Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Recommendation: Curtain Call

By Niki Turner

Someone recently posted a guide to writing book reviews (Dina shared it HERE.) I loved it, because I want to help my fellow writers by offering reviews, but struggle when I come up against all those rules I learned in literature class. Somehow, applying those rules takes all the fun out of saying, "Hey! I really like this book, and you might like it, too!"

The premise is simple: If you ask yourself "what do I wish the author had done differently in this book" and can't come up with anything, the book gets five stars. If there are minor things, it gets four, and so on...
So what does Curtain Call, by Lisa Richardson and Jennifer Allee get, according to this new review paradigm? 

I read the first book in the Charm and Deceit trilogy, Diamond In the Rough, when it first came out and loved it. I fell for bad-boy-hero-with-a-heart-of-gold Grant Diamond (because I always like those kinds of heroes), and had a crush on clever Pinkerton agent Carter Forbes, so determined to capture Diamond for the murder of Forbes' sister. You know the way you feel about Loki when you watch "Thor"? That love/hate/sympathy thing? My feelings toward Forbes were very similar. 

Anyway, At the close of book one, I knew I HAD to read book two. 

And then life got weird (it has a habit of doing that when you least expect it) and I missed book two, Vanishing Act, entirely. Boo. 

But there are benefits to being friends with authors... Lisa sent me BOTH books. Yay! (Because there are very few things worse than missing a third of a trilogy.) 

Unfortunately, I neglected to send Lisa my current mailing address, so my package crisscrossed the nation a few times before it landed in my mailbox, and then I had to read Vanishing Act first, of course. (That's my really long, roundabout way of explaining why this review didn't occur sooner.) 

This third and final tale in this trilogy—Curtain Callis the story of Carter Forbes' younger sister, Emily, and Dr. Samuel DeKlerk, bereaved brother of the murdered woman from book one.

My thoughts...

1. The protagonists are the kind of people you want as friends... compassionate and determined to see wrongs made right, no matter the cost to themselves. Personally, I took great interest in reading about Emily's prosthetic (she's an amputee), because my great-grandfather lost both legs in a train accident on May 1, 1906. He learned to walk again (and ride) and eventually became the treasurer of El Paso County, Colorado. 
Samuel's mission as a post-Civil War physician has him trying to help many of his patients through the horror of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, in an era when such a thing wasn't really acknowledged. Both of them are willing to sacrifice personal comfort in order to serve the less-than-fortunate. Like I said, folks you'd want on your "friend" list.

2. As a mystery, this one is at the top of the list. I didn't figure out "whodunit" until it was revealed at the very end, and the conclusion was both totally plausible and obvious... an ideal mystery ending, and perfect for the end of a trilogy built around an unsolved murder case. Kudos, Jen and Lisa!

3. Don't just buy Curtain Call. Buy the whole three-book series. Vanishing Act is also excellent, with lots of Civil War history and a wonderful "take" on the heroine's chosen profession. Plus, if you fell in "like" with Carter Forbes, Vanishing Act is HIS story. 

4. It's a credit to the writing ability of these two talented authors that you cannot tell where one "voice" begins and the other ends, but you can see the strength created by their collaboration.

Altogether, very well-written fiction.
I do hope they plan to do more in the future!

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of three. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lessons from the Editor's Desk - Editors Are People Too

by Dina Sleiman

Okay, so the title is a little silly, yet oddly easy to forget. As I’ve mentioned in the last two posts in this series, I am a part-time, often volunteer editor for WhiteFire Publishing. So I assume you knew I was just a regular person, but the same holds true for all editors. Here are some things to keep in mind in that vein, and I would venture to say that most of this is true of agents as well

Editors Want to Have a Good Conference Experience. While editors come in a variety of personality types, they want to have a pleasant conference experience just like you. They might be shy and new to the conference and just as nervous about who to sit with at lunch as you are. Or they might be a fun-loving individual looking for someone to bounce their jokes off of. If you treat them like a person, ask them about their families and pets, their interests, you might just gain an actual friend who happens to be influential in the publishing industry. And just like any other people, you will probably connect easily with some of them, and not so easily with others. That’s okay. Chances are, the ones who like you will also like your writing style.
Editors Want to Have Good Meetings with Conferees. Generally, editors don’t like being pressured, being given sob stories, or being told that God has mandated them to publish your book. They don’t like being chased or handed manuscripts under bathroom stalls. Beyond that, it’s a good idea to do some research on the editor and learn what they do and don’t like. Personally, I have a pet peeve about conferees who don’t answer my questions but instead push on with their sales pitch. For example, I want to know how long a writer has been writing, what professional associations they have, and if they know the industry lingo, and I hate it when writers ignore my questions. On the other hand, I find nervous conferees kind of endearing. I think most editors like it when conferees are a nice balance of prepared yet casual. They enjoy a relaxed meeting. They like to have a conversation and not just listen to a speech. They like to see that you are excited about your project and that you’ve done your work to be ready for publication.
Editors Talk to Other Editors. Going to writers conferences and meeting with editors is an awesome idea…unless you have a pushy, annoying, or otherwise abrasive personality. In which case, you might want to think twice. Editors talk to other editors, and you don’t want to get a bad reputation in the industry. If you discover that you’ve committed a serious faux pas (I‘m not talking about passing manuscripts under stalls or using the wrong font here, we’re used to that stuff), it might be wise to make a sincere and heartfelt apology.
Editors Have Preferences about Submissions. For starters, most of them only want submissions from agents these days. If they do take submissions, shockingly (sarcasm) they put their guidelines right on their website, and they expect you to follow them. What if they just say something general like “a query letter” or “a proposal”? That should indicate two things to you, 1) They aren’t terribly particular, but 2) they do expect you to do your own homework and to provide these documents to a general industry standard. Don’t know what that is? I repeat—do your homework.

Editors Represent Companies. Editors might seem like all-powerful gods to authors, but they have to answer to their employers just like anyone else, and they also have to win the approval of their publication committee. If they choose your book and it does poorly, it could negatively impact them as well. They have an obligation to represent their company’s lines and needs, and part of your (or your agent’s) homework is to make sure you are sending your work to the right companies. Most companies have certain “slots” to fill in their publication lines. For example, two American set historical romances, one historical romance set in England, three suspense novels, and five contemporary women’s novels. And to continue the example, eight of those slots for the year might already be filled by their current authors. You might have an awesome book that the editor loves, but whether or not you get a contract will still be largely based on the company’s specific needs of that moment, which is one of the many reasons you must keep trying and not be easily discouraged. Editors want to please their employers and keep their jobs just like anyone else, which is why being stubborn or pushy about a book that doesn’t fit their line will only cause you to be on their bad list.

Editors Have Personal Taste. In addition to representing their companies, editors also have their own taste. You might find that within a given publishing house one editor prefers plot driven fiction, another deep characters, and a third is a sucker for a great voice. That’s part of why you can’t take rejection too personally, and you must keep trying and trying. It’s entirely possible that you might send an editor an awesome novel, but they have read two similar bad ones recently that negatively color their perception. Or worse yet, they might have just read an off the charts awesome book in your genre, and therefore yours seems lackluster in comparison. It happens, and there’s nothing you can do about it but keep trying.

Editors Care about People They Know. And so I pretty much bring us back to the first point. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about nepotism. But…I think it is simple human nature that editors will give more time and attention to submissions by people that they know and like. They’ll feel more confident about publishing a book by someone they trust. It’s easy for me to send a simple, “no thank you” to people I haven’t met, whereas someone I know in person is more likely to get suggestions for improvement with an invitation to resubmit. At the end of the day, publishers are only going to publish books they love and feel confident about. But…given two books of equal merit, do you think an editor will push for the one by a friend or a stranger???

Yep, editors are people too. Don’t tick them off. Don’t annoy them. But if you can invest time into getting to know them and becoming their friends, it just might bode well for your future.
Have you ever met with an editor? Can you share any funny stories, cautionary tales, or suggestions?

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Check out her novels Dance from Deep Within, Dance of the Dandelion, and Love in Three-Quarter time. And please join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at

Friday, April 18, 2014

Why Hockey Is Better

    Okay, we're mostly supposed to talk about writing here.  Or books.  Or movies.  Or recipes.  Something with story, right?  (I'm sure recipes all have a story.  Mostly, when I cook, the outcome is always in doubt, and that's usually a good story ingredient!)
    I believe sports is about story, too.  Will the good guys (my team, of course) beat the bad guys? A rivalry has been building all season and now it's the thrilling final clash, who will emerge victorious? Evil Player A put a dirty hit on Saintly Player B, how will Player B's posse react when the teams meet again? Oh the drama!
    April is a big sports month.  The baseball season is getting started.  Major golf championships are underway.  Soccer is going strong. The regular basketball season is almost over, and their playoffs loom.  Hockey's regular season is over, and their playoffs have just begun.
    I know everyone has his or her own sports preference (or preference to not follow any sport), but my choice is hockey.  Hands down. For me it has the most excitement, the most drama, the most heart. The playoffs, especially in the early rounds, are full of surprises and upsets and interesting storylines.  It's the reason they wrote that song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."  (Many people think that's a Christmas song, but I'm sure it must have started out being about the NHL playoffs and got commandeered by someone who needed something for an early-December TV show and changed most of the words.  Come on,  the line "It's the hap-happiest season of all" HAD to have been written about hockey!)
    Case in point:  Richard Peverley.
    Rich Peverley is a member of my favorite hockey team, the Dallas Stars.  The team was playing the Columbus Blue Jackets on the night of March 10, 2014, when, six minutes into play, the game was abruptly halted.  Head coach Lindy Ruff and the rest of the Stars were frantic over on the bench.  Peverley had collapsed.  His heart had stopped.
    For forty-five long minutes, nobody in the arena or watching on TV knew what had happened.  I knew Peverley had some heart issues and had missed the first three weeks of the season because of it.  When the time dragged on and our regular broadcast team (the wonderful Ralph and Razor) counted up and said that Peverley was the only one missing, I was afraid he had died.  He had died.
    Thanks to the quick work of the training staff and the doctors available at the game (and the mercy of God), he was revived.  One of the first things Peverly asked when he was conscious again was how much time was left in the first period. I'm sure he intended to go back in and play. Now that is a hockey player!
    Unfortunately (though I'm sure his family is happy), the incident ended Peverly's season and, perhaps, his hockey-playing career. But he still travels with the team and no doubt is a great help to them.
    Certainly there are people of courage, dedication and determination in every sport (and more in every other walk of life), but this boils it down for me.  This is why I love hockey.
    Rich Peverley, Dallas Star.

P. S.  The Stars-Blue Jackets game that night was cancelled and replayed a month later.  The Stars ended up losing that one, but they are in the playoffs.  It's the most wonderful time of the year . . .

Which sport is your favorite?  Or do you prefer anything other than sports? Why?

DeAnna Julie Dodson has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. She is the author of In Honor Bound, By Love Redeemed and To Grace Surrendered, a trilogy of medieval romances, as well as Letters in the Attic, The Key in the Attic, The Diary in the Attic and The Legacy in the Attic, contemporary mysteries. Her new series of Drew Farthering Mysteries debuted in the Summer of 2013 with Rules of Murder, to be followed by Death by the Book and Murder at the Mikado in 2014 from Bethany House. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats

Friday, April 11, 2014

Movie Review: Noah

By Niki Turner

SPOILER ALERT: There may or may not be spoilers in this post, or in the two links I've shared below. So if you don't want to know what happens in the "Noah" movie (beyond the ark and the animals and the rainbow and all that), stop reading now!

Hubby and I went to see the new "Noah" movie last weekend, starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson. (Excellent acting on all three parts, IMHO.) And, to my surprise (and horror) Anthony Hopkins. I'm sorry, I love Anthony Hopkins, but he has to stop playing the same role—the wise and all-knowing father figure—over and over...

Anyway, if you live under a rock, or are otherwise not engaged in social media with other Christians, you might be unaware of the controversy this film has engendered. It has been called (among other things):

Unbiblical. (Is that a word? Because spell check doesn't think it is.)
Heretical. (Definition of heresy: a belief or opinion that does not agree with the official belief or opinion of a particular religion.)
Incongruous. (Seen a Hollywood flick that WASN'T incongruous lately?)

And so on...

Christian reviews have been divided (and divisive). Some have lauded Darren Aronofsky's version of the Genesis story of Noah as an opportunity to open lines of communication with unbelievers. Others have criticized the film's failure to adhere to the Biblical account. (Because, you know, all those movies with cute, Caucasian actors portraying Jesus are SO accurate.)

Honestly, I was so disgusted by the name-calling and strife I had no intention of seeing "Noah" at all, lest I be sucked in to the fray. (I hate fray, yet here I am.) But when your hubby of 24 years suggests
seeing a film together on a Sunday afternoon, you just don't say no. 

And so we trotted off to the cinema, where I wasn't expecting a "Biblical" drama, just a movie. Why do we (Christians) continue to expect Hollywood, land of lasciviousness, to accurately portray any Bible story? That's not their job. That's OUR job. We are supposed to be the "living letters" that demonstrate Christ to the world. Not some cheesy movie we put our money behind. (And yes, the first five minutes of Noah, and all the depictions of birds in flight, are cheesy. On a good day.) 

That said, "Noah" was, overall, an interesting flick. It's not a happy tale, but then, the Genesis story is not a happy story. It's hard. Brutally violent. Uncomfortable, at best. Why we continue to decorate our babies' nurseries and children's church classrooms in a Noah's ark theme is beyond me. There's really nothing pleasant about it until you get to the rainbow.

I could (because I wasn't looking for the movie to affirm my faith in God, or the veracity of the Bible) ignore the "rock monsters" everyone has been freaking out about. Whatever. Give the writers a little creative license before you start throwing stones. Posts at Relevant Magazine and Jewish Journal (remember, the story of Noah we know and love was passed down from our Jewish forefathers) had prepped me for some of the other controversial plot devices, so I was able to ignore those, too. Check out this post by Jason C. Stanley, too, for a handy-dandy comparison chart of the Genesis story and the movie. 

Noah's story—his character arc—gave me pause (and brought me to tears). Why? Because I've been in that ugly place where I thought I'd failed to fulfill God's assignment. (Did you ever wonder what drove Noah to drink? Wow. It might be poetic license again, but there's nothing as miserable and discouraging as believing you've failed God.) And because I've (thankfully) been drawn out of that place of failure and into a place where I have a greater understanding of what mercy, love, and compassion truly mean. Not just for others, but for myself, in my own broken state.

On another note, my other takeaway from the movie is that meat is suddenly unappealing. To the extent that I skipped meat all week, which is weird for me. And difficult, since I'm the cook for a family of carnivores. Does "Noah" have an environmentalist, vegetarian agenda? Maybe. (After all, you know how those vegetarians and tree-huggers are always trying to take over the world. Sarcasm? Yep.) 

And yet, maybe we do need to stop and think about what we're doing to the planet with which we've been entrusted, even though we know the end of the story, and know God is going to start all over with a new heaven and a new earth someday. 

As a believer, does knowing the end of story mean I can treat the earth and the creatures I live here with as disposable and expendable, because Daddy God is going to replace it all eventually? That, in my opinion, is that same mindset that says my daily exercise routine is unnecessary because this body is doomed, anyway; it doesn't matter where/how the energy that lights and warms my home comes from; and I can eat all the Oreo cookies I want, as long as I cast the calories out of them first.

Is this right? Or do I need to adhere to those early instructions, the ones about caring for and overseeing God's creation, showing mercy to the creatures (animals) in my domain, and maintaining this earthly body in a responsible way for as long as it continues to be my tent?

The Biblical accuracy of "Noah" might be questionable, but the movie brings to light a host of other very Biblical, moral and ethical questions about life, about following God, about our humanity, and about our responsibility to God's creation that we would do well to consider and apply. Just a thought. 


  • What's your favorite Bible-story based movie? 
  • Have you seen "Noah," and if not, are you planning on it?

Niki Turner is a writer, former pastor's wife, mother of four, and grandmother of three. She has thus far been unsuccessful at coming up with catchy taglines for her writing, her purpose in life, or what she hopes to achieve in the future. Suggestions are welcome

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dear Author, You're Annoying.

An Inky Round Table discussion

Barb: As my first novel was released just last week, I, like so many other writers, are struggling with how best to use social media for book promotion. But as readers, we're all bombarded with messages every day through Facebook or Twitter. So today on Inkwell, a few Inkies are talking about all those things that writers do to try to get noticed and sell books, but that might be working against them by annoying potential readers.

We'd like to invite our readers into the discussion. What annoys you? Or you could spin it positive and say what you like to see and what you think works.

Barb: The one thing that drives me crazy is when I log onto Facebook and see the same exact post, copied 20 or 30 times (no lie!) on various Facebook groups. I have one author that I had to block, because I couldn't read anybody else's posts amid all of hers.

Deb: I see frequent tweets that are redundant and seem to be auto-generated self promotion. Yes, we have to promote our stories, but automatically generated tweets that take the place of chatty comments bug me.

I understand that you have to shoot a bunch of arrows to hit the target but for those of us who have noticed you are trying to sell that book... I'd rather hear what you had for lunch.

If you don't have time to tweet, don't use it as a tool.

Barb: Yes, social media is a great opportunity for promotion. But I try to stay mindful that it is still social media. People aren't there to read our ads. They want to interact with us. If we're not interacting with people on a personal level, we're doing it wrong.

I'm struggling sometimes with what to post. I do want to share with my friends when I'm doing interviews or giveaways--after all, that benefits them too. But sometimes I feel even that can go overboard.

Deb: Well, certainly with a new release you have to use every opportunity! those don't bother me (certainly not Bloom and Doom!). The abundant tweets I'm thinking of are the same book title and sentence a year later. once in awhile? But not week after week. Okay, maybe it's worse when it's a book I picked up and couldn't finish. Oops

Susie: I agree. If I see eight tweets in a row promoting an author's book and the author never tweets anything else, I tune out.

Lisa: My pet promotional peeve is when authors assume that everyone in the contact list wants to receive their promotional e-mails or newsletters. Please don't sign me up for stuff. If I want to sign up I will. But you can rest assured that getting an unwanted e-mail will not prompt me to go buy the latest release.

Suzie: I totally agree with you, Lisa. Don't sign me up without asking first.

Niki: I'll pick on Pinterest... Please don't flood my Pinterest feed with multiple mentions of your book release. One, two, even five posts won't bother me, but when my whole screen is covered with posts relating to your book, it makes me not want to read it. Spread them out, tease me with them, make them stand out!

Jen: There's one author I see on Twitter that only ever tweets about her own books. She either posts quotes from the books, or pieces of reviews. Since she never tweets anything else, I have zero interest in her work.

Suzie: There's one lady on my Facebook like that, too, Jen. It gets so exhausting.

DeAnna: Okay, I guess I'm odd man out, but I really, REALLY don't care what my favorite author had for lunch. I don't care what my dad had for lunch, so why should I care what someone I don't even know had?

But I'm not much of a social media person. I tweet and FB because I'm "supposed" to. I don't read other people's stuff unless I just happen to see it. I always reply to anything people post TO me, but other than that, I don't. Who has time for this? How can anyone possibly read the tons and tons of information that scrolls through on twitter or FB or any of the other sites? I mean, if you do it and nothing else 24/7, okay. But really?

Okay, now you can all cast asparagus on me.

Barb: No asparagus, DeAnna. I think that goes along well with what my agent told me. I don't have to do everything. If I focus on doing what I like then I'll do it more consistently.

For me, I like the interaction of Facebook. I probably need to spend less time on it, but it keeps me from feeling so isolated when I'm home alone all day. I even like the games sometimes (I've cut waaay back. Honest.)

Perhaps that's why I see it more as a hang out place than a promotion place. But with some authors, it's like you're at a party, but you got cornered by the dude who's pressuring you into buying something while everyone else is having fun. I think it's OK to say, "Hey, I'm a writer. This is my book." That's different from the posts that almost seem to read, "BUY MY BOOK. BUY MY BOOK. BUY MY..."

Related to that are the writers who are determined that nobody else has fun on Facebook. They'll rant because someone dared to send them a game invitation (Some of them are generated automatically. If you don't want to get them, you can block them.) It's like the person who walked into a party and says, "Is someone having fun here? We'll need to put a stop to that. Oh, by the way, BUY MY BOOK!"

DeAnna: Heh heh . . . no, I think the people who like it should go for it. And I do enjoy chatting with people . . . IF they happen to say something to me (besides "buy my book"), but I have trouble thinking anyone would be interested in what shoes I'm wearing or what I'm fixing for dinner. And I'm certainly not interested in it enough to post about it. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
I have plenty of time sucks that I actually enjoy. Especially if you're supposed to say 9 non-marketing things for every 1 marketing thing you say. Not that I don't think that's a great idea, but who really has time for that?

Barb: This is probably a leading question, but what do you all think of the "I'll like your page if you like my page" strategy?

Lisa: I've always disliked that. It feels shady. Just playing the numbers, not legit.

Suzie: I agree with Lisa. I don't like it. My friend had a promo blog post where she would enter people in a drawing for "liking" her page. What's to stop them from un"liking" the page as soon as the drawing is over.

What does it even mean if thirty people like me because I liked them? To me it's empty.

So, writers and readers. Time to add your thoughts. What do you like to see? What do you hate to see? What works? What's just annoying? We know you have an opinion. Share.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Going Back on Memories

Last September I shared a post about a summer road trip my sister, Bonnie and I took to a family reunion in Ontario. Since we were driving past our birth town, we decided to drive through the town and see if we could find the houses we lived in decades earlier. As it would be the first time we'd been back at the same time, we wanted to compare our memories and see if what we remembered was the truth or merely our imagination as we'd been told.

We had lived in 5 houses from Geraldton and Jonesville by the time I was seven and no, I won't take you through them all here. Actually we'd passed the Jonesville house and reached the local Dairy Dip before we realized it. I have always called those summer stand-outside-at-the-window-and-order ice cream shops the Dairy Dip because it of the Geraldton one of my childhood. But oh, it was in rough shape. Boarded up and neglected, it was an ominous start to our drive down memory lane.

Dairy Dip Closed for Business, Aug 2013, Geraldton, Ontario

As we found each house, Bonnie and I we spent a long time staring, remembering, and sharing.

Our paternal grandma's house was the last stop on our tour. It was special for several reasons, one being that as children, our step-father would drive the 4 hour trip from Thunder Bay back to Geraldton to visit his mother every Easter. And because Grandma was Ukrainian, we feasted on pedaheh, kielbasa, holubtsi and Paska which Grandma cooked on a woodstove at the back of the house.

Grandma's house had the look and feel of a general store - inside and out. The front room was huge with a oil stove, fridge, and large table in the corner nearest the kitchen. A single cot served as sofa between the table and a TV which drove me crazy due to a huge magnifying screen that made the images fuzzy. Nothing else was in the room other than a scattering of chairs and a couple doors to rooms my unmarried uncles kept.

Bill and Maggie Safroniuk residence until 1970, Geraldton, Ontario

By contrast, where downstairs was utilitarian, Grandma's private quarters upstairs was lace doilies laying across the chesterfield arms and back as if to preserve the fabric from dirty hands and greasy hair. Grandma used doilies on the end tables too, each one with a centered crystal ornament or candy dish. Upstairs was impeccable. My brother and I spent the whole summer of 1968 at Grandma's house and I felt so special because - as the only girl in the house - Grandma allowed me to sleep upstairs with her. She passed away in 1970 and it was my first experience with the death of someone close to me. The last time I saw Grandma's house was when I took the photo above. Last summer when Bonnie and I drove past a modern bungalow in the spot Grandma's house once stood.

Before we left Geraldton however, there was one more thing I needed to see. I've always had this memory of splashing in a pool of slippery rocks. The whole swimming pool - a wading pool really - set among huge boulders where you could sit and dangle your feet in the water, or sit in a private pool between them. I remember my foot wedging between two boulders once during that summer of '68 although a hard tug pulled it out. But it seemed so dangerous, could it have been real, or just my imagination?

Bonnie vaguely remembered it. Her memory was more of getting her dress ripped climbing over the fence to get to the pool than memories of the pool itself. We decided to put our minds at rest and do some exploring.

Since I remembered biking from Grandma's house southward, keeping to the east edge of town, that's where we started. You can follow along, just start at the yellow pin and head south.

North end of Geraldton, Ontario showing search for Rotary Park

In the foreground you can see where we headed east, but then had to turn around when we ended up in a farm yard. We doubled back a block continuing south. That road ended and we turned west for a block before heading south again, sure we'd missed it somehow but deciding to go as far as we could before giving up. We were searching for a pool(s) with a bunch of boulders. Even with the trees, it should have been able to spot. And in case you're wondering, it didn't cross our minds to use my iPhone to check.

South end of Geraldton, Ontario showing Rotary Park

And there it was - at the end of the street, on the southern end of town - in Jonesville. This next photo took my breath away on sight because even if the equipment is modern, the tilting sign isn't. How many times did I walk under it back then? Because unlike Bonnie, I don't remember climbing over the fence so I must have gone through the gate.

Rotary Park Playground,  Geraldton, Ontario, Aug 2013, taken by Anita Mae Draper

We drove past the playground, craning our necks to see our memories materialize. And then in silence, we gazed upon this scene:

Rotary Park, Geraldton, Ontario as photographed Aug 2013 by Anita Mae Draper

In today's world where we protect our children with elbow and knee pads and tell them not to run on cement and play or climb rocks, it seems inconceivable that part our childhood playground was a bunch of slippery boulders. But here was the proof that it had existed. If only we had a picture of it before the town had filled it in.

Bonnie Safroniuk Bremnes reminiscing at Rotary Park, Geraldton, Ontario, Aug 2013

Here's a brief 58 second video of Geraldton Rotary Park I taped while standing on the same spot as Bonnie is in the above photo. I basically say the same as written above too, but try to impart the feeling of being there.

When I returned from our trip, I spent some time searching for a photo of the Geraldton Rotary Park taken in the 60's when it was my favorite recreational outlet. Especially during the summer of '68. I was thrilled when I found a photo on the Geraldton 50th site.

Rotary Park, Geraldton, Ontario, courtesy of Geraldton 50th committee

And that's it. Bonnie and I spent nearly 2 hrs driving around Geraldton and I'm so very glad we did because we now have closure on a difficult part of our lives. Talk about mixed feelings.

Your turn... if you could go back and explore somewhere you once lived or passed through, where would it be? 
Or... what special Easter foods do you remember from your childhood?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae  semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013.  Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Art of the Cozy

To the uninitiated, mystery novels may appear homogenous. Someone’s murdered. Someone else figures out who did it. But to the aficionado, there are myriad distinctions between the types and tones of a mystery. And every true aficionado has their own definition of what those distinctions are.

When I think of mysteries I think of:
Police Procedurals;
True Crime.

There are likely others, but I think most mystery novels could be shoe horned into one of these categories. Now what do these terms mean? I could spend a post on each one. Maybe I will, but the first one I want to talk about today is the cozy.Cozy mysteries are wildly popular and the appeal is pretty obvious. So what are the features of a Cozy?
     They feature an amateur sleuth (usually female);
·      Generally they are set in a small town or village;
·      There is no on-screen violence;
·      There are usually one or more quirky sidekicks for the protagonist;
·      There is often some connection to a craft or trade of some kind, i.e.   cooking, knitting, etc;  
·      There is often a romance thread (although it isn’t the main point of the story);
·      Like violence, any love-making is generally off screen.
·      Cats.

It just so happens that I have a wonderful example of a cozy to help us get the idea of what this looks like when applied to a story. In Bloom and Doom by the rising young star, Beverly Allen, (aka our very own Barbara Early) we meet a young heroine (check) who is making her dream of owning a successful flower shop (check) into a reality in the small town of Ramble, Virginia (check).
When her latest bridal client’s fiancĂ© is found murdered (check) she can’t believe that the bride was behind it. She doesn’t mean to investigate. Not really. But she can’t help noticing things, and some things just aren’t adding up. Which prompts her to do a little nosing around (check). And who is there to help but her quirky cousin, Liv and handsome Nick the new-guy-in-town who knows how to make a mean cupcake, which, as we all know, is the fastest way to any girl’s heart (check, check)

And yes, there is a cat.

That means Beverly (Barb) accomplished the cozy mystery hat trick. She used all the elements. Hurray! But the real trick to cozy writing is taking the elements of the formula and applying them in fun and new ways. For the author to put a unique and personal spin on the expectations. And this is where Beverly does a great job. All of the elements are there but it doesn’t feel like a formula. It is engaging and fun. For example, the cat. He’s not particularly a nice cat. He’s sort of… precocious.
I encourage you to pick up a cozy, and in particular, Bloom and Doom!

What was the last cozy you read? What are you reading now? What are you going to read next?

Influenced by books like The Secret Garden and The Little Princess, LISA KARON RICHARDSON’S early stories were heavy on boarding schools and creepy houses. Now, even though she’s (mostly) grown-up she still loves a healthy dash of adventure in any story she creates, even her real-life story. She’s been a missionary to the Seychelles and Gabon and now that she and her husband are back in America, they are tackling a new adventure, starting a daughter-work church in a new city. Curtain Call, the third in the Charm and Deceit, series co-authored with Jennifer AlLee, released in March 2014.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Flowers At Your Service

This week we're celebrating Beverly Allen's release of Bloom and Doom and while I don't own or work in a flower shop, my husband and I ran a commercial greenhouse operation for five years and since this week's theme is about flowers, I thought this would be an opportune time to show you our operation.

The flower shop in Bloom and Doom takes deliveries of specially-grown flowers and arranges them into gorgeous arrangements in whatever fashion the client requests. Audrey uses her knowledge of the language of flowers to ensure her clients send the right message with the flowers they've chosen to use.

Our greenhouse was a bedding plant operation and although we started growing Spanish Onions and Patio Tomatoes in January, we were only open to the public from May 1st to June 30th. This aerial shot shows our Fillmore, Saskatchewan location on the northern part of town.

The-Way Greenhouse, Fillmore, Saskatchewan

As you can see, we had 3 hooped greenhouses on the go and although you can't tell from this view, we also used the building on the right side which started as a garage, and used for that purpose once all the plants and shelves were out. Behind the garage is a lean-to greenhouse on the south side, one on the north, and the Seed Room operation in the middle. (Think lots of lights, heating cables, and eventually, a germination chamber.)

The-Way Greenhouse, "A"

I usually spent September and October ordering all the cuttings and seeds. February is when the Petunia seeds were started so we'd have them ready for hanging baskets at the beginning of May since people liked giving them for Mother's Day. Every Petunia color had it's own seeding box and we also needed them for the picotee edged ones, the doubles, the stars, the minis, etc. Below are 2 boxes of seedlings. They develop a set of seed leaves first but we wait until they have their first set of true leaves before we plant them. The true leaves will look different, so the following pics aren't ready yet, but they will be in a couple days and then after transplanting, what filled one 12" x 16" box will require 40-50 square feet of shelf space.

The-Way Greenhouse seed boxes

Nelson was in charge of the watering and knew the perfect temperature and pressure to give the plants. They liked warm water, but some - like the geraniums - didn't like it on their leaves or they'd get spotty. If you used the wrong nozzle on the end of the watering wand, the water could spray out and knock the little seedlings over, so you had to pay attention to what you were doing.

The-Way Greenhouse with Nelson watering "B"

As you can see, we had a lot of seedlings growing at the same time and employed several people to help us during transplanting season. The caption above shows Nelson working in "B" greenhouse. We gave them each a letter starting with the garage greenhouse as an easy way of identification, thus we had A, B, C, D, and the Seed Room as well as the north lean-to and south lean-to. A big painted letter on each door and we were good to go.

After a couple years we did away with the wooden seed boxes and switched to hygienic plastic ones. Here's the other side of  "B" with shade control to keep the sun from burning the seeds that need light to germinate.

The-Way Greenhouse "B"

This next one is "D" - the smallest of the hooped greenhouses. That's Nicky, who was just itching to play the tag game... you know the one where you buy a geranium with a tag that says Scarlet and when it blooms the color is white? That's the switcheroo tag game. I'm glad to say we didn't have many complaints about the wrong colors, which is a credit to Nicky's control.

The-Way Greenhouse with Nicky in "D"

Most people want them blooming and so that's what we sold, but for a robust plant with lots of branches - meaning more flowers - they really should be planted before they reach the flowering stage. If you buy it in flower, then the flowers should be snipped off at the stem so the plant's energy will go into putting down roots instead of trying to look pretty. It really needs to come out of transplant shock to look its best.

I loved working in the greenhouse, right from seeding to selling. This next photo would have been taken at the beginning to middle of April and it was always nice to walk from the cool air into the earthy-scented warm air beneath the plastic. I especially liked the smell in February after walking through snow drifts to get to the Seed Room. Such a contrast, but to walk in and see new life growing after walking through a frigid work was rather exhilarating.

The-Way Greenhouse "C"

Hmmm... is Nicky looking at me or the tags? It looks like he might be crossing his arms as a way to keep his hands out of trouble - especially with those super big tags facing him.

The-Way Greenhouse with Nicky in "C"

Although we gave the customers free reign of the hooped greenhouses and cold frames, we used the huge "C" greenhouse as our main showroom for the potted plants like the zonal, ivy, and pansy geraniums, begonias, verbenas, impatiens for sun and shade, wave petunias, herbs, and all sorts of ivy and fillers for hanging baskets and decorative pots.

The-Way Greenhouse "C"

Eight hundred or so cuttings would arrive in February and take me a couple weeks to transplant. A trim at the end of Mar took another week or so, but the results were beautiful. One customer had severe allergies and would stand outside at the end of "C" and send her husband in to do the buying. She did the picking though, yelling at him down the aisle of each greenhouse he entered.

I often thought of that couple while Beta-reading the sequel to Bloom and Doom because there is a cop in the story who is allergic to flowers as well and Bev/Barb made him so very realistic.

The-Way Greenhouse "C"

This is an excellent photo of "D" to show the difference between inside and outside a greenhouse. Inside, everything is watered daily and not dependent on the weather.

The-Way Greenhouse "D"

Every weekend during May and June we'd head out to the Farmer's Markets and other venues. Planning started a couple days before where we'd find a spot to set our orders aside. The day before the event we'd load one truck and trailer outfit at a time ensuing the plants were well-watered first. We also had to ensure we had a couple employees to do the selling and one to do the watering because once the greenhouse opened for the season, customers liked to be given the grand tour, and sometimes by the time the watering was finished, you had to start again. So each needed to know what their job was for the day while we were gone.

Nelson's father who started the greenhouse operation would take his 1/2-ton and custom-built wooden trailer to the Regina Farmer's Market. Nelson would take our van and custom-made metal greenhouse trailer to whatever venue we'd been booked into. The photo below is where we'd set up for 2-3 days a year beside the Stoughton Family Food store. Every Saturday I would take a teen employee and head to the Estevan Farmer's Market with my 1/4-ton and trailer. All vehicles, including the family van, would be packed tight with built-in shelving (paint cans and plywood). On average we'd come back with 40% of our stock left depending on the weather, and we'd have to unload and water everything. What we brought back looked worse for wear and needed a week to get over the 'travel shock' and perk up again.

The-Way Greenhouse on the road

July was spent cleaning out the greenhouses and getting our float ready for the parades which preceded the local fairs. Nelson made this float to sit on his lawn mower and trailer. He'd drive. Crystal would walk beside the trailer holding Jessie who sat on a little chair. Both girls would throw candies to the kids along the route.

The-Way Greenhouse Parade Float

My final shot is "C" in full bloom with my happy workers standing beside the Patio Tomatoes and waiting for their next orders. Oh look... Nicky has his hands behind his back. Such a good little boy. 

And there you have my adventure in the world of bedding plants. Now it's your turn... I'll tell you upfront that except for our greenhouse operation and me taking the Ontario Master Gardener's course I haven't any formal training in plants or greenhouse operations.

Knowing that, do you have a flower question? We'll do our best to answer it.


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their 4 kids. She writes cowboy stories set in the Old West, and Edwardian stories set in the East.  Anita Mae  semi-finaled in the ACFW's 2011 Genesis contest, and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier, Fool for Love, Duel on the Delta and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests.  Anita Mae's short story, Riding on a Christmas Wish is published in A Christmas Cup of Cheer, Guideposts Books, October 2013.  Anita Mae is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Agency. You can find Anita at

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