But how many words for ice?

I was a teacher in Greenland. There were lots of highlights. Second to the amazing, and, at times, exasperating kids, was the role of external invigilator for the spoken English exams. Greenland must be one of the few places where the invigilator is flown by helicopter to schools in the remote settlements. Greenland is vast – something you understand when trying to get your head around distances – but from the air… well, Greenland can be a humbling experience. As it should be – something every invigilator should be exposed to before an exam. “You live here?” is a common thought to have when approaching the gravel landing square, marked with a rusty oil drum in each corner. Exams are one thing, but almost everything can have the flavour of a test in Greenland, and the results are not measured in grades, and they can rarely be captured in words.

You may have heard that the Inuit have a lot of words for snow. Honestly, I don’t know how many, and it is difficult to know when pop culture ends and the practicality of describing snow and ice begins. Until, that is, you’re standing on thin ice, with a kilometre or more of black sea beneath you. Then, as you begin to imagine sinking down in the black depths, I guarantee you will begin to imagine all kinds of words for ice, as if your life depends upon it, which it does, actually.

Once, when accompanying a hunter to check his long fishing line, my Western feet broke through the ice.

Despite weighing a good twenty kilos more than the hunter I was with, it wasn’t my weight that was a problem, it was my attitude, my angle of attack. Admittedly, the ice was only a centimetre or so thick – we had left the dogs behind. Apparently their attitude was similar to mine, although they were safe. No, the problem was that I didn’t glide or shush across the ice with flat feet, I walked, putting weight on my toes and breaking the ice. The hunter noticed, gave me a few words of advice, and shushed on ahead of me. I followed, pushing the sledge, skirting the bad ice, the really thin stuff, and taking a torturous route back to the village.

Rarely have I been more scared.

Rarely have I felt more alive.

If you spend time in Greenland, if you spend time on the ice, you’ll experience that feeling – that moment when you struggle to understand how you can have a cheesy grin on your face, while fighting the urge to pee, wondering if your heart is going to explode out of your chest, amazed that is hasn’t already.

Greenland, like Alaska, does that to you. Something I hope to have captured in my first Greenland thriller, and now as I edit the second.

If you’d like to know more you could try out The Ice Star – available in paperback and on Kindle or for Kindle apps from Amazon, or pre-order book two: In the Shadow of the Mountain, here:

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Yeah, and it can kill you!

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Greenland is beautiful. Always. Even in May, when the thaw sets in and the snow melts in the dog yard and the “winter treats” warm up and gush down the rocks in yellow and brown streams of…

You get the picture, but the smell is indescribable!

The sunsets and sunrises though – they never fail to please. Only during the dark periods, when you want  the sun to hang around for just a little longer – and it doesn’t. That can be tough.

But the beauty of Greenland, the raw, unadulterated beauty of ice, snow, rock and sun, and the sparse vegetation and wildlife that eek a living out in the wilds – that NEVER grows old.

I miss it.

There, I said it. But reliving the beauty of Greenland during the writing and rewriting of The Ice Star, compensated – to a degree – for the fact that I can no longer see glaciers from my kitchen window. If you get the chance to visit Greenland, do it. Just do it. You won’t be disappointed.

In the meantime, you can get a glimpse of the raw beauty in The Ice Star, as Fenna does her best to stay one step ahead of the men trying to kill her as she travels across the sea ice in the wake of an Arctic storm.

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The Dog Star(s)

img_9042_2The Ice Star isn’t the first thriller to feature sledge dogs, but it might just be the first thriller to build a plot around sledge dogs and the men (and women – spoiler) that work with them.

Konstabel Fenna Brongaard is the first of her kind – the first female member of the Sirius Sledge Patrol. She’s also the first patrol member to be accused of killing her partner. The sledge dogs in the story play an integral part in letting the reader discover just who Fenna is, what makes her tick, and literally driving the plot forwards, from scene to scene.

Without dogs The Ice Star would be mostly ice. The dogs then are the real stars!

They shine brighter than life, much like the Sirius star itself.

The Ice Star is available for pre-order from Amazon at a reduced price. Spoiler(ish) alert – no real dogs were harmed in the writing of The Ice Star.

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On Killing

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I killed someone the other night. Never thought I would write those words. But, it needed to be done, and, if I can find any redeeming aspect of the killing, then I can say it was important to the plot. Still, it didn’t sit all that well with me. It even kept me awake at night.

I have killed before – and just where am I going with this? But this time it was personal. I realised I have known the victim for about four years. I have always known the person was going to die, I even knew how. But when it happened, when I realised that the time had come to do it, to kill them, well, to say it mildly, I wasn’t quite prepared. I take no satisfaction from the killing – perhaps just a little, I think it is a beautiful scene, in its own way – but it is done, and I am coming to terms with it.

Life is hard in the Arctic, and Greenland is no exception. During the 7 years my wife and I lived there, we lost track of the suicides, sadly, and often came to terms with deaths – through accidents on the ice, in the black Arctic waters, from glaciers calving, ice dams bursting, helicopters crashing, and from murder, occasionally.

Death, then, is synonymous with the Arctic, with Greenland, and with my story. The Ice Star reflects that, death is a theme, but so, I hope, is life and the strength needed to live it in harsh environments.

The Ice Star is available for pre-order from Amazon at a reduced price. Spoiler alert – Canadians might be interested in the plot!

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The Endgame

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The endgame of The Ice Star is set in one of my favourite places in the world: Uummannatsiaq, at the end of Ikerasak Island in Uummannaq fjord, Greenland. I have spent several nights there, over a number of years, listening to the yip of Arctic Foxes, the barrage of iceberg artillery as great chunks of ice calve into the fjord, and the howl of the polar wind.

Since the first few drafts of the story, I have been working my way towards The Schoolhouse. Now that I have arrived – several years and many drafts later – I am hesitant to set foot in that house – I know what happens. Fortunately, The Ice Star is pure fiction, and I can live with what happens at the end of the island, after a long journey on the ice, at sea, and in the dark hold of a rather unique cruise ship.

I look forward to visiting the real Uummannatsiaq again sometime in the future, but I need to let the last few chapters sit for a while before I return.

It’s a beautiful place. A peaceful place, until, that is, The Ice Star anchors in the fjord and all hell breaks loose.

The Ice Star is available at a special pre-order price for kindle readers and apps from Amazon USA, UK, Canada and Australia. It is released on January 26th, 2017.

Just how thick is the ice?

the-ice-star-insert-1That was always the question when I lived on the island of Uummannaq, 650km north of the Arctic Circle in Greenland. The question was often raised around Christmas time, when the thin ice was the domain of the professional hunters only, and the Europeans waited for thicker ice and more daylight – the sun would creep over the horizon around the 11th January.

But this Christmas, in Denmark, the question has an altogether different meaning for me. I am less interested in knowing if the ice will bear my weight, but will The Ice Star, and its story, be strong enough to bear my hopes for my first thriller set in Greenland? Time will tell, but on the 26th January, 2017, Konstabel Fenna Brongaard will be fighting for her life and reputation in a hostile environment, far from help.

Here’s an excerpt from Chapter One – the opening scene: Continue reading “Just how thick is the ice?”