Sabrina coxed Juniper, her pet duck, into her special backpack on Saturday morning. The white duck ruffled her feathers in anticipation of an adventure, being accustomed to these trips from a duckling. The plan was to meet Sabrina’s friend, Alison and meet another duck fancier. The back pack allowed Juniper a view of the world with a clear plastic panel with strategic air holes so the little duck’s nostrils could pick up the various aromas as they walked. The path from Alison’s house was a steep downhill trek, boarded by a low stone wall and many shrubs and trees. Juniper quacked as the backpack moved side to side in time with Sabrina’s steps. Soon the sounds of traffic and the bustle of the small town overtook the birdsong. The two friends looked across the road before stepping out and making their way to the special waterfowl event.
Murder at the 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane
I really enjoyed the building tension, the red herrings and the characters within this narrative. Skillfully plotted and written with great twists to get the reader guessing.
The Doll’s House by A.J. Arlidge
Once again M.J. delivers a tension packed, fast paced, twisting tale that elicits page turning. His skill with short chapters packed with characters and their journey is exceptional. I highly recommend these stories of DI Helen Grace.
In this episode, we get a rare glimpse into the mind of a very diverse writer Mandy Eve-Barnett. We got the chance to talk with her about to of her very interesting novellas The Rython Kingdom and the Rython Legacy. Both stories take place in a wonderful reality of myth and magic and we got the chance to explore with Mandy where this originated as well as how her life and travels gave her inspiration for this as well as her other works. Paying homage and respect to legend and myth while world building her own, the world of Rython is both complex and compelling and Mandy gave insight as to its inception and development.
As writers and authors, we all daydream of the day our novel is made into a movie. The thrill of seeing our story come to life on the big screen (or even a smaller one!) is something we all crave at one point or another. When we are writing our stories, we get images of our characters in our heads, sometimes it is actors we already know or we create an inspiration board from photos found on the internet.
Forgetting for the moment the practicalities of actually getting the actor you want – who are your chosen ones? Who is on your wish list?
I am sharing a couple here and would be interested to know if you ‘saw’ them the same way I do, when you read the books.
1. What inspired you to write books for children to aid with reading and writing?
For about 15 years, I worked as a library programmer, so every week I had two or three programs for preschoolers. My favourite group was the 5-6-year-olds, who were just learning to read. They have such active imaginations and often like to see themselves as players in the story. I loved working with them, finding great children’s books, and then reading the stories aloud to them. After a few years, it felt very natural to start writing for this age group. Also, a writer-friend Alison Lohans had an opportunity to give a workshop in writing for children. I took that, and it put me on the path. Eventually, I got my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia with a major in writing for children and young adults.
2. Do you think reading is the gateway to learning and life skills?
Yes, absolutely. It’s also a lot of fun!
3. How does the construction of the content aid understanding in children?
I’ve been lucky to work with several top-notch traditional publishers on the books I’ve written for children and middle-grade readers. I don’t self-publish so I am not usually involved in the construction of the book, but a writer can always help by inspiring the editors with punchy writing and ideas. As a journalist, I had always suggested backgrounders and sidebars, or short related articles, so I was on the watch for that. And I’ve noticed that surrounding a non-fiction narrative with fact-boxes and short in-set articles can really grab the attention of readers. When I was writing Dragonflies are Amazing, for instance, the editor asked me for some “fun facts” to create a fact-box. I put together about 20 facts, and worked on them so they had an engaging style to activate a kids’ imagination. The editor ended up putting the facts in a graphic format that looks like dragonflies flying around the page. You actually have to turn the book around to read them. Very cool! She also put the images in puzzle pieces. The overall effect of that book is as amazing as the dragonflies, and it really works to attract reluctant readers.
4. Where can schools access your books?
Schools order the children’s books directly from the publishers, but I also distribute some of them locally to schools and libraries in my home town and area during readings and workshops. My young adult series Last of the Gifted is available everywhere, from Amazon to local independent bookstores, through publisher Wood Dragon Books.
5. Did your Welsh heritage influence your stories?
My Welsh heritage influences my young adult series, Last of the Gifted. My grandfather was had been born in Wales and I knew he was a Welsh speaker. All of my grandparents had died before I was born. When I was a kid, my friends had grandparents but not me, so I guess I became a little obsessed by them. But my dad died young, and it was hard finding out much about my dad’s parents. Since I was a journalist, I wanted to get into travel writing, so I planned a trip to Wales to do double duty and find out more about my own heritage at the same time. I had rented a cottage on a sheep farm in north Wales, so one day I went to see Dolwyddelan, a castle built by the last true Welsh princes. Inside, there were placards showing the history, and how losing a war in 1282 caused them to lose their language and their way of life. I started thinking about what it would be like to actually live through something like that, and that led to writing about it. It’s been my “heart” project ever since.
6. How did your magical characters evolve from idea to story?
I actually started out by free writing the scenes in Spirit Sight. I had covered an article on a falconer and I was very intrigued by his falcon demonstrations. One day, while I was doing research on North Wales, I started wondering what it would be like to see through the eyes of a bird. I started free writing and the opening scene came together. I’ve revised and refined it since, but that’s still the opening of the book. From there, I started reading about Welsh legends and myths, and my magical world evolved from that.
7. Is imagination important for children?
It’s important for everyone. There are a lot of ways to use and grow our imaginations, but reading is definitely one of the best ways. And writing helps, too!
8. Are there other subjects/topics you want to write about?
Yes, lots. I have a couple of contemporary fantasy novels on the go as well, as well as short stories. My writing is speculative fiction with some connection to ghosts or the past influencing the present. I still write articles for magazines as well, and that inspires me in different ways.
9. Where is your favorite place to write and why?
I write at my kitchen table, actually. I have a perfectly good office and I fully intend to use it, but the kitchen has better light and a lovely window looking out at the park across the street. I always wrote in the kitchen when my kids were young, and that tends to be where I end up.
10. Do you have upcoming projects? Can you talk about them?
I have a lot of projects on the go. I’m working on one more book now in the Last of the Gifted series, and I have started another related series. Last NaNoWriMo, I wrote a novel from the same time but unrelated to the series, more medieval romance, just for fun. I’d like to do something more with that, too. And there are the contemporary novels as well.
11. How can readers find you?
My website is the best place, and I’m on social media too. Here are some links:
Marie Powell Bio:Marie Powell’s castle-hopping adventures across North Wales to explore her family roots resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series Last of the Gifted. The series includes two books to date, Spirit Sight and Water Sight (participation made possible through Creative Saskatchewan’s Book Publishing Production Grant Program). Marie is the author of more than 40 children’s books with such publishers as Scholastic Education and Amicus, along with award-winning short stories and poetry appearing in such literary magazines as Room, subTerrain, and Sunlight Press. Among other degrees, she holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from UBC. Marie lives on Treaty 4 land in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find her at mariepowell.ca
Tom slumped into the metal picnic chair. He hadn’t wanted to come on this stupid trip with his parents. He could have stayed at home, hung out with his friends – had fun. But no, his parent insisted he come on this ‘last’ camping trip before he went to college. He gazed down at his new runners, pristine white and blue. It had been a mistake to wear them here; they would get ruined with the obligatory hike tomorrow morning. The camp fire crackled and spat its warmth welcome as the night air cooled. With a full stomach of baked potatoes cooked in said fire filled with spicy chili, followed with s’mores, he was getting sleepy.
“I think I’ll turn in, Pops, Mom. We’re up early for the hike right?”
“Yes we will be, but before you go, we have something for you.”
Tom frowned but sat back down.
His Mom went into their tent, pitched on the other side of the fire. He could hear her rummaging around. When she reappeared she had a drawstring bag in one hand. His father stood up and both parents looked at their son. A strange look covered their faces, an intent gaze that made Tom uncomfortable.
“Okay what is this? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“We have something for you.”
His mother handed him the bag, Tom pulled the drawstring and cautiously peered inside. He let out a laugh. “An old teddy bear? Come on guys, I way past cuddly toys, you know.”
“It may look like an old teddy bear, Tom but this one is special. It has been handed down through the generations, father to son and so on. It is my honour to pass it on to you, now you are eighteen.”
Tom pulled out the frayed, threadbare teddy bear; it had obviously seen better days.
“Well, okay but what’s so special about an old toy, like really?”
“Tonight you will find out. It is best you experience it rather than me explain, Tom. Have a great night.”
His parents smiled and turned away, entering their tent and zipping it shut. What the heck is up with them? Old toy! Special night! It must be some kind of gag; they cooked up between them to make this last trip memorable. What losers. Well, goodnight teddy. Tom left the toy and bag beside the fire and entered his own tent, zipping the opening up tight and sliding into his sleeping bag.
The clear sky was filled with stars, a haze of purple grew larger and a bright light hovered over the campsite. Tom woke some time later to a rustling outside, he turned over. Pops can’t hold is bladder, poor oh man.
“Tom, it’s time to go.” The voice was high pitched and sort of squeaky. That’s certainly not Pops or Mom voice. He sat up, seeing the tent open and the old teddy bear standing in the entrance. “What the f…” Tom could feel his head spin, bile rising up his throat. This is one hell of a dream.
“No dream, Tom. Tonight we travel to your true home.”
Tom’s body froze as the toy spoke and took a step towards him. I’m hallucinating or dreaming. Too much spice in the chili or something. Maybe it’s the beer Pop’s gave me?
“There’s no need to be frightened Tom, your father and his father and his father have all been through this. Now, it is your turn. Up you get, we have to go.”
The teddy bear raised an arm. Tom could feel his body moving involuntarily. He tried to call out but no sound uttered from his mouth.
“Best we keep quiet, Tom. Follow me.”
Tom’s legs moved, his feet trod and he followed the strange talking toy. He was not in control of his body but his mind was a reeling. He watched the bear raised both arms. A sudden bright light flooded the campsite. Tom looked up to see what looked like a star fall towards them. He tried to turn, his body refused to comply. The light descended and he felt his feet lift off the ground. A whirling purple portal emerged from the light and the toy and boy entered it. A tunnel of swirling mauve light transported them. Tom gripped his hands into fists. This better be some kind of nightmare, I’ll wake up in a minute.
“No nightmare, Tom. It’s your destiny.”
“Can you hear my thoughts, bear?”
“Of course, I can and soon you will be able to do it too.”
The swirling slowed and stopped. Tom looked round him, the campsite was gone, the mountains, the trees, the lake. Before him was an enormous golden tree growing out of a huge crater with gold waterfalls tumbling out of it. An amber mist floated above the water and a long bridge spanned the space between the tree and the boy and bear.
“Where are we?”
“Home, Tom, we are home.”
“I’m not home, you dumb toy. Take me back.”
“You must go to the tree, Tom. She will explain everything.”
“She? What are you on? It’s a tree, it can’t talk.”
“Oh but she can and will, Tom. You are the next in line. You must go.”
Tom tore his eyes away from the tree to glimpse the toy disappear. He yelled for it to come back but to no avail. After some time, he decided to play along in this trippy dream and walked across the bridge. As he stood in front of the tree, bending backwards to see its top most branches a voice entered his mind.
“Welcome, Tom. It is so good to see you. I will teach you all you need to know as the next wizard in line.”
Let me know what you thing of my story incorporating magic into the theme. Did the narrative the way you thought?
I am excited to be presenting at a local virtual writing conference – The Art of Writing on 27th March. I am hosting a session on creating a great blog post.
I managed to grab a ticket for The Winter Book Club with Ethan Hawke on Sunday, March 14 and I get a copy of his book A Bright Ray of Darkness too.
Also there will be an Easter road trip with my dear friend, Linda. We just need to book an isolated cabin for a few days of writing, reading and exploring.