Category Archives: Guest Blogger

Quilting–a hobby or an obsession?

From Guest Blogger Margaret Loyer

I don’t sew. If necessity demands, I can replace a button or mend a hem. I can even darn socks. However, that doesn’t make me a sewer. My four sisters all sew but somehow I missed that gene.

I’m on holidays at the moment with my oldest sister. Since we drove, she brought along her sewing machine and enough paraphernalia to outfit a craft store. My sister isn’t just a sewer but a quilter and an obsessive one at that. Since she started quilting seven years ago, she’s made more than 100 projects ranging from table runners to queen-size quilts.

When planning our holiday, I knew that quilting would be a major activity. So true. In the first three days, we visited seven quilt shops and two craft stores. My sister bought 13 pieces of fabric and innumerable spools of thread and notions. Our evenings have been spent plotting the route to the next stores, usually working a circular path to encompass as many as possible in one day. If tomorrow goes as planned, we’ll visit five more stores and travel close to 200 miles, all in the name of quilting.

I never properly appreciated the variety of material available for sale. You can find fabric for any age and any theme. Animals are plentiful as are flowers, trees, and pagodas. Colours are not one-dimensional. Do you want blue? It can be light or dark, robin’s egg or midnight, with stars or unadorned. Cotton may be a type of material for the uninitiated but it’s just a guideline. You have to know if you want batik (tie-dyed), prints, or solids. Bolt after bolt must be perused to ensure the right combination of colour and pattern. Some quilt patterns call for as few as two contrasting fabrics while others ask for as many as 23 pieces of fabric; that’s a lot of perusing.

So far, my contribution has been to consult mapquest.com and to navigate. I’ve also been helpful in finding sales on thread or refill chalk. My sister will grudgingly admit that I did find the one piece of yellow fabric needed to complete a child’s quilt and that had eluded her and the sales clerk for several minutes.

Watching my sister sew has also been eye-opening. I have often said that it’s a lot of cutting and sewing, then re-cutting and re-sewing. I was right. It also requires a level of dedication that is far beyond what is applied to most careers, except perhaps if you’re a rocket scientist.

In my next life, I want to come back as a rocket scientist.

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Cooking – a Right- or Left-brain activity?

By Guest Blogger Margaret Loyer

The answer lies with recipes. A right-brainer scoffs at a recipe. If they use one, it’s only as a starting point with guidelines. They decide how to make something based on what’s in their cupboard.

A left-brainer follows a recipe religiously. It may be one from a book or from their memory because they’ve made it a hundred times. However, the base instructions must be there and only minor tweaking is allowed.

My sister, Cathy, is a right-brainer without par. Case in point, when my husband and I and Cathy were in Hawaii several years ago, we were invited to attend a welcome party with others at the timeshare resort where we were staying. I pulled out a piece of paper on which to write a shopping list of ingredients needed to make a shrimp appetizer that I knew by heart. My sister started looking in the refrigerator to see what was there. She ended up pulling out leftover chicken, tomatoes, onions, and salad dressing, then putting together an amazing topping that she spread on crackers. I was astounded that she could just wing it with whatever was on hand. What does that make me? A left-brainer.

I can look at a recipe and decide if I’m going to like it based on the ingredients. However, I cannot look at a recipe and decide what I have to change so that I will like it – unless it’s something simple like replacing peppers with celery. I have to try a recipe at least once before I’ll change more than that. Sometimes I’ll get really adventurous and I won’t put in the salt or I’ll decrease the amount of sugar. I may get palpitations as I’m doing it, but I persevere. No one can say I don’t live on the edge.

Next time I’m in the kitchen, I’m going to consider creating a meal based on the wildest combination of ingredients I can find in the refrigerator and cupboards. I may not do it, but I’ll consider it.

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Stop it, Hollywood!

Recently Hollywood has tried to add new life to the traditional zombie movie. I imagine the zombies are all for this but they should not have a say.

Zombies shamble. They do NOT run, jump or climb, they shamble.

And that’s as it should be since running, jumping and climbing are not healthy activities for the undead. They are brittle creatures. Their skin doesn’t even stay on well. I expect that’s a result of their high protein diet since all they eat is living humans—when they can catch them.

Of course that’s Hollywood’s quandary. Back in the day when zombies were black and white and had people trapped in drafty old farmhouses survival was pretty much a fifty-fifty proposition. If you were a zombie you and your friends would try to get into the farmhouse and do lunch without getting your heads blown off by a shotgun. As we all know the zombie’s head is its control room. Blow the head off and the undead becomes a real dead. On the other side, if you were a living person inside that farmhouse you’d wield your double-barrel—The Decapitator—to repel unwanted guests and avoid having your throat ripped out by the jaws of a zombie. A little aside here: Alligators are credited with having the most powerful bite of any living creature. The zombie’s bite is even more powerful but isn’t credited due to its life status.

I digress, though that’s what asides are for. In the years since black and white farmhouses, Hollywood has given living celluloid humans all sorts of flight-or-fight technology—automatic rifles, hand grenades, flame throwers, crotch rocket motorcycles, muscle cars, mountain bikes…yes, even a pedalled bicycle can easily outdistance a shambling zombie. Thus the Hollywood dilemma: advantage, living human. Imagine you’re a member of the walking dead looking for a snack, you shamble up behind an unsuspecting farmer, desperate to stifle that moaning groaning noise your kind can’t help, you lurch toward his neck and the bleepin’ guy leaps on a tractor and trundles away to the south forty. On a tractor. That does maybe 10 mph wide open. You’d want to flop down on a rock and quit.

Movie makers recently have tried to even the score by creating zombies that are able to run…ok, they aren’t Olympic sprinters, but still…and not only run but climb fences and ladders and jump down from modest elevations. Here’s where I say “Stop it, Hollywood.” If you’re going to have running jumping zombies you’re going to have to improve their diets with some citrus, bananas, greens, whole grains—see the food pyramid. Otherwise you still have the traditional fragile zombie, let’s say a female—she attempts to run, the impact of foot upon ground drives the tibia through the skin of her lower leg and mobility is lost. She can still drag herself along the ground by her fingers, destroying her nails, but that’s really just a form of shamble. Imagine trying to climb a chain link fence and your own weight pulls your fingers off. Or you jump down from a large shipping crate and the blow of the landing drives your thigh bones up and into your control center to render you for real dead. Better off shambling.

So here’s the message, film makers: if you want us to continue to believe that zombies are real, and that we should leave a night light on, either stick to the shamble or come up with a semi-healthy creature—the partly dead, the walking half-dead, the 35% dead, whatever–something that eats right and is only partly dead and therefore able to chase us and climb our fire escapes. Please keep the involuntary moaning and groaning though.

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Southern Georgian Bay

Southern Georgian Bay (Ontario, Canada) usually brings to mind the tourist area surrounding Wasaga Beach, the longest freshwater beach in the world. It is situated at the southernmost tip of Georgian Bay, a couple of hours drive north of Toronto. Wasaga Beach has stunning vistas, even at the end of October when the wind and waves are attacking the shore and only the hardiest are willing to walk the shores.

Just 20 minutes west of Wasaga Beach is Collingwood. Skiers will associate the area with the Crazy Canucks who trained on the hills at Blue Mountain. Hikers know its extensive trails with year-round access, allowing a leisurely stroll along the banks of a river or a strenuous workout up the side of a mountain.

We took several day trips during our visit. One in particular was a drive from Collingwood to Tobermory which is at the north end of Bruce Peninsula. It’s an easy drive straight up the middle of the peninsula on Highway 6. Note that there is no water view unless you take side roads to the coast, e.g. to see one of the many lighthouses. We stopped at the following towns and villages as we travelled:

Thornbury – one of the many farms along the highway is raising miniature horses; their feed station was identified as a mini saloon;

Meaford – everywhere we turned there were scarecrows hanging from sign posts and buildings; there’s an outlet mall which is set up like a junky garage sale but has some good deals on furniture and tools;

Owen Sound – this is a very pleasant town half-way up the peninsula; it’s the winter home of Chi-Cheemaun, the car ferry that travels from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island;

Tobermory – situated at the tip of the peninsula separating Georgian Bay from Lake Huron, this is the starting point for the car ferry; it operates from the long weekend of May to the week after Thanksgiving; unfortunately, we arrived two days late;

Sauble Beach – we stopped here on the return trip when we took a side road to the Lake Huron side; the waves were even higher than at Wasaga Beach; the wind was strong enough to make us stagger as we walked;

Southampton – also on the Lake Huron side, this is a tiny version of its predecessor in England; there were many sail- and fishing boats but no yachts or cruise ships as we saw in England.

Suggestion: Visit the area from mid-September to mid-October when the tourist attractions are all open. Otherwise, go in the winter for ski season.

Tourist info: www.visitgeorgianbay.com

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On writing Horror AND Children’s tales

Author Mayra Calvani is launching two very different books this Fall: Dark Lullaby, a Horror story about merging reality and illusion and an unborn child, and The Magic Violin, a children’s story about self-esteem and magic.

Huh, you’ll say. Horror and children’s stories. How can they be compatible? In this guest spot, a new feature of this blog I’ve decided to start, Mayra Calvani gives us her take on writing both… and not confusing them together. Here’s what Mayra had to say:

A lot of people ask me how I can write chilling horror and sweet children’s picture books at the same time. Somehow they cannot imagine a writer doing that, switching from two absolutely different modes and wandering in such dissimilar imaginary worlds at the touch of a mouse. That question flatters me to some extend, but it also makes me wonder… am I weird? Is there something wrong with me? Do I have split personalities? I hope not!

Nah, I’m just a multi-genre, multi-faceted person who is inspired by many things and who feels the need to bring those ideas to life. I don’t think I could ever write in only one genre, as many authors are able to. For me, it would feel claustrophobic! I simply write what I love and I love paranormal, suspense, satire, mystery, modern fantasy, literary, romantic comedy, picture books, tween and young adult fiction, and even nonfiction. Each genre transports me into a marvelous, different dreamland where everything is possible and where I set the rules—except, of course, when my characters take over, as sometimes they seem to think they have control over me.

darklullaby.jpgI can write a scary story in the morning, have lunch, then work on a sweet picture book in the afternoon. It’s like switching modes and happens pretty much automatically, though my mood changes as well. Of course, although the actual writing process is the same for all fiction (after all, it doesn’t matter what you write, it all must contain a good plot and flow, compelling characters, sparkling dialogue, etc.), the actual ‘atmospheric’ aids I use for writing change. For instance, I like to listen to haunting, mysterious music when I write horror and paranormal suspense. tmvcvr-3×100.jpgDuring the writing of latest horror novel, Dark Lullaby, I spent months listening to the music score of the movie The Village. On occasions I even lit candelabra on my desk. It goes without saying that I would never do this while writing a picture book! During the writing and editing of The Doll Violinist and The Magic Violin, both children’s picture books, I selected soul-filling, sublime violin music.

In the end, there is that absolute need to put those thoughts to paper, to convert those ideas to the ‘reality’ of my fictional world, yes, to bring those dreams to life until they become so real, I find myself thinking about the story and conversing with the characters day and night—no matter the genre. This is the way creativity works.

Mayra Calvani is a multi-genre author and reviewer. For her horror and paranormal suspense novels, visit www.MayraCalvani.com. For her children’s books, visit www.MayrasSecretBookcase.com.

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