Promoting the Manitoba Writers’ Guild

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This past weekend was very busy for me! Both Friday and Saturday, I manned a table at two very different events to promote the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and next Friday I will do the same at ComicCon, for which I am very excited!

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On Friday, my cohort, Jodi Carmichael (author of Spaghetti Is NOT a Finger Food) and I talked to English Teachers attending the annual SAGE conference. We also shamelessly promoted our books! (By the way, next spring she will be launching her teen novel, Forever Julia, so stay tuned for that book launch.) During the conference, we had one person renew her lapsed membership and sold one of our Writer’s Blocks – our infamous fundraising gimmick. I sold 2 of my books (Jody sold most of the ones she’d brought with her!) and I  gave away all but one of my business cards, so I’m hoping to be asked into many classrooms during this school year.

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On Saturday, fellow board member, Donna Besel, and I attended the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Conference. On the table, we had a sign I created that read, “Everyone has a story. Let the Guild help you tell it.”, which became our theme for the conference. We took turns popping in to the conference room to listen to what some of the survivors had gone through and how they courageously chose the difficult road to recovery, ‘turning their demons into diamonds’, which was the conference theme for this year.

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Those of you who have been following this blog for the last couple of years will recall me telling you my brother-in-law’s story and how he came to live with us after he was badly burned when his van caught fire. The organizers of the conference asked him to talk about his ordeal on a panel with three other survivors. He told his story with his usual wry sense of humour, knowing that laughter is the best medicine.

Donna had been asked to give a talk and was prepared to get everyone started with writing exercises, but she had no idea how many people she would be speaking to – over 80! She thought that only those who really wanted to write about their experience would be in attendance. While she was a little nervous at the change in expectations, she took it in stride and had many compliments about her workshop. Many attendees were interested in our programming and we gave away a lot of brochures and a few membership forms.

This coming Friday, I look forward to rubbing shoulders with celebrity guests and authors at ComiCon. It should be a blast. As another fundraiser/promotional gimmick for this event, we are creating a Colouring book with sketches of Manitoba Authors with which the attendees should be familiar – and if they are NOT familiar with them, they will be by the time they colour in all the faces! We at the Guild are trying hard to promote our many local writers of all genres.

Oh, and one last tidbit of information! By Friday, my writers group and I are hoping to have our chapbook, In The Woods, published in e-format so it will be available on-line, as well as sell hard copies at ComicCon. As soon as the e-version is available, I will pass along the details.

So, how was YOUR weekend?

In The Woods has launched!

Yesterday, my writers group and I launched our third anthology. The first was called Sex Death and Grain Elevators, because any story told about the Canadian prairies supposedly needed all three ingredients. The second was called, Where In The World Is Carmen Manitoba? which contained stories about aliens and UFOs because in the ’70s the town of Carmen was the home of Charlie Red Star, a strange red light that traveled the highway into town, attracting UFO hunters from all over the continent.

Off The Wall presents In The Woods is the title of our latest collection of fiction, poetry, actual sighting reports and photos of the elusive Sasquatch. The book was self-published using the Espresso Machine at McNally Robinson Booksellers. The Espresso Machine is a wonderful new invention that creates a book for you in about five minutes, right before your eyes! The machine, located right inside the doors of the bookstore, has glass panels through which you can see the pages printed, the cover printed and bent, glue applied to the binding and the whole thing put together. It really is amazing to watch!

Anyway, here are a few shots of the group, ‘Off The Wall’ – at least, those that could make it to the launch – flaunting their stories:

Me! :)

Me! 🙂

I was chosen to introduce the group and read first, along with my Sasquatch buddy Sassy. 😉

Fatima DeMelo

Fatima DeMelo

A life-long resident of Winnipeg, Fatima recently rejoined the group, (she was a member back when it first started). We hope this will be the first of many pieces of writing from her. She currently works as a Library Technician for an academic library, taking pride in helping her students learn how to search for creditable information. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, going out for walks, and writing posts for her own blog at stacksandranges.wordpress.com

Evelyn Woodward

Evelyn Woodward

Before home schooling her three children, Evelyn’s writing revolved around research, following her graduation from Brandon University. She has come a long way from work she termed ‘not interesting for anyone to know about’ to an accomplished writer and one of the original members of the Off The Wall group. She has published three books, Caught in the Web, I Am The Gatekeeper, and The Way of the Kyma, available on Amazon.

Cas Courcelles was unable to attend because of travel plans that were made before our launch date was set, but she was there in spirit. Cas is a Canadian author who summers on the level lands and winters south of assorted borders. She wrote Harliquin Romances for a number of years under the pen name Samantha Day but has since branched out into the suspense genre. Her novel, Down Dark Deep, can be found on Amazon and you can find her on Twitter @cascourcelles.

Our camera shy member, Russell Corbet, was also unable to attend. After a thorough University of Manitoba education in dead languages, Russell embarked on several failed careers: double-naught spy, professional shark bait, day care provider and cult leader. He now lives somewhere in the Western Hemisphere with a mortgage, a minivan, no cats, and a sage plant. He continues to be bent on world domination. 🙂

Chris Rutkowski with his mechanical Sasquatch friend (behind & to the left).

Chris Rutkowski with his mechanical Sasquatch friend.

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Chris is a Canadian science writer and educator. Since the mid-1970s, he’s written about his investigations and research on Ufos, for which he is best known. However, he has been involved in many other writing and media projects for more than 30 years, including TV specials (The Monster of Lake Manitoba, 1996), planetarium shows (Moonlight Serenade, 1983, and Amateur Nights, 1989) and newspaper columns, (Strange Tales, in the Northern Times, Thompson, Manitoba,1984 to 1985). He has nine published books on UFOs and related issues, a collection of short stories and has contributed to many other volumes, both fiction and non-fiction. His recent works include A World of UFOs (2008), I Saw It Too! (2009) and The Big Book of UFOs (2010). In addition, he is a book reviewer for the Winnipeg Free Press, appears often on TV and radio, teaches courses on Writing and is currently president of the Manitoba Writers’ Guild. He is on Twitter (@ufologyresearch) and blogs at http://uforum.blogspot.com/

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Signing books for our fans.

We had a great time. The weather was lousy, strong winds whipping around buckets of rain, but that did not deter our family and friends from coming out to support us. We appreciate every single one of them! As well, we want to thank McNally’s for not only helping us through the process of getting the books printed but also for providing a space to launch the books and all the promotional stuff they did and will do. Wish you all could have been there, too. 🙂

Launch of ‘In The Woods’

 

Well, my writers group and I finally got the finishing touches on our anthology and settled on a launch date. Here is the official announcement, for those who reside in and around Winnipeg:

McNally Robinson Booksellers
presents the
Off the Wall Writers Group
launching
In the Woods

Sunday June 29, 2:00 pm

Grant Park in the Atrium

Off the Wall is the name the writers chose for their group because so much of their fiction could be classified as such. These diverse writers have created a plethora of Speculative Fiction as well as academic papers and various other non-fiction works. Some members are scientific researchers. Some are linguists, educators, parents and/or grandparents, all with very active imaginations. This collection displays their diversity more eloquently than anyone could describe.

This anthology contains a variety of imaginative stories interspersed with facts and real sightings collected by one of the group’s members. Each fictional story is a unique perspective on the Prairie Sasquatch, a mythological creature said to roam the woods in remote areas of Manitoba. There is also a bit of poetry thrown in to round out the collection. The non-fiction mostly covers sightings collected by one of the group’s members who researched this gentle creature, as well as ‘facts’ believed to be characteristic of this elusive beast. So, come join us on a roller coaster ride of fun and tragedy, curiousity and wistfulness, as we enter the unknown and go…into the woods.

 

Writing Process Blog Hop

When local teen fiction author, Margaret Buffie, tagged me to participate in this writer-oriented blog hop, I wholeheartedly accepted the challenge. When I first decided to turn Withershins into a novel for a teen/young adult audience, I was unfamiliar with the genre. It had been decades since I was a teen, reading the limited selection of fiction out there at the time, so I went on the hunt for current teen fiction to make sure I was on the right track. I picked up Margaret’s novels, The Dark Garden and My Mother’s Ghost – and I’ve been a fan ever since. She has an impressive list of titles and has been nominated – and won – many awards for her writing. In addition to being a writer, she also has a Fine Arts degree and has created some breathtaking paintings, which she sometimes shares on her blog. I love that she lives in my hometown and I feel honoured that she thought of asking me to participate in this blog hop. To learn more about this extraordinary writer, please check out her blog at http://www.margaretbuffie.com

In order to take my place in the hop, I also have to tag three other writers, who will post their thoughts on the writing process later in the month. I was hoping to feature writers from the huge literary base here in Winnipeg, but most are so busy or too ill to participate, so I turned to my on-line writer friends. You can read their bios at the end of this post.

Okay, on with the show! 🙂

I was asked four questions, which I will attempt to answer as concisely as I can.

1. What am I working on?

My son designed the cover. Cool, isn't it?

My son designed the cover. Cool, isn’t it?

Currently, I am in the process of getting a chapbook produced with my writers group. It is an anthology of short stories about the Sasquatch, interspersed with poems in Haiku style, as well as reports of Sasquatch sightings collected by our own paranormal investigator and group member, Chris Rutkowski. We’ve also included sketches and photos to round out the content. We should have it ready for sale by the end of June. We are self-publishing through the Expresso Machine at McNally Robinson Booksellers and it will also be available for e-readers. Details to follow in the coming weeks.

I have also been accumulating information on Louis Riel to work into a sort of sequel to my other two books, Withershins and Spirit Quest. Revolution (working title) will be set at the time in which Riel took over the provisional government here in Manitoba, 1869-1870. The daughter of the character in my first two books will be travelling back in time to meet him and learn more about how the Métis people fought for their rights within the French/English community known at the time as Red River.

 

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

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My published novels are historically based time-travel novels set in Manitoba’s past. There haven’t been too many other teen novels that I’ve come across that have been set here with that time-travel theme worked in as well, so I think they are rather unique.

As for the chapbook, my writers group and I decided to write about Bigfoot and the Sasquatch because we thought to get a jump on ‘the next big thing’. Vampires, werewolves, and zombies have been done to death, so to speak, but not much fiction has been written about those huge hairy beasts that peek out at us from the forest. Ironically, there have been recent ‘sightings’ in BC and a local retailer (Two Rivers at The Forks Market) has brought in a truckload of stuffed Sasquatches to sell in his store. (Sassy came from there. She’s cute, isn’t she?) He’s even got a petition to ‘Save the Prairie Sasquatch’, which people can sign when they visit the shop. I think we’re just on the cusp of this wonderful new trend.

 

3. Why do I write what I do?

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Sassy sporting my red hat.

Having an Education background, I want my books to teach kids in an entertaining way. Growing up, I always found history a chore. Trying to link dates with events and historic figures was so difficult for me because I tend to be Mathematically Challenged, a sort of Dyslexia but with numbers. I did like the stories, though. Learning about the people and why they did what they did is fascinating to me. That’s why, when I started writing the first two books in the series, I wanted the story to be historically correct, so readers would get a sense of the time and the attitudes prevalent in the 1800s. Quite often, those who have read Withershins and Spirit Quest comment to me that they didn’t know certain things in Manitoba’s history, so I think my work is done – until the next novel, of course!

I wrote the short stories for the group’s chapbook because I’ve got a soft spot for those big-footed mythical creatures. A few years back, I started writing a novel about them, creating a whole history of their existence and why colonies of them live underground, beneath the outskirts of North Vancouver. While the story has yet to find an ending, I still work on it, occasionally, when inspiration strikes.

That is not all I write, though. Dreams inspire other stories, (science fiction, fantasy, murder mysteries, etc, both for kids and adults) which I start to write, only because the words need to find paper before the memories melt away with the dawn. I have shelves full of novels and short stories that haven’t been published, yet, and just as many (if not more) that are unfinished, to date.

To get at the nitty gritty; why do I write? Teachers used to say I’d achieve better grades if I didn’t daydream so much, so I guess this is something I was destined to do. If the stories don’t get written down, my dreams become more and more bizarre and nightmarish. I write for my own peace of mind!

4. How does my writing process work? 

A good night’s sleep is essential because, as I mentioned earlier, so many of my story ideas occur to me in those first few moments before I wake up. I have very vivid dreams and those that have a lasting image for me are often the dreams that I am compelled to write about and form the first few chapters of a novel or become a short story. One dream, in particular, was one I had when I was 16. It haunted me for decades until I finally wove it into a fantasy novel. Unfortunately, my first writers group wasn’t all that impressed, so it’s sitting on a shelf, awaiting revisions.

When I was creating Withershins, I wasn’t working. I just had to get the kids off to school and then I would sit down at the computer and write my little heart out! If I ran into a snag, I’d think about it as I fell asleep and by morning my brain had worked out enough details that I could write the next chapter before lunch. If there was something I needed to know for the next segment, I’d head off to the library or archives and research it, then weave that newfound knowledge into a scene with my character.

Once a story is finished, however, the work doesn’t stop. Any writer knows that! I must have reworked the beginning of Withershins a dozen times before coming up with the one the publisher liked. Originally, the book was aimed at an adult audience, but my first writers group suggested gearing it to a younger audience. That required some major work because, by then, it was too long for a publisher to consider, so I had to break the book into two novels. That required me to rework the beginning of Spirit Quest many more times until my editor was satisfied with the result. I also needed more research to flesh out the second half of the story. It was a long hard process getting it to the point of acceptance by my publisher.

Sassy going incognito.

Sassy going incognito.

For the chapbook, I thought about the Prairie Sasquatch for days without much inspiration. Then, I mentioned the project to a close friend and her friend at lunch one day. It was suggested I look at the subject from the point of view of the Sasquatch. Brilliant! So that’s how Gemma came into existence. She’s the character I created for the short stories and I have a few more stories I want to tell about her adventures ‘In The Woods’ that will probably meld into a novel for Middle Grade audiences.

Well, I hope that gives you some insight into my writing process. While I look for that elusive third writer who will agree to join this blog hop, please check out what these fellow writers & bloggers have to say. I will let you know when they have their posts ready for the blog hop. In the meantime, you can always pop over to their sites to learn more about them.

 

Jennifer M. Eaton has a lot to say about writing on her blog, which can be found at http://jennifermeaton.com. Her blog is amazing – colourful & always interesting. She calls the East Coast of the U.S. her home, where she raises 3 boys when she’s not writing or being a Corporate Team Leader. She has recently had many short stories published by J. Taylor Publishing.

Jennifer’s perfect day includes long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but her greatest joy is using her over-active imagination constructively… creating new worlds for everyone to enjoy.

 

Like the Prairie Sasquatch, C.B. is a little camera shy! :)

Like the Prairie Sasquatch, C.B. is a little camera shy! 🙂

C.B. Wentworth has a lovely blog that I’ve been following for about 2 1/2 years. She has traveled extensively and often posts gorgeous pictures of the places she’s visited and tells wonderful stories about her adventures.

She is a writer, blogger, and artist who thrives on following her muse. Aside from writing novels, she dabbles in poetry, short stories, and travel writing. Currently, she is working towards her “big break” into the publishing industry with her Young Adult fantasy novel, The Muse. You can visit her at http://cbwentworth.wordpress.com     

 

 

Happy Reading and Writing, Everyone! 🙂

 

Write A Story With Me – part 72

Write a Story with Me is a group endeavor just for the fun of it.  A different writer adds a new 250 words each week.  It is the ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge!

For those who may need to catch up on this collaborative story, head on over to Jennifer M. Eaton’s blog to read previous chapters to this fanciful tale. She is keeping the archives since it was her idea to start this story in the first place. She wanted to do something different for her blog anniversary, so she wrote the first part and asked others to continue the story. I have written 4 segments, already – you can read them here, here, here, and here. Today’s bit is the fifth. I’m pretty sure Jennifer has lined up others to continue after this, the 72nd ‘chapter’. Personally, I can’t wait to read what someone will write to conclude my part! 🙂

I’ll give you a brief summary before reading my 250 word bit. I’ll highlight the key players to help you keep track. Hope it’s not too confusing. If it is, you can always go read the other installments on Jennifer’s blog and come back.

It all began when Marci picked a leaf from the sacred Gleaming Tree and gave it to her fairy friend, Jenelle. Her sister, Bethany, saw the exchange and overheard the conversation and, because of her jealousy, planned to expose her sister’s traitorous act. Their father, Yoran, is a member of The Establishment’s Planetary Raiders, on a mission to locate the fairy stronghold and wipe them out. When his eldest daughter, Sian, spoke out against The Establishment, she was taken to be ‘re-educated’ and the family was warned never to speak of her, again. However, she re-appears as an Establishment officer, who convinced her superiors that her conditioning was successful, although the reader knows she still has loyalties to the fairies. When this all began, Marci’s mom, Natalia, was heavy with child, but has since had a son, which we discover is supposed to be the Saviour of both fae & humans.

Jenelle’s brother, Janosc, is head of the fae army and Jenelle is being groomed to be queen. The former queen, Morath, who had been missing for a long time, returns to help with the conflict and protect Natalia’s new-born son. A war has been brewing between the fae folk and humans, a matter of real estate, that culminated into a conflict a few chapters ago. Just before the fighting began, Yoran was brought to the fae court and told a horrible truth, that Natalia was a fairy in disguise, so all his children are half-fae. Morath removes the Establishment monitoring device in Yoran’s head and now he risks exposure. After the battle, when Yoran returns to his ship, an Establishment officer questions his commander’s dedication to their cause, at which point Yoran has the officer arrested for treason. No one questions Yoran’s authority like that without consequences!

And that’s where we’re at:

“These are serious charges that you’re bringing against Officer Dawes, Protector Sumner.” 

Yoran stood before the High Council, sitting on their tall benches and peering down at him with suspicion. His stomach was in knots. 

“I tolerate no insubordination on my ship,” he replied. “Dawes had the audacity to suggest I was consorting with the enemy. I could not let him undermine my authority.”

“Do you think Officer Dawes was consorting with the enemy?” one of the councilwoman asked.

Yoran knew he had to tread carefully. “No, Madam Castille, but I treat my ship as a dictatorship. Anyone who threatens the chain of command is committing treason, as far as I am concerned.” 

The five members of the council huddled together, whispering and glancing at Yoran, occasionally. He clasped his hands tighter behind his back, concerned that he would soon be the focus of treason charges. Finally, they straightened and leaned back in their seats, blank-faced. Yoran could not tell whether the news would be good for him or not. 

The President spoke. “It is our opinion that, while Officer Dawes was wrong to question the chain of command, you have charged the young man unjustly. He will be reprimanded and retrained to be more respectful in future. We want you to know, we have no intention of undermining your authority by lessening the charges you have pressed against him. We simply believe that the death penalty does not apply, here. As for you . . .” 

Yoran’s face paled.

Nothing like leaving things on a cliff-hanger, is there? (hee hee hee!) Drop by Jennifer’s blog next Monday to see what happens next! 🙂

Having fun with the Manitoba Writers’ Guild

I’ve had a few exciting times related to the Guild over the past few weeks. First, we had our Annual General Meeting where they officially announced my position as one of the VPs and new head of the Resource Development Committee. Apart from the business side of the meeting, we had a lovely luncheon and got to watch the movie In the Wake of the Flood, chronicling Margaret Atwood’s book tour following the launch of Year of the Flood.

Last Friday, two fellow Guild members and I manned a table at the annual SAGE conference for teachers, EAs and library technicians. We got to talk to a lot of people about our writing programs and showed them a small array of books written by local YA authors. It was amazing how few people were aware how many Manitoba writers there really are – and these are teachers and librarians! I have a long list of email addresses where I will send my long list of local YA authors and their books, as well as the local publishers who produce Young Adult fiction. I even sold 5 of my books at the event. Bonus! 🙂

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Yesterday, I manned another table for the Writer’s Guild at C4 (Central Canada Comic Con). I had a blast! I loved working with fellow Guild member and poet, Kyla. She was so ‘into’ Dr. Who, so we had lots to chat about when we weren’t talking to writers looking for info about our programming. We also spelled each other off so we could go check out the other vendors. I headed upstairs to Artist Alley where I ran into Samantha Beiko selling her book The Lake and the Library. I missed seeing Chadwick Ginther, author of Thunder Road and his recently launched sequel, Tombstone Blues, which I will be reading and reviewing soon. Walking a little further, up against the far wall, was a huge lineup of stars. Beginning in the order of how they are listed on the website, there was:

Ron Perlman (Beauty & the Beast, Blade II, Pacific Rim) – at least his booth was set up, even if he wasn’t actually there, yet.
Jason David Frank (Power Rangers)
Bill Goldberg (World Champion Wrestler)
James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Smallville, Torchwood)
Tony Amendola (Jaffa master Bra’tac in Stargate)
Aaron Ashmore (Warehouse 13, Smallville, Veronica Mars)
Michael Benyaer (Voice of Bob on Reboot, & guest starred in The Mentalist, 24, Castle, NCIS etc)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, Tron, Scarecrow & Mrs. King)
Avery Brooks (Commander Sisko on Star Trek Deep Space 9)
Malcolm Denare (John Carpenter’s Christine, Godzilla)
Yaya Han (costume designer, model & cosplay entertainer)
Brendan Hunter (mainly a Voice Actor for many games/cartoons)
Walter Koenig (Chekov on Star Trek, Bester on Babylon 5)
Robert Duncan McNeill (Start Trek Voyager)
Dave Prowse (Darth Vader, although James Earl Jones did the voice)
Chris Sarandon (Princess Bride, Child’s Play, Fright Night)
Laura Vandervoot (Supergirl on Smallville, ‘V’ the most recent series)

When I saw one particular actor there, I hurried downstairs to grab my wallet. With heart all aflutter, I stood in line and stammered out a request to get his autograph. Bruce Boxleitner was as personable as I hoped he would be. I hemmed and hawed about which photo I wanted him to autograph but finally chose his Babylon 5 pose. He has aged quite gracefully and his dimpled smile made me blush. I really should have splurged, paid the extra $10, and got my photo taken with him, but what a fangirl moment! 😀

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Another great moment was when one young attendee came up to me when she saw my books displayed. She said she’d read Whithershins and loved it! She even dragged over a friend and told her about it! I was thrilled that she’d read it, liked it and was recommending it to others. 🙂

The folks at the table next to us were flogging their horror film, Dark4Rest, filmed here in Manitoba with local-grown actors, director, etc. so I bought one of their calendars to help them out, even though I’m not really a horror fan. That shouldn’t stop you from checking out their website. They even have a Dark4Rest ‘teaser’.

There was also a local company with a working 3-D printer, which was really cool. Both Kyla and I were escorted over to their table and shown what their company could do. The most fascinating article on the table that was made with the printer was a miniature replica of our tour guide’s head! Apparently, Asset-Works offers tours of their facility every Tuesday. They are a non-profit workshop providing access to fabrication equipment, support and knowledge for entrepreneurs.

At the end of the day, and in keeping with the theme of our day, I bought two pairs of Dr. Who socks from a vender around the corner from our table. The black pair had a T.A.R.D.I.S. on them, the grey pair had red Daleks. They are a little big in the foot part and the stitching of the designs makes them a bit tight in the rise. Oh, well, I will wear them anyway!

C4 is on again tomorrow, for those in town who want to check out all the fun. If you aren’t able to go in person, there are (and probably will be) more pictures of our wonderful Guild volunteers and members on our Facebook page. Click here to see all the shenanigans. 🙂

Happy Halloween!

It’s Trick or Treat Day!

I promise, no tricks, but I do have a treat for you, today! I wrote a saucy little ghost story for a contest, but missed the deadline, so thought I’d share it with you all, today. The contest rules stated that stories must be between 1,200 and 1,500 words and, to make it just a bit more challenging, it had to include the following 10 words:  Shadow, Children, Fog, Mirror, Revenge, Black, Hidden, Sleep, Eye, Never.

I think you’ll agree, I’ve met the challenge. 🙂

scary October1

Hungry Spirits 

The high-pitched squeal of the food trolley’s wheels ground on Nadine’s nerves.

            “Enough to wake the dead,” she thought. “Maybe it’ll wake George and he can figure out a way to make ends meet, so I don’t have to work here.”

            She smirked to herself, knowing that was just wishful thinking. The dead did not rise once laid to rest.

            After twenty-five years of marriage, Nadine was a widow, forced into a menial job to pay the bills. She reflected on the past year, spent rambling around an empty house in the heart of the city, alone and unhappy. Her three girls were all out on their own and her friends, in an effort to be helpful, kept dragging her out to bars and yoga class. Nadine shook her head to eliminate the depressing memories and returned her focus to her job.

            The hotel hallway was shadowed and deserted at that time of night.

            “Who eats ham and eggs at three in the morning?” she wondered.

            With a sigh, she shrugged. It wasn’t up to her to question the appetites of their guests.

            Nadine had heard stories about this place, long before she started work last week, but they didn’t scare her. In her opinion, they were just tales by people with overactive imaginations. The hotel was old, built over a hundred years ago. Of course there would have been guests who passed away in these rooms, but she did not believe their spirits still roamed the halls.

            In one story, two children had drowned when their mother left them alone in the tub. In another, a man caught his wife with another man and got his revenge by stabbing the adulteress seven times. A different tale was about a burglar, who was caught, red-handed, looking for hidden treasures and was shot for his effort.

            The most interesting deaths she’d heard about, though, was the report of the obese man who overindulged one night. After his fifth room service order, the server arrived at his door and found him on the bed, so round he was unable to move. He motioned her closer, clutching his chest. She hurried to the bed to call for assistance. She reached for the phone but, as the man took his last breath, he grabbed her arm. She screamed and tried to pull away but his death grip was too tight. She was so frightened by the experience that she, too, died of a heart attack.

            Nadine shivered. She never wanted to come upon a situation like that! Sometimes she wished people would just keep their horrible stories to themselves.

            She passed an ornate mirror with a gilded frame. Movement caught her eye – a shadow of . . . something black and shapeless. A moment later, the shadow was gone, making her wonder if she’d seen it at all. Maybe there was something to those stories, after all, she thought.

            When she reached room 536, she paused and listened for signs that the room’s occupant was still awake. She heard moaning, as though the occupant was in the thralls of ecstasy, but that was soon shattered by a blood-curdling scream.

            Nadine’s hand trembled as she raised a fist to knock at the door. All sounds from the room ceased.

            “H-h-hello?” she began. “This is room service.”

            When she received no response, she knocked louder.

            “Room service!” she repeated.

            She heard a deep voice grumbling from inside and caught a few expletives, as well, making her cringe. She hated the ‘F’ word. Heavy footsteps thumped their way to the door, which swung open with an audible swoosh. A man stood before her, wearing only boxers. His curly brown hair was mussed and his eyes were bleary as if he had just awakened from a deep sleep. Despite being in her mid-forties, Nadine’s heart skipped a beat as she drank in the definition on his well-muscled chest.

            “I didn’t order room service,” he said, drawing her attention to his face.

            The dark shadow of stubble lined his dimpled chin and upper lip. His eyes were azure, a color she’d always found very attractive. She took a deep breath, calming the heat that was rising to her cheeks. In an effort to mask her naughty thoughts, Nadine double-checked the food order receipt to make sure she had the correct room number. She glanced at the gold numbers on the door and nodded. Then, she held it up for him to see.

            “The order came from this room,” she said. “Are you sure your roommate didn’t order something?”

            “There’s no one else in here,” he replied, his brow furrowing.

            A slow flirty smile curled her lips at the thought that he was alone. Could he ever be interested in an older woman? She’d read stories in smutty magazines when she was younger about the passion that sometimes flared between guests and hotel staff. Were any of them based on true experiences?

            Suddenly she realized that an awkward pause had grown between them. He tilted his head, studying her, while her mind was running off on an adventure. Nadine cleared her throat in embarrassment.

            “Uh . . . could someone be playing a joke on you, sir?”

            “Highly unlikely. I don’t know anyone in the city. I’m here on vacation. Alone,” he stressed.

            “It will be charged to your room anyway,” Nadine said, wondering if she should offer herself as a tour guide. “You might as well eat it.”

            She made a move to push the trolley into his room, but he put his hands out to stop it from passing the threshold.

            “I was fast asleep,” the man said. “I’m not hungry.”

            “I-I heard noises,” Nadine said. “Coming from your room. If you were sleeping . . . what I heard, didn’t sound like you were sleeping. There . . . was a . . . scream. Was the TV on?”

            “No,” the man said, looking at her as if she’d lost her mind.

            Nadine felt rather foolish, standing there in the hall talking to an almost-naked man, arguing about sounds she was sure she’d heard coming from his room. She frowned, then put on a cheery face. Confident that she was still in the prime of her life and had maintained herself fairly well, Nadine opened her mouth to say something saucy, but shut it quickly.

            A chill ran down her spine as a thick fog rose up behind the man.

            It swirled out around them, surrounding the food cart, then coalesced into an indistinct form, bulbous at the top and rounder in the middle, like a huge translucent snowman. A slithering froth reached towards the tray, rattling the silver cover, which then jumped off the plate. Bit by bit, the food began to disappear, beginning with the bacon. They heard loud crunches as each piece was decimated, but saw no definite form of the being that was eating it. Each of the three over-easy eggs was slurped into a void in the mist – first the soft white, then the gooey yolk. Chunks disappeared from the buttered toast. The coffee carafe tilted, pouring hot java into a cup, which rose to the void and was sucked into nothingness. The process was repeated until the carafe was empty and plunked down on the trolley.

            Nadine huddled closer to the man who stood, frozen in place, slack-jawed.

            When every crumb and drop of coffee had been devoured, the cover slammed back onto the tray, the mist retreated back into the room and a loud sigh of contentment emanated from inside.

            After several minutes of dead silence, the man said, “I think I’m going to want another room.”

            Nadine was first to recover from the shock of seeing a spirit, her libido over-riding her fear. Fluttering her eyelashes and, in her most seductive voice, she said, “I have a spare room.”

 Have fun, this Halloween, and stay safe!

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Friday Review – no, not a book today, but a play!

Happy Friday, Everyone!

This is primarily a post for Winnipeggers or anyone who will be in ‘The ‘Peg’ this weekend. There are only 4 more performances of The Miser of Middlegate, produced by Theatre Projects Manitoba. The play was written by Carolyn Gray, the Writers’ Guild’s very own Executive Director, and directed by Krista Jackson. A friend and I went to see it on Tuesday evening and the cast performed to an almost sold-out crowd, so I suggest, if you plan to see it this weekend, order your tickets ahead of time. To do so, click the link attached to the play’s title. It will get you to the site.

The play’s description is as follows:

“Dark days have come for Winchell, our modern day miser. He is faced with the most dynamic situation of his life: he must woo his wife back so he won’t have to pay her out in divorce court, and cure his recently engaged daughter Emily of the matrimonial urge, so he won’t have to pay for a wedding – ever!

Set in modern day Winnipeg, Gray’s inspired version of Molière’s classic satire is part sex farce and part screwball comedy. Exploring family, love and money, The Miser of Middlegate sharply critiques our culture obsessed with acquisition and never loses its sense of humour.

A cheeky and irreverent romp into the lives of one entrepreneurial Winnipeg family.”

It has had rave reviews and I can safely say, they weren’t wrong, for once! I thoroughly enjoyed the premise of the show. Married to a bit of a miser, myself, I could appreciate how the wife (played by Maria Stephenson Kerr) felt having to pinch pennies through decades of marriage. Carolyn does exaggerate the compulsions that drive them all, but that is where the outrageous humour comes in. Winnipeggers are well-known for their thrift, so the play is a bit of a poke at all of us and we can see ourselves reflected in the delightfully irreverent characters.

Here’s a preview I found on YouTube, just to give you a taste of what you can expect:

In addition, whether Carolyn scripted it or not, I think ‘Richard’ was the most colourful of the characters. Played by Ryan James Miller, his performance as the family butler was definitely over the top at times, but he looked fabulous in heels! (A little inside joke!) The ‘Waiter’, (Andrew Cecon) portrayed the lothario quite convincingly. While ‘Emily’ (Shannon Guile) was a little whiny at times, she was convincing as the poor little rich girl trapped under the thumb of her penny-pinching father, played by Nicholas Rice. I’m only glad my husband isn’t nearly as Scrooge-like as WInchell! 🙂 

I also found the stage direction fascinating. It always amazes me how sets are changed and this time was no exception. The butler and waiter were recruited to move the furniture about between scenes and sections of the set walls opened up to conceal them. What made these set changes more interesting was the manner in which they were done, with little flourishes and an occasional little dance by Richard. All in all, it was a very enjoyable show. Now, I want to go out and buy the script to see how it’s done from start to finish. Thanks, Carolyn and your crew for a wonderful evening! 🙂

Friday Friends

Since I haven’t had a whole lot of time to read and review anything new, I thought I would take the time to tell you some of the things my blogging friends have been doing.

First of all, Jennifer M. Eaton has recently been published! Congratulations on Paper Wishes, Jennifer! For those who might want a chance to win a copy of this book, pop over to her post on the subject:
http://jennifermeaton.com/2013/08/07/its-release-day-for-paper-wishes-take-two-head-smack/ If you aren’t following her, yet, you must investigate her site. You might stumble upon her tips for writers, or one of her interviews by the Little Blue Lady from Mars, but make sure you don’t drink anything while you read the interviews or you’ll probably snort out your (insert beverage name here) through your nose when you laugh!

Jenny Keller Ford recently did a series on Young Adult genres and conducted a poll by young people to see what some of their favourite reads were, why they read and when. You can find the results here:
http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/what-is-the-most-popular-ya-genre/ . Jenny also wrote the sweetest post expounding on the virtues of dating a girl who reads. You can find it here:
http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/you-should-date-a-girl-who-reads/ . Oh, and this, just hot off the presses, Jenny shares a secret with her readers – a cover release for Danielle E. Shipley’s YA novella, The Stone Kingdom. So pop on over to The Dreamweaver’s Cottage to see what else is happening.

If you want to read about all the summer fun happening in the Upper Peninsula, visit Lake Superior Spirit. Your hostess will provide you with beautiful photos and enthusiastic descriptions of life in the back woods – and she might even share some thimbleberries with you! 🙂

Roger Colby is promoting his post-apocalyptic novel This Broken Earth. It’s free for the next few days, so if you’d like to take advantage of the offer, head on over to Writing Is Hard Work for the details. While you’re there, snoop around for some great writing tips.

Today, C.B. Wentworth shared a couple of cute animal videos and a link to a very inspiring story. Normally on her blog you will find gorgeous photos of her world travels, thoughts on writing, success stories about her knitting projects and some very creative ‘Wreck My Journal’ entries.

If you want to keep up with what’s new in Canada’s Speculative Fiction field, check out Derek Newman-Stille’s blog, Speculating Canada. He always shares fascinating SF book reviews, interviews the writers behind each great SF story and discusses the genre as it applies to Canadian society.

I guess that’s it for now. Happy blog-hopping! 🙂