Sep 122016
 

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


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“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.

“Hello?”

“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.

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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.

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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

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.

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 Lake Muskoka, Bala, ON

Lake Muskoka Sunrise, Bala, ON

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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!

Blessings!

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