Thursday, January 31, 2008

Well bully for you, but who will save the chicken?

I got fan mail today from a bloke who’s just finished reading Recycling Jimmy. Now I know that, for most of the Kunati authors who had their novels published at the same time as me, this milestone was passed some time ago but I like to think that my target audience are just slow readers. Particularly pleasing is the fact that the letter came from someone who had never written to an author before. He just wanted to thank me for giving him a good laugh. How cool is that? Made me realise too that the whole process of writing a book doesn’t count for much if no one appreciates it. I always thought that I was writing for my own pleasure and whilst that maybe true to a point, the fact is that once published, you realise that you were writing for others; writing in the hope that someone, somewhere will like what you’ve done. There are other types of feedback that validate all this of course: royalty cheques (which reminds me, where the hell is mine?) and reviews, but generally these are from people who are either in the business or have an interest in it. If I had to choose, I’d take that unsolicited contact from a complete stranger any time. On the other side of the coin, no doubt it’s the start of sleepless nights for me; images of a tattooed madman sat sniffing my book surrounded by walls covered with news clippings and excerpts scrawled in chicken’s blood. Only messing Allan, much appreciated and glad you enjoyed RJ.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Contest Winners Announced for 'Create a Corpse'

I received so many wonderful entries for my 'Create a Corpse' contest that it was very difficult to pick one name for one corpse. So I decided to pick 3 winners--3 corpses!
(I guess that kind of makes me a serial killer...)

"Deirdre Dailey" is the corpse named by...who else but Deirdre Dailey! Yes, I did have a few brave people who volunteered to "kill themselves off" for the benefit of my novel Divine Justice. Congratulations, Deirdre!

"Monty Winkler" is the corpse named by M.F., who says this "grade school bully knocked my glasses off one time after school" Bad Monty! Kudos, M.F.!

"Porter Sampson" is the corpse named by T.L. and I'm not sure if there's a story behind that name or if T.L. just likes making up names. T.L, feel free to tell us the story in the comments section!! And congrats!

These names will be characters in Divine Justice, a new paranormal suspense and book 2 in the Divine series. No publish date as of yet.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Writer in Venice

I want to be the American ambassador to Venice, Italy. I know I am the perfect person to have this job. I truly believe that any woman who had the same Venetian experience I just had would race to her travel agent tomorrow morning and book a ticket. Surely, most women have a sense that Italy in general is good for her ego. It’s true. Venice is gentlemanly. Venice is flattering. Venice is Prozac.

And I think I might just have to stop reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love simply because she does not agree with me. She calls Venice melancholy and sad. Oh, how I wish I could have taken Gilbert on this trip with me. Of course, she is in love with Rome. And, I suppose, every woman should be able to love the Italian city of her choosing. So, I will keep reading her fine book.

The highlights of the trip were many, but foremost had to be sharing the trip with two of my best girlfriends – an art curator and a photographer. (Several native Venetians stopped to ask my friend “What do you like to photo?”)

The first thing you should know is why we chose Venice. I was there with my husband last April. I fell in love with the city not only for its place in history, but for its beautiful decay. With the sun-washed colors of the palazzos. No one structure is the same color from canal to roof, but rather, a wonderful blend of shades and layers. Sort of like your favorite girlfriends. So, I felt my heart ache as the airport shuttle dragged me away from the city. As fate would have it, when I returned home my first ever advance check was in the mailbox. Not wanting this incredible earning to go for anything mundane (like a new washer and dryer or steel belted tires for my car) I searched for a trip that would match both the joy I felt at becoming published and the amount of the check itself. (Okay, so maybe I had more joy than money, but I decided it was still possible to celebrate.)

What I found was four nights in off season, cold and foggy Venice in January on the cusp of Carnivale. In a time of year the locals call “brutto tempo.” Bad weather. No matter. The idea of fog on the canals lured me in. My art curator friend couldn't wait to see the Guggenheim Museum. And my photographer friend, Gail, couldn't wait to photograph local Venetians buying the catch of the day at the Rialto Market.

I hope you enjoy these photos.

Next week, Part Two of my trip diary, Harry's Bar and the experience with a red-headed gondolier that I wish a romance novelist would write about.



Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY, the story of one man's struggle to understand his wife and her sudden descent into madness.

In other words...more whine

Is blogging just an artful name for complaining? I mean the art of a blog is to make a point of some kind, give an opinion on a certain subject, to blast politicians, Wall Street or if like me, to sell books (Belly of the Whale: Spring release 2008). Where do we find the fodder for a blog? Can we include a certain measure of whining and complaining? Shouldn’t one or both be allowed?

Take, for instance, the case of my expired air miles with American Airlines. There was a time when I had the opportunity to travel long distances, to foreign countries, over the Atlantic and the Pacific. My hours in the air accrued and the coveted mileage too.

Later, as in the present, despite a drop off in my travel coupled with my need to fly American (since 9/11) I had collected enough mile credits to fly not only in the contiguous US, but also to Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Last September I had a college reunion in Chicago. I made reservations on American Airlines and was all set to turn in my miles after that trip. My reasoning was there was no need to use my miles to go to the Windy City. It didn’t seem worth it. American cancelled my flight a few weeks before my trip and was not able to reschedule from the same airport at another time. After much back and forth I gave up and flew Jet Blue.

Now this is where the complaining blog idea takes on a life. My loyal and trustworthy dog is a great listener but she is unable to answer my questions or offer advice. I explain to my canine companion that I attempted to cash in my miles with American a few days ago only to discover that my miles had expired and had been erased. The dog put her paws on her ears. She didn’t want to hear the rest.

Welcome to the world of automation, pressing buttons, confusion, phone screaming and finally customer service. Yes, we can reinstate your miles. Good news, no. Two ways: buy them back or apply for a new credit card. I explain further, I complain long, I whine with the proper inflection. No success.

So I have resorted to blogging. Someone out there must commensurate with me. Be warned: There is a vast treasure chest of reclaimed miles spilling over with Silas Marner of the airlines keeping watch. Spare me the explanations of airline policy. What happened to the old fashioned: The customer, in the end, is always right?

Blog on...
Linda Merlino

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Still Pushing, and the Joy of Writers' Groups

After three weeks and 120 pages into final edits, the light at the end of the tunnel grows a little brighter. Mind you, I have over 250 pages to go, but I'm actually enjoying the process of checking every word, every comma, correcting, and proofreading, and correcting some more. I continue to faithfully read every chapter out loud as I go, and occasionally take troublesome pages to my local writer's group.

I'm lucky to have found a wonderful bunch of writers to share my work with. Our core group is about ten people, with others coming and going as schedules allow. We meet for two hours once a week and take turns bringing our work for critiquing. I'm the only mystery writer in the group at the moment, but my colleagues are all avid readers and writers, and several have published novels, stories, essays, and poems for presses large and small.

Much has been written about the pros and cons of writers' groups, and there are clearly mixed opinions about their benefits. Having been in at least four different groups, I can see why. Groups are as varied as the people who join them and it can take time to find one that works.

If you're thinking about joining a critique group or forming your own, here's what works, based on my experience. First, make sure that everyone shares a common purpose, i.e. to be willing to give constructive criticism and receive same. Needless to say, maturity and carefully controlled egos are a huge asset here.

Second, appoint a moderator for each session. It's far too easy to drift into social or political discussions that have nothing to do with the piece the writer wants critiqued. Also, if six people want to read during a session, time limits need to be set. In my group, there isn't time for everyone to read each week, but few of us have material prepared every week anyway, so it seems to work.

Third, bring enough copies for members to read, even if some have to share. Spelling and punctuation errors are easier to spot while reading rather than listening, and you'll get far more helpful comments.

Fourth, treat writers and their work as you want to be treated. Respect and patience goes a long way, even if the writing's poor, or the topic or genre isn't to your taste. It takes a lot of courage for someone to read out loud.

I'm sure there are other rules and tips I've forgotten, but these are the main ones. I can't imagine where I'd be without my group. They've helped me polish two novels and more stories than I can remember. Stories that have found their way into paying markets, and for this I'm truly grateful.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Blast From My Past: Bermuda is another world

When I was 14, we moved to Bermuda. My father was in the Canadian Armed Forces and this was the best posting we'd ever gotten. We were all very excited. We packed up only the stuff we really needed and put everything ielse nto storage. And I said goodbye to my best friend Cathy. For those of you who have read Whale Song, you'll recognize this scenario.

I was sad to leave behind my best friend but so excited to go to another country--and one so tropical. I remember that the trip was long. It seemed to take forever. I think we went by car, train and plane. Then we stepped off the plane. And were hit in the face with a wall of heat and humidty. In seconds we were drenched in sweat. It was July or August. Canadians should know better than to travel somewhere hot during summertime. Then again, we didn't have a choice.

We lived in a pale yellow house (the biggest house near the water) with 2 floors and no basement. The house was divided into 3 apartments; ours was the biggest section. I was so surprised that the houses were all so...pretty. All painted pastel shades with white roofs. Our house was right on a bay and we had a boat dock. My brother Derek and I used to go swimming off the dock. We loved it. Swimming in the bay while boats went past us. We had small bananas growing in out yard and the most beautiful flowers--hibiscus and oleander.

Bermuda had its own legends or traditions. One was that if you walked through a moongate (an oval fixture that many people had in their yards), you would always return to Bermuda. I walked through one once when I was a teen. I've been back twice. Once for my honeymoon and once for my 20th high school reunion. The first time I took my husband (obviously) and the second time I took my daughter.

I want to go back. I always want to go back. There has always been something about Bermuda that I have always loved. It got into my skin and into my was the closest place that I could have called HOME back then. We moved around so much.

Schooling in Bermuda was very different from what I was used to. I went to Bermuda High School for Girls. They've done away with the "for Girls" part now and have opened it up to any child. But when I went, there were only girls...and uniforms. I have always said that I had my best education there. The school was strict; we had O'Level exams in my last year, so I had to take my studies seriously. The last year I was there I won an English award and an art award. I remember this because I wasn't allowed to keep my trophy for a year like other winners, because we were moving back to Canada.

Bermuda is beautiful. The beaches are various shades of coral and pink. The sand is like satin. My brother Jason was born in Bermuda. He was born with coppery red curls and cherub cheeks. He used to eat the sand. I wish Jason could have gone back to Bermuda at least once before he died. We always had such fun there. I was 14 when Jason was born and I often told people that baby Jason was mine.

Bermuda is another world -- that is actually a song by The Bermuda Strollers. I have always remembered that song. And it is so true. Bermuda was a safe haven for my family. We shared so many happy times. We did all the tourist things the first few months. Then we laughed at all the "tourists" who were visiting, because by then we were Bermudians in our hearts.

One day I will visit again. I have to. I have one dream there that I have never fulfilled. My brother Derek and I used to play in the Southhampton Princess Hotel. We would ride the elevators while I talked to tourists in a British accent. Oi was bloody good at that, you know. We snuck into the hotel's swimming pool by pretending we were guests. That's where I met Frankie Avalon's kids. He asked me to watch them because there wasn't a lifeguard on duty. Of course, I didn't realize until afterward who he was. My dream was to stay at the Southhampton Princess as a guest--a real one! :) One day...

I love Bermuda. Bermuda loved me. I grew more in that 3 years than in 5 years prior. I am still heart and soul. And one day I'll return. And I'll think of my past, of school, of the fun times and of my brother Jason. Bermuda is another world. You should check it out sometime. If you ever get a chance to visit Bermuda, be sure to visit the Crystal Caves and Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. (I remember when the fellow started this website years is so much more now!)

Novel research can be grim or hopeful. Today - a mix of both

I am the unfortunate recipient of news articles about mothers who kill. Why? At one time, when I was learning about infanticide and its causes for my book, this was depressing research. Now it is merely depressing. The story is almost always the same. Only names and dates are changed.

A mother killed her x-month old child today.

Relatives were stunned and shocked.

Her spouse/boyfriend said he noticed she seemed more withdrawn lately but attributed it to “hormones.”

This is the xth tragedy of its kind in the U.S. this year.

According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for children under four.

Eleven women are on death row in the United States for killing their children

Today, someone forwarded this article ( ) to me that included one exception: a solution. A solution for those family members who feel helpless about ways to care for a new mother in crisis.

The solution: Crisis Nursery Centers

Here’s what the Sacramento Crisis Nursery center featured in this story says of its organization:

"The Sacramento Crisis Nursery offers a safe haven for children 5 years old and under whose families are facing a crisis. The nursery provides both emergency daytime care and overnight stays for up to 30 days.

Many of the clients who utilize the crisis nursery's services do not have extended family in the region and feel isolated in their situation ... "We think a parent is a hero to children when they can identify that they need support and help," Roy Alexander [Chief Financial Officer of the Sacramento Children's Home] said.

The crisis nursery would like to reach out to new mothers and groups that deal with postpartum depression. "We encourage mothers if they feel like they really have the blues and they're concerned about their ability to continue to take care of their child that they'll call us very quickly," said Alexander.

Can I get an Amen?


For me, I am thrilled today to not only emphasize the need for families to be vigilant in observing and helping mothers suffering from post-partum depression or other illnesses that might cause a mother to harm her child. Today, I can also offer information that might save a life.

Here’s a link to a list of all known centers nationwide. Share it.


Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY: the story of one man's struggle to understand his wife's sudden descent into madness and murder.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Something strange going on....?

As an atheist, evolution has always been my friend. When ever one of the god squad starts banging on about ‘immaculate detail’ and ‘the design of life’ it’s so easy to say ‘Yeah? Well it’s evolution mate. Deal with it.’ Trouble is, it turns out that my ‘faith’ in the Origin of Species is probably just about as blind and misguided as Roy Keane’s in Sunderland. The thing that recently shook my belief system was the National Geographic channel. Did you know that if a bat heard its own sonar then its ear drum would burst? It’s true apparently. Clever little sod gets around this by using a tiny muscle to disconnect bone from drum in the instant that it screeches and then puts it back again in time to hear the echo. What?? How the hell does that evolve? How many bats have to hit how many trees (blood pumping from their furry little ears) before nature fixes that one? And what’s more, shouldn’t the solution have been more straight forward, more sensible? I mean, why the hell wouldn’t bats have evolved night vision or better still, a bloody alarm clock and get up with the rest of us? Now I am not admitting defeat on the old who created what debate, but I must admit, I am beginning to think that there’s something else going on here; that perhaps mother nature isn’t simply throwing dice and getting the odd six. The laws of the universe tend to try and quiet things don’t they? Stars cool, pressure hisses into vacuum, mountains crumble and waves, well you get the picture. It’s all to do with entropy I think; the state of disorder. The more chaos, the higher the entropy and the scientists assure us that the universe doesn’t like it so everything is cooling and slowing to a cold black death. That is, everything except life. According to evolution, life becomes more diverse with time, more complicated. Against every other trend, evolution creates chaos. It’s as though it’s going backwards. We should have started out as a mass of swinging, walking, swimming, fluttering things then slowly evolved back to a mush of single cellular organisms shouldn’t we? Okay, rules are there to be broken but in this case the question would be, who by?

Recycling Jimmy

Please bring my shows back!

This writers' strike is starting to weigh heavily on my mind--no, my sanity. I want my shows back. I NEED my shows back! Otherwise, I resort to watching stuff I don't usually bother with.

Like The Celebrity Apprentice.

Ok, I'm sure that there are some true blue Celebrity Apprentice fans out there...somewhere. But I just don't get what all the fuss is about. I've watched 2 episodes now...nothing else on to watch. I watched Gene Simmons get fired. I kind of liked him, but every time I heard him speak in his low, slow, monotone drone, I kept remembering that fried egg commercial. You know the one: "This is your brain...this is your brain on--"

Then I watched Jennie Finch, the Olympic champion of something, get fired. Poor girl never really had an opportunity to shine. And in between we get to see Piers Morgan (whom I quite like) and Stephen Baldwin (who gets on my nerves...give me one of his brothers any day) butt heads...over and over again. And Omarosa? Don't even get me started on her. What's she even doing on a "celebrity" show anyway. These other women--all of whom I truly respect--have been celebrities for years and worked hard for that title.

And then there's Donald Trump. I won't talk about his hair (although I was a stylist years ago and I'd like to get near him with some scissors) or the white circles around his eyes (I think he was in a tanning bed too long, and he should fire his makeup artist--my 17 year old daughter could do better at blending than that), but I will mention that he has treated these celebrities with immense respect and it's nice to see. I just wish he had treated the regular contestants in past seasons the same way. Yes, I have watched the show before...maybe 2 seasons.

Don't get me wrong--I respect Mr. Trump. Look at what he's achieved. He is obviously a brilliant man. And he does do a lot of good when it comes to the charities he helps. But sometimes I think he forgets that he is really no different from anyone else in the world. He's a human being like the rest of us. And we all measure success differently. The closest I've seen him come to acting like a regular person was tonight when he told Jennie that she didn't belong in his world and that it was a nasty place, or words to that effect. And he said he liked and respected her.

I think his daughter Ivanka is lovely and graceful, and she's a Trump, through and through. Stiff and serious. She could use a good laugh. I've rarely seen her smile. And hey, life is too short to not play, laugh and enjoy it. I'd like to send her a copy of Whale Song. Maybe she would get the message in it. Life is a journey and it's for the living. So enjoy life while you can.

In my opinion, the only saving grace with this show is that these contestants are competing for money for their favorite charities. I have no problem with that. I think it's an awesome, worthwhile venture. Perhaps The Celebrity Apprentice is just annoying me because I miss my weekly fix of Survivor. I'd like to boot Omarosa off the Apprentice island. And I miss CSI (the original!). Give me Grissom any day!

Or Piers Morgan. By the way, Piers, I loved the knight outfit, and I would have stopped and bought a ticket from you. And do you think you could contact your friend Sir Richard Branson for me? He's my MySpace friend, but he hasn't answered my email. I know an author he might like to back. ;-)

See? This is how I get without my weekly fix of all the great shows I enjoy. So writers...dear writers, can we please settle this strike?

And then please, please bring my shows back!!

Did you know writers have a saint?

What if I told you there was a writer so determined to draw attention to his writing he posted it on walls, slipped it under doors and handed pages to anyone he could? Crazy? Some might say so. But it’s also a model of persistence, courage and faith. And as it happens, the man nailing those pages onto walls was writing, in fact, about faith. He was Francis De Sales, a writer so prolific and powerful he was proclaimed the Patron Saint of Writers and Journalists in 1665 by Pope Alexander VII. And his Saints’ Day is celebrated today - January 24th!

So writers at all stages can take heart!

De Sales wrote his whole life without ever being formally published. But his books, as we know them today, have not gone out of print in almost four centuries. (And they all enjoy an Amazon sales rank any writer would envy.)

De Sales was born in 1567, the eldest child in an aristocratic French family. His father had ambitions that his son should study law and theology, for which he eventually received doctorate degrees. After his studies were complete, he was expected to marry and take a position in the Senate. But De Sales refused and turned his attentions to his truest passion – a ministerial life.

For years, no one would listen to him. No one would open the door when he knocked. So he found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons and slipped them under the door.

His most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life, is a collection of many of those letters and passages.

Today, the weary or discouraged writer, or anyone in need of encouragement, can look to St. Francis’ example of persistence in the face of rejection. So if you are waiting for that agent or publisher to call, perhaps a nod heavenward to St. Francis today wouldn’t hurt.

Following are some wonderful passages I discovered within his writings.

“True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.”

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.”

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”


Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY: the story of one man's attempt to understand his wife and her sudden descent into madness.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Canadian Publisher Dumps Authors

A few days ago, Raincoast Books announced that it's publishing program is ending this spring. This from a company who's the distributor for all of the Harry Potter books; books that have earned Raincoast more than a few dollars, I expect. According to news articles, the company has found publishing an "unprofitable" venture, even though Raincoast titles have won or have been shortlisted for major awards over the years.

Raincoast will release the final 15 books this spring. Apparently 20 jobs will be lost. So far, I haven't come across any information that discusses how many authors with signed contracts are now left out in the cold.

Imagine taking months, or even years, to write a book. Imagine spending more months and years looking for an agent and/or a publisher, and finally, after 2, 3, 5, or 10 years, landing a contract with a well-known and respected publisher, only to discover that the much-coveted contract you worked so hard for is no longer worth the paper it's written on.

Raincoast reports that the high loonie is the major reason for this decision. The scuttlebutt around the writers' water cooler is that money earned from distribution is not spent on publishing ventures. They're two separate entities, and if one entity fails, too bad.

It is too bad. And disheartening. And a little nauseating. I feel terrible for the writers. Who knows if Canada needs more distributors, but we sure in hell need more publishers. If the high Canadian dollar truly is to blame, is this just the beginning of a trend that will extend across Canada? If you're an author who's just signed a brand new contract with a Canadian company, I hope this doesn't happen to you, because finding a publisher just got a whole lot harder.

Blast From My Past: Cheryl's singing career continues

I've told you about my singing debut and now I'll tell you how my "career" took off. I think I was about 12 the first time I entered a talent show in Masset, BC. I believe that first time I sang 'I Can See Clearly Now' and 'Amazing Grace', while strumming on my old guitar.

I was excited and nervous. The lights were bright and hot on that stage and I could barely make out the people in the audience. I think there were a couple of hundred--I'm not sure.
I had spent weeks practicing, gaining my confidence.

And then I sang. I can still recall the thrill of singing in front of an audience. At the time I was such a shy kid, with a poor self-image and low self-esteem. But I did it. I managed to pull off 2 songs with barely a missed note.

Later, at the end of the talent show, they announced the winners of the various categories. When they called my name, I was so shocked. How could I have possibly beat these other contestants? It was an amazing feeling when I went up to the stage to accept my trophy. I still have it...somewhere.

I just went to check and the 2 trophies I have are still packed away. Maybe one day, I'll dig them out, polish them up and take a pic. For now, I can tell you, I won first place soloist. I can't remember if I won anything else with it; the trophy was such a big deal to me at the time.

The following year, I entered the talent show again. I think I sang "Froggie Went A Courtin'"...and I don't remember the second song...maybe "California Dreamin'" I won second place soloist. A boy named Glenn Lamourie beat me that year.

I played guitar for many years afterward, and loved singing and writing my own songs. I recall sitting on the deck near the bay at our house in Bermuda. Yes, I was blessed and lived in Bermuda for 3 years. I would sit on the deck at night, playing and singing and watching the glass bottom boats go by with their brass drum music and people's laughter echoing across the water. Once I played and sang so loud they heard me and applauded.

A singer was born. And I still sing. In the shower, in my car, at the store, when I'm getting my hair done, while cooking, in the hot tub...I sing all the time. And sometimes I hum. It drives my family nuts. :)

This is a great memory--a great Blast From My Past to think about. If you have your own "Blast From Your Past" to share, please do so. I welcome all comments.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, bestselling author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why blog?

Why blog…what to blog about?

Blog. A word foreign to me nine months ago. Blog to sell books. Blog to find readers. Blog to drive up my rankings. Blog to get more traffic. Blog for authority. Blog because your publisher tells you to blog like your life depended on it.

Blog on subjects controversial. People like to have an opinion, squirt their opinion, and contradict another’s point-of-view.

So far all good reasons, but what about blogging about something that makes you think; something that maybe changes your mind set or your life. How about my main character that has breast cancer and gives up hope? She’s done. She’s out-of-here. But life takes a twist, like yours-like mine, and she finds herself a hostage in an all-night market in a blizzard, trapped and sure to die by the hands of a murderer more deadly than her disease.

So that’s fiction, that’s got a title: Belly of the Whale, but what about real life? What about blogging about what we encounter everyday? Who will read those blogs? Will you care? Will I? Will a blog change your life or someone else’s?

How about the hobo I saw today? The homeless man, the street bum, the Charlie on the MTA guy who took up nearly five seats on the downtown train from 96th Street to Grand Central? What about him? I think blogging should carry a measure of emotion, some caveat of wisdom that gets us stimulated, such as the hobo on the subway.

The platform was full at 9:15am and the doors to the downtown train opened to allow as many that could fit a ride. I stepped aboard aware of my cape and for a fleeting few seconds concerned that it would get snagged in the closing doors. Watch the doors.

I was dead center of the crowd with no overhead handle or bar to steady my balance. I dug my feet into the floor afraid that one sudden jolt would toss me sideways like a domino. Ahead of me, four layers deep the rim of the passenger bench appeared headless. I wondered what dire act had happened upon it to cause the standing riders to avoid a seat. At 77th passengers debarked and I moved to the headless bench. Laying five passengers long was a hobo curled in a fetal position, tattered sneakers and bagging trousers wrinkled at the knees, a thread worn coat lapels up, covered him and a wool hat was pulled low on his ears. One hand was under his coat, scratching his shoulder. Scratching…scratching…over and over. I wondered about body lice and checked the faces of the passengers next to me. What was in their eyes? Did they think the same? He needed a bath, a shower a full disinfecting. No one objected to his inconveniencing them. No one thought to oust him or shout for him to move on. For who would sit in his place? No one present, not me. And what of this hobo? Who knows about such men? Is that term ancient, outdated? A modern day traveler of no means, keeping warm underground, that’s a hobo.

The whole experience made me think, made me grateful for what I have, what I could loose and if I did loose everything; what would become of me? So I thought…here’s a blog…blog about what I see. Blog about life. Blog about dying of breast cancer, blog about survival, and blog about old men sleeping in subways cars because we all need to remember that we are not on this planet alone.

Have the best day everyday.

Talk later…
Linda Merlino

Blast From My Past: Cheryl's singing and acting debut

I have decided to blog a series of articles titled 'Blast From My Past', so that you have a chance to really get to know me, maybe have a laugh or two. I'm going to dig deep on some of these, and dates may be off somewhat because we moved around a lot.

So here's the first Blast From My Past...

I'm not sure how old I was, but it was in elementary school--Tahayghen Elementary in Masset, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, to be exact. For those who are geographically challenged, the Charlottes are on the West coast, north of Vancouver Island. Beautiful, wild and isolated...

One year, we had a school play. Winnie the Pooh.

I was Eeyore.

Okay, stop laughing.

You're probably saying something like: "So that's why she likes to make an a$$ of herself."

Yes, I was the donkey....heehaw!

And I had a great role. We did the story where Eeyore lost his tail, so I was very important to this play. Oh, and I forgot to mention, it was a musical. I had to sing in a very low, bored sounding voice. It's funny--I actually remember that part. I even remember some of the words...

"Christopher Robin is coming. When? Nobody knows, but he is coming..."

My costume was a very warm (I think flannel) one piece outfit. Then there was a cap with long droopy ears and a tail held on by a safety pin. Thank God I have no pictures!

The musical was a success.

So even in my younger years, I had a passion for telling a story. And to this day, I still make an a$$ of myself on occasion. And I've found my tale--in writing.

I invite you to check out another multi-author blog I am involved in...more voices, more tales.

Shelf Life

I write contemporary fiction; darkly comic stories that string together snapshots of today’s attitudes and events. On the surface, I’d accept that this particular genre is perhaps the simplest of all to tackle. I don’t mind admitting that, as a naturally lazy bloke, writing without research is hugely appealing. But it isn’t all good news. You see, for my stories to work, the reader has to recognise their context or at least be aware that the places and people they are laughing at or with, really could exist just outside the door, That’s how fiction works; the fresher the situation, the better the reading experience. The flip side of this is that, in today’s world where taste and truth can change with the flick of TV switch, ensuring the longevity of a manuscript needs careful attention. Imagine for example, Dan Brown putting the final touches to the Da Vinci code, sitting back with a smug grin only to see on the news that some dusty old archaeologist had found the real holy grail, spooned a goblet from the sand somewhere in the Holy Land. Bummer, and it’s the same risk with the fictional manuscripts that we slave over for months on end. I can tell you, it can be a long, anxious wait between submission and release; a time during which at any moment mass opinions or truths can change turning your funky fresh book into a pile of rotting pulp.

Recycling Jimmy ....get it whilst its hot!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two Powerful Little Words

What if?

Two words that, when paired together, are almost as powerful as “I love you.” Maybe more so.

See that novel on your nightstand? Chances are the author began that story by asking “what if?” It is a limitless question. Curious pathways spread out from that seemingly innocuous question.

Well, that’s how I begin writing, too. For my current novel, JANEOLOGY, I looked at old photographs like the one pictured here of my grandfather in the 1920s and asked, “What if I knew you? What if we had met before you died? What stories would you share with me? What if we had traits in common and now that knowledge is lost to me forever?”

I couldn’t ask him questions. But I could use my imagination. It was in this way I decided to write about a character by compiling all the people from whence she descended. This was how I began writing the story of Jane Nelson’s genealogy, the main character in JANEOLOGY. To be clear, at the outset I didn’t know the crimes she would commit that set the story in motion. As often happens with characters, they begin to say and do things you do not expect. But that’s what happens when you ask “what if” in front of a blank page.

If you’d like to see all the old photographs of my descendants that spurred my curiosity, take a look at my “About Janeology” photo album at

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In memory of my brother Jason...

Today, my "baby" brother Jason would have turned 30. Quite a bit younger than I am, I know. He was an "oops". And a delightful one at that. As a baby, he had curly red ringlets and often looked like a chubby cherub. But with the red hair came a mischievousness that was anything but angelic.

Jason made us laugh.

And his death made us cry.

Jason Kaye was murdered here in Edmonton, and not a day goes by that I don't think of him. Sometimes I see a kid who reminds me of him. Sometimes I hear about another lost soul whose life was somehow pushed off track. Jason was at one time homeless, living on the street, dumpster-diving for computer parts so he could fix a computer up enough to sell it, and an alcoholic with mental illness. None of us saw the latter until it was too late.

He died on January 23rd, 2006--Edmonton's third homicide of that year. His case is still open. No leads. No answers. No one has come forward as a witness. I am resolved that it will always be this way.

I feel a slight emptiness in my heart when I think of my brother. I think he took a small part with him. But that's okay; he can keep it.

Jason would have turned 30 today, had a huge party with his friends, probably gotten drunk...but he would have had fun.

Tonight I'll light a candle for him, in memory of a brother I truly loved, although I sometimes didn't understand him. But that's okay. I know he forgives me...and I him.

Recently, I was interviewed by CityTV for a segment on Celebrity Chefs. I had fun taping it and making Strawberry Dumplings with my daughter Jessica. This was one of Jason's favorite desserts and we made it in his honor. I'll make some tonight and think of Jason.

And remember him for who he was.

My brother.

Jason only read Whale Song, none of my other novels. And that's why I now donate a percentage of my royalties to 3 Edmonton nonprofits that deal with homelessness, addictions and poverty. I will do this as long as Whale Song is published and available to the public.

Much of our lives growing up was similar to Sarah's in Whale Song. We lived on an isolated island (Jason lived on 3) and grew up with native legends. I invite you to check out Whale Song, buy copies for your family and friends. It makes a wonderful gift for any age between 7 and 108, and I know that my brother would be grateful, as I would be, that your purchase is benefitting his community, his family and friends on the streets of Edmonton.

One thing I have learned: these people, these human beings living in poverty and battling addictions, are somebody's son, father, grandfather, daughter, mother, grandmother, sister...or brother. And they're just as human as the rest of us.

To read about Jason Kaye, please visit his memorial site at

Order Whale Song and help those in need of a friend...a helping hand. We have all needed that at some point in our lives.

In Memory of Red Evans...

We will miss you, Red.

Red Evans, author of On Ice, passed away on Sunday, January 13th. Red has had a varied career in the print and broadcast media, traveling extensively throughout the world to research his writing projects. He lived in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

"Evans’ humor is broad but infectious, and his dialogue is tinged with a southern twang and chock-full of colorful expressions. Like novelist Clyde Edgerton (who also has a soft spot for ornery pets), Evans uses offbeat humor to both entertain and move his readers." --Booklist

Red Evans Official Blog

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Monday, January 14, 2008


It is still dark here on the East Coast. I turned on my computer to get in some writing before my work day begins. My fist thoughts: bypass email, if I want to accomplish a few paragraphs I need to be disciplined. This is Monday and the beginning of a new week.

After a self appointed measure of time, the buzzer in my head rang loud giving me permission to check and answer email before going into the phone booth to shower. Phone booth? The doors to my shower stall are genuine oak telephone doors; vintage Super Man stuff. The joke has been with us for years, but anyone younger than dirt probably doesn’t know that the original Superman changed his clothes in a phone booth. The old days and the old ways, there are those who would know, those who lived through those by gone times; some still with us and some now gone.

The first and only email I read this morning was the one telling me of the passing of fellow Kunati, “On Ice” author, Red Evans. My fingers fell silent on the keyboard. We knew that Red was in Hospice and that his “cancer had cancer”, but what we didn’t know was when the end would come. When would we get the email received this morning?

I didn’t know Red personally, but he was part of this growing Kunati author family I belong to, and his passing resonates significantly. Each one of us has had the good fortune to become a published author, for most of us, a dream come true. Red lived a long full life and he too felt that one of his proudest achievements was as an author. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him, I laughed long and hard over many of his comments. He used humor to navigate life; it seemed nothing that filtered into his brain came back out without a quip, a comment or a flip-side.

None of us are getting out alive. We just don’t know when or how. Red’s passing has left a hole in the universe, a space in our Kunati ranks. There’ll be no moving over; no rush to fill the blank. Instead, I believe, Red Evans will live on among us. He was a writer after all and writers never die; their words, their humor, their very soul lives on.

Have the best day everyday…

Linda Merlino

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The very best author - Ever!

Two weeks ago, the world, and mine in particular, became a little bit poorer. The best author ever, died.
And before you start wondering how that could be when Shakespeare, Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald have already gone to that great bookstore in the sky, remember that this is an opinion piece – Mine. And for my money all of these literary icons have been joined by one more: George MacDonald Fraser.
For those of you out there who are scratching your head and saying, “Whaaaat?”, George MacDonald Fraser was the author and creator of the Flashman series of books.
Name still doesn’t ring a bell? Well let me ask you a question then. Do you like meticulously researched history? How about rip-roaring adventure novels? And do you like books that can make you laugh so hard that you fall out of your chair? (I’ve done it!).
Imagine a series of a dozen novels set in the world of the British Empire under Queen Victoria, that skewers the pompous, self-satisfied movers and shakers that dominated the seats of power during the last half of the 19th century. Books that are so well written that I have all twelve in the series and read at least two or three a year and will continue to do so. How many authors have you read that you could make that statement about? This is the only one for me.

To give you a rough idea of where Fraser was coming from, imagine an anti-hero who embodied every cowardly and venal trait that the Victorians railed against and you have the hilariously funny and totally cynical protagonist, Harry Flashman, or “Flashy” as he is know to the better part of the British empire.
What makes Flashman’s adventures a delight to observe is that while presenting a dissembling and hypocritical face to the stuffy Victorian world, he is always painfully honest with himself and us – his readers. Flashman quite candidly relates his life story throughout the series and tells with great amusement and complete candor about shirking his duty at every opportunity, while pursuing his primary goal in life – carnal relations with any and every member of Victorian societies ‘fair sex’. And along the way, he also often stumbles into the company of the most exalted and often infamous characters straight out of 19th century history. His desperate romps take us from the court of Queen Victoria to that of the Empress of China. And along with side trips to the brothels of Paris and New Orleans, Flashman explores all of the guilty pleasures that life has to offer. The fact that he invariably gets caught and winds up paying a terrible price for his ‘beastly pleasures’ does not detour him one bit from trying it again as soon as the next opportunity presents itself.

Now if all George MacDonald Fraser had done were to create a character that embodied the worst of human behavior, it would make for a very depressing read.
However, Frasier’s genius was in creating an anti-hero who could laugh at not just the smug pompous examples of proper Victorian society, but at himself as well.

But amusing as Flashman is, it is the history that really drew me in. As a former history major, I have to say that I have never seen history so meticulously researched outside of a history textbook. And presented in such a delightful and adventurous way so as to make the most mind-numbingly boring world treaties or stuffy state dinners, come alive with adventure and raucous humor.

In fact ever since I picked up the first book of Fraser’s Flashman series as a college senior way back in 1969, I have always known that I wanted to write and to use history the way that George MacDonald Fraser did: as an exciting, vivid backdrop for fascinating characters who stream across the pages, warts and all. In short, to entertain.

I may never get to the place that Mr. Fraser made his own, but I do want you to know George that as you sit at your cosmic writers desk in the sky, chuckling at our continuing foibles and hypocrisies, you have inspired this writer to keep trying.

You will be missed.

Ric Wasley - Author
· Shadow of Innocence - Kunati - April 2007
· Acid Test - 2004

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Push Is On

Last time, I wrote about the excitement and apprehension of beginning the final edit of my novel, Fatal Encryption. Well, after reading my editor's insightful comments and taking a deep breath, I'm immersed in the process - or as much as one can be when you have a day job, errands, laundry, etc. Still, I've completed the first thirty pages and even took the first chapter to my weekly writers' group meeting. And here's what I discovered.

No matter how many times I've read my work, whether for pacing, or logic, or grammatical error, I've found something to change or tweak on nearly every page. And, boy, did this become evident while I was reading my work out loud. The group (approx. 13 people and over half are experienced writers) commented on the thrilling opening, the tight writing, but they didn't see what I saw while reading to them (they had copies to read with me). In that opening chapter, I have a character wiping his mouth on his shirt sleeve, but near the end of the chapter, I wrote about his sweat-soaked T-shirt. No one caught it, including my editor, but I did, probably because I read those pages out loud. I recommend this to anyone working on edits. There's something about the process that slows down the brain, makes you look at your work a little differently.

So, I'll be reading every chapter out loud. And while I won't have time to read all 36 chapters to the group, I can still do this at home, feel my colleagues peering over my shoulder, and know my writing will be better for it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Be careful what you wish for....

‘Why are there only bad things on the news? I wish these people would report happy stories for a change.’

I’d bet my 42” LCD that anyone who has a television has said something similar to this at one time or another. Well never again for me thank you very much. I’ve said it for the last time because today I finally got my wish. I sat down to eat my sandwich in front of the lunchtime news just in time to see the tail end of some black and white footage of Mount Everest, a tall bloke and a small Asian fella, both stood grinning in big coats.

‘Looks like Sir Edmund Hilary dead or dying. Shame that.’ I said, took another bite and waited for the next story.

Some woman in Ireland had found her dog. This feature is on for over two minutes; a woman finding her dog. And I think I know why it ran away too. The owner wouldn’t stop rubbing it. You could see the dog straining to get away from her pampering, see the discomfort in its eyes, eyes that also resolved to hide better next time or die tryin’. Next there’s a picture of the Liver Building in Liverpool. I know what’s coming; the European city of culture starts today so I’m happy to go and slap some more ham on my bread knowing that I’m not going to miss anything. I return four minutes later to a picture of a monkey. It’s been found too. Now I know that we humans sometimes make the mistake of personifying these little furry people but I swear that as the monkey squealed and pointed off camera, it was blaming the dog. Guess we’ll never know. The monkey feature closed and the ‘news’ wrapped up with some entertainment ‘news’ about the premiere of Depp’s musical mistake, Sweeny Todd. The link girl smiles, promises that she’ll be back later to keep me up to date with everything and the program finishes leaving me wondering what the hell it was all about. I felt like I’d just watched an episode of Blue Peter; absolutely no adult content whatsoever.

It turns out that ‘good news’ is in fact ‘bad news’ after all. No news would have been better.

Recycling Jimmy

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The unreasonable weight of bad words

I almost had a great day yesterday. Things had been pretty slow after the holidays and I was pretty much resigned to yet another session of watching ducks through the window when Kirk called. He’s an Aussie, a pal of mine from work and on the spur of the moment he decided to drop in to visit me and my girlfriend on his way back to Algeria. Naturally, most of the entertainment took place in the pub where it didn’t take long for a whole host of friends who I hadn’t seen since Christmas to join us. Like I say, all the ingredients were there to make a day great (unexpected friends packed full of stories and huge laughs) that culminated in a guitar thrashing session back at the lodge. Cool, and a fantastic time was almost in the bag when, lying in bed just before the stroke of midnight I unaccountably blurted two words to my girlfriend, snoozing on the pillow next to me. Now I won’t say what those words were (why or what isn’t important here) but the argument and tension that followed was black enough to turn the whole day sour. My own fault and I’ll hold my hands up, but what struck me during that dark, silent hour between fight and sleep was how powerful those words had been. Five bad syllables that had somehow managed to pollute the thousands of good ones that had previously been spoken that day. Bad words have this ability. They can ruin moments, days, lives and they can break things that an eternity of good words will never fix. This isn’t rocket science but it does also explain why as a writer I sometimes find myself staring at a blinking cursor for hours on end looking for the right word. In reality though, it isn’t my search for the right word that delays; it’s my fear of the bad one, the one with the power to turn the last three pages in to toilet paper.
Recycling Jimmy

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Medium premiere - "And Then"...snooze time!

Last night I sat down to watch the highly anticipated season premiere of Medium, one of my favorite shows. My first reaction to the episode titled "And Then", was: "Good God, what did they do with the writers?" I am not sure if this was the product of the writers' strike or if it was taped earlier, but the episode was flat, predictable one word, BORING. Sorry, NBC.

Spoiler alert!

In the premiere, we are given a recap of what happened last season and left with a depressed cast who should all go on some meds.

Allison (Patricia Arquette) was depressed because no one would take her calls or listen to her dreams and she was having money problems.

Her usually witty husband Joe (Jake Weber) was depressed because he was out of work and his mother wouldn't lend him money.

Their teenage daughter Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva) was depressed because she realized that another girl sang better than her (and maybe she was depressed because the writers made her do something nice instead of act like the spoiled brat that we have all come to want to smack).

Detective Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt) was depressed because he has been demoted to playing with puppets instead of being an active crime investigator.

His girlfriend (what's her name) was also equally depressed (and depressing) as she waded through her few lines as if reading off a cereal box. Though maybe her depression is justified--NBC doesn't even see fit to acknowledge her role in the cast, even though she's been in many episodes.

Allison's former boss D.A. Devalos (Miguel Sandoval) was depressed because someone else has his job and now he'll have to go back to being just

Then there's Academy Award-winning Anjelica Huston who plays Cynthia Keener, an investigator for "Ameritips". I'm sure that she was depressed because her role was so minute. I hope they develop her character better in future episodes.

Let's see...who else was depressed? Oh yes, let's not forget the millions of viewers who watched, predicted every step and tried to keep from dozing off. Pass the Valium!

As for plot, it was equally as depressing: a kidnapped boy, a pointless side-story about Ariel auditioning for a school musical, a dream of the kidnapper's feet (he likes to dance) and another dream of mice, a scene where Scanlon finds the dead boy packaged up in a doll box and mice running around.

At this point I thought, the killer is a young man who likes to dance and he's an exterminator. And lo and behold, it seems that maybe I should take over for Allison Dubois. What's disappointing is that there's no real investigation. The killer just conveniently shows up, let's himself into the scene of the crime (dancing to music, of course)...

"And Then"?

The show is over. (Thank God!) Talk about anti-climactic. A visit to your dentist for a root canal would be more suspenseful and less painful.

So please, NBC...get some good writers! I loved this show! I love the cast! But hey, there are other new shows on now, so give us some credit here and write for the intelligent viewer. We deserve better.

By the way, my paranormal suspense novel Divine Intervention is often compared to Medium (and CSI and Ghost Whisperer) and will definitely appeal to fans of the show. And I can promise you there are no flat characters and the story line is anything but predictable or boring. So while you're waiting for Medium to get back on track, feel free to pick up a copy of Divine Intervention at Amazon.


Best Seller List

The Sunday New York Times turned up missing at the end of my driveway this past weekend. The front page, metro section and Sunday styles remain absent from this writer’s life. How to survive with no arts & leisure?

During the week my news source is radio and computer. On the weekend things are different. I page through the Week in Review to learn what has happened in the world from the often times skewed viewpoint of my favorite newspaper. Delivery is both Saturday and Sunday morning giving me the opportunity to burrow in for twenty-four hours with editorials, essays, obituaries, travel, society news, the state I live in and the usual suspects at work in government. Amongst the density of paper and magazine is the Book Review, the real reason I pay four dollars and twenty cents a week for hand delivery. The reason I dash outside in rain or sleet, the reason I leave a warm bed on a snowy day. The Book Review is about thumbs up or down, it is all about what is being read and critiqued. The Book Review is biblical. My fantasy being, as I skim the current A-list, is to see my name and novel listed there.

Someday I tell myself, someday.

Thankfully I had Saturday’s supplements and my precious book review. There was a blurb on page twenty-two next to the best seller list with a cameo photo of Michael Choban, it read: 2007 was not a bad year for literary fiction on the best-seller lists. The number one novel of the year that remained a best seller is “For One More Day” a mini-hard cover by Mitch Albom. It is currently in the number five position. Following Mitch Albom’s book was “Cross” by James Patterson. His latest in that series “Double Cross” is currently number one on the hard cover list, while the mass-market version of “Cross” is number four.

I find this kind of minutiae intriguing. Books come and go by the hundreds on this coveted list but the one that plucks a chord and remains a constant relates to a life lesson. Mr. Albom has cornered the market on words of wisdom.
In the end it seems immaterial that the book is thin paged, that the writing is less than scholarly and that the plot is almost corny. None of that amounts to a pack of gum because the message Mr. Albom has sent to his readers is what sells books.
Is there a formula here? Or is the answer so simple that it can only be seen when we crunch the numbers at the end of the year.

Writers take heed.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Final Lonely Push

Writer and former publisher of ByLine Magazine, Marcia Preston, once wrote a wonderful editorial (actually she wrote a lot of terrific editorials) about the feeling that comes when writers finish a manuscript. She talked about hearing from a former writing student who'd published a book, and how he'd spent the summer working on the "un-fun" part of writing -- completing the final edit. But here's the thing. He also confessed how much he actually loved what he called "the final lonely push".

I know what he was talking about. After years of writing and rewriting, and having just received feedback from my editor (who's worked on the book twice) I'm about to start the last and final edit before publication of Fatal Encryption. I have mixed feelings about this. One is excitement. It's been twelve years since I last published a book, and I'd forgotten about the adrenalin rush, the sleepless nights, and the anxiety. How will it be received? Is every comma in the right place? Have I left a tiny, crucial detail out? But I also feel relief and a sense of closure. Family responsiblities, jobs, and other things made writing this novel a nine-year ordeal and it's time to move on. I don't plan to continue this series because I've written two books in another series which an agent's interested in. Still, letting go of Alex, Tristan, and Jillian will be tough.

As I begin this final, lonely push, I'll think of all the other writers who are going through the same thing, and I'll salute you. We've got the bug. There are no others options but to push forward and create, send it out there, and see what the world sends back.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Prayer For Writers

Acclaimed novelist Christopher Isherwood (pictured here on the left with W. H. Auden/1939) once wrote the following prayer for writers that is as relevant for 2008 as it was when he penned it in 1940:

“Oh source of my inspiration, teach me to extend toward all living that fascinated, unsentimental, loving and all-pardoning interest which I feel for the characters I create. May I become identified with all humanity, as I identify myself with these imaginary persons. May my life become my art and my art my life.”

Happy New Year to one and all.


Karen Harrington
Author, JANEOLOGY, a debut work of fiction centering on one man’s quest to understand his wife’s sudden descent into madness. Spring 2008