I’m working on three books at the same time. The reason is Chaos, which is finished pending final proofing, has been in the works for ten years and I want to get it out there.
A couple years ago, while searching my computer and backup for all my files on Chaos, I found Fire Song, which I started more than 30 years ago. For those of you in FAW – Flint Area Writers – an early draft was what I read in hopes of becoming a member of FAW. Their Facebook page: FAW on Facebook.
FAW is going strong. They helped me immensely then as they continue to help each other and new members hone their craft.
Someone once told me a good bio should tell things nobody knows about you, so here goes.
When I was nine, I lived in Ismay, Montana. I wrote and illustrated a story my teacher talked me into submitting to the Montana State Fair. I won a blue ribbon!
As an adult, I’ve written two books that haven’t seen the light of day. They were practice. And yet… One of the books began 34 years ago at Flint (Michigan) Area Writers – which was founded in 1947 as Flint Writers Club. I have a complete revised draft that I’m working to publish. Some from the FAW may remember it. It was called Fire Song. I’ve kept the title as nothing else seems better.
The other book, written mostly in longhand before Fire Song, sits in a box in a closet. It’s useless, but some of the ideas in it haunt me. It’s fantasy and deals with time travel and paradox and magic. I keep it because I made a really cool map to go with it.
I have published two children’s book: Meena Mouse’s Perfect Raspberry, and Hubert Little’s Great Adventure.
I also have a time travel fantasy, Circles in Time, that begins with a magic potion gone wrong. I have just revised a collection of dark short stories, Myth, Magic and Monsters. I’ve lowered the Kindle price to $.99 and also have lowered the paperback price. You can get the Kindle version free with the paperback.
With a co-writer, Nancy Tucker, I published a romantic suspense Double Danger.
All my books are available on Amazon.
My creepy dark fantasy, Gatekeeper, will soon have a sequel called Chaos. I’ve been saying soon for two years. For some reason it has taken an inordinate amount of time to whip it into shape. I hope to have it out by January. The story is contemporary and has Magic, other worlds/dimensions, and giant spiders. Everybody knows I’m terrified of spiders. And yet, my friends continue to regale me on Facebook with spider stories and images. I must be somewhat desensitized, as I can at look at them, despite wanting to take a flame thrower to them. I’ve even made creepy animated covers and teasers for the new book. With spiders! You can get Gatekeeper free at InstaFreebie.com. You can download for Nook, Kindle or a pdf.
This morning before I leave for knitting I drop two Eggo waffles – my usual quick breakfast – into the toaster. I do not like pancakes or waffles, but I love the “chocolatey” chip Eggos (which I realize aren’t real chocolate). I only like them toasted crispy so they’re not the least bit soggy inside.
My mind registers an old Tupperware container beside the toaster. On top of the container sits a bag of granulated Splenda I recently bought. Ken uses it to sweeten his homemade iced tea.
A thought comes to me: I should move that bag so it doesn’t fall on the toaster. If it hits the button on top, it could turn on the toaster. The bag and the Splenda inside will melt, and, as my granddaughter once said regarding bringing her beloved stuffed zebra, Beeyah, into the bathroom: “That’s a recipe for disaster.”
I have a clear image of the bag on top of the toaster falling. The same sense you get when you see something you’re carrying – like a full can of Pepsi – fall, and you know it will happen, and you’d like to stop it, but you’re powerless to prevent it.
I file the image under “when I get home I’ll fill the container.”
I totally forget about it. I eat my breakfast and go to knitting. Knitting is group therapy for those of us who indulge in the needle arts. Besides socks and scarves for gifts, I’ve recently done some lace knitting with fine yarn. Following a difficult pattern is not easy while talking to a group of people, but they’re supportive of each other, and I enjoy the camaraderie.
Today our house cleaners are scheduled to come, so I knit and visit and chill.
An aside: we recently changed cleaners because our former company was not doing a very good job. The new group has only been here once before and did a great job cleaning and dusting and changing our bed – which is a chore for two people with bad backs.
When I walk in, I smell something funky. Not the fresh odor of whatever magic cleaning compounds the crew uses, but something that smells burned.
Ken says, “Get a Pepsi and sit down.”
On my way to the fridge I see our toaster sitting on a towel on the counter. There is something decidedly yucky burned on the top of it. I’m hit by a strong odor of melted plastic.
Ken tells me the cleaning company owner left us a voicemail regarding the toaster incident. Anytime someone uses the word incident, you know that means trouble.
He says, “It’s not bad news. It could be worse.”
I pop the top on a diet Pepsi and sit.
Ken tells me the cleaning company will cover any damage, although there doesn’t appear to be any, and they’ll replace the toaster. The women who cleaned left our check, and the message informs us if a replacement toaster costs more, that will be covered.
“Where’s the bag of Splenda?” I ask.
He looks puzzled. “I have no idea.”
“It was on top of the container beside the toaster.”
Understanding lights his face, and I’m sure mine reflects the same look.
I get our really bright flashlight and peer into the blackened interior of the toaster. I see the melted remains of Splenda and also yellow plastic inside and on the top. Splenda comes in yellow plastic bags.
I listen to the voicemail.
As the cleaning team was finishing up, one of them noticed flames coming from the toaster. They managed to unplug it and douse it with water since they didn’t find a container of salt or baking soda handy. Fortunately, there is no other damage.
I really liked that toaster. It was a Breville, all electronic, and it toasted everything to perfection. It had history. Before our son Todd, and his future wife were married, we spent Thanksgiving in Vermont with Tracy’s family. The Coogans generously invited us, and we had a wonderful time. They had a four slice Breville toaster that was awesome.
After our wedding gift toaster gave up the ghost after almost forty years, we’d gone through three or four toasters that only lasted a year or two.
When we got home, we bought a Breville two-slice toaster. It was fabulous.
A while later the two women who had cleaned knock at the door. They hand me a large bag of Splenda and apologize profusely. Both had stressed out about our being angry. Ken and I were about to call the owner of the company and tell her we’ll pay for the cleaning and not to worry about the toaster.
We insist the cleaning crew take the check and assure them that stuff happens.
Then I remember what happened earlier. My vision of the Splenda falling on top of the toaster.
Bad memory on my part that I forgot to move the bag.
The moral of the story:
Toasters with controls on the top are not a good idea.
A new one will arrive tomorrow from Amazon.
How did the bag fall onto the toaster? Only the toaster knows for sure.
Welcome 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 exist. 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.
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.
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?
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,