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! 🙂

 

An Unusual Sunday Interview, continued

A couple of weeks ago, I began a character interview which can be found here. During the interview, I described undergoing the withershins ritual, leaving the present time following my interview with my main character Michelle Langly and her daughter Kristen, and arriving back in January 1847, shortly after the end of my first story, ‘Withershins‘.

To set up this segment, Owl-Who-Sees-All has been accused of murdering Michelle when she left the Red River area in January, 1847. His grandson, Bear-With-Fire-Paw, asked me to speak to the Governor on Owl’s behalf, which I agreed to do, despite my reservation that I would be interfering with future events:

business office, Big House

entrance to the main office of the Big House at Lower Fort Garry

 * * *

Bear accompanied me to the business office in the Big House. The clerk glanced up, pen in mid-air.

“How may I help you, Mr. Bear?” he asked.

“I beg an audience with the governor, if you please,” Bear replied. “This is Susan Rocan, a reporter covering the trial of my grandfather.”

“Miss Rocan,” the clerk nodded to me and held out his hand. “For which paper do you work?”

“I freelance, but have sold many articles to the Toronto Herald. I was staying at Upper Fort Garry and heard about the unusual circumstances of this trial. I wanted to get the details first-hand.”

“I will inform the governor of your request.” The clerk rose and headed for the door.

“Thank you, Michael,” Bear said.

The clerk paused, a hand on the doorframe, and nodded his acceptance of Bear’s appreciation before continuing to the governor’s quarters across the hall. A moment later, he returned with Governor George Simpson, a balding, slightly paunchy middle-aged man. His expression held a hint of reservation, despite his smile and warm handshake.

Governor George Simpson
(from Wikipedia)

“My dear lady, Michael informs me that you request an interview,” the governor said.

“It’s less an interview and more of a gathering of information,” I replied. “It is my understanding that a young woman went missing from the community and you suspect Mr. Owl of harming her in some way. Is that correct?”

“One of our well-respected residents saw Mr. Owl leave with the woman, but he returned without her. It was very late on a bitterly cold night. Mrs. Wilson claims she saw Mr. Owl in possession of clothing that the young woman was wearing when she left. She suspects he killed her out on the prairie and disposed of the body.”

“Was there any blood evidence, any signs of a struggle, or indications of a burial anywhere?” I asked.

“Everyone in the area has searched their properties, the empty spaces and anywhere else we could think of to locate the woman,” the governor replied.

“What about the Upper Fort? I only heard rumours about the disappearance, but I don’t recall anyone from that area involved in the search. Is it not possible that she is somewhere at the Upper Fort?”

“I suppose it is possible, but when we circulated a sketch of the woman, no one claimed to have seen her.”

“May I see the sketch?”

Governor Simpson nodded to Michael who ruffled through some papers on his desk. He pulled out a piece of parchment with a rough charcoal drawing of a woman with long dark braids, dark eyes, a roundish face and full lips and handed it to me. It vaguely resembled the woman I knew as Michelle, but could easily be mistaken for someone else, if one did not know Michelle well.

“This is the woman you are looking for?” I asked, pretending to study the picture. “Could you tell me a little bit about her?”

“Miss Michelle Langly came to me last October after suffering an accident in which she lost her memory,” Governor Simpson revealed. “Doctor Buchannan, who came with the Sixth Regiment of Foot earlier in the season, examined her and suggested she not travel with her head wound. He requested that she stay here at the fort so she could recover. It was our hope that she would recover her memory and head off towards her home.”

“Is it possible that she suddenly remembered her home and headed off in that direction with Mr. Owl’s assistance?” I asked.

“Why would she remove the clothing she was wearing when it was so cold?”

“Perhaps her clothing got wet and she worried about freezing to death,” I suggested. “They might have brought clothes into which she could change. Is that not possible?”

“That was not evident and Mr. Owl has not said anything to that effect.”

“He may not be aware of all your suspicions, since he is unfamiliar with our language.”

“Mr. Bear has been acting as liaison and translator. I would have thought such questions would have been conveyed to him.” The governor glanced in Bear’s direction, as though accusing him of neglecting his duties.

“Perhaps we are hoping that my grandfather will be formally charged and real evidence presented, not detained and accused of murder with only speculation and innuendo as ‘evidence’,” Bear retorted. “You have completely dismissed the letter that the doctor discovered the morning after Miss Langly disappeared, a letter in Michelle’s hand telling him that she was going to try to go home. One would assume that if she was heading to the Dakotas, where she suspected her family was attacked, that she would have brought the appropriate supplies, including a change of clothing.”

I inwardly smirked at the reference to the story invented by Michelle and Duncan to explain how she happened to be found, injured, near St. Andrew’s Church late one night, something other than the fact that she performed the withershins ritual and travelled to the past. The made-up story was that she and her family had been attacked by bandits travelling to the Dakotas and she wandered, dazed, for miles until stumbling upon the Cochrane’s cottage.

I waved the sketch and frowned, as though I was remembering something.

“Is Michelle about this high,” I raised my hand above my head to about five feet six inches, “with a slim build, approximately 120 pounds?”

“Yes,” the governor responded. “Do you know her?”

“Not personally, but I did see a woman resembling this sketch at the Upper Fort a little less than a week ago. She didn’t appear to be any the worse for wear. As Bear said, if you have no real evidence that there was any foul play, how can you condemn a man simply because of a rumour?”

“Our, err, witness was very convincing,” the governor said rather sheepishly.

“You mentioned Mrs. Wilson. She is well-known for her dislike of the native population and anyone who is friendly with them. I can see her making up a story just to prove her opinion that the Indians in the area are evil. I also overheard her once, at the Upper Fort, telling someone how she disapproved of ‘country wives’ and insinuated that you, sir, had fallen victim to their magic. Is this really a woman you would trust not to bear false witness?”

“She is a God-fearing woman…” the governor began, his face flushed with embarrassment. I noticed he did not deny his involvement with his ‘country wives’.

I issued a snort of derision. “I have seen much cruelty presented at the hands of ‘God-fearing’ citizens. That doesn’t prove anything to me. Are you sure she is trustworthy?”

“Well, I, uh…” The governor cleared his throat. “Perhaps this matter requires further investigation.”

I glanced at Bear. He mouthed the words, ‘Thank you’ to me and I smiled.

“Sir, I am glad you are not prepared to condemn a man because of mere rumours,” I said. “You will feature favourably in my story.”

I reached out to shake his hand. He took it and lightly kissed the back of it.

“You are a gracious and intelligent woman. I look forward to reading your article. Do you know when it will be printed?”

“I will not submit my story until I am certain of Mr. Owl’s fate,” I said. “Do you have any idea when the Council of Assiniboia will be called in to consider the case?”

“It will not, in all likelihood, be decided for a couple of weeks. Since the nature of this case is so unusual, they have been uncomfortable about being asked to make deliberations and refuse to come to any conclusions until they have all the facts. I will mention that you may have seen her, that Miss Langly may still be alive, and that she may have travelled south of here.”

“Thank you for your cooperation, Governor Simpson. Please send a courier to the Upper Fort when deliberations have been completed and I will return for the verdict,” I said.

“I look forward to seeing you again,” the governor said – with a genuine smile, this time.

I returned his smile, happy that I had managed to alleviate his distrust of the media.

Bear and I left his office, at that point, returning to the turret prison to let Owl know what had transpired. Another man was speaking with him in a manner that suggested Owl was trying to teach him his language. When he heard our entrance, he stood and greeted us.

“You must be Susan Rocan,” the man said. “I am Doctor Buchanan, Charles Buchanan. Owl was just telling me you were here to help.”

“I am pleased to meet you, Doctor. Michelle told me all about you. She is very grateful for all you did for her, all you taught her.”

“Miss Langly was a very sweet young woman and reminded me so much of my own departed daughter. I was happy to help her in any way I could.”

* * *

withershins_REV

Well, the interviews aren’t exactly typical, more anecdotal, but I hope you are able to glean a little about some of the characters from this little adventure. To learn more about the people mentioned in this ‘Unusual Sunday Interview’, click on the links, or pick up a copy of ‘Withershins’ in order to share the journey back to 1846/47 with Michelle. 🙂

An unusual Sunday Interview

withershins_REV

Since I didn’t have an interview of a real-life person this week, I thought I’d interview another couple of integral characters from my books, Withershins and Spirit Quest. The two interviewees I had in mind had a major impact on Michelle Langly, Kristen’s mother. I interviewed the two of them a few months ago.

This won’t be the usual sort of interview, however, because in order to interview Owl-Who-Sees-All and Bear-With-Fire-Paw, I had to perform the withershins ritual and travel back to the past. I asked Michelle if I could borrow her talisman and try it. After some hesitation and a bit of meditation, she finally agreed to let me attempt it.

talisman

This is less like an interview and more like an adventure, an adventure that took place during the full moon last Sunday night. I had no way of knowing to what time I would be transported, if in fact I actually succeeded in traveling back in time, or if I would get back in time to post the interview. I only knew I wanted to give it the old college try.

Michelle came along to guide me through the process. She’s become a strong elder in the native community and I believe she possesses some of the magic of her ancestors. I hoped it would be enough.

Before heading to the church, she insisted I go through a cleansing ceremony. We stopped at a friend’s property near St. Andrews where a domed-roof lodge had been erected, similar to those used for sweat ceremonies. Her friend had already started a fire in the pit inside the lodge that was normally used for the heated rocks. Michelle indicated for me to sit beside her while she unloaded her medicine bag, including a long clay pipe adorned with an eagle feather. She tossed a pinch of an herb on the fire, causing the flames to spurt and spike. I recognized the scent as sage.

She held a twist of dried sweetgrass over the flames, igniting the ends for a second and waving the smoke over herself. Then, she passed it to me. I waved the smoke over me, as well. Michelle chanted the appropriate prayers and songs. We cleansed ourselves again with the sweetgrass smoke and then she lit the pipe. She sucked in the smoke, holding it in her mouth for a moment before she released it into the air. In English, she expressed her wishes that the spirits assist me in my task. Michelle passed the pipe to me. I brought smoke into my mouth, thought about the time travel journey of which I was about to embark. Then, I slowly blew out the smoke, with the prayer:

“I hope that by performing the withershins, I will be able to write another chapter of Michelle’s story and provide greater understanding about the ancient culture of the First Nations people.”

Michelle sang the final prayer and indicated that we should rise. She led the way out of the lodge down the path to her friend’s house.

“I hope this fits,” she said, holding a long garment bag. “I’m a member of the Historical Society, so was able to borrow this dress for you, as well as a suede jacket, winter moccasins, and a fur cloak. There’s also a pair of wool stockings, mittens, and a scarf.”

Withershins-037

Once I changed clothes, we got into her car and headed towards the church. About ten minutes later, we arrived. She found an obscure place to park and we walked back towards the short stone fence. My heart raced, knowing what might happen if we got caught trespassing in the churchyard after dark. Now I understood how Michelle must have felt when she was here with her friends, Jason and Kevin.

No Trespassing after dusk

As we crawled over the low wall, the moon’s light reflected off the snow like millions of diamond chips.

Michelle checked her watch and said, “It’s almost midnight.”

The chill air was still. Not a breath of wind stirred the naked tree branches. Michelle gave me the arrowhead necklace and I placed it around my neck.

The area around the church seemed to be fairly well-packed so I had no worries about stumbling through deep snow. I peered through the night towards the rectory across the street, afraid I might see lights appear in the window. All remained dark, except for the orange glow of the street light marking the intersection of River and St. Andrews Roads. Michelle touched my shoulder.

It was time.

midnight

I took a deep breath, pulling the scarf up over my mouth and nose. I patted the suede pouch tied to my waist, confirming that I still had the ink, stick pen, extra nibs and a pad of paper wrapped in leather with the questions I wanted to ask Bear and Owl when I met them. I also checked for my asthma inhaler, knowing the running I was about to do would most likely bring on an attack. I only hoped I’d have enough breath to accomplish my task.

owl2

A snowy owl hooted from its perch high in the old oak tree.

“The spirit guide!” I whispered, excitedly.

Michelle grinned at me and nodded. I took another deep breath, the frosty air strained through the wool strands of my scarf. My spectacles fogged as the warm air beneath my scarf met with the cold glass. I took them off and placed them in their case and then into my pouch. My distance vision isn’t too bad, so I could still see the slightly fuzzy images of the church and trees around me.

I began to run counterclockwise around the church, quickly completing the first circle. As I started the second, I could feel a slight burn in my lungs. It wasn’t too bad, yet, so I initiated the third circle. Half way around, my legs began to feel like jelly. It had been a long time since I’d had so much strenuous exercise and I am no longer the 18 year-old I was when I did this the first time – and then, I never finished!

I rounded the last corner of the church and saw the glow Michelle had described to me. Although I felt a sudden pang of fear, I carried on, plunging into the bone-chilling cold of the swirling vortex. I felt suspended for what seemed like an hour, but must have only been a few seconds, before the ground met my face. I lay there, stunned for a moment, the wind knocked out of me. Turning on my side, I reached into my pouch and brought out my inhaler. After shaking it vigorously, I pressed it against my teeth. I expelled all my breath, then squeezed the plunger and inhaled the vapours. I repeated the action until I felt my bronchial tubes open up and the burn in my lungs ease. I picked up a handful of fresh snow and rinsed out my mouth. A little of the cold liquid drizzled down my esophagus, further cooling my throat and lungs.

Suddenly, a leather-mittened hand was thrust in my face, offering to help me rise. I took it and stood, staring at the chest of a young man. I had to raise my head to see his face, as he was about a foot taller than me.

“You must be Bear,” I said, my voice sounding hoarse and shaky in the darkness.

“I am,” he replied. “Grandfather is waiting for you.”

Bear led me to one of the two horses waiting patiently by a hitching post. He boosted me onto the back of the smaller one. It had been a long time since I’d ridden a horse and I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t fall off the beast. I was glad the skirt of my dress was full enough for me to straddle the animal without it riding up too much, exposing my stocking-covered legs as it was considerably colder than the time from which I’d left.

Once I was a little more confident with my balance, I glanced around me, curiously. The stone church was almost complete, but the window frames remained empty, the stained glass panes still en route to Red River. The original wooden church stood behind the stone structure, much as I had imagined it. I strained to see the landscape, but there really wasn’t much to see. There was only snow and a few scrubby bushes along the river bank, illuminated by the light of the full moon.

“What year is this?” I asked.

“1847,” Bear said.

“What month?”

“January,” Bear answered. “Michelle has only been gone a week, but her disappearance has caused quite a stir.”

“Yes, she told me about the problems she caused, leaving so abruptly,” I said. “She found a notice about it in an old newspaper.”

“Are you here to help dispel the rumours?”

“I’m sorry, no. I don’t think there is anything I could say that would make a difference. I’m only here to document what happened and talk to you and your grandfather.”

“You are a newspaper reporter?”

“No, but I am a writer and want to tell your story as accurately as possible.”

Bear seemed to ponder this for a long time before he spoke again.

“Grandfather said you would help us. I assumed that meant you would save him from his fate, but I must be wrong. Michelle was always worried about the consequences of disrupting the future by changing the past. Maybe the best thing you could do for us, other than changing the inevitable, is simply to tell people about us and how we lived our lives.”

“I hope that will be enough,” I told him. Something nagged at the back of my mind. “Aren’t you supposed to be up north?”

“I was heading north, but Grandfather talked to me in a dream, so I returned to the fort. I knew I was needed here.”

“That explains it,” I mused.

Studying the man riding beside me, I could definitely understand why Michelle was so enthralled with him. He was not just handsome, with a prominent nose and high cheek bones, but he had a depth of wisdom in his dark eyes that seemed well beyond his age. He also seemed quite sad, probably because he had just lost the love of his life. I wondered how this would affect his future, with Michelle gone.

river gate

Imagine the ground is covered in a foot of snow.

Dawn streaked the sky shades of pink by the time the high stone walls of the fort rose up ahead of us. Before we reached the blacksmith shop just south of the fort, Bear dismounted and assisted me to the ground. We led the horses to a post by the shop and tethered them, then I followed Bear to the west gate. As we entered, I heard a bugle trumpet the tune of Reveille, calling the soldiers to rise with the sun. We followed the shoveled path around the Big House to the southwest corner. Two soldiers stood outside the solid wood door. All the windows of the turret had bars across them.

SW turret

The northwest turret, taken last summer.

Bear leaned over and spoke to one of the guards, tossing his head in my direction. He turned and told me to take the writing utensils out of my pouch. When I did so, the guard ushered us inside. It was strange not to see all the museum pieces and information boards I was used to seeing set up in the divided space. Instead, more bars with heavy metal hinges closed off the room on the right. The left-hand side was set up like a dining room with a bench against one wall and a heavy wooden table in front of it. Dishes with half-eaten food still sat on its surface.

The guard unlocked the barred room and let us enter, but locked the door behind us. It wasn’t much warmer inside the turret than it was outside. The single paned windows were not much protection against the frigid winter air and the wood-burning stove in the centre of the room wasn’t throwing much heat.

An elderly native man sat cross-legged on a fur carpet near the stove, his back to us. A low moaning sound emanated  from his throat, rising and falling in a quiet prayer song. Bear kneeled behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. The older man finished his song, opened his eyes and smiled at his grandson.

“She . . is here?” he said in a voice barely audible.

Bear took my arm, bringing me around to face him. Then he introduced him to me.

“This is my Grandfather. You may call him Owl.”

I took Owl’s right hand in both of mine and said, “It is such a pleasure to meet you, Owl. You may call me Susan.”

“Susan,” he said slowly, saying my name as though trying on a shoe to see if it fit. He smiled and covered my hands with his left one. “That is a good name.”

“Thank-you. Would you mind if I asked you some questions? I have heard Michelle’s story about her time with you and there are some more things I’d like to know about you. Is that acceptable?”

Bear leaned over to Owl and murmured something in his ear. He looked at me and said, “Since Grandfather’s English is not very good, I will translate.”

He glanced at Owl, who spoke softly.

“He wants you to know that he is just a humble teacher and not worthy of such interest,” Bear told me.

“A man who is so attuned to nature is certainly of interest to me,” I told him. “How did you become the medicine man for your tribe?”

“His mother was the medicine woman and he learned everything from her. When she went to meet the Creator, he was asked by the people to replace her.”

Although Bear was translating, I looked at Owl when I asked my questions. “I would have thought you’d automatically become the medicine man. Is this not so?”

“He was the most qualified of all the people, the most revered. Our Chief respected his visions. Our village prospered when he was consulted. That is why he was chosen to be our medicine man.”

“What about you, Bear? What’s your story?”

“When I was about five years old, Grandfather had his first vision about the future. He discussed it most arduously with our Chief Peguis, so when the Reverend Cochrane came to our encampment, Grandfather knew he was the person to help me learn to speak English and teach me the ways of his people.”

“There is a saying about knowing your enemy. Is that why he wanted you to learn about the Europeans?” I asked Bear.

“Grandfather did not consider them his enemies, despite the fact that the dream he had was about the Europeans and how we would have to adjust to the arrival of more from that part of the world. He did fear that our ways might be lost with the influence of so many. He says that is why he brought Michelle here and why he allowed you to come and talk with us. You can bring our messages back with you.”

“What messages would those be, Bear?”

Owl waved me closer. He grabbed my chin and smiled. His dark eyes were bright, intense. They bore into mine as though he was trying to look into my soul. He released my chin and settled back in his chair. He nodded and spoke to Bear, who in turn translated.

“Grandfather believes you are the one best suited to tell Michelle’s story. Michelle carries the messages. The more people you encourage to learn Michelle’s story, the more you will help spread those messages.”

“I have already written her stories and I am trying to spread the word,” I assured them.

“That,” Owl said, then paused searching for the words, “is all we can ask. Thank-you.”

“My pleasure.”

“Will you speak to the Governor on my grandfather’s behalf?” Bear asked, changing the subject.

“Like I said before, Bear, I don’t know what I could say. No one knows me from Adam. Why would they take my word that he’s innocent of killing Michelle?”

“You could say you have seen her since she left that night with Grandfather.”

“I could do that,” I agree. “If you think it will help, I will talk to the Governor.”

***

Since this post is already long enough and it is so late in the day, I will post the rest of this story/interview another day. Hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far. 🙂

Happy New Year!

As the new year begins, I want to wish everyone a year filled with wealth, health and happiness, peace and love. May you have plenty of time to enjoy your passions, whether it be crafting or writing or however else you prefer to spend your spare moments.

It is also my one-year blogging anniversary. To celebrate this event, I would like to finally share with you my book trailer. Hope you like it and that it intrigues you enough to read Withershins, if you haven’t read it already. 🙂

So, what do you think?

Scary October #28 – Sunday Interview

Hello readers! Today, I thought I’d do something completely different. Instead of an author interview I thought I’d do a character one, so it is with extreme pleasure that I introduce Michelle, the main character of my two YA novels, Withershins and Spirit Quest. It’s been 25 years since the end of ‘Spirit Quest’ and, upon the suggestion of one of my readers (thank-you, Diane), we are joined by her daughter, Kristen. 🙂

Me: Ladies, would you please tell my readers a little about yourselves.

Michelle: Certainly! I am . . . uh . . . 40-something. (Smirk!) I live in a small neighbourhood near the centre of Winnipeg, a community known as St. Boniface. I teach Aboriginal Studies at the University of Manitoba. I’m married with three lovely children (glances at her eldest daughter).

Kristen: (squirms uncomfortably) Mom, are you sure you want all this out in the open? (eyes flick to her mother’s face and sighs) Fine! Hi, I’m Kristen. I’m 16 and go to River East Collegiate. My friends and I like going to school football games because the quarterback is really cute. (blushes)

Me: Michelle, would you mind describing your adventures when you were Kristen’s age? What made you decide to go to the St. Andrew’s Graveyard with Kevin & Jason?

St. Andrews Church on the Red River, Manitoba

Michelle: (chuckles) Wow! That was such a long time ago! You probably won’t believe any of this. Goodness knows, Kristen has her doubts about the stories I’ve told her. (She clears her throat) Well, we had a high school history project to do. We thought, or at least, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the oldest church in the area and check out some of the names on the gravestones to inspire my research. I convinced the boys it would be a fun way to do the research. Jason was able to borrow his Dad’s car, so he offered to drive us. We wandered around the graveyard until it closed, then went to eat. Despite the warnings, we went back and waited until midnight, then Jason suggested we do the withershins.

Kristen: (leans forward, insistent) Mom, you said it yourself, you hit your head! You must have blacked out for awhile. You just had a very complicated dream. (She turns to me)Why are you’re encouraging her?

Michelle: Honey, I thought the same thing, at first – that it was all just a dream. After everything I experienced, it could not simply have been a dream.

Me: Michelle, would you please explain what ‘withershins’ means?

Michelle: According to Jason, it was a ritual where a person runs around a church three times at midnight. He claimed we’d meet the Devil or be transported to the Netherworld. I’ve since discovered, it simply means traveling counter-clockwise or ‘contrary to the sun’, and when you do it with all the right elements, you can travel back in time.

Kristen gives a snort of derision.

Me: Why would you participate in a ritual like that, Michelle?

Michelle: For one thing, I didn’t think anything would really happen. For another, when Jason begged me with those puppy dog eyes, I couldn’t say no. I had such a crush on him back then! I’m just glad I didn’t meet the Devil or go to the Netherworld, although there were times I thought I really was in H-E-double hockey sticks, if you know what I mean. 🙂

Kristen: (rolls her eyes) There’s no need to protect me from bad words, Mom. I’ve heard a lot worse at school, you know!

Me: Michelle, what was your first clue that you’d been transported back in time?

Michelle: Once the swirling portal thing stopped and the fog disappeared, everything was so different. There was absolutely nothing around me – no trees, no buildings, no power lines anywhere. In the back of my mind, I knew I hadn’t run that far from the church, but I really couldn’t believe I had actually time-travelled. Would you?

Me: (Chuckle!) No, I suppose not. What finally convinced you it wasn’t a dream?

Michelle: I’ve had vivid dreams before, but nothing compared to the sights and smells of being back in the mid-eighteen hundreds. When I stepped in that horse poo and tried to get it off my runner, I knew there was something all too real about that place! What really convinced me was when Bear brought me to his grandfather and he started talking about everything that had happened leading up to that spinning vortex. That’s when I knew for sure. After all, no one else in that place could possibly have known, unless it was all some huge practical joke, but I didn’t think Lower Fort Garry would have gone to all the trouble and expense of removing a building and replacing it with a log cabin, all for the sake of a joke.

Kristen: Mom, you’d been doing research. All that stuff must have been in your mind when you hit your head, so you simply dreamed it all. It just seemed real.

Me: (ignoring Kristen’s outburst) It must have been hard to live in a time without all our modern conveniences. How did you manage?

Michelle: (with a rueful smile) Faking amnesia helped a little. Anytime someone questioned me about not being able to do things, I just chalked it up to forgetting. I was also a Brownie and a Girl Guide, so I had been camping before. I knew some basic survival skills and when I first arrived at the Lower Fort, I was thrust into a maid’s position. It didn’t take long to learn how to cook over a fire, how to mend clothing and a whole bunch of other stuff. Bear’s mom, Swift Doe, knew where I was from and taught me all kinds of things native women learned when they were young. Also, Owl, Bear’s grandfather, taught me some spiritual stuff and Bear taught me how to hunt.

Me: Kristen, does your mom do any of those things now or when you were younger?

Kristen: Well, she used to make moccasins for us when we were little. We used to go to Pow Wows. I was given a native name when I was 12. Last year, Mom and Dad prepared me for a sweat lodge ceremony.

Me: How do you think your mom knew about all of these ceremonies if she didn’t learn them from the past?

Kristen: Mom knows a lot of elders. Perhaps one of them taught her all that stuff.

Michelle: Sweetie, I didn’t meet those elders until after I returned from the past. Your Auntie Sherry introduced me to them after I told her what had happened to me.

Kristen: (folds her arms across her chest and scowls)

Me: (turning to Michelle) Tell us about some of the people you met in the past.

Lower Fort Garry, NW turret used for baking ‘hard tack’, a bread used by voyageurs and hunting parties

Michelle: Well, I first met the Reverend Cochrane and his wife, Annie. They lived in the original rectory at St. Andrews. They helped me a lot. I was scared and I’d bumped my head and sprained my wrist falling out of the time tunnel thingy, so the reverend took me to the Lower Fort where there was a doctor. Doctor Buchanan had just come to Red River with the 6th Regiment of Foot and had a little office inside the fort beside the trade store, about where the museum is now. He fixed me up and asked Governor Simpson if I could stay at the fort until my head healed.

Oh, yeah, before meeting the doctor, I was feeling a little light-headed because of the bump on my head and I fell into the arms of a rather handsome Scottish stonemason, Duncan MacRae. He was in charge of the St. Andrews Church construction. There were also a couple of girls I became friends with, the Sinclair sisters, Harriet and Maria. Margaret was sort of a friend, but hung around too much with Elizabeth, who hated me the moment she set eyes on me. I think it had a lot to do with her father being with the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was friends with the Chief Factor and his wife, Mrs. Wilson – and a more spiteful woman you’d never hope to meet! There were quite a few others, like Doctor Buchanan’s patients that I helped and Bear’s sister, Fawn, and the store clerk, Ian McNally, but we don’t have time to get into all that, right now.

Me: Now, you went through the withershins ritual not once but twice, is that right? Why would you put yourself through that again?

Michelle: I probably wouldn’t have considered it, as much as I missed Bear – and I missed him A LOT! Missing him, though, was the reason I went to the Manitoba Archives to learn what might have happened to him and my other friends. I came across an old article that talked about a trial that took place after I came home. The article said Owl had been hanged because they thought he had murdered me. You see, when I suddenly disappeared from the past to come home, the nosy Mrs. Wilson claimed she’d seen Owl and I leave the fort late at night, but only Owl returned – with my olden days clothes. She made such a fuss, that the courts decided Owl had killed me. I couldn’t let them hang Owl, so I used the arrowhead talisman that Owl’s spirit guide had given me and went to the church on the night of a full moon. I went back to try and stop them from killing Owl. I had no idea if it would work or not, but I had to try.

Me: Wow! Who would have thought your sudden disappearance would have caused such a tragic event! Did you manage to save Owl?

Michelle: (winks) I wouldn’t want to spoil the story! If you want to find out, you’ll have to read the book!

Me: Oh, you are a sneaky one, aren’t you? From the title, I imagine you learned a lot more spiritual stuff in your second adventure. Care to tell us about it?

Michelle: Well, let’s just say, I found it quite life-changing. There were moments I wasn’t sure I’d make it through the challenges and many times I doubted my resolve would last. If it wasn’t for the faith that Bear and Owl had in me, I don’t know where I would be today or if I’d even be here to talk to you. I owe them my life, body and soul.

Kristen: Mom, don’t you think you’re being a little melodramatic?

Me: They sound like the sort of friends everyone should have. (I turn to Michelle) Do you have any parting thoughts you’d like to share with my readers?

Michelle: Only that my appreciation for history has grown immensely because of my adventures. I still don’t like having to memorize dates, but I have a greater love for the people who made up our history, those who influenced changes in our society and helped to make our future better. These are things I hope Kristen will come to appreciate, one day (fondly casts her eyes to her daughter and smiles).

I’m also grateful for some of the progress that’s been made since then, like indoor plumbing, but I have to wonder whether the cost of some of our modern conveniences has been worth the price to our environment. When I consider all the plant and animal species that have become extinct over the past hundred and fifty years, it makes me cry. When I think of all the polluted rivers and landfills that mar the land, these days, I shake my head and wonder whether it’s all been worth it. I see the greed of huge corporations who are responsible for our disposable society and want to shake some sense into them for not finding ways to reduce their carbon footprint and I blame the current governments for not taking a stand and creating a bill to protect the environment from those corporate piranhas. My long talks with Owl and Bear, and all the time I spent in the past, have made me more aware of our shrinking landscapes (shrugs her shoulders and smiles, briefly). Sorry for the rant. I guess I’ll stop now. 🙂

Me: I can’t help but agree with you. Progress does seem to be getting out of hand. What do you think about what your mother said, Kristen?

Kristen: I suppose she has a point regarding the environment. I still don’t see the need to study history, though. A bunch of old dead people – what can studying what they did make a difference to what happened?

Michelle: Sweetie, you don’t get it, do you? There are people in the past who fought for the rights and freedoms you enjoy today. If they had not done what they did, our lives would be very different and much more difficult.

Kristen: People like who?

Michelle: If Chief Peguis hadn’t helped the early Scottish settlers by bringing them down to Pembina before the snow came, your great-great-great-great-grandfather would not have survived the winter and you probably wouldn’t be here. If Louis Riel hadn’t stood up for the rights of the Métis people, you’d still be considered a second class citizen, treated badly just like your great-great grandmother was at the residential school.

Kristen: (sinks lower in her chair and pouts) If you say so, Mom.

Me: (to Kristen) Then you don’t think you’d ever want to go on an adventure, like your mother?

Kristen: Are you kidding me? You believe what happened to Mom was real?

Me: You mother’s adventures were well documented in both ‘Withershins’ and ‘Spirit Quest’. You still don’t think they were real?

Kristen: Haven’t you ever heard of FICTION? That’s all it is, you know.

Me: Then, if you had the chance to do the withershins thing you wouldn’t do it?

Kristen: I may try it, but I certainly don’t expect anything to happen.

Michelle: (smirks) That’s what I thought, Honey.

Me: (I notice something around Kristen’s neck) Is that what I think it is?

Kristen: (touches her chest and groans, then pulls out the arrowhead necklace) Mom gave it to me for my birthday, a few days ago.

Me: That is very cool! 🙂 (I catch Michelle’s eye and she winks at me) Well, I want to thank you both for joining us, today, Michelle and Kristen.

Michelle: Thanks for having me, Susan. 🙂

Kristen: Yeah. Whatever.

Me: Michelle’s adventures can be found in both books mentioned above. Maybe one day you’ll be able to read an adventure about Kristen, too! 🙂

Kristen: Or NOT!

Some of the settings in which Michelle was known to have traveled can be found on my Withershins Facebook page, here. I will also be posting more pictures of St. Andrews Church, the graveyard and Lower Fort Garry on this blog, once I have gone through the hundreds of photos and video clips I took out there this past summer. I can also be found, occasionally, on Twitter and Goodreads.

Hope you enjoyed this whimsical interview, inspired by other bloggers like J. Keller Ford, who have done similar interviews with their characters. 🙂

Scary October – Day #25

Good morning, everyone (or evening, depending on what part of the world you hail from)! Last evening, my nephew and his wife, an awesome photographer, drove me up to the old St. Andrew’s Church. Armed with our cameras, we wanted to capture a few scary night time photos for the book trailer I am trying to compose. I’m hoping to have the big reveal on the last day of this month because it does look pretty spooky, already, without adding in all the shots we took last night.

My nephew has dabbled in movie making for a few years, now, and seems to have a sense of what is a unique photo angle, or what will invoke the most drama. He and his friends have created some pretty interesting home videos that are more like spy movies! His wife knows a lot about how to take pictures in all kinds of lighting challenges, so I definitely needed her help to get the best shots in the dark. Besides that, she makes a great Michelle – my character in ‘Withershins’.

When I first started to see book trailers pop up on YouTube and various blogs, I got very excited and have been thinking about how mine should look for a long time. I dabble in photography and my MAC’s iMovie program is simply wonderful – and the main reason I wanted to get a MAC in the first place! It may turn out looking amateurish, but that’s okay. I have found the perfect music from one of the CDs I love to listen to while writing the native spirituality scenes, mainly because it has no words that I’ll end up unconsciously writing into my story! The opening scenes take place at the old church and graveyard, the perfect place for magic to happen, the sort of place to find a talisman or meet a spirit guide.

To begin creating the trailer, I visualized the scenes based on how I normally describe the book to people who haven’t read ‘Withershins’. This little blurb became my story board, taking elements from it to create the frames of the video.

The first thing I usually have to tell people is the definition of what ‘Withershins’ means, which is basically “to move in a direction opposite the sun; counterclockwise”. That’s what I chose for my first frame.

Next, was the location – in a church graveyard.

Then, the time of day – at midnight.

I followed this with other elements, such as the spirit guide  and the talisman

talisman

spirit guide

and then the action – running around the church three times. I ended with some brief clips of life at Lower Fort Garry in the mid-eighteen hundreds, where Michelle ends up after her adventure in the graveyard. The finale is a picture of my book cover and name and, of course, the credits.

Once I had the storyboard straight in my head, I wrote out the captions. Then, I began taking pictures and video clips of things that I thought would fit in with my vision. I took multiple shots of things to make sure I got the perfect photo. I discussed the video with my niece and she was very enthusiastic and willing to help. I trust her photographic expertise as she knows way more about digital photography than I do – and my trust in her was not unfounded. I can’t wait to get my hands on her jpegs so I can incorporate them into what I have of the video so far, because from what I saw through her camera’s lens, the photos turned out way better than mine did!

I am getting very excited, knowing that the video is nearing completion. Even though my book has been out for a few years, already, I hope the video will attract a new group of teens (and adults) who will be learning about the book for the first time.

How many of you have thought about creating your own book trailer, or thought about getting someone to create one for you? If you have decided to embark on this video adventure, I wish you a lot of luck! 🙂

Write A Story With Me – part 10 (mine)

As I mentioned in my post Write A Story With Me, Jennifer Eaton began a group story where everyone who joined up adds up to 250 words to what she originally started. For those who haven’t been following, you can catch up by visiting these sites to read the beginning of the story:

Part One – Jennifer M. Eaton

Part Two – J. Keller Ford

Part Three – Susan Roebuck

Part Four – Elin Gregory

Part Five – Eileen Snyder

Part Six – Mikaela Wire

Part Seven — Vanessa Chapman (Vanessa kindly added a character chart, in case you’re having trouble remembering where everyone fits into the story, so check it out!)

Part  Eight – Ravena Guron

Part Nine – Vikki Thompson

So, here’s my addition to the story. I hope it helps to tie certain elements together.

Jenelle perched on a branch outside the window, listening to the joy in Marci’s voice as she greeted her father. The wee fairy felt a pang of longing, knowing that such a life was not going to be hers. With tears clouding her eyes, Jenelle took a deep breath, flicked her wings and sped across the meadow until her wings ached.

A familiar whirring caused her to whip around and hover, facing her brother, defiantly.

“Why are you following me?” she demanded.

“We were supposed to meet with the Council, remember?” Janosc said, shaking his head. “Where were you headed, anyway?”

“I don’t really know,” Jenelle replied sadly. “I just started flying.”

“They’re waiting,” her brother reminded her.

Reluctantly, Jenelle flew beside him as they aimed for the Gleaming Tree. Holding hands, they flew withershins* around it as fast as they could until the veil between the worlds thinned enough for them to pass through to the Dark Realm, a place known to its residents as Philadelphia. As they started for the fairy circle of toadstools, Jenelle suddenly stopped and pointed to two girls standing near the sacred ring. She recognized Marci’s older sister, but did not know the other girl.

“How did Bethany get here?” Jenelle whispered. “Do you think she knows how to break through The Veil?”

“If she does, we must ensure she tells the secret to no one else,” Janosc answered, a malicious gleam in his eye.

[*definition of withershins: to move contrary to the sun, counter-clockwise]

I couldn’t resist adding in the withershins ritual. Anyway, hope you enjoyed it! 🙂

2012 YA Author Blog Takeover

Something exciting is beginning on Jenny Keller Ford‘s blog beginning this Sunday. She will be featuring 9 YA authors, one each day until the end of the month, including me. 🙂

We will be discussing our books and our thoughts on writing, publishing and life.

Her line-up will be as follows:

Sunday, June, 22 – Kim Richardson, author of ‘The Soul Guardians

Monday, June 23 – ME! (Susan Rocan), author of ‘Withershins‘ & ‘Spirit Quest‘.

Tuesday, June 24 – Emi Gayle, author of ‘After Dark

Wednesday, June 25 – L. S. Murphy, author of ‘Reaper

Thursday, June 26 – Kevin McGill, author of ‘Nikolas & Company: The Merman and the Moon Forgotten

Friday, June 27 – Jus Accardo, author of ‘Touch‘ and ‘Toxic

Saturday, June 28 – Michael Conn, author of ‘Maxwell Huxley’s Demon

Sunday, June 29 – Jamie Ayers, author of ‘18 Things

Monday, July 30 – Rachel Coker, author of ‘Interrupted: life beyond words‘ and ‘Chasing Jupiter

Please come by and see what we all have to say. Each day, the featured author will be hanging around Jenny’s blog to answer any questions you may have for them. To get there, just click on the picture, which will link you straight to Jenny’s site. Hope to see you there! 🙂

Getting critiqued

I was perusing this morning’s blog posts and came across one that I thought all you writers out there might find interesting. Roger at Writing Is Hard Work wrote about writers groups and forums. You might want to check out his links, if you are looking for a way to get your manuscript appraised. He also gives some good advice about accepting critiques and provides some cautions when doing so on public sites. Please check it out here, then come back and I will tell you a little about my writers group experiences.

The first novel I wrote was based on a TV series that ended abruptly. It infuriated me that all the main characters appeared to be killed in the last episode. I was so upset that I was compelled to come up with a suitable ending, myself. Thus began the start of my writing career about 18 years ago.

However, not knowing anything about fan fiction at the time, I realized that nothing much could come of the story I had created because the crew from Blake’s 7 was the property of Terry Nation who created the series. So, I took the characters that I created and put them in their own story. Once the novel was finished, I joined the Manitoba Writers’ Guild to figure out what to do next. In one of their newsletters I noticed a call for fan fiction about Blake’s 7 and other British SciFi series. I got very excited but, not knowing anything about fan fiction, I called the woman who wanted to create the fanzine. She gave me the particulars, I submitted my story and won the contest. (Anne Rice presented the prize to me at World Con when it came to Winnipeg!) The husband of the fanzine creator ran a writer’s group and invited me to join.

All full of myself because of getting one of my first stories ‘published’, albeit in a very minor way (maybe 50 copies of Badlands were printed) I said sure, and submitted my novel to the group. I was crushed when they didn’t think it was the most marvelous thing since sliced bread! Trying to hold back the tears, I went home and began to read their detailed critiques. I realized that they were not intentionally being mean, they were honestly giving feedback on how to make my manuscript better.

In the meantime, I wrote a fantasy novel based on a dream I’d had when I was 16. At the time of my dream, I had tried to figure out what might have happened if I hadn’t awakened, but was too young to come up with a suitable story line. Being a more mature person (supposedly) I wrote out an elaborate quest story and submitted it to the group. Again, I was given some harsh criticism, but each time I received a negative remark my skin thickened a little.

I continued to write.

Next, inspired by Jean Claude VanDamme, I wrote an adventure story about a young boy who was bullied. Many tragedies befell the poor boy but everything eventually led him to a lovely young woman. Suddenly, after about 250 pages, the perspective suddenly switched to present the woman’s point of view as well as the boy’s. Egad! The group went crazy when they got to that part of the story! Biggest writing faux pas ever!

By this time, I had joined another group as well, since the other one was beginning to break apart and meet sporadically. With this second group, the criticism was less harsh and more encouraging. I’m not necessarily sure this was better than the previous group’s critiques, but I think by that time, my writing had greatly improved because of what I had learned that there was less to criticize.

Anyway, we created 2 chapbooks of short stories (Sex Death & Grain Elevators & Where In The World Is Carmen, Manitoba?) and were brainstorming for another that we wanted to come out around Halloween. I wracked my brain to think of something scarier than the kids’ ghost stories I’d written and came up with the idea of running around a church three times at midnight. Both groups thought it was a great idea and one member said the ritual was called Widdershins. I was amazed at how little effort it took for the story to take off (my muse was in fine form) and I suppose it showed. Both writers groups said it was the best thing I’d written to date and encouraged me to keep going, helped me edit and polish it so I could send it off to publishers. When it was finally accepted by a publisher, the name was changed to ‘Withershins‘, which I was told was the Canadian term, to set it apart from other stories using ‘Widdershins’ as a title.

I can honestly say that without the help I received from my writers groups, I probably would still be awaiting publication. I haven’t, as yet, tried to get my earlier work published as it still needs a lot of changes. Those stories may never be ready for publication, but I don’t consider them failures. They were my practice pieces, those stories from which I learned most about how to improve my writing. Without making mistakes – and finding out where we’re making our mistakes – we can’t learn from them. So, if you haven’t found a writer’s group, critique partner or beta reader, go back to Roger’s site and check out his links.

If you have had experiences with writers groups, critique partners &/or beta readers, what was it like for you?

Time Travel

borrowed from howeswho.blogsot.ca

Time travel seems to be a popular theme for writers. It’s a topic dear to my heart, too, so I thought it would be an interesting topic for today’s post.

I think my obsession with time travel began when I saw the first Time Tunnel episode back in 1966 (Yes, I know I’m dating myself!) Although the series only ran for a year, I loved it.

Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season

 

 

 

Then, when Quantum Leap came out several decades later, I was enraptured with the concept of ‘making right what once went wrong’. For me, Quantum Leap is the definitive series about time travel. Mind you, I still liked watching Primeval and Flash Forward (I had to go and read the book, when it ended). The new series, Continuum, was what prompted me to explore this topic, today. Is anyone watching it? It’s got me hooked.

Product Details

Although I haven’t actually read many books that used time travel as their plot, I looked them up on Wikipedia. I discovered that the first ever time travel book was called Letters from the Twentieth Century by Samuel Madden. It was written in 1733! Even Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol from 1843 had an element of time travel – to Scrooge’s past and his future. Mark Twain’s 1891 story A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court was about a 19th century American citizen who travels back to King Arthur’a time of 528 AD. In the late 1800s, H. G. Wells wrote two time travel tales, The Chronic Argonauts and the more famous The Time Machine. C. S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov all wrote stories about time travel, The Hideous Strengths, A Sound of Thunder, and The End of Eternity, respectively. Of course, I could not help but mention Diana Gabaldon’s books beginning with Outlander. (I absolutely LOVE her books!)Outlander (20th Anniversary Edition): A Novel

Almost 150 books are listed on Wikipedia, not including over 500 Dr. Who novels, and there were a couple of blatant omissions on the list – A Wrinkly In Time  and The Olden Days Coat by Margaret Laurence – so there may be many more. Maybe Wikipedia didn’t bother to list kids books.

The Final Countdown [Blu-ray]

Also listed on this site are 100 movies that use time travel as the plot. Many are based on the books listed above. Of those hundred, I have seen A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court  and The Time Machine, both versions, and I must say that I prefer the original black & white versions. Hubby and I have watched all of the Planet of the Apes movies many times as well as the remake and, again, found the original better, although I have to admit the special effects were better in the remake. We’ve also watched Time After Time, where H. G. Wells and Jack the Ripper travel to the future. I loved The Final Countdown, where a warship goes back to the bombing of Pearl Harbour, as well as The Philadelphia Experiment. Then, of course there are the Back To The Future movies, the first one being the best, in my opinion. We’ve also watched Time Cop. (What can I say? I had a thing for Jean Claude Van Dam movies in my youth AND it involved TIME TRAVEL!)

Millennium

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

Others we’ve watched include Masters of the Universe, Millenium with Kris Kristopherson and Cheryl Ladd (I LOVED this one!), the 3rd Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where they went back to ancient Japan (We only watched it because our kids were into TMNT at the time!), Groundhog Day, 12 Monkeys, Frequency (another one I’d recommend), Kate & Leopold (a sweet love story with Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman), The Time Traveler’s Wife, and, of course, our time travel repertoire wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the Star Trek movies, The Voyage Home (THE BEST!) and Next Generations First Contact and the recent Star Trek movie by J. J. Abrahms. There’s also the Stargate movie Continuum.

No discussion of time travel would be complete if we didn’t mention the ‘butterfly effect’. It was coined by Edward Lorenz in 1969 and its far-reaching consequences were first explored in Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder. According to Wikipedia: “The name of the effect … is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before … The butterfly effect is a common trope in fiction when presenting scenarios involving time travel and with hypotheses where one storyline diverges at the moment of a seemingly minor event resulting in two significantly different outcomes.”

When using time travel as a plot, one must consider the ‘butterfly effect’. For the purpose of the story, do we WANT to change the future if we go to the past? Do we want the character to inadvertently change the future, thus creating a conflict that must be resolved? When traveling to the future, there isn’t such a great concern, unless the sudden absence of the person traveling ahead in time causes a major disaster. These were some of the things I had to consider when I decided to use time travel in my novels.

In Withershins, when Michelle broke down and decided to tell Dr. Buchanan and Duncan MacRae where she was really from, she was very careful not to reveal too much, although she had to show them her modern things to make them believe she was from their future. She had heard about the butterfly effect and worried that her presence in the past might change her future, so once she had revealed her items, she hid them, hoping no one would find them.

In Spirit Quest, I used the last device so that the sudden disappearance of Michelle when she returned to her present time, caused suspicions in the nosy and bigoted Mrs. Wilson. As a result, the doctor and her love interest were arrested and Michelle’s mentor was hanged because Mrs. Wilson accused them of murdering Michelle.

 

What about you? Have you read any of the books or seen any of the TV series or movies that I’ve mentioned? Did you like them? Would you recommend any other books, movies or TV shows involving time travel that I haven’t mentioned?