Giant, Scary Spiders and More

Trilby Plants, Dark Fantasy, Horror, SpidersWelcome to the world of Chaos, nightmares and spiders

For all of you to whom I have promised a sequel to my scary giant spider novel, Gatekeeper. I’m three chapters from the end of Chaos–which are written, but need revision. Then I’ll do another draft and get it out to a few readers who’ll give me some feedback. It should be ready to publish by September. I’ll give away a few copies of Gatekeeper to those who would like to do a read-through of Chaos, just to let me know if the story hands together.

This is what has taken so long: what began as a 60K word novel is now almost 100K. It’s a darker story than Gatekeeper, because my villain, Nadra, has evolved in her quest for power, and has devolved into a hideous creature, devoured by the evil Magic. Revenge has consumed her thoughts since she was exiled to the Dark World.

Short Synopsis:

A wizard woman confronts a powerful entity bent on subjugating humanity–knowing she cannot emerge triumphant.

ARDEN McEWAN, a wizard, has spent almost four years in another world training to use Magic. She arrives on Earth to save friends from a deadly, supernatural threat. Arden averts one disaster only to find she has put her friends and their little girl in mortal danger—danger worse than death. She must face NADRA, a powerful wizard who is no longer human.

Nadra was once a Gatekeeper like Arden and her twin brother, Kerrick. Gatekeepers open the doorways between the worlds and shepherd travelers from place to place. But Nadra succumbed to the glamor of the Old Magic–the Magic of unmaking–evil magic that corrupts and destroys. Although Nadra was banished to the Dark World, she has mastered the evil Magic and is using it to rip through the Gates and take over all the worlds.

The Dark World is populated by creatures who prey on each other to survive. The most dangerous of these are large spider-like animals led by an Old One. They are masterful predators. Their only way to reproduce is to create an Old One. They inject hormones into a human’s brain. Then, encased in a cocoon, the human metamorphoses into an Old One, capable of mating with another Old One.

Tricked into becoming an Old One by Arden and Kerrick, Nadra retains her memories and her magic and is growing more powerful. She is breaking down the Gates, and they are releasing elemental magic into our world that causes a spate of random unmaking: the bones of deer dissolve; an aircraft with an engine deconstructed to its raw components crashes. And people turned to Old Ones are food for Nadra’s horde.

Nadra is focused on revenge against Arden for her duplicity in her banishment. As a creature of the Dark World, Nadra cannot live in sunlight. But if she can replicate herself in a human host, she can live again and accomplish her goal: ruling the worlds. She opens the Earth Gate, and, protected by her spider-creature army, implants her eggs in several women. Each attempt fails gruesomely, but Arden discovers Nadra is learning how to make her mad scheme work. Soon an egg–or a piece of Nadra–will grow and successfully become a duplicate of Nadra, able to live in sunlight, able to control the Dark World monsters.

Nadra’s lust for power drives her to rule all the worlds accessible by the Gates. Arden must remove the entrance to the Dark World, but knows that unmaking it will cause all the Gates to collapse, thus releasing Nadra and hordes of ravenous creatures that will destroy humankind. Arden must use the magic of making to lock the Gate, but something prevents her.

Time is running out. At the instant of the summer Solstice, when the energies of the universe are balanced, the Gates will be weakest. Nadra will tear them down and plunge all the worlds into chaos. Arden finds herself in a war with Nadra that will determine the fate of humanity.

Alone, without the power of her brother and his Key, Arden’s only allies are a man with untested powers and a child.



Do Not Read if You’re Afraid of Spiders!

Gatekeeper, Chaos, Trilby Plants, Spiders, Horror, FantasyI am terrified of spiders.

I’m working on the sequel to Gatekeeper, a fantasy horror novel. The second book is Chaos. Both books have scary spiders.


I’m not fond of autumn. I don’t like the sound made by blowing leaves or tree branches rubbing together. Especially at night.

I think dry leaves moving in a breeze sound like animals skittering through the forest. Not friendly animals like squirrels or raccoons. Spiders. Really big spiders. Bare branches moving in the wind sound like bones rubbing together. And how would that happen? Some creature that has just finished eating something is gnawing on bones that clack against each other. Like a really big spider that ate a squirrel. Or a raccoon. Or a person.

You can tell where my mind is. I love horror stories and movies – even B movies like the Saturday night sci-fi flicks, despite their bad animation. I love the Sharknado movies. But they’re not serious horror.

I’m a visual learner. I learned that well into my adulthood. Movies enthrall me because they rely on images. I could turn off the volume in a good horror film and still be just as scared. Books compel my attention if an author has a good handle on descriptions.

Take Stephen King’s Pet Semetery. I read it a couple years after it came out. My husband was gone to a conference. I settled into his recliner and was going to watch a movie, but I remembered I had just gotten the book. Instead of my movie, I started to read.

Around ten o’clock I called the dog from his post at the foot of the stairs where he was guarding my son, age six. I figured if some monster was after the kid, the dog would let me know. I wanted the protection of a 90 pound dog right at my feet.

At eleven o’clock I went through the house – with the dog beside me – and turned on every light and made sure the doors and windows were locked. Back in my chair I covered up with a comforter. One large enough to fling over my head so I’d be safe.

By midnight my palms were sweaty, and my heart skipping. But I couldn’t put the book down. I read it in one sitting and finished in the wee hours of the morning, which was a mistake, because I had to go upstairs to bed, and I’d forgotten to turn on the light in the bathroom. I sent the dog in first.

It wasn’t the premise of the story that was so frightening for me: that an animal could come back to a sort-of life if buried in a certain plot of ground. That was fine with me. Revived, dead pets could dig their way out and go about their business. It was the idea that these creatures might come back to us.

There would be a scratch at the door. A rustling in the darkness. Dry branches rubbing together? Or leaves blown by the wind? Not in my fertile mind. Having been terrified of spiders all my life, those sounds could easily be made by spiders coming after me.

So, naturally, the scary creatures in my book, Gatekeeper, became spiders. Large ones, dog-sized. And one called an Old One with human intelligence who could control the smaller ones.

How did she get that way? Saying more would be a huge spoiler. You’ll have to read the book to find out. There’s a new revised edition on Amazon. You’re welcome to buy it now, but if you wait a while it will be free.

But do not read the book if you’re afraid of spiders. Fair warning.

You can read this because I haven’t gotten to the scary spiders yet!

Suppose universes exist like bubbles in a vast cosmos. Suppose there is a way to travel between these bubbles from one world to another.

I can’t “science the shit out of this” like Mark Watney in Andy Weir’s book, The Martian. So, in the spirit of fantasy readers and writers, suspend disbelief and accept the premise.

Magic is real. It exists everywhere. Very few can see it and use it, especially inhabitants of Earth. They have forgotten how.

Millennia ago, someone who could wield Magic opened a gateway from their world to Earth and many other worlds. People traveled through these portals and visited and traded with each other. Suppose one of those gateways was constructed in the mountains along the coast of Maine.

From dream to Gatekeeper

A friend once told me about a dream she had.

A woman appeared in a rainstorm in a flash of light on horseback. She was dressed in old fashioned clothing and a leather cloak. The horse bolted with the woman clinging to it and galloped down a hill in a driving rain, eventually arriving at a tavern in the middle of nowhere.

My friend wondered if there was a story in this dream image, but she had no idea what any of it meant.

“There is a story,” I said. “I know who the woman is and why she appeared where and when she did.”

“Well,” she said, “if you want the idea, you can have it.”

Here’s what sprang full-blown into my mind:

Gatekeeper, Fantasy, Horror, Trilby Plants Konrad Bak

A woman appears from another world in just the way my friend described. The woman’s name is Lyriel. She has come from her world to ours because of something tremendously important. The reason will have repercussions in both worlds and result in life or death dilemmas.

Once Lyriel’s mission here is complete, she opens the portal to go back to her world, but something goes wrong. There is a villain involved. (I didn’t have that part of the story at the time. I just knew that Lyriel brought something to this world of paramount importance, and she loses something here.)

On her return journey Lyriel is attacked by an evil presence and loses her way. Desperate to survive, she does the unthinkable. She embraces evil magic.

Why did Lyriel come to Earth? Who is the villain? How did this all come to be? How does Magic work?

Thus was born my novel, Gatekeeper. I am in the process of updating it. It will soon be free. The sequel, Chaos, is about to be born.

Again, do not read Gatekeeper or Chaos or anything about them if you’re afraid of spiders. It will scare the socks off you.

Stay tuned for a timeline explaining some of the backstory. No scary spiders yet.

From Red Paint People to Magic

Trilby Plants, Gatekeeper, Contemporary Fantasy/Horror






In my world of contemporary fantasy, the unreal can become real.

Real historical facts:

  • Vikings and other explorers visited northeastern North America at least 1000 years ago.
  • Scottish sailors and others probably explored the region in the 1300s and 1400s.
  • The Red Paint People were an indigenous group that lived in northeastern North America three to five thousand years ago.
  • More on Northeast history and Red Paint People.

There are many monolithic structures in New England and northward. Who built them? Perhaps Scandinavian settlers, perhaps earlier people. Yankee Magazine has an interesting article on America’s Stonehenge.

My world of the Unreal

All stories begin with “what if,” and usually my “what ifs” involve magic.

There are unseen energies all around us. Electricity, radio waves and gravity are very real, but we can’t see them. Yet they eMagic, Contemporary Fantasyxist. Think of our universe as a bubble. There is scientific discussion about this theory of bubble universes. If we exist in a bubble, there must be other universes around ours.

Suppose there was a way to travel from a world in one bubble to one in another. To those who could not conceive of such travel, it would be like magic. It was once thought that human flight was impossible. Maybe flight is magic. Computers, smartphones and modern televisions – even cars – are electronic magic.

From lefthandedtoons
From lefthandedtoons







What if there are people who can see magical energies and manipulate them? And, what if, millennia ago, some people from another world who could wield Magic opened gateways from their world to Earth and other worlds through which they traveled and traded with each other? Suppose one of those gateways was constructed in the mountains along the coast of Maine, near my mythical town of Moose Harbor.

That’s how I got from real to  Magic in my contemporary fantasy/horror novel, Gatekeeper, soon to be free.

Gatekeeper KindleStay tuned for the Rules of Magic.

Why Didn’t I Think of This Before?


An ancient dolmen near Moose Harbor, Maine

I’m working on a sequel to my contemporary fantasy/horror novel Gatekeeper, originally published in 2003 by a publisher who shall not be named. After I got the copyright back from the publisher who shall not be named I put Gatekeeper on Kindle.There it sat for a few years.

Recently I was looking through my computer files and discovered I had 50K words of a sequel written. Imagine my surprise. It was, as first drafts go, pretty disorganized, but salvageable, I thought. It’s called Chaos, and is the continuation of the story from another point of view.

Gatekeeper is about a man who discovers he has the ability to control magic and must confront his fear of it and battle a nefarious enemy who wants to rule all the worlds. It’s available only for Kindle. Two of my writer friends volunteered to proofread it. They did a terrific job. I warned them it was scary.

I’m also revising the video trailer for Gatekeeper.  It’ll be ready soon.

When Chaos is done, I’ll publish it in paperback and on Kindle. Then I’ll give away Gatekeeper to entice readers to buy Chaos. Why didn’t I think of this before?

Theatre and the Flint, Michigan Water Crisis

To all of you who live in and around Flint, Michigan:
My daughter is involved in an amazing new project. This is a letter she recently sent:

First off: Please forgive this super long message! But seeing as we don’t know each other, I thought a real introduction was in order!

I’m Jen Plants, the Carl Djerassi Playwriting Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I teach writing for the theatre and performance studies. My specialities include documentary theatre and the way ideas about race are performed in America, and I’m hoping my next project will be a documentary work of theatre about the Flint water crisis.

I’ll be in Flint December 15-18, and I’d welcome the opportunity to sit down and hear your story.

I was born and raised in Michigan. I went to public schools in Grand Blanc, and I got my career start early at the Flint Youth Theatre. Ultimately, the artistic director of Flint Community Theatre encouraged me to go to college to study theatre, and the rest, well, is history. Flint is a city I love, and its people and places made me who I am today.

I make nonfiction theatre based on real life issues and events. My most recent work, No Feedback, is about the forms of discrimination that lead to genocides. It premiered in London in May and is continuing development for a European tour this summer.

I’ve been following the recent water crisis in Flint with alarm. The ongoing story of Flint needs to be told and repeated and remembered throughout the nation. The people of Flint have truth to speak to power–theirs is a story of global implications.

I’m interested in the voices of those citizens on the frontlines–the individual stories that can too easily get lost in the historical record of events–and I hope that the core of my work will be taken from personal interviews.

Interview-based theatre has covered a huge variety of subjects from Hurricane Katrina to those exonerated from death row sentences. This kind of play preserves the voices of the people who are most impacted by an event, and most importantly, through performance, it gives others a present-tense experience that invites both empathy and action.

I can meet just about any time from the afternoon of Tuesday, December 15 through the morning of December 18. I can also make just about any location work–I’d welcome the chance to buy you a cup of coffee (or bring you some donuts from Donna’s.)

My goal is simply this: to use art and the power of live theatre to tell your stories–Flint’s story.

Any questions? Just ask!

Hopeful that we can meet and talk soon,
Jen Plants

Learn with Meena Mouse: The Meaning of Christmas

Merry Christmas Meena

A mouse in the house is a good thing!

Merry Christmas, Meena Mouse

Christmas is coming.
It’s not far away.
I have to wrap presents.
I should start today.

I made Papa a drawing
of Mama and me
so he won’t forget us
because we’re family.

Mama gets yarn
to knit as she pleases.
A scarf will keep her
warm in cold breezes.

An apple for teacher
who’s patient and nice
and teaches us all
how to read and to write.

The school crossing guard
who is next on the list
gets a piece of red cloth.
Now, who has been missed?

Grouchy mouse bus driver
who never does smile
gets a red juicy apple –
a bite every mile.

Squirrels get acorns
and birds will have crumbs.
I hope it will feed them
when deep winter comes.

I’ll sweep off the step
for old Mrs. Grump
so she can get out
of her home in the stump.

Something for neighbors,
relations and friends.
So many presents.
Will wrapping not end?

I will take care of mouselings
while parents are out,
and do it for nothing –
of that, there’s no doubt.

One last, great gift
that gets everyone clapping
the presents so big
it doesn’t need wrapping.

You can’t really see it,
but it never ends:
it’s being surrounded
by family and friends.

The best gift of all
is friendship and caring.
And always remember that
Christmas is sharing.

I’ve been tagged by the MY WRITING PROCESS Blog Tour

I thought this would be easy. The Writing Process Blog Tour asks us to post answers to four simple questions about how we write. Simple but surprisingly complex questions.

Thanks to Barbara Evers for tagging me in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Barbara is an author, public speaker, and corporate trainer. Her first interest listed on her blog is giraffes, and she says she knows how to communicate with animals.  I met Barbara through the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. The SCWW is a fine organization for writers of all abilities and genres. I’ve found much satisfaction in being part of this group and found a supportive network of kindred spirits.

What am I working on?

I’ve gravitated from novels to children’s books. A few years ago I resurrected a story I had written decades ago along with its crayon pictures. It was about a frog who lived in a pond. The end. Not much of a plot and certainly no conflict. I applied what I learned from writer friends and at SCWW Writers’ Conferences and came up with a plausible story: A brave frog faces the danger in the pond to get medicine for his mother. Then I Photoshopped the old drawings, combined them with some of my digital backgrounds and self-published Hubert Little’s Great Adventure.

I loved a story from my mom’s trove of family history. It begged for pictures. You can read the true story on my website. At least my mother said it happened.

Quite by accident I discovered a wonderful digital artist (she is Blackberry Ink Photography on Facebook) who agreed to do illustrations for Meena Mouse’s Perfect Raspberry. It’s a picture book for children up to five that teaches responsibility. Meena Mouse eats the last raspberry without permission, then disobeys the rules and treks into the dark, dangerous forest to find a raspberry. She has a magical encounter, but must find her own way home. Carrie A. Pearson said the story is sweet, and the illustrations are luminous.

We’re now working on the next Meena Mouse book: Meena Mouse’s Perfectly Awful Day. Meena goes to school and learns to share. The title is a twist on the word awe-ful. The manuscript is ready to go to the illustrator.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I want this story and the ones to come to invite children into Meena’s world. She is a small creature in a big world, just as children are. She is sweet and innocent and the makes mistakes all children make. But she learns the lesson of responsibility without actually using the word. I hope children identify with Meena and learn along with her.
Activities and tips for parents and teachers are available on my website.

Why do I write what I do?

Writing for children is not easy. It’s as difficult and almost as time-consuming as writing a novel. But the reward of seeing youngsters enthralled by the story and captivated by the illustrations is beyond measure.

Young children like stories. They don’t listen or read them to learn some profound idea, or discover some inner truth. But they do learn subtle lessons from stories.

Since picture books have so few words, every one counts. The text hints at plot and character development, while the illustrations illuminate the finer nuances. Deborah Gagnon’s illustrations bring Meena to life and show her place in a far bigger world. Meena learns to be responsible for her actions, just as children must.

How does your writing process work:

I write every day on my laptop. I truly believe if I stare at a blank screen long enough, some muse will take pity on me. The Muses must like me because I always have too many ideas. Ideas are everywhere and constant. I once told someone I wish they’d stop. Not really.

My mind always looks for the story in an incident. My granddaughter started school in London, UK. She was hesitant about making friends and finding her place in a school in a different country. Until a little girl said she would teach her to hang upside-down on the bars. Friendship was born, and school wasn’t frightening at all. That incident will be in the next Meena book.

I’ve never been a morning person. I work best in the afternoon. Wherever I go, I carry a little notebook in which I take notes. Mornings I answer emails, run errands or read. When I play golf I find magical places in the trees, or a fairy home in a mushroom. Ideas come easier when I’m not focused and trying to make them gel. Evenings I watch TV and knit. I don’t usually watch the commercials, so when they come on, I knit on automatic and chase story ideas.

It was from this I got two ideas: Meena goes to school and learns to share, and knitting Meena Mouse. I found a Meena look-a-like pattern which I purchased and adapted. I thought the first one I knit was too small, so I made another, larger one. My six-year-old granddaughter has dibs on the little one. I’m using the other for promotions.

Follow the tour next week, June 29, with the following authors:

Click Photo for Dave Griffin’s Facebook Page

David Griffin is a storyteller and essayist. He is retired from a career in corporate education and communications, and lives near the ocean in South Carolina with his wife and her dog.  Dave writes the popular blog Monk In The Cellar, now a novel by the same name.  He publishes a book of stories and essays each year that are well received by those who like to think a little deeper … but not too deep … about life.



photo 1
Click Photo for Alan Thompson’s Website

Alan Thompson practiced law for the past forty years, primarily in Atlanta, Georgia. His civil trial work extended to dozens of jurisdictions throughout the United States, Australia and England, and he contributed to several professional journals and treatises dealing with his particular area of expertise, construction law.

He began writing seriously in 2008, and his first novel, A Hollow Cup, was published in 2011.  The Black Owls was released in September, 2013, followed by The Kingfishers, and his latest book, Gods and Lesser Men,is now available. He and his wife Barbie have two sons, one a lawyer in Salt Lake City, the other a Navy helicopter pilot currently stationed in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Now retired to Georgetown, South Carolina, Alan plays an occasional round of bad golf, and he and his bride can sometimes be found having a late-afternoon cocktail or glass of wine at the beach.

Goodreads page: Alan Thompson

SCWW Writers’ Conference – Discover the Depth in your Writing

Rack Card 2
Click image for more information

As the president of South Carolina Writers’ Workshop, I’m in the process of gearing up for a couple of big events: editing and publishing The Petigru Review and our fall conference. Besides being a great conference, it’s a wonderful excuse for writers to come to the beach.

The Petigru Review is the annual anthology of the SCWW. In its pages you’ll find members’ prose and poetry. We also publish the first and second place winners of the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards. Some fine authors began with publication on our pages.

Registration opens June 20 with early bird specials. Intensives, critiques, pitch sessions, real time queries, breakout sessions, comaraderie, networking and plain old fun!

Playwright contest.

Check out for details. To ask questions email:

More later.

Lost and Found

AmeDom copy 2 copy
Amedee and Matilda Dalbec

My mother told me this story about an aunt of hers.

In the 1870s northern Michigan was forested wilderness. My mother’s maternal grandfather, a French Canadian, logged old growth trees, cashing in on the bountiful harvest of lumber that build the Midwest.

One of Mom’s aunts, about three years old, wandered away from the camp. Everybody, even the lumberjacks searched until long after dark, but did not find her. As is usual in northern Michigan in the early summer, there was a frost that night. The parents gave up hope and thought they would never see their child again.

Flora Dalbec, Minnie Dalbec (My great-grandmother) and Emma Dalbec (who was helped in the forest by the “gray lady”)

Next morning, the little girl ran from the forest, alive and well. When asked how she kept warm, she told everybody a gray lady helped her by giving her berries to eat and covering her with leaves and pine needles to keep warm.

Nobody  that fit the description lived in the area. All who heard the story attributed it to the child’s imagination.

That became Meena Mouse’s Perfect Raspberry. It’s a children’s story for ages three to eight that teaches the importance of responsibility.


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