Sunday, 8 March 2015

Things Are Different, Yet The Same

Hi Friends,

I thought I'd check in with you and let you know that I'm still alive, I'm still writing, and I'm still unemployed (smiles). Although I haven't been in an office environment for the past few months, I did use my time wisely by writing, editing, polishing and querying my latest novel.

I also re-purposed thrift store finds, expanded my cooking skills (I still chop slowly and carefully, though), took lots of pictures, rearranged the furniture a dozen times, and generally morphed into a well-rested and happy person.

I also ventured out of my comfort zone and accepted a short gig as a set and props assistant at a mini-series shoot in Midland, Ontario. In the dead of winter, we shot footage for a U.S. TV series about Saint Kateri. I hand-built rosaries for 17th Century Jesuits, and moved candles and feather quills around on set so they'd show up perfectly in the camera frame. I kept a native warrior warm between takes with a wool blanket, ran back and forth in the snow to retrieve forgotten props, and picked up the director's clipboard when he forgot it in the slush. Ah, the life of an assistant, with a glue gun in one pocket and a staple gun in the other.

Later, I volunteered with DAREarts First Roots, where my sister Cathy Elliott helps native youth by visiting reserves and organizing week-long workshops involving the Arts. The kids - with guidance from musicians, filmmakers, playwrights and artists - create musicals and plays, make great art and short films, thus reconnecting them with their heritage in positive ways.

A few weeks ago, we put together a special Feast to celebrate Indigenous cuisine, with Top Chef Canada finalist Rich Francis teaching local kids from my old high school to put together a wonderful meal for 100+ patrons. I helped out by taking photos and videos of Rich guiding the students through the process, put down my camera to chop carrots, made table cloths for the venue, and helped organize the Silent Auction.

My not-so-secret foodie alter ego took a front seat during this exposure to great cuisine. Thanks, Rich, for treating us to delectable dishes using moose, elk, venison, wild rice, squash, blueberries, and more.

In other news, my beloved Toast Bitches suffered yet another setback. The publisher that took them in announced their closure a couple of weeks ago, and they returned the rights to me. I'm not sure what I will do with my Bitches. They didn't get a lot of exposure despite my efforts - twice - but perhaps in the future they will get a new lease on life. Or not! After all, a writer's goal is always to move forward.

I have started another book, which I am sure will contain intrigue, humour, a bit of sex, and either horses or hockey. Or both! Why the hell not?

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Say Hello To My Writing Friend

Some of you may already know Kevin Craig. I met Kevin a few years ago at the Ontario Writers' Conference, but I knew him before that as a fellow writer on the Absolute Write forums. Kevin's FOURTH book is set to be released soon, and I'm happy to share in his celebration!

Curiosity Quills is excited to reveal the cover for contemporary, young-adult Burn Baby Burn Baby, by Kevin Craig, which is due for release December 11, 2014. The cover was designed by CQ managing partner Eugene Teplitsky.

  Burn Baby Burn 1000

About Burn Baby Burn Baby: Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby. The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end. Add Burn Baby Burn Baby to your Goodreads 'to-be-read' list. --

  Kevin Craig - Author pic

About The Author: Kevin Craig is the author of three previous novels; Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, and The Reasons. He is a 4-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin is also a playwright and has had eight 10-minute plays produced. His poetry, short stories, memoir and articles have been published internationally. Kevin was a founding member of the Ontario Writers’ Conference and a long-time member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR). He is represented by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group. Find Kevin Craig Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 You can pre-order Burn Baby Burn Baby here.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Door to Door Salespersons Aren't What They Used To Was.

Tonight we had a visit from a nice young gentleman in an orange traffic vest. When I opened the door and saw his clipboard, I immediately tensed up.
He said he was here to inspect our water heater to see if it qualifies for a "free upgrade." My scam radar immediately went BOING.
After I stressed that I don't do door to door solicitations, I gave him the heave-ho. As I closed my front curtains, I saw him heading up my neighbour Lilian's driveway. He saw me through the window and gave me the stink eye.
Lilian is 91 years old. She's a smart cookie, but too polite. I suspected she'd hmmm and huuuh long enough for him to get his talons into her.
I went to my back porch window and leaned against the sill, staring at him. He caught my eye, and faltered. When a minute or so went by and Lilian didn't send him on his way, I called out to her not to sign anything, and to ask for a brochure.
He came over and asked me why I was so suspicious. I said anybody can show up in an orange vest and print up a fake ID card and carry a clipboard.
After a lot of this and that, Lilian piped up that she had let someone like him in her house to “inspect the water heater” and the woman put her wet gloves on Lilian’s dining room table and ruined it. She laughed and said she never forgot that.
The guy kept trying. He flashed the 1-800 number on the back of his clipboard and challenged me to call the number to see if they were legit. I said anybody can be at the other end of a 1-800 number, including scammers.
I told the guy (with a smile) I’d never let him in my furnace/water heater/laundry room anyway because it’s disgusting.
Anyway, the guy gave up. I don't know if he succeeded on our street, or his partner who was covering alternate homes.
Mark was standing in the shadows behind me, listening to the whole exchange. When I looked at him, he raised his eyebrows and said he’s scared of me now. He gave me a high five and went downstairs.
I went over to Lilian’s to make sure she was okay with me butting in. She said, “Thanks for coming to my rescue.” She would have been too polite and eventually the guy would have taken advantage of her good nature.
In hindsight, I would have loved to ask him to wait while I looked up National Home Services on my laptop. What would I read on his face then?

Later, I looked up the company name on the trusty Interwebs (don't believe everything you read on the Interwebs) and concluded we had made the right decision.

Side note: Forgive the weird text and background. I haven't posted in a while and Blogger seems to think Normal is something from another planet. I'll figure it out...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

More Time To Write, Paint, And Cook... Because Of Reasons

I've been meaning to tell you all about my change of circumstances this year.

Back in April, our company dissolved the department in which I was working. They gave us options: other positions elsewhere or a departure package.

I thought about this, and decided to use the opportunity to make a serious go at this writing thing. While revising my latest novel, I've been going nuts cleaning and organizing my neglected home, and also indulging in one of my other loves: cooking!

My friends at Musa Publishing prompted me to submit a recipe for their blog, so I sent them this recipe for shrimp, chicken and salmon risotto. I made this recipe up on the fly, but wrote it down right afterward, because it ended up delicious!

Shrimp, Chicken & Salmon Risotto

1 cup chicken stock
1 boneless chicken breast
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tsp. smoked paprika
250 g sliced mushrooms (8.8 ozs)
1 tbsp. butter
½ cup Arborio rice
A few threads saffron (optional)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup raw peeled shrimp, medium to large size
1 boneless salmon filet
1 cup white wine
1 tbsp. cream cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Heat chicken stock in a small saucepan. Keep warm until needed.

Cut chicken into bite size pieces and sauté in olive oil. Stir in tomato paste and garlic while sautéing. Sprinkle with paprika and stir well.

Add mushrooms and butter. Sauté until mushrooms are tender.

Stir in rice, saffron, and chicken stock. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Check for sticking and stir if necessary.

Carefully drop in peas, shrimp, and salmon. Cook over medium-low heat until sauce has thickened. Be sure to stir occasionally. Drizzle white wine in every few minutes until you’ve added ¼ cup. The same method as if you were making risotto.

Blend in cream cheese and the rest of wine. Cover and simmer until the shrimp is pink and the salmon is flaky.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Hope some of you try this! For dessert, try The Toast Bitches with strawberry jam.

Now, off to finish that watercolour painting I've been neglecting. Oh, and of course, WRITING.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A very big Oops.

Hi, guys! Lots to tell you, but not right now.

I wanted to give you a heads up that I just discovered my website is down and has been for a while. I've got my "team" working on it. Hope to at least get it back on the tracks.

Later, I might give it a face lift. I have the time now, for reasons I'll explain soon.

Love ya!


Edited to add: Looks like it's fixed for now. Thanks for your patience.

Monday, 30 September 2013

I forgot to tell you...

The kind folks at Book Country allowed me to participate in a Q&A on their blog! We talked about my WIP, among other things. I even made my own cover for Mallet (which is still in revisions, but I'm happy to say I finally decided who the murderer is).

A note to future agents and publishers: this cover design is just me goofing around. Don't read anything into this! I want you, I love you, I will be your willing minion when I get this thing ready to rock!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

For Once, A VACAYSHUN, Not a Staycation

Late last night, hubby and I returned from five days in Sunny Cape Cod. We had visited 23 years ago, and loved it enough to try it again. What we really wanted to do was take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Oh, yeah... and eat some seafood.

And some more.

Oh, and lobster.

Most of our treks were impromptu. Our constant search for lighthouses resulted in accidental forays to anything but lighthouses. Apparently, lighthouses involve a lot of walking and/or an uncanny sense of direction in a labyrinth of private roadways and/or paying an exorbitant fee to gain access to the area. Or you have to be a lighthouse keeper... whatever.

Anyway, we stumbled on places we weren't looking for, like this marine laboratory in Woods Hole, which featured a couple of seals that couldn't be released. And a fish that looked like it really wanted to tell us a story.

I touched a sea urchin, which was a less traumatic experience than the time I stepped on one in 1974, but that's another story. These trout reminded me of the John Ratzenburger fish in Finding Nemo...

We went whale watching out of Provincetown, which is a Happenin' Place at the end of the Cape. Apparently, we stumbled on Carnival Week, with a Las Vegas theme. After lurking through tiny one-way streets and dodging a thousand pedestrians, we finally found a parking spot and walked back to the port along Commercial Street, where we got a sneak peek of the upcoming festivities during the evening hours.

The whale watching excursion was a success. Mark worked the starboard side while I scanned the port side. A minke whale poked around a smaller boat just before a humpback gave us a show right beside our vessel.

When we'd slaked our thirst for whales, our boat headed back to P-Town, during which a lovely sun set on one side, while a Blue Moon rose on the other.

We slipped back into the slip under a twilight sky.

Then we walked back to our car through a throng of revelers.

We shopped and gawked and listened to street performers, and took one last look at the moon between a couple of buildings.

After that, we discovered villages, docks, marshes, sand dunes, cannonballs, crabs, fishing boats, crusty old fishermen, and rustic carvings...

Okay, I'll stop now. But the memories of this trip will live on in my mind. I'll still smell the briny scent of the seaside, and the blisters on my feet as we trekked through villages and dunes, and the sticky feeling as the wind drove salty moisture into my skin.

Friday, 16 August 2013

So... kids, while I wound up to my vacation, I visited our office garden this week, in which I had planted a few tomato plants. We weeded and hmmed and haaahhhed, and decided that the one red tomato should wait till Thursday for picking. After all, Debbie said, it would be more delicious if left to ripen on the vine one more day.

So, I left it, but trekked out there Thursday morning to take a picture of my lovely tomato.Alas, it was gone! The roofing guys watched my emotional meltdown, and expressed their dismay that such a horrible thing should happen. Personally, I suspect they were the culprits, but no amount of hand-wringing or teeth-gnashing would prompt them to drop an apology tomato in the dirt this morning (I checked).It could have been the warehouse workers. 

Someone suggested a raccoon, but I can't picture a raccoon tucking a lone tomato under its armpit and sneaking away, going. "Hee hee hee..."

So, after much lamenting to several co-workers, I got nothing but noises of sympathy and a joking plan to have a witness line-up of tomatoes for me to identify.

It's not the tomato, but it's the principle of the thing. It's just rude. 

If co-workers go to the trouble of planting a garden, everyone should wait for the harvest, and the inevitable bowl of bounty on the lunch room table before taking matters in their own hands and grabbing the first ripe tomato off the vine.

Just sayin'.

Missing: One tomato. Red. Spherical in shape, approximately 3 inches in diameter. Last seen Wednesday, August 14th at approximately 6pm. First noticed missing on Thursday, August 15th at 9am.

p.s. I don't know what the hell is going on with my background colour but I hope you can read this damn thing.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Bitches Are Back

A few years ago, I was contracted for a book based on a partial. I accepted, and started writing. Halfway through the process, a family tragedy took hold and I struggled to finish the book on time. But I did.

The publisher took it on good faith, and did their best to promote it, but it wasn't quite the kind of book they were marketing. It was an erotic romance publisher, and my book seemed more like spicy women's fiction than the hotsy-totsy stuff they were churning out.
So it languished. And languished. I wasn't thrilled with the final product, and finally asked for the rights back. They gracefully complied, and Musa Publishing decided to take my girls on and re-release them with a new cover and fresh edits. Today is The Bitches' new debut.
The Toast Bitches is about Four women who negotiate the narrows of friendship, marriage, motherhood, divorce and new love... until one man forces them to reveal their inner Bitch.

Hana, Paige, Connie and Pepper form a bond at Dempster Media, gathering in the break room for tea and toast. Later, they add a new venue - Paige's cabin in the woods.

Hana develops an easy friendship with Michael Preston, the company's dynamic CEO, but she really has her eye on hot editor Adam Wylde.

Connie's tastes run toward spectacular shoes and opera. Her jealous husband prefers NASCAR and hurtin' songs. When he leaves her for another woman, she hesitantly dips her manicured toes into single life, with the help of her fellow Bitches.

Pepper is the firecracker, careening from domestic drudgery to freedom, much to the chagrin of her friends. She seeks adventure and spice, but did she really need it after all?

Paige is the oldest - the mother hen, dispensing snippets of wisdom like herbs on a salad. Her life seems perfect, but not everything is as it seems.

When Adam finally asks Hana to experiment with BDSM, she panics and calls off the relationship, setting off a chain of events that brings the four women closer than ever.

The book is an e-book only, for now. In the fall, I hope to have print copies to use for promotions and signings. Please give my girls a second chance. I hope you like them.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dear Chris...

I met you online, back when I was a baby writer. I can't remember whether it was on Miss Snark's blog, or Evil Editor's, or on one of the many writer blogs on which we made so many new and supportive friends.

You called yourself Church Lady back then, and your profile picture was of Dana Carvey's iconic SNL character. I loved that character, and your quirky sense of humour showed through that little avatar.

We crossed paths often while negotiating the winding and often looping road to publication. We exchanged ideas, jokes, emails. We read each other's work, and offered and received advice. You talked about your children, but took care to preserve their privacy.

Later, you dropped the Church Lady persona and changed your blog profile name to Chris Eldin. I followed suit by adding my author name to my Chumplet nickname. After all, we had to take our writing seriously, right?

You started Book Roast, a celebration of reading and the opportunity to showcase new books by new writers, myself included. That ran its course and ended in 2009.

You visited some of us, and promised to visit others. Some of us were lucky to meet you, and others never quite found the chance to get together with you. In retrospect, we sensed you were troubled.

Some offered help, some thought about it but didn't want to interfere. Eventually, you dropped out of sight. We thought about you, and Googled you, tried all your email accounts and received no response. We figured you were taking an Internet hiatus, gearing toward getting your writing out there.

Yesterday, in the midst of Canada Day celebrations, I received a Twitter notification, a follow-up from a similar Facebook message from one of our friends. Someone had found a news article about a woman who walked in front of a minivan on the I-95 in Maryland. She didn't survive. Suicide notes were found in her abandoned car.

They said it was you. I didn't believe them. I looked at the date. It was almost a year old, from August of 2012. I checked again. I looked for other sources.

It was true. You were gone, and we had no idea.

What forced you to take your own life? Fear? Depression? Loneliness? Desperation? We only had an inkling of what you were going through, but only in retrospect could we glue all the pieces together to get the whole story.

I raked through former blog posts and bits of flash fiction you had submitted. One line jumped out at me, "If you have nobody in your life to support you in times of crisis, you won’t survive."

Did you feel you had nobody, Chris? Did you not realize you had a host of friends who would give their souls to lift you from your despair? I wish you could have grasped the hand of one of us, who reached for you.

You slipped away.

Friends and family, if you suffer from depression, or feel that you are alone with your troubles, please reach out to someone. It might stick. I hope it sticks. If you sense that a friend or family member is desperate, listen. Listen.

Make it stick.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Happy Birthday Canada! And... to Bad Ice, too!

Update: The winner of the Canada Day Contest is Brian O'Rourke, who answered the questions on Twitter (in three parts!) since he couldn't comment on Blogger. Email me, Brian, with your mail address!

Today is Canada's Birthday. I expect the masses to march past my house tonight to take in the annual Newmarket fireworks at the end of my street. Maybe I'll go there, too, armed with bug spray, a blanket and my camera. This, when hockey ended only a couple of weeks ago! I already can't wait for next season.

Today also marks the fifth birthday of my hockey romantic suspense, Bad Ice. I've always been fond of this story, which kept me awake nights while I wove Jason's tragic past around his burgeoning relationship with Christina, while Sheila's jealousy threw a wrench in the works.

I have a single trade paperback copy of Bad Ice in my study. I'd love to celebrate Canada Day and Bad Ice's Birthday by sending the copy, personally signed, to somebody out there. International is okay.

Five years ago, I held a Canadian trivia contest for the e-book release. I'd like to do that again today with the paperback. You don't have to get all the answers right. In fact, humour (with a U) is welcome. After the fireworks tonight, I'll draw from the comments that answer the following questions.

Okay, let's drop the puck:

1. Give me a unique Canadian word. Example: Toboggan.
2. Who wore No. 99 in the National Hockey League?
3. Give me an alternate name for the Canadian Niagara Falls.
4. What Canadian was known as 'America's Sweetheart?"
5. Canada is a bilingual country, but what is the only official bilingual province?
6. What is the Canadian term for a sweetened carbonated beverage?
7. Name a Canadian invention.
8. What is the oldest walled city that still exists north of Mexico?
9. What is the Canadian word for sofa?
10. What is the alcohol content of typical Canadian beer?

I'll take answers until 10 p.m. Eastern tonight. Come on in, have a beer and a laugh. I'll drop in often. Good luck!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Day of Love

On Valentine's Day, my mother passed away. Her departure was swift and sudden, but not unexpected. She had suffered for many years from COPD (quit smoking, folks) and arthritis. She led a sedentary life, but living in her home town for the last 18 years gave her a lot of joy.

My siblings and I didn't have enough time to reach her before the end, but she was surrounded by a large and loving family. Almost every day, either her sister or a cousin or a cousin's child dropped by to spend time with her. She was not alone in the hospital.

During the past week, the vast outpouring of love and generosity from a family I rarely saw filled me with comfort. I held my emotions in check, mostly for the sake of my brother and sister, who took Mom's passing hard.

But this isn't about me. It's about Mom.

Born in 1936, Frances Bernard Cormier was the oldest daughter of Louis Bernard, a Mi'kmaw from Nova Scotia, and Catherine Connell of County Cork, Ireland. She had three older brothers: Jackie, Tommy and Herbie. She married Roger Cormier, a dashing Acadian from Minto, New Brunswick, in 1956. Or was it '55? Dad will correct me.

Uncle Jackie is still with us. He recently received The Diamond Jubilee Medal for his military service to Canada and for being an elder in the Native Community. When I saw Jackie, he had recently received stitches on his nose after falling face first into the deep freeze. Don't ask.

Donna, Mom's little sister, lives in the apartment across the hall, on the first floor of a Victorian mansion on Douglas Avenue. They shared the phones, Internet, and the cat. Donna had the food at her apartment, and Mom had the litter box in hers. She always complained that she got the shitty end of the cat. The landlord lives upstairs. They both took great care of Mom and I'm forever grateful for their love and support.

My sister was enroute from a remote community in Northern Ontario when we got the news. She spent twelve hours and five planes to get to Saint John, with spotty phone service. She didn't know about Mom's passing until the third leg of her journey.

My brother and I followed on Saturday, sitting together on the same twin-prop plane for the two-hour trip from Toronto. When we arrived, we got right to work, during the impromptu party of course. As rotating shifts of cousins milled around us, we spent Saturday evening going through old pictures and new, putting together a slide show with a selection of music for the service. We also made a cheerful display of Mom's paintings, decorated with Valentine hearts and St. Patrick's Day trinkets.

As we went through Mom's things, every photograph, greeting card and piece of paper prompted a Frannie story. We found pictures of my parents' honeymoon, and several of Mom wearing a slip and holding a pot or a dish. I think that was Dad's secret joke, catching Mom unawares for a Paparazzi-type photo opportunity. Her eyes always looked wide and slightly annoyed in those pictures.

We found CDs of her favourite music, and handwritten lyrics and stories. We found lots and lots of hair curlers, half-used lipsticks and partial packages of AA batteries in every drawer.

Mom was a Shopping Channel addict. Multiple packages of small appliances, still sealed, were stuffed in closets and cupboards. Perhaps she meant to give them as gifts, or forgot she had already ordered that Hurricane Mop twice already.

We found letters she never sent, and cards she'd received from us, nieces, friends, grand-nephews and great-grand-nieces. Drawings from the little ones covered the fridge.

The freezer was stuffed with unopened bags of mixed vegetables. She had always promised to improve her diet, and bought the things she meant to eat, but they were either stale or suffering from freezer burn. Inside a canister, I found a whole bunch of candy. The cupboards groaned with packages of cake and pancake mix.

Scattered throughout the apartment were her paintings. We displayed them at the service, then divided them up, giving some to her sister and brother. I chose the one of a girl looking out to sea.

We found little notes from Dad, who currently lies in bed on the other side of the continent, having just undergone hip surgery. Dad was sorry not to be there for us, but it couldn't be helped. We are all wishing him a speedy recovery, so he can golf for another twenty years. Thumbs up, Dad.

My sister wanted to have a private family "smudge" before the rest of the clan showed up for the service on Tuesday. A smudge is a traditional Native method of using smoke from tobacco, sage and sweetgrass to purify an area, usually accompanied by a prayer. It turned out most of the clan showed up an hour early, so we all participated in the smudge.  After we did it, my sister invited the rest of the congregation to participate, and many did, including the minister.

At one point during the eulogy, the little smudge pot started to smoke more than it should have. A cousin darted up front to smother it. It wouldn't do for Frannie's spirit to try to burn the place down. After all, this funeral home had put to rest at least three generations of Bernards.

My brother had to return home on Wednesday, and my sister on Thursday. I stayed behind to help organize the apartment. I returned Sunday night, and promptly contracted the flu my aunt had been recovering from.

I'm sitting here in bed, thinking about Frannie, and the fact that I didn't have a proper chance to say goodbye. You may be mortal, Mom, but your words are not. I give you back your favourite saying, "I love your guts."