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jayne barnard ice falls Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, J.E. (Jayne) Barnard. J.E. (Jayne) Barnard is a Calgary-based crime writer with 25 years of award-winning short fiction and children’s literature behind her. Author of the popular Maddie Hatter Adventures (Tyche Books), and now The Falls Mysteries (Dundurn Press), she’s won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur, the Bony Pete, and the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award. Her works were shortlisted for the Prix Aurora (twice), the UK Debut Dagger, the Book Publishing in Alberta Award (twice), and three Great Canadian Story prizes. Jayne is a past VP of Crime Writers of Canada, a founder of Calgary Crime Writers, and a member of Sisters In Crime. Her most recent book is When the Flood Falls, a small-town psychological thriller set in the Alberta foothills west of Calgary.

whenthefloodfallsnew compressed 1 J.E. Barnard’s latest book, When the Flood Falls, is a novel mystery/thriller fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shattered by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear. As snowmelt swells the icy river, crashing whole trees against the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out of there, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge goes under. Can she find one true clue either way before Mother Nature make the decision for her? Can they both survive until the floodwaters fall?

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, When the Flood Falls?

It started long ago and oh, so far away, when my oldest high school friend left the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and her husband for no reasons that she could articulate. Even years later she had no words for how she was feeling at that time, except to say, “I woke up one day and I couldn’t do it any more. Any of it.” Because I believe that most of what people do has some reasoning behind it, even if they’re not consciously aware, the character of Lacey began as an exploration of possible motivations for my friend to leave her job, then her spouse, then her province, and set off alone across the country with just her vehicle, precious little in savings, and no job prospects waiting. From that point forward, my story is all fiction, so instead of what actually happened—moving her to one of Canada’s biggest cities and giving her a relatively stable life there—I put her in a beautiful, quite wild and natural setting (Bragg Creek, in the Alberta foothills) and added an impending flood to echo the chaotic currents in her heart and mind.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

My favorite character in the book is often assumed to be Jan, the neighbor, because she has the same chronic illness as I do (ME/CFS) and her constrained life is basically my life except in a much cooler house, cantilevered over the beautiful Elbow Valley with a view for 200 miles to the snow-capped peaks of Waterton Lakes National Park, which abuts Glacier National Park at the US border. But really, I like Rob the most; he’s the manager/curator of a brand-new Arts Center and museum, which is kind of my dream job. Although often in over his head, and worried about being outed as gay to the potentially violent ranching types who frequent the local bars, he’s so enthusiastic about his job, his friends, his surroundings. I really like people—fictional or otherwise—who have a zest for life and aren’t afraid to show it.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

deadly diamond jayne bk When the Flood Falls is traditionally published, by Dundurn Press of Toronto. My other series, The Maddie Hatter Adventures, are from an indie press—Tyche Books. The advantage of the first, Dundurn Press, is their distribution and their promotion budget. My books were available across Canada the same day they came out, and showing up on library shelves within a couple of weeks too. Dundurn staff monitor social media and amplify all my initiatives, find me interview opportunities beyond my personal sphere, and make sure there’s stock showing up in advance of any bookstore events. I’m also part of a huge stable of mutually supportive authors writing across many different genres.

Tyche Books, the woman-centric Calgary indie, doesn’t have the distribution or the marketing, so most of my sales with them are e-book and I do most of my marketing myself. Another difference is economies of scale the indies can’t access. Not many people realize the production cost differential between a big house’s print runs of 500 or 1000 books, and small/indie orders of 50 or 100. When shipping must be factored in it’s quite possible to lose money on every Maddie book (indie publisher) sold at the same bookstore event where every Falls Mystery (traditional publisher) makes us all money. That’s really a pity, because Tyche Books found a fabulous cover artist for my 3 books with them, and the utterly charming Robin Robinson covers really deserve to be seen by a wider audience. Indie presses live a precarious existence and many deserving publishers—and authors, and books—fall by the wayside due to simple economics.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I started off devoted to architecture, but it’s not a coincidence that my wind-down Netflixxing is often some travel series titled, for example, Great Gardens of Georgian England (if that series truly existed I’d own it!). I still like to have the underpinnings firmly in place, but my stories need those riots of unpredictable blooms, shaded walkways, and patches of overlooked thistles just waiting to snare the unwary reader. Like all the great gardens of Europe, my stories should end with that moment when the gardens open up to a vast landscape in which all things are at once possible and impossibly remote.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Little Women. Jo the teen scribbling in her garret was my role model from early on. I played Jo at our fifth grade Christmas assembly. At the next assembly I was one of Macbeth’s witches, which may have been the early seed of my love of play-readings and my later detour from psychology into theater school.

What writing project are you currently working on?

The editing of the second in The Falls Mysteries (Dundurn, July 2019). In this one, Lacey’s traded her active policing role for the job of care-taking her injured friend. She’s been looking forward to a peaceful foothills Christmas, but between her friend’s terminally ill mother hijacking the holiday to discuss assisted dying, the hunt for a young intern gone missing in a blizzard, and her own flashbacks to last holiday season with her abusive ex, it’s not exactly a winter wonderland she’s walking in. I hope to be finished this book by New Years Eve, when the terrifying climax occurs, so I can send it off to the editor and then go celebrate the end of 2018.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Your process outside the writing has to support your writing process. You need a time, a place, a space—and these have to be mental at least as much as physical. If you’re stressed and/or obsessed with some online or real-life drama, your brain can’t do the deep dives that inform truly compelling fiction. When I’m immersed in the creation of the story’s world, everything I watch or read, every conversation I have, will either deepen my connection to the story or disrupt the themes that are weaving themselves together in my writing brain. It takes daily discipline to keep running your life around a low-gratification, low-pay task like producing a novel that won’t see the light of day for two years and even then might sink unremarked in the vast and ever-growing sea of published books. You must work to keep up the belief that this is all worth it, even if nobody else ever reads your beloved project but you.

Want to learn more about J.E. (Jayne) Barnard and When the Flood Falls? Check out her: Website, Falls Mystery Facebook page, Maddie Hatter Adventures Facebook page, Twitter1 and Twitter2, and Instagram.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of When the Flood Falls and/or purchase a copy of Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond.

Thanks to author Jayne Barnard for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Rebecca Gomez Farrell on January 29, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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“The most important thing we can do is inspire young minds and to advance the kind of science, math and technology education that will help youngsters take us to the next phase of space travel.” – John Glenn, astronaut (and more)

Perhaps it’s because I’m writing some science fiction as the moment, but I’ve been remembering the excitement, not only in the USA, but around the world about space travel when I was younger. I’m not sure anything can take the place of the absolute certainty I felt as a child and young adult that humans would travel not only in our solar system, but among the stars. And like John Glenn, I know the students of today are the ones who must take us into the next phase of space travel.

But long before computers were a way of life, John Glenn trusted a woman, Katherine Johnson, to calculate the mathematics for his flight into space. Never heard of her? Most people haven’t. Here’s a Women’s History Minute video to introduce you to Katherine Johnson.

Still want more? Here’s a link to a little more information about Katherine Johnson from NASA.

Let’s encourage kids to learn more math, science, and technology – and reach for the stars once more.

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I rarely wear a watch. In fact, people who’ve known me for years have never seen a watch strapped to my wrist. Why? Because they always break. I’m not talking about being dropped or smashed or stomped – no, no. The watches just stop working.

I’ve been told by some people my body has too many electrical currents. Hmm. Others have told me that there must be something magnetic about my body. Since I haven’t noticed any nail filings clinging to my ankles, that seems unlikely to me. And then there’s this explanation that’s come from friends, strangers, and family members: fairy blood. It seems according to legend, someone with fairy blood jinxes technology.

I, of course, give no credence to such foolishness. There must be a more logical explanation for why the toaster wouldn’t work today (like many days) when I plugged it in and pushed down the levers – not once, but thrice. Witnessing my dilemma, my husband stepped forward, plugged the wretched toaster in once, pushed down the levers, and it worked perfectly. Argh!

 I’m sure it must have been a coincidence that his afternoon as I awaited a phone call, the house phone went dead. Much to my chagrin, the television in the background lost reception at the same moment. And as my husband used his cell phone to call the land-line telephone company to inform them of the loss of service, I saw we no longer had internet.

The loss of internet service happens often to me. I’ve become practiced in the steps necessary to reboot our router. What to unplug, how long to wait, when to replug. Usually, I go through the steps three to four times before the internet is functioning or I give up. When my husband comes home on those days, he shakes his head and goes through the steps once. Once, and bingo! The internet is perfect, and feel like a fool. Of course today, the internet was dead because the cable was out-of-service. I guess it’s Murphy’s Law.

And I hate to even discuss flashlights. I buy them, put new batteries in them, use them once or twice, and they go dim. The next time I turn them on – they won’t work. I replace the batteries and fiddle with the connectors, but they still won’t work. If flashlights continue to refuse to work for me and the moon isn’t bright enough, I guess I’ll have to start walking the dog in the evening by torch light.

Electrical currents, magnetic body pulses, Murphy’s Law, or fairy blood – technology and I are often at odds. Which brings me to the desk light – the bulb just went out. And so, by the computer screen’s dim glow, I’ll sign off before it, too, is jinxed.

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The third eye, the eye that sees into the mind of another or into the future or past, is often needed when writing a speculative fiction story.

In Science Fiction, it’s common for diverse cultures and alien beings to cross paths. But how do they communicate? A version of the Star Trek universal translator can be employed. I used a translation device in my SF short story, “Pawprints of the Margay.” But that technology isn’t always available in the storyline.

Another SF communication option is to have one or more of the characters able to read minds or sense feelings. An empath (think Star Trek Next Generation’s Troi), a mind-reader, even Spock’s Vulcan mind-meld will all do. The ability to see into another’s thoughts can be a trait of one of the races included in the tale, or a special talent of a select character or group. The singing opossum in my story, “Assassins,” seems to know what is going on in the mind of the central character, Flynn. In this case, the reader is never certain whether an animal third eye is being used, since the point-of-view of the tale doesn’t include the opossum.

In Fantasy, the universal translator is replaced by a wisewoman or wizard character who understands multiple languages (and quite often has special third eye abilities, too). JRR Tolkien’s wizard, Gandalf, and The Lord of the Rings’ elf queen, Galadriel, are examples.  In my story published in UK’s Ethereal Tales, “The Garden Shop,” the main character has the ability to speak and understand the language of plants — certainly an uncommon linguistic talent, but one necessary for this tale.

Sometimes in Fantasy (and SF) there is a Rosetta Stone that serves as a translation device. At other times, a “common” language (or tongue) that all races understand is present. But most often, one or more of the characters has third eye abilities.

In the new anthology from Dark Quest Books, Dragon’s Lure, the dragon in my story, “Weathermaker,” can both send and receive communication by thought. The young woman at the center of the short, May, speaks out-loud. She soon realizes the dragon must be talking to her in mind-speak as well as in an audible voice.

The Residential Aliens anthology, When the Morning Stars Sing, includes my fantasy short, “Blood of the Swan.” Liv, the swan-maiden at the center of this tale has foreknowledge of the arrival of Jorund, the man who comes to ask for her help as a healer. Liv not only has foresight, but also the ability to read some of what is in a person’s mind or heart. And that special ability is intrical to the plot.

Whether called an empath, psychic, mind-melder, thought-reader, swan-maiden, wizard, or dragon — it’s common to find a character with a third eye in speculative fiction. Just take a look at your favorite SF/F tales, and you’ll see what I mean.

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 I just returned from a trip to Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia to visit with family. Along the way, I went to Disney World, and was once again impressed with the imagination and creativity of Walt and his colleagues.

Since my last visit, some of the attractions have been updated to appeal to kids and adults in-tune with the latest technology. One such attraction features Figment, a small purple dragon who flits about and sings a song about Imagination.

Years ago, movable painted sets of a balloon, professor, and of course, the irresistible dragon changed mechanically as cars full of people traveled through the colorful ride. Now, video technology has replaced the mechanical sets. I’m still charmed by Figment and his salute to our senses and imagination, but I miss the workmanship and three-dimensionality of the older version. The newer version of the ride feels sterile and less human somehow.

 So what’s the point of this blog? I think technology is wonderful and technological advances necessary, but believe we need to leave room in our machine-driven world for some simpler things that allow our imaginations to make the leap from real to fantastic.

 One of those simpler things are books. Downloadable eBooks and eShorts are convenient and available wherever there’s internet access, but they can never truly replace the smell of a new book and the sound of its spine as it’s opened for the first time. A picture on the screen cannot wholly replace an illustration skillfully printed on paper. And a beloved tome handed down from grandmother to granddaughter whose worn pages reveal tales of fairies, heroes, lost loves, and, yes, even dragons, will always be more magical than a computer screen.

 I cheer for imagination. I cheer for technology. But I also cheer for hardbound and paperback books which fill our bookshelves, bedside tables, and hungry minds with story.

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