Friday, 30 October 2015

Guest Author Michael Smart. An excerpt from Davidia's Seed.


Davidia's Seed is Michael Smart's latest novel published in June, 2015. An engrossing sci-fi adventure.

Content:
Following a calamitous space battle, a small damaged pod drifts amid the debris, a single individual aboard, clinging to the final moments of life. A ship, hidden behind a small orange and red hued moon while the battle raged, approaches the debris field, searching for items to salvage and discovers the pod. 

The serendipitous encounter of two strangers in space spawns an extraordinary journey and a shared destiny neither could have imagined, which will decide the fate of two worlds on the brink of war. 

A discerning and cautious General, aware of the devastation a war will wrought, seeks to avoid it. A ruling Governor, imprisoned by culture and tradition, is determined to pursue it. And a clandestine operative races against time in search of the key to prevent it.


Michael has been a guest on the Scribbler previously. I invite you to click on this link M.Smart to read more about this talented author. The link to his website is below.






                                     An excerpt.


                                      Ezekiel

The enormous ship shuddered. It rolled onto its side like a charging beast felled by a hunter’s bullet. Ezekiel tumbled weightlessly within the pitch-black compartment. The dim artificial lighting winked out, replaced by bright explosive flashes and flickering firelight. Ezekiel slammed against a bulkhead, arresting his uncontrolled inertia in the confines of the small compartment.

The battle had been lost. Each brief flash of light illuminated the chaos around him. Energy relays and conduits exploded. Fires burned out of control. Beams buckled. The bulkheads and decks they supported crumbled. The acrid odor of burning equipment, machinery, and flesh, reached him through the ventilators.

And the whiff of toxic fumes. If the poisonous gasses didn’t kill him first, the failing life support system would, merely prolonging the inevitable. Unless the compartment decompressed first. He’d sealed it upon entering, but how much longer before it imploded? The ship doomed, as explosive decompression consumed it section by section. It’d reach him soon.

The end of life closed in on Ezekiel, clouding his consciousness, clouding his mind as he sought direction, as he waited for instructions directing the actions required of him. Instructions, which never arrived.

Ezekiel pushed himself off the bulkhead, in the direction of the scout pod he’d been servicing. His actions directed by an overriding instinct, focused solely on reaching and entering the pod.

A sudden rush of flying debris drew Ezekiel’s attention as he floated through the scout’s open hatch. The fires in the compartment snuffed out as though smothered by a giant hand. A maw-like opening in the far bulkhead grew wide, exposing the compartment to empty space beyond. Not empty. Through the breach, Ezekiel observed a vast field of fast moving debris, the mangled remnants of a once mighty fleet.

The compartment’s atmosphere vented into space, sucking the air from his lungs. A light-headedness descended upon him. And a lightness in his body, apart from the absence of gravity.

Ezekiel secured the pod’s hatch as the doomed mother ship collapsed around the scout. He activated the scout’s systems, pressurizing the tiny, cramped interior. Life support and flight controls powered on. He’d been trained and conditioned to pilot the pod, scouting beyond the range of the mother ship’s sensors.

Before he’d been able to release the dock clamps, the final explosive demise of the mother ship jettisoned the small single person scout violently into space, one more piece of debris, hurtling amidst the fragments of the mother ship.

Inertia flung Ezekiel out of the pilot seat, pinning him against the ceiling. The sound of metal impacting metal resonated through the cockpit. Alarms flashed their dull illumination on the control panel. Ezekiel’s inner ear perceived a tumbling motion.

He reached out. Grasped the back of the pilot seat. He maneuvered his weightless body into the seat and secured the restraints around his torso and hips. Disjointed, unfamiliar thoughts rushed through his mind as he donned the control headcap. He activated the scout’s maneuvering jets and stabilized the pod’s tumbling motion. He scanned the panel, and the silent, pulsing, beckoning alarms. Borinian instruments emitted no sounds. And none of their vessels possessed transparent surfaces permitting visual sighting beyond the hull.

He observed the energy spikes on the instruments, depicting the explosive end of the mother ship. The only sounds in the scout the thud of debris impacting the hull. Ezekiel also observed the flying flotsam displayed on the instruments. The debris spread out in all directions, travelling at speeds to keep them in perpetual motion through space, until halted by some other force.

Another instrument indicated damage to the propulsion system. Only the maneuvering thrusters functioning. Life support also functioning, but the pod was leaking atmosphere, probably punctured by a piece of debris. The pod’s power cells were draining and unable to recharge. Soon there’d be insufficient power to sustain life support, sealing his fate, if the space borne debris didn’t destroy the pod first. His escape in the scout a temporary reprieve.

Such a fate held no meaning for Ezekiel. He’d been bred to serve, and die. His every thought, every action, directed and controlled by omnipresent minds superimposed on his own. His mind linked irrevocably to his masters.

Until now. The sudden silence in his mind overwhelmed him. As frightening as the gagged chunks of metal hurtling around him. And the thoughts rushing through his mind were not of the masters, but more like the visions possessing his mind during sleep. The masters absent. The headcap he wore silent. Now all departed, along with the mother ship.

For the first time in his life, Ezekiel experienced the sensation of being utterly alone. It disoriented and frightened him. Threatened to consume him as he sought to comprehend the strange unfamiliar impulses compelling him to act. Who had directed him into the scout? Provided the instructions to escape the doomed mother ship? What actions was he required to perform next? The headcap remained ominously silent.

Absent instructions, Ezekiel was lost. He waited for death in the silence surrounding him, accompanied by the strange new voice in his mind.
 
 






Thank you Michael for sharing your story with us. Please visit Michael's website to find the links where you can purchase his novels.

 
 
Next week brings the 4Q Interview with musician Mathieu D'Astous.
 
 

Friday, 23 October 2015

Cover Reveal & Grandchildren. SHORTS Vol.3

So? What does writing and grandchildren have in common? Nothing, right?



Normally that would be correct but in my case I decided that I wanted to leave a legacy to my grandkids. Something they could physically hold in their hands and say " My Grampy wrote these stories and dedicated them to me."

Will it mean anything to them sometime in the future? I can't answer that question as my crystal ball is malfunctioning this morning but I can tell you this, it means something to me.

Three grandkids, three collections of short stories. I love these rascals.






You, my wonderful readers, have already been introduced to SHORTS Vol.1 & 2. Today you get a peek at Vol.3

Volume 1 was for Matthieu Isaac Young

Volume 2 was for Natasha Madeline Young

Volume 3 is for the youngest, Damien Ernest Brun Young.



SHORTS Vol.3


 
 
 
Letting Go

Lloyd Minister has passed away. His son Eugene has to sort through the Four Boxes of Memories his father left behind. What stories will they tell?


It has been six months since his father, Lloyd Minister, passed away. But the last three weeks have been a trial for Eugene. All of Lloyd’s possessions had to be stored when Eugene removed them from his father’s room at the senior’s home where Lloyd had only spent one night. Most items, mainly furnishings, have now been sold, except the antique pieces he and his wife kept. Clothing, bedding and other things nobody wanted were given away. The Salvation Army van had picked them up last week. Eugene himself had carried out the last box, packed with his father’s folded suits, to place it in the van. With head hanging and deep reluctance he had set the carton softly in the vehicle but couldn’t let it go, couldn’t take his hands away from the last remnants of the man’s physical presence. The driver had had to coax him, lead him gently aside.

 

One Bedroom Ark

Noah Coyne owns a convenience store. Widowed and alone, he works the long hours to keep himself occupied. Late one night the last customer only wanted to buy a can of soup but doesn’t have enough change. Making the situation sadder is the baby bundled at her shoulder.
 
Noah Coyne began to count the cash in his till. The flashing of the crosswalk light on the corner caused him to look up. His reflection in the store’s front window flashed yellow every time it blinked.  Outlining his proud chin and the life lines etched across his brow, the amber beam outlines a handsome man of seventy-one. The image reflected in the glass has dark holes for eyes for the faint light cannot capture the vibrancy of the owner’s gaze. Eyes of the darkest blue, like fresh steel, stare out at the empty street in front of his store. The pavement, wet and slick from a drizzling rain, shines yellow and black, yellow and black, until the warning light suddenly stops. He looks up, wondering if the person he can see crossing the street might be coming his way – one more customer before he closes. He checks the watch that covers his hairy wrist and, seeing that it’s 9:30, heads to the entrance to bring in the specials sign he places outside each morning.
 
Two Boys, One Wagon and One Secret.

In the 1950’s nothing touched a young man’s pride like a red wagon. John and Phil (aka Beans and Chops) collect empties on the roadside every Sunday after church. One day they collected something more valuable than a returnable.

Beans and Chops are both ten years old. Beans, aka John Pascal Williams Jr., looks like a teenager, big for his age. His hair and eyes are both dark. Everybody calls him Beans because when he was seven, every day for a week, he asked his mother if they could have beans for lunch. Someone had told him that beans would give him gas.  His father always complained that gas was expensive, and he figured if he could make some gas for his father, then his dad would be happy. He had no idea how he’d get the gas in his dad’s car, but John Jr. loved nothing more than making his father happy.

His mother figured the boy loved beans, so she fed him beans once a day for a whole week. He was producing gas all right, gas that escaped during class, announcing its freedom in a noisy and putrid fashion. At suppertime the day it happened, he told his family about his awful day. His mother explained why it happened and suggested he shouldn’t eat so many beans. His older brother Dave, upon hearing the story, laughed so hard he fell from his chair. From that day on John Jr. was called Beans.

Chops, named Caudwell Horatio Orville Phileas Sangster, was small for his age, making him look more like an eight-year-old. A cap of reddish curly locks topped his head and freckled cheeks decorated his cherubic face. His parents called him Phil. When he started school, the older kids would tell him to “Phil it up” or ask “Are you full, Phil?” or other comments making fun of his name. They teased him so often that after school he would hide in his room and cry big tearful sobs. The torment lasted until summer break. During the holidays, when he was idle, he would print his full name on blank paper, trying to decide which one he would use when he returned to school in the fall. When he couldn’t decide, he printed out the first letter from each name, forming the word CHOPS. He liked how it sounded, so after that he would only answer to Chops. The most peculiar aspect of the new name was that no one made fun of it, not even the older kids. 

No Dying Today.

Detective Josephine (Jo) Naylor almost died last night if not for her partner Adam Thorne. After being ragged out by their supervisor, they set out to find the man that tried to kill her.
 
 
Inspector Murdoch Maloney feels sorry for Jo Naylor. He tries to imagine the fear she must’ve experienced with a garrote tightening around her neck less than eight hours ago. He doesn’t need to see the red mark, which is covered by the black turtleneck she wears under her jacket. He’s faced dangerous people enough times in his life to know how nerve wracking it is to come close to death. He admits to himself that the ordeal with her father last year must have also been overwhelming, but he didn’t get to be Inspector by being a candy ass. He had just finished ragging her and her partner, Adam Thorne, out big time. But mostly Naylor as this was the second time she had ventured into a potentially dangerous situation on her own. She had just come from a checkup at the hospital.
After the Inspector finishes chewing them out over how close she had come to dying, the small office is quiet. The computer tower under his desk hums in the silence. Noise from the outer offices – chatter, ringing phones, creaking chairs – is mostly muffled by the closed door behind the two detectives. They sit facing their superior’s desk: Naylor in the chair closer to the exit, to his right. Thorne has his elbows on the armrests of the chair, his fingers steepled. He’s gazing at his knees, unfocused, chewing on his inner lip in concentration. He’s been a constable detective two weeks short of a year. He knows, though, to keep his mouth shut. Maloney chews everybody out, the tough old bastard.
The Food Bank

There are many people that have too much food. There are many people that go hungry. Food Banks try to balance the two by depending on donations. If you ever visited one, you might be surprised what goes on there.

Food is a necessary staple of everyone’s life. Because of that I toss my loose change in an old cookie jar - a Woody Woodpecker sans cover that I bought at a yard sale – daily. Stationed on my night table by the lamp, it faces the closet, the ceramic peeping tom watching me change clothes all the time. At the end of each month, he and I probably save up sixteen to twenty dollars. Whoopee! But today is cause for celebration; I counted this month’s take after breakfast and found a couple of misplaced toonies, for an all-time high of $23.44. I am elated. There will mean eight more Mr. Noodles to dole out.

Today’s my day off – Wednesday. The end of January is only a day away. My to-do list is lying on the kitchen table, nagging at me, do this, do that. I grab the pencil sitting next to it and tick off number one: “Donation time!!!!” The Maritime Megamart, with over two acres of supreme shopping pleasure, is where I’m headed. It’s not far, so I decide to walk. I retrieve my wool pea jacket from the closet, gloves from the basket on the upper shelf, boots from the rack. Just before I’m ready to leave, I remember the frosty abstract art on my bedroom window. It’s likely colder than it looks, so I decide to add a scarf. A Tip Top Tailors suit hanger holds a bevy of colored wraps snaked around each other; the brightest and flowered ones belong to my wife. I opt for my favorite grey and black checkered scarf, pulling it from the tangled mess. When I do, a beige scarf falls to the floor.


 
This project has been so much fun. Thank you for stopping by.
 
SHORTS Vol.3 is now available at Amazon.ca for the low price of $1.99. HERE
The paperback will be available in November.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 




 




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 






Friday, 16 October 2015

Guest Author Gwen Martin of Yoho, NB

The Scribbler is pleased to have Gwen Martin as guest author this week. It is her second visit to SBS. The first was a 4Q Interview for August, 2015.
Please drop by this link GM to discover more about this talented lady. She has been kind enough to share one of her short stories. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.



Life as Clothesline
I've just come indoors from hanging clothes on the line. It’s the first time this year, as winter winds are too cold for these joint-sore fingers. Facing east, the warmth of the early spring sun on my face, I’m reminded of the simple pleasure of the act. The gentle squeak of the line as I shift it sock by sock, towel by towel, to the left. The satisfaction of arranging laundry by type and colour, a practice I first encountered in a book about Japanese culture and have followed ever since, even while chuckling at myself. The quiet aesthetics of it.
A few months ago, it appeared that my terminally ill father might not leave his house again except to head to hospital, or worse. But after a round of chemotherapy and tons of TLC from my mother, he agreed last week to take a short road trip. And so my beloved and I drove him down the Saint John River. We had a glorious Mayday, poking along beside ponds and swales and soggy fields to gaze at ducks and other birds heading northward along their migration routes.
As we watched a dabbling Wood Duck, Dad repeated what he often said while on birding trips: “The idea, you know, is to look at every bird as though you’re seeing it for the first time.” I smiled at his usual reminder never to take anything for granted. But then he added, almost to himself, “...or for the last time.”
Two days after the birding expedition, I ended up in hospital. The tightness in my chest lasted long enough for me to head reluctantly into ER. Nine hours and many tests later, they said it was not a 'cardiac event' but to consult my doctor for further investigation.
 This I will not do, because I know it is a stress thing, related to poor adaptation. Since last summer I have tried adjusting to restrictions caused by suffering a serious concussion. I cannot walk as far or as vigorously as before, can't smell the spring air or the warming earth or the fox scent or the crocuses or the pine needles. I can’t bend over to garden for more than a few minutes. Or dance without feeling nauseous. Or sing without feeling dizzy.
I cannot, in fact, get too thrilled or exuberant about anything because the adrenaline does odd things to my head. I've repeatedly told myself — and truly believe — I am lucky to be alive. I should count my blessings, and I do, daily. But somewhere deep inside, that intellectual sense has not penetrated the heart. There’s still a lot of work to do.
One of the wonderful things about hanging laundry is how its rhythms encourage contemplation. And so this morning I found myself feeling, not for the first time, that much of the angst we bring upon ourselves is caused by an unwillingness to accept the passage of time.
We want things to stay the same. We want family and friends to last forever. We want to continue being strong and healthy. We want our language and culture to remain familiar. We find it difficult to see ourselves as part of the natural world, as part of the usual cabal: life, death, rebirth.
 But here in the woods, as I hang out the clothes, the hermit thrush is singing clearly, its call one of the most ethereal sounds in the world. The loon yodels faintly from the lake across the road. The crocuses inch open as the sun reaches the gnarled stump where I planted them last fall. A fly whizzes across the stump and dives into a yellow crocus.
And I think: it's just a time thing. Expand your sense of time. Things do stay the same but within a far longer frame. We’ll always have the migrations south and north, the cultural comings and goings, the ebb and flow of life in some form or other. Onward it goes, season after season, century after century, eon after eon.
 The winds out here can blow hard or waft soft. Sometimes the sun warms and other times it slips behind clouds. But one thing seems certain: the clothesline may appear linear but is actually an elongated circle that will shift around and around forever.
 
 
Thank you Gwen for being our guest this week and for your heartwarming story.
 
 
Drop by the Scribbler next week when I plan on revealing the cover and content of my third collection of short stories.
SHORTS Vol.3
 
As with the first two collections, SHORTS are dedicated to my grandchildren. Vol.3 is for the youngest, Damien.
 
 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Guest Author Brandon Kidd of Guelph, Ontario


Brandon Kidd is an author and library worker in Guelph, Ontario. His short fiction is published in a number of periodicals and on two other writing websites: CommuterLit (www.commuterlit.com) and The Quick Brown Fox (http://quick-brown-fox-canada.blogspot.ca). Brandon's first novel, "Randy Talbot's Closet," is being released by Beau To Beau Publishing (www.beautobeau.com) later in 2015. He is an avid reader of Scandinavian crime lit, thoughtful romance novels, sci-fi/fantasy epics, and anything else with a strong narrative and interesting characters. Visit his website at www.cellardoorpress.net.


An excerpt:

“The Misfortune Cookie”

by Brandon Kidd

 

            Kevin Watson sat before the remains of his dim sum developing indigestion. For once, he was grateful he had eaten alone. The faint blue printing on that tiny strip of paper stared back at him brighter than a Las Vegas billboard. He gulped and read them once more: “A new acquaintance will bring you disaster.”

            What kind of a fucked up fortune was that!? He expected something banal like, “Your efforts will bring good results” or distinctly Confucian: “Good things come to those who wait.” Not this. Who was this stranger? Where would this fateful meeting take place? What form would this disaster take?

            Kevin's palms started to sweat and then he heard the voice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise… In his head. Having grown up on Star Trek The Next Generation reruns, the voice of Kevin's conscience now sounded remarkably like Patrick Stewart. And why not? Captain Picard rocked! Adventurous, brave, principled, but also diplomatic and philosophical —boldly go where no one has gone before (but never needlessly risk your  crew). And what did Captain Picard say to Chief Engineer Watson about this evil fortune cookie?

            "Meaningless! A quaint but antiquated tradition designed to occupy superstitious minds. Pay it no further heed, Mister Watson."

            Aye-aye, sir. But still, Kevin couldn’t help wondering. Could this new acquaintance be Sophie, his blind date from Saturday? He thought things had gone well. He’d made plans to see her again this Saturday. It had been his first date in over a year and he like her. So far.

            “Maybe she’ll turn out to be some crazed psychopath who sends me dead squirrels in the mail. Maybe she had twelve other blind dates that week. Maybe we’ll get married only to have her leave me ten years from now for our nineteen-year-old pool boy.”

            Kevin didn’t know. But as he sat there, leaning forward in his chair, loosening his tie with moist hands and staring at a couple half-eaten dumplings, he knew this: that fortune cookie had just cost the waitress her tip.

            Kevin was twenty-eight years old. Last year he’d finally landed his first real, permanent full-time job since leaving school.
He was now a professional computer programmer. He coded software for libraries. He was good at it. He liked it. He felt it was important work. It paid well enough for him to live on his own and grow a condo down-payment fund. Now who was this new acquaintance who was going to come along and screw it all up for him?

            He gasped. Maybe it was his new boss, Mike —excuse me— Mister Hargrove. Kevin didn’t like Mike Hargrove. He was a year younger than Kevin and about one quarter as intelligent. He was certain Hargrove was one of those guys in university who spent his time rewording Coles Notes and copying snippets of code from the internet to complete his assignments, who crammed for every exam then promptly forgot everything from the course by the next semester, who spent his hours outside class “networking” by joining every team, club, society and association on campus, scanning people at social gatherings for who might be useful at some point in the future, collecting email addresses and business cards like a pig sniffing for truffles. No, Kevin didn’t like Mike Hargrove. And now, thanks to this stupid fortune cookie, he was going to worry about getting stabbed in the back by the guy every day this week.

       
     Kevin reached for his wallet and left his fortune on the table. It wouldn’t matter if he took that little slip of paper with him or not, after one reading its words were tattooed on his brain. He counted out enough money to cover his bill and though for a moment before leaving a twoonie for the waitress. It wasn’t her fault fate had decided to play chicken with him.

            “Have nice day,” she chimed with an elastic smile as Kevin left.

            “Fat chance,” he thought.

            Kevin was an unimpressive figure by many measures, certainly in comparison to the parade of other businessmen in Hugo Boss suits and Prada shoes zooming around Downtown Toronto in shiny new sports cars. He walked back to his office in an old pair of running shoes, wearing a wardrobe by Mark’s Work Warehouse, carrying a backpack by Mountain Equipment Co-op. He was of less than average height and built like a scarecrow but nevertheless reckoned himself not bad looking. He had short brown hair which he cut and styled himself, a clear complexion (on good days), and a small nose which made him look several years younger.

            Walking down University Avenue on this bright, breezy spring day Kevin should have been enjoying himself, breathing in the clean air off Lake Ontario and wondering whether there was still ice on the lake back home in Winnipeg. He had moved to Toronto for university and stayed there afterward, working a long string of nerve-wracking contracts before finally landing a permanent, full-time job. But Kevin hated Toronto. No, to be accurate, he hated Torontonians —of which there were two distinct types in his opinion.

            There was the native Torontonian. They were born here and alternated between attitudes of superiority and entitlement. They also spoke twenty percent faster than non-natives. Generally the native Torontonian was only suspicious when speaking to someone of the second type, the new Torontonian.

         
   The new Torontonian, one who has managed to establish himself in this city despite the myriad obstacles, is assumed by the native to have done so only by screwing over someone else. Native Torontonians believe, if only unconsciously, that honesty is the sacrifice demanded from newcomers by the gods of The Big City. They are, therefore, distrusting of anyone who wasn’t born within the service area of the TTC. This uneasy dynamic existed between Kevin and his boss. Hargrove exemplified the native Torontonian.

            Kevin was not jealous of Mike Hargrove. He had no desire to screw him over or possess anything of his —his athletic six-foot-two frame, his extroverted personality, his $40,000 smile or his seemingly endless network of “friends.” What Kevin resented was that Hargrove thought he was jealous of him. Kevin saw this as the absolute pinnacle of arrogance. Hargrove thought so much of himself he automatically assumed that everyone around him wanted exactly what he had. Furthermore he thought so little of everyone else that he assumed they couldn’t possibly be happy and therefore must be deviously plotting to topple him from his castle of self-satisfaction and claim what he had for their own.

            As he approached his office, slaloming between sidewalk vendors, Kevin recalled an exchange from earlier in the month. Hargrove had cornered him at the fax machine.

 

            “Hey there, Kev!” he said, landing a slap on Kevin’s back.

            “Hi,” Kevin replied with no more cheer than professionalism demanded. After his promotion, Mike Hargrove insisted everyone address him as "Mister Hargrove" in order to engender the necessary “aura of authority” required to successfully manage a team. Although he remained on a first name basis with a select few and still called everyone else by nicknames which ranged from flirty to offensive. "Kev" was among the more tolerable ones, so Kevin accepted it but resented the politics of it all. He skirted the drama by simply not using Hargrove's name at all. The fax machine moved slower than rush-hour traffic down Front Street.

            “How’s the new workstation?”

            Since his installation as manager, Hargrove had reorganized their office into cubicles of adjoining desks and Kevin, among others, had lost the privacy of an office in order to "facilitate better communication and teamwork." Kevin had already objected to the new arrangement once saying that it affected his concentration. The objection received no response.

            Hargrove didn’t want to hear what Kevin really thought, but nor could Kevin bring himself to lie about this situation and say he was happy with it, so...

            “Oh, as well as can be expected,” said Kevin.

            The fax machine continued to struggle connecting. Goddamned dial-up! Energize, damn you!

            “Good! Glad to hear it.”

            Hargrove interpreted everything positively. Kevin reckoned that if he’d said, “No one likes the new arrangement, myself included. It’s the absolute worst idea in the history of the universe.” Hargrove would’ve replied with something like, “Wow! What great feedback! Way to come out of your shell and assert yourself, Kev!” He then would’ve strutted over to his office —yes, he still had an office— and shot out an email saying how proud he was of how well everyone had made the adjustment. Sociopath.

       
     “So, Kev, are you still trying that whole on-line dating thing?”

            During the brief time they’d worked on the same team Kevin made the mistake of sharing with Hargrove some details of his personal life; he now paid for that mistake on an almost daily basis. Fortunately, Kevin knew a foolproof method for diverting Hargrove’s attention: give him an opening to brag about his own life.

            “Yup. How’re things with you and Cindy?”

            “Oh, things couldn’t be better!" Hargrove beamed. "She’s on assignment right now in Milan covering fashion week. But she should be on the runway if you ask me. She's got a figure on her that could rival any of those models. We’ve got plans to go up to the cottage for four days over this weekend. Oh! That reminds me...”

            Hargrove leaned in to Kevin and lowered his voice.

            “Here it comes,” thought Kevin. “The ask.”

            “I told the director at LCS that we’d have the new module ready to show them as soon as I get back. Can you do it?”

            The fax machine was finally transmitting.

            “My deadline is still a week away.”

            “True, but in these tough economic times we should work extra hard to impress our clients. We wouldn’t want to lose any accounts.”

            The fax finally finished transmitting that invoice, having stalled just long enough to allow this oh-so-pleasant conversation to take place.

            “Uh…” Kevin mentally weighed his work load and, “Well, since you’ve already told them it’ll be ready I guess it’ll have to be.”

            Kevin took up his papers, and turned to his boss with a tight smile stretched across his face.

            “Alright! You’re a superstar, Kev!”

            Hargrove gave him a shot in the arm as he marched off to his office having successfully ensured both his professional reputation and his long weekend plans. At the expense of Kevin's. Jerk.
 
Read the rest of this clever story here


Thank you Brandon for sharing The Misfortune Cookie.

Drop by Brandon's website to find out more about this talented writer. www.cellerdoorpress.net



Next week the Scribbler will be sharing some short works by Gwen Martin of Yoho, New Brunswick. It will be her second visit to the SBS.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

4Q Interview & An Excerpt with Elizabeth Copeland


Saving the best for the last of the eight part series of New Brunswick authors, the Scribbler is pleased to have Elizabeth Copeland of Northeastern NB for our 4Q Interview. Elizabeth is an award winning author, theatre artist and the Artistic Director of KPH Theatre Productions. She writes poetry, short stories, novels as well as plays.  She offers creative writing workshops through WFNB’s Writers in the Schools Program. Discover more about this talented and busy artist by visiting her website:
 
 
 
 
 
http://www.kphtheatreproductions.com/elizabeth-copeland.html

An excerpt from her novella Jazz is below.

4Q: In Feb. of 2016, you have been invited to be a faculty member at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Please tell us how that experience came about, and what you are planning to teach.

EC: In 2014, I applied for and was given a scholarship to attend the 2015 writers’ conference in San Miguel. Though I was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, it got me hooked on the idea of going to the conference in beautiful San Miguel, and I decided I would go after a faculty position for 2016.
Looking at their list of workshops, I saw that each year they offer one workshop that is a bit outside of the box. Since I am an outside the box kind of person, I asked myself, “What could I bring to the table that is unique? What kind of learning experience could I provide that would stimulate a new way in to the experience of writing?” Hmmm…
I spent the first twenty years of my career working on the stage. A good actor knows that a great idea alone will not manifest in an outstanding performance. It must be body-centered, grounded in the physical, with a willingness to be – as Rilke said – always a beginner, always in a place of discovery. Wanting to be a better actor, I studied the technique of improv based on the work of the legendary theatre artist, Viola Spolin, and then went on to work with Second City doing improv comedy. In the early stages of my career as a writer, I found that using the techniques of the improvisational actor got me out of my mind and into my senses. When I was writing JAZZ, I spent hours in my studio, improvising the characters on my feet and out loud to fine-tune each character’s voice.
By now you might have guessed it. Yes, the workshop for San Miguel is based in improv, and is called ‘How to create characters that jump off the page’
I am more than excited about my participation in the conference – not only facilitating the workshop, but also having the opportunity to learn from and network with a host of great authors. I’ll be in great company with Canadian novelists, Elizabeth Hay, Mary Novik, Sandra Gulland, and keynote speakers, Joyce Carol Oates and Gail Sheehy. Whoo hoo!


4Q: Your novella JAZZ won the 2013 Ken Klonsky Novella prize. Please tell us about this story as well as the excitement of being published by Quattro Books. Where is this book available?
EC: About the story: When he is forced to leave his suburban home at age seventeen, Jazz - a transgender F2M - moves into the heart of Toronto's LGBT community in hopes of finding the help he needs to begin his transition. A true hero's journey, this narrative features a cast of colourful characters, including Martine, a dope-smoking drag queen; Kimmie, a hairdresser with a heart of gold; Sister Mary Francis, a sharp-talking ex-nun, and his counselor; Kendall, who must face his own demons in order to support Jazz in his journey. With comedy and pathos, Jazz wrestles with the realities of the courage it takes to be transgendered in today's society.
                                                                      ~
I found out about the Ken Klonsky novella contest from Canadian poet, Brandon Pitts, whom I got to know in Toronto after participating at in a reading series he produced at Prana CafĂ©. After I moved east, I kept in touch with Brandon, and when I started writing JAZZ, he suggested I apply. Imagine my surprise when months later, I found out that I had won the contest, and that my prize was publication with Quattro Books! The book was launched in 2014, and is available through Amazon or Quattro Books. Here’s the link for Quattro.

JAZZ received a great review this past Feb. through Pacific Tranquility.
https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2015/02/12/the-difficulties-of-being-transgendered-in-todays-society-review-of-jazz-by-elizabeth-copeland-2014-quattro-books/

4Q: Please share a childhood story or anecdote.

EC:  In Grade 8, I found myself with an amazing teacher. Mr. Cartmail had that rare ability to not only instill in his students zeal for learning, but to win their love and respect as well. In short order, he turned a motely group of adolescents into a lean mean learning machine. And we had fun.
After Christmas break, I came back to school to find that Mr. Cartmail had been fired. No one would say why, but by creeping around the halls and listening in at the door to the teachers lounge, I learned the truth. Mr. Cartmail had been fired because he was gay. The teacher who replaced him was a middle aged woman who, through my young eyes, had a physique and IQ of a goat. I was furious that our great teacher had been taken away.
That event woke me up to the price we pay, as individuals and as a society, to justify and perpetuate our prejudices. In that year, I went from being the perfectly behaved student to a rabble-rouser. The firebrand in me was born.

4Q: Your bio mentions that you are the Artistic Director for KPH Theatre Productions. Can you elaborate on your connection to the theatre and what you do as writer?

EC: At the heart of all my work as an artist is the desire to use my craft as a way to challenge us all, myself included, to open our minds and hearts to the wonder of this life, to awaken our dormant potential and truly live out loud.

Just think…we live on a planet, which is hurtling around the sun at 66,000 miles per hour! Our galaxy is part of a vast universe of which we know only a smidgen!! Is that not a cause for wonder? If we could fully grok that, would we be so hell bent on consuming, of spoiling God’s creation all to be able to maintain the status quo of consumer culture all to get a deal at Walmart?

The value of art is that it can open the door of the human soul to this place of wonder, of deep curiosity, of the innovative power of the imagination with which we can undoubtedly find solutions to all of the problems – social, political, environmental, that we currently face. In my work, as a theatre artist and writer, I seek to play my small part in the unfolding of that vision.

I’ll leave you with the words of one of my favourite poets, Emily Bronte.

No coward soul is mine

No trembler in this world’s storm-troubled sphere

I see Heaven’s glories shine

And Faith shines equally, arming me from fear.

  

 
Excerpt from JAZZ – Nature’s Improvisation

Copyright © Quattro Books and Elizabeth Copeland 2014

There is a shadow of a girl floating around me. Gossamer. Guileless. I pretend I do not see her. She embarrasses me. Though I have tried, I cannot unlearn or forget what her life in me has given. And taken. Mostly taken.
There is a shadow of a boy walking within me. Ferocious. Fine. Though his heart breaks and mends, and breaks and mends, and breaks again, he will not be shackled. His spirit is lightning fire.
At birth, I was labeled a girl. I was named Jaswinder.
My chosen name is Jazz. Like the music, I am nature’s improvisation.  

I told my mother I was a boy when I was four years old. She was standing at the counter, grinding the spices for the evening meal. Curry. Cumin. Garamasala. She stopped. Sighed. Turned and smiled at me, her mouth tense. “Don’t be foolish, Jaswinder. Now, run along and wash your hands before dinner.”
I told her again when I was twelve. We were in her sewing room. Bolts of brilliantly hued fabric were stacked neatly against one wall. Straight pins and needles stood gaily on a green satin pincushion. Thimbles, scissors, pinking sheers. All neatly in their place. A chest full of tiny drawers, each containing threads of different colour, stood beside the picture window that overlooked our backyard. I could see the branches of the willow tree. Waving at me. As they danced in the wind.
“Close the door, Jaswinder.” She began slowly. Her voice soft. Choosing her words carefully. Wanting to say just the right thing. To convince me of the sacred wonder of it all. Of womanhood. I didn’t want to interrupt her at first, to take this moment away from her. After all, I was her only daughter. Clearly she had put a lot of effort into this speech, considered deeply how much or how little to tell me about the changes my body was going through. But in the midst of her detailed explanation, I stopped her.
“Mother, I would rather die than to grow up to be a woman.”

Her back stiffened. “What foolishness is this? As if you have any choice in the matter.”
I told her again today. At my seventeenth birthday party. In front of my whole family – the aunties and uncles, the cousins, my friend, Jennie from high school, and my big brother, Sugith. After they brought out the presents and sang Happy Birthday. Just as my mother was about to cut the homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing. My favourite. The smile falls from her face. She drops the knife on the floor. My brother looks away. Disgusted. “I always knew you were a freak.”
“Enough, Sugith.” My father struggles to keep his voice under control. “Jaswinder. Look how you have upset your mother. This is not something we joke about”
“It’s not a joke.”
Freeze frame. No one knows where to look. At my brother’s twisted face? At my mother, her eyes wide in an attempt to stop the tears that threatened? Or at my father, standing still and hard as granite?
On some unspoken cue, my aunties begin to fuss around my mother. A gaggle of hens, scratching and clucking. Picking up the knife from the floor. Cleaning the icing off the carpet. Straightening up the already tidy table.
“Come with me.” Auntie Nazneen hisses in my ear. “NOW!” She pulls me from the room. Through the French doors, and onto the deck. “Go to your mother. Apologize at once!”
“No.”

“What did you say?”
“No.”
We wait until everyone leaves. Which doesn’t take long. Amazing how fast you can
clear a room with a simple announcement.
The door is shut and bolted. The window shades drawn. Auntie Nazneen and my mother scuttle from the room. I am left alone with my father. He is standing by the window with his hands clasped behind his back. Looking out. Seeing nothing. A storm is coming. But there is no escaping it. It is time. Deep breath in. Just relax. I can do this.
“What is the meaning of this behaviour?”

“Father, I...”

My mother peeks out from the kitchen. Quietly shakes her head. Mouths the word no. I stop. The air around me crackles. A warning light goes on in my brain. A flashing sign. No more pretending. No more pretending. 
I swallow hard. Remember the words. Words I have learned from books, from thousands of hours of research on the Internet. Words that have helped me sew myself together. Like Peter Pan and his shadow, except I do not have a Wendy to help me. No going back after this. My hand on the lever, I pause. Check my anger. Remember. A reasonable approach will elicit a reasonable response. I open the gates of the dam to say aloud the words I have been practicing for years. The words flood out.
“Father. Mother. Today is a reason to both mourn and celebrate. To mourn the loss of a daughter. And to celebrate that you have another son.” It sounded so good in rehearsal. In my bedroom. In front of the mirror. Now it sounds forced, lame, stupid. The blood drains from my mother’s face. Her jaw hangs open. She looks older by years than she did just an hour ago. My father turns his head. Regards me from the corner of his eye. No longer is there kindness. Infinite patience. The dry humour that could send me into both paroxysms of laughter. 
“So let me understand this. You are gay. A lesbian.”

“No father, I am...” The words. The words. Where are the words? “I am...transgendered. I am a man.”

He looks at me. Sees a stranger. Laughs bitterly. 
“You are no more a man than I am a fish.”
A flash of lightening. Of understanding. It’s not working. The ground is shifting under my feet. I repeat the mantra in my head. A reasonable approach will elicit a reasonable response.
Then. Riding to the rescue comes take charge, Nazneen. Commanding. Demanding compliance. “Chemim. Amarjit. Jaswinder. Come into the kitchen. We will have tea. We will talk as a family. We will work this out.” My father does not move.
“Amarjit, please.” My mother’s voice. Broken. “She is your daughter.”

“I no longer have a daughter.” Crash of thunder.

“Brother, not so fast.” Said sweetly. Auntie Nazneen. The mediator. Calming the waters. “I agree it is shocking. But it is just a phase that she will grow out of.”
Thunder cracks. The lowering sky opens. “Enough, Nazneen!”
Silence hangs heavy in the air. Then a sound. Terrifying in its vulnerability. My father is weeping.
Synapses firing at lightening speed, I scroll down, scanning in my head through the articles, through the lists of topics, the headings, searching for the answer to the question, What to do if your parents disown you. I walk towards my father. Wanting to offer comfort. My feet are leaden. Dragging an
anvil out to sea. 
“No father. Not lost.”
“Not lost,” my mother echoes.

He turns on her. “Tell your daughter to end this nonsense, or tell her to leave this house forever!”
Winds like a monsoon blow a torrent of rain. I am betrayed! Betrayed by the words that promised my salvation. 
The room is airless. No one moves from their frozen tableau.
Blow winds. Blow. Drop the sails. Turn the bow into the wind, shouting, “This is how I was born. I cannot change that.”
“This is NOT how you were born.” My father, in a rare fit of temper picks up an antique vase that has been in the family for hundreds of years. Aims. Hurls it to the floor at my feet where it shatters into tiny pieces. We all wait. For the storm to pass over. For someone to save the ship from dashing on the rocks.
My mother makes her move. Chooses her side. “You must go, Jaswinder.”

End of excerpt – JAZZ
 
 
Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your thoughts on the Scribbler as well as the excerpt.
 
Next week on the Scribbler, we are happy to have Brandon Kidd  of Guelph, Ontario as our Guest Author.