Category Archives: One Writer’s Journey

Alliston Potato Festival

This past Saturday, I was a vendor at the Alliston Potato Festival, an event that closes off the main (Victoria Street) of Alliston, Ontario, where vendors — selling everything from soap to art to books to jewelry to food — line the street. As a member of the South Simcoe Arts Council, I was invited to share a booth.

This was my first time as a vendor at Potato Festival — the past two years (I moved to Alliston in 2015) I was a curious customer. Unfortunately, afternoon thunderstorms forced us to call it an early day, but I’d definitely do it again next year. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea!

Yours truly before the rain!

Battle of the Brushes! Artists were given 30 minutes to paint a picture with 7 acrylic colors.

Painting in earnest.

The winners!

South Simcoe Arts Council members selling the Spirit of Canada, a collection of short essays and stories.

Jewelry is always popular…

The Carrot Sticks. Find them on Facebook! A terrific Country/Folk/Rock group.

Free Short Story: The Cycopaths

Something you may not know about me is that I used to do triathlon. I started back around 2005 with a try-a-tri, gradually built up my distances to sprint and Olympic, and completed a 70.3 (Half Ironman) in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 2009. Once that was off my bucket list, I went on to complete the 200-kilometer Toronto to Niagara Falls Ride to Conquer Cancer in 2010. I sold my bike a year later, ready for the next adventure.

This short story was loosely inspired by a training camp I took in Collingwood in the early days, minus the dead body, of course. It’s part of my Live Free or Tri collection, and has been reprinted by Kings River Life Magazine with my permission. I hope you enjoy it!

The Cycopaths: Mystery Short Story

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My Writer’s Toolbox

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Daytime notebook

I’ve decide to have a bit of fun and show you what’s in my writer’s toolbox beyond my trusty 21.5″ iMac and my somewhat overactive imagination. If you’re a writer, you’ll totally get this. If you’re not, well . . . don’t say I didn’t warn you!

My daytime ideas notebook. Note that it has a pretty cover (this is very important). It’s here I jot down story ideas, character names as they come to me, and other assorted ramblings. Yes, I’m sitting at my computer when I’m writing in my notebook. There’s something about pen and paper that makes the idea seem a bit more “real.”

My nighttime notebook has permanent residence on my bedside table. Did you know the best ideas come to you in the middle of the night? Of course, it’s difficult to write in the dark —and it can be downright annoying to turn on the lamp at 2 a.m. My husband found a solution and gave me some ballpoint pens with an LED light inside of them. Inspired genius! I also have a mini notepad and pen (not shown), which I carry in my purse (are you sensing a theme here?).

But enough about me. What’s inside your writer’s toolbox?

Nighttime notebook.

Nighttime notebook.

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LED light pens: priceless!

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N.B. A version of this post was first published in July 2015. 

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Writing Retreat: Part II

My summer vacation on Lake Superior comes to an end tomorrow, when I head back home, Gibbs in tow for the 7 1/2 hour (mostly scenic and peaceful) drive. Mike will stay up until sometime in August doing the zillion projects he has on the go — build a gazebo, split wood for kindling, stack firewood (we have electric baseboard heat but mostly use the wood stove to heat when necessary), move rocks, plant perennials…his list goes on!

For me, Monday is back to reality — my “summer” reality which involves walking and playing with Gibbs, a lot of golf (we live in a golf course community), working as the Senior Editor for New England Antiques Journal — we’re starting September issue if you can believe that — doing some volunteer work as part of my duties on the Board of Directors of Crime Writers of Canada, and of course, getting back to writing crime fiction.

I thought I’d do a lot of writing here, as I did last fall, and while I did get some writing done, most of it is in rough form as I scribbled in a notebook (see picture above) while watching the lake. At first, I beat myself up about it. I should be writing hours every day in this magical place, not daydreaming the days away. And then I thought…I’ve finished writing 2 books this year (one comes out March 2018, the other TBD) started 2 more, and completed 1 short story with a solid idea (developed here) for another. I told myself, it’s okay to take a 2 1/2 week break. And so, I did. And I enjoyed every sunset. (If you remember the late great singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, you should Google his interview with Dave Letterman when he says “Enjoy every sandwich.” Wise words.)

As for the books I read, they are as diverse as the landscape and lake that surround me.

SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane (Suspense) 4 Stars. The first half is great. The second half stretches the realms of plausibility to the breaking point. But Lehane’s prose and characterization are, as always, perfection. But it’s not as good as Mystic River (also a great movie) or Shutter Island (terrible movie)– my two favorite Lehane novels.

STARTING OVER: A Trina Ryan Novel by Sheri S. Levy (YA — was sent an ARC in exchange for an honest review. 5 Stars!) If you know a kid who loves dogs or horses, be sure to pre-order this now. August release by Barking Rain Press.

FACEOFF: A collection of short mystery stories where well known ITW authors  and one of their characters “face off” — my favorite was Jeffrey Denver’s Lincoln Rhyme vs. John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport in “Rhymes with Prey.” Each story is introduced by David Baldacci (editor) who tells us a bit about the authors’ works, how they collaborated etc. I plan to read MATCHUP, the next ITW collection of short stories, soon. 4.5 Stars. I’d give it 5, but there were a couple of faceoffs I didn’t enjoy…bound to happen in any anthology. This is one of the best I’ve read.

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr — Won the Pulitzer for fiction – – this is one thick book and I just started it, but so far, I’m hooked. I take comfort in the fact it took him 10 years to write it. Maybe he had a place on the water…

Gibbs enjoying the sunset.

 

 

Writing Retreat

Taking a moment to share some photos from my writing retreat at our camp on Lake Superior. The writing is going slowly, the ideas are percolating fast & the sunsets have been spectacular.

Gibbs waiting for the sun to set on Lake Superior.

Happy Canada Day!

About Canada Day: On July 1, 1867, Canada was officially born when the Constitution Act joined three provinces into one country: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canada province, which then split into Ontario and Quebec. However, Canada was not completely independent of England until 1982. The holiday, called Dominion Day, was officially established in 1879, but it wasn’t observed by many Canadians, who considered themselves to be British citizens. Dominion Day started to catch on when the 50th anniversary of the confederation rolled around in 1917. In 1946, a bill was put forth to rename Dominion Day, but arguments in the House of Commons over what to call the holiday stalled the bill.

The 100th anniversary in 1967 saw the growth of the spirit of Canadian patriotism and Dominion Day celebrations really began to take off. Although quite a few Canadians already called the holiday Canada Day (Fête du Canada in French), the new name wasn’t formally adopted until October of 1982.

My story: Both my parents immigrated to Toronto, Canada, in 1952 from Nottingham, England (by way of war-torn Germany/Yugoslavia, now Poland/Serbia), and became citizens as soon as their five years was up. They quickly adopted “Canadian” customs, like celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December, vs. Christmas Eve, as is done in Germany.

My mother learned to read English by reading stories to me (I remember Heidi being a particular favorite). My father did crossword puzzles with a dictionary—but always with a pen, and never a pencil. Is using a dictionary cheating? Not if that’s how you’re learning the language. There were no ESL programs in the 1950s. (And to this day, if I’m reading a book and there’s a word I don’t know, I look it up in the dictionary, just the way he made me, all those years ago.)

Not content to continue working in a factory, my father went back to school to learn about blueprints and other technical things I don’t understand. Soon after he got an apprenticeship as a Sheet Metal Worker, a job he proudly worked at until the day he died of stomach cancer at the far too young age of 42. (Those of you in the Toronto area: he and his co-worker built and installed all the ductwork in Yorkdale Shopping Mall.)

My mother (who, truth be told, never did acclimatize to Toronto’s hot, humid summers, and cold, snowy winters) left her job as a retail sales clerk at Zeller’s Dept. Store, and started working at a local branch of the Bank of Montreal as a teller. She was soon promoted, and eventually worked her way up the ladder to join the International Banking team, a position she loved until the day she retired. I can remember meeting her for lunch one day in downtown Toronto and thinking, “Wow, she looks so PROFESSIONAL!”

As I was growing up,  my father would always tell me how lucky I was to be born in such a wonderfully inclusive country, a place where there was opportunity for anyone who was willing to work hard and follow their dreams.

My father was right. I took a long, meandering road to get here, but today I’m living my dream of being a published author.

Thank you mom and dad.

Thank you, Canada.

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Crime Writers of Canada

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I’ve recently been voted into the Board of Directors at Crime Writers of Canada (CWC), representing Toronto and Southern Ontario for the 2017-18 term (June-June). It’s quite an honor, and an even bigger responsibility, one that I won’t take lightly.

For those who don’t know, CWC is a national non-profit organization for Canadian mystery and crime writers, associated professionals, and others with a serious interest in Canadian crime writing. Their mission is to promote Canadian crime writing and to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers with readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media.

I first joined CWC as an Associate Member in 2012. At the time I was just starting to work on my first project, and the book that would evolve into The Hanged Man’s Noose. In 2015, with the publication of Noose, I was changed my membership to that of Professional Author Member (PAM). I can remember being so excited—especially since my name follows Canadian mystery legend, Louise Penny, on the PAM roster list. I felt a bit like fairy dust was being sprinkled on me.

If you’re a Canadian with an interest in crime fiction or non-fiction, I encourage you to check out everything CWC  has to offer. If you’re in the Toronto/Southern Ontario area, please feel free to contact me with your questions. We’d love to have you on board.

 

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The BOOKSHELF!

If you live in the Greater Toronto area, I hope you’ll come out and join me and 50 local authors and publishers at The BOOKSHELF this Saturday, May 13th 9-2 a.m. in Newmarket! I’ll be reading at 11:50, and will be available for book signings throughout the event.

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