1292(The spot where my brother’s ashes were poured, Mira River, Cape Breton Island)



Hi. Your friendly neighborhood insanity writer here. Fresh off a deathwatch in the Maritimes. My brother and only sibling Edward died in Nova Scotia, with bowel cancer. He was ten years my senior. And he moved out of the house when he was Eighteen. We were roommates in recent weeks for the first time since I was eight.


My brother had a tough life. He was bipolar. A psychiatrist who cared for him said Edward was unusual in that his manic spells were extremely protracted. A fact that tore friends and family apart, put him afoul of the law a number of times, and eventually left him burnt out, fried by these brutally long highs.


Edward never stayed on his medication. He once explained why. “Imagine a life of amazing technicolors, one where you saw parts of the spectrum other people couldn’t. Your own Oz sorta thing, only better. Then someone comes along and says ‘Here, take these pills.’ And when you do all the colors go away, and you’re left rotting in shades of gray.”


I told him I sympathized. But at the time there was a warrant for his arrest, and I thought that was what really mattered. My brother disagreed. There were only those colors that only he could see.


We got to spend the last three weeks of his life together. A gift from on high. At the end his mental illness, which had morphed into paranoid delusions, simply left him. I had my old brother back. The one I worshipped as a kid. The guy who saved my life once. The eternal optimist, who believed we will escape our earthly cradle and reach the stars.


I talked to staff about this odd absence of the demons that plagued him. They nodded, and said it was not unusual. Although studies on the matter are lacking (the mix of mental and terminal illnesses would make for a tricky double blind) I was told that people often even out in their final days. From where I sat it seemed as though the thing that possessed him looked around at a house that was falling down and said, ‘That’s it. I’m out o’ here.’


Sleep was elusive on the lonely night watches. I wandered off to the cafeteria and played a piano there, songs that were big hits with my music students this past year. Hall of Fame, Counting Stars, Demons and Daylight. I chucked in ‘To Love Somebody’ at no extra charge, because it’s a damn good tune.


And I came to a realization as I sat there and played. I realized that I, the self proclaimed insanity writer, have been living a tired old definition of insanity for decades now. The one about doing the same thing endlessly, in hopes of a different result.


I’ve always resented music. In the world of the Arts it is the one area where people have told me I have talent. And the only area in the art world that has led to remuneration. I worked in musical theater in my college days. In the fulness of time I became a private teacher. A successful one. I have 56 students, and schools let me in to ply my trade.


But none of it mattered to me. Only my words did. I’ve written four novels, twenty-five novellas, a handful of shorts. Some nifty Tales in 20 Tweets too. My failures in pitching my product left me bitter. Hell, I’ve been an asshole about it. (After a school concert this Spring a mother came up with gracious words of affirmation. I shrugged and said, “I’m a frustrated writer. No one cares about that part of me.”)


All this coursed through my mind as I sat playing in a hospital cafeteria, down the hall from the room where my brother lay dying. I thought about my online persona, the insanity writer (the Neo to my real life Mister Anderson) and I saw the simple truth, at long last.


I stopped playing and stared at my hands. “It really is insane,” I muttered. “Hating this part of me. Resenting my music. Instead of accepting it for the gift it is.”


I am a writer. I am also a musician. All my life I saw those aspects as incompatible. It took my brother’s death to make me realize that they are not. Both are parts of me that I should honor and cherish. What’s more, they are parts of me that are fully capable of working together.


In the wake of Edward’s death, back in my Cape Breton homestead, I wrote a couple songs. Then I returned to the West and wrote some more. Here’s one, a hard core Celtic offering called ARISE:


And so from death I have found new life. One where things are integrated, with the different aspects of me working together for the first time, well, ever.


Am I a songwriter? Was I meant to be that all along? Have I drowned myself in a sea of prose, when I was supposed to be giving myself over to verse? 

I don’t know. But there’s one way to find out.

The only way that any artist can.




A Tale in 20 Tweets by DJ Britt


1 I tried my hand at pipe smoking in the wake of my brother’s death. I strolled around the yard of my Cape Breton home and puffed away.


2 Our neighbour laughed on seeing me. “You’re smoking a pipe?” I held up the pipe and nodded, as there seemed no point in denying it.


3 “I’m like a little kid trying to be like his father,” I said. Our neighbour laughed, which proves I’m a witty fellow.


4 It was a welcome distraction. Hell anything is. Bowel cancer was a hard vigil for me. Dying from it much harder on my brother.


5 And now my elderly parents are looking at moving, as they can no longer maintain our Cape Breton home.


6 All these endings moved me to write a song. Check out my ballad I ONCE WAS HERE:

7 I slipped into fantasy as I meandered around the grounds I grew up on, puffing away. I imagined our home as a place in Middle Earth.


8 Gandalf the Grey comes by at the head of his party of elves, a dwarf and hobbits. We give them lodging for the night.


9 In the morning the party has itchy feet. They are anxious to resume their quest. But I presume to make a request of the great wizard.


10 I approach him as he readies his saddle, puffing on his pipe and muttering to himself. “Pardon me Gandalf sir,” I say.


11 “Huh?” he mutters, not looking up from his task. “I was wondering if you could do me a favor?” “What’s that?” he says, around his pipe.


12 “I was wondering if you could teach me the proper way to smoke one of those.” Gandalf looks up. Everyone else in the party freezes.


13 The wizard’s eyes twinkle with laughter. “A grand idea.” The dwarf curses and stomps off. A few in the party protest, but it’s too late.


14 Gandalf and I head off to a quiet corner of the yard, a pastoral scene with a nice bench. He produces a spare pipe and makes a gift of it.


15 We light up and start chatting, with Gandalf giving tips along the way. About cupping the pot to heat it, and not puffing out the flame.


16 The party stares at us with various degrees of glower on their faces. All save an elf, who watches with a sly smile.


17 The dwarf kicks at the ground and curses again. The elf shakes his head. “You should enjoy this.” “What’s to enjoy?” the dwarf growls. “We’re farting the day away.”


18 “This is what gives the humans their power,” the elf says. The dwarf nods ruefully. “He’s forming an alliance.”


19 “Yes. This town’s enemies will have to reckon with Gandalf The Grey, all because that mortal is having a smoke with him today.”


20 The elf turns to the dwarf as Gandalf laughs at something I say. “And that, my stout friend, is the cunning of man.”


Here’s a 4 minute audio excerpt from my novel CAMBRIAN. You can read the whole novel for free by clicking the link on the right.


1292My brother wanted to come home to our Island home of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Today, after a fashion, he did, as I poured his ashes into the beautiful (and much sung) Mira river, and the current rushed them away into the Atlantic.

With apologies it will be one more week before I settle back into my Tales in Twenty Tweets. See you next Saturday.



EdwardIn loving memory of my brother Edward Charles Britt (April 18, 1959 – July 18, 2014). An eternal optimist, who believed We’ll reach the stars.

Tales in 20 Tweets will resume next week.



TWEET THIRTEEN continues today. Scroll down to find the previous installments. New entries are posted every Saturday, first live on Twitter at 1230 PM Eastern then here on my site. Enjoy!


1 Sonia drove the Crown Royal down the deserted gravel road past a rippling field of blue wheat, wafting in the afternoon breeze.


2 “Flax,” Kine said, without looking up from his iPad. Sonia threw the redhead a bewildered look. “How’d ya know I was wondering that?”


3 “Your brow always furrows when you don’t know the name of something. And there’s nothing else out here to look at.”


4 “You didn’t even look at me.” Kine smirked. “I got awesome peripheral vision. Great for ogling the ladies.”


5 “Oh. So I’m being ogled now.” “Don’t let it go to your head,” Kine said. Up ahead a red pickup was parked on the side of the road.


6 A teenager sat behind the wheel, yapping away on his cell. From his plaid shirt and suspenders Sonia guessed this was their first Hutterite.


7 They stopped and chatted without getting out. The affable kid told them they were just two miles shy of the Hendricks farm.


8 They drove on. “You know,” said Kine, “before this case I thought Hutterites were like the Amish. Sorta freaked by technology.”


9 “Except when used in reality TV shows you mean.” Kine ignored her and read from his iPad.


10 “’Hutterites use computers and internet for keeping in contact with their friends, relatives and meeting people outside the colony.’”


11 He looked to Sonia. ‘It says there’s a citation needed.” “I’ll get right on that.” Soon they pulled up before a dilapidated farmhouse.


12 “Odd,” Sonia said, taking in the peeling white paint on the house. Kine read her mind. “Two years without their daughter might explain that.”


13 Mr. And Mrs. Hendricks looked as run down as their house. Although only 45 they could pass for 60. Both looked frail and world weary.


14 Soon they were all settled in a living room with worn plaid furniture. “We’ve been a mess since your call,” Mrs. Hendricks said.


15 “Relieved,” her husband said. “And horrified. I mean, thank heavens Claire’s safe. But . . . she was just living with a man?”


16 He broke down and cried for a bit, as his wife tried to get him to pull it together. Sonia had the impression that Claire was Daddy’s girl.


17 “It seems just yesterday she was on my knee every evening, listening to the Bible stories,” he said. ‘Bingo,’ thought Sonia.


18 Mrs. Hendricks shook her head. “I still see her room that morning. The bed all made. And I knew. I went right to her stash of books.”


19 She shrugged. “They were gone. Like she was.” “The books,” Mr. Hendricks said, despairing. “I told you Helen. How many times?


20 “Those books came right from the Tree of Knowledge. And where does she end up? With a professor.” He spat the last word, as though it tasted like cod liver oil. TO BE CONTINUED


Here’s a 4 minute audio excerpt from my novel CAMBRIAN. You can read the whole novel for free by clicking the link on the right.



1 Sonia walked into the living room of her townhouse with cup of cocoa in hand, across the bars of streetlight cast by the venetian blinds.


2 She paused on the way to the couch and frowned in the direction of the hallway. On a mother’s instinct she padded down to Colton’s room.


3 The door to her 7 year old’s room was open a crack, as always. Colton slept with a pensive expression in the soft glow of his nightlight.


4 Brody flashed through her mind. He had always slept in that same pensive way. Colton looked more and more like his dad every day.


5 Sonia ran a hand over the dark brown skin of her belly, and over the knife scar there. ‘I hope you’re someone’s prison bitch,’ she thought.


6 She returned to the living room, thinking how a mother’s instincts were so often wrong. So many false positives when it came to danger.


7 ‘Logical,’ she thought, as she settled on the black leather sofa and stared at and through the TV, which was off, as she sipped her drink.


8 Her mind’s eye projected an images on that screen. The first was Claire Hendricks, with her cropped blond hair and tear stained face.


9 She saw her partner’s bewildered expression. ‘Hutterite?’ And Claire’s rueful head shake. ‘I’m a Hutterleft.’


10 Next up was the beer guzzling Freison, and the one thing he said that resonated, the thing that pulsed with the light of relevant truth.


11 “That man only had eyes for Claire.”


12 Sonia got up and started prowling like a panther. In the theater of her mind she saw the university president.


13 ‘I think it was a Rommel,’ Lyons said. ‘I think Daniel was forced to kill himself.’


14 Her free hand dropped below her half shirt, back to the scar, as she thought of the severed power line at Bennett’s farmhouse.


15 “Cut with an axe,” she whispered. She went to the window and looked out, but only saw the axe marks on that wall.


16 Her eyes widened. They always did when the clicks came. “Because the people love the darkness,” she said.


17 She snatched the phone so quick it seemed to fly there. The speed dial of numbers, the click, and Patrick Kine’s sleep filled “Yeah?”


18 “Up for a road trip?” A bewildered pause. “At 4 A.M.?” Sonia smirked. “No silly. I’d never wake the nanny at this hour.”


19 “Oh to be a Nanny,” said Kine, yawning. “What’d you have in mind?”


20 “Iowa,” she said. TO BE CONTINUED


Here’s a 4 minute audio excerpt from my novel CAMBRIAN. You can read the whole novel for free by clicking the link on the right.




My detective story TWEET THIRTEEN continues today. You can read the previous installments here: part 1: part 2:


Here’s part 3:


1 Sonia and Kine headed uphill on the university campus, upstream against the flow of students on a morning with a low gray sky.


2 The redheaded cop looked back at a tall brunette in shorts. He shook his head. “Eyes front Detective,” Sonia said with a smirk.


3 “Aye aye. So what do we hope to find here?” Sonia nodded up ahead, to a kid wearing a black armband with the number 13. “That,” she said.


4 Francis Whitehead wasn’t old enough to be in university, but was. Just 16, he was the winner of the Anderson-Gosling prize in mathematics.


5 Bennett’s intro English was the pimple faced blond’s required bone toss to the Arts. “Bennett was right,” he said, gesturing to his armband.


6 “About what?” asked Sonia. “About our idols. About everything we worship that we’ll have to surrender, if we ever hope to escape our cradle.”


7 “Cradle?” from Kine. “Earth,” Whitehead said. “The professor was always dreaming of the stars, and what we’ll have to do to get there.”


8 “Know him outside of class?” Sonia asked. “No. Not at all.” He pursed his lips thoughtfully. “But talk to Walt Freison. Dalton House.”


9 Soon they were in a dorm room with Freison, a lanky sophomore with dark hair and piercing green eyes, surrounded by empty beer bottles.


10 “Might want to go easy on those son,” Kine said. “Metabolisms slow. Beer bellies emerge.” Freison grinned sheepishly. “I promise I won’t.”


11 When asked why he thought they were pointed his way Freison just shrugged. “Easy. I’m gay. Bennett was a great friend to the community.”


12 Kine jotted on his notepad. “Was he, uh, a member of the community?” Freison chuckled. “No. That man only had eyes for Claire.”


13 Freison quietened a moment. “His brother was gay. Died with AIDS. The professor fund raised, helped with counselling. Great guy.”


14 Finally they arrived at the university president’s office. Wilfred Lyons was 50, balding and portly, but with quick smooth movements.


15 Lyons sized things up quickly. “What you have is an apparent murder-suicide but with only one victim.


16 “Evidence of foul play, with power and phones cut, but no question that Daniel pulled the trigger after leaving a rather quixotic note.”


17 “You think he wrote that tweet?” Kine asked. “It’s consistent. A mutual friend in the philosophy department called Dan a Born Again Nihilist.


18 “Daniel was like an evangelist in condemning materialism, hedonism, all the ways we insulate ourselves from life.


19 “He was known to give spontaneous lectures on the evils of the X Box.” “Okay,” said Sonia. “But was he suicidal?”


20 “No. Absolutely not. He was a man of passion. For words. For life. I think it was a Rommel. I think Daniel was forced to kill himself.”

My audio book, the detective story AN EXERCISE IN WISHFUL THINKING, is my gift to you. PLAYING TIME 2.5 HOURS. Click the link to find it:

Tweet Thirteen, pt. 2


This week continues my tale TWEET THIRTEEN. You can read part 1 here:



1 The slender blond was a live in student of Daniel Bennett’s. Claire Hutchins, just 20, was from Iowa. Good Hutterite stock.


2 They spoke on the veranda, amid the chirp of crickets. “Hutterite?” Kine said, surprised.


3 Claire, who had gathered herself as the detectives checked out the scene, gave her head a rueful shake. “I’m a Hutterleft.”


4 Her story seemed simple enough. A girl with a voraciously inquisitive mind, who liked the boys and hated the rules.


5 A cousin smuggled books into the community for her. She loved sci-fi. Arthur C. Clarke, Bradbury, Asimov. They transported her.


6 Then she read Huxley and Orwell, and was transported in a whole new way. She was struck by these tales, so foreign yet so familiar.


7 Claire wanted to explore that world. And one night she simply did. She was gone 5 hours by milking time. She hitchhiked to freedom.


8 Her first ride was an old guy in a pick up. “The grass ain’t greener out here.” Claire thought of ANIMAL FARM. “I know. It’s run by pigs.”


9 On the interstate she was picked up by a trucker en route to Chicago. Claire doubled over laughing. When asked why she said “Hog Town.”


10 By noon she was on the University of Chicago campus. Some Fine Arts students gave her lunch. By supper she had a place to stay.


11 A well heeled gal from Maine had a place off campus. That night Claire cleaned, did laundry, and politely rebuffed the girl’s advances.


12 Claire wove tales her roommate loved to hear. There are no end of lesbians hiding in Hutterite closets, no end of groping in the barns.


13 In fact most girls back home were as boy crazy as Claire was. Although Claire loved the mind games most, wrapping boys around her finger.


14 A propensity that would serve her well when she sat in on an English class, and met the dashing Daniel Bennett.


15 Claire asked tons of questions on Orwell. The class was 18th century English lit. “Talk to Henry,” Bennett said. “He’s our Orwell guy.”


16 His rebuffs were an incredible turn on to Claire. She left the class determined to climb this Everest, and win this brilliant man.


17 She spent the night reading Alexander Pope. The next day she quoted chunks of THE RAPE OF THE LOCK to the professor from memory.


18 “How long you been reading Pope?” asked Bennett. She started to lie. “Yesterday,” Bennett said. “Don’t you find the language difficult?”


19 Claire, who had swaths of the King James Bible locked in her head, just shrugged. “Not really.”


20 Bennett arranged for her to article his course. Within a month she moved into the farmhouse where the professor would blow out his brains.


My audio book, the detective story AN EXERCISE IN WISHFUL THINKING, is my gift to you. PLAYING TIME 2.5 HOURS. Click the link to find it:

Tweet Thirteen


Today’s Tale in Twenty Tweets features the return of Detective Sonia Palette. You can read her debut story here:



1 The farmhouse was bathed in rotating red and blue lights from the four police cars, under a low fat moon. “Too moody,” Kine said.


2 Detective Sonia Palette looked to her partner as he killed the engine of their unmarked Crown Victoria. “I thought you liked moody.”


3 The stocky redhead let out a snort. “In a film noir yeah. With Mitchum or Powell. Love it. But I’m not an ‘in the mood’ kinda guy.”


4 Sonia chuckled. “More of a voyeur huh?” “Always,” said Kine. “And forever.”


5 The detectives got out into the cool June night and made their way up the walkway of an unkempt yard, mowed perhaps once that season.


6 The night air was sweet, with a hint of lilac. Crickets gave a counterpoint to the low chatter from police radios. The house had a veranda with a swing bench. A female officer sat there with a crying young woman, a pretty and slight blond.


7 The detectives made their way up the steps. They exchanged a glance. Sonia nodded to the open doorway. They went inside.


8 “We’ll get her on the flip side,” Sonia said. “Right,” muttered Kine. All was dark within, save for a few roaming flashlights.


9 Sonia retrieved her flashlight from a pocket of her tweed blazer as one of the boys in blue came down the hall toward them.


10 “The power?” asked Kine. “Cut,” the shadow said, from above his light. “With an axe. Same with the land line.”


11 “Run that,” Sonia said, as she started past him. “I want to know if that’s been done anywhere else.”


12 To their right the hall opened on a big living room with a grand piano at its center. Books were everywhere, many of them open.


13 “A cut above our usual fare,” Kine said. Sonia nodded. “It is refreshing.” “This way,” the other cop said.


14 The detectives followed down the hall, through the kitchen and into the dining room, which had been converted into a study.


15 Professor Daniel Bennett lay on the hardwood floor before a big oak desk, half out of his knocked over captain’s chair. Blood was everywhere.


16 The .45 used to blow out his brains was on the floor between his legs. “Registered?” Asked Sonia. “Yeah it’s his,” the cop said.


17 On the desk, curiously, was only an iPad. All else, computer, paper and books, had been placed neatly on the floor.


18 They gathered around as their escort tapped the iPad with a gloved hand. The screen lit up, revealing Bennett’s Twitter account.


19 The professor hadn’t spent much time in the twitterverse. The last tweet sent, one hour before, had only been his thirteenth.


20 It read: ‘The people love the darkness, the epitaph of man. We only like the moonlight in which our idols stand.’ TO BE CONTINUED

My audio book, the detective story AN EXERCISE IN WISHFUL THINKING, is my gift to you. PLAYING TIME 2.5 HOURS. Click the link to find it:



1 I went to feed the fish. Pilot wasn’t hungry. Our big bully goldfish was floating at the top of the tank. And not on purpose.


2 At the pet shop Georgia said he was a feeder fish, which is eaten by pretty much everything. But she liked him enough to take him home.


3 Pilot grew like a weed, and turned out to be a bully. He had a thing for another fish, our white skinned Commander.


4 Pilot would chase Commander, bite at him, pin him to the side of the tank.


5 This put Pilot in my bad books for a while. I hate bullies. I was the scrawniest little runt in every class in school. So I knew them well.


6 Still I found it hard to flush Pilot down the toilet. It took me a little while to figure out why.


7 I mentioned he was a big fish. That meant he had a big face, and big eyes. That’s what got me.


8 When I dropped him in the toilet he was left staring straight up at me, with those lifeless but plaintive eyes.


9 ‘How can you do this to me?’ those eyes seemed to say. He was so big I thought he might not flush. But he did.


10 It was a nihilistic moment. I was left contemplating the fact that a great flush awaits us all.


11 The ceramic bowl didn’t help either. It made me think of the MRI machine my brother couldn’t fit into.


12 My brother Edward, and my only sibling, was recently diagnosed with bowel cancer. An MRI was ordered.


13 My brother is very heavy and also has a failing liver, which is causing massive fluid retention.


14 So Edward was poked and prodded and prepped, by all sorts of people with degrees longer than my arms.


15 But not one of them clued in. Until they took him to the machine and realized that there was no way he was going to fit.


16 They all stood around, perplexed by this. “Huh,” someone said.


17 I mulled this over on the way to work, as I drove through a squall of rain. I asked Siri, my iPhone assistant, about current conditions.


18 She told me it was partly cloudy. “It’s raining!” I told Siri, as cats and dogs cleverly disguised as water pounded down.


19 “I don’t believe it’s raining,” Siri said. “I don’t believe a flush awaits us all,” I replied.


20 Escapism. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.



My audio book, the detective story AN EXERCISE IN WISHFUL THINKING, is my gift to you. PLAYING TIME 2.5 HOURS. Click the link to find it:

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An excerpt from my story THE REDEMPTION OF WILBUR BLAKE was read on the CBC national radio program AS IT HAPPENS, which is also heard across the States on NPR. Part One follows. The rest of the story, and other audio books, can be found by clicking on the audio menu above my blogs. Enjoy:



You can read my horror novel Cambrian absolutely free on Scribd, the Netflix of books. But you don't need a Scribd subscription to read it. Click on the cover for a direct link to Cambrian.