Musings on the Art of Writing

As a child, I discovered fantastic worlds created in books. When I began writing about the worlds of my own imagination, I realized how hard authors work to set their characters free to live for our enjoyment. This blog will explore that weird and wonderful process.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Mystery of the Crusader's Cross

Years ago, I wrote this mystery after watching a TV series about the crusaders of the Dark Ages.  I wanted to explore how history might affect a young girl living in a British castle.  As my Mom slipped into dementia, she seemed to enjoy my books for young people so I dug out the manuscript and polished it up.

When King Richard's knight rides into Guillaume Castle, Lady Mercia who is twelve, abandons her school lessons to find out why.  She marvels at the Crusader's Cross he's brought.  She even touches the holy relic, a wooden cross covered with gold lace.  When the Baron's wife, Lady Eleanor, faints and the cross vanishes, a squire accuses Mercy of stealing it.  She has to prove her innocence!

She isn't the only one who gathered around the Baron when the cross disappears.  So she sneaks around the caste to discover who may have taken it.  However, someone does not want her to learn the truth and tries to stop her.

“That’s my girl,” I whispered.  In my imagination, my falcon, Fleta, dove into the flock of starlings.  Talons outstretched, she snatched a bird from the air.  Her triumphant kree echoed in my ears as she swooped to my gauntleted hand.
“Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant!” 
Father Matthew’s voice ended my daydream.  I glanced at the priest.  He peered down at the little ones, his eyes an angry black beneath bushy brows.  My own Latin lesson, barely started, was scribbled on the slate laying on my lap.  
It was hot.  Too hot for Latin.  Too hot to listen to Father Matthew’s dronings.
I leaned against the stone of the great hall’s open window.  My legs dangled over the ledge brushing the ivy creeping there.  A warm, August breeze twirled the dust in the castle’s bailey.  One of the palisade guards, Jean, I think, moped his brow, setting aside his iron helm to let the warm wind cool him. 
“Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant,” I heard Richard repeat.  Father Matthew huffed and with a swish of his black robes, moved on.
Through shimmers of heat rising from the courtyard, I saw the stooped figure of Delwyn standing on the mural tower.  He had just released Lady Eleanor’s peregrine falcon.  Duchess soared above the palisade.  I watched her circle upward.  Latin left me with the excited flutter of her wings.  Down she dove. 
“Lady Mercia, have you finished your lesson already?”  Father Matthew glared down at me.  He reminded me of Dru, Baron Guillaume’s goshawk.  “Or are we daydreaming, again?”

If you wish to read more of Chapter I, click here.  To purchase your own copy, click here.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Mystery at the Fringe

I originally wrote this book for 8 to 12 year olds in 1994 when my daughter was ten and her brother, seventeen.  We lived in Edmonton at the time and enjoyed the Fringe Festival.  When our son busked during this two weeks of off-the-wall entertainment, it gave me an idea for a children's mystery.

Sam Spada, PI, is eleven years old and know all there is to know about being a detective.  At Edmonton's Fringe Festival, a crime takes place and she is on the job.  After talking to all the suspects enjoying the festival, she thinks she knows who did it.  But, she must conquer her one fears to confront the culprit.

Samantha Spadavecchio is the name and I've got my act together in spades.  Sam Spade.  You see I'm a detective.  A private investigator.  I don't carry a gun, like the PIs on TV; I just use my wits.

Tell it like it is; I always say and I'm good.

My life as a PI began the boring summer my best friend went east to Toronto.  I was eleven and had nothing to do but watch TV all day, every day.  Mom soon put the kibosh on that.  Then Mrs. P., an old lady down the street, lost her cat.  I was 'on the job'.  I found the orange tabby huddled under Miranda's porch.  It gook a can of tuna to get the silly thing out.  Mrs. P. gave me two whole dollars.  Hey, easy money.

That's when I decided to solve all the mysteries in Edmonton and make a fortune.  And a fortune earned is a fortune spent, I always say.

That's how Sam Spada, Private Investigating Agency, was born.  I was Sam Spada, of course.  My brother's old fort behind the garage became our office.  We spent hours playing cards waiting for a case.  But, our first case did not come to us.  We saw it happen!

If you wish to read the rest of Chapter 1, click here.  To purchase your own copy, click here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

What Can We Do At The Zoo?

I guess my last post was really a penultimate posting.  I had thought I was done with my published material but, after struggling valiantly to get the CreateSpace software to work, I finally finished a picture book using photos I'd take in three different zoos.  My grandson, Miles, requested a book he could read and this is what came into my mind.  He and his brother, Elijah, appear in some of the photos.

Sometimes going to the zoo to see animals is boring.  Are there any other things you can do at the zoo?  You can feed giraffes, see meerkats guarding their homes, watch a porcupine tough his toes, and eat ice cream.

Should you wish to own a copy, you can order it here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

White Crane

A little late posting my final publication effort as life got in the way of blog posts.  'Twas ever thus.

White Crane is an historical fantasy set in the distant past designed for teens but could also be enjoyed by adults.

The spirits of her ancestors haunt White Crane as she fights against the traditions of the tribe.  She does not want to marry and move away.  The elders fear her white hair and her ability to talk to those in the spirit world.  When she performs a forbidden dance, they ban her from the tribal gathering.  This allows her to search for her uncle who has been kidnapped.  Joining White Crane is a young hunter called Wolfwillow who has magic of his own.  Together, they face an enemy not of this earth.

Amazon reviews:

Meghan Schmidt -- White Crane is a very fast paced, fun read for all ages.  The imagery along with the history of the tribal customs and legends makes it easy to get lost in its pages.  It also challenges traditional gender roles and would be a great read for both young girls and boys alike.  It was a truly enjoyable experience.  Highly recommended.  5 stars.

bookloverlynda -- I enjoyed White Crane very much.  The author possesses a vivid imagination and allows us to see her vision of this challenging landscape and its creatures.  The fascinating history associated with the tribal customs was interwoven nicely into a fast-paced plot.  4 stars

She stands perched on the edge of Dragon Country with a coyote at her side.  He sniffs the prairie breeze that fluffs her white hair.  She watches the black smudge on the horizon.  It roils in the wind.  Plumes of grey billow upward, mixing with the sky's fluffy clouds.  The darkness blossoms like a thunderstorm; lighting flashes within its depths.

The coyote whines as the blackness douses the sun.  He nudges her leg but she cannot move.  Fear freezes her.

Then the winds wail toward her, tearing at the fringe of her tunic.  The red bears of her mother's needle appear to flee front the onslaught.  The coyote presses himself against her legs.

The blackness twists like a giant tornado.  It twirls across the prairie sucking everything into its shadows.  She shears the scream of the gale as it descends upon her but Earth Mother holds her close.  She will protect them both as rain pummels their bodies.

Then, with wet hair clinging to her cheeks, the dark, whirling cloud swallows her up.  Wrenched from Earth Mother's embrace, she twists upward in the wind.  The coyote howls.  She opens her mouth to scream.  Her breath is sucked from her.

If you wish to read the rest of Chapter I, click here.  To purchase your own copy, click here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Sceptre of Terran-Gayle

As promised here is the second book I've self-published.  Although this one spent many years under a literary agent's watchful eye, it only sparked the interest of one publisher who, upon reflection, declined to print it.

The Spectre of Terran-Gayle is an historical fantasy fiction designed for young adults (14 years and older).

All his life, Geri has been tormented by dreams.  This day is no different.  Upon waking, he faces the horror being a half-blind cripple, unwanted by his father, and living in a land raped by its king.  As he strikes out on his own, Geri fears the world will see him as nothing more than a beggar on the streets of Nynamarg.

"So you saw him, Isa, my love."  Her blood-red nails stroked the neck of the black falcon.  "How could my plague have missed such a misbegotten cur?"

She set the bird on a porch of twisted iron.  The bells jingled on Isa's leather jesses.  Then the woman paced the chamber, the hem of her red silk dress rustling across the flagstones.  Stopping at the window, she pushed back the leaded casements.  Isa fluffed her feathers as the crisp mountain air flowed in.  Snow still whitened the peaks around the castle.  The woman gazed down through the falling flakes to where the tower met the mountain.  Embedded in the rock face was a s small circular window, barred with a crosshatch of iron.

"You distracted me.  That why this boy lives.  May you rot in there forever!"  The word, forever, echoed back to mock her.  "Better yet--."

She drew a black wand from the pocket of her gown and pointed it at the grate.  A ribbon of ice-green magic zigzagged through its slats.  The man's wail haunted the mountains.

"He'll remember that for hours to come."

To read the rest of the first chapter, click here.  To purchase this book, click here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Shelfie selfie

I love photography and in my travel blog and Shutterfly website, you can see my pictures.  I've never posted a picture here until now.  A Facebook friend of mine (also an author) suggested posing with a book you've written with a book case in the background.  I've lots of books and even have a small room designated as a library but felt it was easier to do the 'shoot' while sitting at my office desk.  I'm not a great one for being in photos nor do I do 'selfies' (pictures taken of yourself, by yourself).  What you see is my first attempt.

Taking the photo made me realize I am the worst when it comes to self-promotion, be it my photography or my writing.  Other than a few posts on Twitter and Facebook, I haven't promoted any of my books.  I've never walked into a bookstore and asked for shelf space.  I've never gone to conferences and hocked my books.  Most who meet me don't even know I'm a writer.

I think it is time to change that.  I'll begin with baby steps.  The next few posts will be excerpts from my books.  I'll begin with the first one I self-published, The Quest of Balthasar.  This is a speculative fiction novel for young adults (14 years and over).

Prince Balthasar (Tarr) of Lochnaera, haunted by the grizzly deaths of his parents, searches the galaxy for a legendary ring to bring peace to his planet and fulfill the promise made to his dying father.

Tarr groaned as his battered body smashed the stones.  Blood oozed from his crumpled nose and the pungent smoke of the dungeon cell stung his swollen eyes.

"You no good swine," the jailer cursed.  "Yah deserve to die."  The slobbering Mystragaellan guard slammed his foot onto the small of Tarr's back.  "But there is others who wants yah first.  That there Hunter has his dibs, he does."

The Hunter.  Tarr shuddered.  Always The Hunter nipping at his heels.  Now the Black Pirate had caught up with him.

A steel-capped toe flipped the Lochnaeran like a helpless turtle.  Tarr cooked his arms over his lacerated face.

"Scrofata-swine," the jailer spat.  Tarr huffed as the boot bit into his gut.  "Yah ain't good for nothing. Not stealing.  Not slaving.  Nothing!"

To read the rest of the first chapter, click here.  To purchase the book, click here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

We All Do It

We overuse simple words.  In conversations with others, it doesn't matter.  Spoken words are fleeting and unless a word is repeated often, no one remembers you used the same one five minutes ago.  Not so with writing (unless you're writing dialogue where you can be more repetitive if it suits the character).

Words I  cut from the first draft of this opening paragraph:

get away with

The first draft read:

Just about everyone overuses simple words.  In conversations with others, it really doesn't matter.  Spoken words are fleeting and unless a word is repeated often, no one remembers that you used the very same one five minutes ago.  Not so with writing (unless you are writing dialogue where you can get away with more repetition if it suits the character).

Other overused words are:


If you're writing fiction, the following often creep into your writing.

looks like

We all have favourite words which we overuse.  I once used the word 'roil' three times in one chapter.  My husband decided it had to go.  A good editor will help your writing flow but you should be aware of these words as you work on your second draft (and yes, every piece of writing should be read and corrected).

A good way to check the necessity of a word is to read the sentence and omit it.  Does that change the meaning?  If not, the offending word can go.