Life in progress


A Haunted Visitation

July 19th, 2013: My trip to Kingston was interesting indeed. With so many strange goings-on, I can’t help but wonder if I somehow ended up in my own novel. Without giving too much away, this is how it went:

The Hochelaga Inn was much as I expected. Built in 1879, it has been well-preserved not only in its physical appearance, but for its ambiance as well.

A Welcoming Prayer

A Welcoming Prayer

Peace and rest, however, although perhaps wished upon me by the Management and Staff, were not what the Inn itself had in store.

Having not a great deal of money, but wishing to take an extended weekend away, I booked the cheapest room in the Inn for the first two nights, (Saturday and Sunday) and the Tower room–the most expensive–for one night (Monday).

My first night didn’t include much sleep. Three times during the course of my slumber, I was awoken by the fire alarm, which was situated on the ceiling beside a spinning fan, for no apparent reason. When I asked about it at reception the next morning, because I thought there might have been a problem in another room, they said they had no idea what had happened. Unfortunately, I was told, the Tower room was booked for that night, otherwise they’d have moved me in there early. So I gave back my room key with an assurance that I would be moved to another room for my second night at no extra cost.

The conversation between the two ladies I had spoken to at the desk, overheard after I walked away, went something like this:

“Her fire alarm went off three times last night.”

“Wooooo …” in a ghostly voice.

Okey dokey then.

Later, when I arrived back at the Inn after spending a lovely day wandering around Kingston and getting burned to a potato chip by the sun, I was handed the key for the Tower room.

“We were able to move you up there a day early,” the lady said without further explanation.

The house wants me in the Tower, I thought.

I happily I went up to my room to take a few pictures before dark.

The lower part of the tower.


The view from the top

It was a long day and I didn’t feel like doing much, so I sat on the bed with my feet up and watched a movie on my laptop. I didn’t bother to turn on the lights, and by half-way through the movie (The Brave, with and by Johnny Depp if you’re wondering) it was dark. That was when my friend decided to come along. I didn’t take a picture of my friend, and in fact I’m quite proud of myself for not throwing my laptop across the room. Let’s just say he had eight legs and appeared to be the size of Jaws as he scurried across my screen.

My second night didn’t include much sleep either. I think my camera catches quite well the state my eyes were in by Monday morning:


A lovely blurred view from the lower tower window

I spent most of Monday driving around town. I went to the VIA Rail station, where my two main characters disembark after having met on the train, and I was able to record many small details such as the waiting room seat colours and the fact that there are sliding glass doors on both the back and front. I drove from there to where my story is set–where I imagine the house to be–to see how long the journey would take, as well as noting different things they might see on the way.

When I got back ‘home,’ the first thing I did was look for the spider. There was no sign of him whatsoever.

Yay! I thought. I’m going to get a good night’s sleep!


So I was downstairs talking to the lady at reception again after having spent a few minutes poring over a framed blueprint of the Inn, from 1920 when they were hooking up the electricity. The house had changed quite a bit, and we were having a lovely discussion about where the rooms were and the staircase that wasn’t there any more etc.. when she mentioned the ghost.

“There’s a ghost here?” I asked, my eyes like saucers, I’m sure.

“Yeah,” she said. “We’re part of The Haunted Walk of Kingston. You should go on it.”

All righty then.

From there I went to a bar. Okay, I went to a restaurant. But must say I indulged just a little. As it turned out, I was sitting on the patio waiting for my bill when a strange looking man wearing a black cape and holding a lantern (click on the Haunted Walk link above for a visual) exited the building that housed the restaurant. He stopped and stood not six feet away, waiting. It took me a few seconds to realize he was the tour guide for The Haunted Walk. (Like I said, I’d had a few.) So I thought it might be fun to talk to him.

“Excuse me, are you guiding the Haunted Walk tonight?” (All right, all right. Maybe I was sloshed.)

“Yes,” he replied.

“I’m staying at one of the places on your tour: The Hochelaga.”

“Yes, that is one of the places we visit,” he said politely.

“Would you like me to put a sheet over my head and stand at the window in the Tower?”

I thought he was going to blow a gasket.

“YES!” he exclaimed, all but jumping up and down in excitement. “The people would love that!”

So guess what I did?



At dusk. I turned on the lights in the Tower so they would glow.

After the people left (they actually pointed at me, standing at the very top window at the front, looking down) I turned on the lights and went outside to take a picture of the most incredible Hochelaga Inn.

And that night? I slept like a baby knowing the ghost was safely tucked in bed.

Spooky, no?

Spooky, no?

To this day the spirit of the place haunts me. My characters, whose footsteps I was privileged enough to walk in, are with me in a way they weren’t before. The sights I saw are imprinted on my vision, deep and immovable. I’m lucky to have been able to visit the wondrous settings from which I was able to tell my story.

If you’d like to visit The Hochelaga Inn, click here for their website. I highly recommend it for its ambiance, its breakfast, and for the experience of sleeping in such a beautiful old Victorian mansion.

My Gothic paranormal romance, The Magician’s Curse, which is set in Kingston and features a house that is inspired by The Hochelaga Inn, is available on Kindle, Kobo, and in paperback on Amazon, as well as on the shelf in the Novel Idea Bookstore at 156 Princess Street in Kingston.

Here are some more photos of The Hochelaga.



The Plan

As many of you know, my epic work-in-progress (my novel The Great Dagmaru) is a paranormal romance about a magician and his assistant. As many of you also know, I have great fun doing research in the interest of making the book as believable as possible. This research has in the past included staying in the haunted mansion in Kingston that inspired the setting, and traveling to Ottawa to spend an afternoon backstage at the National Arts Centre, where one of the performances in my novel takes place. (Check out the links. There are pictures.)

Now I have a new and exciting opportunity ahead of me. This time it’s a little more nerve-wracking. Last weekend when I was again visiting Kingston, I met a magician. And he’s agreed to let me interview him! A real live magician! *ahem* Once the interview is complete I plan to make an article out of it and sell it to a publication. Depending on the slant I put on it, I may pitch it to an online magazine for kids, a parenting magazine, or even as a general interest piece for the Huffington Post. At the moment I’m still coming up with questions. I have quite a few already, but I don’t want to miss anything important. Some of them will pertain to background information that might not even make it into the novel, but they’re things that are necessary for me to understand. Most of the interview will, I hope, shed some light on what makes a magic show fun to watch and what makes a magician want to perform. Not too much light though… it’s the mystery that makes watching worthwhile.

An awful lot is going into the making of my novel. With this article, not only will I have the benefit of the knowledge of someone in the business (a real live magician! *ahem*), but I’ll have something extra to add to my resumé. One way or another, I’m having a blast. It’s all adding up to an experience that not a lot of people get.

Go me!


A Day at the Opera

My trip to Ottawa to go backstage at the National Arts Centre was amazing! I managed to talk to a few of the staff members, including stage managers, prop builders, and lighting staff, I ate lunch in the green room, and took loads of photos.

Photo from one of the box seats

Photo from one of the box seats

There are four stages there; the seating for the largest is above.

View from the back of the stage

View from the back of the stage

I found out some handy tidbits of info. It is indeed possible to get horses on stage (in my novel, my character uses horses in his magic act). I was told they’ve had an elephant on this stage.

The stage will also hold a thirty foot ladder

The stage will also hold a thirty foot ladder

My novel also has a ladder as a prop. I discovered yesterday how tall it can be – and also how they would set it up so it won’t fall.


The backstage corridors are like a maze. I got lost.

The ladies chorus dressing room

The ladies chorus dressing room

Getting ready to go onstage

Getting ready to go onstage

(No, that’s not me.)


I had to find out what this was!

Apparently, a vomitory in a theatre isn’t somewhere you go to upchuck your lunch. It’s a quick exit from the stage. I learned something new!

I actually learned a lot of things–details–I will use in my novel. Even if the whole ten hour trip results in the fact that I know how to get a large animal on stage, that I know how many rungs my magician’s assistant will have to climb and whether they enter and exit stage left or right–and all this results in a couple of sentences or a paragraph–I will have accurate details! An essential part of any novel worth its weight, in my estimation.

Exit stage right

Exit stage right


Rock-Star Writer

I feel like a rock-star sometimes.

Look at me here, with my happy-go-lucky lifestyle

Not a care in the world but

My laptop with my novel open

To the juicy bits – the personalities with

their fabulous lives and exciting drama

their ups and downs and their

…oh their endless passions

and love.

I’m a rock star.

My characters make me so.

Do you ever live vicariously through your characters? I’m thinking about my upcoming trip to Ottawa where I will go backstage at the National Arts Centre to see the dressing rooms and the back hallways where the stars meet. I’ll go on stage and look out at all the seats and maybe I’ll do a little dance.  But it’s not just the fact that my main character happens to be a performer. There’s so much more going on in his life than that; it’s only a facet of who he is.

My fictional characters go through their own lives with the dramas and fears and loves that I only wish I could experience. Sure, sometimes they are tortured by those very same things. But their stories are interesting – worth telling. Is my own life worth a tale? Sometimes, I suppose. But not like the lives of my characters. They live out loud, doing things I can only dream of having the opportunity to do.

I suppose all writers of fiction live, at times, in the imaginary world where their characters exist. A fantasy world, if you will, where not even the sky is the limit, and where unexpected things happen.

Once in a very rare while, I feel like I’m really there. And in a way my research will take me there. I’ll have my notepad and pen and my camera on hand to record the moment, but for the most part I’ll be living it.

Has it happened to you? I’d love to know.


Random Life in Progress


As you can see by the photo, I’m thoroughly enjoying the weather as I sit on my back deck with a glass of white wine, writing this post. Life is good. After I finish this post I’ll probably go back to editing my novel. Just yesterday I found a huge, gaping plot hole wherein the history of my character’s family didn’t match up with the present. I had to go back and write an entire backstory (to keep it straight in my own mind) on a character that won’t even exist unless I end up writing a prequel to my novel. On a happy note, I have enough history to write a prequel. Seriously, I’m putting an awful lot of effort into this mythical epic that I keep talking about. It WILL see the light of day if it kills me.

In other news, I’m going away for the weekend. My son Christopher wishes to go on his annual pilgrimage to Ottawa to visit the museums. I found a great deal on a place to stay: one of the colleges in town is offering a whole two bedroom apartment, including a kitchen, for $64/night. Can’t beat that! And since I lived close by for fifteen years I know the area, so getting around is going to be a breeze. On the way home we’ll pick up Alex, who has been visiting with his dad all week (which is why I’m able to sit outside in peace) so it’s a bonus for my ex too, not having to make the three hour drive to get him home. Long and short of it, I won’t be around to read the SoCS posts this weekend. I’ll do my best to get caught up early next week though.

The best news of all comes on the heels of my post from a couple of days ago entitled “How for would YOU go?” I looked into getting backstage at the venue that my main character performs in at the beginning of the sequel (written in July as part of CampNaNo) and guess what? So I’ll be going back to Ottawa again on the 28th of September to tour the National Arts Centre backstage! I’m so excited! 😀

I tell ya, sometimes the universe comes together just right.


How far would YOU go?

Since I’m hip deep into the novels today (and by hip deep I mean I’m trying to stick to my laptop rather than run to the kitchen every half an hour to grab a snack that will inevitably go straight to my hips) there are a few issues on my mind that need a little sharing. Foremost at the moment is research.

I’m discovering that there is only so much that can be done whilst sitting on my rear end in front of the computer. Wikipedia is great, but sometimes you just have to get out there and see what’s going on in person. To this end I’ve spent a fair bit of time in the city where most of my novel takes place, which is as you probably know, Kingston, Ontario.

There are some things I am having a more difficult time researching, however. My story is about stage magician, Stephen Dagmar–meaning that apart from the novel’s main plot, which is a paranormal romance/horror about a man who must battle against a family curse in order to live happily ever after with the woman he loves, it also contains the stage. And a talent agent. And, most difficult to research in person, the backstage areas of some major venues across Canada. I’m thinking that before I actually publish this thing I’m going to have to find a way to talk to/interview both a magician and an agent. But getting backstage might be a different story.

If there are any magicians or talent agents reading this, I’d love to talk to you. If there is anyone who has access to a live theatre I’d be forever grateful if you’d leave some tips on how to get backstage. I’m not looking to meet celebrities, I just want to see where they hang out and get a feel for the process of setting up a stage.

For everyone else reading this, how far have you gone to get research? I’m not only talking distance. Would you have the guts to try to get into places the public doesn’t normally get to go? To what lengths would you go to get there?

Suggestions are also gratefully received. 😀


The Future of Publishing Crap, Part Two

I came across an article today which drives home the importance of editing and putting out one’s absolute best work when self-publishing. I would have re-blogged, but that wasn’t an option.

This: is the article, by Chuck Wendig. In it, he explains how self-publishing is becoming a decent and viable option to traditional means, and how that could change if self-published authors present sub-par efforts to the reading public. It’s an excellent article. You should read it, even if you’re not an author.

If you’re wondering about the “Part Two” in the title, and you’re new around here, you can find my original post on this subject here: