Sunday, October 31, 2010

Please Welcome Muskoka People

On our wedding day, wearing a new suit, shirt and tie and all his wedding
bling, Dave had to do some fixing on our old outboard motor.
Photo by Erin Monett of
It's a special day for me!
No, not Hallowe'en (although I am looking forward to taking young Sam out trick or treating and I do wish all of you a happy and spooky evening).
Today I have officially launched a new business venture. It's a new blog called Muskoka People and it's all about putting the spotlight on people and their businesses in my community. Muskoka is a big place, encompassing the towns of Gravenhurst, Bracebridge and Huntsville with all kinds of smaller villages in between. It's the jewel of Ontario's cottage country, less than three hours north of Toronto, and its beauty is legendary. Clear, beautiful lakes. Unending forests with towering sugar maples and majestic pines. Craggy outcrops of the Canadian Shield. No wonder so many cottagers and tourists come here year after year. No wonder people like me call it home.
Muskoka People is a place where local people and their businesses can be showcased with a professionally written profile, a photograph, a logo and contact information. Customers will pay one low fee, and their story will be online for as long as blogger exists. Every time someone googles their name or their type of business, their story will show up. As far as I'm concerned, it's the best advertising money can buy. With this, they pay a one-time fee (I'm starting out for the unbelievably low price of $100) and that's it.
I know with my experience from this blog that people searching for stuff online continuously hit old stories of mine, especially posts with specific titles. So I know that if I label each post with a general title, like Muskoka Mechanic, anybody searching for a mechanic in this area will see my website.
Anyway, that's the idea.
 I hope you like it. I hope you can support me. For now, I would appreciate comments, followers and pimpage on your own blogs or through facebook or Twitter.If you live in Muskoka or in the area (I'll definitely take Almaguin, Parry Sound and Haliburton) and would like a profile written about you, don't hesitate to send me an e-mail. I would love to do it. And, at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, if you're among the first few people to contact me, I'll do your profile for free, just to get the ball rolling.
Speaking of rolling balls, my first profile is my new husband, "the most photographed man on the internet" according to Alan W. Davidson. My Dave is an awesome mechanic, one of the best, as honest as the day is long. I figured he would be the perfect first profile.
Above is a photo of him on our wedding day, all gussied up in shirt and tie, making a quick fix on our old outboard motor so our photographer, Erin Monett, could take photos from the river.
Please drop by the new site, say hello, and spread the word for me. I appreciate all of my internet friends so much and hate to bug you, but I know you'll help because you're special as they come. What would I do without you?
Hugs to you all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Fine Print - #fridayflash

The widow of Scarlett Pimm's ex-boss placed a red rose on top of his coffin, then stepped back.

Scarlett watched this from a hill overlooking Craggy Bluffs All Saints Cemetery. Gangly and string-tied, she stood hollow-eyed in the shadow of a dying sugar maple, waiting for the graveside service to end. From this angle the mourners resembled fat black beetles, blundering blindly around the widow, licking up to her painted sorrow like it was a dark jewel. Their shiny umbrella backs swarmed around the widow, carrying her to her limousine on a sycophantic cloud, then skittering to their own mini-vans to follow her for pickle-wrapped sandwiches and tepid funeral tea.

A backhoe rolled in, covered the corpse with dirt, then rolled away.

Scarlett waited for a while, waited until the sun was starting to flatten in the tender sky, waited for the world to forget the man in the hole, then slid down the hill on the skin of her own shadow.

She stood in front of the tombstone, so fresh that marble dust still lay in the letters of his epitaph.

Andrew Joseph Williams 
Born June 1, 1942. 
Died October 28, 2010. 
Husband & Corporate Giant 
Respected by all.

She took the hammer and chisel from her tool belt and began inscribing an epitaph of her own. She had waited 12 years to do this, ever since her job had been outsourced to some febrile curry town across the ocean.

"You may have the people of this community fooled into thinking you are someone honourable but I know who you are," she told him on the day she was fired, "and I am going to put it on your tombstone some day."

He had just laughed at her. Laughed, and had security escort her out the front door.

But now it was Scarlett who was laughing as marble chips flew, as sweat soaked her hair, as grave dirt crusted into the knees of her jeans, as four words emerged on the back of Andrew Joseph Williams' tombstone: Lying Sack of Shit.

She finished by chiselling a neat little asterisk beside his name.

"Unlike you," she said, "I always keep my promises."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Goldilocks & the Three Critiques

One day Goldilocks entered a novel marathon.
She got three critiques from three different judges.
Each critique came on a form with three different categories:
Manuscript Strengths
Areas of Improvement
Final Comment
All three judges had vastly different takes on Goldilocks' manuscript.

One judge seemed to really, really like it. This was probably the mommy bear judge.
Manuscript Strengths: Terrific dialogue - you've got a really good ear! These folks sound very Maritime-y – is that intentional? This is very funny and I enjoyed reading it. You conjure up the small town cheating husband with real credibility & humour.
Areas of Improvement: The sex is a bit more graphic than some readers will like. You've got a knack for hilarious similes but be careful not to overuse it – there are four great examples on the first page alone and you may want to be judicious about them. I want to believe in Lou as a journalist but perhaps this case needs to be made a bit more strongly? Mostly we see her as a last-to-know, angry wife.
Final Comment: Don't stop! This has potential and I hope you press on with it. Will Lou find Lavalife love? Will Jimmy redeem himself somehow? I'd love to know.

One judge had balanced comments, like the porridge that was just right or the chair that fit Goldie's butt perfectly.
Manuscript Strengths: Intriguing opening. Good description, metaphors and similies. Humour and drama intermingle quite well.
Areas of Improvement: Some of the dialogue is inappropriate for the character - for instance, Lou's dialogue seems too rustic/rural for a career writer, and Spencer's is too sophisticated for a four-year-old. (ex. a young child wouldn't say 'woman' or describe eggplant as 'disgusting' or wish that he could be rid of the 'damn backpack' ... and 'flake out' on the couch.)
Final Comment: It's difficult to judge the plot's direction on a small portion of the intended novel: certainly there are good possibilities here, and you clearly have a talent for descriptive narrative that is engaging and entertaining. The characters are interesting and I hope you enjoy continuing to develop them.

The last judge (grumpy old bear) didn't like anything. 
Manuscript Strengths: (this area was left blank by the judge. apparently nothing was strong about the manuscript, not even the spelling)
Areas of Improvement: Where are the likeable characters? Jimmy's revolting. Lou doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities. Aside from extramarital sex, sexual problems (which are described in way too much detail) and needing to have sex, nothing happens.
Final Comment: If you're going to write a story about a dysfunctional family, I'd suggest inventing a town name and not set it in actual small town Ontario.

Um, in her own defence, Goldilocks wants to point out that she stumbled over a name for the town but decided to let the muse take her and keep writing, rather than wasting time thinking of a town name. She figured she'd change the town name in the editing process.

Oh sod it, Goldilocks is me, of course. I just wanted to share what the judges had to say about the marathon. And I'm a little perplexed by the third judge's comments.
Although, seriously, I shouldn't complain. Some of my fellow marathoners got just plain nasty critiques. I mean, terribly nasty. On balance, mine were pretty fair. And I did get a big giggle out of the last judge not writing ANYTHING in the strengths category.
I'm not sure how to take them, though. Do I believe the happy judges? Do I believe the judge that had nothing good to say? Do I find a happy medium?
I'm curious to hear how other people handle their critiques. How much do you "take in" what they have to say? How much do you change?
Must go now. I suddenly have a craving for porridge.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


I took my own advice this afternoon, taking some time, taking some photos.
It was a gorgeous day here in Muskoka. Wish you were here.

I am so behind.
The car rattles along the highway.
Going home. 
Going to work.
Doesn’t matter. 
It just goes.
On a track. 
On a one-way street.
On a wheel that never stops turning.
Behind at work. 
Deadlines loom like
monsters in grown-up closets,
hiding behind the dresses
and the sensible pumps.
I start one thing.
Almost finish another.
I lose myself in the middle
of three more.
People interrupt.
Phones ring.
Tempers burn. Hearts race.
I hide in the bathroom
because it is safe.
Behind at home.
Dishes grow black in the sink.
Laundry moulders in the machine,
wrinkles in the dryer,
breeds on the bedroom floor.
Stuff overwhelms me,
begging to be put away.
I don’t know where that is,
Maybe, if I find it, 
I could go there myself.
And let the dishes, the laundry,
and the dusty knick-knacks
find their own way.
Behind everywhere.
Cards to write.
E-mails to send.
Stories to read.
Apologies to make.
Thank you for the crystal vase,
it will look perfect in the hutch
with the doors shut
alongside the dishes
I only use at Christmas.
Hey friend, how are you?
I’ve been busy, I’m behind,
I’m sorry I haven’t written sooner.
I’m sorry I haven’t read more.
I’m sorry I said those awful things.
I’m sorry I’m not the person
you might have thought I was.
I’m sorry I wasn’t a better mother,
daughter, sister, wife, friend.
I’d try harder but I’m so behind.
Unread books pile up
beside my bed.
They are guilt, printed on paper.
Unwashed hair,
unmade bed,
unsomething else.
Alone in the car,
on the way home,
or to work
(does it matter?),
I catch my breath.
Sunlight filters through the forest,
golden leaves, the stubborn ones,
still clinging to hope,
glow yellow in waning afternoon.
I want to stop the car,
jump out, take a moment
to walk through the forest,
crunch brown leaves underfoot,
smell the earthy wonder
of the changing seasons.
I know it would be magic.
It would bring me back
to childhood wandering,
destination-less, timeless.
Stop the car,
my heart sings.
You won’t be sorry!
This moment won’t last,
I tell myself.
Take it while it’s here.
But the car rattles along the highway.
On to the next thing.
The next thing.
The next thing.
I am so behind.

By the way, if you have a moment, pop over to the Canadian Blog Awards, where my good friend Laurita Miller's blog, Brain Droppings, is up for a prize in the Culture & Literature Blog category.
Just go to the Canadian Blog Awards website and cast for your vote for dear Laurita. She is an outstanding writer and has a most elegant blog, full of wonderful stories, poems and photographs.
Good luck, Laurita! Hope you win!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Saint Johnny & Dildo

Lotta pictures here, just warning you. If there's
something good on TV, you haven't got time
for this. Like every good post, this one begins
with breakfast, this time in a luxe b&b in St.
John's, Newfoundland. Homemade muffins.
Homemade bakeapple and partridgeberry jam.
Eggs over easy and all the juice you need to
grease your joints for another day on the road.

Our b&b in St. John's. Billed as one of the most romantic bed
and breakfasts in Canada, Leaside Manor certainly delivers.

No, this wasn't the back door of the b&b - this was a gun turret
and bunker built into the hill at Cape Spear, Nfld. This spot
is touted as the most eastern point of land in Canada. After
this, you're swimming!

This is Alan W. Davidson's house in Newfoundland.
JUST KIDDING! This is inside the bunker.

Gorgeous picture of the waves crashing on Cape Spear.
Dave took this beauty by crawling around the fence that
was clearly marked "DANGER STAY OUT YOU DUMB
ROGUE WAVES." Dave said, "well, they're obviously not
referring to me," so round the fence he went.
After an hour or so went by I started to worry.
Alan said, "No need to worry, I haven't seen his body
float out to sea, yet." Such a comfort, that Alan.

Gorgeous picture of my hunk a burning love,
the most photographed man on the internet,
according to Alan at Conversations From Land's Edge.
I tried to make the boat float out
the side of his head. Maybe next time.

Another beauty picture at Cape Spear.
This is a stunningly beautiful place.

More Cape Spear. We spent a fair bit of time there looking
out at the ocean and at St. John's and talking to Alan
Davidson. What a sweetie he is.

While I failed miserably putting a boat in Dave's head,
I did fare better putting a lighthouse in his hand.
Told you he was strong (I know, I know, smell ain't everything.)

Lighthouse/gift shop at Cape Spear. By now my bad knees
were aching too much to go up yet another hill.
Saves money when you have to walk to gift shops.

While commercial cod fishing is banned in Newfoundland,
permits are issued for personal consumption for, I think,
only one week out of the year. Above, a fine looking
gent cleans his catch in a village near St. John's.

His buddy comes along to lend a hand.

Lobster traps are a staple at most of the villages on the shore.
I was thinking they'd also be good containers for yappy
dogs and noisy children.

Love the "jelly bean" colours Newfoundlanders decorate
their homes with. A lot of the landscape is so barren it makes
sense to splash colour wherever you can. I'd love to paint
our bunkie this colour.

Some tour guide I am - this church was in a village
outside St. John's. Alan stopped here on his
touring because I just loved the statues at
the front gate.

Beauty, eh?

This is the church seen through the
old wrought iron gate. Spectacular
workmanship. Churches in the Maritimes
are usually the fanciest buildings in town
and usually found at the very top of the
highest hills.

This is the view from the post office in Torbay, Nfld.
Talk about windy! A huge gust came along and just about
blew me down the hill. No fooling!
Isn't this just as pretty as a picture? Everywhere you go,
all you see is beauty, pure simple beauty.

Speaking of beauty, our room at Leaside Manor was not at
all simple, but it was beautiful nevertheless.

Check out the heart-shaped tub. No mom, we didn't
use it. Honest.

There is a place in Newfoundland called Dildo. I swear
to God. This is the post office sign. There was also a
gift shop... I bought tons of stuff with "Dildo" on it.
You know the weirdest thing? That gift shop didn't sell
any actual dildoes. The lady at the shop said dildo actually
means "peaceful waters" in Spanish. I thought it meant
"hunk of rude plastic."

Harbour at Dildo.

More of Dildo. See? No plastic anywhere.

Dave is MY Captain Dildo!

This lighthouse is about the actual size
of our own house in Muskoka.
OK, so maybe the lighthouse is bigger.

Me and Captain Dildo in front of the Dildo gift shop.
I just realized I have a LOT of Dildo photos.
Heh. Well, wouldn't you?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Because You Got To Have Friends: Laurita & Alan

Those damned Canadians: Laurita Miller, Alan W. Davidson and me.

Where do I begin?
I don't know. I really don't. Nothing I can write will do this justice. 
It's the kind of thing I really need to talk to you about in person. You could put on a pot of coffee, I could spill some, we could pull up chairs around your kitchen table and we could just chat, y'know? Chat ... and chat ... and chat .... 
Cause that's what happened. Three strangers, who weren't strangers at all, hanging out and talking; talking like they were banning talking soon; talking like there was no tomorrow... and there wasn't. Not really. There was one day. One opportunity. One truly remarkable occasion.
Where the magic happens: Alan at his desk.
On Friday, I hung out with two of the most popular, most well respected, most talented writers on the #fridayflash circuit: Laurita Miller and Alan W. Davidson. 
You know them from their work: Alan is the grey fox of blogland, Canada's Country Gentleman, the friendly charmer who always has something funny or something interesting or something scary to say at his blog, Conversations From Land's Edge. This is one of my favourite Alan stories: A Tale of Love, Misfortune and Nasty Wee Dogs.
Laurita is all homespun magic, as warm and welcoming and human a writer as there ever has been. She says she loves writing horror but my favourite Laurita stories are rich with details about family, about love and about her Newfoundland heritage. She blogs at Brain Droppings. This is one of my favourite Laurita tales: it's very, very short, but like a perfect chocolate truffle, it's all you need. It's called Dancing.

Laurita at her desk, laughing. She does that a LOT!
I've been chatting back and forth with Laurita and Alan for some time. Maybe because we're all Canadian and all kind of in the minority when it comes to #fridayflash. Not sure why, exactly, but both are on my e-mail list and I "talk" to them fairly regularly; especially Alan, who sends me an e-mail at work every once in a while just to see if I'm awake. Usually I am but sometimes a dose of Alan is just the spark I need to keep going.
A Mummer!
When Dave and I started planning our honeymoon we knew we wanted to stay in Canada. At first we were just going to go camping for a week: maybe to Algonquin Park to chill and watch the leaves change. Then we thought about traveling - it's not something we ever do. I mean, ever. Sure, we're always going somewhere but it's never too far away from home. We decided, what the heck, let's make our honeymoon memorable, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, so we picked a place neither of us had ever been: Newfoundland. Once we decided on the spot, I realized I had a unique opportunity to meet Laurita & Alan. As many flashers are wont to say: SQUEEEE!!!!
We met Alan first. That sweetie-pie actually took a day off from work so he could give Dave and I a personal tour of St. John's.
I was a little nervous about meeting him; mostly, I was just worried that I wouldn't measure up to his expectations. But I just knew he was gonna be great.
Alan and Dave at Cape Spear. This was the first of
MANY photos I took of these guys!
Sure enough, he was. As soon as I set eyes on that grey beard I just had to hug him. Wouldn't you? I mean, he's like a big, friendly grizzly bear. We popped in his mini-van and he drove us all over the darned place, from Cape Spear (the most eastern point in all of Canada) to Torbay, from a fishing village or two, to Laurita's house in Paradise.
Yes, Laurita lives in Paradise, which is about 20 minutes away from Alan's house in St. John's. The hilarious thing about them is they talked back and forth for a long time before figuring out they were practically neighbours. And think about this: there are very, very few Canadians who contribute to #fridayflash on a regular basis - and two of them live practically next door to each other! Since they met, Laurita and Alan have become pals. They go to the same writers' group and they even went shopping together to buy Dave and I a wedding present (a very cool "Mummers" figurine. For more Mummers stuff, visit the Twillingate Museum.) Thanks guys, we love it!
Laurita's youngest daughter whispers to get Mommy's attention.
I met two of Laurita's kids and they're both adorable.
Laurita also got a hug when I met her. There she was, on her front stoop, looking so young and adorable - how can you not hug her, too? 
The funny thing about Laurita, she's different than I imagined. I thought she'd be this willo-wisp of a girl, a slip, a silth, a girl made of mist, as ethereal as dreams. Just like her writing.
But no! Laurita is as grounded and earthy as they come. Dave just loves her. "What a sparkplug!" he said admiringly. And her accent, you should hear it! It's authentic Newfoundlander at its most adorable. 
Laurita drove us home that night but first she picked up another writer friend, Ellen, because she needed a ride, too. Ellen's accent was just as thick as Laurita's and me and Dave fairly bust a gut as Laurita drove through the city like a New York cab driver with her and Ellen talking about 'dis and 'dat and wot-ever, it was all jist as cute as a bug's ear. We felt like high schoolers tearing up the town and by geez I haven't felt like that for many years!
You may recognize some of the 'props' in this photo:
you've likely seen Alan's fisherman's hat;
you'll probably recognize Ginny's famous apron - it's
the one she used to lure Alan her way;
and that's their son Sean in the famous Davidson fez.
Alan, funnily enough has almost no accent at all! Maybe because he's "from away," as they say on The Rock. He's a Townie by way of London Ont. by way of British Columbia by way of Scotland. No wonder he sounds like a newscaster for the CBC - he's been so many places even his accent is confused!
Seriously, though, I was enamoured by Alan's voice. It's so soft and gentle and deep. I imagined he'd be raspy and rough, but his mellow voice matches his mellow demeanour - charming, every bit of it.
Of course they both say me and Dave have accents. If anything we stand out because we talk so boring. Locals hear us coming a mile away - we might as well have "tourist" stamped on our foreheads.
I can't begin to tell you all the things we chatted about through the day. I do know there were no uncomfortable silences, not for a moment. There didn't seem to be enough time for us to say all the things we wanted to say.
We hung out at Laurita's house for a while, met two of her children (adorable, cute as buttons) and her handsome husband, Jonathan. (Sorry if I spelled it wrong!) Funny thing is, me and Alan got looking at Jonathan  and Dave together and damned if they didn't look a LOT alike. I don't know what that says about me and Laurita other than we have incredible taste in men.
Alan's better half, fortunately, looks nothing like me and Laurita's. Ginny is a wee sprite of a woman, bubbly and effervescent, and an amazing cook. The Davidsons had Laurita, Dave and I over for supper and we thoroughly enjoyed the steaks Alan barbecued, Laurita's homemade Irish Soda Bread, onions sauteed by their son, Sean, baked potatoes, asparagus, Ginny's experimental and delicious carrot soup and, last but certainly not least, Ginny's INCREDIBLE homemade chocolate cheesecake. This was amazing cheesecake and I honestly can't believe I didn't take a picture of it. Trust me, though, it was delish.

Dave & Alan hanging in front of a gift shop.
When we were leaving, Alan told me to give him a call in the morning so we could get together for a coffee before heading down the road for the next part of our adventure.
But I didn't.
Why? I didn't want to ruin it... I mean, I don't think that would have happened, not by a long shot, but the day we all spent together was Perfect. It is framed in my mind like the most beautiful picture you could ever imagine. I wanted to keep it in that frame and treasure it.
Does that sound crazy?
But it sounds crazy to travel halfway across the country to meet people you don't know. And yet, when you meet, you feel like you've known them forever. They are like sisters or brothers, only closer. Siblings of the soul. We have so much in common.
The writing, sure, we talked about writing - and what a joy that was. To discuss it with such lively passion, with such pure enthusiasm. It puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. 
But we talked about everything: about blogging, about other flash writers, about our families, our histories, our lives. We laughed at the foibles of our children; we laughed at our embarrassments; we laughed because it felt good and it was easy, so easy, just to be together. And to laugh.
Oh Laurita, oh Alan. It was such a pleasure to meet you.
You are just as wonderful as I imagined you'd be.
Just as warm. Just as lovely. 
Afterwards, Alan tweeted to me and Laurita: "Let's do it again next weekend!"
Oh, I wish I could, my friend.
I wish I could.
Hugs and kisses to you both.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Molly and Igor - #fridayflash

Damage from Hurricane Igor, just off the Trans Canada Highway
in Newfoundland.

The owner of the posh bread and breakfast is hither and yon, gadding about, flitting like an exotic butterfly on visiting flowers.
Her Aunt Molly, though, she’s the real stuff.
“This here’s my Aunt Molly,” the owner tosses our way as she dashes off into the parlour to greet or to meet or to solve the world’s problems as they might apply to a B&B in downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Aunt Molly stands behind a dining chair, apron and smile pasted tight.
“We have ham and eggs for breakfast,” she says, “would that be alright?”
She brings hot coffee. Serves homemade morning glory muffins with bowls of fresh sweet butter and bakeapple jam she made herself. 
There are several bowls of jam on the elegant breakfast table. The guest from Ontario points to the the bowls, one at a time, and wonders what they are.
“That’s bakeapple,” she says.
“That’s rhubarb.”
“That’s strawberry.”
The guest points to the bowl filled with something bright red.
“That’s ketchup,” she says.
Aunt Molly is in her 70s. She is a gracious woman and puts up with the guests and their silly questions. She tells them that George St. at night is a must-see. She talks up Signal Hill and Cape Spear. She casually describes the terror she felt as she cowered in a bathroom while Hurricane Igor raged at her windows.
“I live on the fourth floor,” she says. “and I’m having a hard time getting the salt water stains off the glass.”
She says, “It wasn’t so bad here. Only one man killed. It could have been worse. The small villages, though, they’re hurt bad. People without homes. Without water. Overflowing sewage. Cut off from the rest of the island by washed out roads. It’s terrible.”
The guests nod, unable to really understand the depth of her fear. They ask about whale watching and puffin tours. She tells them what they want to know.
But her thoughts, they return not to Igor, but to a navy ship in December 1954, where she was traveling with her new American husband, a navy seaman, away from Newfoundland towards his homeland.
She was already homesick, heartsick and seasick when Hurricane Hazel struck, heaving the steel ship like it was nothing, like she was nothing. She clung to the narrow bed in her berth and prayed that she could keep the baby growing in her gut, prayed that she and her husband would make it to shore alive, prayed she would one day see  Newfoundland again.
Aunt Molly talks easily to guests about Hurricane Igor.
But look closely, and you can see her hands shake.