Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Welcome to the world of unicorns.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Just as Scary as Halloween!!!!

It's been a while. I've been so busy finishing another book all about a store that's kind of creepy where weird stuff keeps happening. But alas, it's Halloween! Well, at least in a couple of days. So today I thought I'd talk about what's just as scary as Halloween.

1. How about the mean dog. You know, the neighbour's dog who yaps at you as you go past the house and it turns out it's just a scared puppy who thinks that thinks you're a monster who's going to attack its owners? And when you meet the dog, they're all wagging tail and licking? 



2. The thing in the closet. I know many grownups who still suffer from this. My own mother couldn't sleep unless the closet door was shut. She claimed she was just being neat, but I know the truth. 



3. The ghost on the way to the bathroom. All right. This one is mine. I watched the stupid movie, The Conjuring, and am still afflicted by the possibility of meeting something evil in the night on my way to the bathroom - something that will sit on my shoulders as I do my business on the throne.



4. Spiders in the basement. Well, who wouldn't be scared of them? We had a young man stay at our house for three months once who lived in terror of our spiders in the basement. I still remember him knocking on our door at 10:45 one night to see if I could come and kill an unusually large one he saw in the bathroom. (It was huge!)



5. The imaginary guy following you home. I used to suffer this when I was going to university. I had to walk past dark woods to get home and I oftentimes imagined that someone would jump out of the woods and attack me. So if I heard the smallest of noises coming from the woods, I'd break into a run all the way home. 




6. The guy in hiding in your apartment. Yup. Us ladies definitely suffer from this unless we have an alarm. I used to come home to a basement suite, leave the door open, walk in and check all the closets, the bathroom, under the bed, then run back and close the door and lock it. Of course, this happened after a break-in. 



But seriously, folks. Halloween is a lot of fun. And my Halloween novel, A Town Bewitched is free right now. So go ahead and help yourself. It won the Dante Rossetti Best Coming of Age Novel in 2013. Find out who's been vandalizing the town leaving dead birds as a calling card...

Free copy

And in case you like unicorns, book 3 of Shadow of the Unicorn has been released. 

The Revenge



Thursday, June 7, 2018

Thanks, Elon Musk--Buying My Tesla Model 3!

A little over two years ago, I stood in that line at the Tesla shop on Robson St. You know, the one right by Hotel Vancouver? I had been waiting for the advent of the Model 3, the more affordable Tesla, for a few years, and I was bound and determined I'd put down my $1,000 or so help me God! 




Image may contain: 1 person, indoorImage may contain: 1 person, indoorAfter what seemed forever, I got to the front of the line and swiped my credit card. That's me right afterward. Do I look excited or what? Anyway, I proceeded to wait for more than two long years. Then, on Wednesday, I got the call. It was ready! And so I went to the PNE to pick it up, along with the whole family minus the dog. Here I am in front of the distribution site.


We were greeted at the door like important guests and checked in. (I guess when you're paying big bucks, you are important.)


Tesla always treats its customers well with cappuccinos, chocolates, cookies, and candies. In this case, there were Model 3 cookies. I downed a couple. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many my boys had.


And while we waited for our appointment to hand over that humongous cheque, they had us watch videos about how to operate the car so we'd know what to do with it once we got it. Glad we watched them. The Model 3 is so super high-tech.


Here they are detailing the car while I sneak by on my way to the Ladies room after having a cuppa. The Tesla was almost mine.


Finally, it's ready! After a lesson on how to use the screen, open and close the trunk, and recharge using....our iPhones(!), we were ready to go.


And what a ride! I mean, seriously! Nothing smoother, quieter, and more powerful than a Tesla! I've never felt safer in a car. And comfortable! The seats are amazing! Even my boys in the back didn't complain. I was in Heaven. And best of all, I was doing something great for our planet.

On the way, my oldest son drew a picture of Donald Trump, a deserter of the Paris Agreement. A really good likeness, I'd say. Stupid Donald just doesn't get it. He might if he test drove a Tesla.


Anyway, so we got home and discovered this present in the trunk!


Doesn't my Model 3 look great with the new B.C. license plate? I chose my colour well, I'd say.



And look what you see when you open the door.  Better than ugly old plastic, right?



Then we discovered another surprise gift in the console--a second Model 3. No boy of mine will ever get to play with this. It's mine, all mine.



Anyway, so that's my story. I love, love, love this car. No other car I've ever had comes anywhere near close to this experience. Not even my husband's Cadillac. Thanks, Elon Musk for bringing this amazingly clean and powerful vehicle to the world. And thanks, Nicola Tesla for inventing the technology that we're finally using more than a hundred years later.

Monday, December 4, 2017

My Ups and Downs of my South Saskatchewan Tour - and They Said It Was Flat!

So everyone thinks Saskatchewan is totally flat, right? Wrong! It definitely has hills and even hoodoos. But like the name of my latest novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, the whole province is just that - gold with amazing skies! Except in winter, of course. Then it's white with amazing skies. 


Grasslands Nation Park near Val Marie

I recently did a two-week book tour of South Saskatchewan, visiting schools and libraries and doing book signings  from Leader all the way to Saskatoon. How did I do it, you ask? Well the first thing I had to do is finance the darn thing. And the easiest way to do that was to do school visits. And so I did. I sent out a poster to various school boards in Saskatchewan explaining my services, and they in turn sent out my poster to the schools within the district. Libraries, I called separately. 



Poster at Leader Library

High school kids in Frontier

Intermediate class in Val Marie. Each child had a computer.



Now libraries in small towns in Saskatchewan have a problem in that there is little government subsidies. As a matter of fact, the government had seriously thought of shutting down libraries all over South Saskatchewan to reduce costs. So I didn't charge them. I told them I'd do it for free if they allowed me to sell books.


The library in Val Marie.

And how I sold books - tons of books. I sent an order form ahead of time before arriving at any school. Sometimes I had to come back to that school because they'd forgotten to distribute them with great results. More books sold - heaps!

The next problem, of course, lay in keeping my costs down. So anywhere I could, I'd stay in B&Bs. And where there were no B&Bs, I used my friend Expedia. Now I'll be honest in saying that some of my stays weren't up to standard, but hey, this is small town Saskatchewan, right? It is what it is. Then there was food. I decided I wouldn't eat in any restaurants, you know, expensive meals and tips? And so I ate in food fairs, bought tv dinners or deli food at the grocery store, and carried food around with me all the time in case I ran out of fuel and was stranded somewhere. And speaking of fuel, I didn't bother flying, renting a car, and shipping books because I have a great little car that barely uses up gas - a 2016 Prius V. Besides, Saskatchewan isn't that far away from Vancouver -  a day and a half. Why not drive a vehicle I know rather than some clunker/gas guzzler, right?


Shirley of Shirley's B&B, Leader, Sask.

And so I drove. And drove. And drove. I'd heard prairie highways could be mighty boring so I stocked up on my favourite CDs. Heck, with no one complaining about my taste in music, I could play the same ones over and over again, singing at the top of my lungs. I wasn't bored at all. How could I be when Saskatchewan is so beautiful! And fascinating! And my favourite music was playing.

When my grandparents first met, the fairly new province of Saskatchewan was busy setting up new towns and handing out homesteads. It was easy to get one. All you had to do was pay your $10, apply, and once you got the land, build a small house and barn on it, cultivate 40 acres, and voila! Problem was, the Dirty Thirties hit and that's what my story, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies is all about.
My grandparents' homestead, Val Marie

The dam my grandfather built on the farm.


My grandfather's old plow

As I traveled about to the various towns, I was saddened to see so many of these places I'd heard about growing up, reduced to ghost towns or on their way to becoming one. I drove past farm after farm where ruins of once-vibrant houses crumbled to the ground. And I thought, "What family lived there, and what kind of humour flew around?" I saw faces of children in large families, really large families, and imagined what Christmas must have been like - and Easter. 


An abandoned house in South Saskatchewan.

St. Elizabeth Church near Gravelbourg - a heritage building.
A crumbling house in Masefield.

Another crumbling house. Who lived here and when?

One town I made a point to seek out is called Bracken. This was a rather important town because there used to be a baby clinic there where many an infant who wasn't thriving was saved, including my Aunt Claire. As I drove through, I searched for what could have once been a clinic, but all I was found plenty of ruins amidst newer houses. 

Another town that fascinated me was Vanguard. I drove into the town figuring it'd be easy to find the school, and it was...except it was totally abandoned. It was bizarre. I thought, "Did I get the day wrong? Is there a pro-D day today?" I wandered about empty hallways, where echoes of children's laughter filled my imagination, then finally left. When I stopped and asked a woman, she pointed me in the right direction. "The new school's that way." 

And what a school! So modern! So vibrant! And such an ethos! As a matter of fact, all the schools I visited in Saskatchewan were modern, vibrant and full of ethos. They had the latest technology, oftentimes were fairly recently built, and the teachers were really with it. I mean, small town doesn't mean small education in this province. I was really impressed!

Then there was Val Marie. They had three classrooms from K - 10. Again, really modern and with it. And then there was a little girl who had no language. She had her own attendant, and her own little computer that helped her communicate. And that really floored me that you can get this calibre of help in a village. 

But what amazed me most was the people. Nice people. Small town humour, small town camaraderie - really decent folk! Something you don't find as often in a big city.


My Aunt Lilian - a nice person from Saskatchewan.

Anyway, I loved Saskatchewan, but then I've always loved Saskatchewan. There's nothing backward about this place. The only thing missing for me, was a ski hill close by. Snowboarding is my passion. But for anyone who doesn't snowboard or ski, I highly recommend living in Saskatchewan. You can get a really nice place for inexpensive, have modern amenities, and know amazing people.

And if you want to read my novel that takes place in Saskatchewan, here's the book trailer: 



And here's my Amazon link: bit.ly/prairiebridebit.ly/prairiebride

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

First They Took Downtown and Now the Mall - Is this Amazon's Fault?

I'm a 57-year-old woman from Vancouver, Canada. I grew up in Chilliwack. And I still remember when I was a girl, if you wanted to go shopping, you went downtown. That's where the Eaton's Department Store was, the Sweet Sixteen Store, and all kinds of mom and pop businesses. But of course, that all changed in the 70s as malls rose from nothing all over the lower mainland... including our small town. 




Well at first, we loved it. Heck, you could go and try on all kinds of different things in stores in very close proximity without getting cold and wet. It gave you time to make up your mind. But then downtown died. It became a haven of second-hand clothes and used furniture shops. But now the malls have all changed too.

When I go to most of Vancouver's malls, stores sit empty, their windows boarded over. And I can't help but think, "What's going on here? Have people gotten so lazy they can't get up and go to the mall anymore? They'd rather stay home staring at a computer screen, too busy to enjoy life a little? To go for a walk? To meet with a friend for coffee?"




Seems it's true. 

I've watched over the years as department stores have disappeared - Eaton's, Zellers, Woodward's, Saan's, Field's. Even boutiques have gone the way of the cemetery: Mariposa's, Rickie's, Dalmy's, Radio Shack, names that have all slipped from the public's minds.

Is it Amazon's fault? I mean, they make it so easy to purchase anything with just one click. And they're sure giving Walmart a run for their money. Walmart's scrambling to catch up. Some author friend of mine posted today that she was a Walmart Bestseller? She was so happy! A what? Seriously? A Walmart bestseller?



What's our world coming to? We are slowly but surely being alienated from one another. Folks sit at home watching Netflix instead of going out. Teens text instead of having a friend over. People order things instead of going to the mall to buy them. People, can't you see, we're all sitting around alone!



It makes me think of Petula Clark's song, Downtown, where all the lights are bright. But that day is gone, and now our malls are dying a painful death too. Slowly, we're being taken over, our own slovenliness handing the control to the giants: Amazon, Walmart...

Think about it...


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Embarrassing Truth About Book Launches

So I just had two book launches for my new novel, Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies, a book based on a true story that I poured my soul into. It was exhausting meeting the deadline and perfecting it before handing it back to my publisher, BWL Publishing so they could push it out into the world, the young innocent babe it is. And then...I had to do the book launch.

Well, let me tell you, book launches are the hardest work of all because no one likes going to book launches unless it's someone really famous. Sometimes only two people show up. 



But a typical book launch consists of 15 or 20 people who have been forced to come because either they're related to you, or in your writer's group, or because you twisted their arm to breaking point. And that's me - the arm twister.


So I start out by making an invitation that sounds like it's going to be the most sensational event ever. I provide live music, food, and prizes. I do FB ads, Twitter ads, send out press releases, personal invitations. I make sure it's on a day that will have no soccer practices, isn't a long weekend, and is convenient for everyone. My image is that 100 people will show up. Sigh.


To begin with, no one in my writer's group could come. And my dear old aunt who I was thinking of the whole time, went away on a trip for two days, and arrived back a half hour after the launch was over. Cousins were working. Someone got sick. A couple of people had unexpected company. And then there are the pingers and ringers. You know, those people who either call or text you at the last minute to say they can't make it?

But strangely, despite the embarrassingly small crowds (if you can call them crowds), there's always the handful of people who did come three hours out of their way to support you, or the cousin who just had her teeth pulled and is sore, or the friend from childhood who's a die-hard. And they buy books. And they tell all their friends. And that's who I'm doing it for.



And so I swallow my pride, realize I'm not alone. (I've been to many book launches that are poorly attended.) And I go on. And I dream that some day, I'll have that huge crowd going out the door. 



In the meantime, here's the book trailer for Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies.



And here is the link. Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies



Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Grouchy Amazon Guy - Could Have Sworn it was Donald Trump

I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it seemed I had signed myself up for a free Amazon course of two hours in Burnaby, B.C. 

Why not go? I thought, being an author and all. After all, Amazon keeps changing the algorithms in favour of their self-published books (so rumour has it). Perhaps this lecture will reveal the secret to getting around these mysterious numbers. And so I showed up, grabbed my free cup of coffee and sat down.



In walks the presenter. Handsome, tall, thirty-something, his hair greased back as slick as the talk he was about to give.  And no sooner did he begin, did he utter a serious Canadian faux-pas. He said, "You can make a lot of money on Amazon despite your race."

Ahhhhh! What????? I immediately turned around to see what the demographics were in the room and discovered there were only three white people there. My hackles raised at his divisiveness, and I nearly let out a low growl, but instead decided to listen to what he had to say. After he's only human, right? We all mistakes.

That's when I noticed his accent was American, and thought, "Perhaps he doesn't know. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt and tell him afterward." 

Soon he was tempting people to sign up for a three-day Amazon course for only $1299 by offering them a free kindle. Then he explained the strategy of buying top selling items at wholesale price and selling them on Amazon at a profit. Hmmmm. So much for my writing career. But still, I had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

At the end of the talk, I went to him and asked him about the book algorithms, and he didn't deny it. When I asked him how I could get around them, he suggested I sell something else. (Good thing I didn't pay for this lecture.)

But my kinder side prevailed and I said, "May I give you some feedback?" still reeling from the race thing. 

"No!" he recoiled in true Trumpian fashion, his arms crossed, and face in a scowl.

"But it's important," I said.

He acquiesced, but still looked ready for battle.

"When you said that bit about selling things on Amazon despite your race? Well....this is Canada. We don't have racial problems like you guys have in America. There are some, but all in all, we just get along. It's easy. It's not necessary to say that in Canada."

The handsome young man suddenly transformed to Donald Trump himself, red faced as Potus and began arguing with me.  Real professional.



My reply? "My hackles were raised when you said that. It's just a suggestion. Take it or leave it."

And with that, I left, not having signed up for his course on how to peddle on Amazon and a bad taste in my mouth for the world's largest on-line company.

As I was catching the elevator, I spoke with an Asian man who'd sat through the speech. Turned out he was as offended by the race comment as I was. 

How marred my image is of Amazon now, me, an Amazon Prime holder. Think I'll go hang out at the old-fashioned mall instead of on-line. (Huge sigh of relief.)


Friday, April 21, 2017

Finding Memère and Pepère

I'm back from a very exhausting, but exhilarating trip to Saskatchewan that took place over the course of 2-1/2 days, where I sought out the places I had always heard tell tales of in my childhood. You see, my grandparents, Napoleon and Leopoldine de Montigny, were one of the first homesteaders in Southern Saskatchewan shortly after WWI. Together they cleared the land, and tried to build a life for themselves during the twenties and the dirty thirties while bringing up seven children. Today, I will tell their story with the photos I took while there.


I drove the 3-1/2 hour trip from Regina to Val Marie at night, lovely at first as the sun set until I hit Cadillac at dusk and the road changed from a modern highway to some bumpy and narrow wagon trail full of potholes marked by small, red signs. I managed to miraculously arrive in Val Marie with no flat tires, but I couldn't find my hotel, The Convent Inn, because there were no streetlights and my GPS was freaking out. (They're not built for small towns, I guess.) Finally, in frustration, I stopped at some place and went in to ask for directions. Turned out it was the right place. And what a place! (Although I'm kind of ashamed to admit that since it was an old convent, I was worried about ghosts.)



I slept well that night because it was so quiet. No cars, not even a rooster. And definitely no ghosts. Phew!

In the morning, after a delicious breakfast, I went to the Municipal Land Claims office and found out exactly where the homestead had been. But I have this terrible problem -- when I listen to people talk, I fade in and out a lot. So I wasn't sure if the information was quite right. But here's what's left of Masefield, the closest town to the homestead.


After passing Masefield, I found what I thought was the road that lead to the homestead and traveled down it, looking for the two hills that marked the opening to where my grandfather had built the tiny house and dug a beautiful dam, planting trees beside it. Couldn't find the two hills, so when I saw a truck coming along the gravel road, I flagged it down. Two Hutterite men gladly stopped and chatted with me. One of them told me that when he was a boy, he used to play in that dam and that the Hutterites now owned the land. He said they had drained the water and cut down the trees that once stood beside it, providing much-needed shade. He pointed me in the direction of where the dam had been. So off I went, walking through the prairie, just me and fields of gold under incredible blue skies dotted with puffy clouds. Fortunately, I didn't run into any rattlesnakes or aggressive bulls (another thing I was worried about), just some muck from time to time. (My boots are still crusted.) I never found the damned dam, but I did make it all the way across to the highway. That's a lot of land. When I got to the road, I had walked so far, I had to flag down another car whose driver gladly took me back to my vehicle. Not Hutterite this time.

I paid another trip to the Land Claims office because I was deeply suspicious that I hadn't been in the right place. Turns out I hadn't. So back I went to the same road and took pictures of the surrounding area, this time standing on my grandparents' land. Could this be the two hills?


I took lots of pictures, then drove back to Val Marie to look for the house Pepère built for his ever-growing family after leaving the farm. It was still there, but someone was renovating the inside. My father was very proud of this house. He was supposed to have dug the basement, but never did because he kept being distracted by pretty girls in town. 



Here's the wheat pool.


And here's the school they attended for a while.


I'm wondering if this was the general store. Aunties and Uncles? Would you know?


Anyway, after filling my car up at the local card lock, something I'd never done before, I went off to Ponteix where my great grandfather had lived. What a charming town! Here's his house. It too is being renovated and has changed.


I had some help finding this house. A couple in Quebec City - Louise Lupien and her husband, Guy Ferland walked me around on Facetime until we found it. Louise Lupien's grandfather was the first pioneer prairie doctor in the region. He lived two doors down from the de Montignys. His house is being renovated too. Apparently it was a house they ordered from the Eatons catalogue.


And now, here's the church the de Montignys went to every Christmas when my grandparents went to visit the family. There's a convent and a school too.


Then there was the sad part of the trip, going to the cemetery and finding the graves of the twin baby girls Memére had lost to meningitis as well as the baby boy who died a couple of months after birth. This is what had brought me to Ponteix. I had been so moved by that story that I vowed to place flowers on their grave some day. And here it is. It still makes me want to cry.


I also tried to find my great grandfather's grave, but many of the graves were so worn that the names were no longer legible. However, I did find Uncle Levi's grave. Apparently, this man was quite the musician - a kindred spirit, a fiddler. And it was my great grandfather who made the cross, according to a relative.


And of course, I found Dr. Lupien's grave too and placed a rose on it.


After I was done grave hunting, I went back to Regina. (Still can't believe a queen named her daughter Regina. What was she thinking?) This is where my grandfather came to meet my grandmother after WWI. He'd proposed to her in Belgium, but she told him to go back home and think on it and that if he still wanted her, to send for her. Well, he went back home and worked as a cowboy until he'd made enough money for her passage. Memère then left her hometown of Chatlineau, Belgium and traveled to Halifax, across Quebec and Ontario, and then the prairies where there was nothing. Just fields of snow for miles and miles. She finally arrived in Regina at the Union Station (which has now been turned into a Casino - so much renovating).



That night, they were married with only two priests as witnesses. I believe this was the church they were married in. It was called St. Mary's at the time and is now Blessed Sacrament.



Here's the inside of it. It's quite lovely. Can you imagine it through her eyes? 



Then, apparently, after supper, they went and saw a show. I figured it was at the Globe Theatre which still exists. 


I had a tough time finding old hotels dating back to that time, but was very surprised to discover that the Holiday Inn was once The Champlain, renovated some years back. Could this be where they stayed? This is what it looks like today:


The rest of my trip was taken up by a bit of sightseeing and shopping. When I got back to Vancouver, my husband and the dog welcomed me home at the airport. (The dog looked bored to see me.) Tomorrow, I continue to write the story that has been haunting me, that has been calling my name for years. And now that I've been where it all took place, it's all the more real to me. Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies to be released in September, 2017.