For all you fantastic visitors and readers – you are in for a treat today. Something different as we feature a husband/wife writing team. Each with their own thrilling stories.
Joe has been a guest previously and if you missed it, please go HERE.
This is Sheryl’s first
visit so read on my friends.
Sheryl Doiron-Powers is a diverse Canadian writer who dabbles in many
genres including horror, romance, young adult, science fiction, creative
non-fiction, and everything in between. She currently lives in the small
community of Maugerville, New Brunswick, with her horror writing husband, Joe
Powers, and their assortment of pets.
Joe Powers is a Canadian horror writer, a
native of Fredericton, NB, and long-time fan of all things scary. From his
introduction to the genre on a stormy Saturday night at the age of six - his
first viewing of Bride of Frankenstein - he's been hooked. Hundreds, or maybe thousands, of horror movies later, that
one still ranks among his favorites.
Among his many inspirations he
lists Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Michael Crichton, Vincent Price, Peter
Benchley and Richard Matheson. He enjoys introducing the reader to flawed,
believable characters and leading them on dark journeys with an unexpected twist.
He isn’t afraid to mix and match genres, fearlessly
weaving horror into noir, western, or sci fi.
His work has appeared in
numerous anthologies and collections, both at home and abroad, as well as two
novels – the horror/western fusion Terror in High Water and paranormal thriller
Seventeen Skulls – and his latest release, Old Bones, which is a collection of
some of his own short stories.
In his spare time he's an avid
hockey fan and dog lover, and still finds time to teach several classes at
UNB's College of Extended Learning.
Joe currently lives in Maugerville with his wife and fellow author,
Sheryl, and an ever-growing assortment of creatures.
Sheryl: The Maugerville Monster
Joe: Putting Down Roots
and Travis Anderson’s move to the small community of Maugerville promised the
young couple an idyllic setting to grow Tori’s furniture business and start
their family. Short commutes for Travis combined with lower real estate costs
and picturesque views of the Saint John river were the cherry on top that
sealed the deal, and they moved out of their cramped Fredericton apartment into
the large duplex outside the Maugerville flood line.
has been known to get a little wet from time to time, but the community had a
way of planning, of sticking together, and of making it through the rough times
with a smile. Or it always used to before the flood of 2018. That flood brought
something different. Something far more dangerous than the rush of the Saint
John River, and nothing the Anderson’s or anyone else could have planned for.
Bailey and his family have just relocated to the Maritimes from the west coast.
It’s a beautiful house on a huge corner lot, at a price they couldn’t say no
to. But there’s more to the idyllic property than meets the eye. A dark and
deadly secret lurks at the far corner of the lot.
ancient, twisted and gnarled tree stands ominously at the back of the house.
Its sole purpose is to kill and consume anything that gets too close. It is
patient, methodical, and emotionless.
body count is rising, but Matt is as powerless to stop it as he is to convince
his wife and kids of the dire peril lurking just outside their back door.
deeper Matt digs into the situation, the more he realizes how much danger he
and his family are in. He knows what his family is up against, but can he
protect them? Can he stop the ancient evil before it destroys everything he
The Story Behind the Story:
really enjoy writing stories about locations in Canada, but especially love
writing about New Brunswick. I tend to look for old mythological creatures and
try to bring them into the modern world so they’re not forgotten. Sometimes my
creature will be of Canadian origin, but I’ve also been known to go looking for
one from somewhere else that suits a particular story setting.
originally from Dalhousie, NB, but moved my way down the province and finally
settled down with Joe in Maugerville. Serious snow accumulation and frigid
weather were commonplace in my hometown, but I’d never experienced a Spring
flood when all that snow melted. The Bay of Chaleur doesn’t really cause any
major flooding like what happens here, so this was an entirely new experience
for me. While talking about the flood of 2018 with Joe one day, I got the idea
for The Maugerville Monster and brainstormed the idea with him, then set out to
find the perfect creature for my story.
Joe: I, too, like placing my stories in Canadian locations, whether real or
fictional. Some are based on real legends and stories, some I fabricate or
alter to suit my own needs. But Putting Down Roots is entirely fictional, and
while most of the places are real I’ve taken some liberties with the details.
One day a few years ago I got the idea from a nonsensical conversation that, at
one point, touched on the old Peanuts comics. Specifically, the kite-eating
tree that tormented the kids. Some part of my brain whispered, “what if the
tree ate the kids instead of their kites?” I kind of chuckled at that, but the
seeds were planted. I wrote a short story about it, but it didn’t really do the
idea justice. It has just grown from there.
A couple questions before you go folks:
Scribbler: 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?
Sheryl: I tend to write more in the morning
and early afternoons. My brain seems to go on standby mode the closer it gets
to the end of the day, so writing anything later than about 4pm is just not
going to happen. I usually write in my living room on the couch surrounded by
animals, a cup of coffee, and creativity boosting music playing in the
background. I could always write surrounded by chaos with toddlers and people
talking around me while something blared in the next room, but I struggled to
write at all for quite some time due to worsening rheumatoid arthritis. Now
that I’ve been forced to retire early to focus on my well being, I’m getting
more mobile both physically and mentally. Rheumatoid and fibromyalgia can cause
issues with brain fog and concentration, and they’ve definitely affected mine
at times over the years.
Now that the flare is subsiding, my brain is
stretching its withered synapses, and I’ve managed to write a short story and
start The Maugerville Monster. While it’s still early days, generally once the
writing bug bites me, I take off like a dervish and knock out a manuscript in a
short time frame. The stories are piling up in my head now, so I’ll hopefully
be back to my regular speed in no time. I could have opted to finish a horror
manuscript I had halfway finished, but decided it would be easier to start
something new than to re-familiarize myself with an older piece when I haven’t
been writing regularly.
As I’ve been struggling to write after an extended
period of increased disability, I’ve now come to associate the living room with
only leisure, so will be forcing myself to sit in my office, which I no longer
use for work. The ergonomic setup probably isn’t a bad idea either, I suppose.
A planned routine and dedicated space should help me get into the habit of
writing frequently again. I tend to work best when I have a looming deadline,
so I’m going to get Joe to give me word count deadlines to help me get back
into the swing of things. We tend to do well when we’re pushing each other
along towards the finish line.
I’m 100% pantser. The only notes I make are the ones
to help me keep track of character and setting details for continuity after
I’ve already written them into the story. I don’t think I’ve ever had more than
a page of notes. I never have an outline, web, or handwritten notes scrawled on
napkins. Well, that’s not true. I have a manuscript on the back burner that is
quite complex and required a detailed plot outline for continuity and
development of the plot, which has several story arcs. I’m so much of a pantser,
that fantastic manuscript has been sitting in a folder for several years
because I struggle to work from an outline. I write stories in order, as the
details occur to me, and let the characters and plot carry me where they need
to go. Joe thinks I’m crazy.
Joe: Historically, I’ve written anywhere
and everywhere. When the mood strikes and inspiration hits, I just know I need
to get it down on paper before it’s gone. I have a ton of old handwritten notes
and story ideas scrawled on everything from notepads to the back of the program
of a convention I was attending when my muse popped in for a visit. I tend to
write my notes because I can write faster than I can type – a lot of it is
barely legible, but it gives me something to work with and transcribe from!
As I always tell my students, story ideas are
everywhere. Some are much stronger than others, granted, but there are always
new ones coming along. Once I settle on one that I like, I work it through in
my mind until I’m pretty sure there aren’t any glaring holes that would derail
the story. If it seems workable, I’ll write out a loose outline, hit the
highlights... I call it the ‘skeleton’ of the story. Once I have that in place,
I’ll start adding ‘the meat’ and flesh the story out. During this part of the process
I’ll spend some time on my characters and really get to know them. This is a
double-edged sword; on the one hand, it makes my characters more realistic and
relatable, but on the other hand, as a result they often derail the story I had
so meticulously plotted out. I realize I could save myself a lot of work by
changing the order in which I work, but I’ve never been accused of doing things
the easy way!
As far as my actual process goes, I do my best work
when there’s nothing to distract me from my train of thought. I don’t always
like to have music or other noise, but I will say that certain music sparks
certain... types of creativity. Alice in Chains Unplugged, Heilung’s LIFA, Rob
Zombie, Alice Cooper, Skynyrd, Voiceplay... each sets the mood in its own way
without being intrusive. With a longer work like a novel, I tend to jump around
within the story a bit and write some of the “highlights” of the story. Then
I’ll go back through and fill in the gaps, smooth over the rough edges. It
sounds chaotic, and I guess it can be. On the other hand I’ve tried just
writing from start to finish, and it did work out well – that’s how I wrote
Terror in High Water, my first novel.
Scribbler: How do you decide on the titles for
your novels? Do you have one when you start a new story or later?
Sheryl: I struggle with titles most of the time. I usually end up with a fantastic one right out of nowhere before I start writing, or I take longer to choose one than I did to write the manuscript. When I’m struggling to find one, I reread the story and look for some nugget that’ll work. If that fails, I send my manuscript to Joe and ask advice, then turn to my beta readers if we still haven’t come up with anything. I then overthink it for a bit and try to think of something better. I usually don’t and end up going with the original.
Joe: I hate to admit it, but I really have a tough
time with novel names. Short stories? No problem, most of the time the title
becomes really obvious by the time I’m finished with it. But novels? I’ll use a
working title during the writing period, knowing full well it’s not what will
appear on the finished product. Then, I’ll spend an inordinate amount of time
searching for just the right fit. We joke that I spend more time writing the
title than the book! Often, Sheryl and I will throw ideas back and forth in the
hope something inspires me. Eventually the right title will reveal itself to
me, and I’ll wonder why it wasn’t obvious the whole time.
An Excerpt from Putting Down Roots.
Joe: This is a short snippet from what is
still very much a work in progress, so it’s pretty rough. In this scene, the
main character wants answers about the spooky (and, he suspects, deadly) tree
in his back yard, so he seeks out the former owner of the house and pays her a
visit. The woman matter-of-factly tells him the story of how she used the tree
to kill her husband’s mistress, which confirms the MC’s worst fears and reveals
what exactly he’s dealing with.
"So as I said, I pointed the gun at her. She
wasn't smiling then. She wasn't upset, exactly, but maybe a little less sure of
herself. I told her to walk out the back door onto the patio. She did, and I
followed behind her. We got outside and she stopped and turned around to look
at me. She asked me what now, and I said keep walking. Walking where, she
asked. Over there, over by the tree, I told her. I may have waved the gun at
her to get her moving. She gave me a funny look, but I think she saw I was
serious, so she walked."
"She kept talking, the entire time. Asking
stupid questions, telling me my marriage was over, that my daughter would go
and live with them, how pathetic I was. But I didn't say anything, and she kept
"Just before she got to the tree, she turned
around and looked at me again. Right in the eye. She had this look on her face
that made me want to shoot her right then. But I didn't do that, I waited and
watched. She was in the middle of insulting me when her voice caught in her
throat and she made a funny sound, almost like a cartoon character. She looked
down at the ground, I looked down too, to see what got her attention. One of
the tree's roots had broken up through the ground and had wrapped itself around
her leg. Then a branch came down and... grabbed her, I guess you'd say... by
the neck. She almost screamed, I think. But then that branch had her and she
couldn't make any sound other than a whimpering moan. I'm not sure she really
grasped what was happening to her. I can understand why. It's not the sort of
thing you can really prepare for."
“What did it do to her?” Matt asked. “Did it pull
her apart, or eat her, what?”
"To be honest, I can’t say for certain. I
didn't stay to watch what happened. I'm not a violent person, Mr. Bailey. I
don't care for scary books or movies, I'm generally a nice person. I knew
something very bad was about to happen, and I didn't want to have nightmares
over it. So I lowered the gun and went back inside."
"I went back outside later that afternoon.
Ashley was due home an hour or so later, so I wanted to see if there was
anything I needed to clean up before she came home. But there was nothing. No
sign of the woman, or that anyone had been in the yard at all that day. For a
moment I was afraid she'd gotten away somehow. She'd escaped and was on her way
to the police to have me arrested. I couldn't shake the feeling that it had
gone wrong and that I would be in a lot of trouble."
"But nothing happened. Nobody came, she never
showed up with the police in tow, not even a threatening phone call or email.
She was gone, I was sure of it then."
"What happened then?"
"I had the strangest sensation of
relief. I knew I’d just gotten away with murder. And because it was justified,
I felt no remorse whatsoever. And that's when I decided to kill my husband
This has been
fun and we thank you both for being our guests this week. We wish you continued
success with your writing journeys.
HUMOUNGUS thank you to all our visitors and readers.