Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ghost of Dollar Stores Past

“It happened on a busy afternoon around Christmas, just like this one,” I told my friend and the cashier at the Dollarama.  One was running me through the checkout and the other one was waiting for me to be run through the checkout.  It wasn’t the ideal place for a ghost story, but I couldn’t have asked for a better setting for that particular ghost story.  I continued, “At a Dollarama just like this one.”  I paused for dramatic effect, even though I was still loading things onto the counter.  

I proceeded in slow dramatic tones, “I had a cart and I was buying some cute decorative boxes that came folded up.  There weren’t very many to choose from, but I got the last of the cute ones.  I thought I was lucky.  I continued shopping, but I turned my back on my cart for one minute, maybe not even a whole minute, and that’s when it happened.  I didn’t notice that anything was different until I went through the checkout.  All the cute boxes I had put in my cart were gone and they had been replaced with the ugly boxes I had refused to buy.  Someone had seen I had the nice ones and replaced them with the ugly ones in my cart when I wasn’t looking.”

“Did you see who did it?”

“No!  I was at Londonderry Mall in Edmonton!  Have you ever been in there around Christmas time?  Sheesh!  No.  That place was a complete zoo.  That store had so much traffic they had to move it to the other side of the mall and double its floor space.  No, I did not see who did it.  All I knew was that I had to use ugly obviously dollar store boxes for my Christmas favors that year.  It blew!”

In retrospect, I think I was making socks look like cupcakes and surrounding them with hand-made foil-wrapped chocolates.

Anyway, Christmas ghost story for ya.  You’re welcome.  And to whoever took my boxes… what nerve! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Point of View

A nice game to play is to get a creative writing text book and go through the exercises in it. Now I know that sounds boring, but it's not because it's challenging. Here's one:

Man's perspective:

I sit down at my table. It's only my table for a few minutes... maybe twenty, but it's mine in an important sense, in that it is a place for me to sit—a sought after place in the rush for lunchtime noodles.

I'm alone at my table and I notice a few weary looks from those still in line for a place of their own. However, I notice that I am not the only long character on the page of square linen table cloths. There is a woman who is also lunching solo. She has just ordered from the menu and she taps both her fingers on the table and her feet beneath her. Whatever she has ordered, she has eaten it before if her glances at the kitchen and utter destruction of her lip gloss counted as effective non-verbal communication.

Her plate arrives before I even place my order. She has creamy pasta with chicken and black mussel shells protruding in contrast to the alfredo.

My waiter is by my side and I point to the lady I've been observing. “I'll have what she's having,” I say briskly.

Soon, my plate also arrives and I wonder how I'll manage to devour even a third of it before my hour for lunch expires.

A clatter of dishes. I didn't see what happened, but when I looked again at the girl I'd copied, the entirety of her food was seeping messily into the carpet. The sheer horror inscribed on her features was very much like that of a child whose ice cream has taken a tragic dive. For a moment, I wonder if she will cry like that child, but her eyes meet mine and in a moment, that woman knew everything about me that she needed to know.

She sat across from me and with her dinner fork still in her hand she started helping herself to the noodles on the untouched part of my plate.

Barman's Perspective:

One regular and one newcomer sat alone at separate tables. Both ordered the same thing. The girl was so hungry, she lifted her plate to get it closer to her mouth as she struggled to shovel the food into her digestive tract as soon as possible. The weight of the plate was too much for her and her wrist gave way. It was a waste of perfectly good alfredo and a waste of a good chef's time and skills, but most of all it was a waste of that hard-working woman's money. But she was the type to find hope when it had all but run dry. She sat down and helped the shrimp with his meal. It was just as well. He wasn't have finished it anyway.

The Light Fixture's Perspective:

“Can you usually eat a full plate of this?” she asked before bringing another length of pasta to her lips.

“I've never had this before,” he admitted as he scooped a mussel free from its shell.

“I make this at home sometimes, but it never tastes as good. Something about it always falls flat.”

“It's the fat. You either aren't adding enough olive oil, or you aren't adding enough butter.”

She chewed slowly and thought about this recommendation. “I gained seven points since I started coming here three months ago. This is my favourite dish. How much butter do you think is in here?”

He glanced at her figure instead of the noodles. “You look fine to me,” he said. Any man might have said those words, but the way he said them made them a compliment.

It was clear she recognized it as one as she reached across to her abandoned table to retrieve her water glass. “I suddenly feel full. Maybe half a plate of pasta is more than enough. Perhaps we could share one again some time?”

“I dunno. You say you're full, but I feel like I could eat a second plate. Would you care to join me?”

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Predator of Sadness

There's this guy I know who can smell sadness. If you're unhappy, he can smell it. He comes into the room I'm in and he's got his nose in the air. He looks at me, sees me on the bed and moves toward me in his slow beat way. He rolls his shoulders when he walks and his eyes meet mine in this way that seeks the visual confirmation that his suspicion is correct. Personally, he's not into crying or sobbing and lives his entire life only uttering noise if there is no other option for communication. But he seems deeply attracted to sadness. If I'm unhappy, it's time for him to reap the rewards, cause if I'm sitting around sad, he's going to get pet.

In case it hasn't been terribly obvious. He's a cat.

He comes over like he's giving a teddy bear to a weeping child, except I'm a grown woman and he is the teddy bear, except better, because he's warm, his fur is a thousand times nicer than a toy, and he purrs. And while he's there with his adorable, mostly expressionless face, I'll forget the thing that is hurting me.

The lack of facial expression is key. He doesn't look like he needs attention. He's sitting there, but he's not needy. He doesn't look pathetic, but proud, because he's there to comfort you, not the other way around. He also doesn't look like he feels sorry for you. He doesn't. Holding him just sets your nervous system to rights. He doesn't know what's bothering you, but he is your little furry therapist who has been comforting you whether defeated or ill. He's been vanquishing your pests and licking his chops. Mine likes to maim insects that make it inside my house. A truly noble animal.

When I adopted him from the SPCA, I had to wait in line for hours. I was at the front of the line and this blonde woman showed up with her two blonde daughters. They wanted the kitten I was there to get. You see, three new medium-hair kittens had just come up for adoption that morning and I was going to get the pretty girl kitten who had these incredible white marks around her eyes, and one of her brothers. These females had jumped the line, and there were around 15 other people who had been queueing up behind me. But, it wasn't my first time adopting a cat. I walked in and scooped up the adoption papers for all three cats before she even knew what was happening.

So, I sat down and looked at their pictures and thought about what I was going to do. There was a black one with a white diamond on his collarbone (cats don't have collarbones, but you get the idea), a stripy girl and a stripy boy. The boy wasn't as cute, but I was going to get two of them and as I sat there, I decided that it would be better for the kittens if I took both the boys. So, I got up and gave the blonde woman and her two daughters the adoption papers for the adorable girl kitten with the beautiful eye markings.

When I was paying the bill for the two kittens, the woman at the till said to me, “That's a really special cat you have there.”

I was like, “The striped one?” Since I had come so close to leaving him for someone else.

“No, the black one.”

And I wondered what that meant. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask her, “Does that mean he's going to die soon?” But I didn't, because I didn't think the SPCA would have adopted out a cat that was likely to drop dead.

Except that was what happened. That black cat was the cuddliest sweetie pie who ever was. I loved him in a way I had never loved anything, and when I left my house with him in my arms for the last time, I thought I had never felt the pain of loss that sharply ever before.

And I didn't know how me and my remaining stripy feline would get along together. But he is the predator of sadness and came over as if to say, “I'm patient, and I waited for this day, not knowing or caring if it would ever come. Now that it has come, I will be your cat and you will love only me.”

Okay, that seems super creepy when I read it back, but he has claws, fangs, slitted irises and a particular fondness for ripping the wings off things. But for me, he's a warm fluff ball with a heart of purr.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Yay! I'm a Llama Again!

Last spring I was waiting in the dentist office when a woman who was also waiting suddenly said to me, “You're Stephanie Van Orman, aren't you?” I smiled and said I was. She said she recognized me from church and asked me about the thing I was crocheting (I'm almost done the thing now and I'll write another post about it). She then asked me if I liked crocheting and for some reason I answered her question oddly. I said, “I like fibre.” She then told me she had a hobby farm with 17 llamas and alpacas, with no where for the fleeces to go. At that exact moment, her name was called and she disappeared into the back.

I was stunned. Try to envision me: eyes wide, pink cheeked, mouth slightly open—stunned. I had just met someone who didn't know what to do with a fleece. I have NEVER met someone who didn't know what to do with a fleece. Everyone I know wants one, sacrifices ridiculous time/money/effort to acquire wool from natural fibres. The only fleece I have ever seen for sale was up for $150. I had always thought my dream of spinning yarn on a real spinning wheel something I would never experience. Because, if you've ever priced out that hobby, you'll go back to Walmart and buy something from the end of the aisle.

As I sat there in the dentist office, I decided I could not let this chance pass me by. I wanted to make yarn and if she was just going to get rid of them, then she could give them to me. So, I grabbed her and told her of my plan for her property. She said okay.

After the shearing, I went and took pictures of the llamas and alpacas. I ended up taking every fleece they had, because I thought I could at least get these things distributed to the spinning and weaving guild.

But let's talk about what you do with an alpaca fleece.

It's horrible.

Cleaning an alpaca fleece will take days. And I'm not talking about cleaning the whole thing. I'm talking about cleaning one mesh garment bag full of fleece. One. Only one. Just one. And then you'll need to pick through the fibre and remove all the grass, dirt, poop, and any piece of fibre that isn't of a certain length. You need the long ones.

It's like being handed thousands—literally thousands—of detached My Little Pony tails and being told you have to comb the grass out of all of them.

I am not joking.

The only happy part is that alpaca fleece feels nothing like Barbie hair (it looks like it though). It smells nice and feels even better. The whole process is utterly gruelling, but one of the ladies at the guild showed me what it would look like as yarn when she span a bit of it. It looked like the best yarn I've ever seen.

So, I'm doing this.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Thing Can Sing

This thing likes to sing. This thing can't sing like anything. She sings high while the others sing low, but she is not too bad, you know.

That is not a genuine Dr. Seuss quote. Like I said, I like to sing, but my voice is what I would call completely mediocre. Sometimes, I sing really well and people compliment me and I just know I nailed it. Other times, no one says anything because they are well behaved humans who haven't calmly clamped a hand over my mouth to stop the sounds from coming out while whispering in my ear that, 'some things aren't worth dying for.'

I know what you're thinking. No one can have that large of a spectrum between awesome and Seagull from Little Mermaid. But I am telling you, I have no control over whether or not it's going to be a good day, or otherwise. I am also not particularly improved by practise. I can practice a thing, and still botch it on performance day. I also tend to cry... a lot. Now with what I've listed so far, I again know what you're thinking. I should sing in a group. Again, this is a terrible idea. If I am singing next to a person who sings, I'll just hear them singing and I won't have any clue what I'm doing with my voice. I used to try to sing in a choir, and the choir director would stop everyone, point in my direction and say, “Someone over there is off.” She wouldn't take me aside and say I was the mouldy peach in the patch, but I couldn't swear an affidavit that I wasn't the one who was off. I have ears that require silence to hear things. I'm not good at picking out overlapping voices.

Lately, I've been doing a challenge with myself to see if I can sing all the songs in church without a hymnbook. I've found I like it partly because then I don't have to hold a wrist-hurty-heavy hymnbook. So, now I tell whoever is trying to share a hymnbook with me to hold it comfortably and when they do, I can still see the words! What I want to do is yell at them that they were supposed to hold it so I couldn't see it, not hold it comfortably. How did they not understand that? Weird. I made it perfectly clear.

The most success I've ever had with singing is when I'm singing something by myself and if there is an accompanist, she's on a piano far, far, away. I'm singing something I know, I have the music in front of me and I know. I mean, I really know, that even if I blow it BIG TIME, it doesn't matter. Someone has asked me to sing something on the fly. I have had zero practice time, and something about the situation is good. I don't know what. Maybe it's that my nerves haven't tied themselves into knots with the awful knowledge that I was going to sing in front of a couple hundred people in a week or two. Maybe it's that church music has a heart of its own, no matter who is performing it. Maybe it's that my lungs are smaller than the average singer and I can take the kind of pauses I need to get the best out of my voice.

Or maybe, I have it all wrong and dying waterfowl sound better.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Little Prairie Girl

Today I felt nervous. I have a lot of new things I'm doing/trying and today I felt really nervous. I tried to read something and my brain just would not accept reading as a calming activity. I was too fired up... but in a bad way.

So, suddenly I got the idea to go on Pinterest and look at pictures of the prairie. It was really amazing at how well it worked to calm me down. Actually, it was almost embarrassing. Whenever I was anxious as a teen, I'd go for a walk out to nowhere. And it really was nowhere. It used to be my ambition to write stories that took place in my hometown, but it always failed, because nothing ever happened there. Nothing could happen there. And I was not able to write a proper novel until I had spent enough time in Edmonton to set a story there.

My hometown was the place ideas went to die. But there was always a gust of wind and a sunset and a view of the mountain range far away. There was clover growing in big itchy or cooling clumps (depending entirely on the position of the sun), and there was a sky so big, you wouldn't know what was happening on all nine sides of it at once. And yes, the sky had nine sides. Big clouds. Cemeteries. Sometimes it seems impossible that I met and married a man there, because my memories of my hometown are remarkable void of people. Sometimes I became a person who spent too much time alone. Wandering on the edges of fields that didn't belong to me or people I knew. I pet the noses of their cattle since they were the only ones curious about what I was doing there. Home wasn't home. And nine sides of sky were not always welcoming. And there wasn't much to think about. Doing anything would start you doing more than you could stand. Can't sing. Someone could see me and call me weird again, because being or doing anything would be weird. And their view of me might make me more alone.

After all my griping about how I couldn't think an idea for a story to set in my hometown, I finally gave up writing a novel and wrote a short story called 'Blog Entries of the Brokenhearted.' And it really is all that my hometown was... but like I shone a spotlight on it and then cut the cord to set it free.

Here's a link to it. Free reading. Leave a comment if you like.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Excerpt of 'Behind His Mask'

Welcome to the excerpt of Behind His Mask.  This is the part of the blog where I include a segment of my new book for your reading pleasure.  I read this excerpt in my liquid romance voice when I do reading in public.  Please enjoy reading here since it is the next best thing to hearing me read it out loud.

I only had one spare that day and it was during second to last period. It wasn’t until then that I got a chance to crack open Evander’s book. I went to the library, found a cozy spot in the corner on one of the couches, and pulled it out of my bag. The book itself smelled great. It looked great too, just like one of those beautifully bound books on the shelf of a nineteenth century library. I was excited as I flipped open the cover and found the title of the first part. It was called The Lord of the Capricorns.
Insert girlish scream—which was immediately squelched by the grouchy librarian's glare.

I started reading.

Once upon a time, there was a land of greenness unlike any other. It bordered no seashore, no desert, and no mountains. It was a land touched by the grace of the goddess of rain. There, the sun shone golden, covering the land in light and beauty. It was a place of peace where the fields had not absorbed the blood of war and where dead warriors were not buried. Flowers were as valuable as gemstones. Images reflected on a clear lake's surface were more prized than those on foreign mirrors.
The kingdom was known as Lilikeen. In the center of all gracefulness and goodness was their greatest prize, Princess Sarafina. Her beauty caused aches of longing throughout all the neighboring countries. Her head was blessed with soft, sunlit, curls that fell in voluminous waves to her slender waist. When she wore rings on her fingers, the rings seemed enormous and made her fingers more elegant. Her eyes were green like the green that unfolds in the curve of a newborn leaf.

Love for her was inevitable.

Reading it made me hate Evander, too. Of course he liked that kind of girl. It sounded like a female version of him, except for the green eyes. But even after having my fears about him confirmed, my disgust didn't negate my interest in what he had to say, so I kept reading.

At the age of fourteen, she stood in her personal library. It was a beautiful room designed with enormous panels of glass in the ceiling to let in the light for the weightless vines that clung to the bookshelves, adding color and freshness. She was meant to entertain a prince, but not just any prince. The youth invited was the second prince of the Kingdom of Bellique—a country with a strong political hold on Lilikeen.

Bellique lay to the south. It was a great arching country that covered the entire continental coast and cradled a multitude of small kingdoms in its arc. It was the shape of a crescent moon and Lilikeen was like a star dangling from the top corner of it. Bellique sat in a rather difficult position, for it was constantly under invasion from the countries across the sea. It was stained in blood until the earth was red, and if Lilikeen and her neighbors wished to keep their lands pure from warfare, they had to pay a heavy tribute. The money kept Bellique's soldiers paid, their weapons sharp, and their boats afloat. Each and every citizen of Lilikeen paid some of their income to keep Bellique's war machine ticking.

The morning Sarafina entertained Prince Murmur of Bellique, the Queen of Lilikeen watched with great interest from a balcony above.

Murmur entered. Sarafina stood by an empty fireplace with nothing on her mind particularly. She had already learned she did not need to exert herself particularly when dealing with prospective suitors. She did not need to think of witty conversation. They were happy enough to talk about themselves and the time would soon pass.

For Murmur, the effect of her beauty was devastating. Because she did not speak much, she opened his imagination up for what she could be instead of exactly what she was, which was bored, underdeveloped, and childish. He didn't know this. The combination of her obvious acceptance of him and her outward perfection made him believe, even though he was too young to marry her then, that he could have no one else as his wife.

The next day he was carried away back to Bellique's impenetrable capital, but two months later a very royal missive was received by the King and Queen of Lilikeen. It was an official request for a betrothal. An excellent offer it was too, for it offered to have the tribute sent to Bellique reduced by half during each year Sarafina was married to Murmur. However, the King and Queen did not accept it. The Queen knew what their kingdom had—they had a daughter capable of mystifying a prince in one afternoon. From that moment on, the Queen began plotting for a better marriage for Sarafina. What good was Prince Murmur? He was not the Crown Prince. He would never be a king. Instead, she set her heart on his older brother, Prince Tremor.

Tremor was a legend. It was not Murmur who protected the entire continent from the threat across the sea, but the Crown Prince. If Sarafina could have the tribute halved by marrying a prince who would never be a king, how much could she have it reduced if she married the man who would be? Tremor was an unmarried soldier, a general, and a prince who would be a king.

The Queen wrote a letter inviting Tremor to Lilikeen. There was no response for over six months and when the epistle was received, it was opened to uncover his refusal. He could not leave his fortress at Sealoch to go courting. To the Queen, it was a minor setback. This was a different kind of warfare, one for which a queen was well equipped. She would have her daughter married to the Lord of Sealoch!

Welp, I hope y'all enjoyed that.  Now please, be captivated, mesmerized and thirsty for more.  Please buy my book on amazon. Here's the link to and below that the link to