Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas

It's been a strange month. I knew Christmas was coming in another few weeks but that was a few weeks away. Lots of time to shop, bake, clean,--all the myriad stuff one needs to do when guests and family would pop in over the Holidays. So here I am, as ready as can be--the baked goods have been mostly devoured by us, after all, test-tasting is a very serious job. But now I'm confident that my chocolate pecan thumbprint cookies, shortbreads,  lemon loaf, cherry bombs,  petite ham quiches,  mince tarts and butter tarts are ready for my visitors. The only problem is to find the time to do more baking. . .
In the meantime. I would like to wish each and everyone of my faithful Readers a very Merry Christmas and all the very best that this Holiday Season brings.  May 2016 be a very Happy, Healthy,  Creative and Prosperous year for all of you. Best of all, may the Christmas Sprite inspire the creative juices to flow through the New Year and beyond.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

An Argument for Indie Publishing

This is a guest blog from Ryan Lantz's post of June 6, 2015.  It is a thoughtfully written account by Ryan Doughan, on his first-hand experience of his best-selling book, "Mystic Falcon."  Check the link below.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Guest Blogger

Today I have the privilege of being a Guest Blogger on my Canadian writer friend, Leanne Dyck's blog-site at:

Do pop in to enjoy Leanne's stories, thoughts, awesome photos, informative and fun guest bloggers.  Love to see you there!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Are You a Good Eye-Witness?

Memory is a tricky thing. In moments of chaos and traumas, witnesses tend to remember only  bits and pieces of whatever happened. Action, bits of dialogue. background sounds are like pieces of a giant puzzle--without that complete picture to assemble the pieces against.
Detectives try building that full picture, gathering from all the by-standers, what they saw in the few seconds or minutes of the crime-in-progress--a crime that happened right in front of them. Unlike a policeman who is trying to assemble all the facts, a writer has a lot of "what-ifs" to contend with. What if someone walks into someone else running away from the scene of the crime. And, what if the person running away is the witness's brother?  Is this "runner" the person who committed the terrible crime of bludgeoning and robbing the store-keeper? Or, is he a "red-herring"--someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. What if this "runner" is actually chasing the real criminal whom no one remembers seeing? See--there's a number of "what-ifs" in what could have been a simple story of robbery and murder.
Writers have the imagination to drive Readers around the proverbial bend with all their twists and turns of eye-witness reports. It is so easy to taint an eye-witness's account of what he/she actually saw just by talking to another potential eye-witness who perceived something quite different. This is why witnesses are normally kept separated at the crime-scene  and their statements taken separately.

So, how good is your observation skills? Are you doing the 360-degrees scan of the surrounding area when you're people-watching? Or, are you focusing on a specific individual. Whatever you're doing, tweek and twist the norm so that what Readers see is not  what they expect. Memory is such a nebulous thing and when it involves a heinous crime or murder, perhaps what you thought you saw is not necessarily what you really saw.

In an August 30-2014  National Post article, "The Perils of Eyewitnesses: Overturned Conviction Shows Lack of Reliability," (,  the act of picking out someone from a police lineup can have its downside. Facial recognition based on a brief second of eye-contact of an innocent bystander at the crime scene can have devastating results. In this case, an innocent young woman was convicted of a crime based on one eye-witness report. Even a Writer may not have thought of this---only Real Life can show all its quirks and foibles.

Monday, 18 August 2014

A Twist of Spice

Today I baked a batch of chocolate-chip/walnuts/raisins and anything else I had handy to toss into the cookie dough. One thing added that was different was a Lindt dark chocolate bar infused with chilli. Broken into tiny chunks, it gave the cookies a slight peppery taste, a twist of something unfamiliar, yet retaining that decadent, nutty flavour of dark chocolate with a bite.

Writing is similar. We can write about ordinary things everyone recognizes, but it's nice to shake things up by adding a bit of spice and making the familiar different.

In matters of tasty morsels for the tummy, subtle changes are the best. The key is to lightly add the spices, resulting in an exquisite flavour that intrigues.  In writing, the same key applies. Spice up the action or the vocabulary, but don't overdo it resulting in pages of excessive dialogue or boring narrative. Writers want the Readers to be intrigued, not anaesthetized.

It's even more intriguing when a stodgy or staid character revolts and shows a totally different side of his/her public face. I adore reading books where nothing is what it seems but everything ties up nicely at the end. I like writers who know how to do great plot twists and have likeable, as well as dislikeable, characters. I enjoy writers who know how to kick up the action and deliver the final heart-stopping twist of a punch-line at the end.And, I love writers who know how to leave their Readers wanting more. That's the kind of writing I want to do.

Monday, 21 July 2014


Summertime is always a good time to grab a book for the beach, the plane or just for pure enjoyment on your sunny deck. Here's a list of great books for anytime reading.

Tom Clancy's Against all Enemies is a non-stop, action-filled, crime/thriller taking today's drug wars into international waters. It begins with ex-Navy SEAL, Maxwell Moore, quietly working for the CIA in transporting a high-ranking Taliban leader back to the USA. It should have been a simple prisoner transfer, but in the world of terrorists and drug smugglers, nothing is ever simple--one either succeeds or die trying. This same code applies to Navy SEALs. When Max discovers his fight against the Talibans and the opium wars in Afghanistan has spread to an alliance with powerful Mexican cartels, he knows he'll be facing a bloody battle.  Not only will there be a vicious war on home soil but a war for money, power and ultimate control of the drug trade, both at home and abroad.  Weaving an all-too-real tale of the working poor in Mexico and the Middle East, the very wealthy North American upper-class plus the power, intrigue and evil that drugs can bring, Against All Enemies is another winner for Clancy. I hope there will be more Clancy novels coming on ex-SEAL, Maxwell Moore, for he's a good man to have guarding your back.

The Memory Box, a first-time novel by Eva Lesko Natiello, is a can't-put-down, suspenseful, psychological, mind-bender--a story guaranteed to keep you up late at night just to find out what is really going on?  Caroline Thompson, a suburban housewife, succumbs to the simple act of Googling herself and immediately opens a terrifying Pandora's box. Her impulsive curiosity propels her down a memory lane that is filled with sham, deception, delusions, misunderstanding and paranoia. The peaceful illusion of her supposedly perfect home life is destroyed by her persistence in seeking the truth. But what exactly is the truth? Are her two loving daughters, her devoted husband and her few close friends real?  Through a series of clever twists and turns, Natiello maintains the psychological suspense to the last satisfying words.  Some words of advice--do not start reading The Memory Box before going to bed. And, never Google yourself!

High Chicago, a fast-paced crime thriller by Canadian writer, Howard Shrier, grabs you by the eye-balls and doesn't let go. Toronto private investigator, Jonah Geller,  first introduced in "Buffalo Jump" returns with a new business, "World Repairs," co-owned with his partner and best friend, Jenn Raudsepp. Investigating an apparent suicide leads to the dark side of construction, development and a very shady multimillionaire, Simon Birk.  Birk has long been suspected of whistling up mobsters, muscles and hitmen with a flick of his finger.
Jonah proves to be a formidable opponent who has his own sources of information and a hidden weapon--a retired mobster who will do anything to help his friend and has all the shady connections to do it.  I like this well-crafted thriller--at times violent, filled with great dialogue, a bit of humour and believable characters.  High Chicago may be my first Howard Shrier novel but definitely not my last. Grab yourself a copy and enjoy some great escapism!

The Kill Switch, from James Rollins, co-authored with Grant Blackwood, is the long awaited novel featuring Tucker Wayne and  his loyal partner Kane.  Captain Tucker Wayne and military dog, Kane, have been involved in Sigma Force assignments before but this is their first solo adventure showcasing the intelligence, abilities and stalwart teamwork of a military dog and his human partner. Completing one assignment of successfully protecting a Russian industrialist's life, Tucker and his shepherd, Kane, are assigned another task of bringing an arrogant Russian scientist, Abram Bukulov, back to America as quickly as possible. But no matter where they go, someone is betraying their whereabouts and they are relentlessly hunted by a team of deadly assassins, controlled by a mysterious Russian general bent on revenge and power.  The Kill Switch is a heart-pounding thriller as only James Rollins and Grant Blackwood can create--writing with real-time knowledge, up-to-date research plus a deep understanding of world politics and power. If you pick up this book, be sure you have no appointments or social engagements to interfere with a darn good tale about a man, his almost human dog, a travelogue of lesser-known places traversed and  the evil people lurking behind public faces.

These are all available from to load onto Kindle or other eReaders.

Monday, 23 June 2014

So, you're a Writer, eh?

Well-meaning people have asked me, "Why do you want to be a writer?"  as if a writer was this poor, unemployed, underfed person, suffering for her art and living in a bare attic room. I must admit I appeared too well-fed and content to look the part of a suffering writer. My other all-time favourite comment, "You're a writer?" exclaimed in such a tone that I'm never sure if it's a total revelation that I can write or that it's inconceivable that I actually do write. Of course this comment has to be justified with a list of what has been written. "What do you write?" is a fair question but if it's not on any Best Seller list, the New York Times or Globe and Mail Top 10  lists, then I'm not a Real Writer. I'll bet you all have a tale or two to tell too. I hadn't always been a writer. I was too busy being a Medical Technologist for 35 years, but when I took early retirement, writing was what I wanted to do.

The other day, I was sipping a cup of Moka-House medium roast and savouring every bite of a Moka-House Blueberry scone--and, not a dainty scone either, but a size large enough to share. Unfortunately, as I people-watched and did my "Character" research, the scone had already been reduced to only a few more bites. And my thoughts jumped from the smart marketing ploy of pairing coffee with baked goods to an elderly man trying to navigate around several baby carriages to reach a vacant table with his coffee and donut. The young Moms were too busy conversing with each other to notice his difficulty in using his cane, balancing his tray and aiming for the nearby table. Quickly, a young man, wearing paint-stained clothes and dramatically visible snake tattoos curling up both muscular arms, leaped from his seat, steadied the frail man and set the tray on his table. Amazingly, the Moms were too focuses on each other to notice that a potential accident had been averted.

At another table, a father and his young son were enjoying their snack when suddenly the 3-year old tossed his empty cookie bag on the floor and proceeded to have a full-blown tantrum. Aha, I thought--either Dad has to get more cookies or he's going to reason with his son. You know--that's when parents would say something like, "That is not acceptable behaviour. Big boys don't throw bags on the floor. Blah, blah, blah." Instead Dad picked his son up, smacked him lightly on the bottom and pointed to the floor. The tantrum stopped in mid-wail. The little boy looked at his Dad and slowly bent to pick up his litter--as well as several napkins tossed under a neighbouring table. Nodding his approval, Dad hugged his son, whispered a few words in his ear and both  walked calmly out of the Food Court. I liked that. This was not child abuse but a well-placed smack that got the child's attention. The little guy knew he was being naughty. I admired the Dad for dealing directly with the tantrum.

A few tables away, there were 8 men, long-time friends and probably retirees, who were all wearing loud, colourful Hawaiian shirts. Their table was a lively one of laughter, a rumble of voices and more laughter. They were enjoying a large box of "Tim Horton" donuts along with their coffee, Finally, one of the men, wearing a shirt peppered with enormous pink hibiscus blooms, stood up to make a toast. Immediately their corner became silent as their heads turned towards an empty chair at the head of their table. In a moment of Food Court silence, the man's words were clearly heard. "This is for you, Benny. We're wearing our Hawaiian shirts and talking about you, remembering all the funny things you did. The guys and I miss you like hell and hope that's not where you ended up, but wherever you are, we hope you're having a Timmy's and a coffee too. Here's to you, Benny!" The clink of coffee mugs and a chorus of voices echoed the toast. It was a very touching moment.

Now, I know you're going to say--wait a sec, what happened to being a writer?

Well, Life is what happens. There is so much drama, comedy and things left to your imagination that happens each and every day. Being at the computer can leave you numb (sat too long) or hungry ('cause nothing is happening)--so taking a long walk or heading out for coffee or meeting with friends--are all potentials for building a story. After all, most stories start with the ordinary that somehow changes to something horrific or extraordinary. It's hard work to keep up the pace and make it believable. It's definitely a challenge to have your believable characters do unbelievable  things. What better place to pick-up characters than at the mall or coffee bars or Laundromats or grocery stores or hardware stores or. . .And the imagination supplies the rest of the story.