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Musings? Nah. Random thoughts? Maybe. In between writing, painting, working and washing dishes, Sandra Cormier attempts to reach out to... well, anyone, really.

Updated: 2018-03-05T22:43:41.263-05:00


A Lady of Wales


My beautiful neighbour Lilian (I first knew her when I was 12 years old when we moved to this town) celebrated her 95th Birthday on Sunday, and I went to her care facility to share good wishes along with her family and our other neighbours.She hasn't been in her home since August, as she'd been suffering from anxiety, loss of balance and forgetfulness. When I finally saw her two days ago, she looked at me with a glimmer of recognition, but I wasn't sure if my face clicked with her. It took a few seconds, but she finally said, "Elaine is staying at the house?" I assured her that her daughter was keeping an eye on the place.I had been watching over Lilian for several years before that. She was always active, and self-sufficient. She was a champion lawn bowler, and active in the Euchre community. She had called me in tears from Florida twenty years ago when her husband died suddenly in Florida.But in the last year or so, she'd begun to forget stuff.I had watched her kitchen window every morning, and if she slid the curtain aside, I knew everything was okay. If I saw her picking up fallen twigs in the yard, I knew she was fine.In the past year, she often called me to investigate strange noises. I scampered next door to listen. The first time, it was a cricket. The second time, it was feedback from her hearing aid.We laughed about it, and she told me she was okay and didn't want to leave her home. Her children (at least a decade older than me) had been discussing her situation with her for several months. I sensed she was in denial, as I had to help her a few times over the last couple of years - once when she'd wrenched her back in a fall.She is now in a local care facility, and it looks pretty fancy to me. Her daughters and son are in the process of cleaning out her home in preparation for selling it. It has to be done.Her most beloved possessions are with her. She doesn't remember most of the things that had accumulated in the bungalow since the 1960s. The "kids" gave me free rein to choose the things left behind.It feels weird, claiming items that a person who isn't family had owned for decades. I feel like a museum curator.I chose a mid-century modern chair that the son had built in high school. I checked with him; he was okay with it. A small hand-painted wooden sailboat. A Coleman cooler from the Sixties. Several dishes and crystal stemware. A vacuum cleaner because  mine is deceased. The "kids" told me I could sell any items I claimed if I wished. They are fully aware that I had watched over their mom when they were too far away to do it themselves. This might be their way of saying thanks.Back to the party. The party was full of joy. We shared stories, lasagna, and lukewarm tap water (we forgot the sodas). Lilian's son shared a slide show - remember those? - of her birthplace in Wales and the places they had lived in Scotland. His Scots accent crept into the narrative as he talked.It is love, all around.[...]

Cathy Elliott - June 5, 1957-October 15, 2017


She was my sister. I looked up to her all my life. We fought, we laughed, we sang together. She commandeered my junior guitar and taught herself to play. She danced. She leapt. She never looked left or right - only forward. We shared everything -- bedrooms, clothes, shoes, friends... Heck, I even introduced her to her first husband when we were still in high school. We canoed. We hiked. We chased sunsets, birds and bears. We watched a thousand frogs cross a road on a rainy night, and laughed hysterically when one of them hopped in place in the middle of the road, illuminated by Peter's Volkswagen bus headlights. Little did I know back then that a rainy night and headlights would take her from me. Two weeks ago, my sister ventured out into a stormy night on a country road near her home. She was hit by a car while avoiding another that was approaching from the opposite direction.Many will talk of her accomplishments in musical theatre. Her selfless work helping Indigenous youth find their own paths through art and music. Her contact with royalty and Justin Trudeau. Her amazing works of art in oils, acrylic, multimedia. Her amazing dedication to our M'ikmaq roots.But she was my sister.I'll miss you, Sisty. But you will always visit me in my dreams.[...]

A Rose is a Rose


Nanny/Frannie's rose bush went through a few hiccups over the years. Nanny had given the plant to Mom when she visited back when I was a teen. There was the time my brother in law took an axe to it after Mom asked him to "cut down" the rose bush. She meant "cut back." Anyway, nothing was left but the root stock and Mom was so upset. But Pete was forgiven.

Years later, after Mom moved away and after Nanny passed, the roots fought their way out of the dirt and put out tentative branches. A couple of tiny red blooms blooms emerged. I told Mom and she was so happy. She said it was Nanny saying hello.

This year, the bush seems to have a new life, with more little red blooms bursting through the day lilies on the neighbour's side of the fence.

On the same note, Uncle Bob's spectacular roses next door were being dug up by the tenant last fall. I showed up just in time. He must have seen the look on my face, so he quickly offered them to me. I immediately dug a spot in the corner of the yard and popped them in. Not good soil, but I didn't want them to die from exposure. This spring, they seem to be making a comeback. The pink rose is one of Uncle Bob's, with the flamingo from his late daughter's wedding in the background. I'll try to augment the soil with some compost when I can.

I don't know much about roses, but I feel a connection with these plants and I hope they can bring joy to future generations.

Uncle Bob used horse poop. Maybe I gotta go find some horse poop.

A New Site


Hi! Wanted to let you know that I have a dedicated blogger site to post my paintings. I'm trying to figure out why I can't fix the layout on this blog, since I have multiple Google accounts. I'll figure it out eventually.

In the meantime, you can view my paintings at:

I recently joined a local art collective, and entered a local show. I'm going to a social to meet other local artists later this week.

Wish me luck making sense of all this!

New Job, New Perspective


Hi, friends!First of all, I apologize for the state of my website. I have no books out there at present, so the domain is sitting there like my great uncle's deserted farmhouse, with old furniture barely being held up by rotting floorboards, and a colony of bees taking up residence.I realize my latest surviving book, Bad Ice, now out of print, is still on the front page, but I haven't figured out how to change it. My son (who is a tech wizard) said, "Here's a program, just do this and this and this and this." Of course, all of it went way over my head. I'll figure it out if I ever get another book accepted by SOMEBODY.In the meantime, I got a new job. You might remember that after 23 years in the newspaper industry, I found myself with a lot of free time in the last couple of years. Yes, I wrote. Yes, I queried. Yes, I networked. I powered through a brief stint in retail, but realized it wasn't for me.Later, a friend recommended a company that supplies charity events with silent auction items. They set everything up, schmooze with the patrons, and take the money at the end. The company approached me in September, and I was in!I get to choose how often I wish to work, and although the shifts are long and sometimes physically draining, I find it very rewarding. I've dropped a few pounds since I started, so that's good.The best thing: I get to meet fascinating people! This past week, I was fortunate to work at the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and met such legends as Sandy Hawley (jockey), Ron Ellis (Toronto Maple Leafs legend), Chris Schultz (football), Tony Fernandez (Blue Jays World Series Champion), and the family of Frank Selke Sr. and Jr. (part of the Montreal Canadiens dynasty).Johnny Bower had a rest at our cashier table.He had photos all ready to sign in his pocket. Always be prepared!Me and Sandy Hawley. We are the same height. I told him I had a crush on him when I was twelve.Some guy is giving us the side eye, or photobombing us. I can't tell which.There were others whom I admired from a distance, but I remained professional and didn't bug them.Maybe this new gig will give me inspiration to keep writing. I hope so.[...]

Almost Hockey Season, so.... Hockey.


A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate to indulge in one of my passions: hockey. My son texted me and asked if I wanted to go along with him and a bunch of fans to Ottawa to watch Team Canada in a closed practice for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey. He had won the experience because he was a subscriber to a sports internet service. Of course, I jumped at the chance.We met up at the Air Canada Centre. A big white bus with a flashy World Cup of Hockey logo waited for us. As we settled in with about 20 other fans and media people, I looked at the front of the bus and noticed a familiar face.I turned to my son and whispered, "Steve Dangle is on the bus." Steve "Dangle" Glynn is a popular hockey blogger and Youtube contributor, who gives hilarious and impassioned commentaries after Toronto Maple Leaf games. My son had alerted me to these great posts a year ago, and I've always enjoyed the posts and Steve's Twitter feed.I whispered, "I'm going up to say Hi." I moved to the front of the bus, and casually said, "Fancy meeting you here."Steve did a double take. "I know you. I recognize you from your profile picture."I smiled and grabbed a cereal bar from the front seat. "Great to meet you. Just grabbing a cereal bar." I then darted back to my seat like I'd just robbed someone.During the five-hour trip, the organizers made speeches and we played trivia games. When my name was called out, Steve mentioned IN FRONT OF EVERYONE, "Sandra's cool. She follows me on Twitter."My son also follows him, but to be fair, his profile picture isn't immediately recognizable. Doesn't matter, because we both got to spend time with Steve later.After getting settled at our hotel we met at the hotel bar for cocktail hour. We had all received swag bags containing a World Cup of Hockey Canada baseball cap, and a great fleece hoodie. Most of us wore our hats down to the bar but I forgot mine.A surprise guest showed up in the bar.... Drew Doughty. He plays for the LA Kings, and was very sweet, letting everyone pose for pictures. I begged for an extra hat so I could get it signed, promising to bring mine back from the hotel room, 'cause I'm nice that way. :)We posed outside as a group in front of the bus. I offered to hunker down (I'm 5'2") in front of Drew (6'100"). He muttered from behind me, "You don't have to hunker down."After Drew was swept away in his fancy vehicle, we all walked to the RS Bar & Grill a few blocks away, and stopped to admire the canal in the sunset. Dinner was great, and we all traded hockey stories. A few of Steve's fans dropped in after dinner and we all talked for a while longer.Most of the others had left by then, so it was up to me to remember how to get back to the hotel. They let me shepherd them back, because I'm a Mom. We talked about video games and animated TV shows.The next morning, we checked out and boarded the bus for the short trip to Canadian Tire Centre, just outside of Ottawa. We had a special spot taped out for us, along with a few other local contest winners. On the other side of the eerily empty arena sat some media members, and probably some scouts and NHL brass.I crept down to the glass, and got lots of great shots of Team Canada running through drills -- Corey Crawford, Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Getzlaf, Couture, etc. I should've worn my free hoodie because despite the hot, humid day, I was FREEZING in that arena! It's cold when there aren't 20,000 people warming it up with their bodies.Speaking of empty arenas, I heard every creak of the goalies' pads, and the echo of the pucks slamming on the boards. I heard most of Coach Babcock's lectures, too. I have many more pictures, you might want to check out my Facebook author page if you like hockey.Too soon, we had to get back on the bus for the ride home. I will remember this trip forever. Thanks, Son, for including me.p.s. They let me keep the extra hat so I gave it to my hubby (we'll share, and put the signed one in our [...]

What's Happening?


Yup... haven't been here for a while, but it doesn't mean I haven't been busy. I created art, wrote words, took pictures, got a job at a local Canadian home and hardware franchise, and have been trying my best to continue my role as a Domestic Diva.

It's been a hot, humid (can you say humid when it hasn't rained much?) summer, and the good part is I've only had to mow the lawn a few times. The job at the local store caused me to lose ten pounds, mostly due to standing for hours at a time and lifting gallons of paint and motor oil from one side of the counter to the other. There are benefits to retail, folks!

Last week I went with a friend to attend a local live talk show, and managed to get my picture taken with Marci Ien and Cynthia Loyst, as well as Donna, who got me into the show at late notice. Maybe someday, I'll be a guest! Today, one of the hosts read my tweet live on the air. My tiny moment of fame...

During the spring, I completed three large oil paintings with the hope of being accepted into a high profile art show and sale this autumn in Kleinburg. Alas, I didn't make the cut, but they seemed very positive with their rejection. Yes... I know rejection very well, so I took it in stride and I'll keep painting.

I did manage to profit from a couple of commissions, and I thank the lovely writer friends who gave me the opportunity to capture the spirits of their dogs and horse. You can see the recent additions on my sidebar.

The writing part of my journey is giving me pause. Since my enforced semi-retirement, I completed a novel and started another. The completed novel had a few "close but no cigar" moments, an experience which can be both inspiring and devastating. I'll take a little from column A and column B.

I have set it aside for a bit to spruce up my hockey romantic suspense that had enjoyed a seven-year stint in the e-publishing world. Maybe I can find it another home, and then I can hitch up my Big Girl pants and continue with the new book.

Patience. Patience. Work. Patience. Hope.

Did I tell you about the fox and the cat? It happened a year ago this week. I still have the scars, as the cat nestles beside me, oblivious to the nightmare that we caused. But that's a post for another time.

Times Are a' Changing


Hello Friends!

Nine years ago, I opened this blog because my first book, THE SPACE BETWEEN, was about to be published by a lovely little publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I was so excited, and certain that the publication of my first book would lead to bigger and better things.

I made a lot of friends, and even a few people who called themselves fans. I released two more books, BAD ICE and THE TOAST BITCHES, with two different publishers. Three, if you count The Bitches' short run at Musa Publishing. Book One and Book Three ran their courses, and now sit on my hard drive, hoping to be re-released in some shape or form. I hope they're not holding their breath, because they will probably remain there.

For all these years, Champagne Books was the home of my second book, the hockey romantic suspense BAD ICE. Last night, I made the difficult decision to ask for the return of my rights. J. Ellen Smith was kind enough to grant it.

We had become friends over the years. I expressed my concern when her Calgary home was flooded. I befriended fellow authors in the group.

Sales have not been good. The publisher is doing well, but they have focused their attention on newer releases, and I wish them great success.

I'm still writing. I'm still trying. This blog will not disappear. I wanted to give up many times, but the writing community has always pulled me back and enveloped me with love and encouragement. There WILL be another book.

In the meantime, if you want to read about a hockey player with a heart of gold and a troubled past, and a young single mother with a little hockey-playing six year old daughter, and a psycho bitch who wants to destroy their happiness..... Get BAD ICE while you still can.

Until better news comes along... or until I feel like writing about the stupid cat, see you on the flip side.

BAD ICE  is available (until it isn't) at the following sites:
Champagne Books

I'm Still Here


I'm sitting in my living room, printing mailing labels and putzing around on Twitter. I finished a painting. Well, actually, I did two paintings: One for a writing friend, and the other will be my contribution to a local fundraiser for Indigenous youth in Canada.

Have I been writing? I've been thinking about it. I open my WIP and stare at it for a while, and then close it. Then I open it again. I write words. I close it.

The writing life is an enigma. People say it's a solitary craft, yet these days I am surrounded by writers in the cyber world. Successful writers, aspiring writers, encouraging writers and distant writers. They all have something to say about this crazy occupation, and I alternately toggle between hope and despair.

When I first left the workforce after 23 years as a graphic artist, I had visions of being a domestic goddess, creating art with my words and my paintbrush while surrounded by pastoral sunshine in my back yard. Sure, I had moments where I was satisfied with my accomplishments, whether they be refinished folding chairs or a rearranged living room.

I experimented in the kitchen, and honed my photography skills. I volunteered. I wrote. I chased around the local wildlife. I got mauled by my cat (that's a whole story in itself).

Now I sit here, waiting again for Spring, and doing my best to find my place in the world. Sure, hubby loves my culinary creations, and my sister loves the fact that I've embraced the art of Silent Auction Coordinating. My paintings are admired, but I have yet to pay for more than groceries with the proceeds. Agents love my writing, but don't know where to sell it.

As I jab at the ground lamb in my frying pan and contemplate my predicament, I realize that my problems are nothing compared to the millions of individuals who wake up every day, wondering if it's worth seeing the end of that day. Today is #BellLetsTalk day, when we talk about mental illness, and do our best to erase the stigma that is attached.

Generations before ours suffered in silence, and used (even today) suicide as a final escape from their pain. People with social anxiety were bullied. Angry men were simply told to stop being jerks. Maybe they suffered from depression and as a result, alienated their families and died lonely.

Mothers self-medicated with wine because they dreaded the next PTA meeting, fearing that they would be singled out. Some were afraid to leave their own homes because crowds made them feel as if they were about to drown.

Now we have a chance to understand why that friend constantly backs out of social engagements, or why a co-worker cries in the bathroom stall or takes a lot of sick days. They aren't selfish, or wimpy, or weaklings. They're not just seeking attention. They might be truly suffering, and our understanding and support can help them get through the mire that's holding them back.

Listen to them.

Apple Cheeseball Again Because I Love It


A few years ago, I posted a recipe for Apple Cheeseball, an appetizer that had been floating around the Interwebs and magazines since the mid-Nineties. I decided to post my version again this Holiday Season. It adds an artsy, tasty element to any gathering, and apples have been harmed in the making of this treat.


1 package cream cheese, softened (about 8 oz)
1 - 1 1/2 cups finely shredded sharp or old Cheddar cheese (white if you can get it)
Paprika (preferably smoked, but Spanish will do - fresh and red!)
A cinnamon stick
1 or 2 bay leaves
Worchestershire sauce or hot sauce (optional)
Garlic powder or ground spices (optional)

Mix the two cheeses, the sauce if you've got it (and any savory or zippy spices you like) together with your hands until well mixed. Or use a food processor if you're squeamish about getting your hands goopy.

Form it into a ball about 3 or 4 inches around, and shape like an apple, with a little dimple at the top. Use plastic wrap if you think it's too messy. Chill it for a while.

Roll the ball in the paprika until nicely coated and red. You can brush off any excess.

Stick a cinnamon stick in the top to represent the apple stem, and a bay leaf or two to represent apple leaves. Put it on a small plate, surrounded with crackers, pita pieces or those little toasty slices with a nice knife. The first person to cut a chunk out will make it look like someone's taken a bite out of the apple!

My friends claim I came up with this recipe, modified from some other cheeseball, but I probably got it from a magazine. My friend Debbie asked for the recipe, and when she made it for family it was an instant hit. She passed it on to her daughter, who got the attention of her college dean's wife. Debbie appreciated the contribution so much she gave me that cute little leaf-shaped plate to put my apple on.

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays! (Yes, I'm still writing. Shut up.)

Handy With a Skillet


Between bouts of revisions and writing and querying and painting, I decided to invent a dish inspired by this quarter's LCBO Food & Drink Magazine. They had some cast iron skillet supper recipes, and my brain said, "DO SOMETHING WITH STEAK!"So, today I did it. It passed the husband test, so I'm sharing it with you. Please note: I don't post recipes the normal way, I type the way I think, which can be a bit haphazard. I hope you can follow my train of thought.Steak Sandwich Skillet PizzaINGREDIENTS:1 store bought pizza dough, room temperature, or make your own, enough for one medium pizza.6-8 oz. boneless steak. I used 2 portions of Walmart Black River Angus Frozen Steak, thawed and sliced.1 large sweet red pepper, sliced thinly1 Small onion, sliced thinly1 tsp minced garlic 2 tbsp Caramelized Onion– I found a jar of President's Choice at the Real Canadian Super Store. It's tasty, not too sweet or salty. If you don't have store bought, make your own. Google it...? Or leave it out, whatever.½ cup broccoli florets, frozen or fresh (optional 'cause hubby didn't like those during the focus group testing, but I liked it)2 tbsp steak sauce plus a bit to drizzle (I used HP Sauce)½ cup shredded mozzarella cheeseOlive oilSalt & pepper1-3 oz stout or whisky or chicken stock to deglaze pan1 Tsp. Worcestershire sauce or to taste.WHAT TO DO:Preheat oven to 450F.Press the dough in an oiled, seasoned 9 inch cast iron skillet. Push it up around edges of the pan. Prebake for 5 to 7 minutes.Meanwhile, fry steak in a bit of oil (also seasoned with salt & pepper) in a sautée pan. Drizzle some Worcestershire while it's browning. When browned, set aside, covered in a bit of foil.If the five minutes are up for the skillet dough, take it out of the oven and put the pan in a safe place.Meanwhile, add a bit more oil to the sautée pan and cook the vegetables with garlic and salt & pepper, until tender.Remove vegetables to a bowl. Deglaze the sautée pan with good stout. I didn't have any so I used an ounce or two of Scotch and a bit of chicken stock, to loosen up the "fond" or browned bits at the bottom of the pan. Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula, and let the liquid thicken a bit.Tip the deglazed mixture into the bowl of vegetables. Add the caramelized onion if you have it. Add the two tablespoons of steak sauce, and mix.Spread the veggie mixture into the partially baked crust. Spread the cooked steak on top of that.Top everything with shredded mozzarella and a drizzle of steak sauce.EDITED: Bake a further 10-20 minutes in oven. I originally said 20 minutes, but if the oven is at 450F, I can't remember if I really had it at that temperature. Perhaps reduce the oven a bit, and keep an eye on it! Take it out when the crust is a nice brown.Drizzle with more steak sauce if you wanna.Serves four normal people, or two really hungry ones.[...]

Do Not Adjust Your Set


Sorry, folks... it seems my website went AWOL, having hitched a ride in a Raspberry Pi to the city. My technical guru will round it up and corral it properly, as soon as possible. In the meantime, any pertinent information on the website (which needs a redesign anyway) is available on the sidebar of this blog. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Stay tuned!

Edited to add: Dear Guru has revived the website, and it is now ALIVE!!!! ALLLLIIIIIVE!

The Family That Slays Together Stays Together


Don't worry, we weren't going to slay anything except paper. That's what the Range Officer quipped when the four of us showed up at the shooting range last weekend. My son, a licensed gun owner, wanted his family to experience what it was like to shoot a rifle. He owns three guns: A Norinco JW25A 22, an SKS semi automatic, and a Mosin Nagant Model 1891.As a writer, I figured it was important to learn how to shoot a gun, so that if I ever wrote about it, I'd know how it feels.Off we went, on a two-hour drive to a facility in the Niagara region, on the coldest, wettest day of late summer. As we moved south, the skies lowered and the rain increased. By the time we got there, it was a regular Winnie The Pooh Blustery Day.I was dressed for the weather, but the rest of the family wasn't. Still, they wanted to power through and get on with it after such a long trip.Eye and ear protection was mandatory. After we provided ID and paid up, we were given identification tags, ear plugs and protective eye wear. Good thing, because when we approached our area, other patrons were already at work, shooting at their targets. I nearly jumped out of my skin every time I heard an explosion.Don't I look badass?I wore rubber paddock boots, so I slogged through the mud and helped my son affix our paper targets with a staple gun to the corrugated plastic backings 50 yards away. Large earth hills loomed behind the targets to absorb any bullets that went through the cardboard or missed the targets.The shooting area was covered, so the rain was kept off us, if not the wind. The Range Officer offered my daughter one of his camo jackets, and she huddled into it between turns.We took turns, learning how to load the guns as the Range Officer looked on and gave advice as needed. My son was a good teacher, showing us how to handle the equipment safely. We started with the easiest model, the Norinco JW25A .22, a copy of a WWII training rifle. Since the cartridge tended to bend the bullets, we fed them into the chamber one at a time and ejected the casing after each shot.The trigger of the .22 was feather light. I remembered to squeeze, not pull. The sound it gave was a loud pop. I could see the target, but unfortunately my 56 year old eyes couldn't clearly line up the sights on the gun. I did the best I could, under the circumstances. My daughter watched the targets through a spotting scope to tell me if I at least hit my paper, and I adjusted accordingly. I managed to get the outer part of the center circle a couple of times.The picture below is my daughter trying the .22.The SKS semi automatic could technically hold ten bullets about 2.5 inches long, but according to Canadian law, it was equipped to take only five. I held the butt of the stock firmly into the meat of my shoulder while pushing my cheek into the side of the gun. It was a good thing, otherwise it could have jumped out of my hands. The explosion was much louder than the .22, making me glad I was wearing good ear plugs. The casings popped out the side with every shot. We were told to keep a second or three between shots and not to go "Pop pop pop pop pop," like they do in the movies. With each shot, a curl of smoke rose from the chamber, along with the smell of sulfur.While my daughter tried the SKS, I looked through the scope to tell her if she'd hit the target. The holes the rounds made were three times the size of the .22 holes. Whenever a round passed through the target, a spray of mud exploded against the dirt hill behind.Once, while my daughter was shooting and I was spotting through the scope, a casing popped upward and landed on the top of my head. Good thing I was wearing a hat, because they come out hot. (The shooting range safety rules suggest that women[...]

A Tale of Too Many Tables


Back in the mid-Seventies, my dad came home for a visit from his job in Algeria. He lugged along a gift for my mom - a tooled brass table with a wrought iron folding stand. It looked like a giant plate.He called it a Meshwi dish. He said North Africans used it as a serving dish for traditional cooking.Loosely translated, "meshwi" means barbecued meat. He said the food was placed on the big plate, and people sat around it on cushions and ate with their hands. I tried to look it up, but I can't find much information.Mom used it as a coffee table, and she when she moved to took it with her to New Brunswick to be closer to her family, it went with her. When she passed away, my sister took custody of the table, but was unable to find a place for it.So she gave it to me, and I polished it up and placed it in the same spot where it had sat for many years, in what is now my living room.I then went on the hunt for a glass top for it, to protect the brass and to make it a level surface for coffee table stuff. An estimate of $200 seemed a bit steep, so I found a glass coffee table at a discount store for half the price. The top fit beautifully.Now I had a set of tripod legs from the coffee table. I thought, "Hey, I should look for a nice big round tray to put on it, and it could be used in the backyard for parties."Well, it was hard to find a round tray big enough, and I took my little tape measure to Homesense. I found a wooden disk, rather heavy, and kind of expensive. But I had my birthday money, so I bought it.When I got it home, I discovered it wasn't wide enough for the tripod base, but I liked it. My husband informed me that it was the lid of a wooden barrel, or cask.Neato. It would make a great cheese board! I could serve whisky and wine on it! How provincial!But I still wanted a stand for it. I was getting groceries at the Super Store, and they had cheap metal tray tables. Twelve bucks! And a round metal tray to put in the middle of my brass table instead of the square one I had purchased for three bucks at Value Village!So, I took the base and placed the cask lid on top, and now I have another table.I'm starting to run out of floor space, but when my eyes rest on items that either bring back memories or make new ones, I am happy.Now all I need are a few people to come over and drink some wine and eat some cheese. And maybe eat some Meshwi, too.Oh, also, I have a set of tripod legs still looking for a table top. I think I'll just tuck 'em under the stairs in the danger room for now. Let me know if you come across a round tray at least 26 inches wide.[...]

Holding Pattern


Hi, Everyone!
While I'm polishing my latest manuscript (again) I thought I'd let you say hello to the assortment of woodland creatures that frequent our little property in the middle of town. Enjoy!

p.s. I strongly suspect that #7 recently ate #1...

Things Are Different, Yet The Same


Hi Friends,I thought I'd check in with you and let you know that I'm still alive, I'm still writing, and I'm still unemployed (smiles). Although I haven't been in an office environment for the past few months, I did use my time wisely by writing, editing, polishing and querying my latest novel.I also re-purposed thrift store finds, expanded my cooking skills (I still chop slowly and carefully, though), took lots of pictures, rearranged the furniture a dozen times, and generally morphed into a well-rested and happy person.I also ventured out of my comfort zone and accepted a short gig as a set and props assistant at a mini-series shoot in Midland, Ontario. In the dead of winter, we shot footage for a U.S. TV series about Saint Kateri. I hand-built rosaries for 17th Century Jesuits, and moved candles and feather quills around on set so they'd show up perfectly in the camera frame. I kept a native warrior warm between takes with a wool blanket, ran back and forth in the snow to retrieve forgotten props, and picked up the director's clipboard when he forgot it in the slush. Ah, the life of an assistant, with a glue gun in one pocket and a staple gun in the other.Later, I volunteered with DAREarts First Roots, where my sister Cathy Elliott helps native youth by visiting reserves and organizing week-long workshops involving the Arts. The kids - with guidance from musicians, filmmakers, playwrights and artists - create musicals and plays, make great art and short films, thus reconnecting them with their heritage in positive ways.A few weeks ago, we put together a special Feast to celebrate Indigenous cuisine, with Top Chef Canada finalist Rich Francis teaching local kids from my old high school to put together a wonderful meal for 100+ patrons. I helped out by taking photos and videos of Rich guiding the students through the process, put down my camera to chop carrots, made table cloths for the venue, and helped organize the Silent Auction.My not-so-secret foodie alter ego took a front seat during this exposure to great cuisine. Thanks, Rich, for treating us to delectable dishes using moose, elk, venison, wild rice, squash, blueberries, and more.In other news, my beloved Toast Bitches suffered yet another setback. The publisher that took them in announced their closure a couple of weeks ago, and they returned the rights to me. I'm not sure what I will do with my Bitches. They didn't get a lot of exposure despite my efforts - twice - but perhaps in the future they will get a new lease on life. Or not! After all, a writer's goal is always to move forward.I have started another book, which I am sure will contain intrigue, humour, a bit of sex, and either horses or hockey. Or both! Why the hell not?[...]

Say Hello To My Writing Friend


Some of you may already know Kevin Craig. I met Kevin a few years ago at the Ontario Writers' Conference, but I knew him before that as a fellow writer on the Absolute Write forums. Kevin's FOURTH book is set to be released soon, and I'm happy to share in his celebration!Curiosity Quills is excited to reveal the cover for contemporary, young-adult Burn Baby Burn Baby, by Kevin Craig, which is due for release December 11, 2014. The cover was designed by CQ managing partner Eugene Teplitsky.  About Burn Baby Burn Baby: Seventeen-year-old Francis Fripp’s confidence is practically non-existent since his abusive father drenched him in accelerant and threw a match at him eight years ago. Now badly scarred, Francis relies on his best friend Trig to protect him from the constant bullying doled out at the hands of his nemesis, Brandon Hayley—the unrelenting boy who gave him the dreaded nickname of Burn Baby. The new girl at school, Rachel Higgins, is the first to see past Francis’s pariah-inducing scars. If Brandon’s bullying doesn’t destroy him, Francis might experience life as a normal teenager for the first time in his life. He just has to avoid Brandon and convince himself he’s worthy of Rachel’s attentions. Sounds easy enough, but Francis himself has a hard time seeing past his scars. And Brandon is getting violently frustrated, as his attempts to bully Francis are constantly thwarted. Francis is in turmoil as he simultaneously rushes toward his first kiss and a possible violent end. Add Burn Baby Burn Baby to your Goodreads 'to-be-read' list. --  About The Author: Kevin Craig is the author of three previous novels; Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, and The Reasons. He is a 4-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin is also a playwright and has had eight 10-minute plays produced. His poetry, short stories, memoir and articles have been published internationally. Kevin was a founding member of the Ontario Writers’ Conference and a long-time member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR). He is represented by literary agent Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group. Find Kevin Craig Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads You can pre-order Burn Baby Burn Baby here. [...]

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Shrimp, Chicken & Salmon Risotto


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

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

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

Add mushrooms and butter. Sauté until mushrooms are tender.

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

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

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

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

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

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

Wish me luck.

A very big Oops.


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

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

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

Love ya!


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

I forgot to tell you...


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

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

For Once, A VACAYSHUN, Not a Staycation


Late last night, hubby and I returned from five days in Sunny Cape Cod. We had visited 23 years ago, and loved it enough to try it again. What we really wanted to do was take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.Oh, yeah... and eat some seafood.And some more.Oh, and lobster.Most of our treks were impromptu. Our constant search for lighthouses resulted in accidental forays to anything but lighthouses. Apparently, lighthouses involve a lot of walking and/or an uncanny sense of direction in a labyrinth of private roadways and/or paying an exorbitant fee to gain access to the area. Or you have to be a lighthouse keeper... whatever.Anyway, we stumbled on places we weren't looking for, like this marine laboratory in Woods Hole, which featured a couple of seals that couldn't be released. And a fish that looked like it really wanted to tell us a story.I touched a sea urchin, which was a less traumatic experience than the time I stepped on one in 1974, but that's another story. These trout reminded me of the John Ratzenburger fish in Finding Nemo...We went whale watching out of Provincetown, which is a Happenin' Place at the end of the Cape. Apparently, we stumbled on Carnival Week, with a Las Vegas theme. After lurking through tiny one-way streets and dodging a thousand pedestrians, we finally found a parking spot and walked back to the port along Commercial Street, where we got a sneak peek of the upcoming festivities during the evening hours.The whale watching excursion was a success. Mark worked the starboard side while I scanned the port side. A minke whale poked around a smaller boat just before a humpback gave us a show right beside our vessel.When we'd slaked our thirst for whales, our boat headed back to P-Town, during which a lovely sun set on one side, while a Blue Moon rose on the other.We slipped back into the slip under a twilight sky.Then we walked back to our car through a throng of revelers.We shopped and gawked and listened to street performers, and took one last look at the moon between a couple of buildings.After that, we discovered villages, docks, marshes, sand dunes, cannonballs, crabs, fishing boats, crusty old fishermen, and rustic carvings...Okay, I'll stop now. But the memories of this trip will live on in my mind. I'll still smell the briny scent of the seaside, and the blisters on my feet as we trekked through villages and dunes, and the sticky feeling as the wind drove salty moisture into my skin.[...]



So... kids, while I wound up to my vacation, I visited our office garden this week, in which I had planted a few tomato plants. We weeded and hmmed and haaahhhed, and decided that the one red tomato should wait till Thursday for picking. After all, Debbie said, it would be more delicious if left to ripen on the vine one more day.So, I left it, but trekked out there Thursday morning to take a picture of my lovely tomato.Alas, it was gone! The roofing guys watched my emotional meltdown, and expressed their dismay that such a horrible thing should happen. Personally, I suspect they were the culprits, but no amount of hand-wringing or teeth-gnashing would prompt them to drop an apology tomato in the dirt this morning (I checked).It could have been the warehouse workers. Someone suggested a raccoon, but I can't picture a raccoon tucking a lone tomato under its armpit and sneaking away, going. "Hee hee hee..."So, after much lamenting to several co-workers, I got nothing but noises of sympathy and a joking plan to have a witness line-up of tomatoes for me to identify.It's not the tomato, but it's the principle of the thing. It's just rude. If co-workers go to the trouble of planting a garden, everyone should wait for the harvest, and the inevitable bowl of bounty on the lunch room table before taking matters in their own hands and grabbing the first ripe tomato off the vine.Just sayin'.Missing: One tomato. Red. Spherical in shape, approximately 3 inches in diameter. Last seen Wednesday, August 14th at approximately 6pm. First noticed missing on Thursday, August 15th at 9am.p.s. I don't know what the hell is going on with my background colour but I hope you can read this damn thing.[...]

The Bitches Are Back


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dear Chris...


I met you online, back when I was a baby writer. I can't remember whether it was on Miss Snark's blog, or Evil Editor's, or on one of the many writer blogs on which we made so many new and supportive friends.You called yourself Church Lady back then, and your profile picture was of Dana Carvey's iconic SNL character. I loved that character, and your quirky sense of humour showed through that little avatar.We crossed paths often while negotiating the winding and often looping road to publication. We exchanged ideas, jokes, emails. We read each other's work, and offered and received advice. You talked about your children, but took care to preserve their privacy.Later, you dropped the Church Lady persona and changed your blog profile name to Chris Eldin. I followed suit by adding my author name to my Chumplet nickname. After all, we had to take our writing seriously, right?You started Book Roast, a celebration of reading and the opportunity to showcase new books by new writers, myself included. That ran its course and ended in 2009.You visited some of us, and promised to visit others. Some of us were lucky to meet you, and others never quite found the chance to get together with you. In retrospect, we sensed you were troubled.Some offered help, some thought about it but didn't want to interfere. Eventually, you dropped out of sight. We thought about you, and Googled you, tried all your email accounts and received no response. We figured you were taking an Internet hiatus, gearing toward getting your writing out there.Yesterday, in the midst of Canada Day celebrations, I received a Twitter notification, a follow-up from a similar Facebook message from one of our friends. Someone had found a news article about a woman who walked in front of a minivan on the I-95 in Maryland. She didn't survive. Suicide notes were found in her abandoned car.They said it was you. I didn't believe them. I looked at the date. It was almost a year old, from August of 2012. I checked again. I looked for other sources.It was true. You were gone, and we had no idea.What forced you to take your own life? Fear? Depression? Loneliness? Desperation? We only had an inkling of what you were going through, but only in retrospect could we glue all the pieces together to get the whole story.I raked through former blog posts and bits of flash fiction you had submitted. One line jumped out at me, "If you have nobody in your life to support you in times of crisis, you won’t survive."Did you feel you had nobody, Chris? Did you not realize you had a host of friends who would give their souls to lift you from your despair? I wish you could have grasped the hand of one of us, who reached for you.You slipped away.Friends and family, if you suffer from depression, or feel that you are alone with your troubles, please reach out to someone. It might stick. I hope it sticks. If you sense that a friend or family member is desperate, listen. Listen.Make it stick.[...]