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December 2021 Muse

December 2021

“A man who tells secrets or stories must think of who is hearing or reading, for a story has as many versions as it has readers. Everyone takes what he wants or can from it and thus changes it to his measure. Some pick out parts and reject the rest, some strain the story through their mesh of prejudice, some paint it with their own delight. A story must have some points of contact with the reader to make him feel at home in it. Only then can he accept wonders.” — John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Editor's Note:

The Strathcona Writers Muse is a forum for members of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County to provide an opportunity for members to publish their works. Anything published in our letter is eligible to receive a publishing credit. We accept poems and short stories of 1000 words or less normally but longer pieces can be accommodated if they can be published in parts. We are always in need of new items for each month so don't hesitate if you have something we can put into our publication.

Send submissions to care of Henry Martell, editor.

Important Dates

Writers Circle Virtual Sharing Meeting online

Next date December 7, 2021

RSVP on the website and the link will be emailed to you prior to the meeting.

Next Board Meeting: December 14, 2021

Newsletter Submission Deadline: December 27, 2021

Monthly online Creative Writing Workshops

Held last Saturday of every month from 12:30 to 2:30 pm

Go to the website to register - click the RSVP and the link will be emailed to you prior to the workshop.

Poets in the Park

Poets in the park meets the third Wednesday of every month online.

Reply to the link on the WFSC website

Next scheduled meeting Dec 15, 2021

Children's Creative Writing Workshop

Second Thursday of each month

Next Meeting December 9, 2021

Reply to the link on our Website

WFSC Christmas Party (Virtual)

December 14, 2021 7 pm

RSVP on WFSC website calendar

Members to have food and drink of their choice and to read a winter themed story. It has been suggested that in lieu of the ten dollar gift, that a donation to a charity be given.

This Month's Submissions

A Christmas Story

by Karen Probert Linda practiced Christmas carols on her piano. She played them fast and with heavy fingers. She felt aggressive but had decided to take it out on the piano keys before everyone arrived for the pre-Christmas party. Her daughter Nora had been helping her for a week by storing food in her extra fridge which had a lock so the teenaged grandsons couldn't sneak any of it out. Linda smiled at the thought of Nolan and Landon. Their father, Chris, had assured Linda that he had taken them last Saturday to buy them new, well-fitting jeans and dress shirts to wear and even to get haircuts so it wouldn't be hanging in their eyes. Nolan's drum set was already beside her piano and Landon's guitar case was standing nearby. They'd all been practicing together for three weeks. Little Natalie, with her clear voice, would sing with them. She'd memorized all the words. Chris had downloaded the words and music for others from his computer onto red and green paper - that was a nice touch. Linda's other daughter, Sarah, had taken today off work so would arrive about four this afternoon with her twins, Abby and Astrid. By Skype Linda had seen their red velour dresses trimmed in white fur as well as the dance they were practicing to perform. Linda was excited about all this. What she was angry about was that her sister-in-law Suzanne had phoned last night. Suzanne had no idea there was a family secret but her phone call had brought it all forward again. Suzanne's husband, Jim, had never told Suzanne. He'd said to Linda, "It would serve no purpose and would upset her." Jim had always protected everyone in his own way. When his younger brother, Eric, got into scraps he solved the issues and covered the small costs. Eric had never done anything really bad, just a bit foolish or thoughtless. Linda had loved Eric with passion despite his sometimes weaknesses. As a widow of three years she remembered him with deep love, smiling often when something reminded her of him. Suzanne had simply asked, "My sister Kate will be in town tomorrow on business and she is staying overnight with us. Can I bring her to the party or would that upset the plans too much?" Linda avoided Kate whenever possible. One time, just once, not long after she and Eric were married, he got very drunk at a family gathering. Linda had overheard a conversation between Eric and Kate. She'd heard Kate say, "Oh Eric, it never would have worked with you and I with your sister married to my brother. Look, you found Linda and she's great. Forget their ever was an 'us' and live a super life with Linda." A contrite Eric, a few days later, admitted he'd been in love with Kate before he met Linda but Kate didn't want to be so closely tied to Suzanne so she'd left him. Jim knew all about it but had never let on. Linda had felt betrayed because she thought she was the love of Eric's life as he was to hers. They'd enjoyed a good life together, cut short by his heart attack. Linda was only ever upset when Kate was around. To Suzanne, Linda said, "There's lots of food so of course Kate can come. Please don't pressure her though if she's tired from her meetings or would rather just relax with a movie or something." "She was more concerned that she doesn't have anything dressy enough to wear but I'll lend her something. See you tomorrow night at 6. We're all looking forward to it. Oh, Linda, before I forget, our Sadie and Carl managed to find a sitter so colicky Aaron won't spoil things. He should be over this faze soon. We all hope so." Linda smacked down on the piano keys. Baby Aaron would be a more welcome 'spoiler' than Kate. She just kept wondering how this was all going to work. She banged out Good King Wenceslaus at a fast clip and the closed the piano and her eyes. Out loud she said, "I can do this. I'm over it. Nothing is going to ruin my party." Getting up, Linda held onto the side of her piano for a few seconds to survey the living room. She breathed in and out, deeply, ten times. She smiled. The house looked perfect. Upstairs Linda washed carefully as her hair had already been done. She dressed in everything except a new, pale green dress she'd bought. She got out her shoes. Adding a little makeup and jade earrings she put on a robe before going downstairs to the kitchen. She straightened a few things and then at 4:15 Nolan and Landon knocked at the back door. "We have food to bring in from the car. And Auntie Sarah and the twins are out front." Nora and Chris were right behind their boys full of cheerfulness and fun. Linda smiled at her family as they gathered in the kitchen. "I'll go up to finish dressing as you bring everything in. Then we can let the party begin."

Plans Gone Awry

by Karen Probert

Jessa lay in the bed, under the covers, rocking slowly back and forth. Groans emanated out from her almost covered face - mostly soft ones, on occasion sharp and loud followed by a shudder that shook the bed.

What had started early in the evening as a minor digestive upset had escalated by midnight into this intense pain and vomiting. Marcus had insisted she get into the back seat of the truck and had brought her to this small local hospital. His plans for a romantic seduction reduced to emptying the plastic waste basket and flushing it's revolting contents. The doctor had asked him, "What did Jessa eat? Where did you have dinner? What did she drink?" Marcus had heard the nurses talking in the hall. They had fourteen cases of food poisoning in the unit tonight and had traced it back to El Morocco. It seems everyone here with stomach distress had eaten there tonight.

Jess had been so excited to be going to a new place, wearing her silky new blue dress and high sparkling heels. Marcus was still wearing new, straight cut jeans with a well pressed shirt. They looked like an up-and-coming couple who'd spent the day shopping in a new city and were enjoying their holiday weekend. It was exactly right until Jessa ordered carpaccio. To Marcus it looked like beef jerky so he wasn't interested. He'd had a bocconcini salad to start his meal with the sweetest tomatoes he'd ever eaten. Jessa said the carpaccio had only a salty taste but the texture was softer and chewier than she'd expected. They'd shared a pesto pasta dish decorated with lemony shrimp and pine nuts. It was delicious as well as filling. For dessert there'd been a shared chocolate lava cake. Now in Marcus's mind was the mixture of pink shrimp, green pasta and brown chocolate in the bottom of that hotel waste basket.

While the nurses tended Jessa he called the Hotel D'Or to advise them that the room he and Jessa had occupied would be empty until morning but that it needed a thorough cleaning and change of bedding. He apologized and explained about being at the hospital.

As Jessa's movements calmed and she dropped into an exhausted sleep Marcus started to formulate a letter in his mind. It would be addressed to the owners and manager at El Morocco. It would insist that they pay for the unused hotel room, as well as the extra he was being charged to have the room cleaned. This had not been budgeted for in his careful plan. How could it all have gone so wrong?

A small nurse came in to the room to check Jessa's IV. She smiled at Marcus. She suggested he help her move a lounge-style chair from near the window to beside Jessa's bed. She had brought him a pillow and a warmed blanket. She said, "She's going to be okay, your wife. Just sleep here beside her so when she wakes up you'll be with her."

Wife! What a concept! Marcus decided not to say anything in case only husbands were allowed to stay. He'd only met Jessa six weeks ago, hadn't even met her family and this woman thought they were married. Hell, they'd never even had sex. That had been the plan for tonight but now it might never happen.

Jessa had stopped writhing and lay still, breathing softly. The room was hushed but not quite dark. From his prone position on the chair Marcus stared at her pale face. He said softly, "my wife". He smiled as he drifted off to sleep.


Snowflakes falling

silent, softly

frozen blanket

Roads with black ice

frustrates drivers

ice on windshield

Cars in ditches

travel danger

slip on sidewalks

Shovel white stuff

heavy snowfall

backs cry out

Fingers frozen

cold toes and ears

drippy nose

Wind is howling

snow is drifting


Snow is falling

time for soups

and baking now

Cold and wet

great for skating

gliding graceful

I hate winter

but love skiing

downhill flying

Forts to build,

snowballs to make

time for sledding

Catching snowflakes

on our tongues

make snow angels

Snow keeps falling

Pretty crunching

crystals shimmer

Now a blizzard

cozy flannel

and hot chocolate

Snuggle tightly

under blankets

one book or two?

Looks like we'll

be snowed in

all weekend

Stupid snow

I softly mutter

Please stay longer

Alana Gueutal, 2021


by John Wheeler

The F/A 18 Hornet fighter jet had not completed its taxi to the hanger when the two Military Police jeeps, red and blue lights flashing, drove up beside it. The Canadian military aircraft rolled to a stop and the powerful engine capable of a supersonic speed of 1900 kilometres an hour, was switched off. The pilot, Lieutenant Landers Kyllo, snapped open his harness, slid back the canopy and climbed out. As soon as his feet touched the tarmac, the lieutenant was collected and driven to the interrogation centre on Royal Canadian Air force Base Yukon, located outside of Whitehorse.

Landers had just taken a seat at the table, when Colonel Talbot entered the room carrying a cassette tape recorder. The Colonel was the epitome of what an Air Force Officer should look like from his cropped military haircut to his spit shined black boots. They were alone in the room.

“As you were, Lieutenant Kyllo,” he announced before Landers could rise. The Colonel took the chair across the table from the young aviator. The Colonel set the tape deck on the table and turned it on to RECORD.

“Time is now 0200 hours, December 25, 1985, R.C.A.F. Base Yukon. Before I get started, I have to inform you Captain Miller, your wingman is really annoyed with you for suddenly breaking formation, to chase an unknown bogie that he never saw. What happened, lieutenant?”

Landers cleared his throat. No matter how crazy it sounded he was going to tell it like he saw it.

“We were patrolling the edge of that 300-mile-wide corridor over the Northwest Territories that Command had set up yesterday. Orders were no aircraft allowed in that zone. Very little radio chatter for a Christmas Eve. Suddenly my radar picked up a fast-moving object in the corridor. It had gone supersonic and blew right past us. I switched my nav radar scope from off centre to station keeping. My radar display was now configured to attack mode.” Landers paused to take a breath. He wasn’t proud of what happened next.

“I broke formation and gave chase!” he announced raucously. “I heard Captain Miller on my headset protesting, but I departed anyway. I just wanted to catch and identify. The bogie was fast and an E-ticket ride. The target wouldn’t slow, so I went fangs out. Tried engaging missile lock, but the targeting radar couldn’t get a fix. I switched to guns. My plan was to put a burst across his bow. I was vectoring in when the impossible happened!”

Landers replayed the incident in his head and thought about how the next part was going to sound. Colonel Talbot remained stoic. Landers continued.

“It was dark. All instruments were working. Range 400 yards. One second, I’m matching course and closing. The next second my windscreen is full of the target. I kicked a hard left and dove. That’s when I saw what I was chasing.” Landers had to stop. Even he didn’t want to believe what he saw.

“So, what did you see, Lieutenant?” the Colonel asked calmly.

Landers gathered his thoughts. He decided to just say it and let the chips fall.

“It was Santa’s sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer! I know it sounds crazy, but I swear, hand to God, that’s what it was.” Landers stopped. There he had said it! His heart pounding in anticipation of what the Colonel’s reaction would be. The Colonel switched off the tape recorder, sat back in his chair and gazed past Landers at the empty wall behind him. The Colonel appeared to be in a trance by what the young Lieutenant had just revealed. Landers could not read what the Colonel was thinking. It was a very uncomfortable silence. Landers was about to say something when the Colonel piped up with, “Did you happen to notice the reindeer configuration?”

“Sir?” Landers replied. “Configuration?”

“Yes. Were the reindeer in a single row or were they in pairs?”Colonel Talbot asked politely.

Landers had to think about that. “They were four pairs of two,” he responded, getting concerned about where this was going. “Sir, what is going on?”

“Mmmmm. He’s made some changes,” Colonel Talbot to himself a little too loud. The senior officer came out of his trance and looked at the young airman. “Have you ever heard of the Sleigh bell Squadron?”

“Yes. It’s the nickname of the guys and gals on patrol up here during Christmas time.”

“Oh, it’s more than that. It’s actually a fellowship of airmen, dating back decades, who’ve witnessed the same thing you did.” He paused. “And I am pleased to say I’m a part of it. We’re scattered all over, now, but do keep in contact. We use this new email thing a lot.”

Landers was shocked! He was totally caught off guard by the Colonel’s remarks. So, Santa Claus, his magic sled, the eight reindeer, supersonic speed. All true!

“You didn’t think you were the first to catch a glimpse of the Big Man, were ya? Santa knows everything. Let me just say….”

“He knows when you are sleeping,

And he knows when you’re awake

Knows when you’re on Air Recon.

Keep your nose up and fly straight!”

Landers smiled, then broke into laughter. Relief washed over his body. Colonel Talbot rose and stuck out his hand. Landers stood and shook it.

“Welcome to The Sleigh bell Squadron, Lieutenant Landers Kyllo. Welcome!”

'If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write' - Stephen King

What Are You Reading?

The Muse wants to know what other writers are reading! Are you doing research for a story? Are you reading a great book that you want to tell others about? E-mail the editor and let us know about your book.


Review by Lana O’Neill

There can be no confusion about the order of events in this murder mystery written by P.D. James. The Murder Room is divided into three headings: the people and places, the first victim, the second victim and the third victim. A logical mind will appreciate this and sink into their armchair, detecting with confidence alongside Commander Adam Dalgleish and his Special Investigation Squad from New Scotland Yard. Red herrings abound, as with any mystery to be solved. But for me, the hope of aiding and abetting Dalgleish’s investigation vanished into the maze of James’ articulate and extensive descriptions within the first hundred pages (a red herring in and of itself). By the time the first victim met his demise, I was playing a game of cat and mouse with character motives and more theories than my memory could process. The thrill of the climax was eclipsed by how I felt when it crept up on me during the wee hours and chilled my spine despite the heat of a cozy blanket. James successfully immersed me into the lives of her characters and as such, created a first-hand witness to a crime.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK (2008) by Neil Gaiman

Review by Lana O’Neill

Neil Gaiman teaches an excellent Masterclass on the art of storytelling. In it, he references his 2008 tale for children 10 and up (plus this adult), The Graveyard Book, when explaining character motivations and desires. He read an excerpt about how a human baby named Bod (short for Nobody) came to live in a graveyard while being raised by ghosts. I was immediately disappointed that I read that lesson at night because I couldn’t go to the library that instant to borrow it. But when I did get my hands on it and read through the fantasy/horror story, I was left absolutely enchanted by how Gaiman was able to invoke my long-gone child’s imagination and leave me with that sense of wonder undoubtedly reserved for his intended audience. Despite the title, this story is about living life to its fullest…a beautiful lesson to learn at any age.

OUR DARKEST NIGHT (2021) by Jennifer Robson

Review by Lana O’Neill

I met Jennifer Robson when she was promoting her 2014 book, Somewhere in France, during an author’s program through our Strathcona County library. I purchased a copy and went on to learn about a moment in time during the Great War while enjoying the story within about a woman’s desire for independence amid the confines of British polite society and the uncertainty of war. Robson’s most recent novel, Our Darkest Night, was found in the Hot Off the Express section of our Strathcona County library. I was immediately transported to 1940’s Venice during World War II and the world of an Italian Jewish woman named Antonina (Nina for most of the story). The skill to immerse the reader into a time and place through the eyes and emotions of her character is, at first, unnoticed. Only when feelings of despair, fear and utter sadness creep in during Nina’s moment in time amid the evils of the holocaust, can the reader appreciate (and in my case, step away for a breather) the commitment Jennifer Robson made to telling this story in such a way that only a very unfortunate few can verify.

Billy Summers by Stephen King

Simmering tension throughout with an unlikely friendship between a good 'bad' guy and a victim. King has accomplished a captivating narrative, with a glimpse at people in an underworld of hurt and money colliding with everyday life and its consequences.

Mandy Eve-Barnett

Publications available from our foundation. Anyone can purchase these works through our website at


We are excited to announce new publications through the Foundation.

The winner's of the children's creative writing contest in 2020 and 2021 have been compiled into a book. It will be at a special price until September 30th. Link:

“Creative Writing Workshop Facilitators Kelsey Hoople and Mike Deregowski challenge you to participate in national poetry month.” As part of Poetry Month for April 2020, the challenge was to write to the overall theme - The Great Escape. A different title posted each day provided inspiration for writing a poem a day for thirty days. It was a challenge worth taking up as many of the participants could no longer meet in person due to COVID-19 measures, but they could support one another online! This collection of poetry includes submissions from qualifying WFSC members for 2020. Challenge yourself! Enjoy!

“Creative Writing Workshop Facilitators Kelsey Hoople and Mike Deregowski challenge you to participate in national poetry month.” As part of Poetry Month for April 2021, the challenge was to write to the overall theme - When Life Changes. A different title posted each day provided inspiration for writing a poem a day for thirty days. Amidst the COVID-19 challenge, getting creative was an outlet for our writing group, which enjoyed connecting online and being inspired. This collection of poetry includes submissions from qualifying WFSC members for 2021. Challenge yourself! Enjoy!

Available for purchase:

DWP WFSC's publication prior to the Writing Prompts book shares stories of Canadian writers.

We write from the heart about people who are important and things dear to us.

We write with a spirit that leads us to explore and explain.

We write. We are passionate.

We are Canadian.

Postcards from Canada proudly features the words of members from the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County in celebration of being Canadian – during this 150th year of Confederation. Share with us as we take you on a journey across Canada with our words, our images, our verse, our prose… Postcards from Canada - Wish you were here! Get your copy for $14.95 through the following:

Amazon POD:

Available for purchase:

Writers Foundation of Strathcona County 2020 - 2021 Board Members and contact information:

Joe McKnight President Bethany Horne Vice President Never Been Better - Editor Linda Pedley Treasurer Web Site Administration 780-445-0991 Mandy Barnett Secretary Writing Circle Host/ Writing Prompts/ Newsletter Editor Karen Probert Past President 780-464-6632 Beth Rowe Director Your Lifetime of Stories Coordinator 780-718-7253 Henry Martell Director Newsletter Coordinator Pamela J. Winter Director Poets in the Park Co-ordinator Amanda O'Driscoll Director Instagram Coordinator Library Liaison

Copyright © *2021

Writers Foundation of Strathcona County All rights reserved.


Our mailing address is:

PO Box 57083 | Sherwood Park, Alberta | T8A 5L7

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