Category Archives: writing

Kelpie Dreams – an excerpt

I’m very proud of KELPIE DREAMS. I wrote this novel with the intention of aiming it directly at Kindle Press – and, thanks to a arduous thirty day Kindle Scout campaign I actually managed to have KELPIE DREAMS selected as a new release for Kindle Press.

That meant a $1500 advance – which came in awfully handy, even though I have already burned it up on paying the bills. It also meant a professional editing of the manuscript – and how was I supposed to know that there was such a thing as a m-dash?


Well, KELPIE DREAMS has been up for pre-order for the last week or so and on May 10, 2016 the e-book will go live on Kindle and folks will be able to pick it up whenever they want to. If you happen to be a member of Kindle Unlimited you can even read the book for free. In fact, you can read most of my books for free that way these days, as I have put almost all of my e-books into Kindle Select.

Well – enough jibber-jabber. I’d like to take a moment here to share the first chapter with you folks. I hope that you enjoy KELPIE DREAMS.


Chapter One—The Color of Mourning

I only wanted to say good-bye. Do you know what I mean by that? I sure don’t. A woman’s last thoughts on this earth really ought to mean something deep and profound, but for some mysterious and inexplicable reason, at this moment all I could really think of was the memory of my mother.

I know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself that it is only natural to think about the woman who brought you into this world at the moment when you are getting prepared to step out of this world. Well, listen—you have to understand that my mother is one of the strangest human beings whom I have ever had the pleasure—as well as the undeniable displeasure—of knowing and sometimes not knowing. My mother always told me that my middle name should have been Hemorrhoid—partly because that was the only true gift that she ever remembers me giving her during my nine months of slowly getting around to being born—but mostly because, as she put it, I was the world’s greatest pain in the butt.

“Hemorrhoid isn’t really any kind of a name,” the delivery doctor had argued with my mother, after she had quietly confided her choice of a name for her firstborn child to approximately half of the hospital’s five and a half floors’ worth of patients and staff in one long lungful of a screaming shout: “Jesus dying nail-palmed Christ almighty, Margaret Hemorrhoid Sally Anne Macbeth—will you just hurry the Hell up and get born!”

“Hemorrhoid really isn’t a name at all,” the delivery doctor told her. “It is more along the lines of a somewhat irritating medical manifestation.”

“I have an Aunt Hermione,” my mother tartly informed the delivery doctor. “That’s close enough to Hemorrhoid, isn’t it?”

Jazz hands, Mom, big-time jazz hands.

“I want to name the child Hemorrhoid,” my mother insisted. “I have the right to, if I want to do so.”

And yes, indeed—that was most definitely the single biggest jazz hands, hallelujah, and please-pass–the caramel-coated-popcorn moment in my entire lifetime.

Thank God and all the saints in heaven that my mother was a stubborn and staunch Catholic and that the attending priest that she had insisted upon being present for the delivery somehow managed to talk my mother out of naming me Hemorrhoid about ten minutes before the final push. I think that his argument might have involved a threat of excommunication and quite possibly her being unfriended and permanently blocked from the Vatican’s Facebook page.

All right – so I lied about that last part. Facebook hadn’t been invented back when that priest was arguing with my mother over my name – still, however he managed to convince her to change her mind, I am eternally grateful to the attending priest. I mean, just think about it. Can you actually imagine spending your entire lifetime constantly spell-checking your own first name? Go ahead—just try to close your eyes and spell h-e-m-o-r-r-h-o-i-d without having to resort to a discreet peek at a medical dictionary. I dare you.

God bless spell-check.


I am not quite sure just exactly why I was thinking about my mother’s peculiar choice in birth names at this particular point in time. It wasn’t like I had lost my mother. I knew exactly where I left her, even though she was certain in her mind that she wasn’t really there, where I had left her, at all.

So where was she?

Depending upon the direction of the wind, she was standing somewhere between forty and sixty years ago in her mind. Either way, she was a whole lot younger and a whole lot prettier and was waiting for my Dad to come home from the war.

Which war, you ask? Well, any war, actually. You just name it. Depending upon the day of the week my mother would tell you that she was waiting for my dad to come home from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or even that little British brew-up in the Falklands. Mind you, my father had never actually served in any of these particular wars. He hadn’t even been a member of the Canadian Armed Forces or any armed forces at all—unless you count the fact that he filled two sleeves in every dress shirt that he ever wore—but he was not a member of any actual army that I have ever heard of.

My mother made up that tiny little itty-bitty detail as well. She has always been a bit of a fabulist—which is a high-faluting, froufrou way of saying that she was a stone-cold, natural liar on any given day of the week—and her deteriorating mental situation at this point was giving way to that whole magnificent stretch-the-truth tendency of hers.

The mind is a wonderfully talented origamist that way. Whenever it wants to it can fold reality into any number of possible permutations and combinations. I do not know everything that there is to know in this life, but I do know this: dementia is God’s greatest practical joke on anyone who has ever meant to get around to sitting down someday and finally, once and for all, writing her own life story down for posterity.

Any publicity rep will tell you—never buy into your own PR.

Now I can hear you thinking that dementia is actually not something to be joked about, but I learned a very long time ago that it was better to laugh about something that you cannot do anything about, rather than breaking down and crying. In fact, when it comes right down to it, tears are nothing more than slow, wet giggles running snail tracks down your cheekbones.

So what was I really waiting for?

I stood on the side of the Lunenburg highway, close to Blue Cove and what the locals refer to as the Lonely Point Lighthouse. The wind was calm and the morning was clear and I could see the distant lighthouse that had given the area its name in the first place.

The lighthouse was actually not on a point but rather a lonely little spit of an island situated just beyond the cove. I believe that at one point the island might actually have been connected to the shore by a thin stretch of low-rising land, but the vagaries of the tidal shift had gradually erased all memories of the earthen connection.

I stood there alone, bathed in the early morning light of a Nova Scotia morning and holding a white-painted wooden picket-cross gently in my left hand, while leaning upon the handle of a slightly rusted garden spade. I know, you are wondering to yourself just what exactly a picket-cross is. Well, it is a cross made out of two wooden fence pickets that I kicked out of my garden fence.

Are you satisfied now?

I probably looked just a little bit like Bram Stoker’s old vampire-hunter, Abraham Van Helsing, in drag or possibly some sort of a strange roadside born-again penitent reverend mother in a tropical print polyester windbreaker and a pair of tangerine dress slacks. I wondered yet again if I shouldn’t have worn black. Black was the color of mourning, wasn’t it? No, not black.

Black was definitely not the color of mourning. Black was a color that was worn by international spies and by people who did not happen to suffer from the lingering embarrassment of dandruff. Black was worn by old school nuns and by Anglican ministers and by the occasional chain-smoking neo-bohemian performance poet.

As far as I was concerned, the color of mourning was neon yellow. You don’t believe me? Just give me a minute and I swear to you that I’ll convert you over from black to yellow thinking. Besides, Abraham Van Helsing was supposed to be a heroic figure, unless maybe you counted Anthony Hopkins’s rather dubious portrayal of the fearless, overeating, flatulent vampire hunter in Francis Ford Coppola’s overrated 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula—and who in her right mind would want to count that?

Don’t listen to the critics. Critics know nothing. Let me just gather my thoughts for a moment, if I might. That might take me just a little bit of doing, kind of like the sort of doing that it would take to sit down and reorganize a yarn ball factory after a large herd of giant kittens had rambled their way through the back stockroom of yarn balls. What was I really doing? I must be freaking crazy. What on earth was I doing out here? I looked again at the wooden picket-cross that I was holding.

I was pretty proud of that picket-cross. I had managed only to bend one single, solitary, ten penny Dollar Store nail and to bang my thumb only twice hammering those fence pickets together. If you did not count the splinters in the heel of my left hand and the toe that I had stubbed when I had kicked those pickets from out of my garden fence, you would almost swear that I actually knew what I was doing.

I wish I knew what I was doing. I looked down at what I had written upon the face of the picket-cross. HAMILTON ARTHUR MACBETH. The name was neatly written in a black indelible marker that I had also purchased at the Dollar Store. I sometimes think that a person can satisfy the logistic demands of her entire lifetime with one concentrated shopping spree at a good-size, well-stocked Dollar Store.

As I said, I was proud of that picket-cross. I hadn’t even misspelled my son’s name. That would have been a terrible sin, now wouldn’t it? Misspelling your own dead son’s name? Now that would have been bad form, indeed.

“Now why in the world did you want to name him after a city?” Mom had asked me repeatedly on the day that I gave birth to Hamilton in the Halifax IWK Grace Hospital. “And why on earth did you have to pick the name Hamilton? At the very least you could have chosen Halifax or New York or Toronto or somewhere decent. I mean, Hamilton isn’t really a city, is it?”

Jazz hands, Mom.

Big-time, Bob Fosse jazz hands.

A battered, primer-red Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser drove by slowly. A woman gawked through her fly-spattered windshield at me, as if she had never seen anyone standing on the side of the road with a homemade picket-fence crucifix in her hand before. I caught a glimpse of her wide country face sporting a set of snowplow jaws that looked as if she had chewed on bubble gum and beef jerky and cases of anabolic steroids for the last twenty-three years or so. I suppose that she could have been admiring the fit of my brand-new tangerine dress slacks and my carefully playful salmon-pink Hello Kitty T-shirt, or maybe she could somehow discern that I had actually lost ten whole pounds in the last three weeks—because grief beats the hell out of Weight Watchers.

She could have been thinking anything at all. Anything was possible when you stop and think about it.

Three weeks ago my life had almost made sense. Three weeks ago my eighteen-year-old son, Hamilton, had still been alive.

I looked out and down at the ocean below me, where Hamilton’s stolen/borrowed neon yellow Audi had smashed directly through the highway guard rail and plummeted over the cliff and down into the deep and cold Atlantic Ocean.

Why had he done it? I didn’t really know.

It was quick, they told me.

“He couldn’t have felt a thing,” the police officer who had come and knocked at my door the morning after my son passed away, had informed me. “That water in March is so cold it would have taken his breath away and stopped his heart, quicker than you could say gesundheit.”

The police officer had kept a straight face while he said it all to me, and I knew that he was just trying to be kind in his own way about a duty that he would rather someone else were doing. I wondered whether there was a workshop on delivering bad news in person that police officers had to take before they were allowed out of the police station and onto the city streets.

I wondered whether he carried a card with a printed response for a situation like this.

I wondered if that hypothetically printed card actually said, “quicker than you could say gesundheit.”

I mean, what else could you say at a time like that? Death often happened this way—quickly, like an unexpected sneeze.

I tried to put myself in his place and imagine just exactly what I would have said to me if I were him, aside from, “Thank God that it happened to you and not me.”

Hi, nice lady. My name is Officer Michael Wallace—and no, I was not actually named after the CBS 60 Minutes newscaster Mike Wallace. I have a pair of squinty blue eyes and a badge and a cracked tooth that almost makes my grin look charming if you did not count the coffee breath and that speck of unchewed lettuce stretched boldly across my yellowing left molar—and oh, by the way, your eighteen-year-old son Hamilton just stole a neon yellow Audi and took it out for a joyride and was hit with a sneezing fit when an unseasonable blackfly flew directly up his right nostril and made him sneeze just before he lost control and rolled that neon yellow Audi around that rusty angle iron of a highway corner—right before he ran that Audi down into the ocean, where he drowned.

But hey—it was quick. “Gesundheit,” I said. I am laughing. I am crying. You can do both of those things if you really want to—or even if you don’t want to. It is a kind of a black and yellow sort of way of doing things. You can call it a study in contrasts, if you will. Sometimes, you can laugh and cry at the very same time, and it is a good thing and it is a bad thing and it is nothing at all.

Of course, any other time the act of laughing and crying at the very same time is not so good a habit to fall into. It tends to confuse the unwary, the young, and the unlearned audience.

A gray-winged herring gull sitting upon a weathered pine stump turned and looked directly at me. He was probably wondering whether I was speaking to him. He might even have been trying to figure out whether he had somehow sneezed without knowing it, thus causing me to say “Gesundheit,” as I had said. He might even have been worried that he was possibly catching a cold and that he ought to stock up on his vitamin C and echinacea.

Or maybe I was just making the whole thing up.

I made my way slowly down the rocky hill, carefully carrying my wooden picket-cross and the spade that I had brought for digging. I felt a little bit like some sort of a one-woman protest march or possibly even a solo wildcat strike aimed directly at the Atlantic Ocean.

Way to go, Norma Rae.

Of course, if Hollywood was ever foolish enough to make a movie based upon my life, I would never have been played by Sally Fields. Sally was far too playful and too mainstream and too narrow-hipped and well-meaning to portray me accurately. Not to mention that she was too darn short. I had always been built along the lines of a tall drink of water.

No, if there were ever to be a movie made out of my life, it would most likely have turned out to be a modestly budgeted, made-for-television movie, and my part would most likely be played by Mariska Hargitay from the tenth season of Law and Order.

Yes, Mariska certainly possessed that necessary somber, thick-haired, exotic gravitas that I always felt I should have possessed in another lifetime or so. Of course, I could have also been played by a Bette Davis or possibly even a pre-Munsters Yvonne De Carlo, although both of them were too darn short.

I wasn’t really all that fussy, come to think of it.

And how did you like that choice of words, anyway?


I always did like that word. Gravitas. It sounded to me like something that you would take for an upset stomach or maybe even a case of sea sickness, which was an apt thought, given that I was getting ready to walk into the ocean.

I looked about me at the rocks and the water. I could hear the sound of seagulls calling out in that screaming happy sob of a song. I could hear the waves rolling and slapping upon the rocks. I could smell the ocean waiting patiently below for my grand entrance. I am ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

And don’t you dare tell me that I am misquoting because anyone can quote something that somebody else already said. It takes style to misquote something in your very own way.

I think somebody else said that before, but don’t quote me on it.

The rocks were slick from the morning damp and the churning waves that rolled and tossed below me. There were clumps of blue-eyed grass and thickets of alder shooting up among the scatter of coastal bric-a-brac. The supple early-spring branches of the alder bushes already bore the small, fluffy catkins that would eventually fall away and grow into buds that would mature into more branches and more leaves and more simpleminded hopefulness. There was order here, amid the apparent chaos. Nature always knew what the hell she was doing.

I wish that I knew what I was doing. What in the name of blue blazing hell was I really doing? It wasn’t as if anyone were really going to get so much as a lousy stinking chance to see this stupid little homemade, rinky-dink, white-painted Red Green picket-cross all the way down here, hidden by the rocks and the waves.

It wasn’t like anyone who actually did somehow manage to see the picket-cross would actually know what the picket-cross was supposed to symbolize in my heart of hearts—and really, how many hearts can one person have?

I wasn’t even sure what the picket-cross—built out of those two white-painted pickets that I had kicked out of my bungalow’s garden fence—was supposed to symbolize. It’s not like I was even all that Christian of a person. I don’t go to church—not even at Easter. I have always believed that Sunday mornings were better spent sipping on a tasteful ceramic bucket of hot, black coffee and gnawing tastefully upon a box of chocolates approximately the size of an economy-class aircraft carrier, nose-deep in my Kindle, most likely reading a fat, spicy romance.

That was just the kind of a person I was. I wasn’t holy. I wasn’t heroic. I was just myself. About the only remarkable thing about me was my name—Lady Cordelia Macbeth.

Yes, I actually do go by my second name, Cordelia. I prefer to be called Dee, but it actually does still say Lady Cordelia Macbeth on my birth certificate and my driver’s license and on my Dalhousie University Master of Library Science degree. With honors.

The name was given to me by my very own mother, who had really wanted to name me Margaret Hemorrhoid Sally Anne Macbeth until, as I already told you, the attending priest had talked her out of it. The name had been her idea, though. Three weeks before going into labor she had spent one entire evening reading three Coles Notes abridgements of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliette, and All’s Well That Ends Well as part of a summer self-improvement plan that she had read about in the pages of a Cosmopolitan magazine. She had actually intended to read four of Shakespeare’s plays, but apparently she had fallen asleep halfway through A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and who could really blame her?

You see, my mother had a theory.

“If I read each of these books aloud during the run of my pregnancy,” my mother had told anyone who cared to listen, “my child will grow up to have an IQ of 365, one point for every day of the year, give or take the occasional leap year. God has given me the gift of a blessed pregnancy, and he has ebbed the flow of my menstrual tide and allowed my egg to seed and flourish, and in return I am going to give the good Lord a son who will grow up to one day become the president of Mensa.”

That’s right. My mother actually wanted to have a son. That was not all that unusual, I suppose. What was truly unusual was the way she constantly reminded me of that fact throughout my first twenty years upon this earth.

The way I figured it, my Mom was born with a permanent case of penis envy, and she was determined to pass that condition down to me as some sort of what-the-freak legacy of my continuingly embarrassing existence.

“Fine,” she said to the attending priest. “If I cannot name my daughter Hemorrhoid, then I will name her Lady Macbeth. Lady is a perfectly good name, isn’t it? I had a dog named Lady once, and she was perfectly fine until a Mary-Kay-pink Winnebago motor home ran her over. And my husband’s last name is Macbeth, so how can that be wrong? That is almost positively biblical, now, isn’t it?”

Sure, Mom. Lady and Macbeth. Walt Disney and William Shakespeare. Big-time, old-school, Al Jolson jazz hands.

It was an absolutely perfect name for a child destined to be picked on and left out and teased mercilessly for the first twelve years of her education.

My father, who had grown up bearing the last name Macbeth and the first name Dane, knew all too well just how often other people would make fun of such a name, had insisted upon adding the name Cordelia to the mix.

Way to stick up for your only daughter, Dad.

“If you have to name her after your dead pet dog and that damnable play,” my father said to my mother, “at the very least, let me name her after my favorite great-aunt.”

“Do you mean that great-aunt of yours who smells vaguely of elderberry tea?” Mom apparently replied. “What kind of a name is that for a man’s daughter?”

You see what she did there, didn’t you? I wasn’t her daughter. I was his daughter. Not that it really mattered. You see, my mother never really cared to listen all that closely to anything that my father had to say.

“You are afraid of life,” Mom often told my father. “I don’t know what I did to deserve a husband like you for all of these years.”

Even on that lonely April morning when my dad had finally had enough of my mother’s constantly bullying ways and had quietly packed a red-plaid suitcase and stood there silently in front of the two of us at the breakfast table over our morning grapefruit and slightly burned whole wheat toast and had quietly told her that he was finally leaving.

Ten minutes after he had closed the door behind himself and walked away, out of my life, I remember my mother turning and looking at me and calmly wondering aloud, “Gee, I wonder just where your father is going to.”

There it is—that trick that she did. That was how she always put it. He was never “her husband.” He was always “my father,” the same way that I was “his daughter.”

Even then, Mom just did not get it at all. Her husband walked out of her life over grapefruit and burned toast, and she simply could not fathom the idea that it might actually have meant something.

Remember what I said about origami and the mind?

As for me, I remember sitting there wearing on my face what I imagine was the single stupidest look that a human being has ever worn. My father’s departure had come as such a surprise that I could not believe it was truly happening. Afterward I experienced an eerie feeling of quiet disbelief—as if my father had never really gone. On some mornings as I lay in my bedroom and listened to my mother shuffling the dishes out of the dishwasher and into the cupboard, I remember feeling as if I had never actually had a father, as if he had never even existed in the first place, like he was some kind of a weird oedipal figment of my overly active and overly educated imagination.

I felt that same way when that young police officer told me that my son, Hamilton, had been killed in that stupid neon yellow Audi. I had been shocked and stunned as if someone had thrown a bucket full of ice water squarely in my face.

I had felt that very same ice-water splash at the church and at the funeral and at the cemetery and over the last three weeks as I had sat on my couch staring at reruns of Judge Judy, Doctor Phil, and Sesame Street, while eating cheap dark chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches by the plateful, all washed down with several tall glasses of cold grape Kool-Aid after the box of red wine had run out.

Who said that daytime television isn’t good for your health? And how in the hell had I managed to lose ten pounds on a diet like that? And then just last night I had awoken from one final dream of splashing cold water, and I had got up from my bed, and I had walked out into the backyard, feeling as if I were sleepwalking while still wide awake.

Then I had stared up at that moon looking down at me, and I had felt something pulling at my heart’s blood. I had deliberately walked into my backyard and over to the garden fence in my pink silk nightgown, and I had kicked two wooden pickets from the fence, stubbing three of my toes and tearing one of my toenails down to the quick and ruining a perfectly good pair of fuzzy pink bunny slippers.

Don’t judge me—or my fuzzy pink bunny slippers. The fuzzy pink bunny slippers had been a gift from one of my students—one of the few honest perks of being a high school librarian. I didn’t get too many apples, and I only ever got one single “World’s Best Librarian” coffee mug, and I got way too many excuses for students not having returned certain books, not to mention the jam-stained and grape-pop-smeared pages of way too many pulpy new adult novels—but I did get a pair of fuzzy pink bunny slippers.

You have got to learn to count your blessings.

I returned to my kitchen, and I fumbled through the kitchen drawers until I found my claw hammer and a jar of ten-penny nails that I had purchased at the Dollar Store, and then I had banged this pathetic picket-fence cross together on my dining room table leaving a dent in the pine wood tabletop that would most likely never heal, and at that exact moment, standing there in the dining room beside the wooden chair that my son would never sit on again, I knew—without really knowing at all—what I was about to do. I knew exactly what I needed to do to wake myself up from out of the walking-dead stupor that I had fallen into since hearing of the death of my only son.

So I had driven out here, and now I stood here in the early morning light of a Lunenburg Lonely Lighthouse Point dawn. Just try to say that five times fast with a mouthful of dry salted popcorn.

I carefully stepped down the hillside, looking for what I believed to be the perfect spot to place my homemade wooden picket cross.

I could see the lighthouse looming in the distant morning haze looking for all the world like a giant up-yours gesture to the waves that crashed upon the beach. I could see what looked to me to be a horse standing calmly beside the lighthouse, so I guess someone actually did live in that lighthouse, which was strange, given that nowadays most of the lighthouses along the Nova Scotia coastline were either automated or simply abandoned.

I was watching the hillside and looking for the proper spot, rather than looking exactly where I was placing my feet.

Which was right before I fell.

The flattened rock that I had just placed my foot upon skidded out from beneath the sole of my sneaker, and then I slid, and I skidded some more, and the skid turned into a tumble, and I tried to catch my footing, and instead of catching my footing I wound up performing a sort of unintentional drunken triple cartwheel down into the Atlantic Ocean.

I am certain that if anyone had been watching, it would have looked as if I had deliberately flung myself down into the water.

I could see the headlines even now.

Bereaved Librarian Mother Clumsily Flings Herself Down into the Atlantic Ocean in a Fit of Stupid Sorrow, Thoughtfully Carrying Along Her Very Own Homemade Picket-Cross Although Neglecting to Leave Behind a Last Will and Testament.

Film at eleven.

Fortunately I had my mouth closed when I hit the water, but then I screamed, and as a result I spoiled that one single bit of good luck. I swallowed about a half of a bathtub full of cold ocean brine.

“Help!” I choked out.

Stupid. Who did I think was actually going to hear me? The lighthouse keeper? The sea gulls? The dirt?

I stood up out of the water. I was dripping wet. I was going to catch myself a cold if I did not quickly finish what I was doing, so I looked around until I found a good spot, safely sheltered from the reach of the tide.

I studied that spot for a few moments. I wanted it to be perfect. This was the last thing that I was going to do on this earth, and I wanted it to be right.

I smiled.

I could see a make-believe memory of Hamilton lying at peace, there in that wave-kissed dirt. I could almost visualize the roll of his shoulders hidden within the granite that poked up out of the mud. I could see the tousle of his permanently comb-resistant hair in the thickets of unruly grass that were scattered in the mud. I could hear his breathing in the rolling waves.

I pushed the picket-cross down into the mud as best I could manage. I leaned my weight on it, and then, when my weight wasn’t enough, I used the flat of the garden spade like a hammer and drove the picket-cross farther down into the mud until it was seated deeply enough that I felt certain that it could not be dislodged by a casual breeze or the scuttling of a wayward hermit crab.

I raised the shovel up over my head.

I did not think it at that time, but I am pretty sure that at that moment I looked more than a little bit like Abraham Van Helsing, driving that last stake down into Mina Harker’s heart—a perfect Bram Stoker moment.


“Damn you!” I swore unexpectedly, knocking the picket-cross down into the mud and biting off those two words like a too-hard, molar-breaking chunk of overcooked peanut brittle.


“Damn you!” I swore again, driving the picket-cross down a little farther into the mud.


“Damn you!” I shouted just as loudly as I could manage.

Then I leaned upon the cross.

The cross did not budge, so I guess that last shovel bang and “damn-you” had done the trick.

I would have liked to have sung a hymn, but as my mother always told me, I could not find the proper key for any song if I were a locksmith—and she was probably right.

I wept for a while, just a little bit. I’d had a lot of practice in weeping over the last three weeks. Maybe that was how I lost those ten pounds. Maybe I had shed ten pounds of tear drops, and maybe I ought to patent this method for losing weight.

I looked around one more time. What else should I do? Should I leave a good-bye note? I didn’t have so much as a single sheet of paper to write on, which was a sad state for a librarian to find herself in, but there you go, now, don’t you? I used the blade of the garden spade like a wood gouge, and I patiently carved “Farewell” into the mud.

All right, so I had intended to carve “Farewell” when I started out, but gouging the letters in the mud wasn’t nearly as easy as it sounds like it would be. So I settled for gouging out the word “Bye,” but I could not for the life of me remember if it should be spelled “By” or “Buy.”

Where the hell was spell-check when you really needed it the most?

I laid the shovel down for the next grieving mother to use. And then I turned and walked calmly out into the deep Atlantic water. This was the very last thing on earth that I was ever going to do, and I was determined to get it right.

“Goodbye,” I said, only there was no one there to hear me—or at least that was what I thought.

Well – that’s Chapter One. If you want to read more of it you’ll just have to order it over at

I will eventually be putting it into paperback format and I will be selling it wherever I am signing my own books – but right now, if you want to read ANYTHING by Steve Vernon I would be most intensely grateful if you would pick up a e-book copy of KELPIE DREAMS. If you read it and like it, PLEASE leave an Amazon review. And tell your friends.

I don’t usually lay it on this thick when it comes to asking folks to buy my books – but this one really counts for a whole lot for me. I really want to work further with the folks at Kindle Press. I believe that they can do a heck of a lot for my career as an indie writer – but first off I need to sell a whole whack of copies of KELPIE DREAMS.

Help me out, would you? I don’t think that you will regret it.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

KELPIE DREAMS – Now Available For Kindle Preorder

I got home from work last night only to find a few tweets, e-mails and a couple of Facebook messages letting me know that my Kindle Scout winning novel, KELPIE DREAMS, was now available for preorder on Kindle.

I can’t tell you just how happy and excited this one makes me feel. It has been a while since I have broken such new ground as this and I am just a little flushed with excitement over the whole notion.

Folks who have been following this blog know that I have already kept a thirty day diary of my Kindle Scout Campaign – from Day 1 to Day 30 which you can read about right here!

I do intend to write a big old blog talking about my experiences between my acceptance and the release of KELPIE DREAMS – but it is not this day!

Today I have got some writing to do. I am about a week or two away from completing a manuscript for my regional publisher – one that will hopefully hit a lot of bookstores here in Nova Scotia.

Then I have already begun roughing out a Kelpie novella to follow up on KELPIE DREAMS.

I want to thank everyone here who nominated KELPIE DREAMS for Kindle Scout and I hope that you enjoy reading that novel – because, for nominating my book you have probably already received your free copy. I have already heard from one of my readers who has read and enjoyed the novel and will release her review in her blog, at Amazon and at Goodreads shortly before the book goes live.

The book will go live on May 10, 2016.

I am so darned pleased and excited.

I would be intensely grateful to anyone who sees fit to preorder KELPIE DREAMS.


That link above is for

My UK readers can preorder it through this link.

My Canadian readers can preorder it through THIS link.

And, lastly – if you happen to be a subscribing member of Kindle Unlimited you can grab this book for free.

I want to thank you folks one more time. I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for your support.


yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


High Diving Writing


Wish me luck. I just submitted my publisher-ready draft to Kindle Press.

If all goes well the good folks who nominated my Kindle Scout Campaign should be receiving their review copies in the next week or two and the book should go live in the first week of May. Hopefully they will be pleased enough with my work to leave a big fat glowing Amazon review.

At least that was the plan.

I remember the first time I jumped off of a diving board. I was taking lessons as an adult, never having to learned to swim. The only problem was, I kept reaching my feet down and touching bottom.

“Maybe you ought to try the deep end of the pool,” my swim instructor suggested. “Try going off the diving board.”

Well, it turned out he was pointing at the low diving board but I climbed on up to the very top of the high diving board – thirty five feet up in the air and jumped off. I remember standing there for about a year or so before I finally worked up the nerve and then I just stepped off of the diving board, plummeted down thirty-five feet and made a resounding splash. Came up kicking and grinning and aching all over. Then I ran up and jumped off again.

Sometimes that is all that a fellow has got to work – just screwing his courage to the sticking point and taking a leap.


Fearless Freep

Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon


All right – so we’re having a HUGE weekend giveaway with free scifi and fantasy and horror e-books from over 90 authors – including my full length gypsy/vampire/mariachi novel GYPSY BLOOD.

April Patty Promo
yours in storytelling,
Steve Vernon

Should I Write Full Time?

This morning I was over on kboards and I came across a thread where a young fellow asked the kboard folks to read one of his stories in order to determine whether or not he ought to write full time.

Here’s how I answered that question.

Funny story.

I used to know this old fellow who played the violin. He had records out and his picture in the newspapers and the Queen even curtsied to him once or twice, or she might just have dropped her hankie.

He told me about this second fellow who walked into his studio one day and begged the old fellow to just listen to him play, just once.

“Just tell me if I am good enough to play professionally,” the second fellow begged.

So the old fellow said okay and he listened while the second fellow played.

Was he any good?

How the heck should I know? Remember, I’m just telling the story here. My ears were nowhere close to the second fellow’s fiddle.

“Was I any good?” the second fellow asked the master violinist, who always preferred to be known that way rather than just calling him “the old fellow”.

“You lack the fire,” the master violinist said.

Well, I guess ten years later that second fellow ran into the master violinist in the street.

No, he wasn’t driving a car when he ran into him. He was just walking and he was grinning ear to ear.

“I want to thank you for telling me that I did not have the fire,” the second fellow said to the master violinist. “I have put away my fiddle and now I work for the tax bureau and I own a house and I have a wife and three fine children and I am happier than ham and eggs.”

The master violinist gently chuckled.

“You need not thank me,” he said. “The truth is I tell that to everybody who plays for me. I always tell them that they lack the fire.”

The second fellow was horrified.

“You rotten-eyed son of a bear,” he swore without swearing. “You told me that and I gave up my fiddle and if I had not listened to you I might be a master fiddle player right about now – or at least a pretty good one.”

“That’s just it,” the master violinist said. “If you DID have the fire you wouldn’t have listened to me in the first place.”


I’m telling the story – not to be a wise guy although I do have a third level black in wise-guy-sery.

I’m just telling it because I’ve been to tell it out for some time now. I’m going to post it up on my blog so that all three of my loyal readers, counting my cat, can read it and chuckle – because a chuckle is better than a cup of coffee to start your day with.

Let’s get serious for a minute.

It would be nice if everyone here read your story and said you were brilliant – and maybe you are – but my advice to you would be to keep on writing the way that you are for awhile. Do NOT give up the day job until you have built up a little bit of a cash mattress in your savings account, like about a year’s worth of expenses. Meanwhile, keep on writing your books.

The REAL barometer that you need pay attention to will be your bank account. If you start seeing three or four pre-decimal-point digits worth of deposit falling into your account from your writing THEN you ought to ask yourself the question you are asking today.

If you go to work and tell your boss what you really think of him right now, odds are you are going to be so stressed out in a month or two when you are writing as fast as you can and collecting up a heap of collections noticing and wondering if you can hook up a hamster to your computer because the power company has pulled the switch…and you are going to suddenly find yourself too stressed to write.

Don’t be in a hurry.

If you are good enough – and LUCKY enough – you will get to where you want to be with your writing.

Think about your first book as being your first date with the most beautiful woman on the planet who knows how to cook. This ISN’T the time to start making forever plans and calling up a caterer and rolling up pennies for an engagement ring.

Take it slow.

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself time and build up a strong back catalogue and then when you have five or six or eighteen or twenty big fat zombie novels (or whatever you decide to write) rolling in those three or four or five digit monthly checks THEN think about pulling that pin.

Most of all just try and have fun with it for a while.


Now let me tell you folks about a time when I asked myself that question.

I was working at a factory job pushing about ten to fifteen thousand boards a day into a double-bladed table saw that was affectionately known as “The Death Machine”.

I mean that it looked like something out of a Roger Corman flick.

Well, I guess I had won myself an Arts Council grant – or it might have been a Canada Council grant – I can’t remember which. I have bagged a couple of each of those over the last forty years and they kind of blur after a while.

Whatever it was, it was about three thousand dollars, which seemed like a lot of money way back then.

Then something bad happened.

I started thinking – which is GENERALLY a bad situation rapidly getting worse.

I decided that I was going to write Harlequin Romances for a living. I had heard that you could get rich by writing them and I figured all that I had to do to pay my bills was to sell about four of them a year. At that point in time Harlequin was putting out a huge amount of books every year so my theory looked plausible on paper.

The only problem was, was that I could not write a Harlequin Romance to save my life. Sooner or later John would be looking at Mary and some swamp monster would come oozing up out of the haunted swamp and this gang of bad-ass bikers would come roaring in town with machine guns blazing and a kamikaze pianist would pedal his piano into down and start banging out show tunes.

Or to sum it up – I sucked at writing romance.

I walked away from the Death Machine and I wrote all summer long and I wound up with a horrifying Harlequin romance that did actually warrant a hand-written rejection letter that along with a whole lot of “There, there dear.” and “Well that wasn’t TOO bad.” basically said what I should have known in the first place.

Don’t be in a hurry to give up your day job.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

PS: if you want a FREE kindle copy of REVENANT – the first book in the TATTERDEMON trilogy – it is on for free today only.

My advice is to grab it while you can.

Plan A


My Writing Picks Up Speed

Over the last week or so I have been focusing upon increasing the speed and the regularity of my writing.

I get up every morning and start writing right away. I try to do a bit more writing throughout the day, depending upon my work schedule – and then, at the end of the evening I might even write a little bit more – although usually I am pooped.

Here is my progress so far.

March 18 – 3000 words

March 19 – 1000 words

March 20 – 1500 words

March 21 – 2000 words

March 22 – 2500 words

March 23 – 1000 words

March 24 – 1000 words

March 25 – 1500 words

March 26 – 1700 words

March 27 – 1300 words

March 28 – 1250 words

That is 17,750 words in 11 days. I am aiming for 50000 words and I intend to have the novel completed by the end of April.

I am not as fast as this guy – but I am determined.

Wish me luck.


And – if you are looking for a little free reading material today – why not grab a copy of my short story, HARRY’S MERMAID?

It is free today – but only today. Grab a copy while you can, give it a read and let me know what you think. I could REALLY use a few more Amazon reviews.

Nag, nag, nag.

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


All right – as many of you folks already know my novel KELPIE DREAMS is going to be published by Kindle Press.

Which means what?

Well, for starters, just this Friday I received an e-mail from Kindle Scout congratulating me upon my acceptance.

Which means that March 11, 2016 is my OFFICIAL date of acceptance to Kindle Press.

The first thing I had to do was to send them my telephone number and a suggested time of contact so that they could get in contact with me over the telephone to discuss any pertinent manners.

I haven’t done that yet. I am still coming in for a landing here, folks.

I also had to update my manuscript, book details and cover – which means that I had to decide whether I was happy with the way the book looked at this moment in time or whether or not it needed to be updated. I opted to update – which is what I was doing all weekend long – which is why I waited until Monday to write this blog entry.

I went through the entire manuscript to make sure that everything was the way that I wanted it to be. I had done this already but I chose to take advantage of this opportunity to reread the whole novel and to tighten the few loose bolts that I found and to slightly tweak the final chapter. To my way of thinking the gods had given me thirty whole days to fall out of love with KELPIE DREAMS. That gave me a wonderful chance to look at the whole manuscript with a cold objective eye.

I signed off on the manuscript, book details and cover last night.

Which means that the next step is to wait while Kindle Scout looks over my manuscript to make sure that there isn’t anything in there that does not fit in to the previously published Kindle Scout Eligibility and Content Guidelines.

I am not worried about that part of it. I paid close attention to those guidelines. I will have no problem whatsoever jumping through that hoop.

After the review is complete I will hear from Kindle Scout regarding the all-important financial details. I am not worried about this part of it, either. I am comfortably signed up with Kindle already. I receive monthly checks from the sales of my other more than forty Kindle e-books – so I am pretty sure I can clear that hoop as well.

Then comes the editing process. The folks at Kindle Scout – or Kindle Press as I probably should be referring to them now – will hand my manuscript off to an editor. That part does not worry me either. I have worked with editors before this and I anticipate no problem getting past this step.

THEN – Kindle Press will set up a pre-order page for KELPIE DREAMS. They will also – and this is the important part – they will send a FREE copy to each and everyone of you folks who actually nominated KELPIE DREAMS. Which means that you will ALL get the opportunity to read and hopefully review KELPIE DREAMS – before the book’s official release date.

That is kind of wicked cool to my way of thinking.

So yes – I am happy!

Thanks for all of your help.

There is no way on this earth that I could have done this without all of your wonderful, wonderful support.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


B.B. Griffith’s Secrets to a Successful Kindle Scout Campaign

Hey folks.

Well, I am now in the waiting stages of my Kindle Scout Campaign. I expect to hear back from Kindle Scout – one way or another – by sometime next week or the week after at the very latest. It is a little nerve-wracking but I have always said that writing is nothing more than waiting misspelled – so I will do my best to hang in there however this plays out.

In the meantime I thought that some you folks – those of you who AREN’T tired of hearing me go on and on and on about Kindle Scout – might like to hear from a couple of other authors on how their Kindle Scout campaigns worked out for them.

Let’s look at B.B. Griffith, first.

I was talking to B.B. just yesterday over at kboards – and if you folks AREN’T following kboards by now what the heck are you waiting for?

B.B. posted this article on the kboards Kindle Scout thread. I was so impressed by his carefully thought analysis that I asked him if he had any plans for this entry and if I might be so bold as to reprint it on my blog – along with proper attribution.

He said sure – so why don’t you folks check out B.B. Griffith’s Amazon Author’s Page or follow his blog or you might even like to actually go and check one of his books out.

This one looks pretty good! It’s got a crow on the cover and I always like crows and besides it is the first in a series and it is FREE – at least for today.

Let’s give a listen to what B.B. Griffith has to tell us, shall we?


BB Campaign


As you can see, they were pretty good, but not outstanding by any means. My split was 68% external, 32% internal. There were fifteen days when I logged zero hours in H&T. I had two five day blocks where basically nobody saw my book. Here are my thoughts now that I’m on the other side of the campaign.

1.)   Don’t sweat H&T and page views.
I think it’s good to hit at least 1000 page views. I don’t know why that is, but I think it’s a good number to shoot for, it rolls over the counter to the “K”s. Don’t worry too much about hitting 2,000. I also think you should spend some time on H&T outside of the beginning and end of the campaign, but don’t worry about maintaining it constantly. I think KS likes to see that you can run a publicity campaign. I think that how powerful that campaign actually is, whether it reaches 100 people or 500 people, is of less concern to them. Unless you can reach 5000 people. In which case I’m not sure you’d be doing this.

2.)   Space out your promo bullets.
I had three bullets in my promo gun. The first was my facebook author page. I sent out a sponsored post to everyone who likes my page (about 350 people). I spent ten bucks to promote it. That was on the 30th and 31st. It bumped me a little, but not a lot. The second bullet was my mailing list. I have about 700 people on that list that I’ve gathered over three years. Nothing crazy, but a good shot. I sent it out on the 6th of February and that kept me H&T for four days or so. Then I fell off again. The last bullet was a promo on my other books. I ran a big promo on some books in my backlist and it pulled people to my website, which had a prominent “VOTE FOR ME” up top. That was on the 20th and got me through the end of the campaign.

3.)   Approach the campaign with the attitude that if KS says no, you could turn around the next day and publish your novel on KDP.

I had a cover artist create my cover, and I had a content editor and two copy editors go over my manuscript. I did everything I normally do to self-publish my books. Only instead of hitting “publish” I submitted it to Scout. Even though they say they’ll edit, I think it’s important to give a completely polished copy to them.

4.)   Backlist and sales history help a lot.

I don’t sell a ton of books just yet, but I do sell some, and I sell consistently. The Sleepwalkers is my seventh book, and my others have reviews that the Kindle Scout people can look at to see if I know what I’m doing or not. I recognize that this isn’t possible for everyone, and that’s frustrating for a lot of people because I think that whether they meant to or not, the initial impression I got from the Kindle Scout program was that it was primarily for first time writers trying to break through, but now it’s getting manuscripts from all over the place, newbies all the way to NYT Bestsellers.

That said, you can definitely get chosen if you don’t have a backlist, but what you need to do is look like you are going to build a backlist. If you don’t have the sales, look like you’re going to make sales. Put together an online presence. This might entail putting together a simple website, or at least a facebook author page. A twitter account doesn’t hurt, either. KS is looking for great books, yes, but they’re also looking for authors that they can get behind. People that won’t quit. Which brings me to my last point.

5.)   Don’t quit.

Writing is hard, and publishing is often harder. Sometimes it seems like there are so many ways to get down about yourself and so few ways to get pumped up, but always remember that the only way you lose is if you stop. It’s all in your court. This is one venue to becoming an author, and I think it’s a pretty good one, but there are others as well. I suggest trying them all and seeing what sticks.


Don’t quit.

That pretty well sums up life – and writing – in general. Life – and writing – is not about how many times you get knocked down. Life – and writing – is about how many times you get back up.

Now, let’s take a look at how Cindy Rinaman Marsch got knocked down by the failure of her Kindle Scout and how she got right back on her feet and turned it around into an indie publishing victory.

But to do that I am going to have to point you over to the blog of the ALLIANCE OF INDEPENDENT AUTHORS or ALLI for short – on account of it would be poor form to simply just copy and paste that blog article.

All I have to say is kudos for Cindy for turning that defeat into a victory. I know that we are going to hear an awful lot from her in the future.


Lastly, I’d like to post my own final chart of Kindle Scout statistics – not so much as to compare them to undeniably successful B.B. Griffiths who has cleared the bar and is running his victory lap even while I type this sentence – but just in the interest of keeping the record straight.

So here are my big orange bars.

March 5 2016

That’s a total of 572 hours on the Hot & Trending list and exactly 1700 views – which is an awful lot.

I can’t wait to see how this is all going to turn out.

Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon


Thirty days.

A fellow can do an awful lot in thirty days.

He can write a novel. Learn to climb mountains. Learn to yodel. Learn how to fall.

I am swinging in the breeze awaiting the final judgement from the Gods of Kindle Scout. I have already sacrificed a small suckling bologna and the seventeen young matchsticks that it took to light the barbecue to sacrifice it with. I have spoken to the crows and I have cast a prayer into the earless wind.

Now comes the waiting.

It usually takes Kindle Scout anywhere from two days to a week or so to make their decision, from what I have seen so far. That isn’t a whole lot of time to wait and really, what else am I doing with my time?

I am looking forward to getting back to my writing.

No matter how hard I tried over the last thirty days, the campaigning definitely took its toll on my writing as a whole.

So what would I do with the advance money if I get lucky enough to win it?

Well, not much, really. Pay down some debt and a couple of bills. The one treat I have promised myself is a Kindle e-reader. As a nominator I have accumulated quite a few Kindle Scout books over the last few months and I would like to get to reading some of them.

What will I do if I do NOT get accepted by Kindle Scout?

Plan A

I’ll publish it myself and soldier on.

That is what an indie-writer does at the end of the day.

We write.

We wait.

We dream.

And we write some more.

I am thinking about signing up for April’s CAMP NANOWRIMO!

In the meantime I am looking at a YA novel that I have been tinkering with for a while. I’m also starting to map out a plan for the next book in the Kelpie series. I also have a few public appearances coming out in the next two or three months.

Mostly, I intend to keep the faith.

Never stop believing.


Thanks to everyone who believed enough in KELPIE DREAMS to go and nominate it. I appreciate all of the good faith that you have sent me. God bless you all.

Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon


This is my last day – and I feel like a contestant in a dance marathon being asked to leave the dance floor. A part of me says oh god, I’m not done yet, I can dance harder. A part of me says – oh thank god, my feet are killing me.

Dance Marathon

I’ll have a blog up tomorrow and maybe even a guest-blog in between then and now – and I intend to keep my eye on Kindle Scout no matter how this final decision works out.

Let’s take a look at the big orange bars.

March 3 2016

That’s 548 hours in the Hot & Trending. Like I keep saying – it doesn’t mean a WHOLE lot but I still cannot help but grin when I look at those big orange bars. Maybe I was a big fat old bumblebee in another lifetime.

Old bold bumblebee

On the other hand when I look at those charts I see the 1639 views – and to me that represents a whole lot. That is an AWFUL lot of people who took a look at my work and for that I am INTENSELY grateful.

Like I said, I will post again tomorrow with the final figures.

I figure that I should hear from the Gods of Kindle Scout by the end of next week or so. It isn’t a long wait, but I expect to be a little bit nervous.

Thanks again to everyone who helped out.


LAST DAY – LAST CHANCE – PLEASE HELP ME win a Kindle Scout publishing contract by nominating my book and you can earn a FREE Kindle copy of my newest novel KELPIE DREAMS if the book is selected.

Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon