising lasted any length of time. Although he couldn’t imagine in a million years his meek little mother tearing a strip off his father for endangering their son’s life, he was sure she must have done so for his father never harassed Anton again about being a mama’s-boy or gave him any more chores to do that were unsafe in any way whatsoever. The interference in his authority was a bitter pill to swallow and it showed on his father’s face. But the anger soon turned to smugness as he realized that cleaning the toilets was a ‘safe’ chore. Nauseating but safe. Abe Theril wasn’t one to be bested and he made sure his self-satisfied smirk was in place when he handed Anton the scrub brush and disinfectant every night before closing.

Anton would work after school some days, but he usually relieved his father during suppertime so he wouldn’t have to close the garage down. It was a small white concrete building located strategically on the top corner lot of a triangular block near the edge of town, jutting out into the highway making it impossible not notice it as you drove past. It was in the perfect spot to catch the dry travelers coming from or going to Winnipeg or Brandon, but there were always plenty of slow stretches where nobody would come in for over an hour, except for maybe Armless Arnie, a grizzled and sinewy old regular who wore the same clothes every time Anton saw him: a grease stained fluorescent-orange hunters cap with a missing ear flap, baggy Levi’s with a crotch that hovered near his knees, a grimy T-shirt under a tattered shirt that defied any color category and a dirty red-plaid jacket that had one sleeve folded and pinned on the side where his arm once fell. Regardless of the weather, Armless Arnie strolled into the garage once a day with the scruffy mutt he called ‘Whig’ tripping lightly beside him and bought a pack of unfiltered Players cigarettes. Stiff, calloused fingers edged with black-rimmed fingernails slowly counted out the payment for the smokes...dime by dime. He would talk about the weather for a few minutes; damn snow, damn rain, sun, wind, everything was damned. Then tipping his cap and flashing a tarred, yellow grin he’d set out for the next stop on his circuit.

But when he was completely alone and unbearably bored, Anton would use this break between customers to hone his drawing skills. He would sketch. Doodle. Scribble. Paint. Re-arrange every display and then re-arrange it again. Nervous creative energy itching his fingertips like a perpetual rash.

Since there were many times he ran out of paper and pencils, he simply had to work with any surface that caught his eye, with whatever limited resources he could gather. He found one interesting space just ripe for the plucking on the dull grey painted walls of the work bays. He would sketch on the cinder-block walls with white chalk and in time, there was quite a collection of pictures gracing the garage’s interior. The most popular one was a five foot, fully opened stemmed rose with a small closed bud by its side, complete with dew splashed leaves and thorns. It was drawn above the horizontal freezer in the corner next to the last bay door. They sold bags of crushed ice in the summer for ten cents a bag and the freezer made a great scaffold for the eleven year old Michelangelo, but it was the name of another Master that had stuck with Anton: Picasso.

Nicknames often bloom from random seeds.

One out-of-town customer had seen the picture while paying for his gas at the till one afternoon and commented, tongue in cheek, that it looked like a painting from Pablo Picasso’s ‘Rose Period’ and despite Abe’s disapproval, Anton’s closest buddies called him Pablo from that day forward. Anton’s Uncle Max said this was providence, since the artist had the same birthday as Anton, but he advised him not follow his new namesake too closely because Picasso took his mother’s last name when he turned twenty, deeming his father’s last name Ruiz too common. If Anton was to follow suit, he would have to begin singing his paintings Schickelgruber! They both thought it best to just leave well enough alone.

With his interest aroused, Anton had researched Picasso at the library and was fascinated to find that his real name was Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz and that this multi-named man had a multifaceted artistic style. He thought that his paintings were varied and interesting but sometimes quite disturbing. They showed people with grotesquely disproportionate hands and feet and deformed women painted with child-like, misogynistic strokes. He told his uncle that it was hard to take that ‘Cubism crap’ seriously and decided that it must have become popular by accident. However, he was drawn to many of Picasso’s earlier works, the portrait titled Portrait of Olga in the Armchair in particular. Anton thought Olga Picasso was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It was his first unattainable love and his Uncle Max said that he was fortunate, because every man should have at least one, for fantasy was a gift.

Besides having time to draw,  the best part of working at the garage for Anton was manning the pumps and meeting people from all over the country and if he was lucky, a foreigner from some far off corner of the world. He worked more hours during summer break so he was able to stand outside in the sun and jabber all day long with interesting customers. Anton felt that every one of them, no matter who they were or where they were going had a story to tell, but his favorite holiday-makers were the Americans. Not all of them, but the vast majority were loud and crass and as friendly as if they’d known you their entire lives:

“Hey boy! Filler’ up, check the oil, check my tires, clean up them winda’s and headlights and git me a coke and here, git one fer yerself! By golly its hotter than a two dollar pistol today, in’it? So, where are them igloos we done heard ‘bout?”

It never failed. There was always someone asking about the igloos and Anton, in his best tourist-guide voice, would explain how here in Canada, it was hot in the summer and very cold in the winter and that an igloo was traditionally found further up North in places where there were Eskimos, like Tuktoyaktuk in the North West Territories. Then, when he’d mention that even he had never seen an igloo, he was always met with skepticism followed by profound disappointment.

“A Canadian who never even seen no igloo before. Don’t that beat all!”

But after a few years of this, Anton began to take exception to this chronic ignorance and he began to tell them instead that the igloos had melted. They had just missed them.

It never ceased to amaze Anton that a country could be so clueless about its own neighbor. He himself knew all the names of every state in America, their capital cities and the names of every U.S. President who had ever been voted into office. He thought it insulting that they couldn’t even read up on the areas they would be driving through in Canada. This inspired Anton to take the time to read about different countries in the world and to find out why they were different or similar. He wanted to be able to ask intelligent questions when he finally got to travel someday.

But he wasn’t feeling all that intelligent at the moment and a persistent nagging tried to penetrate his head but got lost in the dreaded morning-after numbness.  Wasn’t there something he was supposed to do this morning? It was hopeless, organized thoughts just bounced around like rubber balls and he couldn’t catch one, even if he had really tried.

“How in the hell do you break a built-in alarm?’ he groaned to himself.

Then locking his fingers together, he cupped them behind his head, closed his eyes and tried to fall back asleep. He didn't have to think too hard to recapture the dream that was in play before he had been willed awake. It was the same one every time and it was as familiar as the spidery little crack in the corner of the ceiling.  He squeezed his eyes harder together in an attempt to clean the slate of his mind’s eye and then relaxed as his mind relented and fell quickly backwards into the fog.

And soon, dim shapes begin to unfold upon the blackness of his mind and then ridiculously small white sheep materialize into view, slowly padding over lush green grass. Then, suddenly, he is flying in the air, arms loose at his sides and warm, fragrant air whipping through his hair and over his face. He soars through a valley between enormous blue-green mountains and he sees, in the distance, a great gold and scarlet dragon belching great flames into the air, black smoke billowing out of its fierce nostrils. A tall, brave knight with flowing blonde hair battles it back into its wet, dank cave with his silver-white sword flashing brightly in the blazing sun. Anton stretches his neck to see what happens next but he is propelled forward without control and much too soon, the courageous knight is out of sight. A sweet melody trickles around Anton’s ears and he feels like he is floating upwards and he becomes engulfed by an incredible sense of peace.  A cool breeze ruffles the hair from his eyes and somehow, he begins pulling on a silk rope, trying to get the prize at its end. But it doesn't end. It just keeps on running through his hands like a magician’s trick gone awry.

This is where the dream would usually end and Anton would wake up with a sense of longing, but this morning, this was not to be. Today, another dream quickly penetrates the last and pushes it onward.

The floating feeling is slowly replaced by a sense of unease. The subtle shades of green change abruptly into a flat shadow of the darkest grey. Anton can barely see the shifting forms that skulk about him and a sudden flash of light blinds him. He begins to cry. Unfamiliar, panicky noises clatter about him and his confusion escalates to a frenzy …and then suddenly… nothing. Complete darkness. The only sound to permeate the muffled silence is an irregular thumping sound, like a broken heart, tormented and struggling in its confinement.

An agonized voice tries to sing a tender lullaby, the fragmented notes trembling with uncertainly then bursting mid-air like the bubbles blown from a child’s toy. He must be crying, for he sees his little red truck swim blurry before his eyes. Then the sweet bouquet of lilacs fills his senses as a far-off, steady hum lulls him into oblivion, but before he can succumb, a single wet drop falls on his cheek. But it’s not raining. It runs down and pools into the corner of his mouth and he awakens suddenly, surprised by its salty taste. He opens his sleepy eyes and he is cold and alone in a gray box. He screams for help...

Anton opened his eyes quickly and put his hand over his heart. It was thundering in his chest and he felt dizzy. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he sat on the edge of the mattress with both hands griping its edge. Scared and confused, he realized that this dream wasn't really a dream at all.

It was a memory.


The dull ache in Anton’s head was soon joined by a deep growl from his stomach.  He was calm now but couldn’t help thinking that his brain was playing tricks on him. Revenge for the abuse it had endured.

He shouldn’t have gone out last night on an empty stomach. Peanuts and pretzels weren’t very filling. How could he have been so stupid? There wasn't much else to do in this booming metropolis of nine thousand souls he called home besides hanging out with the boys, but he knew better than to overdo it. He always knew he’d had enough when his nose started to tingle and get numb, but last night that sign had been firmly ignored.

He'd blame Linda.

Taking stock of the myriad sketches that covered almost every square inch of his four walls, Anton`s eyes locked onto the picture of Olga Picasso he had penciled years ago and it still reminded him, as it first had, of his girl. His Linda. His first unattainable love was an identical image to his first attainable love. Fantasy unharmed.

Their resemblance on paper was striking even with his immature hand copying the famous lines. And the sketch next to it was the same face, but in profile. It was the one that he had penciled on Christmas Eve almost seven months ago: Wisps of curly dark brown hair escaped from a warm, fuzzy woolen toque and fluttered across an exquisitely full mouth, the only feature that was different, albeit only slightly, from the eternally chair-bound Olga. Linda had been watching her twin brother play drop-in hockey at the outdoor rink that particular afternoon and her complete concentration on the game had given Anton the opportunity to open his ever-present sketchbook and capture her on paper without her noticing. When he had shown it to her afterwards in the King's Hotel Restaurant where they usually went for coffee, she had looked at it with awe and blushed at the unmistakeable love and care that had gone into creating it. Inhaling deeply, Anton tore his eyes away from the wall.

He hadn’t drawn much lately and although his parents and friends encouraged him to do so, he felt apathetic and uninspired. He knew that a career in Art was his destiny; he lived for the smell of paints and oils and the creative purging of his soul that he felt every time he picked up a pencil or brush, but the piano was his emotional outlet these days and the peace it gave him was the only relief he could find to ease his tattered soul. Maybe he would get up and play for a while before breakfast. He needed the distraction and alcohol was clearly too wretched a means to achieve it.

He rubbed his hands over his stubbled face and raked his fingers over his head, dislodging the stench of smoke and stale beer that was trapped in his short matted hair, making his stomach turn over again. He groaned and cast a blood-shot eye back to the clock, but his subconscious had other plans as his eyes fell on the picture frame next to it.

Two happy teenagers sat in a bright yellow dingy that was resting partially stranded upon a beach of pebbles and coarse sand, with the balance of the float riding low in the smooth turquoise waters of a vast lake. The blurred forms of two out-of-focus boats lay far behind them in the dazzling sun. They held each other closely and were laughing at something apparently quite funny because their faces were rendered almost unrecognizable by the sheer width of their broad smiles. The boy was tanned, strong and lean with sturdy arms and broad, well-defined shoulders. He was blonde and handsome with aqua eyes that danced with mischief. Linda looked slender and smooth, softly curved and shiny clean in her favorite rainbow bikini.  She looked tiny in his arms, her right hand raised high, gently cupping his cheek, bringing his head close to hers. Life had been so uncomplicated back then.

Anton let his gaze fall to the floor. He knew he would never be that boy again.

Ignoring the scattered heaps of clothes decorating the floor, he reached for the pile closest to the bed and grabbed the first T-shirt on the top, gave it a discerning sniff and jammed it over his head. It drove his mother to distraction but he insisted on her leaving his room alone and only when she couldn’t stand it a moment longer, would she rush in and gather all his clothes to be washed. His favorite black sweatpants peeked out from under the foot of the bed and not feeling up to any job as difficult as bending down to get them, he spread the toes of his left foot and grabbed a section of cloth and dragged the sweats over until they covered his feet. Kicking up his right foot, he flipped the pants halfway onto his lap and begrudgingly got dressed.

The clock had miraculously solidified, its blurred edges now hard clean lines, and it looked like Anton would be eating his breakfast with his lunch. The self-induced pain had eased somewhat and what remained would vanish after the first glass of ice cold orange juice. It always did.