Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. I am enjoying participating in the online forums on their web page at in the mean time. One of the forums asks that you post your plot synopsis for critique and then critique the synopsis of the person who has posted before you. In doing this, I came up with an amazing synopsis for the novel I plan to finish over the next month called THE REVENANT.

In case you don’t know, a revenant, is someone who has died as a result of violence with unfinished business and who comes back to complete the business. The legend of the revenant goes hand in hand with vampire lore in that many revenants were also thought to have been vampires.

In THE REVENANT, Janke, a farm boy, is thrown and trampled by his horse on the way to elope with Alma, his sweetheart. Shunned by his family when he rises after his funeral, he roams the country until he meets The Seer (a man who is able to see the future in his life span) in modern times. He reinvents himself as Zulu. Still searching for his beloved Alma, he joins The Seer in his quest to save the people he sees die in his dreams. At the same time, Malchus, The Seer’s brother, a powerful necromancer, is inadvertantly ripped from hell by teens experimenting with a Ouija board. Malchus has one goal in mind—to exact revenge on his twin brother Morgan—now known as “The Seer”—for killing him all those years ago. Joined by empath Kat, the group of three learns of Morgan’s resurrection and they gear up for the battle of their lives to save the city, and the world in which they live from Malchus’s evil.
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Macbeth and World Without End

Teaching grade 10 Academic English in a GTA school has been a challenging task to say the least. Right now, I am struggling with how to teach students to write a “3R Journal” for the Independent Study Projects (ISPs) which are worth 15% of their marks for the semester. The “3Rs” stand for “Retell”, “Relate”, and “Reflect”. Students are given a long list of questions they can choose to answer in each category based on a novel they selected for the ISPs, but they have difficulty using critical thought to produce a deep analysis. The Retell section does not use literary terminology (i.e., protagonist, antagonist, setting, mood/atmosphere, etc.) nor does it include a discussion of theme; the Retell does not take literature, television and movies into account to do a thoughtful comparison, and the Relate does not look at the real world and evaluate the author’s portrayal of teen issues, given the state of the world in which we live. In spite of the list of question, in spite of my preaching, and, yes, in spite of providing exemplars.

To remedy this, I have developed a labour intensive (for me) activity in which students write a 3R journal of Macbeth over 3 nights and I take it in and give them feedback so they know they are on the right track in preparation for the second of two journals. This means setting everything aside, including other marking and planning, in favour of providing detailed feedback that most of them will never read. And I get mostly drek in return for my troubles. Maddening.

I have a pretty good exemplar for the Retell portion of Macbeth which I share with the students when I give the assignment back after assessment. I sat down to provide them with a Relate, but found it difficult. I could talk about matters involving the current political climate in Ontario in which the Education Minister has used her power to subjugate, first teachers and then the rest of the public sector, ignoring their right to strike in strict defiance of the labour relations act. In this case, she relates to Macbeth because she is using her power for personal gain, possibly so she can say she single-handedly fixed what is wrong with paying public sector workers their due, and mending the broken budget, while ignoring the fact that she and her colleagues, public sector workers all, earn more than double teachers et al, but we are not supposed to discuss union matters with our students.

I could talk about the recent political upheaval in the Middle East and how many dictators in that part of the world have recently earned their dues, but that may potentially offend the student population, the majority of which are Muslims and may prefer to call these main saints rather than dictators. If I ask them to be politically correct and not refer to Macbeth as “a Hitler”, then I must, too, be equally PC and steer clear of Muslim politics.

I decided to scrap the Retell exemplar, resolved that, as long as the students gave me apples-to-apples comparisons (i.e., friends peer-pressuring one into smoking a cigarette does not equal Lady Macbeth “peer-pressuring” Macbeth into killing Duncan, primarily because a woman was not considered to be the peer of a man and the offenses do not compare in their severity), and gave me examples from the text to back up their assertions—in other words, as long as they tried—they would earn their “E” for excellent. Then I saw last week’s episode of World Without End.

World Without End, based on Ken Follett’s novel, takes place in the 1300s (300 years before Shakespeare wrote Macbeth) mostly in the town of Kingsbridge in which Petranilla (played by Cynthia Nixon) is a character to rival Lady Macbeth in the throes of PMS. Driven to secure her safety and security she schemes, lies, poisons, commits treason and murder to get her son, Godwyn, successfully elected prior. Her son takes the role of Macbeth, allowing himself to be persuaded by her plan for him, eventually driven near mad by his lust for his cousin, Caris, and The Black Death as it ravages his body and mind. He temporarily loses the title of prior—to Caris—due to his illness. With Godwyn incapacitated, Petranilla goes after a new target, this one a son born out of wedlock and given to a town couple to raise. Having poisoned her illegitimate son’s father, Roland, the Earl of Shiring, she convinces Queen Isabella (Aure Atika) to give the priori back to Godwyn, and to give Ralph (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) the Earl of Shiring title, so he can rule Kingsbridge and take Phillippa, the girl of his dreams, and Roland’s daughter as his wife (nevermind the fact that this makes Ralph and Phillippa half-siblings). So far, in his “new gloss” as Earl of Shiring, Ralph has fared about as well as Macbeth. His peasants revolt, killing his men, and Phillippa commits suicide rather than allow him to touch her on their wedding night.

Another link to Macbeth is talk of witches. If you remember your high school English, Macbeth meets three witches who prophesy his future. Driven by what they say, he and his wife kill the current king. With that done, Macbeth continues to kill anyone who threatens his crown, including innocent women and children. At one time, Lady Macbeth prays to dark forces to give her more manly attributes which links her to the witches as well. In school, I discuss, at length, Elizabethan beliefs which include religion, superstition and witchcraft. This year I was able to use World Without End as a parallel, as both Caris and her mentor are accused of being witches for their practice of “the healing arts”. First Caris’s mentor is hanged for being a witch when she insists on amputating a man’s arm rather than healing it with a poultice of dung. Later, having pissed off the Prior (before Godwyn assumes the position), she, too is accused of witchcraft, and sentenced to death. It is only by agreeing to be a sister of the priori that she is able to remain alive. The notion of religion versus superstition and a belief in witchcraft, the supernatural and the afterlife are themes that are prevalent, not only in medieval literature, but contemporary literature as well.

Next semester, when it is time for the practice 3R journal, I will be able to provide them with a Relate exemplar, a modification of this blog entry. Hopefully that will help students to understand how they can relate their novels to themes and characters in other literature and/or popular culture.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Secret Daughter - Critique

When I reached out to the website offering reviews of science fiction by new authors, I hoped to get back something I could use, something that would help me market my eBook. Instead, I got a cursory glance at the first chapter or two of the manuscript and a series of negative comments that, had I not developed a tough skin over the years, would have made me throw in the proverbial writing towel.

I am a high school English teacher. For the past few years I have been blessed with counting Writer’s Craft among the courses I teach. The first third of the course is about “showing, not telling”. When you show, you engage the reader’s senses. “Pink cheeks” is telling; “rosy bloom” is showing. “Putrid smell” is telling; “rotten boiled cabbage” is showing. I pride myself on trying to incorporate showing and not telling in my writing. The review I received told me my writing tended toward exposition and I needed to show more.

I finished reading Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s novel, Secret Daughter this week, the story of two families, the Merchants and the Thakkars. Kavita and Jasu Merchant live in poverty in India. Jasu’s cousin kills their first child, a girl, because she is not a boy and the family will not be able to afford her dowry when she is grown. Unable to live with the same potential fate for her second daughter, Kavita travels with her cousin to give the baby to an orphanage. Their third child is a boy who, when he grows, helps his family climb from poverty with the proceeds of a drug trafficking business. Kavita never forgets her other two children. Upon what may be her death bed over twenty years later, Jasu finds out about their “secret daughter” and goes to the orphanage to find she was adopted by a family and taken to America. Somer and Krishnan are a mixed-race American couple who cannot have children. They travel to India to adopt Asha, a year old child, and bring her back to raise her in America. When she grows, she travels back to India to stay with Kris’s family and search out her birth parents. She finds their previous and current homes, but not them. In the process she learns how lucky she was to have been adopted by her parents.

Gowda’s writing style is mostly exposition with little dialogue (a good showing technique). In order to cover a span of more than twenty years in a single novel, I suppose one would have to tell—which can take the narrative far in a short amount of time—rather than show—which slows the narrative down or brings it to a halt while the reader lives in the moment, so to speak. Though the story she tells is touching, I found it hard to identify with any one character because they seemed flat. Somer, disappointed that she cannot have her own children is not excited about Asha’s adoption, which only drives home the fact that she and her husband are more different than alike. Rather than embrace and enjoy the child, Somer detaches herself from her family. While this makes an interesting dichotomy in that one mother loved her child enough to save her while the other remains distant and one father would have ended his child’s life while the other is the loving parent, I would have liked to have known more about Somer’s thoughts and feelings, more about her relationship with her daughter and how she can remain believing herself an outsider in her own family when there is a young child that is relying on her nurturing and support.

Point of view is another issue. Gowda’s novel is written in third person limited present tense, a point of view I don’t think I’ve ever seen in anything I’ve ever read. In general, present tense demands a sense of urgency, an interesting voice that has an interesting perspective on the events that take place. By contrast, third person limited, while containing the thoughts and observations of the main character, is filtered through the narrator’s eyes, which is why, I assume, it is almost always past tense, with the narrator reporting on something as if it has already happened. The third person limited present tense point of view did not work for me. I found the present tense awkward, and the limited more objective, than I would have liked. At nearly 600 ePages, the point of view made the novel seem much longer than it was. As I was at a loss to identify with any one character, there was nothing motivating me to continue to read, other than a desire to see Asha reunited with her birth mother, which never happens.

My reading tastes are eclectic. I write mainly science fiction, but I dabble in detective fiction. I prefer reading literary fiction to mainstream. I love the language and will often read a book if the story isn’t interesting, but the narrative voice is entertaining (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley is case in point—brilliant narrative, less than interesting story). So why didn’t I like Secret Daughter? I wasn’t adopted, nor have I ever adopted a child, but I do have a family member that was adopted. I watched the anguish of her family as she found her birth mother and all but abandoned the family that raised her in favour of the woman who gave her up more than thirty years prior. I am a mother. Maybe this is why I can identify with Kavita’s motivations, yet question Somer’s. My bachelor’s degree is in Cultural Anthropology, so I was intrigued by Asha’s story as she learns about the children of the slums and their mothers and, in doing so, learns about the life she could have lived, had she not been given up for adoption, had she been allowed to live at all.

While I admire Gowda for publishing this, her first novel, in spite of breaking all the rules, I can’t help but feel a pang of contempt for all those “professionals” in whom I placed absolute trust to honestly critique my work. To all those people who told me I don’t show enough, I shouldn’t change points of view, I should consider changing from present to past tense, don’t have too many narrative voices, and make me feel like there is something wrong with my writing and that if I just do as they say I will get published, point taken; if you stray too far from the mould people may not read it because it is different from mainstream fiction. After reading Secret Daughter, hailed as a successful piece of literature, and rightly so, I have to wonder why new authors are criticized for being different. I chose to ignore the critique from that site, by the way. One thing I’ve learned in this process is that I can’t be a Charlaine Harris or a Kathy Reichs or a Margaret Atwood. I’d rather be true to my voice and my process and do right by my characters instead.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Flat and Round
Colin O’Donoghue who plays Killian Jones aka Captain Hook in ABC’s Once Upon A Time is handsome, I’ll give him that. The blogosphere was abuzz with how Hook will give Rumple a run for his money, how he will be the biggest and baddest villain on the show. The problem with these theories is that Hook is flat whilst Rumple is rounded. Hook will be no match for Rumple due to Rumple’s multifoliate interior.

Characters are of two types, flat and rounded. Flat characters are doomed to live their lives out in Flatland, the one-dimensional world created by Edwin A. Abbott and popularized by Sheldon Cooper in an early episode of The Big Bang Theory. That is to say, when looked at head on, they have shape and dimension, an appearance, names, a purpose, but when they turn sideways, they devolve into nothing more than flat lines, indistinguishable from one character to the next. Flat characters function as “phaser bait”, they serve a purpose, nothing more. They are the innocents Palmer and Michael (my characters) interview in their investigation that give up their information and then vanish, never to be seen or heard from again. They are Molly’s students who find an important artifact and then get about with their studying. They are the pirates who cheer on Hook in his bid to belittle Rumple and then fade into the background. They are the Milhas, the women who spur a duel between two characters, never to be heard from again. Last night’s Hook seems to have no motivation other than to kidnap women for the pleasure of he and his crew and then, later, to avenge Milha’s death. Or maybe it’s to get back at “The Crocodile” (a brilliant turn of events, nicknaming Rumple this) for taking his hand. OUAT’s Hook is narcissistic, and single-minded. Girls and wealth are his only motivator.

Ever the round character, Rumple continues to amaze. All this time, the viewer was led to believe his sole motivation was to bring magic to Storybrooke so he could wield power over Regina, The Evil Queen. Now we learn his sole purpose is to overcome his cowardly past, to be reunited with those he loves and prove to them he is worthy. In a stroke of genius, the writers send Rumple to Belle to humble himself and apologize for his transgressions where she is concerned. He is a man who knows he is imperfect, someone who is capable of vengeful murder (Milha’s) and sweet gestures (giving Belle the key to the library), but at his core, he is a man whose sole desire is to be loved, and to love, but he doesn’t know how. Rumple looks upon people as possessions. He became The Dark One to keep Bae with him. He killed Milha (his wife) because he could not possess her. He imprisoned Belle in his dungeon because he feared she, like all those before her, would leave. Rumple’s motivation to bring back magic so he can leave Storybrooke and find his son is heart-achingly poignant and gives the character depth.

Granted, Hook is a new character and we’ve only seen him in a single episode designed to facilitate getting Cora, Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke, and he will be fleshed out in the weeks to come. But so far, the simple fact that Hook was introduced to facilitate getting Cora, Emma and Snow back to Storybrooke supports my theory that he is a flat character. He has a purpose; he has no self-motivation to speak of thus far. Contrastingly, when we are first introduced to Rumple, he is already The Dark One, his origins a mystery cloaked in an impish exterior. He is jailed, he grants wishes, he is hated and revered by virtually everyone in Storybrooke. We know there is an age-old rivalry between he and Regina and we ache to find out what that is. Juxtapose that with Storybrooke’s Gold who may or may not remember his life before the curse, and Rumplegold is multi-dimensional from the start.

Last night’s OUAT opened a multitude of possibilities for the season(s) to come. I like that, unlike while watching so much formulaic prime time tripe, I never know what to expect. And even when I intuit the formula, I am still satisfied with what I see. Kudos to OUATs writers and actors, but especially to Mr. Robert Carlyle who brings justice to the character of Rumplestiltskin, a tragic hero if ever one there was.
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Friday, October 19, 2012

PHASE SHIFT - Prologue

Here is the Prelude, the first chapter of my novel PHASE SHIFT.


I am laying in the dark listening to my husband’s raspy almost-snore, unable to sleep. To keep myself occupied, I try to remember when I first knew I wanted to be an archaeologist.

After seeing the first Indiana Jones movie as a teenager, perhaps? No, Indy merely served to bolster my interest in the field. The real turning point came while watching a documentary called “In Search of Noah’s Ark” when I was no more than twelve, back in the time before the super cinemas. It was then, I knew. Wood decomposed to nothing but dark shadows in the soil, aerial photographs of well-fed vegetation, and measurements approximating those in The Bible—I still shudder in awe at the thought of it.

My first real taste of archaeology was in the middle of a conservation area almost an hour’s drive north of the city: dark soil dampening trouser knees and buttocks, dirt rammed under fingernails, blowing out a peppering of dust mixed with snot on the Kleenex—man! I was hooked.

A few years later I was near graduation and looking toward grad school. Dr. Richardson, the head of the Archaeology department, offered to be my faculty advisor and I accepted without hesitation. He assigned me a site, the remains of a carriage house behind a restored clapboard house, built nearly two centuries ago. The planning, supervision, excavation and analysis of the site over two years’ time would earn me my Master’s degree.

My assistants and I arrived at the house, to find Dr. Richardson sitting on the stoop reading Scientific American, anissue featuring an article about a cache of Peruvian mummies. Dr. Richardson is a forensic anthropologist. That means he gets off on dead people and figuring out how they died. He works extensively with the police, to give them clues as to what decomposed bodies and skeletons might have looked like while they were still living and breathing.

We approached the stoop and he stood to greet us. I had to crane my neck and shield my eyes from the sun in order to meet his gaze. He smiled at me, said hello and squeezed my shoulder. My stomach lurched. Dr. Richardson is what we used to call “a hunk”. The first time my mother met him she called him “a dreamboat” and said she wouldn’t throw him out of her bed for eating crackers. The way things turned out, that comment was so many different levels of wrong.

The house was converted to a living museum sometime in the late eighties. The side entrance, added on around the same time, smelled of new carpet and fresh paint. Pictures of the house in various stages of disrepair and renovation hung on the walls like windows into the past. Dr. Richardson gave us the grand tour: men’s parlor, women’s sitting room, dining room, upstairs ballroom, and nurseries. A narrow staircase took us up to the third floor servants’ quarters.

Back downstairs, Dr. Richardson showed us the kitchen. The walls were of unfinished wood made dark by soot. At the centre of one wall was the original hearth, complete with bake ovens. A single wooden table stood in the middle of the room, deeply scarred through use and over time, and in the far corner, the kitchen pantry, converted to a small storage-cum-utility closet after the restorations. Near the ceiling Dr. Richardson pointed to a series of wallpaper layers. He recited each occupation and era by rote and I was in awe of him.

He finished his lecture and ushered us out of our cramped quarters. I chanced a glance up at him and he smiled at me. A perfect three-toed crow’s foot appeared to frame the outer edge of each of his eyes. The solitary, unshaded light bulb that dimly lit the room shone in his dark eyes—a girl could get lost in those eyes. I blushed, embarrassed at the lust I felt for him at that moment, chastising myself for falling for my faculty advisor. But then I reminded myself that Dr. Richardson was a good sixteen years’ my senior, and everyone knew he was seeing Suzanne Pascoe, the Egyptologist. Dr. Richardson was safe, like a movie star. Like a movie star, he was unattainable, and consequently, not entirely real. I told myself the crush would pass, and it eventually did.

Palmer’s snoring again. I nudge him, tell him to roll over, then roll over myself, wedging one hand between his rib cage and the mattress and one foot arch-deep between his thighs. He doesn’t protest.

Sleep has eluded me this evening. Pretty soon my bedside alarm will begin to shriek at me, signifying the start of yet another day. I need a drink. Tea would go down good right about now. Hot tea with honey and lemon.

In the kitchen I fill the kettle and plug it in. While I wait for the water to boil, I stroll into the living room and take a peek out the front window. Two black sedans are parked on the road, each facing opposite directions, waiting for me in case I decide to take it on the lam. Inside each car sits a pair of officers—which officers are out there tonight is anybody’s guess. The possibilities read like a who’s who for law enforcement: CIA, CSIS, OPP… It’s funny how quickly things spiral out of your control: yesterday I was an archaeology professor considering earning my doctoral degree. Today I am the prime suspect in a murder investigation.

The kettle begins to boil. I unplug it. Sometime between eying the sedans and thinking about the death I may have expedited, I’ve lost my appetite for tea.

I return to bed, drawing my body close to Palmer’s, more for security than warmth. I find solace in the fact I was right about one thing when I was struggling with that crush on my faculty advisor all those years ago: Palmer Richardson is safe.

Friday, October 12, 2012


An archetype in literature is like a prototype, a version after which other versions are patterned. This is, I think, what makes me a fan of Once Upon a Time. In television’s Storybrooke, archetypal characters are brought to life, both as archetypes and as modern versions of themselves. In season one, it was the dichotomy of their personalities that drew me in, the difference between Storybrooke’s David and Fairytaleland’s Charming. The self-assured Snow versus the meek and unconfident Mary-Margaret. What made it especially fun were the peeks into the archetype that I imagine to be bubbling just beneath the surface in Regina and Gold, the only two characters with intact memories, and the repartee between them. I named my blog “My Own Little Storybrooke”, because I understand that all imagined characters and storylines are based on archetypal ones, new spins on old ideas. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s the deviation between the traditional and the new that makes these stories so exciting.

Take Smallville for example, the last spin on the Superman archetype. The Superman legend enamours me for its romanticism, in which the archetypal story is the boy next door who turns out to be the strongest, most virtuous and handsome person on the planet. Or maybe it’s about the nerdy guy that has a crush on you who is just as worthy as the captain of the football team, but you’ll never know because you can’t get past his nerdy exterior. Revenge of the Nerds just popped into my head, a group of nerds who are shunned until their superpower (great sex) is discovered. They get the girl, but continue to battle the jocks in the sequel. Read: Superman/Clark Kent hooks up with Lois Lane but continues to battle Lex Luthor and other villains in the sequels.

It is The Beauty and the Beast archetype that spurred this blog entry. When read as even the lowest creature is worthy of love, the archetype has merit. But this archetype could be seen to have a darker meaning, one with undertones of Battered Wife Syndrome and/or Stockholm Syndrome, in which the victim begins to identify with her attacker/captor, using love as an excuse to stay. In The Beauty and the Beast legend (and I’m going with popular culture’s version and not the original archetype which I haven’t read), a brave girl (Belle in the Disney and ABC versions) breaks the damsel in distress mould and decides to save her family rather than having them protect her. She volunteers to go with the Beast who mistreats her and locks her in the dungeon. Eventually, he releases her so she can take care of his castle. Because he shows her sporadic kindness, she falls in love with him. Once he wins her love the spell is broken and he is no longer a beast.

While I love the OUaT version, Rumple is really rough with Belle, to the point where one might ask how she could possibly fall in love with him. Perhaps Gold’s confession that he is a difficult man to love tugs at her heart strings. Belle, ever the martyr, sacrifices her own happiness to save the man she loves. I have to admit I was looking forward to the new Beauty and the Beast television show, premiering on Showcase last night. This version closer parallels the eighties show starring Linda Hamilton than the Disney one. In it, Kristen Kruek plays Catherine, a police officer (Linda Hamilton’s Catherine was a reporter) who meets up with Vincent, a genetically engineered super soldier turned vigilante who once saved her life. If this series is anything like the eighties one, the two team up to fight crime. While I love Linda Hamilton from The Terminator (and more recently Chuck) days, I remember watching BatB sporadically. I never quite understood why Vincent looked the way he did or why she was so attracted to him. This iteration of BatB takes place in a New York which looks a lot like a dressed up downtown Toronto (the only information I could find online was that it was filmed in Canada). Catherine meets Vincent in the first minutes of the show in 2004 when he saves her life and then we flash forward to 2012 where they meet again. Once more, he saves her from certain death and she is intrigued by him, especially when she learns he’s supposed to be dead. Long story short, they meet up, he spills the beans about his history and she agrees to keep the fact that he’s still alive a secret. So much for the slow build. Truth be told, I won’t be watching again. If I want a police procedural with a built-in love story, I’ll watch Castle instead. Speaking of Beauty and the Beast and police procedurals, Rookie Blue’s Sam and Andy kind of fit the bill—loner Sam is reluctant to succumb to Andy’s charms but eventually does. After a fellow cop is killed on his watch, Sam blames Andy and is horrible to her, playing beast to her beauty. True to archetype, even when Sam emotionally abuses Andy, the residual, reciprocal attraction remains.

Rumbelle still intrigues me, though I don’t understand Belle’s interest in staying, other than that she can’t leave Storybrooke or she’ll lose all memory of who she was. Being Beauty is much better than being a basket case locked up in the mental ward in the equivalent of Storybrooke’s dungeon. I love the new Rumplegold, a little bit Gold, a little bit Rumplestiltskin, and Robert Carlyle plays the part with slimy precision. Emilie De Ravin’s Belle is a young woman with a maturity beyond her years. She treats Gold as an impetuous child who, once he realizes he is indeed loved unconditionally, will stop playing manipulative games, grow up and be a man. Sounds a little like the relationship between Wendy and Peter Pan, doesn’t it?

Darn those archetypes.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Seven Year Itch

Here is a cut scene from PHASE SHIFT. I wrote the novel over about 10 years before I self-published it this month. In that time, I had it vetted by writers in residence at the local library, workshopped it with my writer’s circle group, had it complimented and ripped mercilessly to shreds in the “Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award” competion, and a good portion of it edited the “A Woman’s Write” contest. The largest re-write occured after I lost the “A Woman’s Write” competition to someone who was an accomplished playwright, but for whom this was her first novel. The feedback from that contest was to homogenize the narrative to use Molly’s voice only. Rather than make some scenes from Palmer’s and other’s points of view, I wrote any scenes that didn’t include Molly in third person. I think it made a huge difference for perspective consistency.

I took this one out primarily because it’s in Palmers voice, but also because I think I was trying to do too much in marrying the two planets. Everything from solar flares to UFO sightings to paranormal activity seems to increase in seven year increments, or so the story goes. This scene documents Molly’s and Palmer’s perspective on that statement.

Other similar pseudo-scientific beliefs have come to us by way of perfectly explainable Gaian phenomenon. The area on Earth known as the Bermuda Triangle, for example, has long been known on Gaia as an epicentre for shifts in the planet's phase. The area had been proclaimed somewhat of a disaster area around the middle of the twentieth century. Travelers wishing to fly over or pass through the area are cautioned to alter their trajectory, lest they never return. Ironic that the area has long been known as dangerous to traverse on Earth as well. Though the cause for the crashes and disappearances in the region are prolific, none of them speculate it to be what is essentially a glitch in the planet's electromagnetic field, let alone a link to a sister planet.

Further adding to the mystique imbued in the popular culture of pseudo-science is Reyes's observation that scientists who monitor reports of random phase shift bubbles account an increase in occurrence of the phenomenon every seven years. When Molly tells me this, I simply nod. She says nothing more, as if waiting for me to make the connection. I wrack my brain, but come up empty. "So?" I ask, prompting her to continue.

"So all sorts of things are reputed to happen in sevens on Earth. June bugs for one." My mother told me this once when I was young. June bugs seem to grow in number around year three or four of the cycle, reaching the height of their population around year seven. Following that, population frequency tends to die off until their numbers start to increase and the cycle repeats itself. "I remember reading once that reports of UFO sightings reach their peak every seven years, too," she continues. It's then I make the connection. If random phase bubbles increase every seven years, that means the chance for hovercrafts being caught up in the phase bubbles also increases every seven years. It stood to reason that UFO sightings would follow suit.

"And that's not all," Molly says. "According to Reyes's information, nuclear activity on Earth has dire consequences on Gaia. Their worst disaster—and I mean something along the lines of 911—happened on or about the same day as Chernobyl.”
Don’t forget to check out PHASE SHIFT, available on KoboBooks,, Lulu, and now at the iBookstore. My novella, THE MUMMY WORE COMBAT BOOTS is available at the same outlets, and should be at the iBookstore in about two weeks. If you’re unsure as to if this story is for you, please feel free to download the sneak peeks before you purchase.

Friday, October 5, 2012

First Meeting

I wrote this thinking it fit into the scene I was working on but then realized it was what the sourcces called “Information Dump” and removed it. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but here it is anyway.

This scene documents the first meeting between Molly and Palmer. This time round I imagine Robert Carlyle playing Palmer. Feel free to imagine whomever you feel fills the part as Molly.

Second year. Department Star Trek Movie Marathon. Bored studying, I'd attended alone. Palmer, Dr. Richardson, manned the concessions. I watched him interact with the others in line in front of me. The stories the high school teachers told us about university profs still vivid in my mind, I grew more and more petrified at the thought of an informal interaction with a prof--any prof--as the line drew me near. Though I knew nothing of Palmer at the time, Dr. Richardson, the department head, had a reputation for being a hard-ass. Watching his mouth as he spoke, the way he flung his hair--the perfect mix of sandy brown, dirty blond, and grey--out of his eyes, the curve of his nose, I was surprised at how personable a man with his reputation could be. When at last it was my turn to order, I wasn't sure I'd be able to speak.

"What can I get for you?" he said with a smile.

I checked out the display of items in stock. "I'll have a popcorn and a Vernors, please."

He nodded over his shoulder. “Popcorn'll be a while.” This was followed by a very awkward silence. I looked over my shoulder at the people rapidly filling the auditorium and hoped my jacket would be enough to save me my spot. “Well,” he said, “it appears we have a bit of time.”

I nodded and forced a smile; I hoped it looked natural.

“So. All American girl, are you?” I noticed he trilled his Rs slightly and wondered which culture was of influence.


“Really?” He seemed truly astonished. So what if I don’t go around saying “eh” or mispronouncing “about”.

“Yep. Born and raised. Why?”

“Vernors claims to be the oldest ginger ale in the States.”

“Really?” I said, not feigning interest at all.

“Yeah.” He shook his head to force the bangs from his eyes. When that didn’t work, he used his thumb to push them out of the way. “Dates back to the 1850s or so.”

“It’s more a nostalgic thing for me. My grandfather drank it.”

“So he's the American, then.”

“Canadian. Well, British originally, but he immigrated here when he was still very young.”

Dr. Richardson smiled a polite smile and nodded at my response. Then the awkward and very pregnant silence rose once more.

“So,” he said at last, “are you an archaeology student?”

Where was my popcorn? I was no good at small talk. And he was only slightly better than I. “Anthropology,” I answered.

“You should switch.” He winked and nodded his head once. “Archaeology's cooler.”

“I'll take that under advisement,” I said with a chuckle.” Thanks.”

The popcorn continued to pop behind the glass of the movie theatre popper the club had rented for the week. It smelled of childhood and Disney movies. Then the opening fanfare of the movie sounded.

“You should come back later,” he said. “You'll miss the beginning”.

“No I won't. This is my favourite one of the series. I must've seen it like a dozen times.”

He laughed once. “Noob,” he said.

“See that guy? The one with the blue shirt and pointy ears over there? He's seen the movie 32 times. And that guy dressed in leather with the bad wig and dreds? 53 times. That guy? The one in the red jacket and white bib? Over 100 times.”

“So what's your number?” I asked him, intentionally provocative. The awkward silence gone, engaged in real conversation like we were, I was beginning to see why he was so popular amongst my female peers in the department.

“I haven't seen the movie yet.”

“Not even once?”

“Well I guess technically, this will be my first time then, won’t it?” He leaned forward on the counter between us, as if to let me in on a secret. “I saw a couple a few episodes of the original series when I was younger. Never quite got the hang of it, I’m afraid.”

“But you study anthropology. Star Trek's all about culture. It’s about all the cultures in the universe coming together. It's about hope in a world where hope is a rare commodity. It tells us that if we can just learn to get along the human race still has a future.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” he said. A student had begun to bag the fresh popcorn. Dr. Richardson handed one the bags to me. “I don't study anthropology. I study archaeology. You should switch. Way cooler.”

I smiled in thanks and said that I should go. He told me to enjoy. When I got back to my seat I looked back at him. The light in the concession stand was the only one in the room besides the projection on the screen. Dr. Suzanne Pascoe, the Egyptology prof approached him from behind and placed a hand on the small of his back. He turned to her and they embraced.

After the movie I saw Dr. Richardson hold her coat for her. He seated it on her shoulders and then reached in behind the collar to lift her long, blonde waves from beneath the jacket. He kissed the back of her neck while it was exposed and then let her hair flow naturally down her neck and back. As I put my own jacket on, I wished I had someone that would treat me with the same tenderness and intimacy as the moment we, unbeknownst to them, had just shared.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Press Release for PHASE SHIFT

Can you dig it?

English teacher and former archaeologist Elise Abram is proud to announce the publication of her first novel, PHASE SHIFT, which follows the adventures of archaeologists Molly McBride and her husband, Dr. Palmer Richardson after they are given an unusual artifact with the ability to take them to a doppelganger Earth. Abram has been writing ever since she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Having to research writing and the writing process gave her the confidence she needed to actually put proverbial pen to paper. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back. Nearly ten years after PHASE SHIFT’s inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and try to publish the manuscript on her own.

In her novels, Abram marries two of her passions, writing and archaeology, while paying tribute to the city in which she grew up. Born and raised in Toronto, Abram’s novels take place on sites modelled after actual archaeological sites in and around the city. Her characters volunteer at the Royal Ontario Museum and teach at the University of Toronto, and mummies are X-rayed and CT-scanned at downtown hospitals.

Abram continues to write, no easy task, given the demands of teaching three English courses each semester, and raising three teenagers simultaneously. Currently, she is working on another Molly McBride adventure, tentatively called THE NEXT COMING RACE, and inspired by Edward Bullwer-Lytton’s classic “The Coming Race”, which melds pseudo-scienceand paranormal phenomenon in a race to save the world after a device left behind by aliens in the future is activated. Also in the works is THE REVENANT, a take on the current young adult vampire craze, and CHICKEN OR EGG: A LOVE STORY, revolving around a time travel love triangle.

PHASE SHIFT is available at on the Amazon and KoboBooks web sites.