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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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Thanks to speculative author Phoebe Wray for stopping by and sharing her journey as she steps into the unfamiliar shoes of a mystery writer.

Writing My First Mystery-Thriller by Phoebe Wray

WRAY INFORMAL HEADSHOT “In Adam’s Fall, a mystery-thriller just released from Wolfsinger Publishing, is my first attempt at this genre. I’ve been writing futurist-dystopian action-adventure novels and stories for the last six years (pardon the plethora of hyphens) usually classed as science fiction. I had this itch of a story that kept interrupting my thoughts. I wanted to explore what happens in an ordinary, pleasant, small town when the curse of our times – bigotry, racial profiling, and senseless violence — interrupts the birdsong.

I wasn’t sure I could write a mystery. Didn’t it have to have red herrings, complicated villains, and a plot full of twists and turns? Well, yes, but so does science fiction. Police procedure? Again yes, at least some. I had taken an online course on that years ago, and dug out my notes. They weren’t very helpful. I decided to just write the story and then figure out what it was.

Someone murders a beautiful young Muslim woman and leaves the body next to the dumpster in Nikki, my heroine’s, back yard. She stumbles over it early in the morning on a beautiful April day. That’s the start of the sled-ride it becomes.

I worked for many years as a journalist and reporter and the old newspaper mantra is drummed into my brain: Who? What? When? Where? Why? And sometimes, “How?” In this case, mostly “why?” That litany was useful for a mystery. Above all, I believe a mystery-thriller has to make sense, the pieces must finally come together with some logic, even if that logic is hateful.

IAFCover In this novel, the anger, the madness, in the killer escalates, not just with gun violence, but with his hateful racist messages. The bad guy has the severe case of tunnel vision that racists possess and because Nikki is a history teacher with old New England roots, he believes she will agree with his anti-Arab, “take back America” rhetoric. When she doesn’t, he focuses on her, stalking her and attacking the town itself. He sets fire to the local church, sprays racist graffiti on the school, takes pot-shots at the FBI, his acts more random and finally deadly.

In a sense, In Adam’s Fall is a stalking novel but its themes and ideas reflect what we hear on every o’clock news. How do we understand those? How do we confront them? Do we forgive them? The novel was written before the horror of New Town and Colorado. Nikki struggles to understand and to cope with the terror and with the sudden unwelcome celebrity that such incidents bring in their wake.

IAFBackCover(1) I made up the little town where Nikki lives, but it looks suspiciously like the one I live in, as it was when I moved here in 1976. We’ve spiffed up since then, with a new firehouse and police station, but I used the old ones. I manipulated the geography a little, too, but used our street names. Who could resist a heroine who lives on Snake Hill Road?”

For more information on Phoebe Wray, visit her at: http://jemma7729.blogspot.com Her books can be purchase through her publishers: Wolfsinger Publications: http://wolfsingerpubs.com/Intro.html and Dark Quest, LLC: http://darkquestbooks.com and at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/Phoebe-Wray-Amazon

Thanks again to Phoebe Wray for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a try-something-new day!– Vonnie

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Thanks to author Ripley Patton for stopping by and talking about the dark subjects that are often a part of Young Adult books.

Dabbling in the Dark: Addressing difficult issues in YA literature by Ripley Patton

Ripley's author photo “Even though my first young adult book, Ghost Hand, is a paranormal thriller, it still touches on some of the real issues confronting teens today; loss of a parent, feeling like the outcast, dysfunctional families, body image, cutting, and, in general, the dark hurts that lurk inside of each of us.

I’ve heard people complain that YA literature has become too dark. They ask, ‘Why all this gloom, and death, and monster stuff?’ But the truth is stories for children crossing into adulthood (ie fairy tales) have traditionally had a very dark slant, and this well may have been a way of preparing them for the fearful truths of the adult world. Story is a way of giving us a road map to reality.

What I have found is that most modern teens already know that adult world. They’re dabbling in it, or they’ve been forced to live in it long ago, perhaps long before they should have. They are seeking books that touch on the very things they are struggling with or experiencing. So, it bothers me when people try to censor what constitutes YA, or say kids of a certain age shouldn’t be reading work that is dark. If those dark things are happening to kids in the real world, shouldn’t we be empowering them to process that through the amazing meaning-making tool of literature?

Now, I don’t think that you can just toss harsh, dark stuff into a story along with some teenagers and say ‘Viola! I wrote good YA literature.’ I think there are some guidelines, and there is certainly a responsibility we have to our readers.

For example, I once read a YA book where the main character, a girl, violently beat her boyfriend around the face because he wouldn’t tell her what she wanted to know. These two characters were supposed to be in love, and I think perhaps the author was trying to make a statement about domestic violence, and how it can cut both ways. I’m not sure what the point was because the author just left it at that. The girl beat the boy, and later on they made up, and no one ever said anything about it again. The girl didn’t even apologize. When I finished this book, I found myself very upset at the author. Yes, violence like that happens in the real world without any purpose, and teens are certainly experiencing it, but her job as an author, I think, is to give that occurrence meaning in the book and some resolution in the reader’s heart. At the very least, I would have liked to see a character speak to the injustice and wrongness of beating someone you love around the face in a rage. I would have liked her to show how that breaks trust and damages relationship. Because our books are our voices, and I hope those are the kind of things they’ll say to young people.

Ghost Hand cover But it isn’t always easy to say the right things, or even know what the best things are to say with our writerly voices. For example, in the second book of The PSS Chronicles, the one I’m working on now, there are guns. Under-age teenagers wielding guns. And given the recent violent shootings, and the social outcry both for and against gun control, I found myself very uncomfortable when my characters began to take up arms. I actually stopped writing for a while and tried to figure out something else for them to do. But no, they wanted and needed guns for the plot to move forward. So, I decided to let my characters express the very struggle I was having. I gave them that voice. I let them hash out between themselves the issue, with some adamantly against guns and the escalation of violence and others strongly for that means of self-protection. Perhaps, I even needed to write this into my book because it is so in the forefront at the moment. It is something America is dealing with, and so am I, and so are our teens.

I’m not saying that an author or their characters should be preachy. I’m not saying they should say ‘This is right. And this is wrong,’ because, let’s face it, most issues have multiple sides and are more gray than black and white. But I do think we, as authors, should let our characters ask the hard questions. They should do more than act. They should think. And hope. And feel. They should process the very issues we are facing so we can face them together.

This is the magic of reading, of literature and fiction, and why we should never shrink away from the really hard, dark issues.

Because when we read, we are no longer alone.”

To read more about Ripley visit her website: http://www.ripleypatton.com/  Ghost Hand is available on Amazon.  You can also find Ripley on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writerripleypatton  Twitter: @rippatton and Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4340243.Ripley_Patton

Thanks again to Ripley Patton for her guest post. Watch Whimsical Words for more guests, blogs from me, and my new feature, Readers & Writers Recipes. – Vonnie

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