Creative Wednesday: The Seventh Devil is here!

You may or may not have seen on my social media that my latest novel, The Seventh Devil, has finally been released after several delays due to Covid backlog at the printing plant. I’m really excited about it, except for the fact that Amazon has been causing so many issues with making it available. My publisher reached out to them, and this is what they said: “Last Summer, Amazon ordered as normal throughout and we heard reports that processing delays resulted in trucks sitting unreceived for up to 2 weeks at Amazon facilities. This summer, Amazon is aggressively triaging their stock orders to manage what is moving through the warehouses. This is resulting in gaps between when Amazon runs out of stock, and when they reorder a book, because books, barring the best sellers, are still deprioritized.”

“Barring the best sellers”?! Well, maybe it would BE a best seller if Amazon bothered prioritizing books instead of socks, which I can get the very next day after I order them. The Dome has been suffering the same fate, showing up as unavailable or out of stock at various times as well. But here’s the great news–if you want a copy of The Seventh Devil, or my other Bookland Press books, Smile and The Dome, you can order them through All Lit Up, (click the link and it will take you right there) a much better distributor who ships to anywhere in Canada AND the United States. Otherwise, for my friends outside of North America, let’s hope Amazon gets its act together soon.

And just to refresh your memory, here’s the synopsis for The Seventh Devil:

“When nineteen-year-old runaway Verity Darkwood, homeless and devastated by guilt, takes refuge in a bar to escape the unwanted attention of a stranger, she doesn’t expect to meet Gareth Winter, let alone become business partners with him. They discover that they each possess the ability to interact with the world beyond the veil and, with the help of Horace Greeley III, editor of the fantastical online journal The Echo, Verity and Gareth spend the next two years on the road, successfully crossing over the ghosts who haunt their clients, or getting rid of the demons that plague them. But when they stumble upon a series of unsolved child abductions spanning decades which are eerily similar to the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Verity’s younger sister, they embark on a pursuit that will take them across Canada in their quest to find The Seventh Devil, the dangerous and mysterious figure who may be behind it all.”

We’ll Always Have Paris

For a long time, I’ve been obsessed with vintage paintings of Paris. You may have seen the type I’m referring to, the impressionistic ones that look really drippy and weird from up close, but from far away begin to resemble a street full of shops and cafes, with people strolling along, and the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe in the background. I adore them—they’re not expensive and whenever I’m feeling down, I look at one and imagine myself wandering down a rainy Paris rue, and it makes me feel better. The problem is, Ken hates them:

Me: Ooh, look! A Paris painting!
Ken: You already have 10 of the damn things. No more!
Me: But this one would be perfect for my bathroom…

So now, if I see one, I have to promise I’m only buying it to resell it. Which I’ve done a couple of times, but apparently there aren’t many other people as obsessed with Paris paintings as I am, because they tend to sit in my antiques booth for a while. But last weekend, I was in the midst of rearranging furniture in the hope of turning the alcove in our bedroom into a “reading nook”, when it suddenly occurred to me that a Paris painting was exactly what the nook needed, and I knew exactly where to find one. In fact, a painting of the perfect size had been languishing in my booth for several months and I was planning on going there last Sunday afternoon to put some fresh stock in. “This is perfect,” I thought to myself. “I’ll bring it home with me.”

When I arrived, the owner greeted me enthusiastically at the door. “Guess what!” he exclaimed jovially. “You just sold those two Paris paintings, you know, the ones that have been here for months. Literally half an hour ago—you just missed it!”

“No!” I gasped. He looked confused, both of us being in the “selling of things” business, so I had to explain my lack of excitement.

“Never mind,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll find another one.”

The very next day, I did. And it broke my heart.

I was at Goodwill, a charity shop, after work on Monday to drop off some odds and ends from the alcove mentioned above. I was helping the girl unload my car, when suddenly a man sauntered past us through the parking lot. He was CARRYING A PARIS PAINTING. And it was a beautiful one, in an antique frame. I could see the Arc de Triomphe from where I stood, stunned and speechless, box of knick knacks in hand. I cannot accurately convey the sense of horror I felt as I watched him get in his car and drive away, knowing that if I’d been there half an hour earlier AGAIN, the painting would have been mine.

And because I’m a grown-ass woman, I didn’t cry, although I badly wanted to. No, I did what any normal person would do—I called Ken:

Me: The universe hates me! I just missed out on a gorgeous Paris painting by like half an hour!
Ken: Hahahahaha!
Me: Why are you laughing?!

I tell you all of this not to elicit sympathy—in fact, you’re probably thinking Ken was right to laugh, and I really don’t need another painting of a city I’ve never been to—but that’s not the point. The point is, in fact, that the universe is taunting me, and I don’t know why.

Here are some thoughts:

1. The universe hates me.
2. The universe hates Paris.
3. The universe agrees with Ken that I have enough paintings of Paris.
4. The universe doesn’t care about me at all, and things are just random.

But then, as I was writing this on Saturday morning, I happened to glance up and realized that in an obscure corner of my office, there was a small Paris painting hanging there, and wouldn’t it be better placed in the new reading nook than tucked away in a spot where Ken can’t see it? See, I’m nothing if not thoughtful, and maybe the universe loves me after all.

Quilt Update: My wonderful neighbour finished the quilt I had begged her to help me with and it’s gorgeous–Ken and I presented it to Kate, for whom it was always intended, and she loves it. All my neighbour wanted in exchange for her labour and skill was a donation to the local foodbank so I made a big one in her name. And I also bought her a gift card to the liquor store as a personal thank you, because I can imagine after all that sewing, she needs a drink. I sure did.

Heavy Metal

You may remember a few weeks ago, I wrote about needing an MRI and the surgeon asking me if I had any metal in my body. I ran through a mental catalogue, at which point, after having made a detour into a delightful reverie about becoming a human forklift, I determined that I was metal-free. I had carefully considered the surgeries I’d had over the years, and I assumed if a surgeon had left any metal in me, I would know it by now and therefore could enter the MRI tunnel without any worries.

I was WRONG. I am FULL OF METAL.

And how did I arrive at this horrifying conclusion? Well, I recently had an abdominal X-ray for another, completely unrelated matter, and on Thursday, I was able to access the report through the radiology clinic dashboard. It was pretty humdrum, and I was getting more than a little miffed once again at the liberal use of the term “unremarkable” (although I was pleased to note that my lungs are apparently “well-aerated”) when it said this: Cholecystectomy clips noted. I was like “What the f*ck is a chole-thingy?” so I googled it, and it’s when you have your gall bladder removed, and I did that about 15 years ago. I realize I’ve just made it sound like I reached into my own abdominal cavity and pulled it out myself, and if that did indeed happen, you will note that I would have accompanied the pulling out of my gall bladder with a flourish and the words Abracadabra, but a surgeon did it, and he was a terrible magician. And I KNOW this because in the same way that a terrible magician would accidentally sit on the top hat and kill his rabbit, this person left METAL CLIPS inside my body. I’ve been setting off the airport security alarms for years and telling them it was MY BELT when, in fact, I am a human IED.

These are my insides

According to my research, there are different kinds of clips for this—some dissolve and some are permanent, but the issue is that no one even asked me if I wanted to become a cyborg, and normally I would have said YES, but in this case, there’s no upside—I mean, it’s nothing AT ALL like having forklift arms, and I was initially very upset (not to mention worried that the MRI maybe dislodged them, and now I was being slowly stabbed to death from the inside), but then we went to see the new Suicide Squad movie. There was a variety of new characters, including a guy called Polka Dot Man, who could shoot polka dots out of his body and eviscerate people with them. Polka dots are a stupid weapon, but you know what’s not? METAL CLIPS. So now I’m going to write to James Gunn and suggest that, for the Suicide Squad sequel, there should be a new character introduced. Her name is Heavy Metal and her superpower is shooting sharp pieces of steel out of her body:

Criminal: Who the hell are you?!
Heavy Metal: My name is Heavy Metal, loser.
Criminal: You look rather unremarkable to me.
Heavy Metal: Prepare to die.

Thursday Surprise: The Recording From My Reading: Feasting Upon The Bones

For anyone who wasn’t able to attend my live reading last night, here’s the recording:

I hope you enjoy it. It didn’t work right away and I had a moment where I thought I would cry, but Kate and Ken were there troubleshooting and it all worked out in the end, with almost 30 people joining in. And there was wine.

Live Reading Tonight!

Do you have 45 minutes to spare tonight? Just a reminder that I’ll be doing a live reading from Feasting Upon The Bones on Facebook from 7:00 to 7:45 pm Eastern Time. I’ll be reading 4 pieces from the collection and discussing a little bit about the stories and what inspired them, and then, if there’s time, I might read a piece from the new collection I’m currently working on, Night Terrors. I hope you can join me. Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/108877348159254/live_videos/

Renovation Woes

On Wednesday, finally fed up with the appalling turn of events, I swept into the kitchen dramatically. Brandishing the textile in question, I addressed my wrath at the room’s occupants, who were in the middle of a porch renovation lunch break. “THIS—” I pronounced with a violent flourish, “THIS is the GOOD TEA TOWEL! And just look at it! You have sullied it beyond redemption!” Naturally, I was met with protests:

“But it was hanging right there!”
“There was nothing else to dry our filthy hands on!”
“What’s a good tea towel?!”

“No!” I exclaimed, putting up a hand to silence their futile defense. “It simply won’t do.” I reached into a drawer and pulled out another, brand new tea towel. “This is now the good tea towel. You will recognize it because it has glitter thread running through the pattern. It is not—and I repeat NOT—to be used.”

If you are not familiar with the concept of the good tea towel, let me explain. There are the tea towels that you use every day, the ones you dry things with, fold up to put under a hot saucepan or even, dare I say, use to extract a baking pan from the oven. And then there is the good tea towel, the one that’s just for show. I’ve had this issue before—once, when I was living in Toronto for work, I had a roommate, a lovely girl in every other way, except for her insistence on using the good tea towel. It was white and black, in a charming ‘Paris’ motif, and it hung from a hook in a spot that was obviously chosen for its display properties. There was another tea towel, a plainer one, that was close to the stove and sink, and simply screamed out, “Use ME!” Yet my roommate kept using the good tea towel, until it was no longer ‘good’. I would come back after a weekend at home to find it hanging all crumply and stained. I would wash it and then replace it, and put the other, everyday tea towel in a more convenient spot. But she never learned and her tenure with me was short, as you can well imagine.

This is what happens when the rules are ignored.

And you may scoff at the good tea towel, and most likely you are, but here’s a fact: Laura Secord didn’t abandon her children and make her way alone through the forest to warn the British about an impending American attack just because she felt like going for a jog. No, she was sick to f*cking death of the U.S. soldiers using her good tea towel. It’s true. We won the War of 1812 because of the good tea towel. Of course, when the soldiers left Laura’s house, they also left behind that one fork—you know the one I mean. It doesn’t match any of your other forks, you didn’t buy it, and you have no idea where it came from, yet every time you reach into the cutlery drawer, it’s the first one your hand grabs, until finally, in a fit of pique, you yell “Stupid fork, I hate you!” and you throw it in the garbage. I may or may not have done this recently.

But these are the kinds of stressors you have to deal with when your house is undergoing renovations. It got substantially worse yesterday, when Ken and I were driving back from Home Depot with a large load of wood in the trailer. I was already a little freaked out at his bizarre need to tell me that he had to take the corners slowly in case the trailer tipped over, filling my head with visions of lumber all over the road and twisted metal everywhere, but then this happened:

Me: I need a new go bag. I don’t think the one I have is big enough now.
Ken: Go bag?
Me: In case of fire. I have a bag, and a list of things to put in it, like the external hard drives, jewelry, the box of special notes and cards, my mother’s watch…
Ken: The good tea towel.
Me: Obviously. But I think I need a new bag. There are a lot of things to take.
Ken: I’m assuming that in this scenario, Kate, Atlas, and I are out of the house and safe.
Me: Of course. You’re more important than any stuff. But once you’re out, I’ll run to the back bedroom, kick out the window, and throw the go bag and all my Paris paintings onto the balcony then climb down off the side porch.
Ken: Porch? Your plan would be perfect, except you’ve apparently forgotten that we currently don’t have a side porch.
Me: WHAT? F*ck.
Ken: You could always go out the window by the stairs and leap from the front porch to the spruce tree.
Me: I’m not A LEMUR, KEN.

And now I not only need a new go bag but a new fire plan to go with it. Ken suggested that I could tie a rope to one of the brackets in the brick and shimmy/rappel down to the ground, and I was like “How am I supposed to do that carrying a bag and several paintings, KEN?”

So now, he and his crew (i.e. Kate and her boyfriend) are under strict orders to get some kind of structure up immediately. And stop using the good tea towel.

It’s a long way down.

It’s All About The Attitude

Well, it’s been an exciting week at the mydangblog household. First, I got it into my head suddenly, and I mean VERY suddenly, that it would be an amazing idea if I did a live reading for my new short story collection in August. And if you know anything at all about me, you’ll know that like most things I do (e.g. the quilt), I went into it with a lot of determination but without a single clue about how it should be done. I messaged a couple of friends (thanks Susan and Cecilia!) and got some advice, but still ended up spamming all my friends, not once but twice, with Facebook invites. I really have no idea what I’m doing and whether or not it will work, but if you’d like to join me on Wednesday, August 11 at 7 pm Eastern Time, you can access the reading by either going to the Feasting Upon The Bones Live Reading Facebook page or join via this link even if you don’t have Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/108877348159254/live_videos/

I hope some of you will come, either to see me read some stories and drink wine or watch dead air and imagine me frantically trying to figure out how to get the live stream going whilst simultaneously drinking wine. Either way, there will be wine.

And I’ve been getting great feedback on the short story collection, so again, I’d super-appreciate if anyone could leave even a short review on Amazon or Goodreads or whatnot, or even just some stars. I know a couple of you have already and it totally made my day.

In other news, we took down the old side porch on our house last week because the columns were rotting and discovered that most of the old side porch structure was also rotting, so it was extremely fortunate that we’d embarked upon this particular reno project before one of us fell through the balcony. As Ken was dismantling the roof, he found a champagne cork sliced open with a penny stuck in it tucked next to one of the rafters:

Ken: What do you think this is for?
Me: Some kind of weird superstition? A sacrifice to Dionysus?
Ken: I’ve never heard of that. Let me google…champagne cork with—oh, it autofilled. Guess it’s a thing after all.
Me: Well, we have to keep it and put it back once we’re done. Ooh, we could pop another bottle and do it with a second champagne cork for double the luck!
Ken: And drink the champagne.
Me: Obviously drink the champagne, KEN.

Photo of a cork with a penny in it.

And in honour of our rotten porch, I present to you three other inanimate objects that have attitudes of their own, according to these ads:

Photo of a very nice bird house with the description Obnoxious bird house - make an offer

1) This birdhouse looks really cute and rustic but apparently appearances can be deceiving:

Me: Ooh, I love your birdhouse. Could I offer you twenty-five dollars for it?
Birdhouse: Twenty-five dollars?! F*ck off, lady.
Owner: I’m so sorry. My birdhouse is a bit of a dick.
Birdhouse: You can f*ck right off too, JANICE.
Me: What an obnoxious bird house.
Owner: Hence the ad.

Photo of a child's bicycle with the description Huffy bike

2) In the same vein, this little bike is adorable but…

Buyer: What a lovely little bike. And only ten dollars!
Bike: Hmph.
Buyer: What’s wrong?
Seller: Oh, don’t mind the bike. He’s in one of “his moods”, that’s all.
Bike: HMPH.
Buyer: Does he get like that a lot?
Seller: He’s just a little huffy because I wouldn’t take his training wheels off for the ad.
Bike: I don’t NEED THEM, STANLEY.
Seller: Yes, but they make you MORE MARKETABLE, BRIAN.
Bike: HMPH!

Photo of a sign that says "Please inform one of our staff if this room is in need of some attention."

3) And finally—I’ve seen warehouses with self-esteem issues but this bathroom is a bit of a drama queen:

Customer: Excuse me, but I think your bathroom needs some attention.
Staff person: Good lord, what’s it doing now?
Customer: It’s a little weepy. But when I asked what was wrong, it said, “Oh, nothing. Don’t worry about ME. Obviously I’m JUST FINE”.
Staff: Sigh. Yes, it can be quite passive-aggressive when it’s unhappy. Look, I hate to pry, but were you in there for a…(whispers) poo?
Customer: I—uh—well, yes. But it was just a small one.
Staff: That explains it. Time for the lavender air freshener. That usually does the trick.

When The Novelty Wears Off

A few weeks ago, we had a neighbour come over to visit. We had just redecorated our bedroom, adding some architectural columns and whatnot and she was interested in seeing the end result. I proudly escorted her into the room where she looked around and complimented me on the new design, but I thought she seemed a little lukewarm and anxious to leave. Then, on our way out, I glanced over at the bed and gasped internally. Ken had wrapped one of Atlas’s tug toys around one of his big rubber bones, and from a distance, it looked very much like something you would find in an “adult” store. I wanted to run after her as she hurried downstairs, holding it aloft and exclaiming, “It’s for the dog!!” but I don’t think that would have helped matters any, and may, in fact, have made them worse. But then I got looking around my house and realized that a LOT of Atlas’s toys look like they may have come from The Stag Shop, which is the most common sex toy franchise around here. So with that in mind, I have a quiz for you: Sex Toy or Dog Toy?

Number One:

Number Two:

Number Three:

Number Four:

Number Five:

Here’s the answer key: All of them are dog toys. I will never have anyone over to my house again.

(Except for today, because we’re having a party for Kate’s birthday last Tuesday and Ken’s birthday tomorrow, so I’ve hidden all Atlas’s dog toys. And his vibrator.)

Creative Wednesday: Where I Write

I had the great pleasure of being featured on author Gabi Coatsworth’s official website as part of her series on authors and where they write. My writing space is really precious to me, and I appreciate having the chance to share it with you. If you want to see it and find out more about the place where I wrote Smile, The Dome, Feasting Upon The Bones, and The Seventh Devil, you can read about it here: Where I Write

It’s Puzzling

I, like many people, have adopted new hobbies during the long cold never-ending winter that was the lockdown. I had always been disinterested in jigsaw puzzles, didn’t understand the thrill of putting a piece in its rightful spot, and certainly couldn’t see myself spending hours on something whose only end goal was to finish it then take it apart again. What a fool I was. Having now spent those many hours doing exactly those things, I, Ken, and Kate have completed numerous jigsaw puzzles, and the quest for new puzzles online when all the stores were closed has kept me plenty busy. We’ve done some beautiful puzzles, some easy, some hard, and some near impossible. And they’ve all been very normal in their own way—until now.

Not too long ago, I wrote a short story about a creepy jigsaw puzzle (it’s called “A Surprise In Every Box” and you can find it in my recently released short story collection Feasting Upon The Bones*, and I apologize for that shameless plug) but I never imagined I would find an insidiously creepy puzzle of my own until Thursday. My parents quite often prowl around thrift shops looking for cheap puzzles too, and they brought us one last week, a seemingly typical Dowdle puzzle of Peggy’s Cove in (she googles ‘where is Peggy’s Cove’ because even though she’s Canadian, she has a terrible knowledge of any country’s geography) Nova Scotia. I started to piece the edge together as one does and immediately discovered that one of the pieces was all chewed up and distorted, like a dog had eaten it and spat (or sh*t) it back out. Oh well, I thought, at least it’s not missing, because I HATE when a puzzle has a missing piece, and I think I’ve written about suspecting Atlas of stealing puzzle pieces before. But it got worse. See, there are a lot of tiny human (?) figures in the puzzle, and as I started to pull them out, it became clear that the artist who designed it was, perhaps, really more into horror stories than pastoral scenes of a harbour town.

Like, OK, it’s bad enough that there are 4 dudes standing on a rock looking like they all want to talk to me about Jesus, and numerous people are hoisting lobsters in the air and swinging them around like that’s a completely normal activity (and maybe it is in Peggy’s Cove) but then there’s this guy:

What the absolute f*ck is this guy doing, crawling out over a rock towards you like that girl from The Ring?! You don’t notice him at first, because there’s so much else going on, what with all the proselytizing and lobster waving, but once you do, HE’S ALL YOU SEE. And then suddenly it seems like maybe instead of an idyllic fishing village, this is a zombie town, and all the figures are now ominous and the lobsters are screaming for help. So far, I’ve only found his face. In the poster that comes with the puzzle, he appears to be wearing large, weird mittens on his hands, and I really don’t think I want to find the rest of him in case he comes to life and starts crawling over the back of my couch.

And why do you have so much time to do jigsaw puzzles? Don’t you have a quilt to finish?” I hear you ask. In fact, I don’t. Partway through row 11, when my second sewing machine once again lost its mind and refused to work, I threw down my denim patch in dismay and announced that I was going to find someone to finish it for me. This is not “giving up”. This is simply a recognition that there are things I’m good at, and things I’m not. So I went in search of someone who was better at sewing than me. I posted an ad on the local Facebook page, and that was a bit of a bust, giving me only advice on how to fix my machine. I did get one offer to come over and “consult” because the quilter in question was “very particular” about her projects and didn’t want it to look like two different people had done the quilt and I didn’t realize that was even a thing, because I am not particular AT ALL. But then Ken mentioned that the lady across the street had said she taught sewing once, so on Monday, I walked over and interrupted her mowing her lawn to inquire about her willingness to help me out. A long shot, some might say, but she immediately said “Sure”, that she could try a few rows to see.

I bundled some up and gave them to her in a bag. Less than half an hour later, I saw her coming up my sidewalk carrying the bag, and my heart sunk. She’d changed her mind, obviously. But no. As it turned out, she’s a VERY GOOD sewer, unlike me, and had done the three rows in the time it took me to sew one patch and swear at my machine like a sailor. The next day she called me over to look at all the now-completed rows, laid out on her living room floor, and I was a little overwhelmed and very grateful. Also, my carefully/haphazardly chosen pattern looked awesome. She’s going to finish the whole thing for me, and if she gets it done by Christmas, that’s still faster than I would have been able to do it.

*Speaking of kind things that people do, and speaking of Feasting Upon The Bones, if you bought it and liked it, could you leave a review? In exchange, I’ll name a character after you in the next collection, which I’m already working on now that I’ve contracted out the quilt and have all this free time.