The Contrary Canadian


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Series: A Country James Novel
Book #1
Title: Through Better & Worse
Subtitle: A Montana Love Story
Author: D.L. Keur writing as C.J “Country” James
Kindle Select Exclusive Release eBook ASIN: B013AUZTCK
Print: ISBN-13: 978-0692491751
Print: ISBN-10: 0692491759
420 pages
Genre: Contemporary Western Romance (Semi-Sweet)


The first encounter between Dree Blake and Jake Jarvis couldn’t have been worse. Jake has a teenage mind inside a man’s body. Driving his fancy pickup too fast, he wants to get around the old clunker pulling a horse trailer. But there isn’t room to pass. Narrowly missing Dree’s horse trailer by a hair, he yells insults at the girl driving the rig.

Dree certainly didn’t want a confrontation with the rude cowboy. Jake sure as hell didn’t want to see her anywhere anytime soon. Both go about their business.

But the Fates are fond of creating coincidental meetings. Dree is heading to the Jarvis ranch to help teach the hands a new, more humane method of castrating bull calves. After a demo, Dree and the two men from the Montana Department of Agriculture are asked to stay around for the upcoming roundup of the calves. Just as she’s putting her mule, Cougar, into the stable, who should come driving in all la-di-da except the man who nearly drove her off the road.

Jake figures Dree is at the ranch to rat on him. He waits nervously for the blow up from his grandfather, Franklin. But nothing happens. Relieved, Jake is grateful the blocky little lady has kept her peace about the encounter.

Dree recognizes Jake all right, and figures out he’s the heir to the Jarvis Ranch. It wouldn’t be in her best interests to cause a ruckus. Besides, Dree does not like confrontation…at all. An incident from her childhood, violent beyond measure, gives her horrible anxiety attacks. The result is Dree is too quiet and too easily dismissed.

With this inauspicious beginning, Jake and Dree are forced to learn more about each other. They each find the other isn’t quite as horrible as they first thought.

As the story progresses, a lot happens, but that’d all be spoiler material. However, this is a big R Romance, so you have an idea of how it turns out. What will surprise the hell out of you is how.

Not many books are perfect, but this one’s darned close. The details of cattle ranching and division of property I know to be accurate, however it might be a bit more information than the reader would like. Get on with the kissing! Nevertheless, I very much appreciate a book that doesn’t slide by the setting and circumstances with no more than a howdy along the way. Readers who are sticklers for details will be pleased.

This is not your bare-chested, sexy cowboy romance (though Jake ain’t bad). Those are mere cotton candy representations of real ranch life and real ranch people. Author, C.J. “Country” James, knows the people she writes about far better than most. She’s taken a pen name for the Country series, of which this book is the first.

Not only does the pseudonymous James write truly and honestly about the modern west, but is also an artist and has recorded her own audio versions of the book. With a woman that talented, you can’t go wrong reading or listening to her books.

Hint: Also look for E.J. Ruek’s books “Old Hickory Lane” and “To Inherit a Murderer.” A few more books are in the works.

Find the author at:

About the Reviewer: Marva Dasef has authored a number of young adult fantasies, along with a couple of books in western settings. She was given an Advance Review Copy by the author in return for an unbiased review.

The Contrary Canadian


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The following is based on a commentary from 2012 on this blog.

Stephen King

Stephen King

A few years ago I participated in a discussion about Stephen King. I could not believe the number of people who were bashing the guy. He has now written over 50 books–EVERY ONE OF THEM A BESTSELLER. Best guestimates are he brings in at least 40 million a year. And when he can write a book like 11/22/63 that can move me to melancholy for the better part of a day AND a week later still has me thinking about it, then I say the whole lot are out to lunch, jealous little people of no concern. This man is a great story teller. He HAS to be, to accomplish what he has done.

Read my review, then get the book …



1. Sandra McLeod Humphrey said:

Sounds like another great book–what an intriguing story line! You’re right, Stephen King is an extraordinary storyteller!

REPLY Clayton Bye said:

The idea of preventing Kennedy’s asassination was what originally caught my attention, but when the story turns out to be a treatise on time travel–WOW! I think it’s safe to say there are a few time travel stories better than this one (King mentions a favourite of mine “Time after Time,” a story centred on the idea of Jack the Ripper as a time traveller.), but only a few. I think this may be a book even those who aren’t King fans will enjoy.


2. Sandra Nachlinger said

I agree with you, Clayton. Stephen King knows how to tell a story, and those who bash his work must be envious of his talent. Great post and review.

Reply Clayton Bye said:

Thank you Sandra. It has been noted by smarter people than I that the higher up the ladder you go, the more people there seem to be who want to pull you back down. I’m sure King knows this, but it has been quite apparent in his interviews that these comments bother him a great deal. I think the worst one was the repeated habit so called “literary” pundits had of calling him a hack. That one went on until just a few years ago.


3. Wayne Helliar said:

Lot’s of people hate Wayne Greztky too, probably some of them hate Stephen King as well. But they just can’t understand, success speaks for itself.

REPLY Clayton Bye said:

You’ve got that right, cousin. It’s amazing how many people are jealous of or even harbour malice for those who are more successful than they are. We would all be better off if we could just be happy for what we have and for what we may be able to achieve–leaving other people completely out of the picture. I guess another way to put what I’m trying to say is if Stephen King makes 40 million per year, as reported, I should be happy for the man. There’s no percentage in hating the guy.

Take care, Clayton


Copyright © 2015 Clayton Clifford Bye

Clayton Bye
Chase Enterprises Publishing
1 (807) 466-7642


The Contrary Canadian



Reviewed by Elena Yates Eulo

Clayton Bye’s writing is a power unto itself, a current both deep and disturbing, and he wastes no time in plugging us into his definition of reality. And yes, he will disturb our minds and mess up our radar. After the first story of this eclectic collection, I had already left my own concept of reality and taken up residence in his strange dim world, much trafficked by villains and terrifying possibilities, and occasionally by some spirited and appealing good guys.

He begins with an unspeakable action that can only be hinted at in the beginning of this tale. Such an act creates its own world, one so dreadful and remote from humanity that even speculation of the deed is not an absolute. It is, Bye tells us, an absence of qualities, without speed or light. His words evoke a reminder that the greatest sins of humanity take place inside of unenlightened minds where not a single ray of light illuminates truth.

To read Bye is to be escorted into a shadowy, relentless world without boundaries, where a myriad of dark deeds are committed by intricate, multi-dimensional characters who live in obscure locations most of us have never visited, nor would we go there by choice, save between the pages of a well-written book. It does not hurt to have a recurring guide, in this case likable Mike Money, who takes us to the region of Big Trout Lake in Ontario, with its abiding chill that Bye sends through our bodies, minds and into our very bones while introducing us to the traditions and legends of remote reservations. It is, we will find, a place accustomed to meting out its own justice, and Mike Money well knows the futility of interference.

Yet, these remote cultures are a mere glint in the eye in considering the multiverse that live in Bye’s stories. Neither are all his speculations terrifying. Sometimes, he makes us smile or even laugh, perhaps to prepare our minds more vulnerable for his carving. It’s a delicate balancing act that lures the reader into strange fellowships, from the devil himself to visitations with computers, legendary creatures, or the biological viruses that deform humankind (perhaps to more truly match the quality of our souls?) … while warming us with Mike Money and his reservation of authentic characters.

Illusions or not, it’s enough that Bye leaves us speculating, whether of the nature of evil or the compensations of love, hope and humor. Always, he provides us with good company at our own private bonfires.

The Contrary Canadian

My new book of eclectic short stories, Behind the Red Door, is now available for ordering. or at Amazon.

Behind the Red Door
Clayton C. bye
Chase Enterprises Publishing, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-927915-08-0
!26 Pages
Short Stories/Literary

Kenneth Weene | 5 out of 5 Stars!

As an author I appreciate good writing; and to be successful. short stories as a genre require writing that moves the reader along. Clayton Bye has given us good, fast-paced writing with stories that explore the humor of the mundane, i.e. Big Trout Lake Blues and Regarding Love, the incredible world of science fiction, i.e. Retrovirus, and horror that makes the hair at the nape of your neck stand to attention, i.e., The Speed of Dark and The Last Unicorn. There are ten stories in this book, and my bet is that readers will savor every one of these delights.

Fran Lewis
Just Reviews

Before you open the door and find out what is behind it understand that your world as you see it now will never be the same. The people that you meet, their stories that you will hear and the endings that they meet will not only startle you, surprise you but help you to understand that their world is really not that much different than yours in some respects. Behind the Red Door is a compilation of original stories each with its own theme, message and story yet each linked in some way. The sadness, the tragedies, the deceits, lies and deceptions are there but each main character often justifies his/her actions and the end result is not always what you expect.

A young boy has to cope with a mother who uses her children for food. How does this child survive? In the Speed of Dark, story one, Richard Bartholomew lives in a world that would frighten any child. What is the Speed of Dark and how does he and his brother find their way into the light? As their mother informs them that someone has to go and there is no choice or decision in the matter and her wishes are clear, Richard ponders his fate and that of everyone else. Will he survive? What can he do when it’s his day? What surprise just might change it all?

The next story focuses on a lone police office in a real place called Big Trout Lake, which is followed by Stiletto. Defining the word in graphic detail and helping readers understand the power of this weapon author Clayton Bye takes us further inside the red door inside the mind of a killer who has no qualms about going after his prey. Justice: An eye for an eye! But, will he prevail?

The story that I really got into the most was Retrovirus. How far would a man go in order to be accepted and find love? Men in black cloaks, late afternoon, jet-black stallions and an entire herd. A stranger “more than half believed that he would find a stand of swords in the alders behind him.” What transpires next is right out of an Alfred Hitchcock Movie or an episode of the Twilight Zone as Jim sitting in front of his computer witnesses something that would forever change his life. What would you do if you saw a creature come out of your computer? A snake with a face! Green fluid that felt like oil to the touch and materialized in human form in front of Jim. Wanting to form some type of bond with this person/creature he fails to see through her façade and falls prey to more than just her appearance and words. Her name is Gilada and although she might have acted like a friend to Jim she was anything but. When relationships form, deeds are done and the end result is Jim’s health and physical appearance become so deteriorated that his own doctor cannot recognize what is wrong. How do you react when your whole body turns into blister and sores? What would you do if you were told you had a computer virus? Things come to a full head and Gilada explains his plight but a chameleon can change forms and in this case Jim sees and hears what she wants him to. What is his final fate? What is her primary goal? What happens will make the fires of hell seem luke warm as Jim mistakes deception and lies for love and the men sitting around the fire waiting for the storm to brew listen as the “wind screeched like a dying woman.”

The next is another Big Trout Lake Blues story focusing on Mike Money followed by Regarding Love. Would you forgive your spouse if he was having an affair with another man? Find out the rationale behind that in this unique story.

The next story is really eerie and once again the author takes us beyond the realm of reality into the world of good vs. evil as we meet someone, let’s not give him a name or title whose goal it is to gather souls. Finding himself in need of one and meeting a man named Brad the events unfold, their worlds collide and the end result is quite startling. When he refuses to stay in one of his own worlds, with the “legions of the dead, The Lord goes out of his way to punish me.” Of course he finds that unfair. Getting injured and waking up in a hospital bed is no problem as he can heal himself. Hearing his justification for his actions and learning that sometimes the tables are turned quite remarkable. What does happen when one soul refuses to adhere to his rules? What will happen the next time he searches for a soul? Would you commit a mortal sin? That would be a serious matter and the person committing it “must have reflected however, briefly, on the gravity of the situation before acting.” Will that stop him? Watch as events unfold with Bryan Cole and learn who has the final say: Him or God.

The Maniac and The Return of the Dwarves round out the collection, which ends with The Last Unicorn. A young girl about the age of this man finds her way into his life and explains she’s a unicorn. What would you do? Find out when one young man assimilates into a world that most would shy away or run from, becomes a shape shifter, and thinks he has found love but in reality what he finds is anything but.

Horror, humor, fear, paranormal, ethereal and much more are just part of what you will find when you enter the worlds created by author Clayton Bye. But, make sure that you leave a crack in the door and don’t close it fully behind you as Behind the Red Door you will find worlds that you might want to escape or maybe you too will become part of one. Beware: This is an original collection that draws the reader in from the start and you just might not be able to escape.


The Contrary Canadian


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A Tale of Three Bridges
(Lisbon, Rome, Istanbul)
Lagarto Studio, 2015
Carlos Carvalho

“This book is a work of fact, fiction and fancy.” So says the opening page of A Tale of Three Bridges by Carlos Carvalho. And I can see it all in my mind’s eye. The question, however, is: “Will I be able to explain it to you?” Yes, I have read the book, and I loved it. Rarely have I been moved as this book moved me. I was reminded of the great romances of my life and of the great losses, and I identified with the main character tremendously.

Carlos is an artist who lives in Cape Town, South Africa, and much like (I’m assuming this) his artist creator, Carlos travels a great deal to find inspiration for his work. In these travels both have discovered three great bridges in three great cities. Apparently these bridges form a straight line between all. Even the cities are similar, in that they are each built upon seven hills. But enough about them (you will learn much about these bridges and these cities in the story). What is most important is that each bridge plays a part in the great loves of Carlos’ life. These are loves Carlos feels with an amazing depth of emotion, yet he can’t hold on to them. In fact the greatest love of them all lasted only three days before she left him, moved to another continent and married another man. We could be reading a Harlequin romance here–except that everything is so real it is impossible to tell where the fact, the fiction and the fancy leave off. Even the places and scenes set in each of the three great cities feel real.

I’ve read many Harlequin romances. Never have they given me the experience of love that Carlos Carvalho brings to the page. I’ve read many erotic romances. Never have they left me with such a sense of unbridled passion. I’ve read many great novels, classic and otherwise. So I can say this: Here is a love story for men and women. And I pronounce it good!

5 stars

Copyright © 2015 Clayton Clifford Bye

The Contrary Canadian


Mad River
by John Sandford
Published by Putnam, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15770-7
Virgil Flowers Novel
Hard Cover
387 pages

In a cold dry spring, the clear air gives the prairie a particular bleakness, if your mood is already bleak.

Virgil had a feeling that there’d be a shooting before the end of the day, that people who were alive and even feeling good right then, maybe asleep in their beds, would be bleeding into the dirt before the sun went down.

Written with his friend Joe Soucheray, John Sandford has penned a terrific Virgil Flowers novel. We get to see glimpses of the fiercely individualistic Flowers while Sanford unrolls a particularly brutal string of shootings by the Bonnie and Clyde style murderers–Jimmy Sharp and Becky Welsh. Much focus is placed on police procedure and the sharp mind of Flowers. The mixture works well and makes for a story I didn’t want to put down.

Flowers’ fight against the mob mentality of the small-town cops after blood makes an interesting backdrop for the killings and poses the question: What do you do with people who throw out the law-book and begin killing their neighbours and even family–just because they can? Do you bring them to justice or do you shoot them like wild dogs in the street? And what about revenge killings by family members of one of the deceased? Do you treat them the same, or is there a different law for those on the side of right?

Mad River is an interesting story about small town folk with big city problems. And no one writes about rural Minnesota and Wisconsin than does John Sandford.

5 stars

Copyright © 2015 Clayton Clifford Bye

The Contrary Canadian


Nothing On the Field: Eileen Rand

When the world looks at you through predetermined eyes what happens when the perception is clouded and wrong? What happens when a huge fog is cast over you and a heavy mist hampers what others might ultimately see if the sun were to shine? What happens when the world expects you to act in a certain way and you don’t? What happens when all you want is to be loved, accepted and understood for who you are and not what others want you to be? What happens will take you deep inside the heart, mind and soul of Eileen Rand who shares a story that I hope will be a wake-up call for teens, young adults, adults and everyone that Anorexia is real, that the battle to overcome the illness takes time, energy and the support of the right people. But first, let’s meet Eileen and join her on her journey from despair and darkness and into the light.

What happens when your family turns a blind eye? What happens when they refuse to help and understand? Eileen’s mom was her champion and her main means of support until she could no longer function. Then there was no one. Beginning with important definitions on pages 7-8 and then followed by a detailed explanation of Eating Disorder Statistics, readers will understand and learn from the start just how widespread this illness is.
Included you will learn the Mortality Rates and discover those at risk.

Imagine being confined to a hospital right before Thanksgiving. Imagine leaving Rhode Island Hospital to be sent to the cold, austere and unfeeling facility at John Hopkins. Some nightmares happen while you are asleep but others will happen during a car trip that set the tone for things to come that would not be what Eileen expected. Left in the hands of the hospital staff, Eileen found out early on that she was no longer in control of her diet, movements or food selection. Her brother Jeff was not sympathetic and the end result was quite frightening as Eileen entered a world unfamiliar to her. At 47 pounds and in serious danger of dying, she no longer had the power to decide or make decisions regarding her care. At UCLA they were kind and helped her when she felt stressed or afraid. But at John Hopkins you might say that a more than tough love attitude was in place and being left to sleep in a cold environment wearing a heart halter monitor and unable to find a comfortable place for herself, Eileen came to realize that this stay was not going to be easy. Afraid that she was going to suffer from refeeding syndrome, which is explained in detail in Chapter 2, Eileen learned just why her food choices and food quantities had to be limited.

At first she thought it would be okay and one nurse was not so bad. But, lunch was a rude awakening when told she had no choices and they would decide for her. Imagine having to earn food privileges. Sounds like a prison environment, doesn’t it? She was 47 pounds and they wanted her to weigh 107. Chapter 3 describes her experiences at John Hopkins, the fact that they treated her like a child using Behavior Modification strategies like a dean of discipline or teacher might implement in a classroom to get Eileen or their students to conform to the behaviors they wanted. Isolated, alone and afraid, Eileen was left to deal with the drugs that she was forced to take, a brother who would not take her home and physical problems that no one took seriously. Constipation, gum disease, told she had to eat at least 3500 calories a day, her blood sugar too high, and from what I could see from what they had her eat, I am sure that more of her bloods had to come back abnormal. She felt disliked, shunned and cast aside, and she wanted to leave but could not. Chapter 4 explains just how bad the constipation became, how it affected her system, lead her to try and escape and to desperately call on a brother who seemed devoid of caring. Added in was the fact that Eileen was the primary caregiver for her mom and her family did not seem to understand the gravity of her illnesses or decline. Eileen’s only anchor was her mother. Chapter 4 continues to explain her struggle with gaining and keeping the weight on. Hoping to leave and go home she begged her brother to get her released but his wife wanted no part of her and the words spoken would and could never be taken back.

The hospital staff was becoming more than annoyed with Eileen’s defiant attitude and the hard time she had following the rules. Learning that if she did not adhere to the schedule and the regime she would be dismissed and understanding her brother would no longer take her back, what was Eileen going to do? Tossed out and left to fend for herself along with bus tokens and a list of homeless shelters that she forgot to take with her and could not longer get, she was blessed in finding help from a bus driver. Her next stop was Karis Home. Chapter 5 tells about Karis Home, the women and children’s division of The Baltimore Rescue Mission, their services, rules and that it is a short-term solution. Learning about the other residents and hearing their stories brought the spotlight on the Karis Home. But, Eileen did not fair too well and with the help of someone she referred to as Miss Jerry she got her coffee which she needed to help her with her stomach problems. Then she got into some serious trouble back at the hospital regarding the food and food choices and the end result she was she was made to leave permanently. Karis Home kept her until her brother Jeff relented and found Cortland Place where she would have her own space. But there were other humiliations, and Eileen missed her mother, her warm hugs and her unconditional love. She has two brothers: Jeff and Greg. One would desert her and cast her aside and the other frustrated, angry and afraid for his sister, appeared to be hanging on to his hard line when it came to her unrelenting attitude, that she got what she deserved and the nagging feeling that she just might die.

Read Chapter 6 to meet Eileen as a youngster, to see her relationship with her father, to discover her punishments and to learn that she is quite smart, does and did well in school and eventually graduated college. A childhood where she felt isolated from other kids and at times bullied and shunned. Rich kids usually got it all but some kids, like Eileen, were victimized and little was done to help them. Chapter 7 focuses on her bout with appendicitis and why her family wanted little if anything to do with her. A father who became angry and cast her aside when he heard that she did something that would change her life. Losing her bedroom, forced to work to live in her own house, Eileen became a prisoner not only of her obsession with weight but within her own family and self too.

Throughout the book we hear Eileen’s voice pleading to be heard, understood and respected. Heartfelt and heartbreaking, this story is being told to send a message to everyone that Anorexia is serious and as she relates can cause you to do things that you might not otherwise consider. Chapter one ends with her trying to explain to her family why her mother needed private care and help and that without her she would not survive. There was the time she ran away to a hotel room, her brothers not wanting any part of her and being told by someone that she was going to find herself in Acute Care in Colorado. But, would this help? What would it take for Eileen to realize the devastation she was doing to herself? The treatment by the doctors, family and the fact that all she wanted was to be accepted for herself, Eileen attempted to make herself sick by taking sleeping pills, wanting the attention focused on her so that everyone would realize just how much she not only needed them but needed help. And eventually she changes, saying, “My approach to getting well: it’s not something you can force. It happens in God’s time.”

Meet Eileen in the first chapter in Part Two, see how she looks now and understand that after years of enduring this illness she “Wears it on my body, on my person, and I can’t escape that.” Looking in the mirror just what does she see? Herself at a young age, now or the person she would like to become?

Women are often misportrayed in the media—news, magazines, ads and on television programs. How is the perfect body, face or person defined? If you look closely at an actress who is featured in a magazine and then seen on a live talk show you might and should see a world of difference because you can photo shop a picture, airbrush away the wrinkles and the test of time but in person it is different. Anorexia is not just Eileen’s problem; there are so many young actresses, actors and teens that want to be thin, super thin and accepted.

Eileen had many doctors, psychiatrists, homes, bouts with weight gains and losses. She was readmitted to UCSD many times, which I know is an excellent hospital since my mom was there and they saved her life, Eileen needed to be on a program that would focus and help deal with her eating disorder. But, the saddest and most horrific scene is the one between her and her brother Greg that you need to read for yourself to understand the gravity of the situation. The entire book focuses on her stays at many different facilities, her loyalty to her mom and her hope to find a way back to being normal. Understand that she had Anorexia and although you might think it meant she did not want to eat all she ever did was crave food. Some anorexics are misdiagnosed, others commit suicide and some are just written off by their family and friends. The chapters are filled with so much information about the illness, her ability to make food choices and her amazing spirit to survive. Can she forgive her family? Will she ever be able to communicate with Jeff and Greg? Will they realize that all she wants is to be loved UNCONDITIONALLY without reservation? Then meet Clayton Bye the author who recorded her words, interviewed her and her brother Jeff and really brought this story and the information needed to light and to the surface in Chapter 20 and Chapter 21.

The research is extensive and the resources at the end valuable and numerous. Added in Eileen has information about the people who helped her along the way, How Page Love; MS RD. CSSD, LD Supported her and worked with her brother really makes this story come alive not just for Eileen but for readers too.

“ I feel like a creature from another planet,” says Eileen. I say, “Eileen: you are strong, smart, courageous and have created a resource that I know will help young teens, parents, doctors, psychiatrists, medical providers, medical staff, guidance counselors, nurses, school nurses, social workers and adults to understand the warning signs of Anorexia, to pay attention when someone appears to be losing so much weight and is eating. You are definitely not a creature from another planet but someone who is working hard each and every day to become the person she wants to see looking back at her in the mirror. Thanking people and giving back is great but we need to thank you for writing this book, Nothing on the Field. You too will complete and accomplish everything you want!”

Fran Lewis: These are my thoughts

The Contrary Canadian

An Introduction to Freemasonry

When Ken Weene suggested I write a piece about Freemasonry for The Write Room Blog, I jumped at the opportunity. After all, I am an active Freemason who loves to teach people about what it is we do. It wasn’t long, however, before I realized I was overwhelmed. You see, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons or Freemasons or simply Masons represent the largest, most complicated and dreadfully misunderstood fraternity in the world. People I know have called us a cult, a religion and a secret society. The following will explain why people think these things and will, at the same time, give you a reasonable introduction to Freemasonry.

No one is clear as to when the fraternity known as Freemasonry began. Our own, carefully preserved records claim we were around in the times of King Solomon, when the craftsman lodges of operative Masons began to turn away from the physical labour of building the temple at Jerusalem and moved towards the more speculative nature of the mind and soul, their working tools becoming symbolic tools with which to build a man with spotless morals and good character. Historical research, however, tends to suggest Freemasonry began in the 1300’s (when the first written records became available) and indicates the stories we use to teach our members are only complicated constructs.

Why the confusion? Well, originally, all the work presented to the initiate or candidate for admission to the Lodge was done strictly by memory. Vast lectures were learned word for word by one brother who would then teach it to a younger brother, and in so doing pass the knowledge along from generation to generation. Plays were put on with intricate costumes and great flair, all language being archaic in nature (and kept that way). There were no books to be passed down through the ages, just keepers of the work. If you were an authority seeking to destroy a Lodge—more about this later—all you would ever find were symbolic paintings and drawings that meant nothing to you. The real Lodge was kept safe in the minds of its members. Sometimes Lodges were even mobile, being set up wherever was safe and then taken down when the meeting was done.

There is also another reason the origins of Freemasonry are lost in the mists of time: all Lodges conduct their business behind closed and guarded doors—in secret! Why? What’s the big deal? After all, the only reason Lodges exist is to take good men and make them better. Could it be we are protecting the fact that our initiates are taught a beautiful system of morality that is veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols? No, it is generally understood that our system is taught via stories, poems, paintings and special symbols that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden, moral meaning. The problem actually goes back to the days when teaching a moral message, other than that approved by the Church, was forbidden and its purveyors persecuted.

Today, however, Masonic Lodges are not secret in and of themselves. They stand in the heart of every town of decent size in most countries of the world. You drive by these buildings every day. Some are ornate and some are plain. Almost all of them have our main symbol located somewhere on the front of the building. It is a square and compass surrounding the letter G, which stands for God …

Square and compass

And if our existence isn’t secret and our meeting times are usually posted on the doors, why do the rumours of secrecy still exist? Well, prejudice for one thing. Freemasonry was non-denominational long before separation of Church and State, making it a very unpopular organization. The fraternity, was, quite simply, a form of heresy. Secrecy was oftentimes all that stood between a Mason and prison time or even an untimely death. In fact, even as recently as World War II, Masons in Germany had to go underground. You see, they supported Jews like they supported all other people of the world, and because of this they were persecuted as fiercely as were the Jews. Why, until just a few short years ago, the Catholic Church wouldn’t allow any member to be a Mason. They even went so far as to create their own competing fraternity—The Knights of Columbus. I, for one, am thankful that practice has been stopped. Still, persecution persists: many religions believe an organization that doesn’t follow their particular path of salvation must by its very character be an agent of Satan. And this attitude is the big problem. For a man to be made a Mason, he must swear that he believes in a Supreme Being. We don’t care who or what that is—other than he/she/it must punish vice and reward virtue. We don’t even care what book you study from, be it the Bible, the Quran or some other written work. Freemasonry simply urges you study daily from the pages of your holy book or from the words of your religion. We want you to have a strong moral guide from which to learn. Freemasonry will teach the initiate many lessons about morality, charity, truth, upright character, brotherly love and … but he will learn much more by studying his own religion every day. Some people (religions) just don’t like these practices.

Are such problems, mostly in the past, the only reason Lodges have secrets? No, Freemasonry has always been careful about what it reveals to the uninitiated. For example, we all take an oath never to reveal the secrets or mysteries of a Freemason. Why do we do this? There are several reasons I can’t share, but I can tell you this much: some of the secrets are nothing but ways and means of identifying another Mason when in public. These methods, if revealed to you, would seem foolish. All I can say is remember Hitler. In his day if you couldn’t secretly identify yourself to another Mason, you were as good as dead! I believe these secrets that we must keep also teach us there’s a time to hold your tongue, to keep silent. They make us think about what we say and how we say it, thus helping us maintain a favourable image of ourselves (and thus Freemasonry) when out in the wide, wide world. Because, yes, we are taught to take what we learn as a Mason and use it in our daily life so as to be a leader, to be someone people look up to, to be a man people know is of good character and morals.

And finally, what about the mysteries? What are they and why are they to be kept inviolate? Here you’ll find the strongest reason Freemasonry has been deemed a secret society. Most Masons never study the stories and lectures hard enough and long enough to figure out what the mysteries are. There has been many a book written about the mysteries of Freemasonry, posing hypothesis after hypothesis. But given all the hidden meaning in our teachings it’s really no wonder the average Mason doesn’t know quite what it is he isn’t supposed to reveal. So, do you know what he does? He says nothing at all. In truth, many never even divulge their association with Freemasonry. I was in Masonry for 10 years before my favourite uncle told me he, too, was a Mason. He belonged to a different Lodge than I did and had no reason to expect me to identify myself to him as a Mason. It was just a chance remark I made one day that twigged it for him. So he challenged me with one of our forms of recognition, and I passed the test.

If we, as Masons, don’t know for certain what we can tell you about our unusual fraternity, then who are we to cry out when someone says we are a secret society, a religion or a cult? Only education, spurred on by us Masons can do that. Here’s what I tell people: We are not a secret society; we are a society with secrets. Freemasonry is not a religion; it does have religious aspects. Our fraternity is not a cult; it does teach a moral system through the relating of ancient stories and through the description of certain symbols, like the square and compass.

May I finish with a poem? It tells about our obligations and some of the ways to recognize a Mason (you can find them all on the internet, by the way, I just won’t tell you them myself); it also gives one the sense that there’s depth and goodness at the heart of this thing we call Freemasonry.

The Old Master’s Wages

I met a dear old man today
who wore a Masonic pin.
It was old and faded like the man,
Its edges were worn quite thin.

I approached the park bench where he sat,
to give the brother his due.
I said, “I see you’ve travelled east.”
He said, “I have, have you?”

I said, “I have, and in my day before the all seeing sun,
I played in the rubble, with Jubala, Jubalo and Jubalum.”

He shouted, “Don’t laugh at the work my son,
It’s good and sweet and true,
and if you’ve travelled as you said,
you should give these things their due.

The word, the sign, the token,
the sweet Masonic prayer,
the vow that all have taken,
who’ve climbed the inner stair.

The wages of a Mason
are never paid in gold,
but the gain comes from contentment
when you’re weak and growing old.

You see, I’ve carried my obligations,
for almost fifty years,
They have helped me through the hardships
and the failures full of tears.

Now I’m losing my mind and body,
Death is near but I don’t despair,
I’ve lived my life upon the level,
and I’m dying upon the square.”

Sometimes the greatest lessons
are those that are learned anew,
and the old man in the park today
has changed my point of view.

To all Masonic brothers,
The only secret is to care.
May you live your life upon the level,
may you part upon the square.

Author Unknown

The Contrary Canadian

Cross My Heart









Cross My Heart
James Patterson
Vision, 2013
ISBN: 978-14555-1580-6
Mass Market Paperback
407 pages

Alex Cross, James Patterson’s famed detective whose storied life has entertained millions of people for decades, has unintentionally wounded the ego of a supreme egoist, someone with no conscience, only a black and white philosophy that life just is. As such, this man has developed the belief that he can do anything he wants—and he does. A mass murderer, rapist, troublemaker and attacker of the “norm,” this criminal genius has turned the full force of his intellect and beliefs on Alex cross and his family. His plan? To kidnap Cross’s entire family and kill them one by one while Cross watches helplessly. Will he succeed? Will this be the case that crushes Cross once and for all? Read on my friends.

The review
No one tells a story like Patterson. His words literally race across the page. His chapters are small, usually limited to one scene, so this 400 page book has 112 chapters. His prose is sparse but perfect, and his plotting quite intricate. For example, this story devotes many scenes to how the master criminal, and his equally twisted lover, operate. In fact, most of the book is devoted to the criminal and helping us understand him, his motivations and his actions. Thus, when the full force of his anger is finally thrust upon Cross and we see the tormented man begin to deteriorate, we are more than ready for our superhero detective to emerge. But he doesn’t. Instead it’s those around him that rally, and as the denouement comes and passes, one is absolutely ready for the Cross we know and love to emerge victorious.

What we get is nothing of the kind. What we get is one of Hollywood’s current tricks. We get an abrupt end to the novel and the promise to return to the story in November of 2014 in a book called Hope to Die. What a total disappointment. In fact, I was so angry that it has taken me weeks to write this review. Great book, stupid ending. That’s all I have to say.

Copyright © 2014 Clayton Clifford Bye


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