Scary October – Day 3

I was planning to post a Spooky Crafty Wednesday, today, but for some reason the jump drive with the pictures on it isn’t showing up when I hook it to the computer. Yesterday, the computer disconnected it for some unknown reason, so there might be a problem with the drive. I did get it working one other time last night, but this morning, it’s being stubborn. Maybe it’s the ghost in the machine! lol

So, I guess I’ll just go ahead and do something different. I still have some spooky kids stories and a link to a friend’s blog. At Stacks and Ranges, she talks about zombies, so if you’re a zombie-lover, pop over to read Midweek Geekiness – the Zombiefied Edition.

Another scary thing that I discovered this morning is that a good blogger friend of mine has been kidnapped by a Martian called The Blue Lady! Please head over there and plead for Jennifer M. Eaton‘s life. You might even win an ARC of her new anthology Make Believe, which I will be talking about more in December when it’s launched.

Now, let’s see. What story shall I tease you with on this sunny October Wednesday? How about, since I mentioned the Martian, that I tell you a little bit about a WIP I’ve tentatively titled, Little Green Men?

 

Somewhere near midnight, on an access road between two cornfields in southern Manitoba, two young men lay on the hood of an old Chevy pick-up watching diamond chips streak across the star-filled sky.  The two had been friends since the third grade and would soon be starting their final years at the University of Manitoba.

Jake stood just over six feet tall.  His wavy ebony hair was short along the sides but longer on top, parted in the middle.  His square face sported a shallowly cleft chin, a long straight nose and intense brown eyes.  A former quarterback for his high school team, he was well proportioned and prided himself on keeping fit.  His field of study was Medicine and he was looking forward to his internship.

Mark, by contrast, was a couple of inches shorter with sandy hair and hazel eyes that changed colour with his mood and surroundings.  His slim build was deceiving for, beneath the baggy clothes, his wiry muscles poised like a cat’s ready to strike.  He had a youthful energy and enthusiasm, which would help him in his chosen profession as a high school teacher.  He held a double major in English and Science, but his real passion was astronomy, hence the reason they were out in the middle of nowhere watching the sky.

Mid-August was the perfect time to catch the annual series of meteor showers, but this year’s display was especially spectacular.  The boys ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ as though watching fireworks when, suddenly, they were blinded by a bright streak of light and deafened by an ear-splitting whistle as a fireball shot past them, narrowly missing the roof of the truck to land in the field not more than a hundred meters away.

“Whoa!  Did you see that?” Jake exclaimed.

“Kinda hard to miss, bro’,” Mark commented.  “Come on!  Let’s check it out.”

Hopping off the hood onto the dirt road, the pair plunged between the rows of tall corn stalks following the acrid smell of sulphur as a thin trail of smoke snaked skyward from the crash site.  Expecting to find a hunk of burning rock, the college students were surprised to find a teardrop-shaped metal object about the size of a new Volkswagen beetle.  It was almost invisible, its mirror-like surface reflecting images of the surrounding corn.  Jake and Mark could only detect the object by the compression of the stalks and the door that yawned open.

“What do you think it is?” Jake asked.  “Some kind of experimental aircraft?  After all, Shilo’s not too far away.  They could have all sorts of military stuff there.”

“I don’t think it’s from anywhere close to here,” Mark said with awe in his voice.

“Come on!  You don’t expect me to believe it’s a flying saucer!” Jake scoffed.  “It’s not even saucer-shaped.”

“Actually, it could be a life-pod of some kind, you know, like from a bigger ship.”

“You watch too much Star Trek,” Jake said, shaking his head.

Peering into the smoking interior, all they could see were sparks and flashes of colored lights on a control panel.  The symbols visible to them were unusual and definitely not any language or letter system the young men had ever seen before.

“Something must have escaped from the pod,” Mark said, pointing his penlight around the site, illuminating a trail of bent stalks.

Placing his forefinger against his lips, he tugged Jake’s jacket sleeve.  Together, they followed the path until it stopped, almost tripping on the unconscious body lying face down at their feet.  They gasped as Mark’s light panned over a thin, green creature with long slender limbs.  They estimated its length was nearly seven feet but, judging from its width, it could not weigh more than a hundred pounds.  Its hair was the color and consistency of corn silk, flowing from the top of its head to its knees.

“Looks like you were right about it being an alien craft,” Jake whispered.  “This thing is definitely not from around here.”

“Is it breathing?” Mark asked, tentatively reaching for the flaxen hair.

Jake knelt to place his ear against the upper torso.  He heard a steady heartbeat and felt the rib cage expand and relax with an even rhythm.

“It doesn’t seem to be having difficulty processing our air,” Jake said.

With medical curiosity, Jake examined the unusual body, shocked to see many nasty red welts crisscrossing the back and shoulders.  Turning the creature over, he studied its face, which was flat with large eye sockets, two small nostrils with no bulge for a nose, and only a slit for a mouth.  Jake drew aside the hair from the side of its face and noticed an opening, but no earlobe.  It also had no outward indications as to its sex, but what concerned Jake most was the nasty gash on its forehead.

“We’ve got to get this thing out of here,” he said.  “It’s hurt – badly.”

“What about that pod thing?” Mark asked.

“I don’t know.  If we leave it here, someone’s bound to find it and come looking for this, uh  . . . creature.  If that happens, the poor thing will be off to some scientist’s lab table and who knows what will happen to it.  Maybe I can help it recover.”

“So, what do we do about that pod thing?” Mark repeated.

Jake thought a moment.  “Is it hot?”

“I have no idea.  I didn’t touch it.  What if it’s radioactive, or something?”

“We can think about that later.  I think it’s small enough to fit in my truck.  We can take it to my place.  The barn should be big enough to conceal it.”

Jake picked up the creature and carried it to his truck, then drove back through the field to the crash site.  Wrapping their jackets around the pod, he and Mark lifted the surprisingly lightweight object into the back of the pick-up.  Although it didn’t fit inside the deck, they set it on the box sides, securing it with bungee cords before heading for Jake’s place…

books by Chris Rutkowski

 

I’ll leave it there, for the moment, and let you wonder – is the creature dangerous? Where did it come from? Are there others like it that have fallen to earth? What is its intentions? If I get enough interest, I might post a little more, tomorrow.

If you like reading about aliens and UFOs, you’ve got to check out Chris Rutkowski’s blog, and his books.

Chris is a member of my writers group, Off The Wall. I’ve known him since 8th grade and he’s been interested in the unknown as long as I’ve known him and probably long before that. He has investigated all sorts of unusual phenomenon and in Unnatural History, he explores scary sites in Manitoba where ghosts are said to roam. He’s been up to Lake Manitoba where the Manipogo Monster, much like Nessie from Loch Ness, is said to swim. He’s interviewed people who have spotted UFOs in the sky, who claim to have encountered aliens and UFOs, as well as those who say they have been abducted. He keeps track of UFO reports from all over. Not only does he write all this non-fiction, he has written a series of short stories about unusual stuff that happens to a man who owns a diner on the outskirts of town. I will be interviewing him later in the month but if you are at all curious about him, click on the links above.

Happy Wednesday, everyone and don’t forget to send me scary links or stories of your own! 🙂

Sunday Interview #18

Hello, dear followers and those who just popped in to see what’s going on here at ‘mywithershins’!

Karen Dudley

For my Sunday Interview today, I am thrilled to introduce to you, Karen Dudley who, as her website states, is a “writer of fine novels, preparer of fine foods and all ‘round good egg”! Believe me when I say, she is all that and more! Those who have been with me for a while might remember her name from one of ‘My Bookshelf’ posts, where I talked a bit about her bird-titled mysteries. Anyway, without further ado, please welcome Karen Dudley. (Whistle! Whistle! Whoot! Whoot!)

Hi, Karen! To start off with, if someone asks, ‘who is Karen Dudley?’ what would you tell them?

Hi Susan! Who is Karen Dudley, eh? You mean, apart from the all ‘round good egg stuff? 🙂 Well, let me see…I make great food in my kitchen and scented soap in my basement, I love a good laugh, adore the research end of writing, and I’ve been a sci-fi/fantasy/folklore/mythology buff forever. My vices are books and chocolate with almonds. I listen to opera in the concert hall and sing it in the shower. I drink tea instead of coffee, and more often than not, I am covered in cat hair.

I guess that’s why we get along so well – we have so much in common! Just substitute scrapbooking for soap-making. 🙂

I know you have been writing a long time and not just fiction. Please tell my readers what you’ve written in the past.

Great African Americans in Government (Outstanding African Americans)

 A number of years ago, I was working at Weigl Educational Publishers doing photo research when the publisher decided to develop a series of wildlife biology books for kids, ages 9-12. I’d taken a lot of wildlife biology at university, so I asked if I could write the prototype. I did, and she loved it, so I wrote five more in the series. I’m very proud of the fact that I was able to convince her to include in each book a section on the relevant animal in folklore and mythology. All part of my evil plan to bring folklore and myth to the masses!

Bwa ha ha! **ahem**

I also wrote a number of books for the same publisher on Great African Americans. Yep, that’s right, Great African Americans written by a white Canadian.

Hahaha! That is rather ironic! 🙂

What led you to begin writing fiction?

I’d been working on the wildlife biology series and it was bringing back all kinds of memories of studying the subject and of working in the field (I once spent an entire summer living in a tent and gathering data for The Breeding Bird Atlas of Alberta). At that time, there were a lot of mysteries being written in which the protagonist was an amateur sleuth, and it occurred to me, what better profession for an amateur sleuth than field biology? Field biologists are trained observers, up at strange hours of the day and night, and they travel all over the place. And so, Robyn Devara–and my career as a fiction writer–was born.

Every writer I’ve talked to so far has some kind of writing habit and place where they prefer to write. What are YOUR writing habits? 

That’s changed a bit since I became a mum. I used to be most productive first thing in the morning, which came as quite a surprise to me as I’ve never been a morning person. Now, I need to wait until I get my daughter and my husband out of the house before I can settle down to work. I know some writers work in coffee shops or other public places, but that’s never worked for me. I’m too nosy, I always end up eavesdropping on the people around me rather than working on what I’m supposed to be writing. So, I always write in my den, though if the words aren’t coming, I’ll often take a notebook down to the living room and write in longhand. I think I must be using a different part of my brain by doing this because even when I’m really blocked, I can usually get past it just by changing from computer to paper and pen.

Are you a plotter or a ‘seat-of-your-pants’-type of writer?

A bit of both. Writing is really an organic process for me. I start off with a basic plot, but I never stick to it. I tend to plot a few chapters in advance and then wait and see what happens before going any further.

Once you’ve completed a novel, what sort of editing steps do you take before sending it out into the world?

Anal retentive. Is that hyphenated??? Hyphenated or not, this is what I become once I finish a novel. I NEVER let anyone see a first draft. I fiddle and fuss and angst over it, and I only show it to my husband or my writers’ group when I’m happy with it. My editor tells me that I write very clean copy, so I guess it pays off!

You mentioned a writer’s group. Do you make use of other people, like critique partners or beta readers to give you feedback?

Beta readers and my writers’ group. Couldn’t live without ‘em! I would never send anything to a publisher without first running it by someone else. Have I mentioned that I’m anal-retentive? So much so, that I just noticed that I’ve hyphenated it here and not in the paragraph above. Aaaah! Now I’m going to have to look it up to see which is correct!

How did you manage to get your first novel published? Did you get an agent or did you just start submitting your manuscript?

Karen Dudley’s Robin Devarra mysteries

I just started submitting my manuscript. It’s very, very difficult to get an agent–especially if you’re a first time author. Heck, I’ve written five novels and fourteen kids books and I still can’t get one! After I finished writing my first mystery novel, I made a list of potential publishers and started sending out queries. Turnstone wasn’t on my list because at that time they weren’t publishing genre fiction. Then one day, I was leafing an issue of Prairie Books Now and I saw an ad for Alison Preston’s mystery novel, A Blue and Golden Year published by Turnstone Press. So I sent a query to them. It was pure serendipity—and excellent luck for me!— that Turnstone was about to launch a new genre imprint called Ravenstone. My first novel, Hoot to Kill, launched the imprint.

Sounds like the way it worked for me with Great Plains – and I love Alison Preston’s mysteries, too! 🙂

There are many writers who visit my blog. Since you have been widely published, is there any advice you would give a beginning writer?

To quote my website: Persist! Persist in following your dream of writing, even on the days when you have to drag the words out with a meat hook. Persist in trying to sell your work, if that’s the path you choose. Don’t let those rejection letters get you down. Instead, think of all the interesting things you can do with them: wallpaper your bathroom, make a collage, start your very own paper airline, or toss each letter one by one onto a burning blaze while you cackle gleefully and dance naked around the flames (check your city’s bylaws first).

Now for the fun stuff! I know you have a new book coming out, which is totally different from your previous novels. What prompted you to write it? Please feel free to brag about it all you like!

Ah, Food for the Gods! I love this book! It all started a few years back when I was sitting around thinking about the Greek myth of Tantalus (yeah, writers really do think about weird stuff like that. They also work in their pajamas. Trust me.). Tantalus was that guy who thought he was better than the gods and decided to prove it by chopping up his son, Pelops, and serving him to the gods for dinner. The gods were appalled, of course, and Tantalus was punished with everlasting thirst and hunger, and unable to assuage either need (hence our verb: to tantalize). Pelops, on the other hand, was kindly remade by the gods, though they had to give him an ivory shoulder to replace the one that Demeter accidentally ate. 

Well, I was sitting there that day and I started wondering what happens to poor old Pelops after these events and wouldn’t he make an interesting protagonist: a guy with the proverbial chip on his shoulder. I thought at first I might make him a student of Archimedes, that way I could write about some of the more interesting inventions of ancient Greece, but somehow, it just didn’t feel quite right. Then, I was flipping through one of our many reference books—a book called Life of Greece by Will Durant, when I came across a line that said in ancient Athens when people wanted a special dinner, they couldn’t go to a restaurant, because they didn’t exist yet, but one could hire the services of a professional cook who was usually a foreigner. Bingo. Or, more appropriately, Eureka! With that sentence, I had my protagonist, I had his profession, I had the city that he lives in and I had the title of my book, Food for the Gods. After all, that’s what he does and that’s what he was.

If my readers would like to find you, are there any social media sites that you would like to share?

I’ve got a website, which I don’t update nearly often enough (though I’m trying to be better at this!): www.karendudley.com

You can also find me on Facebook, which I use for professional purposes (i.e. go ahead and ‘friend’ me).

Is there anything else you would like to say before we say goodbye?

Two things, really. The first is that Food for the Gods is launching on October 3rd at McNally Robinson’s at 8 pm. It’s not invitation only, so come on out. It should be a blast!

The second thing is one last piece of writing advice—the single most important piece of advice that I can give another writer! There is only one way to get better at writing, and that is to write more. So, write on, Word Warrior!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Karen, and good luck with your new book! 🙂

 Thank you, Susan! And cheers!

If you haven’t read any of Karen’s books, yet, I encourage you to find one and dive in. Not only does she write a great mystery, there are always points in the story where you’ll find yourself chuckling or laughing right out loud! 🙂