the Author

Social Distancing Journal 11: Short story: Ghostwood

Posted in writing.

Well. It’s been a long week. I… missed some of the events because I spent three days doing taxes (federal and GST/HST) and had to ignore the Internet because anything is more compelling than doing taxes.

I discov­ered – and of course this makes perfect legal sense – that I can’t contribute to USian polit­ical campaigns. US char­i­ties will take money.

I have read So. Much. News. So much. I feel some­what help­less, and I’m wavering between hope and despair, and the despair is the 2016 elec­tion all over again. Which, oddly enough, stopped me from getting a single useful word written for three months. (Little whis­pers: is this enough? Is this finally enough? Will things change? And I remember my mother not under­standing my 2016 reac­tion because… it was America. Surely the things I was terri­fied of wouldn’t happen? Surely Amer­i­cans wouldn’t let it happen?)

I have continued to write, with the break for taxes. Which, as far as breaks go, truly sucked. But I’m closing in on the end of the as yet unti­tled Cast 16, where “closing in on the end” means 30k+ words left to go. I am farther into the West novel, but, well, not closing in on the end, which means … more words to go.


Today’s story is Ghost­wood. I had been asked for a story for an anthology edited by Katherine Kerr, and had been thinking of different possible stories, like, say portal fantasy or the sidhe. This is not what happened. As usual, the story, in pdf — which a giant cover again, sorry >.< — is here.

I don’t have buy links on the book page yet, but the book page is up and I’ll add those as they go live today (or tomorrow; I don’t have direct access to Barnes & Noble, so I have to put it up on Smash­words, which then propagates.)


We are all still at home, but I have been going into the book­store – which is still closed to customer traffic in-store, but is doing both mail order and curb-side pick-up – on Fridays. My long-suffering husband drives me and picks me up, so I don’t have to take the subway; I’m lucky, and know it.

We are both still employed. In Canada, the Trudeau govern­ment has continued to take some heat for the lack of checks involved in sending out the CERB money to people who were laid off and completely off work. But… people I know who were laid off and completely without income were getting their cheques in two days. And… this is not happening for many people in the US at the moment — people have been waiting six weeks, seven weeks.

Food banks are over­stressed, under supplied, and people who have never ever had to rely on food banks… have to rely on them now. This would be a great time to donate to those imme­diate neces­si­ties, if you, like us, are mone­tarily less impacted by the various stay-at-home/ work­place closures.

People have occa­sion­ally asked if they can send me money as a sign of appre­ci­a­tion for my writing/stories. I have been lucky; no matter how tight our finances have been, I’ve never  needed it. But I’d love it if those who can afford it and who have asked over the years could instead donate money to their local food banks. (Yes, italics and bold­face. Some of us cannot afford it. At all. And there is no shame in that.)

17 Responses to Social Distancing Journal 11: Short story: Ghostwood

  1. Stephen Engel says:

    Thank you Michelle. You are the best.

  2. Emile De Antonio says:

    Lovely story. Thank you.

  3. Emile De Antonio says:

    Lovely Story. Thank you, Michelle.

  4. Kathy Scappace says:

    I have read So. Much. News. So much. I feel some­what help­less, and I’m wavering between hope and despair, and the despair is the 2016 elec­tion all over again. Which, oddly enough, stopped me from getting a single useful word written for three months. (Little whis­pers: is this enough? Is this finally enough? Will things change? And I remember my mother not under­standing my 2016 reac­tion because… it was America. Surely the things I was terri­fied of wouldn’t happen? Surely Amer­i­cans wouldn’t let it happen?)”

    I am an Amer­ican. The reason I mention this is because of what your mother said about Amer­i­cans not letting the very bad things happen. Iron­i­cally, many Amer­i­cans said those same words about Hitler and Germany. I remember my 10th grade history teacher discussing this in class and pointing out how shocked so many people were when the camps were exposed. I wouldn’t trust us to stop this madman right now. He’s already done so much wrong.

    For the other part of this extremely long comment; thank you for not letting our idiocy destroy your ability to write, Person­ally, I count on your short stories right now. Thank you.

  5. Stephen Engel says:

    I must re-affirm. You are the best writer alive. Thanks again, we have hope because people like you can write about life as beau­tiful and alive when there is a lot of death. As you have shown us, the seed dies and the beau­tiful tree comes to life.

  6. DeDe says:

    Love the story. That one always brings tears to my eyes. I love that you’re doing the stories on Mondays. It’s made them almost like the old Fridays. Tuesday morn­ings = new/old story which is even better than Satur­days! Thanks again.

  7. michelle says:

    @Kathy: Sorry about that =/. I try to keep poli­tics off the blog because people I like in real life often have polit­ical choices that don’t mesh with mine. I try to see people as people, not as the sum of one thing. But — I admit it’s become harder and harder to do this. 

    Also: I’m Cana­dian. It’s not my country, and I’m not sure I’d be delighted to have people from other coun­tries telling me what to do in mine when they don’t fully under­stand all the mech­a­nisms of our government.

    Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t be delighted if Cana­dians marched in here to tell me what to do in mine.

  8. michelle says:

    @Emily & Stephen: Thank you :).

  9. michelle says:

    @DeDe: Thanks :).

    I consid­ered trying to do a story every Monday, but … I was late on this one (it was still Monday), and once I push into the later stories they’re all longer so the process of conver­sion will – unsur­pris­ingly – take longer as well. 

    So my internal commit­ment is: “Only if it doesn’t inter­fere with the active deadlines”. 

    And to be honest, there are stories that I do not remember writing, even while reading them, so it’s been inter­esting (Ghost­wood isn’t one of them).

  10. Joyce Ronquillo says:

    Thank you for your words, Michelle. Whether fictional or “real world” they are thoughtful and grounded in the humanity I want to believe in. 

    As a blue dot in a red sea I have been disen­fran­chised for 4 years now and feel so beaten by every­thing I struggle to feel any opti­mism at all. I do have Amer­i­cans trying to tell me what to do and telling the world that people like me don’t exist .

  11. michelle says:

    @Joyce: I’ve seen a lot of kind­ness. I read about a lot that… isn’t. But I’ve seen a lot of kind­ness. It’s hard because there’s such a push to a grim-dark mentality, and it’s too easy to believe that every­thing is terrible and everyone is out for them­selves, etc.

    And I know this because I struggle as well. Hope is kind of double-edged; we both need it to move forward but fall much harder when the hope peters out.

  12. Tina says:

    Hi Michelle, I just wanted to thank you for your words here and the books you write. Your books give me some­thing to look forward to, every time I hear a new one is coming out, I get a boost in outlook.

    I want to second the request to make dona­tions to food banks if people can afford it. I know that there are a lot of requests for dona­tions right now to support many different worthy causes, but I have seen what food banks do, and the ones near me (Ohio) have all been step­ping up trying so hard to fill the gaps that have been left by such high unemployment.

    @Joyce — please don’t lose hope, I think that is the worst thing we can all do right now. We need to stay strong and make sure all of the blue dots get out and vote this year. If we lose hope, I’m afraid the voter turnout will not happen. I know it’s hard, but please hang in there, and know you are not alone.

    Sorry for being so long-winded.

  13. Tyronne Lorne Hodgins says:

    Hi Michelle.

    Every time I go into a Walmart or the LCBO or No Frills or any other store, when I check out, I always donate to what­ever food charity or hospital that is being asked. I don’t even think about it anymore, it’s simply auto­matic. Some of the grocery stores have the bags of groceries set up for the food bank. I always buy one. I know what it’s like to not have enough food. I remember that part of my child­hood. I remember my moth­er’s tears. As for the upcoming elec­tion, like you, I am afraid. I cannot believe that Trump can win reelec­tion and yet, I couldn’t believe he’d win the first time either. The only thing I am confi­dent about is that it’s going to be a nasty elec­tion, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. I feel sorry for Amer­i­cans. They are going through a very rough, diffi­cult and turbu­lent time and I feel blessed simply because I was lucky enough to be born Canadian. 

    As for your story writing, what can I say that I haven’t already said before. I read every­thing you write — repeat­edly. I love your stories. They have enter­tained me, they have made me think, they have made laugh and cry. They have even saved my life — liter­ally. So, thank you for being you. You are at the top of my bucket list. One day, I hope to meet you at your store or at an event that’s close enough for me to attend. Had a chance earlier this year but Covid-19 had other plans. Every­thing for a reason, even if we don’t neces­sarily get to know the reason on this side of the veil. Take care and stay safe!

  14. Joyce Ronquillo says:

    I appre­ciate the encour­age­ment. @Tina, I will certainly vote. It may not count, it may be futile, but it will matter to me and I won’t be denied my voice.

  15. michelle says:

    @Tyrone: <3. I have no memo­ries of being hungry that way; I just have all my parents stories of life — in Canada — after the intern­ment when it was very very diffi­cult to find any kind of work at all. There was a lot of hunger, although my mother, younger, remem­bers it less clearly than the older siblings did (she’s the youngest of nine).

  16. Tyronne Lorne Hodgins says:

    It was tough time, Mom had just lost her job, was raising two kids on her own with no support from my father, with a mort­gage and car payments to boot. She sold the car, paid off that loan, used the profits to stretch Welfare a little further and somehow kept a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and food, such as it was, on the table. She was an incred­ibly strong and stub­born woman and I have the utmost respect and admi­ra­tion for her. I would appre­ciate an oppor­tu­nity to speak with your parents about their time in the intern­ment camps though I doubt they speak about that time very often to you and your siblings let alone a complete stranger. I have a love of history and I have had the oppor­tu­nity to speak to concen­tra­tion camp survivors, members of the German army, the English army, and the Australian army. I even got the oppor­tu­nity to speak with a Lithuanian and Yugosla­vian family that fled the Soviets. I have a love of history and prefer the personal expe­ri­ences over what’s in the books. The intern­ment camps are a black mark on Cana­dian history and it should be taught in more detail in our schools than it presently is. I am a firm believer that if we do not learn from history, we will repeat it. Given what’s going on in the world today gives ample proof of that. Anyways, keep up the great work that you do and stay safe. Bless­ings to you and your family, espe­cially your parents. They must be amazing people!

  17. Joey says:

    I am so fond of “Ghost­wood” but the song I’ve wanted to write (for at least 20 years) still hasn’t come together. I reread it again after you posted this. Still like the story a lot.

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