Music is in the air

Kaslo, a tiny, isolated mountain village nestled along the shores of magnificent Kootenay Lake in British Columbia’s rugged West Kootenay region, punches way above its weight class when it comes to music.

The venerable Kaslo Jazz Festival, with its stunning setting and floating main stage, has been called one of the 10 best places to enjoy summer music in the world by both USA Today and Reuters.  The Kuimba Choir, the Langham music series, Kaslo Hotel and Angry Hen open mic nights, and bands ranging from Small Town Artillery to Moontricks ensure that the beat is always going on in this village of 1,000.

The latest example of Kaslo’s civic musicality? Propel Studios.


Situated directly above the lake, in the heart of the town, Propel is a fully-equipped, state-of-the-art recording studio. On today’s RADIO FREE KASLO, host RG Morse visits the studio, has a conversation with musician Steven Lee, there for a recording session, and takes in some live tunes, “in the raw.” 

To listen to an interview with Steven Lee, live in Propel Studios — as well as some of Lee’s music — click on the link below:

Election Day Interviews

Participatory democracy doesn’t work when — that’s right — we fail to participate!


It’s challenging to find ways to allow candidates for public office in rural towns and districts like ours, in the absence of daily media, to effectively share their backgrounds, abilities, and views on things that matter to us all.


With that in mind, I’ve conducted a series of interviews with candidates for Kaslo mayor and council, as well as School District 8 trustee, then published the resultant podcasts on various podcasting platforms and, importantly, have put each of them on the Kaslo Community Facebook page over the past couple of weeks.


It’s important to note that I have not solicited any of these interviews. I simply mentioned a few times on Facebook that I would be happy to interview any and all local candidates who would like to sit down for a conversation, and repeated this in person when I occasionally met a candidate during the course of daily life.  The result is that one of the two mayoral candidates, 5 of the 6 council candidates, and one of the 2 SD 8 trustee candidates in the running this election reached out to me.  


With all that said, I’ve compiled podcast links here for all the interviews I’ve done, in the order they were published, by public office being sought. So if you missed one, some, or all of them, here they are — one-stop electoral shopping!




The poll for Kaslo mayor & council is at the Kaslo Legion, 8 AM to 8 PM.


Voting for School District 8 trustee happens at the Kaslo Legion, as well as at the Ainsworth, Argenta, and Lardeau community halls. 


Make your voice heard — vote this Saturday!



Kaslo Mayor


Suzan Hewat





Kaslo Council


Matt Brown



Jonathan Carruthers




Erika Bird



Maureen “Molly” Leathwood




Rob Lang





School District 8 Trustee


Dawn Lang


How to remove writer’s block: fall off a mountain

No novelist totally “makes things up.” Even the wildest works of fantasy and science fiction are in some way informed by the writer’s observations and life experiences.



Take, for example, my new novel, Spike.



Here’s a. brief excerpt. The book’s protagonist, 19-year-old Spike Santee, has just fallen 40 feet onto a ledge while attempting a solo ascent of Norway’s 2nd-highest peak, Glittertind. It’s 1968. 

SPIKE SANTEE SLUMPED more than sat on a slightly sloping ledge, two-thirds of the way up the northeast face of Glittertind, at 8,045 feet Norway’s second-highest mountain. He stared down at the glacier 1,000 feet beneath his boots and contemplated death.

This was not a topic most young people outside war zones grapple with on a regular basis. But then few people Spike’s age, during any given year, happen to fall 40 feet onto a rough granite shelf a thousand feet above the ground, break both wrists, shatter an elbow, tear out the anterior cruciate ligament in their right knee, lay open their left knee to the bone marrow, suffer a concussion, crack a couple of vertebrae, and live to tell the tale.

Spike shifted slightly and instantly winced as pain shot up his spine, then cried out as he unthinkingly put his right hand down on the moist, mossy granite to steady himself, stunningly aware the wrist was severely snapped. It was late afternoon, the 28th of August 1968, three days after his 19th birthday. While he hadn’t heard it through the grapevine, he knew a bad moon was rising as the twin towers of pain slowly subsided. He watched as the mountain’s shadow crept inexorably over the Grjotbreen glacier far below him, the rolling sheet of ice turning from butter yellow to a foreboding deep azure in the shadow’s wake.

This actually happened to me. Or rather something very much like it happened to me. In reality, I was climbing in Canada (Banff National Park to be precise) not Norway. It was 1978, not 1968. Like Spike, I fell 40 feet onto a ledge, 1,000 feet above the base of the face of Mt. Cory. Unlike Spike, I was not alone, joined by my friend, Roland Leauté. Like Spike, I survived. Obviously. 


While I can hardly recommend falling off a mountain to get the writerly juices flowing, it does change you — for life. 

Eugene, Oregon

“Along the western slopes of the Oregon Coastal Range … come look: the hysterical crashing of tributaries as they merge into the Wakonda Auga River …”

      — Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

I’ve just finished the manuscript of a new novel, Spike. All 142, 843 words of it. For those of you who are not authors, you’ll have to take my word for it when I tell you that’s a lot. According to one source, “While anything over 40,000 words can fall into the novel category, 50,000 is considered the minimum novel length. Anything over 110,000 words is considered too long for a fiction novel.”




Ah, but I’m not worried. Like Trump’s full-of-himself former Attorney General, Bill Barr, in a recent (and unusual) burst of honesty when describing his former boss’s claim he was cheated out of the 2020 election, I call bullshit.


Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, arguably the greatest work of literary fiction to ever emerge from America’s Pacific Northwest, weighed in at a whopping 265,000 “often elegant, sometimes frustrating” words. That translates into no less than 715 pages. 


So there.



But I digress, right out of the gate, from the reason I’m penning this post. Now that I’ve finished with Spike (well, at least the first draft and some obviously-needed revisions), I’m tempted to jump straight into my next project, a novel call Dodge. But it occurs to me this may be doing Spike a disservice. I need to step back for a moment, break off from staring at all that writerly tree bark for a bit, take a gander at the forest, and enjoy the view for a change.


With that in mind, I’ve decided to crank out a few blogposts, each of them devoted to a place that plays an important part in the tale of Spike Santee and his search for what makes him tick. Each post will be brief, I promise. Just a few very personal observations based on my own experiences, occasionally referencing those observations to Spike. And in each case, I’ll highlight a writer from each place who matters to me, whose work has had an impact on my own writing.


Which is why I opened this post with a quote from Ken Kesey.


The publication in 1962 of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Kesey’s most famous novel, stunned critics. The subsequent Broadway play did boffo box office, and the movie, starring Jack Nicholson, won a basketful of Oscars. As a personal aside, the film’s co-producer, a young Michael Douglas, borrowed my beloved first car, a ’56 Plymouth Sport Fury, complete with push button transmission, to tool around while shooting scenes in and around Salem with his then-girlfriend, a colleague of mine at the University of Oregon. This fame-drenched fact allowed me to subsequently sell “The Golden Hind” for way more than it was worth — enough to finance my first adventure in Europe.


Sometimes a Great Notion came out two years later. A much more complex work than Cuckoo’s Nest, it’s been described as having “out-Faulknered Faulkner,” a decade before the publication of Thomas Pynchon’s experimental mastedon, Gravity’s Rainbow.


Kesey, then 29, joined a group of pals who called themselves “The Merry Pranksters,” painted the outside of an old school bus to look like the inside a Haight-Ashbury brothel, christened it Further, and set out to test the premise that reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. 


Tom Wolfe (who kindly penned the foreword to a book I planned to publish but let slip through my fingers, In Advance of the Landing — I still have Wolfe’s acceptance letter, literally a work of art) subsequently wrote a blockbuster account of life on the road with the Pranksters, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, a book that made Kesey a guru, an icon, a movement — a lightning rod. When this was later pointed out to him, he replied laconically, “Well, I’d rather be a lightning rod than a seismograph.” 


Who wouldn’t?



Kesey was very much a part of the local scene as I was growing up in Eugene. By the time I entered the hallowed halls of South Eugene High School, strategically located a mere hop and a skip from the campus of the University of Oregon, at the time of hotbed of free speech, free love, and (almost) free advice — Kesey taught creative writing there for a while — he had become a local hero. Long since moved on to that big tree farm in the sky, a statue featuring Kesey reading to three kids is strategically placed in the middle of downtown Eugene. Further is now double parked at the Smithsonian Museum.

My Eugene was the perfect place for a boy with a dollop of curiosity about life and the world around him to grow up in. Nature — forests, cliffs, mountains, the watery battering ram of the Pacific, were all at our adventurous beck and call. There was a cultural tension to the town that was exciting, caught somewhere between its logging past, its rapidly eroding present, and its obvious future, fuelled by a combo of a major liberal arts university and the siren song the place sang to the footloose and creative.


Today, it’s safe to say, there are far more joggers than loggers in Eugene, poised to join the likes of London and Paris as the host city for the World Track & Field Championships (when I was a kid, more of us showed up for U of O track meets than football games). 


Eugene was my springboard into adulthood, my entreé into the mysteries of the Outside World. The scene in Spike where young Santee, sitting as the summer sun sinks behind the Coast Range heading for a final skinny dip off Florence, stares north up the Willamette Valley and dreams himself away, is more or less pure autobiography. 


I have called many places home during the course of my life. You’ll read about some of them in upcoming posts. But Eugene? It’s not a home — it’s Home. 



PS: A quick word about Eugene’s step-sister town on the other side of the river, Springfield. Well, I’ll let the picture speak for itself. 



“Stolta stad, gör mig glad…”

     — Carl Michael Bellman

Bellman, as every Stockholmer knows, was a 17th century musical genius.


Court composer to the king by day, friend to pimps, prostitutes, purse snatchers and the generally downtrodden by night, Bellman wrote hundreds of songs — known as “epistler” — that reflected life in the Swedish capital as it really was. 


One of my favourite Bellman lyrics goes something like this (at least it does in my translation):


“So you’re afraid in the grave to sink, well take my advice and have a drink; swallow one, two and three, here they come, drink with glee — and you’ll die happily.”


Sweden is on my mind a lot these days, for two reasons.


First, as you may have noticed, Russia’s Vlad the Impaler Putin (aka Putin Dickhead, according to the beer I prefer to quaff at our local craft purveyor, courtesy of an open source recipe provided by a Ukrainian brewery called Pravda — so it mist be true, right?), has invaded his neighbour.  One of the cascading consequences of this boneheaded — or rather dickheaded — move is that Sweden, neutral for over 200 years, is poised, along with Finland, to join NATO — an unthinkable move not so long ago.



And secondly, speaking of “long ago,” I’ve just finished the first draft of a novel called Spike, set in the late Sixties and early Seventies. The book’s main character, young Spike Santee, finds himself wandering the not so mean streets of Stockholm halfway through this 500-page epic (remember, it’s a first draft — by the time a competent editor is done with it, Spike might resemble a Marvel comic more than a massive novel). 

Writing it has forced me to relive my massively formative time in the country that has given us sur strömming, IKEA, Volvo, Olof Palme, and, of course, ABBA. The book ends during the first-ever UN conference on the human environment (the 27th instalment happened in Glasgow last November and, sadly, the same issues that weighed upon delegates in ’72 are still very much with us — and the planet). 

I was, like Spike, a delegate to that conference. Ah, but unlike me, Spike ends up at the officially unofficial counter-conference, dubbed Woodstockholm by none other than Wavy Gravy (haven’t heard of him, oh callow youth? — then google away) and his merry team from Hog Farm (again, highly google-worthy).

Those were the days when the moon was in the seventh house, and Jupiter was busily aligning with Mars. And Spike, with Swedish stars in his eyes, discovered his true mission in life was… well, you’ll just have to read the book, won’t you.

Meanwhile, lycka till, Sverige — good luck, Sweden (and Finland). Here’s hoping you’re not the next Ukraine. I have to run — it’s time for a Putin Dickhead.



Food for thought

The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. Millions have fled the ruthless Russian invasion, causing a humanitarian crisis Europe hasn’t seen the likes of since WWII.


This morning, I was again reminded of this when Janet shared a Facebook post from a guy named Steven Givot, from Evanston, Illinois. Here it is:



Day 2

Today was my first day actually contributing to the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Europe.
It has been impossible to sign up for work at World Central Kitchen. When I emailed, they said just show up, there’s plenty to do.
This morning I showed up. The nearest lodging I could book is about 90 minutes south of Przemsyl (Poland) in Sanok (Poland). It’s only about 45 miles, but the drive is across the Carpathian Mountains (2 passes) and through a countryside where most of the farmhouses have chimneys bellowing smoke from burning firewood. The road is about 20-30 miles from the Ukraine border.
When I arrived there were about 50 people working in about 25,000 sq ft (half the CBOE trading floor) that was a dirty warehouse three weeks ago. In a week, World Central Kitchen (WCK) paint everything from the floor up. There had been no plumbing other than a toilet. Now there is state of the art mass quantity cooking equipment, stainless steel sinks, 6 for diameter “paella pans” that hold about 950 GALLONS of food (up to the brim) on enormous propane burners. I think there are ten of these.
There is a walk in refrigeration room that is about 2000 sq ft that a Polish company put together in 24 hours with a garage door to enter and leave with enormous quantities of food on fork lifts.
Today, my little group from Ohio, Idaho, Portugal, Canada, and the UK peeled an enormous quantity of potatoes and cored/sliced an ungodly amount of apples (for baby food).
I won’t go into details, but we were told that we fed 7000 people in Przemsyl and at the border, and we prepped food to be cooked in Lviv, Ukraine for another 30,000 people. Not a typo: 30,000.
The volunteers are from everywhere in Europe, the US/Canada, and one from Japan. They show up, and they work. Some for a few days, some for longer.
After the 90 commute and 10 hours working, I’m tired but also wired. Sometime in the next few days, I’ll join trips to three places.
One trip will be to the train station in Przemsyl. I’m told there are 70 Polish volunteers greeting people as they leave the train and helping them sort out their next destination. Some know people in Europe and have a place to go. Far too many do not. They are being spread throughout Poland and beyond. I have been told that most homes and apartments in Warsaw and Krakow have a host family and one or two refugee families. The generosity of the Polish people is beyond comprehension.
A second trip will be to a local shopping mall that has just been built but is not yet occupied. There are many thousands of women and children sleeping on the floors as well as an enormous space used to store donations of clothing, baby goods, things to occupy kids, etc.
The third trip will be to the border. I will be serving people the first meal many have had in days. With the bombing near Lviv (not far across the border), many people who had traveled as far as Lviv are not coming to Poland — many on foot. They (many with children of all ages) are tired, hungry, and cold. The temperature at night is around freezing. The past two days have been warm (50s) and sunny. Still, when they reach the border, hot food is an immediate need.
I will update this daily. The last thing I’ll post is one ton of beef and 1000 pounds of apples for baby food — part of what was cooked today.

Here’s some food for thought.

Not everyone is able to do what Steve and his colleagues are accomplishing, on the ground — but each of us has the capacity to help the Ukrainian people in some fashion or other. Make a donation to a charity of your choice. Help keep people informed. Urge your political leaders to do more. Find ways of letting folks over there know you’re with them.
There are all kinds of things we can do to help. 
And if you’d like to follow Steve, his Facebook page is:

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse…

Our armed forces don’t bomb cities. Everyone is well aware of this.”

          — Maria V. Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry

I awoke this morning and, as so many of you, immediately began to scan the latest from the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine.


The first thing that caught my horrified eye was the utter destruction of a theatre in Mariupol, whose basement had sheltered over 1,000 people, most of them children and women. 


Satellite images taken days before the attack showed the word for ‘CHILDREN,’ in Russian, painted in huge letters on either side of the large building.  This was clearly a deliberate attack. There is simply no way the Russians could have mistaken this for a legitimate military target. And that, my friends, constitutes a war crime.


Then my eyes fell upon the quote from the beneath-all-contempt Ms. Zakharova, shared at the top of this post. 


An astonishingly bald-faced lie. 


Shaking my head in disgust, I took a sip of tea and turned to Al Jazeera’s website, where I came upon this AP Press photo, courtesy of Pavel Dorogoy, showing  a scene from downtown Kharkiv.


Then it was on to Human Rights Watch, who have confirmed that Russian forces fired cluster munitions into residential districts in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on March 7, 11, and 13. The attacks “might amount to war crimes, HRW says.


So Ms. Zakharova — and by extension, your thugish, murderous boss — yes, in fact, Russian forces do bomb cities. Every day. Mercilessly, apparently without remorse.


And everyone — at least everyone with access to objective information — is well aware of this. 

What would Orwell say?

In an age where up is down, truth is fake, and fiction is… fact … it feels more than a little strange to be purposively writing… fiction!

This is particularly awkward when the subject is loosely based on… fact. Based on real people. On real events. People placed in fictional situations, in some cases given fictional behaviours and exaggerated characteristics, with words quite literally being put into mouths that in actuality never uttered them.

Ten years ago, as a writer I wouldn’t have given this a second thought. That was before Trump. Before Putin.

My answer to this dilemma — if indeed that’s what it is — at least with the novel (Spike) I’m currently working on, is to inject the fantastical occasionally, in part as a reminder to the reader that what they are consuming is an expression of my imagination, not an attempt to fill them in on the way things really are — or in this case, were, in the late ’60s/early ’70s.

Quentin Tarantino does an admirable job of this in films such as Inglorious Bastards and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. If you’ve seen them, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, check them out, then we can talk.

Which brings me, finally, to who else but Orwell? What would he be saying right about now if he were alive?

How about… told you so








What a perfect moment in time to be a novelist…

Almost two years into a global pandemic. Trump once again on the prowl. Supply chains everywhere reeling. Climate catastrophe squarely upon us. China posturing in the Taiwan Strait. North Korea threatening to blow everyone’s house down. Afghanistan in chaos (as usual)….

… I wrote that last October. Since then, the pandemic has morphed, slipping and sliding around like a viral eel — today things appear be returning to a slightly jarring sense of quasi-normalcy in some parts of the planet, in others — hello, China, outbreaks and lockdowns continue.

Truckers have trucked (and honked, oh, how they have honked). And now, most recently, the brutal Putin invasion of Ukraine, sending the rest of the world scrambling to shore up their defences, forcing them to re-examine old and new political and military relationships, and leading to a near-universal of the astonishing grit, determination, and bravery of the Ukrainian people. 

I think it’s time to trot this post out again, dust off the digital dust and put it out there one more time, with gusto. So here’s the balance of what I wrote, almost half a year ago….

… I could go on, but you get the drift — in fact, if you’re reading this in the autumn of 2021, you’re living it. 

If there’s an upside to all of this, it’s the fact that it’s precisely times like these when it totally rocks to be a novelist.

“You can’t make shit like this up?”

Oh, yes you can. And even better — and perhaps more importantly — writers can extrapolate. They can look around the corner, make educated guesses, take leaps of faith (or stumbles based on lack thereof). 

They can look back and give us a sense of how in the hell we got here. They can look ahead and predict how this whole mess is likely to pan out. Unfettered by the need to pay attention to logic, fact, or good taste. 

I know, I know — you’re thinking to yourself, “he’s just described half the people on the planet, right there.”

Ah, but the difference is  novelists know they’re making shit up. They’re doing it on purpose — and for a reason. Plus, if we’re lucky, they’re able to string a few words together. Articulately. Movingly. Compellingly. Inspirationally, Hilariously. 

If ever there was a time when we need more of that — more good writing, writing that helps us pull our collective head out of our collective ass, writing that informs and inspires — this surely is it.

On balance, this is a helluva great time to be a novelist.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself….