Here it is, my final and favourite character to introduce to you. Martin is my Casanova, my Mr. Romeo of a certain age. He knows a lot, yet he’s still got a lot left to learn.
I hope you enjoy Martin as much as I enjoyed writing him!
Martin fidgeted with his coffee cup before setting it down on the tabletop. “I need a little help.” He withdrew a folded piece of paper and his reading glasses from the breast pocket of his sports coat. After putting the glasses on, Martin unfolded the paper. There were several points he needed to discuss, and he didn’t want to miss anything important. “It’s the Internet.”
“The Internet?” asked Chad.
“I need to know how to do a few things.” Martin looked down, referencing his list. “Like open this Facebook thing. And ‘surfing’ sounds like something I should know how to do. Do you know what the Wikipedia is?”
“I do. But I thought there were introductory computer classes being offered at the Eldernest. Remember? We saw a poster about it on the bulletin board. Facebook, email…”
“Right, right. It’s just I can’t go.” Martin shifted in his seat and lowered his voice. “Clara’s the instructor.”
“Perfect. You like Clara, you’ve said so yourself.”
“I can’t show up knowing nothing. She’ll figure it out in a jiffy.” Martin rubbed his swollen knuckles and tried not to make eye contact with his nephew. Back in his day a man would never have admitted to not knowing how to use machines. Unless it was the clothes dryer. Or maybe the kitchen mixer. And that had been a point of pride! Truth was, all these computerized gadgets made him feel vulnerable. He could feel his shoulders rounding, his chest caving in. He wasn’t ready to be obsolete.
“Damnit Chad, it makes me feel weak.”
Chad blinked, his eyes round as saucers. “I just. Well. I don’t think of you that way. You just seem so…well, confident all the time.” He took a sip of his coffee before continuing. “Why don’t you be open with Clara? She seems like a nice enough lady. Tell her you’re feeling vulnerable and explain what you’d like to learn about the internet. Who knows, maybe it will be fun having a woman show you the ropes for a change.”
“Tell her?” A bark of laughter escaped Martin.
Please meet Lila; I only wish I could sit down and enjoy a tea with her in real life. I’m not alone. Our main character, Chad, has quite the crush on this single parent / college student / Eldernest Housekeeper and Cafeteria Assistant and readers will see him spending quite a bit of time trying to cross paths with her in Flying the Nest.
When I wrote Flying the Nest, I had no idea what people in Lila’s position would be dealing with amidst the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. Their work was not easy before the pandemic; it’s even more difficult now.
Here is a sneak peak to a more innocent time. I hope you enjoy Lila as much as I do!
“You don’t blink a lot,” said Lila.
“Er,” I’d never been told that before and my mind scrambled for an answer. “I do that. You know. Forget to blink. When I hear something interesting.”
I was officially shit at small talk. I nodded, making sure to blink. “Right. Nice to meet you.”
I had at least tried talking to her. I reached into my pocket and pulled my own phone out. Now seemed a great time to check my emails. My Facebook. My non-existent follower list on Twitter.
“The body’s like that,” she continued, “works in very creepy, random ways.”
Was that a lifeline? I was not about to turn down dumb luck. “Totally.” My voice rose as though I were asking a question rather than making a statement.
Lila shrugged. “That’s what I love about embalming.”
I put my phone back in my pocket. “Pardon?”
“Embalming. It’s fascinating.” Lila leaned in. “I’m studying for my license. Well, my Funeral Director license too; it’s kind of a two-part deal these days.”
My eyelids didn’t want to, but I forced them to blink. Twice. “And you work in a senior’s lodge. Are these two interests…related?” Maybe she served people coffee one week and was preparing their cold, dead bodies the next?
“Heck, no. The ‘Nest is a paycheck. The other’s a passion. Do your eyes get dry a lot?”
When the ink was still wet on the publishing contract for Flying the Nest, I was already imagining the party I would host at the local pub to celebrate with friends. Live music perhaps, and a round of celebratory beverages for sure! It takes me 3 years to write a single novel, a single SHORT novel, as my daughter has frequently pointed out. (Not to worry, I’m collecting all her uplifting comments for a future project involving a pre-teen, so I consider it research, haha).
Anyway, parties are a bit out of the question right now, aren’t they?
Instead, I’ll be participating in a few virtual events and one local craft fair. These events are about celebrating, and the advantage is you don't need to live in Calgary to participate. You don't even need to buy the book; for those looking for a more cost effective option it'll be available in the spring in ebook and in libraries. And perhaps you just want to celebrate and don't even plan to read. That is fair too, although, for goodness sake, I hope you are all reading SOMETHING other than your phone! haha. That was my ‘mom’ voice. It will also appear in said 'future' project.
So, if you’d like to celebrate the launch of Flying the Nest with me, I’ve listed all the upcoming events below:
Saturday, November 28th | Official Launch Day | 1:00 pm MST
My publisher, Dixi Books UK, is hosting this fun, Facebook Live event with myself and two other fabulous authors, S.C. Farrow in Melbourne, Australia and Mark Tedesco in L.A., California.
This event will include a Q & A, a chance to enter prize draws. You can ask questions in the Facebook live comment section for a chance to win, and you don’t have to worry about being on camera; you can attend in your pj’s or messy bun, or on your headphones while grocery shopping!
You must have a Facebook account to participate and the link is here.
Tip: (If you mark yourself as Going or Interested) you’ll get a notification on your phone when the event is beginning.
Wednesday, December 2nd | 7:00 pm MST | Zoom Event
Do you love to keep things local?
The Owl’s Nest Bookstore, Calgary’s longest running independent bookshop, will be hosting this virtual celebration over Zoom. In order to attend you must register at the following link here and then Owl’s Nest will send you a link to your email address.
If you would like to purchase a signed copy of Flying the Nest, you can place your order using the same link above. Or, you can drop by to pick up a copy after November 28th, however there will be limited availability before Christmas (curbside pick-up available; masks required in store).
At this virtual event I will do a few short & fun readings and we will play a few literary games for some beautiful handsewn items by creator, Silvia Ross, and a copy of recently released ROUGH by local author Robin van Eck. Rough is a fictional story set during the 2013 Calgary flood and the main character is a man experiencing homelessness. I greatly admire the writing in this book and I will be including a signed copy as a door prize.
At this event you will have a chance to see each other's faces, (only if you want to turn your camera on) have a good laugh, and cheers! our celebratory beverages!
Saturday, December 5th | 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
This will be the only in-person book event I will participate in this season. If you’d like to do a bit of local Christmas shopping and stop by to say hi, I would love to see a friendly, masked face or two! Of course masks and hand sanitizing will be required.
The Triwood Community Association will be limiting the number of shoppers allowed into the event at any one time.
I’ll have copies of both Flying the Nest and Out of Play available for purchase, as well as some fun bookish gift tags for the gift giving season ahead.
As one agent told me: "this would sell much better if you changed the main character into a woman." But honestly, as a reader I'm tired of reading about insecure women, and confidence is a big part of what my main character struggles with.
And so I give you Chad, a slightly insecure, slightly unlucky member of the male species who has truckloads of potential. I'm super fond of Chad and his emotional journey in Flying the Nest, and I hope you will enjoy him too.
Here is a sneak peak, a little look-see into who Chad is at the beginning of Flying the Nest.
I tried not to stare, tried not to commit the dreaded male gaze by keeping my head tilted toward the window across from me. It was a battle keeping my eyes from wandering back to her. Every movement she made seemed graceful and elegant. I’d watched from afar for weeks yet had barely been able to maintain eye contact when she filled my coffee cup. And now here I was. Sitting nearly beside her on the number six bus.
A strange warmth filled me. Optimism? Hope? Who the hell knew, but what was certain: I was not about to waste this opportunity. Should I suggest going for a drink? As I tried to work up the courage, I found myself distracted by the way she bit her lower lip while thumb-typing into her phone. I could practically feel her tongue tracing a line along my clavicle. My ex, Kate, had once said my collarbone looked just like Jake Gyllenhaal’s and I reminded myself of that every time I got out of the shower and caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was, perhaps, the kindest gift she’d given me.
Lila reached over to the chrome rail and pushed the button to indicate she wanted the bus driver to pull over at the next stop. “It was nice to meet you, Chuck.”
“Oh right. Chad. See ya’ around.”
I barely got out a goodbye before she ambled up to the front and got off. The bus pulled away and she didn’t look back. Not once. I know because I watched as she turned and walked down Seventeenth Avenue, the bus rumbling away.
Here’s a quick little cameo for you to enjoy while waiting for the November 28th release:
"What we need is something warm and affectionate for residents to hold.” Something that wouldn’t leave a person feeling so damn alone. Fish could not help with that. They swam about in their cold water, cold blood flowing through their cold veins. Rosie couldn’t name a less emotive animal. “It’s touch everyone at the Eldernest is starving for. You can’t pet a fish.”
“We’ve got the psychologist on Tuesdays if people are feeling lonely, Mrs. Dylan. I highly encourage anyone feeling lonely,” he paused and raised his eyebrows suggestively at Rosie, “to make an appointment with the psychologist.”
Rosie’s cheeks flamed. She picked up her PET-ition and rolled it into a tight bat. She imagined whacking Director Knightly about the ears with it. Or, better yet, she could get one of those sledgehammers from her nephew’s costume shop and smack it down on Knightly’s lollipop head.
Preorder worldwide with free shipping at The Book Depository.
It’s a good thing to be awake too, because the coffee is on and I get to enjoy some quiet reading time. Right now I’m reading The Things We Wish Were True. Its engaging, alternating between various point of view characters much like my current writing project.
Maybe more than this particular book its the habit of reading, (or is it an addiction to escapism?) that has me waking up and picking up a book. Cause honestly, it sometimes feels a bit like pouring that first cup of coffee in the morning or sneaking into the kids Halloween candy after they’ve gone to bed (shhhh!)😊. Addiction is a fairly strong word though, so maybe let’s just call it ‘the love of good things.’
Last year I managed to immerse myself in ‘good things’ enough times that I read 50 books. I know! Think of how many barre classes that could add up to; how many binge sessions watching something or other on Netflix. What can I say? I have no regrets. I love stories and maybe I was so immersed it saved me from excess trips raiding the kids Halloween and Easter stashes. See? We are all happy😊.
For you ‘non-readers’ out there you might be wondering, “Does this woman not have a life? Does she keep a tally beside her bedside table or what?” Well…I’m about to blow you non-readers away: we’ve got apps for that, haha. Two reader’s apps that I’m on are Goodreads (see my complete list of books read in 2018 here) and Litsy. Litsy is a bit more interactive and a cross between Instagram and Goodreads, but I like how you can keep lists on Goodreads and I use it more often.
Here are my top picks from those books I read in 2018 via random category at no one’s discretion but my own 😉:
Joy’s Pick for Canadian Fiction: The Break. Okay, the act of putting this book list together made me realize how many stories centre around violence against women, child or vulnerable animal. The Break is right up there on that account so you’ve got to be strong to read it. Regardless, you should read it: the state of violence against Indigenous Women in Canada is horrendous and appalling. This particular story is balanced with beautiful and lyrical language, strong female characters and HOPE.
Joy’s Pick for Contemporary Young Adult: Optimists Die First. This will be no surprise to anyone who follows me: I am a devoted fan of Susin Nielsen and wish to all good things that one day I'll get a chance to learn about storytelling from her. She’s a master at conquering life's sadness with humour and wit and so I deeply admire her…even though I’m not an optimist!
Joy’s Pick for Middle Grade: The One and Only Ivan. Yup, almost every book on this list is a tear-jerker. My personal philosophy is: if a book does not make you feel anything than it might not be worth reading. That’s me though. This book was a recommendation from my 9 year old daughter and it’ll kick you in the gut. But again, it’s lovely and real and this one definitely has a happy ending😊.
Joy’s Pick for WW2 Story: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I read three WW2 books in 2018 and three in 2017. I’m choosing Bitter and Sweet because every other WW2 book I read in two years takes place in France. They were all super good (and many had fabulous female protagonists! Shout out to The Alice Network who may have took it otherwise) but it was a nice change to see how the war impacted people on the other side of the globe. This book centres around the internment of Japanese Americans.
Joy’s Top Pick if you Really Want to Ugly Cry as early as Page 2: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Intersectionality of poverty and racism, yet the main character is incredibly loveable. You can’t help but love this one.
If you happen to pick up (and read) any of these books I’d love to know what you think.
Wishing everyone a 2019 with loads of good stories, the odd Barre class (or two) and perhaps a stolen chocolate to sweeten the deal along the way. Happy New Year!
Pam Wheeler checked every box. Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.
So when her husband dies in a freak accident and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.
Sounds interesting, right? Author Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women's fiction and her debut novel, Designer You is set to publish in just a few short hours. I recently had a chance to chat with her and learn more about the inspiration behind her book. Why not pour yourself a nice cup of tea (or a large glass of wine because sometimes that's just what's needed) and listen in?
Joy: The main character in Designer You works within the home renovation industry. As a former addict of the original Trading Spaces (yes, I do own my own coveted Trading Spaces smock) and having lived through both a home and travel trailer DIY reno, I was instantly fascinated. Is home reno and design a particular passion of yours and why did you choose to write about it?
Sarahlyn: We live in an old Philadelphia townhome—built in 1869. Our family loves the house and we live in a really special neighborhood with great friends who share a love of old homes. In fact, Pam and Grace’s house was modeled after mine. And I think it’d be tough to live in one of these homes if you didn’t have at least a passing interest in renovation and design—they take a lot of maintenance. When we moved into the house six years ago, the third floor was a shell. It didn’t even have walls yet and the floor was a mess. My husband put up walls and installed the kitchenette. We had the floors refinished and built in a full bathroom. It’s now a very functional little apartment. And my husband built the adjacent deck, too (which inspired the beginning of my book, FYI).
Joy: Goodness! Your home is older than my country. (Go Canada!)
Designer You explores the themes of grief, loss and moving on. When I read the Designer You blurb this resonated with me as there are similar themes in my debut, Out of Play. What type of research did you do? And can you tell us what you learned about yourself from writing on these topics?
Sarahlyn: Great question! My mom lost my dad when they were both only 55, an age when my siblings and I were starting to leave the nest and my parents were looking forward to the next stage in both their lives. And I had just gotten married which at the time seemed like such a weird juxtaposition—I was at the beginning of this life with my new husband and my mom was sadly at the end. And I watched her grieve and pick herself up and move forward. She had to completely redefine her life and adjust her identity. She’s an incredible, strong woman. And very happy today!
Joy: I'm very sorry to hear. It sounds like it was a very pivotal time in your life. And you mom--I can't help but be inspired just listening to her story.
The central characters in Designer You are not only married, but run a business together. That means they probably spend...oh, I don't know...24/7 together! I'm slightly amazed by couples who can do this and maintain a happy and healthy relationship. Can you see yourself doing this or are you more of an absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder kind of person?
Sarahlyn: Oh goodness, I don’t think my husband and I could work like Pam and Nate. We work very differently, and what we have now—I work primarily from home, he outside the home—suits us both just fine. I need long stretches of quiet time to focus and concentrate. He likes noise and energy buzzing around him. I think if we worked together, we’d both drive each other crazy. Right now, we look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day.
Joy: If you were able to have a glass of wine and chat with Pam, the main character of Designer You, what would you want to ask her? What characteristic do you find most inspiring about her?
Sarahlyn: I’d want to ask her about her eye for design detail. I am missing the design gene, and I’d love to pick her brain over a glass of wine and ask her advice about what to do in my own home!
Sounds like fun! Let me grab my smock and join you :)
One last question: where can we get our hands on a copy of Designer You? And where can readers find out more about you?
Thank YOU, Joy! It’s been so much fun. I appreciate the opportunity to talk a little about my book. You can find Designer You here.
And more about me here:
Another highlight was meeting this great group of women a few weeks ago. Can you believe their bookclub has been going strong for 17 years? That's right, 17! Just think how many good books a person could enjoy in seventeen years.
I also joined my first book club that same year, 2001. Unfortunately it went the way of many clubs: a slow descent from reading club to wine drinking club (that’s not all bad, right?). Before we ended things we’d read a few very good books, some of which I may not have discovered without the bookclub. The following are a few I still think about from time to time. In my opinion that’s a sign of a darn good read.
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
- Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens
- Atonement by Ian McEwan
- The Brothers K by David James Duncan
If you’re thinking of starting a bookclub, or find yours is hitting a rough patch, check out these 8 tips from a few ultra experienced bookclubbers.
And for writers: have you gotten that first call inviting you to a bookclub conversation about your book? Don't get too nervous. Visiting with avid readers who’ve read your book and are ready to dish can be great fun! Check out my suggestions for visiting bookclubs as a guest author here.
I’ve passed the one year anniversary of Out of Play. It felt like it took forever to write, revise, publish, and take those first steps into the big ole’ world of books. But then, just like a real baby, the damn thing turned one before I knew it.
To celebrate I’ll be visiting some fabulous book bloggers in November. There will be plenty of author interviews about the writing process, reviews of Out of Play, and tidbits about my current project (which has been so fun to write).
If you’ve read and enjoyed Out of Play, then make sure to check out what other books my host bloggers have enjoyed. This is a great way to find your next favourite read.
I’ll update this post with live links once they are ready, so watch this space. And here, have a piece of cake. It’s time to celebrate!
One of the books up for grabs is set in Calgary, Alberta and the other, by the fabulous Kate Hilton, is set in Toronto, Ontario. There will be two winners; each winner will receive both titles signed and delivered to their mailbox. One winner will be from Canada. Since we are celebrating our birthday we decided to also have a winner from our American friends.
The rules are:
1. You must get your butt over to Instagram and follow @booksandchinooks and the authors @katemhilton and @joynorstrom.
2. Visit the official giveaway post @booksandchinooks. Tag two friends. This IS a birthday party and what's a party without friends?
3. Tell us what country you are from.
4. For an extra entry tell us a fun fact about Canada (but not something someone else has already said).
The contest closes tonight at midnight pacific time. The winners will be announced tomorrow.
Good luck peeps and Happy Canada Day!
social worker, writer, family woman, Canadian, coffee-a-holic
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