William Blackwell

Dark Fiction Author

Category: Posts Page 3 of 9

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 soon.

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 researching for months now.

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 descendant of an evil witch who was burned at the stake in the 1700s for her crimes.

THE CREATION OF A BOOK COVER

An artist collaboration in any form is not an easy thing to accomplish. Artists have different schedules, different temperaments and, above all, different creative visions. As an independent author, I collaborate with talented cover designer Johnny Breeze on my book covers. Our goal is to get on the same page so that we might get on with the chapters and reach THE END with something eye-catching, outstanding and, since I write mainly in the horror genre, horrifying.

Currently I’m collaborating with Johnny on The Dark Menace, my latest work in progress. Here’s a 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.

Here’s a 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.

I’m fortunate that Johnny and I both possess minds that are visually oriented. We can generally get on the same page quickly. When I write novels, I take some time to visualize the scene in my mind before putting pen to paper. Before I send Johnny my vision for a cover concept, I search out images to reflect my vision and send them to him, along with a short cover vision synopsis. Usually, when I nail the vision, Johnny nails the cover and produces something amazing. But when I miss the vision, Johnny generally misses the cover. Of course, he’s just trying to incorporate my vision and add his creative talent to it, so if I don’t get it right I can hardly blame him.

That’s what happened on the first go-around for The Dark Menace. I only envisioned the Hat Man, also referred to as The Dark Menace, standing idly with a sword in his hands—his red glowing eyes staring at you threateningly. The result was a rather bland image.

I quickly realized this and called Johnny as often a short conversation will create a unity of vision. He offered some suggestions and we came up with a totally new and much better cover concept. I sent him an email to convey the new cover concept and to remind him of what we had discussed. He’s a very busy artist so I wanted him have something to fall back on when he decided to get creative with The Dark Menace.

Below is an excerpt from the email:

Possibly red for the author and book name, which matches the eyes of the Hat Man.

Hat Man upper torso clearly defined; his bottom half black and wispy, apparition-like, as you’ve done a bit in the first cover concept.

Machete or sword not needed.

Eerie graveyard scene with perhaps a few tombstones, skulls and bones. Maybe a red glow surrounding the Hat Man image that makes him stand out.

Clearly defined lines on Hat Man and Hat Man eyes. Gaucho style hat.

Maybe a full moon in the background. Maybe not. I like wild skull-like images.

Maybe the Hat Man has his arms outstretched in sort of an enveloping embrace.

I like your idea about predominant colors being black and blue and maybe gray as opposed to my original fiery background.

The Dark Menace image you see in this blog post represents my first failed vision. Playing around one day, I even doctored it up a bit. But trust me, I was just having fun. I’m not a graphic artist. I don’t mess with Johnny’s creations as far as a hands-on tampering with the image is concerned. I only offer suggestions. He has the creative license. He has the creative genius.

Expect something truly remarkable when the real cover finally emerges. Stay tuned and have an awesome day.

The Dark Menace progress

I’m moving forward with research on The Dark Menace. 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.

I think it 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.

In any event, here’s a synopsis and a sample of The Dark Menace:

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 to prevent his nocturnal demons from interfering 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 flees.

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  ghostly evil 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.

PROLOGUE

The muffled scream echoing eerily from the hallway leading to Noah’s bedroom didn’t alarm Barbara Janzen enough to stir her from her couch-potato, channel-surfing position. She reached into the glass bowl cradled on her lap and shoveled a mouthful of potato chips into her mouth, unaware of a few chips that slid down her gray sweatshirt, one lodging in the crotch of her sweatpants, a few others spilling onto the sofa. She grabbed the remote, adjusted her bulk, and turned up the volume. The crotch-pinned chip crunched into powder. Oblivious, she flicked the channel quickly six times and finally stopped at Bride of the Monster, a 1955 B-grade cult horror film. She leaned back and grinned, exposing crooked, decaying and nicotine-stained teeth.

“Mooommmmy… heeeeeelp me!”

She craned her neck, scanning the dimly lit hallway. The shrieking cry for help echoed off the walls and then the house grew quiet and still. She frowned slightly. Damn kid, she thought. Always having nightmares about monsters. There are no monsters. Only on TV. Raising the volume a second time, she refocused on Bela Lugosi’s cult classic, a movie she thought would take her away from the bleakness and despair of her own existence.

Five minutes later, she was lost in the movie.

The front door swung open so violently it crashed into the wall, rattling a window and knocking a cactus plant onto the floor, shattering the clay pot and spilling dirt on the beaten carpet. The cactus miraculously stood upright, a prickly phallus defying all odds. A long-haired motley-looking man dressed in torn denim stepped inside and grinned.

“You drunken idiot,” Barbara said, her eyes narrowing. “You scared the shit out of me. Look what you’ve done. What the hell’s wrong with you?”

Through glazed eyes, the man gazed at the TV, then at Barbara. He took a long swill from his Molson Canadian beer can, chucked the empty outside and slammed the door. “Honey, I’m home.”

Barbara paused her movie and put the glass bowl on the coffee table, along with the remote. She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists. Her first instinct was to erupt like a volcano and she struggled to control the rising flow of lava. It wouldn’t do any good to argue with Garrett now. Not in his current condition. He could be extremely confrontational when he was drunk. And not just verbal abuse; a few times he’d come close to striking her. Besides, he’d just called her ‘honey,’ a word he rarely used when speaking to her, even though the term of endearment was alcohol-induced.

She rose and approached him quickly, helping him off with his jean jacket and leading him over to a tattered La-Z-Boy chair. She plopped him into it.

He melted into the chair, slouched his head to one side, and focused on the screen vacantly. “You watching that crap again?”

Not wanting to rouse his ire, she ignored the comment, grabbed a dustpan and broom from a nearby closet and kneeled down to the mess he’d made. She swept up shattered remains of the clay pot, deposited them into a kitchen garbage can, and returned with an empty glass and a dish cloth. She swept some soil into the glass and, using the dish cloth as an improvised glove, carefully picked up the cactus plant and inserted it into the dirt inside. In the kitchen, she added a little water to it and placed it on a kitchen window sill, out of the way of future intoxicated paths of destruction, she hoped.

She cleaned the carpet as best she could and stood up to evaluate her effort. It would need a vacuum to get everything, she knew. But the vacuum was broken, and had been for more than a week. She sighed heavily, returned to the couch and plunked herself down.

She looked at Garrett. His head lolled slowly to and fro, eyes opening and closing.

“I should get you to bed,” she said. “You’re wasted.”

His eyes opened. “Barney’s got a new hottie. Sweet little thing she is…”

“Barney’s always getting new girlfriends,” she said. “He wears them out faster than you do a pair of socks.”

She searched his bloodshot eyes for a response, but they were closed now. She watched Garrett for a minute or two as spittle began dripping from his open mouth. He emitted a loud nasally snore, the first of many to come. She debated trying to help him to bed, but quickly changed her mind. No sense waking the fool now. Let him sleep it off in his favorite chair.

She resumed watching Bride of the Monster with a sigh, thankful that she hadn’t married this loser. He couldn’t hold down a steady job, drank like a fish, and relied on government hand-outs to survive. And his demeanor and disposition were far from that of a model citizen. But, just like all the others, he’d probably be gone in a month or two.

Five minutes or so into the movie, even over Garrett’s snoring and the blaring TV, Barbara heard a loud crash, followed by another ear-piercing scream. This time she did react, standing up so fast, she tilted her chip bowl, spilling its crunchy contents all over the sofa and carpet.

Garrett stirred, inhaled a nasally snore and muttered something incomprehensible—the beginning of his night-time symphonic somniloquy.

At the far end of the hall, the bedroom door burst open and Noah sprang out, crashing head-first into the wall and falling on the floor. Although she didn’t rush, Barbara walked purposefully down the hall, stopped in front of her son, and knelt down. His long brown hair was sweat-matted to his head. A small cut above his left eye leaked blood down his face. His mouth was open in a large O of shock and his green eyes were wide open, fixated on the ceiling and frozen. Holding his arms stiffly at his sides, he appeared to be in a state of catatonia. She grabbed his shoulders and shook him.

He blinked, opened his eyes, and looked at his mother. “The Hat Man,” Noah said, the color draining from his face. “Help me, Mommy, help me… he tried to kill me.”

What do you do when the well runs dry?

They say it happens to every writer at some point. The creative well runs dry. The last time I suffered from writer’s block was a long time ago indeed. I was working on a sci-fi novel called Orgon Conclusion, got stuck a third of the way through, and put it on the back-burner. Twenty years later, I overcame my demons, finished and published it.

And for the last six and a half years I’ve always been able to write myself out of writer’s block. Knowing the words weren’t the best, I would pound them out furiously with the knowledge that eventually the muse would visit and bless my prose with a smoothness, clarity and conciseness that some say are the trademarks of my writing style. It would be music to my ears, magic to my eyes. It would fill me with wonder and awe at the poetry and power of prose.

But not today.

I have two writing projects on the go and I can’t seem to get into either one of them. The Dark Menace, a work in progress, sits on my desk collecting dust. I haven’t touched it in almost a week. I recently wrote the first draft and did three editing passes. Apparently it still needs considerable revision, but I just can’t seem to find the passion, enthusiasm, or inspiration to begin the process.

Then there’s The Witch’s Tombstone, a novel I started researching and writing about three weeks ago. I’m about 600 words into it and haven’t added a single word in over a week.

Probably worse than writer’s block, some writers suffer from a debilitating writer’s anxiety that creates fear in their minds. Every time they put pen to paper, a debilitating fear prevents them from being successful. Fortunately, I’ve never had that problem. When I do write, I write fearlessly, and generally with passion and conviction.

But how do you cure writer’s block?

Well, according to the so-called experts, here are some things you shouldn’t do:

Watch TV.

Wallow in self-pity.

Wait until you feel inspired.

Procrastinate or make excuses.

Read articles on how to vanquish writer’s block. Guess I cut off my nose to spite my face on that one, huh?

Here are some things people recommend to overcome writer’s block:

Go for a walk.

Get rid of distractions.

Exercise.

Play.

Read a book.

Listen to music.

Call a friend.

Spend time with a friend.

Change your environment.

Brew some coffee.

Read some inspiring quotes or even inspiring book reviews if you have a backlist of well-reviewed novels.

The list goes on and on. I had some ideas of my own to deal with writer’s block but unfortunately the experts don’t agree with my remedies. I considered drinking wine. Thought of drinking rum. It also occurred to me to drink beer. Then I thought, hell, why not combine all three and just drown my sorrows in a dark abyss of alcohol abuse and wallow in self-pity. That might even lead to some inspired drunk-dialing.

But then the voice of reason spoke to me and I did two things. I brewed a fresh pot of coffee, which I’m currently enjoying. And the next thing I did—which conventional wisdom says is the most important thing you can do to overcome writer’s block—is to write.

It might not be much, but it’s a start. And the best start toward finding a solution to the problem. I wrote this blog post. Maybe now I’ll go read a book. Maybe I’ll go play. Maybe I’ll call a friend.

Tomorrow is another day. Here’s hoping it brings more passion and inspiration.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear all about your writer’s block remedies. Please post your comments below.

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.

Where the hell is the witch’s tombstone?

Where the hell is the witch’s tombstone? I’ve started doing some preliminary research on a story idea that’s gelling in my head and I’m trying to locate the whereabouts of the witch’s tombstone on Prince Edward Island. PEI is rich in ghost folklore and haunted stories so maybe there is more than one.

Searching Facebook groups dedicated to the paranormal, I’ve unearthed a number of possibilities.

Location One. The witch’s tombstone is said to be in Charlottetown in The People’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, 110 Kensington Road, behind the Saint Pius Catholic Church. The tombstone, made from concrete and wire mesh, depicts a cloaked, grief-stricken young woman, with a weather-beaten cross leaning against her. Her left arm has been amputated, probably the result of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Location Two. In PEI’s Pioneer Cemetery Road and rumored to be the grave of a pioneer involved in a shipwreck. The ground is said to be mysteriously raised in a circle around a number of graves. Problem is, a Google search produced at least four Pioneer Cemetery Roads in PEI.

Location Three. On or near Cemetery Road in Borden in Seven Mile Bay area, beside or behind Saint Peter’s Catholic Church. Apparently that tomb stands alone, in the middle of nowhere. On a night near Halloween, a group of supernatural enthusiasts reportedly decided to visit the tomb. It was a dark and eerie night and none of them were brave enough to get real close to it. Eventually they decided to return to their vehicles and inexplicably they saw a downed tree on the road blocking their paths. It was a windless and calm night and they hadn’t even heard the tree fall. They cleared the downed tree away from the road, rushed to their vehicles and beat a hasty and fear-filled retreat.

The tombstone in Charlottetown is the one that intrigues me the most, primarily because I visited the cemetery a few days ago, located and photographed it. The image of Paddy McGuinness, rumored to be a witch, is both scary and sad. Scary, because she is rumored to have started a cult that poisoned and killed children before a successful witch hunt led her to the gallows where she was publicly hanged around the early 1900s. Sad, because the portrait of grief the tombstone depicts is deeply moving.

CBC News published a story August 11th, 2011, about a mother-daughter team who formed the Island Paranormal Research Group (IPRG) and visited the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown. A picture shows them at the witch’s tombstone taking readings with various electronic ghost hunting equipment. Many Google searches produced no evidence that IPRG still exists.

Multiple searches of previously active PEI paranormal groups suggests all of them are now defunct.

Trying to disentomb clues, I’ve smashed head-first into a weathered and mysterious concrete tombstone. None of the Facebook group members responded to my queries. Maybe there are several witch’s tombs on PEI, but for now I’m concentrating on the one in Charlottetown. I’ve heard some students at the University of Prince Edward Island did some research on the topic but so far my efforts in that department have led to a dead end. I do have a few feelers out however, and I might hear something yet.

During my recent visit to the witch’s tombstone in Charlottetown, I noticed a phone number for the cemetery. I called the number and that led to three conversations—two with helpful cemetery officials and one with a helpful cemetery caretaker.  Here’s what I learned. That part of the cemetery where the witch’s tombstone is located is no older than the 1960s or 1970s. The tombstone or monument depicting a woman painfully carrying her life burdens is probably no older than 1960. There is no record of a female called Paddy McGuinness buried in that plot number where the tombstone is. There is, however, a male buried in that plot number by the name of Patrick Paul McGuinness. I am still investigating the date and details surrounding his death, but my information suggests it certainly would not have been in the early 1900s, since that part of the cemetery is much newer than that.

As well, Paddy (with that spelling) is a common nickname for a male named Patrick.

Throughout history, hundreds of people have been falsely accused and convicted of witchcraft, many tortured, publicly hanged or burned at the stake. Misinformed people believed they’d made a pact with the devil—consummated by sex—that gave them supernatural powers potent enough to wreak chaos, harm and death. They were considered heretics who had sold their souls to the devil and had become the devil’s hand maidens—implements of Satan’s evil agenda.

The term witch hunt has come to define a reckless crusade or investigation untethered to the truth.

So, was Paddy McGuinness a witch? Was she much maligned?

Did she even exist? Is she merely imaginative fiction unrooted in fact?

Or was she actually Patrick Paul McGuinness?

Either way, I plan on resurrecting the Paddy McGuinness story or another similar tale from the grave to haunt, educate, and entertain readers. I was hoping to write a fact-based narrative but so far I have no facts to support what my online paranormal research has said about the witch, Paddy McGuinness.

Does anyone know anything about the so-called witch called Paddy McGuinness? Does anyone know the story behind the witch’s tombstone at The Roman Catholic People’s Cemetery in Charlottetown? Does anyone know of any other witch’s tombstones on PEI (exact locations would be nice) and the stories behind them? Are there any active paranormal groups on PEI that wouldn’t mind an intrepid author joining them on some paranormal investigations?

Any light you could shed on this dark subject would be greatly appreciated.

The Paddy McGuinness mystery continues.

Please post your comments below and have an awesome day.

I just got divorced

I’m a little sad today. I just got divorced.

But, fortunately, not in the way you might think. A few days ago, I finished three editing passes of my latest novel, The Dark Menace, and my beta reader returned it with glowing praise. Just prior to doing some last-minute polishing of the book description, I emailed my talented editor Winslow Eliot, telling her to expect the manuscript soon. To my shock and despair, I received an email a short time later explaining that unfortunately she could not edit the manuscript as she had moved on to perhaps a higher calling—namely writer mentoring and spiritual counseling.

Saddened, I started reflecting on how much Winslow has done for me over the years. A good writer-editor relationship is a marriage of sorts. When you find a good fit it’s worth nurturing and preserving. There’s a fine line between interfering and even undermining an author’s voice, style and tone and actually helping them become a better storyteller. Say the wrong things and you can shatter a fragile writer ego forever. Say the right things and they could become the next New York Times bestselling author. Make no mistake about it, editing is an art and special skill and talent is necessary to be able to elevate a writer’s prose from good to great.

I can’t begin to explain the ways in which Winslow helped me polish my storytelling abilities. But I’ll try. Strong characterization. Repairing plot holes. Better use of description. When point of view becomes confusing. Story arc. Grammar and punctuation rules. Tone. Cadence and rhythm. Pace. There is so much more. Winslow provided me with a mountain of information on how to construct a good story. Much more than any university course could have taught me, much more than mere words can describe.

But there was something more to our relationship than mere writer-editor. Winslow believed in me. She picked me up when I was feeling down. She encouraged me when I lost hope. Sure, she constructively criticized me when I screwed up, but I wouldn’t expect anything less than the truth from a great editor.

She was just a ray of sunshine in my life.

But, while wallowing in my pit of despair at this divorce of sorts, I started to realize something. Winslow didn’t go anywhere. Why am I speaking in the past tense? She is a ray of sunshine in my life. She’s still a great friend and always will be. She’s still an amazing person and always will be. Presumably she just decided to follow her passion and do what she does best—help other people realize their potential in life. So I swallowed the lump of sorrow and sadness welling up in my throat, dried my watery eyes, and went to work finding another editor.

I thoroughly researched three possibilities and sent out some preliminary feelers, anxiously checking my inbox every half hour for replies. What I did find was a reply from Winslow, doing what she does best—pick you up when you’re feeling down.

Here it is: “I feel you have come such a long way from your first book—how many years ago was it!? And what a wild, exciting ride it has been for you! You’ve moved, traveled, and published, published, published (and written too!!). Yours really is an extraordinary journey, and the more books you write the more fans and readers you’ll get—it will continue to get better for you. You have such persistence, determination, amazing talent, and enthusiasm. I send you love and light, dear William, and many blessings on all your future endeavors.”

I didn’t realize I would be that emotional about the writer-editor part of our relationship, but I couldn’t help my eyes from watering. Of course, I responded:

“I can’t begin to tell you how much you’ve helped me, Winslow. It is with a great sense of sadness that I write these words. As you know, a good writer-editor relationship is a marriage of sorts and when you find a good fit, it’s best to preserve and nurture the relationship. There is a fine line between interrupting an author’s voice and enhancing and developing it. You’ve masterfully developed my storytelling ability in ways that mere words simply cannot describe. I know so much more about the craft than when I started and you’ve given me a much better education than any university course ever could. Thank you so much for the high praise and the words of encouragement. You are truly an amazing person and you mean so much to me. When I look back at the first novel and I see what I’m writing now, it really is a night and day difference. You’re right. We’ve come a long way together. I know I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks for believing in me. Best of luck with your spiritual enlightenment counseling. I always knew you were a deeply spiritual person. I send much love.”

After that reply, we went back and forth a few times, promising to stay in touch, to be there for one another, and remain great friends. It wasn’t long before the black cloud hovering above me began to drift away. I began to realize that (to use an overused cliché) people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

I’m sure Winslow came into my life six and a half years ago for a reason—to make me a better writer and a better person.

I’m also sure she also came into my life as a great friend—for a lifetime.

It made me reflect on why it’s so important to find a good editor. Writing is a deeply personal craft. It teaches you who you are, teaches you how you think—touches your heart in so many poignant, wild and wonderful ways. Novels take hard work to produce—often blood, sweat and tears. It takes courage and thick skin to write and publish a book. You spill open your heart to the world and—as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow—some will stomp all over it.

But when the validation comes—in the form of a rave review from my editor or a rave review from a reader—it makes the whole journey deeply rewarding and satisfying.

More than the money, it’s just the recognition that, as Stephen King once said, “I’ve got game.”

Thank you, Winslow, for helping me find my game.

Thank you, dear readers, for your loyalty and support. If you’re a writer in need of mentoring, or searching for spiritual enlightenment, Winslow Eliot comes highly recommended.

Find Winslow here: http://winsloweliot.com/

Feel free to leave comments below. Have an awesome day and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

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