Saturday 28 January 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Christopher Sweet of New Brunswick, Canada.


I met Christopher at a reading in Miramichi. Discovering he published his debut novel last year, I was intrigued. 

I now own a copy which I’m looking forward to reading in the very near future.

I invited Christopher to be our guest this week and share the news of his novel with the Story Behind the Story.




I’m a father of two crazy little boys, Gideon (3) and Sullivan (1), and beast-dad to three dogs and a cat (Colby, Zelda, Stanley, and Gemma). My wife, Annie, and I (et al) live on the gorgeous Tabusintac River where we help manage my parents’ campground, Ocean River RV Resort. Summers are spent working outdoors, tending the grounds, and winters are spent in relative creative isolation. We moved here in 2021 from Hamilton, Ontario and the change in pace and lifestyle has been incredible for our family and for our creative work (Annie is a very gifted visual artist, creator, singer, and, not least of all, mom). I’ve been writing for quite literally longer than I can remember and fairly recently decided to “seriously” funnel my ambition and creative energy into what has been my life’s passion. I took broadcast journalism at Mohawk College in Hamilton and screenwriting at University of Toronto. Journalism was fun but being awakened to screenwriting changed my life and really lit a fire under the writer in meI wrote several screenplays before I got up the guts to write my first novel. With Annie’s encouragement, I quit what I assumed would be my career for the discernible future and got to work writing. In March of 2022 I published my first novel, The Boy in the Canvas.



Working Title: The Boy in the Canvas



Synopsis: The Boy in the Canvas is a coming-of-age / magical-realism / horror novel set in 1984. It tells the story of twelve-year-old Joseph Ward who, after the death of his mother, is sent to St. Theodore’s Academy, a correctional school run by a frightening headmaster. During his time in the school, Joseph befriends Odilon Mercier and makes a startling discovery—he is able to enter paintings and experience them as real worlds. Using this newfound gift, Joseph plans to escape St. Theodore’s and its sadistic staff. But the paintings themselves are inhabited by their own dangers…


The Story behind the Story: The idea for The Boy in the Canvas comes from a couple of places. The notion itself of someone being able to travel into the world of paintings was something I’d had floating around in the creative ether of my mind for a while. But all I had was the idea. There was no story, reason, or purpose behind it. So, I scribbled it down somewhere in a short paragraph—which is how I record most of my ideas—and forgot about it.

Sometime later, my father had instigated an investigation into training schools, institutions that were a popular place to stick “incorrigible youth” from the mid-1950s until the late-1970s or thereabouts. He had been thrown in one of these places where he, and countless others, had suffered some pretty horrific stuff. He suggested to me one day that I write a movie based on his experiences there. It wasn’t something I was keen to do—the notion of recreating the real-life horrors that had occurred in those places made me ill. So, I let the idea drop.

Then my writing mentor gave me one of the most practical and memorable pieces of advice I’ve received about writing. He said, “Write what scares you.”

I took the advice to heart and it didn’t take long for me to apply it to my compunctions towards writing about the training schools. And in the magical way that few, if any, writers can explain, the idea of a boy jumping into paintings came hurdling at me from out of the blackness at the edges of my imagination and landed itself right on the doorstep of what I suppose is an avatar for those wretched institutions.

A couple of years and dozens of rewrites later, The Boy in the Canvas saw the light of day. 


A question before you go, Christopher:

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?

I prefer a closed room, if possible. My current workspace is in a corner of our open basement but I’m able create a closed-off atmosphere by putting my devices on Do Not Disturb, turning off the lights, and using a warm-glowing lamp.

Music is essential, though when I’m in the zone, I don’t notice it. I find it’s a good buffer between my brain and everything going on in the world around me. I’m a bit of a classical music nerd and listen pretty exclusively to that or movie soundtracks when I write. I listen to a lot of horror and sci-fi movie scores.

Coffee is often essential, especially since I typically write in the morning. If I’m writing after eight o’clock, bourbon is preferred.

I’m a notes everywhere kind of guy. By the time The Boy in the Canvas was finished, I had two walls full of sticky notes, scraps of paper littering my desk, and several notebooks and a few legal pads on my shelves and in my drawers just for that one project.




Thank you for being our guest this week, Christopher. Wishing you continued success with your writing.



Thank you to all our visitors and readers.


What is your favorite genre to read?

Sunday 22 January 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Susan White of New Brunswick, Canada.


Susan White is our featured author this week and we are happy to have her return to the Scribbler.

If you missed her previous visit, I invite you to have a look HERE.


Susan’s novels have garnered many great reviews and honoured with awards.

It’s an exciting time to launch new work and Susan is going to tell us more about it.

Read on, my friends.




Susan White was born in Moncton, New Brunswick. She earned her BA and BEd at St. Thomas University in Fredericton. She and her husband Burton raised four children and ran a small family farm on the Kingston Peninsula while Susan taught elementary school and Burton had a career in the military. In 2009 Susan retired from teaching to write full time. She is the author of six middle grade /young adult novels, including the Ann Connor Brimer Award winning The Year Mrs. Montague Cried.   She has also written six adult novels including Fear of Drowning which was shortlisted for a NB Book Award in 2019.Her thirteenth novel The Way I Feel will be released by Acorn Press in the spring of 2023.



Working Title: The Way I Feel




No Problem is too big to run away from

For Ginny Collins running away wasn’t on her radar until an old postcard drops from her mother in law’s photo album. Is the life she’s living the only one available to her? Are the dreams she cast aside long ago still waiting to be realized? Can she change the discontent and unhappiness she feels by driving away and leaving everything behind? For Ginny Collins the decision to run away from a 40 year marriage starts the search and she behind to uncover the truth she’s worked so hard at ignoring.



The Story Behind the Story:

I am not exactly sure where the story came from except to say I had the title first. I knew I wanted or needed to write a story about a woman in her early sixties who finds herself an empty nester, settled in to a life of frustration, discontent and longing. She makes a bold decision to run away. The escape begins an inner journey and a brave, honest introspection. It is not autobiographical but it was written during a very transformative time in my own life. I believe Ginny's story mirrors the way women often feel when the years of centering their lives around maintaining a home and raising  children is behind them. 



Website: Home - Susan White



A question before you go, Susan:

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?


My mind thinks writing wherever I am and ideas find their way in. Sometimes I jot them down but I have found if the idea matters it sticks or at least it comes back. I have gone on several writing retreats with Gerard Collins and Janie Simpson’s on their Go and Write adventures. Italy, Scotland and St. Andrews have provided wonderful inspiration and comradery with other writers.   But for the actual work of getting it down, I prefer the quiet order and routine of my office. After spending 29 years in the classroom, I love the opportunity to schedule my weeks and days around writing. I normally write from September to June but have been known to write all summer when a book won’t let me go. I often have the drone of CBC radio in the background. Definitely coffee in the morning and I often eat my lunch in my office. I keep notes as I’m writing a book. The notes are contained in writing journals. I love looking back at them when the book is done seeing the changes that took place as the story and the characters took over. 




An Excerpt from The Way I Feel.


Spencer lets out a particularly loud snore and shifts a bit. His right leg jolts, kicking the throw cushion onto the floor. I reach for the folded afghan and drape it over him. I stand for a few seconds as my eyes scan the room. The kids’ framed graduation pictures look somewhat ominous, shadowed and eerie. Each of their expressions seem to be taunting me and challenging the decision which minutes ago surfaced, simmered, and came to a boil. Am I being dramatic, selfish, foolish, and ridiculous? Am I overreacting? I focus on the rise and fall of Spencer’s chest, expecting his breathing to balance my own before going upstairs.

I pull up the handle of the suitcase, and as quietly as I can wheel it along the hall. I pick it up and slowly make my way downstairs. I glance at Spencer as I reach to turn the lamp off. The kitchen light guides my way through the dining room and kitchen, then into the back hall. I grab my purse, throw my phone in, and slip on my sandals before I open the back door. Is there anything else I need?

I get into the driver’s seat of the Expedition and look toward the house. It always looks so peaceful in the dark. I love the way the solar lights give the back veranda a glow, a look of enchantment, hiding the flaws of a thirty-five-year-old house. Midnight glow and early morning light always give me an optimism the rest of the day doesn’t offer. I turn the ignition key, wondering if Spencer will be jolted awake by the beam of headlights coming through the window. Will he jump up and come out to see who might be in the yard this late?

I put the Expedition into drive and glance back, making sure the lights on the trailer are working. I look quickly at the gas gauge. About half full. I pull away and start down the driveway. I have no idea where I am going, but I am going.



Thank you for being our guest this week, Susan and sharing your good news. Wishing you continued success with your stories.


And thanks to our visitors and readers.

Do you have a favourite author?

Tell us about him/her.


Saturday 14 January 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Mark Scott Piper of Santa Rosa, Ca.


The Scribbler is beyond pleased to have Mark back to tell us about his new novel.

I received my copy by courier yesterday and I am anxious to dig in. Mark is an award-winning author and a fine storyteller.

He’s been a guest before and if you missed his interview, please go HERE.


Let’s see what Mark is up to.



Mark Scott Piper has been writing professionally his entire adult life. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Oregon and has taught literature and writing at the college level for several years. His short stories have appeared in Short Story America, The California Writers Club Literary Review, and several online literary magazines, including, Scrutiny, Writing Raw, Fabula Argentea, Animal, and Slurve. In addition, two of his short stories have been Honorable Mention selections in Short Story America Prize for Short Fiction contests. At the age of 76 he published his debut novel, You Wish, which was the 2019 American Eagle Book Awards first-place gold winner. To date he has released two other novels, The Old Block (2020) and Until Proven Innocent (2022). He is currently at work on his fourth novel and a collection of stories.



Working Title: Until Proven Innocent: A Mystery



Synopsis: Recently retired English professor Mac Faulk returns to Headley University to teach one more creative writing class. Among the first batch of student stories, he comes across an anonymous dark tale describing a heinous crime. He thinks little of it—until the story’s details begin to come true.

When the unknown author of the story submits two, even more disturbing stories, Mac is caught up in a web of intrigue and mystery that makes him the chief suspect in the eyes of the local police. The only way for Mac to prove his innocence—and to try to save the life of the next victim—is to find and stop the perpetrator. But the odds are stacked against him ... and he’s running out of time.



The Story behind the Story: My debut novel featured a 14-year-old protagonist, and the main character in my second book was 24. This time, I wanted to create a protagonist who was older. Mac Faulk is 62 and retired, but that doesn’t mean he’s too over the hill to deal with life’s problems and pitfalls. When I first started to think about the novel, I was close to Mac’s age and experience. I didn’t want him to be some kind of spokesman for our generation, but I felt there was a perspective us older folks have that was worth exploring. I’m certainly not the first author to do that. But the thing is, Mac Faulk is a lot like me. We’re both old farts, we both taught English in college, we both played recreational softball into our 60s, we both have a sarcastic sense of humor, and we both have trouble understanding women (not an issue that applies only to older guys).


When I sent early versions of Until Proven Innocent out to critique groups, many readers, especially women, reacted negatively to Mac. They thought he was arrogant, misogynistic, and generally unlikeable. Imagine my consternation. Mac is me! Not what I was expecting, since readers who know me and my sense of humor thought Mac was hilarious. Clearly, sarcasm doesn’t translate well on the written page. It was a wake-up call for me. 


Mac Faulk is a first-person narrator, so readers are privy to his thoughts, opinions, and worldview. I had to find a way to cut back on Mac’s sarcastic thoughts and clarify his true feelings toward others, especially women. And I had to accomplish that without undermining the humor of the piece or turning my protagonist into a complete wimp. The character needed more than fine-tuning. It took me several rewrites, and more than a few ardent discussions with my female editor-partner. Based on early reviews of Until Proven Innocent, though, Mac is no longer as offensive to women readers. But he’s still a lot like me.


Main character aside, I had another problem with Until Proven Innocent from the outset. I wanted to write a mystery, even a thriller, but I hoped to for a humorous undertone. After all, that’s a huge part of my voice, my style. Many readers of the mystery/thriller genre expect certain things: a dead body in the first chapter; immediate tension that builds rapidly to the end; and a savvy detective-like protagonist who steps in and solves the crime. That wasn’t my vision for Until Proven Innocent. Yes, I know not all mysteries or crime stories are the same. Not every protagonist is a cliché, and certainly not every mystery novel features the same tropes. Until Proven Innocent is just one that doesn’t follow expectations. I’ve never been able to color inside the lines when it comes to my forays into genre fiction. Doesn’t make me unique, but it does make me a little nervous about how readers might react. 


Since the story is told exclusively through Mac’s point of view, the mystery unfolds only as quickly as Mac is able to figure it out. The result is a slow burn, as tension builds tentatively at first and increases exponentially as the plot develops. At least, that’s my goal.


And finally, Mac is no Sam Spade. Again, not unheard of in mysteries and thrillers. He’s just an ordinary guy who’s thrown into a bizarre, dangerous situation he may not be equipped to deal with. Overcoming those obstacles is what, I hope, helps Mac emerge from the novel victorious, if not actually heroic.






A question before you go, Mark.


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?

I have a home office dedicated to my writing. My alarm goes off at 5:00 each morning. That gives me four hours or so of calm until the rest of the house wakes up. And that’s when I get the most writing done. I find background music distracting. As I'm often reminded, I'm easily distracted most of the time. I try not to let anything come between me and the fictional world I’m forging. Like a lot of authors, writing for me is a personal, private activity, one that I share with the characters I’m channeling. For me, silence is golden when I’m working. That said, my current protagonist likes music playing in the background when he reads student papers. In that regard, he’s more like Stephen King than me.


I may be breaking a writers' code here, but I’ve given up coffee in favor of chai latte. Slightly higher pretentiousness quota, but I do live in Northern California, and it’s popular here. Besides, it’s still caffeine, just not so enough to get me wired. 


My writing environment isn’t exactly “neat,” but it stops short of chaotic. I do all my writing on the computer. Editing is a bit different because I most often print pages and mark them by hand. It’s a method that works best for me, but it can add to the clutter. When I make notes preparing to write a piece of fiction, I do that at the keyboard or with a digital recorder when I’m away from home. 


On the other hand, when I'm reviewing another writer's novel, I tend to jot down points and ideas on a notepad before I compose the review (and all its edits) on the computer. Mine isn’t a work environment that works for everyone, but it does for me. 



Excerpt from Until Proven Innocent:

With Jim Morrison meandering through “Riders on the Storm,” I hunkered down at my dining room table. Time to take on the first stack of student short stories. Tolstoy, my golden retriever roommate, strolled over for a vigorous head scratch. He made three clockwise turns, settled himself at my feet, and promptly fell asleep. He had his rituals; I had mine.

When I read student work, background music makes the experience feel less like a chore. My other paper-grading indulgence is a glass of wine, today a very nice cabernet sauvignon. I never drink more than one glass while reading student submissions. A second glass is my reward for getting through the pile. Besides, red wine is supposed to be good for you. I read that on Yahoo.

I studied the stack, puffed out a sigh. Thing was, I wasn’t even supposed to be doing this. I’d retired at sixty-two, after three decades teaching English at Headley University in Reymond—a small Northern California college town. Some years ago I’d managed to publish a couple of short stories, but I wanted to know once and for all if I had a novel in me. If I did, I hadn’t found it in the ten months since I’d retired.

My writer’s block was kicked to the curb when out of nowhere a former colleague, Kay Whitfield, decided to join her husband in Mississippi—two days before spring term started—and I was coerced by a panicked English Department chairman into taking over Kay’s Community Outreach creative writing class. Headley offered these noncredit classes to locals at a reduced cost, essentially a PR move. It could have been worse. I had only eight students. Besides, teaching this class counted as legitimate avoidance behavior. The alleged novel would have to wait.

As the Doors glided into the extended instrumental of “Light My Fire,” I rechecked the stories. All seven of the students who’d attended the first two classes were accounted for. But I had eight stories. The eighth one not only didn’t follow the manuscript format spelled out in the syllabus, and the writer hadn’t even put a name on it. I checked the roster again. Must be the work of Roger Cole, the one student who hadn’t shown up for either class and, therefore, hadn’t seen the syllabus.

We had an agreement. You don’t attend class; I don’t read your work. I shouldn’t even look at the thing. After all, rules are rules. I shook my head, then heard my brain screech to a halt.

Wait. Rules are rules? Where the hell did that come from? What happened to the rebel spirit I’d painted onto signs back in my civil rights and Vietnam War protest days? Had I really become some unbending old guardian of the rules?

I glanced down at Tolstoy. “So what do you think, buddy? Should I read it or not?”

Tolstoy looked up at me for a couple of seconds and laid his head back down next to my feet. Close enough to a nod. I decided to see what Mr. Cole had to offer.




Thank you for being our guest this week, Mark. Thanks for the tantalizing excerpt. Wishing you continued success with your stories.


And a big thank you to our visitors and readers.

Do you have a favourite book?

Tell us about it.

Saturday 7 January 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Author Sarah Butland of Nova Scotia, Canada.


The first post of 2023 is with Nova Scotia Author, Sarah Butland.

This is her second visit to the Scribbler, and we are pleased to have her as a guest once more. To revisit her first posting, please go HERE.

She has lots of new books and she’s going to tell us about her newest publication.


Let’s hear from Sarah. 



Filling her days with writing adjacent to-do’s, Sarah Butland has always considered herself a writer and a fraudster. A total pantser, whenever Butland gives herself permission to write the characters show up and chat. While writing is a struggle for some, just finding the time is the challenge she faces as she works full time, plus freelances, and markets, and sometimes cleans the house, rarely but even folds the laundry sometimes.

At five years old Butland knew she was a writer and still lets that kid out sometimes through the page. Despite all doubts, discouragement and challenges, for Butland writing is as vital as breathing. Now living in Nova Scotia, she spent fifteen years in New Brunswick impressing teachers with her ability to create darkness, edit newspapers and often have her letters to the editor in the local newspaper published.


Working Title: Gaining It At 41


Synopsis: Annabelle's story isn't over. After being introduced to her in Losing It At 40, readers demanded more; Gaining It At 41 offers all that and more! A mix of romance, comedy and characters that will last a lifetime, Gaining It At 41 is a must read.

Annabelle says:

My age was a factor. Not to mention my contraceptive measures that failed and delayed menopause that I had to look forward to while raising a toddler. I asked about tying my tubes before the test was positive and they laughed, very unprofessionally, but I had the right. Abigail was a miracle, after all. A healthy miracle child, they told me, after numerous precautions taken not to have her exist at all.



The Story behind the Story: I wrote Gaining It At 41 as the sequel to Losing It At 40 which was in high demand. My second romance, Gaining Its premise was sparked when a friend mentioned Annabelle should get pregnant. Nothing else seemed to inspire me until that was mentioned which magically sparked the next step.

Writing romance has been interesting as it wasn’t my first genre of choice, not reading many in that category. With the recommendation of the genre gaining in popularity due to ereaders and readers not being ashamed of the racy covers, I thought I’d give it a try. What an adventure it has been!

Birthdays for me have always been skewed with emotions, false starts and forgotten wishes so this was my opportunity to write a birthday themed celebration that honoured a fresh start and a great day.

Within about three months I wrote the first book and, about a year later, another three months to write the second, something sparked. With a natural comedic tone, Annabelle reinvents herself when she turns 40 in Losing It At 40 (written before I turned 40 myself, not before I lost “it”) and in Gaining It At 41, Annabelle learns even more.

Gaining It At 41 to me is just wrapping up a chaotic, hilarious adventure of a romance with a nice bow with icing on top.

Website: Please visit my site at to see what I’m up to, for a free award-winning short story and my latest review.


A question before you go, Sarah.


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?


For me it’s never about the setting, it’s about the time. With limited time available to dedicate to the art, setting up the perfect place and finding the best drink cuts into the time I have to write. I simply open my laptop and let my fingers dance across the keyboard, hoping they make sense while blocking out the room. While I’m not organized at all, though would love to be, as a pantser I don’t need notes – just a blank page and a keyboard, and to stop checking Facebook.

Thanks so very much for having me here and for supporting Canadian authors!



Thank you so much for being our guest this week, Sarah. Wishing you continued success with your writing.



And a BIG thank you to my readers and visitors.

Who’s your favorite author?