For many years, I’ve driven past a sign that said “Ravencroft Lane”. I’ve never driven down the narrow dirt road tucked into the forest off the main drag between my house and our camp. However, each time I passed it, I thought, “That would make an excellent place name in one of my stories.”
The name conjured up magic, mystery and images of a place in a fantasy land. I waited years to use it, not knowing where it existed.
Then came Natural Selection, and I knew this place was here.
The small town of Ravencroft is located alongside a wide river in County Regal somewhere on the eastern half of the United States in the year 2051. The town and county is ruled by a self-proclaimed king, James Proctor. His father had staged a coup and seized power from the man who had established Ravencroft many years beforehand.
Natural Selection is now available in eBook and paperback format.
This Christmas romance came about because I wanted to write a story that took place at Christmas time and in one of my favourite locations: Cole Harbour. You know, Home of Sydney Crosby. He may have put the community on the world map, but it was a great place to be long before that.
One of the things I love about writing stories is the ability to include places I’ve been. A December Knight takes place in the community where I spent the first 29 years of my life. This allowed me to use one of my favourite restaurants in a scene: The Palladium Family Restaurant.
The Palladium wasn’t always The Palladium. It started out in the early 1980s as Champ’s Restaurant. When I was in grade 9 and attending Sir Robert Borden Junior High, which was across the street and up a short hill from the eatery, my friends and I would sometimes go to this restaurant for lunch.
Sir Robert Borden Junior High today – street view
I didn’t have much money, so I always ordered the same thing: plate of fries and chocolate sundae. I can’t remember the exact price, but it was something like $2.20 for the meal. I recall the dark-haired waitress who served us was very kind to us teenagers. Probably because we didn’t make unnecessary noise and were respectful. We came, we ate, we chatted about the day and left quietly.
A December Knight was supposed to be released last year, but… Sometimes things don’t go as planned. However, this year, it’s a go!
I consider this novel to be your typical, run of the mill romance story. It has two main characters looking for love and when they find it, they’re eager, yet there’s something holding them back. I’m no Nora Roberts or Harlequin Romance author, but from the ones I’ve read, A December Knight follows a similar story line.
Here’s the first scene.
Chapter 1, Scene 1
Emmie Cooper stiffened when she heard the exasperation in her mother’s voice.
“Christmas? It comes too early and never leaves quick enough.”
“Humbug, Jan! I love the holidays,” said Lorette Dalrymple. “Magic fills the air when everyone is happy and giving.”
“You mean when they are spending money they don’t have on gifts no one needs.”
Emmie burrowed deeper into the closet, letting the jackets on the clothes hangers disguise her hiding place. Her mother and Aunt Lorette sat at the kitchen table drinking tea. She hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, but she was almost into the room before she realised they were there. Instead of saying hello and drawing attention to herself, she sneaked into the shadow of the closet. With Christmas only two weeks away, she expected to hear about a gift bought for her. She had been dreaming of many wonderful things but had narrowed her list down to ten: five for the list she’d given to her mother and five written in her letter to Santa.
“Oh, come on; where’s your holiday spirit?” said Lorette.
“It went out with last week’s trash,” said Jan.
“Honestly, sis, I don’t know what to make of you. Every year you dive into depression as if it’s a punch bowl laced with rum. It’s as if someone killed your cat, swiped your favourite heels and posted your baby-fat pictures on Facebook all in one day.”
I’ve stumbled upon several abandoned buildings tucked away on rarely-travelled dirt roads. Exploring them is exciting and creepy. Some where sketchy when it came to structural integrity and others were mysterious because of possible wildlife they may have harboured.
I can describe collapsed roofs, sun-baked decomposing wood, weather-soiled floors that felt spongy when I walked on them, and the stillness of the air when glassless-windows made it feel like the building was part of the overgrowth.
However, I’ve never been in a town or city that has been abandoned for so long that the buildings are hollow, signs are missing letters and the streets are a patchwork of broken pavement grown in with weeds and shrubs and hardly recognisable.
I’ve written many stories, so I’ve used a lot of names. My fantasy novels contain dozens of characters and while I try not to use the same name twice, I sometimes do.
While looking for a name for one of the soldiers who served at Casa Royal, Ravencroft, County Regal, in my latest novel, Natural Selection, my youngest son was talking about a few of the stars from old western films he had watched. The name Jack Elam came up and while my son prattled on, I considered the name. Yeah. That sounds good.
While many won’t know who this man is, those familiar with old westerns will recognise it immediately.
William Scott ‘Jack’ Elam was born November 13, 1920 in Miami, Arizona, USA. He’s best known for the villains he played in western films. Later in his career, he turned to comedy.
My first dystopian novel is now available in eBook form. The paperback is coming soon.
Today is bathed in the shadow of yesterday.
The year is 2051. Almost three decades have passed since the Devastation destroyed civilization. Only the strong and wise survived; the weak and intellects perished. New societies emerged, forging a future with skills from the distant past.
In Green Wood, Eloise has lived in seclusion with her uncle for 12 years. While they receive visitors to Larkspur Cottage, the number of friends they have can be counted on one hand. When strangers arrive and capture her uncle, she is forced to run, but who can she turn to when she doesn’t know the land outside Green Wood or where her friends live?
I chose three quotes from one of my favourite actors for the front of my next novel Natural Selection. That actor is John Wayne. He’s been a hero of mine since I was a kid. While he was several generations before my time, he was a mainstay on our black and white television set.
My dad also enjoyed his films. They were more of the same generation except Dad was born in 1922, and John Wayne, given name Marion Robert Morrison, was born in 1907. He was 60 when I was born, and he died when I was 18.
Wayne’s tough, shoot from the hip style was addictive. He was an honourable man who spoke his mind. Whether I agreed with him or not, it was something I admired. That honour is lost on most actors and television personalities today. The only one left from that era is Clint Eastwood.
Shortly after the story of the Salvation of Mary Lola Barnes begins, Mary starts walking in the evenings. While she’s been fairly active all her life, winter for many in Nova Scotia doesn’t provide much opportunity for outdoor activities unless you embrace the cold and love snow and ice.
With mild weather casting off winter’s slumber, Mary feels the need to get outside more and walk to the nearby park that has trails through the woods and along a lake. It’s a popular place for adults and children. There are even ducks.
Mary quickly learns that walking is reshaping her body. To be more exact, her legs are becoming stronger, she’s toning muscle and losing the extra weight winter hibernation added on.
My Love of Hiking
I’ve always been a hiker, a walker in the woods, but with work, kids and other responsibilities, I didn’t get onto the trails as much as I wanted to. Two years ago, I decided to change that.
I started small, just a kilometre. I’d walk every day it didn’t raining. Each trip out, I’d walk one more lamp pole length until I hit 5 km in one direction. After that, at least four times a week, I’d hit the road and walk that 5-km strip, which totalled 10 km per trip. The changes to my body were subtle, but what incredible changes they were.
I’m certain there were changes I couldn’t measure, such as the increased strength of my lungs. However, the things I could measure were impressive. Besides being able to walk that distance faster over time without getting out of breath, my calf muscles became leaner, I lost weight, my knees grew stronger and I could bend easier. The injury in my left knee went into hibernation. I think the muscles around the knee grew so strong, I no longer felt the injury. It was still there, and when I walked less in winter, it showed itself.
During my walks, I would think about my stories and scribble down on the scrap paper I carried anything I didn’t want to forget.
A quick search in the old InterWeb, reveals the top benefits of walking.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Strengthen your bones and muscles.
Improve your mood.
Improve your balance and coordination.
No Training or Equipment Required
Walking is something almost everyone can do; you need only comfortable footwear unless you do as I do sometimes and walk a beach or grassy trails, then I go barefoot. Where I live, people walk by the house every day. They walk at different times and different speeds. Some are old, some are young. One woman wears braces.
If you want to get into shape and all you have is a pair of shoes and a little extra time, start walking. It doesn’t matter how fast you go or how far. Just start, and you’ll find yourself going farther and faster as you rack up the miles. That’s the wonderful thing about walking; you can do it at your own pace and when your body is ready, you can increase your distance a little bit at a time.
And here’s a secret: it’s absolutely free.
Today is launch day for the Salvation of Mary Lola Barnes. The first chapter is available on its book page on this website. It is available exclusively at Amazon, so if you’re a Kindle Unlimited member, you read for free.
I’ve often watched birds, considered what they might be thinking and wondered over how they lived their life. I recall thinking many times, with regard to birds and most animals, they have no possessions. Silly humans – we fill our lives with possessions and become burdened with them.
Birds build a nest for the short time they need one, then leave it all behind – every year.
I suppose this thought process fueled these thoughts by Mary Lola Barnes after she received disappointing news.
After exchanging good-byes, Mary hung up the phone. She walked out the back door and plopped down into the patio chair. It was a cool evening, and the forecast threatened frost. Still, she sat without a sweater and let time pass. Robins flew in and flew out, but she didn’t rejoice in their presence. They were birds who flew where instinct took them; they carried no belongings or worries. They sought a place to call their own for short periods of time, long enough to raise their young, then depart for other places far beyond her yard and community. Perhaps birds had it right; when the nest was empty, move onto the next part of life.
The Salvation of Mary Lola Barnes is available for pre-order exclusively at Amazon: