Jan 292019

I am participating in NYC Midnight’s Short Story Challenge again this year. At the start time for the challenge, we are assigned a genre, a subject ,and a character. I was assigned drama, a photo shoot, and a composer. We have eight days to write and submit a 2500 word short story within those parameters.

Last year, I didn’t make it into the top five in my heat, but I did receive an honourable mention for my short horror story, Cat Scratch Fever. My goal this year is to make it into the top five so that I can advance to Round Two. Wish me luck. Here’s my submission:

Sophia sat in a black leather chair, a black nylon cape wrapped around her. She hated modeling, but it paid the bills and enabled her to focus on her dream of composing music for feature films. The years of training and working to achieve her degree in Musical Arts was about to pay off. Despite everyone insisting her dream was impossible to attain, Miles Danforth, one of the hottest movie directors in Hollywood, chose her to compose the score for his latest fantasy film. They were so close to completion after unending hours of composing and syncing the music to the dramatic elements in the film, but the notes to match the emotional impact of the final climatic scene continued to elude her.

As she sat there, she rolled the scene in her head, playing with notes, beats, tempos. She didn’t use software to compose her music, as most composers did these days. She preferred the old fashioned way of writing the music by hand. Her piano usually accompanied her, but she couldn’t bring it with her to Michael’s photo studio, so she settled for envisioning the music mentally.

It came to her right in the middle of her makeup application – the perfect sequence of notes, the perfect beat and tempo for the piece. She repeated it in a continuous loop in her mind, her fingers itching for a pencil and her staff paper. This was the moment that would make or break her career. It was the difference between Ramen noodles and fine dining, studio apartments and penthouses, packed subway cars and stretch limos.

The moment the makeup artist and hair stylist removed her cape, she shot out of the chair, grabbed her worn messenger bag, withdrew several sheets of staff paper and a pencil, and dropped down to write right there on the floor.

She just had to get a few more notes down on paper – the building, building, building to the crescendo where the protagonist finally defeats the invaders, filled with jubilation, triumph, relief. Then she turns, sees her lover sprawled in the red, dusty dirt and everything stops – her heart, the music. One beat, two. Then her heart begins to beat again, picking up speed until it’s racing. Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump. Denial. Fear. Panic. Despair. One foot in front of the other until she’s sprinting across the sand, red dust kicking up behind her in a violent storm. She falls to her knees, her lover’s catatonic eyes staring up at a red sky.

God, it was perfect. Danforth was going to love it. She finished writing the last notes and went back over what she’d written as the music played in her head against the scene. Great jumping Jesus. It was brilliant.

Jules, the red-headed photography assistant, poked her head around the corner. “Soph? Michael’s getting antsy.”

Sophia leapt off the floor, sheets of music gripped in her fist, and hugged Jules, spun her around in a circle. “It’s done. I’ve done it.”

“Wonderful. Can you get your ass out there now?”

“Yes. Yes. I’m coming.” She removed her robe and turned to take a quick glance at herself in the mirror. Her short, black hair shot straight up in a wild frenzy of spikes tipped in neon blue. The makeup was over the top – dark, heavy eyes with tiny sapphire sequins lining the edges of her upper lids and arcing up from the corners of her eyes. Her pouty lips were so dark they resembled her hair, her cheekbones razor sharp with slashes of blueberry blush. The gown was the latest from an up and coming New York designer – a satin and sequined gown in royal blue. God, she felt like the kid from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – the one who ate the blueberry candy.

 “This is the last time you’ll sit in hair and makeup,” she told herself. “You’re going to be a freaking star when this movie hits.”

* * *

“Yes. Beautiful,” Michael said. He’d photographed Sophia numerous times and the photos were always exceptional, but today she had something special, something extra. It was in the energy lasering out of eyes like electric blue flames. Before the first wardrobe change, it stopped being about the gowns for him and all about her. Deep down, he knew these photographs would catapult his career to the highest level in the industry. He just couldn’t get enough of that face, those eyes.

Michael lowered the camera and scanned through the photos.

“Are we done yet?” Sophia asked. She was actually having fun for a change, but she couldn’t wait to get home to her piano and play her piece.

“Yes. Great job, Soph.” The pictures were fabulous. Better than any he’d ever taken and he’d taken some great shots over the years.

“Why, thank you.” Sophia curtsied then hurried off to change out of the gown and wash the gunk from her face and hair.

She said her goodbyes to Michael and Jules and sprinted all the way to the subway station. Taking a seat on the train, she opened her messenger bag, rummaging around for her sheet music, but couldn’t find the staff sheets she’d written the piece on. With her stomach in knots, she pulled everything out of the bag and went through it all. Her heart sank in her chest and her belly roiled. She’d put them in her bag, hadn’t she?

She scattered the contents of her bag over the empty seat next to her, furtively searching for her lifeline to success. Her face paled, visions of surviving on Ramen noodles for the rest of her life playing like a bad sit-com in her head.

She got off the train at the next stop and raced back to Michael’s studio. Her chest hurt as if a sumo wrestler was sitting on it as she ran up the stairs.

“Michael?” she called out, panting. “Jules?”

“Yeah?” Michael sat at his desk with Jules next to him going through the photos on his camera.

“My music. Have you seen my sheet music?” she wheezed.

“The stuff you were writing when you were here?” Jules asked.

“Yes. They’re not in my bag. They have to be here.”

Sophia frantically searched every inch of the studio with Michael and Jules helping. Nothing.

“Is it possible you lost them on the subway?” Jules asked.

“Oh, God.” What if the sheets slipped out of her bag onto the floor or behind the seat? She’d never get them back. Everyone was right. She’d never make it as a film score composer. What if someone found the music and used it themselves? It wasn’t even copyrighted yet. She sank to the floor, her legs shaking and rubbery, beads of sweat breaking out over her lip and across her forehead. “My career is over. That piece was my ticket to success.”

Michael crouched down next to her. “You can rewrite it, Soph.”

Her eyes flew up to meet his, narrowed and frigid. “I can’t just rewrite it,” she shouted, her arms flailing. “It would be like someone deleting the best picture you’ve ever taken from your camera before you had a chance to save a backup copy.”

Michael cringed. The best picture he’d ever taken was on his camera and he hadn’t backed it up yet. “No, it’s not the same. The music came from inside you.” He laid his hand over her heart. “It’s still there. You just need to tune into it again.”

“You don’t understand. It was perfect. Perfect. There’s no way I can rewrite it and get all of the notes just right.” She dropped her head, clutching her tight, aching chest. God, she couldn’t breathe.

“You were in hair and makeup when it came to you, weren’t you?” He took her hand and drew her to her feet then led her to the couch in the corner of the room, sitting next to her. “Take a deep breath.”

Sophia drew in a painful, stuttered breath and slowly exhaled. She continued to breathe with Michael’s coaching until the tension began to drain away.

“Now, close your eyes and take yourself back to when you were sitting in the chair,” Michael said in a calm voice. “Listen to the notes in your head. See the notes the way you saw them in the chair.”

She took another deep breath and closed her eyes. The scene from the movie began to play in her head accompanied by her music. She reached the crescendo, then the pause. One beat, two. It was all there. But, at the point where the protagonist realizes her lover is down, she made some changes. She felt the character’s loss in her very soul, the loss of her music enabling her to empathize with the protagonist. The disbelief, the panic, the gut-wrenching fear. Holy jumping Jesus, she thought. This is even better than the original.

She grabbed her bag, took out fresh staff sheets and her pencil, and scribbled furiously on the pages. When she was done, she placed the pages carefully into her bag and did up the clasp. Then she surged to her feet and darted across the room to where Michael sat at his desk. She flung herself onto his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“I take it you’re happy with the rewrite.” He laughed and spun his chair around with both of them in it. “I have a bottle of champagne I’ve been saving for a special occasion. We should celebrate.”

She grinned. If she hadn’t lost that music, felt the heart-stopping panic and despair, she never would have gone where she did in rewriting her piece. It was as if losing the music was meant to be.  “I couldn’t agree more.”

* * *

It was nearly two years since she’d last sat in this chair in hair and makeup. She rose and changed into a tuxedo with tails, the cream silk bowtie and cumber-bun sprinkled with treble clefs and music notes. Then she turned to study herself in the mirror. Her short dark hair was done in a messy style. Funky and fun. Her makeup was more than she’d wear on a night on the town, yet not over the top.

Smiling, she walked out to the studio and Michael crossed the room to her, his arms extended, and took her hands in his.

“You look stunning. Success agrees with you, Soph.”

“I could say the same to you. You look great, Michael.”

The photographs he’d taken of Sophia nearly two year before had indeed thrust his career to greater heights. He was able to pick and choose his assignments now. He led Sophia to the white baby grand set up in front of a cityscape of New York City and helped her settle on the bench, adjusting her tails. A tall, gold statue – her Oscar for Best Original Score – was the centerpiece on the piano.

“Tell me something, Soph. You could have had your pick of any photographer in the country. Why me?”

She grinned up at him. “Two reasons. One, I wanted the best. And two, I owe you for what you did for me that day.”

“You don’t owe me a thing, darling. What you did for me that day more than makes up for it.”

Sophia grinned up at him. “So, no more Ramen noodles for either of us?”

“Oh, no. I still eat Ramen noodles now and then.”

“Not me. I’m never eating them again.”

They both laughed as Michael got his camera and began clicking away. He stopped, scanned through the photos, confirming what he’d seen through the lens. The magic was missing. “Do me a favour? Play the score from the movie.”

“The entire thing? It’s over an hour long.”

“Just play the piece you wrote here.”

Sophia flexed her fingers and began to play. It wasn’t long before she lost herself in the emotions of the piece and forgot all about Michael.

“Yes, yes, yes,” Michael shouted when she finished. “Again. Play it again.”

The next time he scanned through the pictures, he grinned. “Okay, we’ve got it.”

“I want to see.” Sophia got up from the piano and peeked over Michael’s shoulder. He was right, the photos were excellent. “I’ll let you pick the best one,” she said and gave him a peck on the cheek. The photo was for the cover of Rolling Stone who were doing a feature article on her.

Sophia changed out of the tux and headed out. On the way down the stairs, she heard a piano playing and stopped, her ears tuned into the music. When she recognized the piece, she sat down on the stairs and closed her eyes to listen, smiling at the building tension. Her eyes flew open when she realized this wasn’t the piece from the movie. It was the missing original.

She stumbled down he hallway, following the music to it source, and wrapped her knuckles on the apartment door. A woman with light brown hair tied back in a ponytail answered.

“That music,” Sophia began before the woman could say anything. “Who’s playing it?”

“My son. Why?”

“Do you know where he got that piece?”

“No. He just started playing it a couple of years ago. It’s his favourite.”

“This is going to sound weird, but I was upstairs in Michael’s studio two years ago and I wrote a piece for a film score. It went missing and we couldn’t find it.”

“Oh, my God. Ben took it. I’m so sorry.”

“No. It’s fine. I was gutted when I realized it was gone. I was able to rewrite it, but this time it was even better because I was able to relate to the deep sense of loss and despair of the character.”

“Still, I’m so very sorry. Ben’s only six. He wouldn’t have known any better back then.”

“Six? And he plays so well?” He had to be some kind of musical savant, Sophia thought. “May I speak with him?”

“I’m sorry, Ben’s autistic. He only communicates through music.”

Sophia laid her hand over her heart. “Then I’m very happy he found my music. I believe everything happens for a reason. I thought I lost the original so I could improve the piece. Maybe the real reason was so your son could express himself with it.”

The woman smiled. “Maybe it was both.”

Grinning, Sophia reached into her messenger bag and withdrew a signed copy of the sheet music from the movie and a CD of the score featuring a full symphony orchestra. “Give these to Ben for me. It will make me happy to know he’s enjoying my music.” She walked away with a smile on her face. When she stepped out onto the sidewalk, she raised her face to the sun and closed her eyes, wondering if that little boy realized he’d made her career.

Hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to leave any comments below or share this post on social media. I should get the results of Round One at the beginning of April, so I will post my results at that time. Thanks for your support.

Feb 162018

I thought I’d posted this one already, but apparently not. This short story was my final assignment (Editing and Revision) in my Creative Writing course. We had to submit our first draft and the final revision. Here’s what my instructor had to say:

“The story is expertly designed, and the writing style is professional and virtually flawless. It is not hard for me to imagine this as the work of a published author. I hope one day that will be the case.”

Me, too. 😉

On Tranquil Shores

Zane came down the steps off his deck just as she rounded the corner from behind dunes and golden grasses, the waves of the Atlantic tickling the shore behind her. He started towards her, across the soft sand. He wanted to see her eyes, needed to see the secrets hidden in their depths, and found himself sailing through the air, landing with an oomf at her feet. Pretty feet, with nails painted coral. Were those happy faces on the nails of her big toes?

Lifting his head, he admired long, long legs; the pale blue sundress flirting in the breeze; muscular arms folded over her abdomen below small breasts; a straw beach bag slung over one sun-kissed shoulder; long neck, tilted slightly; the smirk of a smile; and one perfectly shaped, raised eyebrow. There was a sparkle of amusement in her blue eyes. Whoa! The whole package up close was something to behold.

“Well,” she said in a warm, rusty voice. Sexy. “It’s not every day I have men falling at my feet.”

The weight of the pain and sorrow emanating from her, so sharp he could feel it himself in the weeks he’d watched her from his office window, seemed to have lifted with her amusement. “Ah,” he said. Jesus! He was a man who made his living with words and that was the best he could do? He pushed up to his feet, brushing sand off his rumpled clothes – the wrinkled t-shirt he’d taken out of the laundry hamper, the tan shorts he’d spilled his morning coffee on. “Sorry about that.” He glanced behind him, narrowed his eyes at the piece of driftwood in the sand. “I guess I should pay more attention to where I’m going.”

“You never know when beach trash is going to jump up and grab you.”

He laughed, stabbing his fingers through his medium brown hair and realized he hadn’t bothered to run a comb through it. Dropping his hand to his side, he said, “I just came out to invite you to dinner.”

“Dinner?” Her arched brows drew together.

“Yeah, I thought it was time to introduce myself. Be neighbourly.”

She cocked her head, staring at him.

“I’ve seen you coming up from the beach from my office window for weeks now. You look physically strong, yet whatever you’re carrying around with you is weighing so heavy you can barely lift your feet.” He motioned to the marks in the sand behind her. “You’re dragging your feet.”

She turned, examining the drag marks in the sand.

He was making a mess of this and wasn’t sure how to rescue himself. “Sorry, just an observation. I’m a writer, so I observe.”

“A writer.” She turned back to him with fire in her eyes. “So, what? You want me to come to dinner so that you can observe my brain, figure out what it is I’m carrying around with me?”

“I…hmmm.” He frowned, scratched his head. “I thought maybe I could help.”

“Are you a reporter?”

“What? No. I’m a novelist. Zane Ziegler.” He held out his hand, saw the recognition in her eyes and it stemmed some of the fire. Her hand slid into his, gripped firmly.

“Elle. Elle Dawson.”

Zane grinned. “So, you’ll come for dinner, Elle Dawson?”

She sighed deeply, brushing loose strands of hair from her face. “Sure. It will give me the chance to make up for my amusement at your misfortune.”


Elle studied herself in the mirror, turning to take in the simple sundress. Stupid, she thought. Stupid to accept a dinner invitation from someone she knew wanted to pick her brain. But, it had been so long since she’d had someone to converse with and the dishevelled, clumsy Zane seemed harmless.

She’d given herself a month at the beach house to figure things out and decide what to do with the rest of her life and, three weeks in, she was no further ahead than the day she arrived.

So maybe Zane Ziegler could help. And that was stupid, too. Who goes to a writer for psychological help? She dropped down onto the bed and buried her face in her hands. Get a grip, Elle. It’s just dinner.

She let her anger at herself propel her next door. She marched up the deck stairs and froze, staring at the quaint table set with gleaming silverware and short candles in crystal bowls. Not exactly what she’d expected.

“You look lovely.”

Elle spun around to see Zane leaning in the doorway. He didn’t look so unkempt now. Although still shaggy, he’d made an attempt to tame his hair. He wore dark dress slacks and a pale blue button up shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Casual elegance. Man, he cleaned up well! He pushed off the jamb and walked to her, offering one of the glasses of wine in his hand.

“Thank you.” Elle motioned to the table with her glass. “You’ve gone to a lot of trouble.”

“No trouble. I enjoy eating in a … nice setting. Why waste a view like this?”

She got the impression he’d been about to say romantic setting, maybe because that was exactly what it was. Elle turned to look out over the beach and the ocean beyond. “It’s beautiful.” She was going to miss it. One week seemed entirely too soon to be leaving.

Zane brought out salads to start and they sat at the table. It wasn’t long before the small talk turned to questions about her.

“Tell me what’s troubling you?”

She nearly laughed, and would have if he didn’t look so serious. “Just like that? You expect me to just vomit out all of my…” She waved her hands in front of her as if searching for the right word. “Stuff because you ask?”

Zane shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

The sun was beginning to set, casting shadows among the dunes. Elle set down her fork and stared out over the beach, let the whoosh of the waves rolling into shore, the caress of the warm breeze, the fresh, salty scent of the air, settle her. Why not? Maybe vomiting out her stuff would help. “All my life I wanted to be a cop,” she began.

“A cop? Damn, I had you pegged for an athlete.”

She couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face. “It burns that you got it wrong, doesn’t it?”

“Well, yeah.” He frowned into his wine glass, the candlelight flickering over his face. “I’m usually pretty good at figuring people out.”

“Keeping in shape is important to me. I need to be strong in my job.”

“Okay. I get that. So, what’s got you questioning your career choice?”

She cocked her head and locked onto his hazel eyes. He was good at observing, she thought. He saw more than most. “We were investigating a series of murders where the victims were tortured, raped, and their bodies dumped like trash. We knew where he was targeting the victims. They’d all been taken from the same mall. But, that was all we had. No witnesses, no forensics. Nada. We had a member of the team who matched the victimology, so we organized an op, sent her in as bait.”

Zane’s fork came to a halt halfway between his plate and his mouth. “You were the bait.”

Yeah, he definitely saw more than most. “I was the bait.” She traced the rim of her wineglass with her finger, surprised at how easy the words were coming. “We had cops all over the mall, inside and out. A couple of hours in, the mall Security Supervisor, Michael Cheney, walks up to me and says Detective Aldsworth would like to see me in the Control Centre. They had a guy on CCTV, stalking a woman fitting the vic profile on the west side of the mall, second level. I headed to the Control Centre in the basement on the east side of the mall while the rest of the team raced to the west side. Cheney badged us in to the Security Admin area then motioned for me to go ahead of him. I didn’t even think about it … until I felt the pinch on the back of my neck.”

“You would have investigated all of the security employees when you knew where he was grabbing the victims.”

“Yeah, we did. There was nothing there. Nothing that popped.” She stared out over the beach again. “I made a rookie mistake and I’m no rookie. I should have called Aldsworth to confirm. When he didn’t answer, I would have known something was hinky.”

“The rest of the team just reacted as well. No one stopped to question the supervisor.”

“I knew better. I was blinded by my desperation to get this guy. I guess we all were.” It was the first time she’d allowed herself to contemplate that she wasn’t the only one who’d screwed up. She took a gulp of wine then sat back and closed her eyes. She could see it all happening like it was yesterday, today, five minutes ago. “I came to strapped to a table, like the ones they have in the morgue. Six hours. That’s how long it took them to find me.”

“He made a big mistake. Better if he’d waited for the heat to die down, but he took you in the middle of an op. That gave the team his name and the basis to search for properties he’d have access to.”

“Not hard to tell you write mysteries.”

He smiled, raised his glass to her. “Finish it.”

“That’s it,” she shrugged. “It was humiliating. I screwed up. Really screwed up. How am I going to face them again? How am I going to be able to walk into my station house?”

She’d done a darn good job of skipping over the trauma she’d suffered during those six hours and that was okay. He didn’t expect her to talk to him about those details, but she needed to spill them to someone. “You’re going to piss me off if you keep blaming yourself. Do you blame the other victims for falling into his trap?”

Her fist slammed the table sending her fork clattering off her plate. “They weren’t cops!”

“Then it was every member of the team’s fault that raced for the west side of the mall without checking in with Aldsworth. If you blame yourself, you have to blame the rest.”

The sun had set, but she turned to stare out at the darkness. Damn, she hated that he was right.


“Wow. You made this yourself?” Elle stared down at the plate Zane had just set in front of her with the main course of grilled grouper, steamed vegetables, and baked potatoes. She looked up at him with wide eyes.

“I figure if I want to eat, I better be able to cook since I spend so much of my time sequestered.”

“Yeah, but I bet you could afford someone to do it for you.”

He laughed. He could probably afford a house full of staff to see to his every need at this point, but he enjoyed the solitude. And he enjoyed cooking.

He let her get a few bites in before he hit her with his next question. “Are you afraid to go back to work because you feel like you screwed up or because you feel ashamed of the trauma you suffered?”

Elle narrowed her eyes at him as her neck and face flushed red. “I’m not afraid.”

He preferred that flash of anger in her eyes to the despair he most often saw there. “I’m sure your department provides counselling, so why haven’t you seen someone?”

She shrugged. “I took a leave of absence as soon as I got out of the hospital and I came here.”

“Elle? You need to talk to someone.”

The despair was back in her eyes and they brimmed with tears. She turned her head away from him, but not before he saw those tears begin to fall. “It was my own damn fault.”

His heart broke for her. He was sure he could feel it tearing in half. “No,” he said, with more force than he intended. “It was Cheney’s fault.” She had to stop blaming herself or she’d never heal. “Maybe you made a mistake in not contacting Aldsworth, but you said yourself you checked out the security staff. He was in a trustworthy position and there was nothing in his background to cause suspicion. Stop blaming yourself. Stop punishing yourself.”


Zane had given Elle a lot to think about and, over the next few days, she worked on forgiving herself.

Her last week flew by. Elle spent every afternoon at the beach, secretly reading one of Zane’s novels. She’d heard of him, but had never actually read his work. The evenings she spent with Zane, talking about everything under the sun. He was so easy to talk to and, even better, he seemed to understand her. Now she was down to her last night, and she still hadn’t made a decision on what to do with her life.

She took a last barefoot stroll down the beach with Zane under a full moon, the sand soft and cool between her toes.

“Do you still want to be a cop?” Zane asked.

“Yeah. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do and I’m good at it, but I still don’t feel like I can face going back to my squad. I don’t know that that will ever change.” It had helped considerably to talk to Zane about the op. She knew she’d have to see a therapist and that she still had a lot of work to do, but she wasn’t as afraid of doing that as she had been a week ago. Still, going back to work didn’t feel right. The job she loved was slipping from her grasp with her dilemma.

“Why did you come here to get away?” Zane asked. “Here specifically?”

Elle slowed to a stop, breathed in the sea air, and took a moment to enjoy the soft, warm breeze on her face. “I’ve always found the sea so tranquil, so relaxing. So when I’m stressed, it’s where I tend to go.”

“Why don’t you transfer to the police department here?”

“What?” Her eyes flew up to meet his.

“You love the beach. You still want to be a cop, but not where you were working. Stay. Make this your permanent home.”

She had to admit that she was dreading leaving this place. She’d found a sense of peace here, with the sea air, warm breezes, the sounds of the waves rolling up on shore, even in the easy companionship she’d found with Zane. Starting fresh with a department that didn’t know all of the details of her ordeal had quite a bit of appeal now that she thought about it. She’d miss her old squad, but she couldn’t see herself working with them again. Here, she could start fresh and still do the job she loved.

It was like a weight had suddenly been lifted from her shoulders, like she could finally breathe again. “Why do you want me to stay?”

“For the obvious reasons,” he said. “I feel safer with a cop living next door.”

“Yeah, right.” Elle laughed. “You just want someone to fix your speeding tickets. I’ve seen that little sports car you drive.”

Zane took her hand and brushed his lips over her knuckles. It was the first time he’d made any move on her. She felt the tingling sizzle all the way up her arm.

“Stay,” he whispered.

Elle looked up into his eyes, seeing the desire in them and something else that she couldn’t quite identify. If you’d asked her a week ago if she was interested in getting involved with a man, she would have answered, “Hell no!” But, she felt comfortable with Zane. More, she trusted him. She slid her palm over his until their fingers interlocked. “Okay,” she whispered and he grinned. A slow smile spread across her face as they began to walk again. She drew in another deep breath of sea air, breathing so much easier now. “How can I resist a man who falls at my feet?”

The sound of their laughter drifted on the breeze.

I received a grade of 97%. Not a bad way to end my course. 😀

Feb 072018

I am participating in NYC Midnight‘s Short Story Challenge 2018. At the start time for the First Round of the Challenge, we were given a genre, subject, and character for a 2500 word short story with 8 days to complete and upload it. I was assigned horror, a checklist, and a gatecrasher. Horror is not a genre that I typically enjoy, however, writing out of my comfort zone proved to be challenging and educational. I’m hoping to move on to the second round at the end of March by placing in the top 5 out of the 32 in my heat. Wish me luck!

Update: Although I did not make the cut for the second round of the Short Story Challenge 2018, I did receive an honourable mention. Considering horror is not my strong suit, I was pleased with this result.

Cat Scratch Fever

“Rebecca’s still not answering.” Lily huffed and dropped her hand to her side, her phone clutched in a tight fist.

“Stop being so paranoid.” Jeremy hissed, bored with Lily’s incessant worry. “She’s probably too busy having a good time with Ben to take your calls.”

Lily didn’t believe that for a moment. Rebecca always answered her calls or texts. Her skin itched with a sense of dread.

“Let me see that.” Lily snatched at the crisp sheet of paper in Jeremy’s hand, but he lifted it above his head, out of her reach.

“Let’s go to the car and plan out our strategy where no one else can hear us.” Jeremy herded her to his beautifully restored 1965 Dodge Rambler, away from the sign-in desk for the Shade University Annual Car Rally Scavenger Hunt.

He read their checklist of fifteen items, each one to be accomplished by one or more team members and documented with a cell phone picture. The first team to return with the least errors or omissions, won a cash prize, not that Jeremy cared about the money or even winning. The thrill was in the chase.

“A picture of a phone booth?” Jeremy sneered. “Phone booths don’t exist anymore. This is 2018, not 1999.”

“Oh! There’s one at the Reference Library.”

“Get out. Really? Cool.” Jeremy flicked his weighty golden bangs out of his eyes. “Photo of an out of state licence plate. We’ll hold off on that one and keep our eyes peeled while we work on the rest.” He read the list to himself for a moment. “A video of one team member Gatecrashing a party and having a drink. This one’s easy. There’s bound to be parties at any number of the fraternity houses on campus.”

The horn sounded, signaling the start of the three hour event. Jeremy shoved the checklist into his back pocket and started up his Rambling Rose. She roared to life, all shiny black and gleaming chrome with an abstract rose decal in the rear window.

Thirty minutes later, with three of the fifteen tasks completed, he pulled over at the Reference Library and Lily snapped an image of the graffiti ridden phone booth. Four down, eleven to go.

“Frat house next,” Jeremy said as he shot back out to the road. “While you gatecrash a bash, I’ll explore the campus parking lot for out of state plates.”

With a shrug, Lily stared out the window, still a little annoyed Jeremy wouldn’t show her the stupid list. His controlling nature tended to feed her ire.

Jeremy cruised down a tree-lined street with old two storey abodes on either side, the Rambler rumbling like a purring kitten. University students occupied most of these homes. He parked at the curb in front of a red brick monstrosity with loud music vibrating from inside. Squeezing Lily’s hand, he furrowed his brow. “In and out, Lil. Take the video and haul ass out of there.”

Lily smiled at the worry in Jeremy’s tone. “No sweat.” She leaned over and brushed a chaste kiss to his cheek – a reward for his concern. Jeremy rubbed his face against hers in a feline like gesture.

“What?” He grinned when she pulled away. “Don’t like my whiskers?”

“Whiskers? Who says that?” With a laugh, she opened her door. “Be right back.”

Bending over the seats, Jeremy stared up at Lily. “I’ll find a licence plate and be back in five minutes.”

* * *

The wind kicked up and the gnarled branches of an old elm tree in the yard creaked as they swiped close to Lily. She hit record on her phone, holding it up facing the house. Her long chestnut hair whipped around her face as she pushed the black iron gate on the fractured path. It groaned in protest before clanging shut behind her. Glancing up, she glimpsed the bright, full moon through the swaying branches and a shiver ran down her spine. She didn’t bother knocking on the dark steel door, considering she was gatecrashing this shindig. The music blared deafeningly when she eased the door open – some hard rock band screaming out lyrics of cat scratch fever. Not her cup of tea.

The place reeked of a mixture of cat piss, sweaty gym clothes, and raw, rotting meat. Ew, why were men such pigs? She would have been smarter to suggest a sorority house for this task. Lily scanned the rooms off the foyer, but saw no one. The raunchy song burst from the room on her right, a living room with mismatched dated furniture and an old vinyl stereo system against the wall. A red and green plaid couch with stuffing bulging out between strands of shredded fabric sat in the centre of the room. She backed up with the hair on the back of her neck standing at attention.

As she reached for the doorknob with a trembling hand, the music came to a screeching halt. She peered back into the living room at a man looming over the stereo. Silver threaded through his thick tawny hair. This guy was way too old to be a student.

“Hello. Can I help you with something?”

“Uh … sorry, I-I must have come to the wrong house.” Lily wrenched the handle, but the door wouldn’t open. She tried again, her damp palm slipping on the glossy globe. Gripping harder, she twisted and yanked, but the door refused to relent.

“You can’t leave. Unless I let you, of course.”

The raspy voice came from directly behind her and Lily spun around to face the man wearing a crumpled grey t-shirt with a dark, crusty stain down the front, filthy jeans, and bare feet. Well, now she knew where the vile gym clothes odor came from. “Can you open the door, please? My f-friends are waiting for me.” She held her cell phone at her side, hoping it captured him on the video.

He snickered and Lily thought if the university offered a dental hygiene class, this freak missed it. A rusty brown stained his teeth. Gross.

“I don’t think so.” He padded forward, stalking his prey.

The same reddish-brown caked the corners of his lips, cracked and peeling like dried blood. Lily pressed herself into the door while her eyes darted all around, scanning for an escape route, for a weapon. “Listen, mister, let me out of here now or my friends will call the cops. They’re waiting right outside.” She should run to the back of the house and find the back door, but, God help her, she couldn’t make her legs move.

The man lunged for her and yelled, “Aaaah!”

Lily jolted, a shrill howl ripping from her lungs. Shocked into action, she sprinted around him, raced to the back of the house, ricocheting off drywall and doorframes. She stuck her phone in her pocket as she neared the back door in the kitchen, wrung and pulled the doorknob with both hands, but it denied her efforts.

A sinister cackle echoed from the hallway. “This is fun. I tell you what, little girl. Run and hide. I’ll find you.”

Jesus Christ! Lily foraged for something to throw through the window until she noticed the steel bars on the other side of it. Shit. No way in hell was she going back out to the hall to try for the stairway to the second floor with that creeper out there. That left this floor or … damn. The basement. How many horror movies had she watched and shook her head at the idiots who went into the cellar? But, she needed to buy herself enough time to call Jeremy to come and rescue her. She pulled a door open and found a walk-in pantry. The next door opened to a set of rickety stairs descending into a pitch-black abyss. She reached around for a light switch. Nothing.

The music came back on, blaring out the same hard rock crap, the base reverberating through her entire body.

Lily closed the door behind her and used the flashlight app on her phone to guide her down the dilapidated steps. The pungent rancidity of rotten meat and cat pee singed her nostrils and made her eyes water. She lost her footing on the last step thanks to her rubbery, quivering legs and her phone skittered across the cement, disappearing under an old pine workbench before plunging her into complete darkness. “Oh, God.”

She lumbered over the floor, her hands outstretched for the bench, then lowered to her hands and knees. Her right hand slid in a dense, slimy substance. Grease? She wiped her hand on her pants and reached under the lower shelf of the work table, sweeping her hand back and forth, praying there were no rats or creepy bugs under there. The tips of her fingers met the edge of the phone and she inched it out, turned the flashlight app back on, and lit up the deep red, congealing puddle in front of her as a coppery taste filled her watery mouth.

A sharp pain slashed through her chest as she struggled to contain the terror-filled scream crying for release. Hold it together, she told herself. She needed to find a hiding spot and call Jeremy. Fast. Her rasping breaths came in short gasps as she flashed the light around the room, searching for a place to conceal her curvy body. A blue plastic tarp hung like a curtain from an exposed pipe in the ceiling, blocking off part of the room. Whatever horrors hid behind it, Lily didn’t want to know. She went in the other direction, wedging herself behind a stack of cardboard boxes. Her hands shook so bad, she tapped Jenny in her contacts on the first attempt, missing Jeremy’s name. She managed to select the right name on her second try and held the phone to her ear. She couldn’t hear if it rang over the blasting music and her pulse throbbing in her ears, so she checked the screen. The call wasn’t going through. No reception. Her heart plummeted from her chest.

Lily frantically scurried out from her meager sanctuary, probing the cinderblock walls for a window. Nothing. To inspect the rest of the place, she had to go behind the dreaded tarp. A tremor creeped up her back, over her scalp, and goosebumps prickled her cold, clammy skin.

The music upstairs stopped, cloaking her in silence except for her own whimpers. No footsteps, but the creaking of the floor above her moved closer and closer to the back of the house, closer and closer to the door to the basement, to her.

She took one stiff footstep towards the tarp and froze, her arms pulling into her chest, her shaking fingers tightly grasping her phone, its glow aimed at the dreary curtain. A droning hum grew on the other side of the flimsy wall.

Creak, creak.

Lily whimpered. A slice of light beamed down from the top of the stairs, widening inch by inch, and Lily stumbled forward. She nudged the edge of the crinkly sheet aside, shining her beam ahead of her. Hundreds, thousands, of flies swarmed the confined space. Her brain took several seconds to register what she was looking at and her face solidified into an obscene silent scream.

“Lily? Lil?”

She registered Jeremy’s voice, but couldn’t respond, couldn’t tear her eyes away from the gruesome scene before her – the mangled bodies, sliced and torn to shreds, the grisly flesh ripped from bone, strings of tendons and muscle hanging grotesquely out of joints. A sea of maggots gorged, their tiny forms moving together in sickening waves. Vulgar smears, splatters, and pools of coagulated crimson covered every surface. And the funk. Oh, the foul stench.

Lily bent forward, the contents of her stomach spewing out and spraying a horrid blanket over the repulsive display of wasted life. She caught sight of long, blonde hair matted with blood. The face was obscured by slashes and bloody stains, but she recognized Rebecca and howled.

Jeremy grabbed Lily’s shoulders and pulled her back, turning her before he wrapped his arms around her. Hysterical sobs heaved her rigid body. “I’ve got you.” His glowing yellow eyes drifted to the massive, tawny wildcat on the stairs and he smiled, displaying a row of small teeth bracketed by broad, sabre like canines. “I’ve got you,” he whispered with a purr. He didn’t know why he got such a kick out of luring these tasty treats to his father’s door, but he supposed he enjoyed playing with his food as much as his father did.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave me your comments below. How’d I do with the horror theme? Do you think I have a chance of progressing to the second round?

Oct 252017

Hi everyone! Today I have a special post as part of the Writers Persevere event that authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are running for the next few days to celebrate their newest book, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. This book looks at the difficult experiences embedded in our character’s backstory which will shape their motivation and behavior afterward.

To help them celebrate this release, many of us are posting stories about some of the obstacles we’ve overcome as writers. As we all know, this isn’t an easy path. Writing is hard and as writers we tend to struggle with doubt. Sometimes too, we don’t always get the support we need to follow our passion, or we have added challenges that make writing more difficult. Because people are sharing their stories this week about how they worked through these challenges to keep writing, I wanted to post about it too.

My personal story of perseverance effects every aspect of my life. It’s something that I rarely talk about, although those who know me personally know some of what I go through. On April 15, 1993, I was involved in a car accident. Since that moment, I’ve suffered from chronic low back pain. There are days I cannot function, never mind write, but I had a son to raise as a single mother and I had to go to work to support him. I never received a dime from the car insurance company for my pain and suffering. They concluded that my pain could be due to child birth despite the fact that I didn’t have lower back pain until the moment of that accident. I’ve since had four surgeries and still suffer from chronic pain every moment of every day. I’m lucky if I sleep more than an hour at a time without the pain waking me. It becomes a cycle of pain and exhaustion. And still I go to work every day.

When it comes to my writing, sitting at the computer can be a struggle. I have to get up often to move around. It’s impossible not to think about the pain because it’s always there, pulling at you and draining the energy from your body. I lose focus or just can’t keep my mind on the story. But still I write. I may have to force myself to sit and do it, but I do it. I do it because I love writing and I am determined to succeed. I do it because I want to prove that nothing can prevent you from attaining your dreams if you put your mind to it and do the work. I do it because I have a desire to inspire women to overcome their personal tragedies and struggles through my stories.

Maybe that’s what we need as writers to succeed – a drive, a goal with a personal edge that will help us to persevere through the rejections and obstacles. An intimate desire that gives us strength and confidence, that puts us in that chair in front of our computers every day, that encourages us to send out yet another query. Make that drive, that goal, that desire strong enough, personal enough, and we will persevere. Find that inspiration, that motivation that will push you past your fears and limiting beliefs and then get your butt in that chair and do the work.

Do you have a story to share, or some advice for others? You can join Becca and Angela at Writers Helping Writers from October 25-27th, where we are celebrating writers and their stories of perseverance. Stop in, and tell them about a challenge or struggle you faced, or if you like, write a post on your own blog and share it using the hashtag #writerspersevere. Let’s fill social media with your strength and let other writers know that it’s okay to question and have doubts but we shouldn’t let that stop us.


There’s a prize vault filled with items that can give your writing career a boost at Writers Helping Writers.

I would love for one of you to win something that will help you get closer to your goal!

The giveaway is only from October 25-27th, so enter asap. And don’t forget to share this using the #writerspersevere hashtag so more prizes will be awarded!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to purchase my copy of The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. (I’m so excited for this book!! It’s a resource that should be on every writer’s desk.) And then I’m going to put my butt in my chair and write.


Sep 122016

I think I’ve just found my NaNoWriMo 2016 project. Once again it began as one of my creative writing assignments.


“You have reached your destination in fifty meters.”

“Oh, thank God!” Aileen MacEwan said to the GPS on her dash. After forty-eight hours of traveling, she couldn’t wait for a nice hot shower and then a good twelve hours in the sack. She turned right off the A87 through a small opening in a short stone fence and got her first view of the small cottage that her paternal grandmother, Moira MacEwan, had left to her. She’d never even met the woman. Her father left the Isle of Skye in his late teens and never went back. She’d given herself a month to stay here and decide whether she wanted to sell the cottage, convert it into a rental for the hikers and climbers that visited the area to conquer the Cuillin Hills, or move here permanently. She sure as hell didn’t want to go back to Toronto.

Her first glimpse of the cottage put a smile on her face. She’d been picturing a dilapidated ruin that may not even be livable. But her grandmother had obviously kept the place well maintained. The windows looked new and the front door featured a beautiful inlaid stained glass work of art. The cream walls were clean, as if freshly painted, and the sloped roof looked newly shingled. Flowers bloomed wildly along the front of the house and dripped out of window boxes. A large deck peeked around the side of the house and offered a lovely view of Loch Sligachan.

Aileen stepped out of the car and stretched her long, lean body as she turned to take in the view of the Loch. The dark, rolling clouds were so low in the sky she thought she may be able to touch them as she stretched. She took a deep breath of sea air and relaxed her tense shoulders as she breathed out. Why had her father been so hell bent on leaving such a beautiful place? Maybe that was something she could figure out while she was here. But, for now, she just wanted to get settled in and sleep. She pulled her two suitcases out of the trunk and dragged them to the front door then fished around in her purse for the key that the solicitor had sent her. She stuck the key in the lock, turned it to the left, but didn’t feel the dead bolt slide over. The door was unlocked.

Frowning, Aileen turned the door handle, eased the door open, and got an earful of an excited sports caster with a thick Scottish brogue. She took a few tentative steps into the foyer and peered into the room on her left. A soccer match was in full swing on a large screened TV and cheering one of the teams on was a dark haired male sitting on a leather sofa with a beer in one hand and a sloppy sandwich in the other.

Aileen looked back at the front door then down at the key in her hand. It had to be the right cottage as the key had fit in the lock. “Excuse me,” she called out. When she got no answer, she raised her voice. “Hello!”

The man popped his head around, a surprised expression on his face. “Who the bloody hell are you?”

Aileen perched her fists on her hips. “I’m Aileen MacEwan.”

One dark eyebrow lifted. He took a long swig of beer and said, “Well, what the bloody hell are ye doing here then?”

“This is my cottage, so what the bloody hell are you doing here?” The man stood and Aileen guessed he had to be at least six foot four of solid muscle. There was no way she could muscle him out the door, although she’d give it a damn good try.

“I’m buying the cottage, so I didna see any reason not to move in.”

She had to pick her jaw up off the floor. “Well, you can just move out. The cottage isn’t for sale.” And he better do it quick. She needed to rest.

He laughed. Literally stood there and laughed at her. “I’ll no be moving oot, lass. I live here. De ye ken?”

“Do I what?” She shook her head and held up a hand. “Never mind. You have no right to be here. I own this cottage. Moira MacEwan left it to me in her will.”

“Oh, aye, I’ve a right to it. Moira MacEwan was my gran. I’ve been living here since she passed and I’m staying.” A thick, ropey vein pulsed in his neck, his face flushed to a bright red.

This wasn’t a good situation. He was as angry as she was and God knew what he would do. She couldn’t leave and go to a hotel or she might never get the cottage back from him. Was he planning to contest the will? “How could Moira be your gran? My Dad told me we were the only family she had left. Who are you?”

He pursed his lips together and his ice blue eyes flashed to the mantle over the stone fireplace for a brief moment. Aileen looked over at the mantle which was lined with framed photographs. She went to move closer to it and he stepped in front of her. “Me name’s Brodie. Look, if ye want to have a wee rest, there’s a spare room at the top of the stairs. If ye like, ye can stay here until the sale of the cottage is through and ye go back to Canada.”

She was sure her face was as red as his now. She glared up at him with eyes the same ice blue as his. “It’s. Not. For. Sale.” Damn him. Her eyes burned and she forced back hot tears. She didn’t come all this way to be bullied into selling the cottage.

Brodie grinned down at her. “Oh, aye, yer a feisty wee lass, aren’t ye?”

Feisty wee lass? She was five foot nine, albeit a little on the lean side, but that was beyond her control at the moment. No one had ever called her wee. Feisty maybe, but not wee. “Ugh!” she growled then stomped back outside, dragged her suitcases in, and slammed the door closed, cringing when she realized she could have broken the beautiful stained glass insert. When Brodie reached for one of her suitcases, she ordered him not to touch them and heaved them both up the narrow staircase herself and into the tiny room at the top of the stairs. How was she supposed to sleep now that he’d riled her up? God, she could use a drink!

Aileen tossed and turned on the lumpy mattress. Who the heck moved into a house before they bought it? How dare he? She punched the pillow a couple of times, but it didn’t help. The hot tears that threatened earlier flooded back. How was she supposed to deal with this all alone in a strange country and stay sober? She swiped the tears away and started doing the deep breathing exercises they taught her in rehab. By the fifth breath she was starting to feel a little calmer, but she still wanted a drink. She wondered if they had AA meetings on the Isle of Skye. She should probably check that out. Right after she went to see the solicitor that had contacted her about inheriting her grandmother’s cottage and a half decent chunk of change along with it. She needed to find out who Brodie was and why he thought he had a claim to her grandmother’s place. She couldn’t have been his blood grandmother because her father had told her they were the only family she had left. She’d asked her dad why they never visited her, but he always waved her off. It was nearly ten years ago that her dad died and left her with a bitch of a step-mother to deal with. She still hadn’t forgiven him, but she was working on it – part of the whole twelve step thing. She hoped she didn’t have to forgive Brodie. The bastard!

Okay, so first thing in the morning, she’d visit the solicitor and find out what she had to do to get him out of her cottage. She could do this. By this time tomorrow she would be snuggled up in the big comfy bed she’d seen in the master bedroom and Brodie would be sleeping on a park bench for all she cared.

Aileen was so grateful that Brodie wasn’t around when she woke up in the morning. She was able to shower and get dressed at her leisure. The only complaint she’d had was that there was no coffee in the kitchen that she could find. At least she’d found a little café on her way to the solicitor’s office, which was in a stone building that looked like it had been around for hundreds of years. Probably had, Aileen thought. A young woman with a mass of red hair sat at an antique desk in the reception area. The floors were old plank floorboards that had been buffed and polished to a high shine. Aileen gathered her long dark hair and pulled it over her shoulder. “Hello,” she said. The young woman looked up and smiled. She had bright green eyes, a sprinkling of freckles across her nose, and a lovely smile.


“My name is Aileen MacEwan. I would like to see Mr. Browning.”

“Oh, aye. You’re from Canada. Welcome to Sconser. Did you find your way okay?”

“Yes, thank you, but there was someone living in the cottage when I arrived. I need to speak to Mr. Browning about having him removed.”

The smile dropped from her face. “Oh, de ye mean Brodie?”

“Yes, Brodie.”

The woman picked up her phone, dialed a number and turned around, giving Aileen her back. She whispered into the phone then turned around again, smile back in place, and hung up the phone. “Mr. Browning will be right oot. Can I get ye a cup of tea?”

She would have preferred another coffee, but she was in Scotland after all. “Sure, why not?”

She never got the cup of tea because Mr. Browning came out of his office with Brodie on his heels. “Ms. MacEwan,” Browning said. “Why don’t you come in and we’ll see if we can work this matter out?” He waved his hand towards the door he’d just come out of.

“What’s he doing here?” Aileen asked, her fury from the night before surfacing again.

“Please, come inside. Let me explain.” He had a bit of a Scottish accent, but it was faint.

Was the solicitor in on this, too? Were they trying to rip her off? Oust her from her own damn cottage? “I’d like you to explain to Brodie that he has to move out of my cottage.”

Browning winced. “Are you not planning on selling it then?”

“No, I’m not.” She hadn’t decided yet, but she damn well wouldn’t tell them that. “I’m moving into it myself and I want him out.” She stabbed her finger in Brodie’s direction.

Browning and Brodie’s eyes met and Browning said, “Well, we do have a problem then, don’t we?”

“There’s no problem,” Aileen huffed. “The cottage belongs to me. Brodie will just have to find somewhere else to live.”

Brodie rolled his eyes and spoke to Mr. Browning. “Ye see. She’s no being vera nice aboot it.”

“Come in to the office, please. The two of you,” Browning said with an exasperated sigh and walked back to his office.

Aileen glared at Brodie and followed Browning. His office boasted the same high-sheened floors as the reception area. He lowered himself into his leather chair behind a monstrous antique desk with flamboyant flourishes while Aileen perched on the edge of one of the chairs facing him. “This is ridiculous, Mr. Browning. You sent me all of the paperwork. I own the cottage. Brodie has no right to it.”

“Aye, Ms. MacEwan, but he is your brother and throwing him out on the street isn’t the best solution.”

Aileen coughed, choked. Her hands went to her throat. “Brother?” Jesus! Was that really her voice? It sounded far too high. She turned around when she heard a laugh and stared at Brodie, leaning against the doorjamb. God, now that she looked at him, he did resemble her father. In fact, he was the spit of him. Is this why Dad had left Skye? Had he knocked Brodie’s mother up and taken off?

“Did he no tell ye aboot us then?” Brodie asked. “No, I dinna think he did, aye? He couldna risk it.”

“Us?” Aileen squeaked. Were there more kids that he left behind?

Brodie took a step into the office. “Aye, ma and I. He stole ye away from yer own mother.”

Aileen rubbed her temples, a sudden headache pounding there. “No, that can’t be. My mother died when I was very young.” This was getting overwhelming. She really needed a drink, even knowing she only wanted it to drown the pain and it would just make things worse. It always did. Why would her father steal her away from her mother and lie to her about it? It didn’t make any sense. She looked up at Brodie. How did it make him feel when his father took off with her and left him behind? Was he left with an abusive bitch like her step-mother? “I don’t understand.”

“Yer da was aboot to go to gael for a vera long time. He ran, with you, instead of doing his duty.” Brodie shrugged. “A coward was our da. He may have taken me as well, but I was at school and he dinna have time te wait. Ye were on a plane and away before the coppers knew he was gone. Poor Mr. Browning here spent a fortune on a private investigator to track ye doon. It took months and we were all vera surprised he dinna change yer name.”

“Wh-what was he going to jail for?” Aileen wasn’t sure she wanted the answer.

Brodie’s eyes were cold and hard. “Murder.”

Oh, God! “Who d-did he kill?” No wonder he wouldn’t come back to visit his mother. Aileen wrapped her arms around herself. She felt like she was sitting in a bucket of ice. She was shivering and couldn’t stop.

“That’s enough, for now,” Browning said. “I think Ms. MacEwan needs to go home and rest, Brodie. This is a lot to take in.”

“Ye willna kick me oot the cottage, will ye then, Ailey?”

Ailey. That was what her father called her. She looked up at Brodie again. Why had their grandmother left the cottage to her instead of Brodie anyway? Now she felt horrible about the whole thing. “No, I won’t kick you out. In fact, I’ll get my things and move to a hotel until I can get a flight back home.” She started to get to her feet and was hit with a dizzy spell. She fell back into the chair, grasping her spinning head. When had she eaten last? She couldn’t remember. She’d picked at the meals they’d served on the plane, but that was the day before yesterday.

“Ms. MacEwan,” Browning said from directly in front of her and she realized he was crouched down at her knees. “Are you okay? Do you need a doctor?”

“No, no, I’ll be fine in a minute.” Add embarrassment to her growing list of emotions. Her face probably looked like a beetroot. She took a few deep breaths then slowly got to her feet. “You’re right, of course. I need to rest. It’s been a long few days.” So much for taking a month to explore Skye and decide what to do with the cottage. She’d come back to see Mr. Browning tomorrow and sign it over to Brodie.

Good one, aye? Definitely another novel in the making.


Aug 282016

Here’s a short story that was another one of my writing assignments. I was a bit worried about this one; not too confident in it. But, the instructor seemed to love it. So, here it is …


PolarBearDipKarina stared down at her local paper, acknowledging that the Gravenhurst Winter Carnival’s Polar Bear Dip would count as facing her fear of being trapped under the ice, unable to break through. Selena’s words echoed through her head – the only way to overcome your fears is to face them. Then the psychotherapist assigned Karina the homework of doing just that – picking one of her fears and facing it.

Karina folded the paper and shoved it across her breakfast table. It was crazy to even contemplate it. Who in their right mind would jump into freezing cold water on purpose? She had a long list of fears she could choose from. She didn’t need to start with one that had been a recurring nightmare for years despite the fact that she didn’t have a rational reason for that particular fear.

No matter how many times she tried to convince herself it was stupid, she couldn’t help thinking about the damn Polar Bear Dip. She logged onto the Winter Carnival’s website and investigated the event further. There was a consent form that had to be signed stating that you wouldn’t hold the town of Gravenhurst responsible if you were hurt or died. Yeah, totally crazy idea. Although, they had a scuba diver in the water and a medical team on standby. If her heart stopped from the shock of the water temperature, they could get it going again, couldn’t they?


            On Saturday afternoon, Karina found herself on the chilly shore of Gull Lake with her consent form in hand. Her trembling breaths turned to mist as soon as they hit the frigid air. She couldn’t believe how many idiots were lining up to register for the dip. She should have brought a stack of Selena’s business cards to hand out because all of these people, herself included, had to be certifiable.

Once registered, Karina went to the changing area and stripped down to her long underwear, a long sleeved t-shirt, and water shoes. Then she walked out to where a large crowd was gathering around a six foot by ten foot rectangle cut out of the ice. The water was as black as oil and the ice at its edges was so thick she couldn’t see its depth as it disappeared into the inky pool. If she somehow ended up under that ice, she’d never be able to break through it.

It was as if she drifted into her recurring nightmare, her lungs burning for air as she pounded her fists against the ice above her, scratching at it until her nails ripped off. Her energy sapped with each passing second.

“Miss?” The sound of a pleasant female voice and the pressure of a cold hand on her forearm eased Karina back to the present. “Are you okay, love?” A stocky, grey haired woman with kind blue eyes edged in wrinkles stared into Karina’s eyes. How long had she been stuck in that dream?

“Yes, fine.” How was she supposed to answer that question? She wasn’t fine. She was about to do the craziest thing she’d ever done despite the fact that it could kill her.

Movement in her peripheral vision caught her attention and she watched a man wearing black swimming trunks leap off the edge of the ice, shouting out what sounded like a war cry. He hit the water with a kerplunk and disappeared under the dark ripples. Milliseconds passed before he rose up with another war cry, water splashing up around him as he dove for the ladder. He was swearing as he climbed out then dashed towards the warming tent, muttering expletives as he went.

Karina made her way to the edge, her entire body shaking, but she didn’t know if it was from the cold or from her fear. From this angle, the ice looked far too close. One wrong move and she could be under it. She began to slip back into the dream, picturing herself trapped with her lungs screaming for air. The sound of the crowd behind her, cheering her on, jarred her back. They began to chant, “Jump, jump, jump.”

Their words filled her until she was chanting along with them. Sabrina’s words echoed through the chant – to overcome your fears, you must face them. God, she didn’t want to live in fear anymore. This first step, this freezing cold step, was the first step in getting to a point in her life where she wasn’t paralyzed by fear. She could do this. “Jump, jump, jump,” she whispered and, blocking everything else out, she leapt into the air.

Hitting the water was like being hit by a Mack truck. Every cell in her body screamed in protest. Her body numbed except for the ice cream headache piercing her skull. She wasn’t sure she could move her arms and legs to get her back to the surface.

It was at that moment a memory flooded her mind. Her ex-husband had come home late and the dinner that she’d carefully prepared for him had gone cold. To teach her a lesson, he filled the bath tub with ice water and forced her into it, holding her under until her lungs were on fire. He let her up and she got in half a breath before he pushed her back under and she inhaled icy water into her lungs. Oh, God. This was it. He was going to kill her this time.

Karina fought against the arm that encircled her waist. The next thing she knew, she was breaking the surface of the water and gasping for air. She tried to fight the man holding her, waiting for him to shove her under again. But he led her to the ladder instead and helped her out. Coming out of the water into the wind was almost worse than hitting the water. She sobbed as two people surrounded her and led her into the warming tent. The grey haired woman helped her strip out of her wet clothes then wrapped her in warm towels. Bones, muscles, tendons – every part of her – seized. She sat in front of a heater, shivering from head to toe, trying not to think about her ex-husband. Damn him. Then a thought entered her mind. She’d survived. That thought began to thaw her body and a warmth spread through her.


            Karina sat waiting for her Selena’s response after she’d told her all about the Polar Bear Dip. She knew exactly what she was going to say and she wasn’t wrong.

“How did you feel after the experience?”

Karina smiled, an expression that felt foreign to her. “I felt … triumphant. Despite everything he did to me, he didn’t kill me. I survived and no one is ever going to treat me like that again. For the first time in years, I felt empowered and proud of myself for jumping into that damn cold water.” Karina bent over, pulled a sheet of paper out of her purse and unfolded it. “I made a list of my fears and I’m going to face every one of them. I already have four checked off the list.” Karina’s face lit up as she handed the list to Selena. “I feel free.” And she did. Free of his control, of his judgement, of his abuse. She felt free to live her life without the constant fears that had plagued her for so long.


Hope you enjoyed it! Feel free to leave a comment below. 😉

Thanks for reading!


Dec 022015

Here’s another writing assignment that I wanted to share with you. It could be the beginnings of a new novel or even a new series. Enjoy.


imageThe CN Tower stood tall and proud, a sentry watching over the city, its spire lost in the grip of dark, ominous clouds. The alternating colours of its decorative lights reflected off clouds, sleek skyscrapers, and the dome of the Rogers Centre at its base. Far below the Tower’s Observation Deck, traffic whizzed over wet roads as an ear-piercing siren echoed off buildings like the metal ball in a pinball machine.

No matter how majestic, the Tower didn’t protect against the evil lurking in its midst. That was a fact that Detective Frankie Gallagher knew all too well as she crouched in the dim side street, red and blue squad car lights dousing the white tarp covering the victim’s abused body. Rain pitter pattered on the protective tent above Frankie which did little to keep out the cold.

With gloved hands, Frankie peeled back the white tarp and shuddered as the scent of death merged with the damp air. She recognized the work – the young, innocent face with its eyes sewn shut, the road rash from being dumped here out of a moving vehicle, long blonde hair that was now wet and matted. This young woman made victim number three in a matter of weeks.

Frankie replaced the tarp, flicked her long chestnut ponytail over her shoulder and closed her eyes for a moment. Just a moment, to tamp down the woman and bring back the cynical, dark eyes of the cop. She released the former on a long, slow breath that turned to steam the moment it met the cold night air. Wet leather and spice drifted over death’s fetor and Frankie opened her eyes to find Jaysen Bennett – all biker bad boy with his five o’clock shadow, faded blue jeans and beaten up leather jacket – staring at her over the body. She hadn’t seen those deep blue eyes, that silky black hair, that sculpted face, hadn’t felt the rasp of that shadow against her skin for five long years. She’d thought he was about to propose as he took her hand over a candle-lit table. Instead he’d explained that he was too young for a committed relationship. He wanted to travel, experience life. And then he’d literally disappeared from her life.

“Sixteen year old Kaylee Dunn,” he said. “Parents reported her missing three days ago.”

Frankie gave him a scowl in greeting. No hello, no how are you? No apology for mashing her heart into a pulp? If he hadn’t left her all alone … She couldn’t let herself think about it. Not now. Not here. She swallowed the lump clawing its way up her throat. “What are you doing at my crime scene, Bennett?”

Jaysen pulled out his ID and held his badge up for her to examine. “Detective Bennett. It’s my crime scene, too.”

She pushed to her feet, turned and walked away, approaching the closest uniform. “Who was first on scene?”

Jaysen inserted himself between Frankie and the constable, flipping through his notebook. He wasn’t afraid of her, despite being warned of her reputation as the department’s fire-breathing dragon. He knew Frankie Gallagher too well. She was no dragon. “Already talked to her. Witnesses report –” He stopped talking when Frankie stomped off again. His jaw dropped open. “Hey,” he yelled and stormed after her. He stepped in front of her so that if she took another step she’d end up in his arms. She stopped abruptly.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” He watched her eyebrows rise, her eyes widen and damn if that didn’t draw him into those deep brown eyes. He wasn’t sure if she’d grown even more beautiful than the last time he’d seen her or if he’d just forgotten how beautiful she was. That had him wondering if her long, lean body and ample bosom were as he remembered. Powerless to stop himself, his eyes travelled down the long length of her and then slithered back up to linger at her chest. The loud smack and burning sting on his left cheek caught him off guard. It was then, with the street light shining down on her at just the right angle, that he noticed the faint white scar slashing through her brow, over her eye, right down to her sharp cheek bone.

“If you want to talk to me, you can damn well look me in the eye.” She darted around him, searching for a familiar face. She made it about two steps before he gripped her arm and flung her around.

“You need to get over your issues with me so we can get on with doing the job.”

Frankie’s nostrils flared, her chest tightened around her pounding heart. She yanked her arm out of his grasp, freeing herself, and pushed her face up to his. “Have you even worked a homicide before?” Her fists clenched tightly at her sides, every muscle in her body taut.

“I know what I’m doing, Detective.”

“Do you have a problem answering questions, Detective?”

“Yes, I’ve worked homicides. I didn’t realize I needed your approval before working a case.”

Pointing back to the road, she growled, “Do you see the body of that poor girl lying in the street? That’s on me. Because the last time this bastard dumped a body, I didn’t find him. So back the hell off and let me do my job without having to babysit.”

Jaysen let her go. This wasn’t the same Frankie that he remembered. She used to be such a bright, shining presence. Her smile could light up the entire city. Her laugh, deep and throaty, surrounded you like a blanket, like a warm hug. What had happened to Frankie that had snuffed out her light?

Frankie approached a uniformed officer with sandy blonde hair tucked up under her cap, its mirrored patten leather bill decorated with dewey drops. “You were first on scene, Constable Sloan?”

“Detective Gallagher.” Sloan rolled her eyes with an exaggerated sigh.

“Give me your report, Constable.”

“I just gave it to your partner over there.” Sloan nodded her head behind Frankie. “Detective Hottie over there. Don’t you guys communicate?”

Frankie glanced over her shoulder to see Jaysen standing where she’d left him with his arms crossed over his chest, glaring at her. She frowned and turned her attention back to Sloan. “No. Your report?”
Sloane huffed and pulled her notebook out of a pocket in her vest, but she didn’t open it. “911 call came in at twenty-three eleven. We were on scene at twenty-three thirteen. My partner and I secured the scene and then located two witnesses. We separated the witnesses. The first, Sheila O’Hare, was the 911 caller. All she saw was the body lying in the street.

“Second witness is your golden boy. Eli Kramer was walking his dog just after twenty-three hundred. He stated he noticed the car because the door opened and the car didn’t even attempt to slow down. Kramer was on the opposite side of the car, so he didn’t see the body right away. He described the vehicle as a high end black sedan with dark tinted windows. A Mercedes or BMW perhaps. Just as the body came into view, the sedan sped off.”

“Why is he my golden boy?”

Sloane grinned. “He memorized the license plate number.”

Frankie couldn’t stop the edge of her mouth from curling up. “Where’s Eli? I’d like to speak with him.”

“Yeah, thought you might.”

Sloane released Eli Kramer and his fluffy little white dog from the back of her squad car. Kramer straightened and gently placed the dog at his feet. Frankie would run Eli Kramer through the system, but he looked like a reliable sort. Short white hair peaked out from under a black knit toque that looked like his wife had made it for him. The deep lines mapping his face gave him character, as did the rubber slip ons that covered his black dress shoes to make them waterproof. “Mr. Kramer, I’m Detective Gallagher.”

“When can I go home? Am I being detained for some reason?” Frankie had to bend in closer to Kramer to hear him over the traffic on the cross street cutting through wet pavement.

“No sir, you can leave in a few minutes. I would appreciate it if you could give me your story again.”

Kramer was flamboyant in the manner he used his hands when he spoke, but he looked Frankie in the eye and spoke confidently in a nasal tone. He was so specific with the details that Frankie could only think of a couple of questions to ask him.

“Which door opened, Mr. Kramer?”

“Oh, it was the driver’s door.”

“The front driver’s door?”


Frankie tried to play it out in her mind. The best she could come up with was driving with the vic bent over in his lap, her butt to the door. Open the door and the weight distribution of her body might have her sliding out on her own.

“Did you get a look at the driver?”

“No, I’m sorry. The windows were tinted black and it was dark.”

Frankie gave Kramer her card. The back of her neck prickled with heat, goosebumps trailed down her back. Getting the licence plate number could be the break Frankie had been searching for. The car or the plates could be stolen, but Frankie didn’t think so. Not with the buzz she was getting.


What do you think? Is this the beginning of a new novel or series? Do you want to read the rest of Frankie and Jaysen’s story? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!




Copyright © Wendy Hewlett – December 2015

Sep 012015

Here’s a short, short story that I wrote for my creative writing course. I hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to leave a comment.



1798200166_a4f70df418_oShe loved her job, but getting called when you were so nicely cocooned in a warm, comfy duvet really sucked. She dressed quickly, pulling on as many layers as she could without losing mobility. On the way out the door she double checked her equipment – weapons, cuffs, flashlight, notebook, and a pencil because pens were useless in subzero temps.

The drive to the crime scene only took fifteen minutes and five of those were spent going through the Timmies drive thru. Still, the scene was in the middle of nowhere – a little-used dirt road surrounded by farmer’s fields.

Raven parked on the shoulder behind two OPP squad cars with their lights flashing, like anyone was going to see them out here. With her coffee in hand, she bravely exited her vehicle. The wind sliced in from the north, cutting deep into every inch of exposed skin. Ducking her head against it, Raven made her way to the closest squad. Bastard! He rolled down the window instead of getting out to speak with her.

“Evening, Detective Bowen,” he said. “Nice bed head.”

“Closer to morning,Tate” she growled back, absently running a hand through her short black hair. Probably should have looked in the mirror before running out the door. “Want to show me where the body is?”

He pointed toward the ditch on the other side of the road. “Snowmobilers found her. Guy stopped to take a piss and nearly shit his pants instead.” Constable Tate’s head rolled back with laughter.

Constable Warren, who sat in the passenger seat, no doubt enjoying the heat blasting out of the vents, leaned over Tate. “Sorry to hear about your mom, Detective Bowen.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Raven didn’t know how to respond to that. She wasn’t close to her mom. Losing her, making the funeral arrangements, and surviving the horrid day of the funeral hadn’t bothered her nearly as much as what her mother had said to her from her death bed. And how she said it because Raven hadn’t been anywhere near her death bed.

Raven’s mom was Wiccan, which is how Raven ended up with the embarrassing name Raven Sage Bowen. She was also psychic. A psychic Wiccan. It was bad enough having to live her life as Raven Sage never mind the whole town knowing what her mother claimed to be. Raven had been rebelling against all of that hokey crap since she was in her early teens. And now she couldn’t get her mother’s last words to her out of her head. You have the gift, Rave. You’ve only to open yourself to it.

“Yeah, right,” she said to herself as she crouched down at the edge of the ditch, her flashlight pointed at the form below. No footprints around or near the body, which was half buried in snow. This girl had been here for some time, preserved by the icy temperatures. She was face down, left arm extended up over her head. Long, red hair fanned out around her, tangled and knotted.

At the sound of crunching snow behind her, Raven glanced over her shoulder, surprised to see Warren approaching. She was relatively new with less than a year on the force. Probably her first murder scene. She crouched next to Raven.

“No outstanding missing persons reported in Huntsville or the surrounding area in the past six months.”

Raven smiled ever so slightly then sipped her coffee. It was the first thing she would have checked. “Tell me what you see here,” she asked, intrigued by the rookie now.

“Appears to be naked and frozen solid.”

A low rumble of laughter quickly blew away in the arctic wind. “That’s it?”

“Ligature marks on the left wrist.”

“You’re only telling me what you see with your eyes.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Raven thought again of her mother’s words. Was the old bitch right? Had she been using her gift all along?

“She’s been there for a long time. Is that what you mean?” Constable Warren looked to Raven for confirmation and then continued. “This was just the dump site. She wasn’t murdered here. But, we need to see what’s beneath her, what’s buried in the snow.”

Raven looked over her shoulder again as a set of headlights approached. Here came their forensic unit which consisted solely of Constable Mark Mainguy. “It’s time to find out just what is under there,” she said as she rose to her full height. “Are you up for some digging or are you going to keep your ass warm in your squad like Tate over there?”

Warren was grinning from ear to ear as she stood. Raven wondered how she wasn’t giving herself one of those ice cream headaches. “I’m up for it, Detective. I’m no pussy, like Tate over there.”

For the second time in the span of a few minutes, Raven laughed a deep, throaty laugh. Damn, she kind of liked this kid.

* * *

After hours spent under a makeshift tent, delicately extricating the body of the young woman from her frozen grave and collecting what little evidence had been secured under the snow and the body, Raven had felt an unexplainable need to go to her mom’s house. She hadn’t been inside the house for years, yet it was just like it had been the last time she’d been there. Dried flowers, plants, and herbs hung above windows and down from the ceiling all over the kitchen giving it a spicy aroma. The way the morning light speared into the room brought back a flood of before school memories. Breakfasts gobbled down at the huge kitchen island that was now covered in books, pestles, bottles, and pots as if her mom was in the middle of cooking a meal. Except it wasn’t meals her mom cooked here. It was spells and potions and God knew what.

What was she going to do with this place? To get it ready to put up for sale was going to take a lot of work. And time, which she didn’t have a lot of.

It’s yours now, Rave. Please, don’t sell it.

Raven looked around the room, expecting to see her mother. Was her mother talking to her from beyond the grave now? That was just too creepy. She turned towards the door, fully intending to leave, but her curiosity got the best of her. She just had to find out what her mother had done with her room. She headed up the creaking wooden steps that had made it impossible for her to sneak in late back in the day.

The door was open when she thought her mother would have at least closed it off, sealing the bad memories away. She got a shock when she peeked around the door jamb and found her room exactly as she’d left it some twelve years ago.

Oh, sweet babe! I’ve always loved you.

“Will you stop doing that?” Raven yelled, spinning around, looking up, down. She waited in the hall for a few minutes and when she didn’t hear any more, she convinced herself she’d imagined it. People didn’t talk to you after they died. She stepped into her childhood room with its pink walls and white canopy bed. It was like walking into a fairy tale. Raven had hated it. She wasn’t the pink, princess type. Sports were her thing back then, not tea parties and pretty dresses. She still hated dresses.

Dragging a finger across her dresser, she was surprised to find there wasn’t a speck of dust on it. Why would her mother still be cleaning this room?

Because I always hoped you’d come back.

“Stop that!” Raven covered her ears like a spoiled brat.

You asked.

“I also asked you to stop that!” She’d gone stark raving mad. She was talking to a ghost! She quick stepped to the stairs and fled down them. Before she could get out the door, she heard her mother’s voice one more time.

Check Orillia for missing persons. That’s where you’ll find your frozen girl.

* * *

Raven sat down at her desk to wait for her computer to boot up. Sleep. That was the problem. She’d put a few hours in at the office and then try to get a couple of hours of shut eye. She was just about to lean back in her chair and pop her boots up on her desk when Constable Warren’s head appeared in the doorway. “Got a minute?”

“Didn’t your shift end hours ago?”

“I wouldn’t have been able to sleep, so I figured I’d just keep checking missing persons.” She held up a file folder. “Seventeen year old Emily Kathryn McMurtrie. Reported missing last November. Out of Orillia.”

Told ya!

Oh, sweet Jesus! Her mother wasn’t going to wait for her to open herself to the gift.


Copyright © Wendy Hewlett – September 2015

Nov 202014

image3Going into the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair as a new Canadian self-published author, I had an idea of what to expect, but was it realistic since this was my first time promoting my books? I was excited at the prospect of promoting my novels at an event that was a targeted audience of book lovers. How do you determine how many books to bring with you to an event like this? I brought 125 copies of my first novel, Saving Grace, and 75 copies of the second novel in the Taylor Sinclair Series, Unfinished Business, and I was worried I wouldn’t have enough. What I learned was that it wasn’t about book sales. Sales for unknown indie-authors like myself were pretty much non-existent at the Book Fair. I failed to take into account that we would be competing for sales with over 400 authors, many of them best-sellers and a few of them legends.

What the inaugural event of Toronto’s Book Fair was about for authors like myself was networking, making contacts with professionals in the literary world, and getting our name out there. These things were invaluable and made the event a success despite the financial loss. I invested a lot in the creation of promotional materials such as banners, business cards, and a Kindle Fire HD draw to entice people to join my email list. Other costs included the purchase of the booth itself, travel and hotel expenses, and the printing of 200 novels (which I will still be able to sell). So, all in all, with only ten books sold at the event, it was a financial loss. But that doesn’t take into account future online sales that may result from handing out my business cards, or from people checking out my website from the links on the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair website and print materials, or from the exposure on social media sites.  It may be too early to determine just how much of an impact the Book Fair will have in regards to book sales, but I definitely believe it has been a very worthwhile investment.

Networking with other authors, both traditionally published and self-published, publicity firms, publishing companies, printers, and marketing specialists provided a valuable learning experience as well as the opportunity to share social media exposure. These things are where the value in taking part in such events come. I also had the opportunity to spend time with some amazing talent and incredible people who I hope to keep as friends for a long time to come.image2

What I have learned that I will take into next years event is that I need to schedule hours where I will be available for signings and either share a booth with other authors or hire someone to man my booth for me. That would free me up to take full advantage of what the Toronto Book Fair has to offer in terms of speakers offering advice for writers and self-published authors. It would enable me to do more networking and visiting the other booths and exhibitors that I missed out on by being tied to my booth. Next year I won’t be concerned about book sales, although I hope that the sales will be better than this year. I will be more concerned with the networking opportunities and the valuable relationships that can be built during an event like this.

If I had advice to give to help make next year’s Book Fair even better it would be to give more attention to the Hub exhibitors. I was scheduled to speak on the Soapbox Stage on the Saturday from 12:20 to 12:40pm. I had thought that there would be Book Fair staff or volunteers there to help out and to introduce the speakers, but this didn’t happen. I just put one of my banners on the stage and went about my reading with no support from staff anywhere in sight. It felt a little bit like the Hub area was ignored. I know that there has been talk of putting the Hub in a more central location next year so that it isn’t ignored, so writing that piece of advice is probably a moot point. That is another of the impressive things about the organizers of the event: they were already looking at what they could improve for next year. Very impressive!

image5I am very grateful to the Inspire organizing staff, particularly Maddy Curry and Jesse Bernstein, who were extremely helpful both before and during the Book Fair. Also, whoever runs the social media sites for Inspire_TIBF, thank you for retweeting my tweets! It is very much appreciated.


See you at next year’s Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair!




Sep 282014

In early 2011, I had been unemployed for over a year after being laid off from General Motors where I had worked for thirteen years in the Security and Fire department, ten of those years in supervisory and management roles. I couldn’t get another job in my field because I was unable to do the running portion of the fitness tests thanks to three surgeries on my lower back and an L3 – S1 spinal fusion. I had been doing a lot of reading during that period and it inspired me to try my hand at writing. I began working on my first novel, Saving Grace. A year and a half later, I was still unemployed and had been living on an income of $328 per month. If not for my family, I literally would have been homeless.

One of my three sisters was working at a substance abuse treatment centre in central Ontario  and she got me an interview for a night security position. I got the job, thankfully, and moved from Oshawa up to Gravenhurst and then to Bala.


 Lake Muskoka, Bala, ON

Lake Muskoka Sunrise, Bala, ON


Bala, ON

You can see from the pictures what a beautiful place Bala is and what a lovely place to write. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as watching the sun rise over Lake Muskoka or watching the leaves change colour in the fall.

My second novel, Unfinished Business, was nearly complete when I moved north. I began sending out query letters to literary agents and found it quite frustrating. If they responded at all, it was usually to say that you weren’t a ‘fit’ with their agency. I began looking into self-publishing and was surprised to find that you could self-publish eBooks to Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) free of charge. Royalties depended on pricing, but I would earn 70% royalty fees on the sale of my eBook. I began to ask myself why anyone would bother with the hassle of finding a publisher or literary agent when self-publishing was not only easy, it was free … and you made a much higher percentage on royalties by cutting out the middle man! I also found the same easy self-publishing site for Kobo (Chapters-Indigo’s eReader) called Kobo Writing Life and they offered the same 70% royalty fees.

You may think that it was as easy as uploading my eBook, but if you’ve ever published a book you know that it is scary as all get out to put your work out there for others to critique. It came down to listening to everyone who had read the book already. I was getting great feedback from people, saying that they couldn’t put the book down. I bit the bullet and published Saving Grace to Kobobooks in November of 2013 and then to Amazon. Then I discovered Createspace, an Amazon subsidiary that allows you to publish print on demand books to Amazon … and it’s free.

The next hurdle was the all important marketing and publicity. It is free to publish, but you really need to spend money on marketing to get your book noticed. My problem … I didn’t have the kind of money you need for a good marketing campaign.

Social media marketing works to an extent, but it only reaches so far until you build up a following. I submitted Saving Grace to the Online Book Club for review and received 3 out of 4 stars. Not a bad start considering it was my first novel and I did everything myself, including the cover, with the exception of my sister, Abbie, helping me out with the editing (Bless her). I also signed up as a Goodreads Author and have done some promotions to elicit reviews on Amazon.

Before I published Unfinished Business in June of this year, I discovered that I could publish to Smashwords and they would take care of listing the book on various online book stores such as Kobobooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony, and Apple iBooks. I have received great feedback from everyone who has read it so far. The only bad review I have received was from an Online Book Club reviewer who hadn’t read the first book in the series. I have re-submitted Unfinished Business to the Online Book Club for review, but this time I included the first book and I’ve learned from my mistake. I am anxiously awaiting their review and will post it on my website when it comes out.

Then along comes the INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair (TIBF) scheduled for November 14 – 16, 2014 at the Toronto Convention Centre. This is Toronto’s first annual book fair and it “…will showcase the best in emerging and established writing from across Canada and beyond our national borders.” Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Day, and Kathy Reichs are among the hundreds of authors that will be attending. It proves to be an epic event and I am excited to not only be in attendance as a published author, but to be speaking on the Hub Soapbox Stage. This could be the turning point for the Taylor Sinclair Series (my saving grace).

In the meantime, I’m up here in Bala and have transitioned from night security to clinical associate after obtaining my diploma for Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist. The leaves are changing quickly and I’m busy working on book 3. Life is good!




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