Category Archives: fiction

The Story of a Cover

Despite my hesitation about writing a murder mystery starring my dance class (killing friends is a good way to lose friends) I wanted a cover for the as yet unwritten book to help ease me into the project. Grace, the woman who’d volunteered to be the victim, agreed to be the cover girl.

On Tuesdays, ballet comes first, then Arabic. One Tuesday, we were just finished practicing our final combination of ballet steps—glissade, arabesque, pas de bourrrée, assemblé—when Grace arrived, already dressed in her green and beige silk belly dance skirt.

I waved at the older woman. “I brought my camera. I need a photo of your corpse. Will you play dead for me?”

Grace laughed. “Sure. Where do you want me? Over there by the barre?”

I glanced at the corner of the studio she indicated, and shrugged. “Sure. Anywhere is fine.”

I’d expected to have to take several shots to get the pose I wanted, but Grace sank to the wooden floor as gracefully as she did everything else, and lay in the ideal pose.

Right then I knew I could kill Grace. She was just too damn perfect.

And now, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, my sometimes amusing, always riveting novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class is available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

***

Pat Bertram is the author of four other suspense novels: Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

I didn’t want to kill Grace—it was her idea. I’ve literarily massacred hundreds of thousands of people, so it shouldn’t have been difficult to do away with one petite older woman, but the truth is I couldn’t think of a single reason why I—or anyone—would want Grace Worthington dead. Though most of us humans frown on murder, we do grudgingly admit some folks are so villainous they need to be eliminated, but no one would consider Grace a villain. She is charming, kind, with a smile for everyone, and the ghost of her youthful beauty is still apparent on her lovely face.

Besides, killing a friend is a good way to lose that friend, and dance class would not be the same without Grace.

I was still trying to make up my mind about killing Grace when several of us dancing classmates met for lunch. After nibbling on salads and sandwiches, we rose and gathered our belongings. I’d hung my dance bag on the back of my chair, and I yanked the bag with more force than I intended. The bag swung out and narrowly missed hitting Buffy Cooper, a tanned, elegant blonde a couple of years older and a couple of inches shorter than me.

Buffy deadpanned, “I’m not the one who volunteered to be the murder victim.”

That cracked me up, and right then I decided I had to follow through with the project. I mean, really—how could I not use such a perfect line?

I turned to Grace. “How do you want me to do the deed?” Since she’d initiated this lethal game, I thought it only right that she got to choose the means of her demise. So much fairer than the way life works, wouldn’t you say? I mean, few among us get to choose our own end. Life, the greatest murderer of all time, chooses how we expire, whether we will it or not.

Grace laughed at my question and said she didn’t care how she died.

But I cared.

Death is often messy—and smelly—with blood and body wastes polluting the scene, and I did not feel like dealing with such realities, especially not at Madame ZeeZee’s Dance Academy.

So begins the story of Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, my sometimes amusing, always suspenseful novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class.

Now available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

***

Pat Bertram is the author of four other suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”  Like Pat on Facebook.

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“Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare” is Now Available!

Killing friends is a good way to lose friends, even if the murder is for play. When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Then the murders begin. Tapped by the cops as the star suspect, author Pat sets out to discover the truth curtained behind the benign faces of her fellow dancers. Does one of them have a secret she would kill to protect? Or is the writer’s investigation a danse macabre with Pat herself as the bringer of death?

Pat Bertram’s sometimes amusing, always riveting novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class is now available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

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Can Subtraction be a Positive? by Sheila Deeth

It’s coming soon. The release date is August 1st. And the title is Subtraction. So now I need a blurb for the back of the book. But what’s in a blurb?

Subtraction - cover concept

Subtraction – cover concept

  • I could precis the story, beginning, middle and end. But then why bother reading all the rest?
  • I could precis the setup, but what should I include; how much, where, when and why?
  • I could give you a character sketch but the characters change… well, apart from the middle-grade misfits who plan on misfitting for several more years yet.
  • I could tell you it’s related to Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, and no, it’s not about math… well, apart from the protagonist teaching subtraction to those middle-grade misfits in his class.
  • I could give you a sentence–Schoolteacher takes a road trip in search of missing child and finds himself…. maybe add love and cats for added interest (the cat’s important).
  • I could expand on the sentence, but that’s just just extra words.
  • I could ask you a question: Can Subtraction be a Positive? Then I could try to answer the question. And then…

Actually, I kind of like the question idea. If I subtract a negative number it’s the same as adding positives, so what if I subtract a negative thought? What if Subtraction is the story of a life worn down by negatives then turned around by subtracting negativity? Or is that too complex (I’m still working on book 4 of my Mathemafiction sequence, Imaginary Numbers).

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got so far… Three completely different blurbs, and a request that you tell me which (if any) makes you more interested in reading the story. Go on, please… subtract those negatives from my blurbs, send positive vibes, and help me make something great!

Version 1:

On a road trip to look for a missing girl, a schoolteacher finds himself. Love, cats and colleagues remind him the world’s not all evil, but can he truly forgive the darkness it hides? Is trust just weakness in disguise, or is it a gift, a freedom and a hope that things subtracted might yet be restored?

Version 2 (with questions!):

Can subtraction be a positive? Can loss be a gain? And can a lonely schoolteacher find himself (love and cats) on a cross-country road trip in search of a missing child? Subtraction is a story of love, loss and hope as strangers prove to be sometimes kind, dark places hide light, and middle-grade schoolchildren learn about math, acceptance, and generosity.

Version 3 (less existential, but still with questions):

When a misfit student disappears from math class, her teacher embarks on an epic cross-country journey to find her. But who is he really looking for? Why is the pretty new art teacher so keen to help? And where do all the cats come from?

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction sequence of novels. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, both published by Indigo Sea Press, where good books are sold, and look out for Subtraction, coming August 1st!

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The Woods – 7 Return to the House (1985) by LV Gaudet

1The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

5 – The Woods – Return to the House (1985)

6 – The Woods – Inspecting The House (2015)

 

1985

The boys race back, crawling over the rotting downed tree, and through the woods.  They can see the house through the barren limbs of the trees, branches that stick out, their branching fingers trying to block their view of home.  They push through those branches, some twisted in odd directions, misshapen bony arms that were broken and healed to grow that way. They focus on the house through the trees.  Home.

They break free of the woods into the sudden freedom of their yard. Their boots slip on the snow, sloppy wet from the early spring melt.

A discarded bike lies on the ground, half buried, sticking out of the snow like the skeletal remains of a man fallen in an odd position.

“The grass,” Kevin calls breathlessly as they run for the house.

“We must have imagined it,” Jesse pants.

They charge into the house again, kicking off their boots, racing past the comic and discarded socks, to the kitchen again, calling.

“Mom!”

“Mom?”

“Mom!”

She isn’t there.  They search the house again.

“She’s not here.”

“Next door?”

Jesse frowns.

“Come on,” Kevin urges.

They head to the back door again, pulling their boots on, and going out.  They go around to the side, heading for the front.

“Kevin! Kevin!” Jesse cries.

Kevin blinks, disoriented. It’s hard to breathe, a crushing weight is pressing down on his chest. He tries to move and can’t. He’s pinned down.

Kevin is laying on his back in the snow. He stares at the bare branches of bushes pushing up through the snow around him and the bare branches of trees above.

“Jessie? What’s happening?” His voice is cracking with fear.

He is pinned beneath the rotting fallen tree they had climbed over earlier.

“How?” he croaks.

“Kevin?” Jesse’s voice is shaky.

Jesse takes a step back, staring fixatedly ahead, stopped by a tree behind him.

“Kevin, what’s happening?”

Before him is the rotting old stump, its sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up, soft and crumbly with rot. He feels vertigo, the world seems tilted, and he feels the sickening sensation of falling.  Falling on the sharp jagged edges sticking up from the stump. He imagines himself impaled and his blood oozing out to drip down the stump, staining the snow and rotting leaves.

He turns and staggers away, looking for Kevin.

He takes four or five steps before he spots him.

“KEVIN!”

Jesse runs and falls on him, clawing at the snow and the downed tree, his fingers scratching at the rotting wood, trying to dig at the ground still hardened with the winter frost.

He’s sobbing as he frantically tries to dig his brother out.

 

* *   ***  **  ***  **  ***  **

20170629_174708.jpg

Author’s Note

Summer is here, and with it another year of every night busyness running around officially ends with the closing ring of the school bells.

This weekend we celebrate Canada Day here in the Northern part of North America and it is a big one inspiring a more intense round of both celebrations and protesting the act of celebrating the country.

This year Canada celebrate’s 150 years of Canada’s anniversary of confederation.  Whether that is good or bad depends on which side of that argument you are on.

Across Canada, people are asking, “What is Canada to you?” in an effort to determine that hard to pin down intangible thing, the Canadian identity.

In our new world, this 150 year benchmark celebration also brings the (no surprise) never ending threat which hangs a darker cloud over the world: ISIS’s war against the world and threats of attacks during the celebrations.

While our police and military will stand on guard for us against all threats, including terror, drunk drivers, and possibly the occasional summer spider; and scores will celebrate hugely this weekend; I will have a nice quiet summer weekend with friends, deep fry, wine, and a small local book signing.

Go Canada!  All of us who make Canada what it is: the indigenous celebrating more than 150 years of  making this country what it is today, the immigrants and refugees from around the world who add so much diversity, whether they are new first generation people welcomed to our country, or second or third or older generations,  and the generations born here whose ancestors colonized this great country.  For better or worse, we are all a village.  Together, we are Canada.

 

Follow The Woods installments

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

 

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

 

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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How Not To Write A Novel by Sheila Deeth

The problem with being a published author is that friends sometimes assume I know what I’m doing. I don’t. But I am learning. So here is a list of things I’ve learned about how not to write a novel:

  1. Don’t write what you don’t know. My first novel, written in elementary school, included a woman getting pregnant and giving birth six weeks later. I suspect if I’d had any readers they might have said this couldn’t be true.
  2. Don’t tell your characters to go away. In high school and young adulthood I still wanted to write. But every time I started a novel this character, someone awfully like me, demanded I let her take over. I didn’t want to write about her. I wished she’d go away, but of course, she wouldn’t. Characters rarely obey.
  3. Don’t write about yourself. Hoping to dispel my intrusive stranger, I tried my hand at autobiography. It didn’t work. She  was there again, complaining, “No, that’s you. It didn’t happen that way to me.” I gave up and wrote her story instead, and learned a lot from her. Later she introduced me to someone else, a character in my first-ever published novel, and at last she stepped aside. Thus Infinite Sum was born.
  4. Don’t forget the timeline. But that was later. Before then I gave up on writing novels, assuming they’d need too much time. I stuck to short stories–tons of them–where the same set of characters kept reappearing and meeting over again. One of these turned out to be a murderer, much to my surprise (probably his as well), at which point I decided to stick the stories together into a novel. All went well until my wonderful editor pointed out that one sister aged two years while the other didn’t change. Time for a timeline! Lesson learned.
  5. Don’t expect it to sell. Still dreaming, I still hope that first novel might turn into the start of something spectacular. It’s called Divide by Zero. It’s a tapestry of small town lives woven around a small town singularity. It’s moderately invisible on Amazon. But…
  6. Don’t stop writing, because the more novels you have out there, the better chance you have that one might sell. (That’s the mathematician in me, checking out the odds…)
  7. Don’t write in first person. They told me that long ago and it was easy when I wove Divide by Zero together. With so many characters each chapter clearly belonged to someone else–first person would have been hopelessly confusing. But my second novel was different. My character wanted to tell her tale her way, which meant I had to make sure I wrote in her voice and never mine. Harder work than I expected.
  8. Don’t write from multiple points of view. I didn’t hear this instruction until too late. Divide by Zero was inherently created from multiple points of view. But Infinite Sum enjoys just one narrator (yes, first person), so it’s more straight forward. Then comes my third novel, with two viewpoints warring, and a cat. It’s called Subtraction, and it due for release on August first.
  9. Don’t try to change the time and place. With Subtraction speeding toward release, I’m working on novel number four. In its first life this one was set somewhere else with different characters living in a different time. Now I’m reworking it for the Mathemafiction Series. I have to check up when people started using cell phones, computers, reading online, wearing different clothes… Whatever possessed me to think I could do this? (The characters, of course. They insisted I’d got everything wrong first time.)
  10. And finally don’t rewrite before rereading. Sadly, I needed that piece of advice before Imaginary Numbers took over my life. I don’t even remember where the plotline is meant to go. But the characters aren’t concerned. They assure me they’ll take the right way this time, implying, of course, that I got it so terribly wrong before. They’re bossy, my characters. And they really don’t care one jot about my flagging self-esteem.

So those are my ten don’ts. And now for my dos.

  1. Do read.
  2. Do write.
  3. Do listen.
  4. Do let someone else read what you’re writing.
  5. Then listen well to their advice. It’s sure to be better than mine.

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction Novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Her first novel, Divide by Zero, weaves a tapestry of small town lives around a singular death. The second book, Infinite Sum, presents the story of a wounded woman finding a path through the infinite sum of troubles in her past. Book three, Subtraction, will be released on August 1st. It tells how a man who’s lost everything might seek a missing child and find himself. And in Imaginary Numbers… Who knows? The novels explore guilt and forgiveness, and Sheila begs your forgiveness for her inability to tell where Imaginary Numbers will go.

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5 The Woods – Return to the House (1985) by LV Gaudet

 

 

The Woods:

1 – The Woods – The Dare (1985)

2 – Thirty Years Later – The Old Bennet House is for Sale (2015)

3 – The Woods – Jesse Hears a Noise (1985)

4 – The House – First Entry in 30 Years (2015)

 

 

1985

 

The boys burst into the house, hurriedly kicking off their boots at the back door before going any further.  Everything looks exactly like it did when they went out to play.

It’s 1985 and the furniture and décor are a clash of pieces mostly from the sixties and seventies, some bought new, some second hand, and some are hand-me-downs.  Nothing has been upgraded in the past ten years, a testament of thoughtful care and financial mediocrity.  The worn couch and dented coffee table, victims of having two rambunctious growing boys in the house, are overdue to be replaced.  A comic book lays discarded on the floor, open as if it is trying to fly away, The Thing is caught forever in an epic battle against a green monster that looks like a rough tree bark wall with many arms surrounding The Thing with flailing punching fists.  The television, an ancient tube set, sits dark and quiet on its stand.  A pair of discarded boy’s socks are tossed carelessly on the floor, and the latest edition of TV Guide sits on the coffee table.

“Mom!” Jesse looks around.

The house is dead silent except for their own breathing.

“Mom?”

Kevin stands there, looking around.

The house is exactly as they left it before they went outside to play.  How long has that been?  An hour?

But not quite.

Everything seems a little muted.  Off.

And more dusty than he remembers.

Jesse runs into the kitchen.  After a pause of a few heartbeats, Kevin follows.

“Mom?” Jesse pauses just inside the doorway, looking expectantly for their mother.

The teakettle still sits on the stovetop, two tea towels hang from the oven door handle where they were hung to dry after washing dishes in the sink, and the table is set for dinner with places for four.

Flour and sugar bags sit on the countertop next to a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon and measuring cup, pulled out in preparation of baking a cake.

Their mother is not there.

They run through the house calling, “Mom! Mom! Mom!”  They end their search back in the living room, out of breath.

“She’s not here.”

“Where could she be?”

“Next door, maybe?”

“Let’s go see.”

They pull their boots back on and rush out the door into the backyard, trained not to use the front door because that would somehow make more cleaning work for their mother, and around the side of the house to the front.

They stop, staring around wide-eyed, and turn to stare at each other, their faces full of fear and confusion.

They are standing in the woods next to that old stump.

“What the hell?”

“Don’t cuss,” Jesse says automatically.  There is hell to pay if their mom ever hears them use bad language.  Hell is one of many forbidden words.

Kevin turns to him, appalled.

“Seriously?  You’re worried about me cussing? We are back in the woods! How?  This is impossible!”

He stops.

“Jesse.”

“What?” Jesse is sulking now.

“The grass.”

“What about it?”

“Wasn’t there grass in the yard?”

“Yeah, so?  There’s always been grass in the yard.”

Kevin narrows his eyes, wondering if Jesse is just being dumb or is messing with him.

“It’s early spring.  Look around.  There’s still snow everywhere.”

“Yeah, so?” Jesse isn’t getting it.

Kevin’s shoulders sag with the futility of it.  Do I even bother? He sighs.

“Jesse, do you remember what the yard looked like? Just now, when we went back to the house.”

“Yeah, your bike was laying on the grass. I almost tripped on it.”

“Where was the snow?”

They both just stare at each other.

 

 

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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LV Gaudet, author

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The One-Way Mirror, by Carole Howard

Violinists sometimes claim they play the most difficult instrument. After all, there are no keys to press that automatically produce “C#.” Nor are there frets, as on a guitar neck, for guidance. You need to just know where to put your finger. For every single note – and there are so many of them. (Have you guessed I’m a violinist?)

I have to admit, though, that pianists have it rough, too, with two different lines of music, one for the left hand and one for the right. As if that weren’t enough, the two lines are written in different clefs. (Non-musicians: let’s just say that black dot on one of the five lines of a musical staff can mean different things depending on which clef it’s in.)

Each group has a point. Or, as my friend’s mother used to say, “There are pros and cons on both sides, and they’re all bad.”

Having been a fiction writer who dove, somewhat naively, into memoir-writing, I see that there are pros and cons in both genres. In this case, of course, they’re not all bad. But they sure are different.

My first novel was character-driven. I could use incidents from my own life, but got to pick and choose, and had the freedom to make up whatever I wanted. Having come from the corporate-writing world, it seemed heavenly to give free rein to my imagination, my creativity. Readers didn’t know which parts were fact-based and which were fictional. When people asked if the protagonist was really me, the short answer was no.

And yet, there was that intimidating blank-canvas thing.

The second novel was a murder mystery. Only a little was drawn from my life, and the canvas wasn’t so blank because mysteries have to be constructed in a certain way so they wind up being….. mysterious. Red herrings, false clues, buried truth. So the “rules” were comforting. But they were difficult, very difficult, to follow.

Like I said, pros and cons.

My most recent book is a travel memoir about five volunteer trips, each two months long, to the developing world. It’s not a travelogue: no recommendations for hotels or restaurants. Yes, it recounts experiences I had while traveling – some funny, some inspiring, some surprising, some sad. There was the time I was twenty feet from a silverback mountain gorilla with nothing between us except trees. Or the time I coached sex workers on their presentations to colleagues about the correct use of condoms. We used wooden props – use your imagination!

But the point of telling about these moments in the memoir is not necessarily, “This is great – you should do it too.” There’s a lot more. Character. Reflections. Truth. Certainly, the tools for writing fiction were also crucial for memoir: setting the scene with physical description, creating tension, using punchy dialogue. But making it all into a story was quite a hill to climb.

The strangest thing about having written a memoir, though, is realizing there are a whole lot of people out there who know some pretty intimate stuff about me. Not only do I not know intimate details about them, I don’t even know who they are!

When I’m speaking at a book store or library, this asymmetry is particularly disorienting. And there’s irony, too: People in the audience, if they’ve read the book, know how uncomfortable I feel about public speaking, and yet here I am, speaking publicly. Through the looking glass, or should I say the one-way mirror?

I guess it’s like being naked when everyone else is clothed, aka EVERYONE’S WORST NIGHTMARE!!

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard wrote Deadly Adagio, a mystery with a musical undertone set in West Africa, published by Indigo Sea Press.

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The Woods 4 – The House by L.V. Gaudet

the-woods-4-the-houseThe key jams in the lock, not wanting to go in.

The realtor looks at him nervously and smiles.

“It’ll go in.  The key works.”  His grimace gives face to the lie.  He isn’t so sure it will work.

He fiddles and struggles with the key for too long before the rusting lock mechanism finally unwillingly gives and allows them access.

His smile is almost sickly with relief.

He turns to the prospective buyer, hoping yet again that this is not a big waste of his time.  His commission is going to depend on how much the house actually sells for.  It’s not the usual commission deal.  He is getting more than the average commission percentage, an unusual agreement made with the municipal office that wants only to unload the property and get it off their books, doubtful anyone will bother to bid on it.

This guy is the only person who has shown an interest.  He could bid a dollar, the lowest bid allowed, and walk away with the property for nothing, less than the price of a cup of coffee.

He tries the door, hoping it opens easily.  A warped door can turn off a buyer before they see anything else.

The door sticks in the frame and, after he puts some weight into it, gives with the dull sound of two pieces of swollen wood pressed against each other giving up the fight to hold together.

They enter the house and step back thirty years in time.

.

Follow The Woods installments

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm
where the bodies are

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions? Find out in Where the Bodies Are.

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

Take a step back in time to learn the secret behind the bodies in Where the Bodies Are:  The McAllister Farm reveals the secrets behind the man who created the killer.

Link to purchase these books by L.V. Gaudet

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

Facebook author page

Google+

Instagram

Pinterest

Twitter

WordPress

LV Gaudet, author

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Secret Lives by John E. Stack

Children always seem excited when they see their teachers in a different environment outside of school.  They often wonder if teachers do anything other than teach and grade papers.  They always ask teachers what they do in their off-time, because in the student’s mind the teacher lives at the school.  Even though it really seems that some do, most of us lead exciting lives, married, raise kids, and work other jobs (is writing another job?). 

What if teachers did do more than teach?  What if the middle schoolers we worked with were actually alien rather than just acting as if they were from another planet? What if….?

The above is the proposed forward to my latest submission, Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).  Secret Lives is my first attempt at something like a novel or rather a story other than a picture book.  We are always told to write about something you know or you are interested in.  So I did.

Let’s see, I have spent ten months a year for the last eighteen years teaching in the same middle school.  With that, I have worked around a lot of the same teachers and many new teachers that rotate through our school.  Some of the personalities are unique.  Sometimes the faces change, but the personalities stay the same.

I’ve taught close to two thousand students.  I would try to describe the normal student, but who is to say what is normal.  I have had parents ask “What happened to the sweet, little girl I used to have?  It’s like some alien sucked her brains out and didn’t give them all back.”  Or, they wonder why their sons stopped taking showers and why hygiene now means nothing.

So, I took a handful of experience (eight four-day trips to Washington, DC with four bus loads of eighth graders gives some experience), several teacher personalities, and a fascination with astronomy mixed them all together with a little humor and came out with something like a story.

God gave me a little leeway and allowed me to create a planet system around a known star.  In that system is a planet named after an Englishman named Nigel that I go to church with.  I got to determine what the people looked like and the environment in which they lived.  I also got to develop worm-hole technology.

My aliens are called Nigelians (Nigel) and they are very humanoid.  The only differences are their lack of noses and ears.  While on Earth they wear assimilation suits to disguise their differences.  They also have tufts of hair rather than a full covering.  There are other differences, but maybe you can read about them later this summer.

If you have ever been to Washington, DC, you may have passed by the Old Post Office.  I have been to the building once and even took a group of students up into the clock tower.  Most of the story takes place in DC, but the Old Post Office became the home for our school and was the center for a lot of the action in the book.

I also tried something that I haven’t really attempted since I was a boy (and that was a long time ago) — free-hand drawing.  In the military, I was trained as a architectural draftsman.  I learned straight lines and right angles.  This was something different.  I did sketches, perspectives and some doodling.  Eventually, I completed all the drawings except for one, which was submitted by a student.  I did make some changes, but gave her the credit.

I have to admit that completing this book was a lot more fun than the picture books I’ve been doing.  There was more freedom in writing, in the ideas, and my thought process felt more alive.  I also got to learn a lot about DC.

When we continue to try something new we continue to grow in our art.  And, as long as we enjoy what we do it is not a job. Keep an eye out for my new adventure.  Read, write and enjoy.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.  He is also the author of the upcoming books Cody and the Great Zoo Escape and  Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).

 

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Filed under Art, books, fiction, fun, John Stack, writing