Sunday, August 30, 2020

My Journal, My Confidant


It’s tough to resign this book of inked confidences to the shelf. More than five years of my most intimate musings are contained within the bindings of this journal. I remember the day I bought it; it was my birthday and I was treating myself to all the things I loved. Naturally, that included a visit to the library and a meandering through the bookstore.

I’d paused at the display of journals. A polished stone or jewel, and fancy tooling, decorated the front of most. They were beautiful. The textured pages, rough to the touch, were laced to the spine. A new journal was the most perfect treat for my birthday. Some might indulge in a piece of jewellery or a spa

package, but nothing pleased me more than purchasing this book.

Over the years, I never left home without packing it in my overnight case, or tucking it inside my tote for a trip to the beach or park. It most definitely accompanied me on all people-watching excursions. It often went untouched, but it was there for me if I felt the urge.

Months might go by without a single note, and then I’d write page after page of angst or joy or dismay; it’s filled with emotion. Sometimes when it’s within arm’s reach I leaf through it, reading a passage here or there, and reflect on my journey.  

The other day I was almost to the checkout at The Book Keeper when I remembered to look at their selection of journals. It was my intention to buy the same one again but I knew that wasn’t likely. I did find another that I think will be just as loved, and felt most pleased when I added it to my purchases.

Will it take another five years, or will my emotions run rampant and the journal be exhausted in half that time? Will my family find it when they clear my belongings one day? I grin at the thought of writing ‘Burn Upon Discovery’ across its cover.

My fears, hopes, and anxiety-riddled doubts will spew onto its pages, intermixed with bursts of unbridled joys and unbelievable good fortune. I unfasten the cover of my new confidant and run my hands over the blank surface of its pages, curious about what will be revealed.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

When Your MC Comes Knocking...

One of the writers from the #writingcommunity that I follow on Twitter, posed a most interesting question: If the MC of your book knocked at your door, what would you do?

Immediately my mind went to Sylvia Kramer, the main character of Old Broad Road – my gritty novel set in Newfoundland that’s due for release this summer. Actually I’m working on the fourth draft of the sequel at this very moment…well, I’m writing this blog right now, but you know what I mean. Where was I? Oh, right.

This was my response to the Twitter question about a visit from the MC of my book: I would invite her in. Normally, I would hug her, too, but with Covid... Then I’d pour each of us a brandy. Though I don’t often imbibe, this is Sylvia’s drink of choice for those special and reflective moments, and since she’s the perfect host, I want to do my best to accommodate her.

We’d settle in for an evening of candid conversation. I’d commiserate the tragedy in/of her life and congratulate her bravery. We’d talk about Carl for a bit because I think she really needs someone with whom to share her honest upfront feelings about this rough-around-the-edges teddy bear. Oh, and I’d check out her tattoos. Well, the ones that she’s comfortable showing me.

I’m curious to know more about her previous life. I’d like to hear about what she did for personal enjoyment (did she have any?) before she became a middle-aged runaway. Actually, I’d like to know about her childhood and, also, her elite lifestyle with Paul. But only if she felt like talking. Wow, do you think that could lead to another book? A prequel! I guess that would make OBR a series. Hah! Wishful thinking.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I considered another possible response to the Twitter post. My memoir Hazards of the Trade was released in April of this Covid-riddled year, and guess who the MC is in that book? Me, of course. So, if I knocked on my door as the owner of a small lingerie and swimwear boutique, how would I react? Good question. And since I had the business for nearly twenty years, at what stage of this entrepreneurship would I show up?

So here’s the knock on the door and a few plausible comments after we’re settled in, tea in hand.
Oh girl, that perm has got to go. (Obviously it's the early years of my business. The 80s)
If you plan on keeping that figure, ease back on the snacks, sweet cheeks.
You think you know it all, but…well, you’ll find out.

I’d have to go easy on the critical comments in case they're misconstrued as ...critical comments. But, overall I think I’d enjoy the visit unless ‘my’ stringent professionalism, a.k.a. anal attitude, got in the way. Ease up, girl, not everyone shares that intensity! I’d offer encouragement and praise, but no insight to the future. Honestly, would that even be fair? I’d soak in ‘my’ passion for the trade and admire ‘my’ ability to wear high heels twelve hours a day, yada yada yada. Then I'd listen, listen, listen, because I know 'me'.

When I finally get ‘me’ to stop talking, I’d show ‘me’ to the door. Because there’s no need for social distancing, I’d give ‘me’ the biggest, most heartfelt hug I could muster. I know how much ‘we’ really need it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

My Publishing Journey

A writer’s life is indeed a journey and despite the potholes and detours, the scenery makes the trip worthwhile. Years later, though I hadn’t attracted a traditional publisher enroute, my efforts had fulfilled me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Only a seasoned writer can make that statement with conviction.
Let me explain.
I was eager to do whatever it took to get my novel noticed. I started blogging, opened a Facebook page, and most importantly, I joined a local writers’ group.
They convinced me to submit short stories, which for me were more challenging to write than novels. I was fortunate to find homes for most of them in anthologies and journals. The contest wins encouraged me to continue.
Then I penned some exposés of my long ago career as a small-town lingerie boutique owner to share at weekly writers’ meetings. The members urged me to keep writing these stories, insisting I was onto something. Each memory led to another until I was re-living the 80s and 90s fashion trade, a different life in a different lifetime. My reminiscences filled a book. The memoir was added to my growing list of finished manuscripts, which now included a thriller, a mystery, and a contemporary novel with sequel.
In hopes of attracting an agent or publisher, I’d sporadically send query letters. They garnered encouraging comments but no contract. Then a short story caught the attention of Simon and Schuster, which resulted in a call for the full manuscript of my psychological thriller. It was exciting while it lasted but they ultimately passed.
I continued writing a humorous monthly column based on everyday life ‘Up Close and Personal’ for a local magazine. But after eight years I identified more as a columnist than a novelist. I finally faced reality.
On that perfect summer’s day as my husband and I relaxed on the verandah, I told him of my decision. I could never stop writing but I’d no longer submit my work for publishing. He understood and commiserated. It had been a wonderful experience with unforgettable events, new friendships, and stimulating self-discovery. I’d joyously celebrated every small success along the way making my adventure both rewarding and pleasurable. And now it was over.
Incredibly, within an hour of my disclosure, one of my writer tribe sent news of a contest for crime stories and there were only two days until deadline. I had one story that fit their criteria. Should I or shouldn’t I? I might as well, I told my husband. Then I’m done.
As luck would have it, my story won second place. The small press in the United States who held the contest was interested in seeing longer works of mine. Was I setting myself up for another rejection? It’s hard to explain how I felt but I sent them two manuscripts, my contemporary novel and the crime thriller, and kept my expectations low. When they informed me they’d like to publish the contemporary fiction Old Broad Road I was stunned.
A couple of months later my husband nudged me to send out another query. Why not, he said. I searched online for Canadian small presses seeking memoirs and emailed a query along with the Hazards of the Trade manuscript. The next morning I received astounding news. Crossfield Publishing liked the memoir and wanted to publish it.
Two acceptances from two publishers from two countries for two different books being released within two months of each other. Crazy! My heart raced.
It made sense for these two small publishers to combine their marketing efforts. After their talks, it was decided that the Canadian press would release both my titles. My novel Old Broad Road would not be released until after the memoir Hazards of the Trade hit the shelves.
Life was idyllic. My publisher and the local indie bookstore planned an afterhour’s event to celebrate the launch of my memoir. Words of congratulations came to me from old friends, new friends, readers of my column, my writer tribe... Everyone was excited for me. What could possibly go wrong?
We’ve all heard the adage, If it’s too good to be true then…
But a global pandemic? That’s impossible. Except it isn’t. Covid-19 rocked the world and weeks before my celebration the social distancing advisory was put in place. I had an isolated pity party and then got over it. How could I whine about a cancelled book launch when people were losing their lives to this virus?
The health of loved ones and the state of the world now occupied my mind and I resigned to the fact that my memoir wouldn’t be published as scheduled. Or maybe ever. To my surprise, Crossfield Publishing did not intend to abandon my book. They’d do everything in their power to follow through on their promise to me. The actual launch was cancelled but the book was released as scheduled. Until they’re able to distribute it, readers can purchase Hazards of the Trade online through the Crossfield Publishing website. The Book Keeper, my local indie bookstore, is also selling the memoir from their website until their store can re-open.
It’s been an incredible journey and I’m blessed to be a published author. I appreciate the effort of Crossfield Publishing, my readers, and the support of the writing community to make my dream come true.

Previously published by Women Writers, Women's Books


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Life Doesn't Have to be Perfect

It was prophetic that I changed my profile Facebook Banner when I did. It reads ‘Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful’ or something close to that. I was surprised at the number of positive reactions to this picture because we were, and still are, in the middle of COVID-19, a deadly and highly contagious virus that is keeping us apart from our loved ones. Our children and grandchildren aren’t within hugging reach. But Facebook posts and pictures prove that most families are finding alternate ways of showing love. It is touching and deliberate. I like that. Not perfect but still wonderful.
Aside from my own restrictions to family, I no longer had a book launch to anticipate. Social distancing… But then my publisher came up with a scheme. A midway-point gravel parking lot where we could meet. An open hatchback with champagne (nice surprise) and boxes of books. And she made a phone video for YouTube of me seeing my book for the very first time. A monumental moment. Come on, I’d waited years for this day. I was excited. It didn’t matter that there were only the two of us present. I was there for the big reveal and it couldn’t have been more gratifying than if I’d been in a bookstore filled with supporters.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.
We are finding that out, each in our own way…

Hazards of the Trade is a personal disclosure of nearly twenty years of humorous and sad reflections from the naïve start up of a small-town lingerie boutique to the ultimate farewell.  

The era began with retailers in impossibly high heels and designer suits attending the Ontario Fashion Exhibitors market at the prestigious King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto and ended with buyers in rubber-soled shoes and sweatpants at the Congress Centre near the airport. While high-end fashion shows and buying trips might seem glamorous, evading a stalker and trying to evict a rabid squirrel from the shop might not. But it was all part of being in the Trade. That, and so much more.

Available at your local indie bookstore
and also Amazon

Monday, March 09, 2020

Better than the Write Shoes

Wanted to share my First Monday March column with you. Maybe you can relate.

Have you ever had the week from hell and it’s only Monday? That’s how I felt. I needed something to ease my nerves. My usual approach to restoring my equilibrium wasn’t an option. I’d already had so many baths that my fingers were permanently pruney. The next best calming tactic was cooking. There’s something about chopping, dicing, and simmering. But my husband headed me off. Please, not another pot of soup, he said. That only leaves shoe shopping, I told him. He tossed my purse over to me. I was surprised he preferred another pair of shoes in the closet to another pot of soup on the stove, but who was I to question it.
Truthfully, I needed to get out of the house. On the nicer weather days, I’d been holed up in my office, more commonly referred to as my nest. My work was now finished but I was nursing a headache that refused to stay away. And I’d been in pyjamas for days.
I dressed and climbed behind the wheel for the hour’s drive. It would clear my head, give me some fresh air, and a brand new pair of shoes.
I was already in a better frame of mind when I pulled up to the curb in front of my favourite store. It didn’t have the outcome I’d expected. The shoes I liked didn’t fit, and the ones that fit I didn’t like. Determined to stay upbeat, I remembered the chocolate shop just up the street. It’s fact that chocolate is a mood lifter. Who’s to argue with science. I headed to the chocolate shop but slowed in front of a dress store. Something about their colourful window drew me inside. That was unusual since I detest clothes shopping.
When he heard I’d never been in his shop before he asked what brought me to town. I’m taking a mental health afternoon, I answered. Always one to tell it like it is I added that I needed a timeout. He responded with positive support that made me feel good.
He provided customer service that’s sadly lacking in retail today. Clearly, he was the owner. As he explained the various lines he carried, I mentioned that I had once owned a similar shop. My disclosure captured his interest.
Since he opened his store during the time I was retailing, we discovered many mutual acquaintances in the business and began reminiscing about the early days. It was like meeting up with an old school friend. We shared many of the same experiences from that time. I enjoyed our conversation and the laughs. It was the first time in many years that I’d spoken with someone from those trade days.
The timing was uncanny as my memoir about the retail boom of the 80s and 90s is soon to be released. When I paid for my purchase I wrote down my name and the title of my book. You’ll relate to so much of it, I told him.
When I left his store, I forgot all about the chocolates I’d looked forward to buying. I already had a smile on my face. During my drive home I realized how auspicious my afternoon had been. Social interaction is healing. My mental health had greatly improved and it didn’t take a pair of shoes, or chocolates.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

A Magical Phenomenon

I was lounging in an attitude adjustment bubble bath when I focused on the picture at the end of the tub. I love how it makes me feel. How it’s always made me feel. A shady verandah with tall plant stands, greenery, and a wooden swing bench. A blonde toddler, her chubby bare feet peeking beneath her nightdress, sits with her teddy bears.
This picture has hung in every room, nook, and cranny of my home for the past thirty years. It has adorned the family room, the landing of the stairs, a front entrance, and for a few years it graced the laundry room. Actually, it was hanging over the washer and dryer when I posed the question to my granddaughter. Who is that in the picture? She didn’t hesitate to name her younger sister. I smiled. That’s what I think, too, I told her.
I went on to explain that her daddy had bought me that picture for Mother’s Day. He was maybe thirteen at the time, I said. Aside from the fact that it was a gift from my kid, for some reason I never could part with it. It was twenty years later that the image in the picture made my eyes widen. How could that be, I wondered. I couldn’t stop staring at that sweet child. She was indeed the image of my son’s youngest daughter.
Hearing her older sister confirm the likeness gave me goosebumps. So it’s not just me, I thought.
At the end of my mood-altering, fingertip pruning soak, I smiled as I tapped my heel against the tub stopper to release the now tepid water. My cantankerous mood was gone. Sometimes when I’m feeling irritable or grumpy all I need are warm suds. Today, I’m not sure if I should credit the bath, or the picture. Of course, you realize the good vibes are from more than a pleasing toddler pic. It’s mostly the wonder of how my young son bought a picture the likeness of his future child.
Serendipity. Coincidence. Fluke. I prefer Magic. Yes, I believe in magical moments.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tis the Season

So the big holiday is almost here. I laid the xmas presents out on the table for wrapping. That’s where they are now. Not wrapped, but they are ready to be wrapped. I have paper somewhere. It’s leftover from last year. There should be a bin downstairs with gift bags and wrap. I’ll check tomorrow. Or maybe I’ll just wrap some tissue paper around them. I’m sure I have ribbon somewhere. 
We need to make a grocery list I told my husband. And we have to make a trip to the bank. It’s a bloody nuisance not having a bank within a thirty-minute drive. That’s just one-way. So considering the wait time in the bank, we’re looking at an hour and a half to pick up some cash. There’s a grocery store next door to the bank I reminded my husband. We’ll get it all done in one trip. He agreed and suggested I might like to take a drive over the next couple of days. We need a plan, I said, as I returned to my nest with a fresh coffee. He agreed and went back to his renovation job in the basement. 
We’re skipping the big xmas meal for a relaxing afternoon with appetizers. I jumped all over that idea. I’d be happy to bring some delectables. There are so many great recipes now, I crowed. Bacon wrapped brussel sprouts. Even the kids love brussel sprouts in this family. Everyone agreed that they sounded good. I poured over the online sites showcasing party hors d'oeuvres and spent a couple hours reading recipes from Turkish figs and walnuts to mini corn dogs with cranberry mustard…  

Worn out from the exertion, I decided to put some frozen meatballs into the slow cooker and mix up chili sauce and grape jelly. If it was good thirty years ago, it’ll be good now. Right? Let’s not experiment. And who doesn’t love meatballs? 
Hubby and I mentioned our recipe for chicken sliders. Really tasty and simple to make. We could assemble them at home and rather than take up a lot of room in their fridge, keep them in the car until we pop them into the oven. It would certainly be cold enough outside. They wouldn’t get soggy, right? Oh, maybe we’ll just stop on the way and pick up a cheese ball. A box of crackers. Who doesn’t love a cheese ball?