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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

This year marks the 195th anniversary of Montreal’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. One of the biggest and oldest in North America, organized by the Unites Irish Societies of Montreal. I love Saint Pat’s. I love the atmosphere. I love the parade. I love the coffee, of which Jameson is the secret ingredient. Not bourbon, not scotch (God forbid, Michael would tell you), not even Canadian rye. Irish whisky, nothing else. And on that I leave you with my two favorite Saint Patrick’s day revelers. Erin go Bragh.

She made a feast of a dinner to celebrate St-Pat’s, just for us. The day began with the United Irish Societies’ brunch and then the parade. When it’s a centuries old tradition you have to show up and with a surname like Malone they loved her right off. Soon she was out of sight, being introduced left and right by Jackie, showing up again only when we sat down to eat. We begged off late afternoon and went back to the loft where she had a pot roast already going. Apparently ovens have timers.
“I’m convinced that seducing a man has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with red meat,” she remarked, eyeing me as I ate.
“You’re right. It makes us content.” I couldn’t argue, it was cooked just right and delicious. The smell when we walked through the door had me salivating until it was served.
“I’ve noticed you’re indulgent when you’re content.”
“Have you?” I drank some more wine, wondering where she was going with this. “What did you have in mind?”
“Nothing. I like…this…” She trailed off, gesturing at the table and at us, searching for words.
“Pot roast?”
“Don’t be facetious, I mean dinner, just the two of us. I do enjoy going out, I don’t want you to think I don’t. You take me to the best restaurants or those formal affairs you have to attend. But I like this too.” She dropped her eyes and started tracing the pattern in the tablecloth. “I like you all to myself.” It was added quickly, as if it had to be said, before she hurried into the kitchen and busied herself with the coffee maker.
I took my time finishing, letting her alone. There was clanging in the cupboards, the fridge opening and closing and the electric beater whirring. Clearing my place, I brought my dishes to the sink, admiring my own domesticity. The kitchen looked like a science experiment. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Making Irish coffee.”
“We could have had some there. You’re going through a lot of trouble, love.”
“Yes, but mine is better.”
“You’re very confident.” I stood back and watched her create, amazed again at how she can transform anything into a work of art. Tall mugs were thickly rimmed with sugar, filled with coffee and Jameson, and a generous spoonful of whipped cream was floated on top.
“And rightly so.” She set the cup in front of me, crossed her arms and waited.
The coffee was strong, the Jameson subtle and the whipped cream and sugar coated your throat as it went down. “Larissa, I apologize for having doubted you.”
“Michael, I forgive you.”
Not only did I discover her rare talent for making the best Irish coffee in the history of the world, I also discovered her marked taste for the drink. After a couple each, she was giggling uncontrollably at my own creative use of whipped cream. “What do you think of my culinary talents?”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

Photo Pixabay

 

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Thank you!

The Goodreads Giveaway has gone away, ending February 28th. Winners have already been chosen. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who requested and everyone following, liking, commenting and sharing here and on FB and Instagram. It means more to me than you know. Congratulations to the 50 lucky winners! More blogs and excerpts coming. For now, let me leave you with an excerpt explaining who Michael defines as lucky.

“This isn’t going to work.” I stare at the sky, hands clenched. It had been in the first few days he had spoken of Rachel. It sounded enticing, two lovers freely expressing themselves without reticence. Who was I kidding? Tears spill out under my Ray-bans and I brush them away quickly, furious with myself when they just keep coming. It’s Michael who takes off my glasses and pulls me into his arms. “You’re right, I have hang ups. I can’t do it all.”
“Baby girl, don’t cry, not about that. I was just teasing you. We don’t have to if you don’t want. We can go walk on the beach.”
“I don’t want a stupid walk on the beach! I want to, but I can’t! What if someone does see us?”
“What if they did? You’re a beautiful woman lounging by the pool at a private villa, alone with, lucky you, God’s gift to your sex. If someone got lost and wandered by they’re the one who should apologize, while they still have their teeth.”
And just like that I’m laughing through my tears. “What if it’s a woman?” (Closed Doors, ©2017)

Image: Pixabay

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Get real.

If you’ve ever created anything: a painting, a birdhouse, a soapstone sculpture, you eventually get asked “Where are you going with this? Is there money in that?” This is where creativity hits conventional logic. The fit is tricky.

A lot of time and energy and money are poured into creative endeavors. There’s a payoff, but a monetary one isn’t first on the list. It can’t be. There are too many hits and misses, practices runs and false starts before whatever it is you’re doing becomes something. And I have two half-finished manuscripts, that will never see the light of day, sitting in my laptop to attest to that. And besides, foremost in creating is indulging that happy little five-year old inside of you. You know, the one with the finger paint up to the elbows, driving the whole shebang.

“I’m fine,” I keep repeating. I love it. I’ll never tell, but I adore the small bodies pressed against me, the unchecked affection and the way play and reality meld together so easily for them. Jeremy looks on, pleased to be at the hub of activity, drooling onto his purple crayon as Elsie peers closely at the finished drawings the children show her. (Closed Doors, ©2017)

Yet I still get those moments of doubt. The Is it all worth it? Why do I bother? moments when practical reality says creating is a waste of time. Where logic lays claim as the only reality and defines creative reality as a created reality in which you are fooling yourself with a pipe dream and you need to “get real”. Which real is that?

“That was inevitable because unlike you, Larissa dear, I have a real job that makes real money in the real world. I don’t spend my days doodling.”
On tips of toes and fingers, I try to get up but it’s pointless. “You truly are arrogant. It was the first thing I noticed about you.”
“Was it? I don’t think so. I remember how flustered you were, blushing and giddy at getting attention from a real man, not the socks and sandals crowd you run with. It was so cute.”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

In practical reality we like to measure everything. It’s the only way to compare and see what’s working. Measuring means numbers. Money is numbers. Creativity has its own measure that has nothing to do with numbers. It doesn’t mean it’s a dream world. You don’t have to “wake up” and leave. You don’t have to choose. They aren’t mutually exclusive. I’ve tried and I can’t. But beware, fear loves this angle. It wants you to close as many doors as possible. The more closed doors the safer life is. No more wasting time, it says, parading as your wise self. No more goofing. Stop investing, stop hurting yourself.

The five-year old is miserable. Fear has me fooled, so I tell her to grow up. “This isn’t the real world. We have to stop pretending we’re doing something. This isn’t going anywhere.”  She pouts and drags her feet. She wins. And I’m back.

Update: This post is set for the 27th as I don’t always post immediately. I had to add in the following (February 25th) as the timing is so appropriate. The full moon of March 1st is in Virgo, a sign that rules systems, methods and the pragmatic. It’ll be opposite Pisces, the sign of intuition, illusion and dreams. Doable meets desirable. This will be an opportune time to clearly see a practical plan to reach our dreams along with being open to some out of the blue creative inspiration that may show us a new path to implement it. Happy travels.

Take note: The Goodreads Giveaway for Closed Doors is in its last days. Can’t wait? Not a gambler? Want to read more? Wondering what the fuss is about? Go here.

Photo: Pixabay

 

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Too much or not enough?

When I’d completed a final review of my book, the first dozen go-overs not being as perfect as I’d expected, I knew I could probably correct some of it again, and then again. And again in six months. So when do you stop? When is it too much? When is it not enough?

“Nothing compared to the last hour.” Suddenly reality hits me. “Adam is going to come back into our lives, Gracie, into mine. I’ve pushed him so far back in my mind that he barely exists, like some trivial half-forgotten relationship that has nothing to do with my children. They so very rarely asked and they always seemed pleased with the answers I gave them. Maybe I didn’t say enough. Or was it too much? I keep thinking I could have avoided this.(Closed Doors, ©2017)

Recurring questions, not just for a manuscript. Relationships, work, commitments. When could you do/give more? When have you done/given enough? Are you not getting enough? Or has it become too much? When is it time to pull the plug? Or strive for better? Once again it’s all in the balance.

He does it over and over, increasing the torment until I protest. “That hurts.”
“Too much? Or just enough?”(Closed Doors, ©2017)

I could have subtitled this “How not to regret”. Because that’s what it’s about, really. How do you make sure you don’t regret walking away, or making the extra effort when you can’t predict the outcome? What if it’s all for nothing?

We’re an interesting tableau: me, my lover and my children’s father. You’d think we’d have so much to talk about, so much in common. But there’s nothing to say, or rather too much. The past is a minefield and the present is treacherous at best. The minutes drag on, not even one customer. I long for coffee; the tea tastes like dirt and tiny twigs float on the surface. (Closed Doors, ©2017)

I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. The trick is finding that point of no-regret. That moment when, no matter what happens after, you can live with it. You do more, go for more, put in the time and effort or you put a stop, put an end, put your foot down. Let the chips fall where they may. Whatever.

The only way to avoid any of this is to do nothing. No starting, no ending, no trying, no changing. But then, no change, no progress, nothing better, no life. It’s a choice. I’d rather take my chances.

Take note: The Goodreads Giveaway for Closed Doors is still on, until February 28th. Can’t wait? Want to read more? Wondering what the fuss is about? Go here.

Photo: Pixabay

 

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Closed Doors Giveaway

The Goodreads Giveaway went live at midnight! 50 free e-book editions will be given out, chosen randomly by Goodreads, after it closes on February 28th.  Closed Doors already has 66 requests in less than 24 hours in!
Just click here then hit the Enter Giveaway box.
No e-reader required. Fret not, you can upload it to your Apple or Android or Cloud reader. The giveaway is only open to US residents.
Feel free to comment on my site and follow my blogs. I read everything. 

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Eggslut service.

I was in Vegas three weeks ago, at the Cosmopolitan. We had breakfast at Eggslut, located inside the hotel. Side note: if you are in Las Vegas, eat breakfast there. I’m not kidding. I had the Fairfax, with avocado, should you be curious.

Now, I’m not a customer service specialist but while waiting for my order I watched the crew at work. I counted nine employees behind a counter approximately thirty five feet long. One person on cash, one calling out names for pick up. The rest on preparation and cooking. And I couldn’t help thinking that if this were back home, there would be two maybe three employees; not keeping up and exasperating customers (through no fault of their own). They’d rush, leading to order errors and more customer dissatisfaction. The owner would lose patronage and eventually close. Here the clincher: it would be someone/something else’s fault. Suppliers’ costs, customer fickleness, no tax breaks. Whatever, whatever.

It’s not. It’s cutting service at one end and the overpriced attempt to gouge customers at the other. It’s not giving the product and service your price demands. It’s acting like you have the monopoly on something when you don’t and even if you did I’d forgo it, if only to spite you. I’d find someone else, somewhere. And believe me there is always someone, somewhere who has better understood the balance between price and quality.

Eggslut cost $46.68 for 3 people. It took fifteen minutes at most from getting in queue to starting to eat. The food was excellent, the service amazing and lady on pickup apologized for the wait. As if! They were serving people non stop. If you were to ask me if I’d fork out this kind of cash back home my answer would be: Can you give me what Eggslut did?

I’m not a marketer, but I am a customer. We know what we like.

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All of it.

The day before yesterday, the train I take to work struck a man. I’ll be brief with the details: early morning darkness, deserted part of the track, he did not survive his injuries, it was ruled a suicide.

As we waited to transfer to buses, people were on their phones, reading, or talking and laughing amongst themselves. Meanwhile, first responders worked to get the victim out from under the train.

And for a brief moment, perspective shifted and I was afforded that glimpse of life as a whole; when you see everyone as making up one single entity. Humans going about their lives. Some happy, some sad, most in between. People coming into this world, people going out, wanting to stay, wanting to leave. Each of us on different paths, all headed to  that same inevitable destination. It makes existence terribly insignificant and terribly important at the same time.  Life is short, live well.

 

 

 

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Never look back

In my novel, Michael is a character who firmly believes in leaving the past behind. So much, he’s christened his boat Never Look Back. He’d tell you it’s pointless. You can’t change any of it. And we have the nasty habit of wearing those rose-colored glasses that make all the other outcomes seem wonderful, had we made any of the other choices. Learn the lesson and move on, he’d say. If there is no lesson, if fate has conspired against you, move on faster. And fuck her.

I should have guessed by her name, though. She’d been christened Never Look Back. Closed Doors

It’s a rush to write characters like that, who uncompromisingly go forward, no regrets, no what-ifs, no beating yourself up. Oh, to be of this ilk.

Several years ago, in preparation for a job promotion, a mock review board was set up to help us practice. I pulled a fail of epic proportions. The kind it takes more effort to accomplish than succeeding. I missed cues, overlooked urgent matters, got priorities wrong. If it had been real-life someone would have died. Of course this was in front of everyone else so ‘we could all learn from watching each other’. I remember sitting in my car after trying to regroup, fighting that dreadful mix of shame and humiliation (no, they’re not the same, which is cool because you get to experience both…).

The memory didn’t go away overnight. It would come back unexpectedly, mixing up a cocktail of those awful feelings that poured into my heart like black ink. But I’ve become more resilient over the years. I move on faster, integrating learn it, know it, live it.

You can, literally, stop thinking about a mistake you’ve made. You can replace that memory with another thought. It can be a mantra, a prayer, an affirmation or naming all fifty-two states. This ability can be strengthened like a muscle. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing characters who inspire me and keep looking ahead.

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Filled and fulfilled.

I woke up last January first with the word “fulfilled” in mind, but couldn’t remember the message, if there was one. So it sat there, on the back burner.

Now, with summer holidays over and we return to work and school, and I listen to accounts of summer weeks filled to the brim with activities and outings and trips, the meaning of fulfilled comes to mind again.

I think a lot of us confuse fulfilled with plain old filled. Filling your schedule, filling your days, filling your time is not fulfillment. Busy is not fulfilled. Busy is keeping yourself occupied.

If quantity trumps quality, if your motto is something like “As long as I keep moving I’ll be OK”, if sitting still makes you twitch, perhaps this is you. And then there’s the need to share it; telling everyone everything you’re doing. There’s a validation component here that’s important. Where does the need to validate comes from? Doubt. The suspicion that running flat out all the time isn’t how it was meant to be.

Perpetual movement belies questing. And a quest is a search. No sooner is one thing done the next must be started. The search continues. Satisfaction is short-lived. Eventually it disappears.

Life shouldn’t be a constant uphill climb. It should have plateaus. You reach one, stand there, look at how far you’ve come, feel proud, maybe have a nap and then clamber onto the next one.

 

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I am perfect.

If any living creature can claim perfection, it’s a baby. Of any species. They’re brand new and in their eyes the world is too. Babies don’t dislike or judge; they aren’t cynical or jaded. They don’t have the experience that makes them suspicious of people or situations. Even when they get scared or cranky, it’s just newness overload.

When he lands in my lap I hug him close. “Babies are so perfect, aren’t they?”
“He’s quite a charmer, but headstrong. Takes after his godfather, wouldn’t you say?” She looks at me expecting a response. “Michael’s his godfather. We had the baptism in December, a week before Christmas. He didn’t tell you?”
“Um…I guess I forgot.” The little one settles against me, a warm compact weight that fills me with gladness. I give him a crayon.
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t eat it,” says Marie gravely. (Closed Doors, chapter 24)

They’re kind and trusting in a way only the truly innocent are. They aren’t worried about what others think or how they look. Or how you look. As long as you’re not too far off the norm. Babies, human and animal, have a not so subtle way of pointing out someone who is not of, shall we say, average appearance. But unlike the rest of us, they adapt pretty quickly.

In fact, I don’t think they have that constant babbling voice we develop somewhere along the line. The one that, on a good day, sounds like an overprotective mother who had children later in life or, on a bad day, a meth-smoking conspiracy theorist.

The curious gal in the photo is always happy to see anyone who stops by. I suspect she’s hoping for a treat. But if not she’ll settle for giving you a chomp just to see how you taste.

If you’re curious: Closed Doors (read more here)

Photo credit: the author