UNIVERSE INSIDE YOUR HEART

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Today, we have an excerpt from one of our original writers, Erica Roberts. She shares with us a part of her novel written for the first NaNoWriMo that she participated in at the Carleton Place Public Library. Can’t wait to read more! (Get on that self-publishing, Erica!)

An excerpt from Universe Inside Your Heart, written during the April 2014 NaNoWriMo session

Waking up in someone else’s body

Clarissa’s head was pounding, her stomach ached quite a bit, and the inside of her mouth felt like it was covered in sawdust. She thought of the term she’d heard several times in the movies describing the horrible way people sometimes felt after a night at the bar: hangover. She certainly had a hangover.

Clarissa managed to yank herself out of bed, and then headed toward Heather’s closet. She couldn’t wear the same clothes she’d had on the day before, which were currently lying in a messy heap at the foot of her bed, because people at the office had likely seen Heather wearing them earlier in the day, before Clarissa had taken over her body. Instead, Clarissa selected a navy blue jacket and a navy skirt that looked almost exactly like the gray set from the previous day, and another white blouse. She figured wearing the same shoes wouldn’t hurt. However, she did remember that before she got dressed, she needed to have a shower.

Clarissa found Heather’s shower small and uncomfortable compared to the large one at the McAdams house, but she got the job done, and then found a blow-dryer to dry her hair. This was a much harder job for Clarissa than it was when she was herself, because Heather had so much more hair. After she finished, Clarissa put on the clothes she’d picked out, and wondered what to do about makeup. She didn’t think Heather wore much, but she saw a tube of lip gloss lying on Heather’s dresser, so she put some of that on, and a bit of mascara, too, applying it as best as she could. She opted to leave her hair down, because that was how Heather’s hair had been when they’d met on the bench in front of the law firm. Clarissa couldn’t believe that was just one day ago, going by time in the real world, anyway. Oh, how things had changed since then!

Clarissa wasn’t sure how she was going to pull off being a paralegal, but she was going to give it her best shot. She thought that it couldn’t be that hard, since she was quite a good student, and she believed that most of the tasks paralegals did just involved paperwork anyway. She guessed that all the papers she needed for that day were in her briefcase, so as she put her shoes on to head out the door, she made sure to grab it.

Clarissa didn’t know if Heather usually walked to the firm or took the bus partway, but she walked, since she didn’t know where Heather’s bus pass was, if she even had one. To really get into her role as Heather, she decided to stop at the Second Cup across from the office building to buy a coffee before going in, just like Heather normally did. After she purchased it, Clarissa was suddenly hit with the semi-distressing thought that she hadn’t packed a lunch, assuming paralegals even got lunch breaks, and she also realized she had no idea what her boss looked like. She looked in Heather’s purse, thinking there might be a cell phone in there, on which she could do an internet search for her firm, but she didn’t find one. Drat, she thought. I’ll just have to guess. It’s probably a man.

An epic coffee spill

Clarissa then looked at her watch and realized she was going to be late if she didn’t hurry. She sprint-walked the rest of the way to her building, darting inside the main doors and almost running toward the open elevator. She got to it just as its doors were starting to close, nearly knocking a man over as she entered. Glaring at her, the man let out a slight groaning noise. Next, to Clarissa’s horror, her coffee flew out the hole in the lid of her cup and landed all over some incredibly grouchy-looking lady’s white blouse. “Oh my God,” the wiry, auburn-haired lady almost shrieked. “I have to defend a client this morning. Someone help me get this off!”

The man passed her a tissue, and the lady started frantically wiping at her blouse. “Heather, I need to see you in my office as soon as we get up there,” she said, her teeth clenched. “We need to talk.” With that, Clarissa felt as if her stomach had dropped to her knees. This was someone who knew her. This woman could be one of her coworkers, but with the tone she was using, it sounded as if she might be her boss.

“Yes,” Clarissa replied as politely as possible, not using a name because she didn’t know the woman’s name.

After the group of three exited the elevator and the man turned down a hallway to the left, Clarissa followed the woman with the coffee on her blouse down a hallway to the right, feeling like she was headed toward the guillotine. She followed her all the way into a small office which had Lesley Kelford, Lawyer inscribed on the door. It was seeming more and more likely that this woman was her boss.

“Heather, I don’t want to get too angry with you, because you’re a good employee,” Lesley began, shuffling some papers on her desk. “But I need you to be more careful. You knew that I have to go to court later for the Hawkins case, and I cannot walk into a courtroom and successfully spare my client jail time with coffee all over the front of my brand-new blouse.” Now, there was no doubt in Clarissa’s mind that Lesley was her boss. The young girl’s knees started to feel a bit weak.

“I’m so sorry,” Clarissa said, yet again at a loss for any additional words. “It won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Okay,” Lesley said sternly. “Now, I’m going to have to go to the Rideau Centre and buy myself a new blouse, so I need you to hold down the fort until I get back. Take this, please, and if Jason Hawkins calls, tell him I’ll get back to him in a few minutes. You have the Ashbury file prepared, right? I’m meeting with Ashbury this afternoon, so I’d like it on my desk when I return. Anyway, I’ve got to run. See you in a bit.” Lesley handed Heather a thick folder and hurried out the door, leaving a faint perfume scent behind her.

A not-so-calming candle

Clarissa didn’t know where Heather’s desk was, so she just stayed in Lesley’s desk for the time being. She was actually starting to freak out a little bit. She didn’t know who this Jason Hawkins was, or even this Ashbury, and where was the latter’s file? She opened Heather’s briefcase, and found a bunch more folders. The second one from the top, fortunately, said “Kenneth Ashbury” on the front. However, after Clarissa looked at all the information within it, she still hadn’t the faintest clue who he was and what it all meant. She didn’t think Heather had finished working on the file, since Clarissa had taken over her body when the evening was still young, but she didn’t know how she would finish the work for Heather if she had to.

Interrupting Clarissa’s confusion, a call came in on Lesley’s landline. Clarissa got nervous and let it ring without answering it. She was worried that people would have legal questions for her and she would have no idea what to say. She wished she was at least a few years older, and had taken a high school law class, and then she’d be able to fake being a paralegal better. One of her old neighbours in Toronto had taken law in Grade 12, and Clarissa had seen her big, thick textbook, but she hadn’t had the chance or really, the desire, to look inside.

Clarissa noticed that there was a candle on the desk in front of her, a good few inches from the neatly stacked paperwork. It was pink, and when Clarissa held it to her nose, it smelled like flowers. She guessed that Lesley used it to calm herself down, since she appeared to be quite an uptight person. Maybe that will help me, Clarissa thought. She wondered if there were any matches nearby. She started poking around in the desk drawers, mostly finding pens, elastic bands, and extra paper, but eventually, in the back right corner of the smallest drawer, she struck gold by putting her hands on a small box of matches.

Clarissa had recently learned to use matches, so she struck one of them up to light the candle with. She assumed it was okay for her to light the candle, because if it wasn’t, why would it even be there? After she lit it, she thought the flame was a bit too high, but that was nothing a bit of water couldn’t fix. She decided to head to the bathroom to get some. She’d just drip a few drops on the candle, and then the flame would decrease in scope, she figured.

Clarissa grabbed a mug that she spotted on Lesley’s shelf and headed toward the bathroom. As she walked through the office, she noticed several women in desks facing each other, working away on their computers. One of the desks, which Clarissa supposed was likely hers, was empty. None of the ladies even turned their eyes toward her as she went by. After Clarissa ran one of the bathroom taps for about 10 seconds to fill the mug with water, she headed back in the direction she had come from. However, as she entered the open workspace again, the women were no longer tapping away. Instead, some of them had their heads up, and they looked quite alarmed. One was wrinkling her nose.

“I think there might be something burning in Lesley’s office,” a tall, thin, red-haired woman said. “I don’t know what it could be. I know she used to burn that candle, but I thought she stopped lighting it because it was a fire hazard.”

“Uh-oh,” Clarissa said in an almost inaudible tone. Her stomach dropped all the way down to her knees again. Knowing she had no other choice, she willed herself to open Lesley’s door, which she’d left ajar. What she saw stopped her dead in her tracks. Lesley’s entire desk, still covered in neat piles of important files, was on fire. It seemed that even the wood was starting to burn!

“Fire!” Clarissa screamed. “Fire!” Instead of making a mad dash out of the building as she expected they might, all the women who had been working nearby came to join her at Lesley’s door, shocked to see so many flames.

A woman with short black hair grabbed the fire extinguisher from the common room’s wall and started spraying the flames, while shielding her eyes. Luckily, the flames were extinguished quite quickly, but all that remained of Lesley’s files was a pile of charcoal rubbish, and her desk looked like it had been barbecued. However, the partially burned candle in its glass holder was still intact, and seemed to stare at Clarissa mockingly.

“You burned the candle?” the red-haired woman asked incredulously. “You knew that was a hazard. Lesley told us all at the meeting last week that she was going to quit doing it!”

“I… forgot,” Clarissa stammered. All of her colleagues gave her strange looks, and she could tell some of them didn’t believe her.

The big dismissal

As if out of nowhere, Lesley all of a sudden materialized behind the group. “What in the devil is going on here?” she asked. “Why is the fire extinguisher out?”

“Heather lit your candle and started a fire,” said another blonde, who’d been quiet up until that point.

Lesley’s eyes flashed with rage. “What?! Heather, we’ve been over this. I told all of you just last week that the candle is a hazard. I haven’t even been lighting it myself! How much damage has been done?” She stepped forward and her eyes became saucers as she looked at all her destroyed files, plus her charbroiled desk. “Heather Agnew, pack your things and get out of my office,” she said, in a tone of voice that was quiet, but still effectively communicated the rage she must have been feeling. “You’re fired!”

 

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What It’s Like to Write

writingToday, we’d like to share a piece written by another member of our CP Library Writers’ Group.  Sharon Holzscherer has self-published one novel, PATTERNS OF DISORDER (available now on Amazon.com), and is currently working on her next piece, hopefully to come in the near future. She shares with us what it’s like for her to write.

Being an author is amazing.  The best part is that you get to create a world.  No longer do you have to think about how you could have made that movie better or given a character a more interesting motivation.  You are now the creator.  You can bring people to life.  You can create new places or show your own particular viewpoint of an existing place.  And you can make anything happen.  Well, almost.

You see, you start from this position of supreme power.  Everything is potential.  You can do anything until you start to write.  And then a curious thing happens.  At least it does to me.  I lose control of the book.  The people whom I brought into existence take over.  They tell me, “You can’t make me say that because I would not say that.  I have to stay true to who I am.”  The creator can only stand by and watch (and type) as the creations write their own story.  And it may not go as I want.

This is particularly difficult for me since I write mystery/conspiracy books.  Inevitably, for the sake of the story, someone must die.  So now we have the other side of the coin.  I have the power to create someone but I am also responsible for that character’s death.  It is hard to imagine how traumatic this is for me.  When I am writing, the story becomes more real than my life around me.  (This may be why meals around the house are rather sporatic and random when I’m writing!)  The people in the book invade my thoughts and dreams.  And I know them better than my best friends or family, because I not only gave birth to them but I created their personalities.  Something which parents might wish to do but actually have little control over.  And then I kill one of my creations.  Even if I have known from the start that this person was created solely to die, it is very difficult.  I have procrastinated sometimes for days so that I don’t have to write the scene.  You see, if I don’t write the scene, the person is not dead.

These are the twisted thoughts of a writer.  It is amazing.  And scary.  And tragic.  But I wouldn’t change a thing.  So I hereby apologize to all those whom I must kill.  Sacrifices must be made for the sake of the story.

Go ahead and sacrifice, Sharon. We’re waiting for more!

 

A few words from Wayne…

Los Angeles

One of our group has offered up a glimpse into his writing world this week. Isn’t that exciting?  Here is an excerpt from Wayne’s work-in-progress called, “My First Trip”.

 

I don’t recall the plant guys telling me anything about the riots.  I was so busy doing my own thing that I never paid much attention to them all bunched up around a television set.  I just wanted to get some sleep.  At this time in the morning there normally would have been some light traffic going past the refinery, but once again mine was the only vehicle on the road.  However, after I drove a couple of blocks, I noticed a police car waiting for me to pass, immediately after I went by, it pulled out behind me and followed me for a couple of blocks.  Right after it turned off, another police car would again fall in behind me.  This happened all the way back to the hotel, perhaps the plant guys were looking out for me after all.

Things settled down in LA after that day and we got back to work.   The refinery expanded the crew so they could cover a 24/7 shift.  Graham came down to help me out.  The rotor was removed and set in a stand just before sunrise.  Graham and I were evaluating the damage and recording our findings.  There was a bright halogen light behind me and I could feel its pleasant heat through my clothes.  The sun was also rising and that was heating my back as well.  But something seemed unusual, the heat was increasing far too fast.  At first I thought the light was falling on me.  When I turned to check the light, I was facing the refinery flare.  The top was about 200 feet above me, it looked like a giant candle, white liquid was flowing down like wax and flames were desperately trying to catch up to the liquid.  The flame was at least twice the height of the flare.  The liquid fell to the ground and the flames seemed to pounce on each puddle like a cat catching a mouse.   People were yelling to get out of the area.  Others were running out to the road, many headed downhill, but there was a LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) tank down there; Graham and I ran straight out along another road, and many others followed us..

When we considered we were safe we stopped and looked back at the flare.  Except for some small flames on the guy wires and small fires burning on the ground and roofs, it was back to normal.  The flare flame was about half the height of the flare pipe.

We wandered back to the job, a roll call was taken to account for everyone.  It was some time before we could settle back into our work.  One of our techs was up on top of the HRSG, he was probably only 150 feet from the flames, and the stairs to go down brought him closer to the flames.  He was seriously considering jumping rather than burning to death, but as he went down the shape of HSRG shaded him from the flames and the heat.  There were others techs in a workshop at the front of the turbine, it was the closest building to the flare.  The gas liquid fell on the roof of the building and all over the parking area between the building and the turbine.  The workers inside the building feared for their lives, but they made the right decision to stay inside the building.  Luckily no one was hurt.  And also luckily there was very limited damage.  The flare was inspected and continued in use for several days.

Later I heard that an operator didn’t check the gauges before he pumped about 15,000 gallons of gas to the full flare holding tank.  That fire burned 15,000 gallons of gasoline in about three minutes.

Needless to say, the talk for the rest of that week was about the fire.  On Saturday we went to Red Lobster for dinner.  While I was returning to our table, I notice those little hanging signs they have at Red Lobster were all moving.  I really didn’t feel much because I was walking, but the guys sitting in the booth were all excited because they had never experienced an earthquake before.

Quite a trip!

 

Feel free to leave Wayne a comment!

 

Kingston Writer’s Fest!

logoLocal area writers, bloggers, and readers should mark their calendars and get their tickets now for the Kingston Writers Fest happening in Kingston, Ontario from Sept. 28 – Oct. 2/16. There are so many amazing authors, musicians, bloggers, poets, and more who will be there to take part in workshops, presentations, and book events. This is always such an amazing few days for people who write, or who love books, and a great opportunity for those of us from smaller communities to schmooze with the big names in the Canadian literary world.

Most events require tickets, and the workshops tend to fill up first, so if you’re interested in anything, you should purchase your tickets right away.  There will be authors like Emma Donoghue, Y.S. Lee, Helen Humphreys, and more. And as always, Kingston promises some amazing entertainment to go along with the festival, from the McGarrigle Sisters, to Sarah Harmer.

Maybe some of our CP Library Writers will be able to attend!

Looking for something good to read?

Our own Erica Roberts writes for a website called ‘The Mindful Word’, and often does book reviews. If you’re looking for something interesting to finish up the summer, how about BIKING ACROSS AMERICA : MY COAST-TO-COAST ADVENTURE AND THE PEOPLE I MET ALONG THE WAY by Paul Stutzman?

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Check out Erica’s previously posted on The Mindful Word and see if it’s something you might enjoy reading, too!

PATTERNS OF DISORDER

Group member, Sharon Holzscherer, recently published her first novel, PATTERNS OF DISORDER.  Not only is this a big thing for her, it’s also a wonderful accomplishment for a member of our library group. We’re so proud of Sharon, and can’t wait until she is ready to release her next one!

51y22LEWRDL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_With an extensive background in education, and education reform, Sharon drew on her knowledge to create a suspenseful and action packed thriller. Here is the description on Amazon:

Are children just being active children or is there something more happening? Peter Marcus looks through volumes of data to find patterns. That is his job. But recently the pattern that is emerging has an ominous hue. Scientists studying aspects of childhood learning disabilities are being manipulated all over the world. Some are turning up dead. Pulled unwillingly from his secure lab isharon1nto a secret world of powerful forces, violent methods, and unlimited resources, Marcus is swept deeper into a nightmare. Patterns of Disorder illuminates the power of one person’s obsession and the dangerous unforeseen results. More than just a novel of murder and conspiracy, this book raises fundamental issues about the direction of humanity.

 

Recently, Sharon held a book launch at the Carleton Place Public Library, where she did a reading from the book, answered questions about the process, and signed books for delighted attendees. It was wonderful to hear all about the process of writing, through to the struggle to self-publish, and I know many from our group will be looking to her for answers when they are ready to publish their own works.

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You can purchase a copy of PATTERNS OF DISORDER on Amazon.ca. Just click the link to be taken directly there. It’s a fascinating and exciting book, and as always, if you enjoy it, please leave a review!

This has been a great year for our writing group, and we hope to continue it with many more announcements like this book launch.