Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Black Joke

Dad and me. April 1977
I wasn't sure I should write this blog. Too personal, too much self-pity maybe. But this is how I purge my heart. I'm a writer, and this is what I do. Bear with me. If grief and loss are something you don't wish to read about, stop now. I'm trying to sort through stuff.

On April 2nd, 2017, my father passed from heart failure. He was only seventy years old. I know seventy is not young, but it's too young to die. Especially for my father. The word 'spry' doesn't begin to describe him. Spry describes seniors who still have the get-up-and-go. He was never old in the first place.

Four months ago, my father had a heart attack, and the family was blindsided. My father quit smoking forty years ago. He rarely had more than two beers at a sitting. He only ever had a weight problem at Christmas, when everyone would gift him with pistachios. He ate those like a squirrel preparing to hibernate. He had all his blonde hair, and always looked ten years younger than his actual age. How the hell did this happen? We don't know, but he never recovered.

I can't begin to tell you how angry I am. Why?! Why him? Why does my mother have to live without him after 46+ years? Why did my 94 year old grandmother have to live to see the death of her third child? Why was he the first one to die? Why did he have to suffer so much in the last four months of his life after 70 years of fantastic health? Why wasn't I there for him? Why didn't it rain for his memorial like it does for good people? Why was it sunny and cold? Dad couldn't get warm anymore, so why did it have to be sunny AND cold? Stupid Alberta weather. WHY?

Speaking of anger, you know what's an insensitive thing to say to a grieving co-worker? "Smile!"and "Cheer up!" I seem to have misplaced my sense of humor.

Why him? I'm the one who is overweight, drinks and smokes. Why him and not me? I see old people walking the mall, and I wonder why they continue to live when he didn't. I shouldn't be so selfish. I can name at least five people from my home town of Fox Creek who could ask themselves the same thing after they lost a parent before me. Why them? Maybe the Black Joke is an odd chuckle when it isn't you.

Grief is HEAVY. I can barely move. I think my sister and I wanted to be brave. Jody got the phone call at work, and finished her shift. I got the phone call on my days off--Sunday, and went to work on Tuesday, without any time off. We're proud of our work ethic. Now I'm scared it's going to kill us. I can't speak for my sister, but I didn't take any time off for that first week. I had reasons that I'm still trying to justify.

I wanted to honor is memory by being strong. Neither of us ever called in sick, and we felt a sense of duty and loyalty to our jobs. Jody and I learned our work ethic from our parents, and we felt the need to keep it. And I'm speaking for myself when I say I worked because I feel a sense of guilt.

I had a disturbing dream after learning of my father's death. I dreamed that I was at an airshow, with all manner of aircraft flying through the air. I noticed these hot air balloons, they were black, dark blue, and dark red striped. They had jesters on them, and were piloted by men in jester costumes. Thick black smoke streamed from beneath them.

It was time for my plane to leave. I watched out the window, nervous about bypassing these strange balloons, and how did they get away with belching pollution like that? We passed them and I noticed with increasing agitation that we had entered the stratosphere. I could see the shape of the earth. It was then that I noticed I wasn't buckled in.
He got that plaque for the most miles flown to that event in Rimbey.

I used to say that God had a strange sense of humor because the biggest mystery was what happened after death. And you had to die to find the answers. Now I know death is the Black Joke, and it's not funny.

I went to my mother's house. She gave me a whole stack of unused socks to give to my husband. Turns out Daddy was unable to wear them. Something about them not being warm enough, and he wasn't able to pull them up by himself. Actually, he was in such bad shape, mom had to pull them up, despite the fact that she needs a walker everywhere she goes.

So I took the socks from the bed where my mother placed them, to the spare bedroom where my father slept the last four months of his life. They couldn't even sleep together because Daddy had to sprawl because he couldn't breathe. I'm holding an armload of unused socks, and my duffle bag is right next to the spot on the floor where my mother found my father's body.

I wonder.. Did he cry out for help? Was he able to? Or did he choke on the fluids building in his lungs? Was he cold? Was he scared? His left hand was still on the bed. Did he know what was happening to him? Was he trying to get up? Next thing I know, I am sobbing and trembling into an armload of socks.My Poor, Sweet, Daddy.

What have I learned from this? Never ask the universe for a little more time off from work. In fact, don't ask the universe for anything. It will make stuff happen in ways you don't want. Keep your family close. You'll never know when you'll need them, or worse--when you'll lose them. Let love be your motivation. That's what I've learned.
One of Dad's last photos. They used it for his obituary.

Right now, I'm trying to rest. No edits, no research, no new writing. I don't really have much of a choice, since dad's death has sucked my energy away. But death is a natural conclusion to life, and we will all lose someone we love at some time. This is my time to mourn, and when I'm done, I will honor my father by chasing my dreams. It's just going to take some time for the cracks in my shell to heal.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Worry Dolls and Sleepy Inspirations

Or...How to Use Worry Dolls to Keep Those Late Night Ideas Until Morning.

This last Christmas my husband bought me a set of six Worry Dolls. He got them from a store here in Edmonton called Ascendant Books. (I LOVE that store.) It's a place where you can get your tarot cards or your palm read. You can buy crystals, sage, yoga tapes, incense, fairy houses and paraphernalia, and of course BOOKS. Books on anything and everything metaphysical. The store has a fantastic vibe, kinda magical.

That's where he bought the Worry Dolls. Use these little treasures at bedtime. You tell a worry doll what's keeping you up at night. Tell one doll about how you're stressed about bills. Tell another you're worried about your friend who's having surgery. Tell another that the job interview tomorrow has you nervous--anything that might keep you awake.

The idea is that THEY do the worrying FOR you. I find it helps. When the things that bother me sneak into my brain, I remind myself that the dolls are keeping my problems. They aren't mine for the night. It's physiological, and you have to let it work.

Here's how I use them for writing ideas:

Every writer has experienced that flood of inspiration that happens just as we're dropping off. You're half asleep, and a really cool thought hits you--something that might make a great story idea. How badly do you need sleep? Do you get up, turn the light on and write it down? Or do you drift off and hope it's still there in the morning?

Most writers choose the former, and they keep pen and paper on the nightstand for just such an occurrence. That means waking your spouse to turn the light on, or maybe you get out of bed and leave the room. You force your eyes to adjust, writing blearily and hoping the resulting plot bunny doesn't hop all over your brain for a few hours more. You hope you'll sleep.

This happened to me two weeks ago. I don't remember what triggered it, but a concept shouted at me. I also had to work early. I grabbed a worry doll from my nightstand without turning on the lamp. I whispered my idea to her. I even gave her keywords. Medieval England. Papal Indulgences. Her True Name:Volume unknown. Then I tucked her under my pillow, and went to sleep.

The next day, I readied myself for work. The day was uneventful. I came home, and changed into my pajamas, remembering I had worry dolls under my pillow. When I saw the third one, I remembered my thought, and ran to my journal to get it down. It stuck!

Guess what? I have a book idea. I think it might even be my next novel. I'm not saying it will work as a novel. And I'm not saying this method will work for everyone. I'm saying give it a shot.

t doesn't even have to be a doll. It can be anything, can't it? If you whisper your idea to your spare bookmark or a hair brush and find it under your pillow the next day, you'll probably find the trigger again anyway. Mostly because you'll wonder why you put it there, right? (Hey hairbrush...do you remember that thing I told you about historical corruption and how a certain god-figure did the thing I want to write about?) Try it. See what happens. Best of luck!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Fighting the Block by Being Kinder to Myself

"A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind."
I'm not washing my walls this spring. That's right, I said I'm NOT. Sure I'll still clean my fridge and stove, wash all the linens and dust the hell out of everything, but I'm not washing the walls. I'm taking a load off my plate, since I'm the one who put it there to begin with.

I'm feeling tired. I'm currently editing two books and working full time. It bothers me to admit that it's causing mild Writer's Block.

I hesitate to call it true Writer's Block. What it actually is, is the lack of time or energy to do research and find a useable plot for ancient East Indian humans. When I come home from work, I worry about all the other things I have to get done and stress out because I don't have the energy to do them.

This is how we fight this kind of Writer's Block.

1. We Relax-- Nothing strengthens a bout of Writer's Block like tension. Think Chinese finger trap. The more you worry about it, the tighter the trap.

2. We trust ourselves and our imaginations--This isn't just for writers. You can't force ideas, but ideas flow when you just let your mind be free to wander outside your day to day life. Inspiration can be found anywhere, and it will find you again when the time is right. No need to push.

3. If there's too much crowding the mind, remove a few things--Like the self-imposed obligations of a sparkling clean house and a massive garden I can't actually take care of. I'm a writer. I have no social life. No one comes to my house anyway! Who am I trying to impress?

4. Cut yourself some slack--I just finished two novels, and I'm in the process of editing and improving upon them. That's plenty right there. Maybe now isn't the time to start something new. Maybe right now, it's time to...

5. Find inspiration anywhere and everywhere-- You know what happens when you have your husband's longtime-friend-he-hasn't-seen-in-ages over for dinner? And he's a history freak? You learn things you can use to make the novel you're editing right now into something more interesting, with more depth.

Don't worry, I'm not worried. Just writing this blog proves to me I still have creativity flowing--just not in the direction of something new. It'll come. And when it does, there will be new books to write:) You don't need to wish me luck this time. I won't need it.

Author's Note: I actually wrote this blog three days ago. I practiced what I preach, and today I found a brand new book idea. Now I have to get off social media to write up an outline.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Congratulations to my winners!

Cover by Terra Weston
It's March first, 2017 and it's time to announce my contest winners. I would like to that everyone for participating, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. A few of you also used Pinterest and their own blogs, and I loved that. Thank you <3

First place winner of signed copies of Chasing Monsters and Her True Name Volume One and an Aphrodite's War notebook: Jody Haynes!!

Second place winner of signed copies of Chasing Monsters and Her True Name Volume One: Meghan McKenzie!!

Third place winner of a signed copy of Chasing Monsters: Michelle Ashley Gordon!!

Thankfully all three of you are easy to contact through Facebook. Thanks for all the shares, ladies <3 Again, thanks to everyone who entered. It did my heart good to see the response. I hope my winners enjoy the novels.
Cover by: Anima Black

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Contest for Black Valentines

Image by:Pansa@FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I promised a contest, and here it is. This is for everyone, but especially those of you who would rather have a second Halloween than Valentine's Day.

Chasing Monsters is a love story, sure. But I don't know about you, but I like a little more than that in the books I read and write. I certainly don't object to some violence and creepiness. If that's you too, than maybe you want to participate in this contest. *This is a private contest done by the author, and is in no way endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media site.*

Here are the rules:

1. Entrants must post or share links involving Chasing Monsters or anything else to do with Donna Milward, Author. Don't forget to tag me so I can see you. Here's a couple of ideas:Donna Milward's Author page on Amazon  Donna Milward Facebook page

2. Do it often. Every post counts as an entry. The most posts wins. First, second, and third prize will be determined by who has the most entries. In the event of a tie, BOTH parties will be awarded the same prize.

1st Prize: Chasing Monsters Paperback, Her True Name Paperback, Aphrodite's War notebook, and Chasing Monsters bookmarks. Signed as requested by prize winner.

2nd Prize: Chasing Monsters Paperback, Her True Name Paperback and Chasing Monsters bookmarks. Signed as requested by prize winner.

3rd Prize: Chasing Monsters Paperback and Chasing Monsters bookmarks. Signed as requested by prizewinner.

This contest runs until February 28th, 2017, and winners will be announced March 1st, 2017. At this time, I will contact the winners for addresses.

IF the winner is outside North America, the novels will be given in a Kindle version. Other prizes will be sent by regular mail.

My goal here is to expose Chasing Monsters to as many people as possible, and although I intend to expand my marketing, I'm counting on you to start me off.  Thanks in advance, and I wish us all luck!

And why do you want this book? Here's an excerpt:

     Noelles shriek lodged in her throat like a half-chewed chunk of chicken. Hiding in a pile were a pair of glowing crimson eyes.
     Rodent’s eyes shone like that in certain lights, right? But these appeared much too large, and they seemed to radiate, like embers, not reflect.
     Dried grass tumbled as the creature rose to tower above her. Bat-like wings created Halloween shadows on the walls until they filled the tiny room. Teeth the length of her fingers lined an impossibly long mouth. It was leathery and black, and had short horns on its head and shoulders. Those scarlet eyes were larger than the palms of her hands.
     She took a step backward, and a talon shot forward to grasp her arm. Her phone spilled from her fingers to the ground. Noelle barely registered the clatter as it smashed on the cement below.
     The beast pulled her close. She squirmed from its searing touch until her sleeve ripped. The heat from its breath flushed her face. A bead of sweat trickled from her temple. It pressed a gnarled hand to its chest. Nequam.
     “Get away from me!Noelle attempted to run. The thing reached out, grabbed her again. She emptied her lungs in a scream of panic.

     “Auxilium me,” the monster said. “Auxilium me, amicus.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Front AND back cover by: Terra Weston

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

It's official. CHASING MONSTERS has been released!! To be honest, I'm more relieved than excited. It doesn't even feel real. Such a long and exhausting brain birth. I couldn't give up though. WOULDN'T give up. Not only do I love this novel, but I made a promise to publish it, and dedicate it to Gary Larsen. 

If you follow this blog, you'll recognize the name. He was the paranormal investigator who asked if he could be in my book, but passed away before I finished it. I miss him. Everyone who knew him does, especially his friends at Edmonton Paranormal. I hope his spirit is proud, and he likes the character of 'Joey'. 

I'm pleased to tell you CHASING MONSTERS is available in both Kindle and paperback from Amazon, and is also part of the Kindle Unlimited program. Currently, the paperback is unavailable in Canada, but give it time. Createspace tells me it can take up to 30 days to go up, but that it can be purchased here: To order a paperback copy of CHASING MONSTERS.  In the meantime, Kindle versions are available exclusively at Amazon. The above link is the US link, here's the Canadian link: Donna Milward at amazon.ca

And here is the back blurb:

Noelle is keeping too many secrets. But what happens when this paranormal investigator befriends a demon? Meeting Nequam  complicates everything  Now people are dying.
When she reaches out to Sam Castellano, she’s met with skepticism. He thinks she’s delusional, or lying, but he’s determined to find out which.

Danger is closer than either of them know. There’s more than one predator watching.

In the next couple of weeks, I will be running a contest. The prizes will be copies of CHASING MONSTERS and bookmarks, so watch this space for more info.

Thanks to all of you for being more patient than me. I hope you love it! 

Cover by: Terra Weston

Thursday, January 26, 2017

COVER REVEAL:Chasing Monsters

Cover art by Terra Weston
Ever closer! I can't tell you how excited I am to show you the cover for my upcoming novel CHASING MONSTERS! My God, this feels like it's taken forever.

Here's where we're at...Edits and formats done and downloaded. Front cover--downloaded. Bookmarks? I'm going to see if I can get my bestie to help me with that. Melaida's the one I turn to when I can't computer.

I'm hoping to have a contest later in February. I'm hoping to have paperbacks to give away. HOPING. Because we know there will be a GLITCH somewhere.

In fact, they're already here! This cover is the first glitch. Terra Weston did a front AND back cover for this novel. The problem? It's too big. Createspace doesn't accept anything over 40 MB, whatever that means. I don't speak tech. I haven't given up. I really want everyone to see what the back looks like. She did a phenomenal job, yes?

Bookmarks might be fun...Like I said, I'm going to buy Mel dinner if she helps me again, but wouldn't you know it? My printer leaves black guck on everything. This might be a job for Vistaprint. We will see.

In the meantime, feast your eyeballs on this deliciously wicked work of art, and know that someday very soon, there will be a book behind it.