To be honest this was an easy prompt for me as the character written about, Petal Soft, is one from my children’s chapter book.
Petal Soft flew in and out of the long grass in the meadow, stopping occasionally to inspect a flower, one here, and one there. Her fairy wings glistened in the sunshine. She was looking for the perfect hat. The snowdrop hat she wore was tattered and worn now and it was time to replace it. With the warmth of spring sunshine and gentle showers the meadow grew lush. The green grass was dotted with all the colours of the rainbow by beautiful flowers opening their petals to the sky.
Should she choose yellow, which was a bright cheerful colour or red to be more dramatic at the fairy dance? As she flew back and forth, Petal Soft considered each flower and its colour carefully. The dance was a special one not only to celebrate spring but also to mingle with fairies from far and wide. Petal wanted to meet a certain fairy whose magic was said to be more powerful than any other. If Petal could learn just one of those extraordinary spells she would be so happy.
Along the edge of the meadow grazing contently stood three deer, they glanced up as Petal passed by but were not alarmed. She smiled and flew forward and gasped in surprise when she saw the most beautiful flower. It was a woodland orchid almost hidden in the shade of a birch tree. Its soft cream colour was splashed with bright pink it was perfect.
Bowing low, Petal asked the flower if she could take it. A whisper of wind was the only answer needed. Plucking the flower from the stem, Petal turned the petals this way and that appreciating their beauty.
On the night of the dance, Petal Soft adorned her head with the stunning orchid and wore a cream dress so as not to detract from its beauty. When she flew into the gathering place all heads turned to admire her hat.
She met the elder that night and became her apprentice learning special spells all because her orchid hat was the most beautiful.
I’m sharing my story of my first visit to Canada – this will be published in my writing group’s Canada 150 special anthology.
My First Taste of Canada by Mandy Eve-Barnett
My first visit to Canada was in the early eighties, a last big vacation before starting up my company, knowing vacations would be impossible for at least a few years while the company grew. I believed, at the time, that it would be a once in a lifetime trip.
Arriving in Edmonton in late July invaded my senses with big city life. A country girl all my life with only occasional trips to London, UK for art galleries, museums and shows, the buzz of the city around me was hard to acclimatize to – the heat, noise, fumes, people and sirens – all assaulted my senses. Added to this was attending the unforeseen wedding ceremony and reception of a distant cousin. My mind became blurred at names and faces of people I had no real knowledge of before that day. Maybe a few too many glass of cheer didn’t help!
The next day my Uncle and Aunt took me on a tour of the city sights, I marveled at the height of the buildings – glass and metal reflected the heat and I quickly became uncomfortable. Air conditioning, an unknown phenomenon until then, was soon my best friend. Large department stores all encased in cool aired malls saved me from heat exhaustion. Fashions, ornaments, accents and manners intrigued and delighted me. An evening meal at a nice restaurant satisfied, but a visit to a local club with a younger cousin was more enlightening than first expected. The club looked like many discos of the era and it took me a while to realize the absence of young men. Not knowing my cousin very well I was wary to ask the obvious question. All was revealed once we sat down and the lights dimmed. One after the other male strippers entertained the all female audience. With a room full of excited and tipsy women the doors opened to the young men who had queued outside waiting on nine o’clock. It was certainly an experience!
My Uncle and Aunt owned a small RV and this was our mode of transport to Vancouver, their home town. Our route would take us through the Rocky Mountains and until I saw those magnificent structures I had no field of reference to their size and magnitude. Used to rolling hills and lush greenery these monoliths in dark steel grey, snow capped and craggy were awe inspiring. Mile upon mile of evergreen firs spread outwards in all directions, rising sharply to the base of the mountains and becoming sparse on the rocky outcrops. Taking it all in was mind blowing; my head turned this way and that at speed trying not to miss a single view, a glimpse of a wild animal or roaring river.
After several hours we took a rest stop in what seemed to me an isolated cabin restaurant overlooking a lake. The food was good, the ability to walk and stretch even more welcome. Just as we were leaving a thundering sound filled the air and the owner of the establishment urged us outside. Fearing something awful was about to happen I stayed close to my Uncle. We stood in awe as an avalanche crashed its way down the mountainside on the far side of the lake. The sound echoed around us, the ground beneath our feet shivered, and our chests felt the shock wave of air as it rushed past. In that moment I understood the absolute power of nature, trees snapped like twigs, huge boulders rolled and were consumed and the landslide of snow and ice crashed into the lake water making a tidal wave. Nothing could stop that power, that motion.
When the last of the avalanche snow slid downwards, we returned into the restaurant by kind invitation of the owner to celebrate with a glass of champagne. He admitted in the fifteen years he had owned the restaurant it was the first avalanche he had seen. We were there no more than an hour and a half and witnessed such a spectacular event. I will always remember the sight and sound of that avalanche it has stayed with me for decades.
Our onward journey was not without more adventure however. The temperature dropped quite significantly as we drove further into the Rocky Mountain range and I huddled under a blanket, peering out at the scenery that changed dramatically as the sky became overcast. Snowflakes began to fall much to my surprise but not to my Uncle and Aunt, who assured me it was common in the higher altitudes. The snow fell heavier and the mountains disappeared under a white curtain. Our reduced speed and burgeoned windshield wipers made me anxious but my Aunt comforted me saying my Uncle had driven in such conditions before. Then there was a sputter, a sudden decrease in speed and then all was quiet. The engine died and I saw my relative’s shoulders tense. Now what? Unfurling a map my Uncle plotted his route and estimated our location.
“There is a hotel around the next bend, if I’m correct on our position. We will make it that far.”
Easing the RV along slowly he inched our way toward the hoped for hotel. At the bend we saw a grey shape materialize and formed into a hotel. Spluttering to the front of the building the RV stalled as if to say my work is done. There were only a couple of vehicles outside the hotel so my Uncle went in to investigate. On his return he advised us the hotel staff were working on a grand opening after a refurbishment and that they were not actually open yet. However, understanding our predicament they made up a couple of rooms for us and one young man helped fix the RV the following morning, allowing us to continue to Vancouver. A place I really loved mainly due to the ocean view and salty air so like home for me.
Canada is now my home and I have come to know a small part of it through incredible road trips with my dear friend, Linda. I will never ‘see’ all of Canada – the continent is just too vast but my experiences and friendships have given me some knowledge of Canada and it’s inhabitants.
Is “Sanctuary” based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Sort of. My day job is animal training, and I was at a major behavior & training conference where a colleague (the fantastic Ken Ramirez) shared his progress in exploring counting in dogs. He had some pretty cool work going (and it’s gotten even more amazing since).
That night at dinner I sat next to Ken, and I told him he’d given me a short story idea. We laughed over it, and ultimately that wasn’t the direction the story went, but that’s where it started.
Is this your first time writing about corvids and/or scarecrows?
Yes, this is my first time with a corvid as a real character, though her role is supporting at best. Not the first time with an animal character, though. As I said, my day job is animal behavior, so I get pretty picky about animal characters and they need to be done right!
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I… I don’t even know how to answer this. Like, what do you enjoy most about eating, the fact that it’s necessary to nourish your body or that it can taste so amazingly good or that we often make it a social bonding experience or that we can do it in so many different and wonderful ways? Yeah, that’s like enjoying writing. It’s almost too big a question.
I really like telling stories. And while a story might have a theme or even, occasionally, a message, the story is the point. No message will be carried well by a lame story. But a good story is self-sufficient and can, if it needs to, convey a message.
What worries you about writing?
Sometimes I worry that people read into stories and make judgments which might not be valid.
Obviously if a character says something racist or sexist, that’s the character’s view, and not the author’s view. That’s an easier concept to defend, especially if it’s a villain talking. But sometimes literary critiquing gets overambitious and generalizes. Someone might point out that I have a villainous activist in this story, for example, and that means I am opposed to animal welfare. But animals are both my profession and my hobby, I love them and I want them to be happy and healthy! You can’t connect a line from a single point. But the internet is good at reacting.
What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I know I had a collection of hand-written tales by eight or nine, but I can’t be certain when I actually started writing. I wrote a lot during class in middle and high school; it was more interesting than algebra. Though I recall those stories now and laugh at how dreadful they are even just in memory. I’m scared to rummage through and see if I still have those notebooks – they’re probably even worse in reality!
Where do you get your ideas?
The better question for writers might be, how do you avoid being overwhelmed by the onslaught of ideas? I don’t think I’ve ever known a serious writer who complained for lack of ideas.
Story germs are everywhere. As I said, the inspiration for “Sanctuary” came from a work conference. A single photograph I took at a ruined Roman bath added about 150,000 words to my epic fantasy series in progress. An interesting factoid about the disgrace and ruin of a 15th century Islamic general, picked up fifteen years ago as I was researching something else, popped up in my head last year as a historical fantasy short.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Wow. Um, never is a really big word, so I really can’t think of one.
What book are you reading now?
I’ve actually just started a non-fiction book my sister gave me for my birthday, an overview of influential and/or maligned women in history called Bad Girls. I pull a lot of starting ideas from history, so I really like nerdy stuff. Plus, I like women who accomplish things.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I’m self-employed as an animal trainer, so it’s an easy leap to be self-employed in writing, too. Though I have to say, since self-employment is typically described as “twice the hours for half the wages,” doing it double is not necessarily smart!
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
Oh gosh yes. Dark chocolate is my writing vice of choice. If I’m pretending to be healthy, it’s dark chocolate covered almonds, though I will happily accept other options.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Probably regretting my unrestrained indulgence in dark chocolate…..
What is your best marketing tip?
On social media, be yourself and be interesting. (No, those aren’t incompatible, because you’re a writer. If your writing is interesting, your talk about it and yourself should be interesting.) If your Twitter feed is nothing but book-spam, I’m quitting you so hard. But if you are an interesting person, I’ll probably be interested in what you write.
When you do talk about your book, tell me what makes it interesting. Dark lord, artefact, star-crossed lovers, I see a dozen of those at a glance. Even if your book has one or several of those – nothing is wholly original! — tell me why I should read yours over the others.
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
I have too many “next projects”! It’s a very bad personal weakness.
I have an epic fantasy series I’ve been writing for over a decade which hasn’t been published yet. I hope to get it into the light of day in the next year.
I have a fantasy serial for which I likewise haven’t started release yet, because I knew my schedule would be unreliable. I’m having a lot of fun with it, though; it’s alternately funny and gritty and traditional high fantasy and your favorite anime.
And then I have a couple of short stories which I’ll be sending out soon, including my first science fantasy. Fingers crossed.
Laura VanArendonk Baugh was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame her childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth and unable to walk, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she’d become a behavior analyst, a costumer/cosplayer, a chocolate addict, and a fiction and non-fiction writer.
I have always loved writing. When I was younger, I would write and illustrate stories. Then my mother would staple the spine and tell me it was a real book. I believed her. From that time I have always wanted to finish a novel and then see my name on the cover. I met some really great people going to a writing group and through them and their organization I was luckily able to submit my story for the anthology and see it come to fruition.
How did you come up with the title?
The title of my story is The Red Portal. I had the story completely finished and couldn’t find a name. I asked for ideas. A combination came back and I actually took two that my sister sent to me and put them together.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?
This will be my first published story. I have finished two other novels and I am working on my third. None of them have been published yet, but I am just starting the querying process.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want readers to embrace their uniqueness. It is what helps them to stand out and make them who they are. It is also what makes the world so fun. If we are all the same and afraid to stand out then all creativity is lost. I hope to give the message to my children that they should just be who they are. That person is the very best.
How much of the book is realistic?
The thoughts and feelings of Isabelle are very real. The surroundings and actions, however, are very much a part of dreams.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Most of the characters are not based on anyone real, but combined ideas of a lot of people around me. However, the stern and overprotective nature of Grandmother is very reminiscent of my own Grandmother growing up. She loved me very much, fiercely even, but in my youth I didn’t quite understand that. I often misunderstood that to mean disappointment when it may not have been at all.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I learned so much through the whole process of writing to publication. The number of rewrites and updating is overwhelming at best. I met a lot of great people and the thickness of my skin definitely increased. I am very proud of the final result and really excited to share it.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Writing is something that I love and publishing a book has always been a dream of mine. I am so thankful to those that have supported me on the journey and continue to support me, and the others in the anthology, by buying the book and future books as well.
What is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?
I love that Isabelle is real. I feel connected with her thoughts and feelings. I love how she pushes boundaries and finds the secret door.
What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
I love writing and reading fantasy. There is something easy about getting lost in another world. I also love crime fiction books and have completed writing one in that genre as well.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I am not sure there is a subject that would be off-limits if I found a story it in and felt a connection to it. There are many that I am not sure I would be daring enough to write about, but I would not say never.
What book are you reading now?
I am currently reading the The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (audiobook), Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner (e-book) and The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (paperback). I usually have a couple going at a time so no matter what format I need I have a good book ready. .
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
There are a few other authors in the anthology that I have read and really enjoyed. I am anxiously waiting for their newest releases. Lehua Parker writes the Niuhi Shark Saga. Christine Haggerty is set to release the second book in her Acquisitions Series. Angela Hartley just released her first in Copper Decent. I have enjoyed all of Johnny Worthen’s books and I can’t forget Teri Harman as I just finished her Blood Moon book in the Moonlight Trilogy. There are great authors in our anthology and I am still reading them all.
Do you see writing as a career?
I do. It sure takes enough work. I am looking forward to being able to spend more time writing and hope to make a full career doing so one day.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I have young kids so they will just be getting into high school by then. I will be chasing them, probably about as much as I do now, but I also see myself writing more and fully see a published book that is all my own too.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding the time to write is probably the most challenging. My family comes first, so my time to write often happens when I should be sleeping. I am learning to write through the noise when I get a chance.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
I don’t remember hating anything I have written but there are some that I look at and I know they aren’t quite ready to show to the world.
What book do you wish you had written?
I have always loved Hatchet by Gary Paulson. I think this is the first book that gave me a love for reading on my own. A love for dreaming. I would love to have written this book and given such a passion to another young reader.
What is your best marketing tip?
Be brave. Take chances and get yourself out there. Talk to people, send emails, and ask for help. You have more reach than you know and each person you meet or connect with, they have reach too.
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
I am just starting to send queries on a fantasy novel strong in Native American Folklore.
Here is a basic introduction:
After running from her past for four hundred years, Hania, a Golem, discovers that someone she once knew is the oppressive leader responsible for the lack of hope and compassion in America. An understanding of the Native American history and folklore, that tells her where she came from, may be the key to her own survival. She must decide if she will open her painful history and draw from her experiences during the Trail of Tears and World War I to fight her way back to finding her self-worth and become the leader she needs to be. With her unusual companions—a snarky run-away, a free-spirited musician, and an elderly medicine—she embarks on a quest to defeat, Halleck, a leader set on controlling mankind through his army of Seminole warriors. The only way she can see to win, is to create an army of Golem women warriors.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
My story The Red Portal will be in the Secrets and Doors Anthology:
“The Secrets and Doors Society is committed to opening new doors by supporting the research of a common, but terrible, disease. Type One Diabetes (T1D) is a disease that can affect children and adults. Over time, T1D can damage nerves, organs, and extremities. The only current treatment is a lifetime of blood sugar monitoring, and insulin injections.
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) is studying the prevention of the autoimmune attack that can evolve into T1D. They are working toward eradicating the need for insulin by keeping insulin producing beta cells alive. JDRF’s ultimate goal is to stop T1D before it starts, by creating a universal vaccine. All proceeds for Secrets and Doors will go to JDRF in support of their mission to treat and eradicate T1D.”
Bio: MeriAnn Boxall resides in the mountains of Northern Utah with her husband and two children. A work-at-home mom she has a Master’s in Business Administration and most often finds herself teaching college courses online and writing grants for nonprofit organizations. Growing up in a small town rich with culture she developed a love for the art of storytelling. She is an avid reader who loves being outdoors, boating, and trail-running in the mountains that surround her home.
Please say hello to Mandi, a prolific writer of short stories, who has a multitude of work linked all over the place! Hence today’s word – Nexus – definition 1) connection, link; a causal link 2) a connected group or series 3) center, focus.
a.Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? I did a steampunk story where the main character worked for the King and was part of the Underground (a secret movement against him). There was just something about her and her high-button boots that made me really like her. b.Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? Generally, I write some type of fantasy or science fiction, but I’ve been known to write just about everything. c.What do you enjoy most about writing? Being able to deal with my problems, on my own time, with my preferred outcome. Somebody makes you mad? Write them into a story and kill them. Having body issues? Write about a character with the same issue and see where that character’s life takes them. In love with somebody? Write a love story. You get the idea. d.Have you got a favorite place to write? Wherever I’m productive at the moment. It goes in waves. For a while, it was curled up in bed with my laptop, but now I can’t seem to be productive anywhere that isn’t somewhat formally set up – desk, dinner table, etc. e.Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? A little of both. I tend to write timelines – A happens, X happens, birthdays, major events, etc. I want to know the order of the important stuff, but let the journey take us there however it wants to. f.What inspires your stories? Everything. My mood, something I saw on television, dreams, photographs, offhanded comments, other people (my favorite project ever involves getting strangers to send me story prompts on postcards), whatever. Sometimes I just hit the keys of my laptop until fhjasdaqkw actually turns into real words and something happens. g.What are you currently reading? Um… I run a book review blog, so my TBR/currently reading pile is usually about ten books high. Right now I’m in the middle of Eric Wilson’s novella Amelia’s Last Secret, AJ Scudiere’s latest novel, Phoenix, Janine K Spendlove’s 2nd book in her Seasons trillogy (War of the Seasons: The Half Blood), and books about both Tolkien and Roald Dahl’s war time service. h.Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories? I have a lump on my ass from when I fell on a Lego house at the age of 11. You mean like that, or something different? Honestly, my childhood was pretty boring by Kid Standards. I learned to read at the age of four and never took my nose out of books. i.Do you have any pets? I have three cats – DC, Brynn and Alix – and two fish – Cheech and Chong, who I am proud to say have been in my house and haven’t been eaten yet. Not sure how long that will last with an open tank and three felines, but we’ll see. Alix is helping me do this interview, actually, by way of climbing up my leg, purring, and stepping on my toes. I think he’s walked half a mile around me already. Apparently, I don’t love him enough and he’s starved for attention. j.Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? I was ML for my local region of NaNoWriMo for five years, and one of the things that I did was have a weekly write-in that went year-round. Two years after somebody else took over, it’s still going strong, and we’re up to eight core people – seven of my best friends and myself – and a few others that come and go. I call it therapy, and can’t imagine life without it. Sometimes we even get writing done. k.What age did you start writing stories/poems? Er. Somewhere I have little books that I made in elementary school (or earlier… I may have been four when I did the first one), fiddled with it in high school, but didn’t really get serious about it until I was in my 20s. l.Do you have a book published? If so what is it called & where can readers purchase it? I generally write short stories, so there are several places that I can push you towards. First of all, check Amazon (of course I’m on Amazon) for Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells – the story I have in there is one of my favorites (the prompt was magic vs machine with a steampunk twist). You can also look for anything done through Ink Monkey Mag – we’re about to release issue 5 of the magazine as well as a couple new anthologies (Blink! and 1000 Words) but You Don’t Say is already out, and it’s pretty unique because the stories in there are all in 2nd person, which you don’t see very often. (All will be out by Easter, so stick ‘em in those Easter Baskets right next to the Cadbury Eggs) You can also find me in several of Pill Hill Press’s anthologies – they do story a day fiction and horror fiction anthos and I’m also in their ePocalypse and Roboterotica anthos. If you want a freebie or two, google my name and I’ll pop up on sites like Underground New York, Daily Love, and Weird Year. m.If you could meet one favorite author who would it be and why? I’m going to cop out here and name two. One is Roald Dahl. My favorite book ever written is Matilda, and I had read it so often at one point that I could get to chapter three or four before I couldn’t recite any further. Unfortunately, he’s dead, so unless y’all have a TARDIS I can borrow, I won’t be meeting him any time soon. The other is Neil Gaiman. He’s incredible. Everything he does is successful, and my favorite episode of television ever – The Doctor’s Wife – was all his doing (Doctor Who episode 6.4). There is nothing that’s not awesome about him. n.If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? I’m a Sagittarius, so I’m pretty flighty, but I also need to be grounded, so I’d be pretty comfortable staying here in Nashville if I could travel somewhere once a year (and I don’t mean to a con or back home). The Isle of Man; Nunavut, Canada; Egypt; and Italy (They’re hosting the next world’s fair!) are on my list. I’d also like to do a tour of world religious sites. o.What’s your favorite movie of all time? …A couple years ago I would have said Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (the first one, not that crap that they did a few years ago), but there are so many movies coming out now, that I don’t think I could say. My tastes are pretty varied, so I’ve loved everything from Avengers and Thor to Amelie and Hugo. I’m a fan of 70s/80s comedies, too, so it’s not uncommon to catch me watching Uncle Buck; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; Smokey and the Bandit; Stroker Ace… Hmmm. Maybe I should give a list of movies I don’t like? p.Where can readers find you and your blog? Blog?! I’m supposed to have a blog? Um. I have a book review blog that I run with four of my friends, and you can find that at http://bookinthebag.blogspot.com – you can find book reviews, author interviews and occationally random bonus content. Aside from that, you can find me and Ink Monkey Mag both on facebook. q.Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? I am about to hit a deadline on a utopian story for an antho, so I’ll be working on that this week and rushing to get it out. I also have a couple projects that need edits/rewrites/whatever – one is a mid-grades novel (think early chapter book) about a kid named Ashley who has to get a message that King Saliman (may he lie peaceful beneath the stone) has died to his son, who is all the way across the kingdom, and the other is a novelette/novella about a woman trying to figure out who she is after her mother dies. r.Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Um. My grandmother was, but she died a few years ago (cancer is stupid – why can’t cancer get cancer and die), so it’s hard to say. I’d probably have to go with my group of aforementioned friends. It’s cool to be sitting at a table, announce some random bit of progress (chapter four, I killed a dude, 1667 words…) and have a table full of people cheer.