Friday, November 16, 2007

Warm fuzzies and cold pricklies

An item in the newspaper caught my eye. Titled: "Farewell to Arms?" I'll quote most of the short item. "Everyone needs at least one hug a day to cope with the stress of modern life British researchers have found. But a survey by scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University established that the hectic pace of 21st-century living has killed off the hug, leaving a nation starved of daily physical contacts." The Sunday Telegraph.

The item rang a bell for me. Once upon a time in my previous life in Toronto I taught communication skills to various groups and was a lead trainer for the Distress Centre. We had eight training sessions to prepare the volunteers to answer our telephones.

Many callers to the Centre were lonely people with problems. They desperately needed human contact, someone to listen without judging. A kind voice, a listening ear were balm to their troubled souls.

Sadly some people go through life without a hug or a kind word and often suffer physical abuse as well. To remain healthy in this stressful world we all need hugs, physical or virtual or both!

I call hugs, Warm Fuzzies. In my lessons, I ran through the Warm Fuzzie recipe. One hug is barely enough to keep a person functioning and it's important to find a way to collect Warm Fuzzies. My recipe for optimum health is Twelve Warm Fuzzies a day. A small example of a virtual hug. I'm driving and suddenly my lane is blocked off with road work, I glance to the left and a driver signals me to go ahead. That's a Warm Fuzzie for me and for the driver. Find a way to collect them.

For the person with a sad childhood all they know are Cold Pricklies. They're afraid to take a chance on looking or waving or smiling in case they are ignored or slapped down. Teaching them to take a risk, teaching them how to collect Warm Fuzzies is often the work of a psychologist or a thoughtful neighbour/friend. I've skipped through this lesson but am willing to add to it should anyone be interested. Leave a comment.

Count yourself lucky that you know how to collect Warm Fuzzies. In my writing, my characters know how to collect them, if not immediately, they will by the end of the book.

Catherine Thurston, my heroine in, A Very Difficult Man had to deal with the hero's Cold Pricklies. That she taught him how to be comfortable with Warm Fuzzies is the central theme of my story. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


That's right. This blog and future blogs (if there's an interest in the topic) will deal with the fascinating phenomenon of LOVE. How does it happen? To whom does it happen? What happens next? How do you find it?
Falling in love at first sight seems more dream-like than real. Is it a figment of a romance author's mind or does it happen to ordinary people leading ordinary lives who are surprised when love strikes them and they aren't sure what to do next?
It happened to my husband's cousin, Jill. She was engaged to be married. Her fiance was out of town and Jill's sister, persuaded Jill to go with her to a local dance. No big deal, so Jill went along to please her sister. She was standing with a group of friends when a young man walked over and asked her to dance. During the dance he said, "I'm going to marry you." This is a true story played out exactly like that gorgeous song from the musical South Pacific, One Enchanted Evening. He saw her across a crowded room and fell in love. They did marry and are still happily married with children.
A young woman stepped off the train at a small railway station in Alberta and was greeted by an elderly gentleman. She turned to pick up her suitcase and a male passenger saw her. It was like a lightning strike. Instead of going on to his destination, he got off at the next station and caught the next train back to where he had seen the girl and began asking questions. He did find her and asked her to marry him! Love at first sight really does happen. Yes, they married when the girl was sure of her feelings.
Confusion reigns when love suddenly comes calling. A whole new range of emotions disturbs the judgement of men used to dealing with manageable facts. Walking away isn't an option. Imagine the mindset. Fall in love with a stranger? Impossible. It only happens in romance novels. Not true. It happens in real life. Check it out with your friends. How did you fall in love?
I know it happened to a dear friend of mine, now gone to join her beloved Tom wherever lovers hang out when they leave this world.
My question. Is this a male phenomenon? Do women fall in love at first sight? In my not very scientific research, it's a male thing. What do you think? If you're interested in persuing the subject, please write to me at, I will not use your real name if you prefer to remain anonymous. Tomorrow I'll feature hugs, warm fuzzies and cold pricklies.
I leave you with the two lines of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's beautiful poem, How do I love thee? "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."
Thanks for spending time with me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Cooking class - sort of

Not exactly a cooking class but a lament for the cook who has to cope with a dear husband who refuses to eat certain foods. You know the type? In my case, an altogether okay guy brought up by a Welsh mother who didn't encourage her son to cook. But she wasn't into odd veggies either. Garlic was for those Europeans who didn't know the wonders of Brussels sprouts or boiled cabbage.
But I digress. I've been head cook in our household for lo these many years. Our daughter and son both loved to cook and I'm not responsible for their diets. However, I like to try new recipes now and then. I found a recipe for pork tenderloin with egg plant and zucchini veggies to make a glamorous presentation. Egg plant! Zucchini! You've got to be kidding.
I soldiered on. I learned the difference between an Asian egg plant and an ordinary egg plant. Althought the Asian egg plant was sweeter than the other one, I chose the ordinary one because it was a couple of dollars cheaper a pound.
I proceeded to cook. Knowing dear husband would wince at egg plant and zucchini, I jazzed them up with chopped onion and garlice. The end result? A delicious meal but ... dear husband pushed aside the veggies and ate the steamed broccoli I had prepared as a back-up veggie for him.
And that is my tale of woe for to-day. Once upon a time I decided we should eat vegetarian meals. I quit that caper when I discovered it took me three times longer to prepare vegetarian dinners and the end result looked as appetizing as a dog's dinner.

Now for a little PR about my two books published by Cerridwen Press. A Very Difficult Man, historical romance and Isabelle's Diary, a contemporary romance with a paranormal twist. Here are the covers.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wandering bears and more.

How to keep them away when they won't go? Port Alberni, a town on northern Vancouver Island has a certain allure for a certain mother bear and her cubs. She appeared with her cubs to feast on garbage and apples, both on and off the tree. The conservation officer was called in to do something. Don't get between a mother bear and her cubs or she'll attack. But she was invading back yards! So, she and her cubs were tranquilized and moved a long distance away from Port Alberni.Two weeks later she was back with cubs. They had wandered over two watersheds and vast forested land to reach the apple feast. What to do? The conservation officer did not want to kill them and was apprehensive about tranquilizing them again. Where could he send them? And that's where I leave you because I don't know how this story ends. When I do, I will let you know. In the meantime ...
Now for something dear to my heart. The hero and heroine of my historical romance, A Very Difficult Man. When my heroine, Catherine Thurston, was nineteen her life changed completly from one of privilege to one of counting pennies. In the year before he died her father descended into a kind of madness and gambled away the family fortune. The country house was sold and the stable of fine horses auctioned. Catherine's brother, with no prospects in England, sailed for America. Her mother, Lady Jane Thurston, relied on Catherine to manage the small house she rented in London. Two long time servants, devoted to Lady Jane and Catherine stayed with them.
Before long the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker and the coal merchant were demanding payments of overdue accounts. Desperate for funds Catherine answered an advertisement in The Times seeking a companion for a young person injured in a riding accident. (I'll post the advertisement on my next blog) Catherine was over the moon when a soliciter Mr. Knightley contacted her with an offer. Three months wages in advance! Catherine agreed with the terms; moving to Abbeyleigh, a two hour train journey south of London.
Lady Jane was horrified. No young lady of quality ever sought employment. Catherine would be ruined forever. There'd be no offers of marriage. There'd be no parties in the countryside with opportunites to meet eligible young men. But Catherine insisted on accepting employment. She used most of the advanced wages to pay the overdue accounts and left money for her mother to cover her daily expenses.
Three months in the country. Springtime. Away from smokey London. Away from cholera plaguing parts of the city. What could be better? What could be worse? Catherine found out soon enough. Have I whetted your appetite? Check my web site for an excerpt. My books are available from Cerridwen Press.


Monday, November 5, 2007

Something new and really, really different.

An interview with Chris Tougas, author of Mechanimals, published by Orca Press, Victoria, British Columbia

Q.Tell me about yourself, i.e. When did you discover you had an artistic talent? As a child or were you older? Art education? Where?

A. I've been drawing my entire life. My Dad worked as'Mr. Mom' - a stay at home Dad for some years. He worked as an artist and I lived in his studio. I loved drawing with my dad. Though I completed 6 yrs.of university and worked with many talented people in the animation and advertising industries, I still consider my dad to be my mentor. As for university, I studied fine arts at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Cornish Collage of the Art's in Seattle and character animation at Cal Arts in Valencia Ca.

Q. What made you concentrate on children's books? How many children's books have you had published?

A. I decided to focus on Children's books primarilybecause, aside from loving the medium, I really like working on my own. As a content provider for television animation, advertising and the gaming industry, I like the fact that my ideas aren't so easily culled in the kids book world. Publishers don't seem to have the inflated ego's some of the executives in the entertainment world have.It's not that I don't think people sitting on the other side of the desk don't ever have anything positive to add, it's just that I'm not interested in being dictated to by someone who simply doesn't get it. Some of them don't! There are lots of those people out there. Children's books, while compromises still plays a roll, is much more pure and much less political than the entertainment business. Orca, (Chris's publisher) for example, allowed me to voice my opinions and worked to meet me half way on aspects of the book that we did not see eye to eye on.

Q. Your drawings for MECHANIMALS are brilliant. Where did that concept come from?

A. I really have no idea exactly when the idea came to me. I was working on a robot book when I started drawing mechanicalanimals. The idea took form from there. I had been picking away at the idea for 6 years prior to bringing it to a publisher.

Q. The story line for MECHANIMALS is clever. Did that come to you before or after the cover concept popped into your head?

A. The story has always comes to me first. I find that the eureka moment when an idea pops into my head from the ether to be the best, most exciting and fulfilling part of my process. And the easiest. It's not that I wouldn't like to be more organic with my process, moving back and forth from writing to drawing. It's just that when I get the idea, I have to write the entire thing while it's still hot on my mind. Mechanimals was a much longer story, and written in verse. The editor wanted to keep it simple so I compromised.

Q. Tell me about your latest book.

A. My new book is still top secret. It comes out in the spring. It deals with a child artist.

Thanks for doing this, Chris. I know how busy you are with your new top secret project.

Here's the cover of your book. It's suitable for ages 3 - 6. I loved it and so did Alana, my daughter-in-law, a kindergarten teacher, and Taylor, my granddaughter. Just one look at that smiling pig and I smile.

Anita and A Very Difficult Man, Cerridwen Press, available now. Isabelle's Diary, Cerridwen Press, available September 6, 2007