Saturday 25 November 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Pierre Arseneault of Kent Junction, NB, Canada.


Lets welcome Pierre back to the Scribbler.

He’s here to share the SBTS for his contribution to the Spring Paths Anthology.

This is not Pierre’s first visit to the Scribbler and we hope it is not the last.

If you missed his previous posting, please go HERE

Read on my friends.



The youngest of eleven children, Pierre C. Arseneault grew up in the small town of Rogersville, New Brunswick, Canada. As a cartoonist, Pierre was published in over a dozen newspapers. As an author, he has written solo and in collaboration with six titles published so far. Pierre currently lives in New Brunswick, Canada.


Title: Spring Paths (book title) / The Old Belfries Farmhouse (the short story title)


Synopsis: The Belfries farmhouse’s new owners learn their recent purchase has a dark and mysterious past.



The Story Behind the Story: First, I’m going to say that I simply love writing short stories and this anthology series has allowed me to explore other genres without the pressure of fitting in with the other dark tales of a short story collection. In the first book of this series, Autumn Paths, I wrote a drama inspired by the idea of combining a literal and a figurative path. I planted this seed in my imagination and developed it into a story I call The Path to Redemption. The story in the second book, Winter Paths, was a drama-comedy titled Melvin, inspired by something I saw while driving to work. I can’t tell you what I saw without spoilers though, so you’ll need to read the story for yourselves.

Which leads me to the newest in the anthology series, Spring Paths. For this one, I wrote a story that I must label as science fiction. The inspiration for which was my recent infatuation with a certain genre of movies, evidence of this you’ll find in the story itself. I can’t tell you what that means without spoilers, so I’ll refrain from doing so and hope that you go read the story, if you haven’t already. But in case you have not (yet), let me say that it’s a simple story of a young couple who learn about the history of the home they recently purchased and are about to move into. Even if this story isn’t the most original, I’m hoping that I gave it an original take that you’ll enjoy.




A couple questions before you go, Pierre:


Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?

Pierre: I like quiet but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes I need white noise, like the sound of peeper frogs, rain and thunder or ocean waves. Other times I might listen to instrumental music. Be it classical, light jazz, movie soundtracks, etc. It just can’t be something with lyrics as they pull me out of my work and distract me.

As for a setting, since I moved that’s not the easiest at this time. I simply need a space where I can lay out what I need and avoid distractions. Sometimes that can be the office desk or the kitchen island.

As for notes, it depends on what I’m writing. But let’s just say that I’ve tried it all in my short run as a writer. Notes. No notes. Plotting and pantsing or a combination of both. I’m still gathering evidence on what works best for me. So far it varies with the project.


Scribbler: What’s next for Pierre Arseneault, the Author?

Pierre: Next? I have a dramatic novel written and at the publisher right now. Barring any change of plans, it should be titled Carlton. It’s a sequel to the novella which was the last story in my collection titled Sleepless Nights.

I’ve also started a crime thriller but set that aside to collaborate with my friend Angella Cormier on book 3 of the Oakwood Island trilogy. The title of which we will reveal in due time.

For short stories, I’m mulling over a short story idea to submit to an upcoming anthology as the idea simply sounds fun. Also, I’ve already written a sequel to my Winter Paths short story Melvin for the upcoming Summer Paths anthology. It’s a comedy titled The Year of the Goat and I’m looking forward to sharing this one with you all.

Also, I’d love to write sequels to my previous works, but the time isn’t right just yet. So, there are things brewing, in between my day job, life, and obligations.



Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Pierre. The whole Path Series sounds delightful. Wishing you continued success with your writing. 


And another HUGE thank you to our visitors and readers.

Saturday 11 November 2023

The Story Behind the Story with A-M Mawhiney, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.


Photo Credit: Laura Stradiotto.

This week you will meet Anne-Marie, a devoted author, as well as other author's best friend with all her sharing and caring.

She was kind enough to accept my invitation to be our guest.

Please read on my friends. 



A-M: First let me thank you, Allan, for your kind invitation to chat here about my latest book.


I grew up in northern Ontario, mostly in small mining communities, with time in Montreal and Toronto for my university years. In 1980 I came back to Sudbury where I worked at the local university for almost 40 years. My debut novel Spindrifts was shortlisted for the 8th annual Rakuten Kobo emerging Writer Prize and for the Whistler Independent Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the Canadian Book Club Awards, all in 2022. My second novel Spelldrifts was published August 2023.



Title: Spelldrifts



Synopsis: Spelldrifts:  Life has changed at and of Hope in the decades since Earth tipped back to a flourishing biome. People work together, connected through a telepathic network, to keep their planet healthy. Each person develops additional magical powers in their teen years that help them find their place in the community. Saki, Fania’s seventeen-year-old, is adrift – they don’t know yet what their unique abilities are nor how they will contribute to the world. 

Everything changes when Saki discovers a long-buried secret. Faced with strangers intent with destroying everything that is precious, a darkness creeps over the land. The stakes are high, for those who prevail will determine whether Earth survives.



The story behind the story: I had no plans to write a sequel to Spindrifts. But our grandchildren urged me to continue the story. The older one asked that I include a dragon, and the younger requested a wolf. This seemed a daunting task given the world of the Land of Hope in my first book. But over a few months, dreams, thoughts, and ideas intruded, eventually overriding my common sense. I began to write Spelldrifts. One or two enthusiastic suggestions by the grandchildren, used with their permission, have found their way into the story but mostly this book is a creation of my imagination. However, many of the themes remain rooted in our own realities: inclusion, environmental rehabilitation, social issues, respect, and hope.






A couple questions before you go Anne-Marie:


Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


A-M: Writing setting: Although I do have a painting and writing studio it became cluttered with copies of my first book, so I wrote Spelldrifts at a drop-leaf table owned by my paternal grandparents when they first were married in 1926. I am a pantser so many of my scenes were created on walks with my dog Charlie (who, sadly, passed away in July) and in the middle of the night.

Scribbler: What’s next?


A-M: Besides marketing and promoting my books, I have just started a new writing project that is unrelated to the Drifts two-part series. It starts with a high school students on a debate team who don’t get along. When they start to discover what they have in common this overrides their differences and they form a tight bond. After they graduate, they head off in different directions but keep in touch. Then one day a world-wide disaster occurs. The story follows the four main characters on their quest, against all odds, to reunite and help their community survive.




Thank you for being our guest this week, Anne-Marie. Thanks for all you do for your author friends. Wishing you continued success with your writing.




And a HUGE thank you to all our visitors and readers.

Saturday 4 November 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Steve C. Eston of Fredericton, NB, Canada.


Steve is no stranger to the Scribbler, having been our guest several times in the past.

He’s an excellent storyteller and we are happy to have him tell us about his contribution to the Path Anthologies.

If you missed his previous visits, please go HERE.

Read on my friends.



Steve C. Eston is the author of four books: The Burden of the Protector, The Conclave, Deficiency, and The Stranger of Ul Darak (Book 1 of The Lost Tyronian Archives – Available in December 2023).

He has been a lover of the fantastical and the scientific since he was a young boy. He wrote his first story by hand while still in elementary school — a five-page fantasy action/adventure about a tiger-masked ninja fighting mystical monsters that included his own illustrations.

When not spending time with his family, Steve try to make time for one of his numerous hobbies, which include reading, listening to music, playing video games, watching movies, making puzzles, and playing hockey and tennis. He also love to travel and have developed an obsession with New Zealand after traveling there in 2015 (visiting the set of Hobbiton and hiking alone the slopes of Mount Doom may have something to do with it).

For more information on his current writing projects and for free short stories, visit him at



Working Title: Erasing



Synopsis: A young girl and her family try to find an escape when their small village becomes the target of the powerful Sentinels.



The Story Behind the Story: ‘Erasing’ is my contribution to Spring Paths: An Anthology, the third book in the Paths series, which regroups short stories inspired by the four seasons. It continues to be amazing to work with the authors of the Seasonal Collective in putting these books together. I’ve learned a lot from each of them and hope we will keep going for several years to come. At this point, we’re already thinking about the next instalment, Summer Paths.

In each book of the Paths series, I try to create a short piece that complements or expand on one of my publishes books or stories. For example, the events in ‘Erasing’ take place around 10 years before the beginning of my upcoming high fantasy book, ‘The Stranger of Ul Darak’. It is a great story on its own, while providing background information about one of the main characters, as well as showing how powerful and dangerous the Sentinels, a key organisation in the series, are.

Writing side stories  like ‘Erasing’ is a great way for me to explore characters or events that I wouldn’t normally get the chance to discover. I’ve come to cherish and look forward to creating these short pieces.



A question before you go, Steve:

Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere? 

Steve: There is a big difference between the perfect setting, and the reality of my writing. Years ago, I used to have a chair in a corner of our guest bedroom and I would write every morning, between six and seven, closing the door, and putting on headphones. Those were the good old days.

Now, we have moved and added four young children to our family. I do not have a dedicated writing space any longer, and I need to be creative and flexible, balancing writing with my new responsibilities as a parent. I try to be as consistent as I can, and write regularly, even if only for fifteen minutes.

I prefer to write with headphones, listening to instrumental music that fits with the story I’m writing. Movie or video game soundtracks tend to work well for me. For example, I listened to the soundtrack of the movie The Adjustment Bureau while writing ‘Deficiency’, my science fiction thriller. More recently, I used the soundtrack of the movie The Fountain while writing my upcoming high fantasy book, ‘The Stranger of Ul Darak’. I’m also working on a new dark fantasy series and listen to the soundtrack of the Witcher 3 video game while doing so.

I scribble ideas and notes in several notebooks that I keep all over the house, and the cars. I also use my phone, texting myself so I don’t forget ideas that appear, often at the most random of times. When I have a minute, I copy and consolidate everything in a series of documents I keep on my laptop, one for each of the fictional worlds I write into.



Thanks for being our guest this week, Steve. Thanks for being part of the Seasonal Collective. Wishing you a ton of success with the new book coming soon. I am anxious to get my hands on ‘The Stranger of Ul Darak’. 

And a HUGE thank you to our visitors and readers.


****If you are intrigued by Steve’s novel - ‘The Stranger of Ul Darak’ – watch here December 16th for the SBTS of the book.

Mark it in your calendar. 

Saturday 28 October 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Carrie Stanton of Alberta, Canada.


Please welcome Carrie to the Scribbler. It is her first visit and we hope it won’t be the last.

Not only does she write stories, she is also an active reviewer for The Miramichi Reader. She is a kind and generous supporter of her fellow authors.

Read on my friends. 



Carrie Stanton has published two picture books and two chapter books. Emmie and the Fierce Dragon, The Jewel, Beast Bot, and The Gardener. The Jewel is used in schools as a companion to First Nations study. Carrie has a BA from the University of Calgary and is an editor at The Miramichi Reader (TMR). And, like TMR, Carrie is devoted to Canadian Literature. Carrie has two adult children, a daughter-in-law, one grandson, one mother, one husband, and a small white dog who incorporates many personas.

Carrie enjoys writing stories that allow the imagination to blossom. She loves how words can grow wings and transport readers great distances, to worlds where anything is possible.

Carrie is proud that many schools often use her books for classroom study, engagement, and conversation. Her books are local #1 bestsellers, have been staff-picked at Chapters and Indigo, and are loved by parents, teachers, and children globally.

TitlesEmmie and the Fierce Dragon & The Jewel.


The story behind the story: I knew something was going on when I had a cacophony of words inside my head. They were in there rumbling around, loudly causing distractions. 

I decided to sit still, pen in hand, blank pages at the ready, to see what all the mental chaos was about. That’s when the two stories started to evolve. A picture book and a chapter book.  Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Jewel emerged, almost simultaneously. I wrote Emmie and the Fierce Dragon first, then immediately began The Jewel. With The Jewel, I had the story outline but knew I needed to research the setting. The perfect place to do that was at The Glenbow Museum Library and Archives, located in Calgary, the city in which I live. After all, how else could I possibly get an accurate picture of life in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the mid-1800s? Securing a table in the museum’s library, I requested the material I hoped would uncover life during a time unknown to me. Not being allowed to select the diaries, journals, and notes from explorers who recorded their findings of the area, I asked the gloved library attendant if I could go over some of these archived works at my table. Bringing pieces out of the collections kept securely away from seeking hands, I was rewarded with a cache of wonderful and enlightening notes and documents from an era long past. Reading through these carefully written works was absolutely necessary to be able to create the world I wanted to bring alive in The Jewel. Knowing my characters Grey Wolf and Little Bear very well, I had to make certain they were at home in this story. Incorporating the colourful Indigenous life into the adventure story of these two best friends made it historically accurate and vibrant. It is a homage to the beautiful First Nations of the land we now call home. Because of the journals and diaries left by those before me, I could incorporate the backdrop into The Jewel. The added bonus is that renowned Canadian storyteller, poet, and novelist, Lee Maracle, granted me permission to use her grandfather’s words in The Jewel. Chief Dan George’s words are few but striking in the story. I used them with precise care and respected them in the beautiful way they were meant to be honoured.


With both manuscripts ready, I sent them to only one person, Kathryn Cole, managing editor of Second Story Press in Toronto. I knew her reputation was solid as she had been in the publishing business for decades, at that time. Then I held my breath. 

Kathryn Cole responded with a letter saying that she loved both the stories and they should be printed. Their house wasn’t able to do that within their schedule and limitations, but she urged me to keep going. It was at that moment I decided to seek illustrators, professional editors and proofreaders, book designers, and a quality printing house. In other words, if Kathryn Cole, the seasoned children’s book editor had faith in me, I had to get some faith going inside me as well. To my amazement, she offered her words as blurbs on both of the books! 

The first stop was deciding to create the picture book, Emmie and the Fierce Dragon. Who would ever believe that a small girl could help out a town with a serious fierce dragon problem? Still, Emmie sets off with a plan of her own to tame that dragon. How many times in our lives must we be faced with a dilemma that requires each of us to stand tall, be brave, and do the courageous thing with nothing more than our wits and skills? Even if that meant our kneecaps could shake down a hillside? Yes, we must, at any age, face a beast. My daughter, Carly, introduced me to her friend Sonia Leung, a talented watercolour artist whom she felt could do the job of illustrating. After reading the manuscript, Sonia agreed to create the fantastic original watercolour artwork in Emmie and the Fierce Dragon. I loved how Sonia’s work complimented and brought to life the words I had written; I knew this was exactly the road I should be on. Seeing the finished product in Emmie and the Fierce Dragon confirmed this choice was indeed the perfect fit I had been seeking when the jumble of words first appeared in my head. I could now give it a name, and that name is STORY.


Emmie and the Fierce Dragon was the first to be introduced into the marketplace of readers. At the book launch held in Calgary at the city’s oldest book store, Owl’s Nest Books, a friend of Sonia’s, James Pantuso, approached me and offered to do some illustrating for any other book I might have in mind. Well, I did have The Jewel manuscript just waiting for an illustrator. James created the graphic art that is a stunning example of what an artist can do with a black pen and a piece of paper. There was one and only one colour used in that book, purple, and it was used in a very purposeful way. It became a critical part of the story, appearing and disappearing at the right times. James and I have gone on to do more collaborations and I am so proud to have been able to work with such immensely talented artists.  Both Emmie and the Fierce Dragon and The Jewel are Calgary Number One Bestsellers!


Creating the first two books led to two more books. Beast Bot is a chapter book about a passionate inventor who must decide, after the worst happens in his family, if he should continue with his passion or give it up and make some new friends.  Beast Bot is blurbed by Canadian Treasure, poet, storyteller, novelist, and my personal idol, Sheree Fitch. I was over the moon when she agreed to read the manuscript and offer her thoughts in a book blurb. Then, it was reviewed by CBC Books, with host Russell Bowers and Canadian literature advocate and author, Dr. Angie Abdou. The Gardener is my latest release, illustrated by James Pantuso, showcasing his talent with a full-colour extravaganza of pictures and a rhyming singsong story about one’s dreams and imagination, and what happens when those are lost. How can your dreams and imagination possibly be brought back once they are gone? The Gardener will help out with that!



Website: Home | Emmie and the Fierce Dragon



Coffee or tequila: Both if the situation demands it! Coffee to keep fueled and a wee dram of Scotch upon completion of a book.


Music or quiet: Quiet so the story music in my head can storm out and dance onto the paper.

 My desk is a delightful nest of book piles, notebooks, scraps of paper, bits of story ideas, book thoughts, several pairs of glasses, a multitude of pens and ink colours – a general happy conglomeration of perfect disquietude, awaiting my next book adventure, which might be very close on the horizon.



Thank you so much, Allan Hudson, for this wonderful experience with you and The Scribbler! I had a blast!


You are most welcome, Carrie. Wishing you continued success with your writing. 



And a BIG thank you to our readers and visitors.

Monday 23 October 2023

Spring Paths. The wait is finally over!


From the Seasonal Collective comes the third episode of the series. 

We are so-o-o-o-o excited. 

Nine writers – Seasonal Collective - from both sides of the Atlantic, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have created a third miscellany of stories.

One of our collaborators from Great Britain, Angela Wren, sums it up best.

Sometimes, a compelling short story is all you need.

Let our tales of gods, ghosts, alien worlds, mystery, secrecy, love, loss, and horror get under your skin for a while.

Nine North Atlantic writers have collaborated to create this anthology, the third in a series of multi-genre fables that will entertain, possibly unsettle, and cause you to think about the present in which we live.

Curl up on the sofa and allow yourself to be lost in the pages of this fascinating book.

The original series began in 2021 with Autumn Paths. Please take a look HERE.


Read some of the Reviews HERE.

The following year, we introduced the second of the series. 

Winter Paths.

Nine writers – Seasonal Collective - from both sides of the Atlantic, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have created a second miscellany of stories.

From the frozen north, across continents, space and time, these stories will mystify, enlighten, intrigue and perhaps bring a tear to the eye.  With a linking theme of winter - in all its guises - experience the warmth of friendly hearts, find companionship and place, encounter battles, uncover secrets, meet ghosts and witness the strength of maternal love.

There’s a story for everyone in this thrilling new collection.

Discover more HERE.

Paperback is available now if you follow this LINK. eBook to follow soon. Watch here for details.

Meet the Collective.

Pierre Arseneault

Angella Cormier

Chuck Bowie

Sandra Bunting

S. C. Eston

Allan Hudson

Eden Monroe

Gianetta Murray

Angela Wren

Please join us with our tales. Thank you for your support.

Saturday 14 October 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Diana Stevan of Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.


Diana is always a welcome guest on the Scribbler and we are pleased to have her back.

I have had the pleasure of reading Diana’s trilogy of which Paper Roses is the third book in the series.

 Beware – the stories are extremely captivating. You will have to set aside your to-do-list after you open the first pages.

If you missed Diana’s last visit, please go HERE.


Read on my friends.




Diana Stevan likes to joke she’s a Jill of all trades as she’s worked as a family therapist, teacher, librarian, model, actress and sports reporter for CBC television. Her writing credits include newspaper articles, poetry, and a short story in the anthology Escape. She’s also featured in Alex Pearl’s book
100 Ways to Write A Book. Conversations with authors about their working methods.

Her novels cross genres:
A Cry from the Deep, a time-slip romantic mystery/adventure; The Rubber Fence, women’s fiction, inspired by her work on a psychiatric ward; the award-winning Sunflowers Under Fire, historical fiction / family saga based on her Ukrainian grandmother and her family’s life in Russia during WWI; and its sequels Lilacs in the Dust Bowl, and Paper Roses on Stony Mountain, set during the Great Depression in Manitoba and the early years of WWII. The latter novel was on The Miramichi Readers’ List of Best Fiction of 2022.

When Diana isn’t writing, she loves to garden, travel, and read. With their two daughters grown, she lives with her husband Robert on Vancouver Island and West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Working Title: Paper Roses on Stony Mountain

I chose this title because I wanted to maintain a flower theme for Lukia’s Family Saga, a biographical and historical fiction series. The flower theme started with the first book, Sunflowers Under Fire. Since the sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine and my story takes place during WWI, it seemed like a fitting title. The sequel, Lilacs in the Dust Bowl came about because I had a photo of my father holding a bouquet of lilacs in his hands in front of an old barn during the Great Depression. That photo became the cover of the sequel, which also made sense as his family appears for the first time in this novel. And the title of the last book in the series—which, by the way, can be read as a standalone like the other two—came about because while my mother was living with my father in Stony Mountain, she made paper roses to supplement their meagre income.



Synopsis: Paper Roses on Stony Mountain tells the story of how Lukia Mazurec and her family fare as Ukrainian immigrants during the last years of the Great Depression and the early years of World War II in Winnipeg and on the Manitoba prairies.

Lukia’s dream of family unity is crumbling, as one by one her children leave, forcing her to make some hard decisions. Wars, typhus, drought and family losses could not stop her in Ukraine. Will her children’s indifference in Canada finally break her spirit?



The Story Behind the Story: I’ve had quite the journey writing this epic family saga, covering the years from WWI to WWII, 1915-1943. When I wrote the first novel in the series, I thought I was done. But readers were curious as to what happened to Lukia and her family, so I wrote the sequel. Since there was so much to tell and show, I ended up writing the third as well.

My mother loved telling stories about her life. She was a natural oral storyteller, and I’m so  thankful she made sure I knew not only the hardships but also the joys of making lemonade out of the lemons that came her family’s way. I know she’d be pleased I’ve strung her stories into a book, like pearls on a necklace. I’m not sure how my father would feel, as he was a private man. But because he loved my mother deeply and tolerated her openness, I suspect he’d accept what I’ve written and embellished in this historical and biographical fiction.


A couple questions before you go, Diana:

Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?

Diana: I love music, but I prefer quiet when I write. With characters speaking through me and hurrying me along, I have enough sounds running through my head. 😊

First thing in the morning, I head to the computer with a cup of coffee. I keep it at two and switch to tea and water in the afternoon. My desk is not neat. I have to keep tidying it up, as I have a habit of writing notes on scraps of paper and they pile up.


Scribbler: What’s next for Diana Stevan, the Author?

Diana: I’m hoping to launch a book of short stories loosely based on my experience of growing up in rooming houses. I’ve also written a pilot and the second episode for a limited series of Sunflowers Under Fire. With the writers’ strike in Hollywood and everything at a standstill, I don’t hold a lot of hope it’ll be produced. But I started writing screenplays in the 1990s, and had an agent for a while, so I felt compelled to give it a try.


Thank you so much for having me, Allan. Such a pleasure to be on Scribbler.


***It is my pleasure, Diana. I truly enjoy your stories and thank you for those.



Here’s the first chapter from Paper Roses on Stony Mountain:




A Curious Incident

Lukia believed there was nothing like the sun’s glow to dispel the darkest of moods, but despite the warm rays on her skin, she could not shake the feeling of foreboding that had come over her. She stopped weeding the vegetable garden to push some loose strands of hair off her forehead, then stretched her aching back and leaned on her hoe. Her daughter, Dunya, and daughter-in-law, Elena, had their heads down as they hoed the rows nearby. Their laughter over some shared joke punctuated the air, as did the honking of the geese flying overhead. Lukia wished she could share their joy. She should have been working, like them, with renewed vigor. From what she understood from the news reports on the radio, the Depression was nearing its end. A Depression that had given her nothing but grief ever since she’d immigrated with her family to Manitoba in 1929—eight years ago. The hard times weren’t over yet, but rising grain prices meant hope on the horizon. That should have been enough to get Lukia dancing the kolomeyka up and down the rows, but her thoughts were elsewhere.

Her sons continued to quarrel. Egnat’s frustration had grown over Mike’s irresponsibility and his flirting with Elena. His wife had done nothing to encourage Mike, but her gentle nature had charmed the younger brother, who would often make excuses to help her with the children or some domestic chore rather than work alongside his brother in the fields. And then, when he returned drunk from the city with less cash than expected from the sale of their grain or dairy products, there was bound to be a fight. Lukia had lost count of how many times she’d pulled Mike aside to tell him to stop aggravating Egnat, to stop visiting the beer parlour or the bootlegger, to stop entertaining his friends and strangers, and to stop pestering Elena. No matter what she said or how she said it, he didn’t listen.

Lukia stared into the distance, where Egnat sat on the horse-drawn mower, cutting the pasture. He had tolerated so much, and yet he never complained. Even when he had to build his father’s coffin on his thirteenth birthday and help his mother raise his siblings. The problem was Mike was simply too close in age to allow his older brother to be his guide. His horns of envy threatened to tear her family apart.

As if she didn’t have enough grey hairs, there was also the problem of Dunya, who was in love with a poor man. He’d stopped coming around a year ago over some silly argument, but when her daughter ran into him the other day in Winnipeg, she realized she still loved him and broke off her engagement to a Russian fellow, a man of means who worked at the Winnipeg Stock Exchange. Why did Dunya push Sergei aside and give up a chance for a good life? She hoped Dunya would come to her senses. Immersed in thought, Lukia nearly tripped over Puppy, who surprised her by charging out of the cornstalks, kicking up the dust and making her cough.

“Puppy! What’s got you so excited? If you had my worries, you wouldn’t be jumping like that.” She leaned down to pet the collie before watching him scamper off to greet Dunya and Elena. Thrusting the hoe into the soil again, she hacked away at the weeds as if they were hiding the answers to all her problems.


Brooding over her lost love, Dunya brushed her long hair, then sat on her bed in the room she shared with her mother and her niece, Genya. She tried to make sense of what had happened in Winnipeg. Peter should’ve been standing there on the sidewalk when she came out of the jewellery shop. She could have sworn he had been staring at her through the window as she was picking out rings with Sergei. But when she ran out of the shop to talk to him, there was no Peter in sight in any direction.

Confused, she wondered if Peter’s image had been a mirage. Or a sign from God saying it was Peter she should marry, not Sergei, even though Peter had broken up with her six months before. And who was she to argue with God? She told Sergei their engagement was off and left him standing on the sidewalk.

When she returned to the farm, she related this curious incident to her mother. But instead of being understanding, her mother scolded her. First, for breaking off her engagement to a successful man and then, for thinking of eloping without her mother’s or priest’s blessing.

Unabashed, Dunya had shrugged and said, “Why are you so upset? I didn’t get married.”

“Oy,” her mother said. “That’s all you have to say? My God, how have I raised you?”

“I’m sorry, Mama.” Dunya knew better than to argue with her mother.

She said good night to her mother, donned her nightgown, and got down on her knees. After saying the Lord’s Prayer, she asked God for another sign. “If Peter’s the one I’m supposed to marry, have him come back to me.” Satisfied with her request, she climbed into bed and fell asleep thinking of Peter. 


A week later, Dunya decided she couldn’t leave her future up to God alone. Though the day promised to be hot, the kind the English called a scorcher, she went with Egnat in their wagon to Stony Mountain to get some flour and other staples. It was usually her mother who went, but this time Dunya offered to go, as she was hoping to run into Peter, who lived in the village which had a federal penitentiary on the hill leading up to it.

About a mile before the village, they passed the farm where the prisoners toiled. A large work gang in coveralls, their feet bound by chains, were weeding and thinning the crop while a guard on horseback stood watch. A few appeared younger than her. She thought their lives must have been awful if they had to resort to crime to get ahead. She guessed some were dangerous, or else why would they be bound like that and forced to do labour in such a humiliating fashion?

As her brother drove the horses up the hill, past the limestone prison—a massive structure that loomed forbiddingly over the highway and the prairies—Dunya shifted in her seat uncomfortably. There was no escape from the sun beating down on them. Her thighs stuck together in the unbearable heat. She flapped her arms, hoping perspiration wouldn’t stain her dress and spoil her appearance. She thought about what she would say if she ran into Peter. Maybe he would be at Dan Balacko’s General Store, one of two stores in the village. Dan’s was popular with the Ukrainian farmers; the other was William McGimpsey’s, popular with the English. General stores were where locals gossiped and discussed news and politics. She wondered what she should do if she saw Peter there. Should she apologize for her part in their breakup? Should she tell him she thought she saw him looking in the jewellery shop window? Should she say she never really loved her Russian boyfriend and was no longer engaged?

“You’re awfully quiet,” said Egnat as he drove past the penitentiary. “Are you sick?”

If she were being honest, she might have said, sick in love with Peter, but she replied, “No, I’m just thinking. You always complain I talk too much. You should be happy I’m quiet.”

He snorted as he flicked the reins. “You’re right. It’s a nice change when you’re quiet.”

She jutted her chin and looked ahead.

Outside Dan’s store, a couple of farmers stood around an old truck, having a smoke. Egnat stopped to talk to them, while Dunya peered up and down the gravel road, hoping to catch a glimpse of Peter. But all she saw were two cars driving down the main street, which contained the Masonic Lodge, the Canadian Legion, a modern school, and three churches.

She found some shade under the store’s eaves and stood in back of the farmers, who didn’t seem to mind the sun.

Egnat pulled a hand-rolled cigarette from his shirt pocket and lit it. He said to the stout farmer in baggy overalls, “It’s going to be another hot one. I heard on the radio, it’s a record heat wave. How are your crops doing?”

“You know how it is. It looked promising this spring. I thought for sure the hell of the last eight years was past. One good thing, though. We fought the grasshoppers off this time.”

Egnat’s forehead furrowed. “I thought they’d never leave.”

“At least grain prices have gone up,” the elderly farmer said, taking off his battered straw hat to wipe his brow.

“A lot of good that will do,” Egnat said, “if we don’t have any grain worth harvesting.”

The men nodded and took another puff.

The stout farmer nudged the old-timer. “How are you making out with that lady friend of yours?”

“There may be snow on top, but there’s still fire in the old furnace.”

The men laughed. Egnat flicked the ash off his cigarette with his thumbnail, and after ensuring his rollup was no longer lit, put it back in his shirt pocket. The men smiled at Dunya, who took one last look down the street before following her brother into the store.


As usual, the storekeeper, Dan Balacko—a husky young man with dashing features—flirted with her. “Dunya, you’re a sight to behold. You better watch all the fellas.” Dan’s eyes roamed over her figure, stopping at her breasts.

Egnat, always protective, said, “Dunya, I need some help in the back.” 

“I’m low on butter. Can you bring some in soon?” Dan asked Egnat.

“In a day or so,” he replied, before walking away with Dunya. Together, they picked up fifty-pound bags of flour and sugar and carried them out to the wagon. Checking the list she got from her mother, Dunya browsed the store aisles and picked up a box of salt, a cylinder of pepper, a tin of black tea, and a large spool of black cotton thread.

They waited at the counter while Dan recorded their purchases under their family name in his ledger. So far, they were good on their credit. Dan wrote the total on a slip of paper and gave it to Egnat.

Dunya said to Dan, “If you see Peter Klewchuk, tell him Dolly Mazurec was asking about him. You can also tell him she’s no longer engaged.”

“Is that right?” said Dan, grinning. “It’s Dolly now, is it? Damn, if I wasn’t already married …”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Dunya said jokingly. Even if Dan was unattached, she had no interest in him as a potential suitor. He was known as the town wolf. How much of that was true, she didn’t know. But she believed, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. A girl couldn’t be too careful.


Thank you for being our guest once more, Diana. Wishing you tremendous success with your stories.


And thank you Dear Reader & Visitor.