BYE BYE BLUES REVISITED

Back in 1988, I remember getting a phone call from my daughter, Robyn, who was on set for the filming of Bye Bye Blues, directed by Anne Wheeler, in the Alberta badlands, home of dinosaur tourism.

Robyn Stevan playing Frances

Robyn Stevan playing Frances

I recall hearing about the challenging role she had to play, requiring a lot of stretching to find the character, but she did it.

She won a Genie (Canada’s equivalent of the Oscar) for Best Supporting Actress. It was for the role of Frances.

What brings me to write about Robyn and Bye Bye Blues, is not so much to share Rob’s and my pride with her achieving this honor, but to mention how frustrating it is that Bye Bye Blues, a work of art in the field of filmmaking is not available on DVD.

Me, proud mom, with daughter Robyn and her Genie Award

Me, proud mom, with daughter Robyn and her Genie Award

 

 

I tried to get a DVD copy recently, only to discover it was only available on VHS, which we have. I don’t know about your VHS tapes, but I find that the quality deteriorates with time.

The story is exquisite: It’s about a “WWII wife and mother who joins a local dance band to provide for her family while husband’s at war. Romantic involvement with one of the dance members makes her decisions difficult when her husband returns from war.

Rebecca Jenkins and Robyn Stevan

Rebecca Jenkins and Robyn Stevan

Story watches the progression of the band as it grows into a popular successful recording and touring group. Excellent music and soundtrack.

I found one clip from the film on Youtube, not the greatest quality but you’ll get a flavor of Bye Bye Blues, nonetheless. Rebecca Jenkins, who won a Genie for best actress, is featured in this clip.

Considering this Canadian cinematic gem was nominated for 10 awards and won 5, it’s a shame that this film isn’t available on DVD. But thanks to Rebecca Jenkins and her husband, Joel Balkan, a University of B.C. law professor and part-time jazz guitarist, it’s now available on iTunes and hopefully soon on VOD streaming.

Bye Bye“Bakan said he spent about $20,000 to rescue Bye Bye Blues …, and added that he expects any subsequent application to go more smoothly. …The question I ask is, you’re flipping through the channels and you very seldom see an old Canadian film on TV. You see newer ones — but none of the old films. Our cinematic history is either not on DVD, not in digital form, not on Netflix, not available on iTunes, and not being broadcast on TV because of this problem.” (from Rebecca Jenkins’ website) .

So, now that’s it’s available on iTunes, our family is looking forward to renewing our love affair with this film, for all the above reasons. If you want a good story and good music, this is a movie to see.

Love your comments, so please don’t hesitate to leave me a line or two. 

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Behind Closed Doors In The Fifties

Family shopping

A family in the Fifties

I look back at the Fifties with fondness. They seemed like innocent times, but a lot was going on behind closed doors.

On the surface, everything looked rosy. Moms and Dads were together, even if they didn’t want to be and divorce was a no-no, underlined by both church and the community. Most moms stayed at home, cooking and cleaning and taking care of the children while the dads went to battle in the workplace.

On Sundays, you put your best clothes on and went to church. After the service, city parks were full of men in suits and ladies in dresses picnicking with their kids. That kind of decorum wasn’t unusual. Why even downtown shops any day of the week (except Sunday when stores were closed) were filled with ladies in hats and gloves.

And as far as sex was concerned, you’d hear the odd reference and off-color joke when couples got together, but they were said in private homes. There was no mention publicly of masturbation, copulation, intercourse, or any reference to private parts by their real name. And if couples were living together without marriage, they were whispered about in hushed tones.

And yet, what happens sexually today, happened then. Only behind closed doors.

Marilyn Monroe, publicity photo for film, Seven Year Itch. Image from 1000 Things To Do In NYC

But there was also relief after the World War II. People began to relax and move towards more openness.

Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and Jayne Mansfield shocked the public with their seductiveness. European actresses like Sophia Loren, Gina Lollabrigida, and Brigitte Bardot went even further.

Then there was the music. Elvis Presley shook his hips on the Ed Sullivan show and excited the teens, even though the camera only showed him from the waist up. Lyrics of popular music alluded to what was happening behind closed doors–in the bedroom or in the back of a car.

Peyton Place

Bestseller in the Fifties

 

Books like Peyton Place also caused a stir with its frankness about sex but it went on to become a bestseller.

Anyone looking back now would find its content tame compared to the novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. Still it showed what was going on behind closed doors in a small New England town.

In my novelette, THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN, those times are reflected in my story about a young girl coming of age, and how she makes sense of the sexual feelings that naturally come with the changes in her body. The Blue Nightgown cover2

It’s about Anna, the landlady of a rooming house, who finds a blue nightgown in her tenant’s trash and decides to keep it. Little does she know how it’ll set free the sexual desires of those who come in contact with it. Including her daughter.

THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN is available on Amazon.com Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.au . Was $2.99, now only $0.99

Thoughts, comments always welcome. 

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Forget Main Street, Disneyland; Go To Barkerville

IMG_20150627_141308I’m suggesting you forget Main street, Disneyland; go to Barkerville. I had no idea this gold rush town in the Cariboo, would not only be entertaining, but informative as well.

To say that we were thrilled with our recent visit there would be putting it mildly. Rob and I have traveled a lot, but not so much in the northern part of British Columbia. When friends invited us to go with them to Barkerville, 751.6 km. or 467 miles north-west of Vancouver, we thought we’d try it as we’d heard about its fabulous theatre featuring plays and music from years gone by.

Amy Newman, Ben Purych, Nick Preston, and Patrice Bowler

Amy Newman, Ben Purych, Nick Preston, and Patrice Bowler

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Dave Brown and J.P. Wilson playing Mr. Grimsby and Mr. Cruikshank of the Sheepskin Claim

What we found was more than a theatre with a classic stage.

There were actors everywhere, in the streets and inside buildings, telling stories with accents reflective of the characters and historical period they were commenting upon.

We loved that they added to the authentic feel of the place.

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From left to right: Michelle Lieffertz as Miss Isabella Irvine, Stu Callwood as Mr. Charles Hankin, Andrew Hamilton as Billy Barker and Danette Boucher as Florence Wilson

Having played a few characters in my time, I appreciated how much work goes into the monologues and dialogues that these fabulous actors have created.

We were told that many had written their own scripts. Dave Brown has been playing his role for over twenty years.

These four in the photo to the right were preparing to re-enact a photography session on the street. Of course they had an argument which was a lot of fun for the spectators.

Barkerville’s buildings date back to 1868, when 90 buildings were rebuilt in six weeks after a fire gutted the town.

The road down the center of this gold rush IMG_6644town is a dirt road. If it’s dry, it’s dusty; if it’s rainy, it’s wet and muddy.

And if you take the stagecoach ride, you’ll get the sense you’re traveling back in time.

You can almost hear the conversations that once took place as you ride by the pioneer houses, hotels, laundry and blacksmith shop.

Rob and I about to take a ride around Barkerville

Rob and I about to take a ride around Barkerville

I knew that Barkerville was born out of the gold rush. I didn’t know that it had occurred after the California one. At the time of that state’s gold fever, lawlessness had taken such hold that those who wanted to find riches of their own decided to travel north when they heard of the great finds on the rivers and creeks in the Cariboo.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Here, the British law was in place so there was a greater chance if a miner found gold, he could make a claim that wouldn’t be stolen out from under him. That didn’t mean it was easy. There were still times when he had to guard that piece of land with his life until it was registered in his name. And if there were disputes, there was Judge Begbie, known as the hanging judge, to settle them.

Being a writer, I was fascinated by the stories I heard about this dramatic part of Canada’s history or should I say prehistory as this period was before British Columbia became part of Canada. Interestingly enough, it also attracted many black Americans who didn’t feel safe with the civil war raging in the land and threatening to move west.

I became so intrigued by all the tales that I bought two books, written by the Richard Thomas Wright, who produces the shows at the Theatre Royal. His wife Amy Newman is one of the stars.

Author Richard Thomas Wright

Author Richard Thomas Wright

He wrote Overlanders, the epic cross-Canada treks for gold, 1858-1862 and Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields.

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Gentlemen Matt, Dustin Allen and Geron

A bonus on our trip was the party that followed the opening stage performances of this season at the Theatre Royal. At the celebration, many of the cast and staff on site came dressed for the occasion.

If you’re planning a trip to British Columbia, I highly recommend you take in Barkerville. You won’t be disappointed. They get repeat visitors and a number of the players in town have been doing it for decades and have their children joining in and staying when they mature. If that isn’t a testament to the lure of the place, I don’t know what is.

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A Prince Among Men

DadOn this Father’s Day, I look back and remember my dad, who was a prince among men. Tall, handsome and smart, he didn’t make his mark on the masses, but he made his mark on me. I feel blessed to have had such a kind and loving father.

We used to dive for stones in Lake Manitoba, tickle one another and play chess at the cottage on Lake Winnipeg. I loved how he would swim on his back and invariably kick his legs, splashing me and then laughing as he got away with his surprise.

He taught me how to swim at Grand Beach, throw a baseball far for my high school games, ride a bike and drive a car. I learned to appreciate nature, when he took the time to observe new growth on a balsam tree or a woodpecker in the woods. Loving tongue twisters, corny jokes and quoting poetry, he taught me love of the word which led me to writing, so I thank him for that. I also thank him for leaving me with an appreciation of man, and what it takes to be a good man.

To all the good men out there, I hope you’re having a good father’s day, or will be a good father yourself some day or showing love in whatever way you can. And to those, who didn’t have a good father, I’m sorry. My dad didn’t have one either, but  he didn’t follow in his dad’s footsteps. It’s funny, Dad died in 1985, thirty years ago, but I still tear up when I think of him and how much I miss him.

For me, there can be no greater success in life than being successful at loving those in your care. Happy Father’s Day to all.

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I Once Had A Farm in Ireland

My mother’s family were farmers, so when I heard about Siggy Buckley’s blog tour about her book on organic farming, I Once Had A Farm In Ireland, I wanted to hop on. As well, since half my debut novel takes place in Ireland, I was naturally intrigued. And then, there’s the whI Once Had A Farm In Irelandole business of organic foods. I studied foods and nutrition on my way to earning a Bachelor of Home Economics degree, so I’ve always been concerned about the quality of food we eat.

When I mentioned to my family that I was going to post about Siggy’s book, they said her book sounded like an Irish take on that very popular book, My Year in Provence.  It turns out like that one, Siggy Buckley’s book is also a memoir. Now, who doesn’t like books about travel, adventure, and occupation in interesting countries? So, please read and enjoy, I Once Had A Farm In Ireland: Living The Organic Lifestyle  Available from Amazon.com

About the book:

A wheelbarrow, a cable drum, gardening tools, and a pickaxe are unusual items on a wedding registry. They are what Mac and Siggy, a German professional couple, need to fulfill their dream of organic gardening. When Chernobyl blows up a few years later, they are scared enough to undertake fundamental changes in the lives of their young family to seek a simpler and healthier lifestyle in an unspoiled country.

They buy a farm in Tipperary, Ireland. They give up their jobs, friends and home to raise their children in an unpolluted environment. Although Siggy shares her husband’s environmental convictions, she would prefer a warmer climate, maybe an olive farm in Tuscany.

A period of intense learning and acquiring new skills follows: how to raise chickens, pluck geese, breed cattle and sheep, and how to grow all kinds of vegetables. Soon they find out that farming means a never ending workload. They almost kill themselves ─and each other─ to produce healthy food.

I Once Had A Farm In Ireland not only gives advice for budding organic gardeners but it is also the story of a woman who sacrifices her own ideals for the sake of her family until she discovers her own dreams.

For more on the author: Siggy Buckley, you can visit her website

She’s also on Goodreads and on Twitter @Hernibs.

Educated in Germany with a Master’s Degree in English, Siggy Buckley lived in Ireland for over 15 years, first teaching at the University of Limerick as an adjunct professor, while building up an organic farm. She later ran her own businesses in Dublin before coming to the USA in 2003. In 2005, Siggy married an American and pursued her life-long dream of writing.

After reading all of the above, aren’t your curious? I certainly am.

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Are Pulitzer Prize Winning Novels For Everyone?

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586.in01I recently read All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer prize winner 2015. Though his book wasn’t a page turner, I didn’t want to stop reading once I’d started. I’ve read many books set during World War II, the majority showing conflict between the nations at the time or about the Holocaust, but this one is different. It’s about two young people, a blind French girl and a German orphan boy, and how the European battles impact on their lives. Through their journeys, the author takes us behind the scenes of war.

I find Pulitzer prize winning novels curious. A jury decides which American novel is deserving of the honour, which proclaims to the world that the author of the Pulitzer prize winning novel has risen far above the others in the way the story is told. And yet, are Pulitzer prize winning novels for everyone?

After I had finished reading All The Light We Cannot See, I told my husband about it, thinking he would enjoy the read, especially since he’s read many books about that period. I was wrong. He didn’t enjoy the read. He read seventy pages and couldn’t get into it. He found the pace slow, and the interweaving of stories too distracting.

I have to admit it took me awhile as well, and I found the author’s flipping from one year to the next hard to follow. He went back and forth in time. There were moments when I had to stop and go back in the story to figure out where the characters were in relation to what was going on. But I stayed with it, because I liked Anthony Doerr’s use of metaphors and depictions of life back then. I also wanted to see what it took to win a Pulitzer Prize. Not that I have any hopes in that department, but a writer needs to read in order to write well.

I gave All The Light We Cannot See five stars. I didn’t read the other contenders for the Pulitzer prize but I do believe this one is deserving. It showed me the greys of war through the stories of two young people on different sides of the conflict, both struggling to make sense of what was going on around them, each one in survival mode.

With me loving the book and my husband rejecting its storytelling, I’ve come to the conclusion—surprise, surprise—that Pulitzer prize winning novels aren’t for everyone. And isn’t that wonderful? There’s room for writers like myself, and those who tell detective stories or write thrillers, science fiction, Harlequin and on and on. Our world would be very boring if we all loved to read and write the same kind of books. Don’t you agree?

Thoughts and comments always appreciated. 

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Book Launch of THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN

The Blue Nightgown cover2My novelette, THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN is set in the 1950s.

When Anna, the landlady of a rooming house, finds a blue nightgown in a tenant’s trash, little does she know it’ll bring out the sexual longings of anyone who comes in contact with it.

Launching a book is not the same as giving birth, nowhere near, but THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN is still my baby. Its gestation period was about ten years, which is ridiculous for a novelette, which is only one-fifth the size of an average novel. Perhaps I kept putting off the launch, because my story contains sexually explicit material—not easy to write about with any candor.

Though my novelette has adult content, it’s not erotica, nor does it have graphic content like FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. It’s women’s fiction, a story about one family’s secrets that highlight what sex was like in the 50s. Even though today’s films and discussion on social media show a greater openness about sex and sexuality, most of the public still prefer to keep that part of their life hidden. So that much hasn’t changed. We all have secrets.

THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN is now on sale as an e-book on Kindle. I hope you enjoy the read. And if you do, please leave a review on the site where you purchased my book.

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Putting Spice In Your Brand

AegyptischerBasar (2)What kind of writer are you? Do you have a series with a protagonist that shows up in every book you write? Do you write in the same genre? Do you think about your brand when you’re writing? What spice are you putting in your brand?

As I’m about to publish my novelette, The Blue Nightgown, I realize more and more the kind of writer I am. I also realize what I’m not.

When I look at writers like J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter) and Sue Grafton (Alphabet mysteries), who’ve written successful series using the same character(s), or the authors who’ve stayed in the same genre, like Stephen King (horror), John Grisham (legal thrillers), Nora Roberts (romance) and Nicholas Sparks (romance), I can see why they’ve become bestselling authors. They’ve given their readers a clear idea of what to expect with each succeeding novel. They created a brand that was reliable.

When I think of stories to write, I see that I’m not following their example. I find it hard because it’s not who I am.

First of all, I have no interest in writing a sequel for Catherine, the protagonist in my debut novel, A Cry From The Deep, though I have been considering doing something with her daughter Alex. She’s getting older, and she’s a lot of fun. I suspect once she reaches a certain age, she won’t be an easy woman to toy with.

As for genre, if you’ve read my biography, you’ll understand why I have trouble staying in the same genre. I like variety in life and in my books. I also write the way I read. I read everything, literary novels as well as commercial ones, classics and indie self-published ones. I also don’t read sequels, even if the first one was good.

Though I’m not following the lead of bestselling authors, I’ve since discovered that it doesn’t really matter, especially if I plan to attract avid readers like myself, who don’t read sequels or buy books in the same genre. What matters to me is a good story. And that is essentially what made the authors listed above so successful. They told a damn good story.

That’s my goal. To work on telling a good story. The spice in my brand is the variety in my writing. Just as I’ve loved having different experiences in my life, through work and travel, I love exploring different genres and ways to tell a story. A Cry from the Deep is a romantic mystery/adventure with a nice dose of paranormal. My novelette, The Blue Nightgown is women’s fiction (a family drama).

I’m also polishing up two more novels that are close to seeing light. One is historical fiction and the other, well women’s fiction again, but one that takes place largely on a psychiatric ward in the 70s.

What will this do for my brand? Time will tell. But for me, variety is indeed the spice of life.

What about you? Do you believe authors are better off staying in the same genre? Do you believe that readers will fall off if the writer deviates with each succeeding book? Are sequels more successful than one-offs? Or are you like me, putting spice in your brand through genre bending or changing genres? Comments are always appreciated. 

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Cover Reveal for THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN

I’m quite excited to show you the cover for my novelette, THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN, which I hope to publish some time this month.

Storyline: When the landlady of a rooming house in the 1950s finds a blue nightgown in a tenant’s trash, little does she know it’ll bring out the sexual longings of anyone who comes in contact with it.

The Blue Nightgown cover2

I started writing this story about ten years ago, but along came A CRY FROM THE DEEP, the debut novel I published on Oct. 15, 2014, and my attention was diverted. If you want to know more about this time slip romantic suspense, which has garnered great reviews, have a look here.

It seems so long ago now that the first ten pages of THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN were shown to Steven Galloway—author of The Cellist of Sarajevo—in a workshop, and he was most complimentary. With that kind of encouragement, I figured I had something going.

Here’s the opening of THE BLUE NIGHTGOWN to whet your appetite for more:

“You take care of yourself, Norma,” Anna said. “Watch out for those bulls.”

“Don’t worry, I will.” And with a laugh, the girl from room four was out the door.

Anna shook her head, knowing full well that Norma was going to get knocked around a bit more before she came to her senses. If she ever did. But there was no point in spending any more time worrying about her; Anna had to get on with the job of cleaning the mess Norma had left behind.

As for the COVER above, I had the pleasure of working with my grandson, Michael Stevantoni again. I co-produced a number of his short films. This time, he designed the cover for my novelette. If you haven’t seen his website, you can find it here. He’s a very promising filmmaker.

Comments are always appreciated.

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Finding Graham Greene And The Mob In A Havana Hotel

Hotel Mercure Sevilla

Hotel Mercure Sevilla

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the Hotel Mercure Sevilla, where we recently stayed, and where Hemingway wrote some of Farewell To Arms.

It turns out that the hotel is legendary for more than that.

It’s where mobsters – Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, and Meyer Lansky – conducted business in the 1920s. It was called the Hilton Baltimore back then, and had a casino.

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And Josephine Baker was one of the performers who entertained the guests.

But the hotel also has links to another very famous entertainer, Graham Greene, author of many prize-winning novels. Typically when I go on holidays to some other country, I like to read works that tell me something about the country I’m visiting. So, I read The Old Man And The Sea by Hemingway, and Our Man In Havana, by Graham Greene.

I was surprised to discover, while I was there and in the midst of reading Greene’s novel, that he had used the Hotel Sevilla as backdrop in his Our Man In Havananovel, a story about Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman, who becomes an unlikely British spy just before the Cuba’s revolution.

Maybe the hotel’s criminal past inspired Greene to use it in his novel to emphasize the shadiness of what his protagonist was involved in.

“They groped their way through the darkness of the Seville-Biltmore Bar. They were only dimly aware of their fellow-guests, who sat crouched in silence and shadow like parachutists gloomily waiting the signal to leap.”

You have to admit, that excerpt from Our Man In Havana is wonderful writing. It’s always a delight to discover a writer, even one that has departed.

5th floor of Hotel Sevilla

5th floor of Hotel Sevilla

And then when I read, “the rooms were built as prison-cells round a rectangular balcony”, I could see it, as our room was on the fifth floor.

And of course, the line, “ Wormold got to the bottom of the stairs while Dr. Hasselbacher was still manoeuvring the first step; 501 was close by”, prompted me to investigate that very room. It was just down the hall from 509, the room where we stayed.

Much to my delight, the hotel had a ceramic plate beside the 501 door, mentioning the fact that the author had written about this room in his novel. I love little surprises like that. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I love writing and reading so much, that I place stock in the well-written word and a story that is rooted in reality.

819As for the hotel today, I did see some young men on laptops in the lobby, tapping away while a couple of opera singers were entertaining the guests.

Were the laptop enthusiasts writers? I don’t know. But since I’m an opera fan, it bothered me that they were oblivious to the arias that were being sung so beautifully.

But then again, maybe they were writing an epic story. Or maybe they were just using the Wi-Fi in the hotel, a service not easily found in Havana.

Comments are always appreciated.

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