‘Tis the season to better ourselves

Can you believe it? It’s that time of year already. Another year almost under our belts. Another year older. Counting down the days until Christmas. Counting down the days until New Year’s Day.

For better or worse, 2019 here we come.

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, although I do like the spirit of giving and humanitarianism that it evokes in people. But, sometimes I ask myself, “Why are some people on their best behavior for one, maybe two days of the year? Why can’t they be nice all the time?”

I was surfing through Twitter one morning and I came across a profile that caught my eye. I can’t remember the name now, but I do remember the philosophy the woman had posted on her profile. It went something like this: We have enough smart people. We have enough rich people. We have enough beautiful people. But they’re not going to change the world. Kindness will change the world.

I started thinking about it in the context of the holidays, my lackadaisical attitude about Christmas, and my feeling about New Year’s.

First, Christmas. Why don’t I like it? It’s not so much that I don’t enjoy the giving spirit of Christmas, the fellowship, the time it provides for us to be with our loved ones. I do enjoy that. I also get that Christmas is for kids.

But, literally, figuratively and metaphorically, I don’t buy into the rampant commercialism associated with Christmas. Malls go crazy with shoppers. People are out buying gifts for people they hardly even know, hardly ever see. That uncle you can barely tolerate gets a pair of socks. Maybe a nice pair of mittens for that verbally abusive cousin. You know, the really good ones with the attached strings so he won’t lose them.

And whether people can afford it or not, many make Christmas lists, check them twice, and then go on a shopping spree—often putting themselves in massive debt for the next year or more.

Crazy, you ask me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of buying loads of unnecessary gifts for financially stable people, we gave that money to people in need? Wouldn’t the money be better served there?

Just a thought.

In any event, New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays. As 2019 approaches, I take time to reflect on 2018 and ask myself if I accomplished all of my goals. I review my hand-written goal list and take stock of how I did. I separate my goals into two categories. One, career/financial. Two, personal.

Since the career-financial is less important than the personal, I’ll skip it. You know the saying. When we’re dead and gone, we won’t be remembered by how many toys we’ve managed to accumulate, or in my case how many books I’ve written and sold.

Oh, no.

We’ll be remembered by how many people we’ve loved and by how many people we’ve helped. We’ll be remembered by the depth of that love and the depth of that humanitarianism. It’s that simple.

That’s why New Year’s gives me the opportunity to reflect on my deficiencies, take responsibility for my actions, and not seek refuge in the victim card. It gives me an opportunity to change. To make a fresh start. An opportunity to make new goals and New Year’s Resolutions.

My life, like anybody’s I suppose, is a constant journey in search of positive growth and change. A quest to try and better myself and learn more about my inadequacies, come to terms with them, and find some semblance of happiness and inner peace.

And I’m starting to realize the road to happiness is paved with humanitarianism. Much greater minds than my own have said that one of the greatest joys in life is helping other people. Over the years, I have gotten involved in a number of volunteer jobs, all in an effort to make someone’s life a little better, a little easier, and a little happier.

And the joy and satisfaction I felt through giving unconditionally and selflessly is difficult to put into words. It’s heartwarming, to say the least.

With that in mind, New Year’s resolution number one is to try and practice a more selfless agenda as opposed to a self-serving agenda. A humanitarian agenda.

New Year’s resolution number two. As much as I’m not a materialist, on some level I do tie some of my happiness to financial success—namely book sales. Next year I hope to better understand that the notion that money buys happiness is an illusion. It’s a dead-end street.

At the same time, I take some comfort in the knowledge that I’ve recognized and accepted my faults, and am trying to fix them. Who knows, maybe I’m halfway there. At least recognition, acceptance, and a willingness to change is better than denial.

We live, we learn, and we try not to repeat the same old patterns over and over and over again.

Let’s hope the New Year ushers in a kinder, gentler, and more tolerant humanity.

Happy Holidays!

How to stay focused while writing

With all the distractions in this crazy, mixed up world, mastering how to stay focused while writing can be very difficult. In this complex day and age, it’s often difficult to stay focused on anything for a long period of time, let alone writing.

But, we’re talking about writing here.

I’ve written hundreds of news articles, dozens of university papers, several contracts, and numerous website articles. In addition, I’m currently doing edits and rewrites on my nineteenth novel. A supernatural thriller, The Witch’s Tombstone is about a troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers who believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

An aspiring writer friend recently said, “I don’t know how you do it. I haven’t figured out how to stay focused while writing.”

Whether you’re writing an email to a friend, a university or high-school paper, or your own novel, you’ll have to figure out a recipe that works for you. Here are some proven tips to help you master how to stay focused while writing.

Find your flow. When you get into the zone, you can write fluently, holding multiple pieces of a story in your head simultaneously, often without referring to notes. Wikipedia defines flow as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.”

When I find my flow, hours seem to pass by in the blink of an eye. I get so immersed and engrossed in the story, I forget to eat, forget to shower, and forget all about the phone and social media. My story catapults me into a fantastical and amazing world that almost becomes more real than the world in which we live.

Turn off your phone. Turn off all social media. Close your email.

Often people who think they can multitask are only fooling themselves. Researchers have demonstrated that when we multitask, oftentimes many tasks are completed poorly. There is still something to be said for concentrating on one task, completing it, and then moving on to the next.

Turn the TV off. Turn the radio off.

I guess some writers listen to music or have the TV blaring in the background while they write. However, I’d hazard a guess that this doesn’t work for most of us. It hearkens back to the research on multitasking; that often your brain is incapable of handling several tasks efficiently.

Come to grips with distractions. Even if you turn your communications off, you will get distracted. Accept it. Sometimes your brain will be slow to kick into gear and you’ll feel your thoughts wandering. Don’t panic. Just remind yourself that you have to concentrate and stay focused. Gently steer your mind to the writing task at hand.

When I start my writing day, often at six or seven in the morning, my mind is generally slow to find the thread of the story. The words often feel clunky, the dialogue wooden. I see plot-holes everywhere. But, as long as you’re comfortable with your revision process, knowing you can polish the sentences later, convince yourself to plow forward and write the story. Often it takes me an hour or more before I find my flow, after which the words seem to come effortlessly and smoothly.

Got ants in your pants? I often find myself getting up from my desk to get something or do something and I have to constantly tell myself to return to the office and get back to work. If you want to learn how to stay focused while writing, you’ll have to learn to sit still. When you find yourself wandering aimlessly around the house, remind yourself to get back to work, even if you have to shout it out to snap yourself back to the task at hand.

Set a schedule. Figure out the time of day when you’re at your best and write then if you can. As I said, I’m at my best in the morning. I put aside three to five hours every morning (of every working day) for nothing but writing. If you have to, determine how many hours your project will take and then allocate a set amount of hours to it weekly so you’ll finish it on time.

Sometimes setting a daily word count goal helps. It works for me. During novel writing, I generally set a daily quota of 2,000 words. When, and only when, I reach that goal, do I begin doing all my other writing-related tasks and domestic chores.

Do the things that inspire you. If your inspiration comes from visiting your friends, schedule a visit before you start writing. I find inspiration from a number of sources: horror movies, news, reading, conversations, people-watching, and Mother Nature. I tap into all of them regularly to keep my creative juices flowing. It’s also important to take time away from your writing so you don’t burn out.

This might contradict what I said earlier, but if you find you can’t get your muse flowing, try changing up your schedule. Maybe you find you have too many things to do in the morning. Too many things on your mind. Maybe your mind will be calmer and more focused at night. It doesn’t hurt to experiment.

Whatever your writing goals are, start now. Don’t procrastinate. If you put aside just a little time every day for writing, you might find that as the days pass, you become more excited about your work and more inclined to dedicate larger blocks of time to it.

Lastly, don’t be daunted if you don’t get it right the first time. Be prepared for disappointment, pain and suffering.

After all, if writing was easy, we’d all be doing it.

Remember what President Theodore Roosevelt said: “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

 

The Witch’s Tombstone Resurrected

After about five months of research and writing, the first draft of The Witch’s Tombstone has been completed. It came in at about 72,000 words, longer than I expected. Whew. Hallelujah.

The writing process never ceases to amaze me. You’d think that after nineteen novels, it would become easier.

It certainly didn’t feel that way with this supernatural thriller. Some days the prose seemed wooden, the dialogue contrived and even a little stilted. Other days I became so immersed in the story and characters, I forgot about my daily word quota—normally 1,500 to 2,000 words. Lost in a dramatic and mysterious world of my imagination, I forgot to eat, forgot to shower, and even forgot to turn the phone on or check social media.

But it certainly wasn’t like that in the early stages. Every writer is different, I suppose. Without doubt, some start a work in progress confidently high on their past accolades, positive reviews and books sales.

But not this scribbling scribe.

To be sure, my books have at times garnered decent sales. And about eighty-five per cent of the reviews are five out of five stars. Perhaps most importantly, when I finish one I won’t release it to the viewing public unless I’m really pleased with it. Unless, regardless of what some naysayers might say, I know it’s a good book.

But that doesn’t seem to stop the self-doubt when I start a new novel. I sometimes ask myself, “Can I still do this? Maybe I’ve used up all my creative juices. Maybe there’s nothing left in the tank. Is this story even going anywhere?”

That usually lasts for about the first 20,000 words or so. After that, as I did with The Witch’s Tombstone, I usually find a groove and the process becomes a little easier and a lot more satisfying. I loosen up and the creativity starts to flow.

Sometimes the satisfaction is difficult to put into words. Indescribable. It’s a kind of magic really when you can take one little idea and spin it into a complicated story with three-dimensional characters, unexpected plot twists and—at least in my case—a heaping helping of macabre, gritty and horrific elements.

To discover that your art contains sub-texts, themes, unexpected layers, and operates on levels that you hadn’t even intentionally constructed, is a small miracle. Finishing up the last chapter of The Witch’s Tombstone, it dawned on me that in many ways the tale is about art mirroring life and life mirroring art. I started to recognize symbolism that I hadn’t consciously intended.

I asked myself, “Did my subconscious intend this? Was it a gift to my conscious?” Whatever it was, it was an incredible moment of elation and gratification, knowing that there were parts of my brain working on the novel while I was doing something else.

In a word, magic.

Writing the last two thousand or so words, I started to wonder if I would have the same emotional response as I had with most of my other titles. Would I get a little teary-eyed knowing my time with my characters, many of whom I’d grown to love, was coming to an end? I hadn’t felt it up to that point so I had my doubts.

You see, this visceral emotional response tells me it’s a decent story. It’s a captivating story. It’s, to borrow words from some of my reviewers, “a real page-turner.”

And then, during a particularly sad and heartbreaking scene, it happened. I felt my eyes well with tears. I felt a little sad. A little elated. Bittersweet. I had to leave the office and take a break before I could return to my keyboard. But when I did, I knew. This story isn’t bad. Not bad at all. Compelling even. People will enjoy this.

I guess that’s why I do it. I was born with a gift. Wouldn’t it be a tragedy to turn a blind eye to our God-given talents? I write because I was born to write. I write because, even with all the agony, despair, and self-doubt, I love it.

I’ve always encouraged my friends and family to pursue their dreams and develop their talents. If we have no passion in our lives, we don’t have much.

So, yes, I’m thrilled that one part of the process has ended and another one is beginning. Editing and rewrites. I’ve started doing some rewrites now—mainly polishing up the last two chapters and the epilogue. I’ve taken many notes and now must systematically go through the manuscript and repair plot holes, fill in backstory, correct technical inaccuracies, dialogue; and obviously punctuation, grammar, spelling and syntax. I do three editing passes of my own and then it’s off to my editor for a professional polish and some honest feedback about the book’s potential.

Maybe I was wrong. But, I doubt it.

Look for The Witch’s Tombstone in bookstores soon. Here’s a short synopsis to whet your appetite.

A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her heinous crimes.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my rant.

What happened to our right to privacy?

In the age of big information technology companies, the notion of privacy has become a joke. To name a few (and there are hundreds, if not millions of companies, doing this), Microsoft, Facebook and Google all track your movements, develop a profile on you and use that information to make money. What happened to our right to privacy?

Let’s start with Google. If you have location tracking activated on your smartphone, they track your every move. There is even a Google link you can access that shows a map of every location you’ve ever visited. What else does Google do? They know everything you’ve ever searched (and deleted), have an advertising profile on you, know all the apps you use, track your YouTube history, have literally reams and reams and reams of data on you. Some data analysts claim Google has enough data on you to fill millions of Word documents.

And here’s the kicker. There’s little, if anything, that you can do about it.

Here are some examples of complete invasions of my privacy by Google that irk the hell out of me. They’ve just started sending me news notifications on my smartphone. Every day, based on what they see me searching on the internet and watching on YouTube, I get notifications sent to me. There is some weird disclaimer saying something to the effect that this information may be used to develop a profile of my interests, something along that line.

But, guess what? I didn’t ask for the notifications. I didn’t activate a switch or push a button agreeing to receive them. They just started showing up one day. I also discovered I can’t turn them off. There is no setting to turn them off. Even though they annoy the hell out of me, there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

Trust me, that’s the tip of the iceberg.

I inadvertently installed a Google app to send and receive text messages on my smartphone. For a few months it worked fine. Then all of a sudden, I started getting prepared responses to incoming messages. Here’s an example: Let’s say I received a message saying, “Have a great time at the party. Talk to you soon.”

I might get three, maybe more, possible responses from Google. Something like this: “Thanks, will do. Take care.” Or, “Have a great night. I’ll be in touch.” And then there’s always the short and sweet option: “Okay, thanks.” Or, “Sweet!” I can simply click a button to select one of these messages or choose to type my own response.

This new technology is not only on my text messages. It has also recently started appearing on all of my Gmail emails. And, as with the news notifications that suddenly appeared on my smartphone, I didn’t ask Google to give me three pre-selected automated responses to incoming emails or text messages.

I didn’t ask for them and, try as I might, I can’t find settings anywhere that will allow me to deactivate them.

Talk about infuriating. Talk about an unmitigated invasion of privacy.

What does this mean? It means Google is reading all of my emails and all of my text messages without my authorization to do so. I’ve been told it isn’t people reading the texts or emails. Some tech guys have told me it’s some electronic smart software, a bot or something that recognizes speech patterns, words and sentence meanings. Some sort of artificial intelligence.

I might have been born in a day, but it sure as hell wasn’t yesterday. I just don’t buy it. Not now, not ever.

I’m constantly being bombarded by online ads based, not only on my internet search history, but also on the content of my emails.

Google Photos is another one that irritates me. One day my phone was overloaded with photos and I was running out of memory. I made the bad decision to activate Google Photos and back up thousands of images onto the Google cloud, or whatever they call it nowadays. It isn’t enough that I get bombarded with unsolicited news notifications, now Google is regularly doctoring my photos (maybe they call it enhancing) and sending me notifications telling me about it. Or, they’ll select a series of photos of a special moment in history and send me a notification encouraging me to “Rediscover this day,” and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. We know they’re not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They want more data for my profile. Thanks but no thanks.

Again, I didn’t ask for it, and I’ve yet to figure out how to turn it off. If I spent all my time trying to figure out how to safeguard my privacy, I’d never get any work done.

Besides, it would be all for not anyway. I’ve already established, as have greater minds than my own, that internet privacy is a fallacy, a joke, an illusion of monumental proportions.

And if you believe Facebook is some kind of a social media saint, guess again. Facebook has tons of data on you, including every message or file you’ve ever sent or ever received; every audio message you’ve sent or received. Based on what you’ve liked and what your friends discuss, Facebook determines, tracks and stores what they think you might be interested in. When you log into Facebook, they track and store log-in location, time, and from which device you logged in.

According to data consultants and analysts, Facebook also tracks, when technologically possible, where you are. At random, they can access your laptop or desktop webcam or microphone, your computer contacts, emails, calendar, call history, files you download, photos, internet search history and more.

Much, much more.

If you have Facebook on your phone, they have access to all of your contacts and photos, in some cases even your text messages.

It doesn’t take an Albert Einstein to figure out all the potential nefarious uses of this information. As a writer, I’m dependent on the internet for my livelihood. If I wasn’t, I’d be awfully tempted to buy a landline to keep in touch with friends and family, and toss my smartphone and laptop into the trash can. Maybe then, I’d reclaim my privacy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying there are good things associated with the internet and social media. But, if you think for a second that Facebook or Google will make (or are making) concerted efforts to protect or safeguard our privacy, think again.

It seems abundantly clear that they’re doing the exact opposite—going to great lengths to invade and exploit our privacy for commercial gain.

What happened to our right to privacy? We forfeited it when we decided to watch cute little cat videos on Facebook or YouTube.

Be careful what you search for. Big Brother is watching.

International Make a Friend Week—August 9th to 16th

It’s been said if you can count them on one hand, you’re doing very well. Friends, that is. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but I must be extremely fortunate. Without specifying numbers, I can count my friends on more than two hands. I’m not talking acquaintances here. People you say hi to once in a while, maybe even invite to dinner occasionally, and perhaps have a five-minute—often mundane and meaningless—conversation with when you bump into them in the grocery store.

I’m talking inner circle people. Those who know you well, know your character flaws, and love you anyway. Those who—as long as you don’t cross a moral red line in the sand—are willing to forgive and forget your indiscretions. I’m talking people who would give you the shirt of their back, loan you money (if they had it), drop everything and come running to your aid if you were suffering a major crisis. I’m talking about people with whom you connect with on an emotional and intellectual level. People you can tell your innermost secrets to with the sure knowledge that they will not betray your trust. People you don’t need an appointment with to talk to or visit.  People you can call anytime. People who praise, not criticize your success, support you through good and bad times, have confidence in you, and encourage you to reach for the stars. You can spend hours with them and time flies by as if it were mere minutes, even seconds. Instead of sapping you of energy, they rejuvenate and fill you with happiness.

Of course, these are just a few of the criteria for close friends. The list goes on and on. I understand I generalize to a degree. What works for me might not work for someone else. Some people might be more or less forgiving; others might be able to tolerate more bullshit and still consider someone a close friend.

Whatever, your criteria, you know what works for you.

How many close, inner circle friends do you have? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself how many close friends your friends have? Have you ever asked them? The answer might surprise you. To some of my close friends, I’ve asked, “This isn’t a competition or anything but how many really close friends do you have?” I’ve received answers such as, “One… and it’s you.” This from a close friend whom I considered to have a vast social circle.

Another response, “I’m lucky I can count them on one hand.”

Once I was bold enough to ask an acquaintance this question. The answer, sad but true, “I don’t have any friends unless you count family. And I don’t.”

I told you that to tell you this. Maybe it’s time we stepped out of the shell of imperfection and misconception and ventured out in the world to try and make a new friend or two. Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, we all need social contact, love and companionship.

I once mistakenly thought I could survive on the cherished friendship of Robbie the Rabbit and Alvin the Chipmunk. Don’t get me wrong, their social skills are impeccable and they would never let me down. But after some time, we solved all the world’s problems and I realized it was time to broaden my horizons and make friends with a few human beings on Prince Edward Island. I’m managing okay, but I still have some work to do.  After all, we can never have too many friends, at least not of the inner circle variety.

That’s why I’m declaring the week of August 9th to August 16tth (that’s tomorrow, folks) International Make a Friend Week. So step out of the box of solitude, reservation and self-doubt. Step out of your comfort zone. Call up an acquaintance, someone you’ve always wanted to get to know better and start building a friendship. Revive an old friendship, one that perhaps has become extinct with the ravages of time. Or, put yourself in social situations where you can meet more people, make new friends. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

You might be wondering who died and made me God, granting me the power and authority to suddenly declare it International Make a Friend Week. No one did. Hey, I’m just trying to help you guys out; maybe even trying to help myself out.

Whatever you might think about all your worldly possessions—your beautiful car, your beautiful house and all your beautiful toys, they do not measure up to the value of true friendship. As Thomas Aquinas once said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

So go on, give it a try. Pay it forward. Maybe it’ll catch on.

When self-discipline flies away

Everyone says I’m so good at it. Self-discipline and focus so finely tuned I sometimes get tunnel vision, losing track of what day it is, or that I actually need to eat. In the winter, spring and fall I have my routine; get up at six, get a coffee (or ten) in me and hit the keyboards. Two thousand words later, I would leave the office, eat, take care of domestic chores and complete life-sustaining chores. My afternoons were reserved for reading and research. In my six-day work week, I would also put a few hours aside for book marketing and blog posts. If I felt like I deserved it, I would perhaps treat myself to a walk in the forest late afternoon and maybe a movie in the evening. And, like clockwork, take one day off a week.

But when summer arrived this year, my self-discipline and focus flew out the window. Who knows, maybe it went to the beach? You want to hear my excuses? I thought you might.

On June 11th, while cutting wood for winter heat, I tore a ligament in my lower back. The pain was so intense, I could barely get off the couch for two weeks and was swallowing pain-killers like they were candy. During that stretch, the pain got so severe, I actually started to wonder if this new development would be a life-time injury.

It made me think. If I couldn’t play in the (often so inspirational and enjoyable) forest, and I couldn’t sit down at my desk for longer than five minutes to string a sentence together, than what was the point of living? You might think this is a bit harsh, but think about it. Two of the things I love most in this world are writing and enjoying the outdoors. And all of a sudden I couldn’t do any of them. Life is one thing, but quality of life matters more, at least to me. I couldn’t imagine going through life in constant pain, having to depend on others, and debilitated to the point where I couldn’t do some of the things that give me the most satisfaction.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Only two days ago, the pain decreased to the point where I’m off the pain killers. I can still feel a dull roar in my back, and I’m sure it’ll be another month before I can pick up a chainsaw. But at least I can sit at my desk for an hour or two at a time and write. I can take a walk in the forest. I can go to the beach and do light exercise, maybe even go for a swim if that’s what picks my fancy.

But just when the back pain began to fade, another pain took hold. I started suffering from severe headaches. While chewing. While talking. Even when I wasn’t flapping my jaws. Before I started down the dark path of self-pity and morbid introspection on quality of life, I got it diagnosed.

I have allergies that often create nasal congestion as allergens build up in my system. The nasal congestion occasionally causes the Eustachian tube in my left ear to get clogged. When that happens, I can’t pop my ears. Pressure builds up and causes severe headaches. The cure is a daily dose of antihistamines and a nasal decongestant. I’ve been on both for the last three days. And, wonder of wonders, today I am almost sure my ear actually popped. It was first thing this morning when I crawled out of bed at 8:00 am and yawned. I felt and heard some air escape and now fortunately I feel much better. Similar to the back pain, I still feel a dull roar in my left ear, but nothing like before.

So, back to work? Well, kind of, sort of. The weather is way too nice right now to return to my usual tunnel-vision routine. And something happened to me a few days ago that really gave my life some perspective. I was driving my utility tractor (affectionately named Freddy Krueger) up a winding road from my beachfront one night when all of a sudden the steering jammed in a left-turn position and sent me crashing into a tree. The tree was about fifteen feet off the road and I had ample time to slam on the brakes, barely scratching the tree, barely scratching myself.  That particular road, part of a moonshine operation during Prohibition, is affectionately named Cemetery Lane. Don’t forget, as a horror writer, I get a kick out of these macabre names.

Long story short, my trustworthy mechanic arrived a few days later with a truck and a winch, pulled Freddy from Cemetery Lane and rushed him into intensive care. The diagnosis—a broken front axle.

As he was examining Freddy, and doing a forensic analysis of the crash scene, his jaw dropped.

“What’s wrong,” I asked, watching the color drain from his face.

“You’re lucky,” he said, pointing to a large tree stump about three feet from the road that I had narrowly missed. “If the axle would’ve busted about three feet sooner, you probably would have hit that stump. It would have catapulted you off the tractor. It definitely would have totaled the tractor and who knows what might’ve happened to you.”

Thinking about it now, all the whining I’ve been doing about a lower-back torn ligament and allergy-induced headaches seems trivial in comparison to the Cemetery Lane tree crash. I could have died. Worse still, I could’ve ended up a paraplegic.

And here’s the perspective. Do the things you love to do while you can. See the people who matter in your life while you can. Life is short. Life is precious. It can be snatched away in the blink of an eye. So, no I won’t be resuming my normal routine until September. I think I can take a little bit of downtime without beating myself up with that powerful and useless emotion called guilt.

Oh, for sure I’ll do a little writing this month. I’m always working on a new book. I’ll even do a little research. But, I’m gonna take a little time to smell the wild roses in the back-forty and invite a few friends over to celebrate the thing so many of us take for granted. Life. And, now that I’m feeling way better, good health.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

A magical healing stone and a witch

The Micmac are a First Nations people indigenous to Canada’s Atlantic Provinces. They were nomads who wandered all over the northeast coast of New Brunswick, the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec, and all through Prince Edward Island. According to Joyce Barkhouse, THE WITCH OF PORT LAJOYE, the Micmac told many strange tales around remote wilderness campfires, “stories of the creation of the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars; of plants and animals; of stones; of stones and islands; of winds and floods; stories of the supernatural and the peculiar behavior of certain human beings.”

Passed on from generation to generation, one such legend (sourced from Joyce Barkhouse’s novel, THE WITCH OF PORT LAJOYE) is the stone of Mineota. As the story goes, a Micmac chief called Kiotsaton, grieving the loss of his wife, wandered away from the rest of his tribe along with his son Kitpou and daughter Mineota. Deep in the forest, surrounded by towering pines and looming spruce trees, they made camp near a shimmering spring-fed lake.

On the third night, Kiotsaton was confronted by the great god Glooscap, who warned him that an angry spirit inhabits the spring and if he dares to venture on the lake called Minnewauken, great harm and evil will visit him. And, although Glooscap told him to leave, Kiotsaton insisted on staying, saying his grieving heart found enormous comfort and healing at the spring-fed lake.

So Kiotsaton and his children grew up beside Lake Minnewauken, never forgot Glooscap’s warning, and never set foot in the lake. But one day, when her father and brother were off hunting, the beautiful Mineota went picking berries along the shore. Gazing at her reflection in the still water a short time later, her long hair accidentally touched the water. A ferocious gurgling sound followed and a whirlpool suddenly formed, widened, and tried to suck her down.

She was able to narrowly escape the danger, but not before glimpsing a green, slimy, ferocious monster rising out of the middle of the lake.

Although she told her brother Kitpou, he did not heed her warning. A short time later, he launched a canoe into the lake and the evil monster reared its ugly head, sucking Kitpou and his canoe deep into the bowels of the lake.

Angry and heartbroken, father Kiotsaton threw rocks into the lake, calling out the evil one. And when the monster appeared, he shot it with an arrow. Snarling and hissing, the head disappeared back into the lake, although it’s unclear if the arrow actually found its mark.

But what happened next was an apocalypse of sorts. The waters of the spring rose and towered in the sky and then a gigantic wave descended on the land, causing a roaring flood and massive death and devastation.

The great god Glooscap again confronted Kiotsaton, declaring that the only way to appease the angry spirit of Minnewauken and prevent more bloodshed and devastation would be to offer his daughter Mineota as a sacrifice. But Kiotsaton adamantly refused.

Overhearing her father’s words, Mineota silently slipped into the troubled waters and disappeared, appeasing the offended spirit, driving back the waters, and restoring calm.

Kiotsaton grieved for many moons until finally Glooscap appeared before him again.

“Your daughter’s sacrifice shall not go unrewarded,” the great god said. “The spirit of fair Minetoa shall return and live on within a stone which you will find where your wigwam stood. This stone shall have healing powers for the people of your tribe alone. It is for you, Kiotsaton, to use all the days of your life, but when you die it must be dropped into the deep bubbling spring of Minnewauken.”

“And after my death, may the medicine stone never be used again?” Kiotsaton asked.

The great god responded with a warning: “If the one who enters the waters of Minnewauken to seek it thinks only of the one to be healed, and has not thought of self, then the stone can be brought out and used again to heal those of Micmac blood.”

Kiotsaton found the magic stone, became a notable medicine man, and used its magic powers and the spirit of his daughter to cure many. Shortly before his death, he returned it to the deepest part of the spring, where it sank to the bottom and lay hidden for hundreds of years.

Until Micmac chief Kaktoogwassees, distraught over the failing health of his Caucasian wife La Belle Marie, plunged into the depths of the chilly water, retrieved the copper-colored stone, and used it to cure his ailing wife.

And that’s when things turned disastrous.

La Belle Marie’s husband was murdered.

Accused of being the witch of Port LaJoye, she was burned at the stake.

So you see, out of one old and sacred Micmac legend comes another tale of the bitter fate of La Belle Marie. Where one story ends, another begins.

According to Barkhouse, “To this day, the story of Marie is told by the Micmac of Prince Edward Island. The bubbling source is thought to be in the western part of the Island, a place now called Scales’ Pond. Some think it is near Fort Amherst or Rocky Point. Still others think the spring is, indeed, near St. Peter’s.”

The story of the magic stone of Mineota, the witch of Port LaJoye, and the witch’s tombstone, all form part of my research for my latest work in progress.

Tentatively titled The Witch’s Tombstone, here’s a short synopsis: A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendent of an evil witch who was reportedly burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

Combining myths, facts, legends and creativity, expect to see my latest supernatural thriller on bookshelves within six months or so.

Thanks for stopping by and enjoy your day.

 

When the stars align perfectly

I might have said this before, but it was a monumental struggle to finally reach THE END of The Dark Menace, a supernatural thriller I’ve been working on since some time last winter. In fact, it’s been so long, I’ve forgotten exactly what date I started it.

But, sometimes, the stars align perfectly. At long last, today I finished my final edits on the book. And oh, what a relief it is. So many months of research, so many months of writing, and so many months of painstaking polishing—finally culminating in what I truly believe is a sensational story about a nightmare-plagued man who suspects an enigmatic doctor may have unleashed a torrent of horrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

As a wordsmith, it should be easy for me. But, it’s not. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of satisfaction I get when I reach THE END of a novel. It’s always a bittersweet moment when I unleash my creations onto the world. You see, I’ve gotten to know them intimately, grown to love many of them, and now it’s time to let them go. I liken it to the feeling a mother or father must experience when their children grow into adults and they must open the protective cocoon, let them loose into the world in search of love, job security, indeed even a sense of identity and independence.

As a mother would with her child, I hope my characters also find love, fame and fortune, and are able to touch and influence people in ways I never thought possible.

But it wasn’t only the edits that came together today. I’ve been working with talented cover artist Johnny Breeze for, well, let’s just say I forget how long. And, seven versions later, we’ve finally arrived at what I believe is a truly sensational cover for The Dark Menace.

As is usually the case, when one thing goes well in your life, a snowball effect often occurs. It’s not like I’ve been strictly concentrating on The Dark Menace. I’m also researching and writing The Witch’s Tombstone. I still have to keep up with my blog posts and promote my novels. I have a life to live after all, full of domestic chores, nagging house repairs, and planned improvements to my large beachfront acreage.

Oh, wait a minute. Speaking of the beachfront acreage, that’s another project that has gone remarkably well and reached a successful conclusion. Many years in the making, I’ve groomed and developed numerous sites on the property for recreation and leisure purposes. Some are within a hundred feet from the beach, others are in the thick of the forest. But all of them offer a special kind of magic and beauty. As a nature lover, I’ve taken great pains to minimize my environmental footprint on the forest and natural surroundings. Fortunately, I hired a mini excavator operator/logger, who shares my love of Mother Nature and also took great pains to minimize the environmental footprint. The results, on time, under budget, and minimally invasive, are nothing short of spectacular.

Since I draw so much inspiration from my breathtaking surroundings, it seemed only fitting for me to give back to Mother Nature as much as I could, or at least preserve as much of her natural beauty as I could.

It’s normal and natural for humankind to tamper with Mother Nature.

The trick is to do it in harmony with her.

But, alas, I digress. Where was I? Right. My writing projects. Since I just completed final edits of The Dark Menace, I guess it’s time to kick it into high gear on The Witch’s Tombstone, my latest work in progress. But first maybe I’ll kick up my heals at Mother Nature’s beach, savor this moment of multi-accomplishment, and enjoy some of the simple things in life—like a glass of Scotch on the rocks and amazing scenery.

Enough about me. For your reading pleasure, here’s Chapter One of The Dark Menace. Painstakingly proofread. Lovingly polished. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy.

 

 

                                                 CHAPTER ONE

A kaleidoscope of brilliant colors flashed before his eyes. Deep greens, dark purples, vibrant pinks, reds and blues. Inside the colors, images appeared—faceless apparitions with indistinct and undulating shapes. Some of the ghost-like images were black, some white. They twirled in the rainbow of colors, shrinking and growing, shrinking and growing. Then the black images began attacking the white images, slicing them with machetes, stabbing them with knives, biting into their heads and bodies with menacing fangs. Horrifying screams punctuated the eerie silence and Noah, his eyes opening in shock and terror, bolted upright.

Where am I? He looked around at the darkness and saw large trees looming in the distance, illuminated faintly by the white glow of a full moon. The ghostly combatants had disappeared. A forest. But where? Brushing off dirt and leaves from his clothes, he stood up, trying to make sense of his surroundings. But try as he might, he couldn’t figure out how he’d gotten here. Worse, he couldn’t remember events of the last week. He tried to take a step, but felt a numbness and an electric tingling sensation in his body that strained his efforts. He managed one step and stopped, frozen to the spot. A terrible feeling of cold dread surged through his veins. He felt his heart begin to pound in his chest furiously; struggling to escape its rib cage prison cell and leave him to fend for himself. After three or four panicked gasps, he managed to restrain his cardiovascular prisoner.

“What’s going on?” Noah asked. “Where am I?”

In Noah’s panic-tinged tone, the forest echoed back a response: “What’s going on? Where am I?”

Fighting paralyzing protestations, he took a step, crunching into the forest carpet. It brought him renewed confidence, helping to diminish the fear demons. That’s it. You can do it. Noah needed to leave the forest and search out some city lights. That way, he could find his apartment in downtown Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, get to his bedroom, resume his sleep and wipe this nightmare off the map; if indeed that’s what it was.

Locating a path in the forest, he crunched his way along, rubbing his shoulders and arms in an effort to eliminate the tingling numbness and the bone-chilling cold that was slowly enveloping him. He was still looking down at the path when he felt its evil presence. He looked up instantly, knowing, but not wanting to know what he was about to see.

But it was different this time. He was different. Noah stopped dead in his tracks.

Illuminated by the ominously glowing moon and the black looming trees, the old man grinned. He produced a machete and held it high in the air, adjusting his tattered straw hat and scratching his stubble with his free hand.

“You’ve finally come to meet your maker,” he said. Then he cackled in an incongruously high-pitched voice.

The cold chill coursing through Noah’s veins turned to ice. Oh my God, no. He had seen the man in many forms in his childhood years, and wasn’t wasting any time on small talk now. He turned around and ran, taking some measure of satisfaction in the realization that the ice in his body had miraculously thawed and his legs willingly complied.

Noah turned a corner on the path and glanced back. The man was coming for him. He knew that if he caught him, there would be no mercy. As in his childhood nightmares, he would be sliced and diced to smithereens.

You’re dreaming, you’re dreaming, you’re dreaming, Noah thought as he ran. Hide.

As if he’d been reading Noah’s thoughts, the man replied, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”

Panting and puffing, Noah rounded another bend and came into a clearing in the forest. In a corner, just inside the tree-line, was a large hollowed-out log. Quickly he bent down and crawled inside, curling up in a fetal position as soon as he was out of sight, hoping against all hope that the menacing man was wrong. He could hide. He would hide. He would wake up and return to the comfort of his bed.

He struggled to control his breathing as the twig-snapping footfalls grew nearer. Then it became quiet. Eerily quiet. But in the silence, Noah heard the sound of breathing, not his own—a raspy, nasally inhaling and exhaling that grew louder. In a terrified instant, he knew it was too late. He was caught. Time to die.

“I got you now,” the man said, the sound of his approaching footfalls nearing. “You can run but you can’t hide.”

Before he could move, Noah heard a splitting sound and he knew right away what it was. Metal on wood. The man was chopping at the rotten tree trunk with his machete. Chopping through to him. But a split-second later, instead of the sharp metal of the blade, Noah felt the stomping of a boot heel on the small of his back and a bolt of red hot pain shot up his spine.

He tried to scream. Nothing. He tried to move. Nothing. He was frozen, once again.

The man cackled. “I bet that hurts. What I’m gonna do next will really mess you up.”

Noah tried to crawl out of the log but he was paralyzed. He pressed his eyes shut tightly, gritted his teeth and tried with all his strength to break free.

The sound of a distant wailing siren suddenly snapped him back into reality.

When he opened his eyes, he was sitting bolt upright, staring at the small green nightlight that instantly told him he was back in his house, back in his bedroom. With a loud sigh, he curled up in bed. His heart stilled, and the fear slowly melted away. A terrible nightmare. Nothing more.

But it wasn’t long before a dark presence invaded the room—thick and palpable. His heartbeat once again thumped louder, faster. Beads of perspiration sprouted on his forehead. His throat became dry and the numbing, tingling sensation returned. Green dots danced in front of him and he tried to reassure himself. It’s from the nightlight. Don’t worry.

But he was too afraid to open his eyes, in case the inbred-looking hillbilly had returned. Finally, it became too much. He felt like he was being completely engulfed by this dark and evil presence, as if it was swallowing him whole and turning him into some kind of a monster. Emotions swept through him—anger, rage, anxiety and finally a powerful sadness that slowly gave rise to fear.

He opened his eyes. Oh God, please. All this time. Why now?

The darkly cloaked man stood at the foot of his bed, staring at him. Looking at him as if he was trying to reach into Noah’s soul and snatch it away. The man raised a hand and touched his wide-brimmed black hat. Noah tried to shout, scream, move but it was no use at all. He was paralyzed, frozen like a chunk of ice. The Hat Man walked around to the side of the bed and leaned down, his black face, a dark mask with no discernible features whatsoever, moved in closer.

Like an incubated alien fetus, Noah was sure his pounding heart would snap his ribcage, tear his muscles and flesh, leap right out of his chest, and escape its humanoid incarceration once and for all. His mind filled with the sudden image of a slimy extraterrestrial creature exploding onto the Hat Man and wrapping its deadly tentacles around his throat and face, constricting and suffocating the life out of the monster. If he wasn’t paralyzed with fear, he might have grinned.

The black face moved closer and stopped six inches or so from Noah’s face. Noah’s breathing became labored and he felt a painful tightening in his chest. The small of his back still stung from the hillbilly’s heel. Time to die. This is what it feels like to die. Not now, oh please God, not now. With raw panic rising up his throat like a sick green bile, he mustered all his strength and jerked. His body twitched and convulsed and he instantly sat upright, gasping for breath as sweat streamed down his face. Eyes wide with terror, he watched the Hat Man shrink, retreat and disappear out of sight, trailed by a green dragon tail emanating from the glowing green nightlight.

It took a few minutes for Noah to calm himself down. When his breathing finally returned to something approximating normal, he glanced at his digital alarm clock: 3:33 am. He climbed out of bed, wincing as the small of his back ignited with fiery pain. He was still trembling by the time he reached the bathroom. Still too terrified to look in the mirror, he wiped his face with a towel, relieved himself, sat down gingerly on his living room couch and flicked on a table lamp. He needed some incandescent comfort right now to try and make sense of the nightmare that had seemed so much more than a nightmare.

The Hat Man had returned. With a vengeance. He had been only six the last time he’d seen the Hat Man, thirty-four years ago. But he remembered the haunting experience as if it had happened yesterday. As a child, he’d suffered from frequent nightmares, many of them paralyzing. There were variations of many themes, but most involved some kind of a monster chasing him with the intent to kill. And while they’d terrified him, none of them had resulted in physical injury. Except for the Hat Man. As a child, the darkly cloaked intruder had bent down to his bed, wrapped cold fingers around his throat and began choking the life out of him. He remembered gasping for breath. He remembered the constricting pain he’d felt as he leaped out of bed, rushed from his bedroom in terror and face-planted into the hallway wall. He’d suffered a concussion that dislodged much of his cognitive functions for two weeks and kept him out of school for three weeks. He absently rubbed the scar above his left eye, the result of the concussive cut that had required six stitches to repair.

But, after that ill-fated evening, the nightmares had stopped. All the monsters and the Hat Man had vanished. Maybe the concussion—which doctors had described as moderate to severe—had helped. Whatever the reason, Noah had managed to banish the Hat Man, along with all the other shadowy creatures, from his waking and sleeping world. Blocked them out and successfully expelled them from his existence.

Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, had been tough too, but he’d also managed to block that out. He’d been eighteen when his stepfather, Garrett, and his mother Barbara combined lethal doses of opioids and alcohol one night during a horror-movie binge-watching session. The irony at the time hadn’t been missed by Noah. They’d been watching a remake of a Jack the Ripper slasher movie when the grim reaper, with his death-dealing scythe, had decided to pay them a life-ending visit.

But, like the Hat Man, Noah had put it behind him like a fading shadow, and had focused full-tilt on work, not willing to admit to himself, on any level, that at best the workaholic cure would only serve as a Band-Aid solution to a gaping traumatic wound. In spite of himself, images began to float into his head, images of Barbara slumped over on the couch, her glass of vodka and orange juice, her signature poison still held tightly in her hand. Garrett, the loser that he was, nestled in beside her, his head slumped on her shoulder, his mouth open wide, his venom of choice, a Molson Canadian beer, spilled onto his lap.

But, as he’d done successfully throughout his life, Noah, in spite of a knot of sadness and grief tightening in his stomach, pushed the dark shadows into the dark recesses of his mind. In his mind’s eye, he grabbed the Hat Man forcefully and tossed him into the cavernous hole along with the others, locked the closet door and threw away the key.

He smiled. He was starting to feel better already. “Mind over matter,” he said, trying to boost his confidence. “That’s all it is. Mind over matter.”

A few minutes later, as he drifted off into what would be a dreamless and peaceful sleep, the only thought that crossed his mind was one that brought anticipatory chills of excitement. Last week, he’d asked Angela Rosewood, a cashier at a nearby Wendy’s fast-food restaurant, out on a date. And, finally, after the fourth entreaty, she’d accepted. Tomorrow was the big day.

As he drifted off, her acceptance speech echoed in his head: “I used to think you were weird. And I probably still do. But you’re weird in a positive sort of way. You’re five times lucky. I guess I’ll go.”

 

THE DARK MENACE COVER REVEAL

At long last, here it is—the final version, or close to it, of The Dark Menace cover. Talented cover artist Johnny Breeze and I have been working on this on and off for over a month. Mostly it represents his artistic talent in concert with my vision. In version one, you’ll probably notice my vision was flawed. All I could come up with was a somewhat menacing Hat Man holding a sword and giving you a kind of “I dare you to cross my path” look. Didn’t take me long to scrap that and start thinking about something more mysterious. By the way, Johnny didn’t create the blotchy background for version one. I was playing with photo-shop one day and mucked it all up.

Before I get too carried away with the cover design process, you’d probably like to know a little about The Dark Menace, a supernatural thriller that I have been painstakingly polishing for over two months but is finally oh-so-close to completion.

Short synopsis:

Mysterious and terrifying attacks by the Shadow People and the Hat Man lead a nightmare-plagued man to suspect an enigmatic doctor has accidentally opened a portal to hell.

Dark Menace version one

Long synopsis:

Noah Janzen is plagued by nightmares and numerous sleep disorders; night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, and a terrifying sleep paralysis that often invokes chilling images of the Shadow People and the Hat Man.

Determined not to let his nocturnal demons interfere with his successful career and newly formed relationship with Angela Rosewood, he meets her in a local pub. But when he sees a shadowy figure wearing a fedora and a trench coat eerily watching him through a window, he freaks out and battens down the hatches.

He soon learns that a hat-wearing psycho has viciously attacked Angela, smashing in her door, trashing her apartment, and nearly killing her. Worse still, Angela suspects Noah has morphed into a conduit for evil and starts distancing herself from him. She might even think he is the Hat Man.

Desperate to save his new relationship and find answers, he seeks the aid of physicist and sleep specialist, Doctor Neil Samuelson. While remaining tight-lipped on his experiments involving the Shadow People and the Hat Man, the enigmatic doctor informs Noah that an old woman has been brutally murdered at the hands of The Dark Menace.

As blood-curdling reports of Shadow People and the Hat Man escalate, Noah suspects Neil has accidentally opened up a portal from another dimension, unleashing a torrent of evil shadowy entities, hell-bent on terrorizing and destroying humanity.

He’s thrust into an epic battle to preserve his relationship and sanity and find answers to a strange and mysterious real-life phenomenon that has haunted and terrorized thousands of people around the world for centuries.

Dark Menace version two

Back to the cover reveal. Since some people view the Hat Man as a dark and evil force, after viewing version one, I thought that it might look eerie to have the Hat Man standing in a cemetery, perhaps with skulls and crossbones in the foreground, highlighted by an ominous moon and tombstones in the background. I wanted more definition in the moon, less black swirling smoke, and sharp definition on the skulls and bones, similar to something you might see at the Catacombs of Paris. In version three, I believe Johnny accomplished most of what I had in mind.

He trimmed down the black smoke, made the Hat Man more three-dimensional of his own accord, and added the skulls and bones in the foreground. I think it hits the mark as an eye-catching and appealing cover.

Of course, Johnny still has to incorporate my suggestions. I’d like to see more definition and maybe brighter colors in the skulls and bones (looks a little washed out to me and doesn’t stand out enough). As well, I think there needs to be a big pile of skulls and bones, possibly ornately arranged like the Catacombs of Paris. Lastly, perhaps the Hat Man hat needs to be just a little taller and more consistent with the fedora or gaucho style hat that most people seem to see the Hat Man wearing.

Dark Menace version three

We’re almost ready to rock and roll. I look forward to the final version. If you have any comments you believe would improve the cover, please post them below.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

 

The Real Witch of Port-LaJoye

Doing research recently on The Witch’s Tombstone, my latest supernatural thriller, I got temporarily stymied. I learned about a novel by Joyce Barkhouse apparently called The Witch of Port LaJoie, which supposedly documents the fate of a witch burned at the stake in Prince Edward Island (PEI) in the 1700s. Multiple searches produced no results. As I usually do when I run into a roadblock, I put the task aside to revisit it in the future, often with more determination.

In the meantime, I bought and read a novel called The Tragedy of Minnie McGee by Joanne Collicott McGuigan. This true story about a troubled and abused PEI woman who poisoned six of her children in 1912 by feeding them weak tea tainted with the heads of phosphorous matches will also form part of The Witch’s Tombstone. It’s a compelling read, rich in information, about the first woman on PEI sentenced to hang for her crimes. It’s also very repetitive and could use another coat of editorial polish.

About a week later, I again started searching for the Barkhouse novel and found no results. I started playing with the spelling of Port LaJoie and discovered there are at least three spellings for the French settlement on the southwestern part of the harbor opposite the city of Charlottetown. It is now a major tourist attraction, also known as Rocky Point. Some spell it Port LaJoie, while others spell it Port-LaJoye, the Wikipedia version. I don’t know which one is correct, but the Port-LaJoye spelling produced Joyce Barkhouse’s novel called Witch of Port Lajoye. In her book title, she doesn’t use the hyphen and she doesn’t capitalize the j in LaJoye.

Regardless of the correct spelling (for now I’ve decided on the Wikipedia version), I ordered a paperback of the short novel as part of my research. There isn’t much in the way of a book description. All I could find on Google Books was this:

A haunting legend set in Prince Edward Island. A young Basque woman learns the healing ways of the Micmac, only to be called a witch by the settlers on the Island in the early 1700s.

In any event, other research produced some fascinating stuff. On the government website upei.ca, information sourced from Fort La Joie (that’s how they spell it) Public Archives and Records Office, tells this tale of the legend of La Belle Marie, also known as Marie Granville:

In Port La Joie, during the French Regime, the Mi’kmaq and the Acadians had developed a relationship, and became allies, so it was not uncommon for French legends to include the Mi’Kmaq, or vice versa. The Mi’kmaq were well known for their beautiful folklore, which was written in their native tongue. The Legend of La Belle Marie is a romantic legend which occurred in the Port la Joie vicinity. Marie’s mother, known as Madame Granville, came to Port la Joie after the death of her father, in search of a quiet and simple life. She supposedly wandered from place to place with her daughter, never feeling quite at home, until she reached the Mi’Kmaq settlement. As the story goes, the mother and daughter settled in with the Mi’Kmaqs, and adapted into their lives. They participated in their everyday activities; dancing with them in the evenings, and settled into their dwelling at night, which lay near the haunted spring.

That autumn during the uik paltimk, or farewell feast celebrated before the dispatch of the hunters to the mainland for large game; the chief announced the betrothal of his son to the beautiful pale face, Belle Marie. Madame Granville prepared to set out on a journey to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in order to collect a suitable dowry for her daughter who is to be the bride of the Indian Prince. The following spring the mother and daughter set off down the river to Port la Joie where Madame Granville was to set out on her journey. However, that afternoon, their empty canoe drifted out to sea with the tide. A search party was formed by her soon to be husband, Kaktoogwasees, and the following morning, two bodies were located on the banks of the river. Madame Granville was dead, and scalped. Marie showed some signs of life, and was immediately brought back to the wigwams for medical attention. She fully recovered and the wedding took place in July. As the newly wedded pair passed from the bower to the open, a crackling sound was heard in the leaves and branches. La Belle Marie gave forth a cry… She threw herself on her husband and tore an arrow from his bleeding bosom. Kaktoogwasees took his last breath and died in her arms.

Marie was now afraid of the society she had grown to love. She knew her husband had been taken down by a member of their own tribe, and felt no one could be trusted. The French inhabitants generally shunned her for her unorthodox behavior, except for the fisherman, who believed she could bring them good luck. The wives of the fisherman grew jealous and complaints were lodged against her to the Intendant at Port la Joie. La Belle Marie was brought to trial and accused of witchcraft. She was found guilty and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Yet, according to Julie V. Watson, Ghost Stories and Legends of Prince Edward Island, even the burning flames of hell were not enough to silence La Belle Marie.

She writes:

Yet even death in the flames was not enough to silence La Belle Marie. It is said that a young soldier posted as a guard on the eve of her execution was never allowed to rest in peace. That night Marie sang her wild, plaintive songs until she had his attention, then begged the young man to set her free and flee with her to seek her father’s buried treasure. The young French soldier was tempted but heeded warnings about her bewitching spells making men do evil deeds and left her imprisoned.

The next day she was tied to a stake driven into the ground between Point de la Flame and the Black Cross, an area now known as Rocky Point. And, the young French-man watched her burn, singing her songs. He ran from the scene and wandered aimlessly until found days later. He claimed to hear the melody of Mineota all of his life, plagued with it even on his deathbed.

Did racial bigotry and misunderstanding of a fey teenager bring about such unhappiness? Or was Marie truly evil, bringing the wicked ways of her father to her own generation? We will never know.

Either way, the legend of La Belle Marie is a powerful and compelling tale. Some say, if you visit the wind-blown cliffs of Rocky Point, you might even here the melodious songs of La Belle Marie dancing on the waves.

In the meantime, I wait with baited breath for my paperback novel, Witch of Port Lajoye, to arrive in the mail.

The debunked tale of the so-called witch called Paddy McGuinness, the true tragic account of Minnie McGee, and the legend of La Belle Marie will all form part of The Witch’s Tombstone. It is a work of fiction but will also combine many facts, legends and folklore of PEI.

To whet your appetite, here’s a short synopsis: A troubled young woman cursed with shadowy supernatural powers believes she’s the descendent of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

As always, thanks for stopping by and have a terrific day.