Sunday 26 February 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Susan Bernhardt of Wisconsin, US.


Let’s welcome Susan back.

This is not her first visit to the Scribbler and we are always happy to share her latest news.


If you missed her earlier visit, please go HERE.


Over to you, Susan.



Susan's town in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of her Kay Driscoll novels. Like Kay Driscoll in her cozy mysteries, Susan is a retired nurse who volunteers at her local free clinic. She also writes the Irina Curtius mysteries which take place in Manhattan.

An avid reader of mysteries, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc., and the Wisconsin Writers Association.

Her published works include: The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1), Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2), Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3), Paradise Can Be Murder (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 4), Murder Misunderstood (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 5), The Neighborhood (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 6), A Manhattan Murder Mystery (An Irina Curtius Mystery), Dress to Kill (An Irina Curtius Mystery), "October 31st", "Midsummer", and "John and Madeline.



Working Title: The Neighborhood 



Synopsis: A new City Planner and his "Stepford wife" move into Kay Driscoll's neighborhood. The city of Sudbury Falls has a planning committee headed by this newly hired city planner intent on building a dam in the Sudbury River. The purpose, to create a lake for waterfront property featuring high-priced, luxury condominiums that the locals could never afford.

An uproar arises among the citizens who are passionate about the natural beauty of the Sudbury River. A newly formed Sudbury River Protection Society attracts Kay Driscoll and her friends with their “Save the River” movement.

When a murder occurs in the neighborhood, the unexpected happens. Chief Kirk asks Kay for her help in investigating the crime. What is up his sleeve? In the meantime Elizabeth's ex-husband shows up at her book signing after a five-year absence, Deirdre has a community feng shui-inspired May Day celebration at Planetary Herbals, and Janey goes on her first date.

Welcome back to Kay's world.



The Story Behind the Story: Why did I write this mystery? The truthful reason I wrote this sixth Kay Driscoll mystery is simply because writing seems to be in my blood. I can't imagine not writing. And I write to entertain, mostly through the characters, the plot of the story, and dry humor.

My first book was released in January 2014 by a Canadian publisher. I started writing the mystery five years previous to the publication date taking a number of writing classes.

What inspired the book? The environment is important for everyone. And not to be destroyed for the chosen rich. This idea became a focus for The Neighborhood. The book focuses on a small, but important level, on the lives of those living in the fictional Sudbury Falls. In real life, big companies, businesses, and industries are creating havoc in our environment and on the world.



Author Page on Facebook:



A question before you go, Susan: Can you tell us the perfect setting you have, or desire, for writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila? Neat or notes everywhere?


I've always been fascinated with romantic ideas of where authors write. Perhaps I had seen too many movies, but when I became an author, I pictured myself looking out of a second floor palazzo window onto the Grande Canal in Venice, with a glass of Prosecco beside my desk, pounding away on the keyboard.

Three years ago my husband and I did visit Venice and we stayed in a palazzo but there wasn't a balcony and if there had been, it wouldn't have looked out over the Grande Canal. But we did share a bottle of Prosecco in our room. If only I had brought my writing along.

Or I might be in NYC working in an Upper West Side Brownstone where I could practically touch the tree outside of my window. In between paragraphs, I'd watch the hustle and bustle of the street below with the only things on my mind being my novel and trying to decide which neighborhood eatery I would try that evening, Indian, Thai or Italian.

I've sort of lived out this a mystery where part of it takes place in this exact setting, a Brownstone on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

A Victorian home, a "Painted Lady" in San Francisco would be cool, looking out over the San Francisco Bay, hearing the cable cars in the distance and the seagulls above. I'd try to finish a chapter before meeting friends in North Beach at a coffee bar.

We have lived in the San Francisco Bay area and often times walked the different parts of the city including North Beach. But I wasn't writing then.

I recently was able to live out one of my romantic ideas of where to write. I went on holiday with my husband to the Caribbean and wrote on the powdery, white beach where I could look up and view the surreal, blue-green water. Between writing, I went for a swim and saw dozens of beautiful tropical fish in the crystal clear waters. Now that is romantic and I lived it completely! Paradise Can Be Murder (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 4) is the result.

But most of the time, I'm at home sitting on my sofa in our living room with my laptop on my lap typing away. There's a wall-sized window where I can look out over our neighborhood or watch the birds build their nests in our yew tree in the spring. I have a little make-shift side table, a Red Wing crock where I keep my teacup filled throughout the day. And when I'm not watching my carbs, I often have a scone sitting next to the teacup slathered in lemon curd and clotted cream.




These all sound like enjoyable creative settings, Susan. Thanks for being our guest this week. Wishing you the best of luck with the new novel and wishing you continued success with your writing.




And as usual, a tremendous thank you to our visitors and readers.


A question for you: What is your all-time favorite book you’ve read many times?

Saturday 18 February 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Poet & Author Kayla Geitzler of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.


It’s an honour to have Kayla as our guest this week.  Not only is she a noted poet and author, but a very busy lady, as you will see in her bio.


We are most fortunate to have Kayla as the organizer and creator of so many wonderful events and opportunities to share our work.


She is deserving of every accolade and award she receives.


Let’s meet Kayla.






Kayla Geitzler was born and raised in Moncton, which is within Siknikt of the Mi'kma'ki. Named a "Rad Woman of Canadian Poetry", she holds a Masters in English with a specialty in Creative Writing from the University of New Brunswick. She was Moncton's inaugural Anglophone Poet Laureate and Frye Festival Poet Flyee, and is the organizer of the Attic Owl Reading Series. Her first collection of poetry, That Light Feeling Under Your Feet (NeWest Press, 2018), was a Calgary Bestseller and finalist for two awards. She is co-editor of Cadence: Voix feminines Females Voices (Frog Hollow Press, 2020) a multilingual poetry anthology, the first publication of its kind in NB. Kayla co-created Poésie Moncton Poetry, a website archiving video poetry of Mi'kmaq and Moncton region poets with Francophone Poet Laureate Jean-Philippe Raîche. She works as an editor & writing consultant, offering full-service editing and writing, book layout, university-level writing workshops, writing and performance coaching. In 2021, Kayla received a Top 20 Under 40 Award from the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Moncton for her entrepreneurial success and dedication to literature in her community.




Working Title: That Light Feeling Under Your Feet (NeWest Press, 2018)



Synopsis: That Light Feeling Under Your Feet plunges headfirst into the surreal and slogging world of cruise ship workers. These masterfully crafted poems challenge perpetuating colonial and class relations, as well as the hedonistic lifestyle attributed to the employees of these floating resorts. Kayla Geitzler’s debut collection interprets isolation, alienation, racism, and assimilation into the margins as inevitable consequences for the seafaring workforce of the most profitable sector of the tourism industry. Exploring the liminal space between labour and leisure, the poems in That Light Feeling Under Your Feet are at once buoyant and weighty, with language that cuts like a keel through the sea.



The Story behind the Story: That Light Feeling Under My Feet chronicles the two years I worked "the life" (as cruise ships employees call it) on three separate cruise ships. Although there is a disclaimer in the end notes claiming the poems' circumstances can't be verified as true, I'm always surprised at how many readers understand that to mean I made it all up. The book is autobiographical. The morgue really did break, the ice cream really was thrown overboard, and the bodies really were stored in the freezer. John Denver Jr. was the 17-year-old son of an entertainer, and I wasn't the only one who found him extremely annoying. He used to gallop around the ship on a hobby horse, firing a cap gun. I really did tell cruisers how the moose get to France, and I grieved with my Indonesian crewmates when the 2004 tsunami destroyed their villages. The Saturday my first contract ended (or was supposed to end), Hurricane Katrina swept into the Gulf and began its devastation of much of the Southern US.

          As Shoppies, or duty-free sales associates, we worked eighteen to twenty-hour days with a one-hour break and no guaranteed time off. This was not the Love Boat. Staff and crew members didn't go to bingo—they worked past the point of exhaustion, coping as best they could with what were often privileged and abusive passengers, and after letting off some steam in the crew bar, they slept the short sleep of the working dead below the waves. All this continues today.

          In 2004 and 2005, I was contracted by Starboard Cruise Ltd. As a new Shoppie, I had a base salary of $500 USD a month, and any extra income had to be made through commission sales. That might sound like a sweet deal, but here's the reality. On our thirty-five-day cruise from Vancouver to the Brazilian Amazon, the Duty-free staff only had two half-days and one full day off. (Cruise ships fly under "flags of convenience", they are registered in countries where there are few workers' rights.) We worked, on average, about 17 hours a day. That equals out to about $1.75 USD an hour. And we had accomplished something no other cruise ship had on an extended cruise: constant sell-out sales. For instance, I sold $15,000 USD in amber jewelry one evening, and $175,000 USD in Columbian emerald jewelry in one afternoon.


          That Light Feeling is an examination of how travel and living in the margins alters, or perhaps reforms, who you will be for the rest of your life. For good and ill. It also looks at the systems that take advantage of global employees. Cruise ships workers will tell you they "work to die"; the environment is that difficult for them. They often choose this work because they don't have to pay for room and board. I didn't choose to work on cruise ships because they seemed glamourous. I only wanted to travel. While it was a very difficult experience overall, it was just as rewarding in the relationships I made with my coworkers, the life lessons, and the lands and peoples I was able to visit. I worked with people from all over the world and made lifetime friends.

          After a debilitating back injury, I returned to NB. I enrolled in UNB and completed my BA in English with First Class Honours. When I entered the Creative Writing Masters programme, I was encouraged to write my thesis on the cruise ships. The stories were already old for me; I'd been telling them for five years at that point. But this presented an enormous challenge for me as a new poet. I had good training, but how would I conceptualize this idea—how would I craft these stories, many of which were dark or depressing?

          I took direction from "the life" itself, from its often chaotic sense of fluidity. I let the form be what it wanted. I used humour and I layered the writing to make it nuanced. Above all, as I wasn't just writing about myself, I had a responsibility to accurately and respectfully capture the crew while remaining honest. And as narrative poetry, for some reason, is often looked down on, I wanted to do something more encompassing than just tell stories.

          Five years later, after many failed submissions and two rewrites, I sent it to NeWest Press in Edmonton. While the board was reviewing my manuscript, it won the WFNB 2016 Bailey Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript. I was thrilled when That Light Feeling was chosen to be an inaugural edition for their Crow Said Poetry series.

          Next year, 2024, will mark twenty years since I first felt that light feeling under my feet and roamed ports with a journal, scribbling terrible poetry. When I was a twenty-something skipping across the crests of waves in a speeding tender, or selling $3000 bottles of brandy, I didn't foresee this writing life for myself. But when a reader finishes That Light Feeling and tells me they were absorbed by one long story, and that they empathize with cruise ship workers, I'm glad these narratives live in the world. 






A question before you go, Kayla:


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 don't like a lot of noise or distracting movements; I get into a flow and I need to stay there. I enjoy a quiet cafe with large windows, but I mostly work at home, at the kitchen table. If I'm working on form poetry, I need two screens, so I'll work in my office. In warmer weather, I sit on the porch when traffic is not so heavy.

I like to write with music in the background, usually something classical or atmospheric such as Agnes Obel, Vivaldi, Hania Rani, Fairouz, or Tori Amos. Silence helps with crafting language for emotions.

I like to have a cup of tea nearby, and I can write at any time of the day, although I prefer to write new material earlier in the day, and to edit/revise at night. If I'm writing new material in the evening, I'll sometimes pour myself a glass of Sicilian or Spanish red wine or a few fingers of Irish whiskey, neat.







Early morning sleep perforated by thunderous feet running past cabin
doors — someone crying Sea day! Sea day! in the hall cursing and shuffling,
Steiners and Casino dealers straightening uniforms over booze-bloated
bellies as they trip over Dancers raising Senor Frog glasses to work ethic.

Sleep-deprived Shoppies salute the day with Fuck off! and roll over until
the Manager phones: Get up to the Shops now, you twats! and through
anemic asbestos walls their disbelief unites in a boys’ choir of stiff
stretches and hangover tumbles from bunks; deodorant smeared under
navy cruise line polos as photophobic eyes squint out portholes —
Oh God, we’re stationary.

Sandbar-moored in the Mississippi’s middle: a whole day late getting
back to N’awlins — ten hours with angry flight-missed passengers; to
feed them staff and crew meals rationed. Then, in the terminal, seven
hundred would-be cruisers ugly with luggage; the midnight of our souls
in their flushed faces.

Four days of the guests from hell: vomit in the stairwells, riots over
souvenir maracas and 3xl t-shirts; stewards and bar staff weeping;
despite Captain intervention even a food fight night of the Black and
White Ball; so the av department played horror movies. Whenever
anyone turned on the tv there was Ghost Ship, The Poseidon Adventure,
Open Water, Titanic, The Perfect Storm — any scenario where seas
swallowed vessels and everybody fucking drowned.




Thank you for taking the time to be our guest, Kayla, and for the outstanding excerpt. Wishing you continued success with your writing journey.




And a big thank you to all our visitors and readers. It’s all for you.


Do you have a favourite poet?

Saturday 11 February 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Sonia Nicholson of Victoria, BC, Canada.


I met Sonia on Twitter when I was drawn to the beautiful cover on her debut novel and she kindly accepted my offer to be our guest this week.

When you visit her website you will read,

“Using my words for good.”

I like that.

Let’s go meet Sonia.



Sonia Nicholson has worked in archives for fifteen years. A first generation Canadian who grew up in a Portuguese immigrant family in Osoyoos, British Columbia, Canada, she went on to study French and Spanish at the University of Victoria. She remained in Victoria and lives there with her husband, two children, and two rescue dogs. She's been to France several times, and just might be a bit obsessed with the country and culture. Her work has appeared most recently in Inspirelle, Literary Heist, Pinhole Poetry, Heimat Review, and Rivanna Review.



Working Title: Provenance Unknown



Synopsis: An archivist without a past of her own doesn't expect her profession to get personal. Thirty-year-old single mom Michele Norman has finally found her dream job at the city archives in her hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. But while she does a deep dive into every inquiry that comes in, there’s one past she won’t touch: her own. After all, she doesn’t need to know why she grew up with her best friend, Amanda. If Michele’s family didn’t want her, then good riddance to them. Besides, with a son starting kindergarten, a stack of unpaid bills, and the possibility of her work hours being cut back, she has enough to worry about. When she discovers a forgotten French diary from WWII in the vault, the treasure hunt for information is on; she’s drawn to the notebook more than anything before. Written by a local woman, it tells a story of love, loss, second chances, and an injustice that leaves Michele livid. In her obsessive quest to make things right, Michele makes questionable choices that jeopardize not only her fledgling career and her already precarious living situation but her relationships too. Soon she uncovers the shocking truth about the mystery writer and, even more determined, embarks on a journey from the west coast of Canada all the way to Paris, France. On route, she meets Sébastien, a Parisian workaholic who is full of surprises. It's not long before she's fully swept up by City of Light's charms—and by his. Will Michele be distracted from her mission by the intriguing and maddening lawyer? Or will she finally find answers to the family questions she has never been ready to ask?



The Story behind the Story: When the idea for PROVENANCE UNKNOWN first came to me, I myself was a young mother and working in a municipal archive—just like Michele.

Before landing at the archives, I’d spent months racking my brains trying to “come up” with a new career. As if I could conjure up the right profession by thinking about it hard enough. I may have become fixated on this quest for fulfilment. I didn’t want to go back to my retail job but had no idea what to do next. And although I wasn’t a single mom like Michele, my husband was away frequently for work. Looking back, I think I was lonely and lost.

It sounds cheesy, or maybe anti-climactic. But when a certain movie showed me that archives were a thing, that was it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. How had I not thought of archives sooner? Once the notion planted itself, it made perfect sense for my skill set and personality.

Off I went. I stepped into the field as a volunteer when I was still on maternity leave and worked my way into a staff position. I was lucky to have the best mentor anyone could ever ask for, and she taught me everything I know. All the roles. All the tasks. Over time, I tried my hand at everything.

Equally important, I learned the stories. Behind every document, every photo, every piece of ephemera, there was a story. Some longer than others. Some that made me smile. Some that broke my heart.

Whenever I held these records, I felt privileged. Wanted to know more. It was easy to go down a rabbit hole.  

My husband lovingly teased me about making friends with dead people. He wasn’t wrong. I got to know them. See how their lives unfolded. How they ended. These connections were as real as the ones I formed with the living, breathing humans around me.

Out of this experience came a question: Wouldn’t it be interesting to have an archives professional who was obsessed with everyone else’s history, but didn’t know (and didn’t want to know) their own?

Running parallel to this thread was my nostalgia for Paris. I’d visited three times: the first on a high school trip at age 16, the second between graduation and university, and the third with my husband. (For more, read my essay at Inspirelle: ) Over that fifteen year span, I’d created stories of my own in the City of Light. Romantic, funny, and even wacky memories that had stayed with me, begging to be shared.

Between work, and wrangling a preschooler, and everything else I had going on, I managed to somehow plot out Provenance Unknown. Genealogical charts, character profiles, chapter outlines, research—the works. By the time I finished, though, I’d run out of gas. My notebooks disappeared into a cupboard, where they would remain for ten (!) years.

Life can get in the way like that.

When circumstances changed and I could go down to part-time work—and my now two children were that much older—I was finally ready to finish the darn thing. Since childhood, I’d always been a storyteller at heart. Poetry, mainly. Now I could write my first-ever book.

Definitely not my last.

Provenance Unknown is near and dear to my heart, for obvious reasons. And here we are, the release date about a month or so away.

I’m nervous and excited and all the feelings. But I move forward. I’m still learning.

Still writing.





A question before you go, Sonia:

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 generally need quiet to write. White noise is good, too, so even airports and ferries have been productive locations for me. The sounds blend into the background. Family chaos? Less conducive to the writing process.

Most times, I have an oversized mug of green tea with lemon to keep me company, though I’ve been known to occasionally swap that out for a good scotch.

An organized environment is a must! I don’t do paper notes anymore, but a handy tote keeps any hard copies of things nicely contained.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would love to go to Europe for a writers’ retreat. Bonus points if I was invited as a guest and it was paid for. But failing that, I would take a weekend alone in a beachfront hotel in Parksville, here on Vancouver Island.





Thank you for being our guest this week, Sonia. Best of luck with the novel and wishing you continued success with your writing.


And a big thank you to our visitors and readers.

Who’s your favorite Author?

Don’t be shy. Leave us a comment.

Sunday 5 February 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Bruce Bishop of Nova Scotia, Canada.


The Scribbler is pleased to welcome Bruce back to share the Story Behind the Story with his latest publication.

If you missed his first visit, check it out here.


I had an opportunity to read an early version of the story and was highly entertained. Well done, Bruce.

Let’s tell our readers about it.




Bruce W. Bishop is a Nova Scotian author who writes from his home base in the capital city of Halifax. He started writing professionally in the mid-1990s primarily in the travel and lifestyle genres as a freelance journalist and was fortunate to travel to many parts of the world. With stints also working as an online English teacher to Korean business professionals, owning and operating a travel consultancy, and working in the public relations sector, Bishop has finally found his calling in writing novels.



Title:  Undeniable Relations

Synopsis:  In the post war renaissance of the 1950s, the idealistic daughter of a fishing industry magnate grapples with knowing that her father’s decades-old criminal activities, hidden under the guise of respectability, have impacted everyone she loves.



The Story Behind the Story: Undeniable Relations is technically part three of a family saga trilogy I’ve called Families’ Storytelling.

The first novel in the interlinked series, Unconventional Daughters, was inspired by a true incident of an unorthodox marriage in Nova Scotia during the Roaring ‘20s.  This debut novel was popular with readers, so I followed it up with Uncommon Sons, featuring some of the characters who appeared in the first book.  ‘Sons’ is not technically a sequel because it contains a wholly different storyline that is set in 1935-36. 

After this book also performed well, I decided to move some of the popular cast of characters twenty years into the future – the 1950s – and Undeniable Relations was born.

I have a background in film and video production, and while my career path had veered away from that discipline, the passion for this line of work has re-emerged. I’m currently adapting the trilogy into what I hope will be an internationally engaging television series. I envision it being filmed as a period piece in its true-to-the-book settings: southern Sweden and Nova Scotia, Canada, from the late 1880s to the mid-Depression years.






Enjoy an excerpt:


From Undeniable Relations, chapter 1:

January 10, 1958

When he was shoved off the public wharf into the depths of Yarmouth Harbor at high tide, he had no time to speculate whether anyone had witnessed his murder. He didn’t even have a moment to be angry with himself for having agreed to meet his killer at the wharf. The fog was “as thick as pea soup” the locals say, and it was impossible to tell what anybody was doing a couple of feet in front of, or behind you. It was as if that mass of white had been expressly ordered by his enemy to swallow the town, and him with it.

When he hit the surface, he thrashed about in the blackness, and he knew his life would soon be over. He had never learned to swim, and the shock of the frigid harbor that assaulted his body lulled him into complete submission. The claustrophobic saltwater demanded to fill his mouth, nose, and ears. He lapsed into unconsciousness, and as death overtook him, he welcomed it: whatever had gone wrong, or whatever he had done wrong in his life, now meant nothing.

After his demise, his body slowly floated southward. The fluorescent pools of gasoline on the harbor’s surface, cigarette butts, candy wrappers and miscellaneous paper products accompanied him. When his body was found many hours later at low tide, it had not yet reached the mouth of the harbor, but had become entangled in rocks and ubiquitous masses of seaweed. Some would later say that it was a righteous end for a person like himself.




A question before you go, Bruce:

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 like the quiet when I write – no music, although I’ll listen to classical, or nature sounds sometimes to drown out street traffic.  Ideally, though, give me a pet-and-insect-free location in a warm climate, like a verandah overlooking a body of water, and I’m all set. I’ll take coffee or alcohol-free beer anytime, and while I’d like to keep a tidy desk, that’s only an aspiration.

Thank you for asking me to contribute to the Scribbler once again!



It’s been a treat having you as our guest this week Bruce. Wishing you lots of success with the new book.


And a big thank you to our readers and visitors.


Tell us what you liked today.