Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Dear Readers,

As the majority of you know, this is a new blog. It’s still finding its way in the world, and it was created to celebrate one woman’s journey, yes–but also a journey I hope that everyone can relate to in their own way. However, if there’s one underlying theme, it all goes back to the title–A Life Less Ordinary. This blog is about living your best life, however one seems fit to do that.

It is not a place for political rants, or a breakdown of the top headlines (there’s enough blogs like that out there). Most of the time, I strive for an upbeat, positive tone, because I believe we all have enough depressing stuff to deal with.


It is not my nature to keep my mouth shut when something is really bothering me. And even though I want each and every one of you to be happy, I hope it’s been bothering you, too. Today’s post may not be about writing or kickboxing, but I don’t have to stretch at all to say it’s definitely about living our best life.

I’m sick and (insert expletive of choice here) tired of what we’re doing to the planet.

Call me a bleeding heart, I don’t care. BP’s oil spill makes me sick. I literally feel physically sick whenever I think about it, and I want to weep whenever I see another poor creature covered with oil. CNN’s Anderson Cooper is churning out story after story about how corrupt this company is, how they could have seen this coming a million miles away, and still…no one has stopped the disaster.

If you’re tired of hearing about how human beings are a virus that is destroying everything, I understand. I get exhausted by that, too. I’m especially frustrated by environmental nightmare stories that don’t give us the faintest indication of what we can do to help.

The literal slimeballs at BP are one thing. It makes me so angry and helpless, but that’s exactly what I am…helpless. Short of going down there and washing off ducks myself, what can I do? I already don’t own a car, so there’s no risk of inadvertently supporting BP or their products. But then I saw an article that my writer friend Perry posted on his Facebook wall: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/06/16/condemned-lakes.html. If you’re not in the mood for more happy reading, I’ll break it down for you. This year, mines are going to start dumping their toxic waste into SIXTEEN Canadian lakes. And even worse, they have the permission of Canada’s Fisheries Minister. Get this quote, from a spokesperson of the mining industry:

Lakes are often the best way for mine tailings to be contained, said Elizabeth Gardiner, vice-president for technical affairs for the Mining Association of Canada.

“In some cases, particularly in Canada, with this kind of topography and this number of natural lakes and depressions and ponds … in the end it’s really the safest option for human health and for the environment,” she said.

Safest option for the environment? As opposed to what? Nuclear waste? My friend Perry’s post of this article only resulted in one comment: “Boo!” That’s the best we can do, people? Sixteen of our beautiful lakes, including all the fish, fauna, and fowl that live there, are about to be poisoned, and all we can say is “boo”?

I was also astounded at the response to an article in the local paper that said Manitoba will lose its polar bears by 2035. Most of the people who bothered to comment did so simply to say that they didn’t believe in this “climate change” and that species have always gone extinct, so why should they care? It flabbergasted me. Even better were the ones who pointed out the environmental mistakes of other countries, justifying their lack of action with “well, Nigeria is worse than us, so there’s no point in us doing anything.” Excuse me?

The majority of Canadians and Americans aren’t rich. We aren’t really profiting from this rape of our natural resources, but we’re definitely going to pay the price in the end. There has to be something we can do. We may be the most destructive species on the face of the planet, but we’re also the only species who can realize the extent of our destruction and do something about it. Do we really have to sit quietly by and watch some big mining corporation poison our lakes? Do we really have to accept that our polar bears are going to die? Or that in some American cities, there already seem to be no songbirds at all?

I’m looking for answers. I’m looking desperately for a silver lining. But I’m sorry–I just can’t justify writing a feel-good post about writing or kickboxing when all this stuff is going on. If you have ideas of what one can do to help, please comment! (Julius, I’m hoping you may have suggestions about the marine issues.) Or if you’re mad as hell, too, feel free to rant away.

I’ll end with this. It is a mistake–a huge, irreversible mistake–to feel that one person can’t make a difference. We all have the power to make our voices heard by the fools who keep destroying our homes.
Maybe I’ll feel better tomorrow. Then again, maybe not.

Thanks for reading!
1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. TS

    I too feel your anger. The problem ultimately lies with the fact that we don’t put a price on our natural resources.

    (And the fact that the federal government quietly downsizes Environment Canada so they are just lip service.)

    We have transformed ourselves to be a short-term now-results generation. Heaven forbid we even think of the generation, let alone how we’ll leave this earth when we depart it. We’ve become selfish and don’t give a crap about anyone else – flora, fauna, or human.

    Personally I find it the most disturbing when a creature who cannot speak for itself (ie. fauna) gets abused. They’ve done nothing to us, and if they have, it is most certainly a natural defense to what we’ve done to them.

    Bottom line – if we took more time to connect ourselves with nature, and got ourselves out of our Tim Horton’s drive-through lines, I think we’ve all be better off. Appreciate what we have, be more healthy – mentally and physically, rely less upon bureaucracies and more on communities..the benefits are endless. But try to get someone to give up their Timmies and you’ll see the problem.

    /end rant

  2. Julius Csotonyi

    I hear you! I’ve always enjoyed watching natural history shows like the Nature of Things with David Suzuki, but there was always an inevitable part at the end when all the beauty that had been presented was shown to be effectively torn or poisoned to death by some human activity or another. That was always the most painful part and I wished that there had not had to be such a bleak denouement. Not that it makes me able to appreciate it more than anyone else, but being a biologist, it hurts me deeply to see the kind of damage that our planet is suffering, especially the increasing rate of species loss. Having studied deep ocean hydrothermal vent ecosystems from research ships, I have had a chance to see first hand how rare and fragile these unusual and alien-looking communities are, which really puts into perspective the marine catastrophe that’s brewing in the Gulf.

    What to do? The geographic extent of this particular catastrophe is so large that there is little that any of us feel that we can accomplish to make a difference. However, there IS some good news actually. It comes in a form similar to the deus ex machina ending of “The War of the Worlds”, in which terrestrial microorganisms win the war against the alien invaders against which we were unable to defend ourselves. As part of my research, I study the microbiology of extreme environments, particularly those that are enriched in toxic heavy metals. It is truly amazing what the microbial diversity of our planet is capable of. It appears that no matter what kind of pollutant – metals, organic toxins or oil – that you add as a food source to samples of microbial communities collected from polluted environments, you are almost bound to isolate some microbial species that finds it tasty and is capable of breaking it down or rendering it less harmful. There is a LOT of research currently (some of it right here in Winnipeg, at the U of M) directed toward enlisting microbes in the war against environmental disasters, but the really good news is that the disasters themselves effectively select for the enhanced growth of those microbes that are already present and capable of degrading the pollutants. Microbial communities are kind of like our biosphere’s healing agents (though in a less teleological and more opportunistic sense).

    Another really important thing that we can do is precisely what you are doing in writing this blog: making use of our individual skills in bringing increased awareness to the issue. We each have a different skill that we can bring into the ring. Being an artist, I have been planning to contribute natural history artwork to auctions, etc. to help raise funds for environmental reparation. I feel that this would be a tangible way to contribute to a solution, even if it is indirect. Another idea on which you, with your writing and personal relations background could offer useful input is the development of a book or digital medium that combines information and artwork on local or global ecological issues, not unlike some of Bateman’s publications. Just some brainstorming. I’ve done some artwork aiming to bring attention to the ugliness of unbridled ecological damage: http://csotonyi.com/Industrial_Apocalypse_Csotonyi.html . It’s an exaggeration, and not a pretty picture, but its purpose was to visualize a future without controls on human industrial activity. This particular piece was supposed to appear on the cover of a magazine featuring a story about our bringing about a new mass extinction, but which the marketing team at the last minute replaced with what they felt was a more impactful image.

    Oh dear, I’ve written a lot more than I planned to, and it will look as though I am hijacking your blog! But you have struck a chord in me with this blog entry. It does look ugly right now, but I do believe that there is hope and that we can make a difference. I’ve suggested a couple of ideas that hopefully could be applied relatively realistically.

  3. Story Teller

    @ TS – thanks for your comments and commiseration. Maybe we can get together and rant sometime! 🙂 And I would definitely give up Tim’s anyday. Put me on a deserted island without any of that processed crap, and I’d be perfectly happy. (I’d have to learn to make my own potato chips, though – perhaps from plantains?)

    @ Julius, you can hijack my blog anytime. Thank you once again for all your time and insights. Your post did make me feel so much better. As an update, it turns out the article that so infuriated me is two years old. I am now waiting to hear from Mining Watch Canada about whether or not the toxic dump plans went ahead, to see what else I can do. Thanks so much for being a part of this blog!

  4. Jocé

    Thanks Holli for voicing what is on the minds of many of us. This is such a terrible tragedy — finding answers is going to be hard. But i do believe the first step is awareness. We humans are killing our planet. And we’ve got to stop.


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