Friday, March 29, 2013

5 on Friday - Set 164

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.

On this Easter weekend, I'm sharing some pieces of sacred music appropriate for the celebratory mass on Easter Sunday.

For those who don't celebrate this holiday or who take a more Universalist approach to life, these pieces are so filled with rejoicing in renewal and rediscovery, they speak to those emotions without any need for religious connotation. 

1 - Gloria - composed by Antonio Vivaldi - New Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus  - conducted by Riccardo Mutti

One of my favorite choral pieces ever. So lucky to have sung this with my former choir and an orchestra.

2 - Sanctus - Unknown choral group 

The music ends at the 1:38 mark

3 - Te Deum - composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully

4 -Benedictus - composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Orchestra dei Ducati, conducted by Fausto Pedretti

5 - Agnus Dei, also known as Adagio - composed by Samuel Barber - Dresdner Kreuzchor, directed by Roderich Kreile

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Thirteen - 272 - 13 Things About My Eye Surgery Odyssey

1 - As many of you know, almost four years ago I embarked on the Great Acupuncture Adventure, wherein I started down the road to relief from a world of chronic pain and assorted immune system disorders. Last spring my body flipped into detoxification mode, which--as I've discovered as regards all things Chinese medicine--what seems horrible is good.

Sure, all of my joints, and I mean all of my joints--finger joints, ribs, joints I wasn't aware I even had, you name it--all of them flared up and put me into a new level of pain, but that meant that my body was finally getting rid of long-stored toxic material from many decades of allergies and chemical sensitivities.

I'm pretty zen when it comes to all of this. I've lived with this all of my life, so I have a lot of patience when there's an actual light at the end of the tunnel.

However, last year I had my first major solo author event scheduled in Toronto--Fan Expo, and I'd also scheduled a photo session while I was in town with Helen Tansey.

As soon as Fan Expo finished up, my left eye swelled as though I'd been punched, not an unusual allergy reaction for me, and not unexpected as there was a lot of stuff in the air during Fan Expo (inks, plastics, cleaners, beauty/health care products on the 90,000 people who took part in the convention over the four days.)

If you look closely in the picture of me having lunch with my friend Lisa above, my left eye was showing the first signs of a blocked tear gland, likely from my allergic reaction in combination with my overall acupuncture-triggered detox.

Photo by Helen Tansey

2 - As someone who normally doesn't much care about what I look like, the irony of having a swollen eye in time for my professional author photo shoot was not lost on me. I used tea bags every day to keep the redness and swelling down, and by the time my appointment with Helen Tansey came along, her excellent hair and make-up artist had my swollen eye concealed beautifully.

3 - I got back from Toronto in the fall, rejuvenated psychologically from being back in my favorite city, seeing friends and family, and touching base with lots of Toronto spots I miss so much.

I was ready to continue on with the long-haul healing process, at peace with the knowledge that my detox healing crisis or Herxheiner reaction was all good. 

4 - What are these fabulous symptoms, you may ask? The ones I've personally experienced are: extreme fatigue; arthritic joint pain; intense bouts of vertigo/dizziness that lasted for several horrible days; skin eruptions including rashes, boils and my blocked tear gland; the feeling that I'd been punched repeatedly in the stomach and the accompanying loss of appetite; interesting eliminations where I can actually smell the chemicals used in plastics leaving my body; and profuse sweating.

5 - Believe it or not, I was never at risk of wanting to stop my acupuncture treatment, even when all of these magical symptoms appeared. Last year, for the first time in over two decades, I'd managed to make it through the entire summer season without taking my narcotic painkiller for chronic migraine.

Not one of those heavy-dose painkillers passed my lips between May and September. Didn't need one. 

6 - However, my swollen eye became more and more problematic. I was given an antibiotic that really worked beautifully on my rosacea, but didn't make the eyelid lump drain in any way. I had three courses of this antibiotic, but no reaction from the eye--only a bigger and bigger lump.

7 - Eventually, I couldn't even see properly out of that eye. Not only do I use my vision throughout my records management day job, but then I had to see in order to write my books and manage my social media in the evenings.

8 - I was referred to an eye specialist, who only took about five minutes to schedule me for surgery

9 - Unfortunately, it then took two months for the surgery to be performed. During that time my eyelid swelled to really exciting proportions. That's a shot of my husband and me on our way to a film conference a few weeks ago. The eyelid blob got even worse before the long-awaited surgery day.

10 - The day before my surgery, the blob finally started draining as I was on my morning commute to work, on the bus. Good times!

11 - My mom and my husband both came with me to my surgery appointment yesterday. It was a minor procedure where the area was frozen and I was awake for it all. The doctor was the same specialist to whom I'd been referred--he was really, really great. It was completely freaky but quick, and I was on my way home in no time.

12 - I would like to take a moment to thank the many people I work with, ride the bus with, who work in customer service positions where I buy coffee, get groceries, check out library books and so on, and all of those people whom my husband and I met at the film conference a few weeks ago when my eye blob was impossible to miss seeing.

None of you blinked or skipped a beat as you spoke with me. You just carried on as if there wasn't a massive thing weighing down my eye. All of you get the Kindness Award from grateful me.

13 - After an admittedly long afternoon, evening and night that was spent laying quietly with both eyes closed so that my good eye's movements wouldn't make the recovering eye roll around under the bandages, when I listened to 'radio-show-TV' and my husband Brad provided the narration for the visually-impaired--thanks, Honey!--morning arrived and my mom helped me out with the bandage removal and post-surgery eye drops.

She said, "It looks like you've been in a bar fight. But you should see the other guy!"

It's been quite a journey, this healing journey that  I'm still on. But I embrace the opportunity I've been given, and I thank everyone who has helped me get this far.

At this holy season, I wish all of you many blessings.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

5 on Friday - Set 163

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.

Can't let March get away without featuring these birthday boys.

1 - Jump in the Line - Harry Belafonte 

2 - This Love - Adam Levine from Maroon 5

3 - Clocks - Chris Martin from Coldplay 

4 -Sunshine on Leith - Charlie Reid and Craig Reid, also known as The Proclaimers

5 - Galaxy Song - Eric Idle

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today

Join me at The Popculturedivas for 13 Things About the Women Making Waves conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Friday, March 15, 2013

5 on Friday - Set 162

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.

When I was looking through the arts section of the paper yesterday after I finished eating supper, which is my chill out time between the day job and my evening writing shift, I noticed several event listings that featured World Storytelling Day.

What a great thing to showcase for 5 on Friday, I thought. So here are five story songs as we head into World Storytelling Day, March 20th.

1 - Rocky Raccoon - The Beatles 

2 - Famous Blue Raincoat - Leonard Cohen

3 - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald - Gordon Lightfoot 

4 -Darlington County - Bruce Springsteen

5 - Taxi - Harry Chapin

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend--I'll be at my second Women Making Waves conference in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Storytelling through film, television and digital media, by women. It's not a women-only conference, however--it's a film industry event attended by both genders. In fact, my fellow conference-goer this year is my husband Brad.

I'll share the highlights in next week's Thursday Thirteen.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday Thirteen - 270 - 13 Reasons to Read SPEAK OF THE DEVIL by Shawna Romkey

Three writers' retreats ago, newest Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada member Shawna Romkey joined us for an intensive weekend of writing among a group of women who'd known each other for years. That might have put some folks off, wading into a cottage filled with old friends in an atmosphere of focused creative intention.

But I knew I'd met a kindred spirit when she put on her Xena Warrior Princess pajamas that first night. On the final day, she was in my brainstorming group with Tara MacQueen -- a glorious moment for all three of us.

It's my very great pleasure today to be part of Shawna's debut release blog tour. 

1 - SPEAK OF THE DEVIL is a 2013 Crescent Moon Press release. Shawna's debut novel packs Young Adult yearning for love with the paranormal powerhouse of angels and demons duking it out for earthly souls. Remember when you were a senior in high school and everything felt as if the world would end if this didn't happen or that thing did happen? For main character Lily, it's not about outfits that don't pull together. It's about the war in heaven ending up as her school newspaper assignment.  

2 - Before we go any farther, feast your eyes and ears on Shawna's book trailer by Rachel Firasek, with selected angel photography by Cher Fields.

3 - If it seems like Shawna is all over the blogosphere these days, her 32-stop blog tour may have something to do with that. Celebrating her dream-come-true brings us to today's book review, which is one of 20 starred stops on the tour.

A starred stop means there is a hidden Easter egg somewhere in the post. The SPEAK OF THE DEVIL Easter eggs are letters that stand out in some way. For a full list of Shawna's blog tour stops, visit her web site home page and scroll to the bottom:


"If you find them and decipher the passcode, you can win a signed copy of SPEAK OF THE DEVIL, a swag pack and a $25 Amazon gift card! Once you've found the eggs in each post [including Shawna's own blog posts] put them together to find the secret passcode.

Tweet the code, including @sromkey #speakofthedevil

Hint 1 - The letters are in order

Hint 2 - The passcode will look like this: (--- --- - ---- -- -- -----)

One winner will be chosen from the entries on Easter, March 31st! Good luck!" - Shawna Romkey  

4 - SPEAK OF THE DEVIL brings readers to contemporary Missouri, where teen heroine Lily tries to navigate her way clear of the rockier aspects of adolescence. She's carved a way through her parents' divorce, yet the attentions of her friend Mike leave her reflexively pushing him back to arms' length. 

5 - Before she can open herself to begin more than a flirtation with him, a fatal car accident rips Lily's friends from her life forever. Struggling with survivor's guilt, Lily discovers all the sights, sounds and smells of their shared hometown hold her frozen in grief. Reaching out to her dad and his new family, Lily moves to Kansas City and tries to move on with the life that was spared--hers.  

6 - Shawna's voice is perfect for the YA genre, capturing Lily's defensive tone with wry observations about life as only an intrepid student reporter can make:

"I took a seat near the front with my camera. High school theater was my beat, so I did my duty. I'd seen several high school performances, and even to other high schoolers they were usually pretty bad. Teenagers are so tied up in their developing self-esteems to be 'in the moment' and uninhibited, which helps with acting. (I know this from watching a lot of Bravo.)"

7 - SPEAK OF THE DEVIL pits two love interests against Lily's wounded heart. Will it be Luc, he of the time-stands-still gaze and mega-watt charisma? Or will more accessible Mo who makes her laugh and forget be the one to find the chink in her armor? 

8 - Shawna's romantic tension is taut and filled with wonderfully identifiable moments, yet that only encompasses one part of her YA paranormal debut. As a dark fantasy/vampire author myself, and a Supernatural devotee, it's a joy to report that Shawna's heavenly skirmishes are filled with unnerving details like watching nubby demon horns emerge. If a book is set in a paranormal world, I like to feel somewhat spooked by what's going on.  

9 - Plus, there's a lot of questioning faith as a result of so much random loss. If there's a serious desire to ask 'what's it all about?' then I'm hooked.

10 - Shawna really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:

" 'Are you okay to drive?' he asked.

Oh, good one, knowing my history and about my friends. I thought it was a low blow though.

'Go to hell,' I said. This, for some reason, brought out a burst of laughter from Sean, who again, I believed to be completely sober.

I just shook my head and got in my car. Mo stood there looking hopeless while I drove off.

I looked back in the rear view as I was pulling out of the parking lot. Sean had parked the van and the four of them were headed inside. Rehearsal I imagined. I drove down the road for a few minutes then thought, I'm not grounded. I don't have to be home. And I really wanted to see what these people were up to,  so I turned around and parked in the front parking lot, where the teachers parked since after all it was after school hours. I took my phone, put it on silent, and headed down to where I was sure they'd all be, the theater." 

11 - For anyone heading to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Kansas City, Missouri - setting for SPEAK OF THE DEVIL - Shawna will be at the Giant Book Fair on Sat, May 4th from 11:00 - 2:00, Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center.

12 - You can find Shawna on Facebook

and on Twitter @sromkey

13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!

"Julie fumbled with the wipers while I pulled the sun visor down to check my face in its little rectangular mirror, even though I'd only left my vanity like five minutes ago. The lights on either side lit up the interior of the car. I reached into my tiny party purse to find my lip gloss, which was easy to locate since I'd only packed the essentials in my bag: phone, some cash, and make-up. As I glanced at myself, I saw Mike in the reflection, smiling at me from the back seat. I stuck my tongue out at him, making him laugh, and put on the lip-gloss, fully aware of how flirty I acted.

The windshield wipers couldn't keep up with the sudden downpour. The pitter-patter turned to thumping. Hail came down in gumball-sized pellets. 'Damn.' Julie jerked the steering wheel to keep The Whale off the curb.

'Slow down, Jules.' Mike gripped Julie's headrest. 'We can pull over until it passes.'

 'Yeah.' She squinted to see the road before her.

I pressed my lips together to smooth out the gloss. 'Damn is right. I didn't bring a jacket.'

The Whale swerved to the right crunching along the gravel on the side of the road. I braced myself in my seat. Julie leaned up to the steering wheel and peered over it as my grandmother sometimes did when she drove. I squinted because of the stupid light up visor mirror. I slammed it shut, but Julie panicked and over corrected, pulling The Whale to the left and careening over the yellow dotted line in the middle of the street.

'Julie!' Mike shouted.

Time slowed and ticked out in heart beats.

Ba bum.

Julie cringed, her hands moving up to shield her face. Her head turned away from the highway.

Ba bum.

Mike reached protectively from the back seat.

Ba bum.

The headlights illuminated the rail of the overpass.

 Ba bum.

The car hit the rail on the opposite side of the road with a hard thud.

Ba bum.

Crap. We're going over the bridge.

Ba bum.

The Whale's nose pointed down toward the water.

Ba bum.

A jolt forward and my forehead slammed into the dashboard.

Ba bum.

The Whale flipped in the air. I'm upside down.

Ba bum.


Ba bum.

Did my mom say goodbye when I left?"

- Shawna Romkey, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

5 on Friday - Set 161

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.

This week, Canada lost one of its most unifying forces - singer-songwriter Stompin' Tom Connors.

Passing away at age 77, Stompin' Tom left us this letter which he released to the media:

"Hello friends,

I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would not have been any Stompin' Tom.

It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with its beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.

I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.

I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer from the work I have done.


Your Friend always,

Stompin' Tom Connors"

In the daily media scrum in the House of Commons hallway on Thursday, New Democrat Members of Parliament sang one of Stompin' Tom's signature tunes, Bud the Spud, in his honour.

1 - Bud the Spud - tribute by Andrew Cash, Megan Leslie (from Halifax), Charlie Angus and other NDP members

This ode to Prince Edward Island potatoes and the truckers who haul them includes the classic lines:

"It's Bud the spud from the bright red mud
Rolling down the highway smiling
The spuds are big on the back of Bud's rig
And they're from Prince Edward Island"

2 - The Hockey Song - Stompin' Tom Connors

You can pretty much stop anyone from coast to coast in Canada and they will be able to chime in on this song:

"Hello out there, we're on the air
It's hockey night tonight!
The tension grows
The whistle blows
And the puck goes down the ice"

3 - TTC Skedaddler 

This is the very streetcar route I used to ride when I was a nanny in Toronto in the late 80s. TTC stands for Toronto Transit Commission. There were still some of these older Red Rockets left in service when I lived there.

4 -Sudbury Saturday Night

I featured this song before, but it's one of my favourites:

"The girls are out to bingo
And the boys are getting stinko
And we think no more of Inco [the nickle smelting plant]
On a Sudbury Saturday night

The glasses they will tinkle
When our eyes begin to twinkle
And we'll think no more of Inco
On a Sudbury Saturday night"

5 - Canada Day Up Canada Way

"It's Canada Day, up Canada way
When the long cold winter's done
And we're shouting 'hooray' up Canada way
For the great days yet to come

Where maple trees grow maple leaves
When the northern sun is high
We're Canadians and we're born again
On the first day of July"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today

Join me at The Popculturedivas today for 13 Things to Remember When Life Gets You Down

Friday, March 1, 2013

5 on Friday - Set 160

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 weekend's Oscars put me in the mood for the Bond theme, which led me to this week's collection of my favorite spy show/spy film themes.

1 - James Bond Theme - John Barry

2 - Spooks/MI-5 - Jennie Muskett

3 - Zvezdochet/The Astrologer Aleksey Shelygin

This is the Russian spy series my husband and I discovered and loved (until the low, low budget made itself felt in the final few episodes. Otherwise, a great show.)

4 -Strike Back - The Heavy

5 - Get Smart Irving Szathmary