Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays


Dear Reader,

Whether you've been popping by all year, or just showed up, thank you for your kind attention.

There's an old truism: "A writer writes." (I used to have that scroll by on my screensaver to remind me to get back to work.) It's even truer to say, "A writer writes to be read." Just because we can be antisocial when the muse strikes, doesn't mean we don't want to reach out and touch someone (even if its just a poke) with our words.

So, thank you. And while I'm at it, I should thank my kids who put up with me when I'm antisocial and, more importantly, take care of dinner when the muse hits late afternoon.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Yuletide Greetings and may you have health, wealth, happiness and peace in the New Year.


PS: I've put together the Countdown to Christmas - now 12 Days: A Christmas Stalking -  in case you want to read the whole thing without scrolling backwards through blogs. I have variation on the theme in Special for the Season entered in the Holiday Short Story Contest. Also check out Blue Satin and Love, by Melodie Campbell. (Comments welcome.)


Friday, December 23, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 12

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas My True Love gave to me,
Twelve drummers drumming...

Actually, what he gave me was a splitting headache listening to the soundtrack of Taiko Drumming.

It was almost midnight. I had tried getting him to stop for a pee break, a dinner break and for coffee to keep him awake. The drum music was his solution to staying alert; he packed sandwiches for dinner; and I won't share what I had to do about relieving my bladder.

I saw a sign telling us that Tim Horton's was 13 km down the road.

"If you don't stop and get me a coffee," I said, slamming the off button on the stereo, "I'll kick the door open and jump out. I want to wash up. I want coffee. And if you put that CD back on again, I'll ram it down your throat."

He grunted a suggestion that was anatomically impossible, but he turned off for the Tim Horton's. Of course, that might have had more to do with the R.I.D.E. checkpoint. ('Tis the season to reduce impaired driving.) If he went into Tim's, then out the far exit, he could avoid being pulled over.

"We're not going in if there're cops around," he informed me. "I'm not stupid."

I bit my tongue.

The huge windows made it easy to check out the interior. No uniforms in evidence. Not many patrons inside. Most people were using the drive-through.

He let me out and took my wrist in a lock grip. In his other hand he had hunting knife, let me see before letting his sleeve mask it. "Play nice or I'll stick you."

"Okay," I said. "Buy me a coffee and I'll be good. Can I go to the washroom while you order?"

He rolled his eyes. I guess that meant no.

We walked to the counter, to all appearances hand in hand. Before he had a chance to speak, I started ordering.

"I'll have a chili combo with a large coffee - in a mug - and an old-fashioned glazed doughnut. No make that a sour cream glaze. I'll have a biscuit with that, not the bun. Black coffee." I turned to my ex. "Do you have enough cash? Or should I go get me purse."

Automatically, he let go of my wrist to get his wallet. I stepped back. A few seconds later, my ex noticed that the lady behind the counter was levelling a pistol at him. His wallet and knife dropped from limp hands and a wet patch spread across the front of his jeans.

Then he backed up into a plainclothes officer bearing handcuffs. 

Many hours and coffees later, I was checked into a motel, being too tired to contemplate driving home. Thanks to my self-appointed True Love, I now had one day left to do all my preparations for Christmas. On the upside, I had a handsome and heroic New Love, with whose help me and my Christmas were rescued.

On the morning of Christmas, My New Love gave to me,
A commemorative charm bracelet with:
12 drummers drumming
11 pipers piping
10 lords a leaping
9 ladies waiting
8 maids a milking
7 swans a swimming
6 geese a laying
5 golden rings
4 calling birds
3 French hens
2 turtle doves
And a partridge in a *&%!!! pear tree.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 11

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

On the eleventh day of Christmas My True Love gave to me
Eleven pipers piping...

There is nothing like the sound of bagpipes in the morning.

It took me a while to figure out what they were playing. It's not often you hear "You're a Mean One Mr Grinch" with drones. I guess my ex wasn't pleased with my Christmas spirit.

On the whole, I thought I got off easy. This was less embarrassing than the ten lords a leaping; less work than the nine ladies weighting; less mess than the eight maids a milking, or the byproduct thereof; less intrusive than the seven swans; not as good as the five golden rings; only slightly noisier than the four calling birds; not as smelly as the three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in pear tree. Mind you, I still had a Partdoven with brandied pear sauce waiting for Christmas dinner, so the fowl was fine with me.

I stood on my porch with my morning coffee, listening to the music, when CRACK! Something hit me. The last thing I thinking before passing out was, damn, there goes my favourite coffee mug.

I came to, strapped into the front seat of my ex's SUV. I felt awful but my ex looked worse. He was a mass of bruises and abrasions. He looked so beaten up, before I demanded to know what he thougth he was doing, I asked if the dancers had done all that damage.

"Not all of it," he said, giving me a sidelong scowl before turning his attention back to the road.

We were headed north. I was pretty sure I recognized the highway and guessed we were headed for his grandparent's cottage.

Going for the "put him at ease" ploy, I prompted him to tell me about his injuries. Most of the abrasions  were from the wild and domestic fowl wrangling. He had a couple of broken toes from trying to steal milch cows. The dancers got in a few kicks, but he had to fight off all the pipers when they realized he was kidnapping me. He only escaped because their bags got in the way.

I only hoped that one of the pipers got my ex's license plate because I was starting to get more scared than annoyed. Anyone who'd confront and escape eleven men in kilts was a psychopath capable of anything.

Since my ex was beyond reason, I gave up conversation and stared out the window. A small aircraft dipped low. My ex swerved, trying to get a better look.

"Relax," I told him. "It's not a police copter. It's a single prop plane."

"Since when do you know so much?"

I didn't dignify the question with an answer. Any moron would know the difference between a helicopter and an aeroplane. I knew a little more than that. It was a bright yellow Piper Cub, just like the one my detective friend promised to take me up in when the weather warmed up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 10



On the tenth day of Christmas My True Love gave to me...


I almost put a restraining order on my ex. My new detective friend suggested it. Curiosity overcame good sense. Besides, would it have really worked?

On the tenth day of Christmas My True Love gave to me
Ten lords a leaping...

 He outdid himself on this one. Every year, since I was a child, my mother takes me to see the Nutcracker. She loves ballet. I love the men in tights. My ex arranged a little entre-action with the male chorus leaping about the stage before opening a banner saying "Marry me."

Next, a couple of toy soldiers escort my ex to our box and the spotlights turn on my delighted mother and a mortified me as an oversized ring box is presented to me. This would have been very romantic if my ex weren't a Grade A fruitcake.

"Give the guy a break," one of the soldiers whispered.

"You do realize that this is the guy who tried to make seven dancers in the swan chorus swim in an icy pond."

The painted spots of colour on the soldiers' cheeks faded into their angry flushes. My ex discovered what I knew since childhood. Dancers are solid muscle. Soon my ex was leaping to make his gettaway.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 9

On the ninth day of Christmas....

On the ninth day of Christmas My True Love gave to me
Nine ladies waiting...

It was time to get proactive. When my ex showed up, trying to wheedle me into dropping charges and testifying on his behalf as a character witness (I'd already agreed to do that for the Crown Prostecutor) he was greeted by eight women from my gym.Just so we couldn't be accused of trying to threaten him, we were doing synchronized barbell reps in my back yard.  (The front lawn was still a bit wiffy from the manure dump.)

He didn't stay long.

That evening I received a package from England, scheduled to be delivered December 20. It contain nine Royal Doulton figures form the "Pretty Lady" collection. He must have thought this one out months ago. They made nice gifts for my Ladies in Weighting.



Monday, December 19, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 8



On the eighth day of Christmas...

On the eighth day of Christmas My True Love gave to me
Eight maids a milking...

This morning I received a note from my ex. He had the nerve to be calling me up for bail money. He was caught attempting to cattle rustle dairy cows. He had rounded up seven Holstiens and a Jersey from Mennonite farms in the next county. His reasoning was that Mennonites would turn the other cheek.

Right. They're peaceful, not stupid. They notified the police and had him arrested blitzschnell.

I tried not to laugh until after I got off the phone. Naturally, I didn't go bail him out. I don't know who did, but he managed to dump a half ton of cow manure on my lawn while I was out mailing cards. Fortunately, my neighbour (not the one who complained about the birds) is a member of the local garden club.

Next year they want him to dump horse shit. Nothing better for roses.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 7


On the seventh day of Christmas...

One week to Christmas! Ex or no ex, I had to go shopping. While I was out I heard the following report on the radio: "On the lighter side, dancers from local production of Swan Lake were invited to assist in a Twelve Days of Christmas montage. When it was revealed that they were to pose outside in icy water, they respectfully declined.

I rushed home.

On the seventh day of Christmas My True Love gave to me
Seven swans a swimming

Whew! My ornamental pond was full of half-submerged ballarina figurines and littered with feathers. I suspect he tried live swans first.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 6

On the sixth day of Christmas...

Silly me. I thought it was safe to go shopping for normal presents for normal people. I should have known my ex would make bail.

On the sixth day of Christmas My True Love gave to me,
Six geese a laying...

Not the geese. Just the eggs. All over my front porch. My new detective friend said they couldn't do DNA testing, but I bet six geese a laying were involved. I'm a little worried about tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 5

On the fifth day of Christmas...

On the fifth day of Christmas, My True Love gave to me
Five golden rings.


No birds, fair or fowl, my ex showed up in cuffs and leg shackles. How he managed to escape custody is anyone's guess. The police were hot on his heels. It turned out he was stealing the livestock from a local farmer - the same one who bought my "presents" when the neighbours complained about the smell. (They don't call chickens fowl for nothing.)

Obsessed as he was, my ex wanted to deliver the five golden rings before skipping town. He also wanted to borrow my hacksaw. Unfortunately for him, I was giving my statement to a rather handsome police detective when he arrived.

Oops. :)


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 4

On the fourth day of Christmas...


On the fourth day of Christmas "My True Love" gave to me
Four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves
And a partridge in a pear tree

Having no idea what a "calling bird" was, my ex - oh yes he is definitely my ex now - sent me four CAWING birds. These being crows and my neighbours being superstitious, an argument ensued. Mrs Poppalov insisted that four crows meant I was going to give birth to a son. Mr Poppalov insisted that I was about to die. I'm not sure who made the most noise, the crows or the Poppalovs.In any case, one of my other neighbours called animal control.

"My True Love" is toast.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Countdown (up) to Christmas 3

On the third day of Christmas...

I suppose I should mention that "My True Love" is how my sometimes boyfriend/mostly ex describes himself. My description of him varies.

On the third day of Christmas My True Love gave to me
Three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

Anticipating the chickens, I adapted a Turducken recipe for partridge, hen and doves. If successful, I have a contract poised to sign with a local restauranteur.



(To friends and family - yes, this is a fictional account.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 2



On the second day of Christmas...

I just noticed the logical disconnect between counting up in a countdown. Oh well, logic was never my best subject.

On the second day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
Two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.

First off, I can see where this is going and if he keeps going I'm going to have an orchard on my hands. On the other hand, dove = pigeon = squab = dinner tonight.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Countdown to Christmas 1

On the first day of Christmas...

Yes, I know, the first day of Christmas is really December 25th. Twelfth night heralds Epiphany (with pipes, evidently). It's also the date decorations came down when I was growing up and a play attributed to Shakespeare. Regardless...

On the first day of Christmas
My true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree.

You might think I made a great shot, but I was aiming for my ex.

On a related theme, I have a story appearing on Me and Reading called Special for the Season.

Monday, December 5, 2011

My Christmas List

Everybody keeps asking me what I want...
and I have a hard time answering the question. Oh, I can think of stuff. I can think of lots of stuff. My kids just can't go out and buy any of it.

  • I'd like a little more sanity in the world and a lot less short-sighted greed. 
  • I am deeply concerned about American governments dismantling of the Bill of Rights and almost as concerned that our own Prime Minister might follow suit. So, I'd like Obama to veto that bill officially making the world a war zone. That would make a lovely holiday gift.
  • Is it too much to ask to give peace a chance?
  • While we're at it, give small and mid-sized entreprenuers a chance. Economic wealth should form a pyramid not a spike on top of shallow mound.
  • Meaningful work for all those able to work.
  • A cure for Alzheimer's. It doesn't physically kill as many people as Cancer, AIDS or Heart Disease, but it destroys who you are.
  • Universal Empathy. If it doesn't drive us crazy, it might help us self-correct many of our destructive behaviors.
And then, because I'm no saint and I wouldn't mind an ereader or tablet under the tree. I have a backlog of ebooks to read.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sands of Time

Sand collected in Egypt, 1977

"Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;"
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

No one has left bigger footprints in the sand than the ancient Egyptians. With relatively narrow bands of arable land bordering the the Nile, they built most of their great monuments in the desert.

Reading Nighthawk's interview of Khasekh from Asenath (by Anna Patricio, Imajin Books) reminded me of one of the most memorable of our family trips.When I was eighteen, we took a cruise down the Nile. By "we" I mean my mother, father, sister, four cousins, aunt, uncle and Nana. The eleven of us made up about a third of the passengers on the boat. Maybe a half. It wasn't a big boat.

We flew to Aswan and cruised north to Cairo. It was the most amazing trip I almost didn't take. Foolishly, I considered staying home alone so I could assert my independence. Yeesh! Talk about young and foolish. I changed my mind - just in time - and got to assert my independence by sharing a cabin with a forty-something divorcee named Ursula. After the onboard Egyptologist lectured us on the temples and monuments we would be visiting, Ursula lectured me on the importance of moisturizers and what OLAY meant.

If you've ever watched The Mummy (1999), our boat looked exactly like the one they travelled on, minus the horses. All the places they visit in the Mummy Returns (2001) - excepting the oasis with the diamond topped pyramid - we visited. Watching the movies is like home movies with an adventure thrown in. When I'm old and senile, I'll probably tell my grandkids how I collected sand from Hamunaptra - The City of the Dead.

In fact, I'm not sure where in Egypt I scooped up the sand that resides in the bottle above. It might have been after our camel ride. I would have been very appreciative of sand beneath my feet by then.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Love a Parade

November 20, 2011

I have many happy childhood memories of this season: riding the Queen streetcar downtown to see the decorations in the Simpson's window; throwing up in the street car; having a panic attack on the escalator. I was convinced I was small enough to fall down the slats. Yes, I was very young at the time.

Is it any wonder we always watched the Santa Claus Parade on TV? My mother could only handle so much excitement.

I didn't watch many parades, but I did march in them. I felt the cold wind blow up my kilt marching with the high school band. I played string bass in the concert band, which meant I got to play cymbals in marching band. With the bass drum, the cymbal players kept the beat. To this day I start walking in step when I hear the beat and I anticipate the music when I hear the snares go "ratta-tat, ratta-tat" followed by "clash-clash-clash".

November 1992?
Later I marched in the Guelph Santa Claus parade in a completely different uniform (that's me on the far right) as Captain Bruce of the USS Welfen. The parade finished up close to home, so my roommate (far left) and I would have the gang back for chili and mulled cider after the parade. Those times bring back many happy memories and a little residual gas.

It wasn't until my son joined cadets that I actually watched a parade from the sidelines. Remembrance Day Parade, Santa Claus Parade, Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Parade (he's a Navy League Cadet) and even the Fergus Highland Games Parade one year. Now Sam is in the Sea Cadet band. He plays the mellophone, not cymbals, and wears pants, not a kilt, but I feel a circle has been closed.

I still feel the beat (left, left, left-right-left) and still get that thrill of anticipation (ratta-tat, ratta-tat, clash-clash-clash). What can I say? I love a parade.

Cadet Band - November 20, 2011


Sunday, November 13, 2011

BYOB

Build Your Own Burrito

One of our favourite family meals is burritos. There’s just one little problem. Among the people who regularly eat at my home, I have a niece who is vegetarian, a son who doesn’t like vegetables visibly mixing with his protein, a good friend who can’t eat onions, garlic and bell peppers, and a daughter who would become a vampire except for the no-garlic rule. That doesn’t even count the spicy (me and my kids) and mild (everyone else) camps.

It started long before burritos. When I was taking care of my sister I learned to make build your own everything because I couldn’t make a meal to satisfy everyone. My older niece went through a foods cannot touch phase and was vegetarian for a while before her younger sister took over. My son would only eat plain noodle with soya sauce, peanut butter sandwiches and KD.

I went from being the queen of the one pan meal - a title I held throughout my pre-kid years - to being the master of the Do It Yourself dinner. Everything was cooked separately and served buffet-style.

Thank the hearth goddess that the kids grew out of that phase eventually. I can now make a pasta dish and only worry about keeping the meat separate - not even that if my nieces aren’t over. Still, smiles abound when I announce it’s BYOB night. On the off-chance it will bring a smile to your face, here are my super-simple recipes.

The Meat
I like getting a family-sized lot of hamburger meat and cooking it up all at once. Then we have leftovers for sloppy-joe and nacho lunches.
  • Cook hamburger at medium-high so that it browns as well as cooks through
  • Drain off any excess fat
  • At a medium-low heat, continue to cook hamburger while adding to taste: ketchup, tabasco sauce, soya sauce, cayenne, paprika, sage, chili powder. (I made my own barbeque spice so that there’s no onion or garlic in it) or use a bottled barbeque sauce your family enjoys.

The Beans
  • Saute finely chopped onions until brown and transluscent
  • Take a can of red kidney beans or bean medley, drain, rinse then add it to the onion.
  • Add barbeque spice (see above)
  • Smush the beans as they cook. (Sometimes I blend them so the kids don’t realize what beans I’m using. Mostly I don’t because except for my vegetarian, they won’t touch the beans.)

Garnishes
  • Grated cheese - Monterey Jack is best or mix Mozzarella and Cheddar
  • Guacamole - should be made fresh 
  • Salsa - from the store or made fresh
You can find my recipes for salsa and guacamole at authorsandappetizers.com


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday Joey

That's my sister on the left.

My parents gave me a 35mm camera for my graduation gift and I was going a bit nutsoid taking photos. Better to be behind the camera, is my motto. Obviously I had taken one too many of Joanne when she gave me that look.

That's her "big sister look:. Her daughter Sophie has it down pat. Joanne - or Joey as I called her - was technically my little sister. She was younger and shorter than me. That didn't stop her from taking over the big sister role somewhere around her second year of high school.

It was in her second year of high school that Joey joined the Drama Club and stage managed her first show. It was a farce - I remember that much. The next two shows were more memorable. She staged managed Charlie's Aunt and You Can't Take It With You. By then I was at Ryerson and didn't feel quite as immediately overshadowed by my sister.

At least we were never in Band together. I played upright bass in the Senior Band. She played alto sax in the Junior Band. I'm not sure if she was a better musician than me. She was better at performing though. And she loved her sax. By the way, a big thank you to Brooke McEldowney for his Sunday edition of  9 Chickweed Lane - not that I think he was aware of the tribute.

The big sister schtick continued after high school. I graduated from university first, but Joey married and had kids first. The big sister look had nothing on her "I'm your mother, that's why look."

Joey always gave the appearance of confidence that I couldn't match. I know now that she didn't always feel that sure of herself, but she could fake it 'til she could make it. I remember her teaching me how to schmooze at networking breakfasts we went to when we were starting to promote BelleFare Communications. She made it look so easy.

Even when she was flat on her back, cancer making bones increasingly fragile, Joey radiated strength. I was her caregiver and helped mother her children and well as my own. She still ruled the roost. Like any good "big sister" she felt she knew what was best for me. One thing she got absolutely right - I needed to be writing. So she organized time for me to do that and she insisted I had to be serious about it. This time I was going to get published.

Yesterday was the book launch for Under A Texas Star (and Rowena Throught the Wall and Cheat the Hangman). We had it at the Wooly. Ten years ago, we were celebrating Joey's fortieth birthday there.

My friend and current boss, Garry Ryan, was quoted in the Calgary Herald saying: “I set myself a goal to have a novel published by the time I was 40 and it happened when I was 50.”

I managed to have my first novel published in time for Joey's 50th birthday. She only made it to age 42, but I'm still counting the birthdays and this one was a landmark.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Midnight Ramble


Shadows dance across the trees,
of things that you can not see.

The feeling of an evil power,
beware, it's now the witching hour.

From the Witching Hour by Makala Shay

Happy Hallowe'en

The midnight hour is almost upon me as I write this. My kids are snug in their beds with dream of Snicker Bars and Cheetos dancing in their heads. Somewhere, Linus is waiting for the Great Pumpkin. I'm contemplating the turning of the year.

In Celtic tradition, this is new year's eve. The old year has seen its harvest. The seeds of the new year are sewn in the frost. Winter isn't the death of the year, it's the gestation period before Spring is reborn.

Hallowed Evening is the crossroads and anything is possible at the crossroads. That's where ghosts of loved ones appear and demons can break through. Most of our Hallowe'en traditions stem from tricking or appeasing demons and evil spirits.

Ghosts have haunted me in the past. The ghost of my mother-in-law was the scariest - but only because her son was so sick and seeing ghosts under such circumstances is a little worrying. The ghost of my friend Allen was a comfort. I was at his funeral at the time and I felt he was satisfied. The first ghost I ever saw was my grandmother. I was six or seven at the time. She came to say good bye. When my mother told me the next morning that Grandma had died in the night, I already knew.

I've never seen a ghost on Hallowe'en... excepting kids in costumes.

The Witching Hour is upon me.

Some say the Witching Hour is three in the morning. That's the Devil's Hour. (I read somewhere that more people commit suicide at 3 am than any other time. All I know is that if I wake up at three, I have a devil of a time getting back to sleep.) Officially it's November 1. Generally I don't have a problem with midnight being the end of the day. Hallowe'en is different. The new day (and new year) awaits the dawn. Until then (and making allowances for the fact that I'm technically agnostic):

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!




Sunday, October 30, 2011

Deadly Legacy


One More Landmark on the Horizon

It's official. The title of my next book is Deadly Legacy. As I write this, the cover is under construction. No, the image to the side isn't it. I just can't help playing around with graphics.

While Jennifer Johnson, the cover artist who worked her magic for Under A Texas Star, creates, I have another landmark achieve. It's time to do the back cover blurb.Somebody tell me why writing a novel seem easier than condensing it down to three paragraphs that will convince a reader to buy your book.

Well, it isn't going to write itself, so if you'll excuse me...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kat Flannery is Chasing Clovers

Since I've always known I either wanted to be a writer or adventurer or both, I'm always curious to find out what motivates other writers. So, when I invited Kat Flannery, a fellow Imajin Books author, to do a guest blog, I asked her: 

What in your life drew you to becoming a writer, and what in your life led you to write this book?

Thank you, Alison for having me on your blog.

I’ve always loved to write - to create a story and characters in my head, and bring them to life. I write because I have to. I cannot go a single day without dialogue, description, or plots running through my mind. When I was young, I was known for telling tall tales. I’d take a scene and add my own flare, which of course was always over exaggerated, and long winded. If my older brother fell off his bike, I’d put my own bits and pieces in the story to make it interesting. Soon all our neighbourhood friends would think my brother fell off his bike while being chased by a rabid dog that almost bit his leg off. I rescued him by throwing a rock at the dog. See, much more interesting than just falling off a bike.

As I got older I began writing poetry, short stories, and songs (which were no good. You should know how to sing if you’re venturing down that path) I’d watch people while at work and I’d wonder where they came from, or if they had a hidden and dark past. My mind would wander, and I’d have to write. If I didn’t write, the ideas seemed to intensify until I’d finally sit down, pick up my pencil and allow the muse to flow. When I began having children the urge to write remained. I did however, write less while the boys were young, but as they got older, and I had some time to myself the writing bug increased.

The idea for Chasing Clovers didn’t come to me right away. There was no epiphany or bright light. No one wacked me across the head with a shovel, or slipped me a note under my door. I wanted to write a story that would touch people’s lives.

My Grandmother lost two children a month a part in the 50’s and I often wondered how she survived such an agonizing ordeal. How she raised four other children? How she made it through each day without crumbling? This is how my protagonist, Livy Green was born. I took the scenario of losing a child, turned the year back to 1884 and placed her inside a saloon. Then I began researching mail order brides. What would make a woman marry a man she’s never met before? One word popped into my head...desperation. This was the meatballs I needed with my spaghetti! And soon the book emerged in my cluttered head, to flow freely from my fingertips and onto my keyboard.

The message in Chasing Clovers is simple: Hope.

Livy is grieving the loss of her child. She is angry and resents those around her. She doesn’t think she deserves a second chance at life, or at love. But John Taylor changes all of that. He demands that Livy, distant and cold, fit into his family and raise his two children.

John and Livy’s journey of pain, loss, and turmoil, is also one of redemption, as they learn to overcome their hardships. And with the beauty of the golden Alberta fields surrounding them, renew their faith, love, and happiness in their tale of Chasing Clovers.



Happy Reading!
Kat

Kat's website: www.katflannery-author.com 
Kat's blog: www.kat-scratch.blogspot.com 
Like Kat on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Kat-Flannery/105465069558958
Follow Kat on Twitter: @katflannery1

Purchase Chasing Clovers here:
http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Clovers-ebook/dp/B005UFQMWA
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/95336



Monday, October 10, 2011

Thanks for everything - except the burnt pot

Twas the night before turkey
And this I did learn
Don't watch so much TV
That you let the pot burn

Whether it's the night before Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter, our family has certain traditions. My kids go to their Dad's and I spend the evening doing the prep work I couldn't possibly face first thing in the morning.

By this point, my daughter Kate will have baked up a storm and stayed up the night before cleaning up the kitchen. This year the bread didn't turn out but there's a pumpkin pie in the fridge and cookie dough waiting to be baked fresh. I stay clear of the kitchen while she works so I don't kvetch about the mess. By the time she lets me have the kitchen back, it's cleaner than when she started.


Now that's something to be thankful about.

My job is the turkey and stuffing - two kinds of stuffing. My niece Claire is vegetarian so I make a meat-free stuffing to fill a pepper that will be roasted for her lunch. I make a sage, onion, mushroom and sausage stuffing like my mother used to make - except that I like to saute my onions and mushrooms first. Also like my mum, I boil up the neck for the gravy. I also add the onion skins. They give the broth a richer flavour and colour.

Because I'm on my own, while I prepare food, I catch up on missed shows. Tonight I watched one NCIS, two Hawaii Five-O's, and a Criminal Minds. The stuffing was finished by the end of the first show but I wanted to give the neck a chance to cook. After all, if I went upstair to work, I might forget about the broth and burn the house down.

Instead, I just burned the pot.

I am thankful that my ex and I have a good system where both of us spend time with our kids on the holidays. I'm grateful that my nieces father and stepmother also do Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday so I can have all the kids together on Monday. I am especially thankful that there's a nice sized turkey in the fridge, washed and patted dry, ready to stuff and roast tomorrow. There are potatoes and brocolli ready to cook and a pie to be warmed for dessert. All fresh local foods. A bountiful harvest.

I'm not so happy about the burnt pot.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Night and Day

My Lego stand-in
Who Am I?
And what did they do with the real Alison Bruce?


I Am Not A Morning Person! Yet, here I am, waking up at 6:45 and writing my blog. The REAL me would have done it last night when this ersatz me was falling asleep at her laptop.

If it was just the last couple of days, I'd blame Word on the Street. All that sunshine and bonhomie takes it out of a person. If I had been in Vancouver instead of Toronto, I would have got wet instead of sun burnt and the bonhomie and a cup of coffee would be keeping me warm.

No, this started at least a week ago. One day I just woke up and thought - maybe I can get a few things done before I go to my corner. (No, I'm not a hooker. I work as a crossing guard outside my son's school.) I looked at my cell phone/watch/alarm clock and was shocked to find out I could work for more than an hour before I had to don clothes, sensible shoes, orange vest and stop paddle.

The real me - the me I've know since I was a child - gets up at the last moment possible to get ready for school/work/whatever. She is the master of the two-minute shower and the zero to sixty start when her alarm doesn't go off.

The real me doesn't fall asleep before eleven. Last night I made it to midnight, but that's because I had a deadline to meet. I used old coffee and willpower to stay awake that long. Usually I don't have to resort to such tactics until 2 am at least.

Maybe it's Marly Lander's fault. My heroine of Under A Texas Star would, like most people in the old west, rise with the sun - not that I can see much sign of sun out my window. She's resetting my circadian rhythm in preparation for completing the sequel to her book. If so, I'd like to remind her that I wrote most of her story in the wee hours of the night.

Oops - time for the two minute shower.

PS: For more on the Real Alison Bruce and Under A Texas Star, check out Morgen Bailey's interview which I mentally subtitle "I can't believe I answered the whole thing."




Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Deadly Deadlines

Have laptop... need coffee

I'm a little late with the blogging this week. I got this frightening email from my publisher asking me if my manuscript was ready. 

Almost, I said, not quite lying through my teeth.

I was doing so well with it until my laptop crashed. True, I do have a desktop computer I can work at. My work in progress resides on a flash drive just so I can go back and forth at will.

I prefer working on my laptop now. It isn't just that it's faster (excepting when Windows crashed and burned, taking all my other programs with it) - it's the portability. Even if I was willing to load my tower and monitor into the car, they wouldn't fit on a bistro table. If I did managed to get everything set up, there wouldn't be room for my coffee.

No coffee. No work.

Not that I can't make coffee at home. I have a drip coffee maker, a French press and an old fashioned, stovetop espresso maker. Sometimes when the need for caffeine outweighs my need to sleep eventually, I make the French pressed then pour a doppio espresso in it. 

What am I saying? I can drink two four-shot Americanos and still have a nap in the afternoon.

It isn't the coffee that makes me go out... well not only the coffee. It's the chance to get away from household chores, junk calls and ennui. Writing doesn't have to be a solitary profession if you get thee to a coffeeshop.

So, fittingly enough, the last few chapters of "Deadly Legacy"/"Deadly Succession" (the title is still in question), were finished next to Chapters -- at my local Starbucks.

Speaking of titles, which do you think works better: Deadly Legacy or Deadly Succession?

Vote in the poll on the side bar and/or comment below. (Choices, choices.)


Sunday, September 11, 2011

9 11 Memories

This is where I came in...

I'm not an avid news watcher. I prefer reading the news. That makes my timing for turning on the TV, just as the second crash was about to take place, all the more remarkable.

A couple of seconds was all it took to glue me to the TV for the rest of the day.

Since then, I have discussed conspiracy theories and the issue of terrorism vs act of war. I have no more answers now than I did that clear September morning. Whatever was behind the attack, whatever came after, I can only claim one thing: my unshaken faith that there are heroes in the world. They are the men and women, professional and volunteer, who tried to help in a near helpless situation.
 
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including my life."

Subsitute "My country/communitee/fellow being(s)" for "The United States of America" and you have a fair definition of hero. It certainly applies to the veterans of 9/11.

 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

BTS Book Contest

Back-to-School Special


I used to manage a comic book sale. While other stores had back-to-school specials on supplies, clothes, or electronics, we had a half-price sale on back stock comics.

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I thought I'd do the same for eBook copies of Under A Texas Star.

It's time to get back to lessons and tests, so I have a pop quiz for you. Answer correctly in the comments and receive a half-price coupon for Under A Texas Star. Just to make it more interesting, if I get more than 3 entries, one commenter will receive a free book coupon.

Pop Quiz

  1. Who is Adele Gumm?
  2. Where does she live?
  3. What subject does she teach girls in her school that boys don't need to study.

Hint: all the answers are in Nighthawk Talk

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Family Business



Pictured left is the t-shirt my daughter Kate wanted to get made when Canadian Voices Volume 1 was published. I might actually have gone for it if we had the spare cash.

Sam, my son, offered to go door-to-door. I didn't allow that either, but I did let him take the book into school. He sold two copies.

When Under A Texas Star was released in eBook format, he took my postcards to school to hand out to teachers. His idea, not mine. Kate is at high school now and doesn't have that kind of relationship with her teachers - so she hit up her bf's mother instead - and her bf.

Whenever I start feeling overwhelmed by the amount of marketing an author has to do these days, I remember my children and know that I'm not alone. This is a family business.

It's not just Kate and Sam. My nieces Sophie and Claire are part of my support system. Nor is it just book promotion that they help with. Many's the dinner that has been prepared by Kate or Sophie when I've been working to a deadline - or just on a roll. All show great patience when I use them as a sounding board or need to have questions repeated because my mind is elsewhere.

There are days when I'm convinced I'm getting no where  - "nobody likes me, everybody hates me...". Seeing Under A Texas Star on my bookshelf helps. I'm not just a published writer (been that for a couple of decades now), I'm a novelist. More than that, I'm a novelist with a Lego cowboy holding a Brickarms Colt Navy revolver, thanks to my son.

I've been the administrative manager of the Arthur Ellis Awards for a couple of years now. That is also a family enterprise. Sam helps with the hefting and unpacking of boxes. Kate is an able admin assist. Checklists are always easier with a second person helping.

I bring this up because both of them have asked if I'll enter my work in the contest. So far I've said no, partly because I am administering the contest. This was fine until Sam saw an Arthur in person. He loved the  hanged man and wanted me to have one. For my birthday he came up with the next best thing...


I love my family!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Moment in History

On The Hill
We were on our way to Ottawa when we heard that Jack Layton died.

I won't pretend to know much about the man, but I admired his style. In a dirty profession, he seemed by a bit cleaner than his opposition. Also, NDP was the first party I supported. I haven't supported them all the time since that first election when I exercised my right to vote, but often enough. I have a sentimental attachment to the man who brought the party to the position of Loyal Opposition.

My condolences to Jack's family and friends... and even his enemies. He will be missed.

On Bank Street



Monday, August 15, 2011

Under A Texas Star - Character Sketches

Fred

When other teenage girls were dreaming of a rich and/or famous and/or handsome husband, I dreamed of having my own butler. I wrote a story about him once. He would bring me tea and toast in the morning, make sure my clothes were clean and pressed, oversee the house and grounds keeping staff, be quietly in love with me, willing to stand up to me, and loyal to the death.

Movies like My Man Godfrey (and an intense dislike of house work) inspired my creation of the perfect butler/valet/lover. He was further influenced by a myriad of characters from Batman’s Alfred to Wooster’s Jeeves with a touch of Yoda for good measure.

George Victor Fredericks - known only as Fred in Under A Texas Star - is the result. One little wrinkle in the picture of the perfect valet cum major domo, Fred works for Jezebel the proprietor of Fortuna’s best saloon, casino, dining establishment and bordello.

In my dream cast, he might be played by the properly English Ralph Fiennes or Canadian Hugh Dillon. As a young man, he might have resembled one of the Saxe-Cobourg princes (like Albert Victor above). Fred’s past is murky and involves a violent crime which forced him to leave England and make his way in America.

In Under A Texas Star, Fred is the very model of a gentleman’s gentleman. Unfailingly polite, of service without being servile, he manages Jezebel and her staff with a velvet-covered iron rod. He has known Jase Strachan since he was a young, wounded soldier, rescued by Jezebel while escaping Richmond. A decade later, he still refers to the Texas Ranger as Master Jason and treats him accordingly.

“Sir?” Fred pointed to a chair. 
“I can shave myself.” 
“Please, sir. I've seen what happens when you shave yourself.” 
Marly sputtered on a mouthful of milk. 
Jase grumbled something unintelligible and sat down. 
“I'm thinking I'll keep a moustache,” he said. 
“As we well know, Master Jason, a moustache does not become you.” 
“That was years ago.” 
Marly watched in fascination as Fred lathered Jase's whiskers. Despite Jase's protests, the moustache was the first to go.

To Marly, Fred becomes a mentor and father figure. He helps her maintain her masquerade as well as teaching her useful skills like how to shave a man and how to make a decent pot of coffee.

As promised, Fred came over to the office so Marly could do the evening patrol. All was quiet and the chore was quickly accomplished. When she returned, Fred set out a sweet plate, then taught her how to make drip coffee.
"You might have better luck with this than the modern percolator from the office," he said.

After checking on her prisoners and making sure the back door was firmly locked, she put her rifle on the rack. Fred insisted that she take the more comfortable chair behind the marshal's desk.

When he had poured the coffee and trimmed the wick of the lantern, he sat opposite her and nibbled on a biscuit.

"Nothing is going on in town tonight," she said. "The only ones left are the hardened gamblers and the quiet drinkers. I might end up bringing in one or two of the drunks if the night gets cold."

"And the gamblers?"

"Any trouble they cause will be amongst themselves and over before I can do anything."

"You learn quickly. You and Marshal Strachan make a good team. But for two things, I would have your appointment as the town's lawmen become permanent."

"Two things?"

"One, neither of you would accept the appointment," Fred said.

She shook her head, bemused. It was difficult to shake the feeling that in his terribly stiff English way he was laughing at her.

"I suspect I know what you are thinking," he said. "If I have learned nothing else, I've learned that age does not always bring wisdom. Nor has my experience supported the idea that there is a weaker sex. I hear you've learned to play chess. Would you like a game?"
She suspected the game had already started.

All that and breakfast brought to me each morning? I still dream of having my own “Fred”.


Under A Texas Star is available in paperback at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble on sale in eBook format at Amazon.com , Amazon.uk and Smashwords.

Meet Jase Strachan on Nighthawk

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Guest Blog: Sherry Isaac

Welcome to guest blogger Sherry Isaac.
Sherry and I met in a church basement a couple of years ago. We both had stories accepted in Canadian Voices Volume 1. She got me involved with readings at Prana Cafe. I got her involved in Crime Writers of Canada. We've both come out with our first books in the same summer and now we've both guested on each others blogs.
Also check out an interview with one of Sherry's characters on Nighthawk Talk.

Life Scripted


Life isn’t scripted, but sometimes life makes for good script.

Or manuscript.

As the mother of four, I have oodles of fodder. Our dinner table talk is filled with stories. Some, admittedly, not suitable for print, due more to the amount of embarrassment to the protagonist rather than illicit content.

I started a tradition when I moved east and traded open prairie for Toronto skyscrapers. Tucked into Christmas cards a one-page letter, double-sided, narrow margins, 10-font type, encapsulated the past year of our busy lives.

I wasn’t writing for prosperity. I was keeping in touch, late at night, head bent over kitchen table, after the children went to bed. I always wanted to be a writer, a yearning I kept to myself because I was afraid to believe in the impossible. The letters were a secret indulgence in dreams.

And the letters cracked up my relations. Compliments rained in, along with comparisons to Erma Bombeck’s no-holds-barred, crayon-on-the-wall style. Compliments from friends. Compliments from critical family.

The spark was ignited.

Maybe I could write. Not that I would ever aspire to become the next Ms. B, but family anecdotes are fun. Bu maybe I could write fiction.

No matter the genre, life can’t help but trickle into fiction. Characters, conflicts, setting, relationships.

How could life not?

True life is as satisfying to write as fiction, and sometimes more. To take a real situation and massage it into pleasing prose, into storytelling art, and elevate it from dinner-table chatter to print, is a gift to my family. Recording family life is an honour. It is a labour of love.

If I Find It, Can I Hit You With It is featured in Storyteller (In Our Words, Inc., July 2011). An excerpt is printed here for your enjoyment. Only the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed.

If I Find It, Can I Hit You With It?

Mom, I can’t find my sweater. I can’t find my Frisbee. I can’t find my calculator, and I have a test today. I can’t find my lunch kit, my yellow shirt, my Etch-A-Sketch, my mood ring. Our days were riddled with missing items; the morning rush as we readied ourselves for work, school and daycare our witching hour.

One morning, big brother Jeremy was on the job while I took rare advantage of the unoccupied toilet. “Mom, Oscar can’t find his stop watch and he needs it for show and tell!”

“Tell him to look in his dresser,” I called from behind the bathroom door. “It should be in the top drawer, on the left, next to his Batman underpants and under his Joker pyjamas.”

“He says he’s already looked. I have to go or I’ll miss my bus.”

“It’s not there!” Oscar wailed, his campaign abandoned by his only brother.

“Then look again.”

“But I looked and looked and I still can’t find it!” My 7-year-old’s feet tapped a staccato rhythm on the carpet. From the tone in his voice I could tell he was on the verge of tears. It was a tragedy, to be sure.

Motherhood had induced me to become an expert at a variety of tasks: I could answer the phone and carry on an articulate conversation with a mouthful of toothpaste, I could nurse a baby as I folded laundry, and I could stop my urine in midstream for an indefinite period of time while I went in search of a missing stop watch. It was neon yellow and plastic, a give-away at a local store’s grand opening. Oscar was the store’s one-hundredth customer. The sentimental value was immense.

My son, glued to my heels, made wild accusations against his sister. “Savannah took it. She took it and she broke it. She took it and she broke it because I walked into the store before she did!”

Savannah popped her head into the hallway, dressed for school and armed with a blow dryer, her head still wrapped in a towel. “You shoved your way past me, you little twerp! And it’s a stupid prize, anyway. It doesn’t even work.”

I opened Oscar’s top drawer while he peered around my right hip. On the left, next to his Batman underpants and under the Joker pyjamas, lay the coveted stopwatch in all its fluorescent glory. I picked it up and handed it to him. “What did I tell you?”

“Well, it wasn’t there a minute ago!”

Of course not.


Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Guest Blogger - Melodie Campbell

Welcome to guest blogger (and good friend) Melodie Campbell. Melodie and I have been going through the first book process together... including doing readings together (check out the Pulp Fiction Night in the right column). Melodie is also on my Nighthawk Radio Blog with a character interview with Cedric.



Love that Villain

A very strange thing happened while writing my second book in the Rowena series… I appear to have fallen for my villain.

Yes, Thane is the hero, and Rowena is smitten with him, as she should be. But her literary creator has become more and more enamoured with bad boy Cedric – the villain of the piece. Cedric is determined to have Rowena to himself, and he will stop at nothing to get her, including selling his soul to Lucifer. Cedric messes with the black arts.

Cedric can mess with me anytime.

How the heck did this happen? I set out to write a fun and sexy adventure, with good guys and bad guys and spunky heroines. Love that Rowena. She’s everything I would like to be. Thane is a terrific match for her; strong, smart, loyal, handsome, and the King to boot. Arch enemy of Cedric of course.

And what about Cedric? He’s not as good looking as Thane. He probably isn’t as smart. His morals are questionable – maybe nonexistent. But he is cunning. He is dynamic. He is never, ever boring.

Cedric is the typical bad boy.

What it is about men who don’t fit the typical hero mode, but ‘bother’ us, somehow? That’s how Rowena puts it. “I didn’t like his looks – they bothered me.” Cedric has long red-gold hair. His eyes are green, and they have an eerie glow when he uses magic. He’s tall, broad and thoroughly masculine, with bands of muscles on his arms. And he draws her like a moth to fire…

Exciting, that’s the word. The bad boys in our past made us feel like we were alive. Living on the edge has its attractions…

So Thane may be the ideal man for Rowena, and for any woman. But Cedric will always be there, in the back of her mind, tempting…promising something that will take her beyond the ordinary, something delicious, enticing…

Damn, that’s attractive. I can’t kill him off.

ROWENA THROUGH THE WALL

Do you like comic time travel romance?
Meet Rowena Revel!

Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”

When Rowena falls through her classroom wall into a medieval world, she doesn’t count on being kidnapped – not once, but twice, dammit – and the stakes get higher as the men get hotter. Unwanted husbands keep piling up; not only that, she has eighteen-year-old Kendra to look out for, and a war to prevent. Good thing she can go back through the wall when she needs to…or can she?

“Hot and Hilarious!” Midwest Book Review
“Jack Sparrow meets Stephanie Plum” Former editor, Distant Suns Fantasy Magazine

Available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.
Follow Melodie’s comic blog at funnygirlmelodie.blogspot.com 
View trailer and read opening scene at www.melodiecampbell.com/


Melodie Campbell has been a bank manager, marketing director, comedy writer, college instructor and possibly the worst runway model ever. Melodie got her start writing comedy, so it’s no surprise that editors have called her fiction “wacky” and “laugh out loud funny”. She has over 200 publications and has won five awards for fiction. She is currently the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada, and has taught fiction writing for ten years.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Under A Texas Star - Character Sketches

 
Jezebel Revealed

  Hanging above the mirrors behind the bar was the biggest painting she had ever seen. Rendered in vivid oil color, a voluptuous, auburn-haired Amazon was draped and posed in a suggestive manner. It was so lifelike that Marly's jaw dropped and a deep flush rose in her cheeks.
   "If the boy's like that over my painting," a deep,  throaty voice said, "what's he gonna do when he meets the real thing?"

When I first envisioned Jezebel - the proprietor of The Oasis, Fortuna's classiest saloon and bordello - I pictured a young Jane Fonda crossed with Mae West. Now I add Catherine Zeta Jones to that mix for the sake of visuals, but mostly Jezebel is her own woman.

In the beginning, Jezebel's sole purpose was to make my heroine, Marly Landers, jealous. Not only did Jez have a past with Texas Ranger Jase Strachan, she was unmistakably a woman while Marly was successfully playing the role of a boy.
"Marly felt sick. It wasn't just the smell of perfume. Jase was ruggedly handsome, regardless of trail-worn clothes and untrimmed whiskers, whereas she looked plain and dirty. The only consolation she had in seeing her image in the mirror was the knowledge that her masquerade was safe."
Jezebel was every woman who ever undermined my confidence by making me feel plain and unattractive.

The Jane Fonda connection was very specific. My first favourite western was Cat Ballou. Cat dressed to seduce the man who ordered her father's death was my first working image of Miz Jezebel. There's a line in the movie when she admires the artwork in her mark's rail-car boudoir: "It's a regular Tintoretto!" That inspired Marly's introduction to Jezebel via her painting.

Getting back to women who undermined my self-confidence, I learned a few things between drafts of Under A Texas Star.

The most eye-opening lesson was finding out that one of those gorgeous women was equally in awe of me. She was tall, slim, and always had flawless hair and nails. Her hair and nails were her vanities. She was convinced she was too tall and too straight to be really pretty. Most of all, she didn't think she was  interesting. I doubt she would have traded her figure for mine - though we agreed that splitting the difference would work for both of us - but she envied my intelligence. She was about to start university classes part-time and was scared to death.

My most profound lesson was that projecting self-confidence is a survival trait. I started thinking about what Jezebel's past would have been like. She was the madame of a house in Richmond during the Civil War. Only a few years older than Jase, she would have had to been strong-willed and business-smart to rise to that position by her mid-twenties.

What did she have to do to survive when the war turned against the south? What connections had she forged that allowed her to not only survive, but flourish during the Reconstruction? I came to admire Jezebel. As I did, I allowed hints of Miz Jez's past to be revealed so Marly would respect her too.

As Cat Ballou would say, she's "a regular Tintoretto."


Under A Texas Star is now available in paperback at
Amazon.com
and on sale in eBook format at Amazon.com , Amazon.uk and Smashwords

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Under A Texas Star - Character Sketches

Marly Landers

Except that her dress is too new-looking, the model for Marly isn't a bad match. She's not too neat or too glamorous, and thanks to a little tweaking, she has the right coloured hair.

Is she how I originally pictured Marly? Not exactly. When I originally picture her she was more like me - albeit a younger me. In fact, Marly is based, at least partly, on a much younger me.

When I was ten, I was one of the tallest kids in my class. I reached my full five-foot-two stature by the time I was twelve. Times were different. My mother used to tell me, "Don't start a fight, but if you get into one, end it." By that she didn't mean walk away and report to a teacher. She meant win. My father - ever protective of his two daughters - taught us how to defend ourselves. My mother expected us to stand up, not only for ourselves, but the smaller and weaker kids.

As a result, I became something of a school yard vigilante, stepping between bullies and their prey. Even if the bully was bigger and stronger than me, I didn't back down. That got me a few bruises but no detentions as far as I can remember. Different times.

The tomboy who was tough enough to stand up to the big boys and had enough adolescent hormones running through her system to also be attracted to those boys, she's one of the inspirations for Marly Landers.

By high school, I'd gone from being one of the tallest kids in my class to being one of the shortest. I stayed five-foot-two (eyes of blue) until my doctor announced last fall that I was five-foot-one-and-a-half. Fortunately my negotiation skills improved because I didn't stop standing up for the underdog. There is one scene in Under A Texas Star that comes directly from personal experience. I got into a play-fight with my then boy friend. He had got my arm in a twist and was trying to force me to back down.

"If you're trying to break my arm," I said, "you're not being very efficient."

You'll have to read the book to see where that fits in with Marly, but like my boyfriend Dan, Marly's opponent backed down once he realized what he was doing.

The red hair, slight frame, and incredible endurance is all Marly. The stubborn streak and tenacity she gets from me.

Interview with Marly Landers.

If you haven't already, check out the Character Sketch for Jase Strachan.

Under A Texas Star is now available in paperback at
Amazon.com
and on sale in eBook format at Amazon.com
and Smashwords. (See Summer Sizzlers Sale)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guerilla Marketing for Books

 Writing for the Brand

If you’ve read Louis L’Amour, you might recognize the phrase “Riding for the brand.” Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings tell us that “They'll never stay home and they're always alone...” (Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys), but not all cowboys were drifters. Some stuck around, true to the ranch - the brand - that gave them a home.

In marketing it’s called brand loyalty.

John Locke, the author who has been dominating the trade news by being the first indie to join the million eBooks sold club, devotes pages of How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months to the importance of brand loyalty. He tells us to “find your target audience and write for them” and to develop readers who will read anything you write for that brand (you can have more than one). Locke is applying principles to writing fiction and e-publishing that Jay Conrad Levinson shared with us in Guerilla Marketing. Find your niche and stick to it.

What about artistic integrity?

We aren’t cowboys - we’re the ranchers. We create the brand. Our loyalty is to what we’ve crafted and the readers who ride with us. Fortunately, loyalty doesn’t preclude variety. We can have more than one brand that can serve different target audiences.

Under A Texas Star combines mystery, romance and “accurate settings, genuine voice, and unexpected humour” (Amazon Reader Review). When you pick up its sequel (which will have “star” in the title) you can expect the same style of story.

My near-future mystery series, debuting next year, will have a different brand. You’ll know that you’re reading Alison Bruce as surely as I can tell whether I’m listening to Mozart or Beethoven, but the brand will be different. You might like my westerns but not this series - or vice versa - but I intend that if you like one book in the series, you’ll enjoy them all.

I’m writing for the brand.

Alison Bruce
www.alisonbruce.ca
twitter.com/alisonebruce 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guest Blog: Catherine Astolfo

It's so nice knowing that you aren't the only one who subjects your family to forensic research...

The Weird and Wonderful Workings of the Criminal Mind

I am taking a lovely, summery day ride in the car with my husband. Our favorite rock and roll music wafts in the background. A fine cooling breeze lifts our hair and our arms are being tanned as we lean casually through the open windows.

Inside my head, it’s a different picture altogether. Down in a dark, dank basement, a man lies slowly bleeding to death from a shotgun wound. I am contemplating how long it would take him to die, when my husband asks me what I’m thinking. Unfortunately for him, I tell him. This is a scenario from Book One.

A large raccoon is splayed upside down in the slope of the ditch on my right. He is stiff and awkward on his back, lips pulled back in an angry grimace. Maggots crawl out of his mouth and flies swarm everywhere. I can hear their frenzied delight as we stop for a red light. I am fascinated. Book Two!

Next we pass a burned-out shell perched forgotten on a side road. I am thrilled to see it. I ask my husband to stop so I can get out and breathe in the scorched wood smell and the stench of furled plastic and dead things underneath the ash. Great experience for Book Three.

Forensics for Dummies, Until You Are Dead, Criminal Investigative Failures – these are the books which dominate my shelves during the writing of Book Four. Along with questions to which I find an answer through Sisters in Crime’s forensics specialist: Can you paint scenery on a dead body?

Lucky for me, my husband is not only tolerant but is actually enabling of my weird and wonderful way of thinking. He likes my books, helps edit them in fact, and isn’t easily startled or frightened. As the step-father of children who are involved in the film industry and grandfather to a budding musician, he is also used to the fact of fantasy: that my novels will be international best-sellers, that our films will make us Hollywood darlings, that our drummer grandson will be famous, and that we’ll walk the red carpet together some day. One perspective on all of this is: why you? There is a massive amount of competition in those industries. My perspective is: why not us?

If you are in the mood to traverse the book, film and music industry, here are some places to visit: www.catherineastolfo.com; www.sisbro.net; or check out Pocket City on Facebook. Enter my fantasy world. Enable my weird and wonderful criminal mind if you dare.

Catherine Astolfo is an award-winning author of the Emily Taylor Mystery Series and several short stories. The Emily Taylor Mysteries are available on Amazon: The Bridgeman, Victim, Legacy, and Seventh Fire.


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