The Superpower of Attitude

I’d like to introduce my guest, Diana Wallace Peach, author of several novels and now author of her first children’s book. Diana has a wonderful attitude towards life, which I’m happy to let her share with you.

Welcome Diana.

My daughter wasn’t a morning person as a three-year-old. Instead of simply picking out her clothes for the next morning, she’d wear her outfit to bed. Anything to avoid the ordeal of dressing in the morning. Mornings were miserable and teary, and they set the tone for a miserable, teary day.

One morning we sat on her bed, and I suggested that we use her superpowers to change her day. Well, that intrigued her. So together we said the magic words. “I’m going to have a great day.” We said it over and over again, louder and louder, and guess what? She had a great day. Was her routine different than any other ordinary day? Probably not, but her attitude had gone through a transformation.

The power of magic is alive and well with kids. Kisses for ouchies, magic fairy dust for good dreams, a glittery wand to help wake up, or using superpowers to summon a good day… they work. We adults don’t call it magic, we call it psychology or the power of positivity or an “attitude adjustment.”

When I worked as a mental health counselor with the wee ones, we often focused on choices, on deciding what kind of day we wanted and making it happen. We devised all kinds of strategies, including magical ones, for managing feelings and behaviors, for getting along with others and having fun. That’s a tall order for some adults, imagine if you’re only three.

Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters is about the power of attitude, about looking on the bright side, and deciding to enjoy the day. Nothing changes in Ana’s life to move her from grumpiness to smiles, except her outlook. It’s a message that serves our children – in the books we read to them, in the way we communicate, and by modeling healthy attitudes in our own lives. Happy Reading!

Grumpy Ana Goblyn is sour, dour, and cranky. Her lips droop in a frown. She’s bored with every place and person in her friendly town. With the help of her father, she builds a spaceship and travels to a soggy planet where she meets her perfect monster playmates. But there’s a problem! The monsters see her grouchy frown and think she’s a monster. In this children’s space adventure, Ana discovers that her attitude affects her happiness, and she can change it if she chooses.

Here are a few sample pages from Diana’s wonderful book, “Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters.”

About Diana Wallace Peach

Wallace Peach is a writer of grown-up fantasy and science fiction, but she’s also a grandmother who treks to the Gnome Forest, hunting rainbow gems with grandson Revel. They keep an eye out for purple baby dragons skritching in the Dragonwood and gather gold buried around the magical tree of mystery.

Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters is her first children’s book. More to come!

Connect with Diana:

Website/Blog: http:// mythsofthemirror.com

Book Blog: http://dwallacepeachbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DWPeachBooks

Twitter: @dwallacepeach

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7068749.D_Wallace_Peach

Links to Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters:

Amazon.com:  https://www.amazon.com/Grumpy-Ana-Grouchy-Monsters-Childrens/dp/1975723945

Amazon.co.uk: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Grumpy-Ana-Grouchy-Monsters-Childrens/dp/1975723945

Amazon India: https://www.amazon.in/ Grumpy-Ana-Grouchy-Monsters-Childrens/dp/1975723945

 

 

Why Hire a Copy Editor?

pen

You have an amazing story to tell. Aunt Mary says, “Why don’t you write a book about it, dear?” So you do, and you rush to self-publish your first book just the way thousands of authors are doing these days.

But, wait!

You may feel you’ve just written the next bestselling novel, but the truth is, most first novels are full of errors.

When you rewrite the first draft (and the second and third, and so on) except for small improvements your work will still have weak sections. You can’t fix something if you don’t know what is wrong. At some point you will need outside help. Even experienced authors benefit from an impartial eye, so that help should not come from your loving Aunt Mary. Support, yes, but writing advice, no. Not unless she’s a successful author herself.

Have you taken the time to go to a writing conference or join a writers’ group? If you have ever had your writing analyzed by an expert, you were most likely shocked by their comments. You had no idea there was still so much to learn about writing. Taking a course in creative writing, joining a local writers’ group, going to writing conferences, and reading some of the many books on writing can teach you techniques for making your novel a success. You will pick up writing tips and learn how to structure a novel.

After you’ve rewritten your novel employing all your newfound knowledge, you may think you are ready to publish. Not so. This is the most dangerous stage, where many writers become impatient and “just want to get it published.”

Take a step back. You have a wonderful plot and you’ve told the story in a way that makes the reader want to turn the pages, but you can ruin it all by publishing before it is ready. Some people say poor editing doesn’t make them stop reading. Does that mean they don’t care about the fine craft of writing? If they will read anything, regardless of quality, perhaps they will write without quality too. Not something worthy of much respect.

Imagine you are going to a job interview. Would you present yourself before the interviewer  with your hair scraggly and unwashed, wearing a beautiful brand new outfit and dirty old sneakers? Would you think it doesn’t matter because you know you’re a great person inside?  I can guarantee you won’t make a good impression. The interviewer will have nothing good to say about you. He is judging you by what he sees.

And so it will be with your book. If you want the readers to love it and recommend it to others, don’t publish it if it hasn’t been cleaned up. And I don’t mean a quick read through by Aunt Mary who declared it the best thing she’d ever read. Even that friend with a college degree who pointed out some grammatical things and a spelling mistake is not going to catch everything. Get your book professionally copy-edited and publish quality work confidently.

If you have not worked at shaping your novel with the help of books, courses, critiquing groups, and workshops, you may need a substantive editor for putting the scenes and events in the best order. Chances are that you are past this stage and feel the book is ready. Don’t hire a proofreader. That won’t do you much good unless you only want spelling, punctuation, and typos fixed, but a good copy editor will check all these things. You pay once and get the benefit of having any mistake or problem pointed out to you.

copy-editing [1]

Here are some of the things a copy editor will draw your attention to.

  • poorly phrased sentences
  • lack of balance in the sentence (perhaps where the verb at the beginning does not match with the clause or phrase you have added onto the main sentence frame)
  • overused words
  • repeated words within two or three sentences
  • incorrect grammar usage
  • incorrect capitalization
  • misuse of possessives and plurals
  • wrong word meaning
  • punctuation mistakes, especially in the use of dialogue
  • typos, missing words, and repeated words (the the)
  • incorrect information (fact checking)
  • consistency throughout the work (does Jane become Jayne later in the work?)
  • misspelled words (breath or breathe, loath or loathe)
  • misuse of homonyms (peek, peak, or pique)
  • incorrect verb tense (lie, lay, laid, lain, etc.)
  • boring repetition of the same sentence pattern
  • incorrect use of pronouns after a preposition (between him and I? or him and me?)
  • use of clichés that are not part of the dialogue

These mistakes and many more will be drawn to your attention. It’s well worth spending the time and money to have the errors corrected. A good copy editor will help make your writing shine.

 

Books Matter

When I was little and we had just come to Canada from Germany, my mother read to me often from “The Golden Book of Fairytales,” one of the important items she packed to bring with us. Books were important to her, and she made sure that her children also learned to appreciate them.

??????????

My two younger sisters were already Canadianized by the time they were old enough to be told fairytales, so maybe they didn’t have quite the same attachment as I did to this particular book. One day when they felt creative and there was no other paper handy, they drew their pictures in the fairytale book.

??????????

??????????

I remember being upset about it and judging by her reaction, so was my mother (although I’m sure now that she was putting on the horrified face mostly to show my sisters that defacing books was a No-no). My sisters might have been somewhere between three and five years old.

After that, when my mother read us stories from the big book, she sometimes clucked at the scribblings and shook her head, and I’m sure my sisters felt guilty while I put on my most self-righteous “older sister” look.

One day at storytime, when my sisters were about eight or nine and they commented on the scribbling in the book, my mother decided that it might be a good time to talk about how important it was to take care of your books. My sisters were genuinely sorry and to make it better, my mother suggested that they write an apology in the book.

??????????

Now, 51 years later, we chuckle about it. The book is one of my special treasures, but more special is the memory of my mother’s reverence for books and how she taught it to her children. I will always love her for that.

Three Things – “Grace”

New Picture (5)

Pen Name- Grace~ Elizabeth GL McGarva

I’m pleased to host “Grace” (her pen name), a writer  whose words tell of her insight and sensitivity. I’ll let her tell you about herself.

 

Who Am I~

~ Retired public school teacher, early learning planner, volunteer, mother, blogger @ the wordpress site, aliceandmolly.com, and fledgling writer.

 

Blissful Moments~

Dark coffee, family, friends, music and books.

Beautiful Words~

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” 

–          Soren Kierkegaard

This wise quote sums up my writing pitch.  I mine back through life experiences to discover the truths of a family~ enduring love, loss, betrayals, the necessary compassion and ultimately, forgiveness – the living forward part.

 Three Things I Don’t Write~

 • As Anneli before, I don’t write of vampires although I once was hooked on a popular blood lust series.  Supernatural powers frighten me; pointy teeth are distracting and coffins are disconcerting.  I have enough anxieties without adding vampires to the list of fears.

Sci-fi~ I realize that science fiction is popular, entertaining, at times political; I just don’t “get” over-sized creatures like Godzilla so best I stay away from that genre!

Romance~ I believe in “happily ever after,” yet couldn’t write that genre in a convincing style!

Three Things I Do Write*~

 * Confession~ I am a fledgling writer, studying, and networking with other bloggers and writers, honing my words.  I have submitted three short stories, two stories to magazines (one rejected) and one, published on writersite.org (Thank you, Luanne!)  I am Freshly Pressed on wordpress.com (Thank you, wordpress!).

 Short Stories~ Several of these difficult to write shorts are the story seeds for the novel I am presently attempting to write.

Beautiful words~ I am captured by a poignant mix of lyrical phrase and I attempt to write short stories with a heartfelt and compassionate voice, to show my flawed characters as human, to share their beautiful and messy truths with the reader.

•  Children’s Stories~ I have read hundreds of children’s stories to hundreds of children! I am listening to my mother’s words, “Write about a Manx. Can’t you write about cats, Grace?” she says. I agree, Mom. Cats are a popular choice of character for younger readers; I’d prefer to write of sprites and hummingbirds!  I’m playing with a few ideas for a convincing plot, conflict, and characters that would appeal to the Junior Reader!

     Thank you, Anneli for allowing me to guest post on your blog and for your kind support and encouragement.  That’s the finest part of the writing journey that I am on – the paths that lead me to authors and writers willing to inspire and mentor another.

Children’s Adventure in Mauritius

I’d like to sit on this beach with my writing pad and jot down notes for my new novel. My guest, Pooben Narayanen, is lucky enough to do this if he wants to, as he lives in this paradise that is Mauritius.???????????????????????????????

???????????????????????????????

Here is Pooben to answer some interview questions I asked him.

Pooben [1]

 

1. How do you feel about being a writer? 

I enjoy it, but it is tough. You have ideas in your head and then you have to motivate yourself to put them down on paper or type them up on your computer. That is the toughest part.

2. What kinds of things do you like to write about?

Oh wow! There are several things, but here are my favorites starting with fiction: writing for children, also horror or the paranormal, and everyday life. Non-fiction: if I could I’d write about people. All kinds of people, real people. I’d write about what it is they do, what their life is like and what their thoughts are. I mean regular everyday people – no superstars – just people. The goal, I think, is to prove that the social construct – that is race, ethnicity, and all those other divisive elements – are irrelevant. To prove we are all the same.

 3. What is the title of your book?

The Mount Hope Explorers Club and the Great White.

4. Can you tell us in 25 words or less what it’s about?

Three ten-year-olds living in Mauritius meet a great white shark, and they have to save it!

final-cover

5. There is a lot of swimming and snorkeling in your book. Did you grow up loving the water? Tell us about it.

 I was taught how to swim in the ocean at a very young age, but we moved a lot, so I didn’t get to follow through in the younger years. When we lived in Mauritius, going to the beach was a big deal. My parents were busy with work and in Mauritius, people frown upon activities such as snorkeling. When you are in school you should be studying. So for a long time snorkeling was not an option. I started getting into it when I got older.

6. Did you have a group that you hung out with when you were about ten years old?

I wish I could say yes but there wasn’t much of a group. I hung out with some of the kids where I lived.

7. What kind of mischief did you and your friends get into?

One thing I remember is playing army in my grandmother’s vegetable patch. It was awesome because part of the garden was like a jungle. We would spend hours playing there. My grandma would get mad because we’d run through the good vegetable patch!

8. What is the motto of your characters in the Explorer’s Club? What is their goal, their aim, as they pursue their adventures?

The motto is “Never be bored.” Their goal is simply to keep busy and keep things interesting. They know, thanks to Dr. Gail, their mentor and curator at the Mount Hope Museum, that the world is full of interesting things – starting with Mount Hope village.

9. Do your characters end up having learned something in the story that has improved them in some way? What values have they learned that will aid in their growth towards adulthood?

My hope is that the characters grow to become citizens of the world. They are open-minded and pragmatic. The main values they are learning are fairness, acceptance, and empathy.

10. What are your favourite hobbies?

If I had the time it would be hiking and snorkeling. One or the other would make me happy!

11. What is your favourite way to spend time with your children?

Right now it usually involves running around according to their schedule. You go through a range of emotions in those moments.

12. Would you like it if your children did the activities that your characters do in your book, if they were the age of your characters? Why or why not?

I think I’d love that. To have that kind of freedom would be amazing but reality is different, right?

13. Do you have another book planned? Without giving away the plot, can you tell us what type of book it will be?

I have started working on the second book. The Mount Hope Explorers Club go to the Red Island: Madagascar. They find themselves involved in a possible coup, international intrigue, and dodgy people.

14. Where can people buy your book?

My book is available on Kindle (click here).  You can also find Mount Hope stories on my blog: www.mounthopeexplorersclub.com

***

Thanks for your visit, Pooben. I’ve read The Mount Hope Explorers and the Great White, and I think anyone with children would enjoy reading this to them or having them read it for themselves. Lots of good adventures with page-turner quality. Best of luck with your books.

Love at the Ends of the Earth

DSC04917

I asked author Pooben Narayanen to add his thoughts to our Valentine’s Day countdown with a Valentine’s-Day-related story. Here is what he came up with.

Pooben [1]

Valentine’s Day related story, eh? Well, I have to admit that my partner and I aren’t into Valentine’s Day. We see it as being a bit too commercial. Over here it’s a big deal. I’m pretty sure that restaurants are booked and cards are flying off shelves, and although Mauritius grows roses, I wouldn’t be surprised if some aren’t being imported from Kenya or Holland.

However, I do have a Valentine story. It goes back to my secondary school days during my O level year (Mauritius follows the British system). It so happened that I was a bit of a whiz when it came to English literature. How did I know this? A few days before Valentine’s Day I noticed one of my classmates writing a letter to the love of his life. I couldn’t help myself and decided to give him a hand. Before I knew it I was helping guys from other classes. I ended up using quotes from Shakespeare. Their girlfriends loved it! Naturally nobody admitted that I was the one who wrote it. Ah, teenage love, eh?

DSC05737

As for me my Valentine’s will be spent with my wife and two boys. I am an author who is trying to make a go of things. I am based in Mauritius, which for those who don’t know, is located all the way in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. You can find my first book “The Mount Hope Explorers Club & the Great White” on Kindle. I also have a website with short stories: www.mounthopeexplorersclub.com.

final-cover

DSC04924

Venison Vindoo – Mauritian Style

Can you imagine a wedding in a place as lovely as this?

???????????????????????????????

I’ve asked my friend, writer Pooben Narayanen, to tell us how the locals do it.

Venison Vindoo, Mauritian Style

No matter how small or how big, weddings require a lot of work. In Mauritius you almost need to recruit an army of people to help out. When my cousin got married in 2001, wow! Did we have our hands full.

My family in Mauritius is of Tamil ancestry. We tried to keep some of the old country culture, particularly for weddings, although I am told that things are done differently back there.

Aside from the wedding itself there are two important functions: the wedding eve dinner and the vindoo lunch, a post-wedding reception. The vindoo lunch is hosted by each wedding side separately. It is considered bad luck to do it together.

In the days before the wedding, no alcohol or meat is to be served. After the wedding at the vindoo it’s no holds barred and the majority of Tamil-Mauritian families will butcher a goat. They make the most delicious curries you can think of.

Our curries are not as peppery as you would find in South India. We place emphasis on the blending of spices and tenderness of the meat. Chilli hot is not our style. Besides chilli hot does not help in 30+ degrees, when you’re wearing your best sari, dress or suit, and also enjoying a cocktail or whiskey.

On my mom’s side we don’t do goat for the vindoo; we do deer. My granddad was a game warden and supposedly one of the best shots of his time. So my mom and her family all grew up on venison. And when they got married somebody would just go out and bag a deer. So that’s what was on the menu.

Dinner

The in-laws' side of the family pay the bride to eat.  Same on the other side of the family where they pay the groom to eat. (Like wedding presents)

The in-laws’ side of the family pay the bride to eat. Same on the other side of the family where they pay the groom to eat. (Like wedding presents)

My uncles got a good deal from one of the game reserves, and the bride’s side wanted to serve deer for their vindoo, too. We were told that they would be bringing in two freshly killed deer on the eve of the wedding. We had been busy preparing the house and marquis for the wedding eve dinner and now we also had to  cut and quarter two deer. One of my uncles managed to get his hands on a huge fridge to store the carcasses. The butchering was to take place after dinner.

As we were setting up decorations that afternoon, when I heard a car horn. Someone yelled that the deer had arrived. One of my eldest cousins sat grinning behind the wheel of a really old rented car. “Where’s the truck with the deer?” I asked.

He just smiled. “We managed to fit both carcasses in the boot of the car.” He popped open the trunk. “Two does, freshly killed this morning.”

They had been gutted, but not skinned. He had placed banana leaves underneath and on top to keep them clean. Whose job was it to carry them to the fridge? That was mine, my brother’s and two other cousins’. The cousin who had brought the deer wasn’t getting his hands dirty!

Now the front of the house was covered by a huge marquis with the tables and decorations set up. My aunt was not going to allow us to bring the carcasses through the front door. This meant going through the neighbour’s yard and carrying them over a wall.

My brother and one cousin and I got the carcasses out of the trunk and over the wall. The other cousin had disappeared. Thankfully we were able to hold onto the deer by the legs. Mind you, it was not that easy to keep them clean. Everyone gave us instructions, but nobody wanted to help!

As we placed the deer in the fridge my brother noticed powder burns from a gunshot on one of the deer’s hind quarters. We spread a rumour that when my cousin had to pick up the deer, they had shot the first one and he was given the honour of shooting the second one which was tied up. He was such a lousy shot that he hit it in the ass!

Our worries were not over yet. These deer had to be quartered and butchered. After the wedding eve dinner, after the dancing, when everyone had bedded down or gone home, it was time to get to work. The garage became a temporary butcher shop. It was one a.m. by then, but it had to be done as we were having our vindoo right after the wedding the next day.

One of my uncles had set up a hook and hoisted one carcass. He had been out hunting a few times so he knew what to do. We first had to skin the deer. I was okay with cutting the meat but I left the skinning part to my uncle, the outdoorsman. My cousin decided that if his dad could do it so could he, and the older guys decided to give him a go. He was pretty good, but then he got too cocky. They kept telling him to slow down, but he wasn’t listening. He kept going on and on that he was going to get it done in no time. Then the knife slipped. Oh man! He had sliced his finger pretty bad. Thankfully, it didn’t require stitches.

“We’d better find that part of the finger,” my uncle said, “or someone might end up eating it.”

When my cousin slipped away, we were all complaining that he had bailed. But nope, he come back with a pan, oil, onions, pepper, salt, small green chillies, some cola and a bottle of rum. He found two big bricks and some wood and got a fire going. He set the pan on the fire. While it warmed up he made each of us a rum and coke.

He chose a piece of filet and chopped it into small pieces, spicing it with salt and pepper. Once the pan was hot he added the oil and fried the onions and chillies before adding the meat. Man! It was perfect.

It had started drizzling and the temperature had dropped so the venison snack was just what the doctor ordered. My cousin and I wanted more. We even went to scrounge some bread, but my uncle was having none of it, reminding us that it was for the guests. It was an excellent night and we finished at around 4 a.m. We had to be up by 6:30 that morning for the wedding.

For the vindoo, everyone complimented us for our cutting and butchering skills, although my aunt, who was in charge of the cooking, complained that a filet was missing. My uncle told her that it was a skinny deer, but she didn’t buy it.

***

I’d say Pooben and his family did well to tear themselves away from the beach to do all that work for the wedding. Just look at what he was missing!

DSC05727

About Pooben Narayanen

Pooben [1]

Pooben Narayanen grew up in Mauritius, the United Kingdom, and Canada. He holds two bachelor degrees from McMaster University, Canada and a Master’s degree from Sydney University, Australia.

He lives in Mauritius with his wife and two children. The Mount Hope Explorers Club and the Great White is his first book.

final-cover

You can find “The Mount Hope Explorers Club and the Great White” on amazon.com

Christmas Interview – Pooben Narayanen

Today, my guest is Pooben Narayanen. He has some very exciting news. His first book is published on amazon outlets. Since Pooben lives on Mauritius, he knows a lot about the island and has been able to use this exotic place for the setting of his book. You’ll soon be hearing more about Pooben and his first published book. 

Welcome, Pooben.

Pooben [1]

Christmas Interview

1. Do you celebrate Christmas?

We celebrate the festive side of Christmas, especially for the kids, with the Christmas tree, Santa Claus and gifts.

 2. Have you ever spent Christmas alone?

I spent Christmas Eve alone once. It wasn’t so bad. I was in bed early because I had to work the next day. After work I got to hang out with my friends which was nice.

 3. Have you ever had a non-traditional Christmas dinner? What did you have?

I suppose it depends on where I am. In Mauritius, we might have a BBQ. Lamb, shrimp, chicken and fish, with salad and baguettes. Back in Canada it would be a roast.

 4. What are your thoughts on gift giving?

I think it’s okay for children. But for adults? The whole thing has become so commercial now that it feels as if it’s only about money. 

5. What was the most fun activity you’ve done at Christmas?

Going to the beach. 

6. Do you have stockings either at Christmas, or on St. Nicholas Day?

No. 

7. What was the best gift you ever received at Christmas?

I would have to say my first bicycle! 

8. What is a gift you’d rather not receive? 

Ties.

9. What was the best homemade gift you ever received?

Never received one. 

10. Have you ever given a homemade gift? Tell about it.

No. 

11. What would you change about Christmas?

Maybe make it less commercial. Is that even possible? 

12. What would you keep the same if you could?

If I could enjoy it like when I was a kid, I wouldn’t change a thing.

13. What is your favourite Christmas music or song?

The Nutcracker.

14. What do you like best about Christmas?

It’s another excuse to eat! 

15. Any additional thoughts about Christmas?

Merry Christmas to all!

 

final-coveramazon.com

amazon.de

amazon.co.uk

amazon.fr

amazon.ca

Real Winter – A Muck and Finn Adventure

You may recognize these two hellions who always tried hard, though unsuccessfully, to keep out of “trouble.”

Muck

This is Muck, good buddy of Finn.

Finn

This is Finn, good buddy of Muck.

.

Here is another episode of The Adventures of Muck and Finn, by guest writer, Lorne Finlayson.

Real Winter

Winters were colder when Muck and Finn were kids. Colder than they are now. I mean the Real Winter, the part that started after New Year’s, when kids had to go back to school. That was when smoke from wood stoves went straight up into the air. That was when it seemed like the sun came up, only to go right back down again. Houses had poor insulation and some had none at all. In the Real Winter it was often possible to see frost on the nails inside of the house. Finn’s cousin, Bob, had a room on the cold north side of his house. Sometimes, during the dregs of January or early February, not only could one see frost on the nails that held the drywall but there would be frost on the wall itself. On super cold days Bob’s blankets would be frozen to the wall. Now, that’s cold. And Bob lived in one of the better houses in the whole district. That was Real Winter for you.

Real Winter was the time of year when little boys got their tongues stuck to things like steel flagpoles and skate runners. One time Finn was playing outside and was really thirsty so he licked some ice frozen to a shovel. The first lick was great, but on the second he licked right up onto the bare steel. His tongue was caught and just would not come loose. Finn was trapped and started to cry. He didn’t want his tongue to be ripped to pieces on the frozen shovel.

Holding up the shovel, stuck tongue and all, he ran into the house. Finn’s Dad saw what had happened and poured warm water on the shovel beside his tongue until the steel warmed and the tongue popped free. He didn’t even get into trouble. His dad must have figured he had been in enough trouble already, glued to the frozen shovel and all.

Up until Christmas holidays, winter was lots of fun for kids. The first cold weather would freeze the little creek that ran below town. Kids could skate for miles on its glassy coat, all the way from the bottom of the hill beside the road leading out of town, around all the corners and straight stretches to the Second Beaver Dam. That was a very long way away, in kid measure. At first, the ice would crack and they would have to skate really fast so as not to fall in. Often they could see the crack as it shot ahead, zig-zagging way faster than they could skate. Flounder might be a better word because their hand-me-down skates always needed sharpening and were usually too big or too small.

Some years the lake outside of town would freeze over before the snow fell. The big kids would skate for miles on it. At night they would build bonfires on shore and then skate off into the darkness. If a person stood really still the sound of their skates would ring Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching, as they powered across the mirror smooth surface.

Real Winter could be very busy. Late November or early December would usually bring a nice snowfall, maybe a foot or so deep. That would put an end to skating on the river and the lake but the snowfall meant it was time for the men to go out into the bush and cut firewood. In those days firewood was really important. All the houses were heated by wood. In Real Winter the sap would hide in the roots of the trees, so there would be less of it in the trunks to gum up the chimneys. This soot could build up and then catch on fire right in the chimney. A chimney fire could get so hot that it would catch the roof or ceiling on fire and burn the house down. It happened every year. Wood cut during Real Winter would sit over the summer to dry and be burned the following winter. Most of the firewood came from poplar trees, for there were lots of them and they grew quickly. Good thing, too, because they did not give much heat so it took a big pile of poplar wood to keep a house warm.

 Finn’s dad and mom burned wood in the cookstove all day to cook and keep warm. At bedtime his dad would put coal in atop the wood, for it burned slowly and gave good heat to save them from getting cold before morning. Finn’s dad only used Drumheller coal, from Drumheller, Alberta. He said it was the best and it left very few ashes and “clinkers.” Finn wasn’t sure what clinkers were, but he knew they weren’t good.

Before anyone knew about gas-powered chainsaws the men would go out and cut down the poplars with axes. Then they put the logs into neat piles. When enough had been cut they would head out with a team of horses and a sleigh, load the logs and bring them home. The logs had to be sawn up into blocks, about 18 inches long. If the block was too big around to make good stove wood it would later be split in half, or more, until it would go into the stove to keep folks warm.

Sawing up those poplar logs was quite an operation. Farmers would mount a big, round saw onto the front of a tractor where it could be driven by a wide belt attached to a pulley near the engine. Usually a crew of three or four men would do the sawing. If there were four, three of them would work together to lift the log and put it onto a ledge in front of the saw blade. The fourth man would be on the other side of the saw. He and the man nearest to the saw would slide the log into the saw. When the block was sawn free the fourth man would pitch it into a pile. Then the men holding the log would move ahead so that another block could be sawn off. When the log had been all sawn up they would go back, get another log, and start over again. It was pleasant work, not very difficult and if the crew worked together they could cut a lot of wood in a day.

For little kids, like Muck and Finn , it was the time of year to go sliding. There was a nice hill behind Muck’s house where all the town kids got together, bringing sleds, toboggans, sheets of tin, skis or anything that would slide down that hill. It wasn’t a really big hill so it took only a smidgeon of time for the kids to shoot down, hearts in their throats, then climb back up to go again.

In that happy year before Muck had to start school Muck and Finn had the hill to themselves while the other kids were in class. Muck had a really fast sleigh, with steel runners and just enough room for two little boys to sit as they whizzed down the slope.

One sunny but cold day Finn’s mom dressed him up in his warm winter snow clothes and away he went, over to Muck’s house. Muck was all ready to go. Before they got out the door, Muck’s mom said , “You boys be careful, now. Daddy and the men are going to be sawing wood close to the house at the bottom of the hill. I don’t want you to slide into that saw. Did you hear what I said?”

“Yes, we’ll be careful,” they said, nodding like a pair of bobble heads. They could already hear the noise of the tractor and the whine of the saw as it cut through the poplar logs. When they got outside and went around the house they could see the men at work. Muck’s dad had a John Deere tractor that huffed and puffed as it worked away. He was throwing the blocks as the screaming saw chopped them off. They watched for a few minutes until the lure of the hill overtook them, then they raced up to the top to get ready for that first run.

Oh, it was such fun, shooting off, almost out of control, just a little bit scared at how fast they were going. Down the hill, then up again as fast as their little legs could carry them. Sometimes Muck would sit in front and steer, sometimes it would be Finn’s turn. As the morning went on and the sun got warmer the snow was more and more slippery. Each run took them nearer to the house, nearer to the men sawing wood. They were so excited and so happy that they just didn’t notice.

Near noon they figured out that if they held onto the sleigh, ran really hard and then jumped aboard they could go even farther and faster. It took some practice. At first they couldn’t do it together and fell all over the place, rolling down the hill, then getting up and chasing after the runaway sleigh. Soon they got it right, and Muck held onto the front part of the sleigh and Finn leapt on behind.

Down, down, down the hill they went, the wind cutting into their eyes, making them water so much they could hardly see. They had never gone so fast. At the bottom of the hill was a little bump that threw them into the air, screaming for joy. But, they kept on going, faster and faster.

The boys were so excited that they didn’t hear the chugging tractor and screaming saw as they got closer and closer. When they opened their eyes that shining, whining saw was right dead ahead. Its hungry teeth were just about the same level as their little toqued heads.

Muck yelled, “Duck!” and they did, shooting under the saw past the startled faces of the sawing crew.

They came to a stop by bumping into the house and falling off the sleigh. Muck’s dad was there about the same time, and he was not pleased. He said, “You boys! You could have cut your heads off! Leave that sleigh right where it is and get into the house. You’re finished sliding until I say so.”

He was more scared than angry. And, he was right. Heads down, Muck and Finn went into the house and sat down at the kitchen table. Muck’s mom asked, “What have you boys done now?”

Muck stuttered, “Um…we were sliding and we went under the saw and Daddy said for us to go into the house because we can’t go sliding any more.”

Her face went a bit pale at those words. She spoke slowly and softly. “ Oh, my goodness. Finn, you go home and tell your parents what happened and you, Muck, you go up to your bedroom and stay there. You boys can’t play together anymore today.”

Clearly, she was really upset because she didn’t give the boys any milk and cookies like she usually did. When Finn got home and told his mom and dad they were not pleased, either. It was the first time Muck and Finn were ever in “trouble,” that word that terrifies all little kids.

The next day the wood was all sawed, the tractor and crew were off somewhere else and they were allowed to slide down the hill once more.

But never again was it as exciting as that time when they went under the saw!

Muck and Finn are Bored

Two little boys who grew up in Saskatchewan spend a typical summer trying to entertain themselves.

Here is another episode of The Adventures of Muck and Finn, by guest writer, Lorne Finlayson.

muck-and-finn (1)

Muck on the left, Finn on the right.

Muck and Finn were bored. It was summer holidays and it seemed like all the other kids had left town. The boys thought if they found enough kids they could get a game of scrub softball going. They rode their bikes all over town but no one was to be found.

“Well, what are we going to do,” asked Muck, “’cause if I go home my mom will make me work and I don’t feel like pulling weeds.”

“The only things I can think of right now is playing catch or going to the lake,” said Finn.

“ Swimming! Ha! You swim like that big rock over there,” taunted Muck.

“Better than you. All you can do is dog paddle. I’ll bet you don’t dare go out over your head.” Finn laughed.

“Betcha I would!”

“Betcha you’d be too chicken!”

Muck glared at Finn. No one called him chicken, not even Finn. Not even his big sisters. Not even the big kids because he would just beat them up.

“OK, Finn. Let’s go down to the lake and I’ll show you who’s chicken—and it ain’t me.”

“Big talk, Muck. I’m going home to get my trunks and towel and then I”m going down to the lake. Come along if you’re brave enough. Dog paddler! Ha, ha.” Finn laughed as he jumped on his bike and pedaled home fast, keeping ahead of Muck.

At the lake, they changed clothes and ran to the shore to dive in, but the adults there told them not to go in. There was “itch” in the water. The itch came in late summer. It would make little red dots on a kid’s skin that were so itchy that they almost drove a person crazy. No one really knew where the itch came from but once it was in the lake, well, that was the end of swimming for that year. By the time the itch went away school was about to start and the kids figured it was too cold to go swimming anyway.

All that tough talk about who could swim the best was forgotten when they tried making sandcastles. The sand was so dry it couldn’t be sculpted into anything. Neither of the boys had thought of bringing a pail to haul water from the lake to wet the sand piles. Reluctantly they took off their swimming trunks, got dressed and then sat down in the shack that was used as a change room. What could they do for the rest of the day?

They parted company a few minutes later and each went home to see if their moms had made lunch. They were in luck. It was just lunch time and each of the moms had made a plate of sandwiches; some salmon, some baloney and some deviled egg and the boys ate their fill, then polished the feast off with cookies and cold milk.

After they had helped to clean off the table they sat down and waited for the orders. Weed the garden was the worst, but cleaning up ones room came close. In his house, Muck thought he would have to sweep all the floors and dust the many porcelain ornaments that his mom had collected and displayed.

Meanwhile, over at his house, Finn awaited his fate. If it did not include toiling in the boiling afternoon sun pulling weeds it would probably be something worse like shelling peas. First, one had to go out and pick the peas off the vines, then bring them into the house, open each pod, and push out the peas. Finn liked peas, but that job seemed to take forever. Moms were great at finding horrible chores to keep little boys out of trouble when they were bored during those last days of summer holidays.

But, to their great surprise, each of the moms said, “Okay, now that you’ve helped clean up the kitchen you can go back outside and play.”

What! No weeding! No dusting! No pea shelling! They couldn’t believe their good fortune and hightailed it out of the house just in case a mom changed her mind. Muck ran over to Finn’s house and they sat down in the cool shade on the north side of the house. The boys reached into their pockets to see how much money they had so they could go to the café and have an ice cream sundae.

When they put all the nickels and dimes together they had over a whole dollar. As they walked down to get some ice cream the thought struck them. “Let’s get some cigarettes and have a smoke. All the cool older kids smoked so why not them?’

The problem was to get someone to go into the Pool Hall and get a pack. Muck and Finn were too little to be allowed into the Pool Hall. That was for older kids and adults because parents knew that in the Pool Hall billiards was played, not for fun, but for real money. Sometimes rude words could be heard from inside the Pool Hall if one held an ear to the windows.

The boys hung around the Pool Hall waiting for a big kid to show up who would buy the cigarettes.

One big kid to come along was known only as Nimbo Stratus. “Hey, Nimbo,” said Muck, “how about getting us a pack of Black Cat Cork Tips if we give you the money?”

“You guys are too young to smoke,” said Nimbo. “That’s for grownups, like me.”

“We smoke all the time,” said the boys. Neither had ever so much as taken a puff.

“OK, then,” said Nimbo.“Do you have the 50 cents for a pack?”

“Of course,” they said, reaching into their pockets for the money.

“And,” Nimbo added, “another 50 cents for my trouble.”

“What!!” they cried. “That’s highway robbery!!”

“Suit yourself,” said Nimbo, turning to go into the Pool Hall.

“Well, OK then,” they conceded, giving him the whole dollar.

Nimbo was in and out of the Pool Hall in a flash. He brought out the pack of Black Cat Cork Tip cigarettes and a packet of penny matches, just to show what a good guy he was.

Muck and Finn ran to Muck’s place and hid behind the outhouse. Muck opened the pack of cigarettes and each boy took one. Oh, those cigarettes smelled so fragrant, so rich and musky. But when they lit up it was a different story. The smoke got into their noses and made them sneeze. To really smoke they had to inhale, like real grownup smokers. That made them cough and wheeze. After a few minutes of that each boy felt like the world was going around in circles. Then their stomachs rebelled!

“I have to go, really go!” said Muck. He dove into the outhouse and sat on the seat just in time.

“Oooh, me too,” whined Finn and he took off to his own outhouse across the street. He got there in time, but it was a close call.

The boys felt ill for the rest of the day. Their moms figured it was just a one-day summer flu until they got close and smelled the unmistakable odour of tobacco smoke. Then each got a lecture about the evils of smoking and were marched off to their rooms for the rest of the afternoon.

The next day they searched around until they found Nimbo. They told him they had decided to quit smoking, and asked if he wanted to buy the rest of the pack of Black Cat Cork Tip cigarettes. Nimbo had a great laugh at their expense, but gave them their 50 cents for the smokes.

That was 25 cents each, just enough for an ice cream sundae. They ran to the café and in no time were enjoying the cold treat. After that, they decided that smoking was not all that great. Ice cream was much better!