I am continuing with my 2021 goals and have submitted to magazines, contests and anthologies this year. It is not only a learning curve, but also a way to expand my writing skills. Every writing experience increases our skill set and knowledge. As writers we are always learning. (or should be!)
In the last couple of weeks, I have been accepted to be part of an anthology 25 Miles From Here, which will be published in September. My short story A New Home will be included.
I also have three articles published (or scheduled) for Opal Writers Magazine and website, with another pending. These articles allow me to write non-fiction and also share my knowledge with the writing community.
I was also honoured to assist in the promotion of a new movie, Back Home Again. It covers the the wildfire evacuation of Fort McMurray and the communities resilience.
And I was also delighted to win a book giveaway by Densie Webb. A lovely novel arrived in my mailbox, which will be added to my TBR pile.
In preparation for my presentations/panel at the When Words Collide conference, I have invested in a headphone/microphone set. I trialed it as I hosted the monthly Writers Circle on Tuesday evening, it works well. It is more professional and cuts out a lot of background noise too.
My latest book news is four of my books (The Twesome Loop, The Commodore’s Gift, The Rython Kingdom and Rython Legacy) are all available from Daisy Chain Book Co bookstore, Edmonton.
I would love to hear about your writing related accomplishments so far this year?
Urban fantasy is my favourite genre to read and so if felt natural to write it as well. I’m especially drawn to stories where the supernatural walk among us. I think that’s because I would love to possess those supernatural abilities—oh, to be able to fly! And when supernatural beings hide within everyday society, then maybe—just maybe—they really exist. That feeling of possibility is what I want to create in my writing. It’s escapism, and we could all use a little more of that.
2. Do the characters come to you fully formed or do they emerge the more you write about them?
They definitely emerge as I put them through their paces. Character motivation, in particular, is often something that comes out later when a character’s past comes into play.
3. Are your characters based on real people?
Not wholly, but pieces of real people are found in my characters. It might be unruly hair, or the way someone walks. It could be a piece of clothing or a conversation I overheard in a coffee shop.
4. Is there something in your background that plays into your writing?
I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and the paranormal and magic have fascinated me since I was a child. Even as a young girl, I remember running into the wind with my arms widespread, hoping to lift off and fly.
5. Where does your inspiration come from for a new story?
Books and music are a great source of inspiration. It’s not always the content, but how the material makes me feel. I enjoy recreating emotions like wonder, elation, anger, etc. Frequently, a news story will spark my imagination, like the recent discovery of a giant cave in BC, or the discovery that the Easter Island Heads have hidden bodies. An old horror story I heard around a campfire when I was a Girl Guide inspired my latest short story titled Scaredy Cat.
6. Did you plan to write your series?
Not at all. I thought I was writing a one-off book. It was a personal challenge. But when I finished it, I missed the characters, and I missed writing. I also knew that the world I’d created had bandwidth to expand and explore. The series is now complete at seven books.
7. Why did you choose an urban setting for the Gift Legacy?
The characters in the books can fly, and I needed the possibility they might get caught. A big city provided that tension. The city setting also lends itself to more places for the characters to interact.
8. Where did the name Emelynn come from?
Emelynn is the name of a woman I met briefly when I lived in Vancouver. I always loved her name.
9. Do you have a current writing project? Can you tell us a little about it?
Yes! My new project is a book titled Blood Mark. It’s the story of a young woman who bears a chain of scarlet birthmarks. She is thrilled when, one by one, the disfiguring marks begin to disappear—until she learns that the hated marks protect her from a mysterious and homicidal enemy. Now, she is in a race against time to find this dangerous enemy before her last mark vanishes.
10. Are you a planner or a pantser?
I started off as a pantser but learned the value of outlining when I got further into my series and found it too difficult to keep track of all the story and character threads. I now outline regularly, but I’m not dogged about it—if the story doesn’t fit the outline, I’ll rewrite the outline, not the story.
11. When did you start writing?
In my day-job work life, I wrote a lot of non-fiction in the form of procedure manuals and job descriptions. That writing wasn’t nearly as fun as the fiction writing that I started in 2010.
12. Do you have a study or writing space?
I have two spaces. One is a corner of the dining room that has a view of the ocean. It’s there that I am at my most creative. I also have a chair in the living room where I tend to the business side of writing. Oddly enough, I rarely use the office in the back of the house. It has a “work” vibe and no view.
13. Where can readers find you on social media/blog?
My hub is my website at jpmcleanauthor.com. I’m also on Twitter @jpmcleanauthor and on Facebook at JPMcLeanBooks.
14. What would you like your readers to know?
How much I appreciate their support, how important their reviews are, and how much I enjoy their messages and comments.
J.P. McleanJo-Anne holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener, and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing. JP lives on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario before settling on Canada’s west coast.
You can reach her through her website at jpmcleanauthor.com.
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.
Although the six week writing course has ended, I still have a couple of stories to share. Using one sense, primarily, we had to write a short story using three images. This story is taste! I hope you enjoy it.
Vomit and Chewing Tobacco – TASTE
It’s a normal Sunday afternoon for me, sitting in the far corner of the launderette, people watching. Harried women with pesky children, older men or couples, and the singles file in and out, filling and emptying the machines in a robotic manner. Eyes are avoided, conversations whispered, distance kept. They are in close proximity within this humid box but worlds apart. Everyone is watchful of a cycle ending and a chance to grab a dryer. Children given candy to keep quiet but the treats, explode their sugary high, amplifying the agitation and boredom. Bundles of multi-coloured fabric stained, torn and discoloured enter the cylinders accompanied by the granular soap powder or brightly coloured tabs. The dispersed powder hovers in the air, you inhale its bitterness. A child takes a tab and pops it in his mouth, mistaking it for a candy. A mother distracted, until he presents a foaming mouth and the pallor of sickness. A spew of vomit gushes forth, its soapy, sugary and bile contents assaulting the child’s taste buds and the nostrils of everyone in the enclosed space.
An urgent plea for water to wash his mouth out, a dirty t-shirt used to mop up the child’s spilled stomach contents. Taste receptors react to the inhaled odour forcing some to exit the launderette before retching themselves. I place a handkerchief across my mouth, scented with lavender. A trick my grandmother taught me as we walked the old canal path many years ago. The putrid rotting debris small permeated the air and stuck in the back of your throat. I turn slightly to one side to check the VCR is still recording. The little red lights flashes on and off. This event will make a great scene in my next book.
I look up to see a Stetson wearing middle aged man enter, he looks around the crowded room with dismay. He is carrying a large black bin liner in one hand and a cell phone in the other. His black and white shoes are stylish and slick. His mouth is in constant motion, chewing on something. Is it gum?He doesn’t seem the type. He walks to the garbage bin and spits a brown substance. Is that chewing tobacco? I didn’t think people did that anymore. This is too good a chance for research; I have to talk to him. Turning the VCR slightly, I amble towards him, fashioning a half smile.
“May I help you, Sir?”
He looks at my grey tinged coat, which used to be white and the name tag.
“I haven’t done this before, how does this work?”
“I’m happy to help, follow me.”
I take him to the farthest end of the launderette and open a machine, instructing him to put his clothes in the cylinder. Then continue to show him the process. I can smell the tobacco on his breath, his clothes, and his hair. It invades my senses, hanging at the back of my throat. It is a combination of nicotine and surprisingly mint. He smacks his lips and a brown glob rests on his lip. I stare, he smiles.
“Care for some?”
“No, thank you but can you tell me how chewing tobacco tastes?”
“Well, firstly, I’m using dipping tobacco, most people don’t know that. As for this one I’m chewing, it has mint in it but others have fruit flavours and the like. It has a taste of its own, sort of a mixture of what a cigarette smells like, and some have a chemical after taste and others a natural one but with a burning sensation where you place it. It makes a tobacco juice inside your mouth.”
“Well, that is interesting. Thank you for explaining it to me.”
“Thank you for helping me with this. Not something I ever do but my assistant went down with the flu so here I am.”
“You have an assistant?”
He leans down to lower his voice.
“Sure, I’m on tour and living on the road means usual stuff like laundry has to be done at places like this. Sally, bless her, normally takes care of everything for me.”
“May I ask what you do on tour?”
“Sure, I’m a country singer, not a real famous one but I make do. We’re just passing through to the city for a show. I can give you a ticket if you want in exchange for your help.”
“That’s very kind, I would like that.”
I hold out my hand to shake his and he places two tickets in my palm.
“Oh, I won’t need two, one is enough.”
“No sweetheart to bring with you, eh?”
“No, it will only be me.”
“Okay then. See you tomorrow night. Use this slip for a VIP pass.”
At home that evening, I review the tape. It captured the child vomiting and the country singer’s entrance and spitting. Both events will make for great additions in my current novel.
In other news I have gained a freelance client and will be ghost writing a business book for them. It is always exciting to start a new project.
Let me know what you think of the story and also what book(s) you are reading. Remember to always leave a review.
As I continue my six week writing course, I am sharing my third submission with you. This week is the sense of TOUCH
Veronique relished the feel of the pale champagne coloured silk sheets as she woke up and stretched. The smooth fabric gliding over her golden skin, silky, fine and decadent. A reflection of the way Veronique demanded to live. Hers was a life of luxury, of the finer things and endless opulence. Every fabric she wore was chosen for its texture and appearance. Silks, Indian cottons, furs, cashmere, leather and high tread count linens. She reveled in the sensation of these fabrics on her skin, the way they flowed around her slender body and complimented her long tresses of burnished copper hair. Her body was smooth, tanned and hydrated, constantly pampered and devoid of blemishes or marks. Veronique stood up, her feet sinking into the deep wool carpet, like a soft hug. She gazed at her naked body in the wall length mirrors of her boudoir, the polished glass surfaces cool to the touch – she was perfect.
The heavy plush velvet drapes were drawn apart by the slimmest of gaps, allowing a microcosm of particles to dance in a thin ray of sunlight. Veronique pressed a remote on her bedside table, the button giving a small hesitant resistance before it clicked into place. The curtains began their slow mechanical glide apart caressing the sumptuous fabric across the deep piled and soft carpet, moving fibers like a wave. The window revealed the Champs-Élysées Avenue and the Arc de Triomphe. This was her city, her home and she ruled it and its upper echelons like no other. Her limited-edition clothing designs were fought over, surging the prices to unbelievable heights. The reason she could live in such luxury and indulge in an endless life of grandeur.
She clicked the light switch to her vast en suite bathroom, pushing the dimmer lower to give the room a soft glow. She entered the shower, with its multitude of jets, sprays and waterfall feature showerhead allowing her to clean, massage and invigorate her body as her mood decided. This morning, she began with a soft spray to waken her senses, and then gradually increased the pulse and power to knead her back, her legs, her breasts, and her stomach. She applied scented gels and lotions, smoothing and stroking her skin. When she felt cleansed and invigorated, Veronique stepped out of the shower to wrap herself in a large white fluffy towel of long-staple cotton and linen fabric the best available. She dabbed her skin letting the towel absorb the wetness before applying a rich creamy body lotion and slipping into a silk kimono.
A barrage of noise interrupted her calm morning routine, shouting, banging and clattering came through the open window. Veronique walked to the window and peered out, her agitation obvious. On the pavement, she saw men and women, stomping and jeering with placards and signs, their footwear grating and scraping on the concrete. Veronique picked up the telephone beside her and call down to the concierge.
“What is going on outside, Michael? What is that awful gathering about?”
“Madame, it is an anti-fur protest. I believe your latest autumn coats have caused concerns.”
“Well, how ridiculous. Send them away, Michael. I have to go to the design studio in less than an hour.”
“I have called the Gendarmerie, they assured me they will send men over shortly.”
“Well, see that they do, I need them gone…and soon.”
An hour later, the protesters and the Gendarmerie were still outside the building. Veronique had no choice but to call her car around to the rear entrance. She was not going to push her way through, sweating, shouting and vile people. The car sat idling as she exited the building, her cashmere wrap caressing her bare shoulders and her high heels pushing her calves upwards. She looked at her pocket watch, a memento of her late husband. A hard, callused hand shoved her back and she fell to the dirty, gritty concrete. A cry of hurt and shock uttered from her throat – a raw, rasping feeling in her throat. Pinpricks of tiny stones pierced her knees and hands. She felt blood ooze and flow. The pocket watch smashed into the ground, shattering and issuing shards of glass and cogs of shiny, cold metal. A man is screaming at her, vile things, obscene things. Her head swims, her eyes unfocused, the hard surface assaulting her skin, breaking her skin. Brash, solid, hard, unyielding surfaces inflicting pain.
A gloved hand took her upper arm, the leather smooth and stitched. A commanding voice issued orders, as she was guided to the back seat of the vehicle. She felt more leather, soft with use under her as she collapsed on her side. Pain radiated from all over her assaulted body, her mind too confused to make sense of what was happening. The door slammed shut, hands and feet thudding on the sides of the car. Gendarmerie vehicle lights and sirens adding to the cacophony of sound as her car inched forward. Veronique looked down at her legs and palms, where pain radiated. Filaments of skin hung from numerous cuts, gashes oozed, bruises formed, and grime soiled and spoiled her body. Tears traced tracks through her makeup leaving salty deposits. Veronique’s body vibrated with shock an anger. That man would pay for his attack and the damage he caused to her body.
How did the character of Veronique make you feel? Did you like or dislike her?
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay and enjoy her style and method of writing. It is a clever vehicle to have the lies contribute to the momentum of the story. Beautifully crafted narrative that carried you along. Moments of tense, fear and sadness coupled with heights of joy. Highly recommended.
Currently reading: Misconduct of the Heart by Cordelia Strube