Tag Archives: #amwriting

Watt I’ve Learned About Wattpad

I have a lot of writer friends and I like to read and give feedback to them because… well, that’s what you do if you’re a writer and have writer friends!

i am a writer

It’s the ‘polite’ thing to do, but I enjoy reading what my friends have been writing as well as thinking it’s an important part of writerly etiquette to contribute to the writing community. Most of my friends have books on GoodReads or Amazon etc. but some of my friends live in the realm of Wattpad.

For people who use Wattpad as a tool you’re probably already going over the many good things that Wattpad has done for you and your friends.
Let me start by saying: I am not opposed to Wattpad, I simply don’t completely understand it. I think I’m starting to get it now, but I have my reasons for feeling like a fish out of water on Wattpad.

Let me go over some of the good points I’ve noticed and heard about Wattpad before I talk about my own take on this increasingly vibrant platform for writers.

The first good thing is that it attracts young authors. Teenagers are encouraged to write and by getting feedback they’re encouraged to keep writing. The same point is true for new writers or writers who for various reasons need extra feedback to build their confidence and/or writing stamina.

It’s not a pointless endeavor to post on Wattpad either. I sort of thought it was. This one has an upside and a downside. The upside is that more and more people including large publishers are farming Wattpad for talent. Margaret Atwood has been involved in an award called the ‘Watty’ since 2012. There are poetry contests and all sorts of things that people can get involved in.

writing love

I only found out those things after doing some research into Wattpad. Before I looked into it the last word I’d heard on Wattpad was that publishers considered anything put on Wattpad as ‘previously published’. A stigma that once attached to a story/poem/novel is very difficult to remove. Yes, most publishers only want fresh and virgin stories!

That part is still true and something that I don’t think a lot of people who post on Wattpad know about. That isn’t why I’m still a little anxious about getting into the waters of Wattpad, my reasons are my own uncertainties and my style of writing and reading.

When someone asks me to read their story on Wattpad or chapter by chapter it has the same affect on me: I don’t know how to give feedback.

From my limited exposure to Wattpad I’ve found most of the stories are in progress, this causes me to regard reading them as seeking ‘alpha feedback’. Alpha feedback is pretty basic because of the very obvious reason that the writer isn’t finished writing yet. Concepts and characters may be undeveloped because again… the writer isn’t finished yet.

writing 2

I’ve noticed that a lot of alpha feedback consists of nit-picky grammar edits that are, in my opinion, undermining and discouraging when you’re just getting going on a story.  This also negates the benefits of bolstering and encouraging writers to write more!

So, I’m not the only one who has a hard time giving alpha feedback. What is alpha feedback? Alpha feedback is feedback is, as stated previously, feedback given on works in progress (WIPS) and is usually done a bit at a time as the writer progresses through their story. Beta feedback is given on a finished work that may or may not have been edited.

writing tips

One of the best tips for beta reading your own work or the work of someone else. Beta reading can be where much needed texture is added to the entire story. 

Beta feedback is something that I’m good at and that I value deeply in the excellent beta readers who read for me. Beta feedback focuses on things like: umm, did you just teleport out of the shower into the living room? Or: I can’t understand this sentence at all, did you mean to say that they ‘ate China’? I’m thinking maybe you meant ‘chicken’??

Writing is rarely done all at one sitting and it’s also rare that there are no interruptions or distractions. If your writing environment is like that you are a lucky writer indeed! For the rest of us we have phone calls, knocks on the door, family and friends that talk just at the minute you were writing a key sentence… and you write down what they said instead of what you were intending to write.

writing process

When you read your own writing over you’ll likely catch a lot of these errors. If you read your story out loud you’ll catch even more of them. The mind is an amazing machine capable of glossing over the same thing even on multiple reads. This is especially true when we read our own work but I’ve seen as many as five readers miss the same mistake in a story! This is why beta readers are like gold because the sixth beta reader who catches the mistake is the one who saves it.

This isn’t exactly the same as editing although they are closely related. Beta readers aren’t there to catch grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes, formatting errors etc. If they see something obvious they might make a note of it to save the writer some time but it isn’t their mission. That’s what final edits are for and that’s a whole different blog!

writing editor

Anyway, in case you didn’t know, now you’re caught up on the different stages of readings and writing. This brings us back to our original topic: Alpha reading and Wattpad.

I don’t know what sort of feedback any one author is looking for when they ask for alpha reading of a story. It’s hard to go into detail because we don’t know if the writer is keeping the suspense tight or if they’ve missed an important aspect of the story. When you’re asked to read a story some sort of response is required or the writer will likely assume that you hated the whole thing and don’t want to tell them how much they suck. So, you’ve got to say SOMETHING or you run the risk of your efforts to be helpful hurting the writer.

How can you do that when you don’t know anything about where the writer is going? The writer may be highly organized and know where they are going for their plot, or they might be like me, someone who is a ‘pantser’ (flies by the seat of my pants rather than outlining). If they are a pantser, then they probably don’t know where they are going anymore than the alpha reader does.

Feedback is like fuel for writers. They NEED it to know if they’re doing their job and their job is effective communication. If no one replies to what they have to say it is the writer’s natural inclination to determine that they are doing something wrong. If they know they’re reaching their audience it gives them more fuel to keep on.

Which brings us to the conundrum of Wattpad. Giving someone grammar tips is one of those gray zones if you aren’t their editor. It’s especially bad if it’s all someone has to say about your writing. First of all, it’s a negative observation and second of all it isn’t about what you said, it’s about how you said it in a strictly modern context of what is stylistically ‘correct’. Notice that nothing in grammar/spelling/formatting is going to help someone to understand how well they are communicating their story. Not encouraging.

Understanding that alpha and beta reading are the writer seeking feedback on how well they’re communicating gave me some insights into how to be a better alpha reader. First of all, I’m going on the assumption that anything that seems like a hole in the plot or that I don’t understand is likely going to be cleaned up in the beta reading. Unless it’s a continuity error (Bob is wearing blue pants and five minutes later spills coffee on his red pants), it’s better to ignore those things.

Someone in who is alpha reading for you is really only their for the most part as a positive influence. Unlike a beta reader who looks around for structural integrity, holes in the plot etc, the alpha reader is there to feed into the story.

How can an alpha reader do this?

First of all, I’ve learned to underline and comment on particularly striking turns of phrase or patterns of style that the writer uses. For example, I recently did some alpha reading on a story where the writer used vivid colors to effectively key in important aspects of their story.

Alpha reading is also disrupted reading. It’s hard to come back into a story and try to recall everything that happened in detail especially if you’re reading multiple alpha stories. Here’s where my personal, stylistic issue with Wattpad comes into play.

I am not a fan of chapter plays. I like to read deeply and intensely. I want to sink into the world. I don’t want to be just driving through yet another landscape. I want to know characters and places and experience them. I can’t do that if the sections are doled out a little at a time.

Another very personal issue I have with Wattpad is obvious: It’s all digital.

I don’t enjoy reading books electronically nearly as much as I enjoy reading a bound book. I enjoy the tactile sense of the fibers that make the paper, the sensation of physically turning pages… I like to read in the bathtub and my laptop doesn’t share my love of the water!

So, to all my friends on Wattpad who I haven’t had a chance to give feedback to… I’m sorry. I have started a Wattpad account (although I’m not sure if I finalized it, there may be some hanging step I neglected) and I have intentions to read your work. Intentions aren’t the feedback you’re looking for but I can assure you that it isn’t your writing that has driven me away.

The final thing I will say about Wattpad, again it is both positive and negative, is that it is a community. That means that it should be reciprocal. If I’m going to comment there, I should also be posting my own writing and getting to know people. The intricacies of the communal aspects of Wattpad are still mysteries to me.

writing at work

I don’t usually get anyone to alpha read for me unless I know and trust them very much. I don’t want to get the feedback of, ‘yeah, it was interesting… you had a run on sentence in the second paragraph… but otherwise, yeah, it was interesting.’

I will continue to contemplate the world of Wattpad and try to take the plunge. I hear that there is a vibrant poetry community as well as other writing and that may be a good place to start.

I think Wattpad fills a valiant function in the writing world. Alpha reading is important and I know that people do move on to beta reading and final editing. People have even started to have television shows made of their Wattpad stories!

That’s pretty much it: Watt I’ve Learned About Wattpad 🙂


Marketing and Writing: How NOT to Promote

Yay! You wrote a book! Now what?

There is a steady cacophony of voices that are constantly spamming everyone to read their book. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the ‘Big Boy’ publishers or if it’s someone who is self published. There are just too many people demanding to be read and no cohesive thought put into why someone should read your book.

Think of it this way: you’re the new kid at school. You walk into the classroom, nobody knows anything about you or what you will bring to the class. The first words that leave your mouth will set the tone for your trajectory in the dynamics of this world of strangers. Is that first sentence a demand? Would you ever walk into a room of people you don’t know and without invitation order them to do something that is time consuming and will likely cost them money?


Seriously, why should anyone do anything for you? They’ve already got what you want or are trying to get the same thing. You’ve got to work hard to be the one who turns heads. Is it what you’re really looking for? 

Now put yourself into the position of someone walking down the street. Without warning someone comes running up to you, flailing, holding a book and gibbering incoherently about how they’ve got the next bestseller and you totally have to read it right now. My response? RUN AWAY!!! And if I see that book… RUN AWAY!!! It might look harmless but my experience has taught me that it was written my an aggressive lunatic.

Because lets be realistic, chances are you haven’t written the newest best seller. If you have, there is a likelihood that it will take years of steadfast dedication on your part of calm and steady promotional work to make it a best seller. It took George R.R. Martin twenty years of going to conventions, going unnoticed, being ignored, having few sales before anyone started to take him seriously as a writer.


Do you know who is rated as the fifth richest dead celebrity? J.R.R. Tolkien. The man who changed the way the world would view fantasy novels. If you’re writing for the money you might have to realize that it could take years or even past your lifetime for you to become noticed, if you become noticed at all.

I’m sorry to sound like a downer on all this, but it is time for a reality check and after that I’ll give you the good news about promotion and writing, if you can handle it.

I’ve heard too many new writers (or even established writers) say that they were done with writing. It just wasn’t worth the time they put into it and it was too depressing. This usually is preceded by a storm of advertising and then silence and then… the pronouncement.

For brand new writers first quarter sales are nearly always disheartening. A few friends or family pick up the book and you’re lucky if you make fifty sales. Most people bottom out around twenty, especially for independent publishing. This is even more depressing because the first quarter is when, if you have a publisher, you will get the most publicity (unless something remarkable happens with your book).

For most people however, this is the pattern:

  1. Yay!!!! SO excited, finished my first book.
  2. I made my first sale!!
  3. Why aren’t more people buying my book?
  4. Buy my book dammit!
  5. Seriously, buy my book. Let me show you the cover art and an excerpt from it again.
  6. I did a book signing. No one showed up. I took a picture with some people I know to make it look less depressing.
  7. Buy my book! Why aren’t you listening to me? Spam, spam, spam…

8. I give up. Writing is stupid. People are stupid. I hate you all.


Don’t feel this way. If you do feel this way, don’t say it online or even to yourself. Expect to have more failures than successes. At the same time, never give up on the idea that your next attempt might be the one that succeeds. 

I’ve been watching and this is what I see repeated over and over and over again. There is also anger is some cases, people lashing out at other authors that they may perceive as being more successful than them. None of this is going to help you promote your writing.

Lets get some more misconceptions out of the way:

My publisher does my promoting for me.

WRONG. In fact, it’s fairly standard for most publishers to include a hefty amount of work in publicizing as part of your contract. This has dissuaded a lot of writers from going with large publishers who take most of the money earned and leave the author with often only pennies per a sale.

Publishers aren’t all bad. Even though they have expectations of you doing more than just handing them a manuscript and then letting you sit back while the money rolls in, they also have something that you, as a new writer may lack: Presence.

Lets go back to the school metaphor. You walk into a classroom but this time you aren’t alone. Someone that most of the people in the class respect walks in with you. This person is your publisher. They say, ‘Hello everyone, this is John Doe. I know you’re all meeting him for the first time, but he’s actually a really cool guy and here’s why…”


Public Relations lead to Branding. Advertising and marketing CAN work but they can also irritate people and make them decide to vacate the area. This is why it’s good in any business to have someone who can speak for you. It’s reassuring to know that it’s more than your own opinion of yourself or your product that makes it special. 

That is essentially what your publisher does for you. They introduce you to venues, bookstores, conventions and other places so that you become familiar to everyone in ‘the class’. They try to make you look good, they provide editing, cover art, formatting and I’ll tell you one thing about this: they’re the ones who make the choices about those things, not you. If you sign on with a publisher your baby is theirs to do with as they see fit. You are relying on their experience with the markets and what sells and what doesn’t to make the decisions in editing and appearance. This can be an upsetting and painful experience if you aren’t ready for it.  The rest is up to you. The publisher has opened the door for you but what you do once you’re through that door is up to you.


Ready for your makeover? If you want to make it big, you’re going to have to make changes in every department. This is part of the ‘branding’ process’. Suck it up, buttercup. 

If you aren’t willing to go the extra mile and to get out with your fellow ‘classmates’ why do you expect people to buy/promote/read/review your work? What makes you above all the rest that you are exempt from the hard work of getting to know your audience and your fellow writers and doing things for them as well as for yourself?


If you think you’re above all this then go back to the classroom metaphor again. You want to be an author that people read, right? Well, that’s the same thing as wanting to be the popular kid at school. You want to be someone everyone wants to get to know better, everyone wants to be around you and have you come to their parties: guess what, popular kids have to work hard for their popularity and you have to work for your popularity.

If you have what it takes in the charisma department to walk into the room and make your own introductions and have people respond favorably to you then the self-publishing market could work for you. There has been an increase in authors who have already been on the best seller list multiple times and won awards to become their own agent. They know that they already do their own work in the publicity department and they know the right people. They have the popularity to do their own thing and pull it off. If you wear your clothes in a new way do people mock you or imitate you? It takes a lot of leadership and charisma to make you a trendsetter.

Before you answer, think carefully: Is this what I REALLY think of myself or just what I wish I thought of myself?

But there’s more to this and I hope that you give this a good think before you get upset the next time something doesn’t sell as well you you hoped: Is this what you really want?

Now that you understand how being a best-selling author is the same as being popular or famous, is that where you want to go? First of all, there are a lot of sacrifices that will be demanded of you. Your time, your energy and your personal life will all suffer. Even how much time you have to write will suffer!


Being popular means that people like you for what you do for them. They aren’t really your friends, they’re your fans. They want to bask in your success and get a bit of its smear on them in the hopes that they can be popular too. Being popular is a far different thing from being moral or honest. Ask yourself what’s in it for you? Is it worth the sacrifices? Is it worth the pain? WHY are you writing? WHY do you care about sales?


I’ve asked a lot of people these last two questions in particular. The answer to the second one is usually: So I can quit my day job. Bad news. Your popularity becomes your new day job. The six months writing, six months publicizing rules comes into effect (which will be discussed in more detail in the next article) and you have constant interruptions. Don’t want to go to a party? Tough luck, it’ll look bad if you don’t go. Don’t want to go to a book signing? Too bad, it’s in your contract. Don’t think that your responsibility as a writer ends with your book, it only does that if you’re writing for the sheer joy of it and even then, there is still a certain responsibility to others who read your book that is polite to maintain.

The answer to the first question: Why do you write is usually answered by varying degrees of honesty. I know that I write out of a compulsion. I have to write. I write whether I send my work to a publisher or whether I leave it in a drawer to rot. I write because it’s a huge part of how I express myself. I’ve learned that even though I am verbally loquacious I am even more expressive in my writing. I’ve had so many people who are close to me react with surprise at the things that I write because, often to my surprise, I haven’t actually physically told them those things. My heart is wide open on the page whether it’s a love letter or a novel. It’s also an exploration of different ways of being, different types of people, an exercise in empathy.


Since I write it all anyway, I might as well do something with it. People tend to enjoy my writing and I enjoy writing it. I don’t need to win a popularity prize to know my self worth, I know enough about myself to know that I’m rocking it and having a good time. That’s more important to me than ‘popularity’.

Another daunting issue is classroom size. A hundred years ago, two hundred years ago… there were fewer writers. Now EVERYONE wants to be a writer. I’ve met very few people who hear I’m a writer and DON’T respond with, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a novel…’. The competition has become fierce and if you are perceived as being competitive it’s likely that you’ll make people want to remove themselves from you. It’s something of an irony with fewer people reading that there are more people writing.


I’m not sure I believe those statistics, I think that there are more people in the world and that there are more people in countries where attending school is mandatory. There are more people with an education so by extension there are more readers and writers. Be both. Don’t expect to dictate your worlds without taking in the worlds of other people. Be generous in your reading. Even if you don’t do it for popularity, do it because you will learn more about writing through reading a huge range of works than you ever will from sitting down in solitary meditation.

I’m done shaking my finger at you and reminding you that being popular might not be all you dream. Chances are you are looking for success at any cost and nothing I’ve said about that cost has changed your perspective. That’s okay, popularity is a valid life choice. The next question is: How do you get popular in a competitive environment where everyone is shooting for the same goal as you?

Read Writing and Promoting: Doing it the RIGHT Way for my thoughts and observations on what successful writers do to overcome these hurdles.


On Writing

I never set out in life thinking: I’m going tobe a writer. Like much of my life happenstance, fortune and the fates carried me along like a branch in a stream and like the vast majority of my life I was happy to be along for the ride.

‘Becoming’ a writer sounds like a transition occurred at some point, but it didn’t seem that way to me. I jumped on board projects that happenstance threw in my pate and fortune and the fates dictated the rest. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a ‘famous’ writer and I don’t mind that. I have a lot more fun on the projects that I do without intent than the projects that I write and are turned into movies and such.

This is supposed to be a blog about being a writer and I realized that I rarely ever write about the ins and outs of being a writer. Part of that is because it’s a natural part of myself. It’s like talking about my eye color, it’s so much a part of me that blogging about it feels almost unnatural. When I sit back and think about where I started before my ‘becoming’ a writer and where I am now I can see the vast wealth of knowledge and wisdom I have gained from my journey.

I’ve learned that there is more to learn from other writers than there is from myself. Even though writing is, as many wise people have said, ‘the cheapest therapy you can get’, it’s interacting with other writers that has taught me some of the hardest but also some of the sweetest lessons.

Anyone who is writing or creating art of any sort is baring a part of their soul. Even if you set out to write a piece of drivel according to a formula guaranteed to become a best seller, how someone goes about doing so reveals more than hours on a therapist’s chair may reveal. There are a lot of writers out there and I’d like to say that some of them are absolute crap but the truth is that that’s just my opinion. I’ve learned that my opinion of another’s writing is entirely subjective. I’ve learned to accept this and to not judge a writer because I don’t like their writing.

have fun keep calm

This is a difficult lesson and I tell anyone that I do beta reading for to always remember that this is only my opinion. If I am content editing and I have a disagreement with someone but I’m editing for StarkLight Press, I will stick to my guns about what has to stay and what has to go… I will also remind the writer that there are lots of other presses and other option out there and that just because my feeling that their work in its current composition isn’t right for StarkLight, doesn’t mean that someone else might not think it is perfection just the way it is.

I’ve learned that it’s easy to lose friends because of giving an honest opinion after being asked to give an honest opinion. I’ve learned that I’m okay with losing those friends. I can accept this a lot better than I can accept being dishonest with someone about my opinions. I’ve also learned that no matter how often you remind some people that these are just my opinions, the cuts are too deep and a friend can become an enemy even though they’ve requested honesty.

From this I’ve learned that people are far more complicated than I ever suspected. I’ve never been the sort of friend who was okay with telling someone that they looked amazing when they (to me) really don’t. I try to be tactful and constructive but some people have egos like snowflakes and a breath of warm air can melt them. It can destroy everything they clung to that made them feel special. The hurt it causes the person is real and terrible.

I’ve learned despite this, I STILL must give an honest opinion when I’m asked for one. Even if it’s from a dear friend, my husband, anyone, I would rather them think bad of me than for me to hate myself. This was something huge to learn. I like to make people feel good about themselves. I like to pick the best parts of someone’s writing and praise it. If I’m asked to put on my editor’s hat and give a breakdown of a story though; that’s exactly what they are going to get.

The sad thing through learning all this is that I still believe that people and their writing, are each delicate and beautiful snowflakes. I don’t want to squish people and I think that it is unlikely that even what I might consider to be awful someone else might find inspiring. I’ve learned that there isn’t any point in trying to twist myself out of shape to find the beauty in every piece I read, not all writing is going to appeal to everyone and I’m part of everyone.

you write beautifully

There is no condemnation in writing. Well, actually, there is a lot of condemnation in writing, but there shouldn’t be. It’s open ended. I’ve read some things that have truly disturbed me, things that I find to be more along the lines of a snuff film than anything I’d like to read. Things so incoherent that the main character’s name has changed three times in the first three paragraphs and their state of minds of changed so rapidly and with no given provocation that I’m left laughing out loud and scratching my head in bemusement.

But, and this is a big but, I don’t feel a need to condemn that writing. I understand that to the writer if no one else it is a thing of value. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, or read it. And it certainly doesn’t mean that if placed in an editorial position I’m not going to point out the enormous irregularities and general spazziness.

books old

Some writers seem stuck in loops. They write about the same trauma again and again. They twist every character into the same poor, bereaved person that their soul is grieving over, usually themselves. Other writers try to mimic styles and clearly are using some sort of Gothic thesaurus. That’s okay. Writing is like sex. It’s intuitive, some people might be too rough, other people might be too bland. Some people are universally acclaimed as sex symbols and others may be waiting for ‘the one’ to recognize and match their style.

I didn’t understand the quagmire of politics that go on in writing when I got into it. Politics in many fields are something that escape me because I’m just me. I’m not trying to do anything with my writing, or with learning pottery, or with taking courses. The only thing I’m doing is being that twig on the stream. I bob along, sometimes I get caught on snags, sometimes I get submerged and other times I float merrily n the sunshine.

I’m also a little twig that doesn’t realize many things and enters each new current with the same wide-eyed innocence and faith as the first time I got into the water. I’ve learned a lot; one thing I haven’t learned is how to not be me.

have fun

I derive joy that my writing has touched so many people. Each piece of fan mail I get is a treasure. Every person who reads something I wrote and derives solace for their life makes the rest of the weird that comes with the mercurial world of writing worthwhile. Writing, reading or both, I hope people find their own lives enhanced by their pursuits like I have. I hope that they don’t bear the sting of the rejections too deeply. I hope that they are all that they hope for themselves and all the bits between.

I’ve learned a lot of other lessons from writing and the world of writing, a world non-writers are likely completely unaware of. For now, I’ve said enough. In fact, if this blog is like nearly every other piece of writing, I’ve probably said far too much.

Updated Bio

Virginia Carraway Stark Biography


Daughter Series

(GAF Universe)

Dalton’s Daughter (StarkLight Press)

Detached Daughter (StarkLight Press)

Galaxy’s Daughter (StarkLight Press)

Carnival Fun Series

White Rook Takes White Queen (StarkLight Press)

Red Queen Takes Red Rook (StarkLight Press)

The Chessboard (StarkLight Press)

Royal Sacrifice Series

Shards of the Mirror: Book One 2017 (Jaded Press)

Books 2 and 3 to be announced

Circle of Stones

(Young Adult)

Honey Bee of The Faerie (StarkLight Press)

Circle of Stones (StarkLight Press)

Gates of the Sheela (Azoth Khem Publishing)

Decay of Man (Coming from StarkLight Press 2017)

Charism (Coming from StarkLight Press 2017)

Brooks (Coming from Jaded Press 2017)

Thrice Fallen (To be announced from Azoth Khem Press)


Blind Eye (Skylight Productions)

The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens (Skylight Productions)

The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens 2 (Skylight Productions)

Witch Doctor (StarkLight Productions)

Code Black (Date to be announced, StarkLight Productions)

Ugly (Date to be announced, StarkLight Productions)


I Have Memory (StarkLight Press)

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible (Simon and Schuster)

Canada: Because we Could (Arras Books)

Mile 0: Games of War (Arras Books)

Voices of the Valley (Cobalt Press)

Thrice Fallen (To be Announced Azoth Khem Press)

Columns Etc

Phraser Connector (Monthly Column):Writer’s Life
(Published by Elaine Storey in conjunction with StarkLight Press)

Outermost: Journal of the Paranormal (StarkLight Press)

National Paranormal Society (articles) (NPS)

Writer’s Block Science Articles

Medical Journal Dissections for the Layperson


Carnival Fun (StarkLight Players coming winter of 2017)

Canada: 150 Years (StarkLight Players coming summer of 2017)

75 years of Mile 0 (StarkLight Players coming summer of 2017)

Carnival Fun: The Red Tower (Carraway Productions)


The Concierge (CWC Publishing House)

Ambition (CWC Publishing House)

Bit (CWC Publishing House)

Ark (CWC Publishing House)

Wytch Born (CWC Publishing House)

Space Stranded (StarkLight Press)

The Arkellan Treaty (StarkLight Press)

The Irregulars (StarkLight Press)

The Irregulars 2: Fit in or Miss (To be announced, StarkLight Press)

Short Story Anthologies
Tales from Space Volume One (StarkLight Press)

Tales from Space Volume Two (StarkLight Press)

Scarecrow (Weaver World Press)

Cult Classics for the Modern Cult 2 (Magpie Press)

Bittersweet (Magpie Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 1 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 2 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 3 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 4 (StarkLight Press)

Starklight Press Anthology Volume 5 (StarkLight Press)

Stardust Always (Writer’s Colony Press)

The Long Watch 2 (Writer’s Colony Press)

Grim Keepers (CWC Publishing House)

Collective Ramblings 1 (Rambunctious Ramblings Publications)

Festive Frights (CWC Publishing House)

Twisted Easter Tails (CWC Publishing House)

Poe Gets Punked (Writer Punk Press)

Punked Classics (Coming 2017 from Writer Punk Press)

Great Ladies (StarkLight Press)

Autumn’s Frost: Fall into Fear (StarkLight Press)

Game Changers (StarkLight Press)

Cynosure (StarkLight Press)

Carnival of Madness (Azoth Khem Press)

Blue Moon Season (StarkLight Press)

Cult Classics for the Modern Cult 3 (Coming 2017 from Magpie Press)

Poetry Anthologies

In My Mind’s Eye (StarkLight Press)

Poetry Marathon 2014 (Writing Marathon Publications)

From the Depths (StarkLight Press)

Words off the Page (StarkLight Press)

In Flight Magazine

Lemons, Blood and Glass (Coming 2017 StarkLight Press)
Lovely Darkness (Jaded Press)


Virginia Carraway Stark received a nomination for an Aurora Award. Virginia won the Valour in Poetry Award 2015. She won the ‘I Found the Darkness’ short story award in 2015.

She had two nominations for BOFA for best novel and Valor in Literature (White Rook Takes White Queen, the first in the Carnival Fun series and Red Queen Takes Red Rook which is still in the contending to win for Best Novel Valor in Literature 2016) and a BOFA for best novel for Dalton’s Daughter. She wrote for Poe Gets Punked and won Best Indie Award.

She won the ‘Promising New Artist’ Award from the Northern BC Writer’s Guild in 2015.

Her screenplay Blind Eye received an honorable mention at the Canne Film Festival. Her short screenplay Witch Doctor got in the top three at the Reel to Reel Film Festival. Nomination for best short story for her short story, Alway Hungry published in StarkLight Volume 4.

She’s also completed three annual 24 hour poetry marathons as wells as 3 years of 30 days of Poetry. She’s won Nanowrimo two years in a row and completed the novel in 3 Days Challenge 2016

Virginia has been trained in massage and shiatsu as well as the art of Dim Mak. She has extensively learned herbology including usage in tonics, unguents, ointments, tinctures, teas, poultices etc. She studied reflexology and aromatherapy use and distillation of essential oils.

She has taken courses from the University of Guelph, University of Copenhagen, University of Edinburgh and Boston U as well as other supplementary courses from other Universities through correspondence including the University of Barcelona. She is currently working on her Masters in International Law from the University of Copenhagen in conjunction with her completion of her Bachelors in Philosophy and history from Penn University.

She is completing Specialties in Creative Writing from Wesleyan University and in Philosophy Specialty from Yale University.

She has basic competency in French, German, Latin and Spanish and can speak Danish, Irish and Greek on an elementary level. She constantly endeavors to improve her proficiency levels.

She is also an artist who has had several gallery showings of her work and has had her photographs used for cover work and other projects. She formerly modeled herself and is featured on several posters, Vogue Magazine, travel BC pamphlets and magazines, and book covers. She has done some acting including playing the lead role of Virna in her play, Carnival Fun. She attended Vancouver Acting School.

Other places to find Virginia:

author pic fiesty

Where to find more about Virginia

Free Stories, Contest Wins  or Excerpts Available Online by Virginia. You can also find links to live interviews on radio shows as well as interview transcripts.

Current Public Events:

Summer of 2016
The Dawson Creek Art Walk

Find Poetry and Art Work by Virginia Carraway Stark at Faking Sanity Books and at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery. You can also find all of Virginia’s publications through StarkLight Press at The Art Gallery and find used editions at Faking Sanity all year long!


Her artwork is a regular at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery as well as at other art shows in Western Canada. Her art and poetry are usually paired together and inspired one from the other.

 Her poetry is featured at the end of every month at Faking Sanity Song Writer’s Cafe at the end of every month with live readings of her poetry or songs.
She performs at the annual Christmas Concert with the Songwriter’s of Northern BC the first Friday of every December. For more details about any of these events you can contact her at virginiaseastark@gmail.com

Outermost Journal of the Paranormal is a great source for free stories as well as all sorts of interesting articles. This has  taken the place of the National Paranormal Society as I take a more open and dedicated view of the paranormal and can freely address many more topics! There is also a lot of fiction as well as interviews with Paranormal Investigators and Psychics who have worked with the police to solve crimes!


Interviews to Learn More About Virginia

(simply copy and paste any of the links to your address bar to get access to the interviews)












Facebook Pages:

Author Virginia Carraway Stark


Outermost: A Journal of the Paranormal


Guest Blogs




Stories about:




Roy Daman Reading ‘Fell Wind’


Mentioned by:







You can reach out and say ‘hi’ to Virginia through her blog www.virginiastark.wordpress.com , or you can email me virginiaseastark@gmail.com

Find her on Twitter: @tweetsbyvc




YouTube Channel


or just google Virginia Carraway Stark to find poems, publications and different challenges, interviews or projects that are always new and developing!

Her Amazon Author Page:

Some other places to find articles:









Fan Art, Letters, Poems and Dedications etc

Thank you

By Liane Carter

People I don’t know
Pleasing me with prose
The scent of jasmine
A twilight rose
Caterpillar crawling
Reminding me to be
A monument of beauty
Virginia is she
Hands sticking in hair
And sticky magazines
Wing-wandering in night time
Half asleep still with dreams
Virginia and Sunny singing sweet song
I’m blessed to be among this poetic throng

liane carter picture for virginia poem

The very, very popular picture of Virna Grant, by my talented husband, Anthony Stark.

virginia and virna mug

Virna portrait

virna bag

virna mug

Artwork by Liane Carter who is also pictured with her copy of ‘In My Mind’s Eye’. She is an amazing poet in her own right as well as a clarinet player, artist and an inspiration to all who she touches!

picture by Liane Carter

liane carter virginia pic 3

liane carter virginia pic 2

liane carter virginia pic 1

liane carter in my mind's eye

There’s nothing like the feeling of having inspired someone to the point where they dedicate a book to you! Dedication by Lynda Williams for Opus 6 of her Okal Rel Series. Sketch of me by Richard Baltrop.

reality skimming opus 6 dedication

reality skimming dedication

Fan Jen M. Duell composed the following: Inspired by the planet Dalton from my novel Dalton’s Daughter.


More Fan Art!


Me as an evil queen who I was assured is redeemed in the end, CG artwork by Robert Marquiss.

Virginia loves to hear from her fans in every form and attempts to respond personally to every letter. She found this letter particularly touching:

Hello dear Virginia,

Hope all is well with you and yours across the miles. Are you the same Virginia Carraway Stark who wrote the wonderful story “Astronauts and Olympians,” from a recently published book by the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Think Possible? The story, however, impressed my heart in a very positive way because asthmatic since 2003.

Best wishes,

Hamza Saudi Arabia

(shared with permission)

She also is sent odds and ends of things that have inspired people as well as deeply personal fan mail about how her work affected them that isn’t available to share publicly.

If you want to send fan mail you can send it to:

Virginia C. Stark

RR 1 Site 3 Compt 32

Dawson Creek, BC

V1G 4E7


A Guide to the Brave New World of Writing and Publishing

For better or worse, writing and publishing are not what they were even a decade ago. It’s a world full of dynamic changes and littered with frauds, scams and idiots. I’ve had ample opportunity to watch the world of writing change and I’d like to share what I’ve observed and learned. There is a lot of misinformation out there but I can tell you from lessons learned what I know about this Brave New World.

  1. Alarmist Rumors:

    false alarm

    This is a huge thing happening to writers, the constant alarm bells of Henny Penny’s saying the sky is falling. In writing I’ve seen this manifested is several ways. The most common one is to say that people simply aren’t reading as much. This is sort of true. There are more distractions and less time to devote to reading with busy lifestyles detracting from our time lost between the pages of other worlds. This is true, but not to the degree that some people would have you believe. Not everyone has fried their brain on television. There are a lot of people (like me) who have television shows that they watch and then… I’m done. TV has a finite draw for people, especially people of high intellect. These are the same sorts of people who have always been readers and they will always be readers. The other rumor: E-books will take over from paperbacks and profits will plunge. It’s just not true. People tend to buy e-books at a bargain for books that they aren’t sure of and if they like it they buy the hard copy. There are numerous studies to show that the tactile sensations of holding a book in our hands and turning pages with our fingers (not swiping, actually turning the page) has a different effect on our brain than reading something on an electronic device. Combined with the fact that no amount of ‘glare free’ technology is ever going to make looking a continuously glowing screen as easy on our eyes as a paper book. They were a bit of a fad: convenient, easy, cheap… and to nearly every reader out there just not as good. Paper book sales are on the rise. The third alarmist rumor: The Economy is Bad. True enough in many locations. Another truth is that even during The Great Depression the one thing that went up in sales was entertainment. People want to get lost in other worlds and stories when things are hard here. Books are one of the things that fulfill that need for diversion. Books aren’t dead, not by a long shot.

    brave girl
    Be optimistic and know your reasons for writing! Every day is a new journey in the adventure of writing and alarmists are justifying for a lot.

  2. The Big Publishers are the way to go?  and/or You Need an Agent.
    Hmmmm, this is an interesting statement. There is a lot of contention about this point. Some of the things that people don’t realize is that big publishing houses just aren’t what they used to be. They have a massive distribution network, swish ad campaigns, big contracts… they’ve got a lotof things. Here is what you might not know: big publishing houses rarely if ever give big bucks before you prove your salt. It used to be that if you signed on with a publishing house you would get a big advance, tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is extremely rare now. I would venture to say unheard of, at least for authors just entering the stage. Build up a name for yourself and maybe this will change but realize that as a newby, especially if you don’t have a resume publishing elsewhere, there is going to be a lot of pressure on you to make sales. You will be the publisher’s lowest priority and if you don’t get out there, do book signings, do interviews, be super charming then you probably won’t get any more exposure than you would at a small publishing house. In fact, you may get even less. It gets worse. Your first contract is likely based solely off of loyalties or a small advance that is subtracted from your royalties. You are being tested by your publisher, if you don’t prove that you are a charming go-getter as well as a good author and your book doesn’t sell then you WILL be dropped. There won’t be a second book, not from that publisher and not from any other major publisher. Do you know why? All the publishers WILL check your records out. They WILL call your previous publisher and ask why they didn’t sign you on for a second book or to renew your contract. In short, publisher do talk to each other and they do blackball people. Boom. You just blew your shot. One more thing about big publishers that you can’t forget: If you don’t sign their contract their way they won’t be likely to compromise with you. This is bad because publishing houses want to make money and they want to own you just in case someone else finds a way to make money off of you that they didn’t think of. They will own the rights to your story. In many cases you may even lose the rights to your character and your world. Think very, very carefully before you break out the champagne if you are offered a ‘big’ contract’.

    This includes the idea of agents. Remember any time you sign on with an agent they get a cut of what could be a very meager pie. Remember again: this person is supposed to be selling your product, are you certain that they can be at least as passionate about your book as you are? For every place that only accepts agent queries there are ten that prefer no agent. Remember: This is a Brave New World and things aren’t what they once were.
    brave cat
    Sometimes it’s best to be your own advocate. Maybe you travel best on your own or at least with the reigns of your work in your own hands. When you hire an agent or go with a large press you lose all your independence and your right to be an advocate for yourself in many cases. Some cats hunt better alone.

  3. All small presses are not created equal.
    books type setter
    There are a lot of ways that a small press can scam you as well. The cardinal rule is that if a press asks you for money to pay for artwork, layout, editing, ANYTHING they are likely a scam. It’s a presses job to figure out all of those things, that’s what they are there for, that and to distribute work. A good small press campaigns for their writers and celebrates every success that writers who work with them achieve. Your press shouldn’t expect you to write exclusively for them and you should expect to promote any press you work with. You are in a partnership when you get involved with a small press. A good small press works hard for their authors. I know this because my husband runs one.

    The general rule is that a press spends at least half of their time promoting their product and you should be helping out with that. I will tell you that a good small press watches you. They judge you on a smaller scale as to how a large press judges you: are you enthusiastic? Do you promote the press? Do you share posts? Do you give interviews and when you do, do you mention the press or presses that you have work published with? Do you have an author page? A Facebook Page? Have you done anything to get a following on your own (big presses look at this too, by the way). If you undermine the press you’ve signed on for or if you don’t get involved I can guarantee that there are other authors who will. Quietly, the press will stop offering to involve you in new projects and word will get around about you. Small presses don’t make a lot of money for the most part. They SHOULD get more sales than an independent published writer but don’t expect to get rich off their sales.

    Writing is an expensive hobby if you’re doing it right. Publishing is even more expensive. Publishers travel, they do all sorts of things. Google them. Do they come up? Google some of the authors who have their names on their website. Do the author’s names comes up? Does their connection to the press come up? How does the press talk about their authors? Do their authors have resumes? How do the authors talk about the press? Does the press have a distribution network? If you are selling a novel rather than a short story this equation becomes more important, especially if the press wants to own the rights to your story. First of all: Set limits on this. How long will the press own your novel for? What happens if they decide they want to drop you? What happens if you aren’t happy? This is generally called a ‘kill clause’ and generally it is the press that decides it doesn’t want to work with the author anymore. This can be for a range of reasons, including a lack of meeting your contractual obligations. Many contracts state you must do a certain number of things for your book and the nature of these obligations. If you sit around doing nothing they may choose to dump you and they have a right to because you agreed that you would work to promote yourself. If the press doesn’t promote you then you could have a problem as well. You might want to ask that a clause of contractual obligations of what the press will do for you is included if it isn’t already.

    The most important thing about a small press is: do you like working with them? If you do, go for it. If you don’t then go somewhere else. Don’t try to enforce your will on a press, if it isn’t for you then try another one. There are a ton of small presses out there and you need to find a fit that’s right for you. I can tell you that presses look for writers that suit their personalities and the ‘feel’ of the press. That’s the beauty of the small press, there is a huge range of diversity and there’s no need to try to fit where you don’t belong or feel happy.

  4. Independent Publishing:

    printing press books
    Are you charismatic? Are you outgoing? Willing to travel? Do you love to talk with people? Are you a competent and compelling public speaker? Do people respond to you in a positive way? Are you a human magnet that people want to be with? Are you good with computers? Are you good at editing? Do you have a network of other writers who can beta read and/or trade edits with you? If so, then you might want to consider going it on your own. Ideally, if you go with a press the press handles the extroverted side of things which is a good match for most writers who are introverts. I’m one of the rare and exotic extrovert writers which is part of why I handle so much of the marketing for my husband’s press. I could be independent if I wanted to be but I LOVE working with other people. I like promoting other people as well as myself and I like getting into collaborations with other people. Many writers don’t have this sort of disposition and if you are an introvert the truth is that you could use some backing. Doing readings and signings are physically a lot of work but that’s nothing compared to the mental and emotional component. You’ve got to be able to deal with rejection, questions and handle things on the fly. You have to know that half your time is going to be spent selling and the other half writing before you will have anything other than frustration and disappointment. I know a lot of big name authors who have signed on with the huge publishers and realized that they can do all their publishers do for them and a lot more on their own. They’re just waiting for their contracts to expire so they can have their story and characters back and be free. That’s something to think about. Be aware that all of this also costs money. Traveling, conventions, retreats, socializing are all time consuming and cost a lot of cash that it could take you years before you start to gather a following.
    books heart
    If you’re not doing it for the love of doing it, be prepared for heartbreak. Writing is one of the hardest things you’ll do and publishing is even harder so you’d better be in love or what’s the point?

  5. And now you wait. If you haven’t been working on your social networking, getting involved in the community and doing things for others, then now is the time to start. People will help you out but if you don’t return the favor they will notice it and you’ll get a big fat silence the next time you ask them for a favor. If you’re lucky the person will tell you that you need to repay them a favor before they do the next thing for you. If you’re smart you’ll say, ‘I’m sorry, you’re right. I was being a selfish dick, let me help you the way you helped me.’. Some people have been burned by other writers who don’t repay favors and then it’s up to you to make the first step. Go out, read their book, give them a review. Like/comment/share their posts. Like/follow/share their blogs. If they don’t do the same after a bit of time then they are selfish and are breaking the cardinal rules of being part of a creative community. Walk away or send them an email saying: Hey, why aren’t you doing for me like I’m doing for you. They could have forgotten, it could be an accident, or they could be threatened by other writers and think that if they share that there will be less for them somehow. It will take time for you to get a following and that’s assuming that what you’ve written is good. Get feedback. Talk other writers and get their feedback. Be prepared to wait and wait and wait.

    books old

  6. While you’re waiting ask yourself why you’re doing this? Really. Are you upset that sales aren’t better? Why? Did you think you’d write a story and make a million dollars and never have to work again? If you just want to write you’ll be ok with waiting. I love getting feedback and I love sharing it with other writers as well. Most of all, I love to write. It’s not going to go away because it is part of me and every time I look at my shelf of published works my heart soars.
    virginia writing shelf
    Looking at this shelf makes me happy, I have more books on the way and soon I’ll need another shelf! These are the reason and they all have stories behind making the stories. Each one is at least one world and I’m in them all. These are little bits of me!

    Holding my book in my hand is enough for me. The finished product of my labors. The joy and hard work that went into that glossy cover. It’s mine. If other people love it it multiplies my pleasure but knowing that I did something is what really turns me on. I started it. I finished it. I have it in my hand. Sales are a beautiful bonus. Accolades like awards and nominations are icing on the cake. Having someone say: ‘Your words spoke to me. How did you know that this was me?’ is a pleasure I can’t even express. Knowing you touched someone in their heart, in their love, their sorrow, their self doubt, the fact that they are human… that’s the ultimate product and if you’ve had someone say that to you then that should be worth more to you than all the royalty sales in the world. Do you know why? It’s because what you wrote, the worlds you created, your words have changed the world.
    earth books

Katy’s Hate or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished





Katy’s Hate


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

By Virginia Carraway Stark

I was horribly abused, neglected and treated badly in a plethora of ways when I was growing up, that’s why I tried to always give my all to my kid brother and my half sister, Katy-May, then Katy and more recently, ‘Kat’. Unlike our older brother, I did everything I could to be a safety net for them while working without any safety net of my own. I never did anything to Katy and yet she hates me with a frightening passion. The only other thing she is more passionate about is defending her dead mother as a saint. Me disagreeing with this is the number one reason why Katy hates me.

When I was just about sixteen I emancipated myself after I ran away from home and never looked back. I had the help of a former Hell’s Angel who blocked the door and didn’t fall for my dad’s ‘look at how charming’ line and told him with the threat of deadly force to stay the hell away from me. That was what it took to make my dad let me go, that and the constant knowledge that at any time, if he refused to let me go, I might stop keeping his secrets. The really bad secrets. The secrets that could have gotten him put in jail if I had wanted to hurt him.

I didn’t want to hurt him, I just wanted away from him. I just wanted him and my stepmother to stop hurting me. I just wanted a little bit of safety and quiet and rest. I was so tired from being worked in their restaurant from the minute I got up to when I went to school and then started again the second I got home and often worked until three in the morning but always until after midnight. It was after that that I started on my homework. I fell asleep in class and had to drop one of my classes and they let me sleep in the school infirmary. I was so, so tired.

I still graduated with honors. I still graduated on the principles list along with only two other students. After I ran away from home I worked as many hours as I could get at a little place called ‘Maggie’s Diner’ and I was SO happy to be treated with respect and to even get paid for my work.

I wasn’t paid anything except my stepmother’s second hand computer for all those hours that I worked. I also had to take care of my half sister and she was a handful and a half to take care of.

She was spoiled. She had had cancer when she was a baby. She was born with it. She was a sickly thing that cried constantly, pulled my hair and hit me and was given first go at any food before I was allowed to eat her scraps. She screamed and screamed and hit me and hit me until she didn’t get her way. She was a dreadful child and my dad and stepmother’s answer to everything was, ‘she had had cancer, she could die at any time so do whatever she wants.’.

I very ironically pointed out that I could get hit by a car at any time and die and my dad said that that didn’t seem too likely. I guess he was right because I didn’t die when I got hit by the car.

I ran away from home in the end because I saved Katy’s life. My reward was that my stepmother punched me in the face and called me a lying bitch.

Let me explain to you what happened if you haven’t heard it before.

I didn’t live in the house, I lived in the basement of the restaurant along with the mice, rats and bugs. I didn’t care though, I was happy to not live in the house with my ‘family’. My stepmother, knowing I was asthmatic and allergic to cats would actually blow smoke on my pillow and wipe the cat repeatedly on my pillow case.

She was so loving and such a good person (this is what everyone of my biological family and their friends has informed me since I started to speak out publicly.)

She was such a good mother to Katy that on this particular evening when the restaurant was hopping and the cook and I were the only ones working that when I went over to the house to tell Judy we needed help, that it was too busy for me to waitress, prep-cook and dishwasher, that I saw water streaming out from the bathroom door.

I went down to the door, looked inside and saw my sister, face first in the water. Her eyes closed for the last time as I ran to her. She had stopped breathing. I knew pediatric CPR and quickly got her airway clear of water and breathing again. I wrapped the naked, terrified child in a big soft towel after I turned off the water.

I went back to the living room with Katy in my arms. Judy was just starting to return to consciousness. I pushed Katy into her arms and I said, “There you go, you almost killed her again, I hope you’re happy.”

She dropped Katy and came after me, “Just where do you think you’re going?” She demanded as she ran in front of me and blocked my access to the door.

“I’m leaving. I’ve had it. I can’t take any more from any of you.”

She grabbed me by the throat and pushed me against the wall, “Oh, you aren’t going anywhere,” she said. Then her voice raised to a shrill, hysteric scream, “And it was you who almost killed Katy. Not me, I’m a good mommy, it was you!”
She pulled back her hand and punched me, it was meant to be a center on punch but her aim wasn’t very good and she mostly got me in the head and ear.

I ducked away while she was off balance and ran for the door. I still had to escape from my father, I only took my schoolbooks and homework with me. I wasn’t very sentimentally attached to anything my family had any association with at that point.

This wasn’t the first time I had saved Katy’s life. One night Judy got drunk and decided to take me and Katy out for dinner. She made me breath in the breathalyzer that had been installed in her car at this point and she took me and Katy out for steak and lobster dinner. It was the off season in the Okanagan and the restaurant was eerie and quiet except for the raucous commentary that Judy kept up and her shamelessly embarrassing flirting with the waiter.

I had a hard time eating. I had gotten used to not eating and Katy was screaming and crying and Judy was laughing and making lewd jokes. Finally she decided it was time to go home. We got into the car and Judy drove most of the way home swerving from lane to lane in the slush and sleet. She had us pointed directly at an on-coming semi. She was laughing and hooting like the headlights coming at us and the horn blaring was the funniest thing in the world. The truck tried to swerve but it was clear there wasn’t enough room or time for her to get out of the lane, assuming she realized or cared about the danger that me and the ever-screaming Katy were in, let alone herself.

She didn’t care and I grabbed the wheel and pulled us into our own lane with inches to spare. Judy got mad at me and told me that I wasn’t old enough to drive and that she was going to tell my dad on me. She did and I got into trouble. Not for grabbing the wheel but for blowing in the breathalyzer for Judy. What choice did I have? I had been ordered to obey Judy in everything and she would have hurt me if I hadn’t done it. What choice did I have? Just more pain. I went into my bare cellar, it was cold down there and the restaurant was closed so there wasn’t any heat at all. I worked out. My dad and Judy put me in front of a mirror on a regular basis and told me, weighing in at 90 pounds, how fat I was. Told me everything that was too fat. Pinched me under my arms, between my thighs, on my belly to show me that I was a fatty and therefore bad. Bad like my mother was bad. Dad left mom because she was fat and lazy so I better not be fat and lazy or I’d be in for it.

So there, two times when I saved Katy’s life.

Two times when I was punished for it.

Before that, when she had had cancer, I had spent every minute with her. I spent my pennies on presents for her, anything that might make her smile.

Before that, before we knew about the cancer and she cried all the time, screaming from the pain she was in. I held her, I rocked her, I sang to her, I carried her around the house for hours, singing to her. When I stopped singing she would wake up and start to cry again and so I would sing until my throat was raw.

Everything was for Katy. Presents, food, clothing, shelter, respect, a bed (I slept on a mat on the floor) even though Katy had a bunk bed. The top bunk was for Katy’s stuffed animals.

It didn’t matter to me. I just wanted out. I didn’t want their love, I didn’t expect anything to ever be fair, I wanted escape.

So, I escaped.

Years later Katy found me on Facebook and sent me a heart-rending message about how badly she wanted a big sister and had wanted to know me all her life.

I replied to her and that’s how I got entangled with my bio-fam again.

She and I talked on the phone and she callously told me that my mother was dead before changing the subject back to herself and her mom and her dad. I had the news of my mother’s death dropped on my head by her with such thoughtless cruelty that I didn’t even get a chance to process it.

Things went badly. That’s another story. Judy got violent with me, tried to frame me for stealing from her second hand shop, didn’t pay wages… it was exactly the same as when I had left. It was like a time lapse photo without the lapse. I had just traveled back through time.

And Katy? Well, Katy got her secondary schooling paid for, she got her car paid for, she got everything. She wanted her hair dyed and daddy pays for it. She’s short on the rent, mommy pays for it.

Meanwhile Judy is still drinking and now she’s in the end stages of alcoholism.

Judy died alone, drunk, wandering through the snow.

Somehow, I was expected to be sad about this. Katy, went ape-shit.

Ding-dong, the witch is dead!!

The woman who had tortured me brutally, starved me, physically beat me, worked me as child slave labor and forced me to serve Katy like she was a princess.

I never held that against Katy. I never held it against her that she had everything handed to her on a silver platter while I had to work for every penny and make my own way in the world without any family. I treated her with love when I saw her and didn’t tell her about how I was treated until she asked.

This is the thing: my dad never told anyone how I was treated. He told people I ran away from home because I was insane. He kept everything a secret and painted me as unbalanced. Meanwhile he had been arrested multiple times for beating Judy, neglecting Katy etc etc etc. I ran away and that was the right move.

Now Katy makes remarks about how, ‘even though she doesn’t have a sister that’s any good she’s got her family’. She mounted a campaign to see me driven from the family (I was already cutting communications with them so at least this wasn’t a big deal.)

I was talking to my therapist the other day and we were talking about this particular experience and how Katy treats me now. She says horrible things about me. She jumped on the bandwagon when I came back and Judy and my dad started abusing me again.

I said, “That’s some thank you for saving someone’s life.”

Then I thought about it for a minute or two and said, “Oh, to have a time machine.”

I stopped.

I thought of those blue eyes submerging for the last time. She was just a little kid. Her going down for the last time, the sound of water pouring off the edge of the jacuzzi bathtub and onto the floor…

With tears of frustration in my eyes I said, “I would do the exact same thing. If I had the chance to do it all over again and known everything that happened afterward and how she would hate me, I would have grabbed her little body out of the water and got her airway open. Because how could I do anything else?”

Some cultures believe that if someone saves your life that you owe your life to them, I didn’t ever expect or want that. All I wanted was to save a child’s life and even if that child had been baby Adolph Hitler I wouldn’t have hesitated. I couldn’t. She was just a child whose life I saved. Just a child I had soothed to sleep again and again while her mother screamed abuse and fed me off Katy’s scraps. All that should have been shared or mine was given to her and I still couldn’t stop myself from saving her if I was sent back in time. All her hatred and vitriol and I would still save her. Because that’s what you do. Because we’re supposed to love each other. I wouldn’t, couldn’t let someone just die, there is a deep instinct that impelled me without thought to pull her out and take that punch for a reward.

There was a deep force in me that never held it against her what I endured for her. But she hates me and she always will because her mother was a drunk. An abusive drunk who abused Katy her whole life as well as me and my brothers and even my dad.

Lets also take one second to say that Katy had nothing but bad to say about my mother and that she heartlessly told me in one breath that my own mother was dead and buried by two years. Her family is the only one that mattered, ever.

She hates me more than anything else because I can’t feed her lies and I never will. Her mother was bad. As close to all bad as you can get and still wear a human skin. Katy is now carefully, worshipfully, donning the same skin as her mother. She has peeled it back from Judy’s bones with her adoration and now she wears her hands like gloves, her face like a mask, her lips are Katy’s lips.

Her hatred is absolute because she knows that if she admits that her mother was a bad person that all the rest of the the bad things that happened to her might have to be faced. Blotting me out is the best way for her to blot out the pain. I”m the only one willing to face the past and she won’t stop until she drowns in the past.

katy wiebe and ugly

Katy and Boyriend

Perpetuity, How Our Beloved Pets Never Leave Our Hearts

They never ever go away. There isn’t a time when you can draw up the image of a pet who has gone down the rainbow bridge without feeling the same sense of soul-rending pain as the very instant you knew that they were gone.

I drew the rough copy of Perpetuity while she was alive and it was years after her death when I was going through old sketchbooks that I found the unfinished picture of her and I wrote this poem for her and, of course, I cried. Because fur babies are our beloveds too and all animal lovers have felt the sting of their loss. The only thing that makes up for it is the years of unconditional love and the bond that formed. That time with them is well worth the pain of loss.

This picture of Perpetuity is available on a Canvas Gallery Frame at Faking Sanity for the Dawson Creek Art Walk Starting on Monday, June 27, 2016 and going until the end of August. It is available for sale as a canvas print along with the other art and poetry that myself and other artists will be displaying. I am told that Mary Mottishaw will be creating her fantastic notebooks and showing her methods live at Faking Sanity as well. Drop By for a treat, whether that’s a peek at some art, a new-to-you book or a piece of Faking Sanity’s famous cheesecake, cookies or their healthy lunches!




by Virginia Carraway Stark

One day I found a picture of you

And my heart was hurt anew

Because my love, how I loved you

You were mine, my Perpetu

But even more I belonged to you

Someone like my Perpetu

Can never leave my heart too

So much of me was invested in you

Every day you were with me was always new

A part of my soul was claimed when yours was due

I always new the day would come

When I would think of you and numb

The pain and tears that will not be dumb

Some things in life aren’t here to stay

But having a dog taken away

Even by old age, the pain eats us day by day

Rest for now, my Perpetu

One day I know, I will see you

I will hold you in my arms anew

What is gone now is not lost except for a few

When it’s time to wake up know that I’m here

And that I’ve never once forgotten you.

Sorry Grammar Nazis, You’re Doing It Wrong

I see it in all the reading groups:

Arguments about how to use words. What’s proper? Who should we damn for using the wrong spelling? Or is that ‘whom should we damn’?

Have you EVER read a book and said, ‘God DAMN that book had good grammar'”

Have you ever read a book and remarked on how well the person did at spelling?

NO! You know why? Because those things aren’t content. It’s stories that matter, not spelling and grammar. Historically speaking, those things have never mattered because inflicting a tight structure on language takes away from the voice of the author.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put work into editing afterwards, spelling isn’t too difficult and badly misspelled words tend to jolt people out of the story, especially if it’s something that goes through the entire manuscript. Grammar and making up words to express yourself are two things that are supposed to be flexible. Grammar is something that was inflicted on language to make cadences clear. Using it as a straight jacked for your story makes stories sound rigid and conformist. It’s a sign of mental illness to find constant fault with others and to need everything to be precisely lined up and ordered.

negative people 1

This detracts from the entire concept that should be burning you when you write: Your Passion. That is what should matter. Did you use a word in an unconventional way? Did you use the wrong word?

passionate to a fault

Using a word in an unconventional way is fine if it’s part of your voice. If you just plain old used the wrong word as a mistake or because you didn’t know the actual meaning of the word then you might want to work on that. On the other hand, we are always learning and there is never going to be a time when you stand up, survey the work you’ve done and say, “There, I’ve learned everything there is to know about the English language”. If that’s your goal and if that’s the standard you hold other writers too then you are hurting yourself and hurting the ambition and passion of other writers.

If your feedback to an impassioned anything is ‘you said council when you should have said counsel’ and that’s all you have to say then you are cutting the author of the piece down. You have contributed nothing constructive and have cut the legs out of the author while ignoring their entire point. If you talk to the author and have a conversation about their writing and then mention that, ‘oh, by the way, I noticed you used the wrong ‘counsel’ in the third paragraph, that’s a different story. When you’re only feedback is,’ ummm, I think there should be a comma in this sentence.’. Then you know what? You’ve missed the point of writing.

Grammar and spelling structure should be a tool that helps you to express yourself. If it ceases to be a tool and becomes a constriction on your passion or the passion of others, then it’s time to put it aside. Deal with it later. The important thing is what you’re saying. If you are clearly showing through whatever language or grammar you choose to use what you want to say then grammar and made up or creative word usage ceases to be important.

This whole business of there being absolute ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to write it a clever way to get lost in a maze of confusion and self doubt. If you inflict that on other writers then you are sowing seeds of confusion and insecurity in other authors. This makes you a negative influence on other writers. This makes you someone to avoid.

negative troll

If someone is only interested in how many faults they can find and has nothing to say about the words and emotion in your writing, then they are only interested in tearing down other writers and making themselves feel important. If someone is so threatened by a piece that they read that they can only point out one error in a piece that is pages long and have nothing to say about the content: Tell them where to shove their judgements.

If Shakespeare was around he would go off his nut listening to the crap these grammar nazi’s spew. I can tell you that he would probably have given up on writing and gone out and got drunk because what is the point of Shakespeare without his awesome voice.

Go ahead: Put a Shakespeare play into proper grammar. Don’t use any of the words that he made up to express himself. You know what you have? A boring piece of crap.

happy birthday shakespeare

So, Grammar Nazi’s, I’ve got to tell you, you’re doing it wrong. You’re stifling and if someone is creative but speaking with a legitimate voice then you need to respect that. Keep your insecurities to yourself and try looking at what the person has written. Try finding the good in it because spelling and grammar are easily fixed if they aren’t an expression of that person’s voice. If they are part of that person’s voice then dictating their voice and what it should sound like is a tyranny power trip and you’re in the wrong.

Who gave you right to be the rule keeper of all the other writers? Ask yourself how petty you’re being in fixating on a tiny thing like a comma or one misused word. How small can you possibly be? How much do these tendencies cause you to stumble in your own writing? Maybe you should grow up and be a bigger person because there are ways to help people with their writing without picking their grammar apart.

edgar alan poe

How much of your negativity and nit-picking are actually fear of what other people are saying? How much of it is guilt that your own word count isn’t higher? Are you insecure and can’t handle their passion? Is what they are saying making you afraid? Are you disassociating from the spirit of the words by obeying and enforcing the letter of the grammar law? When has being dogmatic ever worked for creative professions? When I see a grammar nazi I see fear. I see that you are afraid of listening to the words of anyone else. I see someone with an obsessive compulsive need to put people down, to put yourself down. Your dogmatism is a dam to hold back the flood of passion you feel. It is a dam to hold back the passions of other from touching you. What are you so afraid of?

Whatever it is, being a grammar nazi is a shield, it’s a place to hide from others. A place of defense where you can throw rocks down on anyone trying to climb the mountain of creation. You are afraid of something. When you compulsively must pick out every mistake the flaw is in you. You’re doing it wrong.



Peaches – A Short Story


Originally Published in Outermost: Journal of the Paranormal


By Virginia Carraway Stark

“The storm is too bad, I can hear the orchard creaking… branches breaking…” She moaned.

I glowered at Margaret. “I know that, but what do you want me to do about it?”

Anytime my son left his pretty insipid wife on her own, I was inevitably left to ‘babysit’ her. She was passably good as a mother and as a wife for my son, I suppose. Anytime there was a crisis she felt to pieces, just like now. Stated the obvious was only one of her many failings.

I never tried to hide my scorn for her and turned away from her apologetic response, “I’m sorry Father, of course, we will have to wait and pray.”

Conciliatory should have been Margret’s middle name, while her concerns were pointless, I too, was afraid of the howling wind and the sound of wood breaking. The orchard had been in our family for many generations now and I could never remember a storm this bad before. The power was flickering. With a glare at Margaret, I opened the door to go outside, grabbing my coat as I did. The door blew into the house and I cursed under my breath as it hit the cupboard with a loud slam. I felt a small hand tug at my jacket.

“Can I come with you, Gramp?” I nodded. He was brave like his father and like me. He should be rewarded. Margaret wrung her hands, her terror evident all across her face and in the slump of her shoulders. My Grandson grabbed his coat and Margaret helped him put on his rubber boots, all the while fretting and worrying but not daring to gainsay the permission I had granted to little Clyde.

Outside the air was cold and fell. The orchard was in ruins, green peaches lay scattered under branches the size of my waist. Further down the line of trees I could see some of them had be felled by the winds. The green fruit had been scattered, the harvest ruined and perhaps the orchard itself. Clyde looked up at me with his large hazel eyes, he was scared but I didn’t blame his fear on the genes he had picked up from his mother this time, my own eyes were fearful as well. The wind was so heavy and thick you could see it whipping through the air itself, picking up leaves and unripened fruit with 0strange, fey hands. A barrage of peaches, branches and bits of bark hit us like rocks.

Get out” With both heard the fell voice, inhuman, black as the night and evil as sin.

Clyde tugged on my jacket, “Gramps, I want to go back into the house!”

I had seen storms before that had left me filled with electricity and adrenaline but I had never felt a storm like this. Thunder roared only a split second after lightning hit a tree only a few trees down from us.

Blinded and deafened me and little Clyde stumbled through the storm. He clutched my leg the way he had when he had been a baby, not a big boy of seven. I clutched him back, afraid that the storm would take him. If it hadn’t been for Margret’s fearful nagging we never would have come out here. I couldn’t see the house, torrents of rain had been unleashed by the lightning. It wasn’t a normal rain though. There was something more in it just as there had been something more in the wind.

Faces… they weren’t human… twisted and evil. I wanted to retreat but I didn’t know which way to go.

“Can you see the houses, Clyde?”
The boy shook his head but then pointed, “I think it’s that way.” He had to scream to be heard over the wind. Staggering against the wind, I pulled Clyde along with me, our hands were wet with rain and we could barely hold on, but we did, because we had to. You do what you have to when survival is on the line.

We hadn’t gone far but I could see the dim figure of the house ahead of us and I squeezed Clyde’s hand and spared him a smile. It was like fighting through a bar room brawl trying to get to that door. I turned the handle and it didn’t move. The door was sealed shut. I banged on the door with the side of my hand. That little coward Margaret had locked the door behind us and left her own son to the mercy of whatever storm this was that hell itself seemed to have released.

I kicked and pounded at the door but either the wind was too loud or Margaret too dense to hear our distress and unlock the door. I told Clyde to hold on to the mailbox on the side of the house and I ran at the door and hit it with my shoulder until the sturdy wood started to give around the lock.

I grabbed Clyde and pulled him into the house, the door wouldn’t close properly behind me now but I pulled it shut as well as I could and roared out Margret’s name, “You fallow little bitch! Get in here!”

Except for the storm, the house was silent. Where had that stupid woman gone off to? I recalled the faces in the storm and shook my head as though I could erase the memory of their twisted evil. I had imagined it. It wasn’t real.

“Margaret, you stupid thing! You locked us out and scared your son half to death,” I called out but still there was no reply.

Angry at the storm, angry at the ruined orchard but even more angry at my daughter in law I took off my boots and put my jacket on a hook by the fire. Clyde followed suit, getting a chair so he could reach the hook. He was a smart boy, took after my son Ed and not a drop of his fool mother in him.

I went to the kitchen and put on a kettle for some tea. She must have hid when she heard us at the door, she probably panicked when she realized she had locked us out. She was always so eager to please that she would do these foolish things and then berate herself until she did even more foolish things.

I turned from the stove to see Margaret standing in the doorway. Her raven black hair had gone stark white and her grey eyes had turned yellow, more yellow than someone who had the jaundice, more yellow then a lemon. Her hair was wild as though she had been out in the storm and she held a kitchen knife in her hand.

“Margaret, what are you about? Have you taken leave of your senses?” I asked, but there was fear in my voice. She looked wrong, wrong the way the faces in the storm looked wrong. She stood tall, as I had never seen her stand before and her rosy cheeks were white.

Clyde came running into the kitchen when he heard me talking to his Ma. He loved her fiercely even if it was me and his Pa he looked up to. Without taking her eyes from me she grabbed Clyde as he came through the doorway and picked him up off his feet as though the sturdy child were as light as a newborn. She tucked him under his hand and put the knife to his throat.

“Mama?” Clyde asked. He was so surprised by this that he hadn’t even put it together that he had something to fear. He was always such a trusting child.

“Wind and hail, lightning and rain, all your work has come to vain,” She recited the strange words in a voice I could barely recognize as being Margaret. The words left her mouth like a curse and still she held that butcher knife to her child’s throat like he was an autumn pig for the slaughter.

“Margaret, come back to your senses, can’t you see, that’s your son, that’s your Clyde you’re holding,” At my words Clyde seemed to realize his danger. He didn’t cry, brave boy.

“Mama, put me down,” He said, looking up at her. He saw her face then and I saw true fear enter his heart.

“The orchard is no more,” The thing said in a voice that was a braying caw compared to Margret’s usual dulcet, timid tones.

“The orchard will go on, the orchard always goes on,” I said, knowing it was true but still fearing the wildness of the storm and the damage I had seen.

“You will make a sacrifice,” The thing said.

“Get out of my house,” Margaret turned, obeying my words but still carrying Clyde with her. His little head, covered in thick black hair disappearing through the door, headed towards the front door and the storm.

“Wait!” I called after her and she stopped, her hand on the door. Clyde was fighting her with all his strength but it seemed to make little difference to the thing that had taken over Margaret. She held him as easily as I would a kitten.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“I am the storm,” She replied. Thunder cracked outside the window at her words.

“What do you want?”

“A sacrifice. I will take this child as my tribute as you have not followed the ways of your father. I will take him and go and leave you with no grandchild, no orchard and you to start over again.”

The thing smiled at me and pulled open the door I had broken to get back in. The storm blew into the house and with it went the power. All that lit the room was the sullen orange glow of the fire.

“I don’t know what you mean, but you don’t have a right to my grandson,” I realized, appalled, that I was weeping.

“Every first born belongs to the orchard. This is the first born just as you were second born.”

I saw that from his struggles Clyde had a thin line of blood along his throat. I remembered my older brother. He had been six when I had been five. He had died, the branch of a peach tree had fallen on him, or so I had been told. I had had a son before Clyde’s father as well. I didn’t think of him much anymore, it had been so long ago. I couldn’t remember what had happened to him, another accident, I thought, he had been about the same age as Clyde was now. He had died, that was all I knew. I sheen of sweat broke out across my brow. It wasn’t like me to forget something, not something big.

The thing that had been Margaret smiled a horrible smile and walked towards me, the knife now pointed at me, blade first.

“Your choice, old man,” she said, and I took the blade from her hands.

She crumpled to the floor in a heap in the doorway. I remembered something now, something, about a rock, a rock out in the orchard.

Clyde disentangled himself from the hag who had colour flowing back into her cheeks and her hair turned black once more before our eyes. She sat up, confused, the same insipid Margaret who had fiddled with the buttons on Clyde’s coat before locking us out of the house.

Clyde ran to me and wrapped his arms around me. I pulled him off of me and went over to the hooks to put my jacket back on. Outside the storm had calmed, just a little, as though it was listening, waiting. I pulled Clyde’s jacket off the hook and handed it to him.

“Gramps, where are we going?” He asked, he wouldn’t let his mother help him with the buttons and I didn’t’ have time to help him. Margaret took a step towards us and Clyde flinched away from her approach.

“We’re going away from her,” I said, pointing at the boy’s mother. “Is that good enough for you?”

He nodded and I tucked the butcher knife into my belt. I took him by the hand, Margaret, scared and confused let us go.

We walked through the storm, the damage to the orchard was bad, very bad. Perhaps irreparable. The winds didn’t oppose us now and we made good time to the half unearthed rock at the base of an oak tree, the only tree for acres that wasn’t peaches.

I set my grandson on the rock and prayed for mercy that a demon wouldn’t spare. I pulled out the blade from my belt and I saw that Clyde had wet himself. He didn’t move, he didn’t try to flee. I was his grandfather, his gramps and he would never try to escape.

I brought the knife down, swift and hard across his neck where the thin line of blood marked him and held him while the lifeblood fled him and ran over the boulder and stained my arms red.

The next morning dawned clear and bright. Ed came home in the early hours and we surveyed the damage to the orchard before breakfast. It wasn’t as bad as I had worried. The harvest would be poor this year but the trees would recover and we would have a good harvest the year after.

Margaret was making pancakes and went to wake up Clyde, “He’s a sleepy head today, he’s usually my little early bird.” She laughed.
Ed laughed with her, he loved her, I could see that. There would be more grandchildren in the making before I knew it.

Margaret came out of Clyde’s room, her eyes large and nervous, “He must have gone out already. Did you see him in the orchard? He isn’t in his room?”

I saw my arms soaked with blood but my memory was faded, what had that to do with Clyde? It must have been a random memory from the slaughter of last year’s hogs. We went out into the yard, calling Clyde’s name but he was nowhere to be found.

We searched high and low and then we called the neighbours, they had seen hide nor hair of him. Finally we called the police. Search parties were sent out but they never found him, never found a body.

The following year, Margaret was big with child and as stupid as ever. How I missed my grandson and looked forward to having a new child in the house. I loved being a grandfather and if I found some monster had taken my grandson I swore I would show no mercy, although the police concluded that the boy must have taken it into his head to go look at the storm and decreed it to be an act of God. There had been some flash floods, he probably got caught up in one of them.

In the meantime, it was a record year for peaches but my hands trembled every time I held a butcher knife. It’s the cross of old men to bear, these ravages of age.