Writer Wednesdays – Laura Churchill Duke

Two Crows Sorrow is Laura Churchill Duke’s first novel. She is a journalist with Saltwire Network base, writing lifestyle articles for Atlantic Canada. She can also be heard as the Kentville community contact on CBC Radio, Information Morning.

When not writing, she is a team member with Your Last Resort as a professional organizer in the Annapolis Valley, helping people to clear the clutter, making positive changes in their lives.

She lives in Kentville with her husband, David (a history professor at Acadia University), two sons (Daniel & Thomas) and 4 rescue pets. She loves to travel and hike and is always up for an adventure!

I asked Laura:

Q: Do you try more to be original or deliver to readers what they want?

When I sat down to write Two Crows Sorrow, I wrote solely for myself. At the time, I had no idea I would head towards publication or that the book would become as popular as it did! I wrote it because I had a story in my heart I needed to get onto paper.

I decided to use the creative non-fiction style, because as a journalist, this was something I felt comfortable doing. I do not consider myself a creative writer, but someone who is creatively reporting what happened. I didn’t have to make up the story – it was already there. I just had to string it together.

Several reviewers suggested I invent a character to tell the story through – someone who is there the entire time and witnesses the event. There was no one, however, who did witness everything. I didn’t feel comfortable making someone up, as that wasn’t true to the journalism side of the story. I stuck to my guns, and wrote the story my way, within my comfort zone.

Q: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

When I am reading a book, I like to be reminded who characters are, because I often pick up and put down a book. So, in writing the novel, I had this in mind, and tried to remind readers who the characters were, subtly, without aggravating those who remembered!

There were also several words, I later found out, that were Valley expressions. Some of my early readers who did not grow up around here, were confused, so I had to make sure I explained the meanings, and not assume that everyone was familiar with the colloquialisms. Examples include “Vault” (a steep ravine) and “The Boston States” (Not just Boston).  

Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

All of my characters in the novel were actual people. I drew upon personal letters, historical accounts, and discovering their personalities through their trial testimonies. Then, I would often think of someone they reminded me of, and channel them while writing. In many ways, Theresa, my heroine, was my grandmother Churchill. I used a lot of her expressions, and even incorporated some of her stories she used to tell me about growing up in rural Nova Scotia from smelling the animals to sitting under a buffalo blanket on the sled.

Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I am always working on many writing projects. These days, I am primarily writing stories from people across Atlantic Canada in the lifestyles section of Saltwire (Herald).

I would love to have a few more books in this genre published one day. I always have ideas!

Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

Everyone says that you don’t write a book to make money, and this is definitely true. At the end of the day, an author does not make much on royalties for a book, and this surprises many people.

You do it for the passion, and the art of story telling.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be?

As a child, I always loved writing stories. In fact, I recently found one of my stories from Grade 6 where my teacher wrote a comment at the end saying, “keep this up, as you might make money at this some day!”

I have a degree in organizational psychology (how people behave at work) and one in public relations. Through these, I have married all the things I love doing – researching, writing, communicating, and spreading the word to others.

Q: What do you like least about writing?

I am actually a terrible editor! I tend to look at the whole picture and not see the minor details of the wrong word used, or a misplaced comma. I’m happy to have so many people in my life who do like editing and who are willing to help!

Q: What’s your favourite part of writing?

I love getting in the zone of writing. Sometimes it can be overwhelming getting started and not knowing how to even begin. This is what prevents a lot of people from writing, I think. It’s very similar to what we see in our home organization business. People get bogged down looking at the forest, rather than the trees.

I break my writing into small sections, scenes, or ideas. I often set the timer for 30 minutes and turn off all distractions, and just write.

I look out my window, and it’s like I can see the characters completing the scene in front of me. I just describe what I see. And, before I know it, my 30 minutes are up, and I want to keep going!

Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book? Did it bother you to do so?

When I first wrote Two Crows Sorrow, I did a tremendous amount of research. I looked into the lives of every jury member, every witness, everyone ever mentioned. I incorporated this all into the first draft of the novel. An early reader convinced me to take it out. She said, it’s interesting, but not relevant to progressing the story.

Now, when I do talks, I have a lot of fodder – talking about some of the characters who appeared and who they are, although that information is no longer in the book. She was right, and it made for a much better read.

Q: Are you ever upset when you’ve finished a story, that your characters have said all they’re going to say?

I have to admit when characters died in Two Crows Sorrow (I don’t want to give away too much), I did feel very emotional – almost as if it had happened all over again. And, hoping you had them tell their story enough so others would feel the same way.

You become very attached to people in your writing!

Q: What books have you published?

Besides thousands of newspaper articles and a psychology journal article, I have one book published.

Two Crows Sorrow, published by Moose House Publications, is my first novel. It is available in most book stores in the Annapolis Valley, in Coles, Chapters, and online through Amazon, Chapters/Indigo.  

Visit Laura at:

www.LauraChurchillDuke.ca

https://www.facebook.com/LauraChurchillDuke

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The Spot Writers – “Midlife Crisis” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is: “someone is caught on the bus without a ticket.” Today’s story comes to us from Val Muller, whose story may or may not be inspired by a milestone birthday this week. You can learn more about her kidlit mystery series, Corgi Capers, at www.corgicapers.com.

***

“Midlife Crisis” by Val Muller

Jeffrey reclined on his leather sofa contentedly, inhaling the fresh scent of moisturizing soap. He crossed his legs in his plush slippers and closed the lid on his laptop. He had just scored several Black Friday deals, a little early birthday shopping for himself. The merchandise would arrive just after the big day—in time for the weekend.

He could hardly believe it, turning 40. It was supposed to feel like some kind of big deal, wasn’t it? But, he’d had his life together for several years now. This year hardly felt any different.

All his friends had it harder, of course. All those with kids looked so much older, decades older, in fact. But not Jeffrey. Even at 40 he could still pass for a decade younger. He could probably even pass for a college student if he dressed right. Why would he, though? He kept up-to-date with his education by taking online enrichment classes. He just finished the class on Egyptology and would start one on photography on Monday. And he certainly wouldn’t go back to college to party. He hadn’t even done that when he was a student.

There Jeffrey was with a free ride. His scholarship status allowed him first choice of rooms, so of course he opted for single-occupancy room with no troubling roommates to distract him from his studies. He graduated second in the class, had three job offers waiting. His dad never had to have the talk that dads sometimes have with their sons. About studying instead of partying. About taking it easy with girls and being responsible. No, his dad had a much different conversation.

As early as sophomore year, his dad told him he was wasting his high school years studying so hard all the time, worrying about grades, and avoiding parties. His dad warned him that soon he would be old and mature and wouldn’t have the opportunity to mess up. He’d regret it.

His dad had even gone so far as to offer fifty dollars for Jeffrey to intentionally fail a test, just to prove that the world would keep on going. The day Dad left him at college, he said one thing.

Don’t waste your life being good.

But Jeffrey stayed true. He never failed a test. Dad was just crazy. Why break the rules? It was much less stressful to do what you’re supposed to do and succeed. Jeffrey had a great job, a great salary, and a great house.

His only regret, and it only bugged him once in a while, was that his dad was never made a grandfather. He knew his dad would have had all kinds of ways to spoil kids and rile them up before bedtime and teach them bad things and laugh about it. But if you don’t go out and cause trouble, you never meet girls; and if you never meet girls, then you don’t get married; and thus, no chance for kids. This is what he thought as he closed his laptop and turned on the television for his evening documentary. This one was about the feeding habits of the Cooper Hawk.

*

Jeffrey woke a minute after midnight. And just like that, he was forty. He thought it was almost too poetic to be believed. That’s right, his life was so structured that he’d literally chosen to be born on the stroke of midnight. He usually slept soundly, but tonight he couldn’t fall back to sleep.

Something echoed inside his head, inside his heart. It spoke in the voice of his father.

You never did anything fun.

Exciting.

Bad.

There is still time.

Jeffrey tossed and turned as long as he could until four in the morning, when it was somewhat acceptable to be awake. He went for a jog as he often did. On his way back from several consecutive seven-minute miles, he passed the bus stop. The same stop he always passed when he jogged. He’d rarely taken the bus. A few times in college, maybe. That was decades ago. He’d always had plenty for cars and repairs and parking and insurance.

He stopped at the bench to adjust his sneaker. A cold gust prickled his neck.

His hand patted his pocket as if it already knew. He had only his license and insurance card, as he always did when he went jogging. And as his hand patted the two cards in his pocket, his brain conjured a wild idea that made the corner of his lip draw up in a half-smile that surprised him, scared him even.

The bus was already pulling up, so he had little time to decide whether it was a good or a terrible idea. All he heard was his father’s voice echoing in his brain.

Come on.

And so he followed the three tired-looking commuters onto the bus. The three scanned their fare cards by sliding them through a slot. Wow, when he last rode a bus, everyone still used cash. Without thinking he pulled out his driver’s license and swiped it through.

This will be it, he thought. I’ll get in trouble for sure. I’m trying to board the bus without bus fare. His license went through without the satisfying beep of the other three fare cards. Here we go.

The tired bus driver looked up. “Not sure your card went through, buddy,” he said. “Maybe get it checked out at the depot.”

Jeffrey’s heart raced. He was supposed to get admonished, or maybe even arrested. Thrown in jail. Couldn’t you get arrested for boarding the bus without a ticket?

He shuffled to the back of the bus, where no one noticed him. No one cared that he had been bad.

How depressing.

As the bus lumbered on, Jeffrey thought about home. If he had simply gone home after running, he would have been in the shower by now. Enjoying his three-way jet-powered showerhead and moisturizing soap. Then he’d turn on the news before dressing for work.

Lame, his dad’s voice echoed.

It was then that he saw her. Looked like she was finishing her shift. She must work nights. How unorthodox that must be. She looked younger than him–that is, she looked the same age as him, but as tired as she seemed…well, those were City Miles. They probably added at least a decade.

She sat down in the seat adjacent to him, and he thought about doing something else bad. He stretched out his feet so that his left foot bumped into her right shoe. She looked up at him, too tired to care.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

No you’re not, his dad’s voice insisted. Come on. I’ll give you fifty bucks.

Jeffrey shook his head. He’d get off at the next stop and jog home. An extra birthday cool-down.

Forty, then. Consider it an apropos birthday gift.

And then Jeffrey nodded. And smiled. Okay, dad. Just this once. “Actually, I’m not sorry,” he told the woman.

The woman looked up. Her face said she wasn’t sure whether she didn’t believe him or wanted to clock him in the face.

“Excuse me?” she asked.

Her snarl, her scrunched eyebrows. She eyed Jeffrey with a look he’d never received before. The adrenaline coursed through him.

“I’m feeling feisty today,” he admitted. “It’s my birthday. I thought you’d like to take me out for a coffee.” Jeffrey could barely contain his smile. He didn’t even like coffee, and here he was, lying point blank to her about drinking it.

“F you, buddy,” she said, shaking her head and turning toward the window.

Well, dad, I tried.

The bus came to a clumsy halt, and Jeffrey got up, mentally calculating how long it would take him to jog back home. He hopped off the bus and stopped to catch his bearings.

“Hey, buddy,” a voice said. He turned around. It was the woman, following him off the bus. “I changed my mind. How about that birthday coffee?”

Jeffrey raised an eyebrow. “Sure?” he managed. “But…why?”

She shrugged. “You seem like a bad boy. I always stayed away from bad boys, and look at where that got me.” She raised her arms defeatedly. “Maybe it’s time I made a change.” Before Jeffrey knew it, she had looped her arm in his. “I can’t believe I’m doing this, but why the hell not? There’s this crazy fancy coffee shop down the street, and I’ve got forty bucks in tips from last shift. Knock yourself out, birthday boy.”

Jeffrey walked in lock-step with her, probably the way a bad boy would, and a gentle gust of wind kissed the back of his neck, sending the couple on their way.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

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The Spot Writers – “Ghostly Chat” by Chiara De Giorgi

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme is “Halloween”.

This week story comes from Chiara. Chiara is currently in Berlin, Germany, not quarantined anymore but still doing her best to catch up with semi-abandoned writing projects.

Ghostly Chat by Chiara De Giorgi

New Topic: Halloween

Beheaded Lady wrote: Hi Mommies! Are you sending your ghostlings trick-or-treating this Saturday? My little ones want to go but I am worried.

Not-Undead wrote: Why you worried? What up?

Woman in White wrote: @Not-Undead What happened to your verbs? We are mommies, we should set an example for our ghostlings. Education starts at home!

Not-Undead wrote: @Woman in White You boring, lady.

Beheaded Lady wrote: Can we please go back to the topic of this thread? Let’s discuss Halloween and @Woman in White you can open a new thread about education and grammar, if you wish.

Parisienne_1789 wrote: @Not-Undead LOL You’re funny! @Beheaded Lady do I know you from my past life?

Beheaded Lady wrote: @ Parisienne_1789 Not everyone who’s been beheaded was in Paris in 1789.

Woman in White wrote: I opened a new thread. It’s called “Know your verbs” and it’s open to your ghostlings as well. I will post educational content, so @Not-Undead you’ll have to write and spell correctly, otherwise you’ll be banned.

Not-Undead wrote: @Woman in White Me frightened, lady.

Parisienne_1789 wrote: @Not-Undead LOL

Salem’s Lot_1692: What did I miss? Sorry, my ghostlings are driving me crazy. The little one keeps dismembering and the dog almost ate his kneecap. 

Not-Undead wrote: @Salem’s Lot_1692 @Beheaded Lady worried about Halloween. Know not why. @Woman in White see, me can use verbs too LOL

Woman in White wrote: @Not-Undead you’r hopeless.

Woman in White wrote: @Not-Undead *you are

Woman in White wrote: @Salem’s Lot_1692 I opened a new thread to promote culture and education. You are welcome as long as you promise to write and spell correctly.

Salem’s Lot_1692: Sorry guys, I have to go.Male ghostling is pushing female ghostling in the drier. She’ll get all the sheets dirty. @ Beheaded Lady Why are you worried about Halloween?

Beheaded Lady wrote: Honestly, mommies, where are you living? Don’t you listen to the news? There’s a pandemic going on in the world of the living!

Parisienne_1789 wrote: @Beheaded Lady so what?Our ghostlings are not alive, after all.

Woman in White wrote: @Beheaded Lady Do you think they might catch it? Is it even possible? Oh my Hades, what if it’s possible? What if our little ones get ill? What would happen? I have to research this RIGHT NOW!

Not-Undead wrote: @Woman in White Yo, Sista! Chill! You gonna stroke.

Parisienne_1789 wrote: @Beheaded Lady I don’t think our kind can catch a living’s disease. I wouldn’t worry so much. Halloween’s once a year and our little ones deserve to have fun. Let them play with the little livings, it’s hardly ever done any harm and we’ve been celebrating this for centuries.

Salem’s Lot_1692: What did I miss? Are we doing Halloween or not? Sorry, I don’t have time to read everything, I have to bring the dog to the vet’s and hope that it didn’t chew on the little one’s phalanx too much before swallowing it. Talk to you later.

Woman in White wrote: I’m back! I learned that the living caught the disease from a bat! Can you imagine? A damned bat! A bat is historically a creature of the night, it’s related to our world, not theirs. So if they caught it, I’d say it’s reasonable to assume that we can, too. Which makes @Beheaded Lady’s fears definitely legit! @Not-Undead I can write the word “damned” here, but it won’t be allowed in the other thread. @all Don’t forget to subscribe, I have a lot to share!

Not-Undead wrote: If costumes be bat costumes, we safe!

Woman in White wrote: @Not-Undead honestly! Are you doing it just to annoy me?

Not-Undead wrote: @Woman in White do what? Me puzzled.

Beheaded Lady wrote: @Woman in White Thank you! I think your research it’s relevant and your conclusions are spot-on. Let’s all cancel Halloween and keep the ghostlings at home.

Parisienne_1789 wrote: @Beheaded Lady Excuse me! I’m not cancelling anything. I have worked on my ghostling’s costume for two weeks and he’s wearing it, end of story.

Salem’s Lot_1692: Good news! The phalanx is back in its place! The dog isn’t very happy, though, it had its stomach pumped, poor bastard. @Parisienne_1789 What’s the costume of your little one? My two are going as Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot HA HA HA

Woman in White wrote: @Parisienne_1789 You are only interested in your costume, but that’s selfish. We’re talking about everybody’s safety. If you’re sending your ghostling in the world of the living on Halloween’s night, he can’t have play dates with the others until New Year’s eve, just to be safe.  It’s your choice.

Parisienne_1789 wrote: @Woman in White I don’t think we should all do what you say. You haven’t presented us with a research or reliable information, just a hint that if bats infected the living, then the living can infect us. That’s hardly science. No one in our world has ever said a word about this disease being dangerous for us. We will celebrate and if that means no more play dates with your ghostlings, that’s your loss. @ Salem’s Lot_1692 My little one is going as the Abominable Snowman 😊

Beheaded Lady wrote: Let’s not fight. I thought that this thread could help us make a decision together, but I see that we all have different opinions. I’d rather be safe than sorry, so if any of you want to keep your ghostlings home on Halloween, you can come to my place and we’ll have a small party at home.

Not-Undead wrote: @Beheaded Lady Me likes it! You have not head, but you think nice. I’m in!

Salem’s Lot_1692: SO EVERYBODY GO AT BEHEADED LADY’S PLACE, COOL, WE CAN DRESS UP AND MAYBE I CAN BAKE SOMETHING IF THE LITTLE ONES AND THE DOG LET ME.

Woman in White wrote: @Beheaded Lady That’s a good idea, I and my ghostlings will be there. Thank you for appreciating my research. @Salem’s Lot_1692 you hit the “all caps” key, it’s not polite, it’s as if you were yelling at us.

Parisienne_1789 wrote: If you’re all going to @Beheaded Lady’s place I guess it will be more fun for my ghostling to go there as well and play with all his little friends. We’ll be there. Can I help with the decorations?

Salem’s Lot_1692: @Woman in White I THINK IT’S BROKEN, THE DOG WAS PLAYING WITH THE LAPTOP.

Woman in White wrote: Remember to subscribe to my educational thread!

Beheaded Lady wrote: I’m closing this thread now. See you on Halloween and be safe!

Salem’s Lot_1692: SEE YOU!

<this thread was closed by Beheaded Lady>

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Our COVID Halloween” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s theme is “Halloween”. In this week’s story, Phil Yeats took a Halloween story he prepared a few weeks ago and revised the ending. He submitted the original to Voice.club to meet a deadline a week before Halloween. The story ended late on the afternoon of October thirty-first before any trick-or-treaters arrived. The new ending added his experiences during the actual trick-or-treating during a COVID pandemic Halloween.

***

“Our COVID Halloween” by Phil Yeats

Yellow, orange, and red maple leaves vied for attention on our front yard tree. Our neighbour’s ginkgo seemed to transform itself from green to a uniform yellow overnight. Pumpkins and other gourds adorned walkways, stairs, and porches. Some were carved into jack-o’-lanterns while others remained pristine. Skeletons hanging from tree limbs swayed in the autumn breeze, while black cats with evil-looking yellow eyes peered from behind bushes encrusted with plastic spider webs. Seasonal banners hanging from porch roofs completed the picture of a suburban neighbourhood ready for trick or treaters.

At our house, I’d installed a candy chute, a piece of plastic downspout I attached to our front stair railing. When the hordes descended on us, we could stand on our porch and launch the sugary treats down the spout into baskets and bags. It would provide the mandatory social distancing and entertain the masked marauders.

As afternoon became evening, Mother Nature stepped up. Fog swirled around houses and trees, stirring the multicoloured leaves littering the ground. The city lights, augmented by a harvest moon rising above the eastern horizon, gave the fog an eerie orange glow.

The ambience was perfect. But we heard no screeching of childish voices and saw no black-hatted witches or fairy princesses waving their magic wands. Where were the sidewalk clogging goblins and ghosts with their pillowcases or pumpkin-shaped plastic baskets?

COVID-19’s second wave had descended upon us. Was the Celtic celebration of Samhain, or as we call it, Halloween, in jeopardy? Had the civic government’s restrictions discouraged celebration of the ancient harvest festival, or were parents afraid to send their little darlings door to door demanding treats.

This latest salvo in the pandemic story was truly scary. When, if ever, would life return to normal?

Our first visitor, a little green creature with a long tail who might have been a dinosaur, was no more than two. She arrived long before dark. She couldn’t understand my chute and seemed baffled by the whole process. The neighbour’s bags of goodies pinned on a line made more sense to her. A yellow pumpkin and a tiger who followed the green dinosaur were equally small and equally baffled.

The next arrival, a giraffe who was about four, caught the candy falling from the chute.

The bigger ones dressed as witches and wizards and many characters from modern dramas I didn’t recognize got the hang of catching the candies that flew from the chute. Most seemed impressed.

“WHOA!!!”

“That’s so cool.”

“Awesome.”

“Wow!”

“Wicked.”

The smiles and compliments continued all evening.

By eight, when we ran out of treats, we’d entertained about as many little visitors as usual. A successful Samhain, I thought as I disassembled my chute and retrieved our various decorations. COVID’s efforts to torpedo Halloween had failed miserably.

***

The Spot Writers:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Happy Halloween” by Cathy MacKenzie

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s theme is “Halloween.”

This week’s contribution comes from Cathy MacKenzie. Cathy’s novel, WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama, is available from her locally or on Amazon. MISTER WOLFE, the sequel, will be published before the end of the year. MY BROTHER, THE WOLF, the last of the series, will appear in 2021.
https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/

***

In celebration of Halloween, Cathy shares the following segment from a chapter in MISTER WOLFE:

Clouds hover, making the evening darker, but darkness is apropos on Halloween night.

Paul bounces from foot to foot. This’ll be the first time trick-or-treating without his mother leading him like a baby, and he’s going to have a wonderful night. The downfall will be sharing his haul with Pauline. Next year, no doubt his parents will force him to take the little witch. They’re so overprotective of her it makes him sick.

He laughs, remembering how her sister looked. She really was a witch: long black dress, pointy black hat, black mole on her cheek. One long white hair even protruded from the mole! His mother thought of everything.

He clutches his bag, a stained ivory pillowcase decorated with paper ghosts, witches, and pumpkins, and realizes how corny it looks. He enjoyed the colouring, cutting, and gluing to the fabric, but the dampness is loosening the paper, and the edges of his decorations are curling. The bag is turning into a mess, and kids will tease him. Bully him. Who wants that?

He estimates how long it would take to go up and down the four streets his mother permitted him to canvass and determines he had plenty of time to visit each house. Thankfully, the streets are long, with numerous houses, because four streets usually wouldn’t be enough on Halloween. He has to be home by nine, but as soon as his bag is full, he’ll head back.

By the time he reaches the walkway of 39 Cresthaven Avenue, his bag is half-full of loot. A pumpkin, light flickering between gaps in the squared teeth, beckons from the bottom step of the sprawling porch. The chunky grin mesmerizes him.

His mother warned him to not believe anything he saw or heard while tricking and treating. “Nothing is real,” she said. “Enjoy being a kid and eat your candy. Forget about cavities one day of the year.”

He was stunned. Forget about cavities? From a mother who yelled at him every night to brush so invisible tooth creatures didn’t create caters in his enamel? And when especially annoyed at him, she brushed his teeth, attacking them with the toothbrush like a maniac. She better not do that again. He’s twelve, for Pete’s sake. Almost a teen. Soon he’ll have sex. He watched the act on television once when his mother wasn’t looking, and he’s peeked into his father’s stash of Playboy magazines hidden on the top shelf in the den. If she discovers them, kaboom!

Other years, even though accompanied by his mother, she insisted on rooting through his treat bag after they were home. The previous year, she said, “There are crazies out there. I have to make sure there aren’t needles or disturbed wrappers.”

Needles? Disturbed?

All his mother does is nag, nag, nag. It wouldn’t be so bad if she gave him a bit of praise. Her yelling and nagging scare him as much as the dark, but every October thirty-first, he dons a brave face and dresses in the costume-of-the-year—Elvis, Willy Wonka, a dinosaur, a policeman, a hippie. A different flavour every year.

Oh, can’t forget the clowns. Everyone’s favourite. So easy to mimic them. Terrifying, too, with blood-lipsticked mouths and depressive, ginormous eyes. Despite his fear, he looks forward to clowns when the circus comes to town every July.

But what about now, this moment? And what’s with this pumpkin—the weird orange globe with the shimmering light inside? He shivers.

“Nothing is real, Paul. Pretend everything is okay.”

Pretend. Pretend. Pretend.

He shivers again, presses down on his crimson plastic fireman’s hat, and glances around. No one. No one other than the weird pumpkin head beckoning him from the porch.

He proceeds up the walkway.

Wait! He stops.

Did it move? How did it get to the top step?

“What the heck.” He covers his mouth. His mother will kill him for saying “heck,” but “heck” is better than “hell.” Or “fuck.” He heard the “F” word in school, from the older kids.

“Hey, kid.”

Paul, standing on the bottom step, jumps. “Wha—”

“You there? I’m a good pumpkin, not the bad, scary kind. Not the kind you eat, either. If you ate me, where would I be?” Giggles and laughter echo. “I’d be in your belly then, and what good would that do except fatten you up?”

He looks around. Who spoke? No one’s here but me.

A voice booms. “Me! I’m here.”

What? Pumpkin Head possesses powers?

Paul scratches at goosebumps sprouting on his arms beneath his blue fireman costume.

“Yes, me!” Pumpkin Head screeches.

The flame inside the orange head is strong and straight and doesn’t flicker. “You? My mother warned me about you. About things that look real that aren’t really real.”

“I’m real. I’m here, aren’t I?”

“I—I guess so.”

“Hey, I’m not gonna hurt you.”

“You aren’t?”

“Nah. I’m enjoying life. The dark. The kids who come and go.”

Paul scans the yard. And the street. Empty. “No one’s here but us.”

“Yeah, it’s deserted tonight. For being Halloween and all. But it only takes one, right?”

“One?”

“You,” Pumpkin Head says. “An audience of one. I’m happy you’re here even if there’s no one else.”

“Hmmm, I suppose.” Paul looks around again. Where is everyone?

Neither speaks for several moments.

Paul wavers: should he stay; should he go? Darkness will descend as quickly as a collapsing circus tent. “Be home by nine.”

He clutches his bag to his chest. “Gotta go.”

“Why?”

“My mom’s waiting. She’ll be mad if I don’t get home on time.” Can’t admit he’s spooked. “Yeah, I better run.” Run? I better dash for it.

“Why don’t you take me home with you? I’m lonely. And cold.”

“Really? You want to go home with me?” Why does Pumpkin Head want to go to his house? This house is much grander, and surely the owners are much nicer than his parents.

“Please, take me with you.” Paul had never heard anyone beg as much as this pumpkin. “Okay, then. Let’s go.”

“Blow out my flame first. I don’t want to burn you.”

“Sure. Okay.” Paul stoops and blows.

The pumpkin’s smile disappears.

Paul lifts the plump pumpkin, ensuring he has his pillowcase of loot, too, though not as full as he hoped.

When he reaches his family’s small bungalow, so unlike the grand mansion where he found Pumpkin Head, he sets the pumpkin on the landing. There are no steps, just a worn path on the grass to the slab of cement that mimics a front step.

“You have a match?” Pumpkin Head asks.

“What? Why?”

“I need to see. I can’t see in the dark without my flame.”

“Yeah, okay.”

A few weeks ago, he’d duct-taped a pack of matches to the bottom of the mailbox by the front door. He heard from his father that duct tape works for all kinds of stuff.

He rips the tape from the matchbook, tears off a match, and strikes it against the rough edge.

A flame explodes. Bright. Hot. Pointed.

He removes the lid from Pumpkin Head and lights the wick. Success! He replaces the lid.

“Hey, great job. And I love your loot sack. Your drawings and colouring are amazing.”

Paul grins, standing taller, basking in words of praise.

“Happy Halloween!” Pumpkin Head bellows.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

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Writer Wednesdays – Nitin Sharma

Today, I’m interviewing Nitin Sharma.

Nitin Sharma has authored eight published books and one published short story so far, and he has been working on his several other books at the moment. Most of his published works have been for students preparing for competitive exams, but recently he has shifted his focus mainly on fiction. His short story ‘The Tribe’ was shortlisted for publishing in Dark Moon Digest and was subsequently published by Brave Wings Magazine. He has been invited as a guest speaker in World Book Fair (New Delhi) and other platforms. In addition, he has edited many books. He is a voracious reader.

I asked Nitin:

Q: How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

My first major book was on the subject of Group Discussion and it remained in top five books in its category at Amazon India and other Indian websites. It gave me the confidence to write another three books for students preparing for competitive exams. However, my first work of fiction, a light Indian comedy I named ‘Dear Office, You Suck!’ –even though it was praised and accepted by some Indian publishers— failed to get me the deal I expected, so I self-published it. Since then I have believed that self-publishing is a good option, too, provided that you’re willing to promote your book.

Q: Do you Google yourself?

I did a few times, but I don’t do that anymore.

Q: Which means more to you in your writing career: fame or fortune?

Although fortune matters to everyone, at the moment I’d go for fame. I want at least some of my upcoming books to get loved by people. That would be a great reward for me.

Q: How do you know a story/book is finished?

If the book I’m working on has conveyed the intended message to the reader, or it has fulfilled its purpose of amusing them, then I consider it finished. Deciding that for a non-fiction work is far easier, though.

Q: Does your family support your writing?

Yes. I have been fortunate enough to have such a family and many friends. They love and support my writing.

Q: If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

I’d work harder on improving my English. My primary education had been through Hindi medium and there wasn’t enough emphasis on improving my knowledge of English language. I wish I could go back and tell myself to work harder on my English.

Q: Is there a genre you wish you could write that you can’t?

I guess it won’t be easy for me to write Sci-fi unless I read at least a dozen good Sci-fi works.

Q: How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It depends on the subject matter. I have completed some competitive exam books in less than three months while one of my fantasy books has been waiting to be edited and get published for more than seven years now! Since I work on multiple projects at a time, I really cannot be sure when a book will be ready.

Q: How does your life unfold in a normal writing day?

Apart from writing, I devote time to reading as well, as I consider myself a constant learner. In these days of pandemic, my life has been mostly confined to my own room. I’ve been reading a lot, been chatting with friends on social media, but haven’t been writing as much as I should have, I’m afraid. Yet I manage to write at least three to four times a week. I prefer to write in silent moments of night.

Q: Have you ever cried with one of your characters?

Yes. When something bad happens to a good person or a good character, I feel bad for them.

Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?

No. So far I didn’t have to face it.

Q: What genre do you favour?

I love comedy and horror (especially a mix of the two), though fantasy is another one I love.

Q: Is writing your fulltime job? If not, what is?

Yes, but I also edit books and prepare students for Verbal sections of competitive exams such as GRE, CAT and GMAT.

Q: What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

We should tell the truth. A hero, without their flaws, is not a real person.

Q: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I enjoy the good reviews and learn from positive criticism. If there are any biased negative reviews, I forget about them in a few days. But I can’t deny that I feel good with good ones and bad with bad ones at least for a while.

Q: Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

No.

Q: What was your hardest scene to write?

Generally the erotic moments are not easy for me to write.

Q: Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

A big ego hurts in the long run. It doesn’t let us see our weaknesses.

Q: Have you set goals?

Yes. My goal is to become a much better writer in the next three years.

Q: What books have you self-published?

A light comedy titled ‘Dear Office, You Suck!’, a long story on death and nirvana, and a little free eBook ‘Covid Heroes’ on the true heroes of pandemic era.

Check out Nitin’s work:

COVID HEROES https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1032275

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The Spot Writers – “Butterflies” by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This month’s topic is “Halloween.” This week’s story comes to you from Val Muller, who, despite loving horror, ended up writing something much more upbeat. For more upbeat fun, check out her middle-grade mystery series, Corgi Capers, at www.corgicapers.com.

“Butterflies” by Val Muller

The October sun shone golden and glorious. Seventy-five degrees and sunny. A delightful taste of summer after a week of frost. And what better place to spend such a day than Grandma Lo’s? The huge house was packed with ancient treasures, things from Logan’s parents—two people Jana was too young to have known. The property was beautiful, too: eight apple trees lined the driveway, an acre in the back and a three-acre field next to the house. Grandma Lo kept a garden three quarters of the year, and now it blossomed with kale, carrots, and leeks—and a few straggling tomato plants that refused to succumb to the cold.

Mom and Dad had come to spend the day helping Grandma Lo mend the wooden fence and repair some of the stonework on the wall out back. Grandma was still quite healthy, but there were some tasks an old woman couldn’t handle alone.

But of course, Jana was too young to help. They said if she behaved, she could help paint the boards later. Jana loved any kind of painting, any kind of artwork.

Grandma Lo set Jana up with a plate of cookies and a glass of chocolate milk, as always.

“I can’t believe it’s October already,” Grandma said. “What will you dress as for Halloween?”

Jana smiled and said, through bites of cookie, “I want to be a butterfly. Mom says I’m old enough to make my costume this year, but I’m not sure where to start.”

Grandma Lo smiled. “Follow me to the basement. I’ve got boxes of costumes and clothes from my parents. I haven’t looked through them in years.”

Jana gulped the rest of her milk and grabbed another cookie to eat on the way, then followed Grandma downstairs to the large closet in the corner. Grandma opened a box and laughed. “A dragon costume.” She held up an adult-sized union suit made of fuzzy green material. “I remember the year my dad wore this while parading us around the neighborhood. No trick-or-treating that year, so he dragged us around on a wagon so we could show off our costumes to the neighbors. I was a fairy princess, and my brother was a knight.” She pulled out a plastic knight helmet. It snapped as she opened the visor. “I guess it got brittle with age. Like me.” She laughed. Then she pulled out a sparkly pink fabric square. “This is what my mom made me to match the princess costume.”

“Is that…” Jana asked.

Grandma nodded. “A cloth mask. We all had them. All colors and designs. I remember detesting them at the time—looking forward to when we wouldn’t need them everywhere we went.”

Jana held out her hand, and Grandma dropped the mask into it. “We learned about 2020 in school,” she said. “Our teacher showed us one of these.” Jana demonstrated what she’d learned by donning the mask, pulling the straps behind her ears.

“Crazy the elastic still works.” Grandma shivered. “Funny, seeing you wear that mask brought back so many memories. Time with my parents, my brother.” Grandma wiped a tear. “Who’d think I’d get all nostalgic about it sixty years later?”

She shook her head and smiled apologetically at Jana. “I have to go help your Mom and Dad. Got a couple of boards loose, and those neighbors do like to complain. You can look through all these boxes. Lots of clothes and costumes in here from my parents and from me growing up. Whatever you find, you’re welcome to use. I’m sure you can find a butterfly somewhere in there. There’s glue, yarn, scissors.” She pointed to her art desk along the wall. “Help yourself, my darling.”

Grandma ascended the stairs, still wiping her eyes, and Jana’s skin prickled. The basement was fully finished, but it was still creepy. All basements were. Something in the furnace room creaked, and Jana fought the urge to run upstairs. She was old enough this year to make her own costume, and she wasn’t going to let herself get scared away until she did.

But how to make a butterfly? The costumes here were anything but—a skeleton suit, a monster mask, dragon, pirate, witch hat. All scary stuff. No butterfly.

She tried another box. The rest of the crackling plastic suit of armor. A reaper robe.

Another box. A flowing quilt of a skirt folded neatly on top, and underneath—scraps and scraps of colorful fabric. They seemed to flutter with the rush of air when she removed the skirt. Then, leaning behind the box, a plastic sleeve of thin wooden dowels. A noise in the furnace room jarred Jana again, but this time it didn’t break her smile. She was too old to be scared, she decided.

* * *

With the fence almost finished, Logan wiped sweat from her brow and started back to the house, promising to bring glasses of cold lemonade to her daughter and son-in-law. Despite the beautiful day, the heat of October was oppressive, somehow; and since talking with Jana, her mind had gotten stuck in 2020. The memories felt like shackles, like a weight dragging down her brittle bones. Those had been rough years. She remembered having only wanted to get past them.

But those years were far behind her. She’d been so young. She’d had a full life since then. Why did they bother her now?

Oh, they were beautiful, too, in some ways. So much had changed with the pandemic, though of course life returned to normal after. It always does. Those too young to remember, though—they simply couldn’t appreciate it. Two years of distance learning. A year of cancelled plans. Yet more downtime than Logan had ever experience before or since.

“Look at me,” she whispered to herself. “Crying like the old woman I promised myself I’d never become.” It wasn’t that the memories were so painful. Maybe it was just the lack of closure. There was never any kind of declaration, no celebration of a global vaccine, no declared end, no Armistice Day. Things simply faded back to normal. Slowly.

Logan wiped away sweat and tears with the edge of her shirt as she came to the rock wall at the back of the house. There, in a flutter of color, was Jana. She wore two beautiful five-point wings that looked like they were made from wooden dowels and yarn and…could it be?

Logan stepped behind a tree to enjoy the girl’s dance without disturbing her. Jana had tied the wings to her arms so that they flapped when she moved. They were a tapestry of color, a mosaic of memory. All those masks—her mother’s, her father’s, her brother’s, her own—Paw Patrol and paisley, Spiderman and soccer, snowmen and picnics. Every flutter of the pattern was a rush of memory.

The autumn sun glowed against that fabric with its special light—the magical way it turns everything golden. The breeze kicked up, causing the dry psithurism of aging autumn leaves, a whoosh less pleasing than its summertime counterpart but still soothing nonetheless. 

Four dozen colorful masks transformed into wings, the weight of the pandemic completely gone from them. They took flight in front of Logan’s eyes as she stepped out from behind the tree, into that transformative golden sunlight that tickled her face like the kiss of butterfly wings, into the winged arms of her granddaughter.    

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.ca/

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Writer Wednesdays – Barbara Carter

This week, Writing Wicket showcases Barb Carter.

Barbara Carter (Langille), artist and author, was born in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. She grew up and lived outside the town of Mahone Bay until moving to the Halifax area in 2002.

I asked Barb:

Q: Do you try more to be original or delivered to readers what they want?

I try to be original and also deliver a story to readers. I don’t want to follow a set formula or do as others have done or fit into what is popular at the moment. I’ve always been original when it comes to my visual artwork and I want to try to do the same as a writer.

Q: How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

Like in the opening lines of the old TV Star Trek show, I’m talking ‘60s: to boldly go where no man has gone before.

My goal is to keep the reader interested and engaged in the story while taking them to places they may never have personally gone.

Sometimes it could get a bit uncomfortable for some.

Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Well since I write nonfiction I feel that what I owe the real people in my life is a name change.

I try to reveal as little as possible about them, and only include them where it’s necessary in the telling of my story.

Q: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have several unpublished and half-finished writings projects.

My first book took sixteen years before it came together. Sometimes I thought it never would.

Q: What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

The most unethical practices in the publishing industry is in the so-called vanity area, with new authors not researching and learning enough about how the publishing industry works. Authors handing over lots of money to a publisher who has no incentive in what happens after the book is printed and paid for by the author.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve several writing projects on the go. Some days it depends on my mood and where inspiration strikes. Most of the fifth memoir is written and I’m working on the first draft of another one. I’m also interested in writing personal essays. And also have a screenplay started.

Q: As a child, what did you want to be?

As a child I wanted to be a teacher, thinking at the time my only options were nurse, secretary, or teacher.

In my teens I wanted to be an artist or a writer. For some reason I felt I couldn’t be both.

I guess I’ve always been connected to what I wanted to be. I’ve fulfilled them all in one way or another. For many years I instructed art classes and more recently writing workshops.

Q: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

If spirituality is what connects you to a sense of a deeper connection to yourself and others, then yes, I view it as a spiritual practice.

Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

Since I write non-fiction, from what I’ve experienced, my characters are based on the actions of the men I’ve encountered.

I like thinking of them not as some kind of alien enemy, but as vulnerable and as human and sometimes scared as us women.

I gained much more appreciate and understanding of males by raising a son.

Q: What do you like least about writing?

That it takes so long to do!

Other than that I really enjoy it all, from the first draft, rewriting, and editing. All of it.

Q: What your favourite part about writing?

My favourite part of writing is after the first draft is done, when I start fleshing out the story. Balancing showing and telling. Where to add dialogue, and where to summarize Writing the first draft is very draining for me.

I find revisions and edits more relaxing and fun.

Q: How many hours a day do you write?

Because of my chronic pain condition I cannot work long hours.

Everything I do in life is done in small chunks, pacing myself from one activity to another. Balancing my life as best I can. Fatigue is  a constant companion.

I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking for dictating.

One hour or two at the most is a good day of writing for me.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

What I hope to accomplish with my writing is to be able to touch readers in a way that makes them feel less alone. To connect with others.

Also to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren.

That no one else tells my story as a white-washed fairy tale, I want it raw and real.

So many people leave this world and we never really know who they were.

I want to leave who I was behind.

Q: What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)

I spend quite a bit of time writing about my early years, teen and young adult.

Learning from those past experiences, seeing them with new eyes.

Exploring what shaped me into the people I’ve become.

 Q: What’s the most you’ve ever edited out of a book? Did it bother you to do so?

I’ve taken out several chapters. Parts that weren’t strong enough or important enough in the story. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to leave in, what to take out. It’s a balancing act.

If it bothers me to cut parts out, I stick the writing in another folder where maybe someday it can be worked in another story. That makes it much easier to remove.

Q: What motivates you (in writing or otherwise)?

What motivates me is believing my writing has a purpose.

That my stories can offer hope to someone else.

To inspire others to be themselves, not to worry what others think, to be follow my dreams.

Q: Are you ever upset when you finish the story, that your characters have said all they’re going to say?

Well, since most of my characters are nonfiction I can only be upset with what they’ve done in real life. Some left much too soon. Some could have said so much more.

Q: Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?

One book that stands out in that regard is: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson.

In that book she refers to writing fiction as: I wrote a story I could live with. The other one was too painful. I could not survive it.

Some may need that to present their story as fiction because it’s easier to deal with. I get that.

Q: As a writer, what would you choose as your Mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I think I would stick with a bird image. I use a lot of bird imagery in my artwork. Dah! The covers on my memories all feature bird images.

A bird can glide above it all, look down, land if it wants, and simply fly away again.

Q: What books have you published?

Floating in Saltwater: a young girl’s search for answers

Balancing Act: memoir of a teenage breakdown

Loose Gravel: memoir of running from grief

SAD Girl, BAD Girl, and I (a collection of poems & art)

And my latest book, Ain’t Easy

Amazon USA (Ain’t Easy)

Or

I’ve now changed from using the bird images to using photos of myself from the time period when the book takes place.

List your blog/website or other important links

Barbara’s Facebook Page:

Or

https://www.facebook.com/Barbara-Carter-709937872489827/

Barbara’s Web Page:

Or

http://www.barbaracarterartist.com/index.html

Goodreads

Or

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16278274.Barbara_Carter

Instagram

http://www.instargram.com/barbaracartermahonebay/

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Writer Wednesdays – David A. Wimsett

Today, Writing Wicket presents David A. Wimsett.

David writes novels and short stories as well as articles, columns and blogs for newspapers, magazines, corporations, and online platforms. He has appeared on radio and television talk shows and as an actor in musicals, comedies and dramas.

He became a single parent in his twenties and both raised and guided his son into adulthood.

The stories he writes follow characters as they grow and have the opportunity to examine themselves and their place in the world on a deep level. His works are intended to entertain and inform all readers while creating strong, complex female and male characters who face realistic challenges in their lives.

Mr. Wimsett is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, representing Canadian authors such as Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, as well as the Canadian Freelance Guild representing freelance journalists.

He lives in a rural Nova Scotia town near the sea.

His author’s website is http://www.davidawimsett.com.

I asked David:

Q: If you could be any author, who would it be and why?

J.R.R. Tolkien. I love stories based on myth and I love creating and studying languages and cultures.

Q: What is the first book that made you cry?

I’m not certain.

Q: What are your favourite literary journals?

I don’t read many literary journals. I read the New Yorker and pick up copied of Fiddleheads and other journals from time to time

Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?

There are many, but here are two that can help new writers.

Watch the overuse of adjectives. Writing something like, “It was extremely cold. Even with their heavy coats on, they found it very difficult to keep comfortable.” The second sentence could be written, “Even with their coats on, they found it difficult to keep comfortable.” This conveys the same information. It may seem that adding extra adjectives heightens descriptions or tension, but it can slow the pace and reduce clarity.

Use the word “said” instead of verbs like cajoled, snapped, questioned, quipped or the like to indicate who is speaking. When readers see the word “said” written, it becomes invisible and they concentrate on the dialogue. When verbs are used, readers must process them and the story is slowed. It may be thought that these verbs convey a character’s thoughts or emotions. Instead of using them, let the context give hints as to emotions, motivations and thoughts. For example, “Lighting flashed across the sky. She said, ‘You will never have my land.’” The use of weather or other outside actions can indicate the mood of the character who is speaking and meld into the story without slowing it. You can also demonstrate a physical aspect of the character, as in, “Jake clenched his jaw as the heat of a flush flashed came his cheeks. ‘Stand back.’” The fact that Jake clenches his jaw and feels a flush indicates that he is angry. Notice that the word “said” is not used in this example. It is not needed. The reader will associate Jake’s reaction with who is speaking.

I advise authors to buy a copy of Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. This little 4.24” X 7” 98 page book contains the basics of grammar and style in an understandable presentation. It covers rules of usage, elementary principals elements of composition, form, words and expressions commonly misused words and an excellent essay by E.B. White titled “An Approach to Style” that calls for clear and concise writing. Never use a fifty cent word when a ten cent word will do. The mechanics of form should get out of the way so the message can come through. Grammar and style are tools that writers use to create their art. The more writers learn about their tools, the better they can express their ideas. Yet, writers can produce professional prose using just the suggestions and examples in this book.

Q: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I do extensive research for all of my novels, historical, science fiction and fantasy.

 For historical novels, I read books and articles on the location, purchase magazines from the time period (the ads are a great source for research into social norms), go to travelogue presentations, research the Internet and make trips to the places where the book is set to experience the place, the people and their culture. One thing to be conscious of is not to fill a book with everything discovered from research. In fiction, readers want a story with interesting characters. Instead of putting down all the historical information as though you are writing a text book, select key elements to give the impression of the time and place. Blead these into the action. If your story takes place in 1901 and you wanted to describe the clothing, you could write, “Tom felt the high, starched collar of his shirt rub uncomfortably against his neck in the humid heat.”

For science fiction, I researched current and projected science and technology to tell a story that sounded plausible.

For fantasy, I consulted historical references for ships, carts, building design, costume, food, diverse cultures and language construction to create my world. Fantasy is historical fiction set in an imaginary environment.

Q: What is your favourite childhood book?

Oddly, I didn’t read very much as a child. It wasn’t until I entered Junior High that I started reading voraciously. It is also when I started writing.

Q: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

The first draft. I love it and I hate it. Once I get the framework of the story and characters, rewriting becomes a joy. I rewrote  nine drafts of the latest book.

Q: Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It always energizes me. I lose compete track of time and become immersed in the work. I never play music, but even if music is playing in the background or there are other  sounds around me, they vanish from my consciousness. I started my latest book on a paper notebook in a noisy Mexican restaurant. I didn’t hear a thing.

Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If you write under one now, why did you do so?

I have considered using pseudonyms based on different spelling of my name, such as D. Alan Wimsett or D.A. Wimsett, when I write in different genres to distinguish types of books. I am still undecided.

Q: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

That depends on what the person is writing. An action adventure story or a spy thriller might be plot driven in which the characters only exist to move the story along. There’s nothing wrong with books like that. They can be very entertaining. The stories I write delve into the emotions of characters and explore who they are, even though my books have complex plots and story lines.

Q: If you could start over again in your writing career, what would you do differently?

Nothing. It required the route I took to get where I am, both in learning craft and experiencing life so I can write about it. It hasn’t all been pretty, but it’s rarely been dull.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I know who I am and change constantly. As I experience life, I am influenced by the people and situations I encounter. This gives me the ability to see things from new perspectives. Change is generally organic for me, though I keep threatening to learn more French just because I think it’s the most pleasing, musical sounding language on the planet.

Q: What book(s) have you written?

Beyond the Shallow Bank – Women’s fiction with a hint of magical realism

Something on My Mind – A science fiction novelette exploring what we give up for convenience

Dragons Unremembered: Volume I of the Carandir Saga – An epic fantasy set in a world of gender equality where women and men have the same rights, opportunities and authority. The book contains magic, dragons, battles, political intrigue, fantastic creatures, legends, poetry and songs that I composed especially for the novel. I placed complete musical scores with lyrics in an appendix.

Half Awakened Dreams: Volume II of the Carandir Saga – The contrition of the series in which the monarchs seek to subdue an evil dragon while traitorous nobles who were exiled return to claim their former lands and oppress the minority population.

Coming in 2021 – The Dragon Covenant: Volume III of the Carandir Saga.

Your blog/website or other important links:

https://www.davidawimsett.com
@davidawimsett
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100015973517594
https://www.facebook.com/capesplitpress
amazon.com/author/davidwimsett
https://booklife.com/profile/david-a-wimsett-36547 https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17501777.David_A_Wimsett

I am a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada and the Canadian Freelance Guild.

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The Spot Writers – “Reading at the Writing Group” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write something with these words:

emotion, thumb, copyright, chapter, misery.

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. In December 2019, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

*****

“Reading at the Writing Group” by Phil Yeats

Beth whispered as Maurice rose to read his response to their writing group’s monthly prompt. “Not showing much emotion considering Claire’s choice of prompt.”

“Very benign,” Susan replied, smiling. “His hatred of prompts based on randomly chosen words is legendary.”

Maurice cleared his throat and opened his notebook. “William Stockton strode along the country road, swinging his left arm with fingers curled and thumb extended in the time-honoured tradition of hitchhikers everywhere. The sputtering engine and the screech of brakes signalled the arrival of his neighbour, Penny Braithwaite.

“She leaned across the cabin of her ancient Morris Mini Minor and opened the passenger door. ‘If you’re heading for the lawyer’s office, you’ll never make it.’

“Maurice turned and leaned into the tiny car. ‘I dithered, and then my stupid old heap wouldn’t start.’

“‘Jump in. My trusty steed will get us there with seconds to spare. But why wouldn’t you attend. That fool Doug Swindler has breached the copyright laws by including chapters from our books without permission.’

“Her car sagged when Maurice lowered his hundred plus kilos into the passenger seat. It belched a great fart of blue exhaust as Penny opened the throttle and released the clutch.

“‘Swindler!’ Maurice shouted as the old Morris lurched ahead. ‘Taking our books, changing the endings and republishing them under his name?’

“‘Nope. New story. He started with a chapter he wrote, added one he stole from one of us, then one or two of his own, another of ours, more of his, etcetera. Eighty thousand words. Twenty-three chapters stolen verbatim. The only things he changed were character names.’

“‘And he produced a story that makes sense?’ When Penny nodded, he added, ‘this I gotta read.’”

Maurice closed the notebook where he’d recorded his story. He sat without cracking a smile or displaying any other emotion.

Susan turned to Beth while holding her hand in front of her face. She didn’t want Claire to see her reaction to the latest engagement in Maurice and Claire’s petty battle over writing prompts. “Look at her—Misery incarnate.”

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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