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.

photo 2

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/

photo 3

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. 🙂

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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?

bookmark front

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! 🙂

 

Scary October – Day #19

Good morning everyone! I want to thank those who left encouraging comments yesterday regarding my brother-in-law’s accident. I really appreciate the concern and will keep you posted as to his condition.

In keeping with yesterday’s theme, the ‘What if’ scenario, I thought I’d feature the story of another of my writer’s group. Evelyn Woodward is one of the founders of the group. I met her back at World Con in 1995 shortly after I entered the writing world. I was invited to join her group and one another, at that time. At first, I joined the other group but kept in touch with Evelyn, eventually deciding to get their opinions of my writing, as well. When the other group disbanded a few years later, I remained with Off The Wall, and we have since invited some of the other members that I have already featured here and here.

I will post her interview on Sunday but, until then, all I will tell you is that she loves asking the question, ‘What if?’ Here is an excerpt from her story, The Way of the Kyma:

The Way Of The Kyma

From the moment Elizabeth looked into the doctor’s eyes, she knew that Andy had finally managed to kill her. All she could do was question his method.

“Dr. Mankowski, I don’t understand. What are you trying to tell me?”

“It’s the results from the lab, Elizabeth. We did all the tests.”

Elizabeth’s mind jumped back to the barrage of tests Dr. Mankowski had ordered. She was poked, prodded, scanned and ultra sounded. Her arms were purple from the blood tests and she felt that if she had to pee on command one more time, she would scream.

“I’ve tried to get more information, but it all adds up to one thing. With this toxic chemical in your system, you will die.”

The young woman sitting across the desk felt like she would shrink down into the hard plastic chair.

“How?” she asked, her voice cracking on the word.

“Like your mother,” the doctor said, looking at the file in front of him. “We didn’t know what was doing it until her autopsy. Her organs just shut down. What we found was a substance only rumoured to exist. It is connected to the military. That’s all I know.”

“Andy,” Elizabeth whispered. Clearing her throat, she went on, “This substance…”

“Is in you. The level is not as high as it was in your mother, but it seems to be cumulative. Now, even if you never have it near you again, it is too late. We don’t know how to remove it from your body.”

The doctor was babbling, telling Elizabeth things she could hardly absorb. Her mind whirled. Time seemed to slow and her focus narrowed. His faded grey eyes behind his old-fashioned wire-framed glasses avoided hers. His hands played with the papers. She absently noticed he had stubby fingers. How could a doctor who performed surgery, work with such stubby fingers? Her mind was avoiding the issue at hand. The desk in front of her was softly finished walnut. She reached out to touch the warm texture, then drew back to the issue again. Death.

“Why?” she asked. “I’m just tired. People don’t die from being tired! I don’t feel poisoned.” But the reality was, she did.

“I know,” he said. His sympathetic tones told her that he really hated telling her the bad news. “I suspect that the pollution levels in the city have aggravated it, but we have no proof yet. We can’t find this substance in any samples that have been taken throughout the city. If you know anything…?”

“How long?”

“Six months to a year,” he sighed, finally looking at her and then quickly looking back down at the file. “Your only hope would be a miracle. I’ve never seen one of those, but I have heard of them. Look, there is a support group that can help you deal with this. Try to stay calm. I will help you with whatever palliative care you need. You can get the contact numbers from my receptionist.”

Stay calm? She thought. Calm? There he sits telling me that I will die in six months and he wants calm. I could tell him what to do with his calm and his six months!

She got up without a word, left the office and went outside, ignoring the doctor and his receptionist as they called her name. A shiver went through her as she passed through the throngs of nameless people going about their busy lives. Many of them looked as tired as she felt. Did they have a possessive spouse who would rather kill them than let them go? Naturally, it was raining and cold. She must have taken the bus home, but she didn’t remember the ride at all. Her mind was numb from the shock.

*

I know this may not seem like a horror story to you but, for me, I think this part is pretty scary. It’s a real-life sort-of scary. After all, wouldn’t you be terrified if you’d been told you only have six months to live? I’ve known many women who have survived their various bouts of breast cancer, but I also had a few friends who weren’t as lucky, so this part of Evelyn’s story is more than a little terrifying for me, especially if I put myself in her character’s place. If you don’t think this is ‘horror’, imagine that the toxins in Elizabeth’s body were like a serial killer, waiting for the right moment to jump out and kill her! 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this excerpt and will come back on Sunday to learn a little more about Evelyn. 🙂

Wanted: Scary Stories

Calling all writers who like to write scary stories, whether for the YA or Adult markets, whether self-published or published traditionally or even if you are still waiting for the right publishing opportunity. I have a new and exciting proposition for all of you. For the month of October I’d like to feature you on my blog. If you have a freaky story to tell, or a ghost-riddled poem or the excerpt of a horror novel that you would like to share with the world, you can send me a link to your blog, or if you don’t have a blog and still want to participate, I will post it on my blog for you.

If you’ve read a scary story and want to write a review about it, you can share it here, too, either by linking it or posting it here.

Oh, and if anyone has any scary artwork you’d like to put out into the world, I’d love to help you share that, too. 🙂

If you write about ghosts, zombies, vampires, werewolves, or anything else that will scare the pants off a reader and want to be interviewed, let me know in the Comments section. I will get in touch with you and send you some questions to answer.

In addition, I will also post some info about my writer’s group. We’ve all written scary stories at one time or another, some scarier than others, so it is with great pleasure that I introduce this fantastic bunch of authors to you.

I’ll start by saying that we are, literarily speaking, Off The Wall. We have self-published two chapbooks (anthologies) that were sold at our local McNally Robinson Booksellers under that label. One was called ‘Sex, Death and Grain Elevators‘ because we were told than any story told about the prairies had to have these three elements in it. The other was called ‘Where In The World Is Carman, Manitoba?‘ because it came out about the same time as the kid show, ‘Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiago?‘ There have also been UFO sightings near Carman, Manitoba, so we thought it appropriate, since my story was about UFOs and aliens that we used that title.

So, dig into your archives, put on your thinking caps, drop me a line or two and let’s make THIS October the scariest yet! 🙂