Bookish Dreams Come True

Sometimes dreams do come true. But mostly they’re made up of hard work, struggles, perseverance, and maybe a little bit of luck. But when they happen, they’re breathtaking and magical moments.

I don’t often say it, or even really think it – maybe because I feel I could always be doing more – but here it goes… deep breath…  I am proud of myself.

Whew, that takes a little (okay, a lot) for me to say that. Is it too pompous, too arrogant, too much? Too bad. I am. And it’s not something I’ve ever really been able to really say about many things in my life. And it feels fabulous.

This year hasn’t all been all sunshine and rainbows though. There have been some incredibly tough moments in various spaces in my life, particularly when my health hasn’t been cooperating, but there have been good, great, magnificent, and incredible moments, and those are the ones to hold onto. And sometimes I need a little reminder, so I made a little list…

In the last year or so…

  • I married the man of my dreams, planned our wedding, and planned a book release within two months of each other – last winter and spring was pretty much mayhem.
  • I finished “my” book. I FINISHED MY BOOK!
  • I published said book. I PUBLISHED A BOOK!
  • I’ve met incredible people – Chick Lit Goddesses, my Toronto writers crew, and all the new friends I’ve made, THANK YOU for making me feel less insane!
  • I secured a new job with my dream hours of four days a week, leaving me one day just for me and my writing (okay, mostly for writing. Sometimes I run errands – BAD LYDIA, BAD! But really, the lineup at Costco is so much less painful on Fridays.)
  • I’ve sold books! I have actually sold more than I ever thought possible in my first year, and while I’m not on any bestseller lists, I’m incredibly pleased and grateful to everyone who has picked it up.
  • People actually like my book! Positive reviews are out there. And they’re not by my mom. Promise.
  • I planned and attended BookBuzz Toronto last fall with author Samantha Stroh Bailey and book blogger Kaley Stewart, to great success.

And now for the biggie, the one I’m super excited about right now and uber-proud of:

Ever since I found out about BEA as a book blogger five years ago I’ve dreamed of attending, of wandering around the exhibits surrounded by books and gaping at my favourite authors as they speak and sign their book babies. But now? Now I’m attending having written my own book baby!

I never believed this would happen. Ever. And it wasn’t even in the plan until about a month ago. But now, here I am, packing my bags and attempting to cram in as many copies of Redesigning Rose as possible. I am traveling to NYC, a city I absolutely adore.  I’m going to meet other authors and book bloggers I’ve chatted with online for years. YEARS! And I’m a part of BookBuzz2014, a fabulous event for women’s fiction authors – RSVP to if you don’t want to miss the bookish party of the year!

It’s going to be an incredible experience – all of it.

This is also my first solo trip. Which is awesome, and wee bit nerve-wracking, and something I will now be able to check off my bucket list. And it’s a little ironic that I finally watched the video below this morning after seeing it posted all over Facebook for weeks.

So, I give you these two fabulous seventy-year-old ladies flying for the first time in case you missed it the other million times it was posted all over the interwebs.

You only get one life. Conquer your fears and make your own dreams come true.



Fab Book Friday

Have you read a fabulous book lately that you can’t stop thinking about and talking about and are dying for more people to read?

Join me over on Twitter for Fab Book Friday and recommend it some more!

Share your most recent favourite read or share an old book love with the hashtag #fabbookfriday. Add a few words and link it to a review you’re written or to Amazon or both if space allows. Add the author. Tag the publisher. Get creative. Just use the hashtag #fabbookfriday.

Come celebrate your favourite books and find another fabulous reads!

Happy Reading!


Gardening Grannies and Magnificent Mom

Redesigning Rose’s dedication is:

“To my Mom, Granny and Granny, the three strongest women I’ve known.”

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Left to right – Granny at the Lake, Me, Mom, Granny Down the Street

There are thousands of ways these three women have influenced my life, and I can’t even begin to think of who I would have become without them. And one such way is with gardening so I shouldn’t have been so surprised when Redesigning Rose ended up having such a heavy gardening theme.

Granny at the Lake (read this post for the Granny/Granny explanation) was the heaviest gardener of us all. She was president of her local horticultural society and had at least eight garden beds – none of them small. And when my brothers and I spent what we hoped would be lazy summer days at her house on Lake Simcoe every summer, we were always out of luck. She woke us up at 6:00am to weed her gardens. I kid you not. Every morning unless there was a storm brewing we were out there batting away mosquitoes and yanking out as much clover, dandelions and creeping Charlie as our tiny hands could grasp. And her gardens were somehow continuously clustered with weeds no matter how much we clutched and clawed at them. All we wanted to do was go fishing. It’s a bit miraculous that I ended up loving gardening after all that. Weeding the gardens though is another story altogether though. It’s a fond memory now (mostly) and I’d give anything to be able to plop down beside her in the garden and yank out some weeds while chatting.

Granny Down the Street also had her own beautiful gardens that we plodded around in and plucked flowers from. We also watched as her and my grandfather cultivated a large vegetable garden at the “farm” – not a real farm, but a second property they spent summers at an hour away from the city. Grandpa also tended to apple trees, a cherry tree and dozens of fruit bearing bushes containing gooseberries, raspberries, black and red currants. I grew up watching the satisfaction of growing your own fruits and vegetables and have carried that forward through years of growing my own vegetable gardens.

My mom also had elaborate gardens lush with colour and scent for every season. She gave us each a little patch when we were small to plant something and take care of it. I grew strawberries and loved watching them sprout off another shoot and root and grow. Her gardens were luscious and gorgeous to look at, and we helped her along the way, but I think it was her sanctuary, a slice of peace each summer which must have been rare raising three young children.

Right now my own garden grows slowly one year at a time. The house my husband and I currently reside in is a temporary home, and we are reluctant to throw a lot of money and energy into something we may leave soon. This makes me sad sometimes, but I still love puttering around outside, planting small seedlings in the spring and watching them grow. I love the peace I feel in the garden and the creativity it sparks in me. At the cottage things are a little different as we do have a large vegetable garden and nothing brings me more satisfaction than walking outside and gathering everything we need for a meal.

Here are a few photos of our vegetable garden and its bounty and one of an interesting cucumber we managed to grow… and if you love gardening, or even just like it a bit or are thinking about giving it a whirl, check out Redesigning Rose.


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Cottage Garden


One of our more interesting accidental creations.































Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

Writing Tips I’ve Learned from Watching Soap Operas

Flopping down on the couch to catch up on with my soap folks at the end of the day isn’t high on my priority list. I do, however, still enjoy watching batches of episodes while working on Novel Escapes, my blog, or whatever marketing and chit chat I’m doing online. I’ve watched General Hospital for close to thirty years and have watched various soaps since I was in diapers with Granny and Granny. Yes, they both wanted to be named Granny. Confusing to mini-people, my brothers and I labeled them Granny Down The Street and Granny At The Lake based on where they lived, and it stuck until I was thirty and Granny at the Lake left this world.


Granny at the Lake and Lydia - Val's Wedding2

Granny at the Lake

Lydia and Granny Down the Street

Granny Down the Street









My maternal granny, Granny Down The Street, called them her “stories” and watched As The World Turns and Guiding Light which she sadly outlived both of. My paternal grandmother, Granny At The Lake, called them her ‘soaps’ and watched Another World and General Hospital. I’ve watched all of these at one point or another with them, sometimes cuddled on the couch, sometimes lying on the floor with my feet kicked up in the air while reading a book, and very often baking cookies in Granny At The Lake’s small kitchen with her tiny black and white TV crammed on the corner counter. To this day, I love cooking and baking when there’s a television nearby to watch, particularly soap operas. Fond memories die hard.

I’ve seen it all over the years from the devil (during a very brief stint with Days Of Our Lives in university) to mobsters to hundreds of characters risen from the dead. It’s all very implausible yet I keep watching. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the tie to my grannies or maybe it’s that watching all the drama can make you feel better about your own life when it’s not where you want it. Maybe I just want background noise and something I don’t have to pay close attention to.

A soap opera is the first thing I ever tried writing that I can remember. I was thirteen. Determined, I hammered away on the ancient typewriter we had – yes, I am that old. I find it very odd now how I thought I could do this. But now that I am older and have some experience with life, I find I can actually write about it.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about writing based on my soap opera watching:

  • Repetition is bad. Soap operas are the worst for this. I often refrain from whipping my converter at the television when it occurs. But I get it. They’re looking for a new audience and often have to explain things should someone new be watching. This isn’t needed in novels, however. No one is picking up a book at page 113 wondering what happened before that point. Just a nudge of memory here or there should suffice if drudging up something a reader might not remember immediately.
  • Keep things interesting and moving. No one likes to watch/read the same thing droned on and on about – part of the reason I’ve stuck with General Hospital is that their plot actually moves along at a quick clip. You can tune out for six months and come back having (almost) no clue what’s going on.
  • Interesting characters are move fun to watch/read.
  • Cliché and one dimensional characters are boring to watch/read.
  • Make things believable – and if they aren’t you better have a good reason for it happening.
  • Tension should fluctuate. Too much and it becomes unbearable, too little and it becomes boring.

Have you ever found writing tips in unusual places?

Redesigning Rose Blog Tour

Hello, hello! I just wanted to put together a page that shows all my blog tour stops and links to the interviews and reviews. I also wanted to let you all know about the fabulous $50.00 Amazon Gift Certificate I’m giving away as part of the tour.

Please stop by the various blogs to peruse my thoughts on the important things like what the best piece of advice I ever received was, who my literary crush is, and what drink gets me the most tipsy. There will be excerpts and hopefully a few good reviews *resumes nail nibbling*.  There will even be a deleted scene posted! More Frank anyone?

Thank you to Samantha March at CLP Blog Tours for putting together this marvelous tour! And thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who have participated and hosted me along the way.

Chick Lit Goddess – Q&A & Excerpt 

Change the Word – Review & Excerpt 

Storm Goddess Book Reviews  – Review & Excerpt

May 6 – Chick Lit Plus – Novel Spotlight

May 8 – Crooks on Books  – Review

May 9 – Karen’s Korner  – Review

May 14 – Sweets Books – Excerpt

May 14 – Eat Write Love  – Novel Spotlight & Q&A

May 15 – Julie Valerie’s Book Blog  – Review & Q&A

May 16 – Jersey Girl Book Reviews – Review, Deleted Scene & Excerpt

May 19 – Fiction Dreams  – Q&A

May 20 – Little Whimsy Books – Review & Excerpt

May 21 – Book Reviews and More by Kathy – Review

May 21 – Books à la Mode – Excerpt & Giveaway

May 22 – Books in the Burbs – Review & Excerpt

May 24 – Sammy the Bookworm – Excerpt

May 26 – The Book Geek Wears Pajamas – Review & Excerpt



Sixteen Surprising Things That Contain Gluten

I have cut gluten and wheat out of my life off and on for the last ten years and I thought I was in the know. I had NO idea. Gluten is EVERYWHERE.

I have to wash my hands a thousand times a day. Because I touch my face. A lot, apparently. The amount of times I stare at my computer working out a tough scene with a fist pressed to my lips flabbergasted me when I started to pay attention.

I promise this won’t become a gluten bashing blog, but I just wanted to post some of the surprising things I found. And to inform family and friends. And I especially want everyone to know that if I kiss your kids or hold their hands and then immediately scurry off to scrub my hands and wash my mouth it’s not because they’re gross. I love them, I really do. But I love my health just as much. And thank you to my wonderful SIL and BFF who didn’t balk a couple of nights ago when I washed my mouth with soap after kissing her kids – on the head. But I didn’t know where they’d been that day, what they’d eaten and what they’d wiped their hair with. She was lovely about it and said “Oh my God, you can’t even kiss the kids anymore without thinking about it.” Sadly, no. And yes, I may be going a little gluten-a-phobe, but when you’ve felt like I have for the last decade and more you’re going to try and do things right.

Here are a few shocking (to me) things that I discovered have gluten.

  1. Potato Chips – the flavoured variety
  2. Soy Sauce – many of them are wheat based
  3. Lipstick
  4. Toothpaste. Toothpaste!
  5. Tape and stickers and stamps and envelopes
  6. Pam – the Baking Spray, not regular
  7. Licorice. Licorice!
  8. Vitamin E face cream – it’s usually derived from wheat germ like the one I’d been using one for the last fifteen years. I had no clue.
  9. Salad Dressing
  10. Vodka – much of it is made with wheat and those that are flavoured are verboten, see #11.
  11. Natural and Artificial Flavours – don’t ask me why, I haven’t gotten that far yet.
  12. Deli Meats
  13. Hand sanitizers – Purell is okay. Thank God.
  14. Pickles – if made with malt vinegar
  15. Wine – if wheat derived caulking is used on barrels
  16. Your hands – from touching things!

Also, products from Canada can be different than the US such as Worchestershire which is fine in the US but not in Canada because it is made with malt barley. Manufacturers also change their recipes so something that is fine one day could be a nightmare the next.

It’s a good thing I like reading. And that Costco is a gluten-free mecca. And that my favourite alcoholic beverage is vodka. Little victories. Or, you know, big ones where the vodka is concerned.


Gluten Gone Bad

Last week I found out gluten is forbidden for me. Since then, I’ve been struggling to comprehend just how much my life is going to have to change. Here are just a few of the aggravating ways. And not to forget to be grateful, I’ve listed some of the positive ways below. Because it’s not all bad – or at least, it won’t be.

  • I have to read the label on anything that goes near my mouth.
  • I will spend hours reading, researching, cooking, and baking.
  • Grocery shopping taking twice as long with all the reading and googling I have to do.
  • I have to replace half of my kitchen pantry.
  • I can no longer shop at the bulk food store.
  • My grocery bill is going to fly through the Milky Way.
  • My local health food store owner could retire on my purchases.
  • I can (mostly) no longer eat out.
  • I have to ask the restaurant a thousand questions if I do.
  • Eating at someone’s house is just going to be easier if I bring my own food or bring a few dishes. Cross contamination of gluten is evil with a capital E – even scrubbing the cutting board after using it to slice bread might not prevent pesky gluten molecules from transferring into my meal – they can burrow into a wooden cutting board or spoon and hang out for a surprisingly long time. Did I mention I have to replace all of mine? And I haven’t figured out what to do about my toaster. Am I really going to give up toast (the gluten-free variety)? I love toast. I do, however, have sparse counter space and adding a second toaster isn’t really an option.
  • If I can eat at a social gathering, I’m going to have to run over folks to bolt to the front of the serving line before the food gets cross contaminated. Granny is going to think my manners have gone to hell. And I can never go back for seconds. Or thirds.
  • I’m really going to miss lazy Sunday mornings out for Dim Sum.
  • I’m really going to miss grabbing a quick snack or meal if I don’t feel like cooking.
  • I am going to have to feel like cooking. ALL. THE. TIME.

I know this has been a bit of a grumbly post, but there are good things here, too:

  • I will eat healthier
  • My family will eat healthier
  • It could have been one hell of a lot worse
  • I will avoid health complications later in life
  • I get to shop for some new kitchen stuff!
  • I will feel better
  • More energy is sure to follow
  • I may not have to sleep 9 hours every night
  • This will give me more writing time
  • And more time for cooking healthy
  • And everything else joyful

I’m looking forward to it – I am. It’s just an adjustment, and, like everything, that takes a little bit of time.


Inappropriate Writer Brain Moments

I can’t turn it off. My Writer Brain that is. And was I ever grateful when I learned that there are others out there like me, writers whose brains are constantly churning and creating stories.

Writers on Vacation by Debbie Ohi

This cartoon by Debbie Ridpath Ohi (who is also responsible for some of Judy Blume’s gorgeous new covers – how awesome is that!) is so accurate it’s frightening. A writer truly never gets a holiday. And that’s because we’re at Writer Brain’s beck and call. Even sleeping, I can’t catch a break. I dream about my current project or wake up with a thought or idea I have to write down.

Here are a few of my inappropriate Writer Brain moments.

  1. Any moment where I don’t have a pen and paper or my phone to write/type it out!
  2. In the middle of a conversation. Yes, this happens often. Sorry everyone.
  3. At a funeral. I can’t help myself. Thoughts of character and life swirl through my brain.
  4. When my husband is saying something profound. Sorry, honey. In my defense, he’s a creative brain too, always inventing things, so I’m sure he doesn’t listen to me all of the time either.
  5. When my husband and I are disagreeing and one of us says something that triggers a moment where I think “Oh, that should be in a book.”At yoga when I’m supposed to not think. Yeah, right.
  6. At yoga when I’m supposed to not think. Yeah, right.
  7. During an intimate moment.
  8. Cooking! I’ve almost killed dinner numerous times while stopping to ponder an idea or jot a thought down.
  9. When I’m supposed to be working or focusing at a meeting.
  10. After a couple of cocktails after which I can’t remember what my spark of creative genius even was.
  11. At the beach when I’m supposed to be relaxing, see above cartoon.
  12. Pretty much all the time.

When does your Writer-Brain jab you with an inappropriate idea or thought?


Redesigning Rose Excerpt

I’m selecting excerpts from Redesigning Rose for an upcoming blog tour with Chick Lit Plus and decided I should share one here. This is one of my favourite scenes with my favourite character, Becky. Sometimes – just sometimes – I want to write her story or a sequel. I miss her and Rose now that some time has passed.


Eventually, between alcohol, expletives I wasn’t even aware I knew how to use, and tears, I told Becky everything.

“Rose, you did right.” She waved her glass around in a toast, red wine sloshing over the edges. I couldn’t even remember when we’d swapped the whiskey for wine.

“I can’t believe the money. He thought I was too dumb to figure it out.” Now slurring, I reached for the wine bottle and missed. Becky caught it before we almost had a perilous loss. It was the last bottle.

“I can’t believe the porn.”

You can’t? How do you think I feel? Typical Frank, always wanting the biggest and best of everything. Why couldn’t he have just liked feet?”

“There’s no way you could have known. I’m all up for exploration, but people hide that weird shit. My friend’s friend found her husband’s tranny porn hidden above the basement bathroom ceiling tiles. God knows why she was up there, but she was so glad she found it before their boys got old enough to start snooping for daddy’s porn… What was my point? Oh… Hiding it. You couldn’t have known, honey,” she said, poking my arm with her index finger before pouring us each another glass.

“I don’t know. Sometimes I wondered if something was wrong with him in bed. He did it, but he never seemed as into it as he should have been. I chalked it up to marriage. You get bored.” I slammed my glass down. “I trusted that fucker. I could have a disease and not even know. Remind me to go to the doctor, okay? I’m gonna forget.”

She nodded and we sat in silence, digesting the possibility of my disease-infested nether regions.

“I’m not sure if a dominatrix actually has sex with her clients,” Becky said eventually.

“Close enough. And those messages… The things he was doing?” I wrapped my arms around me as another shudder ran down the length of my body.

“You didn’t print any? As evidence.”

“Ugh. Like I need the reminder. They burned onto my eyes.” I said, poking at them. I missed and jabbed my temple. “You know what the worst part is? I knew.”

Becky’s eyes widened.

“Oh no. No! I didn’t know all that.”

She shrugged. “People do weird things.” She trailed the ssss, sounding like a snake. “What about those women or men who stay when they discover their partners want a sex change operation? Or find out their partners are gay and ignore it for whatever stupid reason.” She sighed. “I miss Oprah.”

“Maybe I’m just not strong enough to stay?”

Becky looked at me like I’d sprouted tentacles. “You’re strong. You left. You needed time to think and took it. He obviously hasn’t been treating you well.”

“I knew something was wrong but I ignored it,” I said in a whisper. “I didn’t want to believe my marriage was less than perfect.”

She nodded solemnly. “I know.”

“But I glossed over it. I ignored what was right in front of my face. Like this.” I held my hands in front of my eyes, fingers splayed wide and sang out, “I see you.”

“Hindsight, Rose. Hindsight. It’s the universe’s biggest clairvoyant. The things I wish I had known too. Did the same thing. Packed up. He didn’t know. We fought like crazy. Mean and dirty. We’re better off without them.” She raised her glass again and clanged it against mine. Red wine splashed onto the grimy white ceramic tiles like blood splatter.

I stood and shook my head to clear it, but only managed to make myself dizzy. I reached out for my chair, missed, and toppled over onto the floor.

“That’s it. You’re cut off,” Becky said, snatching the glass out of my hand, which, like any good wine lover who takes a tumble, I hadn’t spilled a drop of. I did however mop up Becky’s wine with my jeans.

“Nooo!” I wailed, climbing to my knees and clasping my hands together. “Please, can I have it back? Please?”

“You sure?” she asked, grabbing my shoulders. “Are you sure you can handle it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I slurred and tipped over at her touch.

She handed it back to me and I took a swig from my position on the floor.

“What were we talking about?” Becky asked.

I shrugged.

Becky groped for a small black object on the counter and music blared. She reached for my hand and pulled me up. “C’mon. Let’s dance.”

I wrapped my arms around her. “My savior,” I screamed so she could hear me above the music she was belting out the words along to.

Becky threw her head back and laughed before continuing to shimmy around the room. “You’re probably not going to love me in the morning.”


Redesigning Rose - Cover Image

Available at Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iTunes and Google Play!

A Rare Find

Yesterday I took a detour off my new Friday morning writing schedule to run an errand, and it even though it was something that didn’t result in my writing any words, it did spark Writer Brain so was well worth the trip.

My husband loves maps. He’s particularly fond of old, rare maps of Toronto, or rather York in those days, and with our first anniversary rapidly approaching I decided to poke around his favourite map shop. The first anniversary gift should be paper according to someone. This miraculously fits us with his love of maps and my love of books. Maybe every anniversary of ours should be paper. Except the gold one. And emerald. And diamond. Paper can be forfeited for those.

Unfortunately, the outing was a bust for a gift. I couldn’t find anything, and I think I’m a little out of my element in the map-buying world although the curator at the store was very helpful.

The trip did, however, inspire Writer Brain to explore new thoughts and ideas as I spent two hours flipping through antique maps and images. I wondered about the ancestry and lives of those living on farms in the 18th century – some maps have family names written on their plots of land. I stared at images of the streets of Toronto, King and Queen Street bustling with horse and buggies and women with puffy skirts and parasols. Sometimes taking ourselves out of our writing caves and exploring new things can spark creativity. I remember this from The Artist’s Way, but I rarely practice it. I am now reconsidering this decision.

It wasn’t until I admitted defeat and decided to wrap up my visit that I finally looked up. I had been so involved in the maps that the corner of the large room didn’t even register. I walked over and stared at the gorgeous nook that I wasn’t even allowed to enter. Antique books. Shelves and shelves of them. Jane Austen, Hemingway, Dickens. There were bibles and other religious tomes and this was just what I could see from behind the ropes.20140314_121007

I couldn’t help but wonder as I gawked: what first edition book I would want? And how had I never thought about it before? Probably something by Austen or Dickens, or maybe something more contemporary: a first edition of Pillars of the Earth because it’s my favourite book of all time. Google just informed me via that I can indeed own a first edition, signed copy of Pillars of the Earth for just shy of $900.00. I’m a little stunned, to be honest. And yes, I still want it.

What rare book would you want wrapped up in a bow?