The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Embracing Something New - Part 2 (Finally)

What seems like a lifetime ago now, I promised to talk about doing something that I didn’t imagine I’d enjoy.  Like the bullfighting post from a while back, I ended up with a new appreciation that came about simply from jumping at a new experience.

It’s important to repeat my lifelong friend, Ann Swallow’s words at this point:

“You have the chance to do something you've never done before. Put on your best pair of shoes, grin, and go! This applies to just about everything.”

A year or two ago I was introduced to an Irishman and, since he’s Irish, let’s call him…oh, I don’t know…Pat.  Pat is an incredibly likable man.  Smart, witty, funny …and a competitive international shooter.

Pat belongs to an organization called the IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation).  Basically competitors run through courses and shoot at targets.  Time, accuracy and gun safety determine winners.

Since the current novel I’m writing has a goodly number of folks with handguns, I thought I’d bend Pat’s ear regarding firearms.

“Have you ever fired a gun?” he asked.

I explained that I grew up on a farm.  I’d fired a .22 rifle often, a neighbour’s 30.06 maybe three times and a shotgun a half dozen times at most.

“Ever fired a handgun?”

I had to admit I hadn’t.

“Would you like to?”

I’ve always been of the opinion that handguns have one use only – killing people.  I’ve never understood the allure of the handgun enthusiast.  Canada lacks the “right to bear arms” thinking (for the most part) of our neighbours to the south, so there’s no Constitutional imperative for me to desire a gun to protect myself from King George III.  Firing a handgun has never even been on my radar as a thing I’d like to do someday, but if I was going to be writing a fair deal about people handling guns and an opportunity presented itself for some firsthand research, I’d be a fool to say no.

About two weeks later we travelled to a nearby rural gun club where Pat is a member.  Throughout the drive, Pat drilled me on safety.  Pat’s guns were each locked in its own separate container.  Each sported a locked trigger guard.  The ammo was in a separate locked box and all of these items were in a wire-reinforced carrying bag that was – you got it – locked.

When we got to the club I was expected yahoos and hillbillies.  The first person I was introduced to was the range captain.  He had long, scruffy hair, two days of beard and horrible, horrible teeth.  He looked just like someone who might wander into your camp while you’re on a white water rafting trip down the Cahulawassee River.  As soon as he spoke, my prejudice fled.  The range captain (Dan, I think) was articulate and businesslike.  As a guest on the range, Pat was responsible for my behaviour and as range captain, he was responsible for my safety.   He watched like an eagle as Pat taught me all of the rules of the range, what the flags meant and what to do when the range light was on.  Only after I was familiar with the rules that would keep me safe and, one hopes, alive, was I permitted to actually enter the shooting range.

There was a long hallway with stalls facing the open-air range.  There were lines painted on the floors and god help you if you cross one line or the other depending on the colour of the light that happens to be on.

Pat took us to a vacant stall three from the end where we waited to be “green-lighted” to enter the range and place our target.  Twenty five yards doesn’t seem like far, but when you’re aiming with a handgun at a torso-sized cut-out of corrugated paperboard (B flute – feels like a 150lb test) it seems a long way indeed.

With our target placed, we waited for a different light, then were allowed to take our place within the stall and begin handling Pat’s guns and ammunition. 
The first thing Pat told me was the gun ALWAYS points down range.

Pat next told me that you must always load your own gun.  This meant that Pat had to teach me how to load the magazine and then he showed me the proper way to insert the clip and chamber the first round.

Lots of rules, many I’ve forgotten but the biggie is this:  ALWAYS assume any gun is loaded with a round chambered and that the safety is off until you know for certain otherwise.

Once I was safe and schooled, we turned to the shootin’.  I shot sitting.  I shot standing.  I shot two-handed and one handed.  Pat let me shoot his 9mm and his .45.  For a guy who has never had any interest in handguns, I sure went through a significant number of Pat’s ammo that afternoon.

When we weren’t shooting, we watched other people shoot.  My favourite guy was a Serbian-Canadian guy with a vintage Lee-Enfield rifle that sounded like a cannon and a black powder rifle that acted like a cannon.  What a treat it was to watch this man prime his rifle and then the blast of flame and the cloud of thick smoke that accompanied each shot.

There was also a young man and his girlfriend with their civilian assault rifles.  After I asked some questions, the man asked if I’d like to hold his rifle.

“As long as you show me how to handle it safely first,” I said. 

Dan, the range captain flashed me a toothy grin.  “Good answer,” he said.

That rifle looks like it ought to be heavy but a lot of the pieces are ceramic or aluminum and the gun is deceptively light.  I tried this gun both standing and sitting and though this target was 50 yards away, I was far, far more accurate with the assault rifle than I was with either handgun.

Pat walked me around the range, showing me the different activities and ranges located on site.  Much to my surprise, I had a lot of fun.

So – am I a gun convert?  Do I want to become a weekend shooting enthusiast?

No, but I’ve come a long way to understanding those that are and do.  

My pistol target from the range.  It's easy to spot the 9mm shots from the .45s.

Saturday, 30 August 2014


A short while ago a podcast of my story, The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife, went live at the Pseudopod website.  The text is wonderfully read by Wilson Fowlie and I'm very pleased with the result.  Please follow this link to enjoy.

There's been a lot going on.  There's some news and I need to write part two of my last post about moving out of one's comfort zone and that's all coming when I'm less busy.  For now, go and listen to the podcast.  It's fun!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Embracing something new - Part 1

My lifelong friend, Ann Swallow recently gave this bit of advice to another friend on the facebook:

“You have the chance to do something you've never done before. Put on your best pair of shoes, grin, and go! This applies to just about everything.”

It’s sparkling advice from a sparkling person whose opinion I deeply respect.  I had such an opportunity this past weekend, but there’s a bit of back story we need to visit first.

Back before the turn of the century (so pleased I was born at I time I can use that phase) – around ’92 or ’93, I travelled with a friend for a weeklong getaway to sunny Acapulco.  It started with severe sunburn (self-inflicted and the result of astounding stupidity on the part of two people who should have known better).  In fact, there were so many opportunities for the pair of us to contend for the Darwin Awards that week that I almost have to believe that luck is a true power in the universe.  This story involves death and near death, but not for the two of us.

Dave (always best to travel with someone who shares your first name.  Makes it easy on those you meet.) and I got chatting with a pair of concierges who worked at the hotel (I believe their names were Hector and Luis).  It was late morning on our third day down there.  Nursing our two day old sunburns, we hadn’t planned on spending too much time on the beach and were looking for suggestions.

“How about the bullfights?”

How about the bullfights, indeed.

Both Dave and I grew up on farms.  Both of us had a realistic view of large animals, a respect for their size and a farmer’s gut reaction against inflicting harm on an animal.  Both of our new Mexican friends nodded enthusiastically and told us how much we would enjoy an afternoon of drinking cerveza and watching the Novilleros – the novice bullfighters slated to perform in the ring that afternoon.  Like I say, Ann’s philosophy is very much my own, so – believing it would be an afternoon that I would hate – we agreed to go.

Shortly after lunch, we climbed into a bus with a few American and German tourists from the hotel.  The bus driver began to tell us about the importance of bullfighting in Spanish culture generally and Acapulco specifically.  He told us about how it is as much an art as a sport and that if a bullfighter fails to deliver a swift and successful killing stroke with his sword, that bullfighter may face a hefty fine from the City of Acapulco for cruelty to animals.  He also told us that in the past the meat from the vanquished bulls was given to the orphanages.  “But today?” he said and rubbed his index and middle fingers against his thumb.  “Too expensive.  Now the meat is sold at market.”

How much of the driver’s tale is true and how much is theatre?  I don’t know and I don’t want to know.  I’ve never fact checked his claims and I never will because his story readied me for my afternoon at the bullring. 

When we arrived, we tried to seat ourselves among the Mexicans who were out for an afternoon of entertainment.  I’d had enough of Americans, Germans and Dutch at the hotel.  We settled in among a few families but an American family sat next to us.  It was just as well.  I was interested to see how a pair of middleclass teenagers reacted to Mexico’s favourite bloodsport.

As it turned out, not very well.

The afternoon began with colour, fanfare, lots of beer, music, laughter a number of friendly pats on the back from Mexicans who were more than happy to share their sport with us.  An older gent worked with all the English he had to encourage us in our appreciation of bullfighting.

The afternoon wore on and novice after novice faced the young bulls.  Some showed skill and were rewarded by cheers.  Some were not so skilled and gained the contempt of the crowd. 

“Toro!  Toro!  Toro!”

Once the crowd starts cheering for the bull you’re done, son.  If I remember correctly, that particular novice ended up being gored high on the thigh by the bull to the thunderous delight of the assembled crowd.

Sometime during the afternoon I came to the realization that bullfighting isn’t about watching the bull die – it’s about the real chance that you might get to watch a person die.  And this isn’t just about bullfighting.  Car racing isn’t about running around in perfect ovals forever and ever.  Car racing is about the crashes and the chance that someone might die.  Alpine skiing, too.  Football.  Boxing.  Even diving.  Anything with that element that something can at anytime go terribly wrong and injury and death are only a small misstep away.

As I rode the bus back to the hotel with the Dutchmen, the Germans and the Americans and their traumatized teens, I realized I kind of enjoyed my afternoon at the bullfights.  It’s not something that I think I’ll ever do again, but because I had been prepared for it by Acapulco natives and I sat among the Mexican crowd, I think I could see how compelling the sport could be.  Later that night, Dave and I happened upon the nightclub where those Novilleros were spending their evening and drank each of them under the table with their libation of choice.  That might also be a factor in my enjoyment of the day.

There have been other experiences that I was either hesitant to take part in or felt from the start that it was something I would neither understand nor enjoy.  I had just such an experiential opportunity a few weeks ago and I relate that next time…

Friday, 9 May 2014

The Last Repairman

Today my short story, The Last Repairman, is published on the Daily Science Fiction website.

Here's the link.

I hope you enjoy The Last Repairman.  If you do, rate the story and maybe leave a comment here on on DSF's facebook page.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Treasure Hunt 2014

Each year The Elora Festival Singers hold their major fundraiser, a massive Book Sale during the first weekend of May.

As always, the Beynon family found a horde of treasure.  Here's a look at my share of the booty:

 Here's a H.G. Wells book I'd never heard of before and, lucky me, it's a first edition.
 The Works of Alexandre Dumas, Volume Five, 1893.
  This one is kind of awesome.  The worn leather cover looks fairly unassuming.  Let's have a look inside...

The cover is mighty loose (in fact, it's not attached) but let's look at those Roman Numerals...

MDCCLXXIX .....hmmm.....that's 1779

The book is in pretty rough shape but it is 235 years old.

Wow...235-  that's old.

This other leather book is an infant by comparison.

Printed in 1801, this book is a mere 213 years old.

Some impressive treasure, for sure, and everything at a bargain price.

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Last Repairman

Here's some nice news - my science fiction story, The Last Repairman is set to be published on the Daily Science Fiction Website on Friday May 9th, 2014.  It will also be distributed to their 8,500 subscribers on the very same day.

Today I am doing line edits of the manuscript.  I've been through the thing twice now and haven't found a mistake.  That speaks to the editing I did before sending it to DSF but also to their editorial process.  They've been through the thing and cleaned up typos.  I'll have my usual editor (my eagle-eyed wife) read through the proofing manuscript, too.  The more eyes the better.

I'm very excited about this particular publication.  With a subscriber base of 8,500 and access to anyone with a web browser, this story has more opportunity to reach readers than any of my previous publications.

Also in the news, I recently sold the audio rights for The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife (published in Tesseracts Seventeen (Edge, 2013)) to Escape Artist Inc to be podcast on their horror podcast website.  .  The story will be read by a professional voice actor and will feature the story towards the end of August 2014.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Showering With The Old Guys

Odd title for a blog post.  I know.  We’ll get to it shortly.

Last August, I did something I hadn't done in almost thirty years.  The kids expressed interest in visiting the CNE, the Canadian National Exhibition. 

It was an annual ritual when I was growing up.  My parents would drive to a GO train station and park the car.  The train ride was a treat for a couple of rural kids who only encountered transit in the form of a school bus.  The train would take us to Exhibition Station and we’d be off for a day of games and rides and exhibits and, of course, the international flavours of The Food Building.

I honestly don’t know why it had been thirty or so years since my last visit.  It might be that as I’ve grown older my tolerance for line-ups and crowds has decreased.  It might be that my love of midway rides has dwindled.  I think that the most likely reason of all (isn't that my heart is two sizes too small) might have to do with the Food Building

My mother was born in India and I was exposed to curry (of sorts) at an early age but beyond the liver curry with far too many raisins, it was typical British fare with very well done meat and vegetables that had been boiled into submission.  When I was young, the International Food Building was a chance to sample cuisine from all over the world and every vendor presented free samples.   Canada has grown more cosmopolitan.  When my wife and I lived in Mississauga, any food from any part of the world you can imagine was available within a ten-minute walk of our condo.   In our little town of Fergus we have an Indian Restaurant that’s just as good as anything our friends in Vancouver can find in their city and our Sushi restaurant, while not the best sushi restaurant I've ever eaten at, is among the top three.  I've eaten food from around the world and tend to love it all and although a new culinary discovery is still an adventure, it’s not an adventure I’m likely to have in the CNE Food Building of 2013.

Anyway, the kids expressed a desire to go and other than my dislike of crowds and line-ups, I saw no reason not to.  Hearkening back to my childhood, we parked at a Go station (not the same one as in my youth) and took the train to Exhibition Station.  I girded myself for crowds and line-ups and got neither.  It turns out that a multi-cultural society’s Food Building is a different place.  Not able to entice the crowds with now commonplace international cuisine, they resort to things like “THE CRONUT BURGER”.  Here’s a link to the question floating in your mind:  What on earth is a cronut burger?

We had a line-up free day at the CNE because the previous two days a goodly number of patrons fell victim to that failed culinary experiment.  Just as well – I didn't feel crowded at all.

During our day of no line-ups and food-poisoning reduced crowds, I rediscovered my love of midway rides.  I was doubly delighted to discover that my 12 year old daughter loved them too.  Anything she wanted to try, I tried as well.  Everything was good and happy until we rode The Avalanche! It’s a magnificent ride that teaches you the wonders of centrifugal force.  The problem is, last time I rode this thing I was…ahem…let’s just say considerable lighter.  The ride caused parts of me to exert pressure in new ways on other parts of me that became increasingly unpleasant.  I was carrying too much weight to enjoy midway rides with my children.

Here’s where we get to showering with old guys.  Once the kids started back a school a few weeks later, I signed up at the gym.  Everything was sore and rusty to start, but with time and effort, I’ve lost some weight and my stamina is remarkably increased.  There’s still work to be done, but I do an average of 5 miles on the elliptical trainer (or just over 40 minutes) daily with a bit of weight training thrown in for good measure. 

I work out in the mornings, after the kids have caught the bus.  The vast majority of folks working out at that time of day are retired…very retired.  Most are in their seventies.  It’s great working out with seventy year olds.  Not because I feel more fit – I don’t.  These guys are in terrific shape.  All stringy and lean.  I like working out with them because they talk.

After the elliptical machine, I rest a bit and chat with the guys.  They come from all walks of life and each have fantastic stories that come out with very little prompting.  All of them are characters and, as a writer, they are fodder for characters. 

The new exercise routine gives me forty minutes of uninterrupted “thinking time” each morning before I come home and sit down in front of the keyboard.  I get real-life experiences that can be woven into the fabric of characters I create.  Most days I feel like a Viking, ready to conquer the world.  And I’m making it possible to enjoy years and years of midway rides for as long as my kids will let me ride with them.

And the showers with the old guys?  Doesn’t actually happen too often that we’re showering together.  Whether by unconscious choice or happy accident, most often I have free run of the change room with nary a soul about.   But when we do share the change room and find ourselves in the shower together...well, that would be telling.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Last year I started painting again.  After a great long while – let’s just say about 20 years and be done with it – I picked up a paint brush and started splashing paint on a canvas.  And it all came about because of my daughter’s acting career.

My daughter has talent in spades and the passion to go with it.  One of those talents is acting.  She’s proud, enthusiastic and struts the stage like she owns it.  She auditions for local theatre productions and gets parts.  For me, that means playing chauffeur to the aspiring starlet on a fairly regular basis and because I’m an over-protective dad, I tend to show up early to pick her up.  

Last year, a round of rehearsals were held at our local Centre for the Arts.  I showed up early with a book and was about to settle into one of the far too comfortable wing-backed chairs when I heard a familiar voice from a nearby room.

Inside the room were a half dozen easels with painters applying oils and acrylics over canvases of all sizes.  The voice I heard belong to a woman who I met through a mutual friend.  Here’s a link to some of her art.

Meredith Blackmore is a fabulous painter.  As I walked into the room she introduced me to everyone there.  Being a small community, I knew a few of the people, including the local newspaper editor and a yoga instructor who lives just down the street from me.  I was so impressed by the quality of the art that was being made.  I told Meredith that it took me back – way back – to the days when I used to dabble in painting with acrylics. 

“Well,” she said, “we just happen to have an empty table every other Thursday.”

That was all the encouragement I needed.  Painting exercises a whole different set of creative muscles than writing and though I’ve a number of false starts and only one painting I really consider finished, the last year has been a blast. 

I know my paintings aren’t very good.  Some are downright bad but the painting adventure looks like it will be continuing…at least for another year.

This was my initial painting.  Unfinished.
I rather like the wheels on this truck, but the rest of it is out of perspective.

This is my interpretation of the Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber in Wales

Here's the photo I worked from.

Painting of a bridge at Wakehurst Place in England

The photo I worked from

Easter Island - this is the only painting I consider finished.

A local haunted farmhouse - started but only just.

The current project - this will be a painting of a bowstring bridge
when I'm done.