My Week 269: Launched, When Pigeons Attack

Last weekend, I had a book launch for my new novel The Dome (shameless plug, and if you read it and like it, can you please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or whatnot? Also, here is a link to The Dome on Amazon.com (use Amazon.ca if you’re in Canada) before I get pigeoned to death lol!). Anyway, the local pub hosted it, and it was not without its funny moments. First, Ken had to go out of town suddenly in the morning and said to me, “Hey, I might be gone for a while so if you get a minute, can you decorate the cake?” We looked at each other for a second. I pointed to myself questioningly. He nodded in resignation then shrugged and left. This pantomime was in response to the fact that I decorate cakes in very much the same way that I wrap Christmas presents, which is to say, “like a small child”. But he’d applied the base coat—my only job was to pretty it up. He’d made two cakes and put them together to make a book shape. There was green and red icing, and a small CN Tower model. We had some muffins so I decided to take the top off one and use it for the SkyDome (that’s what it used to be called before it was bought by a series of corporations—it was called the Air Canada Centre at one point but I think it’s the Rogers Centre now, and I’m sure in a couple of years it will be owned by a beer company and be called something like The Heiny-Dome, but it will always be the SkyDome to me).

I put the model of the tower on one side, ripped the top off a muffin and stuck that next to it. It didn’t look much like the Toronto skyline, so I rooted around in a box of Hallowe’en candy and found some little Hershey bars that I could stick in the cake to look like skyscrapers. Then I wrote The Dome at the top. I stood back to examine my efforts and decided it needed something more, so I looked up images of maple leaves online and drew one on the left side. It wasn’t much of an improvement. The muffin was chocolate and it looked like someone had taken a dump on the cake.

I gave up, and went to get dressed. When Ken finally came home, he said, “What’s wrong?” I pointed wordlessly to the cake.

Ken: It looks great! The maple leaf is VERY professional, although I’m not quite sure what it’s for…
Me: It’s the symbol of the rebel movement IN THE NOVEL, KEN! Did you even read my book?!!
Ken: Oh right! Well, it looks just…super.
Me: No, it doesn’t. I suck at decorating.
Ken: I can salvage—I mean finish it for you. Don’t worry.

And he did. It looked much better after he worked on it, although he didn’t have a lot of time or supplies—the only thing left in the Hallowe’en box was licorice.

Then we got to the pub a little early to set up and it was PACKED WITH HUNTERS, and I was like, Oh god, are they going to be here all afternoon? There was a table of about 12 of them right in front of the stage area, so I jokingly yelled, “Hey, thanks for coming to my book launch!” and they all stared at me like I was a deer they wanted to shoot. Luckily, they were getting ready to go kill more stuff, and by the time the launch actually started, they were gone. The rest of the afternoon was fantastic, with between 50 to 60 people showing up. I did a reading and sold out all the books I’d brought with me. At one point during the afternoon, I started to tear up because I was overwhelmed by all the love and support I was getting from everyone. So thanks to all of you out there—it means a lot. And all the cake got eaten.

We now return to our irregular programming…

Last week, I went out for lunch with some friends from work. We were at a place called the Upper Deck where, in the summer, the windows are removed and it becomes an enormous patio. But the windows aren’t sealed tight in the winter and birds can still get in and out. We were sitting there talking and suddenly something plummeted from the ceiling and landed directly in my lap. I was mid-sentence and interrupted myself with a loud scream. Everyone, including ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE RESTAURANT, looked at me. I held up a giant pigeon feather and yelled, “What the f*ck!!” And it reminded me of the time a couple of summers ago, when something similar happened on a different patio.

Every restaurant in downtown Toronto, regardless of the size of their frontage, has at least one table out front in the summer, even if it blocks the sidewalk. Personally, I love relaxing on a nice patio with a cold glass of white wine in hand (even if said glass costs more than the actual bottle I can buy at the liquor store—Toronto prices are a rip-off), but there are some dangers to the patio life that need to be taken into consideration. First, you are an open target for panhandlers; to them, it must seem like shooting fish in a barrel. I’ve also heard stories of street people taking sips out of glasses or stealing fries off plates. But the biggest hazard to patio season is the wildlife, which brings me to the point of this story. I had gone with a group of colleagues after work for a drink. Patios are so popular in the summer that, when there’s no room on one, you can get put on a waiting list and the hostess will give you a disc that flashes and buzzes when there’s seating available. So after waiting for about 15 minutes, we made our way out to the patio at Jack Astor’s. It’s a great spot, high up and overlooking all the madness of Dundas Square, with misters that spray the air above you if things get too hot (I just realized that makes it sound a little like a gay bar—let me clarify that “misters” are large showerheads, not actual men. I was in a gay bar last summer and instead of spraying us with cooling water, the waiter yelled at my friend for putting her feet up on the outdoor patio chair. When I laughed and said, “Who are you, our mother?”, he replied, “Well, SOMEONE has to parent you, sweetheart!” It was fabulous).

Anyway, things were going really well, and I was totally relaxing into my drink, when I realized that there was a pigeon wandering around near our table. Pigeons are the panhandlers of the bird world—they have no problem at all approaching you to scam you out of your food or give you pamphlets about the impending apocalypse. I was doing my best to ignore the pigeon, who was getting closer all the time, but then I laughed at someone’s joke, turned my head, and for a horrifying split second, the pigeon and I made eye contact. Even though I looked away really quickly, the pigeon took this as an obvious invitation to join us, and began sidling over towards my chair. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there, but the effort of keeping one eye on the pigeon and participating in the conversation was making me more and more distracted and a little afraid. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE birds. I get super excited every time I see an owl on a hydro line, and Ken and I will race from window to window to watch a humming bird buzzing around our flower garden. But the pigeons in Toronto are another matter altogether. They have no fear of humans whatsoever, and they have these malevolent, beady little eyes that follow your every movement. So there I was, minding my own business and being stalked by a pigeon. Then someone asked me a question; I took my eyes off it for a second, and suddenly I couldn’t see it anymore. Then I felt something brush my leg, and when I looked under the table, the pigeon was NEXT TO MY FOOT. I moved my foot in a panic which made the pigeon fly up and start hitting my leg with its wings and talons. I screamed and thrashed at it—which made everyone at the table look at me like I was some kind of lunatic, but then I said, “Pigeon!” and they all smiled and nodded knowingly. So now, even though I love patio season, I’m also super-paranoid about pigeon attacks, and with good reason, if I’m not even safe from them in the winter. In fact, I’m a little suspicious of all birds in Toronto right now—on Wednesday, I was out with a friend when a sparrow landed on the sidewalk next to me. Instinctively, I told it to f*ck off and it flew away. You never know—it could have been the advance scout for a party of attack pigeons. I’m not taking any chances.

My Week 264: Sew What?

I’m pretty good at a bunch of stuff. For example, I’m crafty, and I can take a piece of junk that I found at the side of the road and turn it into something pretty. In fact, this week, I was in our garden shed and saw the bottom of an antique piano stool that I had picked up in the summer time, and I made a toilet paper holder out of it, a piece of doweling, and a small finial that Ken found in his workshop. It’s the most fancy f*cking toilet paper holder that you could imagine.

I can also paint, I write a bit, and I’m a decent cook. At the present moment, I’m cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people, and the turkey is in the oven as we speak (just as it was about to go in, the power went off. Then it came back on. Then it went off again, and I looked to the sky and said, “Don’t make me f*cking come up there!” The power is now back on). But the one thing I can’t do, the one thing I’d really like to do, is sew. Oh, I can thread a needle and attach a button to a shirt in a passable way if you don’t look too closely, but I can’t actually sew. When I was in Grade 8, while all the boys were having a fantastic time in the Industrial Arts shop, all the girls had to take cooking and sewing in the Family Studies classroom, and isn’t that the most goddamn sexist thing you’ve ever heard of? As part of our final project, the girls each had to sew something using a sewing machine. I made a vest. It was blue corduroy on the outside and blue sateen on the inside. It was horrifyingly lopsided. The worst part was that I had no idea how to use the buttonholer on the machine so it was a buttonless vest. Needless to say, I failed  Family Studies, mostly because I was incredibly pissed off about not being able to make a cool wood-and-welded metal candle holder like the boys and, having been a smartass from a very early age, may or may not have answered the questions on the final exam with joke answers:

Question: What is a dart?
My Answer: Something you throw at a dartboard.

My parents were called in to meet with the teacher. They were naturally furious at my deliberate self-sabotage, and my punishment was that I wasn’t allowed to go to the Grade 8 graduation dance. This just made me hate sewing even more; however, I forgave my parents long ago when I realized it was much better to have a story about standing up against sexism and paying the price vs. a story about a lame dance.

Over the years, I’ve never needed to sew—it’s amazing what you can do with a staple gun. But recently, I had a dilemma. I’d seen a picture in a decorating magazine that I really liked, and decided to redo our upper foyer. The problem was that the picture featured these beautiful curtain panels, and I must have gone to over 10 different stores but I couldn’t find anything REMOTELY close. So I went to the local fabric store, found the perfect fabric and bought a sh*t ton of it in the hope that I could just hang it and no one would notice that the edges weren’t hemmed. As I was paying for it though, the woman behind the counter said, “Before you sew it, make sure you—”, and I interrupted her with “Oh, I’m not sewing it. I don’t know how to sew and I don’t have a machine.” But instead of looking at me like I was an idiot, she said, “No problem—let me get you some HEM TAPE”.

HEM TAPE?! Did any of you know that this miraculous invention actually existed? That all you need to do is put it on a piece of fabric, fold the fabric over it, and iron it, and then the edges are FUSED TOGETHER?! I couldn’t believe my luck! So I brought the fabric and the hem tape home, and looked for the iron, because I haven’t used an iron in over ten years. But I found it in a cupboard, blew the dust off it, located the ironing board behind a door, and got to work. In under an hour, I had two big curtain panels, which I hung with these clip things that go over the curtain rod. Here’s what they look like:

My Family Studies teacher would be so proud.

Two quick things:

First, I completely forgot that My Week 260 was the 5th anniversary of this blog. Yep, I’ve been giving you a glimpse of my weird-ass life every week for over 5 years. Some of you have been here from the beginning, some of you are newer to the game, and one of you is no longer here (I miss you, Harry) but I want to thank each and every one of you for your support and for reading this nonsense.

Second, a box containing the author copies of my new novel The Dome arrived on my porch this week. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Apparently it’s been shipped to all the major outlets now too, so if you pre-ordered it, you should be getting it soon, and it will be on store shelves in the next couple of weeks. Here’s the synopsis if you’re interested:

“It’s the year 2135, almost four decades since the Water Wars ended. Much of the continent is a desert wasteland, and the powerful Consortium rules Adanac, one of the few habitable areas remaining, with an iron fist.

Cee and Dee, 16-year-old twins who share a special, almost psychic bond, are runaways from a Consortium workhouse. Now living as Freeworlders in the largest tent city in Trillium province, they’re determined to survive—Dee spends her days thieving with her best friend Rogan, and Cee makes a living selling his handmade woodcarvings to the Fancies, the wealthy elite. Like all Freeworlders, life is a struggle, made worse by the constant threat of The Dome, where punishments for the slightest offense are meted out by the Dome Master.

When devastating circumstances force the twins to become separated, all seems lost until the sudden appearance of a mysterious stranger who reveals some shocking truths. Rumours become reality, enemies become friends, and old foes resurface. Dee and Cee are tested to their limits as they confront the demons of their past and try to save the future, for themselves and all of Adanac.”

If you’re anywhere near the Drumbo Pub on the 9th, drop in for a drink. Happy Thanksgiving!

Gallery

On Writing Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Suzanne Craig-Whytock

I don’t normally post anything mid-week but I was interviewed by Paul Brookes about my writing and he did such a lovely job that I was compelled to post it!

The Wombwell Rainbow

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.

The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Suzanne Craig-Whytock

is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Her first two novels, Smile and The Dome are published by Bookland Press (www.booklandpress.com). Her short fiction has appeared in Slippage Lit and is upcoming in XRAY Literary Magazine. She also writes poetry, and funny/weird things on her website mydangblog (http://educationalmentorship.com).

The Interview

1. What inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing in a variety of genres for as long as I…

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My Week 246: Buttons and Bones

Every so often, my parents give me a tin of Quality Street chocolates. I’m not a particularly big chocolate eater, so I put it on the table in my office next to the little antique box I have full of chocolate squares, chocolate eggs, and Lindors. Why do I have so much chocolate if I don’t really eat it myself, you ask? Because a lot of other people REALLY like chocolate. It’s useful for so many things. For example, it ensures that people drop by and see me regularly just to “steal a chocolate” (although it’s not really stealing if I’m constantly saying “help yourself”), and I appreciate the company AND the momentary distraction. Also, after you’ve asked someone in the IT department to do you a favour and they’ve done it WITHOUT making you “log a ticket”, it’s really nice to offer them a chocolate reward in return for their help (and oh my god, I will never be able to say ‘log a ticket’ with a straight face ever because all I can think of is that it’s an awesome euphemism for using the bathroom, like “I just need to pop out of this meeting for a moment to log a ticket”). Finally, chocolate is fantastic for when someone is ticked off with you:

Colleague: Did you forget to review that very important document that I sent you?!
Me: Would you care for a Lindor? They’re filled with raspberry cream. Now what were you saying?
Colleague: I…mmm, they’re delicious.
Me: They are, aren’t they? Now, if you could just excuse me for a moment—I need to log a ticket.

Quality Street chocolates are very popular. In fact, on Thursday, someone from another floor ran past my door on his way to do something apparently important, but then he doubled back, darted into my office and grabbed a handful of Quality Streets. As he left, he waved the fistful of chocolates at me and said, “I love coming up here!” And it made me really happy. What didn’t make me happy though was that there were only a few chocolates left in the tin and when I transferred them into my other little chocolate box, I was left with—you guessed it—a large empty tin. What the f*ck do you do with an empty tin? It’s like Schrodinger’s Container—it’s simultaneously too useful to throw away AND too useless to keep. Which explains why every button in the world is kept in a tin. You all know I’m right. In fact, if you ever give anyone a tin of Quality Street chocolates, the first thing they say is, “Are there really chocolates in here or is this just a tin of buttons and sewing supplies?”

Nana’s buttons

The first tin I ever remember seeing was also a Quality Street tin. It did NOT contain chocolate. It contained the entirety of my great-grandmother’s button collection. Why did people collect buttons? I don’t know. But there were hundreds of buttons in that tin, and I spent many a pleasurable childhood hour sorting them by colour and size. I still have that tin in my cupboard. So when my Quality Street tin was empty, I took it to the kitchen at work with a note on it: “Free—great for buttons or sewing supplies”. So maybe, 50 years down the road, another woman will be saying “Why the f*ck did Nana have this many buttons?!”

Living Your Best Life

Which of these people is living their best life? Leave your vote in the comments below:

1) Me

This week, one of my colleagues had a birthday and another member of the team got her a life-size cardboard Jason Momoa which she put in her cubicle facing towards the door. I got to see him every day and he was VERY lifelike. Someone put a lei around his neck and we all pretended that he was saying “Aloha” to us every time we came into the office.

Aloha, ladies.

2) OR This Guy

A man was arrested this week for stripping naked and swimming in the shark tank at Ripley’s Aquarium. Right before that, he had started a fight at Medieval Times—I don’t know if he challenged one of the Knights to a joust but I wouldn’t be surprised. I was also surprised to learn that he was NOT from Florida—he was released on his own recognizance to go back to British Columbia.

So who’s living their best life? It’s a tough call since they both have an Aquaman theme, but you decide.

Addendum 1: This week was big junk day in our township, where everyone puts out cool stuff they don’t want anymore. I got Frank the stuffed fish at big junk day five years ago. So when Ken got home from work on Friday night, I made him drive me around to look at junk.

Me: Ooh, there’s a lovely pile of junk here, Ken!
Ken: Ergh.
Me: Turn right! I think I see a table top to go with the table base we just found.
Ken: Ergh.
Me: Look! There are two chairs—I can paint everything and make a set!
Ken: Ergh.

I love big junk day; Ken not so much, but he’s a good sport about it. Then when we got home, I started to unload the large, solid oak tabletop out of the back of the SUV and it slipped out of my fingers and onto my foot, which may or may not be broken now. But it was worth it. (Update–my foot is still swollen but it’s functioning as normal, so I don’t think I broke any bones.)

Addendum 2: I went on the Amazon website to order volumizing cream for my hair and discovered that, despite not being told ANYTHING by my publisher, my new novel, The Dome, is available on Amazon and Chapters Indigo for pre-order, the release date is October 15th and it’s currently ranked #543 in Dystopian Fiction. I was super-excited about breaking into the top 1000, but then I realized that the first chapter on both websites has the formatting wrong. The chapter heading “Chapter 1: Dee” runs right into the first sentence and there’s no paragraphing–it’s making me crazy and I want to yell out to the internet “IT’S NOT LIKE THAT IN THE BOOK!!!” Maybe they’ll change it if I give them some chocolate.

My Week 225: Who The F*ck Is Daniel and Other Interesting Questions

On Friday, I had a rather stressful experience. I had been invited to appear on a local social media show to promote my novels, both published and upcoming, and I had to go to the taping on Friday morning. I had recently discovered how to use the GPS on my Google Map during our trip to Ottawa—it was invaluable in helping us actually FIND Ottawa, as well as our hotel and various museums. I used it especially for walking trips since it was December in Canada, and everyone knows that you calculate the possibility of walking ANYWHERE by subtracting the outside temperature from the time it would take to get to your destination. For example, 20 minutes minus 20 degrees means “hard pass”. I don’t think I’m doing the math right, but that’s par for the course, if you know me at all. Anyway, the taping for the show was at the Woodstock Curling Club at 11 a.m., so I programmed the GPS with the address and set out in my car at 10:25…

Hmm. It doesn’t want me to take the highway? OK, maybe this back way is faster.
Turn right at Pittock Trail? There’s no right turn here.
Turn LEFT on Pittock Trail and turn around?! I don’t see a road. That’s a WALKING TRAIL.
Turn right on Landsdowne? OK, this seems familiar.
I’m lost. Where the hell am I? I should pull over and check the GPS.
How could it possibly take 41 minutes to get to the curling club from here?! None of this makes any f*cking sense! I’ll ask this old couple for directions.
How do you live in a city your whole life and NOT know where the damn curling club is?!
Oh my god, I’m going to be so late!! They’ll do the taping without me and I’ll never be famous in Woodstock! I should do what any normal person would do…
Ken! I’m lost and also this GPS is a piece of sh*t.

Sure enough, Ken was able to search the address from his work computer and guide me to the curling club. It was 7 minutes from where I was and I got there just in time (I’ll post the link when the show goes up—I’m sure I looked like a lunatic, all out of breath and whatnot, so it’ll be good for a laugh if nothing else). Then later, I was having lunch with my aunts and I had to go to Kitchener at 3 o’clock, so I looked up the address and it said it would take me 6 hours and 7 minutes to get there. I said to my aunts, “This stupid GPS is broken. How could it possibly take that long to drive to—oh. It’s set to ‘walking’ instead of ‘driving’. That explains Pittock Trail…”

So one mystery solved. But I have a few others. And since I was just nominated for another Leibster by the creative and inventive sci-fi guy Simon at Planet Simon, and because everyone knows that if you nominate me or tag me for anything, I will either answer your questions in my own weird way or simply make up my own, here are my responses to questions that I have been asking myself this week:

1) Who the f*ck is Daniel?

This is an excellent question and one that I can’t currently answer. On Monday, I decided to watch a little Netflix on the big TV in my condo. I haven’t done this for a while, because I normally use the TV in my bedroom, but I’d been halfway through Lord of the Rings at home before I left to go back and wanted the grander scale of the 36-inch living room screen. I scrolled down to the “Continue watching for Suzanne” section, but that’s NOT WHAT IT SAID ANYMORE. And I was like, “Continue watching for ‘Daniel’? Who the f*ck is Daniel?!” I messaged my current roommate, hoping that he was a friend of hers but no. I messaged my previous roommate, the one with the fruit fetish, thinking that she and Daniel had shared a cantaloupe or something, but she was adamant that she had never had anyone over to our place, let alone someone named Daniel. So now all I can think is that “Daniel” broke into my condo, logged me out of my Netflix account, watched a bunch of cooking shows and documentaries about Paleo dieting, then forgot to hide his tracks by logging himself back out.

2) How many shop vacs is too many?

Four. Four is the number of shop vacuums that Ken found in his workshop last week when we decided to clean our attic. Two of them are brand new in boxes. Why the hell do we have four working shop vacs? Ken says he doesn’t remember buying them and I certainly didn’t, so where did they come from? Did Daniel put them there? Every once in a while, I say to Ken, “Remind me not to buy any more jars of butter chicken sauce for a while—I have three in the cupboard right now.” Apparently, I need to start doing that with shop vacs.

3) Am I the queen of sexual innuendo or do I just have dirty-minded co-workers?

You be the judge. As I mentioned, Ken and I were cleaning out our attic over the holidays. When I got back to work, one of my colleagues asked me what I’d done over the break.

Me: Ken and I went up to the attic. We hadn’t been up there for a long time. It was pretty dirty.
Colleague: Hubbadahubbada!
Me: What?
Colleague: Nice!
Me: NO. We actually went up to our attic to clean it. How does that sound even remotely sexual?
Colleague (laughing): I don’t know—maybe it was the way you said it.

Then later, I was trying out my new SodaStream machine, but I forgot to screw the bottle in tight and the water went everywhere, including all over me. Right after, the same woman came into my office:

Colleague: Are you OK?
Me: I just soaked myself. I’m so wet!
Colleague: Ho HO!!
Me: With WATER. From my SodaStream!!

Then we both started laughing hysterically and making attic jokes. I’m just glad I didn’t tell her that the bottle wasn’t screwed in tight enough.

4) Should grown-ups sleep with stuffed animals?

Of course. If children are allowed to do it then adults should be too, and there should be no stigma attached to that. I personally have two stuffed animals that I currently sleep with: one is a duck named Quackers, and the other is a tiny shark named Brian. It is a complete coincidence that I started tucking Quackers, who used to belong to my daughter, under my arm at night after she left for university. Quackers is just the right size to keep my arm slightly elevated and prevent my shoulder from aching in the morning and that’s the ONLY reason I sleep with him. Brian, of course, protects me from the monster that lives under my bed.

Safe from the monsters.

5) How did Ken almost kill your horse?

Last year, Ken joined a service club in town. He does a LOT of stuff with them, fundraising and whatnot, and it’s good that he keeps busy when I’m away for work. But a couple of weeks ago, I had this strange dream where Ken and I were taking our horse to the vet. We don’t have a horse in real life, but in the dream, we were pulling a horse trailer and driving along, when suddenly we passed a park where all the other members of the club were assembled. Ken looked at them, and then looked at me with this really wistful expression on his face, and he wouldn’t stop staring at me, so finally I said, “FINE. Go be with your friends!” And then he leapt out of the truck and ran off, leaving me to take the horse to the vet by myself. I started driving up a really steep hill and I freaked out about the horse falling out the back of the trailer, so I turned around and went back, but I got lost. In a situation eerily close to real life, I couldn’t get my GPS to work, so I called Ken and yelled, “Thanks for almost killing our horse, KEN!” I don’t know what any of this means except that Ken needs to be more equine-conscious and that next time, I’m taking Daniel with me. He’s not a very clever criminal but I’ll bet he knows how to program a GPS.

So I know that I’m supposed to pass the Liebster on, but I also know that some people don’t like to answer the questions or whatever, so here’s the deal: if you can solve ANY of my mysteries, then you automatically get one and then you can choose to post your own answers to your own questions or go back to Simon’s post and answer HIS questions. However you like. Deal? Let the detecting begin!

 

 

My Week 207: Vacation Part Two: Crazy Train, Braking News, A Little More News

I left off last week at the point where Ken and I were about to board the train. According to my Via Rail GPS tracker, the train was over two hours late, so I called Via to make sure. “Oh no!” said the woman on the phone. “Those trackers are never right. The train is absolutely on time. IN FACT, it’s early. You should get over there right now!” So Ken and I packed up everything superfast and called a cab. The cab driver was very pleasant and chatted with us amicably while he drove extremely slowly and took as many detours as he could, because the train station was only 5 minutes away and he wanted to extend the ride as much as possible, even tucking himself in behind a slow-moving dumptruck.

We were getting a little panicky, but we got to the train station in Edmonton, which is quite possibly the dirtiest, sketchiest station I’ve ever been to, with about 10 minutes to spare. “Oh no!” said the man behind the desk. “Those people at the call centre are never right. The train is absolutely two and a half hours late. IN FACT, you should go find something to do.” So Ken and I checked our bags superfast and called a cab to take us to the shopping centre we saw on the way over to buy a magnifying mirror (I had forgotten mine at home, and I needed it to put on mascara, which sounds stupid, but if you have to wear reading glasses, you’ll understand how necessary one of those is to not gouging your own eye out with a mascara wand). The second cab driver was also very pleasant and chatted with us amicably as he too took the slowest way possible back. We would repeat this one more time before the morning was over but we are now intimately familiar with 121st Street and all of its numerical tributaries.

A somewhat pretentious moniker.

The train finally arrived though, and Ken and I proceeded to our car, named Elgin Manor. Manor, indeed, if the grand home in question had worn carpeting, torn upholstery, and smelled like a urinal cake. Still, there’s a certain charm to rail travel, so I’m told, and when we were shown to our room, which was approximately 8×8, with a large window and its own sink and toilet, I was actually quite pleased with the whole set-up. And then we were off. By this time, it was lunch and we made our way to the dining car. Via actually has its own on-board chefs, servers, and a rather smarmy maître-d, Philip, who greeted us and showed us to a table for 4.

We weren’t sitting there for more than two minutes when he showed up again with an elderly man and said, “Right here, sir.” The man sat down and I looked at Philip questioningly. “Oh,” he said, “It’s a busy time so we need to put people together at the tables.” If you know anything about me at all, you know that being forced to talk with a random stranger is something I would NEVER willingly do, yet there we were. Luckily, Ken did all the heavy lifting/chatting, and the old dude was actually pretty interesting, having fought in ‘Nam and been on an aircraft carrier. But for the whole meal, we were literally the only people in the dining car, so I was calling bullsh*t on the “busy time” rationale for forcing me to eat with a stranger. Then later, when it was dinnertime, it got worse, as Philip immediately took us to a table already populated by a couple a little older than us. I was about ready to scream, but I didn’t want to offend the couple, and Ken was excited about taking pictures of the scenery. Unfortunately, the woman we were seated with didn’t have a problem being offensive herself.

Me: That’s a great shot, Ken. Too bad there’s such a glare on the windows.
Woman: There’s ALWAYS a glare on the windows. It’s because of the light inside the train.

5 minutes later…

Woman: And then we climbed Chichen Itza.
Me: Oh nice. I climbed a Mayan pyramid once too.
Woman: WHICH ONE? CHICHEN ITZA?  
Me: I don’t think so. One of the other ones.
Woman: TULUM.
Me: No, not that one. It was in Costa Maya.
Woman: THOSE ARE THE ONLY ONES.
Me: I’m pretty sure there are more than just those two. I can’t remember its name, sorry.
Woman: THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES.

They’re actually not, lady, but I really didn’t want to argue with her anymore about it, and I just looked it up now and it was Chacchoben. The final straw came though when she made what seemed to be a racist remark, and I was done with her sh*t so we left them and the still empty dining car. The next morning at breakfast, when Philip arrived to take us to a table, I announced loudly, “I’m not sitting with anyone. We want our own table.” Philip looked pretty pissed off, but since there were 12 tables empty, he didn’t have much choice. Do not force me to make friends, PHILIP—I will throat punch you.

Prestige Class Observation Car: Only allowed in here after 4.

It was really pleasant though, sitting in our cabin, or up in one of the Observation Cars, watching the scenery roll by. The mountains were gorgeous, and at one point, the engineer slowed down so we could all ogle a bear walking along beside the tracks out in the middle of nowhere. Then it was time for bed. Our car attendant came in, and with the pull of a few levers, our chairs collapsed and bunkbeds came out of the wall and ceiling. I looked at them skeptically, already planning for a worst case scenario.

Me: I’ll take the top bunk.
Ken: I thought you wanted the bottom?
Me: We don’t know how secure these things are, Ken. You outweigh me by a good 75 pounds. If the top bunk collapses, it’s probably better for both of us if I’m in it. I promise not to crush you.

2 hours later:

Me: Ken! Can you help me get down the ladder? I need to go to the bathroom.

2 hours later:

Me: Ken! Ladder! I have to go to the bathroom again!

1 hour later:

Me: Ken–
Ken: Why did you have to drink so much wine?!

But the bunkbeds were very comfortable, even if the ladder was a pain in both of our asses. The next day was pretty leisurely, and we spent time wandering around the train, which was kind of like Snowpiercer (if you’ve seen the bizarre movie with Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, you’ll get the reference) in that it was over a quarter mile long, had 19 cars and two engines, and its own class system where one end of the train was the Economy class where people slept sitting up in their seats, the middle section went from berths to “Sleeper Plus” where Ken and I were, and it got more exclusive until the other end of the train, where the Prestige cabins were. The Prestige people had their own lounge, which the rest of us plebeians were allowed to enter after 4 pm, although I heard that the Prestige folk were a snobby, tightknit group who gave everyone else dirty looks when they came in and muttered ominously about amputating people’s arms by sticking them out the train windows.

There are at least five…

And that’s where I saw the Emergency Brake sign that said you could pull it if you had a valid reason. So I leave you with this—the top 5 valid reasons to pull the emergency brake. Next week, we will explore Alaska and have fun in Vancouver!

Top Five Valid Reasons to Pull the Train’s Emergency Brake

5) I need a better picture of that bear. There was a glare on the window.
4) I appreciate the “History of Alaska” lecture, but William Seward did not say, “7 million dollars? Whatevs.”
3) Philip, you’re a dick. Get off the train.
2) The Economy passengers have organized a coup and are marching on the Prestige Lounge.
1) Racist on board!

A Little News

Some of you might already know this if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, but I just had my second YA novel accepted for publication. The Dome will be coming to a bookstore near you in 2019, and I’m over the moon!

My Week 201: Me and Jeffrey, My Author Interview

So on Wednesday, I was sitting with a group of people from work, and they were recounting that some people at the secret agency had actually gone to high school or university together, and that was how they knew each other. One of the guys said, “That’s right—there was me, Frank, Jim, and Jeffrey.” And I was like, “Oh, who’s Jeffrey?” because there was no one at the secret agency named that. My colleague replied, “He doesn’t work with us anymore. You’d like Jeffrey—you two are a lot alike.” And my first thought was “A lot alike? Did Jeffrey just change his favourite bathroom stall from number five to number four?” and my second thought, which came IMMEDIATELY on the heels of the first was “Would Jeffrey give voice to that first thought?” Because if Jeffrey was really like me, the answer to the first question would be ”Obviously” and  the answer to the second question would be “Absolutely not” , so based on the second answer, I didn’t say anything—I just smiled and said, “Yeah?” By the time it occurred to me to ask why, the conversation had moved on, and it would have been awkward to drag it back.

Jeffrey? Jeffrey!

But if you know anything about me at all, I spent the rest of the day literally obsessing over IN WHAT WAY EXACTLY I was like the mysterious and elusive Jeffrey. But first, I should explain about the bathroom stalls because I know you are DYING to hear this. If you remember from My Week 177: My Favourite Bathroom Stall and Other Questions, number five was pretty close to my heart, and other parts of my anatomy that shall remain nameless. Lately, however, I’ve noticed that the toilet paper in number five runs out not long after lunch while the other stalls have their full complement. Which led me to the inevitable conclusion that number five was also the favourite bathroom stall of a whole lot of other people. And I don’t want to use the same bathroom stall as everyone else because I like to imagine that when I sit down, I’m sitting on a pristine seat, and that’s impossible to do when you know that it’s being overused compared to the other stalls. Hence my decision to change to number four. So 1) if Jeffrey can write a whole paragraph about his favourite bathroom stall, then he’s my f*cking doppelganger.

Other Ways Jeffrey and I Might Be Alike:

2) Is Jeffrey the King of Worst Case Scenarios?

Continuing on the bathroom theme for a second, we were working offsite when the inciting conversation happened. And if you think I have an issue with sharing 5 stalls with about 30 women, imagine how I feel about sharing a public washroom of ten stalls with around 500 of them. Luckily, there was a trailer on site with portable toilets. The last time we were there, the trailers were the fancy “wedding bathrooms”, all kitted out with wood trim, soft music, and scented hand soap, so I was quite excited to foray out into the parking lot. I was in for a nasty shock though, when I went in and it was just a single, rather bland stall, but there WAS a lot of toilet paper. Anyway, as I was sitting there, I realized that the whole trailer was on a slant, with the front leaning a bit more forward than it should, and that the only window and door were on that wall, and if the trailer fell over, they would be flat on the ground. I had a horrible vision then of the whole thing toppling and I started looking for a roof hatch and whatnot so that I could plan my escape from a sewage-y demise. And I wished that Jeffrey was there with me—not actually IN the bathroom, but available for advice. I’m sure between the two of us, we could have come up with a terrific plan.

3) Is Jeffrey afraid of demons?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how I learned that I’m not the only one to do certain things. This was the one idiosyncrasy that I forgot about, even though I had made note of it in my phone. Like many people, apparently, I can’t dangle any part of my body off the edge of my bed because I’m secretly worried that a demon, or a ghost, or a serial killer might be hiding under it, and will grab said body part and tear it off. Or lick it, like the urban myth where the woman thinks it’s her dog but it’s not. When I was about 13 years old, I read Stephen King’s novel Salem’s Lot, and became so terrified of vampires that I hung my late great-grandmother’s cross on my headboard. Every night, I would leap into bed from the middle of the room, as one does, avoiding whatever might be under the bed (later it was the clown with the wind-up nose from Poltergeist that I was worried about), and then touch the cross to ward off the vampires. I no longer have a cross nor do I leap across the room, but my limbs will always stay within the confines of the covers.

4) Is Jeffrey’s Favourite Colour Purple?

Because mine is. The other day, a very nice man stopped me on the street to compliment me by telling me that he loved how my hair and my handbag matched. I don’t know a lot about Jeffrey—well, nothing really—but if he’s a man with purple hair and a lavender Kate Spade bag then Ken is going to have to step up his game.

5) Is Jeffrey slightly OCD?

On Friday, I told Ken about Jeffrey and that I was really concerned that my colleague meant I was like Jeffrey because we were both weird, so I asked him, “In what ways do you think I’m weird?” He thought and thought for so long that I said, “Are you in your nothing box right now?” and he said, “No! I’m still thinking about what you asked me, but I can’t come up with anything.”

Me: I don’t f*cking believe you.
Ken: Maybe Jeffrey swears a lot.
Me: If he’s like me, then clearly he does. Seriously. You can’t think of a single thing I do that’s weird?
Ken: No, sorry.
Me: Come on, Ken! I can think of 5 things off the top of my head RIGHT NOW that are weird about you.

2 hours later…

Me: I forgot to tell you—I had a terrible dream last night.
Ken: What happened?
Me: I’d created a display of glassware on the ledge in the stairwell, and you’d taken it apart. You moved the pieces all over the house, and I had to find them and try to remember how I’d arranged them so that I could put the display back together. It was awful—I woke up in tears.
Ken: Ah. There is it. And was everything arranged in groupings of threes and fives?
Me: Obviously. I’m not an animal, KEN.
Ken: Weirdo.

So you can see my dilemma. I really want to know why Jeffrey and I are alike, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be for reasons that are just a tad off-kilter. We’re all back to work next week, so I’m determined to ask my colleague to elaborate. I’ll keep you posted.

(As an addendum, I have to say that even if Jeffrey showed up in a purple suit and had a bouquet of violets, he’d still have nothing on Ken, who just read this and said, “You should totally get a hidden camera and then you could find out for sure which bathroom stall is the least used.” Now there’s a man who understands me.)

My Author Interview

Last week, a blogger pal of mine put a call out to anyone who was interested in an author interview. Gareth of GJ  Stevens blog and I corresponded, and he’s just posted the interview that we did. Gareth is a writer of many genres, and has a fantastic series on his blog called “In The End” that he’s just on the verge of publishing into a novel series. His blog also has excellent advice for anyone who is interested in doing their own publishing. You can see the interview he and I did by clicking the link above. If you’ve ever wondered what I actually look and sound like, he’s included a link to the cable show that I appeared on to promote my last novel Smile. It’s fun to watch—I sound just like Jeffrey.

In other news, I just finished my new novel, The Dome. I’ve sent some mark-up copies to a couple of people for feedback, then it’s off to the publisher, who liked the sample chapters, so fingers crossed that they like the rest. Wish me luck!

Black and White Challenge Week 4