Anitha Robinson -Author

Animal lover and writer Anitha Robinson is thrilled to create stories about animals and the environment. Her experiences volunteering with organizations like World Wildlife Fund and local animal shelters, along with visiting animal sanctuaries nearby and faraway, have inspired many story ideas. Anitha is the author of a young adult trilogy.

Anita Robinson

The first book, Broken Worlds, was released in 2014 by CBAY Books. Broken Promises and Broken Dreams followed in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Recently, Anitha created a KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING blog. She collects and shares uplifting stories of people showing kindness to animals and each other. Her hope is to inspire others or at least bring joy to someone reading her posts. Her blog can be found at https://anitharobinson.com/blog/.

She graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a Bachelor of Commerce and went on to become a Chartered Accountant. Though accounting and writing seem like polar opposites, she has combined these two worlds by offering ‘Tax Talks’ to writers. Anitha lives on a hobby farm in Ontario with her husband, two children, and many animals. She hopes one day to turn the property into an animal sanctuary. Anitha is represented by Tanusri Prasanna of Foundry Literary & Media.



 

Anitha, thanks for taking the time to do have this conversation with me. I’d like to talk about your book BROKEN WORLDS, released in 2014, and your writing life so far.

Q. What kind of research did you do for Broken Worlds and how much time did it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. The idea for Broken Worlds came to me in a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. Normally, when I wake up, the details of the dream are long gone and at most I’m left with a vague, fuzzy memory. Not this time. I clearly recalled the details of this nightmare—being alone at night, chased by two men, the sound of their footsteps getting closer. I was terrified when I woke up. I was taking a writing class at the time and it was my turn to share a piece with the class, so I started writing about the nightmare. At this point, there was no research. But as the story unfolded, the characters came to life, and the plot took shape, and that’s when I started to research things like the layers of the atmosphere, the colours one would see as they pass these layers, the sounds of the forest, to name a few. Research takes a fair bit of time and varies from project to project. I can’t pinpoint an exact amount of time. For this book, my main sources were the internet and my husband, who helped me with the medical aspects of the story.

But for my middle grade adventure story and picture books about endangered animals, in addition to the internet, I also contacted people who help save these animals for their input.

Anitha Robinson Broken Worlds

Q. Broken Worlds is written in the First Person, the voice being that of the protagonist Kalli. Why did you decide to write this book in First Person? And why Kalli?

A. I wrote it in first person, because I was writing about myself in the nightmare. This POV allowed me to express what I saw and felt.

Q. You chose to write Broken Worlds in the present tense, as the action unfolds. Why was this? Do you think this is a more satisfying approach to writing? Why?

A. I find writing in present tense heightens the tension. It allows the reader to experience everything with the character in real time. As this was a story filled with action, I felt it was the best way to write it.

Q. What is your approach to writing? Do you plot in advance, perhaps chapter by chapter, or make it up as you go along?

A. I started writing Broken Worlds ten years ago. At that time, I just wrote from the top of my head. There wasn’t a lot of planning. But with the second and third book, I started with an outline and plotted the story ahead of time. It changed a bit as I was writing, but the general trajectory of the plot remained the same.

Q. The surprise in the plot of Broken Worlds comes around the half-way point when Ellis reveals that he is different (spoiler alert!) Was this how you created your plot, or did you suddenly decide on this when you reached that point in the book?

A. From the start, I knew Ellis was not going to be the good guy he seemed. I wasn’t sure what that would mean exactly, until I had written a few chapters, and then it came to me—he had to be an alien.

Q. Do you have any tips for upcoming writers on how to get published, traditional or Vanity publishing?

A. If someone wants to get published there are a few things they should do. First of all, read a lot. This way you will discover the types of stories you like to read which should help you decide the type of stories you like to write. I love reading picture books, middle grade and young adult, hence, that’s what I write. Next, write without expecting it to be perfect. Don’t allow the need to be perfect to deter you from writing. Once the words are on the page, then you can go back and edit. Which brings me to my last tip—find a critique partner/writing group to give you feedback and help edit your story. Sometimes what you think you’ve said isn’t what comes across, and a writing buddy can help sort that out, among other things.

Q. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2014, considering you’ve followed up with two sequels to Broken Worlds?

A. Before Broken Worlds was published, writing felt like a guilty pleasure, because I was the only one who benefitted. I would fit it in between taking care of my kids, working, chores around the house. But after the book was published, I gave myself permission to write most, if not every day, even for 30-40 minutes. Broken Worlds took me almost four years to write, but I finished the first draft of Broken Promises, in eight months.

I wouldn’t say writing has gotten easier. I think I’m better at it, because I spend more time working at my craft. I attend workshops, belong to critique groups where I give and receive feedback, and I write most days.

Q. Is there a favourite among all the characters in Broken Worlds? Why is he/she your favourite?

A. If I had to pick just one character, it would be Sammy. Even though he died very early on in the book, he was very important to me. I felt protective about him and the difficult life he was forced to live at such a young age.

Q. When Kalli returns to her mother’s house, she is greeted by the smell of curry, onions and spices, an obviously very Asian environment. Does this relate to your background and childhood? If so, how?

A. My parents emigrated from India and it was often difficult trying to blend the two cultures—Indian and Canadian. Especially at school. Being a kid is hard enough. Most of us want to fit in with others, but when you look different, it’s almost impossible. I remember being teased and bullied about the colour of my skin and how my hair and clothes would smell like spices and onions. When I got older, I worked hard to douse myself in sprays and perfumes whenever I went out, hoping it would cover the scent of curry. But it was also a very familiar smell, it was the smell of home, so there was also a comfort in it. That’s the part I wanted to bring out for Kalli—the comforting, familiar smell.

Q. The planet Istriya in Broken Worlds is a bleak, dystopian world plagued with pollution and on the brink of collapse, both environmentally and physically. Do you see this as a parallel to our own problems on earth? Was this a part of your theme?

A. I do worry Earth will become like Istriya. Many humans are motivated by profit alone. They don’t look past their need for instant gratification and they don’t take time to consider the detrimental long-term effects of their actions. Earth is our only home, but we are not its only inhabitants. We share this planet with other species, and I don’t believe our needs are any more important than theirs. I believe it’s important when making a decision that we consider—what are the long-term consequences of doing this? What harm will this cause to other species? And is there another way, where the gratification may not be as quick or as large, but it is sustainable for us and other species.

Q. How did you arrive at the names for your characters in Broken Worlds? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. The main character’s name is Kalyana Farris to reflect her parents mixed marriage. There was no science for choosing the names of the characters for my Broken Worlds trilogy. However, for the middle grade and picture books I write featuring animals as the main characters, I try and choose names that have meanings about those animals. For example, I wrote a picture book about a rhino named Faru. Rhino in Swahili is Kifaru.

Q. What was the greatest stumbling block for you in creating and writing for the character of Ellis—someone of the opposite sex?

A. Ellis was a complex character to write, and not because he was male. Initially, he was manipulative and determined to save his species. But there was also the part of him that didn’t want to cause harm to anyone. As the story continues, he struggles with the realization that his mother is not the good person he thought. He then must figure out a way to save both worlds, his own and Earth. But when it becomes clear he can’t save both, he has to choose, and that was a hard character arc to develop.

Q. Is there a central theme in your three books? What is it?

A. I would have to say there are two themes- is that allowed? The one theme is the effects of greed. The people of Istriya destroyed their planet to the point it became uninhabitable. They were unwilling to change their selfish ways and it resulted in the planet no longer being able to sustain their behaviour. The other theme is love and our need for it and what we are willing to do to find it and then keep it.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Young Adult Science Fiction, what would it be?

A. This is a hard questions, because I don’t consider myself a science fiction writer. The story about Kalli, started as a nightmare, and science fiction allowed me the best vehicle to share it.

Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book? Please share the reason behind your enthusiasm for this book…

A. I love mysteries. One of my favourites as a child were the Meg Mysteries. I have fond memories of sitting on my bed and losing myself in the story.

Q. What other authors and books have influenced your work since then?

A. J. K. Rowling- because I loved reading the Harry Potter series to my kids.

Katherine Applegate- I loved how she brought Ivan to life in The One And Only Ivan. His character, his sad situation, it all just leaped off the page and wrapped around me. I was so desperate to help Ivan. This is the kind of emotion I aspire to create in my readers. I want them to fall in love and care about my characters, so they cheer them on.

Q. Is there a point in your life when you realized that you wanted to become a writer? Please share the circumstances with us.

A. I have always loved writing, but it was never something I considered pursuing as a career. Growing up, I think a lot of emphasis was put on finding a career that would allow me to be financially stable and self-sufficient, and in my family, the arts was never considered a viable option. I wish it had been. I wish I had looked into career paths that involved writing, instead I became a Chartered Accountant. I don’t regret it (well not always). Being an accountant allowed me to work from home when I had my children, so I could be with them. I was able to organize my work around their schedules. But writing was always a part of my life. I would write little stories for my kids. Eventually, I took a few writing courses, devoted more time to writing, and realized how much joy it brings me.

Q. Do you have a fixed routine when you’re writing, or do you wait for the muse to strike you?

A.I try and start each day with yoga. It’s a lovely way to clear my head and I feel good after. I’ve recently decided to cut back my accounting work back to about 10-12 hours per week. I try to get my work done first thing in the morning, so that I have the rest of the day to write or do other things I enjoy.

Q. All the world needs heroes. Tell us about some of the protagonists in your three books. Is there real-life inspiration behind them?

A. The inspiration behind Kalli (other than the nightmare) is all the young girls and women, who are forced to marry someone they don’t want to. It must be frightening to stand up against the pressure to do so, especially if your life could be in danger if you don’t do what is expected.

I feel so sad about the real-life inspiration behind Hadley’s character. She appears in the second novel. She tells her parents she is gay and their reaction forces her to leave her home. During my research, I read that the majority of teen runaways are LGBTQ. They are forced out of their homes because their parents, the ones who are supposed to take care of them, kick them out of the house, for being who they are. It’s heart-breaking.

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. I still work as an accountant and there are many chores to do around our house- so for me the most difficult part is fitting in the writing, making sure I allow myself time to write.

Q. Do you find the process of writing exhausting or energizing? How do you cope with the physical demands of the profession?

A. I find writing very energizing. I love days when I wake up, knowing for sure I get to write. I don’t find it physically demanding, because I don’t put pressure on myself to write a certain number of words every day. I write because I love it. I think putting pressure on myself would take away the joy and perhaps the creativity.

Q. Is your approach to writing one that encompasses a formula that might meet your reader’s expectation, or do you write to suit yourself?

A. I write about things I care about. I love animals, but since I can’t be like Jane Goodall, who is out there, physically saving the animals, I write about them. I hope my writing will help them in some way.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of? If so, can you give us a hint?

A. That’s a great idea. Maybe I should start doing this!

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. For me writing is my joy, my relaxation- it’s even a form a therapy. I lose myself in my stories when I write. It makes me happy- and for me that’s success!

Q. Assuming you always think there’s room for improvement, what’s your approach to becoming a better writer?

A. I continue to read, write, and edit. I also find critiquing other writer’s work helps make me a better writer. I can often see my mistakes in their work,

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Twitter: @AnithaRobinson.

Website- www.anitharobinson.com

https://anitharobinson.com/blog/

 

MIDDLEROAD PUBLISHERS

PUBLISHED BY MIDDLEROAD PUBLISHERS


RACING WITH THE RAIN (2012) by Ken Puddicombe

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JUNTA (2014) by Ken Puddicombe

Front Cover of Junta A Novel by Ken Puddicombe


DOWN INDEPENDENCE BOULEVARD AND OTHER STORIES (2017) by Ken Puddicombe


PERFECT EXECUTION AND OTHER STORIES (2017) by Michael Joll

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PEOPLE OF GUYANA by Ian McDonald and Peter Jailall (2018)

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DANCING MY WAY TO 80 (2019 Private Publication) by Doris Naraine

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WITNESSES AND OTHER STORIES (2019) by Raymond Holmes

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INSPECTOR MASTERS INVESTIGATES PERSONS OF INTEREST (2019) by Michael Joll

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FOR BOOKS PUBLISHED BY MIDDLEROAD PUBLISHERS

GO TO

www.middleroadpublishers.ca

 

Karen Fenech -Author

Karen Fenech is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic suspense.  When Karen’s not writing or spending time with her family, she loves to shop, watch movies, or just kick Karen Fenech -- author photo submitted to International Thriller Writersback in a comfortable chair and read.

Karen, I really appreciate that you have taken time to do this interview for my Blog. I’d like to talk about your writing career, so far.

My great pleasure, Ken. Thank you for inviting me.

Q. You’ve said, in your bio, that you wanted to write since you were eleven years old, and you actually wrote a book based on the Nancy Drew mysteries. What ever happened to that book?

A. Oh, boy. : ) I remember putting those pages in a binder but draw a blank after that. I can’t recall what happened to that binder. It would be fun to take a look at those pages now.

Q. I imagine, as a young girl of eleven, you were heavily influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries, as is perhaps typical for many girls of that age. What was it about the Nancy Drew mysteries that interested YOU?

A. I loved solving the mysteries along with Nancy and her friends. I loved following the clues along with Nancy.

Q. Your first novel, Unholy Angels, was written over a two-year period and released in 2004. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2004?

A. Yes, writing a novel now does not take me two years. I’m not sure about writing becoming easier, however. I try to challenge myself with each new book, to push beyond my comfort zone. That makes things hairy at times.

Q. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you have a fixed routine or do you wait for the muse to strike you, like many writers?

A. I have a work schedule to meet writing deadlines. I find that I need to get business work out of the way before I can write and so I do that first thing and then write in the afternoon. If I’m deep into a book, I will often return to write late at night, continuing into the early hours of the morning. There’s something I love about writing late at night.

Q. You’ve achieved an extensive oeuvre so far in your climb to publishing success. You’ve got three series on the go: The Malice Series, The Protector Series, The Surrender Series. In addition, there are stand-alone books and a Short Story Collection. How do you find the time to keep up with all of this?

A. I know what I’m going to write before I sit down to do the actual writing. I outline each book. I may veer in terms of scenes I’d envisioned in the outline, but I don’t veer from the plot points or when each needs to be presented / revealed in the story.

I know the number of words I need to write each day to meet my deadlines. Things don’t always go according to plan. Life sometimes changes things. I account for that in my writing schedule, just in case.

Q. Who decides whether a series has been tapped out and can go no more, and it’s time to start another—you or your publisher? Can you tell us what factors are employed in determining this?

A. The ones who ultimately decide the fate of a series are the readers. It’s reader interest and support that determine whether or not a series will continue. Fortunately for writers, our readers are awesome and very supportive of their beloved series.

Q. Do you think it will reach the point where ideas for new plots and books will start to tax your creativity? If not, can you share your secret in avoiding this? If you think you might reach that point in future, how do you plan on overcoming this?

A. I don’t think creativity will be taxed. It may seem that way, but I think as we mature as writers, we become more selective of the ideas we choose to turn into books. Life experience and the point we are at in our lives also play a factor, I think.

I love the planning process when all things are possible. I get my creative juices flowing by constantly asking “what if”. I like a nice quiet walk along a beach or a snow-covered path to help me plan.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your books and how much time does it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. Research depends on the plot and the time period in which a book is set. For my historical, I consulted non-fiction books for specific information such as medicines and healing practices of the day.

For every day life, I was fortunate to come across a book written as a journal by people who’d lived during the time period I was writing in. The day-to-day accountings of every day life provided good insight into what it was like to live at that time. I found these accountings lent authenticity to my characters.

For my contemporary books with FBI and other law enforcement characters, I usually consult directly with specific agencies. I also consult with professionals in a given area where a book is set. For example, I needed to know decomposition of a body over a certain time period in hot weather and reached out to a coroner in that area for that specific information.

Regarding the length of time spent on research, it varies, dependent upon how deeply I need to go into a subject. Sometimes, though, I do get carried away. I find research fascinating.

Q. How do you arrive at the names for your characters? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. Other than not naming characters after anyone I know, I choose names at will. I feel like a new parent, taking a look at my newborn for the first time and considering what name would suit my child. : )

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. Declaring a book as finished, I think. I tend to go over the material many times before I’m satisfied with it.

Q. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your career be?

A. I can’t imagine doing anything else. : )

Q. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. If I decided to also write in a different genre, I would introduce a pseudonym to distinguish the books.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of?

A. That sounds like fun, but, no. That might be something to ask my readers about going forward, to include them in a secret.

Q. There are actors who will not see a movie they’ve appeared in, after it’s completed. Do you ever read your books after they are published? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. I keep notes on happenings in each of the series books, but I always reread the last book in a series before I write the next book in that series.

I also reread the last book to regain the feel for the tone of the series. Each series has a different feel to it and I want to be sure to remain true to that tone.

Q. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

A. When I began, I read Writers’ Digest and The Writer. Since the advent of self-publishing, I think a lot of good information can be found online at sites about writing and publishing. A Google search reveals many good sites to explore. It’s wonderful to have access to so much valuable information.

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. Success differs for everyone. I think happiness = success. If writers are happy when writing their stories, then they can count themselves a success.

Q. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing characters of the opposite sex?

A. I take time to consider outlook. Though faced with the same situation, people will not necessarily view it the same. I like to take time to put both my male and female characters in that same situation to find those differences.

Q. Is writing cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. I’ve read of writers who deliberately write about things that frighten them as a way to work through that fear. I’ve been very fortunate and have never experienced anything that has frightened me to a point where it has stayed with me beyond that moment. That said, I do write through things that are troubling me, be they writing related or personal.

Q. Is there a central theme in your books? Is there a common message to the reader?

A. I hope when my readers close one of my books they feel they have read a story in which women are also heroes, each in her own way, each capable of courage, persistence, strong belief in her own abilities, and of giving great love and deserving of it.

Q. If it’s not giving away any trade secrets, what’s your next project / What are you working on now?

A. I’m currently working on the sixth book in my Protectors series.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Historical Romance Fiction and suspense novels, what would it be?

A. I think to any writer, regardless of genre, I would say, be our own cheerleader. Celebrate each piece of our writing.

Q. Taking into account the massive changes in technology that are spearheading a move towards an electronic medium for books, where do you think the writing profession is heading?

A. It’s a wonderful time to be a writer. We have so many opportunities and outlets for our work. We have the great fortune to be in direct contact with our readers and build friendships. I think this close contact may pave the way for interactive books.

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

A. I love to hear from readers. Please do reach out to me through my website email. Due to writing deadlines and the volume of incoming mail, it may take a while for a response. I appreciate your understanding and your patience. Thank you to all for writing

WEBSITE: https://www.karenfenech.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/KarenFenechsFriends?ref=hl

EMAIL: karen@karenfenech.com

Karen, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Here’s wishing you all the best in your future writing and other endeavours.

Ken, thank you. It’s been so nice spending time with you and your readers.

Fenech-BreathofMalice-21517-CV-FT Large Cover

Raymond Holmes: Writing

Ray Holmes

Raymond Holmes in Brampton, Ontario.  He writes plays, novellas and short stories. His stories have been published in Unleashed Ink, an anthology created by the Barrie Writers Club, The Northern Appeal, a Simcoe County literary magazine and Commuterlit, a Toronto based ezine. His plays Boris and Hermanand The Lonely Vigil Of Emily Baxterhave been performed at the South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown, Ontario. The latter play was awarded third prize in the 2014 Ottawa Little Theatre Playwriting Contest. His play The Pooman, will be read at the South Simcoe Theatre in June, 2018. Raymond also enjoys making furniture and playing the violin, although he admits to performing the latter activity rather poorly.

 

GOING HOME

What I am about to tell you is true. I swear it.

At first, I thought it was a dream during a period of restless sleep later that night, or the product of an imagination distorted by the exhausting double shift, but now I’m convinced it really happened.

It occurred on September 28, 2017, a rainy night. I’ve been a cab driver for twenty-five years. I like my job, but it’s tough slogging: long hours, all kinds of weather, traffic jams, cooped up in what seems, at times, like a mobile sardine can. On the plus side, meeting people is the best part of the job. It helps if you like your fellow human beings.

Most fares are decent souls, but there’s the odd drunk or disgruntled individual to deal with. Early on, a cabby learns to accept people for who they are. Encounters are brief and annoyances, for the most part, are dust to be brushed away and forgotten.

Out-of-the-ordinary events do occur, but nothing like what happened on that wet, cold evening last fall…

white sedan during nighttime

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on Pexels.com

It rained all day and into the evening. The axiom More rain equals more fares and more money wasn’t in effect that night.

Cab drivers always pray for rain. No one likes to get wet and if you don’t have your own vehicle the only options are to use an umbrella or take a cab. People don’t seem to like umbrellas.

The downpour fell across the black top like a drifting curtain, dancing whichever way the wind urged it. Islands of golden light shimmered on the surface, breaking into pieces then re-connecting again as the wind moved tree branches back and forth across the yellow gleam of the street lamps. The tires of the cab emitted a coarse whisper over the deserted, wet road. Brilliant flashes of lightning hung in the sky like twisted knives, followed by drumbeats of thunder.

The radio was silent, punctuated by intermittent static.

“Need a car for area four,” the dispatcher said.

Couldn’t take the fare. I was in area six.

No street pickups and no radio calls. Enough driving for one evening, I decided.

On the way home, I noticed a short, solitary figure standing at the corner of Belmont Street and Middle Road under a tent of light cast by the street lamp. I stopped the car and watched. The person wore a long-sleeved hoodie and track pants, arms clasped against the chest. I could see the sheen of water-saturated clothing and rain dripping from the elbows. Who would stand outside in this deluge? The sight sent shivers up and down my cramped back muscles.

The bus in this area ran on the hour and it was ten past—a long wait for the next one. Could it be a fare? Even people who rarely used cabs often got tired of waiting in inclement conditions. I held back. Mike in car number 457 was robbed a month ago by someone with a similar description. Maybe this person’s a druggie. Perhaps I should keep going. The figure had a slight build. A youth, perhaps? It was a terrible night; unfit for man or beast. I’d be grateful if someone stopped to pick up my child in this kind of weather. It wouldn’t be right to just drive away.

 I stopped and lowered the glass on the front passenger power window. I kept the doors locked until I could see the face. You can tell a lot by how they look. Addicts have a wild, desperate appearance. Crooks and thugs look mean and threatening.

The person was motionless, head bowed. The face wasn’t visible through the gap bordered by the folds of the hood.

 “Lousy night. Need a cab?” I said.

As the head lifted, the dripping edges of the hood parted to reveal the pale, round face of a young woman. The tension in my hands relaxed. She bent down to look in at me but didn’t reply.

“Hate to see you standing out here alone, soaking wet.”

She stared for a few moments. I expected her to decline, but she said, “Yes, I would like a ride.”

The voice was soft and even. Her teeth should have been chattering from the soggy chill, but in spite of being drenched by cold water, she didn’t appear to be uncomfortable.

I unlocked the doors and waited, but she made no move to enter the car.

“Sorry. Forgot my manners for a moment,” I said, before jumping out and opening the rear door. Doing that for customers was a long-lost courtesy in the taxi business.

She slid into the back seat. Good thing it was vinyl covered. Wet cloth seats are a bitch to dry out this time of year. I got back in and took a tissue to my rain-spotted glasses.

“Where can I take you?”

“I want to go home,” she said, in a plaintive tone that reminded me of a tired child about to burst into tears.

“Where’s that?”

She hesitated, as if unsure. “It’s Twenty-three Stone Gate Circle—in Bennington.”

Hadn’t been to that address before. After turning on the meter and tapping the address into the GPS, I pulled away. “Okay. That neighbourhood’s not far from here,” I said, noting the time and distance displayed.

Our eyes met in the rear-view mirror. The hood dropped to her shoulders, revealing strands of long, straight blond hair streaked darker with wetness. As she leaned back, the soaked fabric hugged the curves of her upper body.

Her face appeared devoid of makeup, including the bow lips, and the most remarkable thing about it was the skin—whiter and clearer than any I’ve seen—the pallor relieved only by bright, round, green eyes fixed on mine. With a hand the colour of a white cloud she brushed stringy tresses from her cheeks and wiped her forehead. How old was this attractive young woman? Sixteen, seventeen, perhaps?

She looked around the inside of the car, as if riding in a vehicle was a novelty. I’d had all sorts of women passengers: prim professionals dressed in neat suits, young, provocatively dressed flirty ones, faded middle-aged housewives, gabby washed-out old women and everything in between, but nothing like her—a captivating, mysterious presence.

Many of my fellow drivers didn’t talk to customers except to ask where they were going and announce the fare at the end of the run, but I always tried to connect. People liked to talk about themselves, and some were interesting. This young woman had vulnerability written all over her. Despite my initial misgivings, I was glad I stopped.

“What’s your name young lady?” I said.

She continued to stare at me. I shouldn’t have started by asking a personal question. You had to be careful what you said to women. “Forgive me, Miss, I—”

“That’s all right. My name’s Cece.”

“Is that short for something?”

“Cecelia.”

“That’s a nice name.”

“I don’t like it, and prefer just Cece.”

“Is it all right if I play the radio at low volume, Cece?”

“I don’t mind.”

“You like music?”

“Yes. I know Elvis Presley.”

“You like Presley? Great singer, but he died in 1977. I figured you’d like more recent stuff by U2, Ed Sheeran or maybe some of the indie groups.”

“I know George Michael, David Bowie and Prince, too.”

“Yeah, they’re more contemporary. Too bad they’re all dead now. It’s tragic how talented lives can end like that.”

 “It’s sad for any life to end; saddest for those left behind,” she said in a flat tone. Her previously sallow face glowed, now that she was sheltered from the damp, cold night.

“What grade are you in?”

“I was in grade ten.”

Was? She’d dropped out of school. Her whole life ahead and no education? Well, not any business of mine to give her the Stay in school spiel. I’m sure her parents did.

The rain, which had eased, now intensified. I adjusted the defroster and switched the wipers on high. Fog settled on the road ahead like a grey blanket, the headlights of oncoming cars piercing the hazy wetness.

She wasn’t much of a talker. A stale smell of wet clothing and hair drifted forward. The rancid odour reminded me of a wet dog, only not as strong or objectionable.

At a stop light two blocks away from our destination Cece was no longer visible in the rear-view mirror. Did she lie down? Was she ill?

I pulled over and turned to look.

There was no one there.

How could she have left without me knowing? Passengers rarely jumped out to evade paying the fare, but when they did it was impossible for the driver not to realize. I chased one asshole a year ago—he bolted to avoid paying a four-buck fare, but he turned on me with a knife. Now I don’t bother going after them. Could be worse—someone who pukes all over the car. Big bucks to clean that mess up and a chunk of lost time.

Was I micro-sleeping: having temporary episodes of sleep so brief that I felt continuously awake, but in fact had lost consciousness and failed to respond to sensory inputs? That must be it. That’s when she left.

I reached over and placed my palm on the seat. It was dry.

My thoughts tumbled and collided. Nothing made sense.

The meter over the dash continued to click. The digits displayed $6.20 then flipped to $6.30. I turned it off.

The location marker on the GPS blinked—the destination address displayed at the top of the screen. Black letters on a white band read 23 Stone Gate Circle—the address she gave me. It was only two blocks away. Why would I have imagined an address I had never heard of, nor been to?

I had to go there.

“You have arrived at your destination,” said the synthetic, feminine voice of the GPS a few minutes later.

The neighbourhood was upscale—wide roads bordered by large, mature maple trees and populated by an enclave of ivy-covered older brick and stone Georgian-style homes. I turned into number twenty-three’s wide, circular cobble-stone driveway flanked by flickering gas-fired coach lamps. A plaque on one stone column read Hanson.

The lawn and gardens were expansive and meticulously kept; the perfume of wet grass and cedar trees, strong. I imagined a blazing fireplace inside the home, an elegant decor and luxurious furnishings. The owners must be well-to-do.

The rain stopped. I stood at the end of the flagstone walkway for a few minutes inhaling the fresh, clean air and staring at the house. Wind rustled leaves on the trees like whispering voices. The face of the moon glimmered through a clearing sky.

Why was I here? What would I say to the occupants? They’d think I was a fool. I could almost hear their derisive laughter. You should go away now, I thought, but the urge to know was overpowering and pulled me up to the polished, heavy oak front door. I noted the brass intercom box to one side of it and the security camera mounted above.

My right hand trembled as my finger hovered over the ornate doorbell button. I drew in several deep breaths, straightened my jacket and smoothed my hair. I pressed the button, heard the resonant notes of the chimes inside, and waited.

 “Who is it?” a female voice said through the intercom.

I looked up at the camera so my face was clearly visible. “I’m Paul Wilkins—a cab driver.”

“What do you want?”

“I’d like to talk to you, if I may. It might be important.”

After a pause, the voice said, “Are you alone?”

“Yes,” I replied. Couldn’t she see that from the camera?

After a few moments I heard a deadbolt retract. The door opened a little way and a woman’s head appeared.

“Yes? May I help you?” she said, a thin, inquisitive smile on her face.

I cleared my throat. “May I ask if a young woman named Cecilia lives here?”

The door swung open and the warm air of the dwelling’s bright interior caressed my face, making me blink. The person standing in the doorway was an old lady, wearing a dove-grey dress, with neatly coiffed hair, a patrician appearance and a round, wrinkled face with clear skin and bright green eyes. Tasteful and expensive jewellery glittered from her neck, hands and wrist. I glimpsed a framed photo on a side table just inside the door; a familiar-looking young face with fair skin and long, blond hair. My mouth was dry. It was difficult to swallow.

The woman’s weak, questioning smile collapsed.

 “Why are you asking about her?” she said.

“She was a passenger coming to this address but left the car just before we would arrive. Since its dark and the weather’s so terrible, I was concerned that she got home okay.”

The woman’s eyes flared with anger and she jabbed her finger at my face.

“If this is your idea of a joke sir, I don’t appreciate it. You’ve got some nerve coming to our home at this hour.”

“I’m sorry, I—”

“Don’t you think we’ve been through enough pain all these years without people like you adding to it? Is planning sick pranks like this your idea of fun?”

“I don’t understand. What are you talking about?”

Her voice cracked. “You know darn well what I mean. Did someone put you up to this?”

“To what?”

“Making a joke out of our daughter’s death.”

The last two words struck me like stones. It felt like my heart stopped. Coldness crept up into my torso like a sponge soaking up ice water.

“Death? But I just—”

“You’re insinuating that you didn’t know that our sixteen-year-old daughter Cecelia was killed on this day thirty years ago?” she said.

The shock must have taken my mind elsewhere for a few moments. The next thing I recalled was observing the woman’s lips moving, then hearing her insistent, irate voice rising in volume.

 “Answer me, Paul, the cab driver. Are you pleased with what you’ve done? Now you can laugh about it with your friends. They’re likely as depraved as you are.”

“No… You don’t understand, I—”

“I understand you and your kind well enough.” Hate boiled in her eyes.

“Where did this happen to your daughter?” I said.

Her hands curled into white knuckled fists. Her eyes shone with moisture and the veins in her neck reached out. “Near the intersection of Belmont Street and Middle Road, as you well know. She was struck by a hit and run driver on a rainy night like this and died broken and alone in the gutter.”

Her words flew into the air, circled like birds, then settled into my consciousness.

“But that’s where—”

“People like you are evil.” Her words came out like hot nails.

“I’m so—”

“Spare me your fake sympathy,” she said, in a mocking tone.

“But I—”

“Do you know what it’s like to bury your only child? They never found the driver. It’s hard enough for us to get through this day without you coming here and doing this. Have you no humanity or feelings?” She sniffled and tears made tracks in her mascara. “Even decades of passing time can’t erase our heartache and loss.”

Each word was like a lump of white-hot coal. I tried to explain what happened. “Please let me—”

“Leave our premises now before I call the police,” she screamed and then slammed the door.

I sat in the car a long time before driving home. After tossing and turning I drifted off to sleep. The noise of a dripping tap woke me up at 3:00 a.m. It had never interrupted my sleep before. Did I dream of an encounter with a dead girl whose life was absorbed by a city street corner like a sponge and re-animated decades later? Her name and address floated among the jumbled images in my mind. I thought of the hurt on the mother’s face. It was all so real. I went down to the cab, turned on the GPS and touched Destinations on the menu. The last address was 23 Stone Gate Circle. Things didn’t make sense. Perhaps I was going mad.

*

The next day I travelled downtown to the library to access archived microfiche copies of the city newspapers. There it was on the front page of the September 29, 1987 morning edition of the City Examiner:

YOUNG WOMAN KILLED BY HIT AND RUN DRIVER

Cecilia Hanson, sixteen, of 23 Stone Gate Circle in Bennington was struck and killed at the intersection of Belmont Street and Middle Road last evening. There were no witnesses, but police are…

Cece, I think of you often. I could have reached back and touched you that evening—known if you were tangible or phantom. Would your milk-white hand have felt warm and alive in mine, or merely air slipping through my fingers?

I’m sorry you couldn’t go home. Wherever you are, I hope you can find peace.

END

THIS AND OTHER ENTERTAINING AND IMAGINATIVE STORIES CAN BE READ IN RAY HOLMES COLLECTION AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON

 

 

The Working Class

These are the working class of the world—the people who perform in mostly labour intensive jobs, at low pay. They do work that is avoided by the middle and upper classes. Without them society would fall apart. And yet, these people labour on, day after day, year after year, never quite receiving the praise they deserve for their menial work.

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Vancouver. BC. Canada. Measure it twice. Cut it once.

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Sint Martin. Neth Antilles. Making a clean sweep of things

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Buenos Aries. Argentina. Some work. Others play.

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Henley. UK. Planning strategy

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Nassau. Bahamas. A painter artist at work.

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Copenhagen. Denmark. All in a day’s work.

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Delhi. India. The Lawn Ranger

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Delhi. India. That pollution can really get to you.

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Rostock. Germany. Keep it in ship shape.

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Tallinn. Estonia. Building it one brick at a time.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Everyone deserves a break.

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St. Petersberg. Russia. Two men aiming for higher things.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Counting the day’s take.

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Katmandu. Nepal. Some jobs are back breaking.

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Helsinki. Finland. Outdoor work is great only in summer.

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HoiAn Vietnam. Mirror mirror on the wall.

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Santiago. Chile. A man who can smile on the job.

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Varpraso. Chile. Waiting for their ship to come in.

 

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Buenos Aires. Argentina. A new coat for a new look

 

Rena Graefner: Poet/ Writer

Rena Flannigan was born in Scotland and many years ago moved to fill her childhood dream to live in Canada.  Her biggest success was becoming the speed skating champion of Scotland and Great Britain.  She became the Canadian Champion at Kempenfeldt Bay, Barrie in 1964.  Always athletic, she was a good tennis player and skier. Later, she found her niche on the dance floor winning trophies for Latin and Ballroom dancing.  Rena was a tailoress, a teacher of Fashion and Design, and she became the Vice-Principal of a private designing school.  These were followed by a career as a Tour Guide and Manager, her all-time favourite occupation.  Now she is learning how to use a computer and wants to be a writer of various genres.

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SPRING, WHERE ARE YOU?

Snowdrops appear

Their bell heads waving in the breeze

There is no sound of ringing

Are they sad because

The April showers are not here

To give them a drink?

Instead of April showers

Bringing the flowers

There are snowflakes

Dancing in the wind

Enough to cover the snowdrops

Holding back other colourful buds

The trees once again have branches of white

There should be green all around

Snow is for winter

It is now Spring, but it is hard to tell

A white carpet covers everything

It is all over the grass and flower beds

Are the buds on the trees also confused?

Are they hiding, waiting for the sun

To warm them and welcome them

To please the souls

Of the winter’s weary people?

Will it end soon is a question we all ask

To see a blue sky during the day

Lifts the spirits and hopes high

The night falls

So does the snow – again

This is not supposed to happen

It is April not bitter winter

Mother Nature fooled us

No snow when it should have been here

Summer in January.  Some days

Shirt sleeve weather,

The climate is so confused

Upside down and back to front

Even the sun is hiding

Above the grey clouds

No warmth can we feel in the air

To lift our spirits out of the doldrums

We must think positive

Spring will come . . . it must.

 



 

nature red forest leaves

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

WHAT IS THERE TO BE THANKFUL FOR ?
The time has come . . .
For the leaves of brown
To come tumbling down
The trees of gold are ablaze in the sun
Telling us that summer is nearly done
The colours of Autumn are always so special
Beauty surrounds us at every turn
We mortals will die and never return
But nature sleeps until there’s warmth in the sun
In the meantime the crisp air of winter will come
To nip our noses
To kill the roses
To transform the scene with a blanket of snow
All is not lost as time changes colours
In spring buds will reappear
The flowers will grow in a multitude of blossoms
And, once again, all is right with the world.

All they have to do is say first thing in the morning, I am alive, I will make the best of today. I can get up and move around which is more than millions of people in this world can do. For this, I am thankful.
Go to the bathroom for morning ablutions and be glad they have a toilet, and they do not need to go to the bushes like millions of people who will never know what a flush toilet is, or have running water from a tap so they can take a shower or make their morning coffee.
Even if they don’t have a lot of money they can go to the grocery store to buy food and eat while millions don’t know if they will ever eat again – and often don’t. To have a roof over their head and a stove to cook on, when others are still using outdoor fires with antiquated utensils to cook with, if they do manage to get food, much of what has been found in rubbish dumps. Not to have to huddle in doorways on the street for shelter, or beg for handouts from passers by. For this, they should be thankful.
Hard as life can be for many among us if they think about these things then maybe they will start to look around and realise how fortunate they are. Maybe they will see the marvellous colours of the trees in autumn, the beauty of spring and the smell of fragrant flowers as they emerge from the buds. Even if they find winter chills them to the bone, will they not look at the beautiful trees covered in snow and wonder at Natures handiwork in creating such beauty with ice crystals? There is so much to be grateful and thankful for it is hard to define it all.
Good health, good friends and family, people who care for them and encourage them to live each day and who look forward to being with them. Finding pleasure being with such friends. If a person hibernates at home, alone, it is a sure thing they will only be morose and no fun for others to be around. They might even stagnate by being so much alone. Do they not understand that having friends gives them something to look forward to and that they can be glad and thankful to have such people in their lives? So many people in this world have no one so to have good friends and family is a big bonus to be happy about.
To grow up in a warm family home, to study and find a good job with a reasonable income. Maybe eventually marry and have their own family, even to lose a spouse which is one if the hardest things to do. To reflect and be thankful for the happiness shared knowing that their departed spouse does not want them to be alone or unhappy.
Truly, there is so much to be happy about, just to be able to do anything, no matter how trivial it might be, to share it with friends is a blessing in itself. To bring a smile to a stranger, hoping it makes their day, and that they in turn will share a smile with someone else. Because they gave away a smile -just about the cheapest thing a person can give and share. It costs nothing but can do so much to lift a person’s moral and spirit to set them on a happier path for the rest of the day. Even a pat on the back or a handshake can be stimulating to someone else. Someone who maybe needs that warm touch to make them feel better just when they need it most.
So once again, I pose the question, what is there to be thankful for? If you don’t know by now then sadly, you never will! Life is such a short span to enjoy, be thankful that you had the opportunity.
Rena Flannigan Words 848 October 11, 2012



 

STORMS AND GALES

Outside the window the wind blows fiercely
The trees bend to the whim of the gale
On the quayside ropes are straining
Against the metal bollards
Holding the old wooden boats secure
They will not sail on this wild night

Maybe not even on the ‘morrow
Creaking and straining at the ropes that bind them
They will heave and pull but find no release
The sails are furled ‘till morning light
No one will climb the mast or stand in the Crow’s Nest
There is nothing to see far off in the dark

When the boats came to the dock what did they carry.
Cargos of gold and silver from far away lands
Bartered jewels for a foreign Queen’s crown
Did slaves row the boats – men tied deep in their bowels?
Were they captured and their life stolen away
To be sold in a foreign land from a public square?

Where people would stare as future owners poked and prodded
Checking their teeth as if they were horses
Shackled ankles, chains on their wrists
With iron collars around their necks
Chains tying them to the next man
Taken to plantations for the rest of their lives

While the drunks became the King’s Men
Men dying of thirst to drink a tankard of beer
Being mindful to watch for the King’s shilling
Deep in the bottom of the glass
Not seen until the beer was done
Too late Mate, we’ve got you now

The wiser men checked the tankards bottom
They had no intention of sailing as crew
Knowing the terrible life on board those boats
Seeing a shilling through the glass the navy grabbed them
Destiny set them to sail the Seven Seas
Even in wild winter gales, but not this night.

Rena Flannigan Words 302 December 12, 2018



 

Janet Naidu -Poet

Janet Naidu was born in Covent Garden, Guyana, a rural village close to the sugar plantations of Farm and Diamond.  Janet comes from humble beginnings—her father worked as a cane cutter and her mother sold greens in the village and in the market place.  She, along with her seven siblings assisted their parents in earning extra income.

Janet has made Canada her home since 1975. In 1973, two of her poems appeared in a small booklet called Heritage. After writing sporadically over the years, her first collection of poems, Winged Heart (1999) was short-listed for the Guyana Prize for Literature, poetry category.  Her other two collections include Rainwater (2005) and Sacred Silence (2009). Her poems capture themes of uprooted movements, nostalgic memories, resettlement, feminism, resilience and survival. Her writings also include essays of cultural and historical themes. Janet Naidu (4)
Her poetry and writings have appeared in news media, online publications, anthologies, referenced in books on Indo Caribbean themes and in the Women’s Journal of the University of the West Indies.

Janet obtained a BA from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London, UK.


Janet, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to focus on your collection Rainwater, in addition to your writing, in general.

Q. At what age did you start to write? What do you remember writing about? Does that writing still exist today?

A. As a teenager I sold greens in the village with my mother and had a notepad to write down credit given to the villagers. I used to also make little sketches and writings at the back pages when I waited for people to purchase items in our baskets. But most significantly, I started writing to pen pals around the world after posting my name and address in a pen pal magazine. I had pen pals from New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. It was during this time, I entered into writing to pen pals around the world, telling them about my family life at home, and life in Guyana. I used to get creative, talking about simple things in the village, like when the sugar cane would burn and the cane dust would come through our windows. I made it sound exciting. Living in Canada, I am often taken back to that time when I was care free and thoughts of the natural world flowed so greater then. This reflection continues to influence my writing.

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Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories

A taxi driver notices the changes in Independence Boulevard since freedom was gained from Britain. A free-wheeling spirit spends his time gambling and engaging in riots. A man is sentenced to death for the murder of his lover. Two women escape racial conflict and seek a better life at home and abroad. A housewife has faced the last straw with her husband. A mailman is caught in the middle of the World Trade Centre terrorist attack. These are some of the characters encountered in this engaging collection of short stories from the pen of Ken Puddicombe.

Amazon link: Down Independence Boulevard: and other stories
by Ken Puddicombe
Link: http://a.co/djDIyAZ

 

 


 

 

Michael Joll

MJoll New Background for CS

Author Michael Joll

Born in England during the Late Pleistocene Age, Michael Joll has called Canada home since shortly after Confederation. He has held many jobs, from selling Continental Delicatessen in Selfridges on Oxford Street in London, to temporary part time deck hand and purser on a car ferry plying the North Reach of the Bay of Quinte. In between he was gainfully employed for forty years too many. Retired since 2004 (“The hours are great, the pay not so much”) he has spent most of that time writing fiction. He has been a Brampton, Ontario since the mid-1970s with a wife (his own) and the memories of the dogs with whom he has been privileged to share his life.


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Book Review – Down Independence Boulevard and other stories

NO better reward for a writer than to see his work acknowledged!

90rollsroyces

I found out about this book by Ken Puddicombe on Rosaliene Bacchus’ blog – Three Worlds One Vision. Read her fantastic review of this book – Down Independence Boulevard and Other Stories by Ken Puddicombe. 

I wanted to read this book since its based in Guyana and the steady diet of American/British based novels was getting too boring. I am glad I read the book because it has given me an idea for a book of my own. I don’t like short stories – so I never buy a short story collection by any author, but this book is very interesting because its a series of short stories that are all interlinked. Just loved that style.

I learnt a lot of new things – the presence of Indians in Guyana for one. I knew that there were Indians in the West Indies because some of them play for the…

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