Saturday, 27 September 2014

Guest Author Sarah Butland - An excerpt from Blood Day

Sarah Butland was born in Ontario, the year was 1982. She moved to New Brunswick for over 15 years and now resides at home in Nova Scotia, Canada. Butland has been married to her high school sweetheart and has a superstar son named William, and a cat named Russ who all make her house a home.
Blood Day 

I've always been told we all bleed red, take breaths, and die if poisoned so I often wondered why I wasn't dead yet. 

A pot of live bouganvilleas was set in the center of my white marble coffee table in the middle of the stark-white room. The contrast between the white and the deep red of the flowers was exactly what I had envisioned since I was a little girl. I just didn't realize I'd actually see it in my very own house.

When I was a young girl I had discovered my love for contrasts and couldn't ever conform to what society expected. Each foster family I had visited or lived with, as they'd say, labeled me with no originality. I was either a challenge, a handful, difficult, or trouble because I refused to be typical. Something inside always convinced me I wasn't, so I tried my best to be different.

It wasn't that I didn't want to get along with at least some of my foster families, it just didn't happen. Most of the families I was moved into reminded me of “Leave it to Beaver” when I was more the “Family Guy” type.

Years of rejection for being myself only strengthened my resolve and character. I guess I'm thankful for that, but often wonder where I'd be without all of those complications. Each scar on my left arm was representative of a new family – upright or corrupt; the ones on my right leg, friendships which could have been had I been someone else. I stopped before I had to move on to my left leg with the decision that friendships no longer mattered. That was when I was 24.

I reached out and broke a single flower from its group and methodically touched each of its stems thorns with the tip of my index finger. Staring with concentrated effort as each pricked my finger, broke through my skin but drew no blood. Still, on my 28th birthday my fluid wouldn't drain and I had to wonder why I was told my birthday was so special.

With memory sharp and detailed I recalled the legend told to me of what I was and who I  would be. Each birthday I tested the myth and each year I was more confused and distraught than the last. I tried to end my life on many occasions knowing what I may have been missing out on and with each failed attempt I anticipated more the future. If my life was so important to continue to live there must be something waiting for me to do and yet I had no idea what it was.

Veronica, you are to cherish each teardrop, every drop of spilled blood and your memory most of all. We both wish we could stay but it's our destiny to leave you and we cannot disagree with what the universe has told.”

They were the only words I ever really listened to. They were the only words said so distinctly, with such concern and concentration from my birth parents. The moment I could write I wrote them and the first I could type I saved them to my computer but neither action was necessary. They were committed to memory like nothing else. Of course, I learned in school and was at the top of most classes to the complete confusion of everyone involved. They never could decide if I was cheating, intelligent but rebellious or what. I liked the “or what” the most.

In high school I was the one who got along with everyone but befriended no one; the quiet one who did as she was told except for when it came to gym class. Never one to dress or undress with others I always forgot my change of clothes, energy and took on my “attitude” that was rarely seen at school. Failing gym class became my thing, even more so than surpassing everyone's expectations in art. My paintings, pastels and photographs often had everyone talking even more about me and my disturbing behavior but had the student body, even teachers, envious of my vision for beauty.

It wasn't surprising to anyone that I became a full-time interior designer and writer in my free time. Buying, re-decorating, renovating and reselling old houses was my main income and it never failed to impress me that buyers would see past my own personality and buy the house for what they could make of it. Real estate agents constantly suggested I put everything away, leave the house empty or stage it with their own suggestions so I never listed with them. I rarely followed tradition even though my parents implied that I should.

It puzzled me for all my 28 years, minus a few months because my parents waited till then to tell me. Strange how most kids don't remember their early years even when those are the most important years of their life. Learning to walk, talk and eat are key essentials to being human but so is who to trust, love and respect but the latter are things forgotten. Sometimes, often really, I wondered if I was human but then my heart would break, I'd feel the need for success no matter who I stepped on to do it and craved chocolate just like the books told me a human female would. Nothing else, besides my memory and lack of bleeding screamed unearthly.

No one sat me down to explain that I was supposed to bleed regularly every month so it never crossed my mind that it was weird that I never did. My feminine parts grew as did everyone else's and I thought this natural.

Another year of guessing, searching and reshuffling furniture but at least this year I'd be spending most of it in the home of my dreams. This particular house would not be sold again as I immediately felt connected with it. Even when the walls were egg-shell, the couches a boring beige and the lighting too bright and all wrong. The lights were the first things to go, most of them being taken out completely while others were changed to cast only a shadow on the few items in the room.

Ma'am? Ma'am?” I turned to find a mover about to tap me on the shoulder and I stepped back to ask him what he wanted.

We're done here. Fastest job our men have ever had, really. Lightest, too. Are you sure we're not forgetting something?”

You may be but nothing that I left behind. Everything is here and as it should be. The rest I can take care of. Let me get my money clip. Please wait on the step and I'll be right out.”

That's not necessary, ma'am. We were already paid and...”

Do as I say and I'll reward you handsomely.” Those words were rarely said and never failed to have the listener respond accordingly. They were the easiest words I could get off my tongue as I knew I'd be alone soon after.

As I made my way upstairs to the guest room I looked over all of the others. It wasn't a large house but some would say it was too big for one person. Instead I thought it the perfect size and paid 10% more than the asking price once I saw it. This ensured I was able to move in the same day, eager to finally be settled, to have a place of my very own. Even with the few pieces of furniture, for example the guest bedroom was made up of only a futon, a wardrobe and a shelf filled with vases of deep red bouganvilleas, the house gave me no impression of being too much for me.

I reached into the middle flower pot and retrieved an old coin left to me by my parents. There were a handful of these that I dragged from place to place and still really didn't understand the value of them. I just liked seeing the eyes of the people receiving them light up in surprise. I held it carefully in my hand as I envisioned the workers and slowly counted to four as I made my way down the spiral staircase. When I opened the door and saw the four men standing on the porch I opened my clenched fist.

The men stared down at the four coins now resting in my hand and each were nervous to take one. I was as grateful as I was nervous about their comments continuing about my long sleeves in the sweltering heat. Although I mainly dressed completely from neck and wrist to ankle, the temperature never seemed to bother me. I often thought I was cold-blooded but that could only be true if I confirmed I even had blood to be cold.

The men cautiously took what I was offering and disappeared into their trucks and down the road. Standing for a minute to take in my neighbourhood of trees, fields and flowers, I concluded it was soon time to plant my garden. Of course I'd hire some help for the mandatory lawn maintenance but the weeding, planting and digging would be my pleasure. That afternoon I planned to visit the local nursery, which, by road, was twenty minutes away. Pure seclusion was what I thrived on, what I always craved so something I often rewarded myself with.

Turning, I closed the front door and made my way to the family room where I knew there would never be a family. At least not of the traditional sense. Catching my reflection in the full length mirror I caught my breath, startled at what I saw.
Thank you Sarah for sharing an excerpt of your story. Read the rest of Blood Day which is available at You can discover more about Sarah at
I am so excited to announce that next week on the 4Q Interview you will get to meet one of the greatest new voices in jazz, Kitty LaRoar from London, England.


Friday, 19 September 2014

Meet JJ Cale, a musician's musician.

His real name is John Weldon Cale. You won’t find too much information about JJ on the Internet, a very private man.  He shunned the glitz and glamor of fame. If JJ Cale is such an obscure musician, how do people discover his music? My guess is it spreads by “word of mouth”. I tell someone, they tell someone, etc. JJ Cale is one of the finest, smoothest guitar players to ever pick up an axe. He is one of the originators that created the “Tulsa sound”. Here’s a quote I read somewhere, In 2013 Neil Young remarked that of all the musicians he had ever heard, J.J. Cale and Jimi Hendrix were the two best electric guitar players.[


Here’s the first sample of his music. I have many favorites but Magnolia from the Naturally album is the finest love song ever written. It is a special song for my wife Gloria and I.

I can distinctly remember the first time I heard him singing 36 years ago. It started like this;
My son Adam was only two then. He was playing in a small park with several other children around the neighborhood where his mother and I were playing tennis. The two asphalt courts were enclosed by firm wire strung on tall metal posts. The fence was composed of two inch diamond shaped openings, the kind that was big enough to stick the toe of a pointed shoe through. There was an opening about three feet wide on each side at center court. The playground was on the opposite side from where we were playing Adam had something exciting to tell us and instead of going around the court, he did like any kid with something hot on his mind would do.

He entered the court from the opposite side from us where another couple about our age was playing. He hugged the fence trying to avoid the running man but the running man didn’t see the little boy. When he moved back to return a lobby from his girlfriend, the man knocked the little boy to the ground. Turmoil ensued. Everyone was concerned about the lad who by now was sitting on the tarmac rubbing his head, cuddled by a concerned mother. The man was overcome with apprehension for Adam even though he was not at fault. He was kind enough to follow up with us over the next several days regarding Adam’s wellbeing.

Adam suffered a minor concussion and had to wear a hockey helmet to playschool for two weeks to protect his head. I can remember him leaving the house in the morning, tiny body, big helmet and shiny brown eyes filled with mischief and glee. The incident lead to a brief friendship with the couple. It’s been so long ago that I can’t remember their names. One evening, the man and his wife invited us out for a drive in his bosses’ new car, a 1978 Thunderbird which had a tiny back seat and an eight track player. (For those too young to know what an eight track is, well, you’ll have to look it up) The music that was playing was JJ Cale’s first album, Naturally, recorded in 1972. I have been in love with his music since.

This is one of  my favorite JJ Cale tunes, Right Down Here from the Really disc. 1972.

 Here's another one I really like. The River Runs Deep
 And another.


By 1978, JJ Cale had recorded three other albums as well. Troubadour – 1976. Okie – 1974. Really – 1973. I went out in the next few weeks and bought them all. Over the years I owned every album, I bought every eight track when they were popular. When cassettes took over, I bought each one again. When CDs became popular I’m proud to say I own every CD JJ has recorded.

His songs were covered by dozens of well-known musicians, most notably Eric Clapton. In fact it was Clapton that first brought attention to Mr. Cale by recording JJ’s song, After Midnight which was recorded in 1970 on Eric Clapton’s debut album as a solo artist. But the song that made Clapton famous was another of Cale’s rockers, Cocaine. Covered on Clapton’s Slowhand album in 1977. Other artists that have covered JJ’s music are, Santana (Sensitive Kind), Waylon Jennings (Clyde), Lynyrd Skynyrd (Call me The Breeze), John Mayer, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Captain Beefheart, The Allman Brothers, Jerry Garcia, The Band, Chet Atkins, Freddie King, Beck, Band of Horses, Jose Feliciano, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Lee Fields, Deep Purple, Widespread Panic, John Mayall.


Best cover ever



Trying to fit Cale into one genre of music would be akin to trying to hammer a peg into a board with only five shapes and none of them are ten sided.  He’s laid back, bluesy, jazzy, rock, rockabilly, country, and forever soulful. He was a man that just wanted to write music. He only had one hit that made it to number 22 on the American top forty in 1972, Crazy Mama from the Naturally album. There are twenty-one albums altogether. The last solo album was Roll On recorded in 2009. He and Eric Clapton recorded a duet album called Road to Escondido in 2006 which won a Grammy Award for best blues album.


He was married to Christine Lakeland, a musician featured on most of his albums. He was born in Oklahoma City on December 5th, 1938. He died in Los Angeles on July 26th, 2013. A tribute album has just been released by Eric Clapton and friends titled Call me the Breeze.


You won’t be sorry if you buy any of his albums. I can’t imagine not having JJ’s music around.

You can learn more about him here;

Official site:


A sample of his awesome guitar work.**** Guitar Man

Please join me next week when I will be posting an excerpt from guest author Sarah Butland's short story, Blood Day.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Guest Author Connie Cook - Fish Girl

 This is Connie Cook's third visit to the South Branch Scribbler .  Her delightful short stories have been published by and Pacific Magazine of Australia. She lives in Port Credit Ontario with her two black cats. I am anxiously awaiting to read her novel, The King of Swords.

Darcy gritted her teeth, sharpened her knife and prepared to slice through flesh. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d done it, nor would it be the last. In fact, she was a pro when it came to gutting and filleting, the fastest with a blade in her family. As she poised the point along the belly, her father’s voice interrupted.

“Darcy girl, you’ve a real gift with the knife. I’ve seen men in the business for years, and they aren’t near as talented as you.”

She felt and heard his voice, brimming with pride as he patted her on the shoulder.” Not only that, it was a good charter today. The customers were happy with the catch, got some great pictures and left a sizeable tip, enough to take you, your mom and me out for dinner. Fancy a nice meal out?” he asked.

“Thanks dad, but I have some studies to catch up on, perhaps another time. Take Mom out, she deserves it, and it’s been a while since you’ve both had a night on the town. ”

She glanced up and caught the concerned look on his sea weathered face, wrinkled at an early age from too many years in the sun and salt air, recognized the worry in his clear blue eyes. She knew part of it had to do with the increase in charter fishing competition, lower catches, keeping to quotas outlined by the ministry of fish and game. But she also knew he felt guilty at keeping his only daughter tied to working on his boat. After all, she was the cheapest labor he could find, and it was the only way to keep his business afloat.

“Dad, you go, I’ll finish up here. No worries.”

“I’ll pay you back one day, you know that.” His voice was husky. “Besides, you’ll never know what you might find in that salmon’s belly, finders keepers.”

Darcy giggled, “Ya right Dad. Yesterday I found a cigarette butt and a white plastic tip from one of those small cigars. It gave me a whole new perspective on smoked salmon.” She was relieved when he laughed. It had been a long time since she’d heard that sound from him. “So get going and let me get on with my work.”

The sound of the door closing was a blessed thing. She didn’t want him to see her like this. Tears rimmed her eyes, threatening to spill. At twenty years old, she wanted to be long gone from the rugged, uncertainty of fishing charters. She wanted a life, any life that didn’t reek of FISH. Her friends from high school called her fishgirl in fun. Whenever she went out socially, she doused herself with eau de cologne, but the nickname still stuck. Her only reprieve was online university courses and looking at a life outside, somewhere in the distant future.

She looked at the forty pound salmon on the table, eyes glazed in death, scales shimmering under the fluorescent lighting as it lay on the stainless steel table in the prep room. “You’re caught, just like me,” she murmured. “The only difference is the metal hook that reeled you in as you fought for freedom. Hell I don’t even fight. I just do as I’m told, to keep peace in the family and try to respect my father.”

Darcy hesitated before slicing the belly of the fish open. She’d done it hundreds, thousands of times before, but this time it felt different.  With surgical precision, she made the cut and sliced from stem to stern. There’s no spurting blood when you cut into a dead fish. The entrails spilled open and as she scooped them out small yellow sticky eggs still teeming with life filled her hands. She dropped her knife. Damn this fish had been pregnant.  But salmon go upstream to spawn. What the hell was she doing down here? Perhaps she was lost, just like her. The earlier tears now spilled freely down her cheeks.

“Get a grip,” she admonished herself. “There’s no time for mourning over a dead fish.” Still she held the eggs in her hands, clutched them and watched the life in them wane.   It was too late for them.  Maybe it wasn’t too late for her.

 She found a notepad and a pen, scrawled a message and signed her name. She took the filleting knife and stabbed it through the note, pinning it to the salmon.  Her Dad would find it in the morning.

Darcy went home and packed her suitcase.

 The message simply read “the one that got away.”

Thanks Connie for sharing your short story. Connie can be found on Facebook as Connie Lynn. Her short stories can be viewed at 
Please join me next week when I pay tribute to my all time favorite musician, JJ Cale. Covered by many famous artists, JJ still remains unknown to the general populace. Unfortunately, Mr. Cale passed away last year in July, but his music will live forever.
On September 7th, my novel Dark Side of a Promise was successfully launched in Moncton, New Brunswick. It was a fantastic evening, many friends and family, a few strangers and so many best wishes.
An article in today's Moncton Times and Transcript.

Friday, 5 September 2014

4Q Interview with award winning author Susan Toy

Susan Toy is a published author who splits her time between Canada and the Caribbean. Her novel, Island in the Clouds, and her short story works has garnered exceptional reviews. A tremendous supporter of her fellow authors, she works unselfishly to make sure others are noticed. She was a guest author here at the Scribbler in May with her amusing story, Fifty Ways to Lose Your Liver. She has agreed to answer questions today on the 4Q. Her web site is listed below.

4Q: How did a Canadian gal end up on the tiny island of Bequia?

ST: We were living in the Canadian west when we decided it was time to begin taking tropical holidays. Like everyone else west of Winnipeg, we first travelled to Hawaii. It was okay, but the next time we tried Martinique in the Caribbean. Better than Hawaii, but still too touristy. I was working in a bookstore at the time and asked a customer who I knew had travelled extensively in the Caribbean what her favourite island was.

“Bequia!” she said. “I was only there for three days but I loved it.” Since I was in a bookstore, I began looking through travel guides and couldn’t find much information at all about the place. So, we thought … Perfect! That was exactly the kind of destination where we wanted to spend time. We booked three weeks, arriving on Old Year’s Night (Dec. 31) 1988, and we loved it! People we met kept telling us the number of times they had visited (many, many repeat visitors to this island) as though it were some kind of a badge of honour. The day we returned to Calgary we were faxing back to Bequia to book a hotel room for the following Christmas.

We vacationed on Bequia every year, making friends with other repeat visitors (and a number still remain friends) until one time when our taxi driver stopped his truck, got out, and pointed up the hill to some land he said was for sale. We hadn’t said a word to anyone, but somehow our very astute driver knew we were ready to take the plunge. We met with the man who was selling the land, made a few frantic calls back to our bank in Calgary, and had begun the process of purchasing a half-acre property before we left the island. Once we returned to Calgary we put together an exit strategy.

In 1996, with the shell of our new house built to lock-up stage, we quit our jobs, took early retirement, and moved lock, stock and barrel – including one cat – to begin living on Bequia fulltime.

It’s been an adventure!

 4Q: You have been a huge supporter of your fellow writers dedicating a blog – Reading Recommendations – solely to what they are working on and how to find them. You have been kind enough to include me as well and I thank you for that. How and why did this wonderful site come about?

ST: I have always promoted authors and their books throughout my career – as a bookseller, a publishers’ sales rep, and a self-styled author impresario when I ran a business called Alberta Books Canada. Once I self-published my own novel, I knew the best way to promote it was to continue working with and helping other authors. If we all work together to promote each other it’s better for the entire writing and publishing communities.

I had been hosted on a friend’s blog site and thought that I’d like to set up something similar. I still know many authors from my days in Alberta, and some of those old friends have already been featured or will be in the near future. As well, authors who had been promoted have recommended their friends to me, and still more authors have approached me directly. I’m so pleased to have discovered some very fine writing by international authors who are publishing in just about every genre, fiction and non-fiction, for adults and children, and all formats (print, eBooks, audio) imaginable, and be able to share them with the blog’s readers.

And one of the ways my blog differs from other author promotion sites is that I ask each author to also recommend a book or author who they’re currently reading. So readers receive at least two possibilities for further reading.

I’m also planning to set up a page on the blog that lists Indie Bookstores, worldwide, that stock and sell books by authors who have been featured on Reading Recommendations.

This is my way of giving back to the worldwide writing community while receiving some extra promotion for myself and my own publications.

 4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote with us.

ST: The year I was born, my parents bought a cottage north of Toronto near the town of Minden where we spent every summer until I was old enough to get a job and remain in the big city. The summers melded together into the best memories any child could ask for. When I was four, Dad bought a movie camera (Regular 8) and projector and literally documented everything that happened – family picnics, bonfire nights, learning to swim and water ski, barbecues, parties, killer games of Rummoli, Poker, or Monopoly with big bowls of popcorn, fishing – whatever we did, we have a record of it, and all the people we shared that time with. I realize now, looking back 60 years later, what a gift that was! I managed to transfer some of the films over to CD, but have trouble watching without crying. So, so many good memories!

But I’ve tried to make the most of those memories by writing a novella set at a cottage during the summer. While That Last Summer is not autobiographical, there are many aspects, and even a few characters, that are drawn from all those summers spent at the lake.

 4Q: Please tell us what you are working on at the present and what can your readers expect from you in the near future?

ST: Currently, I’m trying to rewrite the second novel in my Bequia Perspectives Series. (Yes, Tim and Rachel … Must. Get. To. Work!!) One Woman’s Island is told from the perspective of a Canadian woman making an extended visit to Bequia in order to distance herself from a recent tragedy. She decides to “live with the locals” but therein lies her problem, because it’s not that easy to integrate successfully on this island. I hope to have this finished and ready to ePublish in time for the beginning of Bequia’s tourist season, Dec. 16. Print will come at a later date, when I feel I have enough of a market for copies.

I have two more finished novellas I would like to prepare to publish under my IslandShorts imprint, and there are a number of short stories I plan to collect together. As well, novels 3 and 4 in the Bequia Perspectives Series are already written but require extensive editing and rewriting.

And I’m working with a few other authors to publish their eBooks under both the IslandCatEditions and IslandShorts imprints.


Thank you Susan for sharing your thoughts on the 4Q. Best wishes for all your future endeavors. Find out more about Susan at
Next week I am happy to welcome back one of my regular contributors, Connie Cook. She will be sharing her short story Fish Girl. You won't want to miss it.

Thank you so much for visiting the South Branch Scribbler. I am pleased to tell you that the Book Launch of my debut novel - Dark Side of a Promise - will take place at the Chateau Moncton on September 7th at 6:30pm. All are invited.