Monday, November 10, 2014

Poppy Days

Poppies at the tomb of the unknown soldier.


When I was in university, I went through an ambivalent phase when it came to wearing the poppy and Remembrance Day. It wasn't that I didn't honour the service of veterans so much as I wondered how much good came of the campaign as a fund-raiser. Were we financing more monuments to the glory of war?

Seaman Nelson Bruce, 1940
A veteran and member of the Royal Canadian Legion set me straight. Though monuments are raised "To our glorious dead", no veteran, whether they saw combat or not, believes that war is glorious. The poppy may symbolize the dead, but the poppy campaign is to serve the living.

The money raised by selling poppies helps the Legion help veterans in need.  Many years later, the Legion purchased a lift chair for my father after a major stroke. That chair helped him stay home for a few more years and was a great asset when it went with him to the nursing home. For my father and other veterans, the Legion fills the gap between what is needed and what veterans' benefits and health care provides.

My father has passed on and his chair is helping another veteran somewhere, but I am still a benefactor in the Legion's work.

Poppy money also aids the Navy League, Sea, Air and Army Cadets. These programs keep participating youth active and engaged, as well as encouraging good citizenship, teaching Canadian history, and practical skills -- not unlike Guides and Scouts which I grew up with, but more financially accessible.

Cadet Sam Bruce-Ireland, 2012
Membership,  programming -- which includes camping, sailing and band -- and kit (2 uniforms, gym gear, coat, boots and even socks) are supplied free of charge, thanks in part to contributions made possible by the poppy campaign. The way my son grows, I wouldn't be able to afford to keep him outfitted otherwise.

My father served in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II. My aunt was in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. My mother was in the Observer Corps. My grandfather was in the Royal Air Force. Kids I knew when I managed a comic book store served in Afghanistan.

So, I wear the poppy to remember. But I stick extra change in the boxes because I know it's going to a good cause.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Scary Stuff

What Scares Me...

I used to have nightmares about wild animals loose in my bedroom. Evidently, tigers were a favourite for showing up. They came when my parents were out and I was left with my Nana. She used to shoot them for me.

I don't remember any of that.

I do remember my closet door. It never closed properly. The darkness escaping that slightly open door freaked me out at night. Pulling the covers over my head was the only escape.

Through my closet was the way up to the attic. We lived in an old home which creaked ominously as it settled at night. Racoons and squirrels regularly found their way into our eaves. There was a lot of aural fodder for a creative young girl's imagination.

Later, when I moved up to the attic, I became enured those natural sounds. But, before I fully opened my walk-in-closet door, I'd reach in and turn on the light. And before going to bed, I made sure the door was fully closed and latched.

To this day, I like doors to be full open or fully shut. In between gives me the willies.

Related to closets, I don't like toilet lids left up. This isn't just the usual women's complaint about men leaving the seat up causing awkward moments when we sit without looking. I want the lid down too. That dark hole in the bottom of the bowl can be as bad as the shadows in a closet.

It's not that I believe the urban legends about snakes and the like coming up through the drains... at least I don't think it's going to happen to me here in Ontario... but you never know. (Anyway, it was a good story to tell my son to get him to put the lid down.)

Ghosts, in comparison, don't scare me. Well, I'm sure they could if they tried, but so can my children.

I saw my first ghost when I was six. It was my grandmother coming to say good-bye the night she died. Actually, that's the last ghost I saw. When my mother-in-law visited, I never saw her exactly. I just knew she was there checking up on her son. I could sense when she came and went and knew when she had moved on, satisfied that Ross was okay. (He was very sick at the time.) She made me a little nervous, of course, but my live father-in-law scared me more.

I've sensed other ghosts since then, but they've always been people I had a close connection with. One day I'm going to go on the Ghost Walk in downtown Guelph and see if I can meet some strange ghosts. The Albion Hotel, our oldest extant tavern, has several, including one of Al Capone's mistresses. Local legend says Capone used to stop at the Albion during (smuggling) business trips.

 True or not, we have enough spectral action to have our own Ghost Hunters of Guelph whose goal is "is to reduce fear of the spirit world by increasing ones understanding of spirit energy."

Vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night make great stories and fun costumes for Halloween. Until I meet one, I don't think I'll worry about being scared of them. Even in stories, it's not the monsters but monstrous actions that are really frightening. If anything, having a monster to kill gives us a cure for our fear.

Or does it?

What scares you?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Question of Image

Venus Looking in the Mirror by Rubens
Adding up the Figures

October is Women's History Month in Canada.

I was trying to think of something to write  on the subject. Not coming up with anything on my own, I asked my fourteen year old son. He suggested I talk about how the fashion for different types of women's figures has changed over the years.

I've often said I was born in the wrong century. This is untrue. Peter Paul Rubens was born in the wrong century. I'm sure he'd prefer the twenty-first century with indoor plumbing and modern medicine more than I'd enjoy seventeenth century Europe during the Thirty Years War.

Speaking of war, one of few benefits of World War I and II were the changes to the status of women. Being called upon to do "men's work" in the factories, shipyards and in the military, changed how women saw themselves and how they were portrayed in the media. The muscular Rosie the Riveter comes to mind. Photos of sturdy young women were used to promote the Land Army. Attractive but business-like women in uniform were used to entice recruits for the women's army, navy and air force auxiliaries.

Canadian expat Elizabeth Arden was commissioned to create makeup set for the US Marines Auxiliary. The cosmetic maven promoted good health as well as the right makeup to achieve beauty. The clear message was that women could be pretty and useful at the same time.

Post World War II, an equally vigorous campaign was waged to send women back to the kitchen. What real women wanted was a new washing machine or vacuum cleaner, not independence. It wasn't enough to be pretty, you had to be glamorous. The model of beauty became Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield.

Young women exercised to chants of "We must... we must... we must develop our busts." Lifting a separating was important. Tight sweaters and big skirts were in vogue. (Not unlike tight, rip-able bodices and bustles a century before.)

At least Marilyn Monroe and her contemporary pinups* were meatier than the average starlet these days. That trend started with Twiggy. She popularized the notion that you can't be too skinny.

The frail, almost anorexic look isn't new. Lord Byron made it popular with his passion for Caroline Lamb. But you had to be a member of the small number of elite to have the time and inclination to subsist on a diet of vinegar and wafers. The thin poor didn't choose to starve themselves.

It took mass media to get a hold on the collective women's conscious and convince them they didn't look right. Too fat. Too flat. Too sort. Too tall. Too not like the models seen in ads. With the help of Photoshop, the models don't look like the ads either.

So, will the pendulum of fashion and history swing the other way? Or will we look beyond fashion to define beauty?

[* Note: I have a great deal of respect for Marilyn Monroe's ability as a comedic actor. For that matter, I don't have anything against Twiggy. I do object to how they were used to objectify women in order to sell products. Advertisers should stick to kittens and cartoon bears to do that.]

Monday, October 6, 2014

Book Tour

The Long and Deadly Road

For the month of October, the DEADLY DOZEN authors are on the virtual road with a Pump Up Your Book book tour. I'll be at Beyond the Books on Wednesday October 8.

Monday, October 6

Book Featured at Bound 2 Escape

Book Featured at Maureen’s Musings

Tuesday, October 7

Interview at The Writer’s Life (Cheryl Kaye Tardif)

Wednesday, October 8

Interview at Beyond the Books (Alison Bruce)

Thursday, October 9

Interview at I’m Shelf-ish (Donna Galanti)

Friday, October 10

Interview at As the Page Turns (Catherine Astolfo)

Monday, October 13

Interview at The Dark Phantom (Linda Merlino)

Tuesday, October 14

Interview at Review From Here (Rosemary McCracken)

Book Featured at CBY Book Club

Wednesday, October 15

Book Featured at I Heart Reading

Thursday, October 16
Book Featured at Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews

Monday, October 20

Interview at Literarily Speaking (Kat Flannery)

Tuesday, October 21

Interview at Deal Sharing Aunt (Gloria Ferris)

Wednesday, October 22

Book Featured at Carol’s Notebook

Thursday, October 23

Interview at The Book Rack (C.S. Lakin)

Monday, October 27

Book Review at My Life, Loves and Passion

Book Featured at Jersey Girl Book Reviews

Tuesday, October 28

Interview at Straight From the Author’s Mouth (Susan J. McLeod)

Wednesday, October 29

Book Review at Hezzie D’s Books and Cooks

Thursday, October 30

Interview at Book Marketing Buzz (Cynthia St-Pierre & Melodie Campbell)

Friday, October 31

Interview at Lori’s Reading Corner (Jesse Giles Christensen)

Book Featured at Booklover Sue

Book Review at Undercover Book Reviews

Monday, September 29, 2014

Creativity: Fertile Soil

On a regular basis, writers get asked where their ideas come from. The ideas are all around us, like seeds blown on the wind. When they land on me, they generally find fertile soil, which is to say I am well composted and full of ...

Deadly Beginnings

It was a bright, sunny day. I sat under a beer umbrella in the square drinking Sleeman Cream Ale from a plastic cup. Guelph was celebrating it’s annual Multicultural Festival and I was celebrating the end of a long hot day. In no hurry to go anywhere, I pulled out my notebook and started writing...

It was a bright, sunny day. I sat under a beer umbrella in the square drinking Sleeman Cream Ale from a plastic cup. The beer was warm. I’d been nursing it for an hour, waiting for my client to leave his office.

So started my first draft of Deadly Legacy. When I decided to set the story in the near future, bright and sunny gave way to incessant rain as a nod to Blade Runner. It took a while before “the client” got a name, but his physical description was cemented that first day.

His pale face was a map of worry lines and a fixed frown. He wore one of those endurable overcoats and a matching hat, both advertised as 'guaranteed to protect your clothes from anything nature or environmental pollution throws at you.' It made the short, stocky man look like a walking tent.

The walking tent was really a man in his eighties. His coat probably fit him just fine when he bought it. Both hat and coat were almost certainly Endurables. Nothing else would have held up for so long. The short, stocky, worried man was wearing a business suit and had just walked out of a bank. The client was like Frankenstein’s monster, made from gathered parts. Not so the detectives.

Kate Garrett and Jake Carmedy came to me in a dream. If I tried, I could probably deconstruct the different elements that got mashed together. I know that our dream are a result of our minds making sense (more or less) of the flotsam and jetsam of nightly mental housekeeping. But, from the start, Carmedy and Garrett were more than the sum of their parts. They were real characters in search of a story... a story that had been started, years earlier, on a bright sunny day.

Deadly Legacy is available as part of the Deadly Dozen Collection as well as being a stand-alone novel.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Deadly Dozen Book Bundle


It's very, very big.
And it's only $3.99 until September 15 

The DEADLY DOZEN Book Bundle contains 12 complete mystery/thriller novels by award-winning and international bestselling authors.

  1. THE BRIDGEMAN by Catherine Astolfo
  2. DEADLY LEGACY by Alison Bruce
  3. A PURSE TO DIE FOR by Melodie Campbell & Cynthia St-Pierre
  4. CHEAT THE HANGMAN by Gloria Ferris
  5. A HUMAN ELEMENT by Donna Galanti
  6. LAKOTA HONOR by Kat Flannery
  7. PELICAN BAY by Jesse Giles Christiansen
  8. SAFE HARBOR by Rosemary McCracken
  9. SOUL AND SHADOW by Susan J. McLeod
  11. ROOM OF TEARS by Linda Merlino
  12. DIVINE INTERVENTION by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

With an individual list price total of more than $45.00 and over 640 reviews collectively on, the DEADLY DOZEN Book Bundle is a value-packed, rollercoaster thrill ride that takes you from amateur sleuth to detective to paranormal to ancient mysteries set in intriguing worlds and so much more.

 Readers say...

"I have to say that Catherine Astolfo is my favorite mystery author ever! I find it hard to find mysteries out there that combine both intriguing story lines and twists and turns that aren't expected with amazing characters and subplots that keep you hooked." (THE BRIDGEMAN)

"Alison Bruce has concocted a complex and very interesting plot and delivered it in a fast-paced story with well-developed and realistic characterization." (DEADLY LEGACY)

"The words seemed to leap off the page. A fun read with a kick-ass original ending. I didn't see it coming. Blew my guess of whodunit out of the water. If you read for plot, this is a great book."  (A PURSE TO DIE FOR)

"I completely immersed myself in this well-written book enjoying every minute. It was definitely deserving of being short-listed for the Crime Writers of Canada "Unhanged Arthur"." (CHEAT THE HANGMAN)

"I completely fell in love with this book. Donna Galanti gives life to her characters, they live and breath on these pages." (A HUMAN ELEMENT)

"Lakota Honor is definitely a book I would recommend to anyone that loves a good historical romance. It has just the right amount of mystery, adventure, and romance that makes for a highly entertaining read." (LAKOTA HONOR

"The tone and atmosphere gave me a haunting feeling about old secrets better left untouched. If you're looking for a different mystery, give this one a try. Recommended." (PELICAN BAY)

"Safe Harbor cracks open the mystery suspense genre with a twist, a female amateur detective solving crimes the new fashioned way with her skills as a seasoned financial adviser." (SAFE HARBOR)

"Soul And Shadow, by Susan J. McLeod, is a gem of a book, a treasure trove of enjoyment packed into a mere 124 pages. The story is compelling, mysterious and beautiful, yes, but the writing is also impressive." (SOUL AND SHADOW)

"A cross between Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" and William Golding's "The Lord fo the Flies," Ms. Lakin's story is a chilling account of what happens when you bully the wrong person." (INNOCENT LITTLE CRIMES)

"Her writing is musical and her characters are real, their stories linger long after the reader has turned the last page of the book." (ROOM OF TEARS)

"Finally, a Canadian novel by a Canadian author that captures Canadiana in its finest. Cheryl Kaye Tardif's most recent novel is comparative to Nora Roberts' "In Death" series that is penned under the pseudonym of 'J.D. Robb'." (DIVINE INTERVENTION)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Guest Poster - Laurence St. John

I promised Laurence St. John, a fellow "Imajineer" and author of the Metatron series, a spot on this blog a while back and thank heavens he remembered because the summer ate my brain.

At the age of 23 and after three years of dedication, hard work and sweat, in 1988, I received my first-degree black belt (Shodan) in Tae Kwon Do. This gave me the self-confidence and perseverance needed to surmount anything that came my way. That is why my main character, Tyler, is involved with martial arts. I have personal knowledge of Tae Kwon Do therefore it was fun creating a character with this great ability.
Question to readers: Have you ever taken any type of martial arts class? If not, would you like too?
 While working in the steel industry, my place of employment changed hands for the third time. Fortunately I was able to retain my job.

In the same year my first granddaughter Kendall was born. This was one of the most uplifting moments of my life. It was at this time when I became inspired as well as determined to write my penned-up thoughts on paper.

A few years later, and many hours of writing, editing, revising and re-editing, it was finished. This journey had many bumps and curves in the road but at the end, it was all worth it.
Book 2 Now Available

One ruthless demon faces one relentless teenager…

Thirteen-year-old Tyler Thompson is on the verge of becoming a superhero, but he must prove himself so he can earn the remainder of his superpowers and fulfill his destiny.

When his grandfather, Benjamin, is held prisoner at AREA 51, where the eternal powers are presumed to be hidden, Tyler attempts to penetrate the base’s heavy security. However, Dr. Mason Payne, the evil scientist who killed Tyler's father, has insidious plans of his own.

Hunted by an unknown entity, Tyler races against the clock to retrieve the superpowers, rescue his family and help the others who are depending on him. And when all hope seems lost, help comes in a power he didn’t know he possessed—a mysterious weapon known as The Mystical Blade.

Get METATRON: The Mystical Blade for only $3.99!

If you have a chance, I would be grateful if you could write a Customer Review. It should only take a few minutes of your time - Thank-you.

Enter a chance to win an ebook or $120.00 Amazon Gift Card – click on link

Book 1
Book 1 of the series is also available on Amazon.

METATRON: The Angel Has Risen

Find the author, Laurence St. John, here: