Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer Stock Sunday - 39

Robin's Summer Stock Sunday meme invites all to post summery photos, and to visit other bloggers who share their feelings and memories about this magical season.

Heading into our Way Back Machine, these shots were taken in the 1970s during an epic road trip out west.

My husband Brad and his family were born and bred in Toronto, except for his dad who hailed from Manitoba, one province west of Ontario.

One summer his Aunt Pat - the Aunt Pat who is always listed as the photographer whenever I post Brad kid pix - took my husband and his brother for a memorable vacation, about which he often reminisces.

Aunt Pat took the two youngest, Jeff and Brad, and showed them the Rockies, Lake Louise, the Columbia Icefields, as well as touching base with family in Winnipeg.

Summer - a perfect time to dust off the suitcases and see the sights that stay with you for a lifetime.

Friday, July 29, 2011

5 on Friday - Set 77

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Last week urban fantasy writer A.C. Ruttan shared a playlist from her creative process as she wrote Incarnate.

This week, I'll take you inside some of the inspiration for my Scorpius serial - his boyhood backstory - as well as the adult storyline for which I received requests at the writers' conference. Lots of Scorpius on the brain, these days, from two age ranges.

1 - Stabat Mater by Vivaldi - Philippe Jaroussky

The opening section is my favorite part (first 2 minutes.)

2 - La Stravaganza Concerto 6 in G minor by Vivaldi - Sir Neville Marriner, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

The section that begins at the 2:50 mark is the part that belongs to my Scorpius tale.

3 - Recercada No. 1 by Diego Ortiz - Flanders Recorder Quartet

4 - Mandolin Music for Renaissance Faires - Allan and Alexandra Alexander

5 - Credo from Missa da Pacem by Jacobus de Kerle - Paul van Nevel, Huelgas Ensemble

An added bonus track:

Last weekend I shot some footage for my uncle, who played a gig at an art gallery with my aunt. Here's the video of one of their repertoire, Wave by Antonio Carlos Jobim. In the video you'll see kids playing on an art piece down at the Halifax waterfront entitled Wave.

The footage I shot was the musical performance and my uncle's art pieces on display at the gallery, the stuff outside the gallery, etc.

Uncle Charlie added other footage he'd shot of the waterfront area and Halifax Harbour.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 221 - 13 Blog Posts by Fellow Bloggers

Today I'd like to shine a spotlight on some great posts I've enjoyed in the last little while:

1 - So Many Books...So Little Time... by Kelly Boyce

2 - More on RWA11-part2: Lit Signing & Evil Elevators by Leah Braemel

3 - Everything You Wanted to Know About Digital Publishing But Were Afraid to Ask - A Q & A With Maya Banks by Jane Litte

4 - On Cowboy Sex Appeal - Give Me a Real Good Man by Julianne Maclean

5 - A Peek Behind the Cover by Deborah Hale

6 - On the Shelf (secret librarian tips for historical research) by Michelle Helliwell

7 - Trekking to Toronto by Linda @ Are We There Yet?

8 - Carrie Preston From True Blood Interview by Melissa Bradley

9 - Playing Tourist at Home! by Anna Campbell

10 - To Float or Not To Float... by Jeanne Adams and Cassondra Murray

11 - Life Through the Eyes of a Child by Stella MacLean

12 - Something Borrowed by Ginger Merante

13 - Belleau Wood, 1 June to 26 June 1918 by Travis Cody

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Serial / The Serialists - Scene 64

My Scorpius serial is now joining Tuesday Serial which moves my serialized fiction series to Tuesdays.

I'm also posting with The Serialists which appears on Wednesdays.

To recap this dark fantasy story so far:

As a small boy of seven, Scorpius was fetched from the nursery where he'd been raised to live among the nobility - fetched not by his family, but by a falconer to serve as his apprentice.

Scorpius soon learned that a close encounter with a dragon was preferable to the cruelties of the nobles he'd once hoped were family. His master did whatever he could to shield Scorpius from the world outside their cottage, but the falconer was merely a servant, when all was said and done.

An attempt on the life of a young noble while on a hunt sent the falconer and his apprentice on abruptly different paths.

We continue with Scorpius at age sixteen as he enters the service of Lord Thibault.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 64

Scorpius followed Lord Thibault down the long gallery, their footsteps echoing against the polished wood. His master’s cheeks flushed as they neared the double doors, which only served to make the pit in Scorpius’ stomach grow heavier.

“Remember to address him as Your Grace,” Lord Thibault said in a low voice.

“I’ll remember, my lord.”

The two servants flanking the doors turned to grasp the handles.

“I am not a favorite of his,” Lord Thibault said.

The doors pushed open, to reveal a dark room that bristled with mounted weapons and hunting trophies. An imposing man turned from conversation to regard them as Lord Thibault stiffened, though forcing himself to walk forward.

Scorpius’ heart forgot to beat. Then it pounded so loudly he could barely think. His legs threatened to buckle, yet somehow he kept pace with his master and entered the duke’s reception room, the doors shutting solidly behind them.

The man speaking with the duke withdrew to a respectful distance as Lord Thibault approached his father. Scorpius halted, hoping he’d not already overstepped his place. But the duke was too focused on his son to notice anyone else.

Lord Thibault dropped to one knee, surging forward to grasp the duke’s hand and kiss it. “Father,” he whispered in a thick voice.

The duke’s face softened for a fleeting moment. Then he bid his son to rise.

Scorpius used every shred of courage he possessed to remain standing as his master and his father, the duke turned to regard him. Gazing down at the impossibly ornate rug upon which he stood, Scorpius felt his skin prickle with the desire to be anywhere but here.

“And whom have you brought before me?” the duke said.

Lord Thibault swept his arm wide to invite Scorpius closer, which set off a great battle inside of him. Move, his brain commanded, but his limbs would not obey. Was he to kneel? Kiss the duke’s hand?

His whole body trembled. His stomach rolled as if he might be sick.

But his master stood with arm outstretched, the duke looking on. He must not humiliate his master before such a father, especially as he was not his favorite.

Though it felt as though he lurched forward like a drunk, Scorpius strode towards the duke and bowed with deep grace, pulling his arm elegantly towards his heart.

“This is Scorpius, Your Grace,” his master said. “He’s the one who saved me from my murderers.”

“Is he, now?”

Scorpius remained bowed, especially as the duke closed the distance between them.

“He looks a sight. Did you not think to refresh yourselves?”

When the duke turned, Scorpius shot a look over at Lord Thibault, who flicked his head to indicate that Scorpius could release his reverence. Taking his cue from the other man still in the room with them, Scorpius straightened, standing tall but with lowered gaze.

“You think to keep him, do you?” the duke said, his voice tight with derision.

“He has already served me as well as anyone has ever served our House.”

The duke turned, grabbing his son and roughly yanking away his doublet and tunic from his shoulder. Lord Thibault’s raw scars from the arrow brought the attempt on the young noble’s life into the room with them.

“Could he not prevent this?” The duke released Lord Thibault to stumble and hurriedly cover himself.

“The only one who could have prevented it, is the one who sent his assassins after me,” Scorpius' master said.

With a dismissive grunt, the duke paced around Scorpius before returning to the man whose conversation they’d interrupted. “Your mother awaits you,” the duke said.

Lord Thibault bowed. “Your Grace,” he said, already sweeping away to grab Scorpius by the arm and head for the double doors in long, bounding strides. The servants scrambled to open the doors in time.

“The fates have blessed us,” Lord Thibault whispered, dashing along the corridor so that Scorpius had to scurry to keep up.

“My lord?” Scorpius asked.

“That was the chancellor in there with him. My father the duke was much distracted by whatever business they had together.”

Scorpius thought of the rough way the duke had disrobed his son. “This went well, then?”

Very well,” Lord Thibault said, a wide grin lighting his face. Scorpius hadn’t seen its like since the young noble had first rounded the corner of the falconer’s cottage on his black stallion.

He followed his master through a maze of twists and turns, until one of the corridors unfolded to reveal another set of double doors. This time, Lord Thibault was too quick for the young lads on either side of it. He yanked both doors wide open.

“Thibault! My darling boy!” a woman’s voice called from within, until all was kisses and sobs of joy.

© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Stock Sunday - 38

Robin's Summer Stock Sunday meme invites all to post summery photos, and to visit other bloggers who share their feelings and memories about this magical season.

Summer - a perfect time to be silly.

This shot was most likely taken by my mom, while my grandfather took my sister and I for a ride on the lawnmower after a family barbeque. In the 1960s we lived in Michigan. We had both sets of grandparents nearby, and a host of aunts and uncles. So there were lots of family dinners.

There was also a lot of silliness, which was fairly evenly spread by everyone, really. We're a silly bunch.

My dad creeping up on the tricycle was par for the course.

Friday, July 22, 2011

5 0n Friday - Set 76 - Please welcome guest blogger A. C. Ruttan

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

And for today's set, I'm handing over the mic to my very good blog buddy, Amy - whom I've also met In Real Life. I can tell you that there is almost nothing sweeter than finally meeting dear friends face to face - and I have every intention of meeting as many of you as possible.

Amy's latest book was released in July from Samhain Publishing. An urban fantasy featuring portal keepers and demons - and set in the Canadian arctic! How's that for pushing boundaries? Incarnate is a paranormal thriller sure to be the perfect antidote to this summer's sizzling temperatures. Until the two main characters meet up, that is.

Here's a peek into her creative process, where music plays an integral role.

Welcome, Amy!

Thanks for having me, Julia! :)

When I wrote Incarnate, it was dark.

Darker than I usually write, so I had to make a playlist that was darker than any music I usually listened to.

I became so immersed in the music to keep me in the mood to write Incarnate that I would listen to these CDs when I had my shower or in the car.

I know, TMI, but I had to stay focused. This book was so different in so many ways.

That's why when I sold it I had to get a whole new name for this side of my writing. :)

Most of my list is Breaking Benjamin. Not very mixed I know, but their music set the tone I was looking for.

Awesome set, Amy! I have several of these on my Dean-and-Sam Supernatural playlist.

You can check out her web site at A.C. Ruttan.

Thanks, Julia for allowing me to share my 5 on Friday. :)

1 - I Will Not Bow - Breaking Benjamin

2 - Into the Nothing - Breaking Benjamin

3 - Dance With the Devil - Breaking Benjamin

4 - Topless - Breaking Benjamin

5 - Enter - Within Temptation

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 220 - 13 Fond Memories From My First Trip to New York City

1 - My trip to New York last month was a writing conference trip - but I still managed to experience the joys that can only be found in the City That Never Sleeps.

Like discovering The Naked Cowgirl as we crossed Times Square on our way back to the hotel.

2 - My biggest delight while in New York was discovering that every bite of food I tasted was THE BEST (insert food item) EVER.

It all started with this seemingly innocuous order of angel hair pasta in a simple pomodoro sauce.

It came from the hotel restaurant - Encore - and I happily but unsuspectingly lifted a forkful of pasta to my mouth.

"Oh my God," I said. "Taste this," I said to my sister.

She took a bite.

"Oh my God," she said.

3 - It hadn't really sunk in yet that every meal we were to eat while in New York was going to be a symphony of delectability.

But during our second meal, eaten at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the realization dawned that we had entered an alternate reality where every ingredient was imported from heaven.

4 - Granted, this looks pretty yummy. Jumbo shrimp wrapped around a crab filling, served over rice in a bed of garlic butter.

Now, keep in mind I come from Canada's east coast. I've eaten my fair share of seafood, fresh from the waters of the Atlantic, prepared by chefs with loving attention to detail.

And really - how tender and bursting with flavor can a jumbo shrimp be, anyway?

LOL! Exactly. Apparently, every other shrimp I'd eaten in my entire life were all fakes. I'd never eaten a real shrimp until this plate of captivating crustaceans were set before me.

5 - I thought our waitress was going to scoop me up and take me home when I ordered Huevos rancheros during the Nova Scotia / New Brunswick writers' breakfast.

Which brings me to one of the greatest joys of my trip to New York - the unparalleled level of service we received at every turn. Having worked in the service industry myself, I stood in awe of the incredible skill displayed by every staff member at every venue we attended. Every one of you made me feel like royalty. You made my dreamy trip even dreamier.

6 - After our stroll through Rockefeller Center, my cousin, my sister and I passed an Italian restaurant that caught our eye - so we went in.

7 - In the lobby was a rogue's gallery of famous diners at the historic establishment, including my favorite singer of all time - Frank Sinatra.

On the walls were huge caricatures by Al Hirschfeld, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum featuring Zero Mostel which was our view for the evening.

Once again, when our meals arrived, we were shocked by the exquisite delicacy contained within such vibrant taste. My cousin ordered the same trio as me - lobster ravioli (to DIE for,) eggplant lasagna (complex and incredibly fresh) and fettucine alfredo - the signature dish (*fall over thud*.)

8 - I wish I'd taken a picture of Alvin, our wonderful waiter. He was the epitome of charming but unobtrusive service. He truly raised our wonderful evening into one of the best dining experiences I've ever had.

9 - Of course, then we went to the unpretentious-looking Italian restaurant just across the street from the hotel. You would have thought we would have known by then to expect to be blown away - but we didn't.

10 - My cousin and sister both ordered the bowtie pasta in a cream sauce with the most savory salmon on Planet Earth. They are still talking about it. And I can vouch for them, because my sister shared a bite of hers.

Of course, I was ascending my own path to Nirvana with my seafood pasta in a simple tomato sauce. Plump shrimp, luscious crab, and my favorite of all, succulent scallops.

I may faint.

Accompanied by my absolute favorite celebratory drink - prosecco. I had a lot of prosecco while we were in New York.

11 - Non-food-related highlights of the trip included our walk through Central Park on the way to the ballet at Lincoln Centre.

I especially loved these bridges, as Hugh Jackman chased the mugger under one of these in one of my favorite films, Kate & Leopold:

"I warn you scoundrel, I was trained at the King's Academy and schooled in weaponry by the palace guard. You stand no chance. When you run, I shall ride. When you stop, the steel of this strap shall be lodged in your brain."

My cousin and sister on Bow Bridge.

12 - A definite highlight for me was the art work at almost every turn, on almost every building.

13 - But I think the best part of my trip to New York was having so much time together with my sister and cousin.

We grew up like siblings in one another's homes. Once university hit, however, our adult lives took over, and the most we've been able to enjoy lately have been the occasional overnights.

So having five whole days together was definitely the very best part of my New York trip. Thanks for making such wonderful memories.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Serialists - Scene 63

My Scorpius serial is now joining The Serialists which moves my serialized fiction series to Wednesdays.

To recap this dark fantasy story so far:

As a small boy of seven, Scorpius was fetched from the nursery where he'd been raised to live among the nobility - fetched not by his family, but by a falconer to serve as his apprentice.

Scorpius soon learned that a close encounter with a dragon was preferable to the cruelties of the nobles he'd once hoped were family. His master did whatever he could to shield Scorpius from the world outside their cottage, but the falconer was merely a servant, when all was said and done.

An attempt on the life of a young noble while on a hunt sent the falconer and his apprentice on abruptly different paths.

We continue with Scorpius at age sixteen as he enters the service of Lord Thibault.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 63

Lord Thibault slid down from the saddle, unsteady on his feet. Scorpius rushed forward to offer assistance, but his master barked at him to stay put.

He turned away before Lord Thibault could see the outrage flaring inside of him, which only served to pull on his bound wrists.

“Take your rest,” his master ordered, fumbling at the saddlebags.

When Scorpius failed to move, Lord Thibault said, “Now!”

A painful weight wrapped around Scorpius’ heart. He sat on the side of the road, looking back the way they’d come, unwilling to entertain the thoughts that had been swirling inside of him for miles now. Staring at the rope that tied him to his master’s horse, he recalled the dark laughter of Lord Thibault’s uncle and the guard captain whenever they mentioned his master’s father.

The closer they’d come to the duke’s residence, the more remote Lord Thibault had become. Scorpius tested his bonds, but he’d been tied securely. He was weakened from forced standing in the sun, from not enough food or water, from the cold dampness of the cell where they’d bloodied and bruised him.

There must be a reason for such dread shown towards his master’s father. Though they’d been on the road for a good hour, still Lord Thibault paraded him as a captive, even here in this forest clearing under the watchful eyes of birds and forest creatures.

He clearly remembered the look in his new master’s eyes when he’d come to collect him from his uncle. Lord Thibault had shown a chilling side that Scorpius had never suspected could lurk inside the young noble whose life he’d saved, whom he’d nursed back to health, and who had sent his former master on his way not with a command but with a sack of coin.

As Lord Thibault’s footsteps neared, Scorpius moved to his knees and bowed his head. If his new master was turning out to be his father’s son, Scorpius had better start showing some proper deference. He didn’t expect the pit that formed in his gut at having to carve out this sinister new relationship. Where was the young noble he’d once laughed with, back at the forest pool in the falconer’s wood?

His master lowered himself to one knee and offered a wineskin to Scorpius’ lips. “Drink,” he said.

“Thank you, my lord,” Scorpius said, grateful for the dark liquid.

“I didn’t take you for such an ass,” Lord Thibault said in the barest of whispers.

Scorpius couldn’t help it. He looked directly into his master’s eyes as he drank.

He could have leaped and sung for joy. His true master stared back at him, even through the worry, fatigue and carefully-wrought persona.

Lord Thibault stood and took a long swig from the wineskin. Scorpius made sure to stare only at the road in front of him.

“We must go on this way, I’m afraid,” his new master said as quietly as possible. “My enemies will have spies following our journey. They watch us even now.”

Scorpius gazed out into the leafy shadows beyond the road. “How far, my lord?”

“We’ll be another few hours on the road.”

Taking a deep breath, Scorpius felt his aches rise up in protest. But he said only, “You seem unwell, my lord.”

His master remained silent for a long moment. “You ask me that, and me dragging you behind my horse?”

“Hardly dragging, my lord.”

“You must enter my father’s house a prisoner. But once behind closed doors, you shall be rewarded for your service to me, Scorpius. The spies will see what they were sent to see, but my father will welcome the man who restored his son.”

Scorpius couldn’t stop himself. “Please, my lord,” he said, forcing himself to keep his gaze averted. “Why do men speak of your father, the duke, with such fear?”

“Because my father is a tyrant and a brute,” Lord Thibault said, strolling back to the horse to climb into the saddle.

© Julia Smith, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Stock Sunday - 37

Robin's Summer Stock Sunday meme invites all to post summery photos and visit other bloggers who share their feelings and memories about this magical season.

This shot was taken by my husband's Aunt Pat in the 1970s at the family cottage. They spent their summers in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, the cottage nestled along Lake Clear.

I got to spend a wonderful weekend there with my sister-in-law and two nieces about 14 years ago - it really is a magical spot.

Shown in the picture are my sister-in-law Karen, my husband Brad, my brother-in-law Jeff and my late father-in-law David.

Friday, July 15, 2011

5 on Friday - Set 75 / I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas

Today I'm also over at The Popculturedivas, reshuffling my Bucket List after crossing off seeing American Ballet Theatre at Lincoln Centre, several weeks ago in New York City.

And now - onto the musical part of our program, wherein Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

If you are in a relationship, what would your love story sound like, if it was a Broadway musical?

If you're not currently in a relationship, would your romantic past or longing to meet someone have a soundtrack?

Brad and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary last Monday, and together we came up with these show tunes plus our first-dance song to tell the story of our romance.

1 - If I Loved You - Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae

2 - Some Enchanted Evening - Reba McEntire and Brian Stokes Mitchell

3 - Tonight - Marni Nixon and Jimmy Bryant (the singing voices for Natalie Wood and Beymer)

4 - S'Wonderful - Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire

5 - Pretty World - Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66

This is our anniversary tradition - kooky photo booth shots.

The 2011 edition

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 219 - 13 Things About My First Writer's Conference

1 - My trip to New York a few weeks ago was a conference trip - not only my first visit to NYC, but my first-ever conference.

My writers' association - Romance Writers of America - holds an annual conference at a different location each summer. These are booked several years in advance, and when I saw a few years ago that the 2011 conference would take place in Manhattan, I promised myself I would make things happen so that I would be in a position to attend, pitch my books and see one of cities I've longed to visit since I was a kid.

2 - The conference hotel was the New York Marriott Marquis, which meant my address for five glorious days was on Broadway and 7th Avenue.

Pictured here is the Atrium Lounge where writers gathered informally to meet up and chat. Out of camera range but at the top beneath the row of lights is the Encore Restaurant, where I enjoyed several breakfasts and one yummy lunch.

3 - One of the more amusing aspects of a conference for writers is the reality of introspective people pushing themselves out of their comfort zones in order to network, which is one of the main reasons to go to a conference in the first place.

Prior to the conference, I encountered quite a few how-to-survive-the-conference guides for attendees who find socializing a bit of an ordeal.

Here's a way around that - make close friendships in Blog World and then finally meet In Real Life. It's SO exciting! This is my first real-world chance to sit and have coffee with Christina Brooke, who once blogged at The Popculturedivas with me.

4 - But when you do make new connections, it shines a light on your conference experience. I bumped into Georgia Romance Writers president Nicki Salcedo in the goody room (where you can pick up promotional items like bookmarks, pens, etc.) thinking she was my cousin Julianne until I looked up.

"I can't wait to meet my twin," she said, so when Julianne came by we took this shot.

We continued to meet up all through the conference - it was great fun.

5 - The conference ran workshops from 8:30 - 4:30, and this one was my favorite by far.

Any guesses as to why...?

6 - We had a great turn-out from the Maritimes, and the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick writers gathered to share breakfast together. There were about 15 of us altogether.

7 - The huge booksigning fundraiser was open to the public as well as to conference goers, with proceeds going to adult literacy programs. The authors were arranged alphabetically, so big names were sitting next to debut authors, which gave a sense that we're all in this together - a wonderfully empowering sight.

8 - It was such a joy to see so many authors from my local chapter, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, signing at the literacy event.

Here I'm pictured with Harlequin and Samhain author Donna Alward.

Also from Down East - Tor author Taylor Keating.

My cousin, St. Martin's Press and indie author Julianne MacLean

New Brunswick author Stella MacLean, who writes for Harlequin

9 - My greatest challenge for this conference was to score requests during my agent / editor pitches.

Thankfully, my dear friend Kelly Boyce was pitching at the same time as me for the afternoon session, so she sat next to me and calmed me down when she noticed a telling shaky breath as I tried to become Zen-like.

Thank you, Kelly! Not sure what I did for you in return, other than provide a distraction, perhaps.

RWA thankfully scheduled this pitching workshop the day before, presented by Carina Press author Carrie Lofty. It really helped me to reshape my pitch presentation.

It also REALLY, REALLY helped to have two wonderful roomies who listened to my practise pitches the night before.

These workshops stood out amongst many wonderful sessions I attended.

10 - There were several keynote speakers, including the opening session featuring historical thriller writer Steve Berry, historical time travel writer Diana Gabaldon and medical thriller writer Tess Gerritsen.

Paranormal and urban fantasy writer Sherrilyn Kenyon gave an inspirational speech unlike most any I've ever heard (but very similar to the students-introducing-ourselves-to-our-film-school-professor thing where one of my fellow students told us how his family had been attacked by pirates as they escaped Cambodia.)

Among the service awards given out by RWA was the Librarian of the Year Award, for supporting the romance genre.

Wendy Crutcher from Orange County, California received this year's award. Go, librarians! I found myself thinking of my own childhood spent at the downtown Dartmouth library as she honored a librarian who was influential in her decision to pursue that career.

The Princess Diaries author Meg Cabot was the glamorous host of the awards night ceremonies.

Receiving the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement award was Sharon Sala, who told a very cool story about seeing a wolf totem as a girl - I tend to get animal totem messages in my life, so her story was completely awesome.

I also cherished the moment when she mentioned that her late husband leaves her pennies to find here in this world. As soon as she'd said it, Annette sitting on my left and Kelly sitting on my right both silently tapped me in unison, neither one knowing the other was echoing her gesture.

The reason they tapped me is because I also get spirit world messages in similar fashion. Just wanted to say how wonderful it is to have friends who know me that well - you guys are awesome.

11 - All glammed up for the Ritas - that's Carina Press author Kelly Boyce and yours truly.

My elegant cousin, Julianne MacLean.

My local chapter president Annette MacPhee-Gallant and new chapter member Carol, with Anne MacFarlane snapping pix.

Some of my local chapter who managed to snag a table together:

Back row L to R - Dawn, Annette, moi, Kelly, Carol

Seated L to R - Julianne, Daisy Piper, Anne

12 - This conference was full of little moments that reinforced the It's a Small World After All theory.

As I wandered through the leviathan-sized literacy signing with my sister, I heard someone call my name. It was Toronto Romance Writer Leah Braemel, a blog friend I'd met In Real Life on a trip to Toronto. On my first day in a city I'd never visited before, someone recognized me in a gigantic crowd. Huge world shrinking to comfy-cozy size - commencing.

In one of the many snaking line-ups to get into the various publisher book signings - where, for example, St. Martin's Press authors signed free books for their rabid fans - I found one of my chapter mates, Heidi.

Stumbling in the too-early-for-it-be-considered-vacation hours, I found my other chapter mate, Deborah Hale, who received her 25th book pin from Harlequin during the conference.

Snagging snacks and gifts for people at home, we bumped into our chapter prez Annette, who accepted our invitation to come up to our room and chill. With ice cream.

13 - My first writers' conference couldn't have been sweeter. A city I've always longed to visit, a room with a rockin view, a dream-come-true ballet performance and requests for partials of my work.

Time to live my life.

Join me next week when I share more memories from New York City.