Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Aliens, Margaritas, and a One Horse Town

It's hard to believe that the ruins at Casa Grande, Arizona are now over a week ago.  Blogging became a little difficult as we packed and headed back on the road and toward home.  But here's what I missed mentioning.  Big miss - it is one of the largest prehistoric structures built in North America.  What it was used for is still not known, the people who know the secret to this imposing stone structure that stands in the middle of the Arizona desert and that is surrounded by a complex irrigation system, are long gone.

The road we took this year wound through beautiful and slightly terrifying mountain cliffs and valleys in Arizona before hitting New Mexico.

Along the road there were many oddities from the "One Horse Town" that consisted of one house and a fake horse attached to a hitching post, to the sign saying public library with no houses in sight except one house with a library sign tucked into a opening in the hills near the town of Notes, New Mexico.  I wanted to stop in the worst way but we needed to hit Albuquerque before dark.  And it was a good thing was didn't for then we had the "Contact" experience.

Gleaming on the plains of New Mexico some miles out of Socorro there is a Very Large Array or VLA for short.  The VLA consists of 27 dish antennas that have been monitoring the universe and discovering some pretty amazing things.  In fact some of the movie, Contact, was filmed there.  Unfortunately, we didn't have time for the tour, only time to drive up and find out what the heck was going on.  I'll read up on all of it later, when life settles down.

We hit Albuquerque in time for supper at El Pinto.  It's a cavernous yet oddly cosy Mexican restaurant on a dark street that on a first visit, makes one think to keep the doors locked.  It might be a very nice neighbourhood, I don't know, I've only seen it at night, and unlike home - there's not a lot of street lights.  Either way, El Pinto is worth visiting.  Great Mexican food although this time around I was craving vegetables and had a Taco salad.  Of course, there were the margaritas with fresh lime juice that vie with the food for which is best.  When morning arrived, Albuquerque delivered another surprise - hot air balloons, a lot of them.  In fact by the time we left there were over sixty launched and more coming.  While Albuquerque is known for it's fall balloon festival, December is not the month for it.  But apparently the cold weather has hot air balloon enthusiasts gathering.

From there it was on to Wyoming where the land rolls in mountains, hills and plains that for miles seem as untouched as they might have hundreds of years ago.  Wyoming is where we see the most wildlife.  Birds of prey, herds upon herds of antelope, and land that sprawls out in dips and valleys and mountains, in this part at least, seem little bothered by the intrusion of man.

It's strange how a State line seems to change the terrain as if somehow the line was drawn where the topography changed but that's impossible, or is it?  But that what seems to happen as we cross into Montana, I can't tell you what it is exactly but there's a distinct difference between the two States, both beautiful in their own way.

There's nothing like a road trip to give me lots of ideas and locales for stories.  Meantime Christmas is almost here and today, well it's Festivus for the Rest of Us.  How can you forget that hilarious episode of Seinfeld.  I loved George's parents.  They played off each other so well.

Happy Festivus.  Merry Christmas.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Bring Cash and Keep Low

It turns out getting published by Harlequin was only the first of my challenges.  After the excitement died down, there were expectations and I met each one except for one - the author picture.  Turns out that uploading an acceptable author picture to the Harlequin site is not as easy as I thought.

It all began with the camera of choice and the fact that the IPhone camera is not particularly fool proof.  It does not take the perfect picture every time, at least it doesn't for me or more specifically, DH.   Picture one I thought was a keeper - not so fast, the size of it was off, mostly I suspect because of DH's penchant for playing with settings.  Another picture was in order but with everything good and bad that has happened late summer through early fall,
This wasn't the pic sent in.
combined with packing for an extended trip, the picture kept falling into the wreckage of preparation.   Finally, picture two was taken, I admit in a bit of a rush, but still I waited to get the thumbs up.

Instead, another rejection.  This time the picture was out of focus.  It's not obviously out of focus or I'd never have sent it - in fact to the amateur eye it looked fine.

So now release date is coming closer and I desperately needed an acceptable photo.  Fearing another rejection, I decided that it was time to take the advise that had been in front of me all along and hire a photographer.  I found one in the San Tan Valley area that was offering a great deal for a half hour shoot.  We connected by e-mail and she told me to meet her at a park, she'd be wearing red, follow the trail and bring cash.

Bring cash?  Follow the trail?  Was I meeting for some sort of shady deal that I hadn't been forewarned about or was this, as advertised, a photo shoot.  Do I come prepared or do I dare show up at all?

Fast forward two days and one cancellation later that made me glad that I was arriving with DH in tow.   On the upside, it turned out the deal wasn't shady, in fact, the photographer was a personable woman who made me laugh the entire half hour.  Ironically though, I thought Arizona would be a unique setting for someone from the prairies, rock - desert etc.  Instead, the pictures were taken in a park with trees in autumn shades behind me, just like September at home!

So now the photos have been taken and I'm waiting to receive them.  It will just be a matter of time to see how well this all turns out.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tripping Along The Road

Recently we took a road trip to the Karchner Caverns not far from Tucson.  It's an interesting drive where the signs warning of dust appear only minutes before the dust.  It rises up in a curtain along the edge of the stark desert mountains and blankets the fields in a fog of dust.  We get past the dust and the scenery seems to flip every ten miles or so from rolling hills to rough foothills and desert cactus to fields of cotton and back again.

Finally we arrive at Karchner Caves.  The caves were discovered not that long ago in what looks to me to be more a large hill than a mountain.  As the tour began outside the caves, I didn't expect much as the tour guide kept encouraging audience participation like you do in grade school but as the tour progressed her off key humour became just part of the entertainment of the tour, and was eclipsed by the cave.  We only had time to see one but it was gorgeous.  The park was adamant at protecting them and we could take nothing in, unfortunately not even a phone or camera, nothing.  So there are no pictures, except this at the entrance, which we took as we were leaving and as you can see, that didn't turn out.  The caves though were well worth the visit.  Unlike the Mulu Caves in Malaysia where my latest book Suspect Witness is set, these caves had a tour guide, a concrete path and lights that worked!  So there was a lot more to see.  The stalagmites and stalactites were gorgeous, and with the inclusion of a guide, we learned a lot.  But with no pictures you'll have to take my word for it.

Then it was off to Tombstone.  We debated going there, we'd rather have gone to Bisbee but it was
already early afternoon.  So knowing that Tombstone would be a tourist attraction that we'd only spend a few hours at, we headed there.  Bisbee is a longer trip, probably a full day and one we'll have to make for another day, or year.  Our vacation time is rapidly running out!

But on to fun stuff.  In Tombstone I got a chance to try to
fire a pistol and plug holes into my target.  It was a messy "kill" as the poor man took six shots to the chest area but none hit the heart.  "Is he dead?" I ask the shop owner who had given me instructions on how to cock and fire.  "Yep," he replies and I smile and hand him his pistol as I glance one more time at my one-dimensional foe.

From there we headed over to Tombstone Cemetery.  The graves are neatly piled with rocks, some
are unknown and others have names and stories behind them.  It's definitely a cemetery built for tourists but they claim it's real, and maybe it is.  It's definitely worth a stroll through.

On the way back we were stopped by a Border Patrol checkpoint.  The author in me was intrigued and was anticipating what they might ask or do - would they search our truck, demand our passports - all of this would be great info for further blogs, stories, who knows.  So we stopped, DH rolled down the window and the questions started:

"Are you American?"  Border Patrol asks.
"No.  Canadian."  DH replies.
"Go ahead."  Border Patrol responds and steps back waving us forward.

"That's it?" I ask as we leave the check point behind.  I suspect only an author would want just a bit more drama in her day.

Meantime it's time to head for home for a well earned Margarita and maybe a hot tub - life isn't so bad here on the road.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

In the Closet

It's been a strange "winter getaway" this year.  I've kind of been numb over all the events that happened in the weeks before we left.  Thank goodness for the wedding, it was the only event that gave us any warning ahead of time and the only one that goes without saying, was happy.  I was best person and witnessed a good friend marry the woman of her dreams.  It was the perfect remedy for the two funerals that bracketed the "wedding of the year," as was the vacation that followed.  It's the vacation that I've already blogged about in earlier posts.  But here's the inside scoop on our Arizona vacation.

Arizona was a trip we made the last few years to escape at least some of the early months of wind,
cold and snow, that chilly fall "slide into" winter.  It's a time when it seems that even the furnace can't keep the damp away.   Although we would have loved to explore further afield, our trusty Irish Terrier was beginning to show signs of age and really wouldn't have done well in a kennel.  So instead he rode in luxury with the backseat raised and thick padding on the floor where he could snooze between rest stops.  With his travel bag beside him and content from the inevitable treat he received from the customs officer as we crossed the border, he was settled in for the trip.  It worked out well, we got our vacation and he got to come along.  In fact, we'd expected that he would travel with us again this year but we found out a few weeks before departure that that wasn't to be.  So we're missing our little Irish this year.

Meantime, we're halfway through our time in Arizona and the house we're staying in is feeling a bit like home - a home away from home.  But it only has two bedrooms and no den so when a friend came to visit, the spare bedroom I was using for office space was no more and I moved - literally, into the closet.  Fortunately it's a walk in closet off the master bedroom.  Unfortunately, its proximity is right next door to the bathroom and adjacent to the shower.  Not exactly plush surroundings as my laptop must be slid just so under the lower bar normally meant to hang clothes and I have to push the chair back carefully to miss my half open suitcase.  Yes, I've been here a month and still I haven't completely unpacked.  But in another month we'll be heading home, so now I call my state of unpacking, a time saving measure.  

Now the spare bedroom is again free but I'm beginning to like my time in the closet.  Maybe I'll stay for another week or two, or three.

Where do you do your best work?


Sunday, November 8, 2015

Through the Looking Glass

I've never had to seek out dental care out of country before but this time a broken tooth left me no choice.  I discovered that in Arizona dental prices vary wildly, in fact one quote was twice the price of where I finally got the work done.  So, after saving all that money I decided to cash in on their teeth whitening deal.  Yes, there are the week's deals painted on the window - something you'd never see at home because there are no deals.  Now, my smile is whiter, I've seen three episodes of Storage Wars, whether I wanted to or not, and I've survived another trip to the dentist.  

Later in the week, while at a shop trying to mail the last contest prize to the winner in England I ran into a few small problems.  I should have known right off that there would be trouble from the fact that the clerk greeted me with a pained expression and clearly had better things on her mind than anything I might propose.  So it began, first it was the gel pen that smeared on the envelope's plastic surface.  I asked for a label to cover the smeared address and the clerk stuck her finger on the address and smeared some more, I assume to ensure my claim that it needed a new label at all was valid.  Sigh.  It took a few more minutes, despite looking at the label a few times and my asking for overseas prices to get this to London, for her to realize that the package was going to England.  That caused a lengthy discussion with her co-worker, a massive amount of typing and various pained expressions before she determined that sending a small envelope holding one paperback book to England would cost a little less than one hundred dollars.  At that point there was the distinct feeling that Alice and the looking glass might be standing beside me.  So, twenty minutes later with mailing my package a failed mission, and biting my tongue down to a fine art - I left with plans to visit the United States post office on Monday.  From what I found online, their rates are more in the realm of reason.

So enough of dentists and over-priced postal options, it was off to golf at a local course in Gilbert .  It's an easy course but an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon.  The only ones rushed are the ducks and other birds, and even they don't put too much effort into getting off the green and back to the water as we approach.  

After golf we stopped for something to eat at Uncle Bear's.  Uncle Bear was, so the story goes, a dog.  And the walls in this casual chain restaurant are papered with dog pictures.  Which is fine, I love dogs.  However, having just lost my beautiful Rourke what I wasn't prepared for was not the wall of pictures of dogs but what was in the middle, a picture of a pet cemetery.  Then I noticed that some of the dog pictures had RIP's and dates.  I was looking at a dog graveyard!  Needless to say, I ate with eyes fixed on anything but that wall.  What are the odds - and, really... who came up with that idea for a restaurant?

But what's really defined this week are the scorpions.  Two of them so far - one at the beginning of the week that wasn't much bigger than a centipede, a Canadian centipede anyway - and the second just yesterday.  Both met a squashy end but I'm beginning to shake shoes out and put them on every time I head outside.  No more, barefoot into the garage and, call me paranoid, but they're nasty and I'm not taking the trash to the bin at night either.  

Travel is always an adventure, nothing is what you expect and that's the fun of it all.  Better yet, it looks like it's going to be a nice day here in the San Tan Valley. 

Enjoy the remainder of your weekend.



Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Almost Went On a Hike

The other day we headed out of the city and toward Arizona's Superstition Mountains and possibly a trail or two.  No, we weren't going hiking although I've made noises about doing that one day but dressed in a sundress and sandals isn't exactly in the smart hikers guide.  I suspect that guide might also state that you people who live in cities far away from desert terrain should stay well on the path.  But fortunately, there's a lot of well-marked path, enough to walk a quite a way up the trail - some of it is even concrete and blends into the reddish hue of the desert like it was as natural as the rock and sand around it.  I can't help but think as I'm surrounded by the harsh beauty of the Superstition mountains, how easy it is for hikers to lose their way and even their lives in this range.

It's a wildly beautiful place.  It's here where the legend of the lost Dutchman gold mine comes from and where people still come to search for the wealth it promises.  It's awesome hiking terrain but no place for the amateur or the unprepared.  So I'm sticking to the path but next time, I think I might come a little more prepared and try hiking some of those easier trails.

There's a little place here called the Superstition Mountain Museum and I've probably blogged about it on previous posts last year or maybe the year before.  But it's well worth at least one stop, to get a feel for the area and it's history and explore the gift shop with a plethora of local authors writing on the stories that emerge from the stark beauty of the mountains that surround them.  When nature tires you, although I'm not sure how it could, there's all sorts of jewellery and local handicrafts.

And, with my first Harlequin Intrigue's release only months away, if you're interested in up-to-the-minute news, happenings, contests and more - not offered elsewhere, signup for my newsletter.  Just send an e-mail to me at and put newsletter in the subject line.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Just a "little" off the Beaten Path

A drive in the San Tan Valley the other day took us from the city to the countryside and it was only a matter of turning right instead of left.  Turn left and you head into the city, right and you're immediately in farm land, and on open road with quaint and unique at every turn.  

First up there's Cherie's Salsa.  Selling on the side of the road isn't uncommon here.  In fact we just passed a sign advertising Fresh Tamales hot out of the back of a truck.  But it is another cardboard sign that we're watching for.  Cherie's Salsa proudly advertises on a roadside sign just ahead of her SUV that has  the hatch thrown open and a gaggle of friends gathered around keeping her  company.  It's definitely worth pulling over and getting some of the best Salsa we've found so far in the valley.   Cherie admits to being up at two a.m. stirring up some of this fabulous salsa.  She's upgraded from a year or so ago when we first found her and she told me this was a temporary thing.  Now she has a business card and a presence on Facebook. 

From there we headed further into the countryside and find, what a surprise in the land of snowbirds, more snowbirds.  These snowbirds appear to be hardier than most for they're settled in on a barren tract of desert in RV's of all sizes right down to an Airstream no bigger than what most would camp in.  With few amenities, it's unique but I can't imagine what one would do on a blistering Arizona afternoon with only cactus and a view of the mountains to keep you company.

A little further down the road a small but quaint, bright red building stands out on the edges of a bone dry parking lot.  The Mexican Meat Market isn't a place I'd consider shopping at but DH discovered it a few days ago.  I'm glad he brought me along this time for the store itself is like I've travelled just a little further afield than Arizona and stepped foot into the heart of Mexico.  The store is alive with conversation spoken in rapid fire Spanish and foreign smells that are pleasant yet unfamiliar, permeate the place.  There's only two short aisles and they're crowded with familiar and not so familiar products.  I'm drawn to the cooler where Arizona Iced Tea occupies most of the shelves.  And I'm amazed at all the flavours.  Who knew that Arizona Iced Tea comes from Brooklyn, not Arizona, or that there are many more than the two types shipped north!  I happily went home with the regular and a Mango flavoured as well as a strawberry.  I hesitate at the pecan and bubble gum popsicles but manage to resist.  And the Carne Asada we came for  - delicious.  

Next door to that in this lonely dusty parking lot fronted by rural landscape and rough trailer homes - was a pizza place.  Dust coloured it seemed to sink into the desert lot that surrounded it.  Unfortunately, there's no picture for as we left, what I assume might have been the owner was out with his barbecue in the middle of the dusty parking lot, keeping an eye on us and what he was cooking.  I suspect pulling out my camera might not only have been an invasion of privacy but confirmation of the fact that we were just as shady as he seemed to suspect.  Really, we weren't.  But that aside, you know where we're going to check out pizza and beer on our next journey... turning right - not left.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Diners Drive-in's and Breakfast

While we've made our destination, Arizona, here's the last of our on-the-road stories.

As our trip headed to Vegas a slight hiccup with the GPS had us parked on the freeway leading into Las Vegas as traffic inched forward and what appeared to be a traffic accident miles ahead kept us blocked.  It was thirty minutes before we were able to escape onto a potential off- ramp and then found a parking lot to reconfigure the GPS.  Of course, with the hazards of travel, it was a parking lot in what I suspect was one of the more eclectic places in town.  The buildings were grey and rather dilapidated, the people rather worn and each of them appearing like they might have a very unique story, and us, the tourists that didn't fit.  It was fifteen minutes before we ended up at our hotel, another thirty minutes before we escaped the long registration lineup and continual offers that seem to be pressed on newbies, and made the long ride to the 21st floor.  And twenty minutes before we were heading back down lo the lobby area, looking for lunch.

Vegas changes every time I see it.  But it's always entertaining.  While none of the shows we might want to watch were featuring in our brief stay, we enjoyed people watching on a sidewalk cafe, playing a game or two or blackjack, a fantastic meal or two or three, and left Vegas ready to head onto a new adventure.

The next day it was one of those mornings where another hotel breakfast left us cold so we hit the road minus coffee - not a comforting experience in the hope of finding something on the road - Starbucks maybe.

This time it's through to Arizona and the San Tan Valley but first a stop for breakfast in Boulder, Nevada.  The part of Boulder, Nevada that we drove through was unique, from the wooden sidewalks to the antique metal car sitting on top of an antique table bracketing the sidewalk and facing off another pile of antiques.  I couldn't imagine what might be inside the shops as these precious memories of the past were doomed to sit outside.  But it was early, the shops closed, and the main thing on our mind was breakfast and the Coffee Cup Diner that was featured featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

There was no indication that the infamous television show had even graced the place.  But there were tons of pictures of vintage water skiing and an army of real water skis of all vintages hanging overhead and on the walls.  And in the midst of all that overwhelming nostalgia there was a diner filled with locals and two tourists that just happened to straggle in off the interstate.

Seated at table with the old diner style counter running behind us, service was prompt.  And when it arrived, even the toast was something to rave about - rye bread didn't mean white bread with a bit of flavour but instead bread with thick dark wedges of taste woven through it.  The potatoes, wait for it, were peeled and cooked, not out of a bag and the bacon was thick and tasty.  The omelette, well I'm a small and slow eater, let's just say I was still eating long after hubbie was done.   It was the best breakfast I've had on the road in a long time.

There's always something unique on the road.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Suspect Witness - A Preview

Suspect Witness is my first romantic suspense to be published by Harlequin Intrigue.  It's scheduled for release in February 2016 and I have to say that I'm getting "a little excited" as the date approaches.

I just got a peek at the cover today.  At first I paused.  Its odd to see your hero's face for the first time  as up to now he's only resided in my mind.  When I first saw the cover, those first few minutes held both elation and I have to admit, criticism.  I thought that my Josh is more poised, less hard planed than the face I'm confronted with but within a few minutes as I thought about the hero, the Josh Sedovich that I knew, I realized that he had an edge that is so clearly portrayed in the cover.  He's a man of passion and of action, but he's also a man charged with the impossible as he fights his way with the heroine through the depths of the Malaysian rain forest.  Josh Sedovich is the man in the cover, a man of grit, passion and heart.

The leader of a deadly biker gang is murdered and the witness, who can now reveal the secret of their lucrative offshore funding, is on the run.  To protect her secrets, Erin Kelley Argon has changed her identity and fled halfway around the world.  

CIA agent, Josh Sedovich tracks Erin to Malaysia but he's not the only one who has found her.   A car bomb is the first sign that her cover is blown.  In a desperate flight through Malaysia, as he gains her trust and passion threatens to rage out of control, will he be able to get her safely home to the States before the assassins on their trail take them both out?

This is my blurb and not the professional polished version that will actually grace the book cover.  But it serves the purpose, gives you an idea - a teaser, if you will, of what the story is about.  And it's available in just a few short months - February 2016, mark your calendars.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Give Us Our Daily Bread

I know my mother would smack my typing fingers for even using that line in a title but I couldn't help it.  Loosely shadowing the words of the Lord's Prayer or not - it fits to perfectly into the subject of this post which is .... wait for it...


There's too much of it - bread I mean.  Not in context of daily living, or at least our daily living but in travelling and trying to find a meal on the road.  Bread should not be the mainstay of any diet but I've discovered in the last few days of travelling that the road is littered with fast food places,  much of them offering bread based products; hamburgers, pizzas, submarine sandwiches, breakfast treats such as cinnamon buns and muffins, crepes and, and... I'm craving vegetables, fruit - I scarfed the banana at the hotel breakfast where three-quarters of the food offered involved some sort of grain.  I look at the long haul truckers and wonder how they survive this on-the-road dietary issue.

From what I can see, the fast food business seems determined to make sure that we don't eat well.  And while I avoided their influence as much as possible at home - on the road is a different matter.   And being as I can't avoid being on the road as it's a great place to be for writing research and for relaxation - not necessarily in that order.  I'm beginning to think that my mother had the right idea all those years ago when she packed a meal for every trip.  And while that's impractical for a long-haul trip maybe a trip to a nearby grocery store for a few healthy deli items might be a step in the right direction.  Yes, I had a hamburger for supper , at the Shake Shack, and, except for the processed cheese (big faux pas), it was fantastic bread and all, but I'm still craving vegetables and fruit.

How do you eat when you're on the road?


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Searching Out Winter

                                                                                                                                                                                   We left Saskatchewan heading out for our vacation and were met by cloudy skies and drizzly weather but we were a long way from snow.   Driving west and south had the rain edging to snow.  I never though escaping a prairie winter would mean facing that demon weeks before he traditionally arrives at home.  But when winter sets its sights on you there's no escaping it.

By this morning things look pretty grim as we drove through the mountains in Montana.  We're heading for Arizona to spend some time before facing another prairie winter.  Fortunately, within hours, the temperature warmed up, the scenery was awesome and we found a Starbucks for coffee - all things turned out well.  

Today I added another state to my travels - Idaho and yes, there is actually a potato museum.     I didn't see it but I saw the sign announcing its existence.  Montana an Idaho are both scenic States and the Interstate is not the madness of the bigger cities but instead runs through mountains and prairie, with plenty of ranch land.

Later today we arrived at Salt Lake City.  It was a Sunday but the traffic was still thick.  Salt Lake City has changed since I was there, at least what I saw from the Interstate.  My last trip was also my last trip with my parents, the year I graduated from high school, a lot of years and a lot of change.  The city has grown and the sprawl of it goes on for many, many miles.  This time around, as my husband turns to me and wanders why we didn't plan to stay here a few extra days instead of navigating the craziness of the interstate and watching Salt Lake City breeze by on both sides, I have no answer.  

Tomorrow it's off to other adventures, new places and interesting people.    


Friday, September 25, 2015

P. J. O'Rourke - The End of An Era

P.J. O'Rourke
July 4, 2000 - September 22, 2015

This week I lost my friend and writing companion.  It's been a long and happy partnership, and my friend was tired - it was time to say goodbye.

My journey with Rourke began when we brought home a new puppy, an Irish Terrier.  Rourke began life in the heart of the British Columbia mountains.  I would joke about his "dual citizenship" for his sire was an American dog and Rourke was born on the fourth of July.  But none of that mattered much to Rourke.  What mattered to him was having his people close, having a bit of fun in the day - a game or two or maybe three, getting into a bit of mischief and going for that daily walk.

We wanted a good solid Irish name so we named him after one of my husband's favourite author's at that time, P. J. O'Rourke.

Rourke was a good traveller from the beginning and where we went, at least on our road trips, he went too.  He settled himself into the backseat ready for any adventure that was to follow.  Intelligent and quick to learn, he wasn't so quick to follow commands.  He had a mind of his own, a trait bred into him eons ago when the Irish Terrier was raised as an independent Irish farm dog.  Now that trait was clear with Rourke.  At obedience, he learned quickly but after learning a command he wasn't apt to repeat it over and over again.  Once he'd done it, the look on his face would say that was enough.  He loved little children and other dogs.  And a walk where either of those appeared ended up in a very distracted Rourke.  He wanted to visit the children and charge head first at the dog, ready for any game whether it was a nose sniffing hello or a pseudo fight.  While he could fly over an agility course, he wasn't so apt to stop if distracted by another dog.  He loved winter and shovelling his face through the banks of fresh snow.  Doing a rather face forward snowplow until there was snow clinging to his moustache.  He loved playing and even a few days before he died he was trying to do spins on the lawn.  But his favourite toys and games were with his stuffed animals - always oversized.

He was there when my first book, From the Dust was published in 2007 and through the writing journey thats followed with all its twists and turns.  He's accompanied me on fifteen years of idea laden walks.  Every morning he made sure that I took a break from writing to go on those walks.  There he strolled by my side, sniffing trees and shrubs, running ahead and always game to keep extending the walk to sniff one more tree and then one more.  In later years, our walks were slower but he still enjoyed every moment of the new sights and smells and the simple joy of being together.  A walk with Rourke never failed to end in feeling good - you couldn't help it.

There was ritual attached to my writing.  Every morning I would get my coffee and Rourke would follow me downstairs to my office where he would settle on his oversized dog bed.  It was a bed we'd brought home from a trip despite the good-natured griping of my husband at the size of it and the room it took, never mind the fact that we had to haul it thousands of miles.  My office looks empty without Rourke laying on that big dog bed.   Sometimes I can imagine he's still there.  

Through the ups and downs of establishing a writing career, Rourke was one of the constants.  When I was accepted by Harlequin intrigue I didn't know it but his time here was dwindling.  I like to think that he stuck around to see me become a Harlequin author and once that was accomplished, Rourke saw it as a time to let go.

I know that'll I'll never know the truth of that but but what I know for sure is that a little over a week before he died, the lameness he was experiencing was diagnosed as something much worse, bone cancer.  He spent his last week being held and pampered, the king of his domain, as he always was, and as loving as he had always been.   The end was peaceful in my arms, just as he arrived in our life as a small puppy over fifteen years ago.

Rest well, sweet Rourke.  Enjoy the stories from afar.


Rourke's Salmon Biscuits
1 can salmon (about 200 grams)
1/2 cup water
pinch of dill
a dash or two of lemon
a dash of pepper 
bake at 325 - flip the cookies after thirty minutes
and continue to bake for another half hour.
Turn off oven but leave cookies in the oven until it cools.  
Cookies will harden just a bit more

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gotcha: The Subordination of Free Will

I was thrilled to be asked to review another of Eldon Taylor's books.  His books are always educational and inspirational.  But this time I was a little surprised.  Gotcha is unlike any of his books I've read before.  Gotcha is a wake-up call and as such, it is as thought provoking as it is disturbing.  But don't let all that scare you - instead look at it as a challenge, a book that could change your life like all his others but in a different way.  So without anymore rambling - here's my review of Gotcha and a bit about its author, Eldon Taylor.

My review of:  

Gotcha:  The Subordination of Free Will

Gotcha is a reminder that in a world of propaganda we must be aware and alert and most of all, prepared to act.  Taylor takes us through the background and history of aspects of hypnosis and behavioral modification and demonstrates how government and big business uses this knowledge for their own agendas through an almost constant flood of advertisement and doublespeak that strives to lead us like sheep.  Knowledge is power and the  more big business and government knows about us the more power they have over use, giving them the ability to do anything from selling us the latest in toothpaste to gaining our acceptance of restrictive government legislations and even wars.  Gotcha reminds us of how many of our rights have already been given away for the privilege of what authorities call security or safety and how those lost freedoms may only serve to give them more power over us.  Gotcha is a call to action.  It is a reminder that if each of us believes we cannot make a difference and don't act because our actions will be too small, then our individuality will eventually be swallowed by those who exert their influence over us.  Gotcha is a thought provoking must read for anyone who cares about the future of humanity in the twenty-first century.

Available at most bookstores online including:,, Barnes and Noble

About the Author - Eldon Taylor:

Eldon has made a lifelong study of the human mind and has earned doctoral degrees in psychology and metaphysics.  He is president of Progressive Awareness Research, an organization dedicated to researching techniques for accessing the immense powers of the mind.  For more than 20 years, he has approached personal empowerment from the cornerstone perspective of forgiveness, gratitude, service and respect for all life.

Eldon can be reached at:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Suspect Witness - It's Been a Journey

Since I learned earlier this year that Suspect Witness was accepted for publication with Harlequin Intrigue there's been the proverbial "learning curve."  While setting up an author profile I learned that after making DH take numerous pictures before I was finally satisfied - the picture may and would be rejected.   My photo rejected?  Yes, for lack of acceptable resolution.   I've rejected many photos of moi in my day but for very different reasons!  But seriously, there's much to learn and yes - another photo to be taken.

Suspect Witness left my hands, for the last time, earlier this month.  It didn't leave easily.  When I received that last copy and heard that this was it - last chance to make changes, I had a hard time letting it go.  In fact I held on to it right until D day or deadline day.  And then I had to pry off all ten fingers that clung to cyber space hoping for another hour, minute, second.  But the truth was the story was ready, scanned by many eyes, researched written and pampered in the planing stages and polished long after that.  I let go.

In a way it feels like my book has become a communal project.  But I'm grateful for that community who with sharp eyes and sharper grammar skills have pulled out a few misplaced phrases.  I've never had this many eyes on a manuscript and it was both supportive and in a way intimidating.  Being from Canada there were a few twists of grammar that left me stumped.  I thought I had all the cheque/check or neighbour/neighbor etc. etc., covered.  But there were some I hadn't anticipated and that I admit I looked it up to be sure that I was right - and I was, as long as I kept my foot on the north side of the border.

But all of that aside, that isn't the exciting news.  What is is that while Suspect Witness still doesn't have a cover, it has a date - February 1, 2016.  Check it out on Amazon where you can pre order.

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Must Reads of Summer

I'm not sure why in the middle of a gorgeous summer day with the temperature sitting at a beautiful
26 Celsius that I'm sitting in the house.  Maybe it's because yesterday I attended the "family" barbecue, which means I got my quota of outdoors.  It was a day of being outside and catching up with an interesting mix of people that included my brother's in-laws as well as his side of the family, which was how I ended up outside enjoying the sun at a party at his house.  It's only once a year that we get to do this but it's always a fun time.

Saskatchewan prairie
Now, with the summer half over it's time to get serious about summer reads.  And today I've come across a dilemma.  The problems comes in the form of Harper Lee and her new book.  I want to read it but I can't read it.

Why...  ?

Because of "To Kill a Mockingbird".

"To Kill a Mockingbird" was a grade school compulsory read.  Why we would have read it then, I don't know but the result is that it was so long ago that I can't remember much of anything about the book.  So, I've pulled out a copy I got at a garage sale, like a batch of other books I've picked up along the way just just because I thought one day I might read it again.  One day in this case turned into a year and then two, and my book collection of one day I might read expanded with silent precision in my bookcase downstairs.

My curiosity has me wanting to read the"Go Set a Watchman" but practicality tells me I need a brush up on history first.  So "To Kill a Mockingbird" has moved upstairs where I promise myself it will be read just as soon as I finish a non-fiction that promises to motivate me to hit the treadmill - we'll see.

What are you reading this summer?


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Bio? - Even the Dog is Stressed

Okay, so the dog wasn't too stressed except that his lunch was delayed.  Me on the other hand, there was just a little sweat.  It's not that this was the first bio I've ever written, or even the second.   But there I was poised with the publish button on my new website that had been out of commission for over a week, before I even hit the publish button, but that's another story.

All the drama was exhausting.
I hesitated.


Couldn't do it.


I made the mistake of reading the bio.  No good, I told self.  Why?  It's all true.  It's me, it really happened.  Maybe it needs more reality...

But really, does anyone care that I'll devour chocolate chip cookies and can't keep a full package in the house.  Is letting them know that I once killed an influx of spiders with a can of hairspray relevant?  Seriously, none of that was there but what was, well it just wasn't grabbing me.  Maybe there's only so many times you can read about your own life - or at least skim the surface of it.

So back to square one and the original bio.  You know I think I agonized too much.  I love reading biographies, what was so hard about writing a brief bit about myself?  Once I sharpened and shortened, it's not bad.  I think it's interesting and well, it's all true.  It's my life, short form, the relevant parts... the bits that hopefully really matter to me as a writer - and the rest, well I'm not filling in the blanks at least not this go around...

Cheers to Canada Day!
 and to the upcoming Fourth of July!


Friday, May 22, 2015

Stories of Prairie People

I am fortunate to still have some of my family elders around with stories of past days on the prairie.  So when I heard a local publisher was putting together an anthology of stories from the depression on cream money and it's importance to local farmers - I had just the story to include.

It's hard to imagine what life would be like in a tiny town in the middle of the prairies circa nineteen-forty.  It's definitely another world and I'm so lucky to have someone whose been there entertain me with how it was.  Barefoot, windblown kids running free, racing trains and doing their part in supporting the family by wrestling those cans onto a train - a train that might still be moving.    Unbelievable now but reality then.

That was the story I was told and wrote for the anthology, Cream Money, which will be debuting this Saturday.

There are other fantastic stories by other authors, in fact a whole collection of true tales of another world on the prairies - long ago.  It's better than fiction because it's real and just as unimaginable.  Imagine digging a hole in the ground to live for a prairie winter.  Imagine temperatures that can go double digit below zero and be accompanied by harsh winds.  There are tales of survival, and if talking to our many pioneers is any indication, more tales of fun and adventure.  All of it is wrapped around the theme of cream money and how it helped those hardy pioneers survive the nineteen-thirties depression.  Check it out, there's lots of stories from other authors all compacted into one great book.

I'll be giving a copy or two of Cream Money away in the month of June - sign up for my newsletter to learn more.  E-mail and just put newsletter in the re line.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Jim's Weight Training & Bodybuilding Workout Plan

It's been busy lately and I've slowed down on the books I occasionally review but some books you can't say no to.   Besides with a love of books and a passion for writing, I'm spending too much time in a chair.  Not only that but I discovered that the treadmill desk might not be for me - seems I get motion sick!

Moving on...

Jim Atkinson is a bodybuilder and fitness trainer who has written more than his share of workout and "get fit" books and each one that I've read has been fantastic and motivational.  Don't let the bodybuilding put you off - Jim's latest book will get you off the couch and keep you there.

Here's my review of his latest:

"If this book doesn't motivate and keep you on track to get in shape, bodybuilder or not, nothing will!  Written by a qualified fitness instructor and personal trainer, it is written in an upbeat, logical, and easy to read manner and gets right to the heart of bodybuilding addressing all aspects including health and nutrition.  The bodybuilding regime is explained and laid out with a full year's training plan, great reference guides for the various movements and an accountability chart to keep you on track.  I've read other great fitness books from this author and again I was not disappointed by either the easy to follow instructions, well-written prose or his knowledge on the topic of fitness.  While this book addresses bodybuilding and a more intense regime than some of his other books that I've read, it's every bit as motivational no matter what level you're at.  If you're looking for motivation combined with common sense advise on how to body build this book is for you.  If you're looking for motivation to get fit, this books for you too.  A great reference!

Check it out here.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Hello World - Google Maps!

Yesterday we had one of those sweeping winds, the kind of prairie winds that rattle the bare trees and clear the dust off the sidewalks.  I'm not a fan of those winds but I suppose they have their purpose.   So it was into one of those hairstyle destroying winds that I found myself and where I soon wished that I'd at least worn a touque.  Why?  Because I discovered that a touque has more than one purpose:  A)  It keeps your head warm and B) It hides a bad hair day

The day began well enough, very early as it does when I'm wrapping up a story.  It means long hours and often many cups of coffee.  The day began just before five and, as I mostly do, I listened to a playlist again and again because -  I'm not really hearing it.  Instead I'm hearing the voices of my characters and the pulse of the story as it barrels to the end.

But finishing that last chapter is only the beginning of having a final story ready to head off anywhere.  The end takes me right back to the beginning and going through the story to pick out the obvious problems, clean it up and in a way, sew it up.  Then off it goes to my beta reader.  And then... well, that's anther post.

Yesterday, after I'd been in the world of fantasy for too long and I'd run out of people to annihilate...  Okay, it wasn't quite that bad but I needed a little fresh air.  Now at this point I've been in my basement office for most of the day but it was time to emerge and see what was going on.  So, without pulling a comb through my hair, and without a stitch of makeup, and still looking basement pale, and story sapped, I threw on a jacket, sunglasses - grabbed the dog and went.

Half way through my walk I see at a distance this little car with bright green sides and some sort of red contraption on its roof.  I think to myself that it's some pretty fine advertising and I continue on with my walk.

Routing around the neighbourhood and returning home, I come face to face with the little car and as it slowly drives by I turn to look at it and see what it's advertising.  It's one of those freeze frame moments as I realized that this isn't an advertisement, well maybe it is, there is Google on the side of the car.  But the thing on top is a camera and I'm looking straight at it.  It's the Google street view car.  It was a moment of horror when even the driver looked ominous.

At that point there was nothing to do but keep on walking and resign myself to the fact that I'd been  google mapped.

My only hope now is that they photoshop.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Harlequin Intrigue and The Call!

It's been a rather wild March not a surprising fact, for winter doesn't follow a calendar and these last few weeks it's still chucking a curveball or two.  But this March it's been more than that.  Some great things have been happening and I've been quiet here on the blog as truly, it didn't seem real until now.  So today I have news and I want to tell everyone.  And that's when I discovered that my website has a major issue so before I could do a blog post I had to spend the morning on a frantic run to get the website fixed.

Why frantic you ask?  Or maybe you didn't.  Yes, I know - get to to the news, and what this post is really about.  Today is my debut of sorts.  My romantic suspense sold to Harlequin Intrigue and today the story of my "call" is appearing on Harlequin's blog.  I discovered that this morning and I headed right over to my website to announce the event.  That's when I discovered the big blooper.  It's fixed now but its been a long morning that began, as usual, shortly after 5:00 a.m.  

So with everything again up and running -  check out the story of my call at the Harlequin Blog.  Hurry up, head on over because you know, I'm still so excited!

Click the link here to get to:

The story of my romantic suspense set in Malaysia and the CALL!


Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Morning After...

The weather report said snow showers. That was yesterday.  I admit, I had to google that.  What the heck is a snow shower?  I mean I knew what was going on out there, it looked like a small scale blizzard, biting winds that got stronger through the day and a steady pelt of snow that smeared the windows and made it look like there was a white haze between indoors and outdoors.  And on days like this, as all you winter babies know, nothing, not even modern heating systems, completely ward off the chill.

Even the snow kite race event was cancelled.  I figured that as the wind picked up, it would be a bonus for the racers.  Apparently not.   I think that's got to be amazing fun.  Just imagine, snow covered prairie and you attached to a kite that's skipping you across the drifts, launching you briefly into the air and back down.  Or not, I just imagined the potential face plant, or worse...

Anyway, here we are the morning after.  I'm going for my daily dog walk and the sidewalks are plugged with snow.  There are some that have been out early and others that match my schedule and are out blowing snow.  And then there's those that just want to sleep in on Sunday or worship or anything but get the snow off the sidewalk.  So I do the shuffle walk to clear a primitive path for the dog.  And when the drifts get too high, we stop.  I know what this means...with a sigh I pick up forty pounds of winter bundled dog and trudge through drifts deep enough to drown my much shorter companion.  A man drives by, slows, smiles, waves and carries on.  I imagine he thought he might need to be a good samaritan and then realized that we were doing just fine on our own.  Or maybe it's not often that you see a dog with boots and coat being carried through snow drifts.  But hey, when you've reached the grand old age of fourteen you deserve, occasionally, to get the royal treatment.

 A public path blown clear by someone - thanks!
So after our walk or snow slog - there's snow to be cleared, and after that, a path to be dug through the backyard, again for the dog.  Who said dog
ownership was easy?  Then clearing snow off the deck and away from the back door so it doesn't track in and... and...  Winter is definitely a project.  I remember a month ago, Arizona and yard maintenance seemed to mean nothing more than a man showing up with what looked like a leaf blower on his back and blowing the dust off patios.  Now it means, shovelling and shovelling and shovelling again...   And the humidifier is running just like it was down south because despite the snow, it's a dry kind of cold...take my word.

It was a day of cleaning out the yard of the white stuff and clearing out the story of the debris that has had me stuck for too long.  But that's the good thing about these cold winter walks, there aren't many distractions to ones thoughts, the traffic is light and the people outside are busy hurrying to get back in.

Today I'm shutting the door on the cold and the snow, and getting some work done... writing related that is.   And if someone, somewhere is enjoying a bit of sunshine and heat - maybe send just a tad, a pic even - my way.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Michelle Moran and Rebel Queen

From the internationally bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra's Daughter comes REBEL QUEEN, the breathtaking story of Queen Lakshmi - India's Joan of Arc - who against all odds defied the mighty British invasion to defend her beloved kingdom.  

Enter to win a signed copy at the end of this post!

I'm excited to welcome Michelle Moran and her latest book Rebel Queen which is set in India.  As usual, Michelle has done extensive research in the country and has come back with some interesting stories.  I'll let her take it away from here.

With every book I write, I discover something about the culture I'm researching which completely blows me away, often because it's so unusual and something I've never encountered before.  In the case of my book, REBEL QUEEN, set in India during the British invasion, the concept of Janam Kundlis struck a chord with me, particularly since Janam Kundlis very nearly played a role in my own life and my marriage to my husband, who is Indian.

Also known as an astrological chart, a Janam Kundli is made by a priest for each child in India.  No one is sure when the concept of a Janam Kundlis came to be, but as Vedic astrology is several thousand years old, it's not surprising that my protagonist's Janam Kundli would have looked similar to my husband's, even though they were born more than a hundred years apart.  A person's Janam
Kundlis includes the details of their birth-time, date, planetary alignments.  It also includes other things which aren't so common in the West, such as that person's probable future career and who they were in their most recent past life (in my husband's case, a yogi!).

Reading a person's natal chart is serious business.  Once a person's Janam Kundli is created, they will keep that document with them for life, producing it when it's time for marriage.  Even today, Janam Kundlis are used to make prospective matches between brides and grooms throughout India, where the majority of marriages are arranged.   And woe betide anyone whose Janam Kundlis declares them to be a manglik, or a bad-luck person.  If that's the case, as it was for the famous Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai, one of two options are available.  You can either marry another manglik, thus cancelling out your bad-luck status, or you can hire a priest to conduct a variety of ceremonies that will make it possible to marry someone who isn't a manglik like yourself.  This last option, however, is only available if the non-manglik person's family finds the risk acceptable.  In Aishwarya Rai's case, her in-laws obviously felt the "risk" was worth it, and in 2007 she married a tree before she married her husband, thereby cancelling out her bad-luck in this way.

Why a tree?  Well, this was something I very nearly discovered myself when my own Janam Kundli was made.  Apparently, like Aishwarya Rai, I too am probably a manglik, meaning marriage for me would most likely end in the divorce or death of my spouse.  I say probably, because my Janam Kundli was done online.  The effect, however, was very nearly the same.  Major discussions took place as to whether I would need to marry a tree before the wedding could proceed, or whether my Janam Kundli should be discounted since I am not, after all, Indian, and my Janam Kundli hadn't "officially" been made by a priest.

In the end, it was decided that my husband should take the risk and go for it.  I never had to marry a tree or even choose among a variety of clay urns for my groom.  Either option, apparently, is acceptable, as it's believed that a person's manglik dose can be cancelled out if the manglik person's bad luck is spent on the first marriage.  Thus, the bride first marries a clay urn or a tree, then either breaks the clay urn or chops down her tree-husband in order to become a "widow" (in some places, the tree is allowed to survive).  After this, the second marriage is ready to proceed without a hitch.

There are varying interpretations of this ceremony, and even though it didn't end up affecting me, a person's Janam Kundli can alter their destiny, just as I describe in the beginning of REBEL QUEEN.  It's cultural gems like these which make researching historical fiction such a pleasure, and it's these type of details which I try to include in each of my books.  As a writer, my hope is that they pique the reader's interest along the way, and as a reader, they are the sort of facts which help ground me in another place and time.

Michelle is giving out a pair of bangles she's brought back from India and a signed hard cover copy of Rebel Queen to one lucky entrant.  The bangles are all unique and won't look exactly like the ones in the picture.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Leave a comment and you're entered to win.  One entry per.   Good luck everyone!