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.

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 Witch’s Tombstone Revisited

I hope you’ll be happy to hear I’ve destroyed the writer’s block demon and am moving forward with substantive revision on The Dark Menace and proceeding at a decent clip with The Witch’s Tombstone, my latest work in progress. It didn’t hurt that I took three days off over the weekend and had the opportunity to clear my mind by spending time on my awe-inspiring beachfront property. The beautiful scenery never ceases to invoke a sense of peace and inspiration.

It might have also helped that I had a terrible nightmare the other night in which, armed with a chainsaw, I found myself attacking and indeed slicing and dicing demons with it. It was deeply disturbing but I believe the nightmare acted as a cleansing mechanism of sorts, my mind’s way of taking out the trash.

The Witch’s Tombstone will be a supernatural thriller combining researched elements of the myth of the Prince Edward Island witch Paddy McGuinness, the real life tragedy of Minnie McGee and the legend of the witch of Port LaJoie. It has been reported on social media that Paddy McGuinness supposedly poisoned children in the late 1800s or early 1900s and was publicly hanged for her crimes. I’ve found zero evidence to support these claims, let alone the existence of a female witch called Paddy McGuinness.

The tragedy of Minnie McGee, on the other hand, is a true story of a troubled and abused woman who poisoned many of her children to death in in 1912 by soaking phosphorous matches in tea and giving it to them. She was originally sentenced to hang but the community rallied around her and her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. There is a lot of evidence to support the story and even a book or two on the subject.

Still in the research stages with respect to the witch of Port LaJoie, I’m hoping to find some dark and mysterious facts to add credibility and menace to The Witch’s Tombstone. When I have a clearer idea of where I’m going with it, I’ll post an update. In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is the prologue. Enjoy.

 

The Witch’s Tombstone Prologue.

The executioner slipped the rope around her neck and grinned through an improvised black balaclava. “You’re going to burn in hell.” He lifted the potato sack from her head and tightened the rope, just enough to pinch skin.

She felt a stinging rope-burn pain. She winced. Her heart rate accelerated. Beads of sweat sprouted on her forehead in the stifling heat. She blinked several times, adjusting to bright sunshine. One sweat ball dripped into her green eye and she squirmed. But she couldn’t wipe it away. Her hands and feet were tightly bound to the gallows with thick rope. She blinked twice more, trying to clear the salty bead of perspiration away. Slowly her vision cleared.

The hangman stepped back and ceremoniously bowed.

Hundreds of onlookers, gathered to witness the public hanging, erupted in applause and then began chanting, “Burn in hell, witch. Burn in hell.”

Minnie McGuinness surveyed the anxious eyes and smiling faces of men, women and children alike. Her quivering lips tightened. She waited until a hushed silence fell over the crowd before speaking. “I’m innocent. I didn’t kill anybody.”

“Burn in hell, witch. Burn in hell.”

“It’s all a big mistake,” she pleaded. “I wouldn’t kill my own children. I’ve been framed. Please… please. Let me go.”

As the crowd of death-hungry people began to erupt again, the executioner turned to them and raised a darkly cloaked arm. “Silence, please.”

He waited until order and calm was restored before continuing. “You, Minnie McGuinness, have been found guilty of starting a cult of heretics. You have also been found guilty of poisoning your own children and poisoning many children of this community—several of whom are now dead as a result of your efforts…”

A cackling-voiced woman interrupted the executioner. “You killed my little Joshua. For that you’ll die.” She flung an egg into the air. It struck Minnie in the head and shattered. Yellow yolk and clear egg-white began oozing down her long black and gray streaked hair and onto her forehead.

“Enough,” the executioner demanded. The cat calls were reduced to a hushed murmur before silence prevailed.

He continued. “As well as heresy and murder, you have also been found guilty of witchcraft. For all of these crimes you have shown no remorse. For all of these crimes you will be publicly executed at the gallows. Death by hanging, after which your evil corpse will be burned at a stake so we might rid the world forever of the evil which you possess. Now is your chance, Minnie, to show remorse and make your peace with God. Do you have any last words?”

She felt egg yolk snake down her forehead, onto her nose and into her left eye. She blinked several times but her left eye vision grew cloudy, elongating the audience into a garish band of circus side show freaks.

She cleared her throat. Might just as well give them a piece of my mind. There’s no hope now. They’ll never believe me. “First of all, I didn’t kill anybody, least of all my own children. My herbal remedies cure the sick. They perform miracles but have nothing to do with witchcraft. For all of my accusers and all the people who framed me, may you all burn in hell. Bunch of religious hypocrite liars. Burn in hell… all of you!”

More jeers, shouts and screams. More flying eggs. More flying rocks. All of them missed the intended mark. Then a hushed silence fell over the crowd as the executioner waved the hand of death.

Minnie heard a sharp metallic clunk, felt the trap door beneath her swing open, and instantly the noose tightened powerfully around her throat. She heard a bone-rattling snapping sound and felt excruciating pain as her last breaths were slowly suffocated out of her.

As her life ebbed away, she watched the crowd, who were now jeering, chanting and clapping. Several eggs and a half a dozen rocks were again flung at her. As if by divine intervention, all of them missed her. However, one egg did splatter the darkly masked face of the executioner, sending him leaping around the gallows and waving his arms in a fit of rage.

As the black curtain of death closed in around Minnie, she imagined herself in a much younger body, in a much better time, living a much better life.

Then she smiled and died.

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave comments below. Have a terrific day.

When the truth leads you astray

I’ve heard it said that, “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own set of facts.” I fall back on the saying occasionally when engaged in a debate where the facts will only show one answer. No gray area. Just black or white, right or wrong.

One such story is the tale of Paddy McGuinness, the so-called female witch. As the rumor goes, she poisoned children in the early 1900s and a successful witch hunt led her to the gallows where she was publicly hanged for her crimes. People say her tombstone is in The Roman Catholic People’s Cemetery in Charlottetown. The weathered statue depicts a grief-stricken woman holding a hand to her face. An old cross leans up against her, tilted at an odd angle, probably the result of Mother Nature’s powerful forces. My research shows that she isn’t buried below the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown at all. In fact it’s a man by the name of Patrick Paul McGuinness. Paddy is a common nickname for Patrick.

As well, sources say that that area of the cemetery is no older than 1960, so the Paddy McGuinness timeline doesn’t square with the facts. In efforts to further debunk the myth, I reached out to PEI history guru Ed MacDonald.

He writes: “Jim Hornby published a history of capital punishment on PEI through Island Studies Press about 20 years ago now. No mention of a Paddy McGuinness there. I suspect the story is a complete fabrication possibly concocted by combining two incidents: one old legend about The Witch of Port Lajoie, which was made into a novel by Joyce Barkhouse and concerns a supposed witch from the French Regime on PEI in the 18th century; and the well-known case of Minnie McGee of St. Mary’s Road, who poisoned five of her children in 1912 but was not hanged. She spent the remainder of her life either in prison or a mental hospital… Minnie was no witch, just a tragically troubled mother.”

According to a news story in The Graphic, in “April 1912, Minnie McGee poisoned her six kids by soaking phosphorus matches in weak tea, and giving it to them to drink. They became deathly ill within days: they vomited, their pulses weakened, their hearts failed. The first five children died on the same day: Louis (age 13), Penzie (age 12), Georgie (age 8), Bridget (age 6) and Thomas (age 5). Johnnie (age 10) died two days later.”

In her confession, Minnie, whose real name was Mary Cassidy-McGee, reportedly said, “They will be better off. They will be in heaven.”

The Minnie McGee story is a tragic account of a woman who endured much hardship and suffering and found herself in a position of utter despair and hopelessness. Prior the poisoning, two of her children had died from pneumonia. Evidently her husband Patrick was frequently away from home seeking work and often beat her. “Pat, my husband, used to beat me quite often. He would beat me when I was sick in bed.”

Some may find it hard to have sympathy for a woman who poisons her children. But when you consider her situation—a poor, abused, troubled woman raising six children by herself in the winter of 1912, it is hard not to feel a pang of sadness for her plight. After all, she lived during a time when spousal abuse was hardly frowned on; there were few counselors, no shelters, no government hand-outs or food banks. With no one to turn to for help, the weight of her burden became too much.

Although Minnie was originally sentenced to hang, the community rallied around her and in the end her sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. She spent part of her days in jail and part of her days in an insane asylum, before passing away in 1953.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, what started out as a story of the so-called witch called Paddy McGuinness has morphed into a tale that will combine the tragedy of Minnie McGee with The Witch of Port Lajoie. A cursory search of major book retailers showed no such book currently available for purchase. I guess I’ve come full circle. I find myself once again searching for an elusive witch. Research takes you down strange and unexpected paths.

Tune in next week for a follow-up.

Thanks for stopping by, please leave comments below, and have an awesome day.

Who are the Shadow People?

Just who are the Shadow People anyway? Well, to define the plural, let’s start with the singular—shadow person. According to Wikipedia, a shadow person “is the perception of a patch of shadow as a living, humanoid figure, particularly as interpreted by believers in the paranormal or supernatural as the presence of a spirit of other entity.”

Although some would argue it, Shadow People represent the shadow person, only in droves. According to researchers, images of Shadow People date as far back as 300 AD. Wikipedia says, “A number of religions, legends, and belief systems describe shadowy spiritual beings or supernatural entities such as shades of the underworld, and various shadowy creatures have long been a staple of folklore and ghost stories.”

So what do they want? Well, that is certainly a matter of debate. Here are some theories:

An extraterrestrial theory. Shadow People are negative alien beings, sent to harm or abduct us, who can be repelled by invoking the name of Jesus.

A neurological theory. Shadow People images occur during sleep paralysis, a mysterious sleeping disorder occurring in that transitional stage between waking and falling asleep during which a person becomes completely immobilized and often sees frightening images. In that case they would just be the manifestation of a sleeping disorder and by extension nothing more than a product of the subconscious mind.

A religious theory. Shadow People are the evil minions of the Devil sent to snatch our souls and drag us down into the filthy bowels of hell.

Another religious theory. Shadow People are guardian angels, sent from heaven to protect our souls and shield us from evil.

I could probably go on for hours about the many theories that exist. We know for sure that thousands of people have seen the Shadow People in their waking and sleeping worlds. We know that, due to the supernatural aspect of their existence, nobody has yet to prove what the Shadow People really are. But my favorite theory is this one:

The Scientific theory. Some physicists believe that unexplained forces are causing other dimensions to merge with ours. This merging of different dimensions would explain why we can only see the Shadow People as shadowy figures who have the ability to transcend our laws of gravity, float through walls, fly, and change shapes at random.

According to this theory, Shadow People are the extra-dimensional inhabitants of another universe or another dimension. That’s why they can disappear and reappear in the drop of a hat. Or maybe in the drop of the Hat Man.

Theories also abound on the existence and agenda of the Hat Man. Many people report seeing him in their waking lives. Some claim he’s a guardian angel of sorts while others are convinced he’s the devil come to harvest their souls. He has been connected to alien abduction, preying on fear, and striking you when your defenses are low; when you’re sick or depressed. Some claim he’s trashed their houses and tried to strangle them to death in the middle of the night.

In some reports, The Shadow People and the Hat Man are sometimes interconnected. Some people claim to see the Hat Man with the Shadow People. But the connections are muddy at best.

In Dark Menace, my work-in-progress supernatural thriller, I attempt to clarify the connections between the two strange and mysterious phenomenon that are very real and very terrifying to many people. Here’s a synopsis:

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

Determined not to let his nocturnal demons interfere with his successful career and a crush he has on Angela Rosewood, he meets her for a drink in a local pub. But when he sees a dark shadowy figure wearing a fedora and a trench coat peering at him eerily through a window, he freaks out, fleeing in terror and battening down the hatches of his apartment.

He soon learns that a hat-wearing man has viciously attacked Angela, smashing in her door, trashing her apartment, and nearly killing her. Worse still, Angela believes 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 former physicist and sleep specialist friend Neil Samuelson, now a full-time paranormal investigator. While remaining tight-lipped on his experiments involving the Shadow People and the Hat Man, the enigmatic scientists informs Noah that an old woman has just been brutally murdered at the hands of The Dark Menace.

As blood-curdling reports of Shadow People and the Hat Man begin to escalate, Noah finds townsfolk pointing fingers at him. They believe he’s plunged off the precipice of sanity. Noah believes the Hat Man is not only real, but actually exists in a dangerous and deadly other dimension—one the Hat Man affectionately calls “the dead zone.”

He’s thrust into a violent and unpredictable battle to prove his innocence and sanity, win back Angela’s affection, and confront The Dark Menace he believes responsible for all the bloodshed and carnage.

The Dark Menace will be available in leading book retailers soon. In the meantime, if you’ve ever encountered Shadow People or the Hat Man, I’d love to hear about it. Please post your comments below.