Saturday 28 September 2019

Guest Author Gisele Bourgeois of Madrid, Spain.

True Identity 

I met Gisele online as a result of our shared love for writing and reading. I was immediately captivated by her debut novel – True Identity – and wanted to add it to my list. I’m now well into her terrific story and captivated. She has graciously agreed to a 4Q Interview and sharing an excerpt from her novel.

Gisèle Bourgeois was born in 1952 in Moncton, New Brunswick where she lived until she was seventeen years of age. She studied languages and social sciences at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and went on to achieve a Master's Degree in Spanish Literature from New York University. She has lived in Montreal, New York and London but has spent most of her adult life in Madrid Spain where she married and had a daughter. She has worked mostly as a teacher and a translator. Although she loves Spain, her adopted country, she still feels very attached to Canada and has recently built a small house in Shediac Bridge New Brunswick where she spent all the summers of her childhood.

4Q: As I mentioned above, I’m enjoying your story Gisele. Tell our readers a bit about the book and how it came about.

GB: It took a long time for True Identity to become a reality. I always told myself I would write a book someday. Friends encouraged me, always complimenting my story telling. The day came, (I recall it was a significant birthday), when I thought I ought to get started.... And if I was going to write only one book in my lifetime, I wanted to write about things I care about. Partly to share them with others and partly to make them clear to myself. I love my family, my language, the place I grew up, my history in fact. I am probably intense about these things because I have lived far away from them most of my life. I will admit too, that being an avid reader, and a literature major, I felt like writing an entertaining novel; something interesting, fun to read and not boring! So, I invented what I hope is an attractive, curious and moving story to illustrate the power of these things; the power of a childhood song, the power of the sound of a language, the power of our cultural identity through three brave and interesting young people whose lives take them far away from their homes and their families. I hope my readers will feel the sand between their toes on a beach on the rugged New Brunswick coast as well as the exuberance of a festive family meal in Northern Spain. From different backgrounds and circumstances, Adrienne, Michel and Xavier's lives will intertwine around a mysterious and unfortunate death. 

4Q: Your website tells us about your extensive travelling and working experience which cleverly shows up in your writing. How did a young Acadian lady end up in Spain?

GB:  It's simple really. At 19, unsure of what I really wanted to do but hoping and planning for something  "international", I studied languages and social sciences at UNB. I signed up for the Junior Year Abroad program and studied for two semesters at the University of Madrid. That was the start of my love affair with Spain. I eventually met my future husband who had an international career in banking which took us to New York, London, Madrid, and many places in Latin America. I am friendly, adaptable, curious, and love big cities so I was fine and happy. An important part of True Identity takes place in Amsterdam as well where my daughter studied for a year. I visited her often at about the time I was  "baking" True Identity and my story emerged as I wandered around that great city. I must add that we lived in New York City from 1984 to 1989 where I witnessed the electricity and excitement of Eighties Wall Street so probably that is why you can tell I am familiar with the lifestyles and attitudes of that society in those days. This was also the height of the AIDS epidemic, and alongside the spiral of wealth and growth, the utter despair of its gay citizens. My sweet character Ander is caught up in that nightmare. I will never forget that shadow over the city. 

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

GB: This is a true story that might have triggered True Identity when I was only six or seven years old. My father was a doctor in Moncton and had a contract at the penitentiary in Dorchester. I recall him going there about once a week. He liked it. He was a nice man; fully bilingual, gregarious, told good jokes and got along well with the inmates. Every once in a while, the doorbell would ring: an ex-convict hoping to see my father for a medical problem or just asking for a couple of dollars. It was quite rare really. However, at one point, one of these men came several days in a row. He came through the back yard and knocked at the kitchen door. He smelled of alcohol and poor hygiene. My frightened mother would make him a sandwich and shoo my little brother and me out of the kitchen. She asked my father to do something about it. He came home early the following day, made the sandwich himself and talked with the guy for a while on the back porch, then put his hat on and left with him in the car. He was gone for three or four hours. My mother was very nervous. We finally heard the rumble of the car in the driveway and the door slamming. We rushed to the door to greet him and my father explained. "He won't be back. All he ever wanted in his life was to live in the United States.  So, we picked up his stuff at the boarding house, got him a haircut, I bought him a bus ticket for Boston and gave him fifty bucks. " ........ And so, in True Identity, my Michel (with a doctor's help) boards a bus to Boston deep in the night. 

4Q: Where’s your favorite spot to write? What are your writing habits, Gisele?

GB: I'm afraid I don't give my writing the space it deserves. I wrote True Identity at night, when the day was over, at my desk in the spare bedroom of my apartment. Then early in the morning, before getting on my way, I would reread and correct. I like to read what I have written out loud. I am also very critical with myself and rewrite and edit A LOT. I became quite ruthless with my novel, and actually threw out my first draft after one year and started again. I am planning a second novel right now. I am researching and attempting to be more organized but to no avail. Maybe that is just my way. I admire those people who take their writing as a job. Most, if not all good writers, encourage a good writing discipline.

4Q: You mentioned on your website that you wish you had started writing sooner (We’re glad you started when you did). What advice do you offer someone wishing to write their first story?

GB: Just do it. I am so happy that I did. I persevered. It took me almost 5 years from the day I sat at my computer and started to write to the day I considered it finished which was the day I held the published book in my hands. That feeling was so great. It's such a personal achievement. Concrete advice:  I wasn't too keen on doing a creative writing course because of the time it took but if you don't have a literary background it's a very good idea.  I miss not having a more technical background. I did roam around Google, looking for advice from famous authors and I found Kurt Vonnegut's tips for writers, helpful, concrete, useful and wise. I printed them up and pinned them on my wall where I could see them. But in the end, you sit at your computer, open Word, click on New File and write in "MY BOOK". See what happens.

4Q: What’s next for Gisele Bourgeois, the author?

GB: True Identity is coming out in Spanish this fall and I will be launching it here in Madrid hopefully in November or December. Through Amazon etc. it will be available in Spain and all over Latin America which is very exciting. I'll continue to market True Identity for a while because I feel it still has a way to go. Technology and social media can be challenging when you haven't grown up with them and being self-published only you are responsible for all the marketing and distribution.  You have no presence in bookselling venues (Thank you Chapter's Moncton for keeping me on consignment). It's very difficult to get visibility. 

So, thanks Allan and the South Branch Scribbler for giving me the opportunity to put my book out there. Your support of local authors is commendable and greatly appreciated. 

***You're very welcome Gisele. It's wonderful and interesting guests like yourself, that makes all this so much Fun.

An Excerpt from True Identity.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)

      The Boston police had no photograph of the suspect wanted for questioning in a small-town murder case up in Canada. Male, eighteen years of age, five feet eight inches tall, light brown hair and eyes. Who were they kidding? There were twenty thousand of them in town for the concert and every drug dealer in the northeastern United States as well. They had no time for this. No one was assigned the case.

      Michel found his way to the concert at Fenway Park. Stoned, in the darkness, the music reverberating in his chest, he was okay.

     Somehow he made his way back to the boarding house and fell asleep for eighteen hours. He woke suddenly with a pounding heart and drenched in perspiration. He didn't remember who, what or where he was. He was drowning in an undertow grasping for clues to his existence. He struggled to come to the surface and finally his name emerged from the fog.

       Michel. Michel Bourgeois. The bus. Boston. Yvette.

      When he came to himself, he was on his hands and knees on the bed. Stark naked. The facts of his life crept back. He put his hand on his heart and laid back on the small, narrow bed. The exhaustion and stress had come to a head. He calmed down slowly and remembered that he had a choice. He could end this now, take the bus home, and surrender to the police.

     "You can come back at any time. Remember that." Those were the Doctor's last words to him.

      Philippe Blanchard had told him that no matter what, he always had a choice. It was small consolation but at least it was a measure of freedom. He still had his return ticket. This was day five since he had gone to hide in the Blanchards' garage.

      He looked around. It was a small ugly room but the soft afternoon light came through the window and made it bright. He heard the comforting noise of city traffic in the distance. His things were in order just as he had left them. He was surviving. Strangely enough, the terrible nightmare had cleared his mind. 

     He took a moment to take inventory of what René had stuffed into the bag. No underwear or socks. He made sure his money and papers were safe and opened the door of his room to get a better look at the house. Brian was coming to life.

     He checked out the communal bathroom and showers and realized he would have to buy a towel and some toilet paper. He put his head under the tap in the sink, and with a sliver of soap someone had left there, washed his hair and rubbed it dry on the dingy towel roll. The cold water on his head felt good. His new life would start by acquiring articles of basic hygiene. This gave him an objective. He was going forward.

***Afternote: I’ve finished reading Gisele’s novel. Magnificent! 5 Stars

Thanks so much for being our guest this week Gisele. Thank you for your story. All the best in your writing journey.

For you dear readers wanting to discover more about Gisele and her work, please follow these links;


facebook: Gisele Bourgeois/True Identity


Sunday 22 September 2019

Returning Author John Sutherland of Fredericton, NB.

Greater love has no man.

John K. Sutherland.

It’s a pleasure to have John back on the Scribbler. He is an award-winning author. His first visit was in December, 2017 when he talked about his short stories and novels. You can read his bio from the last visit HERE

This short story is taken from a novel of the Civil War, written by this author, and entitled ‘In Love and War.’  There is another version; much more explicit, entitled ‘Baptism by Fire’.  Both stories may be feely read on along with almost 40 other stories by this author.  Give my profile about 20 seconds to load.

The story begins at the start of the Civil War and takes place mostly upon the Belding Plantation, in Mississippi.

Belding, has three grown children at the time of the story.  A stepdaughter, Angelique; brought into his family when he married his second wife; a son, Charles, by his first wife; and Elizabeth, his youngest child.

Belding, mostly illiterate, and estranged from his son, relies upon Elizabeth, as young as she is, to run things on the plantation.  She succeeds, where he failed.  She changes many things behind his back to alleviate the burdens of the slaves, and to save the women from the rapacious ways of her father.

After a major argument and violence, after a slave comes to her defense in one of her many confrontations with her father, Elizabeth realizes that to save the life of the slave who defended her, that she will have to kill her father.

She does not hesitate.  But first, she writes a will, for her father.

Soon after, encountering her half-brother, raping her half-sister, she shoots him too.

Peace returns to the plantation even as the war rages on around them.

Then, one day…after the war had ended… seven, ragged, Confederate soldiers rode into her yard.

Trouble of the worst kind! 

They are saved by a Yankee, leaving seven renegades dead!  He changes everything.

It ends here, and now.

Elizabeth was first alerted to something wrong by the sound of horses riding into the yard in front of the house. How could they have approached without being seen, or without Zeb coming down out of the woods to warn them that such a group was so close? 

She felt a tight knot of apprehension in her stomach and a sudden feeling of unease gripped her.

They had been careful to have approached out of sight of the house and of the cabins. 

She cursed herself for having let her guard down, lulled into foolishness by the euphoric news that the war had ended. She should have known better than to believe that. Wars never ended cleanly or when they were supposed to; history should have taught her that.

She could still escape out of the back of the house. 

She hesitated, and then, staying out of sight, she glanced out of the open door of the washhouse and saw seven men on horseback. Confederates! But they had drawn guns and were not there for any honest purpose.

Photo credit: John Straton

She saw one man dismount and grab hold of one of the women close to him; Dorothea, who was not fast enough to get out of his way; the others threatened anyone who thought to intervene.

Elizabeth began to feel sick at what their intentions were. She recovered her father’s pistol from under some cotton sheets in the washhouse, saw that it was loaded, and immediately ran out of the house, into the yard, heedless of any danger to herself now. 

Dorothea was like a sister to her, and she would do everything in her power to stop them if she could.

The man who had dismounted and had stopped Dorothea from escaping him, ripped off her dress as he laughed at her efforts to escape him, revealing her naked body beneath. The other men on horseback were watching nervously, their guns ready for any resistance, though they already knew that there were no men worth considering at the main house, and the rest of the slaves were either in the fields or in plain view. They would not be trusted with weapons anyway.

They watched as he twisted the woman’s arm up behind her back and then pushed her ahead of him around the corner of the building and out of sight. His friends would make sure that no one followed them. He didn’t like an audience for what he was about to do. The woman could do nothing to fight him. Some man, possibly her husband if there was the formality of marriage between them, ran forward to defend her and was shot. He fell back clutching at his side.

“Next shot, I kill you!”

As the first man went around the corner to the cabin, pushing his captive ahead of him, Elizabeth moved into the yard. She pointed the pistol at the man who was obviously the leader, and pulled the trigger. 

It did not function as she'd expected.

She cursed the wayward thing and quickly tried to find out what was wrong with it, but by then he had seen her and what she hoped to do.

On the other side of the small cluster of cabins, and also out of sight of those in the yard in front of the house, Forrester had seen the beginning of what was unfolding.

He would have liked to have shot more of them before they got this far, but the ground here was not in his favor against so many men, and with too few places to disappear to and melt away, as he had been able to do before. They were also on horseback and would escape. There was no one here that he could rely upon. He could see their intent and what they would likely do to all of those here who witnessed what they intended, before they were able to escape over the river after torching the place.

He would get a chance to remove one more of them, without any sound of a gunshot to give him away, if he was lucky. He walked around the corner of the building with his revolver trained on the man roughly handling the woman as he pushed her to the ground and stood over her. 

He did not see Forrester. The man’s attention was elsewhere, struggling to get his own clothing undone while restraining the now silent woman, and stopping her from crawling off as he stood over her. The black woman didn’t say anything. She lay still, thinking of protecting as many lives of her own people from these men as possible, by staying quiet, no matter what happened to her. She had seen her own man shot in the side for thinking to intervene. Both men could hear some ruckus in the yard on the other side of the building: the sound of horses moving about and of raised voices.

Dorothea said nothing, but watched with wide eyes and lay still when Forrester swung his pistol at the man’s head, breaking bones and knocking him to his knees, at least mostly senseless if not worse. Before he could fall, Forrester grabbed him by the hair and then hauled him backward as he holstered his pistol and retrieved his knife, both with the same action, and then decisively cut the man’s throat before he could give any sound of alarm. He hoped the woman was not going to be hysterical at the sight of all of that blood suddenly spurting everywhere, even onto them both, or the man’s gurgling as he fought for air with suddenly gaping eyes and hands that rose unsteadily to his throat to find out what had happened with some horror, finding only blood to breathe on.

She was too terrified to say anything just watching this second man, wondering what he would do now, and to her. He was not one of the others, she knew that. He let the man fall off to one side and paid him no further attention other than to wipe his knife off on the fallen man’s clothing before he re-sheathed it.

Photo Credit: Veronica Shelley
He signaled for her to remain silent as she sat up in a tight ball against the cabin wall, whispering for her to stay where she was. 

He had no choice about what he must do now, but at least he would have the element of surprise on his part. He picked up the man’s gun and stuck it into his own belt, and then picked up his Henry repeating rifle as he retreated back the way he had come. The woman, still scared, watched him leave, but did not stay immobile for long with that dying man, jerking close by, still spouting blood and looking as he did, with his eyes wide and staring in horror. She rose to her feet and followed him, seemingly not put out by her nakedness, which was the last thing on her terror-filled mind at that moment, but wanting his protection, as uncertain as that might prove to be, and to get as far away from that other man making a strange noise, as he kicked at nothing, staring up into the sky. Seeing nothing.

The men on horseback were distracted by the sudden appearance of the younger woman, and at her intent, as she had tried to fire her pistol at their leader. He saw what she intended and rode at her quickly, seeing what had happened with her pistol.

Before she could correct what had gone wrong, he rode into her, sending her flying, with the gun lost from her grasp. As the others watched nervously, he dismounted quickly and hauled her to her feet. Another shot rang out behind him to discourage any concerted action by those blacks still standing there who would have come to her rescue. Before she could get back to her feet and escape, he had grasped her by the hair and pulled her back to him, holding her around her middle and around her breasts, endeavoring to trap her arms so that she could not fight him; but she could bite, and she did so... on the arm that came too close to her head. He struck her hard in the face for that.

“Well, lads, we got what we came for. She’s a feisty one.” He laughed. “She even had the gall to come out at us, as brazen as you please. We didn’t have to flush her out or go lookin’ for her. We’ll have us some fun tonight with this one, and for a while after that too. She’ll be a kicker and a screamer. At least for a while. She bites well enough.”

He recognized that they would have to leave now, after those shots, before others came out of the fields in response. He raised his voice and shouted so that their companion, supposedly still occupied with the woman behind the cabin, could hear him.

He could not have known what had already happened to him. 

Photo Credit: Bible Reflections
“Adam, we’re leaving. Now! Bring her along too, you can finish up with her later, and bring anyone else you can snag.”  One of his friends passed him a length of cloth to bind his captive’s hands, and then, as he threw her facedown over his saddle, he took off his own neckcloth and bound her feet, as she almost slid headfirst off the horse. 

“Adam?” He shouted for the man behind the cabin. “You hear me? We ain’t got time to waste. Bring her with you. We’re leaving.” 

They had already been here too long. There would be others rushing back from the fields at the sound of gunfire. He turned to another man. 

“Get us some food, or get some of those hens. Check inside that cabin and shoot whoever gets in your way, and then let’s get out of here, and see what’s keeping Adam. He’s never been longer than a couple of minutes, before.”

He climbed onto his horse and adjusted the struggling body in front of him, and then raised her long skirt to reveal her white skin and more. 

“Stop struggling, damn you.” He spanked her hard, twice, on her bare buttocks for being difficult, liking what he saw there, exposed to him. 

It would be an uncomfortable ride for her, but he didn’t care. That would be only the start of it. It would quieten her down and knock some of the fight out of her for later, and a very uncomfortable and busy night. He raised his voice.

“If any of you try to follow us, I’ll kill both of the women. You hear me?”

They probably would kill them anyway. No one moved or said anything, but the angry looks on their faces told him that they would not be easily discouraged. Let them learn the hard way. He fired a shot at a dog that had been barking and running in and out of the horse’s feet. He missed, but set the horses dancing nervously, almost unseating him, so did not repeat that act.

He heard another single shot, to one side, probably to discourage the slaves from intervening, and then another one.

That didn’t sound right!

He looked around and saw one of his companions lying on the ground, where he had just fallen, and another slumped over in his saddle with half of his head shot away. The others were shooting wildly at someone to his right and behind him.

Something had changed! Downey had not expected any resistance or anyone to have any guns. Slaves were not usually trusted with guns. Who the hell was doing this? There were no men in the house, he knew that. They had watched it for ten minutes and had learned as much from a small black child that one of them had questioned back along the road. He had been heading away from the house, or he would not have survived.

They learned that the men were all at war, or were working out in the far fields getting the crops planted. He pulled the horse about with one hand as he steadied his burden with the same hand resting on her, across her bare buttocks, and the other hand reaching for his own pistol. He saw one man on foot, shooting at them from about twenty feet away and taking each shot with deliberation and care but not wasting any time either. 

A Yankee! Where had  he  come from? There were not supposed to be any white men here. He felt as though he recognized him from somewhere.

Him again! 

His three remaining friends had already started to open fire at this new target—what little they could see of him—shooting at  them; but with their horses moving beneath them, startled by the sudden noise of gunfire, and the dog, and being in each other’s way, they were not having much success, as they were still picked off with unerring accuracy. The man took his time over each shot, heedless of the bullets flying around him and with some of them undoubtedly hitting him as he flinched, but was not deterred. Another man, fell.

Downey brought his own pistol up but saw—with complete horror—his hand holding the gun, separated from his arm by a long blade of some kind—he could not see it clearly—wielded by a black man who had somehow got too close to him as he had been distracted with the woman; and then he lost all interest even before any pain could be felt from that, as a bullet entered his brain, followed shortly after that by that same weapon that had taken off his hand. It lodged in his head, splitting him down to his chin.

The black man who had done that pushed the body off the horse, steadied it from dancing around, then carefully pulled his mistress off the horse, out of the line of fire, trying to protect her, as the man fell to the ground under the horse’s feet. He would go nowhere now, and was beyond feeling anything.

The two remaining men understood what was happening to them. They threw their empty pistols down, turned their horses, and spurred off in desperation, riding low over their horses’ necks to make as small a target as possible. 

Unfortunately for them, it was all open ground with no cover of any kind, and with slaves hurrying along it back to the house after they heard the shots.

These two, knew the man shooting at them. They had learned of  him  in the previous weeks, but had thought that he was now dead.   He,  did not miss. They had found that out to their cost on several occasions as he had painstakingly hunted them down, picking them off, one after another over the last few weeks from a great distance, or from unassailable cover until they had laid a trap for him. Somehow, he had survived that!

Forrester dropped his empty pistol into the dust and brought the rifle he carried in his other hand up to his shoulder. He chambered a cartridge and took his time, as he had before. He squeezed off a shot, seeing one of the two men arch his back as he stood up in his stirrups before he fell back off his horse. One of his feet was still caught in the stirrup. His body began flying about in death, like a marionette at the end of its strings as the horse’s rear feet tore into his head and upper body, throwing him around enough to break bones and tear him limb from limb. The man felt nothing by then. Nobody had heard his cry over the noise of the gunshot. He was already dead. The horse would soon stop and wait nervously to be freed of that twisted burden.

Photo Credit: Richmond Confidential
Forrester ignored all of  that  and his own pains as he worked the action and then focused on the one receding target still left. He ignored all else around him. He could allow for the increasing distance, but the man made it relatively easy for him, riding directly away from him.

He had been doing this for the last four years and was a master at it. He aimed for the top of the man’s body so as not to hit the horse. He knew that he could hit a target the size of an apple at two hundred yards, but he was tired, and trembling even, and this target was moving. He took a deep breath and held it as he brought the man into view along the sight.

He took his shot and saw the man slump from the saddle and fall off the galloping horse to bounce and then roll to lie motionless in a relatively small lump of what seemed like balled-up rags before he had gone more than four hundred feet. If the shot had not killed him, the fall from a galloping horse had, breaking many of the bones in his body. All seven men were accounted for.

Forrester limped over to the four that he was reasonably sure about, ready to use the other pistol taken from his belt. He saw the man, Downey, that he had taken pains to be sure he killed, with a blade cleaving his head down to his chin. He could see that he was certainly dead, as were the others. He had completed what he had set out to do all of those weeks earlier. He sat down heavily in the dust, relieved to have brought it all to an end. At least he had stopped them before they killed anyone else, or did any more damage. Now he could die. The devil could have him now after playing with him for the last four years, and throwing ever greater atrocities in his way.

He lost all consciousness of his surroundings as he fell over.

Thank you, John for being our guest this week and sharing your writing with our readers.

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