Saturday 31 October 2020

Authors Pamela MacDonald & Valerie Sherrard of Miramichi, NB.




Another unique post for the Scribbler. Mother and daughter team collaborate on Pamela’s debut novel.

Valerie Sherrard is no stranger to our readers. This is her third visit and this time she is participating in a 4Q interview with her daughter Pamela. They are sharing an excerpt from Finding Avalon. As an added extra, Valerie will share an update on her newest work, The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell.

Valerie’s first visit can be found HERE. Her second posting can be found HERE.

Finding Avalon is an association best described by their publishers, Chocolate River and Nimbus Publishing.

Pamela authored the voice of Avalon, who is the primary character in this story. Valerie contributed the minor voice of Avalon’s mother.


Pamela MacDonald was born and raised in New Brunswick, and returned to those roots after completing her education in other parts of Canada. She shared these thoughts with the South Branch Scribbler:

“I grew up in Miramichi, NB, in a loving home, with my mother, father and brother (as well as foster siblings). My parents divorced when I was in elementary school, and I gained two loving step parents and three more siblings. After I graduated high school, I did my undergrad in psychology in Ontario and my masters in counselling in Alberta. I became a registered psychologist, moved back to New Brunswick and opened a practice. I now live in Miramichi, NB, with my wonderful, supportive husband and 2 amazing boys, age 3 and 4. “


Valerie shared a few details about herself in an earlier SBS visit here.

***Take Note: Book launch 

Saturday, November 7 at Mill Cove Coffee in Miramichi. It will run from 1:00 - 3:00 pm. (Social distancing and masks required.)


4Q: Congratulations Pamela on your novel. Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copy of Finding Avalon.


PM: This story is a journey with the main character, Avalon, who is flawed, but has good qualities too, as she navigates some unique situations.


4Q: What inspired the story?


PM: My mom brought up the idea years ago of us writing a story that included letters back and forth between mother and daughter. We developed it from there.


4Q: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.


PM: Rather than one memory, I will share a collection of memories. A pattern. I was a fairly free child when with my parents, a dreamer, often lost in imagination. I wasn't good at everything, in school or otherwise. I was strong at math and poor at French. I was often praised for efforts and accomplishments, but my failures were not dramatized.  I was allowed to be me. My parents didn't make me feel like it was a big deal if I did poorly on a test or assignment. I suppose it was that pattern that made me not fear failure. If I wanted to accomplish or try something, I was never afraid to give it my best shot, even if the risk of failure was reasonably high. That has opened many doors for me, including writing.


VS: I’m not sure how old I was when this happened, but definitely under 10. My family used to go for drives now and then, and on one such drive we encountered a man—he seemed elderly to me as a child but thinking back I realize he was probably in his mid to late 40’s. He was wearing socks, but no shoes, and we picked him up to give him a drive. The details are unclear, but I know shoes were provided for him somehow. And despite the haziness of the memory, I know the lesson was a powerful one and helped shape my world view. 



4Q: How did it feel Valerie, to work closely with Pamela on this story?


VS:  More than anything else it was interesting. When Pamela was younger, she wouldn’t share any creative writing with me, and so this was actually the very first time I had the opportunity to see her writing style. She sometimes discussed the storyline with me and while she was open to considering the occasional suggestion, she had a definite vision for the novel, and she stayed true to that. My contributions in providing a distinctive voice for the mother’s letters were guided by her concept.


4Q: What is the most difficult aspect of working as a team on a singular venture?


PM: Editing was more complicated, I imagine, than with one author, as we had to discuss and send back and forth with track changes. Although, for me this was also part of the learning experience, so even though it took more time it was very beneficial.


VS: Finding time was always a challenge. Pamela is busy with her practice and with two small boys at home, so opportunities to collaborate on storyline and so forth weren’t easy to manage. In fact, the story was begun several years ago and sometimes months went by without any progress. But we persevered, albeit slowly, and finally there was a draft that was ready to submit.


4Q: How did Valerie’s extensive experience with manuscripts, covers and publishing assist you in the development of Finding Avalon?


PM: That part was a huge benefit to me. She was able to say approximately how many chapters we would be looking at, how many pages/words per chapter, so we were able to write something that was appropriate for the publishing world, for this age group.


4Q: Are there more joint projects planned for the future?


PM: Yes. We do have an idea for another joint project. I also plan on doing some solo books.


VS: We’ve definitely talked about that, and have briefly discussed a story we might like to work on together, but there’s nothing planned for the immediate future. I think it’s likely Pamela will take on a solo project or two before we move forward with another collaboration.



4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?


PM: I would like to say, to anyone who wants to write books, do it. It may be a big learning curve to become the writer you can be, and most probably won't write a masterpiece their first draft, but edit, and edit again. Join a writing group (we joined kidcrit early on to assist in my learning). If your first story isn't published, do it again. Each time is a learning opportunity. 


VS: I was pleased when Pamela first expressed interest in writing a novel, and I was happy to be part of the project as she worked on Finding Avalon. IT was particularly gratifying for me because it so happens that she played a pivotal role when I was writing my first young adult story. That story is called Kate, and, never having written a novel before, I experienced many doubts partway through. What made me think I knew how to write a book for teens? I was probably wasting my time. And so on.

Then, it occurred to me, Pamela is the right age for this story, and she enjoys reading. So one day I asked her to read the first chapter—and let me know if she found it even a little bit interesting. I can’t say she looked excited about it, but she took the printed pages and disappeared into her room. A while later she returned, put that chapter on the table, and said, “More!”

It was the biggest boost anyone could have given me, and the exact prompt I needed to finish writing that story, which was published in the fall of 2003. (While it was my first novel for young people, it ended up being the third one published.)




An Excerpt from Finding Avalon.

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


By 8:30, the place is vibrating with music and movement. Best turnout ever. Pip and I have been trying to talk but it’s difficult over the noise. I’m pretty sure he’s been flirting with me, and when he suggests we find a spot where we can talk without yelling, my pulse quickens. Upstairs is off-limits, but we go halfway up the steps and sit side-by-side.

The conversation starts out on a promising note.

“Have you noticed we’ve been introducing each other to family members?” he asks.

“We have?”

“Sure. You’ve sort of met my mom, and I’ve met your dog,” he says.

I laugh.

“Has Winston mentioned whether or not he approves of me?”

“I haven’t had a chance to ask him,” I say.

“Once you get the go ahead from Winston, I should probably meet your mom and dad too,” Pip says.

His voice is light and teasing but it’s easy to see where this is going. It makes me slightly giddy, but I manage to match his tone.

“Of course. Although, actually, it’s just me and Dad.”


I give him the story I’ve been telling anyone who doesn’t know the truth.

“My mother has been pretty much out of my life since she moved to California with her boyfriend a few years ago.”

“Oh. Sorry.” His voice is soft and kind.

“That’s okay. I'm used to it,” I say, hoping he will drop it. I don’t want sympathy that comes out of a lie.

“I get that,” he says, and I remember about his father being gone from his life. Only, his story is true. Then he speaks again.

“Having something like that in common might be one of the reasons we kind of click, if you know what I mean.”

I’m about to respond when more guests arrive. I recognize the guy from a group picture I’ve seen on Lana’s phone. He has a girl on his arm, but not just any girl.

It’s Sherry Rudder.

My stomach clenches in panic. Before Sherry has a chance to see me, I jump up, dart up the rest of the stairs and race around the corner. All without a word to Pip.

I stand there in the hall, trying frantically to figure a way out of this, but the wild thudding of my heart is drowning out everything else.

Of all people. Not only does Sherry know the truth about my past—the one I’ve just now lied to Pip about—but I know, without the slightest doubt, that she’ll blab it as soon as she sees me.

The strange thing is, we used to be friends at my old school. Close friends, in fact. I could never have predicted that she would turn on me. She wasn’t the only one who did, but her betrayal hurt the most. I didn’t understand it at all. I still don’t.

I remember, with a fresh burst of panic, that she’d worked at Party Portal just before I did, which means she must know Pip. What if she sees him and tells him anyway, without even seeing me?

No, that doesn’t make sense. She’d have no reason to mention me to him unless she saw us together. As long as I stay hidden, there should be no danger of that.

Forcing myself to calm down, I try to figure out the best plan of action. I can stay up here until the party is over, or try to sneak out without Sherry seeing me. If I stay here, there’s a risk I’ll be exposed. Also, Pip will think I’m a nut-job if I never come back down. Which only leaves one option.

I go back to the top of the stairs and peek around the corner. Pip has to be puzzled about my sudden disappearance, but at least he’s still sitting there.

Psssst. Pip!

He looks up and as he sees me, his face goes into a “what-the-heck?” scrunch.

“Come here,” I whisper, waving him upstairs.

He joins me. “I thought no one was supposed to be up here.”

“I know, but listen. I’m really sorry about this, but I have to go home.”

“Seriously? How come?”

“I feel sick all of a sudden. Maybe I ate too much junk.”

“That’s too bad.” His face is instantly sympathetic. “At least let me give you a drive.”

“That would be great. Thanks.”

I grab my jacket from Lana’s room, and we head downstairs. The Katy Perry hair is coming in handy. I use it to cover as much of my face as possible and make sure Pip is ahead of me in case I need to duck behind him. As we get near the main floor, I scan the living room. No sign of Sherry, so I move past Pip and hurry toward the door. I’m almost close enough to grab the handle when Pip says, “Avalon, is this you?”

I swing around to find him holding a framed picture of me and Lana when we were about six, dressed for Halloween in identical Cinderella costumes. (Back then, we thought dressing alike was cool!) She had dug it out earlier and perched it on a table in the entrance for tonight’s party. Naturally, it caught Pip’s eye at the worst possible moment.

“Did I hear someone say Avalon?”

And there, of course, is Sherry. Coming straight at us from the kitchen.


(End of excerpt)



Valerie is also happy to announce the recent release of her humourous new middle grade novel, The Rise and Fall of Derek Cowell. From the back cover:


Hi, my name is Derek Cowell.

You might remember me from when I was popular.

Before that, I was invisible. And after … well, that’s a long story.

I never expected to become popular. It just sort of happened. An accidental photobomb, a chance encounter with a real live celebrity, and suddenly, I was somebody.

These things never last, though, unless you help them along.

That’s where I ran into trouble.


(From Lisa Doucet’s review in ABT: Sherrard has created another captivating tale of family life and middle-school angst, filled with humour and heart.)


Read the first chapter





Thanks to you both, Valerie and Pamela for being our special guests this week. Wishing you each continued success with your writing.


For all you devoted readers wishing to discover more about Pamela and Valerie, as well as their writing, please follow these links:


Saturday 24 October 2020

Author Liz Butcher of Queensland, Australia.


The Scribbler is pleased to do a series of guest appearances in conjunction with Creative Edge Publicity of Saskatchewan, Canada.


We are pleased to have Liz Butcher as this week’s special guest. When you visit her website, one of the first things you notice is this headline:


Author of horror, dark fantasy and speculative fiction.


For all you fans of these genres, you’re in for a treat. Her novels have garnered excellent reviews and many accolades. It’s a real pleasure to have Liz share her thoughts with a 4Q Interview and is sharing an Excerpt from her new release – LeRoux Manor.




Liz Butcher resides in Australia, with her husband, daughter, and their two cats. She’s a self-confessed nerd with a BA in psychology and an insatiable fascination for learning. Liz has published a number of short stories in anthologies and has released her own collection, After Dark, in 2018. Her debut novel, Fates’ Fury released September 2019, soon followed with LeRoux Manor in September 2020.





4Q: Lets talk about your newest work, released September 1stLeRoux Manor.  What can readers expect when they pick up a copy?


LB: They can expect a story that’s not what it seems and will keep them guessing until the very end. LeRoux Manor is not your normal haunted house tale…




4Q: What draws you to horror, dark fantasy and speculative fiction?


LB: I’ve always held a deep fascination for the paranormal and for the things we cannot see or explain. I’m also intrigued by the subconscious mind and so I think the love of the two is what draws me to these genres. I love delving into the shadows of both.





4Q: On a more personal note, please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.


LB: When I was around five years old, I started waking in the middle of the night to voices. Only everyone else was fast asleep. It used to terrify me, and I’d always try to wake my mother, but no matter what I did she would never wake up. So, I would turn every light on in the house and not fall back asleep until the sun came up. It then progressed and happened while staying at other people’s houses. My parents wrote the experiences off as bad dreams, but I knew I was awake. While I never worked out what it was or why it happened, I think this was the beginning of my fascination with the paranormal.



4Q: Your stories have been featured in many anthologies. I assume these are short stories. What do you enjoy about them and maybe you could tell us about a couple of your favorites?



LB: Writing short stories is such a great way to hone your skills, especially when adhering to limited word counts. It helped build my confidence while I worked away on my first novel. Out of all of them, I think my favourites would be Gethen (a possession story told from the perspective of the entity), Sail Away (a surreal tale of a sailor seeking Valhalla) and Amber (the dark truth about the prosperity of a small village).



4Q: You have two other novels to offer our readers – After Dark & Fate’s Fury. Can you give us a brief synopsis of them?


LB: After Dark is a collection of my short stories, including the three mentioned above. Fates’ Fury is a mythological thriller about The Fates returning to our realm to destroy mankind as punishment for the way we’ve treated the planet and each other. Before they can eradicate us for good, they must locate the hidden Tablet of Destinies. Three friends find themselves at the center of it all and have to uncover who they really are, while an alliance of ancient gods return to help fight against The Fates and help man save themselves—assuming they can find a reason why we’re worth saving.


 **** Fabulous covers!


4Q: Favorite authors? Novels?


LB: I’ve always been a huge fan of both Stephen King and Anne Rice.




4Q: What’s next for Liz Butcher, the author?


LB: I’m currently querying my next novel, Never, Never, which is a modern retelling of Peter Pan, where Wendy Darling is all grown up and a local detective haunted by her childhood abduction at the hands of the mysterious Pan. I’m also working on the first installment for a series about a character named Luna Zimmer, a highly intelligent, hot mess of a woman, embarking on a new pursuit as a paranormal investigator as she tries to get to the bottom of what really happened to her family. Then I’m almost finishing plotting my next book, Sunrise, which is dark fantasy/horror.



4Q: Anything else you’d like to share with us?


LB: Watch this space!






An Excerpt from LeRoux Manor.

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


MENA SAT ON the soft green grass, shaded by the old oak tree against which she rested. The long skirt of her sky-blue, satin party dress—now ruined—billowed out around her. A smile danced across her face as she stroked the cat in her lap, listening to the sounds of her parents’ party drifting with the breeze. The melodic tunes of the string quartet mingled with the steady flow of conversation. Friends and family had travelled far and wide to see the grandest house in the province. Completed at last—an architectural marvel, her father called it. Many of the guests were residents from local towns, and most of them Mena had never seen or heard of before.


Raising her hand, she pressed her thumb to her finger, marvelling at the stickiness of the blood. She found it fascinating how it changed from warm and fluid to thick and cool in such little time.


“Here you are,” her father said. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Everyone’s asking after you. That nanny of yours…” He stopped when he realised what she was doing.


Mena grinned up at him. “Hello, Papa. Kitty and I are having our own party. The grown-ups were boring.” She wiped a stray piece of her ebony hair off her forehead with the back of a hand, leaving a streak of blood in its wake.


“No. Not again…” Her father’s voice trembled with anger. Mena could see the weight of the sadness in his eyes, but she felt nothing for it. He stepped forward and grabbed his daughter by the wrist, yanking her to her feet.


Mena gasped when the dead cat tumbled from her lap. “Kitty!” she cried. Her father stormed off, pulling her along behind him.


“Wait, Papa. I want my kitty!” she wailed, hot tears spilling down her cheeks. In her distress, it took her a while to realise they weren't headed back to the house. Instead, her father led her toward the woods behind their estate. “Papa? Where are we going?”


“Somewhere I should have taken you sooner.”


Confused by the unsuspected turn, Mena soon forgot her tears—and her Kitty—and hurried along after him. Her tiny feet scurried across the grass as she struggled to keep up.


They slowed when they entered the woods so her father could better navigate his way through the trees. He paused here and there, as though unsure of his bearings. Mena took the time to marvel at her surroundings. Her parents had always forbidden her to enter the woods, but now, she knew it was the perfect place to play with her animals.


Her father came to an abrupt stop, causing Mena to run into the back of his legs. When he didn’t move, she peeked around him to find a wall of rock before them. She blinked at it with wide eyes; it rose quite high—at least twice as high as her Papa—before curving at the top. It made her think of a giant, sleeping monster hibernating in the woods. Moss and plants spread out across the stone in patches of damp greenery, and a small stream trickled down the front. She wondered where the water came from; it hadn’t rained in weeks. As she followed the water downwards, she noticed a narrow opening in the rocks.


“Papa, is it a cave?” she exclaimed, looking up at him. He stared straight ahead, unmoving for so long, Mena was unsure if he’d heard her. Only when she tugged on his hand did he give a small nod.


“I do love you, Mena.” His voice trembled, and he released her hand. She ignored his sentiment and dashed toward the cave.


Without hesitation, she got down on her knees and poked her head into the darkness. When her father gave no further protest, she took it as permission to explore and scurried into the cave.


The darkness enveloped her. Mena wondered what kind of animals she would find inside. Then something shoved her from behind, her hand slipped forward, and she lost her balance. Before she could call out, she was falling.









Thank you, Liz, for being our special guest this week. Wishing you all the success you deserve.



For all you fantastic visitors wanting to discover more about Liz and her stories, please follow these links: