Life Shattered

My First Novel…
My debut novel (as people like to call them), started life under the title Delbert Pillage. Intended to be primarily a character study of Delbert, it evolved into an emotional love story. When I changed publishers, it seemed appropriate to make the title better reflect the theme, so it became Two Loves Lost. To avoid misrepresentation, it should be clarified that it is a love story but not a “romance novel” and that is why it is now Life Shattered.

Emotional Impact …
It’s said that if an author is not moved by his/her story no one else will be either. Well, there are sections that choke me up on every time I read them. If it affects you half as much, it’s a success. Life Shattered builds in emotional impact as the story progresses.

In The Rear View Mirror …
As I approached my 70th birthday, it seemed time to tackle a goal long contemplated; namely, write a complete novel. To set the goal in concrete, I broadcasted it to family and friends. Then, over a period of a year wrote a first draft, 110,000 windy words.

A creative writing class taught by author/editor Paul Novak led to his editing of the early draft. It was stressful for both of us. Paul wanted more conflict throughout the book, epitomized once by “What the hell is this God-like creature you’ve created?”. Along with criticism of the degree of erotica (porn would be more accurate), he gave me a wealth of advice and examples for improving and tightening the prose.

The stress for me was coming to grips with the need to not just edit but rewrite many chapters, discarding others and watching my word count tumble from 110,000 to 75,000. Over 35,000 finger-numbing words into the garbage can. To be honest, I realized most of them belonged there. Still, it’s a humbling experience.

Introducing more conflict is a challenge for me. I tend to believe conflict on every page may hold a reader’s attention but it can be overdone. There’s somethin to be said for creating some smooth sailing before plunging the reader into a storm. To me, the conflict is overdone when the hero can’t brush his teeth without dropping the toothbrush. Nevertheless, the early Delbert certainly did lack conflict, especially in the first half of the story.

The concept of a harassed youth emerged as a result. Also, since conflict can be internal as well as external, Delbert was filled with inner turmoil and lack of confidence. From feedback so far, this apparently succeeds in gaining and keeping reader attention until the more serious conflict emerges.

The back end of the story originally ended in tragedy. Delbert dies and over the next six months Sylvia wastes away, dies and they end up buried next to each other. Joined in death but not in life. My sister-in-law Sheila, who was a discerning reader, found a way to politely let me know it was too brutal. That led me to write a second ending and when faced with the two, the current version was the overwhelming choice of those who read them. As Sheila said, she now cried happily through the final chapters.

One reader expressed surprise that I was so down on the Catholic Church. What?? Thought I painted a fairly positive picture of the church. Perhaps Sylvia’s seclusion prompted that comment. Sorry if it did, I thought her church helped her out during a crucial time in her life.

Is the story autobiographical? Or “wannabe” autobiographical?
NO. What might lead those who know me to ask the question is the fact that I located the story in a time and places I know well. I was never harrassed as a youth. My younger brother did bat rocks and there was a creek behind our house. And in fact, I did have St Vitus Dance at twelve but never wore goggles. I attended UBC at a normal age and suffered grades far different from Delbert. I did get a private pilot’s license in my mid-thirties but never gave a thought to jets or test flying. They were too far removed from my capabilities to warrant even a dream. Put another way, all the characters are purely fictional, with one exception. The dean is patterned after a very admirable real dean.

Is the story historically accurate?
Although fictionalized, it does follow historical events and there’s nothing in the book that could not have happened in one way or another. The older brother of a classmate of mine became an air force test pilot in just the way described in the book. For over fifty years now the controversy of the Avro Arrow cancelation has boiled on. It never ends, which I think proves how disastrous the decision was to Canadian technology. There is no question the Arrow was far ahead of its time and no question that adaptations of it would have enjoyed a viable role for many years. Equally tragic was the loss of people power and the demise of the Orenda Iroquois engine program. That engine also was well ahead of its time and today Orenda could have been an alternative engine manufacturer on all jet transport airplanes, a multi-billion dollar business. There is an undying myth that one airplane was saved and my story shows how that might have happened.

A love story from a more innocent time …
Set in the 1940-50’s, Delbert and Sylvia grew up in a far different environment than what we have to deal with from the 1960’s on. Life was simpler, less complicated if not less stressful. Yet, as the story shows, not less traumatic nor less prone to life changing events.

A return visit to Salt Spring Island …
A number of years ago, we returned to the island for an old-timers reunion, meaning people from Delbert’s era. Starting at Royston, across the bay from Comox, we drove down Vancouver Island to catch the ferry to Salt Spring. From Nanaimo south we were on the route Sylvia took and on Salt Spring most of the things Delbert and Sylvia knew remain relatively unchanged. At times I found myself viewing it through their eyes as if they really existed. One thing has changed, the road to Ranbow Beach now takes a circuitous route to another beach further south. Something that will never change, Mount Maxwell cannot be viewed without thinking of Delbert and Sylvia.

Setting The Song To Music …
My nephew Dan Graham, a very gifted musician, composed music for the song lyrics in Two Loves Lost. He freely admits singing is not his strong suit. Since he’s apparently too busy with gigs to add additional instrumental touches, here’s what he came up with.

Visit for more information, reviews and to read initial chapters.

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